The business of weight loss and faux empowerment

Have you noticed that selling empowerment to women is big business and it seems like everyone's trying to get their piece of the money pie? In the self-help and coaching (life, health, business, relationship) worlds, it's a word that gets used a lot.

It's been used so much that it can mean almost anything and absolutely nothing.

Marketers use it to sell everything from cereal bars to medicated eye drops (yes, I've seen the commercial).

The way that 'empowerment' is marketed to women is obnoxious.

In the past 12 months, my worldview has shifted in a huge way. Now, I'm more aware than ever of the inequities and social injustices in the world. This is what drives the work I do and the things I write.

It's the reason why I stopped selling weight loss and closed the doors to my wellness coaching business.

So it bugs me when I see people selling weight loss as a path to empowerment. I believe dieting is one of the most DISempowering things you can do. You literally hand over your personal power to someone else to tell you what to eat, how to exercise, and how you should look.

I started thinking about this about two months ago when a relatively well-known money mindset coach sent out an email blast about how she's "down 30 pounds" and now she's helping to promote the program that helped her reach this "really big goal".

I was shocked. This is someone who's made a fortune teaching women how to become "empowered" around money, and now she's trying to MAKE money selling a diet.

She's not the first and won't be the last to do it. In fact, in her email she suggests that if Oprah can monetize weight loss, then should she be able to cash in too.

Here's what I know for sure: There's nothing empowering, radical or revolutionary about using the fear of fatness to get people's money.

My friend Glenys Oyston from Dare Not to Diet said: ""Empowerment" is one of those bones that have been tossed to women to keep them busy from achieving actual power."

Hell yes.

I believe that the constant pursuit of weight loss distracts us from seeking real power...in our own lives and in our communities. There are REAL issues that affect us as individuals and as a collective. And contrary to what you've been told/sold, those issues have nothing to do with eating the 'wrong foods'.

The constant pursuit of smallness has kept and continues to keep millions of women distracted by portion sizes and calorie counts. We live in a culture that teaches us to trade real political and social power for the possibility of fitting into a size 4 dress.

Despite our overwhelming contribution to the weight loss industry's bottom line, it hasn't helped us gain any power outside of our own bodies.

  • Women are still paid significantly less than men.
  • Women make up only 20% of the US Congress.
  • Woman hold fewer than 10% of CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies.

So what the hell have we been we paying for?

Dieting will NOT help us get free. It's one of the things that will forever keep us on the hunt for real empowerment.

Weight loss and the dieting it requires undermines our ability to be fully actualized. Diet culture denies our humanity and there’s nothing empowering about that.

What’s empowering about:

I believe that the folks selling empowerment through weight loss are actually selling you out.

Beware of empowerment for sale. It's not something you can buy.

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P.S.- Kelly Diels' work on the Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand has significantly impacted the way I approach business and was the inspiration for this post. I highly recommend reading: The Language of Activism, Feminism, and Revolution is Not For Sale and The Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand: A Definition.

You should also listen to Kelly talk to Summer Innanen about The Co-Opting of Female Empowerment on the Fearless Rebelle Radio podcast.

 

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