I do get a lot of feedback where people say that my work “scares” them. I received a comment that I wanted to respond to here because I think it captures the ways in which people hear my message and become uncomfortable:
I have just started following your blog because: I feel that loving your body and having a realistic and healthy body image in today’s society is incredibly important. I also agree with the healthy at any size movement.
However I have some concerns to raise with you, or perhaps a challenge. It seems from a lot of your writing that you are defending women who are more overweight than healthy(your mission)
You said that you agree with the Health at Every Size movement but I think you may be mistaken, or at least you are missing the point which is that weight and health are two different things. “More overweight than healthy” is a false comparison. You can be heavier or lighter and you can be more or less healthy. There are healthy and unhealthy people at every shape and size. Our culture erroneously started to use weight as a proxy for health and many people are now confused about it.
For example in this article you are defending the 60% fat majority in America, but how many of that 60% percent are large and healthy?
I object to the word defend because we have no need to defend or justify ourselves to anyone. To answer your question, we have no idea how many of us are healthy since the medical care the we receive is often unbelievably poor – a diagnosis of fat and a prescription of weight loss. I’ve had doctors try to prescribe me blood pressure medication BEFORE checking my blood pressure (which was perfect at 117/70) We also don’t know how many of us would be healthy if we didn’t live under the stress of constant stigma. We do know that:
“Women who say they feel they are too heavy suffer more mental and physical illness than women who say they feel fine about their size — no matter what they weigh…Stigma and prejudice are intensely stressful. Over time, such chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure and diabetes. – Peter Muennig, Columbia
You also mentioned in another article that you had plenty of studies backing the fact that overweight and obese people live just as long as others. I think the point here is not wether or not someone is physically alive with a heart beat and if this person is mobile, has joint, heart, and respiratory problems, if this person has diabetes, or many more weight-related issues.
You say “weight related” which is correct, but I’m not sure if you actually have an understanding of correlation vs. causation. These diseases are correlated with obesity which only means that they sometimes happen at the same time and we don’t know why. Obesity isn’t proven to cause any of them. In fact most fat people will NOT develop Type 2 diabetes (according to the American Diabetes Association) and many thin people will develop it. People of all sizes have issues with mobility, joint health and respiratory problems as well. The difference is that if you are fat, everything gets blamed on your fat (I’ve had doctors list my weight as a cause for issues including strep throat and a dislocated shoulder.) But saying it doesn’t make it the truth. Research tells us otherwise:
“Consistently, physical inactivity was a better predictor of all-cause mortality than being overweight or obese.” -Annals of Epidemiology
“We’ve studied this from many perspectives in women and in men and we get the same answer: It’s not the obesity—it’s the fitness.” -Steven Blair, P.E.D., Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research
“Active obese individuals actually have lower morbidity and mortality than normal weight individuals who are sedentary … the health risks of obesity are largely controlled if a person is physically active and physically fit.”
-The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
By no means am I saying you need to be model thin, or that one will be riddled with health diseases if you put on a few pounds. In fact I think a persons actual weight is irrelevant but a woman should be big because she has a larger bone structure, or muscle, and not because she has masses of fat tissue clinging to her.
When did you get the job of telling other people what their bodies should look like and of what they should be composed? Was there a ceremony? Was it nice? You’ve already demonstrated a lack of understanding around the research about weight and health so honestly I don’t think you’re qualified to make predictions about will happen if someone puts on a few pounds, or decisions about what their bodies should be composed of.
I am scared that you are deluding unhealthy women into thinking that they do not have a problem. It should not be an incredible achievement for someone to play with their child, go for a walk, or climb a flight of stairs, that should be something every person expects from their body without any consideration.
Ignoring that fact that your comment is incredibly insensitive to people with any number of disabilities, and is also extremely healthist, now you’re also the achievement police? What about if someone is injured in an accident and told that they will never walk again. Would you allow them to think that climbing a flight of stairs would be an achievement? This idea you seem to have that all thin people are energetic, mobile and healthy and that all fatties are unable to climb stairs or go for a walk or play with their children is something that you are making up in your head. We run marathons. We run triathlons, hoop dance, climb mountains and win National Dance Championships. Image what we would do if we weren’t constantly told what we CAN’T do by people who have no actual idea. Just yesterday I explained why I don’t believe that body size is a problem and I believe that social stigma and access are problems.
Keep up your work with body image and health at any size, but please consider what you defend as healthy.
I will and I already have or I wouldn’t be defending it. Please consider why you would ask me (well, actually you tried to tell me) to keep up my work with health at any [sic] size and then suggest that I should tell people that some body sizes are inherently unhealthy. Also, please consider what assume to be true.
Also, why do you label yourself as fat if you believe you are at a healthy weight?
There you’ve missed the entire point again. There is no such thing as a healthy weight. There is no weight that guarantees health – there are healthy and unhealthy people of every shape and size. I call myself fat because I am fat (I have a lot of adipose tissue) I call myself healthy because I am healthy (my metabolic markers for health are all in the healthy range, I have strength, stamina and flexibility in the top 5% of the country). Were I to become unhealthy in some way, I would treat the health issue in the same way it would be treated in a thin person because if thin people get a disease then being thin cannot be the cure.