The Double Standard Driving Criticism Of Lizzo’s Smoothie Detox
Lizzo is facing backlash for her detox diet, and for promoting toxic diet culture.
Lizzo has been facing somewhat unwarranted backlash since she shared a video over the weekend on TikTok, featuring what she eats in a day “on JJ Smith’s 10 Day Smoothie Detox”. The Grammy award-winning artist was met with a torrent of hate in the comments and has fired up a tonne of discourse elsewhere, claiming she’s promoting toxic diet culture. So, let’s dive in.
the thing about lizzo that a lot of people are missing is that according to her…. she wasn’t even trying to lose weight lmao
people are getting mad at non-weight motivated decisions she made to feel good.
— Ivyprofen 💊✨ (@IvyKungu) December 15, 2020
A full rundown of Lizzo’s side of the story is this: After posting a ‘What I Eat In A Day’ TikTok showing what she’s been eating while practising a “safe detox methods with a nutritionist,” fans were upset at Lizzo for promoting detoxing, which, it should be stated, isn’t backed by science.
Despite the video’s accompanying disclaimer to not try the detox without doing your own research, and a second video in which Lizzo explained that her motivations for the detox was not weight-related, some fans were as quick to condemn, while others jumped to defend her.
The Issues With Making Fat People The Heroes Of Body Positivity
Many fans were expressing disappointment that Lizzo, a woman many uphold as the face of body acceptance, promoted diet culture. This is despite Lizzo repeatedly stating she doesn’t want to be the face of the movement.
In an interview on David Letterman’s Netflix show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, Lizzo said, “I’m sick of being an activist just because I’m fat and Black. I want to be an activist because I’m intelligent, because I care about issues, because my music is good, because I want to help the world.”
While it’s only natural for human beings to look for leaders, it’s not always helpful or ethical to give an individual a responsibility they did not ask for. We saw many people do this recently with Claudia Conway, as her TikTok became heralded as the number one source of leftist truth. It was a responsibility the teen did not consent to, and only contributed further to the scrutiny and abuse she was already being subjected to.
But, back to the case of Lizzo. Indigenous actor, writer, and comedian Nakkiah Lui spoke out on Twitter about how putting fat people, like Lizzo, on pedestals can be actively harmful to them.
“Don’t make other fat people your heroes,” Lui tweeted. “Worship denies humanity. Do your own journey!”
I’m a fat person who lost half their body weight and am still a fat person in a thin world: I know the trauma of being fat.
The only way to some kind of coping is to not focus on individual. Don’t make other fat people your heroes. Worship denies humanity. Do your own journey!
— Nakkiah Lui (@nakkiahlui) December 15, 2020
Along with Nakkiah Lui, Australian influencer Lillian Akenhan, best known as Flex Mami, also spoke out on her TikTok, Instagram, and ‘Whatever I Want’ podcast, about the serious issues around making Lizzo a “tool for self-empowerment”.
Akenhan is a Black Ghanaian-Australian woman and pointed out on her podcast that “it’s not Lizzo’s duty or responsibility to make you feel empowered in your fatness. Whatever qualities you projected onto her to empower yourself, just keep that…That’s on you,” she said.
“Now you have to recognise that maybe you never felt empowered with your body, but you created a false sense of security through this woman who’s now a really convenient scapegoat.”
Both Akenhan and Lui speak to the reasons why placing fat celebrities on pedestals is not the key to fighting fatphobia. Elevating celebrities to the point that they increase our own self-worth not only denies them their humanity, but it keeps us from checking our personal relationships to diet culture and internalised fat phobia — two things that need to be done for real change to happen.
Lizzo Is Not Above Criticism, But She Is Also Not To Blame For Diet Culture
No one should be above accountability or criticism when they have done something questionable, and this includes Lizzo. Celebrities, especially, owing to their large platforms and sphere of influence should be more responsible with what they share.
The promotion of toxic diet culture is the bread and butter of many celebrities, and notable figures like Jameela Jamil have called them out for it several times. Whether its Kim Kardashian selling appetite suppressant lollipops, Iggy Azalea promoting diet shakes, or Cardi B spruiking skinny tea — toxic diet culture and Hollywood are practically synonymous.
What Lizzo does with her body is none of our business, but she should be held accountable for her platform and what she chooses to endorse.
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With this in mind, it’s important to note that detoxing diets do not work, body ‘toxins’ do not exist, and TikTok has known issues with promoting unhealthy diet culture.
Fatphobia and unhealthy diet culture are not just in Hollywood, they’re built into our algorithms too. Both are so normalised that whole industries have been built to profit off them. Between influencers, algorithms, film, television, and fashion — there very probably isn’t a day in your life where you haven’t encountered some variant of fatphobia or diet culture. I myself was triggered into a relapse recently when, without any warning, I stumbled onto ‘eating disorder TikTok’.
There is no such thing as a detox diet. Diets cannot “reset” the metabolism, “balance” hormones, and there is no toxin a diet can remove.
— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) December 15, 2020
Celebrities and influencers are not your friends, nor are they your role models. Most of the time, they are simply wealthy people who maintain their wealth through their talent, and large often-monetised platforms. And we should hold them accountable when they use these platforms to promote cultures that actively inflict harm on people, especially people who are marginalised.
Lizzo should be held accountable, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t acknowledge the nuances in Lizzo’s case.
Fatphobia: A Racial Double Standard
Diet culture is a complex and systemic issue that intersects with class, race, gender, ability, and a host of other social factors and systems. If you don’t believe that, consider the reactions to Adele’s recent weight-loss compared to the response to Lizzo deciding to ‘detox’.
idc what a woman does with her body but we applaud adele for her weight loss and cancel lizzo for doing a juice cleanse? just say you hate black women
— miski 🛸 (@musegold) December 15, 2020
When Adele lost, and continued to lose, weight she was celebrated, and even literally applauded for it when she hosted Saturday Night Live.
A Google search of “Adele weight loss” yields hundreds of articles either celebrating her desire to pursue a healthier lifestyle, asking to respect the reasons for her weight loss as her own, or positive promotion of the diet and exercise regime she has.
Not @ people praising Adele for losing weight but shitting on Lizzo for going on a detox. There are so many layers to this: racism, fatphobia, controlling women's bodies, not to mention most of the hate coming from white liberals…
— 👁️🔮 Coven Jonas 🔮👁️ (@DecayedPencil) December 15, 2020
Racism, fatphobia, and misogyny are all very much intertwined. So much so that it would be difficult to outline all the ways in which these three forms of oppression work together, even if I was given a whole article to do so. The easiest example to show how these three issues all feed into one another is the history of the BMI, which determines your healthiest weight by comparing weight to muscle mass and height.
The Body Mass Index was created by Belgian mathematician Adolphe Quetelet in 1832 as the “Quetelet Index,” and it was created using data from predominantly European men to measure weight in different populations. As a result, any measurement created with biased data — i.e. data only relevant to white men — will produce a bias result.
If the methods used to create the tool are prejudice, then so is the tool. It’s not difficult to look at Adele and Lizzo’s journeys to understand how much race informs fatphobia and body autonomy, just as gender does.
Fighting Fatphobia Is Fighting For Autonomy
The fight for body autonomy must have more nuance, and until autonomy is more widely accessible for all bodies, we need to learn to accept that contradictory things can be true. Lizzo’s right to exist in her body, and do what she wants with her body remains true, but so does the fact that detoxing and promotion of detoxing can be harmful.
Neither cancels the other out. Lizzo has the right to pursue what is healthy for her body, regardless of what she posts on social media. But she can, and should, be held accountable for what she promotes on her platform, without the need for making her into a social pariah.
Ultimately, Lizzo is not the enemy — nor is she the problem, nor is she even the solution or face of the problem, or a figure you’re entitled to project your worth onto. Lizzo is a person with the right to do with her body what she wants without judgement or assumption from those who do not know her personally.
Some of you seem a bit confused by my thread last night RE Lizzo so let me clarify:
– Lizzo can do whatever the fuck she wants with her body
– Fat people are allowed to feel disappointed
– Diet culture is the enemy, not Lizzo
– “Juice cleanse” is just a fancy term for diet
— lottie l’amour 💖💛💙 (@Lottie_Lamour) December 15, 2020
The problem is the fatphobic diet culture that is so rampant in every social facet of our lives, and we won’t dismantle that cultural system by centring individuals in our discourse. Because while we squabble about our personal feelings being hurt without identifying the true source of the harm, the system oppressing marginalised bodies continues unchecked.
Merryana Salem is a proud Wonnarua and Lebanese–Australian critic, teacher, researcher and podcaster on most social media as @akajustmerry. If you want, check out her podcast, GayV Club where she gushes about LGBTIQ+ rep in media with her best friend. Either way, she hopes you ate something nice today.