How Activist Crystal Newman Brought No-Diet Day to the Kentucky Derby
“Stop keeping silent ’cause you feel like you don’t have many people on your side. If you know it’s wrong, fight it. Don’t let oppression happen.”
Saturday, May 6, was International No Diet Day and we are here for it! All across the world, fat babes joined together to party and rally for INDD, the annual celebration of fat liberation and body diversity. The focus of INDD is to promote a lifestyle of positivity that does not revolve around the pressure of scales and dieting.
Rejecting diets shouldn’t be such a revolutionary act, but in a culture that glorifies thinness and Eurocentric beauty standards, how could it be anything but? Dieting can be a yo-yo journey based on ego, rather than actual facts and real, lasting lifestyle modifications — including the journey to self-love from within. According to The Institute of Medicine, “those who complete weight-loss programs lose approximately 10 percent of their body weight only to regain two-thirds within a year and almost all of it within five years.” This diet industry counts on this, banking approximately $60 BILLION dollars each year.
The first International No Diet Day in 1992 was created by a group of feminists from the United Kingdom. Now it is celebrated across the world.
We interviewed fat-liberation activist Crystal Newman of Fat Positive Louisville, a fat-activism group based in Louisville, Kentucky. Newman worked hard to bring a fat-positive celebration to Louisville this year during the ultra-visible Derby Days and hopefully many more to come.
Wear Your Voice: What inspired you to get involved in the fat liberation movement?
Crystal Newman: I got inspired to participate in the fat liberation movement because I realized that being fat impacted multiple facets of my life, other than how I felt about myself. I realized that being fat was more than playground bullying in school. Fat impacts how people treat you at work, in interpersonal relationships, navigating transportation, and getting resources, whether it’s for fashion or resources that impact your livelihood (like the healthcare system).
WYV: How do you feel that the body-positivity movement is dropping the ball? Where does fat lib pick it up?
CN: The body-positive movement is dropping the ball by skimming the surface and it further aids in the oppression of populations that need it most. I am a superfat, black, queer, disabled, non-binary femme and, in many instances, all I see is white, able-bodied, small-to-mid fat cis-women represented. Even thin white women are forcing their way into these spaces and I see people like me silenced and pushed out.
Body positivity only skims the surface and only accepts bodies that fall under the Eurocentric ideal, and the only way progress is being made is under the guise of consumerism, dog-eat-dog culture, lookism and Whiteness. Even when I ran the group for two years, I found myself to be erased and silenced as I stood in the background doing the majority of the work.
True, fat liberation aligns itself with other social justice movements (anti-racism, anti-capitalism, disability justice, anti-homophobia, anti-transphobia and so much more) and I try my best to live my life under those principles. Fat liberation, I feel, brings more community. [In contrast, being] body positive [encourages] every person [to be] for themselves.
WYV: Why is No Diet Day important to you? How is Fat Positive Louisville celebrating it?
CN: It’s important to me because I’ve been fat shamed and encouraged to diet since elementary school. I got bullied a lot in school for my weight. I grew up into a fat adult and developed mental illness and eating disorders. I endured weight discrimination at work. While undergoing trauma therapy, I realized THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH MY BODY. Weight bias and discrimination is wrong.
Once I realized that the day was coming up and I was able to gather up a few spoons, I made this day a priority. Additionally, May 6 is also the Kentucky Derby in Kentucky, so I didn’t want to just celebrate by myself. I wanted Louisville, KY, the whole state and the WHOLE COUNTRY to celebrate with me! Against the advice of a few loved ones, I said that I’m going to involve my organization Fat Positive Louisville, ’cause this is a once a year thing. I want to nurture the child in me that says every dream is possible. So I painted a picture, involved a few close friends, and said, “We are doing this online campaign,” and here we are!
WYV: How would you like to see it embraced within the fat community?
CN: I would like to see No Diet Day become a day when fat folks can love on one another and bring back the “community” in fat community. Hold each other’s hands (with consent) and let each other know that we had a vision over 40 years ago. WE can stick to this and we can make an impact.
WYV: If you could tell the world one thing about fat oppression, what would it be?
CN: It’s not just a fat person’s job to end their own oppression. EVERYBODY needs to do the work. Stop holding onto the biases and prejudices that influence oppression. Stop keeping silent ’cause you feel like you don’t have many people on your side. If you KNOW IT’S WRONG, fight it. Don’t let oppression happen.[adsense1]
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