Health and Size Acceptance

Nothing to proveI talk about a lot on this blog about Size Acceptance (a civil rights movement), and Health at Every Size (an optional health practice where the focus is put on healthy habits and not body size).  How these things are or aren’t interrelated can get really confusing sometimes, especially for people new to the concepts.  I’ve had a couple of e-mails and a comment recently asking for clarification.  I replied to the comment and I thought I would go ahead and make it a post for future reference, of course this is just my perspective- there are certainly others.  Here we go:

I believe that Health at Every Size and Size Acceptance are two different things.  I wrote a blog post explaining my perspective on the difference between the two here:

It includes the passage “I don’t think that we should use HAES as a platform to do size acceptance activism because I think that we should avoid even the intimation that some level of health or healthy habits is required for access to basic human respect and the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is absolutely NO health requirement to demand your civil rights. You don’t owe anybody “health” or “healthy habits” (especially not by their definition, and not by any definition at all.) You do deserve, and have the right to demand, respect and the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the body you have right this minute – whatever your size, health and dis/ability.”

This is a sentiment that I express so frequently  that I often get complaints that I say it too much. I get the same complaints about how often I say that health is multi-dimensional, not entirely within our control and not a barometer for worthiness etc.. If you’re wondering why I say them almost every day, it’s because of people’s tendency to become confused about this, and the fact that someone reading my blog may very well be reading it for the first time and it’s important to me to avoid this confusion.

Now, the fact that civil rights are not contingent on anything does not mean that I think we shouldn’t discuss health, healthcare, science etc at all. I explain my views on that in this blog which includes the passage

“Health is multi-dimensional and includes things within and outside of our control including genetics, environment, access, and behaviors. Health is not an obligation, nor is it a barometer of worthiness. Nobody owes anybody else “health” or “healthy behavior,” and those who aren’t interested in health are not better or worse people than those who are interested in health. Prioritization of health and the path that someone chooses to get there are intensely personal and not anybody else’s business. The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not health or healthy habit dependent. People who have health issues should be given options for care and accommodation as they wish, not judged or asked to prove that their health issues are not their fault.”

While I do often point out the lack of evidence showing the long-term efficacy of weight loss methods, I try to be very clear that I don’t believe you need anything but a pulse to claim your civil rights.

I talk about the evidence around health, weight, and dieting because it’s not getting covered in the media (in fact the media is telling us the opposite,) people believe that the evidence supporting dieting does exist, and doctors prescribe weight loss despite the fact that it does not meet the requirements of evidence-based medicine. I also discuss it because diet companies make a ton of money taking credit for the short term weight loss that almost everyone experiences and blaming clients for the long term weight regain that almost everyone experiences and therefore many, many people who have failed to lose weight long term blame themselves which is affecting their self-esteem and causing them to go on diet after diet not understanding the likelihood of success based on evidence.

Just to clarify – my discussion of Size Acceptance is a demand for my civil rights which are inalienable – not contingent. My discussion of Health at Every Size is articulation of an option that people can choose for their path to health and wellness including discussions of the evidence on which it is based.

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Some other posts about this if you’re interested:

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I do size acceptance activism full time.  I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and 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.

5 thoughts on “Health and Size Acceptance

  1. I had to share this on Voluptuous Vixens. A lot of people just can’t wrap their heads around the notion that even if someone chooses to sit on the couch and eat junk food all day long, that is their decision and no one else’s business. Furthermore they are entitled to a life full of happiness and free of shame and judgement. Some folks are so against this notion that they created a “counter” page because we are “in denial about the risks of obesity”. But we’ll keep fighting the good fight… thanks for providing the ammunition.

  2. “People who have health issues should be given options for care and accommodation as they wish, not judged or asked to prove that their health issues are not their fault.”
    I cant agree with you more. It is unfortunate that society pays a lot of attention on ‘fault’. There seems to be the belief that we can control things about our bodies that we do not have control over. Therefore, it is believed to be our responsibility to change make changes to our bodies. If we dont, we are considered failures. And look what we have because of it, we have a ‘war on obesity’. We here at the blog understand that we cannot change our bodies. How do we teach others that we cannot change them? I understand your position that we do not have to justify ourselves in any way and I agree. I feel I am at an impass in making any changes to beliefs of others. (Not my job I guess.) It goes back to what you say about the people believing the earth revolves around the sun. Once something is proven, most will change their thought processes.

  3. Thank you again for your eloquence in addressing these two distinct but important concepts! I am working hard on accepting myself, and am beginning to feel I am rocking the “what you see is what you get” in my “public persona.”

    But it is still a struggle. I remember what I looked like when I had no physical ailments and was able to run miles on end, lift weights until the cows came home. I still feel the need to explain my situation (although I try not to as much). I feel the need to place blame on the ailments so that I am not deemed “at fault” and frowned upon.

    It is my sincere hope that we are able to move the Size Acceptance movement forward. We are all different people in different bodies.
    I also wish to follow an HAES approach to health. Here’s hoping that I continue to have luck with doctors who support it!

  4. Thanks for yet another great post Ragen, haven’t commented much recently as have lots on and my health and stress levels haven’t been too good. Ironically this is a great time to comment on what you say you get moaned at for saying too much but I personally feel it can’t be mentioned enough, “Health is Multi-Dimensional and includes things outside of our control”. We can’t remind people of this enough in my view as I am convinced that that’s why I have such poor health for the past 7/8 years espeically, as well as genetics being involved. My Mum died at age 36 when I was 13 of a cancer that wasn’t picked up early enough at the time in Catholic 1970’s Ireland(the religious comment is relevantg to that time and place because a lot of women’s conditions didn’t get discussed due to stupid stuff involved with Catholic Ireland of that time. My mum’s cancer was of the womb and she was bleeding(I only later found that out)a lot of times when she shouldn’t have and my Father and others didn’t want to talk ort hink about it. I so know that I was am very like her physically, emotionally and intellectually, so I know that she had an underactive thyroid, anaemia(sp)and other things that I developed and obviously as she went so young, there likely would have been other similarities.

    I have had a very stressful time bringing up my disabled son and this has now carried on into his Adulthood, choices he has made, his behaviour etc., etc., and because I am very close to my Grandson aged 8, I have stayed “involved” with my son and his chaotic family/ways because otherwise I can’t see my Grandson and it’s causing havoc with my mental health and now my Grandson has problems(not a surprise after what he’s lived with) Add to this, being sometimes unable to work due to health problems, the knock on effect that has on my life, getting hassled where I live, by the Government bodies to get me “back into work”, and you see a much, much bigger picture than my body size and eating habits! Interestingly, my Grandson doesn’t eat very much and is so, so fussy about it and I know that over the years he uses this as a weapon as it’ s the only thing he can control as he is so unhappy at home and at school.

    Now I’m on a roll! I have been involved with some women’s work related and other courses, after being out of a mainly women work environment for over 2 years and boy have I noticed the food/dieting crap rear it’s ugly head! I have heard at least 3 “normal/thinnish/shapely”(in my eyes)women say they “need to lose weight”, cut down on certain foods/not eat certain things and these are reasonably intelligent, sane sounding women, one mentioned somehow(?)at a work club meeting, that she was on some French diet that made her smell horrible. She is lovely looking, very outwardly confident/capable etc., and I was so shocked! When someone asked her about it the following week(not me)she said she had stopped that diet as it was too inconvenient.

    And why oh why, do they have to always mention it to others? I know you say Ragen that they have their own issues and they want approval I suppose? I did hear another woman comment on it and mention that her friend had gone to “Slimming World”” and lost x number of pounds and I felt bold so I said to her, “Do you know that those women can easily lost those pounds but won’t keep it off?” She looked at me and reluctantly said, “I suppose so”, but didn’t look convinced!!

    Now there’s the two big things here, lose weight and or eat less before Christmas/New Year, then we’ll have the post New Year diet crap? In between this, as happened the other day, there will be the pre Christmas get togthers, where there will be lots of food, sweet and otherwise, so crazy does all this continue to be? On the other side of this, many people here in the UK are suffering financial hardhip due to recession/Government policies(due to get much worse in 2012-onwards)and more people are going to food banks for their weekly food!!!

    Be kind and look after yourselves, Marion, UK

  5. I really LOVE that you re-iterate the same phrasing Repetition works. Here’s the proof — complete this sentence “You deserve a…” Pretty much everyone knows it, bc we hear it all the time. Now, I hear those same phrases you use repeating themselves in my head when I see a fat person in my daily life, or when judgemental thoughts arise. I think the repetition is important, and it works!

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