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April 8, 2010 / Katie

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.


Leave a Comment
  1. SamanthaG / Apr 8 2010 2:50 pm

    I occasionally read one of the blogs where this is going on. I was just coming over here to thank you for being calm and reasonable, while trying to explain to people who Did Not Appear to See the Problem.

  2. Katie / Apr 8 2010 2:52 pm

    you’re welcome :) And thank you for letting me know that!

  3. Angela / Apr 8 2010 3:27 pm

    This seems to crop up periodically. I’ve gone through spells where I’m more or less active in the FA communities depending on the time I have available but from what I’ve seen it does seem to be a perennial/cyclical thing. The diet talk goes away for awhile and then new folks come or someone starts some diet that they feel the need to proselytize about and the discussion comes up again.
    I also believe there is a distinct difference between intentional weight loss and weight loss as a side effect. I’ve also been on metformin for quite awhile now and when I first started it I lost about 40 lbs. due to side effects and then unfortunately ended up intentionally dieting to loose more because of pressure from people and I can tell you they are two entirely different things most notably the latter leads to weight regain and poorer quality health and the first does not.

  4. Katie - not the author / Apr 8 2010 3:31 pm

    Your doctor rocks!!!! Good luck with whatever treatment you have to go with, I hate the period of breaking in new meds and trying to figure out the correct dose.

    I don’t know which blogs you’re specifically talking about, but I do know how hard it is to break a lifetime habit of desiring weight loss and I also kind of wonder if people are coming to HAES and FA because they are trying to trick the fates and end up losing weight, kind of like how you find love when you aren’t looking for it.

  5. JeninCanada / Apr 8 2010 4:01 pm

    You have a great doctor. :) As for the rest of the post, well said, especially that the distinction between intentionally losing weight ‘for your health’, and losing weight as a side effect of taking care of a health issue.

  6. Natalie L. / Apr 8 2010 4:24 pm

    This is something I really struggle with–not because I am in a place where I am intentionally losing weight, but because I feel that if one loses weight as a result of changes one’s made as part of taking care of ones’ body (i.e., getting more exercise, eating nutritious food, taking care of medical conditions), it’s something that simply cannot be discussed within the context of FA/HAES–which I think is a damned shame.

    I also feel that the FA/HAES movement doesn’t really look at the perspectives of the people on the supersize end of the spectrum very often. I’ve been a size 24 and I’m currently a size 32. My life is circumscribed in ways that it wasn’t when I was smaller. No one’s talking about that.

    I also have some other issues with the movement but they have to do with how a friend of mine was treated by an awful lot of people in FA/HAES and it’s not my story to share publicly.

    • Katie / Apr 8 2010 4:31 pm

      Natalie, I agree, there is definitely a lack of voices on the supersize end of the spectrum. I wonder if part of it is because there are just fewer in sheer numbers writing in the fatosphere? I love the Living ~400lbs for this reason. Do you write a blog? Maybe you should think about it!

      but because I feel that if one loses weight as a result of changes one’s made as part of taking care of ones’ body (i.e., getting more exercise, eating nutritious food, taking care of medical conditions), it’s something that simply cannot be discussed within the context of FA/HAES–which I think is a damned shame.

      I am sort of surprised to hear this because I haven’t seen it myself but perhaps I’ve just managed to miss seeing it? It wouldn’t be the only thing I haven’t seen in the fatosphere, having spent most of the time on the fringes before starting this blog. I personally have no worries whatsoever about whether I will still be accepted here if I drop 30-40 lbs (which seems to be around standard for people who go on metformin and lose weight). I was expecting that if I did—or didn’t—either way it would be good blog fodder and it never occurred to me that I might meet with any criticism or hostility if I did drop some weight. I suppose, if I do go on metformin, and do lose weight, then that remains to be seen!

      • Natalie L. / Apr 9 2010 1:42 pm

        I used to have a public blog. I don’t anymore. There are a lot of reasons for that, but mainly it’s because I’m not comfortable putting my life on display at this time.

        Also, I don’t think anyone really wants to read about how I’m sad that Making It Big has expanded their size range downwards because if I wore a size 22 (what their new smallest size is equivalent to), I would have SO MANY MORE places to buy clothing than I do now.

        I don’t know. It’s complicated and I’ve found that being really fat is a lot harder than just being fat is and it’s hard to articulate exactly why without sounding like I’m whining. :)

        • Katie / Apr 9 2010 2:32 pm

          well, I can respect that, absolutely.

          I’m the biggest I’ve ever been right now (around a 22/24) so the issues faced by supersize folks can be a blind spot for me. I do hope that you feel comfortable commenting here if my blind spot shows up or your experience broadens what I’m saying. I, for one, am interested in your response to Making It Big’s expansion of their size line. For one thing, it puts my own experience with finding clothes (often a source of frustration for me) into a different context. But more importantly, I really would like to understand better what it is like for folks whose bodies are marginalized in different ways than my own, no matter how “small” the issue might seem.

        • Natalie L. / Apr 9 2010 5:22 pm

          I don’t know if this is the proper place for me to vent my frustration at the MIB thing–it is a fairly small annoyance, and I’m hoping that what I fear is going to happen in the long run is just that, a fear.

          But I’d be happy to chat with you about it–and other topics–if you want to drop me an email (I’d email you except I can’t seem to find an address).

    • atchka / Apr 9 2010 9:33 am

      We are talking about these issues at We are more flexible about the “no diet talk” rule. We give ample warning and if you don’t want to read diet talk, you can easily avoid it. Being fat is complicated and we don’t feel it needs to be further complicated by censoring or restricting what you feel compelled to blog about. So long as you are fat positive, you’re welcome in our community.


  7. JeninCanada / Apr 8 2010 5:24 pm

    ~Natalie:I feel that if one loses weight as a result of changes one’s made as part of taking care of ones’ body (i.e., getting more exercise, eating nutritious food, taking care of medical conditions), it’s something that simply cannot be discussed within the context of FA/HAES–which I think is a damned shame.”

    I feel this way as well, that if I decided to start working out and changed my diet to more eating with intent and less mindless snacking and lost some weight as a result (but not as a goal) I’d get booted from the feed if I spoke about it in my blog in more than a “Hmm, look at that.” sort of way. Is it possible to be fat accepting but realize there’s more work to be done, on a personal level, towards fitness, if that’s a goal for yourself? Is it possible to embrace intuitive eating and eating mindfully? Can I be an advocate for Health at Every Size if I’ve just lost 20lbs through playing DDR 3x week for a couple of months? Heavy questions.

    • Katie / Apr 8 2010 5:29 pm

      I’d get booted from the feed if I spoke about it in my blog in more than a “Hmm, look at that.” sort of way.

      What sort of other way would you talk about it, do you think?

  8. JeninCanada / Apr 8 2010 5:44 pm

    I don’t know. :) I tend to over-analyze so I’d probably ramble on about what it meant, if it changed people’s reaction towards me, if I suddenly started getting compliments/notice from friends and familiy, exult in having certain bits of clothes fit better, or moan about how some things might no longer.

    • Katie / Apr 8 2010 10:12 pm

      that’s kind of what I imagine I might talk about if I happen to lose weight on metformin :) I like to think the fatosphere wouldn’t react with hostility to that… but perhaps I’m being naive? I suppose, as I said to another commenter, if it happens, we will find out!

  9. Rosie / Apr 9 2010 3:47 am

    Good luck on the metformin. I have been on it for a couple of years now for PCOS and, while I haven’t noticed any significant weight loss, I think it has improved my general health. Just in case you don’t know, if you end up suffering the common side effect of sickness and/or diarrhoea, things can often be improved by going on the slow-release version that you take once a day (rather than the one you take three times). It worked for me. :)

    • Katie / Apr 9 2010 11:10 am

      thanks Rosie! The endo said that metformin is the likeliest thing he’ll put me on but it’s not for sure until the blood work comes back and confirms what’s going on. I will definitely keep that in mind if I go on it and have side effects!

  10. atchka / Apr 9 2010 9:42 am

    I’m not sure if you’re referring to my blog, as I was part of the “no diet talk” brouhaha, but that was back in mid-January, so I wasn’t sure if this was a new controversy or not.

    I understand the “no diet talk” rule. I understand triggers. I understand creating a safe space where you don’t have to read about subjects you can find almost everywhere else on the internet.

    However, I have found that there are people within the Fat Acceptance movement who want to discuss dieting in one context or another (either how they struggle to stay off the dieting roller coaster or how other people push them to diet or how they’re adjusting to a non-dieting lifestyle or, even, how they are considering a diet for themselves).

    In my opinion, the Fatosphere is for people fresh off the Self-Loathing Express, who need a little more protection from nuanced viewpoints with regards to dieting (and other triggering subjects). It takes time to find your sealegs in FA and I can understand why diet talk might cut those out from under you.

    However, not everyone wants to be insulated from nuance. Not everyone is triggered by any form of diet talk. Some people want to read a complex analysis of another person’s struggle with dieting because it speaks to their own struggles.

    What I don’t understand is why we can’t allow people to decide for themselves whether they want to read diet talk or not. State up front that this post has diet talk and you can skip it. Hell, there are things I don’t want to see on the Fatosphere feed, like pictures of naked men, but they are right there on the feed along with everything else. I haven’t demanded that they be removed from the feed. I simply ignore it. has diet talk. But it also has adequate warnings in place to help you avoid controversial subjects that may not interest you. And so far, nobody has complained about the diet talk crossing the line or not being fat positive or encouraging unhealthy behavior. Because that’s not what we’re about. We’re about exploring the diversity of the fat experience, which INCLUDES dieting, for better or worse.

    I think the ironic thing about this post is that it IS diet talk. You’re talking about the subject of dieting. You are analyzing it and what it means. But nobody is calling for your head on a platter.

    I stated essentially the same thing (if I were to diet, it would be for health reasons (family history of heart disease) and if I did so, then I would likely lose weight as a result) and was assaulted on all sides.


    • Katie / Apr 9 2010 11:06 am

      Shannon, I do read your blog from time to time and I especially appreciate your posts about interviews with folks like Meme Roth and Michael Karolchyck. I wasn’t referencing you, because somehow I managed to miss most of whatever drama went down involving you (though I saw enough to know there was drama). There have been a couple other more recent incidences, including one in the last week or so, that I was more involved with and that’s what this post was referencing.

      I stated essentially the same thing (if I were to diet, it would be for health reasons (family history of heart disease) and if I did so, then I would likely lose weight as a result) and was assaulted on all sides.

      I don’t think that what you are saying here and what I’m saying in my post actually is the same thing. For one thing, I’m not talking about dieting in the sense that most people understand it—some form of calorie restriction with the goal of losing weight. I am neither restricting calories nor making weight loss a goal. I am making some changes to try to improve my health, and from what I’ve read, weight loss is sometimes a side effect of the med that I will likely be placed on. So the calorie restriction is for health, not to lose weight; and weight loss isn’t a goal, it’s only a possible side effect.

      This post is “diet talk” in a broad sense, but only insofar as you can never prohibit talking about something without talking about it. If I made a post about how no racist talk was welcome here (which it’s not) then I am inevitably talking about “racist talk” by doing so. But I’m talking about it from a meta- perspective. I’d be talking about racist talk, not engaging in it; I’m talking about diet talk, not engaging in it.

      However, I have found that there are people within the Fat Acceptance movement who want to discuss dieting in one context or another (either how they struggle to stay off the dieting roller coaster or how other people push them to diet or how they’re adjusting to a non-dieting lifestyle or, even, how they are considering a diet for themselves).

      My understanding is that everything in that list is completely acceptable in the fatosphere feeds except the last one. Talking about going on a diet in the sense of “calorie restriction with the goal of weight loss” (not talking about “making dietary changes for health”) is antithetical to a Health At Every Size viewpoint because of the health dangers of dieting and the negative message that sends about fat bodies. Or at least, that’s the stance the fatosphere has taken and I happen to agree with it.

      I have to say that I’m glad there are voices in Fat Acceptance, like yours, who honor the need for trigger warnings and make an open space for folks who are still considering dieting. At the same time, I am also grateful that there is a “fatosphere” which has chosen to draw a line in the sand about this so that there is one place—just one place—where people can go and not be subject to diet talk.

      I do have a question for you, and that is, do you see your blog as a place where people who are in the space of wanting to diet to lose weight come to learn about problems with attempts at weight loss and move toward greater self-acceptance, or do you see it as a place where someone could comfortably be a dieter their whole life and never feel challenged by your entries? The reason I’m asking this is that your comment here gave me the sense that you agree that ultimately dieting doesn’t work but you want to make a space where people who are still stuck in that place are welcome?

      I also want to point out that I do welcome people who are still struggling with wanting to diet here; all I ask is that they don’t talk about it here. While this may come across to some like I am trying to limit people, I think that it’s not unreasonable because there are all kinds of places in the world where certain types of behavior and language are not appropriate or welcome; we are always censoring ourselves in different ways in different places.

      As for the naked men, I like those posts but I do wish they were always behind cuts because, as you noted, not everyone wants to see that, and it’s not exactly work safe!

      • atchka / Apr 9 2010 11:54 am

        It’s a good thing you only read from time to time because I’ve only been updating from time to time. :)

        We are definitely not pro-diet and Fierce Fatties is not the place to go if you want to remain complacent about your weight loss goals. Our goal is to encourage self-acceptance with the understanding to self-acceptance is not an overnight transformation.

        The closest we’ve come to somebody talking about weight loss dieting (for the express purpose of maintaining a lower weight) is this one by No Celery Please:

        In my opinion, she’s dieting. She’s also relatively thin. Why is she on Fierce Fatties? Because NCP is fat positive and supportive of the goals of Fat Acceptance. But personally, she does not want to get fatter. Does that make her anathema to FA? I don’t think so. She’s human. She struggles with body issues just like we all do in one way or another. But her overall goal is self-acceptance and her struggle is illustrative of one aspect on the self-acceptance spectrum. Maybe someone will recognize that struggle in themselves and stick around, read other opinions and gradually change their outlook on what it means to be fat.

        But people like NCP aren’t welcome on the Fatosphere, and I think that’s a shame. I’ve heard from many people who were driven away from the Fatosphere (and, subsequently, Fat Acceptance) because of the histrionics surrounding diet talk or even the “purity” of FA beliefs.

        As with religion, we are strongest when we accept everyone in and then work to educate, not vice versa.


  11. Bilt4cmfrt / Apr 9 2010 6:00 pm

    Well, there are several OTHER issues that the nature of diet talk seems to generate. I think you touched on one of them with the mention of the ‘millions of other places’ that one can go too that openly discuss diets.

    Specifically one of the other issues we’ve seen in the past, would be the derailing effect diet talk so often has. Did I say ‘derailing’? A better description might be, ‘dismantling’. All too often in the past ‘diet talk’ has quickly gone from one or two mentions in comments to a subject that comes up in almost every thread. Boards and discussion groups that were initiated as F/A spaces have been, literally, taken over by it and BECOME yet more places for people to swap diet technique and weight loss progress.

    Personally, I suspect the reasons we haven’t seen many blogs ‘usurped’ within the Fatosphere is-
    A) Those for whom weight loss discussion is a priority are now more familiar with what F/A is about and that the concept isn’t exactly alined with their philosophy.
    B) The reiteration, over and over, of guidelines like the one you’ve beautifully outlined here, on Blogs throughout the ‘Sphere has maintained that distinction.
    C) The ‘Owner Operated’ nature of blogs has allowed those who run them and have no desire to deal with ‘diet talk’ to keep it to an enforced minimum.

    Oddly enough the problem still persists. Those who feel the need or desire to continue to discuss their diets or the merits of ANY diet either cannot seem to understand why others don’t or, for some reason, seem to feel slighted when we ask them not to.

    ‘You are welcome here. Your diet talk is not.’
    ‘If your on a diet that’s fine. We’d just prefer not to HEAR about it.’
    ‘No Diet TALK.’

    Unfortunately, no matter how many different ways we find to say it, the message never seems to get through.

  12. Bill Fabrey / Apr 9 2010 9:04 pm

    I’ve worked in the size acceptance and HAES communities for decades, and have always been saddened when I have observed intolerance on the part of some high-minded but radical participants when they come down hard against those who support the fight against size discrimination but wish to weigh less for their own reasons.

    I think Katie’s essay is great, and she draws a good distinction between “diet talk” and one’s personal needs. I believe that it is right to refer diet talk to other forums, even other size-friendly ones that choose to deal with such issues, and it is wrong to judge what anyone chooses to do with their own body, which should fall into the category of “personal choice.” Unless you walk in someone else’s moccasins, you should not tell them what path to take.

    Bill Fabrey
    Council on Size & Weight Discrimination
    Mt. Marion, NY

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