In the story of the Little Mermaid, Ariel falls in love with a handsome human prince. She strikes a deal with the sea witch, to give her legs so she can be with him. But the sea witch demands a cruel bargain: human legs she can have, but every step she takes on them will feel like stabbing knives. Ariel must also agree to cut out her tongue, and lose her beautiful voice. Ariel agrees, and is transformed into a human. The prince finds her, and although he is attracted to her, she is mute and they cannot communicate. Eventually he marries someone else, and Ariel dies of a broken heart.
How much does this story suck?! But you know what – it’s a perfect metaphor for dieting.
The bargain that Ariel struck with the sea witch is so similar to the deal we make when we buy into the weight loss dream. Like Ariel having legs, the thought of losing weight is alluring…but it comes at a HUGE cost. It is AGONISING to white knuckle yourself through life in a state of permanent starvation. Dieting is treading on knives.
Not only is pursuing the weight loss dream incredibly painful, it robs us of the very things that make us unique. Ariel thought that with her human form, she’d live happily ever after with the prince. She was so sure she needed legs in order to do this that she was willing to lose her beautiful voice. Going after what she thought she wanted meant that she sacrificed her freedom, her joy, and her ability to express herself. She was so focused on being the person she thought the Prince wanted that she abandoned her essential self…and in doing so, she lost him. Because the Prince loved her incredible voice…Oh, the irony….
When we are always focussed on losing weight, (which is what diet culture tells us we need to do in order to be worthy), we lose the capacity to cultivate the things we ACTUALLY want out of life – like love, success, happiness. Instead of going after our own fabulousness…we’re just trying to get thinner thighs.
I have a soft spot for The Little Mermaid, and not just because she’s a redhead like me!
I want to take her aside and tell her to forget the prince, to STAY in her underwater paradise with everyone who knows her and loves her for who she already is. To embrace her lovely tail, to use her magnificent voice, and to find happiness in her authentic self.
Perhaps it’s too late for Ariel, but it’s not too late for you. It’s magical thinking to assume that a transformed body is the path to happiness. Like sirens on the rocks, the weight loss industry constantly whisper to us the seductive story of ‘thinner and happier ever after’….and I have had enough.
I am calling bullshit. Pursuing the dream only delivers us a nightmare. Let’s not be sucked in like Ariel was. We must remember that the weight loss ‘fairy tail’ does NOT have a happy ending.
I want us ALL to stop walking around on knives. I want us to use our strong and beautiful voices in unison, to rise up and reject these ideas. To be happy, self-actualised mermaids, no matter what.
Who’s with me?