Recently I’ve seen a lot of people saying things like “It’s ok to be fat as long as you’re happy with your body” or “It’s ok to be fat as long as you’re healthy.” The idea being that if a fat person is not happy with their body, or not healthy (by whatever definition we’re using) then it’s time to try to become thinner. So I’m reposting this post as a reminder of exactly when it’s ok to be fat.
First of all, we know that being unhappy with our bodies and having health issues are not exclusive to fat people – there are people of all sizes who hate their bodies, and people of all sizes with health issues, which means that being thin can neither be a sure preventative, nor a sure cure. The idea that if a thin person is unhappy with their body or is not “healthy” then they should focus on things that would make them happier and/or healthier, but that a fat person in the same situation should focus on being thin is sketchy at best.
And that doesn’t even take into account that the most common outcome of intentional weight loss attempts is weight gain, and thus even if someone thinks that being fat is the problem, recommending intentional weight loss is statistically the worst possible advice.
We live in a world where many National governments (including in the US, my home country) suggest that fat people should be singled out, stereotyped, stigmatized, and blamed for everything from global warming to health care costs (actual evidence be damned.) Under those circumstances, someone being fat and not liking their body isn’t exactly shocking.
The problem, to me, occurs when people (often the same people perpetuating fat hate and stigma) suggest that fat people should try to solve social stigma and oppression by changing our bodies, rather than insisting on an end to stigma and oppression. This is tantamount to telling a kid to give the bullies her lunch money and hope that they stop beating her up (when we know damn well that the bullies will always find another reason to pick a fight after school, and find more and more that they can take. )
As far as health goes, health is an amorphous concept, it is not an obligation or a barometer of worthiness. Nobody, of any size, owes anybody else “health” or “healthy behaviors” by any definition, Health is also never guaranteed and never entirely within our control. 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 get and afford things like evidence-based healthcare, the food we want to eat, and any types of movement that we would like to do (in ways that are both physically and psychologically safe). Finally, the link between weight and health (yes, including our knees) is more complicated than what is often suggested by the media and even healthcare practitioners, and the idea that becoming thin is the same thing as becoming healthy, and that weight loss behaviors are the same thing as healthy behaviors are simply not supported by the evidence.
The bottom line is that it’s ok to be fat. Full stop. No matter what. It doesn’t matter how you currently feel about your body, or your current health status, it’s still ok to be fat and to not try to become thin. If we don’t like our fat bodies, we have the option (but never the obligation) of working on loving them as they are. If we are having health issues, we can research the options for dealing with those issues (including asking our doctors the magic question – “what do you do for thin people with this issue?”)
Each of us gets to make choices for our bodies, and if we want to do something regarding other people’s bodies or health we can work on creating a world without appearance-based stigma, shame, and oppression, (or racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, agism, misogyny and other marginalizations) and we can work to make sure that everyone has the food, movement, and healthcare choices that they want available to them. And then we can mind our own business, because public health should be about making information and options available to the public, and not about making the individual’s health the public’s business.
Nobody has any right to create qualifications for when it is ok for fat people to exist. It is absolutely fine to be fat!
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10 thoughts on “When Is It Ok To Be Fat?”
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OMG! This post says it all. Absolutely everything. I am blown away. Thank you so much for writing this! I wish everyone on the planet could read this very post. So brilliant and articulate and perfect.
Ragen, your most recent post is one of the most incredible articles I have ever read about the topic of fat. You are brilliant. I have a friend who is a blogger about all things queer femme, also on WordPress. If by any chance you identify as queer femme, I would love to have her feature you or even link to your blog in her weekly blog. She is all about social change on her blog. Is this of any interest to you? Her blog is The Total Femme on WordPress. Thank you for the brilliant work you are doing! Liz
Too much thinking. People like sound bites and assumptions. It’s quicker and easier, and self serving.
Yes, there is far too much of ‘it is okay for someone to be X as long as Y.’ No qualifiers are allowed.
Okay, I make exceptions for people who intentionally hurt others, that has to stop.
And I want to point out that simply existing does not count as hurting others.
Absolutely love this. Thank you so much for writing it and for everything that you do. I’m finding so much love and joy with my fat body, not because of anything or in spite of everything, just because I deserve to be loved and happy. And while there will always be angry people saying stupid things, I’ve really found that a lot of the oppression I was feeling was coming from me. I had to let go of the conditioning I’d internalized that said I should hate my body. I’ve been much more friendly and engaged in life and have had really positive encounters with people I would normally have been afraid to talk to. So glad to have this community – I continue to learn more each day!
So, it’s OK to be fat, as long as I don’t have Lupus. Got it.
Didn’t you get the memo?
Q: When is it OK to be Fat? A: When you are fat.
Q: When is it OK to be Trans? A: When you are Trans.
And so forth….