FAQ

fat woman, fat man, fat person, fat acceptance, fat liberation, fat life, NAAFA, Fat!So? Health at Every Size, HAES.

What is Fat Acceptance?

Fat Acceptance is the idea that fat people have the right to get on with their lives without having to lose weight first.  Fat acceptance recognizes that discriminating against fat people in the workplace, healthcare, and everyday life is unjust and wrong.   More info:

What’s this “HAES®” Thing?

“HAES” stands for “Health At Every Size®”, which is a registered trademark of the Association for Size Diversity and Health.  HAES® is about working to improve people’s health without focusing on their weight.  As chronicled in the recent book Health At Every Size by Linda Bacon, PhD, HAES® has been tested in against the traditional weight-loss approach to improving health in large women and demonstrated better & more lasting results.

Per ASDAH, the Health At Every Size® Principles are:

  1. Weight Inclusivity: Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.
  2. Health Enhancement: Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.
  3. Respectful Care: Acknowledge our biases, and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. Provide information and services from an understanding that socio-economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma, and support environments that address these inequities.
  4. Eating for Well-being: Promote flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control.
  5. Life-Enhancing Movement: Support physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.

Not all people who support Fat Acceptance support or practice HAES®, and vice versa.

But Isn’t Fat Is An Offensive Term?

Not necessarily.  It can be a neutral descriptor.  Using the term “fat” is a way to normalize it and make it less of an issue.   This is a common use within fat acceptance. I do use the term “obese” as well, to refer to the clinical definition of “obese”.

But You’re Trying To Lose Weight, Right?

Nope.  If you like, you can read about why I don’t diet and why I am not interested in weight-loss surgery.

But YOU Are Too Fat & Need To Lose Weight!

I want to tell the doctor my throat is swollen and inflamed and ask if it’s strep throat and actually get a throat culture or at least a look at my throat instead of a weight loss lecture. I want to tell the doctor I’m persistently fatigued and get tests for anemia and thyroid disease, not a suggestion of antidpressants and weight-loss surgery. I want employers to see my computer science degree and 15 years experience and ask me technical questions, not if I’ve considered going on The Biggest Loser.
I realize it’s a stretch to consider a fat person might actually be a human being, but that’s what I am. The problem is that many people figure fat people are just fat, not people.

I am what many, many people regard as “too fat”.  The biases about fat and health mean that I have to hunt for doctors who will not just tell me to go away until I lose weight.   It means that employers will often be less inclined to hire me than a thin person.   There are those who assume a 400lb person can’t walk or be loved or hold down a job. I realize it’s a stretch to consider a fat person might actually be a human being, but that’s what I am.   The problem is that many people figure fat people are not “really” people, or at least don’t deserve to be treated like people.

But Doesn’t Fat Impact Your Health?

Not necessarily.   Fat is often used as a shorthand for “sedentary”, and thin is often used as a shorthand for “healthy”.   However, research shows that:

  • There are researchers who propose that focusing on exercise and intuitive eating can be healthier than attempting to become thin. This approach is called “Health At Every Size” (HAES) and is described above.

This does not mean that every person who advocates fat acceptance is “healthy” (whatever that means) or advocates HAES or practices HAES.   It means that fatness doesn’t tell you whether someone is healthy or not.  Kind of like how someone who’s thin may not be healthy or not.

But Losing Weight Is Easy! So Lose Weight!

Every time I dieted I ended up fatter.   Not dieting means I don’t gain weight.  And it’s not just me.

“The majority of people — up to two thirds — regained all the weight they had lost, plus more … several studies indicated that dieting was actually a consistent predictor of future weight gain.” — UCLA

  • The body doesn’t know the difference between dieting and starvation; dieting can cause fatigue, depression, and is the primary precursor to eating disorders (PDF).

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results - attr.Albert Einstein

  • Other research agrees that large, significant, permanent weight loss through diet and exercise is rare.  Weight gain can be more permanent, but again, smaller gains are more likely to be permanent than large ones.

But Diet Companies Would Fail If Diets Didn’t Work!

  • Diet programs benefit from the (often temporary) success of diets.  As noted in Medicare’s Search for Effective Obesity Treatments: Diets Are Not the Answer, most people diet to lose weight and then regain.  A significant subset then go on a new diet, regain, try another new diet, and so on.  Someone may do Weight Watchers, then NutriSystem, then Jenny Craig, then Weight Watchers again.  Who’s making money in this situation?
  • Ever notice how weight loss ads extolling how someone lost 40 or 50 or 60lbs will include a note “Results not typical”? There’s a reason for that.
  • New York Times reporter Gina Kolata wrote in Ultimate Fitness: The Quest for Truth about Health and Exercise that news agencies receive hundreds of press releases a week from diet programs, authors, and researchers.  Most have something to sell.  Weight loss is a terrific product to sell, because it’s so often temporary.

But You Post About Exercise!

Yes, I do exercise, but it’s for my own selfish reasons not weight loss or gain.  (And exercise doesn’t always cause weight loss anyway.)

But Where’s My Comment!

First-time comments go in the moderation queue.  Sometimes I’m not at the computer and it can take a while for me to approve them. I do moderate out comments that push weight-loss programs, weight-loss surgery, and general spam.  I also moderate out rudeness and general fat bashing.

Further Reading

Research:

Booklets: 

  • Active At Any Size, from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) updated February 2010.

Blog Posts:

  • Shapely Prose FAQ.

Books:

Book Cover with link to Amazon

  • Lessons From The Fat-o-Sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body by Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby Focused on how to start accepting your body the way it is and live a healthy, happy life now. Kate Harding -0- Marianne Kirby -o- Available from Amazon -0- My review is here.

39 thoughts on “FAQ

  1. Hi! I just stumbled upon your blog. I am currently working on my thesis in Communication Studies– Blogs being consciousness raising vehicles for social movements and focusing on FA. I am really enjoying your blog and all the info that is in it as well as it came up in the top 5 of my google search for HAES plan (I wanted to explain to a few friends HAES without having to order Bacon’s book for them or giving up my copy). Thanks for helping me to prove my hypothesis as correct and keep up the great and wonderful work you are doing here!!

    Gin Merritt

  2. I haven’t read your entire blog, so ‘scuse me if you’ve covered this, but in conjunction with exercise, an annual physical is highly recommended. I’ve had one every year since I turned 30 (I’m 44), and just this year, it caught my high blood pressure, which we easily controlled with cheap meds. it’s good to see you exercise. Being healthy isn’t always about being skinny, this you are right on in my opinion, fat gathers everywhere, so be on top of any damage it can cause ya ok?

    And you’re dead-on about dieting. Weight loss is about changing your lifestyle completely, not cutting out calories for the short term.

    Good luck to you…and your blog.

    • Thanks for your good wishes. I do have (and blog about) annual physicals.

      Oh – and most “lifestyle changes” tend to be just as lifechanging long-term as diets. Yes, if you develop a passion for hiking or yoga it will change your physique, but you may just get stronger not thinner!

  3. “And you’re dead-on about dieting. Weight loss is about changing your lifestyle completely, not cutting out calories for the short term.”

    Wow, way to miss the point…

  4. As a dieter-turned-disordered eater-turned-binger-turned-frustrated and unsatisfied with the explainations I’m getting from the medical and weightloss communities…cheers! This is exactly what everyone should be reading! Wish it was that easy to change my mindset, but at least that’s a goal worth working towards (rather than temporary weightloss). :)

  5. First, I love this blog. I think it’s fills a real need in the public discourse to show that not everyone who weighs X must be disabled in some way. So, what I’m about to say is utterly OT, but you’ve hit a nit I just can’t help but pick

    Albert Einstein once defined insanity as “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

    Though often attributed to Einstein I don’t think there are actually any good citations to prove he said this. Moreover, if he DID say it, quoting it to shore up a point is still a bad idea, because it was quite likely a derisive comment about quantum physics and in that case he was, with all due respect to him, wrong. One of the tenets of quantum is that if you do the same thing over and over often enough you will, in fact, occasionally get a different result. Or to use Einstein’s own poetic language, God does, indeed, roll the dice.

    • I actually got that from a therapist who was trying to get me to take a step back and realize that I didn’t have to keep playing the same games with my mother.

      Maybe I should credit the therapist? Of course I’ve also seen it attributed to Rush Limbaugh.

  6. Hah! That’s fantastic, Rush it is!

    I’ve actually seen it used extensively in AA and Al-Anon and do think that in cases where a person is repeating behavior hoping that someone else will change it’s a great reminder that it probably ain’t gonna work out like we hope. It’s just that every time I see it I also see Richard Feynman explaining how sometimes you do the same thing and like magic something totally different actually happens :-)

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  12. You do have some good points… I myself am over 400 and when i saw the pic of you on the floor asking if you looked it, I saw myself. I have tried every diet that I can think of and havent had the surgery. I work full time and am on my feet all the time, have two kids and a hot hubby… but I do wish I could drop a few pounds… for my health mainly, my legs and knees for my kids but I just dont know how . anyway I am glad to read the thoughts I felt and was ashamed to share… I have always looked at myself as a freak… THANK YOU!!!!!

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  14. Here is my dilemma. I have type 2 diabetes (or very close to it). I do not believe the drugs for type 2 do anything but mask the disease. They cure the symptom (high blood glucose), but do nothing to alter the course of the disease. See info by Dr. Martin Hadler (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Story?id=3232247&page=1).

    So, my only alternative to do anything about the disease is to attempt to lose weight. Yes, I agree that exercise will help, but without weight loss, I question if it will be enough to forestall the devastating complications of diabetes. My father died from this.

    Do you know of anyone who is successfully dealing with type 2 diabetes with mainly exercise? I would be inerested in hearing from them.

    Until then, I am left with few options.

    • I’m not only not a doctor, I’m also not diabetic. Type 2 does run in my family, meaning, I don’t have a relative on my mother’s side who doesn’t have it.

      I’ve read about type 2 diabetes quite a bit, and accompanied a friend to a Joslin diabetes class. The diet recommended by the Joslin educators struck me as “controlled carbs”. The push was to have roughly the same amount of starches at each meal, always combined with fiber-rich veggies, fruit, and protein. It’s similar to what my mom was taught when she was diagnosed in the 80s.

      Depending on how different that is from your current habits, that could result in weight loss on its own. When my mom when onto her diabetic diet, we both lost some weight — in my case, I think it was because it made me eat regularly instead of doing the teenage “I’m too fat, so I won’t eat until I’m really hungry” which would result in me eating even more than if I’d had a sensible breakfast/lunch/dinner. Of course even eating better didn’t make me thin, just less fat.

      You probably have found that exercise alone can improve insulin resistance. How big a weight difference exercising regularly would depend on you and your current habits.

      Finally, I would not let a doctor substitute weight loss for measures like a glucose tolerance test or A1c readings. But that’s because I have a long, LONG history of diet failure, and the last couple times I dieted I also ended up clinically depressed from the stress. Obviously not everyone reacts that way.

  15. Hey Friend your not by yourself, 1997 I was 125Lbs. Where I was living some company blew up and instead of putting the flames out the just let it burn out , It was a lot of pollution in the air…..I was diagnosis with ASTHMA they pumped me up with prenadone (steroids). I was a sale clerk working my way through nursing school, I finally finished with school at a whopping weight of 350lbs with a hip injury ,which I was down for year….Decided to move to the west coast for a change. SSA
    I could no longer work the jobs I was train for, whatever they denied me back in 2004, So I got a job at a shuttle service Dispatching shuttles buses contracted company under unnamed airport in California.. .I’ have desk radio computer it great Its a bit stressful pay sucks …The condition where I work its owned buy the air port and the won,t fix anything I have been injured 4 different times since working there .I’ve been there 3 years this October, I fell on my first day at work walking to my post the had and barrier at the end of the cross walk, which you can’t see until your on the ground . Then I was rushed to the hospital smoke from the wild firers, Third time we had rats in the trailer where I was working and they put down rat poison for and did let the employees know,I rush to the emergency room again more steroids more weight gain, now I’m at 370lbs .This last time, they had holes in the floor where my feet rest, and my chair leg got stuck in the hole and I fell on the floor … the fall was caught on camera …Guess what? they try to firer me because I couldn’t come back to work in 3 days…. I had to get a lawyer…… Now I’m t t disability since May 2010 . Now I’m at 400bls with back and knee pain its so very hard to walk, of course the asthma . And to make matters worse I’ve been sitting in the wrong chair for 21/2 years a sturdy fold up chair…… they had a office chair but I’m 5″2 with short legs. I would half to jump backwards into a rolling chair, my feet didn’t touch the the floor .I sat in the only chair they had…And get this My boss the human resource and also the CEO of the company has a comer pointed directly on me everyday and the didn’t say anything…. Did i mention they are no longer employed there….. I ‘m sorry for going on and on . I sitting hear so depressed and a lone i just need some to talk to and to get some help please if you could just write back it will be a great help I’m in a hole and don’t know where to turn thanks .Just a little foot note My employer still insist theres nothing wrong with me…………….lisa

  16. Hey, just had a brief look around your blog and think it’s awesome! It’s nice to find a more diary-ish sort of blog – back in my old days of being on Diaryland all the blogs I followed were like that… now it seems that they’re always about issues rather than just people’s every day lives. So I’ve really enjoyed reading yours, as a fellow fat person it’s nice to see that there are other people out there getting on with life and coincidentally being fat :)

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  18. So many times I have been told by doctors that I should have weight reduction surgery. My cousin is now dying because of the damage her surgery caused. It would take forever to explain all that, but she is dying. Dying to be thin. The upper half of her body is very thin, the lower half is just like it was at 400 pounds. The medical people told me that I could have the surgery to the age of 60. I have now hit 60 and I am blessed to be able to go to the doctor for a change and not hear the same old song and dance about the surgery. Age DOES have good points!

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  21. I am not trying to be stupid or rude here, I just want to be absolutely sure I understand this. You eat a variety of foods, get fairly regular exercise, and your weight stays more or less the same. Therefor, the concept of ‘eat healthy and exercise and you will lose weight’ does not apply to you (or probably many other people).

    Again, I am not trying to be a jerk, but that concept has been touted over and over again, so if it worked, it should work for you, but it doesn’t seem to be. I am not trying to hint that you should lose weight, or change your diet or exercise, I am just trying to verify that x+y doesn’t always equal z.

    Thank you for sharing, I’ve learned a lot. For what it’s worth, I am also over 40, and I get stiff from sitting to long too. I think it probably is just age.

    • Pretty much, yes. It’s possible that dieting from age 8 to my early 20s has affected my metabolism. Or it could be that’s just the body heredity gives me. *shrug*

      The books and links above may be of help if you want to read further :) I’m glad you like the blog.

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  25. Love love LOVE your blog. I’ve been struggling with weight/body image for what seems to be my whole life (I’m only 26…but still, feels like forever). I’m “obese” per the BMI and America’s ideal (but I think I’m pretty average compared to other folks) , and I can’t even begin to tell you the toll it takes. I was diagnosed with an eating disorder several years ago and since then have been working with a dietician who focuses on eating disorders, mindful eating, Health At Every Size, and has a non-dieting approach.

    It’s so nice to read about somebody who doesn’t (and refuses!) to buy into the dieting paradigm and nonsense, and who appreciates the body they have. Body acceptance is a daily struggle for me, and reading a lot of your blog has given me some hope and made me feel happy.

    Thanks for writing, and please don’t stop!

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