First of all, you may have noticed that I skipped a few posts last week. Thank you to the readers who have sent e-mails and Facebook messages to check on me. I am fine, my partner however is not. She injured her knee and the healthcare debacle that has followed has been nothing short of shameful. I will probably blog about it eventually but for now greatly appreciate happy thoughts directed at her knee and our journey through the healthcare system. Thanks also to my friends in LA who have been so generous with support, rides, food (T, I’m looking at you) Seriously, thanks. Onward to the blog:
You may remember a while ago I was part of a panel on childhood obesity that included a bunch of self-identified childhood obesity experts who claimed that they didn’t need any evidence that their interventions work because they have common sense. Oh let’s entrust as many children’s lives as possible with these people – don’t you think?
Another concept was brought up after the cameras were off that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while. One of the panelists claimed that calling ourselves fat was a source of the problem. He explained that if you call yourself fat then that’s what you become – much better, he claimed, to say that you “have fat.” I was barely able to control my eye-roll reflex when another panelists explained that in her book (which I will never, never name or link to) she explained that it’s not that people are physical fat, it’s that they are mentally fat. Uh huh.
These are both highly problematic in different ways. Let’s start with the idea of being “mentally fat”. I hate to spoil the ending, but she is just regurgitating the same tired stereotypes that fat people don’t plan, prepare, and portion their food correctly and don’t move their bodies enough while thin people do these things, despite the fact that the evidence shows that this isn’t the case. I imagine that it’s only her insistence that evidence isn’t necessary if she thinks something is common sense that allows her to sleep at night after taking money for this book.
Fat is not a “state of mind.” Fat is not a specific set of behaviors. Fat is a body with lots When it comes to diversity of habits and choices, fat people are just like thin people – only bigger. There are people who eat the exact same things and move the exact same amount and have various different body sizes. There are people who eat vastly different diets and move in drastically different amounts but have the same size bodies. Our society accepts the fact that there are very thin people who eat very poorly and never exercise but remain thin, yet insists that it is impossible for someone to be fat unless they eat their body weight in big macs everyday.
To be clear people get to make choices about what they eat and if someone wants to eat their body weight in big macs everyday they get to do that and it’s nobody else’s business. My point is that the persistent myth that fat people just need to learn portion control and go for a walk and then they’ll be thin (both physically and, apparently, mentally) is dangerously misleading, is insulting – at least to this fat person, and keeps people who are interested in health from pursuing evidence-based methods for improving health that don’t involve some “eat less move more” platitude that has been shown to be an utter failure in over 50 years of studies.
Which brings us to the idea that people shouldn’t identify as fat, but should consider themselves to be a thin person covered in (ostensibly undesirable) fat. Here’s why I think that’s bullshit. First of all, I am with my body 100% of the time and this suggests that I should look at my body as flawed and needing to be changed in order to be worthy, I don’t believe that is the case. Since all the studies suggest that most fat people will always be fat, this suggestion means that we spend our whole lives unsatisfied with our bodies. I spent a lot of years hating my body and it was awful and exhausting and it made me tired and sad and miserable but it did not make me thin. I have come to believe that fat people are no more thin people with extra fat than tall people are short people with extra leg. People come in lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and none of us owe anybody an explanation for our size, and none of us should be expected to hate our bodies because they don’t look like somebody else’s body.
Finally, it ads another layer to the stigma and shame that fat people experience. Now it’s not just our bodies that are wrong, it’s also our minds. My fat is not a state of mind, I am not a thin woman covered in fat. I am a fat woman, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Don’t forget that the Lose the Diet Gain Yourself Telesummit starts today (January 21, 2013) I’m speaking at 2:30 Pacific Time – Truth, Lies, and Measuring Tape – What the Evidence Really Says About Weight and Health. You can listen live and ask questions or listen to the recordings at your convenience. Register here for free.
Like the blog? Here’s more of my stuff:
The Book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details
The Dance Class DVDs: Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint: Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)! Click here for the details
Become a Member, Support My Projects, and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses
I do size acceptance activism full time. A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 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 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.