In Hello on 16 June 2010 at 08:37

Hello. I am a fat acceptance blogger. For the uninitiated, this means — well, it means a lot at this point, actually.  I can’t really improve upon these, as primers go, but by way of summary, we are here in the business of challenging assumptions on fat, nutrition, and health. And let me tell you: business is good.

Some words on the title, then. It’s a pun on a persistent fallacy; namely, that all fat individuals are in fact thin individuals with defects of appetite, like how a Pug is a Whippet without, y’know. The willpower. Where science hasn’t already upended this belief — and it has, again and again — is the province of critical fat acceptance, and it’s a conversation I’d like to be a part of.

And so I am the titular person, although I am incidentally thin. That’s the pun. I should like it if the baseline awareness that all human bodies aren’t dissonant riffs on my own didn’t distinguish me among similarly endowed young men — indeed it’s the outcome I’m blogging toward. As it stands, and in this context in particular, an honest assessment and disclaimer of my own thin privilege seems prudent.

What follows, then, is a small, personal precis on FA I wrote some months ago at the behest of a genuinely curious friend. Offered in good faith and in an open forum, it is probably the best bit I’ve written on the subject.

I choose to interpret “fat acceptance” literally – ie, the acceptance of fat, beyond its inherited social stigma and assumed harm; divesting it of any moral anything, returning to it the rightful status of simple adjective. For example, a person is (or isn’t), presently, fat; they are not a defective thin person, or a less-fat person in transition. There’s no criticism, or there needn’t be, because there’s nothing inherent to the state of fatness that gives anybody any grounds to criticize – ie, like height and hair and eye color, it just is. The “myriad of health problems” hypothesis extends from junk science repackaged and repeated endlessly until it’s so “well-known” that no one thinks to question it.

The truth is that fatness, up to moderate levels of BMI “obesity”, confers no additional morbidity/mortality, and may even serve a protective function into old age. Dieting (ie any voluntary diminution of fatness), however, almost always fails at its stated purpose long-term, and is positively associated with greater mortality and higher ending weights – to make no mention of being just generally unpleasant for all involved. Even if fatness were ipso facto pathological, I couldn’t in good conscience recommend a treatment with a prognosis so poor just to appease misbegotten social mores.

Therefore the natural corollary to fat acceptance is Health at Every Size, which looks deceptively like dieting but with an important distinction: eating and exercising intuitively with absolutely no regard to weight loss. It is true that this often leads to incidental and almost certainly temporary weight loss; very well. The fatal mistake is to confuse ends and means, which begets the “cycling” phenomenon so familiar to dieters: every time dubiously healthier, certainly not happier, and never at peace with oneself.

FA has nothing to do with perpetuating so-called obesity; no one’s trying to make thin people fat, as if they could. It has everything to do with accepting it. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t instantaneous, indeed on balance it’s probably harder than dieting. But it’s one answer to the question, and is (I believe) the correct, humane, and necessary one.

What’s missing, now, is a relevant post on a current issue which handily unpacks my perspective. That’s coming.

  1. It’s a pun on a persistent fallacy; namely, that all fat individuals are in fact thin individuals with defects of appetite

    Or equally (as you indicated) that thin people are fat people with perfect eating and activity habits.

    I enjoyed your post and think you write clearly and well, I’m not being critical, I just wanted to add my personal take on things.

    I’d go further than you and others in FA, I don’t believe I am -I’ve been fat since childhood- any more predestined to be fat than I am to be thin, I just can’t tell either way. I don’t believe in specific fat genes. Furthermore, I actually don’t care if I’m a thin person inside a fat body or whatever because the same rules apply as they do for someone who’s never been anything but fat.

    I don’t see fat people the same way, some fat people probably would never be thin excpet in a time of abject starvation, however, I’d say they’re rather a small minority.

    The pug/ whippet theory is also interesting, I believe that in this fattening of modern societies that there are an increasing number of plump and fat whippets and some very slender pugs. Yes some types of people are more likely to be fat, no doubt, however, you can’t tell by how fat someone is, whether they are one of them. And without wishing to spook anyone, just because you cannot make thin people fat, doesn’t mean they can’t spontaneously fatten up, like any one of the great number of us who started off thin.

    When I was a very young kid, I actually was so thin you could see my ribs through my jumper(form fitting was the fashion then). I fatten up fighting all the way, but it was out of my direct control that there was anything to fight.

    Fatness seems to be a process that can happen to any kind of body, ditto, thinness although we’re more likely to be talking about remaining that way.

    In a sense it is fatness that is the real mystery, slimness seems easier to explain.

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