If you’ve stopped laughing for long enough to read this, I promise you I’m not joking.
In a world of diet culture, fatphobia is internalized in so many ways, but Slimming World’s latest move is one in which I can’t work out whether to laugh at or be angry.
In Dietland (not the TV show), once you’ve become thin, or at least are less fat, the ultimate objective is to avoid fat for the rest of your life. If you go back into fat territory, you’ve failed. A combination of diet culture and medical fatphobia allows many people, especially those under the influence of diet clubs, to believe that fatness is just a case of greed and food addiction, rather than alternative reasons such as body diversity, genetics, and environment and social factors. With the fear of fat an imminent threat to dieters, often scared that eating one doughnut means gaining every last pound back, diet clubs offer advice for how the newly-thin can avoid future fatness.
Slimming World offer their own tips, ranging from telling their members at ‘target’ to exercise more, eat a diet that’s low in fat and energy, and eat five Muller Light yogurts a day. Okay, the third is a lie, but having spent years of my life following Slimming World, and my mum doing the same (even losing so much weight that she was crowned Greatest Loser and Woman of the Year 2009, whilst simultaneously looking far too thin for her frame, yet still convinced she was fat), I hold some resentment. But this isn’t about us; this is about the last tidbit that accompanied the expected suggestions.
“Spend less time with overweight friends.”
I. Shit. You. Not. That is literally what it reads. And it’s apparently recommended by 4% of their successful slimmers.
This is not the first time that fat people have been ostracized by diet groups, and certainly won’t be the last. But it’s definitely the first time that they’ve had the guts to put it into print and publish it for every target member to read in their Love The New Youbooklet. Obviously, Slimming World was attacked for it after an Instagram user posted a photo of the page in her Story, and they took their time responding.
Slimming World released a statement yesterday to announce how ‘saddened’ they were by the uproar, and after dancing around the subject for 300 words, they said: “[The list] explains that we don’t believe successful slimmers choose to lose old friends, rather that they gain new ones who share their new active habits and healthy lifestyle.”
They went on to add: “Slimming World welcomes and supports people at every stage of their weight-loss journey and we work hard ensure all of our groups are free from judgement and humiliation.” Hmm. So their groups are free from judgement and humiliation, but their publications aren’t? Is that how it works? Fill your plates with ‘syn-free’ foods and your fill your mind with harmful anti-fat rhetoric?
They also noted that the 4% that claim to recommend ditching fat friends in the name of thin comes from a survey of 10,000 people who sustained their weight loss. That shows us that 400 people from the survey are arseholes and shitty friends. It also shows us that, in comparison to its other suggestions on the list (some recommended by 90% of those surveyed), it’s an insignificant statistic. The finest thing that Slimming World can do is cut it completely from their copy. And additionally, if it’s merely a case of bad wording, fire the bloody copywriter.
I’m so over fat being the worst thing in the world. I’m over companies making bank from society’s singling out of fat bodies, and I’m even more over the demonization of them when it comes to other people’s choices. I regularly see the comparison of fatness with contagion, or drug and other substance abuse — something which reared its ugly head when a Twitter user argued Slimming World’s case by saying that a heroin addict would be advised to cut ties with fellow addicts in order to fully recover. Fatness doesn’t quite have the same life-threatening impact that a Class A drug does, now, let’s be honest.
So if you needed any more reason to not help fund a company that encourages you to make cake out of cardboard-like crispbread, then this is it. Eat the (real) cake. Live your life. And sure as shit don’t support companies that value thinness over friendship.