So you’ve decided to ditch diet culture, food restriction, and leave intentional weight loss behind. First of all – YAY! That’s incredible, and your life will change for the better.
And it’s also probably going to be really hard for more than one reason. (UGH, I know.)
Want to make the process a little easier? Keep reading.
Addressing Internal Anti-fat Bias
The good news? We’ve all got internal anti-fat bias. The bad news?
WE’VE ALL GOT INTERNAL ANTI-FAT BIAS.
Y’all, this feeling of desperation to avoid gaining weight, being fat, going up a size, having soft or flabby body parts, a round tummy, etc. – it’s been programmed into our systems since before we could register or consent to any of it. It’s been reinforced through media we consume, our families, our friends, teachers, doctors, politicians, basically anything even remotely “health” related, and it’s not something we had to try to learn.
So step one is to realize that internal anti-fat bias is completely normal and to be expected. It’s what we DO with it that matters.
Okay, so what do we do with it?
What a very logical next question. Step two is learning to recognize it. And not just when it comes to others, but when also when we start using fat-shame-y language toward ourselves. And I’m sorry to tell you, it’s not always easy. Sure, there are obvious harmful instances like standing in front of a mirror and berating yourself for your appearance. But it’s also often sneakier than that.
Here are some examples to look out for:
- Pursuing weight loss in the name of “health.” Health and weight loss aren’t synonymous, even though we’ve been told our entire lives they’re exactly the same thing. It’s beyond easy to convince yourself you’re just pursuing “health” when in reality you’re hopping right back on that diet bandwagon. (I speak from WAY too much experience on this.)
- Only wearing or buying clothes that are traditionally “flattering.” Is this inherently bad? Nope! It’s completely normal to want to feel comfortable in what we wear and so much of that is being perceived well by society as a whole. So of course, wear what you want! Do take the time to ask yourself what you’re considering “flattering.” Is it clothes that don’t show what you consider your “problem areas?” (Also, those don’t exist.) Are you avoiding letting the world know you have upper arms? Or a stomach that isn’t made of actual steel? Ask yourself why, and you may be surprised to find that anti-fat bias is creeping in.
- Do you find yourself worrying about the chubby or fat kids in your life? Thinking their food should be restricted so they don’t get made fun of, or have “health issues?” You guessed it – this is anti-fat bias. And this is in no way to say that society doesn’t mistreat fat people, or that the health system isn’t skewed against people in bigger bodies. But putting the issue on the individual ignores the systems in place that create hostility toward fat bodies, and those systems are what deserve a closer look, not chubby kids.
- Do you interrupt your friends when they call themselves fat, with things like “no, you’re beautiful!” – as if it’s not possible to be both? YUP. Anti-fat bias.
And folks, these are only a tiny, tiny sample of the many ways anti-fat bias pops up in daily lives. It can also include other wildly harmful things like underestimating a fat person’s intelligence or ability, not believing fat people when they have medical concerns, and other various mistreatment.
Ok, you know you have it, and you’re learning to recognize it. Now what?
Those are two HUGE steps, and might be the hardest ones? Your next step is quite simple – keep going.
- Keep learning. Read literature and essays by fat writers.
- Introduce more fat bodies into your media consumption – movies, tv, and VERY IMPORTANTLY – social media. Purge your social media of diet and fitness accounts if you ever followed them, and be intentional about following people in bigger bodies. The more you see fat people (and not from a creepy, fetishy lens, please), the better our brains get at embracing fat bodies as normal and lovely. Want to learn more? You’re in luck – I wrote a whole blog post on that and you can find it here.
- Get a few facts under your belt. We’ve been sold a huge lie for most of our lives – that fat is bad and weight loss is healthy, and health is the most important thing. There’s a lot of unpacking to do, but there are also a lot of little lies that make up the base that diet culture desperately clings to in order to keep us completely dissatisfied with our bodies and funneling more and more money into their big, dumb machine. An accessible place to start is with the unbelievably wonderful Aubrey Gordon. Read her work, listen to Maintenance Phase (content warning – lots and lots of diet talk – still wonderful, just tread carefully if you’re in a place that may cause harm), and equip yourself with the reality of what is and isn’t a fat existence.
Being fat isn’t bad. It’s, at most, neutral. At best? It can be really awesome. Our brains and bodies have been filled with information over the years with the sole intention of convincing us that isn’t true, and it’s past time to unlearn. Let’s unlearn together, okay?