I need to get a few things out of the way before I start this post.
- I don’t hate fat people. I’m fat and I know how hard it is. I don’t care what other people do to their bodies. What I do care about is people spreading misinformation and lies, and harming other people.
- Overweight and obesity are objective, medical terms. This article is more talking about obesity. Being a little overweight, while still harmful to your health, is not as bad for you as obesity and its many classifications.
- Obesity is bad for you. This is not up for debate. If you’re going to try to debate this point, waste your time elsewhere.
- Obesity is always caused by overeating. There are some conditions that can cause you to overeat, or to cause your body to burn fewer calories (which just means you need to consume fewer calories), but that does not mean the condition is not caused by too much food. This is also not up for debate, and if you’re going to try to debate this point, waste your time elsewhere.
- I do not advocate fat shaming. Calling people names and treating them like shit has only been shown to cause them to engage further in their destructive behaviors. But there is a difference between being mean and being truthful. There is a difference between calling someone fat and suggesting that maybe they shouldn’t eat so much, or telling them that their behavior is unhealthy.
Now then. In this post, I am going to talk about why the fat acceptance movement is harmful, and why the normalization of obesity is bad. I already covered a lot of this in another article, but I feel it’s worth writing about again and in more depth as I’ve been exposed to the movement as a whole much more than the last time I wrote about it. This is going to be a long one, so if you’re too lazy to read the very important points below, skip to the bottom for the TL;DR.
From Wikipedia: The fat acceptance movement (also known as the size acceptance, fat liberation, fat activism, fativism, or fat power movement) is a social movement seeking to change anti-fat bias in social attitudes. The movement grew out of the various identity politics of the 1960s and campaigns for the rights of fat people to be treated equally both socially and legally.
We should not accept obesity. It (the behaviors and actions, not people’s bodies) should be shamed just like smoking is shamed. Accepting obesity is like accepting a drug addict. The behaviors and actions that lead to obesity are harmful. Many obese people have food addiction. Food addiction should be treated the same as drug addiction: an undesirable, harmful, and treatable behavior. Not all obese people have food addiction. That doesn’t make their behaviors any less harmful to themselves and others.
The normalization of obesity causes people to forget what a healthy body looks like. This leads to parents with fatter children, thinking their children are fine. It leads to adults who are obese thinking they’re “only a little overweight.” It leads to people not taking the dangers of obesity seriously and thinking “a little extra weight” is “no big deal.” It leads to “skinny shaming” wherein overweight and obese people put down healthy weight people, calling them anorexic or other mean names. It leads to people believing that people that are actually a healthy weight are anorexic, trivializing one of the most deadly mental health disorders known to man.
I’m also sick of obese women being called brave for wearing bikinis in public or similar behavior. Eating food and wearing clothes in public (even provocative ones!) are not brave or acts of rebellion, they’re what normal people do. Doing things that normal people do every day should not be praised. Praising people for mediocrity is bad because it discourages them from doing better. We should all try to be our best selves. If someone wants to lead a mediocre life, that’s just fine. Most people do. But they shouldn’t be praised for it.
And on that note, blogging about being fat and telling people to stop being mean is not “activism”. I’ll have to save the most popular fat activists (Ragen Chastain, Virgie Tovar, Tess Munster, etc) for another day because they can be a post all on their own.
Fat acceptance is harmful because it reduces women to their bodies in the name of feminism. One of the biggest talking points of fat acceptance is that everyone deserves to feel beautiful, no matter what. And while everyone deserves to have self confidence (which is earned, btw), not everyone is beautiful and that is just a fact. People need to learn that they have more worth than their appearance. Instead of saying “everyone is beautiful!” we should be saying “some people are not beautiful, and that’s okay, they still have worth as human beings.”
Many fat people get offended when you criticize them because they think you’re attacking their bodies and their very identity, not just their habits. But you’re attacking their habits because their habits are harmful. It is not okay to be fat. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, much like smokers aren’t necessarily bad people. It just means that you have a (lot of) bad habit(s) that are harming your health, and you need to stop. Don’t let “fat” be your identity. Putting all of your self worth into one aspect of yourself (especially your appearance) is never a good idea; doubly so when that aspect is unhealthy.
Another reason fat acceptance is harmful is because it fosters the victim mentality. Most of the supporters claim that it’s impossible to lose weight and keep it off, so you shouldn’t even try. This is false and keeping people down by telling them there’s no hope. They also claim false “oppression” in the form of not being able to find cute clothes that fit, having to pay more for larger clothes, having to pay double fares when they take up two seats on a plane, and other first world problems. Members of fat acceptance claim they’re being oppressed, but real oppression is being denied actual rights, all of which fat people can do just like thin people. There is not a fat person in the first world (or probably anywhere in the world) that is being denied the right to vote, the right to use contraception, or the right to marry who they want based on their size. It is disgusting that they have co-opted this term to make their cause sound more legitimate.
Fat acceptance is a pro-fat cult. Many of the members are ready to shut you out at the very first mention of weight loss. If you’re not fat, they don’t care about your struggles. Some of them have even resorted to saying that some women have no right to complain because they’re “not fat enough.” It’s a selfish movement focused on keeping women desperate and unhappy, all in the name of doing the opposite.
Fat acceptance is harmful because it’s based in delusion. It tells women that they’re fine just the way they are, and they all claim to be finally happy with their bodies since finding this movement. But happy people don’t write articles on the internet about how happy they are. If you ask me, they’re trying hard to convince themselves of something that’s not true for the majority of them: that they’re actually happy being fat. If you love your body, fine. I’m happy for you. But pretending to love it is not the same as loving it.
Fat acceptance people also claim that anyone who wants to lose weight, for any reason whatsoever, hates themselves. Dieting is an act of self hatred because obviously if you want to change your body it means you hate it, right? Wrong. Sure, plenty of people diet down to a smaller size because they hate their bodies. Plenty others diet down because they feel unhealthy at their current size. My number one motivation right now for losing weight is so that I can compete in races. Vanity is not the only reason people lose weight. And even if that is their motivation, that’s okay. As long as they’re losing weight in a healthful way, it’s none of anyone else’s business.
Fat acceptance is killing people, and that’s the number one reason why it’s harmful. It encourages people to remain fat. Obesity is associated with nearly 1 in 5 US deaths. Fat acceptance is helping contribute to the number one killer in the United States. It’s not about what you look like, it’s about the strain you’re putting on yourself, your family members, and society. And the next time you think that you being fat doesn’t affect anyone else, think about who has to lift your heavy ass from your bed when you need an ambulance, or who has to buy an extra large burial plot so you’ll fit in the ground, or who has to risk burning down the crematorium because of your excessive body fat. Think about all the people who will be sad to have lost you when you died an early death.
If you have children, think about how little you can run around and play with them, or how easily you get out of breath and tired when you try. Think about all the things you’re missing out on in life because you’re too tired to enjoy them, or just literally too big to do them (like riding a roller coaster, for example).
Because I’m terrible at wording things, I asked some people about the reasons they find fat acceptance to be harmful. Following are some quotes. I know it’s long, but please read them all, they’re all equally important and say things in ways that I couldn’t.
“I tried to believe the FA/HAES shit for a while…. But here’s what I think: It’s harmful because I don’t believe they are happy being fat. I just don’t believe it. They might think they have to settle for being fat, or be as happy as they can be, given the (false) presupposition that they can’t change it… But I think every fuckin one of them would be a healthy weight if they thought they could. And they can. So they’re lying to themselves. And that sucks. We all deserve to live an honest full life.”
“My biggest issue is the deliberately misleading ‘facts’ and tactics designed to make you give up on yourself and join them in their bucket. I was miserable back when these sorts of people convinced me that fat was inevitable...It disgusts me how they call giving up on yourself the only form of ‘self love’. They prey on people who don’t know any better or have low self esteem and applaud as they destroy themselves...discovering CICO and the facts around it changed my life”
“It’s harmful because it’s a cult. If I were to describe it as a single-panel comic, I would say it’s a group of bitter, miserable, overweight women with their fingers firmly placed in their ears screaming, “LALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” It spawns relentless delusion…they are conspiracy theorists who believe the diet industry actively colludes to keep women fat to make money off them. Ironically, everyone I know who has lost a significant amount of weight (and gasp kept it off for a long time!) didn’t use any diet industry product — they just ate a diet of nutritious foods and reasonable portions…I guess what it boils down to is that fat acceptance is a crutch for people who can’t handle the reality of their situation”
“It’s incredibly sexist. It implicitly encourages fat women to seek acceptance and validation solely through flaunting their ability to sleep with (usually) smaller men.”
“Fat acceptance may seem all punk and awesome with the cute outfits and feminist rhetoric etc. when you are young and your body still functions but it’s getting people comfortable in a path heading for a terrifying, painful, heart breaking future for them, and the people who love them.”
“Look at it this way, if you were standing outside an elementary school handing out liquor, you would get arrested. That shit is dangerous and we all recognize and accept that fact, because there’s been an emphasis on it. Society needs to not let this sort of thing be OK. We need to stand up and say, look this is a dangerous thing to promote and we shouldn’t allow it. Being obese is being unhealthy, and we need to make that clear to ourselves and our children or that Wall-e movie might be a real thing.”
“The part that bothers me the most is that children are being set up for a lifetime of heath problems due to being overweight and obese. ”
“They represent abject and utter failure of the human spirit: the burning desire to improve one’s self through action, hard work, and sacrifice. They’re perpetual victims, forever blaming anyone and everyone but themselves for their own situation. They are demagogues of the highest order who care nothing for social progress or the plight of others, but loudly and disgustingly claim to be “heroes” and “activists”.”
“It’s harmful because it perpetuates the idea that you are helpless, that you are not, and can never be, in control of yourself and your life, and that self-improvement is impossible. It stops people from taking personal responsibility, and striving to become better – not just in terms of health, but in all aspects of life. And that is a horrible, depressing way to live…The “everyone is beautiful” nonsense is especially harmful (even beyond fat acceptance) because no matter how many times you say it, not everyone will believe that they are beautiful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the “why am I body-positive towards others but not towards myself” post on Tumblr.”
“Honestly (and I recognise this is pretty petty of me), one of the big reasons I dislike fat acceptance advocates is how spiteful they are towards smaller women…They don’t allow for the possibility that people at a healthy weight can feel anxious or uncomfortable about their bodies.”
“If you’re happy being fat, that’s great! Good on you for being happy with yourself and with your lifestyle. Just DON’T go and start promoting it as a healthy lifestyle choice!”
“It’s snake oil, pure and simple. They’re selling happy lies to people who are eating themselves to death.”
“The ability to almost break down crying over those poor 15 year old girls then proceed to encourage them to eat themselves into a heart attack. You don’t give a single fuck about them. You just want to create more fat people because else you will be alone. And you know teenage girls are the most likely to actually take over your idea’s. So you exploit them and possibly ruin their lives. Which is rather dark.”
“Fat acceptance encouraged me to stay in a body that I would ultimately never be happy in. If I hadn’t tried to be ‘body positive’ for so many years, I could have gotten healthier a lot sooner, and who knows how my life could have been different. The other problem that I have with FA in its most prevalent iteration is that it followers tend to have a very hypocritical view of body positivity that actively denigrates thin people. They reject the idea that a thin person could have body insecurities and often bully them. I find that completely unacceptable.”
“I only become so enraged that they call themselves “liberal feminists” (find one who isn’t) but spread shit like this:
- Manspreading, using a whole seat for your purse, or sitting sideways and putting your legs on someone’s lap is a fucking crime, but you are OWED one and three-quarters of a seat to someone else’s one-quarter.
- Someone who denies evolution or claims vaccines cause autism would rightfully be called an idiot, but “calories aren’t a thing” or “fat people don’t get diseases” is crowed from the rooftops.
- No one owes anyone else attention, interest, or sex, but if any of those things aren’t given to fat people, it’s discrimination.
- Women should help each other, recognize intersectionality, and support each other’s struggles. Oh, not you, skinny bitches. You don’t have any problems.
- Society places far too much importance on beauty, and things like modeling and fashion magazines have been proven to be destructive to women and young girls, but look how beautiful fat women are! Fat supermodels! Fat supermodels in fashion magazines!
- Women should have complete autonomy over their own bodies, as long as it doesn’t involve choosing control over their own weight or health or looks.”
“I have no problem with them killing them selves. I do have a problem for everyone in the medical industry who can hurt them selves trying to help these people. ”
Notice how all of those comments focused on thoughts and behaviors and not on people’s bodies? This is what I mean by “criticizing behavior is not the same as putting down someone for their looks.” None of the comments above called anyone worthless, fat, disgusting, etc. They pointed out harmful behaviors and why they’re harmful.
In conclusion: fat acceptance is harmful because it’s normalizing obesity, which is a serious condition that increases your risk of a myriad of illnesses, as well as increasing your risk of overall mortality. Fat acceptance is harmful because it tells people that they have no control over their bodies or their situations. It spreads lies and misinformation and actively denounces science. It encourages people to be victims and cry “oppression” that doesn’t exist. It trivializes eating disorders and puts down thin and healthy weight women. And most importantly, fat acceptance is harmful because it’s promoting a lifestyle that’s contributing to the number one cause of death in America.
EDIT: Apparently I wrote about this another time too, see here.