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]

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[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 mean you have health problems or that you will necessarily develop them.

An added myth is that non-medical practitioners think one can diagnose health problems by looking at people's bodies. This is not the case; one cannot know if another person has liver damage, is dehydrated, has high cholesterol, etc., merely by looking at another person's body type. That would make diagnostics a lot easier. Combating these misconceptions is sensible. Though being over weight or obese warrants testing for a variety of conditions, being fat does not automatically mean you have any medical condition, so "sight" diagnoses, or even suggesting a person lose weight, is 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[3], lengthening hours, static wages, difficulty of access to safe exercise venues, increasingly limited time or money to buy or prepare healthful food, it may not be possible for many people to maintain the oft-idealized "healthy" weight. For many, poor health and obesity intersects heavily with poverty, food insecurity, and low-wage jobs[4].

[edit] When body-positive turns negative

An uncritical acceptance of the idea that social pressures create unreasonable ideals of what bodies should be can have important negative consequences. These consequences can include such things as:

  • Forgoing medical science to in favor of alternative medicine or pseudoscience such as the long-debunked "95% of all diets fail" truism[5]
  • Claiming that burning more calories than one consumes (also known as "calories in/calories out") does not lead to weight loss[6].

Denying that having a high percentage of body fat does not contribute to potential health risks[7][8], or dismissing adverse health effects as mere nocebo[9] is a very dangerous message. While it is important that media be cautious how it talks about weight issues, and work undo the damage caused by creating unrealistic ideals, it remains equally important that health journalists focus on real medical issues associated with excess body fat. Shifting health conversations from "overweight" and "BMI" to body fat percentage begins to address this.

Body positive messages for adults have distinctly different consequences from pro-activity and healthy eating messages for children. 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"[10], 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. 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

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