I’ve been doing this body acceptance thing for a while, and I sometimes forget (to my shock and dismay) that everyone isn’t on board with loving their bodies and eating the food that they love. It can be a bit jarring when I leave the relatively protected spaces of the fatosphere and go back into the real world to hear endless body snarking and diet talk.
I know that most of you are here because I knit. I know that you’re not here for the fat acceptance shtick…and that’s okay. You are always welcome to skip the fat posts. I won’t know, and even if I did it wouldn’t hurt my feelings.
But I talk about this stuff because it’s important, and I hope that a couple of you might learn something new.
And so…a few basic tenets of size acceptance (at least as I practice it.)
1. Everyone, regardless of size, deserves to be treated with kindness, respect and dignity. No one should be abused for the size or shape of their body. No one should be teased for what they do or don’t eat. No one should be made to feel bad about the size of the clothes they wear. No one should have strangers (or friends or family) coming up to them and telling them that they should go on a diet. No one should be called a fat bitch…or a skinny bitch. This works both ways. Going up to a thin person and telling them to eat a sandwich is just as problematic as going up to a fat person and mooing at them. Everyone – everyone – deserves to be treated like human beings.
2. Fat is not unhealthy. That’s right, you heard me. According to all of the available and even vaguely reliable evidence, being fat is not unhealthy. Yeah, I know what the paper says, what the television says, what your doctor says, what everyone just knows. They’re wrong. Being fat, in and of itself, is not unhealthy.
Have you heard of the “obesity paradox“? People who are classified as overweight and obese live longer, healthier lives than people who are considered normal weight. It’s true. Study after study has found the same results. Fat people have a greater life expectancy…and, when they do have health problems, they have higher survival rates than thinner people.
What is positively correlated with health is eating nutritious food that you enjoy and engaging in physical activity. However, you can be fat and eat well and exercise, just like you can by thin and eat junk and sit on your butt. Which brings us to point number three.
3. The vast majority of people (95%) cannot change their weight by a significant amount and maintain that change for more than five years. In short, diets don’t work. Diets don’t work. Diets don’t work, even if you call them lifestyle changes. Diets don’t work, even if you call them a whole new way of eating. Diets don’t work, even if you don’t call it a diet, you’re just going to eat less and exercise more. Diets don’t work. Every body has a set point, and while you can fluctuate around that set point, 95% of people can’t get too far away from that set point without bouncing right back to it (or a little heavier) within five years. Diets don’t work.
So even if being fat led to death and disease and cancer and inflation and republicanism, it doesn’t matter, because there is nothing that fat people can do to become permanently thin.
Learning this stuff is hard. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great too. The first time I really, truly believed that I was fat and that was okay was a huge, awesome, beautiful moment for me. But it was a terrifying moment, too. It’s a lot to take in, and it has to fight through so many years of being told by every facet of society that fat is bad! Fat is unhealthy! Fat is killing you! It’s okay. Size acceptance can start small.
And you can not be a fat activist, and we can still be friends. You can be on a diet, and I will still love you. In fact, the only tenet of fat acceptance that I’m going to insist that you follow (at least around me) is #1. Every person, in every size, deserves to live a life free from bullying, torment and shame. Every one deserves to be treated with dignity, respect and kindness. If we can agree on that, everything else is (delicious, full sugar, full fat) frosting.