A couple things today got me thinking about this. First, I had a couple of friends who have started to learn about Health at Every Size (HAES) and Size Acceptance (SA) who are going through the stage where they struggle with the concepts – they’ll agree one minute, and the next someone says something to them that they don’t have, or don’t remember, the answer for and it shakes their belief. Second, I’ve received several e-mails this week from people who are either frustrated or seeing fat activists be frustrated with people who are asking basic questions repeatedly or who seem to get it but then slip back into a weight = health belief system, or into thinking that fat people are somehow obligated to try not to be fat or try to be fitter or whatever.
If you read the blog regularly then you already know that Size Acceptance is a civil rights movement that states that everybody deserves respect and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the body they have now and it doesn’t matter if they are fat or why they are fat. Health at Every Size is an evidence based health practice where the focus is placed on healthy behaviors as a path to better health rather than changing someone’s body size. Health and choices about the path to health are a personal decision and not a barometer of worthiness and obviously healthy habits don’t guarantee health for anyone of any size.
If you read this blog and/or other SA or HAES blogs regularly, then you are also living in a slightly different world than everyone else because you are getting the concepts of SA and HAES reinforced on a regular basis. That’s not the case for everybody. Our friends hear about SA and HAES from us and then go back out into a world that tells them the opposite thing 386,170 times a year so it’s pretty likely that they are going to come back to us with the same questions again and again.
To be clear, nobody is required or obligated to answer these questions. I choose to answer them because I think it’s important that people have someone to whom they can ask their questions and I don’t mind giving the same answers over and over again. (I even created an FAQ in case that’s helpful)
If you are dealing with people who seem to struggle with “getting it” when it comes to HAES or SA, remember that they are being given the opposite message by almost every facet of society. The diet industry along with the media has been highly successful at whipping our society into a massive fat-hating frenzy and everybody is basically soaking in it. Excuse the geeky reference but I sometimes feel like this is the fat Matrix (without all the leather – it’s all chaffing and hot) and at this point only a few of us have unplugged. I’m a very outcome-based person and my desired outcome is that everybody accepts the truth that people of every size deserve respect and a life free of weight bullying, stigma and oppression, and that we each get to choose how highly to prioritize our health and the path that we want to take to get there. To me that’s basic common sense and human decency but in reality that’s massively different than what society currently says. So I think that asking someone to shift their view is asking a lot, though I don’t think that’s fair. So, just for me, some patience is in order and I’m willing to accept baby steps and answer lots of questions over and over again as people get it. That’s just me and it’s certainly not the only way to handle things, nor does it make me better or worse than those who choose something different.
I just find it helpful to remember that when people give me push back about SA and HAES they are telling me what the media tells them everyday, what their work tells them, what their doctor tells them. I try to remember that when Galileo pointed out that the Earth really does revolve around the sun, it didn’t matter that the evidence was on his side- society told him to sit down and shut up in no uncertain terms. That didn’t change the truth and today everybody can tell you that the Earth revolves around the sun, but it took time and explanation to get there. When we say that people of all sizes deserve respect and that you can pursue health without pursuing weight loss, that’s heresy to some people and so we find ourselves told to sit down and shut up in no uncertain terms, but that doesn’t change the truth, but it does, for me, require patience, persistence and empathy.
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I do size acceptance activism full time. A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, 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 want to support the work 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 – your contact info always stays completely private.
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