Why I stand for fat acceptance

(Content note: disordered eating, anti-fat discrimination)

I used to hate myself for being fat–even back before I was actually fat.  I remember, as a child, being ashamed to eat in front of other people.  By the time I was eleven, I had several of the “disordered eating” behaviors typically associated with bulimia.

Disordered eating makes it incredibly difficult to understand or enjoy food.  When you have a disordered eating mindset, food becomes an object of obsession–and yet, you never get to sit down when you are hungry, slowly relish the flavors, textures, and feeling of fullness, and then stop when you are pleasantly full.  Instead, you’re always stuffing yourself or starving yourself into numbness.  When I finally started trying to feel my hunger and fullness–I must have been nearly 25?  I had no idea what those physical sensations were like.

Sometimes, I still have the impulse for disordered eating, but not nearly as often.  What helps the most is that I’ve started practicing fat acceptance, and Health At Every Size.  I think Health at Every Size can be great for a lot of people, whether or not they’ve struggled with disordered eating.  This is why.

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1. Even if we took it as a given that {fat = unhealthy}, and that {if someone is willing to work hard enough, they can loose weight}, it still wouldn’t make any sense to discriminate against fat people.  However, as a society, we do.  A lot.  I’m not even talking about playground bullying or having to buy a second seat on the airplane–I’m talking about a 24% pay gap.

That’s as large as the

That is really, really, really NOT cool.  Punishing someone for poor health, in any way, isn’t cool. . . mysteriously, poor health serves as its own punishment.

Health is not a moral issue or a competence issue; it is a personal issue.

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2. Fat =/= Unhealthy.

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Fat people who take care of their health are healthier than thin people who don’t.  This is a graph of people at various BMIs who practice 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4, of the following habits:

  • eating 5 or more fruits and vegetables daily,
  • exercising regularly,
  • consuming alcohol in moderation, and
  • not smoking.

You’ll notice in this study, fat people who take care of their health are just as healthy as thin people who take care of their health.

There are a few health issues that being fat–even if you take care of your health in other ways–still presents an increased risk for.  Specifically, these are sleep apnea, diabetes, and musculo-skeletal problems.

However, that shouldn’t cause anti-fat discrimination, because health is not a moral issue or a competence issue: it is a personal issue.

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3. For many people, it is impossible to lose weight on purpose using lifestyle changes.  Biology dictates that most people regain the weight they loose, even if they continue their diet and exercise programs.

Weight loss, as a strategy, has a 90% failure rate.  We would not keep recommending a surgery with such poor odds.  With odds of success that low, lots of sensible people will not want to go that route.  Fortunately, we have Health At Every Size to try instead.  Check it out:

“Randomized controlled clinical trials indicate that a HAES approach is associated with statistically and clinically relevant improvements in physiological measures (e.g., blood pressure, blood lipids), health behaviors (e.g., eating and activity habits, dietary quality), and psychosocial outcomes (such as self-esteem and body image), and that HAES achieves these health outcomes more successfully than weight loss treatment and without the contraindications associated with a weight focus.”

HAES basically entails eating healthy and exercising without concern for whether you’ll loose weight–because in the long run, you probably won’t.  Of course, some people (fat and otherwise) won’t want to try to loose weight or practice Health At Every Size.

But that’s fine too, because health is not a moral issue or a competence issue; it is a personal issue.

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Illustration credit here.

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