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In the past few days I’ve received a number of e-mails from readers concerned that “NAAFA has a diet in their newsletter.” If you’re not familiar, NAAFA is the National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance. I found it odd that they would include a diet since my understanding was that they were against promoting weight loss. The newsletter was forwarded to me and then I understood the issue. The article is called “Fabulous Fakes” and the text is below, there is an e-mail at the end of this post to share your thoughts if you would like [Trigger warning – possible diet talk]:
Due to a doctor’s visit about three years ago, my husband and I realized we needed to make a change in our eating habits. We decided that in an era where everything is synthesized, including food, we needed to “eat smart”. Our goal was to limit sugar and starch (carbs) as much as possible. It is NOT about losing weight. It IS about eating great tasting food and, in the spirit of HAES precepts, promoting healthy eating as part of a healthy lifestyle.
I thought I would share some of the Fabulous Fakes we have come up with and invite you to share your Fabulous Fakes. Try the recipes and tell us what you think. Send your Fakes to share to [author’s e-mail address]; each month a Fake will be selected to publish in the newsletter. [Followed by a recipe for “Fake Pumpkin Pie” that uses artificial sweetener in place of sugar and other low carb ideas]
I wanted to go directly to the source with my concerns and get clarification so I e-mailed the NAAFA board the following e-mail:
Dear NAAFA Board,
I often receive e-mails from readers asking me to address something in my blog (www.danceswithfat.org) In the past couple of days I’ve received a number of e-mails from my blog readers who are concerned with the “Fabulous Fakes” section of your newsletter and are asking me to take some action. I don’t receive the newsletter but it was forwarded to me and I share the concerns. I’m certain that you meant well and that you didn’t intend to post something that is triggering or was perceived by so many to be diet talk, so I wanted to contact you directly with the concerns before I blog about it tonight:
I won’t attempt to speak for anyone else, but my concerns are:
- Despite what I believe must have been good intentions, it sounds jarringly like diet talk – it is very common to hear “it’s not about weight loss, it’s about health” when someone is trying to suggest a weight loss diet, to have “fake foods” suggested as replacements for standard recipes as part of a weight loss diet, or have low carb diets and artificial sweeteners suggested as weight loss diet tools (Atkins etc.)
- While these recommendations may absolutely make sense for the HAES practice of some individuals, especially in concert with healthcare providers, HAES principles as I understand them do not include the general recommendation to restrict a food group, substitute artificial sweetener for sugar, or eat “fake” versions of food.
- NAAFA’s stated purpose is to be “a non-profit civil rights organization dedicated to ending size discrimination in all of its forms.” I am concerned, especially based on my reader feedback, that many of the people who receive the newsletter are recovered and recovering dieters, recovered and recovering from eating disorders, and may not be prepared to be triggered by this kind of diet talk in the newsletter of an organization that they are expecting to focus on their civil rights. I also think that it is extremely important to be vigilant in avoiding the creation of this kind of triggering diet talk within a community so many are recovering from being hurt by it.
- I read the phrase “It is NOT about losing weight. It IS about eating great tasting food and, in the spirit of HAES precepts, promoting healthy eating as part of a healthy lifestyle” as a broad recommendation/promotion that healthy eating is achievable for everyone through food restriction and artificial sweeteners, rather than a statement of what the writer and her healthcare providers have decided is best for her specific situation, which I find problematic for the reasons stated above and because it makes it sound like these recommendations are one-size-fits-all.
- I find it problematic that she is encouraging newsletter readers to submit exclusively “fake” recipes, but not to submit delicious recipes of all kinds – normalizing the idea that everyone is/should engage in eating “fake foods” as part of a healthy lifestyle, which I don’t believe to be part of the tenets of HAES.
Again, I’m sure that you had the best of intentions but due to the issues stated above, I am respectfully requesting that you please consider removing the section from the current newsletter and canceling plans to include it in future newsletters. I absolutely think that there is a place to talk about healthy eating and how specific behaviors apply to specific situations. I think it’s very important to do that in context, and to do our best to avoid doing it in a way that is triggering or sounds like diet talk (or at least include trigger warnings), and avoid one-size-fits-all promotions of behaviors, as well as avoiding the conflation of eating to manage a health issue with healthy eating in general. Finally, I would encourage you to consider getting the perspective of some of the many amazing health and wellness professionals with a HAES focus, I’m happy to connect you to those who I know. If there is anything that I can do to help please just let me know.
Thank you for your consideration.
I received the following response:
Thank you for writing with your concerns about the article in the newsletter. You are correct in your assumption that the writer had good intentions. It was her desire to share a sugar free, gluten free recipe for those people who can’t normally eat desserts on holidays because of diabetes and other health concerns. Maybe that should have been clearer in her message
I am curious why people would write to you about this issue and not to the NAAFA board or the newsletter editor. At any rate, we will discuss this in our next board meeting. Hope you have a happy new year.
Public Relations Director, NAAFA
I do believe that this was well-intentioned, and I also personally think it was a mistake. I’ve certainly made my share of well-intentioned mistakes, this blog is full of things that say some version of “Edit: [I screwed up]”. In my opinion what’s important at this point is how they handle it. I certainly hope that NAAFA will make the decision to change this section of the newsletter – even if it seems innocuous to some – since some of those who don’t find it innocuous find it harmful.
I think that it is crucially important that organizations working with fat populations keep it top of mind that those populations are coming from a society that systematically shames and stigmatizes them and pummels them with diet advice; and so I think it is critical that we be hyper-vigilant in avoiding anything that even seems like diet talk, or seems like a recommendation of what all people in a specific situation “should” be doing, or mirrors in any way the food policing and concern trolling that many fat people experience so often. (For example people who are diabetic are allowed to take whatever path they choose and I think it’s important to avoid even the appearance of suggesting that there is a “right way” to live with diabetes, or a “right” definition of healthy behaviors.) I also think it’s important to completely avoid perpetuating the falsehood that body size is a diagnosis by conflating behaviors that are one option for managing disease with behaviors that are for general health.
I definitely believe that there is a place for all types of discussions – I just think that discussions that include food restriction and substitution as health advice, or anything that could be perceived as diet talk etc. should take place in spaces where people have specifically opted in for that type of discussion, or at least behind a trigger warning, rather than on the general newsletter of a national fat civil rights organization.
As always I love to get your comments and your e-mails, and at Peggy’s request I encourage you to also e-mail her directly with your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org so they can have consider those thoughts at the next Board Meeting when they discuss this. I’ll keep you posted as to their decision.
I received the following e-mail from Peggy Howell, NAAFA’s PR person:
In our most recent newsletter, one of our members presented an article with a recipe that was intended to be inclusive for people who can’t typically enjoy desserts during the holidays because of health reasons, (i.e. diabetes, allergies, etc.) to enjoy a pumpkin pie without sugar or gluten. Because the recipe was presented as a “fabulous fake” and recommended the use of artificial sweeteners, some people have expressed that the framing of this article triggered a negative response for them.
It was never anyone’s intention to cause problems for people who are triggered by talk of limiting or excluding any foods. We apologize if the article caused any one difficulties or created misunderstandings. We appreciate the constructive feedback.
For those who may not be familiar with NAAFA, we encourage a visit to the website to read information about the organization and the many resources to support, educate and advocate for the rights of fat people. NAAFA does not support any method designed for the purpose of weight loss. For over 40 years, NAAFA has been on the front lines on a daily basis fighting for Equality At Every Size©.
Thanks for sending this, I’m really proud of you and the NAAFA Board for responding to the feedback and apologizing. So that I can update my readers fully let me ask a couple of follow up questions if I may: Was this e-mail sent to the same list as the newsletter? And have you decided to make any changes to the current newsletter or the plans to feature a monthly “Fabulous Fakes” recipe, or is that still pending discussion at the next board meeting?
Thanks for getting back to me. The email has been sent to people who wrote directly to NAAFA about the article, posted on the NAAFA NewsGroup and will be included in the next newsletter. We will discuss in our next board meeting whether or not to continue with a recipe exchange article. If we do, it will appear under a different title.
So it sounds like they are leaving the current newsletter as it is, and still planning to discuss this at the next meeting. if you are so moved, you can send your feedback to her at email@example.com. I’ll keep you updated.
As the year comes to a close, NAAFA wishes everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!
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48 thoughts on “The NAAFA Diet?”
Wow. I’m glad you wrote about this, Ragen. I hope they remove this from the newsletter. Nothing diet/restriction related should be in the national newsletter of a CIVIL RIGHTS organization for fat people!
While I would very much LIKE to believe that the author’s intentions were good, I have to seriously question how such a simple message could get so turned around that it appears to be something it’s not. I’m not a professional writer, but I know how to say “The holidays are a hard time for many people in various ways, but for people who suffer from food intolerance’s or allergies it can be particularly challenging. So many of the foods our culture typically associates with the holidays cause havoc for some of us, that it can make social gatherings and especially those which center around a meal, a nightmare. SO in the spirit of giving, we are asking everyone to share their best, most “tried and true” gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, (and combinations of those categories) recipes. Show us your contribution to the table! To start you off, we’re sharing our very own recipe for (insert item here).” I don’t think anyone would read that and feel uncomfortable, or think that perhaps I am secretly trying to push a low carb, low sugar diet on them. It makes me wonder if their response is authentic or not.
Your wording is great; if they were interested in sharing recipes for people with food sensitivities or health issues, then they should have worded it your way. Perhaps you could e-mail it to them?
One advantage of having “fake” or “substitute” recipes in the NAAFA newsletter is that people who would like those kinds of recipes wouldn’t have to seek them out in books or websites that have dozens of weight loss messages. The problem is that instead of wording it the way you suggested, she starts out by talking about everything being synthesized, then eating “smart,” then limiting carbs “as much as possible.”
I completely agree with you! I actually do have foods that I cannot eat and I’m always looking for alternate recipes. I follow food bloggers who make those recipes available and their wording over the holidays was almost exactly how you put it. The wording from NAAFA was clearly not even close. The article was clearly trying to promote LIMITATIONS, not ALTERNATIVES. And the idea of calling it fake is so ridiculous. I’m eating a cranberry orange breakfast bread right now. It is made with almond flour and coconut palm sugar, it is also void of dairy and soy. It isn’t fake. It is just different.
P.S. People with food allergies aren’t concerned about the amount of carbs they eat. I can tell you that is the last thing on my mind. I’m just trying to enjoy food without having auto-immune reaction. And I don’t know anyone with food sensitivities that would go near artificial sweetener. I call BS on the original article. It was clearly diet talk.
Actually, AmeliaJade, your PS comment is exactly the kind of comment that I was referring to in my response previously about being made to feel like I’m not a “good fat activist” if I choose to consume something with artificial sweetener in it.
I have a very real food sensitivity that specifically means I have to restrict my carbs, and makes cane sugar a major no-no for me. Yet, some artificial sweeteners work fine for me, so I do occasionally consume a small amount of them. It’s got nothing to do with restricting calories or being on a weight loss diet of any sort, and everything to do with being concerned about how many carbs i’ve ingested.
I recognize that this isn’t true for you and many others, and that I’m in the minority with my situation, but I’m also a perfect example of how the FA community could afford to expand their compassion and understanding a little bit more then we already have.
I can totally relate–too many carbohydrates leaves me swollen, hot, achy, thirsty, and exhausted. My dad even invented a name for when I eat desserts or starchy foods during a birthday or get-together, and then promptly fall into a deep sleep on the couch: he says, “she’s all carbed out.” 🙂 For some people, a moderate or large amount of any type of sugar–whether it is raw or processed–causes far worse symptoms than artificial sweeteners.
You are absolutely correct and I apologize. I totally generalized there. I have to remember that almost everyone I know who has food sensitivities has them due to auto-immune disease. Those are the forums I frequent due to my own disease. And most people with AI cannot go near artificial sweeteners. But–even that is a generalization because I’m sure there must be some who are fine with it. I was speaking in generalities and from my own experiences. I’m sorry if I offended anyone. That was not my intention.
Also, my wording was not the best. I didn’t mean they wouldn’t go near artificial sweeteners because they see them as “bad” or they are above them. I meant they wouldn’t go near them as they’d make their condition worse. I wasn’t trying to come across as “I’m better than you because I don’t eat artificial sweeteners” I certainly don’t think that.
Thank you – I appreciate your clarification greatly.
I have food sensitivities, and yet have never noticed any sort of negative reaction to artificial sweeteners. I don’t use them that often because I personally prefer to eat whole foods, but when I occasionally have a soda, I choose the artificially sweetened varieties (if Zevia isn’t available) because a large amount of any sort of sugar, whether it is corn syrup, cane juice or fruit juice, just wipes me out.
I just don’t see how ANY kind of food talk is at all relevant to civil rights anyway. I mean, yeah, everyone eats, but if I were to subscribe to like, a newsletter about computers or dinosaurs or whatever, and there was a whole section on recipes, I’d be as equally “Wtf?” as in this case.
Well you know, NAAFA is mostly women and fat people, and everyone knows that women and fat people love recipes!
I’m going to go ahead and disagree. I do agree that in the context of this newsletter and considering the article’s content, NAAFA was inappropriate in their decision to include this article.
However, food DOES become a relevant part of civil rights discussion in you consider the many parameters placed around what constitutes “healthy” and “unhealthy” foods, and how these foods are juxtaposed to common discourse on bodies and health.
If by “food talk” you mean “diet talk” then I completely agree. But I don’t think people can talk enough about how diet driven culture has shaped the way people think about food.
Exactly, Lauren–just as you say, talking about the fact that food and eating issues tend to be wrongly conflated with weight issues is important in a discussion of civil rights, but IMO, recipes–diet or not–do not belong in a political forum. And I’m saying this from the perspective of someone who absolutely LOVES recipes (I go online looking at recipes practically every day and subscribe to several magazines for the recipes!) But as soon as we start talking about fat and food together, we’re buying into the culture’s attitude that being fat is all about what we eat or don’t eat and that all we need to do to be acceptable in this culture is to “eat smart.”
On the other hand, diets and recipes can certainly fit under the rubric of Health at Every Size (HAES). I majored in nutrition in college and believe that, statistically, regardless of size, when people eat a good amount of fruit and vegetables they’re likely to feel better and perhaps live longer and/or stave off some types of disease and/or discomfort. So that goes under the subject of “health.”
But NAAFA’s mission statement says: “NAAFA is a non-profit civil rights organization dedicated to ending size discrimination in all of its forms. NAAFA’s goal is to help build a society in which people of every size are accepted with dignity and equality in all aspects of life. NAAFA will pursue this goal through advocacy, public education, and support.”
NAAFA’s mission is supposedly human rights, NOT physical health.
P.S. I respectfully sent this comment to NAAFA_pr@yahoo.com and suggest that other NAAFA members copy and send their comments, too.
While I agree that food talk like this article doesn’t seem at all relevant to a civil rights discussion and probably doesn’t belong in the NAAFA newsletter – There is the shadow of another issue within this discussion. Within the fat acceptance movement we all talk about how everyone has to choose their own path, Regan, you in particular are extremely good about keeping that in the forefront of your conversations. However, there are those of us out here for whom sugar and carbs are poison for any number of very real medical reasons, who therefor do occasionally make the choice to include food items made with sugar substitutes in what they eat. As someone who falls into this category, I sometimes feel as though I am “breaking the rules” or being a “bad fat activist” because there is a huge amount of very passionate negative response to these kinds of foods from within the FA community.
I’m so sorry that you have been made to feel that way and I appreciate you being open about it. I don’t know why people don’t understand that everyone can eat whatever they want for whatever reason they want and they should be accommodated, and should never be judged or shamed – I’m sorry that you’ve not been treated that way. It’s something I’ll definitely keep talking about on the blog and I’m always open to suggestions on how I can do better!
Thank you Ragen.
I feel very strongly about not supporting a media-created false ideal of body shape via the diet industry, yet if I want to satisfy my desire for a little piece of cake, it’s far less dangerous for my physical health to choose something sweetened with Splenda then it is for me to even have a few fork fulls of something made with cane sugar. Now, add to the equation the brightly colored “DIET” label that’s likely been slapped on the item I’m consuming, and then a poorly timed comment from someone about how companies who make diet foods are “the greatest opponent to size acceptance” and despite all the hard work I’ve done to screw my head on straight about making the choices that are right for me, I’ve got internal conflict.
Much like reading an article about baking with artificial sweeteners might be triggering for someone who has struggled to kick the diet habit, sometimes reading FA blogs can be triggering for those of us who are part of the community, yet do have a genuine vested interest in seeing companies that produce products made with artificial sweeteners survive.
I think it’s not really about carbs, artificial sweetners, or even dieting. It’s about the idea of someone trying to force their viewpoints on someone else. I think that’s really what the whole movement is about…. is standing up saying, I’m not going to accept anyone forcing their agenda on me anymore. In this case…. the real question was not whether or not it was appropriate to include a food article… or whether sweetners and gluten are ok or not… it was how the article was worded, and the idea that they might be trying to slide a diet in under the radar, against their own stated principals. It’s about… who can you trust not to tack on that BUT when they say you’re a beautiful person….. and bring up your weight.
Thanks, Regan, for this. I got that newsletter a couple days ago and have spent the time since trying to formulate a query to NAAFA that isn’t pretty much “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGHGGHHH!!!”
Yes, there is certainly a place for discussion of choosing alternate sweeteners, gluten-free, low-carb, etc. foods in FA because there are people who truly need these for health reasons. But the way it was put in the newsletter specifically came across as ‘to be healthy, you need to eat this way.’ I don’t. My husband does need some of those things, as do several friends of mine, but I don’t. Many of the people I know don’t. Lots and lots of people don’t. And with so many recovering dieters and people recovering from EDs in the FA community, I found that article weird and potentially disastrous.
And I think I just figured out how to word my concerns for NAAFA. I’ll go do that.
Exactly, when an article implies “to be healthy, you need to eat this way”, it is not accurate and it is not consistent with HAES® principles. Not only do we come in all shapes and sizes, but from a biochemical standpoint we are not identical as well. Although we all need certain nutrients, it appears the balance of these needed by an individual differs from person to person, even for people with similar health issues. And of course, our tastes and food preferences vary greatly. Also, nutrition science is changing all the time and there will always be controversy. So, in my view it is extremely important that all HAES® organizations be very careful not to make nutrition recommendations or endorse specific eating styles even when it is clear that these recommendations are weight neutral. The official principle is “promoting eating in a manner which balances individual nutritional needs, hunger, satiety, appetite, and pleasure”.
For what it’s worth, Twistie, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGHGGHHH!!!” is a pretty darn concise response.
In some ways, I kind of see where the writer was coming from. I have to restrict my carbohydrates and sugar alcohols (no Splenda for me) because of an inflammatory condition. On the one hand, my first thought was that it’s really easy to find said recipes, especially with the primal/paleo movement in full swing. On the other hand, many of those recipe books and websites have strong weight-loss components. It can be really triggering to go to those websites, and I would definitely love a food website for folks with food restrictions (Of all kinds! I also eat mostly vegetarian for ethical/cost related reasons and keep kosher.) that had an HAES philosophy.
Exactly. There is almost always some promotion of weight loss or anti-fat talk tacked onto any discussion about diet, unless that discussion occurs in a FA space. So more FA or HAES friendly food sites would be pretty cool.
I really hear this. It is so rare to see weight-neutral discussions of food substitutions for people with sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies, and the NAAFA newsletter would be a great place for that! Too bad they missed the boat so badly.
Thanks for this, Ragen. I’m going to write to Peggy too and basically “sign on” to your letter. There is really no reason to have recipes at all in the NAAFA newsletter. I don’t think it has anything to do with anything and it’s triggering for people who see NAAFA as a safe haven from stuff like this.
And it just goes to show what a force to be reckoned with you are, Ragen. People complained to you, not NAAFA and Peggy even acknowledged that! She should be coming to you for advice.
I don’t like the title of the whole thing. “FAKE pumpkin pie, FALSE whatever”. It still stings of deprivation and punishment, like “it LOOKS like the read thing WHICH YOU CAN’T HAVE…HAHAHAH!!”
I certainly wouldn’t call it that. You wouldn’t call gluten-free bread “fake bread”. It’s pretty @*$%ing real. Just stick to “sugar-free”, “reduced sugar”, or whatever it actually is. Not FAKE, not “diet”, not anything else.
I actually lose weight over the holidays because I’m so stressed with running between rehearsals, church services, and performances. I told my allergist that I’d shrunk in the last three weeks just today, and he goes, “Good job! How’d you do it?”
I said, “I don’t eat or sleep much…I’m too nervous and wired.”
He just shrugged and had the “whatever gets ‘er done” attitude.
Ha ha, when I think of “fake food,” I think of the plastic ice cream cones that I had as a kid, that came with a kitchen set. When I was very young I would mouth the fake ice cream, because they put yummy scents into it. 😛
TRIGGER WARNING: Diet Restriction
Let me say from the beginning that, in this context, I am speaking for myself NOT NAAFA although I am a volunteer for the organization.
Yes, NAAFA is a civil rights organization that does NOT promote any activity for the purposes of weight loss and does promote HAES, self-acceptance and size acceptance.
It is my belief that these rights include the right to choose, without judgment, and that some choices may be more beneficial for your health as an individual. But it always comes down to the individual and what they believe is best for them.
I understand that the idea of restriction can be triggering for some. However, for others, like myself, it is of a medical necessity. For example, I have diverticulosis and had the choice presented to me years ago was that I could have a colostomy or manage it with my diet. I chose to restrict my diet, eliminating nuts and seeds. Some may not need to do that, I do or my body tells me in no uncertain terms by giving me pain. So by restricting my diet, I am maintaining my health.
At one point I had to take a blood thinner due to a heart problem which restricted green leafy vegetables. I was appalled because green leafy vegetables are a mainstay in my diet (not to promote weight loss but health). I chose to do so due to a medical necessity so that I did not have a stroke.
There are lots of reasons for people to avoid certain foods or ways of preparing foods but all comes down to choice. If that is not a part of our civil rights, then I don’t know what is. I personally don’t choose to cook with artificial sweeteners because I don’t like the taste and I couldn’t eat the crust because it’s made of nuts. But I don’t judge people because they have a need that would include them.
You may choose to condemn the way the author of the newsletter article framed her message. It could have been presented in a number of different ways as seen in the replies to this blog. Should recipes be included in the newsletter? I don’t see why not. It’s one way that members can be involved in submitting their ideas. What may be good for my health may not be good for you. That doesn’t make it any less valid or less helpful to someone else.
Self-acceptance is about loving yourself and your body. Sometimes, in order to do so we need to make choices others would not, for our health.
Thank you for your comment, and for sharing your personal sitaution. Though I don’t agree that loving yourself and your body means that people “need” to make specific choices, I do believe that people’s food choices should absolutely be respected, regardless of their reasoning. I took exception to the way it was handled in the newsletter for very specific reasons that I listed in detail above, that can generally be condensed by saying that the way it was presented in the newsletter was hurtful to some people who read it. I believe it was a well-intentioned mistake, which we all make from time to time, but one that should be corrected by removing this portion of the newsletter and not moving forward with the recipe of the month.
If NAAFA wants to get involved in this there are definitely opportunities. You could, for example, create a forum on the website and say something like “NAAFA members, and people of all sizes, sometimes make food choice based on health conditions or other reasons that include limiting or substituting foods. We know that it can be very difficult to find support, recipes, and discussions around this outside of a weight loss-context. We also know that discussing food restrictions and substitutions in a general health context can be triggering for people, and confusing when it comes to those who are practicing Size Acceptance and/or Health at Every Size. So we’ve started a forum where people can opt in to discuss these things in a weight-neutral way.”
Or, for example, you could have a section of your newsletter each month focused on options for people of all sizes living with a specific health situation, written by an expert with knowledge of how to have the discussion in as non-triggering a way as possible, and from a HAES perspective. If people feel that it may still be triggering for them, they will easily be able to avoid that section of the newsletter and enjoy the rest.
There are absolutely ways to support people who are making the choice to limit or substitute foods for whatever reason, without putting triggering, diet-sounding, verbiage on the newsletter. I think it’s fantastic that you are encouraging member involvement, perhaps you could ask your members for suggestions? Let me know if there is anything that I can do to help, and thanks for engaging in the discussion!
I know I would benefit from a support forum for folks who are making “food choice based on health conditions or other reasons that include limiting or substituting foods” and who need “support, recipes, and discussions around this outside of a weight loss-context.” I’m currently working on figuring out whether my digestive health is being affected by allergies or other types of sensitivities, and the method (which includes restriction of certain ingredients, if only temporarily) has been a bit trigger-y at times. Bleh.
If people want sugar free, low carb, diet recipes, there are 65, 523 websites where they can very easily be found. NAAFA’s newsletter should NOT be one of those places.
I got way too much of a “Hungry Girl” vibe from that original post. (For those of you that don’t know, Hungry Girl is a woman who has a website and a book that is about substituting ingredients for calorie & fat counting and weight loss. Onion Rings coated in Fiber One anyone?)
There’s a difference between limiting food choices due to disease and allergies and doing it on purpose for intentional weight loss and I think the truly enlightened people in FA know that. And I don’t think anyone is begrudging this woman’s choice to “eat smart,” it’s that it was included in a newsletter of a group that promotes fat acceptance and eschews the intentional diet culture.
The thing I found most interesting was the implied question in Ms. Howell’s reply when she said, “I am curious why people would write to you about this issue and not to the NAAFA board or the newsletter editor.” To me, that was a second red flag because it told me that she doesn’t understand the fact that this constituency no longer feels safe with NAAFA. When you feel like you’re in a safe environment, you don’t need to ask someone to intercede for you as they did. I find that to be a really bad sign, and it actually evidences the very issue you tried so helpfully to bring up to her.
Thank you for blogging about this. I’ve been fairly vocal about my perspective on my fb page and it’s been helpful to see my concerns laid out by another so eloquently.
I’ll be candid that I’m dreading the day fat haters see that article and start blogging with titles or news articles such as “NAAFA comes to their Senses and is Now promoting Diets.” I think it’s a fairly likely outcome of this article being posted in the NAAFA newsletter and I cringe at the damage that will do to newcomers learning to love and accept their body at any size.
To be clear I’m glad that individuals whose perspective is they need to choose synthesized sweeteners for their health do what they need to honor their choices in how they take care of themselves. However, I believe it can be done without the implication that those who choose a different path are thereby making an unhealthy choice. Health isn’t just about physical body health. Emotional and mental health are part of determining our individual longevity and subjecting NAAFA members to triggering talk without taking that into account is problematic. As is implying that synthesized sweeteners are the healthier choice for all because it is the healthier choice for the person sharing it with the all.
Peggy asked why people were writing Ragen instead of the NAAFA board. I think there are perhaps several reasons including – 1) people tend to share information with those they think are going to stand up for their beliefs. (2) Ragen blogs about issues relevant to fat activism (in addition to all body sizes really) and this is a topic relevant to what she blogs about. (3) Some folks may have easier access to informing Ragen, since they may be unsure which e-mail address for NAAFA board to use. (4) Speaking from my own experience I have found it futile to share concerns with all but one person in power positions at NAAFA. My personal experience has been that NAAFA will respond to alternative perspectives by denying the validity of the concerned member, by justifying their decisions,and by not being open to considering any changes. Because of my past experience that it’s pointless to directly contact NAAFA I chose to share my perspectives on my facebook page. Which proved helpful to my venting my feelings but isn’t nearly as effective as Ragen’s blogging. So I’m personally appreciative that this was blogged about and that there is dialog going on as a result that is sharing folks various thoughts about this.
It could actually prove to be a quite positive thing if this dialogue ends up creating a safe space to share recipes frees from weight loss talk and free from shaming those who make alternative body health choices.
I really don’t care what people’s personal food choices are, but any diet tips have nothing to do with civil rights. It only serves to muddy the message – that weight and habits are two different things. The NAAFA needs to stay out of people’s lifestyles and focus on rights and advocacy.
I agree with Maddi here, and think her comment says what needs to be said most succinctly: Talking about food in the context of fat civil rights muddies the message that weight and habits are two different things!
Thanks for the excellent post, Ragen. I emailed NAAFA board people directly with similar concerns. I’m disappointed that this article appeared in the newsletter and sad to see a defensive response rather than compassion for the unforeseen and unintended but nonetheless distressing aspect of the recipe article. When I read it, I saw lots of unexamined concepts and word choices that, unfortunately, participate in mainstream weight/food/health beliefs. It’s precisely these concepts and word choices that one examines in the process of becoming politicized about weight-related issues. I hope NAAFA acknowledges the misstep, takes responsibility for negative impact, and finds a way to write about food/eating in future that upholds the standards of fat pride community and respects the diverse experiences of community members on these topics.
I had exactly one serious problem with the Fabulous Fakes column, and it was the phrase “eat smart”. Because that implies people who don’t restrict carbs eat dumb. And that there’s only one right way for everyone to eat. And reading it, my head starts echoing with all the times I’ve seen people make ignorant, self-righteous assumptions about fat people and eating and intelligence.
Yes, that’s it exactly! If it had been “Eating for Self-Care,” I wouldn’t have blinked. My sister-in-law is allergic to most of the “Nasty Nine.” If she had written an article about how she has adjusted her diet, she might have titled it “Eating for Self-Care with Multiple Allergies to Common Ingredients.” “Eating Smart” would imply that I, thankfully free of allergies to foods, am eating stupid by enjoying them.
“Eating for Self-Care with Sensitivity to High Concentrations of Carbohydrates,” maybe?
How about “Creative Cooking: Recipes for Those with Special Dietary Needs.” Then you replace the disconcerting “Fabulous Fakes” title, and you eliminate the implication that everyone should reduce carbs, gluten, etc. in order to be healthy.
That’s a great title, you could then have sub sections for various allergies and possibly religious restrictions, without any of the baggage you usually see. I’m lucky and don’t seem to have any allergies, but I have friends who do and friends who are vegetarian and vegan, I’d like to find some recipes so I can feed my friends without having to default to something very simple and without having to wade through piles of diet crap.
I wonder if it would be possible to create a website with recipes broken down into searchable sections so you could tick the boxes for various allergies and/or food restrictions and find a list of recipes that are suitable. A website like that could have all sorts of recipes not just ones that avoid various ingredients as the search function would let people find what they needed. This gives everyone a place to look for great new things to try without having to deal with the baggage you usually find with recipes.
I don’t think that NAAFA needs to start giving food advice for specific health concerns. Even if done by expert professional, it opens the org. to legal liability and risks reinforcing beliefs that it’s NAAFA’s mission to oppose. If individuals want to trade recipes on a NAAFA discussion board, it might be okay…as long as they’re not including weight-loss goals ot healthism. For the organization to present eating advice in its official publication…a whole different thing.
I could use Splenda in my pumpkin pie.
That is, if I want to spend the afternoon on the toilet and have my blood pressure spike too.
Google Splenda and blood pressure. You’ll see that I’m far from the only one.
Well, that’s disconcerting. I use splenda a lot and my blood pressure tends to be iffy.Might be worth checking with and without to see if there’s a discernible pattern (since I can’t find studies on it, at least not that I have access to the full text of).
It makes me feel better about the group that they did say it was not their intention to offend or promote any sort of dieting and weight loss efforts. I think it’s reasonable to say, we will print this retraction/apology in the next newsletter while sending this reply to the people who directly contacted them to comment on it. I like that they specified that should they continue the idea, it will appear under a different name. This is good.
I appreciated the individual response I got from Peggy Howell, NAAFA’s PR coordinator, below, after sending them what I wrote above, but I’m still not sure they got the point. Here’s our correspondence:
On Sun, Dec 30, 2012 at 7:52 PM, Peggy Howell wrote:
Thank you for writing. We have issued an apology for those who were triggered by the framing of the article and suggested use of an artificial sweetner. We will not include the recipe column in the next issue and will discuss our course of action in the next board meeting. We appreciate your opinion and your continued support. Have a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!
Public Relations Director, NAAFA
I replied: <>