Fat Acceptance Can Hurt

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It would be difficult to estimate how many people have been harmfully influenced by the idea that obesity is not such a big deal after all. It seems as if a lot of the “health at every size” rhetoric aims to convince people to give up – and that “fat acceptance” is just shorthand for “fatalistic acceptance.”

The Reddit discussion website is an unfailing source of cautionary tales.  A young woman, only 5’5,” who once weighed 200 pounds, writes that the people who “revel in denial” make her doubt herself – despite her success in losing enough weight to achieve an 8-10 dress size. She says:

I can only imagine that a lot of people on the cusp of making changes to their lives choose not to because they are convinced by the FA movement that they are doomed to fail… The FA movement pushes people over the edge, back toward obesity, poor health, and even death…

Rather than fighting for the oppressed, the FA movement fights to oppress and marginalize anyone who might prove their central premise, that weight is outside of an individual’s control, wrong.

On another page, where people ‘fess up about the fat-logic nonsense they previously bought into, a contributor remembers believing that if he just ate whatever his body seemed to want, everything would automatically sort itself out. Allegedly, his appetite would gradually match up with the body’s actual energy needs, and his weight would “stabilize at its natural ‘set point.’”

This turned out not to be a workable solution, so he abandoned the theory and eventually became a calorie counter with such success that people assume he is a naturally thin person with an efficient metabolism who can eat whatever he wants. Of course that is not true either, but it’s a myth that a lot of people cling to.

Strange Byways

Individual attempts to grapple with the idea of fat acceptance can lead down some unusual pathways. In Saturday Night Live’s ancient past, Nora Dunn sometimes played a therapist whose one piece of advice, no matter what the client’s problem, was “Look at yourself.”

11 Years is a book by photographer Jen Davis, an obese woman who realized in 2002 that, “I need to look at myself.” After many years of self-portraits that won artistic acclaim, she realized that just looking was not enough, and opted for lap-band surgery. The more recent pictures in the book were taken after a 110-pound weight loss. The entire project is an exploration of the societal ideals of beauty, love, and intimacy – and insecurity. Davis wrote,

In the work what I kept returning to is: What is love? Am I loveable? Can someone find me attractive?

This piece of video comes with a warning – the language is salty and explicit. But it is an interesting peek into the life and thoughts of a frequent Reddit contributor with the handle Boogie 2988. Speaking knowledgeably about obesity and the fat-logic trap, he tells both fat-acceptance advocates and opponents that he loves them.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “My Internal Battle Against the FA Movement” reddit.com, 03/02/14
Source: “What Fatlogic Did You Believe in the Past?,” Reddit.com, 11/05/14
Source: “Woman who spent 11 years photographing her overweight body to try to love herself but in the end resorted to gastric band surgery,” dailymail.co.uk, 05/20/14
Source: “Fat Logic and Fat Hate,” YouTube.com, 10/28/13
Image by thepeachpeddler


2 Responses

  1. “…they are convinced by the FA movement that they are doomed to fail.” Thank you! The fat acceptance movement has many valid, worthy, and reasonable points that are deserving of support, and we are always in favor of self-acceptance, esteem, especially as opposed to shaming and bullying. But this movement’s insistence that “only 5% of people are ever successful at making long-term positive lifestyle changes” is not only wrong – it’s harmful and irresponsible to spread that message. It’s discouraging and encourages the defeatest attitude you discussed. Thanks for this one!

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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