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During the first few months of every year, men and women alike attempt to follow new fitness and diet resolutions. Though they often end in failure come May or June, the practice of setting weight loss goals for the New Year is a habitual one for many.
Influencers, of course, have helped to further this, taking on partnerships with fitness and diet brands, encouraging their followers to join them on a yearly “New Year, New Me” journey. While this is almost expected come January, the conversation becomes clouded when plus-size influencers — many of whom claim to support body positivity and the dismantling of diet culture — begin to promote similar messages.
As someone who is regularly engaged within the plus-size community, I was thrown off to see multiple plus-size influencers posting about weight loss goals for the year, one of which was through a partnership with WW — formerly known as Weight Watchers. In digging further into this topic, I noticed that I wasn’t alone: Many were confused by this and questioned whether or not it’s okay for body positive influencers to be promoting weight loss to their followers.
“If you're in this community, it makes sense to talk about accepting your body, loving yourself as you are [and] being happy with yourself,” says Bruce Sturgell, founder of Chubstr.com. “That's not saying that you can't exercise or that you can't diet if that’s what you choose to do...but I think it's really important that we let people know that they don't have to do that to be valued.”
Many agree with Strugell’s reasoning: It’s not that plus-size influencers shouldn’t be comfortable posting about topics like food or exercise, or even wanting to improve their everyday lifestyle to raise their health. The issue comes when they emphasize weight loss in particular, telling their followers to chase a number rather than a lifestyle.
“I think that if you want to exercise, that's great. And you should do that and you should enjoy yourself and being active. There's pleasure in being active,” Sturgell adds. “But it doesn't have to be about chasing that number. And it doesn't have to be something that you necessarily trump out there to everyone to make sure that they know you're being active and doing that. If you don't want to do those things and if that is what you choose, that doesn't make you less worthy.”
Syed Sohail, a Canadian plus-size fashion blogger, views the situation differently, explaining that he sees this as an opportunity to break the myth that all fat people are lazy and unfit.
“It comes down to ensuring that influencers all have a sense of individuality, and just because some plus-size influencers would rather not showcase their weight loss journeys or speak on this, we shouldn't try to vilify others who want to share their experience,” he tells Yahoo Canada.
“When it comes to influencers doing weight loss partnerships, I would hold them accountable to the same standard that I would hold all influencers: First do their due diligence and test out the product and ensure that it is a healthy and sustainable way to lose weight, then accept the endorsement,” Sohail adds.
Both Sturgell and Sohail bring up valuable points: With a large platform comes large responsibility, and every influencer will choose how to handle that differently. A main concern, however, should revolve around who exactly they consider their target audience.
For instance, it wouldn’t be logical for a fashion influencer fighting for size inclusivity in the industry to start posting weight loss-centric content. Their audience would likely consist of people who are against fatphobia and body shaming who would potentially feel triggered if the influencer began posting about weight loss. However, a plus-size fitness influencer may have a different opportunity to show how you can be both fit and fat, dismantling the age old argument that those above a size 14 are inactive beings.
Whether or not posting workout content is in line with your brand, the main issue to address here is encouraging your followers to chase a number. The diet industry has created a culture that thrives on making people feel unworthy until they reach a certain weight or size. This sets many up for failure as they may often go to extremes just to reach that number. Many people even verge into eating disorders when restricting, only to gain weight a year later, which can cause their self-worth to plummet, since they’ve attached their value to the number on a scale.
Plus-size influencers should use the opportunity they have to teach their followers to examine how they feel in their body, rather than equate their value with their weight. That, after all, falls much more in line with the message of body positivity, and will likely cause less triggering situations for their thousands of followers.
There’s nothing wrong with plus-size influencers posting fitness content, whether it be at the gym, in a spin class or at the dance studio. The issue arises when it comes to weight loss specifically. A number should never be the goal for someone who desires to workout more; the goal should be creating a new lifestyle. Plus-size influencers, especially ones that are viewed as those holding the pillars of body positivity and fighting for fat representation, have an extra responsibility to show their followers that if they want to become more active, they most certainly can. If they don’t, that is their decision and their worth and value does not change because of it.