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Guest Post: I am No One’s Good Fatty

Editor’s Note: Shaunta is back! And this time she explains why the expectation of being a “good fatty” is hurtful and unproductive. Right on!

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When I first started writing about Health at Every Size (HAES), I spent a lot of time talking about my blood. Nearly every post I wrote included a paragraph listing my “numbers,” like credentials on a resume.

My cholesterol is 125. My blood sugar has never been above 85 on any test, including during pregnancy. I have normal blood pressure. I tend to be a little anemic, but no one is perfect. I also made a point of making sure everyone knew that I regularly engaged in the Center for Disease Control’s recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week and that I ate 1800 calories a day.

I figured that 1800 was high enough to not be a diet, but low enough to not be gluttony. It took a long time, years, for me to understand that trying to eat so far below the number of calories my body needed to maintain my weight was a major cause of my weekly binges.

I was a Good Fatty. I felt like if I was going to write about health and fitness, it was necessary for me to draw a line in the metaphorical sand between fat people like me and fat people not like me. I thought that for people to listen to me, I had to be one of the good ones.

Michelle Allison, dietetics student and blogger at The Fat Nutritionist, expands on that by saying that “a good fatty is someone who stays in line. Someone who stays home with the curtains drawn, exercising in the dark, under a blanket, until they lose enough weight to be considered worthy of existing in society.”

What I know now is that no amount of waving my health markers around will ever convince those who believe I can’t be healthy until I’m thin that health is a highway, not a destination. No number of laps I can swim, no amount of vegetables I can eat, no doctor’s report will convince those who truly believe that “fat” and “healthly” can’t coincide and that fat people can become healthier outside of weight loss.

Interestingly, the opposite of a Good Fatty isn’t a Bad Fatty. Allison believes that the opposite of a Good Fatty is a fat person who does not need to justify or apologize for their existence or for the existence of fat people in the world. If we eat donuts, we’re still valuable. If we don’t exercise, we’re still valuable. Even if we’re not healthy, we’re still valuable.

The opposite of a Good Fatty is a fat rebel who believes in autonomy and that a person’s health is a personal concern and not up for public debate.

For the last couple of weeks, the hash tag #notyourgoodfatty has been trending on Twitter. It started with Amanda Levitt, who blogs at Fat Body Politics, answering a question about fat stigma and grew from there. As a participant in that conversation, I noticed a few things that I think are worth sharing here.

The opponents to Fat Acceptance (FA) and Health at Every Size are largely unaware of what either of these movements actually are. Fat Acceptance and Health at Every Size are not interchangeable terms. FA is a social justice movement that fights against size discrimination. HAES is a health paradigm designed to help people adopt healthy behaviors in a weight neutral way. Neither are trying to take away anyone’s weight loss program. Neither have a nefarious goal of turning the entire world into obese people with diabetes and heart disease. Neither are interested in shaming anyone of any size, because both believe that bodies of all sizes are worthy of acceptance.

There is a lot of fear involved in hating on fat people who are trying to build a positive community. As Dr. Linda Bacon, author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, said during a keynote speech at a recent eating disorders conference, “For those who can only envision weight loss as a solution to their woes, size acceptance is a very threatening message.”

wall of excuses

Giving up dieting is scary. I get that it can feel like someone asking you to give up breathing. For many of us, the struggle to control our weight stretches into childhood. I started dieting in the third grade.

I empathize with and understand the fear, even if I dislike the anger it creates. I can see how not trying to lose weight can feel like trying not to lose weight. It’s an important distinction, but it can be confusing.

It is an act of rebellion for a fat person, especially a very fat woman, to say that giving up trying to lose weight is okay. And the result, on #notyourgoodfatty, on Reddit where my blog posts often end up as examples of “fat logic,” and in the real world, is fear that is often expressed as anger.

I am an HAES advocate who spends a lot of time thinking and talking about how the Anti-dieting paradigm and weight loss interconnect. I write often about how giving up trying to control my size has allowed my body to do one of the things it was designed to do: regulate my weight. For some reason this seems to upset critics far more than it ever did when I talked about HAES without talking about weight.

In fact, the idea that I’ve lost weight seems to upset them even more than my declaration that it’s okay to stop dieting. One of the very concerned critics at #notyourgoodfatty made a good effort to convince the rest of the advocates participating that I am a “secret dieter.” He believes that I’m actually on a diet, but I don’t want to lose their respect, so I lie about how much I eat.

Allison believes that “People (who disagree with us) are angry at us because, when we challenge stigma, we challenge their social privilege and the hierarchy that grants them that privilege. If a fat person who doesn’t like vegetables and isn’t particularly fussed about exercise is just as worthy and valuable a human being as a person who eats a million vegetables and runs marathons, then the latter person no longer receives social privileges—social capital—from those behaviors.”

I gave up being a Good Fatty a long time ago. I don’t wear my health markers on my sleeve anymore. I don’t hide away from the world while I frantically try to figure out the math and science of being thin enough to be acceptable. I will never hate myself for being fat again.

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stripesShaunta Grimes is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation. She lives in Reno, Nevada with her family and a pretty yellow dog named Maybelline Scout. Visit her blog or check her out at Fierce Freethinking Fatties. Every Tuesday she sends out a Health at Every Size newsletter called The 100 Day Experiment. If you’re interested in receiving it, please click here and enter your email address. Subscribers get a free copy of Shaunta’s Anti-Dieting primer.

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Mary

Mary Brock works as an Immunology scientist by day and takes care of a pink-loving princess child by night. She likes cloudy days, crafting, cooking, and Fall weather in New England.

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24 Comments

      1. My own opinion is, it’s more “Even if you can’t help fix risk factor X, you can still fix risk factor Y.” (After all, no one can fix “Paternal grandfather had a heart attack at 45, both grandmothers had one at 63 and 66 respectively.”, to use a typical ‘high-risk’ pedigree.) But sometimes doctors forget this. I actually know a dude who, his mother’s fat, and when he was 7, he was put on some sort of psych med that made him lose half his body weight, and he wasn’t fat in the pictures. When his mom complained, the psychiatrist said “I knew you wanted a fat kid.” (Now I know the inspiration for Gregory House.)

        It’s a matter of what you’re dealing with. I’m neither fat nor unhealthily thin. (Is unhealthily a word? Autocorrect says yes.) What annoys me, though, is that someone will be otherwise ‘progressive’, but will quickly fat-shame to support their pet diet (which they’ve somehow convinced themselves is a ’cause’ rather than an industry). But hypocrites anger me more than anything.

        1. One thing that I find really interesting–fascinating, really–is that if you have the nerve to call one of those ‘pet diets’ a diet they lose it. Keto/Paleo/juicing isn’t a diet! It’s a lifestyle. It’s got the science! Just…take a breath already. It’s all just food.

    1. I blocked him on Twitter a while ago, but I believe he is still flooding the tag with this crap. He baits the advocates until they say something he can take out of context and put on Reddit for laughs and social status.

  1. I have been a good fatty in the past as well. I liked what you had to say about the marathon runners, and something occurred to me. We think people who write, or draw, or paint, or sing are neat. They get a lot of acclaim for being talented, and they should. But we don’t treat people who are not good at those things, who indeed cannot carry a tune in a bucket, as if they are lazy or evil. I can’t think of a single other talent pool outside of athleticism in which those who cannot or who choose not to participate are ostracized as horrible sin beasts.

    1. I’m working on an article about fat athleticism. You wouldn’t believe how much hate the idea of a fat person calling themselves an athlete brings up in some people. I don’t get it either. I would never have the nerve to tell someone that they can’t call themselves a writer or singer or painter or whatever. Or an athlete, for that matter.

  2. I’m not gonna lie and make myself sound wonderful and just, I still judge fat people. But I make a concerted effort not to. At this point, it’s still an automatic reaction and I have to reason with myself. When my initial, automatic reaction is to see someone who is overweight and think “oh god what are they doing to themselves/how do they let themselves get into that state/etc” I try to stop myself and remind myself that I’m looking at a complicated human being and it’s unfair to bundle them into this simplistic view, and make assumptions about them.

    I hope I’ve explained myself well enough here. Reading articles like this help a lot, it’s terribly that being overweight makes you a person who is dehumanised but it’s great to read articles that re-humanise.

    I do think that if adults start being more accepting of people at every weight it will rub off on children; the funny thing is that fat acceptance will probably lead to less problems with obesity (as well as less eating disorders at both extremes of the scale), because size will just become less of a focus.

  3. Lets assume that weight both causes health problems and is correctable. How is it not the business of everyone who is made to pay for the health care system? Would you make the same argument about any other voluntary state of being which imposes costs on others: polluting, drunk driving, being a Republican? If not, why is weight special?

    1. Riding a motorcycle, playing sports, having cosmetic surgery, getting pregnant, having children, having an abortion, promiscuous sexual practices …. oh, this is fun!
      Everyone’s stupid and lazy and stealing my hard-earned Obamacare money!

      1. So are you claiming that obesity doesn’t increase health risks, that health care costs aren’t socialized, or that society should not be in the business of telling people which high-risk behaviors to have? I couldn’t help but get confused with the foam coming out of your mouth.

        1. I’m saying you’re dishonestly conflating pollution and drunk driving with being fat. I’m also saying that it’s none of your business. Thought that was clear.
          Habits appear to be more important than weight as a measure of health and fitness:
          http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/12/31/evidence-that-fat-people-can-be-as-healthy-as-thin-people/
          Also, the causes aren’t down to ‘personal responsibility’, unless, of course, you believe entire(global) populations have, for some reason, suddenly become exponentially careless with their own individual health.
          http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2013/08/19/whats-causing-the-rise-in-obesity-everything/
          http://www.bmj.com/content/335/7632/1241

          You want to tell us you’re disgusted by fat people, don’t pretend it’s about anything else. There’s no comments on the posts about running asking about the cost to the medical system for all those sports injuries.

          1. I know I’m pissing in the wind, but maybe treat people with dignity and respect?
            Also, I forgot this:
            Long term weight loss success rates are abysmal, even with medically supervised plans, so when you say ‘correctable’, you mean major life altering and life threatening surgery that carries its own costs and risks.

        1. Well, yes. But it’s oddly straightforward for someone to say, outright, “Let us assume these things that are not in evidence, and draw moral conclusions about them, as though that’s an accepted way to perform a logical operation.” It’s atypical for a person engaging in that kind of fallacy to just state that’s what they’re doing.

    1. There are a lot of things that are harmful with regards to personal health, that doesn’t make it anyone else’s business.

      On a related note, this TJ dude is a known shit-stirrer.

      1. Sure I agree about it being nobody else’s business. I was just taking the opportunity to stick another boot in with a factoid I learned only yesterday at a very interesting lecture on geriatric biochemistry.

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