Thought Catalog
May 1, 2014

8 Things I Learned From Writing An Article Critical Of Fat Acceptance

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What is the issue?
In case you missed it, I wrote an article last week titled “6 Things I Don’t Understand About The Fat Acceptance Movement.” Needless to say, it sparked a discussion. I am glad that it inspired a passionate conversation, because it’s clearly something that’s on a lot of people’s minds. Here, the 8 things I learned from writing the article (and reading the response).

1. If you criticize the movement, people will think you are trolling. When I wrote my article, I felt like it was pretty reasonable and rational, and reading it now, I still do. My intention was never to troll or to “concern-shame” someone by “pretending” to care about their health. It seems like conversations on this issue are somewhat ruined from the beginning, because people don’t want to believe that anyone could be genuinely concerned, and not trying to troll.

2. People actually argue that being obese is okay. I don’t know how this happened, but a lot of the comments were along the lines of “You can’t understand how healthy someone is by looking at them.” And this can be true, but common sense dictates that extremes on any end of the body spectrum are dangerous. Unless you’re being totally disingenuous, you know this on some level. We can see the kind of staggering effects obesity has on individuals by typing a few words into Google. Arguing that morbid obesity is not automatically unhealthy seems like an impossible task, and yet so many commenters tried.

3. And yet, no one tried to argue that anorexic people were healthy, or that you can’t decide their health by looking at them. Funny how that works.

4. Many of the responses to criticism are “but it doesn’t affect you!” Essentially trying to say that someone else’s health is none of your business. But if you look at the study I cited above, not only does it detail the kind of effects obesity has on the individual body, but the kind of cost it implies for society. Hundreds of thousands of people are dying of obesity-related illness in a very real way, or living with chronic medical help, and this costs money. It costs money to employers, to people paying insurance premiums, and to the taxpayers who subsidize those who cannot pay for themselves. It affects all of us.

5. And it effects us emotionally. I didn’t mention it in my article, because it seemed too personal, but I have lost a close family member due to obesity-related illness. And this is not a rare thing at all. Many people in the comments shared their own story about losing a parent, a sibling, even a child, to obesity-related illness. And the frustrating thing about it is that it feels so unnecessary, like when someone dies from drugs or alcohol — a preventable, unfortunate loss. This pain is very real, and touches many people outside of the person in the unhealthy body.

6. People think if you are anti-FAM, you are anti-body positivity. On the contrary, I am just as repulsed by photoshopped models and unrealistic beauty standards as the next person, and I don’t think the solution to someone being unhealthy is for them to hate themselves. But just like anyone else who is sick, it’s important to understand that while you are not your body, you have to live in it. When I don’t take care of myself for a week or so, and I feel terrible as a result, I know that eating a salad and going for a walk and taking some vitamins has nothing to do with not being positive about myself. It has to do with making the body I live in a better place. Making someone feel beautiful does not help them in the long run, if it’s at the expense of their health. The same is true of extremely thin models.

7. A lot of people believe their doctors are fat-shaming. I don’t know how to address this one, honestly, because it seems futile. While there have undoubtedly been cases of doctors holding prejudice against fat people, to take every instance of a doctor telling you you need to lose weight for your health as “shaming” is so unproductive. It is a doctor’s responsibility to do the best he or she can to help you get healthy. Sometimes the truth isn’t pleasant, but that’s literally what a doctor’s job consists of.

8. But after addressing the subject, I understand the awkward position they are in. Obesity in America, whether we like it or not, is a growing, crippling problem. It’s infiltrating so many aspects of our lives and our relationships with our bodies, and unless we begin addressing it in an uncomfortable, real way, it’s not going to get any better. It sucks hearing that you’re not treating your body well, or eating boring, healthy food when all you want is a burger, or working out when you are really tired at the end of the work day. Health isn’t glamorous, or easy, or always immediately rewarding. But we have let ourselves go so far as a society — insane food portions, almost no physical education in school, and over a third of the country classified as obese — that the only option is to confront reality. And while there were a lot of responses that shared their own journeys, and responded in an open way, and participated in the conversation, a lot of people weren’t interested. They wrote me off as “concern trolling” just to upset them, even though I have nothing to gain from doing so, and refuse to acknowledge any of the points I made. And that’s okay, I guess, but in the end, we all have to live in the world we create together. Even if it’s a really unhealthy one. TC mark

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