Imperfection

I get the impression that some readers think that Health At Every Size means perfect adherence to the standard tenets of health, but without an eye towards weight loss. That’s an easy and reasonable mistake to make, partly since we don’t always go back and define our terms (sorry everyone who’s asked what HAES stood for recently!) and partly because I think it’s easy to interpret HAES that way. Honestly, it’s the simplest way to explain it and I’m sure I’ve explained it like that. But that’s not really what we’re about here, so I wanted to post a quick clarification.

There is nothing about HAES, at least as we advocate it here at Shapely Prose, that says that you need to have optimal scores on every test, that you need to be free of chronic illnesses, that you need to eat like a hippie and work out like an athlete. First of all, there is never a moral imperative to do things that are considered “healthy.” You are not less deserving of respect if you eat fast food, if you smoke, if you repeatedly hit yourself in the head with a hammer. HAES isn’t about marginalizing you if you’re not the perfect picture of glowing cornfed vitality. Shapely Prose certainly isn’t. By the same token, you absolutely don’t have to embrace HAES to participate in the movement — though if you read on, I hope you’ll find that you want to or maybe that you already have.

So you don’t need to be healthy to be good. We’ve written about that before; The Rotund did a particularly good piece on it. But you also don’t need to be “healthy” to be healthy. When we talk about Health At Every Size, we’re not talking about macrobiotic food and treadmills — maybe that’s what works for you, maybe it doesn’t, but it’s not the only face of “healthy living.” What we’re talking about is something a lot more complex and a lot less regimented, something that’s harder to break down into bullet points in a women’s magazine. Something that’s not about following rules or keeping up appearances, but about respecting yourself and doing what is best for you.

HAES can look like bean sprouts and barbells, absolutely. It can also look like hot toddies and resting up. Or like chocolate cake and a long walk. It’s not about feeding yourself “right”; it’s about feeding yourself what nourishes you. It’s not about getting the amount of activity prescribed by the AMA, but getting the amount prescribed by your body.

As an example: Personally, I’m fairly young and able-bodied and need to get exercise mid-day or I crash out in the evening, so I work out every day. But today I cut my workout short, because I was tired. The long workout and the short workout are both HAES; I did them both for the same reason. The long workout isn’t because I have to do a certain amount of exercise to count as “healthy” or “good.” It used to be, but it isn’t anymore. The short one (or the skipped one) isn’t because I’m lazy or weak. They’re both because my body wants a certain amount of activity right then. Likewise, it used to be that if I ate cake, it was because nobody was looking, or someone else was eating cake so it was okay, or because I’d “earned” the right to be “bad.” Now if I eat cake, it’s because I want cake, and if I don’t want cake, I don’t eat it. (Usually. I mean, nobody’s perfect.) Same cake, but one’s HAES and one’s not. It’s got more to do with attitude than behavior. If you’re doing what you’re doing because it’s what you’ve determined — without judging — that you want or need? Then it’s HAES, whether it’s veggies and leglifts or a box of bonbons. If you’re doing what you’re doing because of what someone else might think, or because of an abstract sense of what you ought to do, or because you’re frightened to do something else or can’t think of anything else to do? Then read on, because I think we can convince you that there’s a more nourishing way to live.

Just to be perfectly clear, we here at SP do NOT look like the Pictures of Health all the time. Regular readers know this — you’ve heard stories about Kate force-feeding herself Italian subs and whatnot — but it’s easy to forget because we talk abstractly sometimes. But I don’t want anyone reading “I practice Health At Every Size” to mean “I may be fat, but my refrigerator looks like a food co-op and I have a closet full of matching workout outfits and running shoes.” There are plenty of reasons why a lifestyle like that might be out of reach for someone — money, physical condition, or just a lack of inclination. But HAES means something a lot more complex than “fat in body, thin in habits.” It means a life based on something deeper than self-recrimination. And it’s possible for everybody.

71 thoughts on “Imperfection

  1. When I read this in the post – “But you also don’t need to be “healthy” to be healthy.”…

    … I immediately flashed back to “the US doesn’t torture people because what we do isn’t torture”.

    Sounds too complicated and lawyerish. I’m fat because I eat a lot and drink lots of beer, not because of my political stance. If I wanted to be healthy, I’d exercise, not redefine the term…

  2. If I wanted to be healthy, I’d exercise, not redefine the term…

    It’s great that you can exercise if you want to! So can I, as I mentioned. Not everybody is that lucky. If you had a condition that prevented you from being able to stand or move for as long as you’d like, or meant that vigorous activity could easily injure you, you’d have to redefine the amount of exercise that’s “healthy” for you.

  3. I think the problem is that people want everything to be clearcut and simple. This explains all the dichotomies between fat/unhealthy/bad and skinny/health/good.

    Sometimes life isn’t that simple.

    By the way, if you are hitting your head with a hammer repeated, you might want to seek counseling. No moral judgement, I swear.

  4. Emphasizing only the physical aspects of “healthy behaviours” doesn’t do anyone any favours, when it comes to defining overall health. I’m pretty sure this has been said before, but I think HAES needs to include “mental health” as well as “physical health.”

    To me, playing crazymaking games with yourself over whether you have been “good” about “proper” food and exercise doesn’t equal HAES, either. Is a person “healthy” if they are obsessing or psychologically torturing themselves over the lifestyle choices they make? This might seem like a bit of a leap, but it’s kind of like saying domestic abuse only counts when there is physical evidence of it – does that mean a relationship is healthy when a woman is being psychologically tortured by her mate?

  5. Dorianne, too right. I didn’t make the mental health point explicitly in this post, but I hope it’s very clear that it’s a major, major component.

  6. Yep. I’m pretty sedentary right now, because exercise makes me feel like crap. I have a b12 deficiency, I think (I have yet to determine the cause or if that’s REALLY my problem… it most likely is though), and I’m short of breath all the time, I suffer from fatigue and numbness and tingling and other really awesome symptoms. Exercise? Yeah frickin’ right.

    I don’t know how many times I felt bad because I “didn’t feel like” exercising. I just wanted to sit in my bed and listen to music. Perhaps I’ve had this deficiency for awhile without realizing it. I always chalked it up to laziness. But I gave in to the “laziness.” Sometimes I pushed myself and… felt craptacular afterwards.

    P.S. If you ever have prolonged unexplained fatigue, or unusually bad allergies, or tingling and numbness, or you just have any kind of bizarre symptoms/feelings, get your b12, MMA, and homocysteine checked. The latter 2 can determine deficiency should your b12 level be borderline or even normal. Low B12 causes about 300000000 awesome symptoms and is grossly underdiagnosed/misunderstood. Also, once you have that established (if you do), find out the cause. It could be something like gluten sensitivity.

    HAES for me right now is a somewhat balanced diet with “exercise” being walking when I absolutely have to move. I hate those who are all condemning of the not active people. Some of us can’t help it! Yeesh.

  7. Oh, and low b12 levels can cause mood swings and “foggy” thinking, and even dementia. It’s an awesome vitamin to be deficient in.

    Don’t ask why I’m posting all this about b12. Well, it is a big big health issue and can lead to poor health at any size. Anyway…

  8. And it’s something people don’t typically get tested for, so you have to know to ask. Which falls under self-advocacy, which is a particularly difficult part of HAES that deserves its own post.

    Good luck with this, Margaret… I get exhausted just thinking about the medical odyssey that’s involved in finding out what’s really wrong with you when there’s something wrong. I’ve got a million things I should probably get checked out, like food sensitivities, but dang, I just don’t have the energy. Kudos to you for taking care of yourself.

  9. FJ – I think you did make it clear, but I wanted to use to words “mental health” specifically, just because I think some folks out there (including some doctors!) still don’t necessarily include it in their definition of health…especially if we commit that most heinous of health crimes: being fat, ZOMG.

  10. Dorianne, I’m totally with you. In fact, I think that’s why people get the wrong idea about what HAES means — because we think of “health” as this sort of miserable rat race of exertion and deprivation. What’s good for your mind — or, for that matter, for your particular body — doesn’t enter into the picture.

  11. “But HAES means something a lot more complex than ‘fat in body, thin in habits.’”

    Especially when “thin in habits” is a total myth! There are thin people that overeat and underexercise, too. Guess what? Eating and exercise don’t determine whether we’re fat or thin.

    Sorry to break it to you, MikeyT.

    And I know you implied all this, fillyjonk, but I just learned about it *this week* and it’s totally BLOWING MY MIND.

  12. Yup, yup, yup, FJ. And to me, the definition of health – I like the word “whole-istic” health – can mean physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual health. And includes working towards healthy relationships, a healthy social life (whatever that looks like to the individual), a healthy environment to live in, a healthy community to live in (I’m defining “healthy community” in the sociological sense), etc. Making choices for one’s health is not all about the food one eats or the exercise one is able to get.

  13. And I know you implied all this, fillyjonk, but I just learned about it *this week* and it’s totally BLOWING MY MIND.

    Hee! I totally know the feeling… you just like saying it!

  14. I think Dorianne has a very important point when she says that HAES means mental as well as physical health. Of the two, mental health is harder to reach for, particularly in a culture which is neurotic to the point of being dysfunctional. I know my own definition of HAES is very much slanted toward the mental health side of things rather than the physical. This is mainly because the mental side of my health problems will give me serious welly *right* *now*, while the physical side might give me problems in ten or twenty years.

    (Of course, given one of my mental health problems is what I refer to as a resident “salesdemon for suicide”, it may be that if I let the whole thing slip out of whack altogether I can solve the lot of them permanently… however, as the poet says “I think I shall not kill myself today”. It’s a nice day, the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, and I have some stuff I haven’t read to get through. I can kill myself later.)

  15. I agree with almost everything you have written. I think it’s imperative to listen to our bodies and to eat and rest as we need to. But I also know that if I’ve been sedentary for several weeks, my body is not going to tell me it “wants” to exercise. It’s going to groan and resist. But after two or three days of pushing myself to exercise I start to crave it. Similarly if all i eat is cake and pasta, veggie’s don’t look so appealing until I just make a salad. Then my body goes, “OHHH that’s what i’ve been missing.” I personally think it’s great to push a little bit for health because I know that I feel best when I do those things, even if at times my body resists.

    Do you think some people use HAES as a crutch? To not exercise because “my body doesn’t want it” and to simply eat cake all day because “that’s what my body does want?” I’m just wondering.

  16. Yeah, Laura, it’s certainly possible to get into a cycle like that… I mentioned in an earlier post that if I skip the gym, I feel sluggish, which makes me want to drink a coffee drink the size of my head, which makes me feel awful, which makes me not want to exercise, which… But with practice you get better at sorting out the real signals from the false ones. Hell, I’m almost at the point now where I can distinguish between hunger and stomachaches. (Almost.)

    I’ve never encountered anyone who uses HAES as an excuse, as you describe, though I’m sure it’s possible. I think it’s a deep fear of the anti-fat contingent, that people will use body positivity and self-care as an “excuse” to eat “anything they want.” But it’s such a profound paradigm shift to start actually giving a shit about what you want that I don’t think people generally get stuck in the “doing things just because they were forbidden” phase. Most of us go through that for a while, just getting accustomed to the bizarre sensation of being unrestricted and starting to disengage food from morality. But once you figure out that you can have what you want, you generally move from “eating anything that anyone might conceivably want” to genuinely eating what you want because you know what that is.

  17. Do you think some people use HAES as a crutch? To not exercise because “my body doesn’t want it” and to simply eat cake all day because “that’s what my body does want?” I’m just wondering.

    I think wondering that is a slippery slope right back to dieting behavior — as are most questions about whether people are looking for “excuses” not to punish themselves. I also think very few people would “sit around and eat cake all day” if they could, and those who would do that have eating disorders, which we discussed on the blog yesterday.

  18. Yeah, I think it might be something that has to be experienced to be believed. I mean, I can certainly understand just simply not believing that ANYONE would pass up a chance to eat cake and Doritos on the couch all day if the stigma were only removed. To understand why those things lose their appeal when they’re no longer forbidden, you kind of have to try it out.

  19. Can people who have a chronic illness be healthy?
    I agree with Dorianne’s notion of “whole-istic” health.
    I have type 2 diabetes, but by most accounts I’m healthy.
    I think it’s hard to keep in mind that body size isn’t by any means a good indicator of how much a person exercises and how well or how much they are really eating. There are plenty of not fat people out there who are not exercising and eating in a way that may harm their health. A larger body can be the result of many, many things, and the moral implications of the larger body are what people are misjudging.
    I was just talking about this today with a colleague who is also fat, and struggles with accepting herself but completely gets that diets don’t work.
    I think that the rules apply to just about everyone: some things you do to your body make you feel good in the moment but crappy later, some things make your body feel crappy in the moment but good later. “Moderation” ought to come in as a “feedback loop” from your own experiences. Just today, I watched as someone walked by with a milkshake (or coffee beverage masquerading as one) and I thought “mmm” but then I thought “ouch” knowing that with my lactose intolerance, I might as well swallow a bucket of nails (which might have the added benefit of some iron). So I wasn’t depriving myself of a milkshake because I think it will make me sick in the longterm, but that it will make me sick in the short term.
    I’m smaller than I used to be, but much of that has to do with changes to things that don’t have to do with dieting — things like changing my medication or, over time, deciding I don’t like to feel overly full and slowly stopped eating until it hurt. And cooking at home more because I want my kid to eat home cooked food, with us at the table.

  20. Simply put, thank you.

    I was, as you noticed, following the other thread closely. I needed this today. This explanation, this understanding, this clarity.

  21. But HAES means something a lot more complex than “fat in body, thin in habits.” It means a life based on something deeper than self-recrimination.

    Didn’t we used to just call this “living”?

  22. @ Banconsmom…yep. There was a time we called it “living”…I can’t say I know what the term for it is now. :-)

  23. Hey FJ, this is a great post. I hope everyone who reads it gets a good picture of what HAES is supposed to be. Thanks for stopping by the other day again. Your encouragement was much appreciated!

  24. IMO, HAES is a separate issue from fat acceptance. I don’t have to practice or condone HAES in order to practice and condone fat acceptance.

    I don’t like that HAES is being talked about so much on fat acceptance blogs, frankly. I detect bigotry here and there, among commenters and some bloggers alike, inadvertent though it may be. (Not pointing fingers at anyone in particular – I don’t keep track – it’s just a general, cumulative impression.) I’ve caught it in myself at times, being a fairly healthy person myself who likes to throw that in the faces of fat haters when the opportunity arises.

    I appreciate those of you who’ve made it clear that health is not morality. I don’t think this is said often enough. And I think that’s harder to get across when there’s so much focus on being healthy rather than accepting ourselves as we are at this moment.

  25. Another very interesting post. I think a lot of people don’t know what “healthy” feels like, though – I was talking about this the other day with a friend who has just retrained as a clinical hypnotherapist and she has had patients/clients (who have changed some of their behaviours) say they didn’t realise how unwell they felt until they felt better. They had no idea there was another way to feel because they’d felt the same way for as long as they could remember. I’m not talking about clinical illness here, just quality of life.

    I think this is a genuine issue, because how do you know what feels ‘healthy’ for you if you’ve never been there? I think millions of people are so massively out of touch with their bodies (and a lifetime of dieting and therefore overriding all your ‘natural’ signals surely sets people up for that) that they wouldn’t have a clue what healthy means for them.

  26. Kate in England raises a good point, “how do you know what feels ‘healthy’ for you if you’ve never been there?”

    I know for me that a big factor in my embracing healthy (for me) habits was a result of a vacation. We traveled abroad and ate mostly natural, whole foods instead of processed food (because that’s what was available) while walking miles everyday (so we could see what we wanted).

    When we got back I realized I felt so much better physically than I had before vacation. My rosacea had cleared up, my stomach problems had eased, and had more overall energy. So since then (6 months ago), I have been trying to recreate that experience through my food and exercise choices. And have found I feel better through these choices.

    Before then I thought I was done. That I was going to feel crappy for the rest of my life. But this enforced perspective shift really made me stop and think. And to listen to my body, which absolutely responded to these changes in a positive way.

    So that is a good question, “how do we know what feels ‘healthy’ for us if we’ve never been there?”

  27. I want to add one more point.

    Prior to vacation mind shift, these changes would’ve felt like dieting. Eating salads and walking. Blech.

    But after this mind shift they feel normal and natural and exactly what my body needs.

  28. Thank you for this. I struggle with HAES more than with fat acceptance, I think (though yesterday was a very bad day in my relationship with my belly – it kills me that I can forget all this stuff so easily). So I am always grateful when people remind me that mental health counts as, y’know, health.

    For better physical health, there are many changes I could make to what I eat. I could implement a detailed meal plan with much more balance than I currently manage (some vitamins would probably be a start). I’m sure I would feel better for it – for a fortnight or so. And then gradually I’d find myself eating less and less. I’d probably start weighing myself. I might even start ever-so-mysteriously suffering from more stomach upsets on days when I thought I’d had too much fat. I’m not ready to focus that closely on what I put into my body. I look forward to the day when I am, but right now this is about as healthy as I can be. So I’m not getting enough fibre and what-not. So it might cause me problems in the future. So might slipping back into ED habits. Hello, I’m not going to get through many raw carrots if I’ve got no fucking teeth.

    This is my HAES.

  29. I’m new here, and I’m so glad I found this blog; it validates so many things things I’ve noticed in my own experience and tried to make sense of.

    Health is different for everyone; it’s important to remember that. I’ve done the macrobiotic-diet thing, and I could give you a laundry list of all the wonderful symptoms I developed from that. (While meanwhile being told that I must be cheating on the diet, because if I was doing it right I would be losing weight and feeling wonderful.) If the way I felt then is the definition of health, then health is something I never want to experience again in my lifetime.

    In contrast, now I’m significantly heavier, eat junk food, pretty much only eat fruits and vegetables when I’m overcome by food guilt, and don’t go for walks (never mind that I do other forms of exercise that are much more strenuous; walking is the ideal form of exercise for the human body, don’t you know). And I feel great. I feel the way I was supposed to feel from the “healthy” eating.

    And I’m only now starting to overcome the cognitive dissonance from being told on the one hand that I’m in great health (because my body functions so well), and on the other hand that I’m unhealthy (because I’m fat and eat sugar and don’t get my five-a-day). (When I take those gauge-your-state-of-health tests online, I get bizarre results; one said, “You need to lose weight and should consider starting to exercise. Also, you’re exercising too much.”) I kept telling myself, “Never mind how I feel, never mind how well my body functions, I can’t be healthy! Look at my weight! Look at what I do!”

    (And I still sort of feel like I have to prove how healthy I am, because the insecurity isn’t gone by any means.)

    Sorry for the lengthy comment; my point is, I agree. It’s incredibly important to listen to what your body wants – even if it runs contrary to what you’ve been told about health.

  30. Lily: “Eating and exercise don’t determine whether we’re fat or thin.”

    Umm… yeah, they kinda do…

    If I ate 800 calories a day and worked out 5 hours a day, I would be thin. I’m pretty sure that would hold for everyone else on here too if they were stupid enough to do that.

    Unfortunately I don’t WANT to. I’ve got the pro-diet crowd on one side saying eat less and the pro-exercise crowd on the other (I’m looking at you, HAES) saying exercise more.

    I don’t feel like I need to make any excuses for why I don’t exercise. Why should I exercise as much as I am able? Isn’t that the same as someone telling you that you should only eat as much food as you need? I don’t have any B12 deficiency or joint problems or anything, I just don’t like exercising. And given zero exercise and a diet that would make a trucker guilty, I am as healthy as someone can be. Thus I am healthy but not “healthy”.. tada!

  31. MikeyT, you seem to be willfully missing the point. More than one point, in fact. But let’s start with the fact that THE WHOLE FUCKING POINT OF THIS POST is that we’re not judging anyone who doesn’t practice HAES.

    Nobody needs to “make excuses” for not exercising any more than they need “permission” to eat. It’s your body. Your call.

    But for people who want to feel better than they do, but have only ever been offered a weight-loss model for achieving that, HAES is an incredibly important concept. If you think it’s bullshit or not applicable to your life, you can feel free to go ahead and stop reading this blog.

  32. MikeyT said:
    “If I ate 800 calories a day and worked out 5 hours a day, I would be thin. I’m pretty sure that would hold for everyone else on here too if they were stupid enough to do that.”

    Those are eating disorder-like behaviors. If you did that and became underweight, you’d be anorexic.

    If you’re naturally fat, did that, and became a “normal” weight, you would be in a constant state of starvation.

    We’re talking about the fact that a thin person can eat 2500 calories a day and walk for half an hour four times a week and remain thin. A fat person can do the same and remain fat.

    A lot of the ignored research is showing that eating and activity habits do not determine whether one is fat or thin. Take a look at the Junkfood Science blog listed in the right column of this blog.

  33. I disagree with MikeyT that MikeyT or other fat people are fat because they eat “too much” and don’t exercise “enough”. What makes people fat and thin is just not that simple, although many people would find it more comforting if it were.

    I really appreciate this about HAES: It teaches that a person generally isn’t going to drop dead or get really sick just because they’re fat and that dieting isn’t the only thing a fat person can do to feel good in their body and mind.

    But I do think that Health at Every Size is difficult to talk about, because of the weird way my society thinks about “health.”

    The thing is, in my society today, “health” has basically come to mean something like “without sin” (right along with the “and therefore will live forever” component). And just as there have generally been people ready to judge other people (and themselves) for committing sins and not doing enough good works, there are loads of people ready to judge other people for committing health sins and not doing enough good health behaviors.

    The bottom line is:

    No one has perfect health, assuming that we even knew what it would look like.

    No one has perfect health-oriented behaviors, assuming that we even knew what such behaviors would be. (We know a little, but not much.)

  34. Is HAES implying healthy can be achieved at severely underweight and severely overweight? Neither extreme is healthy.

    I believe health is balance, living somewhere in the middle. There’s different levels of health we can label people too: healthy, healthier, less healthy, not so healthy etc.I think everyone should strive to be the size your body was meant to be in accordance with your frame, structure and unique biology.

  35. I believe health is balance, living somewhere in the middle. There’s different levels of health we can label people too: healthy, healthier, less healthy, not so healthy etc.I think everyone should strive to be the size your body was meant to be in accordance with your frame, structure and unique biology.

    withlovebyli, believe it or not, it doesn’t matter what you believe health means for other people. Why are you so eager to label people, or tell them what size they should be or want to be?

    But I do think that Health at Every Size is difficult to talk about, because of the weird way my society thinks about “health.”

    The thing is, in my society today, “health” has basically come to mean something like “without sin” (right along with the “and therefore will live forever” component).

    Stef, that’s perfectly put! I was thinking today that I should start using the term “salutary” more often, since “healthy” is just way too overloaded.

  36. That came out a little harsh, but I think you can see by the bolded sections what I’m referring to. No, you most certainly cannot tell someone’s habits from their absolute body size, but luckily it’s not your job to label people’s health or determine whether their habits are sufficiently salutary or whether their body is the size it’s “meant” to be. You are absolved from holding an opinion about what other people should do with their bodies or how they should look.

  37. Z,
    You want to know how bizarre those online tests can get? I had one tell me I was eating too many veggies! (I like veggies when I can chew) How the fuck can you eat too many veggies? It told me I should trade the veggies in on pasta, rice, bread, cereal, etc. When I used to eat those instead I felt like crap, I was sleepy and fuzzy headed and stayed hungry all the time no matter how much or what else I ate, I won’t even discuss the constant digestive issues.

  38. I liked this post a lot…and I am also of the opinion that different bodies require different amounts and types of food, and different amounts and types of exercise. Running might be healthy for me because it gives me extra energy and I feel like shit if I don’t run everyday, but for someone else it might use up all their energy, and ruin their knee joint capsules. We’re like snowflakes. (I think Lewis Black said that..) ^_^

    And just as food for thought…..my boyfriend’s family…grandparents, great grandparents, great aunts, etc. etc whoever…..they all live into their nineties. Late nineties. Not hooked up to a machine late nineties…like, active, independent, un-hospitalized and living unassisted untill the day they die, late nineties. Not a freaking one of them has ever worked out, ever never EVER, or given much thought to what they eat. Hallo, genetics? And there’s always cake at his grandma’s. And lasagna. Mmm. Lasagna.

    Yep. Snowflakes.

  39. One thing that always bugs me is that why is eating nutritious foods and taking regular exercise considered ‘Thin habits’? They’re good habits. As someone so is new to size acceptance, this is one thing that sort of pokes at me. In some people they might cause weight loss and in others, not, but whatever the case I *think* that most people don’t debate that these two things are good for you regardless – with the exception of the eating disorder thing, in which case recovering from that should probably be the focus and having a healthy relationship with food without weight loss being a long term goal. I think the definition fillyjonk gave was a good one, but I think people can get caught up in the apologetics regarding encouraging people to get healthier – not thinner – and then sort of miss what I’ve come to understand is the point of HAES in the first place. Am I making sense? Have I missed the point in the first place? don’t get me wrong, I don’t think people should attempt to be pictures of healthy perfection, but I’m not getting why it’s a bad thing to be up front about encouraging an active lifestyle and better nutrition for fat folks. Thin doesn’t equal healthy, so encouraging healthy habits shouldn’t be seen as shunning FA.

  40. LollyDee, no no, you’ve FAR from missed the point. You’ve the opposite of missed it. “Thin habits” was meant to be dripping with sarcasm.

  41. LOL, okay, so I’m slow on the uptake today. Because when I read the comments in the thread I was all “WAH” because I thought I got it and then there were doubts and then sometime in between all of that I had dinner and coffee and the world was right again.

    :P

  42. I’ve been reading this blog and a few others in the fat acceptance group for a while now, but I think this might be my first comment.
    First, I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for this website. I have learned so much, and I’ve benefited a great deal.
    However, this HAES thing has honestly been a huge turn off for me. It makes me feel like maybe I’m not the right kind of fattie for you, though I know that’s not what you’re saying at all. It’s just a feeling I get sometimes with all of the salad-waving etc. Which is great for a lot of people, I’m sure. But I don’t want to eat many veggies. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
    So what if I’m fat because I eat lots of cheese and bread? If I eat cheesecake afterwards? I like it. It makes me really really happy. I know my body could use more exercise, and veggies, etc. But I just don’t want to. So I won’t.
    And I certainly don’t only eat when I’m hungry. If I’ve been reading the news and getting super depressed, I think it’s just fine to find comfort in a big warm bowl of extra-cheesey bean dip. No, my body doesn’t need it, but it makes me feel so much better. I really don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
    I have no physical ailments to deter me. I’m young. I could be a lot healthier. But I just don’t want to be.
    And I know that you’re not saying I’m any less deserving of love or respect. It’s just that sometimes I feel a bit pushed aside.

  43. Weetz, what would make you feel more included? I think KH and everyone else who posts here has gone out of their way to make it clear that they don’t think they’re “better fatties” for eating salads or veggies or that fat people who eat a lot, or prefer “junk food” to fruits and vegetables, are “lesser fatties.” Yet that’s not enough for you, apparently, so what else do you need?

  44. I think KH and everyone else who posts here has gone out of their way to make it clear that they don’t think they’re “better fatties” for eating salads or veggies or that fat people who eat a lot, or prefer “junk food” to fruits and vegetables, are “lesser fatties.”

    That’s part of the thesis of this post, in fact. I devoted more than a paragraph to it and linked to TR’s much longer post. Sometimes I wonder whether people are just invested in feeling alienated.

  45. Weetz, if you can point to “salad-waving” in this post, I’ll eat my hat. With extra bacon and melty cheese.

  46. You know, I’m really sorry but I must be completely misunderstanding something. I apologize and I’ll go read more … Is HAES about promoting eating nutritional foods and exercising, as LollyDee was saying, or what is it then? I really don’t mean to be “invested in feeling alienated,” I think it’s more that I love the way you all are fat, with exercising and eating veggies and all that, but I would love to find someone else out there who is fat like me, and celebrating over being able to eat what I want that is unhealthy. I really think you all are great, and it is way selfish of me, but I would love to add to my internet readings someone who is unapologetically unhealthy. Any links? Or should I just shut up?
    I guess I just feel like I’m getting some mixed messages. And I truly don’t mean to be an ass, I just want to understand.

  47. If this is helpful, Weetz, to me HAES amounts to three things:

    1) Not blaming your fat for everything that’s wrong with you. Any problem you have, a thinner person has also in one form or another. Guaranfrickinteed.

    2) Not blaming your Bad Behavior for being fat or “unhealthy” — lots of people are just as “bad” as you if not worse, yet are considerably thinner and appear much “healthier” on the surface.

    3) Doing what makes you feel and function your best RIGHT NOW — not 50 or 60 years from now, RIGHT NOW, and if that means eating a bathtub full of fries with ranch dressing, so be it. Not my thing (ranch dressing, yuck), but if that’s what gets you through the day, it’s your body, your life.

  48. I have to say, I’m really confused about why you’re confused! Did you read the post you’re commenting on? Here are some relevant quotes:

    First of all, there is never a moral imperative to do things that are considered “healthy.” You are not less deserving of respect if you eat fast food, if you smoke, if you repeatedly hit yourself in the head with a hammer. HAES isn’t about marginalizing you if you’re not the perfect picture of glowing cornfed vitality. Shapely Prose certainly isn’t.

    If you’re doing what you’re doing because it’s what you’ve determined — without judging — that you want or need? Then it’s HAES, whether it’s veggies and leglifts or a box of bonbons.

    Just to be perfectly clear, we here at SP do NOT look like the Pictures of Health all the time.

    Ah, I love the look of those blockquotes. I should use those more often.

    As for links, Ruth at The Endomorph has been writing recently about feeling like a “fat sinner” for not being a veggie-munching color-coordinated living challenge to fat stereotypes. Ruth knows, of course, that none of that makes her a “bad fattie,” but she was dealing with some of the same things you apparently are. Check some other links in the Fatosphere sidebar, too. There are people of all walks of life and all types of habits in the Fatosphere. If nobody’s talking sufficiently about comfort food, you could always start a blog… I’m sure lots of readers would like to have a cheesy bean dip recipe. (Everyone blogging at SP has varying degrees of digestive problems, so we don’t really eat cheesy stuff, but we can look on and drool.)

  49. Everyone blogging at SP has varying degrees of digestive problems, so we don’t really eat cheesy stuff, but we can look on and drool

    Oh, I eat cheesy stuff. I regret it sometimes, but I eat it.

  50. Also, Meowser, NO FAIR BEING MUCH PITHIER AND CLEARER THAN ME ON THIS TOPIC AND IN BULLET POINTS NO LESS.

  51. Oh, I eat cheesy stuff. I regret it sometimes, but I eat it.

    It’s really weird to me how little I miss cheesy stuff. I think it’s because, even though my Digestive Idiosyncrasies have gotten worse with age, anything greasy has always made me ill — I’ve had a long time to get used to the idea that an enchilada hates me.

    Coming to terms with the fact that I should probably avoid peanut butter is taking much, much longer though. As I keep saying here. Because I can’t get over it.

    And I’ll never give up cake.

  52. Sorry, dude, didn’t mean to upstage you or nothin’.

    All comin’ in being brilliant on my post. The gall!

  53. Pingback: I’m like glass. « With Love, by Li

  54. LOL…OK. One more then: Human bodies are not neat and tidy input/output machines in any way, shape or form. I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life (OK, I took one puff once and coughed my brains out for three days, but that’s still not a whole cigarette!), and yet I know heavy smokers who have better resistance to illness and better lung capacity I do even though they’re older than I am. I have an ex-boyfriend who, in his heavy drinking days, put away 50 beers a week like it was nothing. Yes, five-zero. My ex-husband never drank that much in a whole year, yet he’s the one who was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver in his early 30s (due to hereditary iron overload). I have no idea, really, why people still cling to the idea of “behavior x equals outcome y,” when all the evidence we have proves nothing of the kind.

  55. Pingback: Like fragile glass. « With Love, by Li

  56. One of my major frustrations with the “OMG obesity is going to kill us all” movement is that fat – or even nearly- or slightly-overweight people – are not allowed to eat normally.

    Surely the most ‘normal’ eating involves consuming a range of food, with the individual finding an optimal balance between food consumed for nutrition, food consumed for it’s emotional or social effect, and food which is a mixture of the two. It is normal to take pleasure in the food we eat, and to sometimes eat just for pleasure. Presumably humans always have, or eating wouldn’t have developed into a social pastime.

    And yet that normal physical and mental enjoyment of a necessary physical process is being denied to anyone a few pounds over an arbitrarily assigned set point (a set point that Mikey T seems to believe sits somewhere not much over 800 calories a day – a level that wouldn’t even satisfy the basic metabolic needs of many adults).

    It appalls me that even at a relatively trim and muscular 160lbs, I was starting to be told that I needed to eat less than normal, and exercise more than normal. I did both for a while – and found myself obsessed with eating (less) and exercising (more) to the point where I couldn’t concentrate, didn’t have sufficient time with my husband and was no longer functioning normally, let alone optimally.

    And this is where I find anti-HAES sentiment hard to stomach – as far as I can see, HAES says that everyone has the right to try and find their ideal norm when it comes to eating and exercise, regardless of their size – that noone should be forced to eat abnormally, or exercise obsessively, because their weight doesn’t match that arbitrarily assigned set point. I just don’t see what is so controversial about that. I’m sick of the message that if your physique doesn’t match the norm, you don’t have the right to find your own point of equilibrium.

    It’s easy to twist HAES into a paradigm that says you can only find mental and emotional equilibrium after you’ve achieved ‘healthfulness’, but I’ve never seen any of the Shapely Prose bloggers saying that. If your ideal norm, your point of optimal function, requires more emphasis on time with loved ones than time spent exercising, more emphasis on physical rest than preparing time-consuming vege-filled meals, so be it. HAES, as I understand it, allows for that.

    I don’t mind exercising, and I do swim and go to the gym, but it’s unlikely I’ll ever want to do concentrated intense exercise more than a few times a week. I have other priorities. The “OMGOIGTKUA” movement says I shouldn’t have other priorities. HAES says I can if I want.

  57. downside-up, a thousand times yes to this. And I wish OMGOIGTKUA were a little more pronounceable so we could adopt it permanently.

    I’ve been thinking recently that the simplest version of HAES is this: it says to everyone no more and no less than what a responsible doctor would say to a thin person. No responsible doctor (though plenty of irresponsible ones) would tell a thin person to lose weight; the assumption is that you’re the size you’re supposed to be. No responsible doctor, no matter how much they bought into the obesity hype, would expect a thin person to unerringly eat nothing but vegetables, exercise an hour a day, and eschew cake for the rest of their lives. No responsible doctor would advocate taking up habits that are detrimental to your mental health. And no responsible doctor would tell a person with chronic pain that she had to take up running, or a person with food intolerances that she had to follow the single food plan deemed healthy for everyone.

    All these bets are off when the hypothetical patient is fat. Suddenly we’re supposed to believe that we are the wrong size, that we must be perfect in our habits according to a particular draconian idea of healthy behaviors, that we must work out to exhaustion and eat restrictively regardless of our needs and limitations, and that we can never ever relax or show that we’re not striving with every fiber of our beings to behave in the way we’re led to believe thin people do (even though, seriously, most of them don’t — most thin people eat some vegetables and some cake like the rest of us). HAES just wants to restore sanity and balance to that equation.

    As has been discussed on this blog before, it’s hard for fatties to get even-handed treatment from the medical profession. We have to be our own responsible doctors.

  58. I use cake as a metonymy a lot, don’t I?

    I really like cake, is probably why.

    Heh. I do the same with fries. Maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on the people who talk about fatties and donuts all the time. They probably just really like donuts.

  59. Oh, also? THANK YOU, downside-up. Especially for this:

    I’m sick of the message that if your physique doesn’t match the norm, you don’t have the right to find your own point of equilibrium.

  60. Weetz,

    And I certainly don’t only eat when I’m hungry. If I’ve been reading the news and getting super depressed, I think it’s just fine to find comfort in a big warm bowl of extra-cheesey bean dip. No, my body doesn’t need it, but it makes me feel so much better. I really don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
    I have no physical ailments to deter me. I’m young. I could be a lot healthier. But I just don’t want to be.

    Cheesey bean dip sounds healthy to me (unless you’re lactose-intolerant). You got all the protein and the calcium and mmmm good. But anyways, I don’t think HAES is about eating all your carrots and fitting a perfect diet plan so you can be the model fat person for when we tell people to shut about how fat is killing us. HAES is about what’s eating good for your individual body. If eating cheese and bread and beans makes you feel good, that’s great. If eating only broccoli and carrots and low-fat yogurt would make you feel sick and sad, that’s not HAES. Everyone’s different. If you feel good eating the way you currently do, that’s HAES. It’s about making your body feel good, not following some stupid plan.

  61. I’ve experienced sitting on the couch and eating cake and Doritos all day. It makes your tongue feel funny, and then suddenly I wanted to be chugging water and eating, like twenty million infinities of tomatoes. ^^; Not doing that again, like, ever.

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