Friday, May 1, 2015

Defending Fat Positive Space

So one thing that constantly comes up in fat-positive community is the unrelenting stream of folks who protest that they need to be allowed to talk about their weight loss journey in fat-positive, explicitly diet-talk-free spaces. Or even that their weight loss goals are compatible with fat activism. I have a two-part response to folks who are choosing to pursue weight loss while participating in fat positive space.

Part 1) Nope, weight loss goals are not fat positive.
(Nope, not even yours, no matter what your justification is. Nope, not "for your health." Nope, not "as long as you're doing it safely and sanely." Nope, not because "it's ok if some people are happy being fat but you're not and something has to change.") Yup, that's radical. I'm unapologetic.

In the words of the always wise and amazing Marilyn Wann, weight loss goals are "mostly ineffective, sometimes harmful, and always promoting anti-fat beliefs."
1a) "mostly ineffective, sometimes harmful": the pursuit of intentional weight loss flies in the face of the masses of data that show that our bodies resist weight loss. Despite the massive denial pretty much everyone around us, medical professionals and laypeople alike, weight loss is not something we get to "choose." The vast majority of people will gain back the weight, often plus more. It doesn't matter if the weight loss is "for one's health" or any other reason. Bodies don't know why we're trying to lose weight, so the reason doesn't affect the underlying metabolic processes.
1b) "always promoting fat beliefs": Intentional weight loss is inherently anti-fat-positive. When one sets out to attempt to lose weight, one is placing value on being smaller over being larger. (Whether the value is the hope that one will be prettier, or in less pain, or less oppressed, it's still value.) Intentional weight loss is always at odds with fat activism and fat positivity. While one can say that one "doesn't judge others" the reality is weight loss goals indicate a judgment that fat can - at least in certain cases - be pathological. Fat positivity is about separating weight from health and judgment from both.

Part 2) On the other hand, this doesn't mean that we won't have all sorts of health problems, that we won't occasionally slip into feeling bad about our health or our bodies, or even slip into shaming/blaming our fat for our problems. It also doesn't mean that we won't have times when our fatness actually does cause us hardship in the world. All of this can be talked about in fat-positive space, if talked about with care. It doesn't have to be all roses all the time. But we need to talk about these things from a fat positive perspective that keeps the spaces safe.
It's the difference between saying, "my knees hurt so badly today, I think I'll try to lose 10 pounds" (not OK in fat positive space) and "my knees hurt so badly today, does anyone have ideas on how to make them feel better?" (totally cool) or even, "my knees hurt so badly today it's hard to remember not to blame my fat. Could you all post some fattie love?" (also awesome). It's not that the knee pain might not be caused or exacerbated by our superfat weight. It's that whether or not weight is a causal factor IS IRRELEVANT because there is no known way to safely and sustainably choose to lose weight. So we choose to focus on those things that we can control - exercise for strength, food for fulfillment, and let the weight fall where it may.

This belief system is an underlying assumption of any truly fat positive space. It is a big leap to take, from mainstream dialogue about bodies, health, and fatness... it takes abandoning pretty much everything we've ever been told about fatness, about bodies, about how to be happy. Not everyone is ready or interested in going there. And that's cool. The Underpants Rule says so. But to them I say:

Dear Pursuer of Weight Loss,
Fat positive space is predicated on the rejection of prioritizing thinness over fatness and the letting go of the notion that we choose our body size. You are not there yet. That's OK - I certainly cannot and would never tell anyone what they can or cannot do with their own body. But it does mean at times your beliefs will be at odds with the beliefs on which this space is founded. The discomfort that comes along with that is something only you can decide whether you are willing to endure in order to get all the happy awesomeness of the ways in which you do feel good in this group.
Much love and wishes for full fat awesome living,
Me

9 comments:

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    1. Thanks!! Your opinion means a lot to me :)

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    1. Kiss my fat ass you anonymous coward.

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    2. You rock Sleepydumpling! Anonymous's spew has been removed. :)

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