One of the ways that I practice Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size is to talk about my SA and HAES practices the same way other people talk about their diets. When you announce that you are off the dieting roller coaster permanently, it is almost guaranteed that you will experience some truly ridiculous reactions.
Before I start, I want to point out that this post will discuss both Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size. These are not the same thing. Size Acceptance is a civil rights movement that says that the rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and being treated with basic human respect should not be size dependent. HAES is a paradigm for health (including healthcare, public health messaging, and personal health) that focuses on creating environments that support health and support people’s right to make choices for their health. Size Acceptance, Fat Acceptance, and appreciating your body do not require “health” or “healthy behaviors” by any definition.
Finally, I asked for feedback on Facebook for this post and there are currently 102 comments on the thread. I just want to thank everyone on that thread for a great conversation, some of which is paraphrased below:
So, let’s talk about some of the ridiculous response we get when we say things like “I’m don’t diet anymore.”
So you’re just going to eat junkfood all the time?
OMGWTFBBQ what is with people who literally think that there is nothing between “I’m starving my body to try to shrink it” and I eat junk food all the time. This is weight loss industry conditioning – the idea that there is no way of eating that is acceptable except one that is focused on manipulating our body size. And it’s super very much totally bullshit.
Besides which, people are allowed to eat whatever they want – health (by any definition) is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances. We need to focus on making sure that people have access to the foods that they want to eat, rather than trying to police what other people are eating.
But you’ll get (insert illness and/or disability here.)
People of all sizes get sick and disabled. It’s ableist, healthist, and fatphobic to use the chance of becoming sick or disabled as a way to enforce a stereotype of beauty or health. Knock that shit off.
It’s the same as someone just choosing to not take their medicine.
It’s really not. Body size and illness are not the same thing. Attempting to manipulate your body size and taking medication for a health condition are not remotely the same thing. That said, nobody is obligated to take medicine either.
But you’re not a doctor!
Doctors prescribed heroin as a cough suppressant. Doctors prescribed thalidomide for morning sickness. Doctors are subject to the biases of their time. Doctors get it wrong all the time. That’s why I do my own research and make my own choices.
You’re telling people not to be healthy
We’re not telling people not to be anything. We are making choices for our own bodies (choices that are based on plenty of research,) other people can do whatever they want, though I’ll point out that not dieting and not being healthy are not the same thing at all.
But how will you find someone to date you?
I will find someone who loves me for me and who does not only want someone who is the stereotype of beauty that has been shoved down their throat, or I will remain alone (better alone than in bad company.) As a bonus, since time will definitely change how I look, I will feel comfortable that I’m in a relationship with someone who is much more likely to be able to roll with that.
I know that if I tried that I would only eat chips and ice cream
I don’t think that’s true, I think you might do that for a while because your relationship with food may have been messed up by years of dieting, restriction and food moralization, but I think that once you got over that you would, with some self-work, develop a healthy relationship with food. But you make whatever choices you want to make as long as you realized that they have literally nothing to do with me.
Right – just focus on eating healthy and exercising and the weight will come off
Noooooo. World of no. Galaxy of no. Universe of damn no. Body size is complicated and affected by a lot of things, some within our control and some outside of our control. People can have the exact same diet and exercise habits and have very different body sizes, and people can have very different diet and exercise habits and have the same body size. HAES is NOT a weight loss scheme, some people get bigger, some people get smaller, some people stay the same. The point is, we let our bodies settle where they settle and celebrate them at whatever size.
It’s ok as long as you’re healthy.
Nope. There is no level of “unhealthy” (by whatever definition) that requires someone to diet or hate their body, and no reason to believe that either of those things will help them be healthier or happier. This is bullshit.
I knew someone fat and they had a lot of health problems (or, worse, I’m a healthcare practitioner and I treat people who have healthcare problems so I know what will happen to you…)
I knew someone thin who had a lot of health problems. By this logic I should stay fat for my health. I’m also brunette – do you know a brunette with health problems? Should I dye my hair? Stop with this. If you are a doctor saying this totally illogical crap, you should know that you are in the company of Doctor Oz which should be enough to stop you from doing it. If every fat person you see is sick, you should be aware that you have a sign on your door that says “sick people should come here.” I assume that the thin people you see are sick as well.
It’s the same as telling someone who is anorexic that they should keep starving themselves.
So you’re just giving up?
You bet, and I couldn’t be happier about it. When I was a kid I wanted to be taller, but I gave up on that too, which is great since it means that I didn’t waste my life trying to do something that nobody could prove is possible for a reason that nobody could prove was valid. This is a continuation of that theme.
You’re just glorifying obesity
I’m also short – am I glorifying being short? Or am I maybe a short fat person choosing my best life. The “glorifying obesity” myth leads to a harmful lack of fat role models, such that the only way we see ourselves represented is as self-loathing stereotypes. Fuck that.
But what about your knees?
How are your bowel movements? Sorry – I thought we were asking each other random questions that are none of our business. It’s possible that I’ll have knee problems – people of all sizes do. The big problem that I see is that thin people with knee problems get actual treatment while fat people get lectures and diets that aren’t even likely to make us thinner, let alone help our knees. And if you think that being fat is a problem for my knees, let’s remember that the most common outcome of weight loss attempts is weight gain, so please quit giving people terrible advice about knee health.
Loving your body is fine, as long as you eat healthy and exercise
Nope. Loving your body is fine. Period. Then you get to make choices about food and exercise (choices that may be limited by things that are outside of your control.) There is no food or exercise requirement for loving your body.
So you’re saying every person of every size is healthy – even if they weigh [insert random number of pounds that seems like “a lot” to this person]
I feel like people who say this are being aggressively poor at basic comprehension. There are healthy and unhealthy people of all sizes. What HAES says is that people of all sizes can focus on choosing how to prioritize our health and the path to get there, without focusing on manipulating our body size. Health is not guaranteed to anyone of any size.
You have to try, otherwise you’re just saying it’s ok to be fat.
But my diet is ok – it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change. [It’s a lifestyle where you diet all the time.] It’s totally great and you should try it or at least approve of it/applaud me for it. I think it’s great for other people to love their bodies but I need vindication for my choice to try to manipulate my body size for [insert what this person thinks are very good reasons.]
HAES people are surrounded by dieters and people who constantly question our choices, but we’re able to be comfortable with making a different choice. If you’re a dieter, you need to be able to be comfortable in your choice without trying to “sell” it to us, or hoping for our applause and agreement. I agree that you can do whatever you want with your body and I support your right to do so, I do not agree to celebrate those choices, and I do not agree that you can talk about that stuff in SA and HAES spaces.
But sometimes dieting is the healthiest thing that you can do.
Totally, 100% disagree, and not just because it’s highly unlikely to make us thinner or healthier. I spent a lot of time dieting, and a lot of time researching dieting, and for me there is nothing healthy – mentally or physically – about it. You do what you think is best for you.
This is just an excuse to be lazy
I don’t need an excuse to be lazy. I can be lazy just because it’s Tuesday (as long as Dawn’s not in trouble… 10 points for getting the reference!) People of all sizes are lazy to some degree or another at some time or another and that’s fine.
You’re just committing slow suicide
Someone on my FB wall said that people who say this should be “ejected into the sun” and I could not agree more. By this definition literally everyone is committing slow suicide – it turns out that thinness doesn’t make us immortal and we’re all going to die no matter what we do. None of us know how long we have to live, all we can do is choose what to do in the time we have. The time I spent dieting felt far more like dying than the time I’ve spent practicing SA and HAES and if I’m wrong then I would absolutely take a shorter life of this than a longer life of that.
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