Are Fat Loss and Feminism Mutually Exclusive?

By Erin Brown

I identify as a feminist. That is:

“A person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.”

—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I am unafraid of other definitions, often thrown around by folks who are directly threatened by women in power or conditioned to believe we shouldn’t have it.

A common question I’m asked as a feminist, particularly within the fitness industry, is where I stand on the subject of fat loss.

"A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.”

—Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

erinbrownpresentingggsevent2016-450x340It took me years to discover that there was more to my life than the pursuit of fat loss. There was more to my success and failure, to my worth, and even to my beauty, than how lean I could be.

We are taught early and often to shrink ourselves. For so many of us it becomes an obsession whether we obtain the “ideal” body we believe we are after or not. Nothing is ever good enough, and the amount of time and energy we invest into this thought process is arguably unmatched as a collective.

That concerns me greatly. The statistics show that the age at which the average girl starts dieting keeps getting younger and younger. And while men, young and old, can struggle with body image as well, the statistics about girls and the pressure to be thin remain staggering.

I don’t want to live in a world in which women are taught to be thin before they believe themselves to be valuable in any other way. A world in which we systematically march toward leanness as though we came up with the idea ourselves, and in turn, all look in the mirror in mourning, tugging at ourselves to evaluate in parts and pieces instead of acknowledging ourselves as inherently whole.

But does that mean that I’m against fat loss? Absolutely not.

In the quest toward a culture in which women have the full freedom to explore their lives and their bodies by their own values, and not the limiting one handed them, I’ve no interest in providing a new list of “how to be a woman.” Telling a woman that fat loss is inherently vain or not an empowered goal in her body is to further limit and dictate to her what is appropriate. I have as much interest in churning out “new rules on womanhood” as I am in following any rules prescribed by others.

“For I conclude that the enemy is not lipstick, but guilt itself; that we deserve lipstick, if we want it, AND free speech; we deserve to be sexual AND serious--or whatever we please; we are entitled to wear cowboy boots to our own revolution.”

— Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

What I am against is advertising targeted at preying on this culturally imposed insecurity. The messages that come from everywhere that all say, “You are not enough unless you lose weight.” Or. “Come get your summer body.” I’m disinterested in and will not support companies that continue to tout that women are not valuable or cannot truly live until they are leaner than they are today, whatever their shape.

“If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.”

—Audre Lorde

molly-mbmbtank-350x385At Girls Gone Strong we want to be a resource you can trust. We want you to be able to find compassionate information about your body, whatever your goal. We offer support for diverse intentions, among them, fat loss, as this is but one way to approach your fitness programming. In fact, we have had open, ongoing conversations within the organization as to whether it deserves a spot here at all. We promise never to use this this subject as click bait to land you on our website.

We want you to have options, but will not in any way dictate what those are because we believe that your body is your business.

We’re honored you turn to us, and we aim to be impeccable with what we present to you.

Our bottom line is always the aim for autonomy. Self-governance. That means you make all of the choices you deem right and best for you. You do your own exploration of what those are, beyond those we as women are prescribed, so that all of your choices align with your own values.

“If any female feels she need anything beyond herself to legitimate and validate her existence, she is already giving away her power to be self-defining, her agency.”

—Bell Hooks, Feminism is for Everybody: Passion Politics


Note from Girls Gone Strong co-founder, Molly Galbraith:

As Erin mentioned, we have had ongoing discussions within the Girls Gone Strong organization as to whether 'fat loss' and fat loss related topics deserve a spot here. Ultimately, because we believe in body autonomy and giving women the space to make all of the decisions about their body and their life without shame or judgment, we believe that it does.

In addition, we know that this is a topic many women are interested in, and if we don't provide evidence-based, body-positive, sane, sustainable, and compassionate solutions for fat loss, then women searching for this information will end up buying another pill, powder, or AbBlaster3000, and we will not stand idly by and let that happen.

If you'd like to learn more about what those solutions are, you can find more about our small group coaching and our Get Results programs. While the focus of these programs isn't necessarily fat loss, they can be used for that purpose. I hope you enjoy them.



Get in the best shape of your life—for good.

With Girls Gone Strong Coaching, you’ll get the support, accountability, and expert coaching to eat and exercise in a sustainable way — without restrictive diets or spending your life in the gym.

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Throughout our 12-month program, you’ll get a simple, step-by-step plan for developing nutrition, fitness, and mindset habits that will lead the way in reaching your goal.

Your coach is available 5 days a week to answer questions and help you navigate situations — like eating while you’re on vacation, exercise substitutions so you don’t aggravate your knee pain, or planning a workout with limited equipment options — so you always have support when you need it. And together, you'll find the best path toward long-term results in a way that works for you.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Improve your nutrition without giving up the foods you love
  • Exercise safely and effectively so you’re getting maximum results from your workouts without burning yourself out
  • Increase your confidence, love the way your body looks, feels, and performs — and enjoy your life more than you ever thought possible

And you’ll become the happiest, fittest, strongest version of yourself, one step at a time.

Interested in learning more? Join our free, no-obligation pre-sale list.

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About the author:  Erin Brown

Erin Brown is a writer, speaker, feminist, and activist. Her work focuses on women and autonomy, which includes sharing her personal narrative and helping women own the power of their voice. Erin is the author of Showing All The Way Up: A Guide To Confidence and As Is: A 21 day practice for finding a home and peace in your skin. Learn more about Erin on her website and connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

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