The Elephant (So to Speak) in the Room

I’m still new enough to Fat Acceptance that I don’t know about all of the internecine conflicts within the movement, but there’s one you can hardly miss if you read a few different fat blogs: the pro-dieting (or at least dieting-neutral) crowd vs. the anti-dieting crowd.

So far, my position has been that personally, I am staunchly anti-dieting — and will swiftly stamp out any dieting propaganda on this blog — but I am not going to get into a fight with those who disagree. I’d rather focus on things we can agree on. Opening this can of worms would not be worth it.

Now, I’m starting to think that maybe it’s worth it. I’ve read enough conversations on enough different blogs lately to feel like I’m taking crazy pills: all over the fatosphere, I’m suddenly seeing diet talk. And I understand a lot better now where BStu was coming from when he wrote this post, back when I was just a baby fat blogger wondering why we can’t all get along. You know, in May. (Was I ever so young?)

The Rotund already hit a lot of great points on this topic today. As she ably demonstrates, it is rather difficult to reconcile a deep belief in personal autonomy with a blanket anti-dieting stance. But in her comments, I just clarified the core of this issue for me:

I take the position that no one should pursue weight loss as a goal in and of itself. That is not the same as believing any individual who pursues weight loss is automatically stupid, misguided, or incapable of supporting some elements of fat acceptance. It is my political stance on the matter, not a reflection of my personal feelings about any given person’s choices. There are too many different people and too many different reasons for that choice for me to say I have a problem with people who diet. But I have a problem with the practice of dieting, in the abstract. Big one.

Put it this way: I also take the position that no one should vote for a Republican president. That’s because, in the abstract, I believe there are solid, logical, demonstrable reasons not to vote for a Republican president. But I had dinner the other night with someone who voted for fucking Bush, and we had fun. I have no personal opinion whatsoever on the vast majority of Republican voters, whom I don’t know and never will. I could probably have dinner with plenty of them, and I wouldn’t feel any pressing need to fight with every one of them about their choices, because this is (at least nominally) a democracy, and that’s how it works. People do what they think is best, and as long as it’s legal and not violent, I’ll support their right to do that. But in the abstract, based on the best information I have, I still believe voting Republican is a bad choice, and I have no problem saying so publicly. That’s where I come down on the issue, not on the individuals who do it.

And that’s exactly how I feel about dieting.

Still with me? Here’s where it gets controversial. I do not believe you can truly be a fat acceptance activist and support dieting any more than you can be a liberal activist and support Bush. I believe the two are simply irreconcilable.

Having thrown down that gauntlet, let me clarify a few things.

  1. Making changes in your eating and exercise habits with an eye to improving your health is not dieting. It is practicing Health at Every Size, which I advocate every chance I get.
  2. Making changes in your eating and exercise habits with an eye to losing weight is dieting. Even if you claim you’re doing it for your health. And yes, I think the distinction there is incredibly important,which I’ll elaborate on in a minute.
  3. There are some pro-dieting/dieting-neutral people whom I generally admire and who have done some really terrific, fat-positive things. But as long as they remain unwilling to take the position that the deliberate pursuit of weight loss is antithetical to fat acceptance, I cannot call them fat acceptance activists.

Here’s why.

1. Deliberately trying to lose weight is, by definition, not accepting your own fat.

I realize that at the individual level, this gets really murky. Hell, I mentioned in comments yesterday that I’m thinking of switching from Lexapro to a different antidepressant, because I’ve gained a lot of weight since I’ve been on it, and I’m now right on the border of going beyond what history has shown to be my natural weight range. Furthermore, frankly, my boobs are totally fucking out of control these days, and it makes both buying bras and doing some yoga poses a lot harder. I don’t believe those are good reasons to diet; I do think they’re good reasons to try another drug that might not have the same effect. So it has nothing to do with whether I think I can be attractive and healthy as a fat person, and everything to do with having gained like 25 or 30 lbs. in a relatively short amount of time, for no apparent reason other than medication, and with no sign of it slowing down; that’s not normal for my body, and if a different drug can bring the happy without forcing me to buy new clothes every few months (don’t get me wrong: I LOVE buying new clothes, just not being forced), then I want to try it. If a different drug can’t bring the happy, mind you, then I’ll start having bras custom made and figure out new yoga modifications and keep on buying new clothes, because I have no fear of being fat, and a huge fear of being depressed again.

But then, I realize I’m splitting hairs there. And I also realize people who make arguments like, “But I don’t want to be thin, I just want to lose a little weight for my health!” believe they’re splitting basically the same hairs. Like I said, it gets murky. But saying you want to lose just a little weight, or that you only want to lose weight for your health, ignores one of the principal points fat acceptance activists keep trying to make:

2. Diets don’t work.

Here’s where the “solid, logical, demonstrable reasons” I mentioned before come in. There is no good reason in the world to believe that dieting will make you any thinner in the long run. There is ample reason to believe dieting will, in fact, make you fatter in the long run. There is also ample reason to believe that eating a balanced diet and exercising are good for your health regardless of whether you lose weight. But there is still not one good reason to believe dieting will make you thinner.

So when I see people saying they just want to lose a little weight, or they’re just trying to lose weight for their health, or they’re just trying to lose weight for personal reasons, I think, well, fine. Whatever. Knock yourself out. But if you can’t grok that long-term deliberate weight loss is virtually impossible, you’re missing a really big point of the fat acceptance movement.

And if it’s really about your health, and you’ve read anything about Health at Every Size — which, if you’ve participated in the fat acceptance community for fifteen minutes, you have — why are you still including weight loss as a goal? The only logical conclusion is that you don’t actually accept your own fat, which is, fortunately or unfortunately, a key component of general fat acceptance.

3. This is the biggie: We live in a pro-dieting culture, and it hurts people.

As The Rotund puts it, fat acceptance activists aren’t trying to eliminate dieting (though it might be nice) so much as “unprivilege” it. In this culture, wanting to lose weight is the norm for all but the already very thin, despite the evidence that diets don’t work and weight loss, in and of itself, does not improve health. The primacy of dieting is perpetuated by lies, distortions, bigotry, and bad science, with only the occasional dash of truth or logic dropped in, but it’s incredibly effective. And that contributes not only to eating disorders, body image problems, and health problems, but to a culture that, as a whole, agrees fat is always unacceptable. Which, last time I checked, is what fat acceptance activists are trying to change.

So I guess what I’m saying is, you can’t dismantle the master’s house using the master’s tools. I mean, I don’t even necessarily believe in that axiom across the board, but when it comes to dieting, I sure do. I believe — based on science and logic — that there is no such thing as a “healthy” weight loss plan. I definitely believe there is no such thing as a “proven” weight loss plan. Most importantly, I believe that the myths of those things hurt people.

And I believe that the logical alternative to those myths is fat acceptance and Health at Every Size. I don’t believe the pursuit of deliberate weight loss can ever be folded into fat acceptance.

It’s not about judging people, or telling them what to do with their bodies, or trying to kick some people off of Team Fat. It’s about the reality of dieting as an abstract concept, as I see it, based on the best information I can find. It’s about the culture we live in, and the culture I want to live in. It’s about standing for something in particular, because I believe it’s right, not about condemning people who disagree with me.

I think dieting is bullshit. And I think it’s antithetical to fat acceptance.

There, I said it.

93 thoughts on “The Elephant (So to Speak) in the Room

  1. I SO want to post this loltheorist but cannot. Instead, I post a link!

    http://pics.livejournal.com/cmshaw/pic/00095fkd/s320x240

    Right on, Kate, and I think it’s definitely a conversation we all need to have and then have again and then have again. As I said at The Rotund, I think we want, as progressives, to be as inclusive as possible but that is hurting Team Fat at this point.

    Team Fat, man, I want ringer tees that say that.

    It’s about standing for something in particular, because I believe it’s right, not about condemning people who disagree with me.

    I believe the saying, within a Christian framework (and it’s a useful saying even though I am not Christian and do not many of the definitions of “sin” that get tossed around in some Christian communities), is that one should hate the sin but love the sinner.

  2. Team Fat, man, I want ringer tees that say that.

    That has been my dream for a while. With your size on the back in big block letters. Kate, we should make it happen.

  3. I have no problems with people dieting. But I have noticed (and I am only speaking from MY own personal experience) that dieters tend to be evangelical. Many can not respect my position NOT to diet, even when I politely say we agree to disagree, but I don’t care to further discuss the issue with them. But they persist in talking about their weight, eating habits, etc. I never know if they are hinting, certain one day I’ll see the lite, or they somehow just need my acceptance that it is o.k. I usually end those friendships, just like I end friendships where there is political disagreement and the person can’t respect my request to just drop the issue. As far as my own personal opinion, well I like the button “Just say no to diet babble!”

  4. Kate, I’m glad you’re feeling better.

    I’m feeling awful right now because I feel conflicted about my eating. I definitely have an eating disorder (I woke up at 3:00 am and ate frosting out of the can) and other such shit. So yesterday I felt like crap about myself and ate myself into a binge-o-rama. So, my question is, would it be awful if I went to a counselor to discuss my binge eating issues in order to tame them a bit? What happens if I happen to lose weight? Am I a failure as a fat activist? Where do I fit in in this framework? Discuss please!! :)

  5. Sherie: “I have no problems with people dieting. But I have noticed (and I am only speaking from MY own personal experience) that dieters tend to be evangelical.”

    This is absolutely true, and we all need to be evangelical about fat acceptance, too.

    Great post, as usual, Kate.

  6. mshell67 – Yes, definitely go and talk to a counselor to discuss your eating disorder and ways to break the cycle of harm that you are doing to yourself. Breaking away from disordered eating is not the same as controlling and limiting your diet for the express purpose of losing weight. Of course it doesn’t make you a failure as a fat activist if you lose weight as a result of eating in a way that is healthy for you. You fit into the framework in the same place as you did before, but without the self-harm.

  7. This IS a great post, and I have personally wrestled with these issues a lot lately.

    It’s really mind-bending to consider that DIETS DON’T WORK. If you can accept that, then you can think about what to do with the excess energy you used to spend on diets.

    But I still have my times when I wish I didn’t have jiggly bits for which there is no bra. Being large overall I can accept, but the rest, not yet. I hate to think that plastic surgery is the answer. I just really reject that.

    It’s good to confront the cultural issues; it’s just really hard work some days.

  8. So, my question is, would it be awful if I went to a counselor to discuss my binge eating issues in order to tame them a bit?

    This is exactly what Kate’s talking about above, when she says “Making changes in your eating and exercise habits with an eye to improving your health is not dieting. It is practicing Health at Every Size, which I advocate every chance I get. Making changes in your eating and exercise habits with an eye to losing weight is dieting.” If you change your eating habits because they’re controlling you, or even because they’re not serving you well, more power to you. If you’re doing it because you think you’re too fat at your current size and you want to get smaller, you’re doing something that runs counter to size acceptance. And you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

  9. Thanks so much for the responses, I feel much better, it’s been a hard 2 days. This has been weighing on me heavily since I feel so positively about the fat acceptance movement and all the wonderful people, I just had to get my head on straight.

  10. I think you should expect — nay, demand! — that the fat acceptance movement buoy you up in your mission to eat in a way that is not harmful to you. Honestly, the fight against diets and the fight against binge eating or compulsive eating are two sides of the same coin: both are about healing our relationship with food, which is so drastically fucked up so early in life, and both are served by embracing HAES and unhitching health from weight.

    You should be fully prepared that you may not lose even a pound when you start taking better care of yourself. Your reward will be that you’re taking better care of yourself, and that you realize that taking better care of yourself is a much better reward than losing weight (and a better reward than frosting out of the can, too).

  11. I dieted, as many of us did, throughout my teens and 20s. In grad school I dropped about 30 pounds — mostly through deep depression, stress, disoredered eating and walking for miles on campus.

    I decided long ago I was not going to diet anymore. If I couldn’t decide that these changes would be permanent before I made them then I wouldn’t make them. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to lose weight, but I will NOT diet to lose the weight. I dunno if this means I accept my fat or not, it’s more a declaration I’m not going to yoyo around with disordered eating.

    I recently started walking, not to lose weight, but because I need to get more activity into my daily routine. I’m struggling now because I can feel my body is stronger and I know my shape is changing but my clothes aren’t fitting better– in fact some of them are fitting worse. It’s discouraging on one level, but I’m enjoying my walks so much I am not going to fret about it.

    Oh. That was a bit whinier than I expected, but I’m feeling frustrated today.

  12. Honestly, the fight against diets and the fight against binge eating or compulsive eating are two sides of the same coin: both are about healing our relationship with food, which is so drastically fucked up so early in life, and both are served by embracing HAES and unhitching health from weight.

    ZOMG, yes. And that truly does go for people of all sizes.

  13. It’s discouraging on one level, but I’m enjoying my walks so much I am not going to fret about it.

    I understand how it can be frustrating – especially since part of the diet and exercise myth is that our bodies are only going to change in “desirable” and “pleasing” ways when they change as a result of healthy things. Just remember – clothes can be altered a lot more easily than your body. If you enjoy the walks, go for it! It feels good to move around! The fault for your clothes that don’t fit well does not lie with you and your changing body – it lies with the clothes that aren’t cut to accommodate bodies of certain shapes.

    Also, check with a local drycleaner – they can probably recommend a good local person for simple alterations that might help your clothes fit better and make a lot of your frustrations easier to handle.

  14. Fat acceptance is not pro-compulsive eating so if you do have an eating disorder treatment for it in a fat neutral environment wouldn’t pose any problem. The fat neutral environment will be important, though, because often compulsive overeating is used as short-hand for just fat and treatment of it just involves inducing weight loss and introducing food stigmatizations. But going into treatment to repair your relationship with food without any expectation or value being placed on hypothetical weight changes is nothing antithical with fat acceptance. What’s important is that your body doesn’t become the focus of the treatment and I would hope exposure to fat acceptance might empower you to keep the focus where it should be.

  15. mshell67, I’m not a doctor, but I am a fat woman. I can tell you that the eating because you feel bad about yourself is a vicious cycle. You’re not perfect. Welcome to the human race.

    So what if you ate some frosting? You’re allowed to. It’s much better to eat a bit of icing if that’s what you’re really craving than to eat “good” foods that leave you unsatisfied. That’s what leads to food-orgy bingeing.

    Following one treat up with eating designed to punish yourself (which is the likliest explanation for your next-day binge) is self-destructive and counter-productive.

    I suggest picking up Glen Gaesser’s “Big Fat Lies” and Paul Campos’s “The Diet Myth.” I think that you will find them enlightening.

  16. So, my question is, would it be awful if I went to a counselor to discuss my binge eating issues in order to tame them a bit? What happens if I happen to lose weight?

    Incidental weight loss as a result of dealing with an eating disorder =/= dieting. Fat acceptance doesn’t say, “There’s no such thing as a person who eats herself fat.” Fat acceptance does say, “You can’t assume all fat people have eaten themselves fat, and you can’t tell who has and who hasn’t just by looking, and it’s a private and personal fricking issue anyway, not some horrible morality violation, so butt the hell out.”

    Just stay away, far away, from counselors who make a Wagnerian opera of your weight. That’s the last thing you need.

  17. Oh, and KH, rock the hell on. I just hope you don’t consider something like what I wrote on TR to be “dieting propaganda.” I did make a distinction between wishing I was thinner (because, you know, I’m not superwoman and sometimes I do) and deliberately pursuing weight loss as a goal, the latter of which almost never works permanently.

    OTOH, I honestly don’t know what Hanne Blank’s eating and exercise habits were in the past and whether she thought they could stand some improvement, and it’s entirely possible that what she’s going to write will turn out to be less about, “I lost five pounds this month, goody goody” than about, “Whoa, broccoli doesn’t have to taste like ass after all!” We’ll have to see, as her blog has only one post on it so far.

  18. There are several posts to her blog, actually. And her stated goal is weight loss which is what troubled me initially. It’s not about discovering broccoli is delicious (because, ZOMG, broccoli is SO delicious) so much as it is about the concrete goal of weight loss.

    That said, I didn’t take your comment for dieting propaganda – I think it’s important that we acknowledge we are part of a culture that has a certain view of what the body, especially the female body, should be like and it can be really, really hard to escape those modes of thinking.

  19. I take the position that no one should pursue weight loss as a goal in and of itself.

    I very much agree with this statement. I think that when i said that i am not anti-diet, people mistook that to mean that i’m pro-diet… i’m not pro-diet (in the context of intentional weight loss), not in the slightest. I do not diet for the purpose of losing weight. I am, however, not one of those people who can eat whatever i want – certain foods make me ill. I am one of those weird and annoying people who, when i eat out (like, once every 3-4 months, maybe), i’ll order a diet coke with my cheeseburger and fries – because i can’t eat sugar without feeling like i got hit by a mack truck.

    I do not believe you can truly be a fat acceptance activist and support dieting

    This is where it gets hazy. While i do not support dietING, i feel that dietERs are in need of a special kind of support. They need more help than the people who have already accepted their own fat. A person who already knows math, for example, is not in need of a math tutor. I feel that for me to make a blanket statement that i am anti-diet on my own blog would get misinterpreted as saying i’m anti-dietER. This is how i reconcile fat acceptance with my refusal to say that i am anti-diet. It’s a strange distinction, perhaps.

    And i’m sure that my stance on this matter is at least part of the reason for the cold shoulder i’ve felt from a fair bit of the fat acceptance bloggers. Oh sure, my presence has been acknowledged, but i still get the feeling that i’m not very well liked in the community (such as it is). That’s fine – no one is required to like me. For that matter, no one is required to accept me. Simply showing up to a party does not mean that the people there want to have anything to do with me. I’m okay with that. I’m used to it.

    I think dieting is bullshit. And I think it’s antithetical to fat acceptance.

    I don’t disagree with this statement. My primary objection to the whole anti-diet thing is the way the word “diet” has been mutated into something entirely grotesque. If i want to say, “i’m on a healthy diet”, most of the time that’s going to get misconstrued into “i’m trying to lose weight”. I have mentioned in my own blog my frustrations regarding this word, and see no need to get back into the whole shebang about it. The word itself is past reclamation: at this point, it means “weight loss” and nothing more.

  20. I agree that people who are deliberately trying to lose weight are not the best fat-acceptance spokespeople.

    Whenever a formerly non-dieting fat-acceptance spokesperson begins dieting, or gets WLS, I feel a little more isolated and vulnerable.

    People get to do what they want, as long as they don’t harm others. But when people say “I don’t care about cultural pressure. I’m losing weight ‘for me’,” I don’t really believe them.

    I won’t say to any individual person “You’re losing weight because you’re brainwashed.”

    However, I will insist that cultural pressure is a primary reason for most weight-loss attempts. The proof is simply that there are so many more people trying to lose weight than there are people who are OK with their weight and people who try to gain weight. If there were no cultural pressure, that would not be the case.

  21. Right on, Sister!

    See, it’s precisely this–your unflinching dedication to Truth, Fairness, and Empathy that causes me to love this blog so much.

    I agree that we must stop confusing anti-dieting with ant-dieter. Then maybe we can put this issue to rest and find more activist-type stuff to do.

  22. I think that’s the kind of thing we need to push back on, though, Lindsay. I don’t think there is a way we can finance our message without having dieters take it as a personal attack. I don’t think there is a vocabulary that will prevent that kind of misrepresentation of our position. As long as the result of our position is to advocate against dietING, then there will be dietERS who take it as a personal affront. I think we need to just recognize this as their problem, not ours. Because to some degree, I think a lot of people who take offense are taking offense to us being against dietING and take offense to us advocating for something else. We can get lost trying to find just the right message and I think we benefit from being direct in challenging people to see fat differently. Dieters have long demonstrated a capacity to be offended by anything we say, so we might as well make as strong a statement as we can, I think.

  23. “Well, then, my goal becomes clear. The broccoli must die.” (I agree with Stewie on this one, unless it is smothered in cheese.)

    I think, even when you are making healthy life changes because they are healthy it is SO difficult not to think ‘And maybe I’ll lose weight!.” The fact is, I want to be healthy, and most of the time I’m pretty happy with myself. But I can’t help but wonder if being skinnier would somehow be better y’know?

    I have started walking my dog every day for 20-40 minutes, and I’m hoping to eventually work up to running a mile. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping on some level that this would help me slim down. I want to do it because it will make me healthier, but it is so hard not to equate that with skinnier.

    It is really a struggle to not want to be thin in this world, and I think it is important that all of us continue to be supportive of people who aren’t in a place where they can be Fat and Happy, een though we don’t agree with them. I’m not disagreeing with Kate, I think dieting is bad, (I always gain back 2 pounds for every one I lose, which Is probably how I got to where I am considering I’ve been dieting on and off since I was 7.) It’s just that for some of us not wanting to lose weight is really easier said than done.

  24. It’s just that for some of us not wanting to lose weight is really easier said than done.

    This is true, but it strikes me as one more reason to state firmly and continually why dieting is bullshit. Of course it’s natural to have fleeting thoughts of “what if I get thinner” — the important thing is to remember that, you know, you probably won’t and that’s okay because it’s not why you started [running/eating whole foods/etc]. And if you do happen to lose weight? Well, that’s okay too, and for the same reason. The constant pressure of those fleeting thoughts is not a failure on your part; it’s part of why taking a firm anti-dieting stance is so important.

  25. BStu, you’ve got some excellent points, and i think i see a bit more about where you’re coming from. I recognize that the terminology is incredibly limiting, and that no matter what we say or do, someone will always find something offensive in it.

    I find that i don’t disagree with you, but i’m not yet comfortable stating that i’m anti-diet. I’m very comfortable stating that i am NOT pro-diet, but… well… gah. Perhaps i’m just so desperate for people to hear what i’m saying about body acceptance that i’m terrified of scaring anyone off by taking a firm Anti stance on anything. To use a religious analogy: what’s the point of preaching to the converted?

    Eleanor Roosevelt once said (and she may well have been quoting someone else, for all i know): “I can’t tell you how to succeed, but i can tell you how to fail: try to please everyone, all the time.”

    Perhaps i need to follow that a bit more closely. I don’t know. I’m not yet sure who exactly i want to please, or rather: i’m not sure whose displeasure i’m more willing to risk.

  26. So what’s your opinion of people that aren’t anti-diet and (Or) anti weight loss that contend they are in the movement?

    I agree with what Sherrie said, but that’s the reason I’m not anti-diet/anti weight-loss necessarily in my “Activism” (Or whatever you want to call it, sinse I’m on the edge because of my views). Not everyone that diets is “Evangelical” (Or what I tend to describe as “Value determination on the basis of weight-loss and/or dieting with the intent of weight loss”), and you said it yourself that there’s many reasons why people diet. It’s likely to fail (Yes), but if you can’t know the reason why a person is fat (I mean it in the way that was described in the comments: If y person does x to get z, not all y people get z because of x), how can you know the reasoning behind a person’s attempt at dieting/weight-loss?

    I respect your opinion (Most definitely, because I respect you as a person, and a Fat Activist), but with the anti-dieting/anti-weight loss that is being thrown around, I find it increasingly odd that people are giving negative feedback to fat people that do diet, and even worse: Fat people that suddenly abide by HAES, and lose x amount of weight that still get negative feedback because idiots don’t want to analyze situations. I’ve had a few people tell me they’ve left organzations because people are throwing bad comments at them because they’ve dropped a couple pounds, or have told them they don’t belong in the place because they aren’t of a certain size, et cetera… It makes me think how a convention will go over for me when I finally get to one as someone that’s always been thin.

    That reasoning is what I go by. I don’t just dissapprove from the get go: I try to analyze it for myself. There’s definitely dieters that I hate (Mainly the “Evangelical” ones [And the ones that turn into weight bigots... I just want to kick them in the jaw....... ^_^]), but it’s a very subjective thing, because I know that everyone has different reasoning behind dieting/delibrate weight loss.

    One of my friends (Whom I may end up spending my life with) has lost 83 pounds. She actually started taking medication for her PCOS, and that’s the reason she got her metabolic rate to rise. She still tells me, however, that she found it very hard (To almost impossible) for her to do the things that she now does at her lower weight, to be done at her highest weight. She’s my height (5’11″), and now about 260ish. I’m getting mixed signals about whether or not she wants to continue, but I don’t hate her for what she’s done/plans on doing.

    -Obviously, based on HAES, the weight loss coming almost completely from the addition of medication is a reason why you guys/gals that are anti-weight loss/dieting would not have a problem with what happened, but what about her thoughts? What if she plans to start going further?

    (Amount)
    -Another friend of mine! 5’3″ (Whom I may also be with [HEY! I have not made any commitments!: They're both just really reallly pretty... and nice... and intelligent...and sexy.... and everything I can ask for in a woman.. :p], and probably 260-290 range. She doesn’t want to lose weight necessarily, but she would like to tone up a little. We haven’t spoken abuot where she would like to be, but that’s something she told me early on. What would you say about her?

    I just started Hapkido. Though it is not required, putting on lean muscle is advocated, as it makes the joint locking/joint manipulation easier. I don’t plan on putting on much, but it’s a plan I have considered. I’m ok with my body the way it is, but it is something I’ve considered doing for the sake of the art. What about me?

    I just think that if we are to promote HAES, but we still defend the unhealthy fat people (While advocating healthy living, but still condoning their behavior if they don’t wish to agree with us), than why can’t we do the same for people that want to change? And I really am ok with your opinion (And those that agree), but we’ve also contended on many occasions that negative feedback does not help a person (Or in the case of our grand society: Fat people) lose weight: How come we can’t say the same for people that decide to diet for some reason? That’s really where I’m getting at. Opposing is fine, but proclamming a person’s action such as this negating their existence in the movement? Even worse: Claming that I, or anyone else that doesn’t directly oppose weight loss, is not worthy of the title (And/or advocating concepts or the movement as a whole)? What are your views on those that delibrately gain weight for x reason?
    And for those analogies used:
    1. I’m very libertarian, but I’m not at the extreme of it. I still hate Bush, but I’m also Christian. :P
    2. If you hate the sin, and not the sinner, why not forigve your enemies? Minus the bigots of course: They suck. :p
    Ok… I do believe my last one sucked ass. :p

  27. Lindsay, I have to say that I think you protest too much. Kate made it painfully clear that in being anti-diet, she is not anti-dieter; any reason why you couldn’t do the same?

    As for the “I’m on a healthy diet” thing, you know, lots of things make me feel sick too. Know what I say, to avoid confusion? I say “lots of things make me feel sick.” I say “thanks, but I don’t eat red meat or dairy.” I say “man, it looks good, but I would be asleep in I kid you not half an hour if I ate it right now.” I say “fried/greasy foods give me a stomachache.” I say “nah, not my thing, thanks anyway.” I don’t feel that it’s particularly unfair that I try to avoid the word “diet,” any more than I think it’s terribly unfair that I try to avoid cheese. It’s like people who complain about not being able to call things “retarded” or “gay.” You’ve got other options, and you’re just being disingenuous if you think your words don’t have connotations or that the connotations don’t matter.

  28. Obviously, based on HAES, the weight loss coming almost completely from the addition of medication is a reason why you guys/gals that are anti-weight loss/dieting would not have a problem with what happened, but what about her thoughts? What if she plans to start going further?

    Then she will probably gain the weight back.

    I have also lost weight from PCOS medication. That’s because I was taking care of my Health. At. Every. Size. I did not lose weight because I felt I had to lose weight; I lost weight because when I was treated for a condition that I had, my body decided to lose weight.

    I think you’re assembling an army of straw men, Jon. If you reread Kate’s post, it’s quite obvious what she thinks of people who happen to lose weight because they’re eating differently, exercising more, stressed out, less stressed out, finally getting treated for something, suddenly NOT getting treated for something, etc. etc. etc. Stop pretending that you don’t know what “dieting” means.

    As for the contention that if dieters don’t get their support from us, they’re going to feel all alone and friendless? Please. Are you living in the same society as I am? Dieters get plenty of support; they don’t need to get it from activists for HAES and size acceptance, both of which are opposed to deliberate weight loss for the sake of weight loss.

  29. Pingback: Fat acceptance and dieting « Fat Chick Crafts

  30. Lindsay, I have to say that I think you protest too much.

    Fillyjonk, I find it interesting that you think that, but i don’t imagine that i can convince you otherwise if you’ve already made up your mind on the matter.

    Kate made it painfully clear that in being anti-diet, she is not anti-dieter; any reason why you couldn’t do the same?

    … I thought i already did.

    I know that my words have connotations and that they do, in fact, matter. That’s part of the problem. It feels like no matter what i say, i’ll offend the hell out of someone.

  31. Lindsay, you did here, but you say this: “I feel that for me to make a blanket statement that i am anti-diet on my own blog would get misinterpreted as saying i’m anti-dietER.”

  32. I’m glad you clarified your stance. I was beginning to wonder. And while I’ll say I disagree greatly with you…you make some good points about body acceptance.

  33. Also:

    It feels like no matter what i say, i’ll offend the hell out of someone.

    This is why, sometimes, you just have to use MORE words. In order to make yourself clearer. I don’t think anyone could read everything that Kate’s written here and come away with the impression that she thinks dieters are moral failures or bad people (or not worthy of talking to or questioning; I have to say that I’m confused by your assertion on your blog that taking an anti-dieting stance precludes questioning people’s reasons for dieting).

  34. I think maybe a lot of people here are missing part of the point: what’s being discussed here and at The Rotund is whether you can diet and be a fat acceptance activist. Not whether you can be an ally, not whether you can embrace fat activism, not whether you can be part of Team Fat. It takes a lot of energy and dedication to be an activist, and it took most FA activists years to get to the point they’re at now. You don’t have to be an activist for everything you believe in! For myself, for instance, by contributing to this blog, I feel I am (in a very very modest way) contributing to activism. I’m also a die-hard feminist, but right now I would not call myself a feminist activist. Feminism is a huge part of my life, but it’s how I live, not what I do.

  35. Lindsay, I have to agree with Fillyjonk on this one – what is stopping you from making this statement on your own blog? You are being totally clear here! I think your readers can handle that.

    And to address this:

    And i’m sure that my stance on this matter is at least part of the reason for the cold shoulder i’ve felt from a fair bit of the fat acceptance bloggers. Oh sure, my presence has been acknowledged, but i still get the feeling that i’m not very well liked in the community (such as it is). That’s fine – no one is required to like me. For that matter, no one is required to accept me. Simply showing up to a party does not mean that the people there want to have anything to do with me. I’m okay with that. I’m used to it.

    Can I ask what is making you feel that way? I know I, for one, have enjoyed reading your blog, and that I’m glad you’re a part of the fat blogging community. I’m not sure where the cold shoulder is coming from.

    Hey, Jon B! Definitely forgive your enemies. But dieters aren’t our enemies. And forgiving people who diet, well, that doesn’t mean they are magically fat accepting. It doesn’t change the definition of fat acceptance, at least as we are defining the movement here.

  36. Fillyjonk, that’s why i will never say, “i am anti-diet”. The addition of “…but i am not anti-dietER” is a necessity.

    I don’t like making hard and fast “anti” statements because i believe that there are exceptions, that there are people who will invariably misinterpret. I would rather make “pro” statements. At least that way, when it gets misinterpreted, it’s more easily clarified, less off-putting. At least in my experience – your mileage may vary.

    This is, perhaps a personal fault of mine. I am incredibly contrary about a number of things. One of my mother’s favorite embarrassing stories about me is when she said, “Lindsay, don’t stick your finger in the candle”; my reaction was (at the age of 5) to look her directly in the face and jam my index finger right into the middle of the flame.

    With me (and i’m sure, with a lot of other people) saying Don’t Do This, it becomes a forbidden fruit, so to speak. Rather, i want to encourage people to love who they are – when that happens, whether the weight comes or goes is entirely irrelevant, because it has no bearing on how they feel about themselves as a person. If you want to split hairs on the matter, it’s more self-acceptance than fat-acceptance, but IMHO the latter is not possible without the former.

    I think Kate has done a wonderful job of making this issue very clear – i don’t disagree with any of the points she raised, and i wish i could be half as eloquent as she is. Unfortunately, my fibro-induced brain fog often interferes with the process; i have trouble keeping things straight in my head at times. This may explain part of my weirdness as far as Words are concerned. It’s not that i’m attempting to be disingenuous on the matter. I can’t think of how to explain this – sometimes it’s like living in a kaleidoscope. I’m trying so hard to not offend anyone, but apparently i’ve mucked it up quite thoroughly in the process.

    As far as using more words goes… part of the reason i started my own blog is because i was not comfortable writing small novellas in comments on other people’s blogs. As this comment may indicate, i am starting to get over that particular issue.

  37. As this comment may indicate, i am starting to get over that particular issue.

    And a good thing too! A lot of people apologize for novelistic comments, but seriously, I don’t think anyone really minds them. I know Kate welcomes them.

    I guess I just don’t see (and I think this is Kate’s position too, though I want to be wary of speaking for a woman who might this moment be in a narcotic-induced brain fog) (though hopefully not) how one can be pro-HAES and not anti-diet. HAES says “treat yourself as well as you can, regardless of your weight.” Dieting says “treat yourself poorly to reduce your weight.” I feel that these are fundamentally opposed.

    However, I think we’re having two different conversations: being anti-diet and proclaiming yourself anti-diet. Of course you are well within your rights to eschew the latter, especially on your own blog!

  38. HAES says “treat yourself as well as you can, regardless of your weight.” Dieting says “treat yourself poorly to reduce your weight.” I feel that these are fundamentally opposed.

    Perfectly said.

  39. Hey, all,

    Thanks for the interesting debate. I ran off to get that tooth yanked (just Novocaine, not difficult, though it still fucking hurt) immediately after posting this, so that’s why I’ve been absent.

    The first Vicodin is about to kick in, so I just want to say, quickly:

    Lindsay, this was totally not directed at you personally (honestly, I’m barely caught up on the fatosphere after being away, and I didn’t even see the post[s] you’re talking about), and I certainly don’t mean to give you the cold shoulder.

    Jon B: What the fuck? Did you read the post?

  40. Fillyjonk, at first i was afraid of novelistic commentary because when i’m posting in someone else’s blog, it’s like i’m in their house – i just want to make certain i’m not accidentally peeing on their carpet or something. I was new to the blog world (at least, the blog world outside of livejournal), so i wanted to make sure i wasn’t committing any particularly atrocious faux pas.

    Heh. While i’ve certainly been tempted to indulge in narcotics (for pain relief, mind you), that sort of thing is not my bag. The brain fog is from a lifetime of fibromyalgia.

    The fact that i have fibromyalgia makes me somewhat jaded about the HAES concept – not that it’s a bad thing… it’s a “gee, that must be nice” kind of thing. No matter what my size, i can never be healthy. I can only have varying levels of unhealth. I am completely and totally envious of people who CAN be healthy at any size. Therefore, while i talk frequently about “treat yourself as well as you can, regardless of weight”, i don’t call it HAES.

    I do agree with you that HAES and dieting for weight loss are mutually exclusive.

    Rotund… good lord, you think i’m being clear? I feel about as clear as a glass of mud right about now. :(

    I don’t know that i can properly explain why i’ve felt ostracized without feeling like a whiny brat. It’s entirely likely that it’s all in my own head.

  41. While i’ve certainly been tempted to indulge in narcotics (for pain relief, mind you), that sort of thing is not my bag. The brain fog is from a lifetime of fibromyalgia.

    But Kate, for all I know, is doped up. I asked her how her mouth was and she hasn’t responded. KATE, SPEAK TO ME

    No matter what my size, i can never be healthy. I can only have varying levels of unhealth.

    HAES does actually take that into account… I can see how the terminology would be a problem, though. But it really is “treat yourself as well as you can,” not “be completely healthy, mule!”

  42. Kate, your teeth certainly have my sympathies: i had an extra set of adult teeth when i was younger, and all 14 of them had to be pulled out (and i still have all four wisdom teeth).

    I didn’t think your post was entirely directed at me personally, nor do i feel that you yourself have been cold shoulder-ish… but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have it clarified.

    I’m remarkably comfortable with my physical self, but so incredibly insecure about my intellectual/emotional state. Yeesh.

  43. i had an extra set of adult teeth when i was younger, and all 14 of them had to be pulled out (and i still have all four wisdom teeth).

    THAT IS SO COOL

    YOU ARE A MANTICORE

    I mean I sympathize with having teeths pulled — as I said on an earlier post of Kate’s, I accidentally had two pulled without anaesthetic once! — but YOU ARE A MANTICORE THAT IS AWESOME

  44. YOU ARE A MANTICORE

    ROFL. I used to say i had a mouth like a shark, but hey, manticores are made of Awesome and Win, so i will totally take that. :D

    Oh Em Gee… teeth pulled without anesthetic? *cringe* I’ve got a high pain tolerance (i don’t need novocaine when getting a cavity drilled/filled, for example), but that’s a BIT much for me.

  45. I often wonder how I would respond if I found out I had diabetes, or that my blood sugar was creeping up into the abnormal range, especially if my weight was increasing concurrently. Since I have PCOS also, and I am not a young woman any longer, this is a concern for me, although my FBS is still tending towards the low end of normal at this point and diabetes is not in my family tree. Would I freak out and go on a diet? I would like to think not.

    But even most of the people who grudgingly tolerate my fat ass as an nondiabetic would relate to me as an unregenerate crackhead if I did not purge sugar and refined starches from my life at that point and go on a dedicated workout regime, rather than the ad hoc but consistent activity I do now. I don’t know if I could go on saying, “Fvck you, I eat what I want,” and “Fvck you, my weight is what it is, deal with it,” with even the resolution with which I do so now (which, as other posts I’ve made today elsewhere has shown, is far from absolute as it is). I would find it hard not to cave, to be quite honest with you, although I do hope I would ultimately manage to find a HAES approach to the issue, as I have with the PCOS.

    As Hanne Blank vividly demonstrates, it’s easy to be fat and sassy and give people the finger about their fatphobia when you’re young and have no discernible health problems; when you start getting older and shit starts going wrong, you’re a lot more vulnerable to people giving you bunches of “Nyaah nyaah, we told you you should have been on a diet, we were right, nyaah nyaah,” even your own damn doctor who never dared give you shit about your weight before. I can ill afford to think this couldn’t possibly happen to me, although I certainly pray not.

  46. Manticores are AWESOME.

    Meowser, have you read her most recent entry? It seems that 75% of her motivation is for health reasons and I can totally get behind that. And she makes the point that plenty of people have thought about how nice it would be if weight loss were a side effect of whatever healthy measures they were taking. And while, yeah, I think that’s not an uncommon thought, the idea of making it a goal is still what is really troubling to me. I totally wish her well in improving her health but the deliberate and intentional weight loss thing seems just as problematic as before.

    I’d like to think that my focus would continue to be on my health if I were to start experiencing problems. If that meant changes to what I ate, I could accommodate that. But I can’t accommodate the pursuit of the almighty Lost Pounds.

  47. Meowser, I’ve thought a lot about the diabetes issue, because it runs in my family — and my mom controlled hers with diet for years. And that, of course, started with A diet that she never really went off of. (That’s a whole other post.)

    I think the thing is, I still really wouldn’t buy that losing weight was necessary. Eating a certain way, yes, and exercising can make a huge difference with diabetes, but again, that’s HAES. The specific dietary restrictions would be tough for someone who’s been trying to practice demand feeding, but they still wouldn’t have to amount to a DIET per se. The goal would be compensating for my broken pancreas, not losing weight. And the point would be listening to my body and treating it well. I don’t have a problem with any of that.

    Oh, you guys, forgive me, my brain is SO slow right now…

    In fact, I’ve only got about one more thought in me. Which is: I never meant to imply that getting past the urge to lose weight is a simple thing, or that anyone should just be able to decide to do it and start immediately.

    This post was about whether dieting behavior and fat acceptance can ever go together, not about how incredibly fucking hard it can be to get from one to the other. That is a WHOLE other post, and a much less black and white one.

  48. I certainly understand your concern, Lindsay, and obviously virtually all people who come to fat acceptance were once very committed to fat stigmatization and weight loss. I think that was the initial concern Kate had with my post in May, even. That coming out against dieting might hinder outreach to dieters. Ultimately, though, I think any such outreach needs to offer a clear and distinct alternative and that the benefits outweigh the risks.

    Its very fair to be concerned that no matter how clear we are, saying one is anti-dietING will be taken personally by dietERS. Kate was extremely clear, but I don’t think will prevent people from taking it as a personal affront all the same, so Lindsay’s concern is well-stated. I just think that at the end of the day, its a risk we have to take because I don’t believe there is a good solution to that concern.

    On a similar issue, though, I’d urge that we move past the specifics of one person’s diet and parsing it and that dieter’s justifications out. Obviously, this discussion had a specific beginning but there are greater issues here and I do feel some apprehension about coming off as too anti-specific-dieter to continue down that route. Take that as a preface that I’m not talking about any specific person here, nor do I care to.

    Most dieters lay claim to health justifications, but I think its important that fat acceptance not accept that as a conversation ender. Simply put, I feel there are more reliable and achievable means of improving one’s health that I cannot see how I could support something with so low of a chance of working and no proof that it would do any good even if it did work. It is simplistic to say that dieting is purely about vanity, but it is equally simplistic for dieters to say “But what about my health!” Dieting still hasn’t been shown to do anything about health. People are just acting on the assertion that our lives would be better if we were lighter and this assertion can be applied terribly subjectively.

  49. Fillyjonk: I meant her thoughts. I said in my post more than once that I know you guys are ok with changes that come indirectly because of something are ok.

    Kate- What I’m trying to say is: Are you saying that because I’m an aspiring member of the movement that I have to be anti-dieting/weight loss in itself or to some varying degree? That’s what I was really trying to get at while trying desperately to not be offensive: I know how controversial this is.

    Rotund- The majority of dieters (I’m willing to contend this regardless of the fact that I may or may not be anti-dieting/anti weight-loss :P) are doing it with those evangelical views (Which sometimes preceds though fat hatred views that I hate), and if they do hope to become fat acceping in regards to themselves (That’s another thing): They will have to change their views in some way obviously. I’m willing to accept that, but are you defining the movement by the concept of having anti diet/weight loss views?

  50. So…I’m new here, and new to reading about FA, and need some help — the part where you can’t be a fat-acceptance activist while also trying to lose weight makes all kinds of sense, but is it also the contention that one cannot -support- fat acceptance as a movement while also wanting/trying to lose weight oneself (and to make it simple, let’s say the goal is to lose weight for purely aesthetic reasons)? Like, if I think my clothes look better on me when I’m about five pounds lighter than I am now and conclude that I should cut back on the desserts and portion sizes for a while, but at the same time I don’t see any damn reason that anyone else should ever feel any pressure to weigh any less than they do…where does that leave me? I can’t tell if I’m glossing over the subtleties in Kate’s position, or whether a willingness to diet oneself makes one anti-FA by definition.

  51. Jon B – I think there is a place in the movement for people at almost all stages of the self-acceptance game. Obviously, no one comes to this sort of thing all at once.

    But defining fat acceptance as, in part, taking an anti-diet stance does not run counter to including people who are still working toward that fat acceptance.

    It just means they are WORKING TOWARDS FAT ACCEPTANCE. They can advocate and be allies and all that awesomeness. They can work to improve their lives and other people’s lives. But I don’t know that they can, while actively dieting, consider themselves actual activists for the cause of fat acceptance. The two have completely contradictory goals.

    It’s not a perfect analogy but it was brought up over at The Rotund – you don’t have to be gay to be a gay activist. But if you are claiming to be a gay activist at the same time that you are going through one of those programs that promises to make you not gay, your credibility is, frankly, strained.

  52. Like, if I think my clothes look better on me when I’m about five pounds lighter than I am now and conclude that I should cut back on the desserts and portion sizes for a while

    SP, I think that a huge part of supporting FA is examining where that idea comes from. What does “better” mean? What looks “better” to you, and why? A key part of accepting fat in yourself or others is understanding that if clothes don’t fit well, it’s the fault of the CLOTHES, not the body beneath them. So if you have a dress that’s, say, a size 16 and it fit you better last year, then that’s not a failure of yours — it just means maybe you should wear a different dress or try on an 18 next time you go to the store. I recently became ill and lost some weight; some of my clothes looked “better” six months ago, because they fit the size I was at the time. That’s just because bodies fluctuate, and clothes don’t. For most people most of the time, it’s easier to change clothes than it is to change bodies. If you can really get down with size acceptance, really in your bones believe it, you’ll stop judging others and you’ll stop judging yourself.

    I don’t mean to suggest that how clothes fit is the be-all end-all of fat acceptance; I just find it a telling example.

  53. SP, I’m not sure if Kate is totally zonked on Vicodin right now or not, but I’m going to weigh in (ha, my clever puns!) and say that a personal willingness to diet does not make you necessarily anti-fat acceptance. I think you can support the movement and participate in the community and hang out and have a damn good time. You can support other people who are choosing not to diet. In an ideal world, that sort of thing would go on with no comment.

    it’s just that actively trying to lose weight while saying other people should accept their bodies is a bit too contradictory for activism, you know?

  54. Regarding the issue of “personal freedom” vis a vis dieting, that is purely a red herring, bound to distract and divide. In reality, no fat person “chooses” to diet of our own free will, because we do not live in a fat-neutral society. We live in a society which oppresses and persecutes every person of size, and the larger and/or more female ;-) that person of size is, the more that person is oppressed. There is privilege and status, among many other benefits, attached to being a size considered socially acceptable, and anyone who does not attain such a size by whatever means feels the brunt of society’s disapproval in innumerable ways. As many early fat activists pointed out, the ability to stop dieting and self-identify as a fat person depends on being able to recognize dieting as social coercion and a principal underpinning of fat oppression. This, in turn, requires a political framework and a movement which identifies fat people’s problems as political rather than medical.

    Early fat liberation activists, from the early 1970′s through the late 1980′s, established some basic principles, outlined in such documents as the 1973 Fat Liberation Manifesto (http://www.largesse.net/Archives/FU/manifesto.html), and later in documents such as “Fat Women Activists’ Statement of Purpose” from the proceedings of the Fat Activists Together (F.A.T.) conference in 1980 (http://www.largesse.net/Archives/FAT/working_meeting-part1.pdf , pp.5-7) “Health activism” is clearly defined here in terms of fat people’s control of our own bodies, which is impossible within the established “health care” system, with its oppressive *healthism* masquerading as concern for our well-being.

    I think the innate conflict of interest between fat acceptance (I still prefer “fat liberation” but let’s assume they are the same thing) and groups like HAES which are concerned with some sort of “health optimization” strategy can be summed up in a letter written in 1980 by an early fat feminist activist who was part of Fat Activists Together and was instrumental in alerting our community to the dangers of healthism: http://www.largesse.net/Archives/FAT/Open-Letter.pdf

    In fatness,

  55. Well, the first Vicodin wore off, but I just took another one, so we’ll see what happens here.

    First, Sweet Machine, Fillyjonk, The Rotund, and BStu have all pretty much been saying what I’d say if I had all my faculties, so thanks, you guys.

    Jon B. and SP, over at The Rotund, Brian’s been giving a great response to the same basic question you guys are asking. And that is, if you’re pro-dieting, then the onus is on YOU to keep that to yourself when doing fat acceptance work; the onus is not on others to dilute the meaning of “fat acceptance” to include, “I think it’s okay to be fat, but I still want to lose weight.”

    Another twist on the gay activism analogy is, as a straight person, I can certainly be a queer rights ally, but it would be totally inappropriate of me to derail discussions on queer rights blogs by talking about how AWESOME penis-in-vagina sex is, how much I personally get out of it, how much happier I am when I’m getting penis-in-vagina sex than when I’m not, etc., even though THAT’S JUST ME and I totally think gay sex is awesome for gay people, and no one should be discriminated against because of the kind of sex they have! All of the above happens to be 100% true. But harping on those points in discussions of queer rights would be fucking ludicrous, no? The fact that I find heterosexual sex personally fulfilling is completely meaningless in the context of being a queer ally. It’s my job to recognize that and stay focused on the point at hand if I want to work for queer rights, not the job of queer rights activists to acknowledge and validate my heterosexuality as a really wonderful thing for ME!

    Or say I’d worked really hard to make a lot of money, and I was proud of myself for that. Nothing inherently wrong with that whatsoever. But if I were trying to work as an advocate for poor people, I would be useless as tits on a bull if I spent half my time talking about how great it feels FOR ME to be rich, and how I, personally, just enjoy it more than being poor — even though there’s nothing wrong with being poor! — and my mental and physical health have improved so much since I got money, etc. All of those things may be true, but they have no place in a discussion of how to help poor people.

    Does that make it any clearer?

  56. On the weight loss issue, I think I may be a little unusual…

    I once dieted myself down to a size 8 – effectively I was anorexic. I had so many comments about how “good” I looked, but I really just looked starved – I lost all muscle and looked like a child. I then struck back and started eating again, reaching a size 12 and going on from there…

    I’m now back to my UK size 20 and DD bras. I’m also a PCOS sufferer and have been accused of glorifying fat – like “omg, how could a thin person possibly want to go back to THAT and what about the diabeties risk…”.

    I feel like a complete outcast most of the time, because not only am I not trying to lose weight, I actively tried to put it on.

    Very few people seem to understand why I did. But, the truth is, I’m a UK 20, who does Yoga, eats veg and fruit like its going out of fashion and I’m actually far healthier than my bony size 8 ever was. I’m the size my body is supposed to be – diet is pretty much blasphemy in my house.

  57. Regarding your desire to change to a different drug than Lexapro because it causes weight-gain, there really is *no* conflict between doing that and taking a stand against dieting.

    Say your doctor had given you an antibiotic that caused you to develop a rash. You would undoubtedly ask your doctor to change your medication to one that doesn’t cause a rash. In your situation, the side effect is weight gain – but its not weight gain caused by unhealthy eating habits, it’s an artificial, medically-induced malfunction in your body’s ability to use fuel properly.

    Dieting – as you noted – is altering your eating habits solely for the purpose of losing weight. In your situation, however, I’m assuming you’ve not altered your eating habits since starting on Lexapro, correct? I also assume you won’t alter them if you’re given another drug. If you’re not changing your eating habits, then – by definition – you’re not dieting. Any weight loss that results from a change in medication will come about by correcting that artificial malfunction that the medication is causing.

    There’s really no comparison between the two.

  58. How does the message that someone in the size acceptance movement disagrees with someone else’s decision to lose weight intentionally sit with possibly the more fundamental SA message that “it’s my body and it’s none of your goddamn business judging what I do or do not look like or do or do not put into it?!”
    As much as my friend’s dieting and constant weight loss talk upsets me, I think it’s important for me to make the distinction between hating and ACTING against the cultural message that fat is not ok and hating but accepting that my friends’ “dieting” is actually a series of decisions and behaviours and you have to address them one by one as they affect your relationships. (Love the “sinner”, hate the asinie conversations about “points”.) Kate and The Rotund have done so much to address the pragmatic issues of how to deal with the offensive and obnoxious “behavioral” aspects of dieting, and this particularly is one of the exciting things about the “new wave” of activism; the emphasis on grassroots and diffuse activities and on self care.

  59. Oh, lord, the points conversations! I hear you on that, Dolia.

    However, I think the anti-dieting stance is just as fundamental to a specifically fat/size acceptance activist stance as demanding agency for bodies.

    I’m feeling my way through this so please bear with me.

    Fat/size acceptance overlaps with feminism, truly OUGHT to be a feminist issue, because agency for female bodies includes the right to not be institutionally penalized because of what we do or do not put into our bodies.

    And Feminist Fat Activists can discuss the agency of fat female bodies in a really effective way. You can talk about both in that position because the goals are common, they compliment each other and more each other forward.

    But being on a diet, actively working to reduce your weight runs in direct contradiction to the idea of self-acceptance. The two have contradictory goals.

    So while Fat/Size acceptance is fundamentally about body autonomy, dieting is essentially about cultural expectations of acceptability. The Fat/Size Activist will absolutely respect the right of another individual to engage in the practice, but you still, by definition, can’t have a Dieting Fat/Size Activist.

    Does that make any sense?

    As for the rest, yeah, the grassroots stuff is what really excites me. Fat Activists and members of the fat community are so far flung that it is difficult to find a support group in a local setting. One of the most amazing things about blogging and commenting in blogs is that it gives us a chance to support each other and come up with different strategies for dealing with stuff and to remind each other about the importance of self-care.

  60. I don’t think there’s any conflict if someone who is on a weight-loss diet goes and campaigns for improvements in society to not treat fat people badly (e.g. anti-weight-discrimination laws). In that sense, yes such a person can be a fat activist. I think there’s more of a conflict where it comes to the more personal fat activism like loving your body, there the message gets conflicted.

    Having said that, I think there’s a difference between dieting and the promotion of dieting. In my book, people can do what they want with their own bodies no matter how bad it is for them (or not). But the promotion of dieting, something that goes against fat acceptance principles, that IS wrong. It’s encouraging people to hate their bodies.

    So I think if people are going to succumb to the diet thing then they should be very quiet about it! And of course their silence will be very useful when they don’t lose weight or gain it back again, less embarrassing to have failed in a goal if you don’t announce it publically.

  61. u are absolutly right i m compelly agree with u
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  62. Well, I have agreements and I have disagreements. Here’s what I do agree with wholeheartedly. Dieting is self-destructive behavior about 95% of the time. Even the people who engage in it and sing the praises of its virtue have some understanding of this. When your stomach rumbles with hunger pains, you know something is wrong with you. Even if you’ve hyped yourself into thinking that it signifies the birthing pains of a shiny, brand new you, I believe most people deep in the hearts (or wherever) know that there’s something inherently unhealthy and wrong with the act of starvation, even if its only semi-starvation. Our bodies need nourishment. Dieting is an act in which you actively engage in NOT giving your body nourishment, and it results in behavior that boderlines that of a person obessive-compulsive disorder.

    I was offended by Hanne Blank’s blog entry. To suggest that the fat acceptance movement is just a cover for the desire to overeat and not take care of yourself is a little like a gay person saying that living a gay lifestyle is just an excuse to engage in perverted sex. She didn’t just make a personal choice to diet. She made a choice to play to the worst of society’s judgements about what fat acceptance is really about and characterized it as something that is truly the antitheis of HAES. While I commend her past work, if she chooses to put something like this out then I don’t care if she volunteered at a fat leper colony, she abosultely needed to be taken and I commend TR for doing so.

    Now here’s the disagreement. I think you can be a dieter and be a body positivity activist. I don’t believe engaging in self-destructive behavior undermines fat acceptance, and indeed in the word “acceptance” it would indicate a type of radical acceptance of people, particularly women, who have been battered into the submission of dieting. I believe that imposing Puritanical ideals on progressive movements DOES actively undermine the cause. Do you see the contradiction in trying to create the conditions for a society in which people don’t need to give into the constant battering that they take for being large, and then telling the vicitms of those batterings that they’re essentially not pure enough to be part of the movement? How do we embrace them and GIVE THEM THE STRENGTH TO MAKE BETTER CHOICES? Shutting the door isn’t the way. Shutting them up isn’t the way. We need to hear more about why they want to diet and why it makes them feel better about themselves and then engage them in a serious conversation. We’re the only people out there who actually care about their health, so we need to reach out to them. I believe it’s a moral obligation.

    Kate, you and I are both smokers, and yet we’re adovcates of HAES. Doesn’t our desire to suck tar into our lungs over and over contradict with our roles as “Health” advocates? Aren’t we repeatedly engaging in self-destructive behavior? Unlike dieters, we are told on a daily basis that we’re stupid and worse for smoking. And yet we still do it, it’s under our skin. Dieters are given constant societal validation for their behavior. It’s a daunting task to take it on. But in the same way you can I can’t “just” stop smoking (oh, we can stop, but there’s no “just” about it!) you can’t expect people who have been viciously pushed into a lifetime of yo-yo dieting to “just” stop or they’re not one of us.

    Let’s work at creating the conditions where they can stop. We’re not even close to there yet.

  63. “she abosultely needed to be taken ON and I commend TR for doing so.”

    That one I had to explain because it sounded very weird before. Sigh, I always have to have at least one really stupid typo!

  64. OK, I’m gonna take a page from Marc Maron’s book and have a liberal confessional:

    I signed up for the food log at About.com. I am 52, I’m starting to have trouble with my knees, and OK, I would like to try to lose some weight. I’m not trying to be thin; I’m 4/10″ tall and simply trying to get to 145 or 150, where I’m relatively comfortable. But the more I log what I eat, the more futile the whole thing seems. I don’t eat fast food. I hardly eat junk at all. But trying to keep to 1550 calories a day is really fucking hard, and getting more active is next to impossible when you have to hold down a full-time job. Never mind the weighing and the measuring and the realization that if you have that 1 ounce of almonds or peanuts you’re going to break your caloric bank for the day.

    Not to mention that I don’t see how this can work. According to their formula, my burn rate at my level of activity is about 2100 calories a day. Consumption of 1550 calories a day should result in a pound of weight loss every 10 days or 3 pounds a month. This is hardly rapid weight loss. But let’s suppose I get down to 145. Then my burn rate is 1800 calories a day. At my so-called “ideal weight” of 111 (which is impossible to reach) my “burn rate” is 1600 calories a day, or not much more than my “dieting” intake. So the more you lose, the less you burn. So you either have to spend every waking minute working out or else you gain weight.

    So what the hell is the point?

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  66. Rose, I hear you, and as Brian said above, I remarked on that over at his blog, which I linked to in the post. Outreach is important. I spent a lot of years dieting, even after I learned about fat acceptance. I totally, totally get being on the fence. And I get that dieters are often victims of the culture I’d like to change.

    But outreach to fence-sitters is personal. My anti-dieting stance is, as I said, political. I worked really hard to make that distinction and make it clear that I am talking about dietING, not dietERS in my post.
    Some dieters will probably be too alienated by my political stance to feel comfortable here. I can’t really do much about that, because this is meaningful and important to me, and it’s crucial to my understanding of fat acceptance.

    And the whole point that Brian and I are trying to make — and to a lesser extent, The Rotund, who’s much nicer about it :) — is that Fat Acceptance as a movement should not have to make room for the view that fat is unacceptable. We can make plenty of room for people who are conflicted but want to be fat-positive, just not for the political viewpoint that deliberate weight loss is a neutral act in the context of fat acceptance. It’s simply not, and it can’t be.

    (And please note that when I say “we” I’m talking about the community, like practically everything else here, in the abstract; I’m certainly not trying to give myself any special authority.)

    Lindsay, I never got to your point about HAES and disability, ’cause I passed out, but The Rotund covered my thoughts pretty well. It is problematic terminology from that perspective, but I also think of HAES as being about doing the best you can with the body you HAVE, not trying to fit your body into some other mold. So I don’t think there’s any reason why the basic principle can’t apply to people with disabilities; to me, it’s about doing what you can to take care of yourself, without imposing unrealistic expectations on yourself.

    Speaking of which, Karen S., thanks for stopping by. I’ve written a lot about healthism and I definitely try to avoid it, but I don’t think advocating HAES is healthist. I’ve said time and again that no one is under a moral obligation to be healthy, and fat people who also happen to be unhealthy deserve every bit as much respect as any other human being. But for those who want to improve their health but have been told over and over that the first step toward that is necessarily weight loss, HAES is a really important alternative.

    Oh, and as for the semantics of “acceptance,” I wrote about that some here.
    In terms of “acceptance” vs. “liberation,” I guess my major point of clarification is that I’m thinking primarily of promoting self-acceptance, though obviously, the larger goal is cultural acceptance and indeed liberation. To me, at this point, fat acceptance is plenty radical; when I think we’ve achieved that, maybe I’ll start using the term “liberation.”

  67. Kate, hear hear to your comment #60. That clarified a lot of stuff for me. Thank you for putting it into words.

  68. First, thank you for recognizing what most of America (even women themselves) and the media do not…..your value as a human being is not attached to your pants size. It so often frustrates me to see friends, and most recently my niece, worry over a few pound when they are not in any health risk and are made beautiful by being the person they are.

    What makes me crazier are the numbers of woman who diet or try to loose weight for a significant other feeling like they are not worthy of love unless they can fit into that size 6 dress. Keep up the good work!

    Diana
    http://www.sexywhispers.wordpress.com

  69. Okay, i’m intentionally posting this in several blogs where this has recently come up, as well as my own blog. I want as many opinions on this matter as possible. I’m asking this because the term has been tossed around many times, and it seems like a lot of the recent debates, discussions and misunderstandings come down to this one phrase.

    Fat Activist.

    So tell me:
    1. What is your definition of a Fat Activist?
    2. What qualities give a Fat Activist the capital letters in that title?
    3. How is a Fat Activist different from a Fat-Acceptance Supporter?

    (If you feel i’m totally hijacking your post, please feel free to ignore/delete/whatever – i will not be offended in the slightest, promise. Also, feel free to repost this in your own blogs as a new post, if you so desire.)

  70. Lindsay, no problem about the hijacking. I think, however, I will save my answers (which will probably be very grey and unsatisfactory) for a whole new post tomorrow.

    Others are more than welcome to give their answers here.

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  72. I’m eager to see this new post, and where I really stand.
    I definitely have a serious lean towards the defense of larger people, but I’m truly defending everyone. Not to say that Fat/Size Acceptance movement in themselves don’t, but I’ve heard of some activists saying they don’t defend thin people (Which doesn’t imply that they hate them, but you know…): I’m perfectly fine with that, as long as they don’t tread the world of hatred.
    And that’s where I was really getting at with my post: I’m perfectly fine with your anti-dieting stance Kate, but I do have a problem with the fact that some people (Not you, because I’ve never seen you do what I’m about to say) contend that me not being anti-diet nullifies my title, but even more confusing to me: The fact that we’ve outlined over and over again that negative feedback (Or “Shaming teh fatties” if you will) doesn’t help in this situation, but people find it ok to give negative feedback to people that decide they want to lose weight/diet/blahblah. That’s my real concern, and that is what (In my opinion) I think is really what is causing conflicts with the movement. It is my personal choice that when I hear of a weight loss/dieting/What have you situation that I try to figure it out for myself before I go about with my opinion.

    I’m sorry if I caused any confusion, commotion, or if I made the vicodin wear off too quick. Don’t hurt me! :p

    I’ll probably write an endless blog of 2000 words or so after this is over.

    One more thing: May I add a question to what you’re going to answer?

    Size Activism was coined by fat activists a few decades ago. Though to some extent, the movements overlap one another (If you accept them as different [I do]), do you think the two concepts/movements are different? What about the difference between the title of Fat Activist and Size Acivist: Do they differ in major/minor ways or no?

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  77. OMG, I feel alone.

    I think diets are the work of the devil but am I a dieter because I’m learning to eat intuitively and actually losing weight very, very slowly?

    I know that I’ve been taken in as much as anyone else by the culture of thin. I know that if I’m honest with myself, the real reason I want to lose weight is to look “better”. But is it wrong of me to want to lose weight when I know that being somewhat lighter will help with the hereditary arthritis that is attacking my body?

    I don’t believe in points, I don’t believe in cutting out carbs, or not mixing proteins and carbs (anyone remember “Fit for Life”?) or feeling hungry because that’s what you have to feel to lose weight.

    I do believe in eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full and enjoying your broccoli and your chocolate (preferably not together, at least in my opinion).

    Clearly, I’m not a fat activist. I would hope that I can put myself in the HAES camp. And I know that my friends in the weight-loss blogosphere think I’m pretty weird.

    Oh good grief!

  78. I know that being somewhat lighter will help with the hereditary arthritis that is attacking my body?

    Is this some meaning of the word “hereditary” I was previously unaware of? Pretty sure hereditary things are caused by genes, not weight. Sorry if I’m being flip, but… I mean, right?

    Clearly, I’m not a fat activist.

    Not so clear to me. It’s not like everyone here is a Fully Ascended Fat Acceptance Master. Knowing that the fascination with weight loss is a scam designed to make you dissatisfied with yourself, and believing that you get to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full… that sounds pretty much like it to me.

  79. “Fully Ascended Fat Acceptance Master”

    Man, I didn’t even know they had that title. Feels like another badge I missed at Scouts. *sigh*

  80. Fillyjonk – In an effort at brevity, I wasn’t very clear about the arthritis. It is hereditary in that three generations of women in my family all have it (who knows what my ancestors in Russia suffered!). Being a lower weight puts less pressure on my suffering joints. But certainly, weight did not bring on the arthritis and weight loss will not “cure” it. It just might make it a little easier to bear.

    And thanks for understanding where I’m coming from.

  81. That’s a tough row to hoe, for sure. Because having a genuine reason to be lighter doesn’t really change the fact that permanent weight loss is rarely possible. Do you have a sympathetic doctor you can discuss this with?

    Usually when people talk about how extra weight hurts your knees etc., we point out that extra muscle supports them. But I have no idea if that’s relevant in this case.

  82. Fillyjonk – I have a great GP who never bugs me about weight loss. She’s just totally supportive of whatever I do to help my own health.

    It is really important to strengthen the muscles around the knee, which is something I’m doing more and more. I have been doing yoga for three years now. It has not had any effect on my weight, but I carry myself more comfortably and people have remarked on how much my gait has improved (I also have arthritis of the hip). In addition to protecting my back, hip and knee from further damage, I think yoga has helped me to feel more “beautiful” and more comfortable in my skin.

    Just as an interesting aside, my yoga teacher –a shining example of all that yoga can do for a body–is in her early 50s. She has a beautiful, rounded belly and some extra skin on her upper arms. She’d never be on the cover of Vogue, but boy is she beautiful and wow, is she a pretzel!

  83. Complete and utter side-point: This is the first time I’ve used the word triggering. As a gay atheist with a Christian past in a non-affirming denomination, the phrase “one should hate the sin but love the sinner” has some pretty negative connotations for me.

    Christians say that a lot. I have never, not once, seen it working in practice. I just don’t like that phrase.

    TRiG.

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