My friend Christina posed the following question on Facebook: “Do you think spreading “fat fear” or “fat acceptance” is more beneficial to women’s health?”. It got me thinking (which is always the sign of a good question!) and inspired this post. Editor’s note: The question is posed for a research paper, my friend is not a jerk! 🙂
Just in case you’re not familiar with the term, let’s turn to Wikipedia:
The fat acceptance movement (also known as the size acceptance, fat liberation, fat activism, or fat power movement) is a social movement seeking to change anti-fat bias in social attitudes. The movement grew out of the various identity politics of the 1960s and campaigns for the rights of fat people to be treated equally both on a social basis and on a legal one. Areas of contention include the aesthetic, legal and medical approaches to people whose bodies are larger than the social norm. Besides its political role, the fat acceptance movement also constitutes a subculture that acts as a social group for its members. Activities include conferences, fashion and arts events, shopping, swimming and other sports clubs.
Now of course we all know what fat fear / fat shaming is and we all know it happens and that it has grown as things like social media take a forefront in our communication vehicle. As a society we are OBSESSED with fat. Truly obsessed. There is a billion dollar industry around losing your fat, preventing or fixing cellulite and creating “fat free” foods/diets/fads. There is an ideal body type women (and men!) should strive to obtain. Failure to do so will result in mocking, exiling and best of all – public humiliation.
That said – does fat fear have any benefit to society? In my opinion – no. It creates and fuels eating disorders and forces you to constantly weigh (no pun intended) each bite you take, each move you make etc. while living in sheer dread of embodying “fat” or “fat like qualities”. It’s ridiculous. It’s dangerous and we need reject this as a society and move past it.
By the same token, does fat acceptance have any benefit to society? Sigh. Let me step on my soapbox and take what will be an unpopular stance for a moment. We all hate bullies right? We all hate having something forced upon us and then subsequently being judged for not adhering right? Well that has been my experience with every fat acceptance activist. I am a seemingly easy conquest upon first glance – I’ve been fat since I was 8, struggling with diet after diet since I was 21 and I am a self-confessed food lover. BAM! Trifecta of what should be someone to jump on the FA bandwagon, right? Except….I don’t want to accept my body as it is and stop by quest for being slimmer. I don’t want to be complacent and just accept my size and embrace it. No, I want to change it. I want to make my body better, stronger, faster (thanks Kayne, that song is stuck in my head now). I want better for myself – and it’s not because of some stupid magazine (honestly have you read some of the crap diets they post? Seriously). I want to be smaller not so I can fit in cute clothes (though I’ll be frank, knee-high boots WILL happen in my life, I swear on it) but so I can move around better, so I don’t have aches and pains from carrying 300 extra pounds on my small frame and most importantly so I get the chance to meet the physical goals I’ve set for myself. I know you can be fat and healthy (and conversely – skinny and unhealthy) but I also know the smaller I get, the better I feel. I reject the idea that I was “made this way and will always be the way” and while we’re at it I reject (and loathe) the term “good fatty”. That’s what a Fat Acceptance loving friend told me I was. “Oh you’re such a good fatty going to the gym and barre!”.
Will I ever be a size 2? God no (have you seen my hips? I rest my case). Will I ever run a marathon? Nope and honestly I don’t attain to be a runner anymore. I never did love the dreadmill but Zumba, well that’s my JAM. I love cardio classes! I do strive to be the healthiest version of myself possible (and would just love it that ends up being a size 12/14 so I can shop at cute stores and have more options!) but regardless I will love myself just as I am. While we’re at it just because I have a desire to change doesn’t mean I don’t love myself ~ on the contrary I think it shows that I love myself enough to want to ensure the best life possible.
So rather than fear or accept I would propose we as society acknowledge fat – recognize we’re all different (no one should be a cookie cutter cut-out) and allow individuals to make their own decisions regarding their health. You’re a size 20 and love yourself as is? Rock on. You’re a size 2 and wish you could be a 0? Go for it – but keep your health in the forefront. Don’t starve yourself, don’t judge others for being bigger or smaller. The only person you’re in charge of is you – act that way.
As my favorite blogger/Facebook page (It’s Not a Diet, It’s My Life) says: