I am reviewing my slide deck for my talk tomorrow at Long Island University. The talk is called “Health for People of Size” (and is open to the public, details are here.) Toward the end I discuss practical steps to give proper healthcare to people of size, and one of the things that I discuss is that the practitioner must not project their issues onto the patient.
This particular bullet point came about when I was chatting with a dietician I know. She has recovered from an eating disorder and now works with people who have eating disorders. She told me she likes what I have to say if it’s true, but that she doubts that people can really be happy in fat bodies. I asked why and she explained that she was uncomfortable when she was just 20 pounds heavier than her now thin frame and so we couldn’t image being comfortable at 15o pounds heavier.
I think that this happens a lot- people who aren’t able to live joyfully in their bodies for whatever reason have a tendency to project their issues onto us, the idea being that if they are unhappy at 125 pounds, we must be twice as unhappy at 250 pounds. There are two pieces of this. The first is social acceptance – we talk about that a lot in this blog, specifically the fact that the cure for social stigma is not weight loss, it’s ending social stigma.
What I want to talk about today is the physicality of a fat body and the fallacy that one can make assumptions about how someone else feels in their body.
Remember when Dr. Oz had Dr. Gaesser put on an 80 pound vest to show him what it would be like to be obese? Remember how that’s complete bullshit since people don’t typically gain 80 pounds in 5 seconds all on their torso?
The human body has a tremendous ability to adapt. My body is used to carrying this much weight and it does it well. I work hard on my physical fitness and I find that I am physically fit. I’ve written before about considering shifting from a concept of overweight to one of being under-strong. Pilates and weight training have been instrumental in what I can do with my body. If it weren’t for Pilates I would never have been able to do the splits and the strength from pilates and weight lifting is what allows me to do the dance work that I do. Unfortunately, well meaning people have often suggested that I not lift weights so as not to “bulk up” – the idea being that I’m already fat, I would certainly not want to be heavier. What they aren’t understanding is that I’m FAR more interested in what my body can do than in how it looks.
But that’s my body, with its unique combination of potential and limitations. Every body is different. The idea that all thin people are fit and all fat people are unfit is simply not true. If I got 50 people who are all in their “ideal” weight range, there would be some people who couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without losing their breath, some who would have trouble curling a gallon of milk, some who couldn’t do a single squat or push-up, and some who run marathons, some who power lift etc. The same would happen for 50 people at any weight or size. You can’t tell how fit someone is by how the size of their body, and different bodies are good at different things based on genetics and training. It’s about what you choose to do, with the body you have (and it’s unique combination of potential and limitations), and the access you have, and all choices are valid.
Each of our bodies is amazing and there is simply no point in comparing them to other bodies. We are also not obligated to take other people’s opinions of what it’s like to be us and internalize them. People’s thoughts are like grocery stores – they can sell whatever they want but we don’t have to buy it. If you’ve had a break-up with exercise, you can always choose to try to repair that relationship. If you are looking for a safe space to talk about fitness from a Health at Every Size perspective, join us on the Fit Fatties Forum.
Regardless, you never know what your body can do until you try and you are the only person who gets to decide how you feel about your body or what you want to do with it.
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