Applying “Pro-Choice” to Fat Acceptance

I came to fat acceptance by reading BBW magazine in college. Yes, fashion articles, but also articles on how weight cycling is bad for you and reporting on studies that show dieting tends to lead to weight gain in the long term. I knew that every time I had dieted to lose weight – which I’d done all through jr high and high school – I had regained all that I had lost, plus more … and I wondered, was I making things worse?

I called a “temporary halt” to dieting, selling it to my parents as “just while I’m in college”. My Bs and Cs turned into straight As. I remember feeling amazed that I could pour the energy I used to put into dieting into school and actually get results!  Maybe I wasn’t such a failure after all!  Maybe there were things I was good at!

I didn’t realize for another decade that the pervasive unhappiness and preoccupation with suicide while dieting in high school was actually my first depressive episode. I just knew getting good grades, being good at my job, and not worrying about my weight made me a lot happier.

This was a very intense, personal path into fat acceptance, where my overarching focus was “Leave me alone already!” I had an Enemy, too: Society’s pressure to diet – and my family’s pressure to diet, their accusations of “cheating”, their judgments over whether I was eating “good foods” or “bad foods”, their “suggestions” of diet programs and diet tips I could try, and general message of “You are NOT okay! You are fat! You must lose weight!”

But there are other paths into fat acceptance. One is to know people who are fat, who aren’t trying to lose weight, and being okay with their choice over their body. Maybe you’ve read about Health At Every Size and that you can be fat and fit and you’re thinking, hm, maybe you can’t tell how healthy someone is just by looking at them. Maybe you read statistics that show that dieting doesn’t work for most people or if you want to lose more than 5% of one’s starting body weight, but if you only want to lose about 5% anyway, well, that 5% can seem pretty doable.

This is a more external, live-and-let-live path, where it’s about respecting others’ choices, and much less about one’s own situation or one’s own body. Kind of a “pro-choice” kind of stance, where one deplores discrimination and pressuring people to diet, but is also okay with an individual who chooses to diet, too. It’s a different mindset, and one that usually doesn’t involve seeking out fat acceptance blogs, at least not until a friend starts one and has trouble discussing anything else because the fat blog has eaten her brain (*cough*).

Does this mean I think dieting is a great idea? No. But we all make tradeoffs. Driving is dangerous, but I drive because it’s an efficient way to get around the city where I live. Dieting makes me crazy and is counterproductive. For others – especially those who haven’t yo-yo’d before – losing some body weight may reduce pressure on a joint or make it easier to run or just feel better, and the risks are worth it to them.

I do think, however, that there’s a big difference between these two situations:

  1. An individual examining the pros and cons and making their own decision about their own body.
  2. A pervasive societal message of “You must lose weight or you’ll die! The only ‘con’ to dieting is that you have to stop being so stupid and self-indulgent you lazy glutton!!”

Because, seriously? These are different things.

Now, I’m taking a HAES approach to maintaining my health myself. That is my choice. This blog is about my life as a fat person, including HAES, and it’s a fat-accepting, non-dieting space.

But, that said, I don’t necessarily “drop friends” for choosing to diet. I’ve even noticed that friends who go on a diet actually don’t use it as an excuse to “educate” their fat-accepting friends on the wonders of dieting, and yes, that is a distinct difference from self-appointed health-crusading family members who don’t know how to take “drop dead” for an answer and yet wonder why on earth you never call. (*cough*)

Other notes:

13 thoughts on “Applying “Pro-Choice” to Fat Acceptance

  1. An individual examining the pros and cons and making their own decision about their own body.

    Exactly!! If the world could look at it from this perspective, who would still object? Comparing pros and cons is the most sensible thing one can do, the only problem is that so many people don’t think there are any cons.

    For others – especially those who haven’t yo-yo’d before – losing some body weight may reduce pressure on a joint or make it easier to run or just feel better, and the risks are worth it to them.

    I imagine that many FA bloggers would probably disagree with this part, but that’s what I’ve always thought, too.

    • This seems like a more balanced approach than saying wanting to lose weight/fat is always bad. When you’ve gained 20 pounds of fat in adulthood from eating crap, a fat fold when you bend over can feel very alienating simply because it’s new and part of your body. It also tells you you eat too much crap, and I completely fail to see how going back to the food you used to eat is a bad thing. If it’s always a bad thing to modify your lifestyle, how do we have any control over our lives at all? Are we at the mercy of fate?

  2. Comparing pros and cons is the most sensible thing one can do, the only problem is that so many people don’t think there are any cons.

    Oh God yes, Tiana. The information is more available than it used to be but it’s still not commonly known.

    that’s what I’ve always thought, too.

    I do know people who have back and hip injuries who find keeping their weight down and exercising helps a lot. Do I wonder if it’s the exercise more than the weight loss? Yes. But it is my decision to make? No.

  3. I wrote this post over a year ago in response to major drama in the Fatosphere re. whether or not to accept someone’s decision to have WLS. I’m in a different place now than I was when I wrote it (I was brand-new to FA and worried that I wouldn’t fit in if I believed people could make their own choices), and now I believe it in even more strongly, I think. Body autonomy is probably my top FA priority.

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