Fat Acceptance: An intriguing idea gone wrong
I stumbled across Shapely Prose (a Fat Acceptance (FA) blog) as it was a WordPress featured blog. At first, I thought it was a good idea for larger people to have a community where they can get support, as often they can get alienated by media and society at large, saturated with unrealistic body expectations, which we recognize at our blog. Suddenly, I found myself censored at this prominent FA blog, simply due to challenging some of the premises in their advice column (more details here). It got me interested in the movement in general, visited a few other FA blogs, and began to see an ideology and culture crystalizing around it, bordering on dogma. Below are my impressions.
Identity: Fat acceptance as Replacement to Self-Acceptance.
I’ll touch briefly on the word “acceptance” which merits a post of its own. Identifying oneself deeply with fat, and hoping others to overlook it and/or accept it, will create mixed results. This is the problem with pride which often leads to arrogance. This is what seems to happen to some of the FA bloggers more than their readers whose responses tend to be more nuanced.
“…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” – Serenity Prayer
I believe much of the FA ideology is rooted in comfort. It is easier to accept than to change. Easier to surrender to sensory hedonism than mindful consumption. Pure unquestioned acceptance leads to stagnation. Pure unquestioned change leads to stress. Both can lead to a loss of self esteem. Fat is just one characteristic of a person, and no one is its full incarnation. It’s OK to have some dissatisfaction, as it helps us grow as people.
There is no conflict in saying I like who I am but dislike some of the things I do (or fail to do). Self-worth to me comes from a sense that I can stretch my limits in a realistic fashion. This has occurred to us through exercise and applied LONG-TERM nutrition not quick fix diets.
Distortions of valid social issues
We are against bigotry, and believe that people should be respected and granted basic human dignity regardless of their particular nationality, sexual orientation, “gender”, “race/ethnicity” (will elaborate on the quotes in a future post), AND size. I believe this may have been the initial premise of FA, which is admirable. Militancy in extremes can flip upon itself, thus turning feminism into sexism, unconditional love to an expectation of unconditional attraction, and empowerment into victim mentality.
There’s a mantra that is heard so often, which ironically is one I agree with: Diets don’t work. An extension of that is something called intuitive eating. Reading the principles, they sound reasonable except # 5 “Respect your fullness”. Many people (including myself before I began learning about nutrition) use fullness as a gauge to end hunger. This can result in bloating, lethargy and consuming more calories than needed for sustenance and well being. I was using food as a sensory playground, rather than a source of nourishment. I don’t believe in denying myself any type of food, yet one can indulge with full awareness of the caloric density of the food, and consume accordingly.
The term “intuitive eating” itself is a problem, as it suggests honouring the wisdom of the body forged through the millenia of evolution. It overlooks the fact that we don’t live in hunter-gatherer days where food was scarce, it took more body energy to get it, and was unprocessed unlike many calorie-dense, packaged foods we find in our supermarkets.
What can be more intuitive and innocent than a child? I was fairly overweight as one, and I ate what I wanted when I wanted. I was fortunate to have my parents notice my overindulgence and began to practice mild portion control and serve healthier foods. Some parents unfortunately use food as a pacifier. Below is a tragic example of what can happen when a child is permitted to eat “intuitively” in these days of low nutrient calorie dense packaged foods. (Vid: 2:39 min)
Our brain is also a remarkable organ that’s evolved through time. It’s ok to use our knowledge in nutrition in harmony with our stomachs and our palate. Feels right, AND makes sense. Not one or the other. BOTH.