I’ve been seeing a lot of hype lately about this phenomenon called “fat acceptance.” A lot of the blogs I’ve been checking out lately, and a lot of online articles seem to be focusing on this.
Apparently “fat acceptance” means learning to love your body no matter what size it is. It means accepting other people no matter what their bodies look like. “Fat acceptance” philosophy demands we celebrate a “real woman” who is a size 16 appearing on the cover of a fitness magazine. It dictates that being overweight does not necessarily equal being unhealthy.
So at first glance, “fat acceptance” sounds great, doesn’t it? Who are we to judge others for what they look like, how fat or unfat they are, or how fit or out of shape they are?
I have mixed feelings about this. I think we, as people, and especially us women, need to accept that we all have differences. That there’s no such thing as a “perfect” body–perfect is subjective.
Take this meme. It illustrates my first issue with so-called “fat acceptance.”
When I first saw this meme, I thought it was awesome because it’s obviously presenting the less skinny woman as being sexy and more attractive. This is right up my alley! The bigger woman obviously isn’t fat, but to me, she looks like what I want to look like. She looks “real.” She looks “normal.” Right?
But what about the other woman? What if she isn’t a totally anorexic supermodel? What if she’s just a woman who is naturally thin? What if she is one of those women who struggles to put on weight? What if she has a metabolic disorder? What if she sits at home wishing her legs weren’t so scrawny and that she could have a bigger butt or larger breasts?
This is where the “self-acceptance” movement can be deceptive. Memes like the one above seem to promote a so-called “real” or “normal” body image, but who gets to decide what’s real and what’s normal? Who am I to say that the thinner woman isn’t normal and just as real as the curvier one? Not only should we as a society NOT be fat-shaming people, but we shouldn’t be shaming anyone else for what they look like either.
I’m learning that even though I want to lose weight and feel better about how I look, even though I might have a picture in my mind about how I want to appear, it’s really not OK to rip on someone else who embodies the opposite of that just to make myself feel better.
That’s what memes like the above one do. They seem to “empower” a bigger, curvier woman while tearing down a smaller, less curvy one.
And that’s just not ok.
How does that help me? How does making fun of or judging someone else for their body help me feel good about mine?
It doesn’t. If I was so happy and confident in my own skin, I wouldn’t feel the need to compare myself to anyone else. And I certainly wouldn’t feel the need to bash someone else for being the opposite of what I am.
How many of us actually feel that happy with ourselves and truly self-confident? How many times a day do we look in the mirror and feel disgust for what we see, but comfort ourselves with some thought of, “Well, at least I don’t look like that?”
It’s important to remember that no matter what you look like, you aren’t accepting yourself by comparing your body and ripping others down in the process.
Here’s my next problem with “fat acceptance.” I think a lot of times people use “body acceptance” as an excuse to not do the work it requires to be healthy.
I, personally, was in denial for years about this. I told myself that I just didn’t care that I was getting fat. I pretended that I just “accepted” how I looked. But it was hard to truly convince myself of that. Deep down I felt miserable and awful about myself. But as long as I pretended I didn’t, as long as I was able to tell myself I was ok with being fat, I didn’t have to get off the couch to exercise and I didn’t have to change my horrible eating habits.
And even when it was easy to pretend I still looked the same (it took a LOT of mirror avoidance to accomplish this), my physical condition didn’t lie. When it became difficult to tie my shoes and climb a flight of stairs, it became much harder to “accept” myself.
And where did THIS aspect of “accepting” being fat get me? I spent years with my head in the sand, cheating myself out of countless experiences that just weren’t possible because I was too physically impaired to participate in them.
There is not enough denial in the world that makes it possible for me to even remotely pretend I was healthy at this point. No, I didn’t have any obesity-related diseases, but it was just pure miraculous blessing that I didn’t.
Today I’m in better shape. The weight is slowly but surely coming off, and I’m sure I’m in better physical condition than someone who sits on a couch and never ever exercises. But can I honestly say I’m “healthy?”
No. I’m still at risk for all of those obesity-related diseases. I’m taking medication for high blood pressure (this might be a genetic thing that I would be dealing with anyway even if I was at a healthy weight, but I can’t honestly know that at this point because I’m still fat).
So be honest with yourself. Are you seriously healthy? Or are you dealing with, or at a high-risk for, disease because of your fat? If so, why should you accept that?
Have you ever heard anyone say, “I love my Type II Diabetes?” Or, “I love my heart disease?”
No? Didn’t think so. That sounds totally ridiculous, doesn’t it?
But the latest social movement tells us we should say, “I love and accept my fat. It gives me curves.” The same fat that puts us at risk for those diseases. Isn’t that equally ridiculous?
And here’s my final problem with “fat acceptance” that I’m going to mention today. I don’t think it’s honest.
Some people might be upset with me for saying this, but it’s what I believe. I can’t think of a single person (aside from maybe a sumo wrestler or something) who wants to be fat. I have never heard someone say, “I’m so glad I’m obese! I feel so awesome about myself because I can’t buckle my seat belt!”
I think there are some individuals who maybe don’t let their fat affect their self-esteem, but I would bet my paycheck that if there was a magic wand they could wave that would melt that extra fat off of them if they wanted, they’d still take advantage of that.
So the moral of the story here is that I feel like the “accept your fat self” movement is asking people to lie to themselves about what they really want. It’s asking them to settle for the consolation prize when they could be taking home the gold medal.
It’s robbing people of the lives they deserve to have.
And that pisses me off. I deserve the best for myself, and I shouldn’t be told to just sit back and accept LESS than the best.
The thing to remember here, though, is not to compare. My best version of myself isn’t going to match anyone else’s versions of themselves. We are all different. No one is going to have Angelina Jolie’s lips but Angelina Jolie. No one is going to have Kim Kardashian’s butt except Kim Kardashian.
Work with what you have. And strive to be the best version of yourself. At minimum, be honestly healthy. That’s all we can do. If we work to be the best versions of who we are, then absolutely we should accept that. But we should not accept less than the best for ourselves.
I’ve realized the fat-acceptance movement is right in one aspect, though. We DO have to have SOME acceptance and love for ourselves, even when we are fat and horribly out of shape. It is love for ourselves that will propel us to make a change. And without acceptance for how we currently are, we can’t face reality. And until we face reality, we can’t be honest about how far we have to go, and we can’t set realistic expectations and goals for ourselves.
So love yourself, and accept the reality of where you currently are in your own journey. But never accept the lie that you deserve less than the best for yourself!