The Loving Our Body Lie

Angry FrustratedOne of the most common and most damaging lies perpetuated by those justifying fat shaming/fat hate, selling diets, and perpetuating a sizeist culture was sent to me in a comment today:

If we allow women to love their bodies regardless of their size then they will never take good care of them!

So many wrong things, let’s break it down:

If we allow?  Allow?  ALLOW?  The idea that women need to be treated like toddlers, told what we are and are not allowed to do “for our own good”, and that fat women should be treated like toddlers in time-out for not obeying is so incredibly fucked there aren’t sufficient words to describe it.  Women don’t need anyone’s permission to love our bodies (or to not love them.) Anyone who thinks that it’s their job to be telling women, who haven’t asked them, what those women are and are not allowed to do can immediately and completely turn their attention to their own lives and the lives of people who care what they think.

But the most insidious part of this lie is that if women love our bodies we won’t take good care of them. If you think that sounds ridiculous, consider it phrased this way “if we don’t keep women in a constant state of self-loathing, they’ll never be healthy.” Obviously that makes no sense, people are not including to take care of things that we hate and that includes our bodies.  But the way that it’s implemented is even worse. Fat women (and, in many ways, children of all sizes) are bombarded with the message “Your body is ugly, disgusting, and a sign of your inferior beauty, intellect, and moral character.  Now, take really good care of it!”  And society insists that this is a reasonable public health message.

Not only that, but often the idea of “taking care of” our bodies is freely substituted with the concept of “making our bodies thin.”  While this message is incredibly profitable (the weight loss industry is making over $60 Billion and that number goes up every year, in no small part because dieting doesn’t work), it’s simply not true and it leads to people doing really unhealthy things  – partially under the mistaken belief that if those unhealthy things make them thin, then they will somehow also make them healthy – and partially so that they’ll finally be “allowed” to stop hating themselves.  Again, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s the backbone of diet culture.

Scratching the surface we find that the deeper we go, the worse this idea is. The concept of “taking care of ourselves” is tossed around like it’s simple, and the same for everyone. Let’s be clear that “taking care of ourselves” by any definition is not an obligation or a barometer of worthiness. Beyond that, the idea of  “taking care of ourselves” is very complex and multi-faceted, and not entirely within our control.

Access is a major issue – not everyone can afford/obtain the foods that they want to eat or the movement options that they might like to try. In the United States where I live, access to medical care is predicated upon having enough money to afford it, being able to get time off of work to get to the doctor, and finding a doctor who doesn’t operate from a place of stereotyping, prejudice, and shame and subsequent victim-blaming and it’s not easy.

If we want to take care of ourselves by living in an environment where we are not constantly told to hate ourselves or subjected to prejudice, shame, stigma, bullying, and harassment, many of us are out of luck since racism, sizeism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ageism, ableism and more run rampant and are largely ignored by public health (and in some cases, as in the argument that we must make sure that women hate themselves “for their health” it actually exacerbates it.)

Anyone who tells us that hating our body is part of the practice of taking care of ourselves is grossly uninformed, a liar, trying to sell us something, or some combination thereof. Regardless, we do not have to buy into this.  You have the right, but no obligation, to decide what “taking care of your body” means for you, and how highly you want to prioritize it, and whose opinion about it you want to hear.  You may not have access to all of the things that you need/want to take care of yourself and, though that may become your problem, you don’t have to buy into the idea that it’s your fault.

You have every right to make these decisions for yourself, you don’t need anyone to “allow” you.  You have every right to love your body and you have every right to consider loving your body,part of taking good care of it.

The Fat Activism Conference Is Back!  

This is a virtual conference so you can listen to the talks by phone and/or computer wherever you are. Whether you are looking for support in your personal life with family, friends, healthcare providers etc. or you’re interested in being more public with your activism with blogging, petitions, protest, projects, online activism, or something else, this conference will give you tools and perspectives to support you  and your work, and to help you make that work intentionally intersectional and inclusive, so that nobody gets left behind. Get the info and register here!

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

14 thoughts on “The Loving Our Body Lie

  1. Who exactly counts as “we” in this scenario? Is there a High Council of thin, male doctors who meet once a year in order to determine how women are allowed to think and feel about their bodies? Are they affiliated with the Fashion Police and the Gender Police?

    1. I call it The Royal We. It’s a sign of just how othered we’ve been and how Us vs. Them (and we’re them) the War on Obesity has gotten – “What do the Royal We, the *proper*-bodied, do about Those People?” And they really do think they have the authority to walk up and start barking orders to autonomous adult strangers because of a difference in the shapes of their bodies.

  2. I encountered this yesterday when responding to an online article about some “comedian” who was whining because YouTube yanked her feed over a video that began “Dear Fat People” and went on to seek attention for her hatred of fat folks.

    I was told, in no uncertain terms, that not only were videos like that helpful, but that if you don’t keep reminding fat people that we should hate our bodies, why… we’ll just up and forget that we’re fat at all! (“Oh, you mean I’m fat? Hey! Maybe that’s why I don’t fit into those single-digit-sized clothes at the store…”)

    So, you see, it’s not just that we can’t like ourselves. It’s that they have to keep telling us, because we’re so stupid that we might forget if they don’t keep at it. {sigh}

  3. I don’t want to understate the shit fat men have to deal with, but I think the fact the comment specified The Royal We can’t “allow” fat *women* to love their bodies tells us all we need to know about where it’s coming from.

    Also, I’m going to be honest here – for me fat acceptance wasn’t about *loving* my body, but viewing it objectively in spite of being so heavily indoctrinated to have an emotional aversion to it. You can’t ask pointed questions or make good decisions about a body you’re conditioned to hate and fear. You’re too busy following every command that comes from the diet industry, the fashion industry, and big pharma in the hopes that *this time* they’re telling you the truth, even though they weren’t last time, or the time before that, or…

    1. Absolutely. Fat-hatred hurts everyone, regardless of gender. This particular commenter just added misogyny to the mix. Unfortunately, it does seem to hit women harder, because of the so-called universal beauty standard.

      See, patriarchy allows most men to be judged based on their character, their actions, their success in various careers. But women are judged first and foremost on their looks. Even a woman in the highest court in the land is frequently judged on the “Would I bang her?” scale.

      But whether a person fits the conventional standard of beauty for their gender, or not, it’s next-to-impossible to view their own body objectively, when bombarded by fat-hating messages. Even thin people view their thin bodies with hatred and fear, because if they don’t fight every single day, why, they just might become fat, eventually, and they can’t have THAT!

      Meanwhile, the bodies, fat or thin or in-between, keep on breathing, pumping blood, moving around, and doing all the other marvelous things that bodies do, and science still can’t completely comprehend. I say that, because if science completely comprehended bodies, we would have long ago stopped making any medical discoveries, all diseases would have been cured or otherwise eradicated (quarantine and let all the carriers die off, until no one else is threatened, probably), and there would be no form of debate, whatsoever, about fat. We all have these amazing bodies, and we ought to appreciate them for the amazing things they are, whether we love them, individually, or not.

  4. Great post. I must say, I used to believe this lie for my own self. I was terrified to love myself the way I was, because if I did, I might never be the way I wanted to be. I was definitely missing the point!

  5. Try substituting other words for “their bodies:”

    “If we allow women to love their children, they’ll never take good of them!”

    “If we allow women to love their partners, they’ll never take good care of them.”

    “If we allow women to love their jobs, they’ll never take good care of them (their careers).”

    Hating something in any facet of life does not lead to good care taking, literally EVER. Promoting body hate is about controlling women, not enabling them to take care of themselves. Argh!

  6. And this, right here, is why I think that fat acceptance is feminist.

    This is just a blatant example of the male entitlement in the patriarchy. Not only are males allowed to love their bodies, regardless of whether or not they take care of them, men are put in the position to “allow” or “disallow” women to FEEL something.

    I mean, that is messed up beyond any words! Bad enough that these patriarchal jerks want to control women’s bodies and actions, but now they want to control our feelings, as well?

    Oh, and everything that Ragen said, about bodies, in general.

    1. Absolutely. “If we allow women to love their bodies regardless of their size…….then we won’t be able to control them anymore!”

  7. Fat acceptance should be a feminist issue. Breasts and rear ends in women are considered sexual areas and both involve fat.As with everything to do with fat in this culture, what is “beautiful” is highly restricted.Those women who do not fit certain very limited size and shapes are considered to be flawed and to have something wrong with them(when nothing is wrong). Most women, even thinner women have some cellulite and other types of fatness.which is also touted as flaws when nothing is wrong with them either.
    Fat Acceptance is a male issue as well. Fat men are not part of the projected ideals if they are fat rather than big boned and muscular. If a man has large breasts he is considered feminine even if he likes women.Because these men do not fit the standard of “hunks” that are projected as being projected as super masculine everywhere by the mass media many women including fat women find them automatically unattractive.It is being subliminally projected by the mass media that all fatness is “bad” and to be avoided in any way and at all costs.If fat people and FA’s are prevented from socially meeting, sometimes getting married and having children that’s even better. Since fatness is to some extent inherited it will be eliminated from the gene pool.
    Most of the upper class, the mass media, most of the acting profession, many doctors and “dietary specialists” are bigotted against fatness. The fractured and splintered fat community has enormous amounts of money and great power arrayed to put us down and basically destroy us in every way. As most of the people on this blog and many people in other fat rights organizations have found, simple self acceptance as we were born to be goes a long way to ending this scourge.We have to try to communicate this to everyone, especially the young. It will be very difficult to do this without the mass media, advertizing and much money. It takes originality and creativity to bring it about.We have to turn to originality which has not been used before.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.