Woooooo this post has been a LONG time coming.
Friends, there’s a lot to process when it comes to fat positivity.
For starters – what, exactly, IS fat positivity? Why is it necessary? What’s the difference between it and body positivity?
These are all excellent questions, but they’re each their own (very long) blog post. In the interest of time and staying on task, let’s take a super quick look at the breakdown.
What is fat positivity?
Fat positivity involves a lot of things, but overall? It’s a social movement. Fat positivity and fat acceptance are platforms intended to reduce anti-fat bias and fat shaming by promoting the fact that fat bodies are no less wonderful and deserving of respect than thin bodies.
Why is fat positivity necessary?
Fat positivity is necessary because fat shaming and diet culture and discrimination and a whole laundry list of other things that make existing in a fat body an unnecessarily challenging experience are prevalent literally EV.ER.RY.WHERE. Fat positivity exists as an attempt to remove a negative moral assignment from fat bodies, and replace it with the truth – that all bodies, shapes, sizes, and abilities, deserve respect and the ability to move through life with dignity.
Ok, what’s the difference between fat positivity and body positivity?
(VERY) long story (VERY) short – the body positive movement has moved far away from the original intention. The movement was created by Black women (which you can learn more about here) and has been taken over by thin white women contorting their bodies to create “rolls” or selling diet-culture (pills, workout programs, diets, etc.) all in the name of being “body positive.” I’m not saying body positivity is a negative concept, but I am saying that you can’t be body positive without being fat positive, and a whooooole lot of people are either trying to be? Or ironically trying to exploit their own perceived bodily imperfections as revolutionary and rebellious, while still maintaining their thin privilege.
But everyone needs to be healthy, right?
To put it very simply, no. And here’s why:
ACCESS TO HEALTH IN ANY FORM IS A PRIVILEGE.
Read it, read it again, and share it with a neighbor.
“Health” is a nebulous idea that is often reduced only to the physical body, and is seen as the ideal at any cost. Those who aren’t healthy are seen as flawed, less-than, and often lazy, depending on the reasons for their lack of health.
But there are countless (countless!) barriers to achieving health. Let’s take a moment to look at the baseline things a person must have to be able to focus on their health – nutrition, movement, sleep. All of those things require what? Resources.
Resources are a PRIVILEGE. Sure, it might seem easy enough to tell someone to go eat a salad and fruit (make sure it’s organic!). It might seem simple for you to get your 30 minute walk in on your lunch break, or run to the gym after work for “me time.”
But what about people who live in food deserts? Or people without transportation? What about people with chronic pain, or people who live in an area where it isn’t safe to exercise outside? People who can’t afford gym memberships? People who are working two jobs to make ends meet and can’t log 8 hours of sleep every night?
At the root of it, these are systemic problems, not individual issues or responsibilities, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to health and accessibility.
Well how can a person be both fat AND healthy?
It’s honestly none of your business.
It’s easy for fat people to get into a pissing contest with thin people over health because we’re SO used to having to defend ourselves with whatever we have at hand, and sometimes that’s “well guess, what, my blood work is absolutely perfect!” or “I’ve never had high blood pressure a day in my life!” or “I guarantee you I know more about nutrition and wellness than you do!” (A comeback I’ve used many, MANY times, because guess what – it’s true! Years and years of dieting and trying to convince your body to be ANYTHING other than what it is means a whole lot of research and information gathering. But that doesn’t make this retaliation the right course of action.)
This is damaging for a few reasons. For starters, you can’t argue with a fatphobic ass. No amount of proof that you’re a “good, repentant fat” is going to make them see the error of their ways and suddenly decide to respect you, rolls and all.
And beyond that – so what? Who cares if your blood work is perfect or you can bench press your car or whatever? Does that make you superior to people whose blood work isn’t “perfect” or who are disabled or have chronic illness? Nope, and by sticking by any of these arguments, you’re (probably unconsciously) no better than those demanding health from you in exchange for respect.
Ultimately, the only people who know your health are YOU, and, if you are privileged enough to have one, your physician(s). (And guys, again with another concept that could be an entire post — doctors are generally taught and thereby practice from an extremely fatphobic lens, so we all have to be our own advocates in a medical setting.)
Your health is literally nobody else’s business, and we should all get into the habit of only sharing it with folks who need to know or we want to share it with, and assuming the same goes for everyone else.
“As long as you’re healthy.”
I wish I had a paper record of every time a well-meaning person had said this to me.
“As long as your healthy” is like a permission slip to be fat. “I’ll accept your fatness along as you can show me documented proof that you’re worthy of my respect even though you look like you aren’t!” That’s not acceptable for any other body type, so why do we feel cool saying it to fat people?
So am I saying health isn’t important?
I mean…kinda? I’m definitely saying health isn’t the most important thing. I’m also absolutely 100% saying that NOBODY owes you health. Not one single person. And you don’t owe anybody else health!
The fact is that fat people existing happily and without shame doesn’t affect you at all. It just doesn’t. Unlike harmful diet culture which pushes the CONSTANT, damaging narrative that existing in a thin body is the only thing that matters — happy, rebellious fat existence isn’t “pushing” anything but a rejection of a societal norm that causes more harm than a fat body ever will.
So no, being fat positive doesn’t mean you’re anti-health. It also doesn’t mean you’re pro-health. The two aren’t even related, and it’s an antiquated argument that needs to mosey on out of here so we can get on with living our individual, complex, fat lives.
Until next time,