Oprah Mag printed the words “fat acceptance”

Yeah, I’m kind of in shock too.

It’s in the December 2009 issue. The Fat Fight in the “Connections” section, by Robin Marantz Henig and Jess Zimmerman.   Actually it’s a pair of articles: the first is by the mother, Henig; the second is by the daughter, Zimmerman.

Henig discusses how she tried to be “supportive” of her daughter so she wouldn’t grow up fat, but notes that  “Of course, that’s exactly what I did: create a problem where there was none.”

Meals soon became a battleground.  […] And when Jessie asked for seconds, I’d say, “Are you really hungry?” I thought that sounded supportive. I see now how harsh it was. If she asked for food, she was hungry. I should at least have trusted her to know her own body’s cues.

Describing a “tantrum” in the dermatologists’s office during Zimmerman’s early teens, Henig states,

I was mystified. I didn’t see that this doctor visit was, to Jessie, yet another indication that my love was conditional. She thought I loved her only when she was clear-skinned and slim.

On the one hand, Henig’s puzzlement seems genuine; on the other, I can’t help but wonder how she expected anything else.  Yes, people joke that parents worry and kids to feel they can’t measure up and it’s not real — except when it is.

In her article, Zimmerman states,

It’s difficult for a child to differentiate between someone who wants to armor her against an unjust world and someone who thinks that she’s damaged.

Most parents would claim to be wanting to do the former — but that doesn’t always mean they don’t feel the latter.  It’s a message our culture screams from the rooftops; many, many parents of fat kids pick up on it too.  Children may not want to believe their parent is rejecting them…but if the parent repeats it often enough over the years, it’ll break through the denial.

In college, Zimmerman discovered new ideas, among them fat acceptance.

Sophomore year, Mom wrote an article tut-tutting about how the people on campus who told me to “honor my hunger” were only ruining my diet.  I ran a campus-wide campaign for Love Your Body Day and asked Mom to quit writing about me.

At 27, Zimmerman sent Henig a pointer to Joy Nash’s Fat Rant video, which led to more discussion between her and her mother.  Henig began researching fat acceptance, realizing it works for Zimmerman and her fiance.   Zimmerman puts it:

These days I can write about my body — and even, cautiously, let my mother write about it — because I’ve jettisoned the old narratives and started to scratch out a new one. It’s a complicated story, with an unpredictable plot — good days, bad days, a pervasive sense of shame that’s hard to shake. But I’m finding that the main character is much more healthy, stable, and worthwhile than I’d ever known.

Related: This article on health at every size quotes Jessica Zimmerman on her experiences with dieting, disordered eating, and HAES.


22 thoughts on “Oprah Mag printed the words “fat acceptance”

  1. It’s difficult for a child to differentiate between someone who wants to armor her against an unjust world and someone who thinks that she’s damaged.


    Thank you so much for bringing these articles to my attention– I can only hope that my mother still subscribes and will actually read these articles. It sounds as if Jessica Zimmerman’s experiences are very similar to mine, and I really hope my mom will be able to hear what she’s saying, so to speak.

  2. I happened to see this article at my mom’s this weekend. I thought it was interesting, considering Oprah felt she had to apologize to OTHER PEOPLE over the fact she regained weight!

  3. I’m picking up this magazine. It hits super super super close to home. I struggled for years with my mother and my weight. I still don’t think she understands the damage that she was doing. Thankfully, as an adult I can see the real me.

    • Me too! The articles do contain a lot of basic fat acceptance. Example: Jess Zimmerman notes that she had her metabolic rate tested in college and it was really really low for her height and weight — which can be caused by food restriction — !

  4. Wow. I find this really exciting. Regardless of Oprah’s own relationship with her size I think this article is a tremendous step for her magazine toward fat acceptance.

  5. It’s difficult being a parent who tries to be conscious of how your words or actions or demeanor can have a negative impact on your kids. I’ve long held the stance of “Here I am! Take it or leave it” and try to instill that into them so they don’t let fear stop them from trying things. But…..I do realize that I have sent mixed messages to them by putting down my own body, dieting, and putting too much stock into others’ opinions/comments.

    It amazes me that I still have to stop myself from spewing phrases like “You’re having ice cream AGAIN?” or “We need to eat better foods”. Not always succeeding either. It’s very telling of how influential old mindsets and negative behaviors are.

    I do love that O is at least open to fat acceptance depicted in her magazine. With her recent announcement that next season is going to be her last, I am hoping she spends that year seeking self acceptance…on every level.

  6. Pingback: Thankful Thursday « Living ~400lbs

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  8. Someone still needs to figure out how to slip a copy of Health at Every Size and Lessons from the Fatosphere into her mailbox. :-)

  9. Mom and I just went out to buy a copy specifically for this article. I’m pretty excited for her to read it…after Lessons from the Fatosphere and Health at Every Size, of course :)

  10. This makes me feel almost as hopeful as a tiny sidebar in Bust did this month. There was this box at the beginning of the magazine that was titled “Gym tips for big gals looking for Health at Any Size” detailing how to stop the mean girl in your head and realize that the other people at the gym care more about how they look than how you look. And also how to find a gym with a supportive environment.

  11. Pingback: Oprah Online: Article on fat acceptance « Living ~400lbs

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