How The Fat Acceptance Movement Hurt Me Deeply
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Health and Wellness

How The Fat Acceptance Movement Hurt Me Deeply

Warning: this is about to get personal.

How The Fat Acceptance Movement Hurt Me Deeply
Western Region Public Health Training Center

Let me just say first and foremost that I am fat.

I’m not “pleasantly plump,” nor am I chubby – I am fat. In fact, I am now Class 1 Obese.

With this information in mind, you may think that I've felt relieved and validated by the recent surge of fat acceptance and the “Health at Every Size” movement. At first glance, these movements seem empowering – after all, us bigger people are going to be recognized as equally healthy and beautiful, right?

Wrong. Both of these movements have actually harmed me beyond measure, and have done literally nothing to fulfill me. These mentalities have only made my quality of life much worse. Not only have I personally suffered the consequences, but I can see horribly negative social and health consequences if we continue to promote these false concepts, which are completely idealistic and emotion-based, and have no basis in scientific reality.

Don’t misunderstand me - I am a massive supporter of self love, and I do not think that fat people have to be riddled with self-hatred. After all, fat people are intelligent, kind, talented, etc. However, they are also unhealthy. Their organs have to work twice as hard to compensate for the extra body mass, and are literally caving under the extra weight. Fat individuals are also at an extremely higher likelihood to have serious, even life-threatened illnesses, such as heart disease, heart failure, diabetes - just to name a few - and typically don’t live nearly as long as their fitter contemporaries. Anyone who says that it’s healthy to be fat or obese is not only kidding themselves but also – and much worse - spreading misinformation that could lead to the deterioration of another's health. The irresponsibility of the fat acceptance movement – to spread false information throughout social media to young, impressionable adolescents and insecure adults – allows those who have serious health issues to continue down a path that will only further their unhealthiness

How can we truly say, then, that the fat acceptance movement and the “Health at Every Size” sub-movement are true movements of self-love? True self-love is taking care of yourself. True self-love providing your body with proper nourishment and exercising. Both of these are what the fat acceptance movement readily go against.

It is not a matter of being anti-feminist, anti-self-love, or ableist. This is not a matter of arguing over petty aesthetic preferences. This is about real-life consequences for people’s health.

Now, I do recognize that, socially, fat shaming is a true problem – because I’ve been a receiver of it. There is no justifiable reason why someone would shout “Shamu!” as an obese person walks by, nor should anyone be complacent when a bully compares a fat individual to a whale. That is a downright dehumanizing and twisted way to speak to other human beings. Fat and obese people are not zoo animals, and deserve basic dignity and respect. However, I also understand that there is a middle ground. We can respect fat people, while also recognizing that the state of being fat is completely detrimental - just like we can respect smokers, while also recognizing that smoking cigarettes is extremely unhealthy.

The main argument in favor of fat acceptance that isn’t completely arbitrary is that there people with PCOS, Depression, disabilities, etc. are at a predisposition to gain more weight. This is a valid point.

To that I say: some in the fat acceptance movement have no condition that they can specifically point to in order to justify their weight – simply put, they’re uneducated about physical health and choose to not take responsibility for themselves.

And for those who do have conditions: well, guess what?

I am one of them.

Since I was a pre-teen I’ve been battling with Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Pre-menstrual Dysphoric Disorder. These issues are the reason I’m fat. I turn to binging food as a way of grounding myself when I feel a depressive episode or a panic attack arising. When I am feeling deep self-hatred and want to punish myself, I eat myself sick. My executive functioning is stunted; there are some days I could barely leave the bed, so how could I really exercise? Also, I have such a deep disconnection from my body ever since a childhood trauma that I can hardly see it as my own, only an extension of me meant to be abused – with food.

That's why I get extremely miffed when someone argues that people have “Depression” and that’s justification enough. I just want to say back, I know! You’re preaching to the choir! There are millions of people out there with Depression, who feel helpless and turn to food as both a means of self-harm and as a respite from their symptoms. Are we really so irresponsible and ableist - yeah, I said it – that we're going to allow people with Depression to stay as far away as possible from what is truly going to help them feel at least a little bit better – a healthy diet and regular exercise?

That’s why I’m speaking out about this fat acceptance movement. Because I bought into it. I bought into it big time – no pun intended. I even started a petition for a plus-size Disney princess that garnered tens of thousands of signatures and landed me on the Today show. However, I was young and naïve, and lacked a substantial health education, which led to me kidding myself about my state of health – and led others to kid me about it, too.

This mentality has kept my friends from sitting me down, and telling me they're worried. It’s what allowed me to keep drinking 5 sodas and eating 3000 calories a day – which I still a problem for me. It’s what kept my loved ones from being vocal when my stomach looks like a globe. It’s what kept my friends from suggesting I get more water, that I eat more vegetables. It has thwarted my friends from stopping me when I order 1500 calories of food for one meal.

In fact, this pseudo-acceptance and P.C. ridiculousness has seeped so far into our collective psyche that my friends even correct me when I recognize the problem. When I call myself fat, they tell me I’m not – even though I’m literally obese. When I say that I eat too much, they tell me it isn’t true – even though I literally eat until my stomach hurts. When I say that my body is too big, they say it isn’t so – even though a major portion of my stomach is riddled with angry, red stretch marks that aren’t puberty-induced.

WORST OF ALL – “Fat acceptance” is what kept me from being honest with myself. It what allowed me to think it was okay when every night of the week I would go to CVS, buy a soda, chips, cookies, and pizza rolls, and scarf it all down within 15 minutes. It kept me from questioning myself in high school when every day after school I would buy a Twix candy bar and Mountain Dew to keep from having a panic attack. This “acceptance” is what kept me from truly taking responsibility when I noticed the unwelcomed changes in my body. When I feel uncomfortable, when simple tasks begin to hurt, when I notice that my clothes don’t fit anymore, when over the course of a year and half I’m at a size 18, when I’m so depressed that I barely exercise, when I am battling anxiety and trauma flashbacks and I turn to food as my only respite. In all of these moments, when the tiny voice in the back of my head says, "This isn’t okay. This isn’t normal. None of this is normal. You shouldn’t be this big,” the P.C. community in which I find myself says, “You’re totally fine! Your body is okay – no matter how big you are!”

Only when I broke down sobbing one night to a friend in his dorm, telling him all my struggles with food, have I ever gotten an honest, genuine response – a dawning on his face when he realizes that hey – Jewel is not ok. And it’s true. The way I eat is not okay. My weight is not ok. And frankly? It wasn’t insulting. It wasn’t bigoted. It wasn’t cruel. It was relieving. Finally, someone who could see that my weight wasn’t fine. That my roundness was a cry of desperation. That my stretched, angry skin was at its max capacity. Finally, someone who would not treat my weight like something it wasn’t – fashionable, sexy – and instead would treat it like it actually was – a burden.

Because it is. It’s very hard for me to be fat. It’s harder to like myself and the way I look. I have tremendous guilt that accompanies feeding myself terrible foods. I don’t feel comfortable or attractive in my clothing. Mobility and exercise become more challenging. And, if I’m thinking long-term, how am I going to find a partner who isn’t either fetishizing me or secretly finding me unattractive? Each day I grow closer and closer to diabetes, heart disease, limited mobility, sleep apnea, and no long-term partner. And you know what? I refuse to live that life. As you read, my unhealthy eating is deep-rooted within me, so it will be a harrowing journey to quit these habits in a truly meaningful way. It's going to hurt big time. It’s going to kick my you-know-what. But the first step is to refuse the ideology that all weights are okay, that you can be “healthy at any size.” I refuse to give in any longer to this false reality that holds me back and keeps me miserable, which worsens my already heavy mental illness, and makes me feel the worst I’ve ever felt, both physically and emotionally.

Stop lying to people who are in desperate need of help, and stop lying to me. It’s not political incorrectness – it’s saving the people you love from a miserable life. It’s being honest when you need to be. It’s being real when you’re being told to be “accepting.” It’s putting your love for that person above your discomfort surrounding the difficult conversation.

If you love someone, you won’t coddle them and allow them to think that their obesity is okay. And if you love me, you’ll do the same for me.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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