This is one of those posts where I suspect I won’t be able to do the subject justice and will come across all wrong and inevitably piss someone off though that is not my intent.It was brought to my attention that I may have conflated the Fat Acceptance Movement with the Health at Every Size movement, I will admit that despite the fact that the Fat Acceptance Movement has existed for many years, it’s only in the past year did I become familiar with it. So I am stating upfront that if I misspoke something, please understand it is not intentional.
Since my late 20’s after what was a lifetime of never worrying about my weight, I entered a phase that is still with me where my weight and I have a love-hate relationship, though I am working hard to love it. After a year hiatus from Weight Watchers I recently went back since the 16.1 extra pounds I am carrying around just won’t go away…damn pesky pounds and I realized that despite my ambivalence, Weight Watchers works for me, I need that extra bit of accountability though it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
Bodies and weight are a sensitive topic. In a world obsessed with thin bodies when you don’t have a thin body it’s easy to feel invisible or judged, trust me I know. Almost a year after my daughter’s birth, a picture my husband took of me, that photo had me asking who is the fat chick? Turns out I was the fat chick! I was caught up in the glow of a new baby and frankly didn’t have time to nurture my body and ended up heavier than I had been during my pregnancy…damn breast-feeding advocates lied to me! They said if I breastfed, I would lose weight; I suspect they didn’t mean I could have that Dorito and coke habit I had at the time. I have shared on this blog before, how I ended up joining Weight Watchers and over a several year period shed damn near 50 pounds. I did a great job of keeping it off until a pesky abdominal surgery had me laid up for weeks and I fell back into some old habits, once again involving carbonated beverages and chips. I admit, chips are my weakness, fuck that, they are my kryptonite.
Last year after some hemming and hawing, I decided to get serious about taking the weight off and a month later, said fuck it, I just didn’t want to deal with it. So I have spent the past year living in the 160’s which I suspect is my body’s natural weight range if left alone. As I recently told a friend for the most part, with my walking and yoga, I can eat what I want and neither gain nor lose weight. All in all, not a bad place, yes I am overweight, but I am active however a recent conversation with one of my oldest friends made me take another look at the situation.
My friend B who recently turned 44 and has always carried an extra 20-40 lbs. was diagnosed with some serious health issues that are directly tied to years of carrying extra weight. He’s a big man, always has been but as he told me, taking a shitload of drugs is not his idea of fun and so he is actively trying to get the weight off and bring his body back to where it needs to be so he can live sans the drugs.
Reason I am sharing this, is because in the past year the Fat Acceptance Movement has grown thanks to the internet. I have seen more than one blog post advocating that all bodies are beautiful and that fat judgment, bias and shaming need to go. I agree, the standards of beauty are indeed limited, beauty comes in all shapes and sizes just as wellness can come in all shapes and sizes. However I think some who claim to be part of the Fat Acceptance Movement have it all wrong when they say campaigns such as Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign are nothing more than a bullying campaign.
There are real consequences to carrying too much extra weight on our bodies, trust me I can feel the difference. While I like to say it was the less than flattering picture that made me lose weight, the real wake-up call was that walks started leaving me winded, that truly got my attention. Barring respiratory issues, there was no reason for me, a thirty something year old woman to get winded while walking my kid and I knew I needed to change it.
In thinking of writing this piece, I did some poking around and there are clearly some in the Fat Acceptance Movement such as Kate Harding who make sense, Harding gave up the up and down life of diets and now is a healthy size 16. The problem is there are some in the Fat Acceptance Movement who confuse the message of beauty and wellness at all sizes to mean do nothing. I have had the pleasure of knowing in my offline life a few folks who are huge advocates of the Fat Acceptance Movement who state they are happy being overweight yet admit they have limitations due to their weight. If your weight limits you in a negative way, it seems to me that acceptance of that weight and doing nothing to at least shed a few pounds is not a healthy choice. Accepting who we are is always good; don’t run from reality but at the same time, we do have choices.
Dieting sucks because frankly it’s a short term fix, instead a lifestyle overhaul is far more effective. Look, I like chips and while I know I can’t eat them every day, I know that by adding movement daily and really ramping up my intake of fruits and veggies will allow me to enjoy a bag at least once a week.
In many ways unhealthy weight in the US is a health crisis, Americans on average are a lot heavier than we used to be, there are a lot of ideas about why this is the case. Excess weight over the years can take a toll on the body and that is a sad fact. I think the reason we are seeing people like Michelle Obama talking about this is because much like smoking years ago, we are dealing with a public health crisis. For every one overweight person who isn’t facing diabetes, hypertension, joint issues, etc., my guess is there are two or more who are. No amount of downplaying it makes it any less true. This is where the Fat Acceptance Movement in my opinion needs to do a better job of explaining that what they are really about is wellness, health and beauty regardless of size.
Bodies are not all the same, some of us no matter what we do are always going to be thick, but there is a fine line between acknowledging beauty at any size and saying it’s okay to be heavy enough that you face the chances of your life being shortened. Right now the movement seems to lack a unified message; instead some are using Fat Acceptance as a way to skirt personal responsibility. No one deserves to be shamed or mistreated because of their body size but let’s not kid ourselves, in some cases that extra weight can truly be harmful as my friend B learned the hard way.
Personally while I make light of the reasons why I am trying to lose weight the fact is at 39, I am already pass the age my mother was when she was diagnosed with hypertension. Mind you my mother never weighed more than 130 lbs. in her 50 years on this planet, but my family history on both side’s is one that the older I get, I know the extra weight is not a good thing. Most people in my family don’t live past 60 and frankly I want to break that streak, so for me, it’s about wanting to do a little better than other family members.