First, an introduction to fat acceptance (as i see it):
(Image via: Photobucket)
Fat acceptance is not about “glorifying obesity”. It is not a declaration that fat is good. Nor though, is it a declaration that fat is bad. It is about acceptance. It is about saying “it is”, & leaving it at that.
Fat acceptance is about recognising that fat people (& I use the term “fat” as a physical descriptor, not a derogatory term), are human beings, worthy of love & respect. It is about recognising that everyone has a right to feel good about themselves – that self-love is not a privilege reserved for those who’s body type fits the thin “ideal”.
It’s about recognising that thin privilege exists, & working towards reducing (& perhaps one day eliminating) this division.
Fat acceptance often comes from a ‘Health At Every Size‘ perspective (an idea which i am incredibly passionate about & will post about later), which recognises that good health is determined by numerous factors – not body size alone – & that is is indeed possible to enjoy good health at a variety of body weights, shapes, & sizes – just as it is possible to suffer ill health at any size.
And while fat acceptance says “you have a fat body, but that does not make you unhealthy or any less awesome”, it is also part of a broader body acceptance movement, that says “ALL people are valuable regardless of their size or shape”. It’s about recognising that being fat does not make you any more or less of a remarkable human being, while acknowledging that being thin (or any other size or shape in between) is perfectly okay too.
Respect – for everyone – regardless of body shape or size. That’s what i believe fat acceptance, & the broader body acceptance movement is about. And i could not be more passionate about this message.
(Image via: winterbutterfly81)
It’s been about a year since i discovered Beautiful You, run by the oh-so-lovely Julie Parker. I felt like i had stumbled upon some beautiful, hidden treasure, & spent hours soaking up the positivity that lay between the pages of her blog.
It was through Julie, that i was introduced to the positive body image movement, of which i am so excited to be a part of today. I began to follow similar blogs, & have had the honour of getting to know some of the amazing women that run them. I engaged with these women, & shared their message with others. And i began to share my own message, through comments & small guest pieces on their blogs. I also started posting links on Facebook, to various blog pieces, news articles, & research studies, on anything & everything that related to body image or eating disorders. People began referring to me as a positive body image activist, but i still had a lot to learn (don’t we all?).
I’ll admit, when i first came across comments from fat acceptance activists on some of the news articles & blogs that i had been reading, my feelings were mixed.
‘Sure – i believe that people of all shapes & sizes can be beautiful, & of course i believe that everyone should be valued & respected regardless of their body shape,’ i thought to myself. After all, i knew quite a few fat people (again, used a descriptive word, not a derisive one), & i loved & respected them as much as i did anyone. But i wondered, ‘Should we really be glorifying obesity? I mean, i don’t think fat people should change how they look to fit someone else’s definition of aesthetic beauty, & certainly not to seek out some sense of higher worth (because they already are worthy), but what about their health?’ BAM.
And there we have it – MAJOR judgements on my part, tied up with a pretty little bow of hypocrisy. Here i was flitting around, spreading lovely little messages of ‘health at every size’, while similtaneously making some pretty big judgements about people’s health, based entirely on their body size & shape. 24 years of exposure, & i had internalised society’s message that being fat = being unhealthy.
This was no ‘Vague Future Health Threat‘ – i was not trying to shame anyone into losing weight, under a veil of false concern. I genuinely believed that fat people were risking their health if they remained obese. (An easy – though flawed – conclusion to come to when we face a possible 217 messages a day, telling us exactly that.) And while my care & concern for others is a lovely trait, the truth is, that even if i were right – even if fat did equal poor health – that truth would still not grant me the right to dictate that a fat person should lose weight.
Just as they should not have to lose weight to be aesthetically pleasing by society’s narrow ideas of beauty, or to seek out some greater sense of worth, a fat person should not have to lose weight because someone else deemed it unhealthy. How a fat person manages their health, is THEIR choice & their responsibility, just as it is for a thin person, or anyone else in between. And if they were aware of this “truth” (remember – it isn’t one) that being fat = being unhealthy, & chose not to lose weight, then that is their right, & it is none of my business.
And while this realisation helped me to see fat people through an even wider lens of acceptance (no pun intended!), it did lead me to another, rather challenging, realisation – not all fat people want to lose weight.
Whoa. I mean, WHOA. What an incredible concept, & one that felt very foreign to me. I mean, in a society where so much predjudice exists towards fat people, where they are faced everyday with hundreds of messages telling them that they are less attractive, less healthy, & less human (have you noticed the ‘Headless Fatty‘ phenomenon?), why would anyone choose to remain fat? The question boggled me, & the people making this choice fascinated me.
The answer? Despite what others might say, a lot of these people really respect their bodies & value their health – they are healthy & don’t see the value in torturing their body with diets, pills, or crazy exercise regimes. Most importantly though, they are happy. Yep, you heard me right – they are happy AND fat. Crazy right?
Difficult? Sure. But crazy? Not so much. In fact, seeing women like wonderful Ragen from Dances With Fat, dancing so beautifully (check out the video below), & with joy, helped me to realise that being fat is not as limiting as we think it is. Yes, you can be fat AND be a fabulous dancer. Yes, you can be fat AND go surfing. You can be fat AND love fashion, & you CAN be fat & happy.
For another, more personal post on body acceptance check out my post Breaking All The Rules 🙂