I Support the Fat Acceptance Movement…

…. and Question the motive and sanity of the author of “6 Things I Don’t Understand About the Fat Acceptance Movement”

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 10.45.50 AMI happen to support the Fat Acceptance Movement (FAM).

Discrimination is wrong.

I think it’s an unalienable right* for all Americans to eat what want and weigh what they way if it’s what pleases them personally.

I want my rights preserved and I believe in preserving the rights of all.

I know that I’d like to eat what I want but I don’t like what I weigh when I do that. It’s my choice to monitor my food and activity so that I maintain a weight with which I’m comfortable. I know I am both healthier and get more pleasure out of my life by keeping my weight down. I am grateful that my weight is my decision and my business – nobody else’s.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 10.56.29 AMYes, I am the general manager of an independent franchise of an international commercial weight loss service. As such, I am dedicated to helping people who want to lose weight and keep it off to achieve their goals.

  • I do not want to make people uncomfortable with their bodies.
  • I do not want to give the impression that I think everybody who has a BMI of 24 should lose weight.
  • My company is here to help only those who seek to manage their weight.

  • It’s not my intent, in any way, to suggest, coerce, or force anybody to use our services who hasn’t decided for himself or herself that life would be enhanced by weighing less.

What’s important, however, is that it’s my choice. I firmly believe that every American’s weight and food choices should be the individual’s choice and no apologies or guilt is necessary.

I agree with the Fat Acceptance Movement, but that doesn’t mean I want to be fat. I respect the rights of others to advocate for their rights as a fat person. To me, that’s what FAM stands for.

Yesterday I read 6 Things I Don’t Understand About the Fat Acceptance Movement by Carolyn Hall.

I didn’t like what I read. I mean I really didn’t like what I read. It is un-American. I don’t think I like people who think like Carolyn Hall, the author, much either.

Let’s look at the “6 Things she doesn’t understand.”

1. America is extremely accepting of fat.

I have not lived in many other countries in my life, but I have done it enough to know that America is exceptional in its general permissiveness about obesity and ill health. Though there may be negative stereotypes, staring, bullying, or crude comments, the environment we live in is one that is incredibly tolerant of unhealthy lifestyles. There are enormous portions, extreme levels of convenience, and a low priority put on physical activity (even in our schools). While treating someone differently because of how they look is not okay, with upwards of 60 percent obesity in certain cities*, you can’t say that America is not accepting of fat people. We basically ensure that people will be fat, and are tolerant of the lifestyle choices that surround it. If anything, we need to be cracking down on it more.

America is “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” and I like it that way.

Hall apparently does not.

She says, “Certain US cities have 60% obesity rates” I would like her to cite her source since I have not ever seen that statistic. Overweight, perhaps, but not obese. The 66% of Americans who are “overweight” is a self-reported figure. That would include people who are not technically overweight at all, but they think they are. That would include the 5’7″ women who weigh 125 and calls themselves a “fat beast.”

The author doesn’t like that we “live in an environment that is incredibly tolerant of unhealthy lifestyles.” I think we live in the United States and I think we are free to live our lives the way we see fit as long as we don’t break any laws. Whom would she like to be the Secretary of Healthy Lifestyles?

Apparently by being so tolerant of “unhealthy lifestyles” we ensure people will be fat. Again, who should police our lifestyles and does she really think that people are fat because they want to be fat? Does she really think that obesity is always a lifestyle issue or even a choice, for that matter? Whether somebody actively tries to change their body weight and isn’t successful or accepts it as it is, don’t they deserve acceptance regardless?

There are many unhealthy lifestyles that aren’t reflected by appearance. So is this really about unhealthy lifestyles or fat prejudice?

I think we should not tolerate prejudice.

2. “Body positivity” should include health.

The idea of “body positivity” when used to refer to people who are hundreds of pounds overweight has always confused me. How could you be positive about something when you are, at the same time, actively damaging it? Being positive about the way you look is not enough, you also have to be positive (and proactive) about your health and well-being. And the obvious ill effects of obesity — on organs, joints, energy levels, and mood — go totally against the idea of being positive. There is nothing more negative than treating your body with disregard.

Obviously she doesn’t understand that negative body image drives obesity and in particular, in women.

Obviously she doesn’t understand that negative body image drives obesity and in particular, in women. It can start with a woman of a healthy weight but who hates her thighs. She tries to make her thighs look like the women in magazines whose thighs she admires. She starves herself and she gets thinner all over, but the thighs still won’t conform. The periods of starvation are followed with out-of-control binging, rapid weight gain and intensified body image issues and contempt and a vicious cycle.

We cannot take good care of anything we contempt including our bodies.

I believe body positivity is a healthy thing for all people of all sizes.

3. “Health at every size” seems physically impossible.

A big part of the Fat Acceptance Movement seems to be the idea of Health At Every Size, which advocates for a focus on healthy living, and not on body image. And in theory, this works, but its application is totally inconsistent. We acknowledge that someone who is anorexic is clearly not healthy at their size, and needs medical intervention, but we perpetuate the idea that a morbidly obese person could pursue an active lifestyle and remain at their size, and that saying otherwise would be “shaming” them. The truth is that weight extremes on either end are not healthy, and using rhetoric to cover up their real danger is not helping anyone. Physically, you cannot be healthy at literally any size, and sparing someone’s feelings on the matter is not going to address their immediate medical concerns.

Ok, maybe she’s right that there is a point where weight and poor health cannot be separated. She’s wrong, however, about morbid obesity and active lifestyles. One does not have to preclude the other.

“4. People are allowed to not be attracted to certain body types.

Another weird part of the movement seems to be the idea that not being attracted to, or put off by, a large body is in some way shaming or internalized hatred of fat people. I know that there are many people who aren’t attracted to my body type (I don’t have much in the way of curves), but in the same vein, I’m not attracted to lots of other body types. And the focus on getting obese people to be seen as attractive seems misguided, when everyone has a preference, and whether or not someone is attracted to you shouldn’t mean anything to you. If someone wants to say “no fatties” in their online dating profile, isn’t it just their loss?”

I don’t have any comments on #4.

“5. Food addiction is a real medical problem.

Just as much as we would hold an intervention on someone who is suffering from a heroin addiction, or drinking themselves to death, should we not give the same attention to someone who is clearly eating themselves into ill health? Obviously there are going to be exceptions, when it’s caused by a medical condition or extenuating circumstances, but the Fat Acceptance Movement seems to rely too much on these outliers and not focus on the very real problem that a huge number of people in our country overeat in a dangerous way. The constant consumption of junk food, fast food, and preservative-filled snacks (especially if it’s soothing an emotional wound) is putting the body in real danger. And a lot of people are consuming these foods on more than a daily basis, which makes sense, as many of these foods are constructed to make us addicted. Should we not address these underlying issues?”

Again, I want sources cited. Where does she find credible science that says “foods are constructed to make us addicted.”?

Does she really think that people gain weight by eating only fast food and preservative-filled snack foods? Unburned calories, from any source, are stored as body fat. There may be 6 Things she Doesn’t Understand About the Fat Acceptance Movement,” but I can’t count how many things she doesn’t know about nutrition science.

I don’t believe people should hold interventions for people who “are eating themselves to death,” but I also would like to know how effective are interventions in changing the behavior of people with alcohol or drug addictions?

“6. Childhood obesity is something we can’t be accepting of.

Regardless of whether or not a consenting adult wants to participate in the FAM or HAES, we can’t say that it is safe for children. There is a reason people get so upset at seeing obese children, and it’s because it is condemning them to a life of health problems that they are not choosing themselves. Feeding children constant junk food, letting them be sedentary, or giving them sugary sodas instead of water is something that we need to be judging harshly as a society. Choosing to be obese and wanting that acceptance as an adult is one thing, but putting it on a child is another, and some of these movements’ rhetoric edges dangerously into the latter category. Regardless of where you stand politically, seeing a toddler weigh as much as a normal 10-year-old should make us all very angry.”

Children need support, not “anger.”

It sounds as though she’d be an advocate of DHS taking a children away from their families because they have been feeding them “constant junk food, letting them be sedentary, or giving them sugary sodas instead of water.”   

*unalienable. What’s unalienable cannot be taken away or denied. Its most famous use is in the Declaration of Independence, which says people have unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

 

 

 

 

Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is the general manager of Weight Watchers of Maine. She is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. Her experience with her own weight management journey and raising girls has given her insight into the struggles families face with weight, healthy body image, food and physical activity. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news for more than ten years and appears monthly as a guest on FOX network morning program Good Day Maine.