Photo by Virgie Tovar/Instagram
There’s a new love-your-body hashtag on the rise on Instagram, where, since the spring, it’s been invoked hundreds of times by women who are proud of their curves. #LoseHateNotWeight is the clever invention of Virgie Tovar, a fat-discrimination activist and lecturer and the editor of “Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love & Fashion.” The hashtag joins others, including #fatkini and #biggirlsrock, that have inspired plus-size social media users to post selfies that tend to show a little skin. And that, Tovar told Yahoo Health, is an “important and political” thing. Here’s what she had to say about the power of such a movement — and why it’s not always happily received.
Yahoo Health: Why did you create #LoseHateNotWeight?
Virgie Tovar: I created the hashtag in anticipation of officially launching my Lose Hate Not Weight bootcamp, happening this fall. I’m a pretty “heavy user” of Instagram. And I feel it’s important and political to show people that a 250-pound woman can live a rich, happy life filled with tiramisu, winery visits, and cute outfits, without losing weight. It was quickly adopted by many on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook who are interested in changing the discussion of bodies, fat shaming, and dieting culture.
YH: How would you describe the philosophy behind it?
VT: The philosophy is simple: You make bad decisions when weight loss is the primary focus in your life. And a lot of people live their life to lose weight, or put their life on hold in hopes of losing weight and then doing all the things they want to do. I know I did for a long time. I remember waking up every day, and the first thought in my mind was how I was going to lose weight. A lot of people lose weight because they believe that it will give them happiness, love, freedom. The truth is that weight loss will not give you those things. When you refuse to do what you love because you don’t like the way you look it’s called self-hatred. I believe that when you de-center self-hatred and weight loss as motivators and re-focus your energies toward what you actually want, you will be happy. Weight loss and happiness are not synonymous. I say, “Stop looking at the scale,” and figure out what you really, really want. Chances are that weight loss is not actually required.
Photo by Virgie Tovar/Instagram
YH: What have you observed lately regarding the growing movement of fat acceptance in our society?
VT: We have hit a tipping point. There is only so much shame and self-loathing people can take before they’ve had enough. What people are starting to realize is that they’re entitled to life the way they want, without having to lose weight. And what social media has done is create a legitimate and global forum where people can see real, live examples of fat people being cute, hot, powerful, and amazing. So, for example, in real life it might feel rare to see a fat girl wearing something cute and walking around like she owns the place. Online, however, all those girls have found each other and they’re taking pictures of themselves, complimenting each other, blogging, and just showing people, “Look, there’s a different way.”
YH: Stories about fat acceptance tend to generate a lot of hateful comments. Why do you think the topic inspires such ire?
VT: No. 1: People who hate fat people are the same people who hate women, hate people of color, hate gay people. “Fat” is just the current catchall word for all the things that we as a culture are afraid of: women’s rights, people refusing to acquiesce to cultural pressures of conformity, fear of mortality. They see body love as a move toward people taking charge of their lives and choosing what they want to do, no matter what the culture says. This is really scary to a lot of people. The anger they express is actually toward themselves. A person who hates seeing a happy, liberated person wishes they had the strength to do that, but they are too entrenched or “bought in” to the way things are right now to see it as a beautiful thing. So they see it and they hate it. … People have invested a lot of time and a lot of resources into this game that says “thin wins.” So when people see exceptions to that rule, they feel personally invalidated, personally stolen from, personally affronted. No. 2: The [national] war on obesity has pretty much given a “fat police” deputy badge to every American.