Is it really so radical to say that Fat Acceptance spaces need to be free of diet discussions? Actually, I don’t think it is. And I say this even though I believe that there has to be a starting point on the FA journey for everyone (as I have repeatedly stated before). I just don’t think weight loss stories are an appropriate starting point.
I’ve put together this diagram and the points below to help clarify my thoughts – but it’s really a work in progress and is intended as a starting point for discussion. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is have at it, discuss, dispute, whatever. Dive right in. The water’s fine.
Accepting one’s self and having a core sense of self-worth does not necessarily equate to loving your body in its current state. Nor does a lack of self esteem necessarily equate to lack of body acceptance (although I would hazard a guess that if your self esteem is low, you are going to be more inclined to dislike your body). A sense of self worth can be built on who you are; your place in your community, family, work; what you like doing and do well; your hobbies and accomplishments. While appearance may be a factor in self worth, in most people I believe it would be only one of the components of their sense of self.
To put it another way, Self Acceptance relates to the inner whereas Body Acceptance relates to the outer
2. Fat Acceptance vs Size Acceptance – Allies with a difference
Philosophically, Size Acceptance and Fat Acceptance are very similar. SA and FA both advocate an end to size & weight related discrimination. Many FA and SA activists follow the principles of HAES (Health At Every Size). Many have learned to love their body at its set point, regardless of whether that is fat or thin or in between.
The point of difference to my mind is that Fat Acceptance explicitly states that FAT is – and must be – part of that discussion; there can be no upper weight or size limit to our quest for rights and acceptance. There can be no point at which we nudge each other, compare bodies and say, “Well, I’m fat, but she is something else again. That really can’t be healthy, can it?”
3. Dieting and Body Acceptance are mutually exclusive
If you are dieting, then you believe your body as it currently stands is unacceptable. Full stop (or period, for the Yanks). It really doesn’t matter whether you are trying to lose weight for cosmetic or ‘health reasons’ – dieting, by definition, is a rejection of the current state of your body and an attempt to change that. The ultimate goal is a smaller or ‘healthier’ you, and regardless of whether you call your diet a ‘lifestyle change’ or ‘eating sensibly’, that is not body acceptance.
4. Therefore Fat Acceptance and Dieting are mutually exclusive
If you believe your own body is so unacceptable that you must starve and shrink it, then by extension, you also must believe that bodies of people who are as large or larger than you are unacceptable. Do I really need to state why that is not Fat Positive?
5. Diet all you like, just don’t talk about it in Fat Acceptance spaces
Some dieters appear to believe that the refusal of Fat Acceptance advocates to diet (or to discuss how to diet or the ‘benefits of weightloss’) somehow impinges on the right of the dieter to bodily autonomy. For my own part, I really don’t care if you diet. But – much as I refuse to listen to Jehovah’s Witnesses who knock on my door – I refuse to take part in endless discussions about calories and what ‘worked’ for you. I will not participate in the celebration of the loss of part of your body. I have made a conscious choice not to diet, despite there being endless cultural pressure to do. Fat Acceptance spaces are one place where that cultural pressure is eased (not removed, eased) for a while. I do not require your validation for my choice, nor do I require you to stop dieting. I just ask that you SHUT UP ABOUT IT already. Thank you.