Because we live in a culture that is deeply preoccupied with what other people do with their bodies, Lizzo ran into some controversy over the weekend after sharing with her fans on instagram that she’d recently completed a 10-day smoothie detox from nutritionist J.J. Smith. This kind of before-and-after content remains a complicated part of the diet culture puzzle. But when paired with her fans — who generally appreciate the way she moves through the world in a fat body with confidence and joy — these posts led to a lot of people processing their feelings out loud and online about what Lizzo is choosing to do with her body and how she talks about it. And TL;DR: It’s complicated.
While there are tons of feelings to be had about people with influence uplifting messages that coincide with diet culture, Lizzo came forward on Tuesday to remind everyone that what she does with her body remains her own business — and to encourage her fans to keep loving their bodies and doing what feels good to them: “I detoxed my body and I’m still fat. I love my body and I’m still fat. I’m beautiful and I’m still fat. These things are not mutually exclusive,” Lizzo said. “To the people who look to me, please do not starve yourselves. I did not starve myself. I fed myself greens and water and fruit and protein and sunlight. You don’t have to do that to be beautiful or healthy. That was my way. You can do life your way. Remember, despite anything anyone says or does ✨DO WHAT YOU WANT WITH YOUR BODY✨.”
To be clear: There are some health concerns to certain trendy detoxes and fad diets, as we live in a post-flat tummy tea world and there are countless nutritional diet grifts all over the Internet. Without proper supervision from a nutritionist (which Lizzo had) they can lead to health complications or contribute to disordered eating.
“Some ‘detoxification’ programs can be unsafe and falsely advertised,” per the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “A 2015 review concluded that there was no compelling research to support the use of ‘detox’ diets for weight management or eliminating toxins from the body. A 2017 review said that juicing and “detox” diets can cause initial weight loss because of low intake of calories but that they tend to lead to weight gain once a person resumes a normal diet. There have been no studies on long-term effects of ‘detoxification’ programs.”
And, in what probably concerned most of the fans who got upset seeing Lizzo doing it: Young people, impressionable people and folks with complicated relationships with their bodies can be especially vulnerable to seeing celebrities or people they look up to creating and engaging with weight-loss oriented content. And sometimes, if you live life in a fat body, seeing these kinds of posts (along with the fitspo, thinspo nonsense) can be super triggering. These are things people with influence should probably consider when they endorse different nutritional practices in a public way — but we also need to accept that people deserve the right to make their own choices for their own bodies.
I can’t emphasize this enough: Lizzo does not owe anyone an explanation for drinking a damn smoothie in front of a camera and talking about her own choices. And while concerns about promoting diet and detox culture are totally valid, even the most well-meaning folks need to think critically about why they feel entitled to police someone else’s (particularly someone living in a fat, Black and femme body) apparent health habits.
Lizzo doesn’t need to promise that her body will forever perform whatever function the public demands at any given time. She isn’t the patron saint of fat bodies or, worse, some diet culture “success story” (ew) in the making. She doesn’t owe anyone those narratives. Whether it’s being a body positivity or acceptance icon or side-stepping the creepy and near-constant praise for fat bodies getting smaller, the only thing her body needs to do and be is what she feels right for her.
Before you go, check out these quotes to help inspire positive attitudes about food and bodies: