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No Judgement For Weight Loss

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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.

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Exercise and Assumptions

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I used to work out regularly. I was younger, didn’t have a job at the time, had plenty of free time, and had a membership to a gym paid for by my mom, who went with me. I felt great. I was still fat-oh so fat!-but I felt better. I felt stronger than I do now. I probably weigh about the same as I have for years (I have a Winnie the Pooh t-shirt I’ve worn since middle school that can attest to that) but exercise made a difference in how I felt. As I’ve gotten older and busier, exercise has become less of a priority for me. I can’t afford the gym membership, am afraid to take walks around my neighborhood because I don’t want to be verbally harassed, and my body is usually so tired after work that the last thing I want to do is force it to do more work. But lately I’ve felt like crap and I’ve decided to work out more at home. I have no weight loss goals and do not own a scale. I have no desire to be a fitness blogger. I want to be able to get through a work day without my back aching or my knee twinging.

Exercise plan in mind, I took to Target for some at-home workout gear. I started simply with a resistance band. As I was checking out with my boyfriend, the clerk, a woman shorter than me but about my size otherwise, saw the band and said “So I take it like me you’re trying to lose weight?”

Hmmmmmm. Yes, this was an odd moment for me. I answered her honestly; I shrugged and said nope, I just want to feel better. My boyfriend said he might even use it too. I said I’m fine with my size. She looked at me and said “I’m not. I don’t like the size of my body.” She looked so damn sad when she said that. I wished her luck in doing whatever she needed to do to find happiness with herself, and I meant it.

As we walked out of the store we discussed this strange and rather sad exchange. I felt so bad for the woman. I saw that pain in her eyes, and I recognized it. It’s the same pain I’ve seen in my mom’s face over many years. I know the eyes of a woman who hates herself, who thinks she is ugly and unworthy. My mom couldn’t find that peace and love for herself until she lost weight, but I’m just glad she found it at all. I just refused to wait. I want to love and accept myself now, not twenty or fifty or a one hundred pounds from now. Today. Right this second. Finding the fat acceptance and body-positivity community helped me realize that I actually am not required to hate myself just because I am fat.

I discussed with my boyfriend how it kind of annoyed me to have someone assume I wanted to lose weight because I was buying a resistance band. Fair enough assumption, yes. I’m a big, fat woman, buying exercise equipment. There is just something about that assumption that makes me feel like I’m being watched as a fat person. It’s the same feeling I got when a co-worker once mentioned how good I was being when she saw my eating raw veggies at work. Can’t a woman just eat some damn cucumber slices because she wants to? At the same time, I know this cashier was looking for solidarity. She saw in me someone who can identify with her struggles. And she’s right, I can. I struggle to find clothes that fit, I struggle to find doctors who will diagnose my symptoms and not my size, I struggle to walk down the street after having someone in a moving car “moo” at me one too many times. And like just about any human being with a body, I struggle with loving, or just accepting, myself.

Our world makes it hard to love yourself. I support people doing what they need or want to do to take care of themselves and reach a place of happiness. My goals are probably not what people think they are, or should be, given my size. I hesitate to mention exercise around anyone, lest they think oh, of course she wants to lose weight! Finally! My path to health and happiness is mine, and I wish luck to anyone in theirs.

What Fat Acceptance Means to Me

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Fat Acceptance, Health At Every Size, Size Acceptance, Body-positivity. So many titles, so many abbreviations, for what is, at it’s core, the same idea: To accept yourself, to accept others, to show respect. Not everyone wants to use the same terms, and we all have our own reasons for that. Body-positivity and size acceptance are more all-encompassing terms that say not only is it okay to be fat, but it’s okay to be thin, or tall, or flat-chested. You are fabulous and worth loving no matter what. Health at Every Size, as the name implies, tends to focus on the idea that you can be healthy no matter how big or small you are, and that you can’t determine someone’s level of health or fitness from their size. I love all these terms. They all serve to spread a message of positivity and acceptance. For me, however, the preferred term will always be Fat Acceptance. It’s selfish, really; I am fat, and want to be accepted as such. I want all fat people to be accepted as such. Now, some people have a different idea of what Fat Acceptance means. Some think it means disregarding health, or hating on thin people. So to let you get to know me better at the start of this fabulous new year, here is my breakdown of what Fat Acceptance means, to me. 

 

1. Healthy-for-you. 

 

My fat acceptance is not anti-health. Who would be anti-health? That’s just silly. I never felt better than when I was working out regularly (and I was still fat, by the way) and I love drinking water and eating green things. Cheesecake made with green food coloring counts, right?  However, I believe in healthy-for-you. I believe that not everyone can, or should feel they have to, work out for the same amount of time or eat the same foods to be considered healthy. People have different needs. Not everyone can take a thirty-minute walk every day because they have a bad knee. Not everyone can go vegan because they are allergic to soy. And honestly, I don’t give a damn. We get to make our own choices about what makes us feel the best. 

 

2. Or not healthy at all!

 

What’s that? You don’t want to exercise at all and you always skip breakfast? No hate from this corner! I do not, as a general rule, believe that human beings have any obligation to be healthy at all if they don’t want to be. My only exception to this rule is if you are someone’s parent or guardian, then I do feel you have an obligation to take care of yourself to the extent that you are able to fulfill your responsibilities to the person who depends on you. That goes for many things, however, like not smoking excessively or playing drunk water polo, which I just feel would end badly. Generally, I think humans can tell when they feel like shit and what they need to do to stop feeling like shit, if they so desire. What it comes down to is choice. Not to mention the fact that many fat people do in fact make healthy decisions but people assume they don’t, because they are still fat. 

 

3. No exclusions! 

 

I may prefer the term fat acceptance, because yes, that is what I focus on. But that does not mean I don’t think you are beautiful and worth accepting as well! I do not hate on thin women for being thin, I do not hate on people because of their height, I do not hate on people’s chest sizes, and I think you deserve the same respect that I am asking for. Yes, we may be talking about fat right now, but a conversation about fat does not mean I hate people who aren’t fat. 

 

4. Real women have whatever they want!

 

When I was a wee fatty, somewhere around late middle school, I heard the term “Real woman have curves” for the first time. And yes, I fucking loved it. I loved it because I had been told my whole life that my body was wrong and ugly and not worth loving. Now suddenly here was a message that I was good, and right, and beautiful. Fear not, dear reader, I have long since changed my tune. I fully comprehend the negativity of that phrase and how it excludes and hurts so many women. I completely understand how anti-trans this message is as well, and that is not a train I want to be on. If you’re a woman, you’re a real fucking woman. Thin hips, small ass, flat chest, facial hair, big breasts, fake breasts, one breast, hairless vulva, no vulva at all. WOMAN. I will never say “Real women have curves”. Never ever ever. It’s hurtful and a slap in the damn face. 

 

5. Maybe just treat me like a person, ok?

 

What always strikes me when people argue against fat acceptance is that, whether they realize it or not, they are arguing against treating certain human beings with basic dignity and respect. Don’t moo at me from your damn car window. Don’t roll your eyes if you have to sit next to me on a plane. Don’t assume you know what I eat or how I treat my body right when you meet me. Don’t make rude comments when you see me getting seconds at dinner or eating raw vegetables. I’m a person, and I deserve to be accepted, fat and all. 

 

My Experience of Flying While Fat

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I recently went on a trip and I thought I would share my traveling experience.

Throughout my whole life, I’ve only ever flown Southwest airlines and had no issues with the staff. I find this amusingly ironic considering how often they make the news for harassing someone based on weight or dress. I do not fit comfortably into their seats but I find that as long as I check in online as early as possible, I am able to board early and avoid sitting next to anyone. For me, the worst part of flying is having to sit next to strangers. I feel obligated to squeeze myself into as small a space as possible so as not to end up on the wrong end of an angry blog post about how HORRIBLE it is to fly next to fat people, so I basically spend a couple hours being extremely uncomfortable unless I sit alone. Luckily for me, unless a plane is full,  no one willingly sits next to fat people!

Unfortunately on this last trip, I had to fly United. Now, I can’t speak for the airline as a whole, having never flown with them before, but I can say that the two planes I flew in were about the size of my apartment and about as uncomfortable as my apartment would be if you filled it with sixty strangers and couldn’t open the windows. On the first plane, going to my destination, I was one of the last people to board the plane as we were called by boarding group. Sadly, unlike Southwest, we had assigned seating. This meant I had no choice but to be wedged next to a stranger who was probably none too happy to be sitting next to the fat person on the plane. Since I was one of the last to board, my seat buddy was already in place, so she had to move while I did my best to load my luggage, and myself, without elbowing anyone in the face. I spent the ninety minute flight leaning as far against the window as I could.

On the plane ride back, I caught a bit of a break. Even though our boarding passes were labeled with boarding groups, we were called to board the plane all at once. I got my butt on that plane as early as possible and I beat my seat buddy to our aisle. I was able to situate myself and my bags comfortably and get settled in before the neighboring passenger arrived. This would be my number one tip to my fellow fat flyers: board as early as possible! Check in online as early as possible and get to the gate well before they start boarding. As a fat person, I can say I always feel like I’m being judged and scrutinized by my fellow passengers on public transportation. Even if I’m just being paranoid, that feeling is still a result of the fat-phobic  society we live in. That being said, getting on the plan as early as possible eases that feeling a bit, since there are fewer eyes on me and fewer people that have to move out of my way.

While I was as uncomfortable as ever on this particular trip, I can say no one was rude to me, no one made comments to my face or tried to make me buy two seats (as these planes were full, my main concern was getting kicked right off). The United planes carried seatbelt extenders so I was as safe as I could probably be. I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t faced any of the bullying or discrimination that other fat flyers sometimes experience. The fact that I consider this lucky is sad indeed.

I wanted to talk about this experience to draw attention so something that doesn’t always get talked about during discussions of flying while fat. People are quick to point out how horribly uncomfortable it is to fly next to fat people. They might have to touch a fat person’s arm or thigh with their arm or thigh, the horror! Sometimes those fat people might be sweaty, or smell bad, oh no! Of course, if it’s a thin person who is sweaty, or not so great-smelling, or maybe hogs the armrest, that experience isn’t used as an example of how gross thin people are, how they should be forced to buy two seats, how they should just be banned from flying entirely. What I really want to talk about, what I really want you to understand, is that flying is infinitely more uncomfortable for the fat person in question than for anyone else on that plane.

We have to deal with the mental and emotional stress of worrying that we might get kicked off the plane, or asked to buy a second seat that we can’t afford. We have to be the recipient of dirty looks. We have to wonder if every time a part of our body makes contact with someone else’s, if that person is going on an inner rant about how they had to touch a gross fat person. We have to be extra conscious of how we smell or how sweaty we are, lest we be labeled a gross smelly fatty. Never mind the fact that travel is always stressful and airports often include lots of walking while carrying heavy bags, heaven forbid we break a sweat. You might have a little bit of your seat taken up by a fat person, but that means we take up our entire seat and then some. How comfortable do you think that is for us?

The next time you travel and start to feel annoyed by someone near you on the bus or plane, ask yourself, are they doing anything they can control? Are they blasting music through their headphones, wearing far too much perfume for an enclosed space, or kicking your seat? Or do they just have a body type that you are uncomfortable with?

Because….. they’re poison?

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Do you ever see something so ridiculous, so odd, so fantastically incorrect that you need to rush and tell someone as soon as possible?

A few minutes ago, I was checking a weather forecast site for my local seven day forecast. I glance to the top of the screen and what do I see but a banner ad excitedly and desperately trying to inform me of the five foods I should never eat in order to trim my belly fat. To the left of the ad were the words “Never eat” with an arrow pointing to…. a banana.

After I regained consciousness, I decided to see what the internet has to say about banana nutrition. If the nutrition chart I found is even remotely accurate, bananas have a couple hundred calories, quite a bit of potassium, and a smattering of vitamins and minerals. That almost sounds like… food! Calories, to give you energy to do stuff! Vitamins and minerals to provide various benefits! Clearly deadly and will make you fat! NEVER EAT THEM!

This is just a tiny sample of the ridiculous messages we are bombarded with every day. These messages range from the potentially dangerous (Take this non-FDA approved pill and drop weight fast!) to the simply laughable (Don’t eat white foods!). These messages build up, creating a conflicting, nonsensical jumble of misinformation and empty promises. This is the miracle cure that will help you lose that extra five pounds! No, this one, over here! NO, over HERE! Now apparently we should never eat a certain fruit if we really, truly want to lose that dreaded belly fat.

To you all I say; Enjoy that banana, or that bowl of cereal, or that white rice, or whatever you feel like snacking on today. And if you see one of these silly banners, have a good laugh on me.