I see a lot of people say some version of “I think it’s fine for people to be any size as long as they’re healthy”. I think they usually think that they are being supportive, and are well intentioned (which we’ll deal with in a moment). First I want to explain why I find this to be faulty for a number of reasons:
First, the idea that other people should dictate to us what health means, how highly we should prioritize it, and what path we should choose to get there is deeply problematic in no small part because it quickly becomes a slippery slope. I find that, for example, omnivores who want to police my health choices are typically much less excited to have their health choices questions by someone who believes that a vegan diet is the best for health.
Second, whether intended or not, this often has the feel of someone who sees themselves as superior and thereby empowered to dole out approval of my size and health plan. I don’t recognize anyone else’s authority over my body and health – I have trusted advisors but I am the ultimate boss of my underpants.
Third, it makes it sound like they believe that I can be fat if I’m healthy (by whatever definition of healthy they are using) but if I start to have health problems then it’s time to get thin. That is a trifecta of putting the ass in assumption, including: 1. fat is causing the problem 2. becoming thin would solve the problem 3. becoming thin is possible (It’s the third one that’s the real doozie – since there’s no proof that most fat people can maintain long-term weight loss, it doesn’t matter what becoming thin might do because we don’t know how to get it done).
So what do we do about this? You all know that I don’t like to criticize without giving some suggestions so here are some options that I’ve personally used, just in case it helps you. As always it’s up to you and your mileage may vary:
This can be an opportunity to educate about Health at Every Size – “I’m not sure what path to health that person has chosen, but from my research, I see this differently. I practice Health at Every Size which acknowledges that health and weight are two separate things. There are healthy and unhealthy people of every shape and size. Since there’s not a single study that shows that weight loss works, regardless of my health I would still choose health interventions for health problems – rather than trying to change the size of my body.” or something like that.
If you’re not up to having a doing the whole education piece, maybe point out an option where people don’t make judgments about other people: “I think that judging people based on their size or their health is really pretty inappropriate.”
You can choose to disengage with an explanation “Actually, I’m not really comfortable with conversations that include body policing or healthism. I’m happy to change the subject or to call it a night”
Or you can just go with short and sweet “You know, I don’t think someone else’s health or size is up for my approval or, really, any of my business”.
Of course you are not obligated to open a dialog at all and despite your best efforts people may not choose to question their actions, but I believe that we can’t be responsible for other people’s reactions, all we can ever do is point out the issue and offer compassion, support, and education in whatever combination we believe is right.
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