It’s interesting but I have an opposite impression. I have only recently discovered FA and I love, love, love HAES – it was almost like I finally got a permission to focus on my health and not worry about my weight so much. But the more I’ve been reading blogs on the fatosphere, the more I felt that fat acceptance is about the right to eat whatever you want pretty much without regard for your health. No food is bad is the new mantra. People take issues with writers such as Michael Pollan who advocates eating whole, local foods. Any studies that even broach the subject of weight are automatically attacked. The Fat Nutritionist tells you to each what and how much you want (and what if I want to eat a tub of lard every morning?). I’ve become increasingly dissapointed in the message being portrayed and I’m not surprised that Ms. Weiner had the same (maybe wrong) impression, that fat acceptance is not so much about health but about defending the right to eat junk. I know that’s a simplistic portrayal of the whole movement, but that’s just my impression after reading some of the blogs. I’m all for intuitive eating and HAES and taking care of your body and your right to do with it what you want, but let’s not pretend that all food is equal and its quality has no impact on your health. I’m not surprised that her perception of the FA movement is so unfair to it, I’ve been having a similar reaction to some of the posts. And I thought that some of the bloggers have not read Linda Bacon’s book either. And let’s not forget how fatties who do take care of their health are mockingly called “good fatties”. It seems that unless you want to eat whatever you are not part of FA.

I want to use Agnes’s comment here as a jumping off point. Because, obvs, there are people who do get this impression. I’m glad Agnes left her comment.

Here’s the thing: Fat Acceptance is not about prescriptive health. Whether or not you are healthy by some arbitrary standard has nothing to do with your worth as a person and your right to be treated like a human being. You CAN eat whatever you want, because you are an adult and you get to make your own decisions. Fat acceptance is NOT about health – it’s about accepting fat as just another body that is capable of doing many different things. It is about how bodies are not public property. It is about how doctors who see only a weight on a data sheet are actively harming their patients through lack of quality care. It’s about not being able to access clothes.

I’m not pretending when I say food has no moral value. And, really, that’s a simplified statement because I don’t think we should be mean to our food – that’s the morality by which *I* judge food. More accurate perhaps, would be: Food has no universal moral value. Cupcakes are not evil. Full-fat salad dressing is not inspired by whatever devil one might believe in. Jowl bacon is not personally out to get you and your family. Food has no inherent moral value of that nature.

ALL FOOD provides some form of nutrition to your body. So, you know what? If the option is no food or that tub of lard in the morning? I am going to support your choice to eat a tub of lard. I’m also going to suggest not twisting yourself up into knots over the tub of lard because food guilt about what we ate is such a waste of emotion and energy. It’s food. You need it to live. We need not be ascetics – self-denial is not a universal virtue.

I think it’s preposterous to claim that anyone is pretending some foods are not more healthful – but it’s also a) dependent on your notion of health and b) none of anyone else’s goddamn business what a person chooses to eat. So my notion of health, as I practice HAES, involves a hell of a lot of mental health because that’s come closer to killing me than anything else ever. If my mental health is improved by intuitive eating, which is it, I’m going to go that route. No one, including the fattest of fat people in the world, is required to eat only healthful foods. What I put in my mouth is not your business to judge.

Fat Acceptance isn’t pretending all foods have the same nutitive values. It’s saying you are allowed to eat, you are allowed to eat whatever you want, and that eating is better than starving yourself.

The whole good fatties/bad fatties… maybe I’m reading the wrong blogs but I have NEVER heard an actual fat acceptance blogger make any sort of claim in that direction even though it’s a straw fatty constantly raised by those who are “concerned” about how “unhealthy” fat acceptance is. I practice HAES and I love movement and I am just a plain old fatty. I try to constantly remind readers here that there is no imperative to do any of this stuff – you practice HAES because it makes you feel better, not because it makes you better than anyone else. And the reasons people choose not to practice HAES are infinite – just like the reasons people are fat in the first place.

My issue with Michael Pollan – which is something he himself raises in his books – is that his is an INCREDIBLY privileged way of eating that isn’t possible for everyone. That doesn’t change the value of his work. But he’s also beating that “cure for fat” drum a little harder with each publication and it’s disappointing. I think it’s totally valid to take issue with that since fat isn’t a disease. It need not be a swoon – one can critique his framework and still value his work. Just saying.

The message of fat acceptance is that fat bodies deserve just as much respect as any other body. It’s a surprisingly radical notion. Our diet culture has sunk its teeth into us so thoroughly that “you can eat whatever you want” is taken to be a BAD THING. Oh no! A philosophy that tells us to make our own choices and be responsible for them! Oh terrible! How dangerous to be in charge of our own bodies it must be!

Agnes, I’ve addressed the issue at large (heh) but let me comment specifically on something you said in your comment; that is: I know that’s a simplistic portrayal of the whole movement, but that’s just my impression after reading some of the blogs.

If you KNOW it is a simplistic portrayal, then I’d wager you already know that’s not what Fat Acceptance is about. If it’s what you’ve got from “some” of the blogs, then it certainly isn’t enough info to say anything about what fat acceptance as a whole is about anyway. It sounds like you are cherry picking and, yes, reading things too simplistically.

Yes, people can eat whatever they want. It’s way more radical than I realized when I first got involved in fat acceptance. Yes, fat people can be healthy – and thin people can be unhealthy – and all of them deserve to be treated well by doctors and not mocked on cheap sitcoms. We’re all people. We all deserve to be treated as such – regardless of health.

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  1. Ruth
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Basically- health value (grams of fiber, nutrients etc) does not = moral value.
    Yeah some foods are healthier than others, but eating healthfully isnt always the same as eating well. If you embraced HAES in that you ate a barrel of lard every morning you would rapidly feel unwell and would then pick something that made you feel better-not because the barrel of lard was morally deficient but in that something else would make you feel better. And maybe youd get therapy to help you understand why you always wanted only lard.

    Michael Pollan depresses me. Yeah you have some good points. You are not the holy scripture when it comes to food though. Can I just take what I find useful and move on from your work? Thanks.

    And maybe we should defend the right to eat junk? Maybe not only junk but the right just to eat. And not feel guilty. Sounds necessary to me..

  2. Liz
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    This. This is the best characterization of the FA movement I’ve ever read.

    The attitude shared by the commenter is the precise set of ideas that makes me afraid to talk about FA with people who know nothing about it. As a fat woman, people–and by people, I mean coworkers and strangers but also family and friends which is what makes it so heartbreaking–will simply assume that I embrace FA as an excuse to shove bacon and bon bons in my mouth while sitting on the couch all day.

    Yet, since embracing FA I have improved my mental health so much that I would say I could never have been a whole, confident, capable person without it.

    I see people of all sizes experiencing guilt 3-5 times a day, at every meal and with every snack. They build a bubble of guilt around this one activity that we can’t NOT do: eating. That’s not living. That’s not health. Nobody deserves to live like that.

    To let go of that, you’re going to have to learn how to eat an entire plate of french fries and not judge yourself. That’s easily misread as “Yay! I can eat whatever I want.” But it is just not the same thing.

    Living with that self-hatred would’ve killed me far sooner than shoving bacon in my mouth twice a week, skipping my yoga class every now and then and being a 4’11 275 lb woman. FA and HAES saved me.

  3. Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I have found that “eat whatever you want” has meant that over time, what I want might be a perfectly ripe apricot, or a hot fudge sundae, or a vegan reuben or fries or a bowl of miso soup or any number of things. It hasn’t meant, eat only foods that are “unhealthy” — it has meant include those foods so deprivation doesn’t get triggered.
    I don’t eat everything I want. Sometimes, I eat what is there, not exactly what I want.
    I might say to myself, in January, that what I want, really want, is a perfectly ripe fresh peach from Eastern Washington. That can’t happen. I can have a canned or frozen peach, I can have a peach from New Zealand or maybe Chile. And I might say to myself, “I really want a kit-kat bar.” But I also know that I’ll be having lunch out with friends at a restaurant I like and I’m really looking forward to the pan-seared salmon with wasabi cream on it, so I would rather be hungry enough to enjoy the salmon in an hour.
    Can we just have Ellyn Satter do a gigantic intervention with everyone?

    • ako
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      This! I want fruits and vegetables and sweets and cheeses and whole grains and white starches and lots of different foods! I don’t want to live entirely off sweets, because that makes me feel unwell and means I don’t get to eat many yummy things! I’ve seen a lot of people assume that “Whatever you want” means “Butter-fried pixie sticks every single meal”, which strikes me as deeply weird. Maybe there are a few people who want that, and anyone who has the urge to try that is certainly free to, but why assume that it’s the universal default desire?

      • Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

        butter-fried pixie sticks? i don’t know, unless you were able to get some kind of more edible paper…. heh.

        but this idea is making me giggle.

        • Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:18 am | Permalink

          I have pixie stix in my cupboard right now. I also have vanilla ice cream. I wonder what that combo would taste like?

          Butter + pixie stix doesn’t sound great to me, but something coated in pixie stix and then fried, like a, well, never mind, that doesn’t sound good either.

          I think a pixie stick recipe contest sounds like a fantastic idea. I can think of some cocktails that might benefit from being rimmed by pixie stick dust around the rim of the glass.

  4. April Auburn
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    “So my notion of health, as I practice HAES, involves a hell of a lot of mental health because that’s come closer to killing me than anything else ever. If my mental health is improved by intuitive eating, which is it, I’m going to go that route.”

    Thank you for this statement. I’ve been frustrated watching my weight go up through the long struggle to find the right anti-depressants. I’ve finally got something that’s working for me now. Making myself crazy over food would only be counter-productive. My doctor has been nagging me about my weight more recently as I’ve been having knee problems. Exercise with a physical therapist is helping my knees. I’d like to keep the emphasis there rather than on food.

    • Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      “So my notion of health, as I practice HAES, involves a hell of a lot of mental health because that’s come closer to killing me than anything else ever. If my mental health is improved by intuitive eating, which is it, I’m going to go that route.”

      Another thank you for this. This has been true for me as well and it is nice to have someone put it so clearly.

      • E
        Posted August 11, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

        SO TRUE! Sometimes I feel like I’m not concerned about my health because I’m not doing the things that people who are concerned about their health are doing. But as some one with a history of eating disorders, eating in a not disordered way IS one of the ways in which I am taking care of my health, and nit-picking over nutritional value would interfere with my success with eating.

        I would guess that the vast majority of people care about their health, but they have different capacities for doing anything about it based on an endless list of factors. As has been stated, no one is required to be healthy, but I think that our culture’s limited definition of what “being healthy” means makes a whole lot of of people who do care actually look like they don’t.

  5. Shinobi
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    It seems like Agnes has fallen into the common trap that so many people tumble into upon first thinking about intuitive eating. Since they have spent such a long time restricting their food intake to only the morally righteous they are sure that if they eat “Whatever they want” it will consist almost entirely of M&Ms Cheetos and whatever they can fit in a deep fryer.

    Eventually though, you will want a salad. I know, salad, that disgusting thing that we eat because we are on diets and it doesn’t taste that good. If you eat whatever you want for long enough, one day, you’ll wake up and you’ll really want a salad with low fat vinaigrette, or an apple. The other day I had fresh cherries for breakfast, out of all the food in the world, that is what I wanted.

    Your body wants variety, it wants to be healthy by getting all the nutrients it needs, and it will help you decide what to eat. It really doesn’t only want to eat french fries, and chocolate cake it just feels that way because you never let it.

    • Lonie Mc
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      You nailed it, Shinobi. I used to binge, so I was really scared of letting myself eat whatever I wanted. I thought I would binge on junk food all the time. And I did for a little while, until I realized that it didn’t feel good. Now, I eat a wide variety of foods (most of them “healthy”) in a much smaller quantity than I did when I was dieting.

      I still get the urge to binge every once in awhile. I found that the best way to handle it was full permission: I’ll go get piles of my favorite junk food and let myself eat it all if I want. When I do that, I don’t eat more than a taste or two. If I tell myself I can’t have it, that will bring on a binge for sure.

      For me, intuitive eating meant permission to feed my body whether it was craving physically or mentally. By giving myself mental permission, I have found that I respond better physically.

      And today, I view fruits and veggies as treats. I went to the farmer’s market last week: fresh peaches, green tomatoes, squash. Yum! Yum! Yum! That didn’t happen during dieting. Cherries are da bomb!

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      I just finished my breakfast of fresh cherries. Fresh cherries are the best.

      And the other day, I totally ate an entire container of salad greens. Because I was piling it onto a plate and knew that I wanted more than just that, and the revelation that “hey, I have the right to eat out of the container until I am satisfied!” was mind blowing. And you know what satisfied my hunger? The last freakin’ bite of greens I chased out of the corners of the container, and I put away the rest of my dinner to take for breakfast the next day. Those were some tasty salad greens.

  6. Katie
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Yeah, you really don’t have to “want to eat whatever” to be a part of FA. I’ve never gotten that impression. Being a part of FA is pretty simple: you just have to recognize that fat people have the same rights to bodily autonomy as everyone else, and this includes what they eat. Its not eating a tub of lard for breakfast, its only withholding judgment if someone else chooses to do so. You’re free to structure your intake as “healthy” as you like, as long as you don’t require the same of everyone else.

  7. Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    You know, allowing myself to eat whatever I want has given me the ability to stop eating whenever I want, too, because I now realize that I can always eat more of [whatever it is I want] at another time. That’s a huge change in my thinking after years of dieting. Just this morning, I ate three quarters of my bagel and decided I didn’t want the last quarter, so I set it aside. An hour later, I did want it, so I ate it then.

    I’ve definitely found myself struggling with FA and health at points, especially having been told that I have high c-reactive protein levels and that weight loss is the only way to lower them (if someone can point me to non-weight-loss methods of reducing CRP, I’d be forever grateful). I still sometimes struggle with wanting to eat only chips for dinner or only being able to afford ramen for a dinner for a week or two, but I think I also need to be able to accept that sometimes I want chips and sometimes money is tight and I’m doing the best I can balancing that with vegetables and protein, etc.

    *sigh* and Michael Pollan. I stopped having any respect for him when he called obesity an eating disorder. I wish I could find that quotation now, but it was on his website about a year ago and I really just can’t get past that. I do not have an eating disorder. My weight is not symptomatic of an eating disorder. And I see no reason to listen to anyone who does not believe either of those statements.

    • TeleriB
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      I had that “must eat it NOW or never have it again!” mindset *without* the years of dieting. I was always just horribly jealous about my food and the threat that someone else might eat it (like cookies from a household tin) was intolerable. And we had food security. I don’t know where it came from.

      And it was the same thing – one day, a lightbulb went on that just because a coworker brings in cheesecake, I don’t have to eat it if I don’t feel like cheesecake. If I want cheesecake later, I make enough money to go *buy cheesecake* and then eat *that.*

  8. Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    The thing that bothers me most about the position that Agnes is taking is the notion that when people are given permission to eat whatever they want, the only thing they’ll eat is “junk”. It’s the idea that people, and FAT people especially, can’t be trusted to regulate their own food intake. Not only can they not be trusted to regulate their own food intake, but fat people are INCAPABLE of doing so and without an elaborate system of imposed food rules and the cultural expectation of thinness (or “health”) fat people would CONSUME THE WORLD.

    I mean CLEARLY, if I have permission to eat a giant tub of lard for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, THAT’S WHAT I’M GOING TO DO. Because, really, WHO DOESN’T LOVE LARD? AMIRITE?!


    • Christine
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      This attitude always kills me. I’ve never had a greater desire for “bad” food then when I was dieting and restricting myself to 1000 calories a day. Seriously, there were days when I would have a bag of baby carrots and then five cookies. I weighed all of 10 lbs less then than I do now, and I eat whatever the heck I want now, but I try to stop when I’m full. Imagine!

      • Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink


      • Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        Some book I read in the last year (probably Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata, but it might have been on a blog somewhere) talked about how when you are dieting, it actually affects your mental process and the deprivation makes you want to go out and eat more high fat and high sugar foods. Your experience (and mine as well) seems to attest to that.

        • Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

          I’d say it’s also your body wanting as many quick calories as possible. When I was restricting, my thing was doughnuts. Doughnuts provided the fatty, sugary energy my body desperately needed.

          People like Agnes don’t understand that our bodies are invested in keeping us alive. If I’m craving a tub of lard, there’s a reason for it.

  9. Peregrine
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    So my notion of health, as I practice HAES, involves a hell of a lot of mental health because that’s come closer to killing me than anything else ever.

    Yes. This. So much.

    Also ditto on the antidepressants. I gain a lot of stomach weight on them and then feel self-conscious and fear I look pregnant. But I’m functional – even happy – and not suicidal anymore. It’s important to focus on the positive and important parts.

  10. Christine
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    This! So much this!

    Also, can I say, I lived in Central Florida for all of 8 months between college and law school and was depressed and miserable. But now sometimes I wished that I were there, but only so we could be actual factual friends, because lady, you are awesome. (And I mean this is a completely non creepy way, but really! You and Lesley write two of the best blogs I read.)

  11. Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I think for a lot of people moving from the scarcity model to an abundance model is terrifying.

    And I work in corporate finance, so I’ve seen this same response work out in budgets, also.

    The thing that you have to tell someone who’s been stuck in a scarcity model for so long is that yes, it’s okay, you don’t have to hold on to your money so tightly, you don’t have to eat all the lard now, it’s not going anywhere and will still be here later. Use what you want when you want to.

    Although I had an amusing (to me) interaction with a new coworker yesterday, because part of eating what I want, when I want, means that sometimes for breakfast I’ll have a pork chop, brown rice, an apple and cheddar cheese and this blew the coworker’s mind. And then the coworker tried to lay some crazy mix of WASP foodways and diet ‘wisdom’ on me that lead to the conversation ending with coworker all, “But you really should restrict yourself to cereal first thing in the morning to start your metabolism!” and myself doing a serious side-eye and saying, “Rice is a cereal.”

    (P.S., anyone else think plain brown rice with nothing, not even salt, is the tastiest thing on the planet? Or is that just me?)

    • Shinobi
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Y’know I never thought to apply this model to my personal budgeting issues, but it totally explains why I suck with money.

      • Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        With money, what I have is seperate savings accounts for:
        + red-level emergencies, the kind that you hope never happen like, hit by a bus and need to pay ambulance bill, roof caving in, et cetera,
        + for yellow-level emergencies, the kind that happen a couple times a year like, unexpected tax bill, flat tire on my car, and
        + for nerd emergencies, the kind where there’s a limited edition of 500 Doctor Who themed lunchbox I need RIGHT THE HELL NOW.

        I throw a set amount in each pay check. And I have the exact same guilt reaction sometimes when I take money out of those account because I’m doing something ‘bad’ because I’m spending my savings, and I have to tell myself, “No, this is why you saved the money.”

    • empressmitzi
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      I think you’ve nailed it. I got the impression she’s still stuck in the “but if I eat whatever I want I’ll EAT THE WORLD!” mode of thinking about food – hence the tub of lard example.

      And I understand where she’s coming from, it took me a while to get my head around why giving yourself permission to eat whatever you want is such an important step in learning to eat intuitively. I’m still working on it – I’m a recovering dieter from way back and my mother never stopped dieting, so I’m still bumping up against the ‘scarcity is good’ mentality. Mom recently lost 40 pounds and is quietly but obviously annoyed that I’m not following her example, and it’s hard for me to think of a way to defend my choice because I know whatever I say will be dismissed as an ‘excuse’ to remain fat.

    • Emerald
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      I like my brown rice seasoned.. But I will level with you on ‘weird’ breakfasts. There’s a particular kind of salmon paté I like, and I was getting a couple of jars from a deli near me recently, and I noticed some oatcakes and took them to the counter as well, and I was telling the woman as she took my money ‘That’s next week’s breakfast sorted, then!’ And she kind of laughed and remarked on how unusual that was. But, thing with me is, eating cereal for breakfast (even oat-based ones – and I can’t stand the texture of porridge anyway) is a great way for me to be absolutely ravenous by about 10am. Oatcakes with some kind of protein, I’ve discovered, keep me going comfortably till midday, and I like the paté at that hour of the morning better than I like cheese.

      Cereal? It’s just what a lot of people are used to. The Victorians used to eat kidneys and grilled turbot and kedgeree (mm, kedgeree, there’s a dish that should make a comeback) and all sorts of breakfast dishes lots of people would find odd today. Each to their own.

      • Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

        Both of my kids prefer savory dishes to break their fast and are always polishing off the leftovers from last night’s dinner for breakfast. Seriously, who’m I to judge, just because I prefer something with a little sweetness to it?

        • Amber
          Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

          Hehe… I think that’s a sign of good food: When it can be eaten as cold leftovers for breakfast. :p

        • peregrin8
          Posted August 13, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

          see, THAT is intuitive eating! Your kids know they feel better with a balanced breakfast that has some protein in it. Advertising etc. hasn’t talked them out of listening to their bodies yet!

    • Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

      BROWN RICE IS DELICIOUS. I had never eaten it until a few years ago (believing it to be gross because it was ‘healthy’), but now I’m hooked.

      The same goes for brussel sprouts.

      • Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:23 am | Permalink

        When my husband makes brown rice, he sautees it in a bit of olive oil first, then adds the water and salt. There are times when I just want a bowl of his brown rice and nothing else. Maybe with a bit of earth balance on it, and a little more salt. Or for breakfast with a pat of earth balance and a sprinkle of sugar.

  12. Andrea
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I think the issue with FA, HAAS, and food is that they’re really three separate issues that bump up against each other and often overlap.

    Many who are involved in FA and HAAS have been involved in abusive relationships with both food and their bodies. (Many people that AREN’T involved also are.) When I think about FA, it’s strictly about the physical aspects of my body – it’s about looking in the mirror and accepting that this is the vessel that moves me through the world and it is not crappy. When I think about HAAS, I think about the positive things I can do for my body through exercise, eating whole foods, and resting – with none of those things resulting in a number on the scale decreasing. When I think about food, I’m faced with a whole bunch of complex issues that I’ve built up – bad foods and good foods and emotional eating and binging.

    I think we can all agree that as humans, we can master all or none or some – for me, as an emotional challenge, it’s exhausting for me to win at all 100% of the time – if one day I can look in the mirror and like what I see and cherish that by having a lunch of whole foods and biking 6 miles after work (sup, yesterday!) I can’t consider my day or my life in a consistent state of fail because I also rewarded myself with (non-organic, full fat and calorie, made by Lord Voldemort himself) ice cream after I finished my goddamned Transformational Grammar final last night.

    • ako
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, HAES isn’t the same as fat acceptance. They fit well together, but there’s no FA rule saying that you have to be practicing HAES. There’s no rule saying you have to make an effort to be healthy at all. I think that confuses people, because there isn’t any precedent for “Health is a good thing that you’ll probably want to pursue in whatever way suits your circumstances and abilities, but freedom comes first, so you’re always free to pursue health or not”, and a lot of people assume rejecting coercion is the same as rejecting health.

  13. ako
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    The whole good fatties/bad fatties… maybe I’m reading the wrong blogs but I have NEVER heard an actual fat acceptance blogger make any sort of claim in that direction even though it’s a straw fatty constantly raised by those who are “concerned” about how “unhealthy” fat acceptance is.

    The conversations I’ve seen on the good fatty/bad fatty thing don’t seem to be mocking people for taking care of their health, but talking about an entirely different phenomenon, namely the “It’s okay if I’m fat because I exercise this much and eat these things!” idea. And it’s not mocking people who exercise and eat food on the “good” list, and rarely even mocking people who hold the “That’s what makes it okay for me to be fat” idea, but saying something more complicated. The point is to take apart the idea that people need to be excused their fatness, or that acceptance and decent treatment are only okay for fat people who’s adhered to the rules of health. It’s a bit complicated, and tends to lead to some people feeling targeted, much the way conversations about high heels or shaving on feminist blogs lead to a certain degree of “Wait, are you going after society for demanding that stuff, or me for doing the socially approved of stuff?” confusion.

    I can actually see where she’s getting these impressions, because many of my first impressions of fat acceptance were “Eat whatever you want? That means mainlining fat!”, “Defending the right to eat junk foods, and claiming they’re actual food instead of poisonous garbage is the same as telling people to eat them!”, and “The whole Good Fattie thing is going after people who exercise!” But bits of it stuck out for me as significant and meaningful, so I kept reading and got a better understanding.

    (Maybe there could be a dedicated fat acceptance 101 blog?)

  14. Novel
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    A pesco-vegetarian friend, when I quoted The Fat Nutritionist, in response to my friend’s self-righteous Michael Pollan parroting (as I was eating some bacon for breakfast), called me a “food libertarian”. I am very annoyed by libertarians, but if there is anything in the world libertarianism can be applied to, surely it is an individual’s choices about what to put in her body.

    No, I don’t diet (ED, and dieting is a good way to cause a relapse but not much else), and yes, I eat whatever I want when I feel hungry, and then I stop. This doesn’t make me morally any worse or better than my friend who is on a diet. Though I suspect it does make me a lot *happier*, because I am the closest to relating to food in a healthy way that I have ever been, and she feels the need to criticize my food choices for being morally inadequate.

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      I am responding to your specific comment because I think it may further harmful and untrue stereotypes of non-meat-eaters. Self-righteous moralizing about food is in no way limited to any one type or group of eaters.

      • JupiterPluvius
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

        I am responding to your comment because I think you are undermining your own argument. Novel is talking about a specific friend, and what that specific friend said; you are the one making this into some Vegetarians vs. Carnivores debate.

        • TR
          Posted August 10, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

          I am responding to your comment because I totally amuse myself. Carnivores eat only meat and so I think it’s really more of a Vegetarians vs. Omnivores debate. Framing it as Vegetarians vs. Carnivores furthers harmful and untrue stereotypes about how people who eat meant don’t eat any vegetables (or fruit!) at all!


          • Posted August 10, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

            I am responding to your comment because it made me snort black raspberry ice cream up my nose. Brr.

            (grabs a tissue and continues giggling)

          • JupiterPluvius
            Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Permalink



          • Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:27 am | Permalink

            My daughter learned about omnivores, carnivores and herbivores last year in Kindergarten.

            We are omnivores. But anyone who insists on calling me a carnivore will be called an herbivore. I might actually shout it, like this: “HERBIVORE!”

          • Denise
            Posted August 13, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

            I am responding to your comment because you totally amuse me, too. Some of us really are carnivores, because vegetables cause us varying degrees of digestive distress, and meat does not. However, I only care what I eat, not what anyone else eats, and I am not into name-calling, anyway.

        • Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

          This whole sequence amused me, but–saying “my pesco-vegetarian friend” does sort of make it “about” vegetarianism, just as saying, “my female coworker was talking about shopping” or “my fat friend was eating donuts” or “my gay guy friend is doing a musical” makes it sort of “about” those characteristics. It’s calling attention to the category as meaningful and relevant.

          • silentbeep
            Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

            It makes it about vegetarianism only so far as the friend made it about vegetarianism – it’s called being preachy about one’s food choices and judging other people for not making those same choices. The description is actually pertinent to the story.

          • Posted August 11, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

            Silentbeep–well, that’s my point. The comment IS presenting (pesco-)vegetarianism as pertinent to the story; it’s not all in Anonymous’s head, as it seemed to me that JupiterPluvius was implying. (I can’t believe I’m defending someone posting anonymously.) I think that in social justice, we don’t want to dismiss these kinds of subtle tactics, since they’re so often used against us.

            I don’t want to get too sidetracked about whether pesco-vegetarians (or for that matter, primarians, low-carbers, or others with a “system”) are on average more judgy about other people’s food choices, because that can easily turn into a big derail that I’m not even particularly invested in.

            I liked your blog, by the way. I was sorry to see it disappear, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

          • Novel
            Posted August 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

            My pesco-vegetarian friend was objecting to my bacon consumption because it was meat, but then defended her criticism by quoting Michael Pollan. It’s relevant because her objection seemed to be based on the fact that she’s chosen not to eat meat that isn’t from the sea, whereas I have made the choice to include the meats I am not allergic to in my diet.

            The thing that bothered me was not that she objected to me eating meat, because that’s a personal thing. It bothered me a little bit that she would say something out loud to me about it, though, and then a LOT that her go-to rejoinder when I pointed out that I’m eating in a way that works for me, was that my eating practices make me a food libertarian–that essentially eating in a way that works for me is selfish, and that I need rules to keep me eating in a way my friend thinks is healthy.

          • Posted August 11, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

            It’s funny how doing stuff for your health isn’t considered “selfish”.

          • JupiterPluvius
            Posted August 11, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

            closetpuritan, I think I was unclear.

            What I meant in that comment was that it didn’t seem to me that Novel was presenting the story as an illustration of How Silly Pesco-Vegetarians Are, And How Omnivores Are So Much Better, which is how I took the anonymous person’s comment to have parsed Novel, but as Novel’s illustration of how something that a friend saw as a bug in Novel’s approach to food was actually a feature for Novel.

            Since the story was about a pesco-vegetarian critiquing someone for eating meat, obviously being a pesco-vegetarian wasn’t irrelevant, but it also didn’t seem like Novel’s inclusion of that was tendentious in any way.

          • Posted August 12, 2011 at 7:16 am | Permalink

            Sorry, I’m still not being very clear either, I guess. I never thought that “vegetarians are judgy” was the point of the story, but how often are feminists told when they focus on misogyny that is a minor detail in a story that they are “missing the point”?

            I was actually amused at first too, but the more I thought about it the more I thought that I wouldn’t want that kind of response directed at me. The vegetarian in this case really was being judgy, and it was related to their vegetarianism, and this was what Novel was trying to communicate by mentioning it. Beyond that, it’s early in the morning and my thoughts aren’t very clear.

  15. silentbeep
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    “But the more I’ve been reading blogs on the fatosphere, the more I felt that fat acceptance is about the right to eat whatever you want pretty much without regard for your health.”

    Um, no not really. It’s about not policing other people’s bodies. It’s a movement based in bodily autonomy, which is partially the idea that grown adults can figure out what to eat it on their own, without shame and social policing. It’s an optimistic movement based on the idea that people can figure this stuff out without social punishment. This means not making other people’s food choices, your business.

    It’s an anti-judgment movement not an anti-discernment movement – there is a difference. This is not a movement against critical thinking when it comes to eating and/or nutrition either. You can be thoughtful about food and still support FA.

    • hopefulandfree
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      “It’s about not policing other people’s bodies. It’s a movement based in bodily autonomy…”

      This speaks to the heart of movements toward increasing freedom as individuals who also happen to live in social groups: as humans who have complex needs for autonomy and interdependence.

      Great post, interesting discussion.

  16. Ella
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for writing this.

  17. Heather
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    It is amazing how the mere assertion that fatties deserve to be treated (and treat themselves) with the same dignity as everyone else is do revolutionary.

  18. Annie
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    “I’ve seen a lot of people assume that “Whatever you want” means “Butter-fried pixie sticks every single meal”, which strikes me as deeply weird. Maybe there are a few people who want that, and anyone who has the urge to try that is certainly free to, but why assume that it’s the universal default desire?”

    Well the thing with going to HAES after dieting long term is that that IS the kind of thing that most people want, and if you’re still in a “dieting mentality” it’s easy to imagine that that’s all there is to it. When I stopped dieting, I spent a good month binging on pop tarts and chips and cookies. And that’s all I wanted for that whole time. But after a while, I was starting to crave other things – pizza and pop and candy, sure, but also salad and fresh fruit and brown rice and tofu and other “healthy” foods.

    Not restricting yourself means that you eventually become accustomed to listening to what your body needs, which allows you to actually eat what’s best for you. And sometimes what’s best for me is an oreo cakester for breakfast. Sue me.

    • ako
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      Good point. I forgot how much worse vegetables taste when coated in guilt and obligation sauce.

      • RachelB
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        I forgot how much worse vegetables taste when coated in guilt and obligation sauce.

        @ako, I <3 that formulation so much.

      • Posted August 10, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        ako FTW!

      • JupiterPluvius
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

        thousands of tiny hands applaud your comment

    • Posted August 11, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      This is so true. It took me a while to realize that I really don’t like poptarts or fried food. They make me feel icky. But I can eat them if I want to, so I have to, right?

  19. Annie
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, to clarify: “…that IS the kind of thing that most people want AT FIRST, and if you’re still in a…”

  20. JupiterPluvius
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Yes, without the Body Police there will be nothing but rioting in the supermarket aisles! OUR COVER HAS BEEN BLOWN!

    No, seriously, I was not seeing where people got from “no food is morally bad” to “body acceptance encourages people to dismiss their personal health concerns” so I appreciate the unpacking. I see it now; if you take the mainstream cultural meme that certain foods are “sinful” and “indulgent” and blah blah, and take it to its logical extremity, the idea that only rigorous self-denial keeps people from eating nothing but Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs by the vatload is the result.

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      “… the idea that only rigorous self-denial keeps people from eating nothing but Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs by the vatload is the result.”

      I’d rather have Krusty-O’s! There’s a jagged metal O in every box!

    • Novel
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      Whilst not touching the above comment thread because it’s so perfect–I think that was my friend’s point. That if I eat food, stuff I like, as much as I want, I will clearly eat a diet of nothing but bacon and butter (sadly, that might be at least close to the truth) and chocolate, and that my response to a lack of food rules will necessarily be an unhealthy one.

      I think this has a lot more to do with my friend’s attempts at weight-loss dieting (and her attitude that exercise is something you scarify your soul with rather than something you enjoy–which for me it is) than to do with me. I am an average-looking woman with an omnivorous diet heavy on legumes, leafy greens, and coffee, and a five to six times a week gym habit.

      I feel awesome. Except when people I love are criticizing my hard-won and long overdue healthy approach to eating.

    • Nineveh
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      “and take it to its logical extremity, the idea that only rigorous self-denial keeps people from eating nothing but Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs by the vatload is the result.”

      It’s pretty much the same logic as “If people don’t subscribe to religious sect X, what is to stop them from murdering people in their beds?”. The underlying idea being that we are all hideously sinful and only the threat of terrible punishment, whether that punishment is burning in Hell or being fat, will keep us in order. And we must be kept in order!

      It is, of course, utter rubbish, but it is very common rubbish.

    • Posted August 11, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

      if you take the mainstream cultural meme that certain foods are “sinful” and “indulgent” and blah blah

      … it makes perfect sense that “eating what you want to eat” is selfish. There has to be Another Reason[tm].

  21. JB
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    The only thing we know about each other before we “know” each other is the superficial stuff. We can’t know who eats what, who exercises and who doesn’t, etc. I think all this discussion about the “kinds of dietary habits” that make us larger is a hair that been split to the atom.

    Fatness is one of the few distinctions that we can’t hide from other people. I think that’s why people notice and attack it. We can’t hide our size. We can hide drug addiction, our spending habits, our abusive tendencies. We can get fake teeth, hair, breasts, eye color, eye lashes, muscle implants, etc. But we can’t hide our fat. So society attacks it. It sells products. It sells books. It sells fear.

    I think fat people fall victim to misdirection.

    Misdirection is a magician’s term. It’s a form of deception in which the attention of an audience is focused on one thing in order to distract its attention from another. I think it’s appropriate in this context because I believe most of use misdirection to avoid negative attention. Even within her comment, Agnes attempts to define a specific type of dietary behavior and label it negatively. Is her position that she’s fat, but at least she’s not the fat person that eats lard? Perhaps she’s OD’d on organic broccoli and wild salmon? I dunno. It just reminds me of the same old BS: “I might be , but not as as you.” Misdirection.

  22. Posted August 10, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this post and these comments. You all are so amazing.

    I definitely had moments when I first discovered FA where I was like, “I can eat a bucket of onion rings for dinner, because FA!” And I still do – less often, thanks to FA, but not never – hem and haw over what to eat in public because I fear the criticism of being a fat person who eats the “wrong” thing. But now that I have a better understanding and commitment to HAES, my body as a whole feels better. It’s still a fat body, but it’s a happy fat body and I’m happy being in it.

    For me, FA and HAES go hand-in-hand, but that doesn’t mean they’re inseparable or identical.

  23. Lillian
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Eating whatever I want means buying whatever I want at the grocery store. I fill my cart with tomatoes, salad greens, broccoli,onions and other produce. I buy a loaf or two of bread. I may buy cake or other ‘fatty foods’ or I may not. I like vegetables and I eat them because I enjoy them, not because I have to. Without dieting, I can eat as much as I want, no more no less.

    It also means that I don’t have to eat if I don’t want to. I can skip lunch to read a book or watch a movie. I don’t have to feel guilty for being too busy to eat.

    I still have to schedule meals because I have slow digestion and can’t sleep with a full stomach. It causes me to stay awake most of the night or it can even cause me to vomit if I do manage to sleep. I put it up as part of getting older. So I can’t eat a full meal after nine o’clock at night. I know a snack won’t interrupt my sleep.

    Eating what you want means knowing your body. It means knowing you can skip a meal when you are busy. It’s knowing that what times you can and can’t eat. It’s knowing what foods make you feel good and what foods feel bad. It’s not eating a bucket of lard for breakfast because eating a bucket of lard would make me feel sick all day and probably sick for a few days after.

  24. Posted August 10, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    I get so tired of being beaten with the ‘You hate Michael Pollan, you big fat meanie!” stick.

    It’s a matter of wheat vs chaff. There’s a lot I do agree with and find thoughtful/useful in Pollan’s early writings. I share many of his concerns about sustainability, for instance, and biodiversity.

    On the other hand, he seems utterly unable to imagine a world in which there are people who (gasp!) cannot afford to shop at Whole Paycheck… er… Foods. Sorry. My bad. He seems unable to believe in a world where people trying to make ends meet on too little money might choose to stock up on protein and carbohydrate-rich stick-to-your-ribs-for-cheap foods rather than use their food stamps on all organic vegetables at the farmers market (only a very few of which across the country will accept food stamps at all). He seems unable to fathom a single parent working two or three jobs to keep a roof over the family’s head choosing to bring home some KFC or Mickey D’s in hopes of not only getting food into the kids, but also to have a tiny sliver of time to talk to them before falling exhausted into bed. And by the way, if you ever inhale while walking past a Taco Bell, you will instantly become a fat, fatty, McFatterson and expire half an hour later from a combination of type II diabetes, heart failure, hypertension, and the bubonic plague.

    Okay, that last bit is a slight exaggeration.

    Still, his tendency is to judge harshly those who quite literally do not share the option he has of choosing the sort of sustainable, organic, EXPENSIVE foods he does is something I find extremely disheartening.

    So no, I don’t hate him. I don’t reject everything he has to say. I just think he lives in a surprisingly insular universe of privilege he is unwilling or unable to examine, and it seriously undermines even the best bits of his message. I wish that he would use his beliefs in sustainability, biodiversity, and slow food to encourage a world in which a whole lot more people had the option to make those choices (if they wish to) rather than using them as a stick to punish those who have no ability to eat the way he would rather they did.

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      Not to mention that Pollan can’t even conceive of someone who doesn’t live in an agriculture-rich, temperate-weather place like the Western coastal states (and specifically the westernmost parts of said states, since inland is a very different deal).

      But YEAH to everything in this comment, Twistie. I can remember when I had very little money to spend on food, and very little time in which to eat it (because that’s how life is when you have a low-paying job), you know what I looked for when seeking out food then? Stuff that would fill me up. Yeah, it’s true, the fries will keep you full longer than the salad, go fig, and when you don’t get to eat again for another five hours, that means something.

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

      To what extent, though, are you talking about Michael Pollan and to what extent are you talking about his fans? I have only read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and one or two essays published in the New York Times, and all of those were a little while ago, but I think that in that book, he does throw in some stuff about how the cheapest calories are in the middle of the store, and he definitely talks about how we make corn and therefore processed food cheap with our government subsidies. He’s mostly writing to a yuppie audience, not for everyone, and perhaps doesn’t make that clear enough–but I think he does have a right to write for whatever audience he wants to. And I think he does sometimes fall into the health=morality trap. But I think he does have sympathy at least for those who cannot afford to eat the way he does.

      • silentbeep
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

        As TR said above everything need not be a “swoon.” Being critical about certain things that someone has to say, doesn’t mean that person has nothing valuable to say.

        No one said he doesn’t have the “right” to write for yuppies.

        • Posted August 11, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink

          As TR said above everything need not be a “swoon.” Being critical about certain things that someone has to say, doesn’t mean that person has nothing valuable to say.

          Huh? Where did I indicate that I didn’t understand that? Fuck, I just criticized him for falling into the food=morality trap. I will also say that he lost me about the time he started coming out with a bunch of “rules”, because I find stating them as “rules” crazymaking. I’m just saying that I don’t think Michael Pollan is mad at poor people for not buying food that they can’t afford, so let’s criticize people for things they actually said instead of turning them into straw men. And despite what I have just said, I think it’s UNDERSTANDABLE that people get the impression he is judging people for not buying food that they can’t afford, because that’s the way some of his followers act.

      • RachelB
        Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        @Closetpuritan, Pollan has the capacity to get it right, which is why I’m really disappointed when he gets it wrong. He and Whole Foods CEO John Mackey did a point-counterpoint at the university I attend. Mackey came off as classist– so convinced that persuading middle- and upper-class people to pay more for “better” food (in his formulation, that meant organically grown and sold at Whole Foods) that he was willing to price working-class people out of buying groceries. Pollan really took Mackey to task for that.

        When I saw Pollan’s 2009 New York Times magazine feature last year, the thesis of which was something like, “Why don’t people cook anymore? If we just cooked all our food and spent our money on better ingredients, we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic,” my heart sank. Because I know he understands why cooking from scratch every night– even before you start to talk about how long the vegetables have been sitting in the bin at your supermarket– is a solution that works better if you have a certain measure of leisure and equipment. That measure might be one that most of his New York Times audience can handle. But that’s not everybody.

        To put it in terms of Ellyn Satter’s Hierarchy of Food Needs, I’m sorry to see someone who used to begin by acknowledging that a lot of people in this country have a problem with getting enough food join the already substantial chorus chorus of folks who are most concerned about relatively privileged people not getting sufficiently instrumental food.

        • Posted August 12, 2011 at 2:32 am | Permalink

          Heh. I cook the vast majority of my food from scratch now, because almost all convenience food contains ingredients that make my stomach push reject, and even stuff from the “better” restaurants is often questionably digestible for me. I’ve done this since about last November. Since then, I’ve had no fewer than THREE bouts of food poisoning from stuff I prepared to eat at home, from fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. If I’d only stuck with Mickey D’s, it wouldn’t have happened. :-P

          SO much goes into cooking at home, it’s just unbelievable. The equipment. The spices. The time. The energy. The money (including the budgetary wiggle room to throw out food that doesn’t turn out right). The storage space. The willingness of the people you live with to eat what you make. The ventilation necessary not to set off the smoke alarm with every friggin’ piece of toast. And on top of that, you have to have a spidey-sense for stuff that’s gone bad that you can’t see or smell or taste. Most of us don’t get to go “to market” every day to get the stuff that’s freshest and use only that food the day it’s bought; we have to store stuff for later. I’m not big on jumping down women’s throats for not wanting to take all that on, when most are already overworked and underpaid and exhausted. Pollan pretty much lost me for good on that one.

    • Alexie
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 4:52 am | Permalink

      I’m going to stick my hand up and say I’ve sometimes had the same impressions as the poster. I’ve never seen anybody pushing junk food, but I have seen discussions where the ‘food is morally neutral’ argument turns into ‘all food is equivalent’. I just went and found a thread from a discussion earlier this year where participants agreed that heavily processed corporate food was as valid a nutritional choice as any other food.

      There are lots of good reasons to eat corporate food: taste, convenience, price etc etc.

      What people eat is their own business. Their health is their own business. All of that is true.

      But occasionally when I read FA I see the same talking points – “there are no bad foods” – that I’ve also seen on corporate press releases.

      • TR
        Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

        That’s just it: All food IS morally equivalent unless you’re working in an animal rights/environmental context. There is no such thing as an EVIL FOOD. Processed food IS just as valid a choice – because of all those excellent reasons to choose it that people have. That doesn’t mean it has comparative nutrient value or that there aren’t problematic things going on in food production – there SO are problematic things going on. But the point is that no one gets to feel morally superior to another person based on food choices. That’s bogus.

        When food corporations say there are no bad foods, I suspect they are placing all their faith in food science and trying to convince people apple-flavored snacks have the exact same material profile as apples. When FA activists say there are no bad foods, we are saying there is no inherent morality attached to a Big Mac versus an organic salad. You don’t have to feel food guilt and both choices are valid. The individual is really the only person who knows what went into that choice.

        • Alexie
          Posted August 11, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink

          Morally neutral in the sense that you’re not a good or bad person for eating them, yes.

          But some of these foods are deliberately engineered to induce cravings and overeating. How does this fit with Health at Every Size which focuses on intuitive eating, when it’s up against a food system that is actively seeking to bypass the natural signals of your body? How does it fit with the idea that all foods are equally valid choices?

          I’m not raising this to disagree with you about the inherent morality of eating. It’s more something I’ve been grappling with. How does Fat Acceptance sit with food politics? Can it?

          • ako
            Posted August 11, 2011 at 11:40 am | Permalink

            But some of these foods are deliberately engineered to induce cravings and overeating.

            I’ve heard this a lot in blog comments and things, but I’ve never seen where the information came from. Do you have a citation?

            How does Fat Acceptance sit with food politics? Can it?

            In a complicated way, I suspect it does. Food politics sometimes suffers from an excessive focus on individual choices that comes off as inadvertently ableist and classist (not really making a space for people who are physically/mentallly/economically unable to eat in the recommended fashion), and some of it has a definite strain of anti-fat prejudice (I can tell you from experience that a diet heavy on organic fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains, most of which is cooked from scratch from actual ingredients doesn’t necessarily make a person thin). A lot of FA people are pushing back against that, and against the idea that one’s personal virtue is determined in any way by what one chooses to eat. If it’s possible for food politics to adjust to all of that, it may fit well with fat acceptance.

          • JupiterPluvius
            Posted August 11, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

            But some of these foods are deliberately engineered to induce cravings and overeating.

            That is a popular theory in the media, but I have not seen scientific data that backs it up.

            As for food politics, I think that one can simultaneously acknowledge that the politics and economics of the food distribution system in the world mean that not everyone has the same access to all kinds of foods without policing individual eaters’ choices. There’s plenty of work to do to police the people making profits, thank you.

    • Alexie
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 4:55 am | Permalink

      To be fair, Michael Pollan is very involved in trying to change the system at a legislative level.

      It’s complete crap that good quality food is expensive – both for the farmers who don’t get a good return on it, all the way through the chain, while makers of poor quality foods are actually subsidized for doing so.

  25. Posted August 10, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Confession: I’ve been reading FA and HAES blogs for four years now, and I still just do not get intuitive eating. How the heck do you *do* it?

    I’m a deathfatty with binge eating disorder. I’m chiming in here because I am one of those people who actually does eat only Cheetos and ice cream. I never willingly eat vegetables. Most of them make me gag. I binge on high-sugar, high-fat foods several times throughout the day and lose my mind if I can’t have them. I spend hundreds of dollars a month on junk food.

    It’s a bit presumptuous to state that eventually everyone wants salad. While the idea of eating a tub of lard for breakfast every morning may seem hilarious to some, I guarantee you it’s reality for a lot of us.

    But back to intuitive eating–I would really, really love to understand it, because I’ve been trying for ages and it’s just not making sense for me. I *do* eat whatever I want whenever I want it, and I’m sick because of it.

    • Novel
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      I am a supertaster and until my late twenties there was a very very small set of vegetables I could actually manage to chew up enough to swallow, because they were painfully bitter to me (also, it turns out, I’m allergic to several commonly served vegetable sides, which doesn’t help). As my tastebuds began to senesce to the point that I tasted foods like a normal human instead of a mutant, suddenly a huge world of vegetable consumption opened up to me. I can even eat onions now without gagging! :)

      I don’t know anything about intuitive eating as a philosophy or whatever. Because of my ED, I don’t have an appetite anymore. I remember I used to get hungry when I was starving, but after a while it just stopped. Sometimes I’ll feel hungry but usually I feel hypoglycemic or I know that I am going to be working out in a few hours so I need to eat, that kind of thing.

      • ako
        Posted August 11, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        Up until the end of my teens, I liked almost no food except for pizza, french fries, and candy. Three things contributed to expanding my palate:

        1) The chance to experiment without pressure. I was infamous for my pickiness, which meant that if I tried new food in front of my family and didn’t like them, there’d be eye-rolling and quiet irritation all around. (Especially since I occasionally gag on things I intensely dislike.) Being able to try them privately, without everyone I know watching, made a big difference.

        2) Different ways of cooking. There are a lot of vegetables I don’t like raw, and I dislike most types of lettuce and nearly all salad dressing. Which meant that, growing up with a fairly limited idea of how vegetables could be pepared, I thought I disliked everything. It turned out I actually like cooked bell peppers, cucumbers with the seeds removed mixed up with tomatoes, stir-fried carrot chunks cooked with lots of ginger and mushrooms, etc., just not lettuce-based salads or the basic plate of sliced vegetables with ranch dressing for dip. There are a few vegetables I’ve never been able to get myself to like, but no one ever died from lack of broccoli, so it doesn’t matter.

        3. Tastebuds changing. My tastebuds are a lot less sensitive than they were even in my mid-teens, and I now can happily eat stuff with, for instance, a small degree of bitterness.

        Intuitive eating works well for some people, while other people modify it to a certain degree (such as eating meals at set times to make up for lack of hunger cues, avoiding certain foods to control gluten intolerance, etc.). There’s no law saying that you have to eat intuitively to practice fat acceptance, or even to practice HAES.

        • Novel
          Posted August 11, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

          Something that helped me a lot, both in terms of food experimentation and in my quest to learn to cook (never learned as a kid, my mother is a terrible, terrible cook) was that my late husband, who ate only meat and starch, first of all didn’t mind buying produce only I would eat, and second, if I made something that didn’t work and wasn’t edible, instead of choking it down or making me choke it down, he would say “Give it to the dog and let’s order pizza”.

          It is amazing how free to experiment you feel when there’s no pressure to eat it if it doesn’t taste good. Also, on a couple of unfortunate occasions even the dog wouldn’t eat it–and I never felt bad about not eating what even my Hoover of a dog wouldn’t touch.

        • Emerald
          Posted August 11, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

          Yes! I had issues as a kid (and still, in some cases) with ‘mushy’, baby-food type textured foods. Given that most people in the 70s in Britain boiled veg to a pulp, it was the gradual change in cooking methods that led me to realize that I actually did like, for example, cabbage (I owe a debt to Chinese restaurants for that one, although most people cook it more lightly these days). Some things I’ve discovered I can stand cooked, but not raw (notably tomatoes). And other things I hated at school were made edible simply by a change of form – raw carrots in chunks rather than grated, cucumber cut chunky rather than thin slices…sounds silly, but it does make a difference, for me.

          Also, the availability of different fruit and veg, and my ability to choose to buy them. There were some things I’d eat today that were rarely found in supermarkets back when I was a kid, some things my folks couldn’t afford, and some that they were just suspicious of as ‘exotic’ (like bell peppers).

          This is one reason I’m a big believer in making fruit and veg generally cheaper; if the only fruit you can afford is apples, and you don’t like apples, you’re probably not going to eat any fruit at all. (Unfortunately, cheap imported fruit doesn’t tally well with environmental or ethical concerns, and that’s a whole other issue…)

    • JupiterPluvius
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

      Not everyone with binge eating disorder can do intuitive eating as easily as people who don’t have binge eating disorder. This is true. (Similarly, as someone who is in recovery from anorexia, I had to have a lot of support in learning and practicing intuitive eating, so I truly feel you on this one.)

      On the other hand, people with binge eating disorder are distributed all over the weight range. 92 to 95 percent of the people who are classified as “obese” don’t have binge eating disorder.

      So, yeah, people of all sizes who are experiencing binge eating disorder, or who are in recovery from it, are going to need different approaches that recognize the other issues they have going on from people who don’t have a history of this issue.

      The thing is, though, that this is orthogonal to a discussion of weight and health on a population-wide level, and that’s being missed in the mainstream media meme of a) everyone who weighs “too much” eats “too much”, and b) everyone who eats “too much” weighs “too much.”

      Weight is not a behavior. Equating them does a disservice to everyone, just on a pragmatic level (one doesn’t even have to get into any moral issues). People who have a BMI of 18 who are binge eating and people who have a BMI of 50 who are binge eating are both people who may choose to seek help to move out of binge eating, where that’s a behavior they’re wanting to change. Suggesting that the behavior isn’t a problem unless the person’s weight is one that has been problematized by society is counterproductive.

      Similarly, studies show that a high percentage of obese children eat fewer calories than recommended. Having those children further reduce their calorie intake is also going to be counterproductive. But the monomyth admits no logic.

      • JupiterPluvius
        Posted August 11, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

        Also, Raven, I really want to say that I appreciate you bringing your experience into the mix. As someone who has a lot of struggles with my own recovery from disordered eating, I wish you well.

        • E
          Posted August 11, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

          I’ll second that. Sometimes it does get a little tiresome to keep hearing people in the fatosphere say “but what I really want is a salad!”. Not that I don’t ever want a salad, or that I begrudge them their salads, and I totally get that it’s used to help fight stereotypes of fat people for people outside of FA, but it can come across as a little contrived. I have even been known to start feeling guilty for not feeling like a salad. So, I’m happy to read about it when some one is like “hey, salad doesn’t do it for me, pass the ice cream!”.

          • ako
            Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:31 am | Permalink

            I think the salad thing is one of those tricky situation where the urge to fight the stereotypical message being put out by society can create its own kind of homogenous stereotype. Part of it is just answering back against the false claim – no one’s saying “Fat people never eat ice cream!” or “If you eat what you want, you’ll binge on spinach and miss out on necessary dietary fat!”, so there’s less of a reason to go “I eat what I want and today that was a big bowl ice cream!” or “I’m fat, and I like cheesecake” than there is to contradict the stereotypes. There’s more reason to talk about otherwise ordinary behavior of mine when a lot of people are telling lies about me.

            I do think there is a degree of fear about admitting to anything that fits the stereotypes. It can be easy to believe that if you admit the premise of the stereotype (“You’re fat because you eat a lot of sugary/fatty/high calorie foods and don’t exercise enough!”), that somehow constitutes admitting the conclusion (“and therefore, you’re a bad person and it is morally right to harass and mistreat you and deny you access to decent medical care until you turn into what I think you should be!”). The conclusion really doesn’t follow from the premise, but it can be hard to separate that out.

            Plus, those arguments suffer from a catch-22 effect. If you argue with the conclusion, it’s taken as treating the premise as true, and if you argue with the premise, it’s taken as accepting the conclusion. Either way, you’re treated as proving at least one of their points.

        • Posted August 12, 2011 at 2:18 am | Permalink

          I definitely didn’t mean to imply that obese = binge eating disorder! But I’ve seen intuitive eating heralded as a way out of disordered eating, and yeah, just…not really seeing how it would help me to give myself permission to eat whatever I want, haha, since that’s damn problem!

          • Lonie Mc
            Posted August 12, 2011 at 9:28 am | Permalink

            Raven, I found help from BED through Overcoming Overeating by Hirschmann and Munter. I actually started there, before I started FA and HAES. Once I was able to get beyond binging, then I could practice intuitive eating. Warning, practicing that led to some significant weight gain on my part (though it’s all mixed up with some thyroid issues).

            That’s another thing — certain physical problems can cause cravings for high carb or high fat or junk foods. For instance, I have atypical Graves Disease. When I am not on meds, I seriously crave high carbs. If you crave particular foods, you might google their nutritional content (yes, even junk food has some nutritional content). It may be that your body is used to getting a nutrient from something and will do better with other foods (though you have to teach it that) or supplements. An example, I crave chocolate when I need copper. However, my body does better when I use copper supplements rather than eating large amounts of chocolate.

          • JupiterPluvius
            Posted August 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

            Oh, Raven, I didn’t think you were making the statement equating BED and a high body weight, or vice versa. Sorry for being unclear.

            It’s just such a pervasive cultural mythology that I have seen counselors advise people who were in treatment for BED, and who were in the “clinically underweight” group to go on a restricted-calorie diet because that is the only narrative they had. (Similarly, treating people with anorexia and a high body weight seems to be beyond the capacity of most programs, as if fat people were somehow magically protected against malnutrition and electrolyte imbalance.)

            I wish you the best in finding someone who can help you with BED from an HAES standpoint, if that is something you’re choosing to work on.

    • E
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

      Raven, are you getting help for your eating disorder? Because sometimes just jumping into intuitive eating all on your own when you have an eating disorder isn’t going to work. Also, if you have specific emotions that are tied to food, you might need more than just permission to eat whatever you want. I had binge eating disorder, and I saw a nutritionist and a counselor for a while (although the nutritionist was not helpful and was a little triggering–so if you see one, stop if it makes things worse. same with a counselor). I had a relatively quick time transitioning away from binges (took about half a year), but that doesn’t mean everyone’s experience will be like mine. I will say that the most helpful thing I did was to stop feeling guilty about binges. So, before the binges went away, I told myself that I could eat whatever I wanted, as much as I wanted, and it would be totally ok. And at first that meant that I would still binge. But I started mentally feeling neutral about it. This is coming out sounding pretty difficult as a strategy, but maybe it’ll be helpful.

      • Posted August 12, 2011 at 2:21 am | Permalink

        Yeah, I spent a few months in residential treatment, actually, and so far, I just haven’t found anything that works. Thanks for asking, though. :)

        [Off-topic, but one of the issues I had with ED treatment was the idea of meal plans. Everyone--whether anorexic, BED, bulimic, whatever--had to follow a meal plan, and there was no way around it. I understand the point of meal plans for refeeding and weight restoration, but as someone on the opposite end of the spectrum who has been slammed with diet rhetoric my whole life, I just can't stick to them. They make me feel deprived and resentful.]

        • E
          Posted August 13, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

          Yeah, actually, I think that was part of my problem with the nutritionist. Anything she recommended that I do sounded like “control!” and was completely counter-productive. That’s why in the end talking with a counselor and doing my own food thing worked best for me. And actually, the things that didn’t really work with the counselor were when she suggested specific things, whereas what did help was just talking about my history with food and disordered thinking and where it came from.

          I can’t remember if it was already mentioned in this thread, but have you checked out the Fat Nutritionist’s website?
          What she writes is awesome, and she does counseling over the internet to help people learn how to eat. It seems that her approach is not at all about meal plans, so maybe that would work for you. Anyway, good luck!

    • Pauline
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Raven –
      I hope this is taken in the spirit of “sharing my experience which I understand is not everyone’s experience” and not as advice which I have no place giving. OTOH, I will cop to being a *little* bit in “fixit” mode and your post really hit so close to home that I wanted to respond. I guess you could say I was triggered but in a *good* way, and I hope this post doesn’t trigger anyone else in a bad way! :-)
      One thing I was planning on posting in response to the original blog entry/subsequent comments was the idea that everyone has to find what works for them. Health is not universal. For example: whole wheat is supposed to be good for you…um, not if you have wheat allergies/gluten intolerance. What is “nutritious” to one person can actually be sickening/deadly to someone else. So there really is no point in wasting energy feeling bad about not eating more “good” food.
      About your particular struggle: I was a binge/compulsive eater in my teens. My relationship with food was mental/emotional as well as physical, and I spent a lot of time feeding my emotions instead of my body. The difficult thing is realizing where the food desire is coming from and why. After I started exercising more I began craving more fruits, veggies and protein, I believe because my body needs/needed the nutrients to function at this new activity level. Alas, I am also a picky eater. Since I started trying to listen to my body, I have had to learn to find ways to make food I crave palatable. My new favorite way to make veggies edible is frying them with olive oil and salt – microwaved french green beans are gross and mushy but carmelized fgb’s are awesome! ;-P

      Many people with eating disorders benefit from counseling to help them better understand their relationship with food and with their bodies. The disorder can sometimes throw off their internal diagnostics so they are eating things they don’t *really* want. You said “I *do* eat whatever I want whenever I want it, and I’m sick because of it.” You also said you “lose your mind” if you can’t eat junk food. This kind of language makes me think of people with addictions. I’m NOT judging or accusing I swear to God, but it is worth thinking about. I was at a place once, food-wise, where I hated what I was doing and it wasn’t making me feel good and I *still couldn’t stop*. There is a big difference between eating something you really love because it gives you satisfaction and joy, and eating something that makes you feel sick because you are used to doing it and will feel worse if you don’t eat it.

      Sometimes I think the best thing we can do for ourselves is give ourselves permission to struggle. If we are unhappy with our current situation, we can live with it or we can start looking around at our options. You have been looking into changing your eating habits. If that’s what you really want to do and not what you just feel pressured to do then awesome. You like the idea of intuitive eating. Again, awesome. You are struggling to understand and follow it as a lifestyle. That’s fine! Maybe you’ll sort it out and it will work for you. Maybe it’s just not going to work for you. Maybe it will work with some tweaking/more research etc. Either way no harm no foul. It isn’t productive (but it’s totally normal) to fall into the mental trap of “oh no I’m not doing (this lifestyle choice) ‘right’” You worry that your intuition isn’t telling you to eat the “good” food, but we’ve already established that it isn’t healthy (heh) to think of food in terms of “good” and “bad.” But it is important to understand and respect one’s intuition.
      If you really *want* to eat more classically ‘healthy’ food and less junk, then you may benefit from exploring more food and prepration options. Don’t beat yourself up for liking ice cream better than broccoli, no one said you have to like broccoli or even eat it unless you really want to. If you start putting too many rules and guidelines on intuitive eating, all you get is another diet. People have written many things about food and health but nothing is written in stone.

      You may feel better about the whole thing when you can give yourself permission to work things out at your own pace and in your own way. Hence the word “Acceptance.” :-D

  26. Naamah
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have the emotional energy to “eat healthy.” That means I have to get my husband to shop for and cook food he doesn’t want to eat (no, I *do not* routinely cook, or go to the grocery, and those are also non-negotiable spoons issues, and not me being “lazy”), and deal with my own temper, which gets terrible when I am not allowed to eat whatever I like. Someday, I will be enough over the whole starving myself thing that I can go back to regulating what I eat for health purposes rather than weight loss purposes, but that day is not today, not tomorrow, not next week, and maybe not even next year, because I am still in a fragile place.

    I have to put my mental health first. I’m bipolar, for fuck’s sake, and starving myself DID almost kill me, by making me so miserable and unstable that I almost killed myself. What is sobering is realizing how many assholes out there would say “Yes, you should have killed yourself, fatty!” and *mean it*. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to want to die. And when someone gets up my ass about my eating habits and wants me to diet to lose weight, that is what they are wishing on me: something that is dangerous to my mental health enough that it threatens my life.

    My mother in law mentioned my rather rapid weight gain after I started trying to find meds that would help me and went back to eating whatever I wanted (which, for a while, was the absolute junkiest junk food you could imagine . . . and though I thought it never would, that phase did pass). I looked at her levelly and said “Better that I eat everything in the house than eat a bullet. Anyone who disagrees with that, I see no reason to continue speaking to them.” She has not mentioned it since.

    • Aeli
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      This is a lot like where I am now. In the course of being really depressed, I just basically stopped eating. Stopped listening to my body’s hunger signals, didn’t care when I did hear them, and when they became so unignorable that I had to do something about them, I ate whatever unthinkingly because I wasn’t able to frame and consider the question “What do I want to eat right now?”

      And, while I’m recovering now, I don’t have that intuitive and whimsical “Spinach! Yes! And maybe I’ll add some bacon and onions and vinegar to it, that would be tasty,” back yet.

    • Io
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 1:19 am | Permalink

      First, in response to the main topic: I wonder how much of the, “OMG if people can eat whatever they want they’ll explode” conflation is in response to the low % of people who are genuinely food addicted? It seems the eat-whatever-you-want and fat acceptance model really works to help bring many, many people into a healthier realm both physically and mentally, which is why I said conflation. And also, I suspect that people who are truly addicted don’t need an “excuse” of FA/HAES to be addicted and FA helps way more people than it hinders. And finally, of course, it’s important as an overall movement to have respect and bodily autonomy for all even if a person here and there uses it as an addictive crutch.
      (Sorry, btw, if I’m way out of line here, pretty new the FA conversation and don’t know if the concept of food addiction is even considered relevant since it’s relatively rare compared to the greater cultural twists and turns people are put through in regards to food.)
      Second, in response to the person who’s bipolar: good for you for standing up to your mom! I’m also bipolar, and have also had medication side-effect issues including in relation to food. It’s so, so important for me to not just “remember” to eat but, like you, to pick food that’s enjoyable and desirable. I’ve sometimes struggled with buying expensive (not crazy-expensive, just Whole Foods stuff) outside my budget. But I do anyway, because eating well is so tied into physical and mental health, as well as productivity and general life enjoyment. That is to say: food is worth it! And thank you to all the FA/HAES community for helping me realize it!

      • ako
        Posted August 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        Eating problems are a special case. I’ve seen people in FA question whether terms like food addiction are the best model for describing certain forms of disordered eating, but it’s generally acknowledged that disordered eating covers a wide range of behaviors, including eating too much. (“Too much” in FA terms is recognized by features like “This is making me feel sick”, “I can’t stop when I’m satisfied” and “I don’t actually enjoy eating this much”, not by “This is more calories/fat grams/carbs than a chart says I should consume in a day”, so there is a difference.) The Fat Nutritionist even offers her services to help people stop behaviors like binge eating. The FA stance on eating disorders that involve eating too much, as I understand it, is that if you go “I want help”, you should be able to get help bringing your eating habits in line with what you truly want.

  27. Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe that you even had to write this, based on the comment above. Really, I’ve never seen anyone mocked or derided or even negatively mentioned at ALL for being a ‘good fattie’. The Fatosphere is not entirely made up of ‘bad fatties’ either. Wtf.

  28. Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Ugh. It seems like about equal numbers of people look at the fatosphere, and think, “Good-fatty bad-fatty dichotomy! I’m being excluded!*” AND think “You hate people who eat healthy! I’m being excluded!” I don’t really understand it. Maybe a lot of it is just people talking about what THEY do, and the people reading that getting defensive. Or people clarify that you don’t have to eat healthy/don’t have to NOT eat healthy, and people reading THAT and getting defensive. I can actually more understand the people who feel they’re unwelcome because they’re “bad fatties”, because so often the response to fat hate or stereotypes is to detail one’s healthy behavior, which can imply that getting rights/respect is conditional on the healthy behavior. Then people push back against that**, and then people read the pushback and have reactions like Agnes’ above.

    *See some of the comments here, for example, from tasha fierce: “I feel like some fat activists will throw you to the wolves if you don’t fit the mold of the good fat. Which is a shame because we really should be promoting acceptance of choices and not just tolerance of fat bodies.”

    **And then we get “HAES is another expression of healthism”.

    • ako
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      It’s a sensitive subject. Like I said, I’ve seen similar reactions in feminist circles when it comes to discussion of topics like porn, shaving, the wife staying home after having kids, high heels, and anything where “Society pressures women to do X!” could be misread as “If you do X, you’re bad and reinforcing the patriarchy!” People on all sides are so used to being jumped on that it’s necessary to have a conversation to balance things out and get people to see the difference between individual choices and social trends. (On a social trend level, “good fattie” behavior tends to lead to the person being more tolerated, although only up to a point, and it’s reasonable to critique that without sneering at everyone who mentions enjoying vegetables or movement or whatever else is considered good fattie behavior.)

  29. Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Wow. If this is you being “ranty” then you must be just about the calmest, most measured blogger I’ve come across. Seriously. This is extremely well said.

    I haven’t read any of Pollan’s more recent works. I suppose I’ll stick to his more vintage stuff, eh? :-/

  30. justme
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the thoughtful post and discussion. I so agree with the idea of personal body autonomy. Reading this blog and others in the FA blog-o-sphere do my heart good!

  31. Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    This post is awesome. Too awesome to even add to.
    I thank you for this post.

  32. Daniel
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    I just wanted to say this is such a great post. I really felt like I came away with a sharp understanding of the distinction between fat acceptance and health at every size. I know that I should probably go read some of the source books etc if I want to completely understand these ideas, but I feel like I don’t need to as long as I keep reading your blog and Lesley’s.

    I’ve never experienced any food pressure, internal or external, mostly because i’m a man and have an ectomorphic body type – I have literally always eaten whatever I wanted. And I don’t constantly eat candy or tubs of lard (always “tubs” – I’ve only seen it in cardboard and wax paper). There have been some rough periods since I moved away from home, where I ate the equivalent of pizza pockets for weeks and very very few vegetables of any kind. I survived. And I stopped naturally, because most of the frozen meals section became gross to me and because there were positive pleasures I was learning to appreciate in foods that might be considered “grown up”. Now me and my coworkers tend to go to the grocery story for lunch, and when it’s placed right in front of me I find myself getting excited about custom side salads, because they’re pleasant to eat. Of course Marianne’s point is that you don’t get a gold star for that, because food is neutral. But I offer it to go along with the anecdotes above to support the idea that unrestrained eating is not crazy, death-inviting eating.

  33. ErinE
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    Well I very rarely throw my two cents in but here goes. I too feel the same as Agnes at times, not so much with eating but with the whole fatshion aspect. First I want to say I love the online communities and everything they stand for… power to the fatties! Still sometimes I feel all the online resources focus on not dieting and fatshion. Why does this bother me? Well although these approaches support acceptance (awesome), I feel they leave out a demographic of people, people like me.

    I don’t diet, never have except for one time which was enough for me. But I do believe in HAES and sometimes I would like to discuss food in general. I understand that FA and HAES are separate entities but they really go hand in hand in my eyes. I have not read anything by Michael Pollan, but your comment about eating a privileged diet struck a chord. I am assuming he talks about eating organic, local, unprocessed, etc. foods which do cost more and are not readily available to all consumers. Without composing a thesis, I feel it’s important that people who are interested in HAES are aware of the food choices they make, not to prevent being fat or to diet BUT to realize what they are putting in their bodies, and to love their bodies. The corporate industry controls our food and dictates what we eat by how much money we make, it’s very depressing. I am a poverty level American citizen who has a B.S. in Biology and will be continuing my education in the sciences. With that said, my poor fat ass will not purchase or consume many affordable foods… why? Because the processing of most foods, although they provide nourishment, are in my eyes poison. OK I promised no thesis, so I will leave that “cent” and hope that some people will begin looking at how their food gets to their plate.

    My second “cent” is just that sometimes I feel left out because of the fatshion… sadness. I’m a total tomboy/science geek/hippie. Well thanks for letting me contribute :)

    • Elizabeth
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      “Without composing a thesis, I feel it’s important that people who are interested in HAES are aware of the food choices they make, not to prevent being fat or to diet BUT to realize what they are putting in their bodies, and to love their bodies. The corporate industry controls our food and dictates what we eat by how much money we make, it’s very depressing.”

      I agree with your entire comment and the above in particular. Where can we talk, in a body loving and accepting way, about that fact that not all food choices are equal. Some foods are bad, not morally but actually harmful to your body.

      There is a difference between a “bad” food and a “bad” person. A can of soda has almost the same negative effect on your liver as a can of beer. That is bad. But knowing this and still choosing to drink a coke or a beer does not make me a bad person.

      It’s not about dieting and its not about fat, its about the information the current nutritional paradigm is detrimental to your health, at any size. If you aren’t concerned with your health, cool, you don’t have to be. But for HAES people, how and where do you talk about it?

      • Elizabeth
        Posted August 11, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        I don’t know why that whole last part is bolded. My intent was for only the word “person” to be bold. If the moderate would like to adjust that, go ahead.

      • Elizabeth
        Posted August 11, 2011 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        And now I if my comment about the bold issue went through :( In me first comment, the intent was for only the word “person” to be bold, not the entire last paragraph. If the moderator wants to adjust that so it seems less like I’m screaming at everyone, go ahead. If my other comment went through, sorry for the repeat.

      • TR
        Posted August 11, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        A can of soda is still thirst quenching. It still provides a quick boost of needed energy. It has negative things it does to your body – but it has positive things, too. That’s the point – nothing with food is just that simple. “Bad” is a moral word. “Negative health effects” is something we can look at when we’re making our own food choices. If you want to talk about foods that can be harmful, I think you first have to unpack why you are so attached to labeling them as “bad” and how entangled that is with people who push the idea of food morality when it comes to “this cake is so bad, I’m so bad for eating it.”

        • Alexie
          Posted August 11, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

          Which is sort of the crux of the issue – how can we talk about food without loading it up with moral issues, but in a way that still recognises that not all foods are created equal?

          @ako – I can’t reply to your question above about evidence that foods are engineered because the reply buttons have run out. David Kessler does a good job of explaining the issue in his book The End of Overeating.

          • ako
            Posted August 11, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

            Interesting. I’m going to look into that more and check up on the science behind that. (The cookie example is odd for me, because store-bought chocolate chip cookies just put me off.)

          • Alexie
            Posted August 11, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

            @ako – if you want some citations for academic articles, email me at alex dot milton368 at
            Happy to share

          • JupiterPluvius
            Posted August 11, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

            I don’t see this as a difficult issue. The things keeping people in, say, low-income “food desert” neighborhoods from having access to as broad a spectrum of food choices as possible can be addressed without policing individual people’s choices.

            If someone goes into a store and chooses the Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs instead of a readily available whatever-else that’s more nutrient-dense or locally grown or whatever qualities I value in food, that’s their choice and I trust them to make it.

            If the government is subsidizing the Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs company because they have a powerful lobby, and keeping the local growers of other, more nutrient-dense foods, out of the supermarket chain because of inappropriate regulatory requirements, I can do work to overturn what I see as toxic policies without policing the choices of my fellow citizens.

      • Agnes
        Posted August 12, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        It’s not about dieting and its not about fat, its about the information the current nutritional paradigm is detrimental to your health, at any size. If you aren’t concerned with your health, cool, you don’t have to be. But for HAES people, how and where do you talk about it?

        That is exactly what I am missing the the FA blogs. Is there a blog/forum where people can talk about food in the context of HAES but without the preoccupation with calories, weight loss, etc? I like most of the EatingWell web site and magazine for example, but even they are too weight-loss oriented. Thank you for expressing that sentiment, I second you on that question.

    • ako
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      I understand about the fatshion thing. It’s a lot of women boldly and daringly reclaiming feminine fashions, which is good for them, but has very little to do with me. I don’t care much about fashion, and the few times I do look at clothing and go “Ooh, I’d like that!”, it’s never anything particularly feminine. I tend to skip the fatshion blogs for that reason.

      A food blog would be interesting. I think it would generate a certain degree of controversy (you get people who don’t like anything that smacks of “good fatty” justifications, and a FA food blog would have to deal with a lot of trolls). I think a good blog that acknowledged factors like poverty and disability when it comes to food choices would be good. It’d be nice to come up with a discussion that was neither “What do you mean you can’t afford it! I’ve known at least two poor people and one disabled person who can eat diets that are largely unprocessed organic foods, so everyone can!” nor “Obviously not everyone can do this due to poverty and disability and other issues of limited food access, so let’s leave that for the yuppies.” Something that balances focus on individual choices and bigger-picture social politics would be great.

      I’m not keen on the “Processed foods are poison” idea. I think one thing that puts people off a lot of food politics is hating melodramatically on processed foods. Because if the food activists are going “That’s fake garbage poison food you’re eating!” and the person who’s been eating finds themselves eating tasty food that doesn’t make them feel sick, they’re going to be inclined to disregard the food activist (especially if the alternative is not enough food – very few people are willing to tolerate being permanently hungry if there’s an easy way to avoid it). The most convincing bit of food activism I ever read involved a guy simply going “There are better choices”, rather than trying to make stuff I enjoyed sound over-the-top awful.

      • Shiyiya
        Posted August 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        Oh man, I would be so psyched about an FA food blog. I read like fifty food blogs and it is really frustrating when otherwise awesome posts make comments about how ‘bad’ it is to put in a while stick of butter or how the cup of sugar went straight to their thighs or whatever. :|

    • JupiterPluvius
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      hope that some people will begin looking at how their food gets to their plate

      I think we can choose to do this without shaming individual eaters. There is plenty of critique to be leveled at corporate entities and regulatory bodies without feeling the need to meddle with someone else’s plate!

  34. Posted August 11, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    What I want to know is, who really wants to eat a tub of lard every morning? How is that in any way a serious argument?

    These kind of arguments show just how deeply the self-distrust has permeated the collective consciousness. “If I allow myself to have whatever I want, naturally, I will binge on food that, prior to giving myself that permission, I wouldn’t have touched in a million years.” Really? I mean, really?

    • Posted August 12, 2011 at 2:25 am | Permalink

      Really. Yes, I mean, really.

      I have binge eating disorder. While I personally don’t find lard appetizing, I have been known to eat equally blasphemous things for breakfast.

  35. mara
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    TR, this is one of the clearest and most defining writings about FA that I have yet read.

    I think the whole good/bad dichotomy, whatever form it takes, messes with our perceptions. Not that I am into total moral relativism – no. But, it’s like, we’ve backed ourselves (not we, here – the collective societal we) into this position where something has to be either good or bad. And it can’t be both.

    And that’s just not terribly realistic. There was a commercial earlier this year for .. I don’t know, Crystal Light or some diet drinky thing, and they said – and this IS a quote – “You don’t like calories… we don’t like calories”.

    Because calories are bad. Ah, yes, by all means, let’s get rid of those calories. Let’s cut them out of our lives like one would excise a tumour. And then let’s see how well we fare.

    See, I think the public mind conflates things to the point where – if we believe that excess calories are bad – suddenly calories themselves are bad. Notwithstanding the total breach of logic that involves.

    Actually, one time, I was on a bus and I was holding a bag of cheezies that I was bringing home to eat, and a man sitting opposite me started talking to me about some website that, I gathered, deals with the effects of different foods on brain function, and, he told me, “after you read it, you’ll never reach for those calorie snacks again!”

    Riiiiight… because I’ll be reaching for what, instead – no-calorie snacks?

    Okay, I know this all sounds like a huge digression, but really I think I have a point. I think it’s about how the good/bad dichotomy gets under our skin and then we try to categorize everthing according to it.

    Maybe that’s how misunderstandings get hatched? FA says junk food is not bad [turns into] FA says junk food is good [turns into] FA says we all need to be eating junk food all the time because it is good.

    But what FA is saying is something one hell of a lot more radical than that, and you state it excellently, Marianne! :)

  36. Agnes
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Wow, if I knew that my comment would generate so much feedback/discussion (or rather be a springing board for it) I would have tried to express my thoughts somewhat better. I am glad to see that some people got my point (thank Alexie and some others) and others not so much, but that’s ok. My point was not in attacking the principles of FA, fundemantatlly I agree with its points nearly 100% (when it comes to respecing people regardless of weight, access to health care, clothes, respecting people’s choices, etc.) My point was that it’s not surprising that Weiner has been confused about FA as I can definitely relate to her (mis)perception of it. When I read Bacon’s book that says eat intuitively but also eat more veggies, try to eat less processed foods, stop eating when you’re full (e.g. don’t eat too much) etc. it makes sense to me. The message is, don’t focus on your weight, focus on your health, and here’s some suggestions how to improve your health. When I read Michael Pollon (and it was just an example as I read him recently) and he says, eat veggies, don’t eat so much processed foods, don’t eat too much (his three “food rules”), that makes sense to me too, it seems to go along with Bacon’s recommendations. And then I read on Fat Nutritionist – Pollon is evil for having rules, you shouldn’t have rules, the only rule is eat whatever you want and how much you want, which left me feeling a little perplexed. Are there really no guidelines for healthy eating? I recall other posts where McDonald’s initiative to make the kid’s meal healthier by replacing some fries with apple slices was ridiculed because “it won’t make fat kids thin” (the article linked to that post that announced the change mentioned nothing about the weight, only the health). I think my error was equating HAES with FA. And whereas FA has helped me tremendously in areas of personal relationships, self-esteem, and gave me permission/incentive to start dressing nicely, it was somewhat of a let down in terms of food/health information (perhaps my expectations were too high or misdirected, maybe I need to look for blogs that focus more on health or healthy eating rather than how to live in my fat body). I agree that everybody has a right to eat whatever they want and they are not morally inferior if they don’t eat healthful foods. Perhaps I should have replaced the word “bad” (since a lot of people seem to equate it with personal judgment) with unhealthful or not nutritious. I’m just surprised about the backlash at Weiner after her article and my point was that I can see where she got that impression from. It’s like people say it’s ok to eat anything and then if somebody actually does it and then realizes that it causes a spike in her numbers, then she is the bad person for not understanding what they “really” meant.

    And to clarify, the tub of lard was just an example, I have no desire to eat it daily, but I think it’s dissapointing that people would “support my right to eat it” in the name of “all food is good”. Would there be nobody in this community who would ask, are you sure about this? Yes, we do have the right to eat what we want and we are the only ones that will live with the consequences (and out families, something that seems to be forgotten or ignored as well), but I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect from everybody to pretend that all choices are ok. After a while, you need to take a look at your numbers and ask yourself, are those choices good for me? And that’s what Weiner did. I don’t think her obsession with weight loss is healthy and I’m in agreement with most posters on that, but again, I’m not suprised with her (mis)understanding of FA – I think like me she wants HAES and perhaps she didn’t quite find it in FA.

    At any rate, I’m glad for the discussion the post generated, I’m still new to this and it helps to have feedback like that.

    • Katie
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      Its been awhile since I read Fat Nutritionist, but I as I remember it, the “eat whatever you want and how much you want” is about developing eating competence. Particularly for people who have struggled with eating disorders, this is the first step. I’ve never her seen her write anything that says you should stop there or you can’t think about health or nutrition (she’s a nutritionist!) But, if you’ve had issues with eating normally, outlining a whole lot of rules to eat “healthy” isn’t that different from outlining rules for weight loss – they can both cause you to lose touch with what your body really wants and needs. So first you need to develop eating competence, in tune with your body, and then start to incorporate nutrition.

      “I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect from everybody to pretend that all choices are ok.”

      But all choices are ok. Period, end of story. I don’t have to ask myself if my choices are ok, or good for me. I’m not sure what about there being no moral imperative to be healthy isn’t quite clicking for you. But just as you can’t make people stop smoking, skydiving, practicing unsafe sex, staying married to abusive partners, you can’t make people care about their health. Its still their body and they still have autonomy over it, regardless of the results of their choices.

      • Alexie
        Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        Maybe it’s the terms of what we’re talking about that’s causing problems here. Of course anybody can eat what they want. There should be no moral imperative for anybody to be healthy.

        But, if you ARE interested in being healthy, there are definitely foods that are better for you than others. And – only if you ARE interested in health – there are some styles of eating that are better for you physically than others.

        • Novel
          Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

          Except that of course, what that style of eating is really varies according to the body. My healthy diet might work for you, but I can guarantee you that yours isn’t going to work for me, and pretending otherwise is just another facet of that thing where there’s a “normative” body and we none of us are it. :)

        • JupiterPluvius
          Posted August 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

          But, if you ARE interested in being healthy, there are definitely foods that are better for you than others.

          There are foods that are better for me, and there are foods that are better for you. Something that might make a delicious and nutritious dinner for someone else–say, a whole-grain pilaf with tempeh and a rhubarb compote–would make me sick for days, because of my own food sensitivities.

          Similarly, something that might work for me as a delicious and nutritious dinner–a rare steak with spinach in gorgonzola–might be a disaster for someone else (like my husband, who has high cholesterol, lactose intolerance, and trouble digesting beef).

          • Posted August 12, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

            YES. SO MUCH THIS.

            It’s all about increasing access and availability to food, in every way possible. Not to tell people to eat x but not y, or y but not x, or make sure to eat 5 cups of x per day, or any of that stuff. Because we’re all different and thrive (or not) on different things. No, an all-fast-food diet is probably not optimal nutrition, but neither is an all-organic-broccoli diet. In fact, the all-broccoli diet probably won’t keep you alive as long. But most people don’t even get the chance to find out what their most optimal body fuel is, thanks to lack of access.

        • ako
          Posted August 13, 2011 at 2:16 am | Permalink

          I think increased access is something we’d all agree on, and I think making it a “If you are interested in improving your health” thing, that would make things better.

          A huge improvement would be if health advice was neither loaded with guilt nor over-generalized. A lot of health advice is written in incredibly general terms and makes the assumption that everyone reading will have whatever eating habits are assumed to be typical by the author. There is a lot of generic “Eat less”, “Eat more plants”, “Eat less fat”, and “Eat less salt” advice out there, and some of it’s unhelpfully general.

          For instance, I tend to spend a lot of time in hot climates eating minimally-processed food and drinking lots of water and herbal tea, so if I don’t make a point of adding in salt, I get deficient quite easily. “Eat less salt! Here’s how!” is unhelpful for me, but hardly any of those articles acknowledge that not everyone needs to reduce their salt intake. There are people who don’t need to reduce their fat intake, people who are eating plenty of vegetables and might benefit from a diet higher in grains or oils or protein, people who aren’t getting as many calories as it takes to achieve optimum health, etc., and it’s good if health advice isn’t aimed as a single generic idea.

          Something like “I started eating whole-grain bread and having fruit for a snack every day and I feel a lot healthier” is generally non-controversial in fat acceptance circles (if it’s not pitched as either “And therefore everyone should!” or used to present a misleading picture of fat acceptance).

          Something like “If your health is X, it’s beneficial to eat Y” is likely to be examined for accuracy, but not seen as inherently bad.

          “The healthiest way to eat is X” is likely to get a lot of disagreement and criticism for not factoring in individual variations (in terms of available food, health issues, activity levels, etc.).

          Health advice with a “Eating X is good and virtuous and a sign of human worth! Eating Y means you’re bad!” subtext is obviously not sending a good message. It is also incredibly pervasive, and what a lot of people immediately expect when it comes to being advised how to eat.

          • Shiyiya
            Posted August 13, 2011 at 5:59 am | Permalink

            Argh, the salt thing. EVERYTHING is all NOW WITH LOWER SODIUM! and I’m like noooo I have really low blood pressure if I don’t eat enough salt I fall over, stop taking it away from meeee.

        • E
          Posted August 13, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink

          “But, if you ARE interested in being healthy, there are definitely foods that are better for you than others. And – only if you ARE interested in health – there are some styles of eating that are better for you physically than others.”

          If you are interested in being healthy, there are any number of choices besides food that might be the “healthiest choice” for any given person. As just one example, mental health is part of health as well, and can affect one’s choices in many ways.

          The ‘style of eating’ that is healthiest for me is eating whatever I feel like that I have in the house or am motivated to go out of the house to buy. I am interested in my health, but because of my history with eating disorders, it would be unhealthy (mentally, but followed by physically unhealthy)for me to get too interested in the content of my food. That said, I happen to like and want a lot of foods that are often promoted as “healthy”, but I also like some foods that are slated as “unhealthy”. All of these foods factor into my personal healthiest style of eating.

    • silentbeep
      Posted August 12, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      I’m not really sure where you are getting this information from Fat Nutritionist. Her posts simply convey fairly complex and nuanced issues and they get hammered out in finer details in the comments. She has some simple things to say about food but not simplistic – maybe that’s the confusion? I’ve seen her discuss Pollan in a measured way, and no she doesn’t agree with him all the time, but I’m not sure where “he’s evil cause he has rules” comes from.

      “After a while, you need to take a look at your numbers and ask yourself, are those choices good for me?”

      This is a movement that supports that idea that a person can choose on their own, that their numbers are not good, and do something about it, without outside coercion. It’s the belief that people can take responsiblity for their lives, and their health, without someone else judging, pushing, scolding, advising, lecturing them about it. It’s the belief that we can be trusted to make our own internal decisions about health, without group haranguing, that’s the difference.

    • ako
      Posted August 13, 2011 at 2:40 am | Permalink

      When I read Michael Pollon (and it was just an example as I read him recently) and he says, eat veggies, don’t eat so much processed foods, don’t eat too much (his three “food rules”), that makes sense to me too, it seems to go along with Bacon’s recommendations.

      See, when I hear that, particularly coupled with his talk about solving the obesity crisis by changing how people eat, it sounds like every portion control lecture, “Should you really be eating that?” lecture I’ve heard (most of which were delivered without warning during family meals when the fork was halfway to my mouth). I think we’re both looking at it through our own interpretive biases.

      And then I read on Fat Nutritionist – Pollon is evil for having rules, you shouldn’t have rules, the only rule is eat whatever you want and how much you want, which left me feeling a little perplexed. Are there really no guidelines for healthy eating?

      Whether there are guidelines or not depends on what you want. If you want to avoid feeling unpleasantly full, smaller portions are a good way to do that. If you want to be more regular, high-fiber foods can help. If you have a gluten intolerance and want to avoid setting off a bad reaction, avoiding gluten-containing foods can help. They’re just not rules, and you are always free to change your decisions or make new ones.

      Also, you might want to read this:

      And to clarify, the tub of lard was just an example, I have no desire to eat it daily, but I think it’s dissapointing that people would “support my right to eat it” in the name of “all food is good”. Would there be nobody in this community who would ask, are you sure about this?

      Do you think that all of us saying you have the right to eat a tub of lard is the same as telling you it’s good for you to eat a tub of lard? I know there are a lot of cases where I support the person’s right intensely but may or may not support the decision.

      As for advice on whether it’s a good idea or not, it depends on a lot of factors. If someone is asking if a tub of lard is a balanced breakfast, I’d tell them that I think it’d make most people sick. If someone says they regularly eat a tub of lard for breakfast and are freaked out by their eating habits, I’d encourage them to look into information on disordered eating. If someone I know was dealing with a mental health crisis by eating a tub of lard to stave off suicidal feelings (and I have seen similar situations in real life), I’d encourage them not to feel guilty about resorting to that particular coping mechanism in the short term, and see what they could do to improve their overall mental health in the long term. If someone said they regularly ate tubs of straight lard and were happy and content with their state of health, I’d go “Huh”, and not try to push my views of what’s healthy on them when they weren’t interested. And if someone was testing the idea of their freedom by going “Can I eat a tub of lard?” I’d reaffirm that freedom does stretch that far, and encourage them to think about whether they want a whole tub of lard.

      • bratting1000
        Posted August 18, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

        That last paragraph is pretty dead-on, IMO. Thanks, ako.

    • Lillian
      Posted August 13, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think you should eat a tub of lard. I would support your choice to eat it, but I think there are healthier options. I would rather chose foods that feel good when I eat them: taste, color, odor, texture, etc. I would chose foods that aren’t likely to upset my stomach. Calories aren’t the factor that would make me chose to eat something else. There are so many other things to consider.

      I went to a Chinese restaurant with my kids and their friends today. We didn’t order appetizers because it seemed like a better choice to share our choices with the others at the table. We had plenty of food and choices and it worked out. Food is so more than just get the energy one needs for the day. It’s a cultural, sensory experience. At the same time, I have no guilty for eating a Poptart for breakfast.

  37. Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I would hope that anyone who has read HAES by Linda Bacon PHD (didn’t realize it was required reading to be part of FA nor to have an FA blog) would walk away without the fear of eating all of the food in the world! I mean, is that really what FA boils down to for some? Did I miss something? Or is this another fat = eat all the foods thing? I’m pretty sure HAES directly addresses these fears and does away with them quite nicely. But we’re also talking about disordered eating and overcoming that in a society that has forgotten how to eat mindfully and disconnectedly anyway.
    Three years ago I could buy all manner of anything, but now we’re poor and have to choose what to get organic or not. I don’t see how that makes me a good or bad anything let alone a bad fatty. It seems like some people take what they want from fat liberation (I’m reverting to the original term, I think) and choose to see it in this negative way. Perhaps that will always be the case. But for me? It’s changed my life in so many positive ways. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  38. taryn
    Posted August 24, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Marianne.
    As someone with a fat partner who is herself very supportive of fat activism, and who myself happens to be thin, unhealthy, and overindulging in certain substances deemed “bad” by the majority of society (read: chemicals that make you feel good) I am so glad you mentioned that people deserve to be treated well and not dehumanized regardless of their “health”. Similar to fat, people make value judgments about those who aren’t vigorously healthy and abstemious towards drugs (including alcohol and cigarettes). Like a fat person, I’m assumed to be lazy, out-of-control, gluttonous, stupid, amoral, and a host of other stereotypes that don’t apply to the fat (for instance, a liar and theif) for my own indulgences as well as ill health. Like my girl, who’s been fat since childhood, I have always been sickly. We both get told that we’d be “happier” and “healthier” (ie she’d be thinner and we’d both be more acceptable to society) if we “adjusted our lifestyle choices”. I despise the unspoken assumption by society that my “lifestyle” or “health” is related to my worth as a person. Why can’t we all judge each other on how kind we are rather than what food/drugs we do or do not consume? Why act as if the healthy, hardy sorts are somehow more worthy of respect than the chronically unwell? For me, its more of this ‘survival of the fittest’ crap that really translates into disgust for the vulnerable (in terms of “health”) and disgust for those who have bodies that do not match what Hollywood spews out as supposedly desirable.

  39. Posted September 16, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this Marianne. As a person in ED recovery, the whole “healthy foods” thing is extremely triggering. When we start getting into comparing and valuating (is that a word? lol) foods, we create an avalanche of emotions and potentially self-harming behaviors. It really is sad that it seems like such a radical notion to take the morality away from food but it’s such an important notion to remember.

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  1. [...] on Marianne Kirby’s always excellent blog, The Rotund, she wrote a post that has attracted many comments. Like, a “Shapely Prose” number of comments. The post [...]

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