A Look at 'Accidental' Fatphobia

If you dipped your toes into the body positivity waters, you may know a little bit about it but I wanted to take time to talk about the movement that was absolutely essential to where I am today. The body positive movement is an amazing community of empowered and inspiring women and men who work tirelessly towards acceptance of all bodies. But as body positivity becomes more mainstream, some of the message starts to get muddled. And one of the most important things that can’t be left out of the discussion is the fact that it is a movement that was built on the back of fat acceptance. Long before body positivity was popular, fat activists were working to change the inherent anti-fat bias of our culture. They were working to stop the discrimination against fat bodies that happens in the workplace, healthcare, society at large…pretty much everywhere.

One of the problems that I see with mainstream body positivity is the idea that it’s only good “up until a point”. Body positivity is fine “as long as you’re healthy”. It’s helpful “as long as you’re not tooo big”. It’s great “as long as you’re not ‘endangering’ your health”. No. No no no no. Body positivity is unconditional acceptance of all bodies. There are no upper limits. To confine body positivity to a narrow range of sizes would be to contradict the very idea it was built on.

So where do these ideas come from? Where was the idea that body positivity has a size limit born?

To put it simply: fatphobia.

Fatphobia is the dislike/prejudice against fat people. And if you asked most people if they were fatphobic, my guess is that (hopefully) they would say no. Of course, there are people who are blatantly fatphobic. People who trolls fat positive Instagram accounts and leave scathing comments on body positive blogs. But there is another group of fatphobic people- those who aren’t commenting with hate on social media and are much more subtle…almost accidentally fatphobic. Let me explain.

Fatphobia runs deep in our culture. Growing up, you learn from classmates and family members and society that it’s normal…that it’s okay even…to comment on larger bodies. You might be told all sorts of other damaging messages- that they are lazy, that they don’t take care of themselves, that they just eat “too much”. You might learn to make all sorts of assumptions about them based on one very simplistic view without considering how complex and nuanced each human is, how individual health is and how body type is largely determined by genetics and not behaviors. And when you grow up hearing that, you start to absorb and internalize pieces of it.

One of the ways we internalize this fatphobia is by thinking that fat is the worst thing that we can be. We learn to fear fat and thus, fear weight gain. And that’s something that comes into play especially when we talk about eating disorder/chronic dieting recovery. After the emotional pieces have begun to be worked through (because eating disorders aren’t about the food), one of the most difficult pieces is gaining weight. Why? Because it’s scary. It’s scary to let go of the perceived control we had over our bodies and possibly gain weight.

I hear from so many people that they are so scared to gain weight. And I get it, I really do. Like everyone else, I grew up in our fatphobic culture and I internalized pieces of it like anyone. I was never trolling fat people or shouting cruelties at them on the street, but as I went through my own recovery and expanded my knowledge as a Health at Every Size dietitian, it took a lot of unlearning. Unlearning all the bias, the stigma, the assumptions made. I understand what it’s like to fear gaining weight; but I also know that it’s possible to unlearn fatphobic beliefs and grow into unconditional body acceptance, whether it’s my body or someone else’s. And that’s the true goal of body positivity.

And one of the remedies to that mindset is to expose ourselves to diverse bodies- and to recognize that we are all worthy, lovable, powerful and overwhelmingly enough regardless of the shape or size of our bodies..jpg

I don’t believe that people in recovery who are scared of weight gain are intentionally fatphobic. But I think it’s often a reflection of a culture that teaches us body dissatisfaction and to fear fat. It's worth evaluating what assumptions you hold about people in larger bodies- how much of society's fatphobic message have you internalized? Are you carrying around weight stigma without realizing it? I don't blame anyone for absorbing pieces of the diet culture we are raised in. It would be nearly impossible not to. But it is our responsibility to critically look at those beliefs and challenge them when we can.

One of the remedies to that mindset is to expose ourselves to diverse bodies- and to recognize that we are all worthy, lovable, powerful and overwhelmingly enough regardless of the shape or size of our bodies. How do we unlearn? One of the things that I find most helpful for people is to diversify their social media feeds- and unfollow anyone who promotes one narrow view of beauty. Jes Baker (@themilitantbaker) has an amazing list of accounts to follow on all the platforms that show diverse bodies. Exposing yourself to different bodies and women who love themselves unapologetically is far more powerful than we even realize. Jes also has a fantastic book called Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls that is worth the read- and if you check out the link above, there are a ton of other great book recommendations as well. Start following and reading diverse accounts and start challenging your assumptions. Really analyze what your beliefs are and why. Start thinking about the value you have- the value that we all have- that has nothing to do with our bodies. It’s not our fault for growing up in a world that’s fatphobic, but it is our responsibility to challenge those ideas and unlearn our harmful beliefs.

If you want to see more about body acceptance, you can follow me on social media here and here. You can also join the Fall Into Freedom series and get daily challenges/prompts related to intuitive eating and body acceptance. 

Until next time,

TBT: Refusing to Diet is a Political Act

Hello and happy Thursday! 

I'm doing a throwback today from a post I did around New Year's on Sundaes for the Soul (that website is offline as of right now, as I continue to transition to using this site for everything). Lately, it seems like I (and so many others) have been inundated with messages of weight loss, needing to diet, needing to have the "perfect" body, especially in the summer- but really, what else new? Those messages, unfortunately, exist year round. So below you'll find that post about how dieting is a political act (and can also be harmful to us) - enjoy and feel free to comment below!

This time of year is a deluge of weight-loss commercials, detox ads, gym membership specials. I can hardly turn on the TV without seeing an ad for weight loss (thankfully, I watch Netflix for the most part and can successfully avoid the weight loss madness). People are posting on insta their "fitness/body goals" for the new year. People everywhere are talking about how their going to commit themselves to the gym/veganism/whole food diet/gluten-free/dairy-free/low carb/no carb/low fat/no fat/paleo/alkaline diet. As much as I hate diet talk of any kind, I am compassionate towards people trying these kinds of things because our culture tells them they have to. A woman who isn't dieting is not trying hard enough. She doesn't care about herself, they'll tell you. THAT IS 1000% BULLSHIT. 

Dieting is the patriarchy's way of making sure women continue to live small. It was a years-ago thought up strategy to keep women on a hamster wheel of diets. Because as long as we stay on the hamster wheel, we're quiet. We are not speaking up or speaking out. We don't have the time or the energy to pursue our wildest dreams. We are quietly staying in the place where men long ago put us. Don't fall for it: you are so much bigger than the box dieting traps you in.

There's a lot of reasons I hate dieting. The patriarchal history is enough to infuriate me and abstain from dieting ever again (because I'll be damned if I ever let a bunch of old, white men tell me what I have to do with my body, ever). But also the physical and mental effects are horrible and dangerous.  It manifests a neurotic relationship with food. It makes you feel tired, foggy, in a daze. It teaches us to ignores our body's natural hunger cues. It teaches us to stop listening to our body all together, when it comes to both food and movement. If you want to know more effects of dieting, I strongly recommend you research the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. Refinery29 has a great article that you can read HERE (also Kelsey Miller is an anti-diet queen and I highly recommend reading her book Big Girl). I'm planning on doing a post dedicated just to the Minnesota studies but suffice it to say that it is a fascinating read. 

Sweet girl (man/non-conforming human), I cannot tell you how much you don't need to diet. I cannot tell you how much you do not have to lose those last X pounds. I cannot tell you how little it matters if you fit into those size X pants. You are so worthy. You are more than worthy. You are a human being who has fought and loved and struggled and conquered in order to get to this place. You deserve to be here without condition. You do not have to change your body. An extra 20 minutes on the treadmill is not going to make you a better person. You are good enough, exactly as you are. I really, really promise. 

If you're ready to get off the dieting train forever, if you're ready to experience food and body freedom, I want to work with you! I am now accepting new clients to journey into intuitive eating, body acceptance and total liberation with. If you're interested, you can contact me here.  I would love to talk to you! 

Sending you the warmest wishes and non-diet vibes,