*This post will follow on from a previous entry, which is here.
Club Troppo has posted a bit of a link round-up of the response to John Birmingham’s Biggest Loser article. You may want to have a little look-see. (You may know of some other relevant pieces that are also of interest; feel free to drop a link in the comments but please do add fat-hate or ED trigger warnings if warranted.)
I have many long posts swirling around in my head but time and weariness demands (relative) brevity. So here’s a pretty basic message.
Fat acceptance does not kill anybody.
Let’s imagine for a minute that I and other body acceptance bloggers and Health At Every Size researchers and promoters are completely wrong. Let’s imagine that fat bodies cannot be healthy and fit. Let’s imagine that the US Surgeon General is recklessly ill-informed:
VIDEO TRANSCRIPT Doctor Regina Benjamin, an African-American woman wearing the uniform of her office as Surgeon General, addresses the camera. She says: Hello, I’m Dr Regina Benjamin, the United States’ Surgeon General. Two thirds of adults and nearly one in three children are overweight or obese. As a result, our nation has high rates of diabetes and other chronic illnesses. The good news is, we can be healthy and fit at any size or any weight. As America’s family doctor, I want to change the conversation from a negative one about obesity and illness to a positive conversation about being healthy and being fit. So let’s start with making healthy choices. Eat nutritious foods, exercise regularly, and have fun doing it.
Right, so you’ve ignored everything Dr Regina Benjamin has said and everything I’ve said about my beliefs about health and you are convinced that a fat person cannot be a fit and healthy person. And, presumably, you also think there is some kind of moral obligation to be healthy.
How do people become healthy? How do healthy people live?
Perhaps, they help their children to develop healthy relationships with their bodies, too.
Not everyone who is fat is interested in participating in fat acceptance or using a Health At Every Size approach to weight, and that is okay. As individuals, we all ought to have bodily autonomy and make our own informed decisions about our bodies, including and especially how we eat (or ‘diet’) and how much exercise we do and how we ‘manage’ our weight (or let it manage itself). Free free to read this back to me if you ever hear me say otherwise. (Hint: you won’t.)
But for the people who do participate in FA/HAES, or even just come across a little of our message, there is absolutely nothing to endanger them.
What often stops fat people from doing all the healthful things that I mentioned above? Much of the time the answer is fat stigma. (This is not the only answer: socio-economic barriers and social isolation are two more main factors but they are both enhanced by…well, stigma.)
When fat people are abused simply for getting out and walking (and they are, please go read this post, it’s important and not an unusual story unfortunately) there is little incentive to actually keep going. It’s hard to take care of your body when you face bullying and disdain every day. What fat acceptance does is provide support and encouragement for people so that they can keep on walking. Fat acceptance is not giving up.
A lot of people tell me I’m deluded. To that I say: just because I have a different opinion to you and make different choices does not mean that I am stupid or ignorant.
So I won’t say that John Birmingham* is deluded for saying that fat activists
need smashing flat when they try to redefine obesity as normal. They’re killing people as surely as the shareholders of Benson and Hedges.
He’s entitled to his opinion.
And when I kill someone with my activism, when size acceptance hurts people more than it helps them, when fat activists start pulling people off treadmills and force-feeding them deep-fried Mars bars, he’s welcome to smash me as flat as he likes. (Hint: it ain’t gonna happen.)
*by the way, this isn’t really about Birmingham. His opinions on this are popular, and not particularly novel. So this post is less a rant aimed at an individual man and more a blanket statement refuting what I am rather sick of hearing. Thanks for indulging me, if you’ve read this far.