Wednesday, 29 August 2012

I'm on a diet - can I still be a feminist?

I've been on a diet, WeightWatchers specifically, for about 6 weeks now.  I've done WW before, before I had the small Scottish boy, and it worked well for me. I've now lost 4kg (that's almost 9lb) so clearly it still works for me.  I like their system and they've made some good tweaks to it since I last did it.  And if I am realistic, I need the discipline of turning up once a week and getting my card stamped in order to stick with it.

The basics are, you get a set number of points per day, in my case that was 28 until this week, it's now 27 (and will drop again to the minimum 26 at some point).  You also get 49 weekly points, which you can use for extras during the week (that's new).  If you do exercise, you earn additional points.  I've mostly used no more than my daily points and any exercise points I earn, but last week I went a bit mad and had a Domino's pizza one night so dipped into a big chunk of my weekly points.  In the old system I would have spent the week feeling dreadful because I'd gone over my limit.  Now, it was a case of "oh well, there go the weekly points" and no guilt.  I like that.  I should maybe splurge more often - I lost 1kg.

Foods have a point value, the formula calculates that based on the protein, fat, fibre and carbohydrate content.  Almost all fruit and vegetables have 0 points, so you're encouraged to fill up on those.  Nothing is off limits, but that Domino's pizza was a whole day's points, on it's own.  And that was with the low fat cheese.   Back in the old days you jotted points down in a notebook and looked foods up in wee notebooks.  Inevitably, there's an app for it now.
That's the main screen you use - click on Add to Tracker and you can look up the food and add the required quantity.  I don't usually bother to add 0 point vegetables - so that green Thai curry also had a whole load of green beans in it.  The yogurt is for dessert.
It also has a pretty graph to show what you've lost - that 7 there means I've passed 7lbs.  Although the app and website accommodate those of us who use metric, the reward system is still using imperial.  

I'm happy to be losing weight, mostly because I was aware that carrying extra was not helping my mobility.  Or indeed my hypermobility - extra weight puts extra strain on joints.  It's not really about looking slim and my target of 75kg won't make me slim.  It's just about making myself a bit healthier. There's also the fact that I was going to have to replace most of my trousers if I didn't lose a bit!  

Weight loss and in particular "the diet industry" is hotly contested amongst feminists.  So for some of my friends, I know, I am a bad feminist for not only dieting but also for paying my £19.99 a month to an American-based multinational diet company.  I don't think the fact I buy very few of their products redeems me much*.  Kate Harding's Shapely Prose is just one example of many fat acceptance sites.  She makes some very good points and since my aim is to end up a plump size 14-16 at the end of this I'll probably continue to agree with them then.  

But I don't buy that trying to lose some weight necessarily makes you a traitor to the sisterhood.  Even for people whose motivation is to look a bit better in a swimsuit.  There must be some middle ground where we can say "hey, we don't all need to be a size 10" (or 8, or 6, or 0), where we acknowledge that you can be happy and beautiful and yes, healthy, at a whole range of weights but can also be supportive of people who want to be a size or two smaller than they currently are, for whatever reason, rather than publicly castigating them for it.  

Replacing an inflexible hegemony about being slim with an equally rigid hegemony about being fat doesn't do anyone any good.  

*I do admit to rather liking WW's  Chocolate Caramel Wafers, £1 for a pack of 5 at Tesco right now.  They're pretty close to Tunnocks' version but 2 points rather than 4. . 


  1. Well done Megan. I started WW too for health reasons. I couldn't walk a few hundred yards in January this year but little by little this has improved. I need to get back into the swing of things too and your posts have reminded me.

    Thanks for posting the screen shots of the App. I was wondering whether to download it or not but it looks quite good. I think I'll give it a shot.

    BTW, I found that making pizza using wraps and lots of veg kept me feeling full and used very little points. You could have those in between the Dominos. ;)

  2. I can't imagine a scenario where losing weight to help you feel better and become more mobile would make you a Bad Feminist. The attempt to feel better isn't vanity, it's health care.

  3. Anyone who wants to tell me that I am a bad feminist for deciding what to do with my own body, or who thinks that it's only acceptable for me to make a perfectly healthy decision if it's for reasons of health rather than vanity, can bite me. I have actually ended up telling some people it was for health reasons - ME involves heart trouble, the less strain on the heart the better, and the doctors agreed that the extra weight was probably messing with my hormones - but the truth is that I lost weight because I wanted to, and that was mainly about how I looked and how I felt in my body. It did occur to me at one point that being lighter would make it easier for people to push me around in the wheelchair, but I found that reason rather creepy, it was like buying into the idea of women starving themselves as a way of erasing their identities. And wheelchair access in Edinburgh is going to be terrible no matter what I weigh.

    Someone telling me I should be fat is no more acceptable that someone telling me I should be thin. If the weight I like to be at is within the healthy range, then there's no reason why anyone else should bother me about it, and usually not much excuse if it's outside the healthy range either (by which I mean not having a go at people who are somewhat overweight but doing fine, thank you, rather than rescuing people who are in imminent danger of death from starvation, which is obviously a completely different matter). I've noticed that the main people making sniffy comments about my losing weight have been the ones who've only known me for a few years and therefore met me when I was overweight. The one who knew me before, and I was at my current weight for most of my adult life, think I look perfectly normal, and can't believe me when I say that I've gained and lost three stone. For them, it's more about the image of me which they are used to than what is actually best for me.

    Hence setting up the blog, though I have of course been shocking at actually keeping up writing for it. There are a few food feminist blogs discussing this out there in a sensible way, you'll be relieved to know. Can't remember them all, but I think I have all of the ones people suggested to me linked on my blog by now.

    I can see how the Fat Acceptance movement got built up the way it did, and I think that it's done great things in many ways, but I think that in some others it really has gone off the rails. I've run across a large number of women who were treated very nastily for admitting that yes, they actually wanted to lose weight, and told that there was no possible excuse for doing so except accidentally. (And for the last week I've been losing weight accidentally due to illness, and as I was already at the low end of the healthy range, I'm making an effort to stop this and hopefully put those couple of pounds back on, so the whole "accidental" thing doesn't really wash for me either.)

    Anyway, yay for WW going well, and I'm glad to hear that it has a better set-up that helps avoid the guilt trap. I'm also glad to see you blogging proudly about it!

    1. Oops, after all the fuss in trying to get the comment published, I forgot to mention that I told some people I was losing weight for health reasons because it was the only way to shut them up. Also I have no idea why I inserted the word "food" into "feminist blogs". Too early in the morning for me to be writing sense, evidently!

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