“We can’t hide it or fake it. We’ll never fit society’s idea for how women should look and behave, but why is that a tragedy? We’re free to live how we want. It’s liberating, if you choose to see it that way.”
― Sarai Walker, Dietland
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We all know that the media which includes television shows has been a major culprit for negative body image. I noticed as an adult I still have the thoughts that I must be skinny and blonde to be ultimately attractive even with all the body positivity I have exposed myself to. The other day I watched Britney Spears video Hit Me Baby One More Time and it hit me. I grew up watching Britney, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, etc. and subconsciously or probably even consciously I wanted to look like them. I did remember looking at Britney’s abs as body goals when I was a teen. I then became aware of how influenced I was by these times in the 90’s where stick thin was “in.” Just as curvy is “in” now. First off bodies should never be thought of as a trend that is one of the issues. It is just accepted that people on T.V. especially women are usually underweight and are more aesthetically good looking that the average joe or Joanna and people of color are usually not the main characters of film or T.V. If a fat person is on T.V. they are usually joked about or looked at in a negative light. In 2018 there is still not many shows one can view that represent various body types. I wanted to talk about two T.V. shows that I have been watching Dietland and My 600lb Life that have been helpful on my body positive journey that adds to a lot of my self-awareness.
First off, I wanted to talk about My 600lb Life on TLC. I would say this show is not body positive as it is a show based on changing and obviously a lot of shame is used in the show for the 600ln or more person but it brings a lot of awareness to disordered eating. A lot of the same comes from the person themselves. In fact, I want to talk about the issues I have about the show and then talk about how it is great for learning and being empathetic for people who are termed morbidly obese. If you suffer from anorexia or bulimia I would not watch this show or ask your therapist if you have one if this would be ok as it could trigger your emotions about weight gain. I recommend watching this show if you have learned about diet culture what it is and the effects to really be aware of it in the show.
The first problem I have with the show is that they bring the person on, so they can be possibly considered for the high-risk gastric bypass surgery. The problem I have with that is the person is looking for a quick fix with a diet culture mentality. Yes, at that point of being 600lb or more gastric may be life-saving but if one is not going to acknowledge their lifestyle and only look for quick fixes they are not going to help themselves mentally or physically in the long run. The Dr. prescribes them a diet to first lose a significant amount of weight such as 50lbs before being considered for the surgery. Again, most of the people fail or can’t do it because their body can’t handle the little number of calories it's getting. If someone is used to eating 6,000 calories or more telling them to go on a diet of only 1,200 calories is setting them up to fail. This is where I wish the Drs. would help people understand nutrition and not get someone on such a drastic diet or a diet at all. Until the 2nd or 3rd fail the Dr. then prescribed a nutritionist or therapist and they did so much better losing that weight. This is because diets just don’t work and is not a long-term fix. Learning about nutrition and simple exercises is what should be focused on but unfortunately it is not on this show very much.
The reason I watched this show is because I had questions such as how did the person get to where they are now? How do they feel about themselves emotionally and physically? How do I feel about them? How do others feel about them? Family? Friends? Doctors? These questions helped me understand and empathize with the person and made me think of those questions in terms of my body image and weight and to understand how I view fat people. We must be aware of the answers to these tough questions to get through our body image journey and self-love journey. It is also important to understand what others go through. Watching this show you can see how much a fat person is viewed and treated like they were walking around with a disease you can catch.
We must learn to treat others with respect and compassion and this show has really helped me with that. Fat acceptance is what started the body positive movement and people are losing the focus on the oppression of fat people and the shame they undergo daily with themselves and society. Fact acceptance does not promote obesity it recognizes that there is a stigma based on weight and appearances and that we need to focus and educate people on positive healthy choices mentally and physically instead of shaming fat people for their existence. This is exactly the reason I love the second show I want to talk about which is Dietland.
Dietland on AMC is such a great show that has been needed for years. Based on the best-selling novel by Sarai Walker Dietland is a dark comedic series that fights back on issues of misogyny, diet culture stemmed from the beauty industry and rape culture. I really don’t want to go into detail about the show because I don’t want to spoil it for people who want to watch but I will talk about why this is a must watch for all women. Plum the main character is similar to the people on My 600lb Life in that she is saving up for her gastric bypass surgery so that she can one day become thin and liberated. What I love about this show is that it holds nothing back from exposing the truth about diet culture and the effects the beauty industry has as well as expressing the anger from rape culture by having a terrorist group called “Jennifer” seeking revenge. It is well done on so many levels and I hope this show is seen by so many women and supported so that more shows like this can be created.
Nowadays I look at media very critical making sure I am separating the messages from myself and taking anything in that is only valuable and true. I love watching the commercials in between as well as they are full of diet culture it makes them even more entertaining. I also realize that some of these things you become aware of can be painful and trigger you to have negative emotions at times as well so that is normal to be on the ups and downs of this journey to self-love and body positivity but a journey well worth being on so keep it up and be proud you are here.