There are times when I and other fellow bloggers in the fatosphere are criticized for talking about fat and health. We are accused of healthism and ableism. We are told we are furthering the notion of “good fatties” who eat well and exercise and “bad fatties” who don’t. We are told that we are playing into “poster child” syndrome where fat people feel obligated to behave in a way that is outwardly healthy in order to be accepted in our society. So I thought I’d take a moment today to talk about why I blog so much about health.
First let me state for the record that I think every human being on the planet should be treated with respect. Whatever you choose to eat, whether or not you choose to exercise, whether or not you choose to go to the doctor–however you choose to live your life, that’s your choice. No one has the right to call you names or choose not to hire you or give you health insurance based on the way you look.
Second let me state that I am one person who happens to write a blog. I am not the end all and be all authority of what it means to be a fat person. I do not speak for or represent all fat people everywhere. I am one person, and I report my experience from my perspective. And in my world and from my perspective health is very important to me. So I write about it. That doesn’t mean that there are not other very important things to write about. Some people write about being fat and wearing fashionable clothes. Some people write primarily about being fat and social justice. Some people write about being fat and having a fabulous sex life. These are all perfectly wonderful things to write about. There is not one single one of us fat people who can write about the entire experience of being a fat person and cover every angle, every detail and every nuance of what it is to be a fat person in our society. We all write from different viewpoints, and I say vive la différence.
I also understand that not everybody is coming at health from the same place and with the same access. Not everyone has access to good, affordable medical care. Not everyone has a safe place in their neighborhood to go for a walk. Some people cannot walk. Not everybody has access to the food they would like to eat or the fitness resources they might like to utilize. Not everybody has much free time in their lives to focus on anything other than earning enough money to survive and to shoulder the responsibilities they have for caring for family members. I get it. I offer what resources I can when I can. I offer resources understanding that accessing these resources may prove very difficult if not impossible for some people. Again, I am not everything to everybody. But if I can be something to somebody, I’ll keep doing what I do.
As I said, I write about health because it is a topic that is important to me. And since health has always been important to me, understanding that Health At Every Size (R) was even possible was an important step on my personal journey to self acceptance. Because when I believed that being fat was necessarily and unquestionably a death sentence, I had a hard time with the idea that being fat was okay for me. I understand that there are no guarantees in life. I am not nor will I ever be “in perfect health”. In fact, I don’t believe “perfect health” even exists. Health is a continuum along which we all travel back and forth from hour to hour and day to day. And when I am sick and when I am injured and when I face health limitations, it doesn’t mean I was a good fat person or a bad fat person. It means I am a human person. And I’m okay with that. But knowing about HAES (R) was unquestionably important to me.
Just because I write about health does not mean that I think it should be important to everybody. But I want people to know, that if being healthy is important to them, health is possible at every size. They can choose to have a health focus in their lives without choosing to spend a lot of their life losing weight. If health is important to you, there are plenty of things besides weight upon which you can choose to focus that are statistically likely to help you be healthy and may have a positive impact on your quality of life.
Another reason that I choose to write about health is that fears about our health have been used to bully fat people into some very dubious health practices by people who may be well meaning or may simply want to earn a lot of money from us. Frankly, before I decide to have gastric bypass surgery, or take weight loss medications or ingest a tapeworm or empty my stomach contents into a bucket in the name of health, I want to understand the true story of the health risks of engaging in these behaviors as well as the health risks of not engaging in these behaviors. I want to understand alternative treatments. If engaging in a little bit of moderate exercise is likely to have a better health outcome than a surgery which permanently alters the way I digest food, that is something I want to know. Not everybody in the world may want to know that. It doesn’t mean that everybody in the world is obligated to choose moderate exercise. But if there is an alternate therapy that costs very little and has very few side effects then I am going to talk about it. I am going to share that possibility. You can pick it up or leave it alone as you choose. You can read my blog that day or be completely uninterested and read something else, it’s up to you.
Look, in my little blog corner of the world, I can choose to serve pancakes. Maybe somebody else will choose to serve lobster. I think I can serve pancakes without in any way disparaging the lobster chefs or lobster eaters out there. Thankfully life is a giant buffet with infinite choices. Fill your plate with the things that make you happy.
The Fat Chick
I realize I am late to the party, but I want to thank you for writing this. To be honest, I’ve become intimidated by some of the healthism and ableism stuff and afraid someone will jump down my throat if I say the wrong thing in the slightest. I get that it’s totally a personal choice how you manage your health. Really, I do. I don’t consider it morally superior to take a walk instead of sitting down and reading or watching TV. But if that walk has some proven benefit for those who can do it and want to take it, isn’t that just good information to have out there? If some of the oppression of people who are fat stems from the mistaken notion that weight = health, wouldn’t it be good to at least dig that weed out of there?
I am still relatively new to HAES (R) but it is already making my life better. Love your blog!
Thanks Susie! I really think there’s room for all of us out there! :o) Jeanette
I think all the fat acceptance bloggers are important. But for me, finding the ones who stress that health and fat aren’t mutually exclusive–like you!–changed my complete thought process on the subject. The message I had before was hours of exercise and limited food intake and surgery and medications and…just throw in the kitchen sink. Now I can concentrate on movement I enjoy and eating as healthy as possible. Makes a big difference in quality of life.
So thank you for all you do!