“What a depressing statistic”

“There’s a concept called false hope syndrome, described by psychologists at the University of Toronto. Dieting is the perfect example of it. People keep trying to do something over and over, despite repeated failures. They explain away each failure and try again with renewed vigor. Overwhelming odds against success don’t deter them – hope springs eternal! Diets don’t work long-term, but people blame themselves, not the diet. The very act of embarking on yet another diet makes us feel better and more hopeful. This time it will work. This time we’ll do it right. We feel empowered. We’re finally taking control of our lives. But the ending is always the same.

In 2002, full of false hope, I kept thinking that if only I did something different, I’d have the body I wanted. By 2009 I’d learned that a more lasting path to happiness was to love the body I had.

The nonprofit Council on Size and Weight Discrimination points out that the belief, in the absence of evidence, that fat can be cured through willpower and good ol’ American elbow grease helps reinforce stereotypes that hurt all heavy people. Heavier workers are paid less than thin ones. Slightly heavy women make about 6 percent less in wages than standard-weight women; very heavy women make 24 percent less. If fat is something that can be easily fixed – if only fat people weren’t such lazy slobs – it’s easier to justify discrimination against fat people. After all, they bring it on themselves.

In 2005 Dove commissioned a study called “Beyond Stereotypes: Rebuilding the Foundation of Beauty Beliefs.” Its survey of 1,000 girls (aged 15–17) and 2,300 women (aged 18–64) found that two thirds of women around the world avoid activities such as meeting friends, exercising, voicing an opinion, going to school, going to work, dating, or even seeking medical help because they don’t like the way they look. What a depressing statistic.”

Crystal Renn, Hungry, p. 128/129.