When is it “okay” to want to lose fat?

This week’s post is less of a splattering of information and more of an open-ended question.  I’m not going to pretend like I have the answer to this.  In fact, part of the point I think is that the answer will be different for everyone.  And I want to hear those!

The question is, in its most basic form: When is it okay for someone to desire to lose fat?

Let me elaborate on that a little bit.  This is a question that’s been mulling over in my head for a while now.  Since writing this article, in fact.  I’ve recently been reading a lot from several people in the fitness industry who focus on body acceptance and trying to undo some of the neurosis people feel over food.  (If you’re curious, it has primarily been from GoKaleo, FitMamaTraining and EatMore2WeighLess.  There is certainly a lot of thought-provoking information there.)

I like the message of these women, and it also just so happens to jive with the “eat whatever I want kinda” part of my diet right now.  (I’ll have some updates on that next week)  I’ve known plenty of people who have gone really far with their diets, to the detriment of social lives, relationships, and performance in sports / everyday life.  I’ve gone off the deep end when it comes to how I treat food quite a few times in my life, so many of these stories really resound with me. (Obviously the following questions do not apply to people who need to lose fat / gain fat for health reasons, such as the unhealthily obese or someone who is severely underweight / anorexic.  I’m talking about all of us in between.)

I also whole-heartedly agree that there’s no need to aspire to look like a model or <insert really lean / thin person here>.

Whether it's 'fatspo' 'fitspo' or 'thinspo' they're all basically the same.

Whether it’s ‘fatspo’ ‘fitspo’ or ‘thinspo’ they’re all basically the same.

I agree that chronic dieting is a generally bad thing, and that being able to enjoy food – all foods – guilt-free is something we should aspire to.

However, what happens when someone reads all that, agrees with it, yeah yeah, that’s great – and then still wants to lose fat?

How can you pinpoint whether YOU want to lose fat as a reflection of how you see yourself or whether you want to lose fat because you think you need to look like said fitness models?  And the real question – does it even matter which one it is?

If you feel bad when you look at yourself in the mirror, do you need to work on your self-image and accept who you are as you are, or should you try to lose fat to achieve whatever aesthetic you’d be happy with?  When is the latter an “okay” thing to do?

When is losing fat something to do ‘for you’ and when is it giving into societal expectations?

Thankfully I was able to articulate these questions to a blogger whose work I’ve admired for a long time, Leigh Peele.  She had an AMA on Reddit today and I jumped at the opportunity to ask her opinion.

I’ll get the conversation started by posting responses from a couple of other users and Leigh herself.  Let me know what you think in the comments below!

LP1 LP2

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About katwhit

Coffee shop blogger by day, personal trainer by night. My interests include lifting weights, puppies, teaching people how to lift weights and dogs. Head on over to my blog and you'll find: reviews of best-selling diet books in extensive detail, critiques of various fitness publications, and even the occasional rant on the latest TV fitness segments.
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2 Responses to When is it “okay” to want to lose fat?

  1. bodycrimes says:

    It’s probably impossible to untangle what we do for ourselves and what we do for society. I can think of instances where there could be good, personal reasons to lose weight – body builders spend a lot of time and effort figuring out how to strip fat for competitions. Looking all veiny and bulgy isn’t something I want for myself, but I can understand why they might want to do it – it’s as much a brain exercise as a body one. There are other occasions when it’s the weight itself that counts, like in horse riding or rock climbing, where I would understand that someone would want to weigh as little as possible. There are probably lots of other reasons people want to lose weight that isn’t just about looks and health. But how do we untangle them? Tough, tough question.

    • katwhit says:

      Yeah that’s what I was thinking. Psychology is too complicated to be able to single out which strand is influencing our thoughts and feelings.

      For athletes looking to perform better, generally it is the best idea to hold on to as little body fat as possible as you said. However sometimes even that is taken to the extreme as you see in the prevalence of Female Athlete Triad.

      Sometimes it seems a person can get stuck in a never ending circle of unhappiness. They don’t like how they look and thus are unhappy. They then try to diet and exercise their way to a look they are happy with, but after a certain point become too unhappy with the process, while still being unhappy with their appearance. Vicious.

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