Striking A Balance, Or Not

What a Load of CrapOne of the things that I hear and see a lot when it comes to articles in mainstream media is that Size Acceptance is ok, but we need to “strike a balance between body acceptance and health”.

There are many issues here but the first and most important is that body acceptance and health are two very separate things. The idea that health should be linked to Size Acceptance or self-worth is incredibly dangerous and completely fucked up.  Health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, or completely within our control.  Often issues around this happen when people confuse the concepts of Health at Every Size with Size Acceptance.

I talk about that in detail here  but the bottom line is that Health at Every Size is a paradigm from which to approach health and healthcare, but Size Acceptance is a Civil Rights Movement.  There is absolutely NO health or behavior requirement Size Acceptance. Nobody owes anybody else “health” or “healthy habits” by any definition. 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, habits and dis/ability.  This is a civil rights issue, plain and simple, it is vitally important that we not confuse Size Acceptance with health or dis/ability in any way.

There are more issues with this idea of “striking a balance between Size Acceptance and Health”.  The logic-defying idea here is that liking and appreciating our bodies will somehow preclude health. That idea is precisely as ludicrous as it sounds. Of course when people are talking about “health” in this context they typically mean thinness, which is absolutely not the same thing. What they are often saying is that if you allow yourself to completely like your body, you won’t hate it enough to try dieting again and again when, like almost everyone, you fail repeatedly at long term weight loss. Or perhaps they think that in the multi-dimensionality, no guarantees, concept of health, self-loathing is a positive force.

Often if you scratch just below the surface you’ll find that this “strike a balance” idea is just diet industry manipulation for profit – it’s a way to give lip service to the myriad health professionals, experts, evidence, and heaping helping of common sense that points out that liking and appreciating our bodies is a good thing.  By “striking a balance” they mean that it’s ok to like our bodies as long as we’re actively working to change them, preferably buying their product to do it. People like this see Size Acceptance as something for fat people to do until we become thin.  This idea then gets repeated by people who either didn’t think it through, or who actually believe that the key to “health” [thinness] is juuuust enough self-hatred.

I have consciously opted out of this system.  I do not think that hating myself does any good at all – and trust me when I tell you that I gave it the old college try. Hating myself never inspired me to take care of my body or led to a single positive outcome.  In fact, I got so caught up in hating my body for how it looked that I forgot to have even a second’s appreciation for what it did and that was no way for me to live.  Like everyone’s experience, mine is just for me – it can’t be extrapolated to anybody else so I’m neither trying to tell you what to do or trying to tell you that your experience will be the same as mine. I’m just trying to give an option.

So one option is to say “Screw striking a balance” and fully appreciate the body you have now – total, 100% body acceptance.  Not because your body is “perfect” (as if there is such a thing) but because it’s your body, the only one you have.  You get to decide for you, but for me, my body is amazing and deserves nothing less than my love, respect, and full-throated support, and anything less than that is way out of balance.

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25 thoughts on “Striking A Balance, Or Not

  1. i think you may know this but i’m not certain everyone here does, so i will post it in the hope people enjoy the tape.

    yr dance class tagline “every body dance now” is from a song called gonna make you sweat by an outfit labeled c+c music factory. if anyone remembers the video, of course all dancing bodies in it were thin. the problem is that its main singer was not— & of course, she’s nowhere to be found.

    her name is martha wash & she’s probably best known for being one of the [sylvester-named] two tons o’ fun aka the weather girls. they had a hit about thirty years ago, on all but unrelenting stream in gay discos, called it’s raining men. at the end of this comment, i will link its tape.

    eventually, for dubbing her voice atop a lipsynching thin girl & refusing to acknowledge her actual contribution, martha wash sued pretty much everyone involved. she wound up settling out of court for a huge sum of money. this was a big deal about twenty years ago; i figure many people here are not old enough to remember it, but it was an important happening.

    now you get the tape, which, again, i hope you like. i like it enough that it, & all its memories, made me cry:

  2. Beautiful, Ragen. I have always hated that ‘balance’ line. It’s fucked up that you can be more accepted in society if you show obvious unhappiness about your body and a desire to change it. Fail to do either and you are demonized.

  3. The thing that most perplexes me about equating thin bodies with healthy bodies – and then assuming that if you get thin you will be healthy – is the number of people I know who are fat *because* of either an illness or (even better) the treatment for that illness.

    Steroidal medications are a big one. I know many people who have gained substantial weight on steroids that are – wait for this – saving their lives. Now, many of them are uncomfortable with this (physically, even more than emotionally) – an abrupt gain when you’re already feeling lousy is not the same experience as a gradual natural one – but then they beat themselves up over being fat, which doesn’t help anything.

    Better yet, I’ve seen some cases in which the very doctor who prescribed the meds then starts pushing weight loss, and making them feel even worse… (I’ve seen that some do, in fact, permanently lose some of that weight *if* they are able to get and stay off meds they didn’t need to take very long – but many can’t go off them, and many don’t lose weight even if they do. A lot seems to depend on the nature of the illness.) And then even doctors they deal with later ascribe all side effects of the steroids, and sometimes even the initial illness, to the current weight…

    I know a woman who was given steroidal meds in puberty for a serious illness. Result – she’s built like a tank, she’s as strong as that tank, and she has a heart condition. Oh, and – she’s alive… But when she was in hospital for something else, and they “discovered” the heart condition (which was in her records) they started hassling her about weight… totally ignoring her history. She’s happy with her body – hey, she *likes* having lived past 13! – but having to fight with the hospital about that, when they should have been concentrating on her presenting condition, just made her life much harder than it should have been.

  4. Is it just me, or do the words “striking a balance” sound like a desperate, last-ditch effort to continue the attitudes and practices of bigotry? We don’t “strike balances” with other bullshit notions, like racism and misogyny, so why should we be expected to “balance” Size Acceptance with public persecution?

  5. [Comment edited to remove language conflating weight with health and promotion of weight loss.] I really need help from you and all your readers. Please help me.

    I have hated my body since I gave birth to my son 35 years ago. My pre-pregnancy weight was 107. The day before birth I weighed 160, and the day after the birth I weighed 130. [Sentence deleted] It was then that my self loathing began because my husband kept insisting that I get back to the 107 pounds. Now 35 years later at age 55 I weigh almost 320. A good portion of that is caused by medications in the past and present.

    EVERYONE in my life with the exception of my son is demanding, overtly and covertly, that I lose weight. Even my 4 year old grand daughter who, back when she was barely 3 and came to spend the night with me and saw me naked for the first time, pointed and laughed. I asked her calmly why she was laughing and she said ” you look funny!” ( her mother is super thin due to having Ecoli a few years ago). They have been after me all this time. Everything I go through is blamed on my weight, even though depression is hereditary. Even though diabetes and high cholesterol and high blood pressure are all hereditary in my family and these problems presented when I weighed considerably less than I do now. [Sentence removed] But what I really want is to be happy whatever the case.

    I want to completely accept my body without any conditions like “until”. I tell myself that I do accept it, I tell others to leave me alone in many different ways. But when I read this post I realized that I do not. I realized that I crave the approval of my family and doctors. I want to let go of that need. I want to love my body and respect it and appreciate all that it does for me on a daily 24 hour basis.

    I am thinking of keeping a body journal in which I would write each day what good things my body did for me that day, and how much I appreciate it. What other suggestions to you all have for me, to help me accept and love my body?

    1. One thing I would suggest is to adorn your lovely body with things that you think are beautiful. Don’t let department stores force you to settle for ugly, ill-fitting clothes from their pitiful “plus size” sections. It might be a bit of a challenge to find vendors that will actually cater to your needs, but it may prove to be well worth it when you’re dressed in stylish clothes that make you look and feel fabulous.

      1. Thanks Jenna, I do try to do that. But mostly I stay home and don’t go anywhere except to the doctor and I just feel too tired to dress up for that. I do dress up and go to church a couple of times a month. I love jewelry and always have pretty earrings, necklaces and rings when I go out. I love makeup too, in fact I sell Avon but lately I am even to tired and depressed to put on makeup even when I go out to make a few deliveries. I do most my selling online so I don’t have to go out. Maybe I should find something that I like to do outside of the house? maybe there is a MeetUp group around here for fat women who want to love themselves. I will check into it, see Jenna you got me thinking! Thank you!

        1. I’m so glad I could help! In addition to getting out more – which is good advice for anyone – you should also consider that you don’t have to go out to dress up and look beautiful. Sometimes, I’ll fix up my hair and put on my best clothes just to feel pretty while I hang around the house.

          Whenever you think you look great, take a good picture and put it up somewhere in your home, as a reminder to yourself when you’re feeling low.

    2. Dear Mysticheart,

      Do read the blogs on here, it does help. Ragen has a lot of suggestions that you may find useful. The meetup group is a great idea. It’s important to find things that you love.

      I don’t know how good/bad your relationships are with various family members, but Ragen does also have blogs about talking with people, and you may find that especially useful.

      Good luck and I hope you hang around the blog! *HUGS*

      1. Thank you, I will explore the blog for topics that may be of help. I can’t find any local meetups for size acceptance or anything related. But I will keep trying to find something.

    3. I just noticed that my post here was edited. That is ok but I am curious as to why, it shows that 2 sentences were deleted and the note at the top of my post says that these were comments that were conflating weight with weight loss promotion and health. Goodness I am not for weight loss promotion at all, and I don’t remember what the original text was. If you have time and you remember what the original text was, could you please explain? Thank you!

    4. Hello, dear.

      Am saddened to read about your situation.
      Wish I could remedy it for you.

      Some thoughts:

      -are you getting enough sunshine? It is winter, and there are those who grow depressed with the lack of sun (think they call it SAD). Maybe try some outside time (a walk or even visit a park and feed the ducks, pigeons and the like).

      -You wrote that you like to wear pretty jewelry when you go out. There’s no rule against wearing these when you don’t go out. Remember dress-up when we were kids? Why not put on a pretty pair of earrings while at home? Necklace too. Pretty yourself up – just for you. Then catch glimpses of yourself in the mirror as you go through your day- hey, beautiful!

      -It is okay to ask others to change the subject when they start in on your weight- or any other topics you find uncomfortable. Might even have a few topics at the ready so you can change the topic yourself. My go-to comment when folks get on me for my weight, “That’s not your concern”.

      -you didn’t mention much about your hobbies and interests. Have you always wanted to read about something, or learn a language, or explore a new place (even some place close to home)? Find some activities that you can look forward to doing. They don’t have to be costly or strenuous either. One guy I know really likes sports, so he scored a giant TV and had a satellite dish installed. He’s in seventh heaven these days. My sister is a movie fanatic. She has a laptop with the ability to stream movies (she had to give up going to the theater-seats too uncomfortable). Might check your local newspaper or even the AAA (Auto Club) magazine for things going on in your area that pique your interest.

      I’ll tell you what’s been “rockin’ my world” these days. I’m having a ball fixing up my house. Yep, me, who scoffed at Home Depot, who couldn’t abide tools of any kind, discovered that I’m pretty handy at gardening and demoing old cabinets and sheds and installing shelves and building storage units. My body is very strong and I can handle the big tools, lug around big pieces of wood and all sorts of other actions, without anyone’s help. Yeah! Let’s see some dainty clothes model do this stuff without hurting themselves-ha!

  6. The “balance” thing, for me anyway, just seems to tie in more to the whole disordered view of self/eating/etc. It’s often not well-intended, often not a healthy or healthier perspective and irrelevant where body acceptance is concerned.

  7. “Health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, or completely within our control.” I agree totally with this and would like to add that “health” is not even within our understanding in many cases. If you do as I do and read the medical journal articles and the discussions about them on Medscape, you will find that something as basic as the role of cholesterol in heart disease is still just theory and that physicians do not agree on the need for use of the Statin medications in those who have never had a heart attack. There is no proof at all that taking a Statin will reduce your chance of a heart attack, but it may give you muscle pain or diabetes!

    Physicians are so ready to jump on any “health” bandwagon, so afraid of being sued for not recommending some drug that may have benefits that they have forgotten their cardinal rule, “First, do no harm.” Imagine them looking at a fat person! The liability issues we must bring to their minds!

    Now, my insurance company is demanding that my doctor address each issue with me and explain why I am not on the drug of choice for that issue. My cholesterol is a little high, and I have had a heart attack. Never mind that the imaging of the heart’s arteries showed I have disease in that single tiny vessel and that the other vessels are completely clear. Never mind that the statin med made my muscles so weak that I could not rise from a chair or hold my computer. Now we have to build a case for WHY I am not taking a statin! My poor doc should not have to suffer poor “health grades” from the insurance company because of my physiology. I feel pressure to exercise like crazy to get that cholesterol level down for HER. Hell, I care less about me! I have lipedema and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and am in pain and don’t want to live forever.

    And that thing about fat people costing more in health care costs. If we die younger does that not save the health care system money?

    1. And let’s not forget that some people DO eat the supposedly “healthy” foods and DO avoid the supposedly “unhealthy” ones, and DO exercise at least 30 minutes a day every day of the week, rain or shine, and who don’t smoke, etc. — i.e., follow all the behaviors that supposedly contribute to our health — but still have high cholesterol and/or elevated glucose.

      My cholesterol is high. But it was high the first time it was ever checked, when I was a slender 20-year-old strict vegetarian; the dr. thought something must have gone wrong with the test so did it again. It showed the same thing, and it’s been consistently high ever since (I’m in my late 50s now.) Since I also have a heart condition (NOT cholesterol-related), I’ve had an angiogram — and, like Nancy’s, it showed that my arteries have minimal deposits of plaque. I took a statin for a while but got horrible muscle pains, so my cardiologist just shrugged and said “Stop taking it — your arteries are fine.”

      So some people follow “healthy” behaviors but still have blood markers that should mean we’re “unhealthy” … and yet other tests show that those blood markers haven’t led to the dire consequences that were predicted … sounds like the whole thing is far more complicated than anyone expected when the cholesterol hypothesis was first developed.

      1. On the Junk Food Science blog, she talks about “risk factors” and how they came about, and how none of the risks have ever predicted any disease. Just like high blood pressure is not a disease, nor is it a symptom of a disease, but modern medicine and Big Pharma have done their darndest to make it that way, and turned a perfectly normal, human variant, into a disease.

      2. Me too! I have stopped my statin drug when I discovered that my cholesterol level was not all that much over what they call high. I did some research and determined that it is not cholesterol that causes heart attacks at all, in fact it is beneficial. It is plaque that causes problems and there is no cholesterol in plague. The body uses cholesterol to cover the lesions left in the vessel walls from the plaque. No need for statins. We are not all alike, and so we can not all be held to the exact same measurements of blood levels.

        Also no need for me to take metformin for my sugar levels, since they just recently changed the level they consider diabetic. Before that change I would not have been considered diabetic.

        I am NOT suggesting that anyone else stop their meds based on my experiences, everyone has to make their own decisions about that, I just highly recommend that everyone due their own research so you can make informed decisions.

  8. I’ll strike a balance when crap like my family sending me the article about fat people not going healthy stops altogether. I’ve been in near tears since Monday over this. How am I supposed to be balanced when faced with such extreme hatred? In fact some if the worst hatred in the history of the world.

  9. The “balance” thing is such a classic example of oppressive bargaining rhetoric. I do NOT mean to compare oppressions, but “size acceptance is okay as long as you strike a balance with health” is from the same chapter in the bigot book as “it’s all right for X group of people to have pride, as long as they know their place,” or “X group of people have a right to be what they are, as long as they don’t flaunt it in public.”

    It seems to me that it’s an attempt to say, “as long as you actually agree with and fit into the oppressive system which we have in place, we will allow you to pretend that you have won something.”

    NO concessions!

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