Monday, September 5, 2011

Some thoughts on fat acceptance and health at every size

First, I want to put out there that I think both of them are really important movements that deserve a lot more discussion than I'm likely to get in to.  Second, I want to point out that I really am coming at this from a bit of an outsider's perspective, since I'm not really fat or healthy--I'm right where traditional measures say I should be for weight, but I don't really exercise much, and I eat more cheese than a normal household.

Even so, I've been thinking about them lately, and I noticed that I've been seeing a lot more haes than fa on the blogs I read, and this was getting to me.  I think I've pinned down a couple of the reasons, at least.  1. It seems like a way of apologizing for/justifying existence/size when its something that should not need justifying, and when justifying it 2. Creates a separation and dichotomy that some fat people are better than others--haes sometimes reads like an explanation and apology, a statement that someone is doing everything conceivable to fit body norms but hasn't, so they still get their A for effort.  It also seems like it is 3. putting a superior value on people who are healthy, which... I think we should all aspire to health, but I think that to some, haes makes it almost more acceptable to criticize fat people who don't eat healthily than it was before haes came along, when a lot of times fat is also tied into lack of education, and living in food deserts, and simply not having the time or the money to eat healthy.  Also, even for those that do have the time/money/genes to be thin if they really tried... 4.  What business is it of anyone else's that they might be fat and unhealthy?  So what if someone is or isn't healthy.  I feel like haes, to a certain extent, undermines the idea that we should be judging people by minds and character, and instead says to judge them on how well they follow the generally established guidelines for behavior that is supposed to, but does not, lead to the generally accepted thin ideal.

I feel like it creates a new script to follow.  I feel like fa/ba stand for the idea that looks shouldn't play into how people are evaluiated, while I have this uneasy feeling that haes is setting up a proxy for looks, so that judging is still subtly encouraged, and some fat people get to look down on other fat people.


slowe said...

You might find this interesting, though I don't know what you think of the school that conducted the study :)

Devon said...

There is lots of discussion about this in the FA blogs, from what I see. I think that people do miss the point on HAES because on the surface it sounds like your normal diet/exercise talk. But, if you look closer at HAES, it says that you should eat what you feel is good for you, not what others say is good for you, and you should exercise how you feel is right, not what others say is right. Their core mission is to give people freedom from these external missives while including people of all size. Their main point is to not judge based on size. I think they need to make this point more loudly.

Also, as I said, there is a lot of convo about this on the FA blogs. It bothers some insiders too that they feel left out of HAES if they choose to do things that are "unhealthy" by societal standards. They think HAES is dangerously close to healthism, or the thinking that "trying to be healthy" is somehow morally superior to not trying. I can see both sides. I think HAES is an important concept that can be used to fight against unhealthy, disordered eating that is promoted in the diet industry. It also says that you should do what it right for you, and people can come from all sorts of health levels while doing this, which is not against FA. In fact, HAES is fat neutral - they don't judge size (positively or negatively). This, I think, is complementary with FA, but it does not support fat celebration per se. However, promoting health may be right for one person but not of interest to another. But, those subtleties get lost when the public only sees a single tagline to sum up an entire movement.

I think they are both needed because their missions are slightly different. But, I don't think they are necessarily opposed.

ellesar said...

I am cynical about fa AND haes because I do not consider obesity healthy - in the long term it is inevitable that ones health will suffer. However, the issue for women is not generally one of health affecting obesity when they obsess about their weight and allow it to take up a huge amount of their lives. Women are much more concerned about much lower amounts of weight than men, and young women doubly so. I obsessed about 10 - 20lbs for years - in health terms that is of negligible significance.
Now I am 50lbs overweight I know what the real issues are! I have absolutely no time for the fa movement. My suffering of my weight is purely because of my weight - I do not get abused for it due to my height, age and the demographic of where I live. No, my problems are purely the physical ones caused by carryng all these extra pounds.