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Jenée Desmond-Harris and Lauren Williams discuss a letter about weight loss anxiety. - Slate Magazine

This week, Jenée Desmond-Harris and Lauren Williams discuss a Prudie letter: “ Losing Weight Baggage ”

Lauren Williams: Reading this letter, I had one very important question that I think would influence my approach to this pretty heavily. “I’m not feeling so good.” Does she mean physically? Or does she mean she’s feeling bad about herself at her new weight?

Jenée Desmond-Harris: Oh, great question.

Lauren: I do know that it’s very possible she means both. I gained a considerable amount of weight in 2020. And I felt shitty about it in all of the physical and emotional ways one could feel shitty about such a thing. But there’s such a big difference between “getting physically healthy” and “losing weight.”

Jenée: And it feels like she’s aware of that, sort of? But also that the issue is so emotionally charged for her that the two things could be getting tangled up.

Lauren: They’re so emotionally charged for ALL of us. We should all get free body image therapy, honestly.

Jenée: Totally.

Lauren: The generational trauma.

Jenée: What I found most upsetting about this is that she is beating herself up both for gaining weight and for having feelings about it that are completely understandable given the world we live in. So, it’s almost like her awareness that diets don’t work, that being heavier doesn’t make you a bad person, etc. has made her MORE unhappy, because her feelings don’t line up with what she knows.

Lauren: Right! Knowing that the new thing to do is be happy with your body now means that not only do we still feel bad about our bodies but we ALSO feel bad about feeling bad about our bodies.

Jenée: What a mess.

Lauren: But what I would say to “is there any way I can try this that isn’t a terrible, stupid idea” is to think about doing things that feel good. Eating things that feel good and doing activities that feel fun and make you feel de-stressed and don’t feel like a chore or torture. (I became an annoying Peloton person this spring a full three years after buying and largely ignoring my bike because I discovered the rides that worked for me.) It seems like she has enough of a history to instinctively know what might work short term to “lose weight” but will be bad in all the other ways. And it seems like she knows not to do those things.

Jenée: Actually, you weren’t annoying—I think you talked about it one time when you discovered Power Zone rides, and never publicly!

Lauren: Well I did record a five-minute explainer video and force you to watch it.

Jenée: Hahaha oh yeah, I forgot the commercial you produced and starred in. Anyway, I think you’re right that doing things that feel good is the best path—and i also want to emphasize what I said about getting help with the underlying grief and stress. Those are real things that would deserve attention even if they didn’t lead to weight gain.

Lauren: I think the thing is, because “weight” is weird, she could incorporate some new lifestyle things and not actually lose much weight. But she could FEEL better. And that’s the ultimate goal. Or rather, she should think of that as her ultimate goal, instead of losing weight—feeling better.

Jenée: That’s perfect. Table the question of whether losing weight is good or bad. And just try to feel better, which is something we can all agree is a good goal! So she won’t have to torture herself.

Lauren: Well, I think we tied that into a nice little bow.

Jenée: The Diet-Industrial Complex better watch out because we just figured out a way around it.