Size Acceptance – It’s a Different World

A couple things today got me thinking about this. First, I had a couple of friends who have started to learn about Health at Every Size (HAES) and Size Acceptance (SA) who are going through the stage where they struggle with the concepts – they’ll agree one minute, and the next someone says something to them that they don’t have, or don’t remember, the answer for and it shakes their belief.  Second, I’ve received several e-mails this week from people who are either frustrated or seeing fat activists be frustrated with people who are asking basic questions repeatedly or who seem to get it but then slip back into a weight = health belief system, or into thinking that fat people are somehow obligated to try not to be fat or try to be fitter or whatever.

If you read the blog regularly then you already know that Size Acceptance is a civil rights movement that states that everybody deserves respect and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the body they have now and it doesn’t matter if they are fat or why they are fat.  Health at Every Size is an evidence based health practice where the focus is placed on healthy behaviors as a path to better health rather than changing someone’s body size.  Health and choices about the path to health are a personal decision and not a barometer of worthiness and obviously healthy habits don’t guarantee health for anyone of any size.

If you read this blog and/or other SA or HAES blogs regularly, then you are also living in a slightly different world than everyone else because you are getting the concepts of SA and HAES reinforced on a regular basis.  That’s not the case for everybody.  Our friends hear about SA and HAES from us and then go back out into a world that tells them the opposite thing 386,170 times a year  so it’s pretty likely that they are going to come back to us with the same questions again and again.

To be clear, nobody is required or obligated to answer these questions.  I choose to answer them because I think it’s important that people have someone to whom they can ask their questions and I don’t mind giving the same answers over and over again. (I even created an FAQ in case that’s helpful)
If you are dealing with people who seem to struggle with “getting it” when it comes to HAES or SA, remember that they are being given the opposite message by almost every facet of society.  The diet industry along with the media  has been highly successful at whipping our society into a massive fat-hating frenzy and everybody is basically soaking in it.  Excuse the geeky reference but I sometimes feel like this is the fat Matrix (without all the leather – it’s all chaffing and hot) and at this point only a few of us have unplugged. I’m a very outcome-based person and my desired outcome is that everybody accepts the truth that people of every size deserve respect and a life free of weight bullying, stigma and oppression, and that we each get to choose how highly to prioritize our health and the path that we want to take to get there.  To me that’s basic common sense and human decency but in reality that’s massively different than what society currently says. So I think that asking someone to shift their view is asking a lot, though I don’t think that’s fair.  So, just for me, some patience is in order and I’m willing to accept baby steps and answer lots of questions over and over again as people get it.  That’s just me and it’s certainly not the only way to handle things, nor does it make me better or worse than those who choose something different.

I just find it helpful to remember that when people give me push back about SA and HAES they are telling me what the media tells them everyday, what their work tells them, what their doctor tells them.  I try to remember that when Galileo pointed out that the Earth really does revolve around the sun, it didn’t matter that the evidence was on his side- society told him to sit down and shut up in no uncertain terms.  That didn’t change the truth and today everybody can tell you that the Earth revolves around the sun, but it took time and explanation to get there. When we say that people of all sizes deserve respect and that you can pursue health without pursuing weight loss, that’s heresy to some people and so we find ourselves told to sit down and shut up in no uncertain terms, but that doesn’t change the truth, but it does, for me, require patience, persistence and empathy.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

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Check Out my Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual.  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order

I’m excited to say that my book was just endorsed by Linda Bacon: “Whether you are fat or thin, Fat: The Owner’s Manual will educate you about life in a fat body. It includes top notch information, solid science, support, and general inspiration to help all of us navigate a world rife with size prejudice and weight stigma. Ragen’s style is to provide ideas, without moralizing – and she does a particularly good job of separating the civil rights movement of Fat Acceptance from the health practice of Health at Every Size. Highly recommended!”  Dr. Linda Bacon, professor, researcher, and author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight.

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

8 thoughts on “Size Acceptance – It’s a Different World

  1. I love the Matrix reference! I was explaining to my husband how it feels different when you get it and your mind makes that switch. I couldn’t really explain it but I was trying to tell him how you see things so differently and the world really does look different and he actually said to me, “So, kind of like the Matrix.” lol

  2. Hrm. I agree that Size Acceptance and HAES are a different mindset, but I don’t agree that they’re a different world. I mean, just because I’ve accepted them, doesn’t mean I’ve stopped living in this world — doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped getting my 386,170 pro-diet, anti-fat messages per year.

    I still live in this world, and I still get those messages. But adopting a HAES and Size Acceptance mindset means that I’m much more likely to respond to, analyze, and deconstruct each one, rather than simply accepting it at face value. I’m sure I don’t do it all 386,170 times, but I spend a lot more time deconstructing the messages the world tries to send me about my body.

    That’s a lot of mental and emotional work. So when someone else keeps asking me the “what about this?” aspects of HAES and Size Acceptance — particularly when they’re repeated over and over and particularly when they come from a mindset that those 386,170 messages can’t all be wrong — it can feel like those are my body-hate messages 386,171… 386,172… 386,500. Which can be both disheartening and frustrating.

    And, you know, I don’t speak about Size Acceptance and HAES for a living. I teach high school, and most of my vast — though not infinite — reserves of patience are used up on that. While I try to respond with patience when I have it, to be honest, there are times when people ask me That Same Question Yet Again when I simply don’t have anything left.

    1. Yup. Been there, done that, outgrew the T-shirt. I’m having a mental health week because of having to fight. so. darn. much. to survive the brain battle. It’s like there’s a voice in my head that just won’t shut up. I know the truth, logically, but emotionally is another matter. Although your battle is external and mine is internal, I just wanted to encourage you that you’re not alone in feeling drained and yet having to deal with the negative/questioning messages.

  3. Ha! I have to say whenever you bring up Galileo, I can’t help but think that I hope it turns out we’re not Bruno and get burned at the stake for heresy for similar beliefs.

    1. If that happens I hope we have the courage that he showed. His response to his judges was, “Perhaps you pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it.” Because of course it is fear that causes people to hate that which they do not understand.

  4. I’ve found that getting into fat acceptance has made me more skeptical in general.

    If I hear about something which is supposed to make people’s lives better, I wonder if there’s any information available about what happens with the people it *didn’t* work for.

  5. I so appreciate the reminder for patience. As a dietitian working with people with eating issues, I have to repeat myself all the time. But it is in the repeating that I heal my own bits of self doubt. By teaching what I know and believe, my own words are like salve on a body loathing wound that has not yet been made completely whole and new again. On the fun side, I find that metaphors work wonders to teach and I read many presented here by you. I recommend your blog to those suffering from body dissatisfaction and hatred. Like me, they need to just hear the truth, loud and clear on a daily basis to combat the other messages. We are “hungry” for it and will recognize the truth.

  6. Wow, I’m seeing a huge parallel here between adopting a HAES point of view and my journey out of spirituality and into atheism! I had to watch youtube videos every day to strengthen my resolve, educate myself and get better at answering those questions that came up over and over. After all, it takes years to learn how to think a certain way. Coming out of that into a new paradigm isn’t gong to happen over night! I find that I sometimes stop reading this and other blogs if I’ve been having a hard time accepting my weight. I guess I feel like I”ve gone back to my old way of thinking… I guess that is exactly when I need to read more! 🙂

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