Fat Acceptance and Fat-Shaming

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Shouldn’t every person have the right to feel good about herself or himself? One of the great paradoxical tenets of the psychological health profession is that change must be preceded by self-acceptance. You have to be okay with yourself as you are before you can move on. In Reddit.com’s fatlogic interest group, someone proposed the question, “Can fat acceptance be good sometimes, as a transitional step?”

No, replied someone who believes that fat acceptance makes the situation of chronic over-eaters even more difficult. Another person compares the “Health at Every Size” movement to self-deluding climate change deniers, a sentiment echoed by a comment noting that fat acceptance is the refusal to acknowledge that obesity can kill. A respondent called “fatattacker” suggests that acceptance should only apply to things that do not negatively affect a person’s health, and adds:

People shouldn’t feel good about being fat. They should hate it. Hate it to the point where they DO something about it. I couldn’t have lost weight without having this mentality.

That reply is strangely reminiscent of Matt Mira’s remark about almost wishing that horrible fat-shaming online forums, such as the recently banned subreddits, had existed when he was a teenager because the negative attention might have jolted him into awareness. “Altarocks” asserts that “accepting the problem is real is not the same as accepting that the problem is okay” and that fat acceptance “should last one minute,” to be immediately followed by decisive action. Someone known as “ashleab” writes:

The key is SELF acceptance, not fat acceptance. Accept yourself, and do what you can to improve. Don’t accept your fat.

One man writes about his strong, shame-based fear of being seen to exercise. But, he says, stepping into the gym for the first time was when he broke away from the shame:

I actually started working on it, not because I wanted to get slimmer, but because when I mustered the courage to get there, I realized that working out was enjoyable in itself and helped me cope with depression.

That fact is key, whenever the subject of exercise is on the table. Even if there were no direct physical calorie in/energy out relationship between weight and activity, the indirect psychological effects of exercise can lead people to make astonishing changes. Media personality Joe Rogan often talks about how, if not for frequent vigorous workouts, he would not be able to stand himself, and his loved ones wouldn’t be able to put up with being around him.

Online it is possible to find an 11-minute clip from an episode of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast (complete with salty language—you were warned!) where he talks about the controversy surrounding the “What’s Your Excuse?” mom. Baffled by the amount of support that is available for fatlogic, he makes fun of the “thin privilege” notion and maintains that healthy-weight people have an instinctive natural resistance to the sight of a very overweight individual:

When someone sees a morbidly obese person the reason why they’re staring is not because they’re trying to shame that person. It’s a natural freakout. Your body recognizes…that guy’s gonna die.

Someone who had succeeded in losing a lot of weight wrote about going through a HAES phase when “hunger was driving me mad and I was looking for any excuse to just eat whatever I wanted.” Someone else mentioned the impulse, no doubt left over from a childhood where food was used as a reward, toward “making it up to myself when I do something ‘good’.” A person called “dhyana81” wrote of the fatlogic discussion group:

I first found this thread when I read someone complaining about ‘fat hating’ online…I think people think it’s about hate, but for most of us I think it’s about a concern that comes from somewhere, namely our own struggle with losing weight and our own fat logic.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Unpopular : Can fat acceptance be good sometimes, as a transitional step?,” Reddit.com, 2014
Source: “Joe Rogan Destroys Fat logic,” YouTube.com, 11/05/13
Source: “Since many of us here seem to have lost a fair amount,” reddit.com, 2014
Image by Gwydion M. Williams

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

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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Presentations

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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