I’d love to give you my thoughts on body acceptance but they’re complicated, messy, and still being formed. And they’re mostly being formed and informed by some wonderful bloggers and other fat acceptance / body acceptance movement advocates (such as Kate Harding and DefiNatalie).
So I present to you the words of Greta Christina, which I think wonderfully encapsulates my feelings on the matter. Maybe a little less focus on the weight loss aspect, since I’m sick of feeling like I can never be me rather than constantly striving for the me I’m “supposed” to be; but for the most part she says what I feel.
Just one note, I know most, if not all, of you are cringing at my use of the word “fat”. And if one of you tell me “but you’re not fat!” I’ll scream. I am. THAT’S FINE. I’m taking back the word. I’m sick of euphemisms and skirting around the word as if I should be ashamed of it. I’m fat. So what?
We need to make major changes in how our society views weight, fatness, and fat people. Our society has an excessively narrow definition of what constitutes an acceptable body type, and it's a definition that is unattainable for the overwhelming majority of people. People can be healthy, happy, and attractive at a variety of sizes; the standard medical definition of a healthy weight range is almost certainly too narrow, and some evidence suggests that it may be too low. Furthermore, many popular weight loss programs are grossly unhealthy, both physically and psychologically, and are aimed, not at maintaining good health, but at an almost certainly fruitless attempt to attain the cultural ideal of beauty. And many people who try to lose weight have no earthly medical reason for doing so.
We demand that people be treated with respect and dignity regardless of their size. We demand an end to job discrimination based on size. We oppose the moral outrage that is commonly aimed at fat people, and the persistent media representations of fat people as objects of disgust and ridicule. And we demand an end to medical discrimination based on size: we expect doctors to treat fat people with respect; to discuss weight loss with fat people as one option among many instead of the one course of action that must be pursued before any other; and to treat non- weight- related conditions equivalently for all patients, without regard to size.
Weight loss is both very difficult and very uncommon, especially in the long term. And we don't yet know why it's so difficult, or why a few people are able to do it while most people are not. We therefore think it's completely valid for a fat person to decide that weight loss isn't where they want to put their time and energy. Many of the health risks associated with being fat diminish significantly when people eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise -- even if they don't lose weight. We therefore encourage fat people to be as healthy as they can be: to eat healthy diets and get regular vigorous exercise, even if they don't lose weight doing so. And we encourage people who do choose to lose weight to do so in a healthy, sustainable way.
We understand that there are health risks associated with being fat. There are health risks associated with many things -- things we have control over, such as playing rugby; things we have no control over, such as carrying the breast cancer gene; and things we have limited control over to differing degrees, such as where we live. We think it is reasonable for people to decide for themselves whether they are willing to live with these risks, or whether they want to take action to reduce those risks -- whether that's by quitting rugby, having a pre-emptive mastectomy, moving, or losing weight. Both fatness and weight loss can involve health risks and loss of quality of life, and each individual must determine for themselves their own cost/benefit analysis of those risks and that quality. No person can decide that for another. We do understand that fatness is a health concern -- and we think it should be treated as such, as a public health issue and not as a moral failing or a character flaw. We support social and political changes in the way our society is structured around food and exercise -- changes that will improve the health of people of all sizes. We support bike lanes, cities and neighbourhoods designed to be walked in, farmers' markets, accuracy in food labelling, laws prohibiting wild and unsubstantiated claims in the advertising of weight-loss products, yada yada yada.
We passionately support healthy eating and exercise programs for children, since fatness in children can cause even more long-term harm than it does in adults... and is easier to address as well, at an age when set points and eating/exercise habits are more malleable. And we oppose the American food-industrial complex's use of psychological manipulation to sell excessive amounts of unhealthy, highly- processed, non- nutritious food, and their prioritization of profit over all other concerns. Finally: We want to base our movement on the best understanding of reality we can get. We encourage people of all sizes to base their cost/ benefit decisions about food, exercise, and weight, not on wishful thinking, but on a realistic assessment of the best hard data currently available.
We support careful, rigorous, unbiased scientific research into why people come in different sizes, and why sizes vary not only from person to person but from culture to culture. We support careful, rigorous, unbiased scientific research into maintaining and improving people's health at the size that they are. And we also support careful, rigorous, unbiased scientific research into safe, sane, effective weight loss for people who choose to pursue it. Our bodies, our right to decide.