I see a lot of people say some version of “I think it’s fine for people to be any size as long as they’re healthy”. I think they usually think that they are being supportive, and are well intentioned but that doesn’t make this any less problematic.
First, the idea that other people should dictate to us what health means, how highly we should prioritize it, and what path we should choose to get there is deeply problematic seriously messed up in no small part because it quickly becomes a slippery slope. I find that, for example, omnivores who want to police my health choices are typically much less excited to have their health choices questions by someone who believes that a vegan diet is the best for health.
Health is not an obligation or a barometer of worthiness. Nobody owes anybody else health regardless of our size. Health is also never guaranteed and never entirely within our control. In addition to genetics and the effects of past behaviors (like repeated dieting attempts!) can affect our health. Access plays a major part – that includes many things including the ability to afford what we want in terms of our healthcare, to availability in our community, to the ability to find competent healthcare practitioners.
Second, whether intended or not, this often has the feel of someone who sees themselves as superior and thereby empowered to dole out approval of my size and health plan. Nooooooo. Nobody has authority over my body and health – I have trusted advisors but I am the ultimate boss of my underpants.
Third, it makes it sound like they believe that I can be fat if I’m healthy (by whatever definition of healthy they are using) but if I start to have health problems then it’s time to get thin. That is a trifecta of putting the ass in assumption, including: 1. fat is causing the problem 2. becoming thin would solve the problem 3. becoming thin is possible (despite the fact that there’s no proof that most fat people can maintain long-term weight loss, it doesn’t matter what becoming thin might do because we don’t know how to get it done).
So what do we do about this? You all know that I don’t like to criticize without giving some suggestions so here are some options that I’ve personally used, just in case it helps you. As always it’s up to you and your mileage may vary:
You can try something like “I think that judging people based on their size or their health is really inappropriate.”
You can say something like “Maybe they practice Health at Every Size – that’s what I do. I think that healthy habits – not manipulating my body size – give me my best odds for health.”
You can choose to disengage with an explanation “Actually, I’m not really comfortable with conversations that include body policing or healthism. I’m happy to change the subject or to call it a night”
Or you can just go with short and sweet “You know, I don’t think someone else’s health or size is up for my approval or, really, any of my business”.
Of course you are not obligated to open a dialog at all and despite your best efforts people may not choose to question their actions so, as usual, your mileage may vary. I think the most important thing to do is to put the problem where it belongs, and that’s not on our bodies.
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