It is pretty much always Lesley’s fault when I respond to something going on in popular culture.
Here’s the breaks, y’all: I do not like Jess Weiner, find her inspirational, or consider her to be a good writer. I’ve had minor beef with her online but generally I find myself apathetic about her because I do not consider her a fat-positive advocate or activist. I’m sure she’s a lovely person, but that has not been my experience. I had zero inclination, when left to my own devices, to read her insipid tale of how fat acceptance almost killed her – I have more and better things to do.
AND YET. And yet Lesley was all “have you read it” and I found myself looking it up. It’s like staring at a multi-car pileup, against all my better instincts and urges toward self-preservation. And, as with that car wreck, it’ll be a while before I can scrub this one from my brain.
First of all, if you’re looking for a really wonderful response, read Deb’s entry the HAES files: loving your body won’t kill you, but being targeted for a curse might. I completely agree with Deb that Jess Weiner has the right to do whatever she wants to with her body – her weight loss is a non-issue. The issue here is that she says body acceptance almost killed her. Which is, in and of itself, one of the most alarmist statements I’ve heard all damn day.
Well, a shared horror is a lessened one, right? Let’s discuss.
Let’s discuss how Weiner’s premise is flawed from the get-go. That is to say: fat acceptance (or the more gently phrased: body acceptance) is no barrier to going to the goddamn doctor. And if Jess Weiner wants to pin the blame for her avoidance of fat-hating physicians on fat acceptance, well, I’m going to suggest she think about things like logic and reason. And, you know, Health At Every Size, which actively demands that people pay attention to their own personal, individual health.
Weiner says: My body wasn’t anyone else’s business, but had I done everything I could to make it my business?
The answer, it would seem, is most emphatically no. But then Weiner displaces all blame – it isn’t that SHE failed to make it her business. It’s that body acceptance told her not to go to the doctor! Body acceptance made her believe she didn’t have to pay any attention to her health!
First, this is a deeply ridiculous argument. Second, it’s a demonstration that Weiner never really did grasp the central tenet of body acceptance, which is that it is YOUR body; you as an individual are actively responsible for caring for that body.
One of the primary struggles of fat acceptance is with the medical community. Doctors (and nurses and other practitioners) view fat patients as noncompliant and in some cases even refuse treatment – or offer weight loss advice instead of treating the current ill. It’s a far cry from Do No Harm. When you approach HAES as a concept, one of the things you have to learn to deal with is this toxic atmosphere of health care. Some of us are fortunate to find amazing doctors – some of us are not.
In this case, it is not body acceptance that failed Jess Weiner – it’s Jess Weiner who failed herself.
And yet, the blame, oh, the profitable blame game. There’s been a rash of HAES-positive stories lately. Weren’t we expecting this kind of backlash:
Oh, noes! Self-acceptance is actually bad and dangerous and kicks puppies! News at eleven!
Yes, y’all, that’s hyperbole. Sometimes it happens.
Weiner’s article goes on to relate some actual factual health stats – and how, 18 months later, she got her actual factual health stats into a healthier zone! (Note, please, that her numbers were never actually signalling poor health – rather, she was pre-pre-diabetic.) But, she lamented, she’d only lost X number of pounds! Her doctor gives her the most valuable feedback to be found in the whole four pages of this “inspirational” article.
“Jess, you’re focusing on the wrong number,” Dr. Verma said. “Health is more than just your weight.”
THAT sounds like a little bit of HAES right there. Weiner lost a small amount of weight but she changed her behaviors in a way that had a significant impact on her actual health. The weight is incidental.
Who gives a shit about the weight she lost?
Apparently, Weiner, who has a new weight loss goal – because, hey, what does genuine health improvement have to offer in the face of pounds lost – gives a shit; she conflates health and weight while at the same time castigating those who struggle to accept and love their bodies.
Love yourself, she seems to say, but only if you are healthy according to society’s mandate. Love your, she seems to say, but not too much.
She states that she was surprised other fat women were confessing to her that they also wanted to lose weight to be healthy. Status quo is the new status quo!
The truth is that HAES is about focusing on what is right for your individual body and paying attention to your actual health. Weight is not any sort of reliable indicator of health (though rapid weight loss or gain can signal that something is going on with your system). If you make a bunch of sustainable changes that make you happy and healthy and you lose some weight? That’s incidental. If you make those same changes and you gain some weight? That’s incidental. If nothing at all changes regarding your weight? That is also incidental. What’s important is that you feel good and that you manage your health – both physical and mental – in a way that is right for you. And if something happens and you cannot sustain those changes? That is okay, too.
Health is not a moral imperative. Being unhealthy by the current societal standard does not mean you are any less worthy of being treated well, especially by medical professionals. It doesn’t mean anyone is entitled to think they are better than you based on body size.
And that’s what this is about, isn’t it? Finding a new way to feel superior to other people? Health prescriptivism is bullshit. The people who say they are “just concerned” about your health are not really concerned about your health – if they were, they’d actually listen instead of trying to force their so-called solution down our throats. I’m just going to say it: I’m sure Jess Weiner means well but I don’t believe for one hot minute that she actually cares about my health. I think she cares about her book sales and her reputation and her own mixed up priorities. I think she cares about people, but in that kind of gross “I know better than you” paternalistic way that skeeves people out when they’re observing it. Jess Weiner wants you to take care of yourself – but not in the way that seems right to you as the inhabitant and owner of your body and identity.
When she’s ignoring the most sensible thing a doctor can say – especially given how many fatties would do actual mayhem to have access to a doctor who cared about their health more than their weight – Jess Weiner is being a role model. Of a really terrible kind. Because she’s encouraging people to, despite her assurances to the contrary, believe that there is something wrong, something desperately wrong with them if they are fat – she’s just shifting the focus. Fuckability is still the scale – but now it’s labeled “healthy”.
The weight Weiner lost is insignificant to the greater thing that she lost – her freedom from body hate.
You can blame body acceptance, Jess Weiner. Go on. Body acceptance will still be here if you ever want an alternative to shame and body hate and, hell, not finding clothes. HAES will be here, encouraging people to take ownership of their health, to know what’s going on with their bodies, to seek real and meaningful data points about their own status. Fat acceptance will still be here, providing a radical space for those who have tired of the roller coaster the multi-billion dollar diet industry has everyone queued up to ride.
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