Size Acceptance FAQs

As size acceptance activists we often get asked the same questions over and over.  Typically, in my experience, they are asked respectfully by people who are new to the movement and trying to wrap their heads around what we are about.  I thought I would take a stab at  creating some answers to frequently asked questions.  To be clear I am not speaking for the movement, or for anyone but myself with my answers.  I got us started with a few that I hear a lot, if you have ideas about questions that aren’t here leave them in the comments and I’ll add them to the post. If you have answers other than what I’ve given feel free to leave those in the comments as well:

Isn’t fat unhealthy?

No. Weight and health are two separate things – there are healthy and unhealthy fat people and healthy and unhealthy thin people. The confusion of weight and health does a disservice to fat people because people (often including doctors) think that they can look at us and determine our health, it also does a disservice to thin people who are told that they are healthy simply because of their weight and that isn’t what the evidence shows. In fact, the evidence shows that people’s habits are a much better determinant of health than their size is.  Body size is not a diagnosis.  I call this a Galileo issue – “everybody knew” that the sun revolved around the Earth and so Galileo’s statement that the evidence showed that the Earth revolved around the sun was considered heresy.  Now “everybody knows” that fat is unhealthy and so statements to the contrary, even though they are fully supported by evidence, are considered heresy. That doesn’t make them any less true.

Isn’t Health at Every Size just giving up?

Health at Every Size is a choice to focus on healthy habits as a way to improve health rather than focusing on body size as a way to improve health.  Studies on long term dieting show that the vast majority of people regain their weight after 5 years, many regaining more weight than they lost – dieting does not meet the criteria for evidence based healthcare.  Health at Every Size is about opting out of a social construct, perpetuated by a 60 Billion dollar a year diet industry, that takes our money to solve a problem that nobody has proven is valid with a solution that nobody has proven is effective or even possible for most people.  Health at Every Size does involve giving up on some things, including the hope of getting the societal approval that comes with being thin.  But the cure for social stigma isn’t weight loss, the cure for social stigma is ending social stigma.  Health is a very personal thing – each person gets to choose how highly they want to prioritize their health and the path that they take to get there.  For me it’s about the best I can do with the amazing and unique body I have which just happens to be a fat body.

How is it fair that my tax dollars pay for the healthcare of fat people?

While people may not realize it, this argument is thinly veiled bigotry.  Tax dollars pay for all kinds of things and unless someone has a list of everything that their tax dollars pay for broken down by what they do and do not want to pay for, then this is just about prejudice against fat people.  This is a very slippery slope – should those of us who don’t drink get to opt out of our tax dollars paying for any alcohol-related health problems? Should vegans get to opt out of their tax dollars paying for the healthcare of non-vegans?  There are some military projects that I’m not thrilled to pay for.  This whole argument collapes under scrutiny.  Also, just to bring some facts to the table, the Congressional Budget Office, and anyone who has actually looked at the numbers has concluded that fat people are barely a blip on the healthcare cost radar.

How can you say it’s ok to be fat?

Because nobody needs anyone else’s permission or approval to live in, and be happy with, their body.  Fat people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that includes the right to live life in the bodies we have without our government waging war on us or having other people tell us that we need to do what they think we should do until we look the way they think we should look. It is absolutely, positively, completely ok to be fat.

Remember if you have questions that you would like me to answer, you can leave them in the comments!

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month and giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or who just want to  support the work that I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them and your contact info always stays completely private.  (If you are a size positive merchant who wants to do a member deal just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll get it set up)

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book.  The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!

I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact  so it  is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price

Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 8:15 am  Comments (37)  

37 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Typically they are asked respectfully by people who are new to the movement and trying to wrap their heads around what we are about.

    Huh. Interesting. That’s not my experience at all. My experience is that those are generally “asked” rhetorically by quite hostile people, often people who are aware of the movement and just disagree with its ideas and goals, and reject or refuse to acknowledge the facts.

    • This has also been my experience. Generally speaking, I’ve not been asked about fat acceptance, size acceptance, or HAES in general: I’ve been confronted when daring to be unapologetically fat (e.g., believing that entitles me to evidence-based health care, working out in form-fitting clothes, speaking up against weight/fat discrimination in my workplace).

      I do think a size acceptance FAQ is a great idea because it seems that other folks get different types of question-askers, but — yeah.

  2. Amen. That is also my experience, questions asked by people who have already decided that they know the answers & hope to shame me into going back to dieting or apologizing for not meeting their standards. I don’t think I have ever had a fat related question asked of me that didn’t have an anti-fat agenda in more than 32 years of involvement in fat acceptance.

  3. some quick editing: “Studies on long term dieting show that the vast majority of people regain their weight after 5 years, many regaining weight than they lost – dieting does not meat the criteria for evidence based healthcare. ”
    suggested corrections:
    “…many gaining MORE weight than they lost–dieting does not MEET the criteria…”

    For the ladies above: these are answers to give people who are genuinely looking for answers. Not the dolts who wish to be jerks and abuse you for being fat.

    On another note, I again must say that I am so happy I have a doctor who isn’t fixated on my weight. I am currently healthy from the respect of blood pressure and other metabolic factors (blood tests), but am currently concerned about a decline in activity due to 2 injuries. Got MRIs scheduled and I’m looking forward to the next step! I’m a little concerned about the Orthopaedic surgeon (the doctor is pretty sure the answer for one of my issues will be surgery), for he didn’t seem to be as size accepting in the past. Cross your fingers!

    • I am not a lady, thank you. I am a woman. “Lady” connotes a specific kind of femininity, one to which I do not subscribe. I refuse to take part in the current resurgence of its use, and roundly dislike being called one. Thank you for not calling me one in future.

      And, “these are answers to give people who are genuinely looking for answers,” is not what Ragen said. She said those questions are typically asked respectfully by people new to the movement (by which I think she means people who have not previously much encountered the movement, not people who have newly joined it). We are saying that that is not our experience.

      Especially on that next-to-last question, which I have never seen not asked in a hostile way. The bigotry in that is not even thinly-veiled.

      • I did not expect anyone to respond to my reply in this fashion.
        I have been reading Ragan’s posts daily and believed this post to be what I said. Maybe it would have been more correct to say that they are answers you could employ when asked questions by people who ask the questions genuinely and for whom you feel their questions are not meant to demean you.
        I took your reply as an attack. Attacking me for using pleasantries by using the word lady when addressing unknown female respondants? I obviously did not read this blog the same way you did and will do my best to not join in any discourse with you again for I do not wish to be treated thus.
        Badly done.

        • Telling you that I do not care to be called a lady — something many feminists feel — and telling you about my experiences as a fat activist is an attack? Wow. OK, fine. Doesn’t especially bother me. But I’ll warn you now that fat-haters will be much, much nastier than that, so be careful who you engage with.

        • Obviously, you’re free to engage — or not — in discourse with whoever you like. However, please don’t assume that “ladies” is a neutral pleasantry. It’s not fair to those of us who are genuinely hurt and marginalized by the term.

          Thinking about it this way… A lot of folks involved in LGBTQ movements, including me, are fine with “queer” being used as an identifier. However, others have very different — often angry and hurtful — associations with the term being used to describe them. If I am going to use the term, I have a responsibility to know the possible meanings it may have — or, failing that, to hold myself accountable for the word(s) I did use, regardless of how I foresaw their intent.

          • Found a wonderful comment on a friend’s page today. He intended it for politics, but I think it’s equally applicable here.

            “When does the tearing apart end and building up begin? We become polarized in dualities, dualities that aren’t even dual. I hope today to better reach out, listen to, and accept those who are different than I, so that I’m less inclined to tear apart, and more inclined to build. Less inclined to be right and more inclined to be real.”

            In other words, I’m not going to presume negativity on someone’s part unless there is reason to. If I presume negativity in advance, that’s an excellent indicator that it’s my issue, not theirs.

            • So folks shouldn’t speak up when others refer to them by words they find hurtful?

              • No, Tori — you should speak up and set boundaries. But just as you ask for people to take responsibility for their hurtful words even if uttered innocently, it is also important to take responsibility when your speaking up is done in a hurtful way. There are 10s of thousands of words in the English language, and I cannot always do the research to know every one of them that might offend. Perhaps in your circles, it’s blatantly obvious why it’s wrong, but it wouldn’t have occurred to me, either. If someone wants to be on your side, but in all innocence says something that offends, wouldn’t it make more sense to make it into a teachable moment rather than to chastise them?

                • Can you point out where I was chastising?

      • Tori — am taking this discussion out so we don’t get down to single letters as the responses get more and more nested. Looking back at your comments, I do believe you made a cogent argument without chastising. If I had been the OP, I would have been taken aback by fatcarriesflavor’s reaction. That was what I was referring to.

        • And what exactly should I have said instead? I was perfectly polite. I simply said that I did not like to be called a lady. I did not even ask her not to, I just stated my preference. And then I reiterated that I was responding to Regan’s experience with my own.

          My experience, again, is that it doesn’t matter how politely I call someone out on something, if they aren’t willing to be called out, they’re going to get mad. Claiming that there is some way I could have said it better that would have made them listen is called a tone argument, and it is generally understood as a derailment in activist circles.

          I spent two hours phonebanking for the local marriage equality movement last night. I had multiple callers who, no matter how polite and smiley I was — and everyone who could hear my end of it made a point of telling me how nice I’d been, how polite and smiley — would get mad at me simply for asking them why they felt that I should not have a freedom that they took for granted. It doesn’t matter how nice you are. If someone doesn’t want to hear that they have done something wrong, they are going to get mad. Claiming otherwise is both incorrect and counterproductive. (And yes, as soon as they snapped and got mad, I ended the calls. I did not argue with anyone. I simply tried to find out why they thought that their religions and beliefs should mean that the law discriminates, in an attempt to address that.)

          • Keyboards are dreadful for conveying intent, aren’t they? Please know that I am trying to convey this gently and with kindness and forgive me if I fall short. I do hear you. I understand your point. I do not know how polite or not you intended to be with the original response. I trust you when you say you meant it politely. I can only tell you how I perceived it, and I perceived it as a bit more harsh than it needed to be to communicate the point.

            I am not telling you that you have no right to feel or respond the way you do. I am telling you how I perceived it as someone who does not run in activist circles and did not even realize the term was offensive. I know now, and will try not to use it. I have no doubt that criticizing “tone” is one way for people who don’t want to hear your message try to derail it. But when someone who wants to be on your side questions your tone, it might simply be because they were hurt by it when they made a misstep from lack of knowledge. It’s the kind of thing that just makes me tired sometimes, and why I’ve withdrawn from reading many of the more activist blogs. I don’t like fearing I’m going to commit some serious faux pas that I didn’t know was a faux pas. I’m just someone who has an interest in the subject, who thinks that basic human decency and respect are not size-dependent and who thinks that our medical model of BMI 25.1=deathfat is FUBAR.

            • I do not care what your intent is, or what Tara’s intent was. I do not find intent to be useful to assume or consider. I only find words, actions, and practical effects to be useful. The practical effect of telling people that they may only draw boundaries if they do it nicely, when they have no way of knowing what “nicely” means, is to tell them they may not draw boundaries without risking censure. If you want to talk about taking responsibility for one’s own words, perhaps you should consider that.

              Regardless of your intent or anyone else’s, what you and Tara are saying, practically, is that I did something wrong by stating my boundaries and my experiences.

              While you may have any reaction you like to being told that, and you may think whatever you like about activist tactics, my experience of years as an activist leads me to the conclusion that it is not constructive to care about intent, that it is not constructive to criticize people’s tone, and that it is not constructive to worry about “driving people off”.

              As for “someone who wants to be on [my] side,” you know, I recommend you read Dr. King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail, which was his response to white people who said they wanted to be on his side, he just needed to be nicer about it, and not protest in the streets, but only pursue freedom and equality through the courts.

              • I don’t get the analogy. You are speaking as if we are the white folks Dr. King was talking to, but we’re not. We are the colleagues on the same side of the issue. We are all HAES proponents here.

                • Those white people thought they were on Doctor King’s side, too. They were all for equal rights for black people. They just didn’t like the way he was going about it. They thought he shouldn’t demand, shouldn’t march, shouldn’t stir up trouble. It wasn’t civil. He should address things only through the courts… despite the fact that a lot of the court cases were going against civil rights.

                  Do you have any grasp of the historical context of civil rights? Do you understand anything about what people of color had to do, what they were up against? If not, why don’t you go read up on that. We don’t face that kind of depth of hatred or of institutionalized discrimination, but all fights for equality have commonalities, and if you really want to fight for better treatment, you should have a better idea of the history of various rights movements.

            • And because I just read this awesome blog post, here is another example of people getting pissed no matter how nice you are. This one is by a woman who went to get an abortion, and, when a protestor handed her a pamphlet, handed one right back. And the protestor got mad. The protestor was allowed to hand out all the pamphlets she wanted, according to her, but the woman who wanted abortion wasn’t.

              And you know what? The protestor thought she was on the side of the woman who wanted to abortion, too.

    • I do not wish to nest this comment… so please bear with me in that this reply is in response to the very large chain started here.

      I think an issue for me regarding the initial reply from fatcarries flavor is that I “heard” a chastizing tone whether it was intended or not. Thus far I have not made many posts to this or other blogs and was completely taken aback that of all I said, “ladies” got me in hot water. To add insult to injury in my eyes, I had made the comment because I thought that you were missing Ragan’s point, but from what I understand of what you have since replied, I guess you did not.

      I am not a feminist or an activist for SA or HEAS (as of yet) and simply wished to be polite and from my personal experience, “ladies” is an acceptible choice for addressing women unknown to me. I meant to show respect to you.

      Due to the fact that I took this as an attack, I was increadibly surprised for I thought this a safe place to make what I considered to be a non-agressive comment. I can deal with bullying in a situation where bullying is known to occur–I have worked for “old-school” retired military officers who needed help understanding such behavior isn’t even acceptible in a military setting anymore.

      I think you are a passionate woman who has very deep seated beliefs and I think you are awesome for speaking your mind and sticking up for that which you believe. I am sorry that I mistook your words as an attack. Do know that it was my interpretation of your tone.

      • Thank you. I appreciate it, and I really respect your willingness to address the matter again, and to consider my words more carefully.

        Just for your future reference, some feminists have been objecting to being called “ladies” for about fifty years now. There’s currently a counter-trend, where a lot of the popular, thin, pretty, white, straight, prominent feminists actually like “lady,” but I’m not one of them. I find that “lady” invokes a specific kind of femininity, one to which I do not subscribe. I also have some specific experiences in my past that make me particularly dislike having it used for me (which, of course, no one can possibly be expected to know about). There’s a lot of crossover between FA and feminism, and a number of fat blogs and communities have ended up asking that “ladies” not be used to address the general population because a number of women object to it. It’s usually safer not to use the word to address anyone in activist spaces unless you’ve seen them use it for themselves. There are spaces where it’s generally considered acceptable, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind that you never know who might object.

        I am sorry I upset you, though.

  4. Could you do a post (or direct me to one if you’ve already done it) giving steps for a fat person to change their behavior from weight-focused to health-focused? I have two people very close to me who are fat – one of them is very UNhealthy and the other, while he frequently gripes about his body size, all of his bloodwork comes back completely healthy. I’d like to be able to give them a checklist – these are the things you need to do to head towards *health* without worrying about your *weight*.

    • Two easy ones: Move more today than you did yesterday. Preferably movement you enjoy. :-) Next, eat 1 more serving of fruit, vegetable or whole grain per day than you have been.

      • I really don’t want to base any suggestions on their past behavior, because one of the friends is very much in the dieting mindset and has been most of her life (which hasn’t ever helped her, of course, she’s bounced up and down between as low as 250 to up over 300 for over a decade – she even got a lap band a few years ago, and other than a very short-term change in her eating habits, it’s had no effect on anything), and I’d like to be able to give her something to say: STOP what you’ve been doing, and here’s a plan of action starting OVER.

        • I like Linda Bacon’s “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight.” The “HAES Manifesto” in the appendix can be distributed anywhere legally (in its entirety, and with the copyright message). She provides the Manifesto free on her website: lindabacon.org/HAESbook/pdf_files/HAES_Manifesto.pdf

          It’s 4.5 pages of text, plus roughly 3 pages of references. If they can get through the Manifesto, they might become interested in HAES and do some more research.

    • Your wish is my command :) Look for it in the next few days. Also…Hi Ro! It’s good to hear from you.

      ~Ragen

  5. Should vegans get to opt out of their tax dollars paying for the healthcare of non-vegans?

    Conversely, should non-vegans who’ve found a diet that allows their body to thrive pay for vegans who did NOT thrive on that diet and ran into health issues?

  6. Here is my question. It may be new (or maybe not).

    I saw some shots of you and the other NAAFA conference bloggers in the most recent Fatosphere feed. I have to admit I was somewhat dismayed to see no bloggers of color on the panel at all (at least in the media coverage I saw).

    Of course it’s not your job as a panelist to know, but I would be interested to know if you *do* know. Were any even asked?

  7. Amen to FatChickinLycra and others further exposing the bigotry in the “why should we pay for health care for you fatties??” question.

    After a lifetime of body-shaming (starting at age 8) I find myself super-sensitive to a hidden agenda around healthism and weight. Even the slightest *hint* of “you ought to try this” will cause me to have to actively apply anti-anxiety techniques to avoid snapping back with something I’ll regret. It’s especially difficult for me to sanely discuss other people’s health-related dietary choices (e.g., low-carb, grain-free, etc) in order to support them around their best health (say, if I’m attempting to provide food for a potluck meal), without it turning into them “encouraging me” to “just try it.” I struggle so much with just choosing not to hate me, that it interferes greatly with my ability to actively LOVE me, and make choices from a neutral place.

    Opting out of the dieting conversation is incredibly difficult to do in some circles in particular–often ones in which I otherwise enjoy participating. It’s especially challenging because I find that the more “mindful” a given group is in terms of, say, environmental issues, the less aware they often are of their own body privilege and how much judgment and shame is inherently present in their [yoga/mindfulness practice/food restriction, etc.]-of-the-month chatter. This is particularly frustrating when I’d actually like to participate in, say, yoga, but am being essentially shut out by the incessant triggering. Somehow, walking through the door indicates my willingness to engage in conversations that I don’t seek, and attempts to avoid participating in those conversations is seen as “denial” of my own need to do so, which ratchets up the attempts to engage me, or the number of times someone “just happens” to be talking about their latest thing loudly in my earshot.

    I wish I could just… let go of this, but it’s freaking hard work, and often has me literally at a stand-still (or a sit-still, as I type… ;^). I know that’s not the best thing for my body, but it seems to be all I can manage for my mind. It’s frustrating.

    “But the cure for social stigma isn’t weight loss, the cure for social stigma is ending social stigma.” — Have you got this one as a bumper-sticker or a t-shirt, Ragen??

  8. Hi Ragen!

    First – awesome article. I am starting to do some fat acceptance work at my job, which is a new arena for me there, so I am thinking about how to talk about and answer these kind of questions in that environment.

    Here is my particular struggle: unlike you, I am not very good with numbers – I have a bit of math anxiety – and so cannot speak very well about research data. It’s very easy for someone to stop me in my tracks using data/research, as I am very quickly out of my depth, know what I mean? And I work at a hospital which means I am working with people who are very VERY interested in seeing “the data”.

    Any suggestions on how I can manage this? I have thought of mentioning studies and outcomes and then letting people know I can get back to them with specific answers after consulting with my HAES peeps who are more savvy than I, but I’m concerned about looking like I am avoiding their questions.

    Ok – now I’m rambling, but do you have any ideas?

    Lisa in Boston.

    PS – I also want to say how much I love that you are so careful to note that you write about YOUR experiences; you clearly get that we are all coming from different places emotionally and psychologically. You have the gift of being honest and direct without meaness, and I really value that. I send people to check out this blog all the time, knowing you will always be respectful and start with the assumption they are here to learn. Thanks for all you do!!

    • I agree wholeheartedly. I have always found that starting from the presumption that others are as honest and interested as I am promotes a really good atmosphere of discussion and respect. If I start out angry or confrontational, all positives are lost because I’m projecting my own issues onto the situation instead of looking at it objectively.

      • That has been my experience as well.

        And I want to thank Regan again for making this information accessible – both by doing tons of research AND for presenting her findings and thoughts in a manner that is approachable and encourages understanding.

        Regan – you’ve done a fabulous job with this site! Sending lots of love and positive vibes your way!

        Jen of Hens

    • When it comes to health outcomes, life expectancy, actual health care dollars used, hard statistics are necessary.

      However, it seems to me that there is both a scientific FA argument and a moral argument that requires no statistics or numbers. For example: Ragen’s whole argument about how saying “I don’t want to pay for your healthcare” is, when taken to its logical conclusion (I won’t pay for anyone’s healthcare unless they meet my 100 bullet-point list of acceptable behaviors) is untenable.

  9. Thank you for all you do! I’ve nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award! No worries if you’re not into such things, but here’s my post if you want more information: http://squarepegscorner.blogspot.com/2012/08/i-got-vba.html

  10. HI Ragen: I posted something a couple of days ago in this thread, and it still says “awaiting moderation.” This may be on purpose (in which case, feel free to move along now!), but in case it was just caught in a spam trap, I thought I’d say something.

    Again, thanks for all the good work, and the dance-spiration you provide. ;)

    • Sorry Dawn, I’m in the middle of moving and my best friend was visiting from out of town and I just got a little behind on comment approval. Thanks for your comment, it should be approved now!

      ~Ragen


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