I tend to feel frustrated when I hear people decrying fat acceptance or health at every size because they had a bad encounter with a blog or blogger. I want to wave them back over, so to speak, and tell them no no, it’s okay, this really is a great place to be. This place really is for everyone, it’s all about acceptance! But I’ve been hearing a couple specific, related complaints from people who have decided that FA or HAES are not for them, namely that they felt shamed for choosing to lose weight. I’ve also heard people say they are uncomfortable with some writers and activists who give the impression that you should never listen to your doctor, or that any doctor who suggests weight loss is pushing body-hate.
The truth is, as much as I may see the FA movement as a place of pure acceptance and positivity, that has simply not been the experience for everyone. I personally only read blogs and books where insulting women for being thin is strictly forbidden, so I forget that some thin woman are still told they need to eat sandwiches, or inundated with the message that “real woman have curves” ( a message I am completely against, as previously discussed).
Not only are there thin women being told that their bodies are not acceptably feminine or desirable, but fat women are saying they have felt judged or shamed for deciding that weight loss is the best course for them. I can say that as a fat woman who doesn’t diet, doesn’t own a scale, and who tries to just practice intuitive eating, it’s almost like being in an alternate universe when fat women say they are shamed for dieting. In the normal, non-FA world, we are encouraged to lose weight at every turn. Commercials, magazine ads, television shows where fat people are almost exclusively used as jokes, and of course the regular interactions with well-meaning family, friends, and doctors. Many things unwittingly conspire to encourage fat people to lose weight, telling us we are unhealthy because you can’t be fat and healthy, telling us we are undesirable, unsuccessful, lack willpower and ambition. That is my reality, but it’s the reality for others that they feel unwelcome in some body-positive spaces because they feel that by choosing to diet or lose weight, they are going against everything we believe and will be judged for it. And, unfortunately, sometimes they are judged for it.
Here is where I stand: I am pro-health, by choice. I support people doing what they want to do in order to be healthy and feel good, as long as they are doing it by choice and not being shamed into their decision (and is that is the case, I am against the people doing the shaming). I am against forcing people to follow a strict path to supposed health. I am against listening to doctors unquestioningly, because doctors are prone to bias and do not always recommend what is best for each individual. I am against shaming people for their size, be they fat or thin, and I am against shaming people for being unhealthy, be they fat or thin. I am against trying to achieve weight loss by unhealthy means, but also do not judge those that do so. I do not support shaming people for deciding that they want to lose weight.
Every person has extremely unique circumstances. Some fat people may have back or joint pain that they can reduce with just exercise, others may need to actually weigh less in order to reduce their pain. Some people may be tired all the time, and have decided to cut out refined sugar and up their veggie intake to see if it helps. Some people may just be sick of being judged for being fat and want to change. There are too many reasons why someone may do the things they do, and at times people like me that are heavily into FA and HAES may jump to conclusions that if someone is trying to lose weight, it means they have failed to love themselves in some way. We need to be open to everyone’s stories. We need to make room for discussion about health, without judgement.
One thing I personally don’t tolerate is FA spaces becoming weight loss spaces. People who have decided to lose weight should not be shamed out of FA, but should also be sure to respect those that choose to remain the way they are. If weight loss is the right choice for you, you do not deserve to be judged for that, and it is a valid choice. It is also a valid choice for others to accept their bodies however they are, or decide to eat differently without the goal of losing weight, or really to do whatever they wish with their bodies. If those that choose diet and weight loss truly respect those that choose otherwise, we can show them the same courtesy. As long as our spaces are not taken over with diet talk, as long as we are not judged for our size, as long as our boundaries are respected, I hope we will make body-positive spaces safe for as many people as possible.