I am not speaking about people who were formerly fat – this posts addresses, quite specifically, a commenter called Former Fat Person.

So, Former Fat Person saw fit to leave this comment in what is overtly a fat positive blog:

Make the choices that you think are right for you. Enjoy your body autonomy and encourage other people to do the same. But, please, do not be surprised when I, as a Former Fat Person who now enjoys a vastly improved quality of life, do not support your fat.

This is an AWESOME illustration of why so many fat people distrust the motivations of people who say, “Oh, accept your body! Fat is great! I just need to lose some weight personally!” People are afraid that this is what is really going on and, you know, it often is.

Often, in conversations about racism, there is the urge to defend yourself as a white person (this is hypothetical, not me assuming you are a white person, because, dude, I have no idea and I hope not all of you are) because you don’t want people to assume that you are part of the group of white people doing all the oppressing. But, generally speaking, when the conversation gets interrupted by a lot of white people who want to justify their own behaviors and, in essence, as for reassurance that it is okay that they are white, everything goes to shit.

Because the point of the conversation is never that you, individual white person, are a racist (unless, you know, someone is calling you out on something specifically). It’s not about you. It’s about racism and the experiences of the people who have been oppressed by it. It’s not about, oh, white people are hated as well. It’s about the damage that is done through institutionalized racism.

That is what a lot of the comments by people who want to claim both dieting and fat activism sound like. “Oh, I am not a BAD dieter! I do not bring that discussion to fat positive spaces except right now when y’all are talking about how bad dieting is in a fat positive context!”

You, as an individual dieter, are not the issue here. You, as an individual dieter, are probably an awesome person.

However, as Former Fat Person illustrates, the issue isn’t with YOU. It’s with the fundamental precept of dieting – that your life will be better if you lose weight.

Fat acceptance and dieting, by their very definitions, have opposing goals. Does this mean that you as an individual cannot participate in both? No. Which has been said goddamn repeatedly, people.

Let’s remember how this all started – Hanne Blank has started a weight loss blog. Hanne Blank is not some Jane Schmoe off the street. She has been regarded as a proper noun Fat Activist.

That is the level on which this thing started. Because, as a Fat Activist, a person, much like politicians and other public figures, is in the public eye as an example and leader.

Dieting and fat acceptance are fundamentally opposed. But if you as an individual think you can reconcile those two things, great. Maybe you’re the exception that proves the rule.

But fat acceptance, as a political concept and philosophy cannot give approval for dieting.

I’m not here to allow you to do anything – I don’t have any power over you or your choices, which is why I keep saying that YOU are the person best equipped to make those choices. You don’t have to defend yourself and your choices because no one is saying you can’t diet and promote fat activism and call yourself whatever you like.

But if you’re telling me to accept my body at the same time as you are, for whatever motivations – the motivations don’t change any damn thing, actively working to lose weight, your message loses its power. It becomes, instead, “Fat is okay for YOU but not okay for ME.” Or it becomes, “Some fat is okay, but too much fat is not okay.” Neither of those messages advance fat acceptance from an activist standpoint.

And if you, as a dieter, feel like you really need to defend yourself and your own right to diet, I really do sympathize. But I also don’t think this is the place to do it. Have that conversation with individuals, with your friends. We may or may not want to have that conversation with you. Given the privileged status of dieting in our society, we may not care that you are the one person we know who is dieting and still fat positive. It might not make one whit of difference to the way dieters, as a whole, make us feel and it isn’t going to change the political stance that fat acceptance and dieting do not match.

There are too many Former Fat People who crop up any time diet talk comes up in fat positive spaces. YOU are, more than likely, not that person but someone is. And we don’t want to hear it.

I swear, come Monday I want to talk about something frivolous. Kittens and puppies and clothes goddammit.


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34 Comments

  1. Posted September 8, 2007 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    It might not make one whit of difference to the way dieters, as a whole, make us feel

    DietERS, not dietING. Which means it is personal and there is a moral judgement being made on anyone who comes into this space and is a dieter regardless of what they do or say. And the commenters in these threads have made it quite clear that ideologically impure people are not, in fact, welcome here.

    And that’s fine. But quit trying to pretend otherwise. I’ll take my rice cakes and leave your sandbox now.

  2. admin
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    You, as a dieter, are engaged in dieting. There is no moral judgment going on although you seem totally invested in seeing it, for some reason. As I said, I support the body autonomy of my friends. Sometimes they even talk to me about their diets. Most of the time, because they are my friends, they know how it makes me feel and don’t insist on talking about it anyway as though my permission and approval were necessary to validate thru efforts.

    I have not made a single disparaging remark about dieters. So, frankly, you can suck it. I am at the end of my patience here, dealing with your insistence that I tell you it is okay, that I validate your need for dieting. I refuse. That doesn’t imply a moral judgment though your insistence that I am somehow injuring you by refusing to agree DOES indicate something to me.

  3. admin
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Also, you may note, I have not made a single goddamn assumption about what diet you follow or what foods you eat. Your rice cake remark kind of proves that this is about your own need to have your diet recognized as a valid option and, by definition, in this context of fat acceptance as a political entity, that just isn’t going to happen.

  4. Posted September 8, 2007 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I am at the end of my patience here, dealing with your insistence that I tell you it is okay, that I validate your need for dieting. I refuse.

    Which is pretty much exactly where all these posts started, for my money. So the discussion here is just kinda reaffirming the point.

  5. Jen
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    So Former Fat Person makes a comment using the exact same verbage you just got done using in your own post from 9/7 (and, therefore, really using YOUR logic). But because this person exchanges one word for another, their logic is flawed?

    I find that utterly amusing. Perhaps a bit perplexing, too.

  6. Former Fat Person
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    But I simply paraphrased YOU Marianne. I guess your logic works when it is in support of YOUR viewpoint but it is invalid when it is used to support someone else’s.

  7. admin
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Jen and Former Fat Person, the difference is context. I am not in a pro-dieting space and have stated repeatedly that I respect your right to diet and do with your body what you will.

    YOU are in a pro-fat place telling me you do not respect mt right to not diet and to instead accept myself and, more specifically, my body.

    You aren’t here to engage in any sort of meaningful discussion. You are here to bait me for your own amusement. If you don’t like fat people, Former Fat Person, why do you read and comment in this blog?

  8. Posted September 8, 2007 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    FFP, if your “Q of L” is so wonderful post weight loss, what are you doing here taunting us fat nobodies? Don’t you have a threesome to attend with Brangelina or something?

  9. KarenElhyam
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Of course everyone has a right to DO with themselves what they want, but I don’t see what’s so difficult to understand.

    If you say, for example, “being black is okay for you, but it wouldn’t be for me,” you would see how that is terribly, terribly antithetical to race activism and civil rights and anything else. You are saying there is some fundamental difference, and the other that you aren’t is lesser than the person you are.

    So, if you think fat people deserve to be treated as people, woo hoo! They ARE people, they do deserve rights, and decent people know this. But if you say “Well, but I need to diet because otherwise I will be fat and unhappy,” well, how is that different than saying “your fat is okay for you, but lord knows it makes me miserable?” And that’s fine, do what makes you happy. But people who believe you are doing something fundamentally detrimental to their cause (aka. Fat Activism) don’t have to jump up and down and congratulate you.

  10. Posted September 8, 2007 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    So, if you think fat people deserve to be treated as people, woo hoo! They ARE people, they do deserve rights, and decent people know this. But if you say “Well, but I need to diet because otherwise I will be fat and unhappy,” well, how is that different than saying “your fat is okay for you, but lord knows it makes me miserable?”

    Karen, this is perfect.

    Chickengirl, if you need to go somewhere that people laud and validate your dieting, go. You’ve only got every other sandbox in the world to go play in.

  11. Dorianne
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I would liken the “former fat person”‘s comments rather to people in the so-called “ex-gay” movement: “Look, I used to be gay, and now I’m not. And while I don’t judge you for your gayness, my quality of life has been improved by my straightness. Therefore, because I’m living proof that positive change can happen, I can’t support your gayness.”

    That’s very much how it comes across to me – as a fat person AND a queer woman. It’s a misguided moral superiority at best.

    I believe the “ex-gay” movement has a 99% long-term failure rate, too.

  12. Dorianne
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    PS – not saying I disagree with the content of this post, especially the discussion of racism and privilege (just to clarify). Rather that the comment posted about seems to go there in my own head.

  13. Jen
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    My point, and why I do read your blog, is that in theory, I really would consider myself a fat acceptance/size acceptance person. I have simply chosen not to accept my own fat/size for whatever personal reason that is.

    I guess I don’t get why someone can’t be of a smaller body size (by design or choice) and not be considered accepting of fat. I could be straight and accept gay people. Does that make it any less valid because I myself might be straight?

    It’s such a complex and emotional issue for everyone…either side of the fence. No matter what issue “fence” you want to jump or mend.

    Where am I going? I guess it’s to say that we should be accepting of people because they are people. Not because they fit into any social group, etc. Sometimes all of us sound horribly vicious under the guise of acceptance. And that is what is really unacceptable.

  14. Dorianne
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Please note that I was not likening straight people’s acceptance of gays to dieting people’s acceptance of fat people. I think you are misconstruing the analogy. I was comparing forms of oppression.

    Straight people are not oppressed for their straightness. Some straight people may FEEL they are oppressed when they are the lone straight person in a room full of gays, but that does not mean they are oppressed, by any stretch of the imagination, since they have all the privilege in society that gays do not. However, trying desperately to become an “ex-gay” is the result of internalized oppression. Refusing to accept/support other people’s gayness, whether you are gay, “ex-gay,” or straight, is a form of oppression.

    The comment I was remarking on was, “I don’t support your fat.” How is that not oppressive?

  15. Posted September 8, 2007 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been following this discussion with varying levels of anxiety, but I think I agree with The Rotund, kate harding and fillyjonk. I don’t practice HAES and I’ve been a bit apprehensive as to how I’d be viewed, but after carefully reading the posts, I feel more confident now that I’d be accepted in the movement as a fat and sedentary or fat and unhealthy eating activist.

    But the idea that I wouldn’t be accepted as an activist if I were to diet – totally doesn’t offend me. To borrow religious metaphors, if the salt loses its taste, it’s no good for anything. If a fat activist diets, s/he is sending the world the wrong message in my opinion. And basically what the Rotund said – we need to practice what we preach. To me, that means committing to not dieting. I think as a movement, fat acceptance needs to agree upon certain things to really be effective. That will inevitably make some people feel left out. I think it happens in all movements.

  16. Dorianne
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Again with the PSs, sorry…

    And if you were the lone “ex-gay” in a room full of gay people, and you kept talking about your “conversion” and the work you did/are doing to become an “ex-gay,” you would – at best – quicky find yourself isolated in the corner with nobody wanting to hear what you have to say.

    That’s not a form of oppression either. It’s a form of self-esteem and pride, and a wish to respect and maintain the few SAFE spaces that oppressed groups have in which not to be subjected to anyone’s self-hatred and internalized oppression – which does, like it or not, affect us all.

  17. Posted September 8, 2007 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I guess I don’t get why someone can’t be of a smaller body size (by design or choice) and not be considered accepting of fat. I could be straight and accept gay people. Does that make it any less valid because I myself might be straight?

    Jen, this is an imperfect analogy. For one, many people of a smaller body size *are* in the movement. Many straight people are involved in queer rights. But, as Dorianne points out, there aren’t many people in the ex-gay movement that support queer rights, and if they claim to, most of us would be highly suspcious of them. Especially if they went to queer-friendly spaces and talked about their “therapy” all the time. Dieting is not done by people who happen not to be fat, it is done by people who DO NOT WANT to be fat. It’s an ex-fat movement.

  18. Posted September 8, 2007 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Jen: “I guess it’s to say that we should be accepting of people because they are people. Not because they fit into any social group, etc.”

    With all due respect, that’s a little silly. If the fat acceptance movement opens to people who are specifically anti-fat, that gains us nothing and dilutes our cause, doesn’t it? I mean, they’re people too, right?

  19. Posted September 8, 2007 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    As a fat lesbian, I really agree with the ex-gay analogy. What I sometimes see dieters doing is that they come into a conversation with a seemingly supportive attitude, only to bring up their diets. I don’t know if they mean it that way, but it comes off as diet advertising, especially if it derails the whole convo into “how this diet of mine works”. Also, if you’re on a certain diet or you’ve had weight loss surgery, you might be more defensive against negative comments on said diet or surgery, and make it more difficult to discuss these issues in a critical light.

  20. Celeste
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Ok, just a simple question (hopefully) not meant to inflame anyone/anybody…

    I read your post through the feed on LiveJournal so I apologize in advance if this is an issue that has been brought up and resolved through comments or if it was in an entry made before I started reading.

    I’m new to the idea of fat acceptance…mainly because I just never knew there were people out there that were doing anything other than constantly dieting and feeling horrible for being fat. My issue is this: what do you think about a person that is wanting to diet/lose weight for career purposes. I’m not saying I think I’ll do better in the work place if I’m thin (though sadly that seems to be how America works) but I’m wanting to lose weight and get fit in order to be a police officer…which I think everyone would agree needs to be a thin and fit person. Fit being more important obviously – but no matter how fit they are, the bigger a person is the harder it is for them to run, or to weasel into tight places, etc, all the stuff an officer would need to do. I hope I’ve explained that sufficiently.

    So what are your thoughts on that? Do you think fat acceptance and weight loss for a reason such as that can coincide? That’s my issue now, I feel like I’m “selling out” the movement, but at the same time, my wanting to lose weight isn’t for wanting to fit into society or for vanity, its for what I believe to be a good cause.

    Thanks!

  21. KarenElhyam
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Celeste, I’m very much a newcomer to this whole fat activism thing, and I will say that I’m certainly not far enough along on my own path to body acceptance, especially my own, to ever use the word “activist,” to explain it.

    However, I think the important thing to make clear in your mind is that thin =/= fit. It just doesn’t. Now, I know what you’re say, skinny people can squeeze more easily through cracks in fences and chase down those bad guys, ala Cops, but that is not all there is to being a cop. Moreover, the ability to run for any amount of time is not inherently connected to size. I’ve been a suck ass runner my whole life, when I was tiny and out of shape, skinny and in shape, and fat and out of shape, AND fat and in-shape. I just don’t do running.

    However, if being fit is essential to your career, and you exercise and work out in such a way as to strengthen yourself for it, and as a result, you lose weight? Well, that’s not dieting. That’s fitness. If you are ONLY doing it to be smaller, and thinner, well, no, that’s not accepting your fat. This isn’t the case here, though. You are strengthing your body, and ideally, eating in such a way as to enhance your fitness. You are not working out to punish/whip your body into teensiness and then only eating enough to stay alive.

    Also, and this is just a coda of feminism that is of note, I know plenty of cops of all shapes and sizes, and plenty of really big, muscle-y dude cops, and I can promise you, their muscle-weight would push their BMI into the obese range. I highly doubt they would hear even a moment of flak for that, however.

  22. Emily
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    I think this is a really good post. Rational sounding. Makes lots of sense to disapprove of the politics generally but not having to disapprove of the specific dieter. It’s very clarifying. Thanks.

  23. Posted September 8, 2007 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    FWIW, I don’t want anyone to congratulate me on my desire to lose a stone. I would not bring it up in a space such as this if such things were not already being discussed. I have not asked for anyone’s support. I have merely tried to argue that things are not quite as clear-cut as some people are saying.

    I do not evangelise about weight loss, far from it. The only people who know I would like to be a size smaller for practical reasons are you guys and my partner, who I only told about it when I was talking through my thoughts before posting here.

    All of the emotional language that surrounds talk of dieting in these comments – I don’t feel it when I think about what I would like to do with my body. If I lose that bit of weight, I won’t feel like I’ve achieved some kind of redemption or that life will be so much better. I’ll feel slight relief that a slight problem caused by my recent increase in size is no longer an issue. I don’t think I’m too fat now. I think my favourite shops make clothes too small. But my everyday life does not have to be a shining example of fat activism in every way in order for me to call myself a fat activist. It just doesn’t.

    The very fact that I can be so calm about weight loss, I owe to fat activism. These few pounds I may possibly lose, they mean virtually nothing to me. Once I would have wept with gratitude to lose them. Now I only just barely give half a small runny shit. I see how it’s hard to claim that I accept them when I am trying to lose them. Technically I have rejected them. But it is seriously such a non-issue for me. Trimming off the ends of my hair is more of a rejection than this, because I actually do dislike having split ends. I don’t dislike this weight on me. I rather enjoy it. But I like my size 20 body just as well, and it’s slightly easier to have. So I’ll have it, if it turns out that I can do so without too much effort.

    And again, I am not seeking your approval here. I don’t want special dispensation to diet. I don’t think that what’s okay for other people is not okay for me. I think that if I were to go up to a size 24, 26, 28, what the hell ever, *I* would be just as good as I am now. But my life would be a little bit harder, and I don’t want it to. Call it pragmatic, selfish or whatever you like. If I can prevent it without much hassle, I will. If not, then that’s okay too.

    I don’t need anyone here to OK that. I am simply using myself as an example of why I believe “No dieter can justifiably call themselves a fat activist” is not fair or accurate.

  24. Posted September 8, 2007 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    And you know something else? I am completely okay with the fact that dieting might actually make me end up fatter than I am now. It won’t be a terrible outcome. Because I have no fundamental trouble with accepting fat!

  25. Posted September 8, 2007 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Bellyrolls, i really think you wouldve been better off without adding that second post.

    Losing weight just to gain it all back && then some??

    Sorry but that threw me off a bit.

  26. Former Fat Person
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    OK so let’s see if I’ve figured this out yet. You don’t have a problem with me doing anything I want with my own body so you’re not going to tell me not to diet and you believe that a person who happens not to be fat can still be body positive but what you DO have a problem with is if my intent is to say I DO NOT WANT TO BE FAT. So if I actively don’t want to be fat (and you don’t seem to care about my reasons) and I take measures to diet and become thin, then, um, you think I’m some kind of terrible person who is personally out to offend you by the nature of my intent. ‘Cos if I hate my fat and try to get rid of it that must mean I hate your fat and you’ve tied your identity all up in being a fat person so that means I hate you.

    Huh?

  27. Former Fat Person
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Oh you know on some other blog a fat activitist tried to insult me by saying I “wanted to be a member of the pretty people club.” Well hell yeah sure! Why not!!

  28. Former Fat Person
    Posted September 8, 2007 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Forgot to make my point…. I thought that by making that statement to me the fat activist was actually asserting that she herself believed a fat person couldn’t be a member of this “pretty people club.”

  29. Posted September 8, 2007 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    um, you think I’m some kind of terrible person who is personally out to offend you by the nature of my intent

    Man, you’re not even TRYING for reading comprehension. TR, sorry to get harsh on your blog but this is fucking ridiculous.

  30. Posted September 8, 2007 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    Seconded, Fillyjonk.

    Also, kittens and puppies and clothes!

    Also, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

  31. Posted September 9, 2007 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    Why does that throw you, Patricia? Weight loss isn’t that important to me. Weight gain is not a disaster for me. Out of two possible outcomes, one is slightly less problematic, but either is perfectly acceptable, and I’m willing to try for one even if it means I get the other.

  32. Posted September 9, 2007 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    So wait… weight loss isn’t important to you, but it’s important enough that you’re willing to go for it, knowing how harmful dieting is, even if it’s temporary?

    You’re saying that, in attempting weight loss, you are willing to play a worse-than-zero-sum game, where you end up exactly where you started weightwise only less healthy. You won’t be thinner, you will be less healthy, but you will have at some point lost some weight.

    But weight loss isn’t important to you.

  33. Posted September 9, 2007 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Well, this is where we could get into my current eating and exercise habits, and the eating and exercise habits I would like to adopt. I believe that if I adopt them I will end up losing a little weight, and because I want to lose a little weight I’m more likely to get my act together and make those good changes. To me that’s pursuing weight loss as *a* goal, though it’s not the only or even really the major goal of the changes I plan to make. Believe me, I will be more healthy, not less. If I were currently healthy I would be much less willing to attempt weight loss.

    But I’m not going to sit here and explain absolutely everything about what I want to do with my body, because weekends are too damn short. Sod it. I’ve been trying to use my own situation as an example, but I think that was a bad mistake on my part. I’m talking in circles, being far too specific to be useful and ending up on the defensive about my personal choices, which is starting to suck and be stressful. I’m spending more time thinking about this argument than I ought to be. I’m bowing out now. See you all tomorrow for puppies.

  34. Posted September 9, 2007 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Celeste @ 20:

    I’m going to reiterate what KarenElhyam said to you: remember that fit is not the same as thin. Most police forces have specific fitness requirements. I’m not sure if they have specific BMI requirements as part of these. Now, a more experienced fat acceptance activist should correct me if I’m mistaken, here, but it seems to me that the pro-fat take on these fitness requirements would be that they should be performance-based, and tied into ensuring that candidates can perform most of the tasks that will be required of them as police officers. If someone can do this at 300 lbs, then that person’s weight should be irrelevant.

    If you really want to be a police officer, then you should be looking at a physical fitness regimen designed to help you become more able to perform the tasks on which you will be assessed, and become faster, stronger, and better at these tasks. You’ll want to do strength and endurance training, ladder drills (these are for agility and involve rope ladders on the floor, not climbing up and down ladders), and probably some running and other cardio activity. You’ll want to check what assessments candidates for the police force are supposed to undergo, and include those assessments in your own fitness assessments, figure out where your stregths and weaknesses are, and design a training program that will allow you to address the weaknesses while maintaining and improving in your areas of strength. Then, in three months, or so, do the assessments again, and see whether you’ve made progress. Repeat.

    You will note that at no point in my discussion of setting fitness goals or training did I mention body weight. The point of setting fitness goals is to improve your cardio-respiratory health, your muscular strength, flexibility, and endurance, and your performance-related fitness (speed, agility, coordination, etc.). The assessments that most police forces use measure these.

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