Why a “Revenge Body” Should Not be a Goal

a man and a woman arguing

Content Notice: Discussion of weight loss, brief mention of eating disorder.

We’ve all been there. Some jerk breaks up with us and we have the revenge body fantasy. You know the one. A year post-breakup, we run into our ex at the grocery store. They look grubby, disheveled, and they’re wearing socks with sandals again. Meanwhile, we have had a glow up.

We look great. We’re dressed and made up like a celebrity, we have even lost about 20 pounds, and as they take in our new visage, the ex curses themselves for ever breaking up with such a smokeshow. We see their face fall as they realize their mistake. They mumble their regret and an apology.

You walk away from your ex, feeling powerful, untouchable even. Your ex slinks off to go back to his hollow shell of a life with you, while you continue picking out your groceries, reveling in the realization: you won.

Great fantasy, right? It feels good to think it when you’re post-break up, hurting and feeling less than. Unfortunately, this isn’t how the world works.

Think about it this way: if your partner broke up with you for reasons other than your looks (and this is most likely what happened), changing your looks is not going to be enough to fill them with regret and shame because it is not addressing the root cause of the breakup in the first place.

I remember watching a clip from a British revenge-body makeover show. The clip was of a shy blonde woman confronting her ex, who had treated her badly throughout the relationship, and the man could not have cared less that this woman had gotten a makeover. He didn’t care that he had hurt her, either. He didn’t care because he had broken up with her and he was done with that part of his life.

The man was so cold and dismissive, it made me wonder why this woman cares what this jackass thinks in the first place. But this illustrates the point that it doesn’t matter if you end up being prettier or finding a great new hairstyle. He had broken up with her, most likely for a variety of reasons (most of them probably his fault), and the fact she showed up in new clothes, meant nothing.

But on the other hand, if you partner breaks up with your because of your looks, is this even a person worth the time and effort needed to make them jealous? Think about it. Someone breaks up with you saying, “If only you lost 30 pounds and dyed your hair, we could get married and have kids. But alas, you’re a dress size too large!”

Then you internalize their message so much, you dedicate your life to weight loss, spending money on beauty products and services, all in an effort to make them poo their pants in awe should you ever run into them. Are they even worth that amount of effort?

Also, make no mistake, a revenge body is not about self-improvement. It’s not about finding yourself or discovering how you feel best in your own skin. It’s about revenge. On someone who broke your heart.

It’s a common idea, perhaps internalized, that losing weight and looking prettier will solve all our problems. I had this idea in my early 20s when I once lost 70 pounds in a few months through starving myself. I thought once I was thinner, nothing could stop me. I would be a different person, a better person. But I wasn’t. I was just me, with the same self-loathing, and the same real world problems I had when I was wearing larger jeans.

They say the best revenge is living well. However, they don’t say in order to accomplish this, you have to rub it in someone’s face. Making changes after a breakup, and evaluating what happened in the former relationship, are things we should do. Lest we keep repeating the same patterns over again. But we need to understand that the person we should be impressing and working so hard for should be ourselves.

Not only that, but it goes beyond saying that even if our perfect chance meeting happens post-glow up, we would probably be pretty offended if our ex wanted to start dating again just because we were slimmer or better dressed.

What exactly do they want to date in this situation? Our body? Our bathroom counter full of hair care products? What about all the interpersonal problems and issues that undoubtedly actually led to the breakup? They’re all still there.

So what now? As hard as it is after a breakup, we have to leave the past in the past. We dated someone, they ended it, there is more to our lives than this one relationship. Not to mention, there’s so much more for us to do and explore outside of this relationship. Grieve the relationship however you need. But grieve it, because it is dead.

The best thing we can do for ourselves and our lives without this partner in it, is embrace the fact that we are a work in progress, and then find ways to progress. We should never confuse our desire to lose weight with finding ways to truly confront and make peace with the parts of ourselves that are hurting and needing and scared after a breakup. While it sounds natural to want to hurt someone who has hurt us, we owe it to ourselves not to focus on that hurt. We have so many better things to be doing.