Fat acceptance movement

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The fat acceptance movement, also known as fat activism or fativism, is a social movement that works to change attitudes towards fat people, be they people who are simply larger than the thin ideal[1] typical of modern Western society, or people who are actually obese.

While advocating for realistic attitudes about body shape and size is not the same thing as addressing attitudes towards people who are obese, the two are often conflated.

Either way, everybody can agree that fat-shaming is dangerous. Not only does it not make people lose weight, it actually causes them to gain it.[2][3]


[edit] Rejection of idealized body types

The first group of "fat activism" has more to do with issues of body image in the modern world. There is a strong push to define "healthy" and "at weight" as being extremely thin, especially when talking about women. These definitions do not account for a person being larger because they carry muscle mass, and often cast healthy, but larger people as "overweight" because their bodies do not conform to the maxim[1] that one can never be too rich, nor too thin.

Further, what is a "healthy" weight is often debated, and affected by many other factors of a person's life. A person who is at 33% fat (which is defined by medical science as obese), but who exercises every day for 30 minutes can be just as healthy as a person who is at 22% body fat (normal for men, athletic for women) but who does not exercise daily.[citation needed] Though being overweight, even obese, increases your chances of developing health problems, it does not necessarily mean you have health problems at that point in time.

An added myth is that non-medical practitioners think one can diagnose health problems by looking at people's bodies. For many prognoses, this is not the case; one cannot know if another person has liver damage, is mildly dehydrated, is hypertensive, has high cholesterol, etc., merely by looking at another person's body type. Frankly, if it were true, that would make diagnostics a lot easier. Though being overweight or obese warrants testing for a variety of conditions, being fat does not automatically mean you have any medical condition, so "sight" diagnoses and unsolicited health advice are not necessarily warranted without symptoms of other illness.

Additionally, in some countries (most notably the United States), body weight is also a classism issue. With current trends in the widening income gap between the upper and working class[4], lengthening hours (especially in sedentary "desk job" positions), static wages, difficulty of access to safe exercise venues, limited time or money to buy or prepare healthful food, it may not be as possible for people to maintain the oft-idealized "healthy" weight. For many, poor health and obesity intersects heavily with poverty, food insecurity, and low-wage jobs[5]. While it doesn't excuse unhealthy behavior, it's something to keep in mind before automatically jumping to the conclusion of equating obesity with laziness.

[edit] When body-positive turns negative

An uncritical acceptance of the body-positive message can have significant and potentially physically harmful negative consequences. These consequences can include such things as:

  • Dismissing genuine advice from an accredited doctor or medical professional, particularly a recommendation of weight loss (such as for a high-risk pregnancy), as "shaming" or incompetence[6][7].
  • Forgoing medical science or disregarding medical advice from accredited doctors in favor of alternative medicine[8] or other potentially unhealthy woo-y practices.
  • Co-opting eating disorder recovery techniques (such as intuitive eating[9]) to justify poor health decisions.
  • Spreading medical myths, such as the long-debunked "95% of all diets fail" truism[10] (usu. followed with/implying "and thus you shouldn't try"), the claim that burning more calories than one consumes (also known as "calories in/calories out") does not lead to weight loss[11], and so forth.
  • Buying into conspiracy theories or falling into conspiratorial thinking (Big Pharma is making up conditions to make you paranoid![12][13] Doctors don't care about health, but profits![14] I'm being unfairly denied surgery/treatment because doctors can't/refuse to do their jobs![15][16] BMI is a white supremacist idea![17])

Denying that having a high percentage of body fat does not contribute to potential health risks[18][19], dismissing adverse health effects as mere nocebo[20], or claiming other denialist beliefs is a very dangerous message. While it is important that media be cautious of how it talks about weight issues and work to undo the damage caused by creating unrealistic ideals, it remains equally important that size acceptance/body positive activists, bloggers, and journalists acknowledge the genuine medical issues associated with excess body fat, and not fall into pseudoscientific traps themselves.

Also, body positive messages for adults have distinctly different consequences from pro-activity and healthy eating messages for children, such as Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign. For instance, Lindy West, a blogger at Jezebel who has studied and written extensively on body image, once wrote that "the government is literally waging a war on fat people"[21], a nonsensical overreach. The government is trying to instill values of eating healthily and exercising in children, at a time when childhood obesity is steadily increasing.[22] This has nothing to do with a war on fat people or fatness, and everything to do with giving children the knowledge they need to develop healthy lifestyles.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Low, K. G.; Charanasomboon, S.; Brown, C.; Hiltunen, G.; Long, K.; Reinhalter, K.; Jones, H. (2003). "Internalization of the Thin Ideal, Weight and Body Image Concerns". Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal 31: 81–89. doi:10.2224/sbp.2003.31.1.81
  2. Perceived Weight Discrimination and Obesity. Angelina R. Sutin, Antonio Terracciano. July 24, 2013. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070048
  3. Perceived weight discrimination and changes in weight, waist circumference, and weight status. Jackson, Sara E, Rebecca J. Beeken, and Jane Wardle. Obesity, September 11, 2014. DOI: 10.1002/oby.20891
  4. Wider income gaps, wider waistbands? An ecological study of obesity and income inequality
  5. Why Low-Income and Food Insecure People are Vulnerable to Overweight and Obesity
  6. http://thisisthinprivilege.tumblr.com/post/27829983754/thin-privilege-is-not-getting-hassled-at-your-ob
  7. http://veup.tumblr.com/post/52234856319/some-months-ago-i-asked-a-question-to-the-social
  8. HAES and the Naturopathic Doctor
  9. Intuitive Eating 101, BodyLoveWellness
  10. Which comes from a poorly done study from the '50s
  11. Ragen Chastain: Calories In/Calories Out? Science Says No (if you have a faulty understanding of thermodynamics)
  12. "Pre-Diabetes: a Fake Disease?", Big Fat Blog.
  13. "Why the War on Fat is a Scam to Peddle Drugs", Salon
  14. "The War on Fat People: Doctors Enlist", Daily Kos
  15. This is Thin Privilege tumblr, question by user itissteph
  16. "They're telling my friend she can't get routine cancer surgery...", Youneedacat tumblr blog
  17. University-sponsored 'fat justice' event claims Ronald Reagan 'f*cked' fat people over, CampusReform
  18. This Is Thin Privilege Tumblr
  19. This Is Thin Privilege Tumblr
  20. BodyLoveWellness.com
  21. http://jezebel.com/thin-women-ive-got-your-back-could-you-get-mine-1173888442
  22. "Prevalence and Trends in Obesity and Severe Obesity Among Children in the United States, 1999-2012." Ashley Skinner. JAMA Pediatrics
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