When Lizzo took to TikTok to make a video specifically addressing backlash over a previous video in which she shared a 10-day "detox" diet she tried under nutritionist supervision, the singer looked two things: beautiful as usual, of course, but also defeated. In just a few sentences, she summed up not only her individual issue but one that any woman of size understands all too well.
"I did the 10-day smoothie detox, and, as you know, I would normally be so afraid and ashamed to post things like this online," the Grammy-winning singer started. "I feel like, as a big girl, people just expect if you are doing something for health, you're doing it for, like, a dramatic weight loss, and that is not the case," she explained—not that she should even have to explain.
For the few who missed the controversy, Lizzo originally uploaded a jaunty TikTok walking viewers through a 10-day-long "detox" diet that included lots of smoothies, juices, and water but also classic health foods like fruit, veggies, nuts, peanut butter, and protein bars. As though anticipating a Twitter mob, Lizzo even kicked the video off with a disclaimer: "I was practicing safe detox methods [with] a nutritionist," it reads. "Do not try without research." Of course, the backlash was swift and hundreds on multiple social media platforms were quick to deride Lizzo, accusing her of everything from promoting eating disorders to secretly hating the body she's been so vocal about loving.
But it doesn't matter if you're Lizzo, a record-breaking artist with a huge fan base, or just a regular civilian trying to feel a little healthier—if you are a plus-sized woman, I feel safe betting everything I own that you've been on the receiving end of "well-meaning" (or not-so-well-meaning) comments on your body and health more than a few times. Sometimes they're good intentions that come off completely tone-deaf, like someone congratulating you on using the gym or hitting you with an unsolicited "I'm so proud of you!" if you dare to upload a picture of your afternoon Sweetgreen bowl. On the Internet, though, it's often significantly coarser and crueler, with a flimsy veil of concern used to say horrific things. It even has a name—concern-trolling—and it proves a larger point about society: fat women's bodies do not belong to their owners; they're products meant to be commented on, criticized, critiqued, and controlled.
Just take a look at how other celebrities are treated when they dare to talk diet. Harry Styles piqued nothing but amused interest when he mentioned the juice cleanse underwent in preparation for his Vogue shoot—nothing close to the pages of hate in Lizzo's comments. When male stars like Chris Pratt and Kumail Nanjiani shed pounds to get ripped for Marvel movies, no one accuses them of self-loathing or promoting unhealthy "starvation" tactics—they're just asked how they did it. They're idolized, put on the cover of Men's Health, and go on a talk show circuit discussing how great they feel.
Even within womanhood, many have it worse than others. It's absolutely worth noting how entitled people feel towards Black bodies, frequently attempting to touch and question them from head to toe. While Adele certainly kicked up some unfair critique when she appeared in photos considerably slimmer, it's hard to not wonder what that controversy would have looked like had she been a Black woman.
The infuriating response to Lizzo's innocent sharing proves the ultimate catch-22 of trying to navigate this world as a fat woman: there is no winning this game none of us signed up for. If you change nothing and simply dare to live your life fat, you're constantly collecting comments like "do you know how many calories are in that?" If you're seen exercising or eating something even vaguely nutritious, you either get some patronizing "you go, girl!", or even worse, people think you're full of shit and say things like, "Who does she think she's kidding?" There is no right answer, no move you can make that doesn't stir up condescension and even anger from others. If you're eating pizza, you clearly hate yourself and don't respect your body. If you're eating a salad or a green juice, you clearly hate yourself and want to change your body. Zero-sum.
What's lost in all of this is that almost everything Lizzo has said related to her weight loss and changing diet has been about how she feels. When she's accused of hating her body and showcasing a dangerous diet, what's really being said is "You have no idea what you're talking about." The presumption it takes to tweet at an extremely successful 32-year-old woman and insinuate that she doesn't know what feels best for her body and brain is shockingly infantilizing.
Body positivity from the outside world seems to be pretty damn far off, so it seems the most we can do is plead for neutrality. Don't comment, don't hype, don't forward us links or before-and-after pics or testimonials because trust me, we already know all of it. And if it hasn't made an impact already, implication-filled messages from a stranger or even a loved one won't either.
That's where Lizzo found herself last week, attempting to defend her diet and personhood from trolls who would have us believe the two are inextricable. She shouldn't have to be so strong, but her response was perfect regardless: "I'm so proud of myself. I'm proud of my results," she said. "My sleep has improved. My hydration. My inner peace. My mental stability. My f—kin' body. My f—kin' skin. The whites of my eyes. I feel and look like a bad bitch. And I think that's it."