WE NEED FAT ACCEPTANCE. HERE'S WHY! #eatingdisorderawarenessweek
It's Eating Disorder Awareness Week and in order to decrease the number of people suffering from eating disorders we must talk about Fat Acceptance.
YES- FAT ACCEPTANCE.
You see, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, the sociocultural idealization of thin bodies [and the hatred and fear of fat bodies also referred to as Fatphobia or Anti-fat Bias] is the best-known environmental contributor to developing an eating disorder.
I can look back at my decade-long battle with bulimia and see that yup, the fear of being fat was the greatest contributor for me.
And I am not alone. Most, if not all women (men, too) in Western culture experience body dissatisfaction to some degree and I grew up believing one of the worst things I could be as a woman was fat.
These messages are rampant and come from our government, media, medical system, authority figures, social acquaintances, friends, and family.
What’s alarming is that girls start to express concerns about their weight and body image by age 3.
AGE FUCKING 3.
Before kindergarten, our little girls already know that our culture idealizes thin bodies and discriminates against fat bodies. While of course, they don't have the ability to fully process this, they do however pick up on the simple notion that our culture sees "fat as bad" which is something a 3-year-old can understand.
So the messages around “good” and “bad” bodies are anything but subtle or subliminal. There are direct and omnipresent.
Why does this matter?
According to NEDA: 1-4 dieters go on to develop disordered eating or an eating disorder.
Dieting is categorized as any attempt at weight loss or weight control through behavior modification like changes to food and exercise. Even if it’s for perceived “health” reasons.
That said, this is not a conversation around anti-health so do not get it twisted.
I am absolutely a believer in taking care of your health. But weight and health are not the same things, correlation is not causation. More on that here, here, and here.
However, that is not the narrative we hear and as a result, our culture justifies stigma, discrimination, and shame against fat bodies most often under the disguise of health concern… “like I am all for you loving yourself, so long as you’re healthy.”
First, other people’s health isn’t anyone else business, nor is pursuing health a moral obligation. Secondly, I am not sure poor health is justification for shame.
I assume you are familiar with the work of Brene Brown, the most famous shame researcher of all. Her research shows that shame doesn’t lead to improved health outcomes or positive behavior change. It leads to a decrease in health, both mental and physical.
I want everyone, but especially those of us with thin bodies to take a stand against weight discrimination because of the persistent mental, emotional and physical harm it causes.
Not just for people in larger bodies, but for all people, including men and members of the LGTBQ community as we all suffer at the hands of fat discrimination and weight stigma.
Even though I have been thin my whole life, I have feared being seen in a swimsuit, I've refused to have sex naked with the lights on, I've hated going into dressing rooms to try on clothes and I struggled with my relationship with food. And I know I am not alone.
Regardless of size, people struggle with the restrict-binge cycle and all the obsessive thoughts, behaviors, and shame that comes along with that.
We fear being fat or gaining weight, so we tirelessly try to stay thin or get thinner.
We engage in persistent body monitoring, like “how does my hair look, do I look okay from this angle, are my thighs too big, I wonder if I look okay.”
According to Dr. Caroline Heldman's research, women on average engage in body monitoring every 30 seconds.
That is a lot of mental real estate given away to what we look like.
And women who are worried about what they look have higher rates of:
depressed cognitive functioning,
lower political efficacy,
and engage in female competition.
These are all side effects of sexual objectification which is connected to fat discrimination. It is all part of a very oppressive system that reduced people down to bodies.
While it hurts all people, it's important to add that by no means does it affect thin-bodied people to the same degree. Fat people, but especially fat women face many more challenges at the hand of weight stigma.
Those of you reading this who self-identify as feminist- I hope you also identify as fat positive because it impacts women the most and it is crucial that we stand up for those who are most marginalized in our culture.
As a thin person, I do not see myself as separate from the fat acceptance movement because anti-fat rhetoric in our society was the greatest contributor to my eating disorder which almost took my life.
Eating disorders have the highest death rate of all mental illness, and a large percentage of those deaths are by suicide and I was suicidal for years.
Here is some hard truth: eating disorders do not have a look, they are not a body size issue, and fat people have eating disorders, too. If we care about people’s health, we will work to end weight stigma.
And even though I have thin privilege, and fat women/femmes experience challenges I do not, we all suffer due to cultural anti-fat bias and the idealization of thin bodies.
Ask yourself how much you fear gaining weight, how much time to devote to chasing thinness, how afraid are you of being perceived as fat? That is weight discrimination at work. that is you suffering at the hands of fatphobia.
On average, 92% of women report body dissatisfaction- which isn’t some defect women have- it’s a direct result of anti-fat bias and the thinner-is-better narrative. And it has serious consequences on our well-being.
We are disconnected from our internal body cues, like hunger and fullness, which is a result of dieting and trying to control our weight. This leads to physical, mental, and emotional deprivation resulting in nutritional deficiencies, hormonal issues, Amenorrhea, emotional eating, and binge eating.
Typically this just keeps up stuck in a negative feedback loop because most diets result in future weight-regain because your body fights against weight loss by driving you to eat more, which leads to more body shame, and intensified desire to control your food and weight, which again just leads to rebound emotional and binge eating. And the cycle continues.
All of this contributes to a world in which how we feel about ourselves is based on what we weigh, what we look like, and what we eat regardless of what size we are.
By no means is this meant to sound conceited but I am aware of the fact that I am in a lot of ways hegemonically beautiful- I am tall, thin, clear skin, pretty dang cute, and yet I suffered from all of this.
An in fact, according to a 2008 study, 65% of women between the ages of 25-45 have disordered eating behaviors or a clinical eating disorder- most of which are a direct result of fat discrimination and the idealization of thin bodies.
Thin women fear being the victims of fat discrimination, but we already are.
And if we truly care about the health of women (all people) then we will fight for fat acceptance, fat rights, and fat positivity.
If you struggle with bad body image, emotional eating, overeating, binge eating, under-eating, or your relationship with food then we cannot separate these issues.