Tag Archives: poster child syndrome

Why I Write About Health


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


Why You Don’t Have to be the Perfect Example of Anything

On one of the list serves I regularly read, a person came on asking for support.  She has secured some very important opportunities to share Health at Every Size and is herself a person of size.  She is very excited about these opportunities.  She is also, understandably, terrified.  I wrote back to her with some thoughts and have decided to share them with you here.

My dear Chicklettes, I have a confession to make.  My work as an advocate for exercise for people of all shapes and sizes and as an advocate for body love and size acceptance almost never happened.  For a long time, I was paralyzed by fear.  I dipped my toe in the water, but I was very afraid to go public in a big way.  Why?  Because in order to represent people of size, I felt I had to be the perfect example of a healthy, happy, fit and fat person.

I asked myself a lot of questions.  What if I get sick?  What if I injure myself and can’t exercise any more?  What if I get diabetes?  People might point at me and say, “see I told you fat people can’t be healthy!”    People will disbelieve everything about Health at Every Size(TM) if I am not the perfect embodiment of HAES(TM).  People will publicly deride me and call me names!  What if I’m not strong enough?

At one point, I worked with a great coach Mary Jo Thatcher who helped me understand one very important thing.  Even though I represent an idea, and even though I’ve given myself a moniker (The Fat Chick) I am a person and not a persona.  That means I’m not perfect.  I am a living, breathing, individual being who has fears and strengths and problems.  I will get sick sometimes.  My body will age.  I will get hurt both physically and emotionally.  And I will ache.

Being imperfect makes me vulnerable.  Sometimes I am yelled at by doctors, by well meaning relatives and by pumped up (but very insecure) small-minded people on TV.  Some of the comments that I moderate out of my YouTube channel and blog and website are just so unbelievably mean and stupid.  And they hurt–every time.  I am stronger now.  This meanness doesn’t quite hold the same power over me that it once did.  But it still aches.

However, this very thing that makes me imperfect and human also gives me power.  It gives me a way to relate to the other imperfect humans that I work with.  It allows me move beyond the need to be perfect and move into the need to be flexible, and open and LISTEN to those around me.  And it allows me to help others accept their own humanity and right to be loved and respected right at this very minute: not when they’ve reached some arbitrary goal I’ve set up for them, and not when they’ve created a suitable “after” picture to help me hawk whatever product I have for sale, but right now.

So my dear Chicklettes, if you’re afraid to represent for people of size, or if you’re waiting to be perfect in order to earn the right to share your thoughts and your energy I have some sad news.  You will never be perfect.  You will never be the perfect embodiment of anything.  All you can be is you–as hard and as joyfully as you can!  Fortunately, that’s enough.


The Fat Chick