3 images overlapping at the edges on a colored background with the title of the blog,"I hate being a mom_ and that's okay". 3 images of mothers of various ethnecities with their children in challanging poses, not everyone is happy, frustration is being expressed in all the images from the mothers.

As a fierce advocate for releasing folks from the grips of anti-fat bias,  I firmly believe that weight loss as a solution for adolescents is deeply flawed and damaging. In a society obsessed with body image and thinness, adolescents are often bombarded with messages that equate fatness with unhealthiness and unworthiness.

The pervasive belief that intentional weight loss is necessary for health perpetuates harmful stereotypes and stigmatization against those living in larger bodies, even amongst children and teens. 

The journal article “The Motivation for Losing Weight in Adolescents—Extrinsic and Intrinsic Factors” sheds light on the various motivations behind weight loss in adolescents.

It identifies appearance anxiety and avoidance of bullying as two significant external pressures that drive adolescents to pursue weight loss. However, these motivators reflect societal attitudes that perpetuate the harmful notion that being fat is bad and unhealthy.

Research Review & Opinion: Weight Loss Motivations in Adolescents

How Doulas Support the Non-Birthing Parent

Until we change the common discourse around this idea, weight stigma and the obsession to be thin will continue to exist and likely even grow.

The HAES® approach recognizes that health is multifaceted and cannot be reduced to a number on a scale.

Instead of fixating on weight loss as the end all be all marker of health, we should prioritize holistic health behaviors, such as eating for nourishment and joy, moving our bodies in a way that feels good, and self-care.

By shifting the focus from weight to well-being, we can promote more sustainable whole person outcomes for adolescents and  begin to dismantle harmful diet culture norms. 

The desire for a healthier body is cited often in this article as a primary motivation for adolescents to want to lose weight.

However, this desire is deeply ingrained in societal narratives that equate thinness with health and moral superiority.

Contrary to popular belief, health is not determined by body size.

There are myriad metabolic and other factors that contribute to an individual’s health, regardless of their weight.

We cannot assess health based on the way someone looks. 

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again.

It is also extremely ableist to think people owe other people or society health, and/or that health is everyone’s ultimate goal and without it, they are doomed to a miserable life.

Health is not attainable. Some folks may not choose to use health as a defining term to describe their quality of life.

Some people may choose to ignore their health altogether. 

People should be allowed to exist in their bodies, regardless of what they look like, how healthy they are, or what they are able to do in the body they have,  and still be supported by the systems they interact with daily.

The other reasons cited in this article as motivators for losing weight are addressing appearance anxiety and avoiding bullying. Our children and teens are SO afraid of how they will be judged by the way they look and to be bullied for their size, that they already have an ingrained desire to lose weight.

Children and teens should be focused on play, friendship, learning, adventure, attaining new skills and knowledge, having fun, etc. not fretting over the size of their body and what other people think of it. These things should NOT be put on our children to change or modify their body to avoid something that deeply requires societal-level interventions aimed at debunking the myths surrounding fatness.

Rather than perpetuating weight-centric approaches, we must challenge beauty standards and promote body diversity and acceptance.

We need to show our youth that bodies are just bodies and that there are so many other vastly more interesting things about them as humans. We cannot put losing weight on our children as it were their personal responsibility in order to avoid being bullied.

We need to stop accepting the narrative that fat is unhealthy and find ways to empower adolescents to embrace their bodies without shame or judgment.

We Must Challenge The Narratives and Prioritize Holistic Well-Being

Improved self-esteem was also cited as a potential benefit of weight loss.

However, the root cause of low self-esteem among those living in larger bodies lies in societal stigma and discrimination placed on them from others.

Anti-fat bias permeates every aspect of our culture, from media representations, to physical access to buildings, to healthcare settings, reinforcing negative stereotypes and undermining self-worth.

To address self-esteem issues, we must challenge the blame and shame cycle perpetuated by diet culture. Instead of pathologizing fatness, we should advocate for body diversity self-acceptance.

By fostering environments that celebrate all, we can empower adolescents to recognize their inherent worthiness, regardless of their size.

Promoting weight loss as a solution for adolescents, whether driven by appearance anxiety, the desire to be “healthier”,  or to achieve the avoidance of bullying, perpetuates harmful stereotypes and contributes to the stigmatization of those living in larger bodies.  

It is imperative that we challenge these narratives and prioritize holistic well-being for all individuals.

How do you do this? 

Postpartum Essentials - a line art drawing of a mother and father cradling each other and a newborn on the father's shoulder with a beige background with green water color circle and gold glitter accents

If you have space and capacity, start today. 

Make a list of everything you think of when you hear the word fat.  Then reflect on where that idea or notion came from.  Evaluate internally or with research, is it true? Do I believe it? Why do I believe it? And then decide to continue upholding that belief or work to consistently debunk it. 

It takes time, practice, dedication, discomfort, and unease. 

But I can tell you, I’ve never been more free. 

Skip to content