Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

By Ember, Contributor

cw: fatphobia, disordered eating

Food is what fuels our bodies. So why is it that there is an ever increasing rise of popularity in dieting and diet culture? A movement that encourages us to deprive ourselves; to aspire to be thin. To put it plainly? A hatred for fat bodies that results in widespread disordered eating.

The way we frame different topics and discussions is very important. This especially applies to the way we talk about food, our bodies and other people’s bodies.

Caloric science is based on outdated Western scientific methods from the nineteenth century by Wilbur Atwater. It is the estimate of how much energy is contained in a portion of food by burning it in a tank submerged in water, and measuring how much burning the food increased the temperature of the surrounding water.

However, it is hard to accurately predict the energy stored in food; our bodies do not work as simply as a furnace burning fuel. There are many factors that influence the calories of the foods we eat, like how the food is prepared, if cellulose is present and how much energy it takes to digest the food.

Not to mention, there are additional factors that affect digestion, such as metabolism, age, gut bacteria and physical activity. Labels on food do not accurately represent what we’re putting into our body nor what we’re getting out of it.

Ever since Canada enforced the Healthy Menu Choices Act back in 2016, which requires food establishments to list the amount of calories in their products, there has also been an increasing number of discussions surrounding the negative impact of the addition of calories to menus.

Another measurement that is often used to determine how healthy we are is body mass index, even though it is an inaccurate measurement of “health” for multiple reasons. It was meant to analyze the weight of populations, not individuals, and doesn’t take into account whether mass is fat or muscle. As a result, BMI is a biased and harmful method to gauge health.

Along with measurements like calories and BMI, language surrounding food can also be dangerous. You may hear things like “carbs are bad”, or you may hear discourse on “healthy” versus “unhealthy” foods, “cheat days” and “clean eating”, to name some examples. This language can contribute to the notion that we should feel bad for eating food, when it simply is a way to nourish ourselves and additionally, something to enjoy.

Diet culture is so pervasive and present in society. It is encouraged by menus listing calorie amounts, peers, elders and healthcare professionals in various ways. Thoughts like “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” stem from conflating “health” and “weight”, which has roots in racism, classism and fatphobia.

Diet culture is so pervasive and present in society. It is encouraged by menus listing calorie amounts, peers, elders and healthcare professionals in various ways. Thoughts like “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” stem from conflating “health” and “weight”, which has roots in racism, classism and fatphobia.

Hannah Meier, a dietitian who contributed to a project tackling women’s health, writes about how society glorifies dieting. In Meier’s article titled A Dietitian’s Truth: Diet Culture Leads to Disordered Eating she writes, “I was half-functioning. I remember filling pages of journals with promises to myself that I wouldn’t eat. I planned out my week of arbitrary calorie restrictions that were shockingly low and wrote them all over my planner, my whiteboard, the foggy mirror in the bathroom.” 

For many of us, the mindset of diet culture swallows you whole, consumes your every thought and waking moment, then spits you out like rotten food.

Oftentimes, people aren’t advocating for diets because they want to be “healthy”. Instead, they often feel passionate about dieting because of their hate and disdain for fat people since they associate being “fat” with “unhealthy”, “unhappy” or “unlovable”.

It’s also important to note that views on fatness and fat bodies change depending on the time period and culture; renaissance paintings often depict fat women in angelic and celestial aesthetics. As well, certain cultures, both past and present, value fatness as a symbol of privilege, power, wealth and fertility.

Diet culture, eating disorders, and fatphobia are so tightly knit together that they are like an ill-fitting sweater woven by your grandmother that you didn’t want or ask for. Sometimes you think about wearing it, to make things easier or simpler. But it won’t. You will only become a shell of your former self; a husk that is barely scraping by.

Any joy derived from depriving yourself is temporary. A scale will weigh how much of you is there, but it won’t weigh how much of you has been lost to an eating disorder. It is a mental illness, a distortion of reality and external factors that influence how you think. You can’t just stop having an eating disorder on a whim.

Calorie counting isn’t healthy, demonizing certain foods isn’t healthy and having preconceived notions about someone’s health based on how their body looks isn’t “just caring about their health.” Stop calling food “unhealthy” or “healthy”, start calling it “nourishing” or “not/less nourishing. Eat food that makes you happy and makes you feel good. Bodies are so many things, including wonderful and complex. You only have one — so treat it with kindness.

 

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Julie Huff
The Silhouette

 

My friends and I have long claimed that a woman’s wardrobe is not complete without one pair of Lululemon pants and a scuba hoodie. I have spent most Tuesday mornings scanning Lululemon Athletica’s website for their weekly product uploads and Sunday nights scouring the “We Made Too Much” section (that’s Lulu’s fancy way of saying “on sale”). But over the past year, my Lulu addiction has slowly diminished.

Simply put, their clothes are not what they used to be. Lululemon’s signature luon fabric and Groove pants are what made them famous, yet customers have lately been experiencing sheerness with their once-beloved pants. Last March, Lululemon was forced to pull thousands of Wunder Unders and Groove pants off their shelves, causing stocks to take a “downward dog” and CEO Christine Day to step down (although she will not leave until they find a replacement). But it is not only women who find that Lulu leaves much to be desired. Even men have noticed a quality decline in the Game On boxer briefs and five-year basic Tees (yes, I read the men’s reviews, too).

What has been the cause of this mishap? Some suggest that Lulu has gotten too big for its britches. Founded by Chip Wilson in 1998 and based out of Vancouver, B.C., Lululemon Athletica was celebrated for being an all-Canadian company. But Lulu has begun to outsource. Although the tags on their clothes boast that they are designed in Vancouver, they also state that they are actually made in Vietnam, China, and other parts of Asia. While outsourcing is not necessarily the reason why Lulu’s quality has declined, it certainly seems to be a contributing factor. Lulu is blamed for having become too greedy. They’re using cheaper fabrics, yet their prices continue to rise.

Last week, Lulu experienced yet another setback. On Nov. 5, Bloomberg TV interviewed Wilson in an attempt to respond to the latest issue with the luon pant: pilling. Women claim that their pants pill between the thighs after only a few uses and washes. This seems to be an issue only with pants that have been made recently, as women say that their ten-year-old luon pants show little signs of wear. But it is not this design flaw that has taken center stage. Instead, it is Wilson’s response to the latest scandal that has incited a roar of media backlash. When Wilson was asked why the pants are pilling, he replied:

“Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for [the pants]. It’s really about the rubbing of the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time and how much they use it.”

Wilson implies that Lululemon is not made for “plus-sized” women. While this may not be so, Lululemon Athletica is indeed made for athletes, and not all athletes have a gap between their thighs. Wilson’s remarks suggest that only thin women are athletic, therefore only thin women can wear Lululemon. Instead of promoting a healthy lifestyle, Wilson employs the image of a thin woman to endorse his company.

For some women, being fit does mean a slim body type. But the fact is that healthy and athletic body types come in all shapes and sizes. Women who are “plus-sized” (what Lulu considers size 14 and up) can be equally athletic as women who are, say, a size 4. As a company who claims that it endorses health, fitness and wellbeing, Lululemon should exemplify this definition through a myriad of body types instead of casting only one image as a representation of their company. Wilson has been accused of “fat shaming” women. After all, what kind of message does Lululemon convey by suggesting that only thin women are athletic and healthy?

After being confronted by the media, Wilson addressed his interview with Bloomberg and “apologized.” He stated:

“I’m sad for the flagyl 250mg repercussions of my actions, I’m sad for the people of Lululemon who I care so much about that have really had to face the brunt of my actions. I take responsibility for all that has occurred, and the impact it has had on you.”

But Wilson’s “apology” leaves me bereft. He’s not apologizing to his customers or the public, but rather apologizing to his employees. Wilson needs to stop blaming women for Lululemon’s declining quality and instead take responsibility. Perhaps he should read Lulu’s manifesto and pay specific attention to these words: “The world moves at such a rapid rate that waiting to implement changes will leave you two steps behind. Do it now, do it now, do it now!” Yes, Lululemon. Improve the quality of your product now. Do it before customers become so frustrated that they leave.

Although customers’ complaints prove that women are sorely disappointed with Lululemon’s quality decline, they are not ready to give up on the yoga-inspired company. Indeed, Lulu has a cult-like following and has inspired a “Lululemon culture” that seems to be aimed toward the elite. Lululemon is a status symbol. Their high prices and high quality products once attracted certain “elite” customers, and while they still do, Lulu needs to be careful because their products don’t seem to be so high quality anymore. The fact that customers have cried out for Lulu to improve their product instead of just walking away from stores highlights how well loved the company is. Lululemon needs to listen to their customers’ plea.

My final words: The fact that Lululemon has not maintained the quality of their clothing is a bad reflection of the company, but the fact that customers keep going back despite their disappointment is a bad reflection of the customers. Lulu seems to be unwilling to adjust their clothing to fit a more diverse group of women, but women shouldn’t try to change their bodies to fit a certain type of clothing. Women need to find clothes that fit them and make them feel good. Lululemon Athletica was great before. They can be great again. But women shouldn’t have to wait around for them to change. Move on, shop around, and try something new.

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