You are welcome here; your diet talk is not
There’s been some drama lately in the fatosphere around dieting and weight loss. I’ve been on the fringes of the fatosphere for a long time but have only really been in the thick of it since beginning this blog, so I don’t know if this recent drama is a new thing or if it’s an ongoing conflict.
I’m not going to link to any of the posts I am referencing, for the simple reason that I have no interest in fueling the fire. But if any of you would like examples of what I’m talking about, feel free to email me and I will link you to some blogs.
Basically what I’m seeing is disagreement about whether talking about dieting and weight loss is acceptable within the FA movement. And I am trying to get to the bottom of what the actual conflict, at its most base level, really is. And it seems to be the question around if it is possible to lose weight intentionally.
My understanding of Health At Every Size and Fat Acceptance is that one of the fundamental, basic tenets is that intentional weight loss is not scientifically possible for the vast majority of folks, and it is actually antithetical to goals for better health.
Let me unpack that a bit more. I have been putting on weight pretty rapidly in the last six months. By rapid I mean around 20 pounds in six months. I am concerned about it because it is a change in my weight which had before that been stable for several years, and for the superficial reason that some of my favorite clothes are not fitting the way they used to. I also have other physical symptoms of metabolic problems—amenhorrea, tiredness, mood problems, etc.—so I recently went to see an endocrinologist about this. He took blood samples for testing (like 7 vials worth! Holy cow!) but said his hunch is I’ll need to go on metformin. It’s possible that going on that, and changing my diet to include a different balance of protein and carbs, will cause my body to lose weight. But he and I had a long conversation about how if I expect that, and use that as a measure for health, I set myself up for failure. “Your weight doesn’t tell me anything about your health,” he said. (And I cheered inside, for a doctor has never said that to me!)
But anyway, it is very possible that me getting some treatment for whatever it is that’s going wrong with me will make me lose weight. But that is not my goal, if it happens it will be a side effect. And the weight loss, if it happens, will not be an indicator of my overall healthy. My energy level will be. My mental health will be. My cholesterol level and blood pressure and blood sugars will be.
So weight loss itself isn’t antithetical to health goals, because if I lose weight as a side effect of this, it doesn’t mean I’m less healthy. But, attempting intentional weight loss would be antithetical to health goals for me right now. Why? Because I really need to learn how to listen to my body and incorporate more protein instead of being scared to eat meat or eggs or cheese (in addition to beans and tofu) because of their fat content. Because if I were to focus on weight loss and NOT lose any weight (a very real possibility) I may become discouraged and abandon my exercise/healthy eating goals, and obviously that’s not healthy.
This distinction between weight-loss-as-side-effect and intentional-weight-loss is a subtle, but incredibly important, one.
And I think that the FA movement has every right to draw a line and get on one side of that discussion. To say that intentional weight loss is by definition antithetical to HAES principles is not a personal indictment against every person who is trying to or wishes she could lose weight. To say that dieting/food restriction with the hope of weight loss is not an action that affirms pure Fat Acceptance is not a personal indictment against everyone who is engaging in this type of food restriction.
I really believe that people who are trying/hoping to lose weight should not be shunned from the fatosphere as human beings, but I don’t think that pointing out that attempts at weight loss are antithetical to HAES and FA amounts to shunning them. All it says is, “please talk about that elsewhere.” The world has a million places to talk about trying to lose weight; we in the FA who do not allow diet talk in our blogs have taken a stand and said, “diet talk is not welcome here.”
So as for this blog, YOU are welcome here. Yes you. All of you. No matter where you come down on any of this FA/HAES stuff. But I am asking you, that while you are here at this fat liberation theology blog, that you check diet talk and weight loss talk at the door, because this is a place for YOU, but it is not a place for that.