What does fat acceptance have to do with health?

Some of the recent discussion about health and fat got me thinking about fat and health.  Poll time!   (Yes, it’s multiple choice.)



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19 responses to “What does fat acceptance have to do with health?”

  1. Joyce Spear Avatar
    Joyce Spear

    Well, heck! I struggled a lot with this survey, and in the end chose every answer. I’m not sure if it’s because all the statements are true to varying degrees, or if all the statements are true, period. Or perhaps this whole subject is so new to me, and as a fat person who has been persecuted all my life I just am having a hard time wrapping my head around the truth. I know (at least in my brain) to be that fat does not necessarily mean unhealthy, and MOST CERTAINLY doesn’t mean less worthy than thin of basic civil and social rights. I am quite eager to see how others respond to this survey, and especially eager to see your own responses and reactions.

  2. blaceyda Avatar

    AAAH! I have to think about this for a while… BBL

  3. fatcarriesflavor Avatar

    I hate to bring it into things, because health really isn’t a measure of worth, and the idea of health that we’re talking about is ableist and damaging… but I think those fact also need to get out there more. Fat hate isn’t based on the spurious health issues, but those spurious issues are, in and of themselves, falsehoods that are very damaging to people. What I want is to shatter those counterfactuals without making better treatment of fat people hinge on that.

    1. Living 400lbs Avatar

      Fat hate isn’t based on the spurious health issues, but those spurious issues are, in and of themselves, falsehoods that are very damaging to people. What I want is to shatter those counterfactuals without making better treatment of fat people hinge on that.


  4. Fivehundredpoundpeep Avatar

    None of the choices really applied to me.

    Let me ask a question, though, why does size activist Marilyn Wann, tell us over and over how “healthy” she is? Why is that the focus? You see it in every article just about she writes, “I am healthy”. Well many of us are not especially in the supersizes. I know my opinions about fat being a symptom of health problems and causing health concerns, are not mainstream for size acceptance, but one can see the healthism staring at one right in the face. I find it interesting on her article on CNN, she talks about those who cannot get off the floor as being “unhealthy” and I even see inferred as “unworthy”, with a straight face when this is a woman who goes to NAAFA and other conferences, with multitudes of people heavy enough or with other health problems, that they must use scooters. {I need to use scooters myself}

    Do you all understand what I am driving at?


    I do not think I have to be “healthy” to deserve decent treatment, however this fat is fit, fat is healthy nonsense in size acceptance, is serving as enabler to the voices in this society that say only the healthy matter. This is where all the false identity politics all kind of bump into each other. Disability rights vs. fat rights? LOL I can’t get off the floor Marilyn Wann, because I am too fat and I still matter!

    1. Living 400lbs Avatar

      Let me ask a question, though, why does size activist Marilyn Wann, tell us over and over how “healthy” she is? Why is that the focus?

      I’m not Marilyn Wann, but I would think it’s because she is asked. It’s also a hook – “this obviously fat (not size 10 “Oh you’re not fat” fat) person says she’s healthy, wtf?” – to get readers. The CNN piece on “Fat and Fit” published right after a study on the topic was released had “Editor called and said “We’d like someone to write about this ‘fat fitness’ study”” all over it.

      There’s a reason “I don’t want to give “health” that much importance. Health isn’t a measure of worth” is one of the options on the poll. And “No, fat acceptance is a civil rights issue. Whether someone is healthy doesn’t matter” is getting a lot of votes.

      1. Fivehundredpoundpeep Avatar

        It’s a hook she has been using since I know of, 1996.

        So she has gone 17 years without any health problems?

        I don’t know a THIN middle aged friend who hasn’t hit at least one health bump of even moderate proportions.

        Sure it may SELL, but it’s a LIE.

        Also, I am sorry but I am personally offended this woman shows up with people who are in scooters because they can’t walk and breathe {I use scooters} and tells the world fat does not affect health.

        I agree don’t make it all about health but what about the fact of who is ignored and who is not. I saw for myself those who got sick in size acceptance falling off the radar. I was persona non gratis, during my 600-near 700lb sojourn for looking half dead.

        Its been interesting all these years being told people like me do not exist and if we do are numbers are so small it doesn’t matter.

        What do I do with a “civil rights’ movement that tells me to deny my own reality to be part of it?

    2. lsstrout Avatar

      Veering a little off topic here, but what about people with joint issues or other problems that make moving difficult? They can’t get up off the floor. For sure my average weight, broken-spined friend can’t get up off the floor without a bunch of effort.

      Is there a weight where you are automatically bed-bound? Or are the bed-bound people dealing with other health-issues that contribute to their current situation?

      Whenever I read about these discussions involving weight, health, appearance and other reasons for discrimination, I can’t help but think of the movie GATTACA.

      1. Fivehundredpoundpeep Avatar

        Sure there are people with other health problems who are forced to the floor. My thin friend with bad knees can’t get on the floor. When most people hit 450, you are looking at least with time in bed. Over 500lbs for most it’s game over. My housebound doctors have told me, I am the only patient at this size and health condition able to walk. So they have told me they know I “try” but then that could other attributes I lucked out on. Though with the growing weakness, I am not sure how long Ill be able to stay out of bed. Fatigue is putting me there A LOT.

        I never saw GATTACA.

        Some of us just want reality dealt with, that’s all. I am glad there are fat and healthy people but stop telling me I do not exist. NOTE TO MARILYN WANN.

  5. Fivehundredpoundpeep Avatar

    There are times when ideologies, hit a wall called reality.

    In fact I think those who have given in to lies in our society, that have to do with narcissistic ideas of “health” and ignorance of the human condition that impacts all of us—[the American society that refuses to deal honestly with aging or death] are actually doing damage to fat people beyond repair. And yes I see this as tied into the diet industrial complex.

    It serves them you see.

    and I would say it straight to Marilyn Wann’s face.

  6. liz Avatar

    I talk about health in as much as people who are overweight have better outcomes on many measures and a sudden weight loss can often mean someone is suffering from an illness. But only when the person I am talking to brings up fat=unhealthy.

    1. Living 400lbs Avatar

      only when the person I am talking to brings up fat=unhealthy.

      That is a good guideline IME.

  7. blaceyda Avatar

    Fat acceptance is a civil rights/social justice issue in my eyes. Health has nothing to do with it. BUT I don’t find it helpful to leave health out of the equation when talking about fat acceptance, mainly because if I leave it out, the other party to the conversation will inevitably bring it up. IMHO, it’s more helpful to my arguments if I bring the issue to the table. I really think that the two issues are going to be bound together for some while, at least in the discussions I’m having with the people around me, because discussion of one inevitably brings up discussion of the other.
    It seems to me that even the most reasoned, most convincing civil rights arguments that we can put forward for Fat Acceptance are countered with appeals to health, including woeful correlation/causation mixups, conventional “wisdom”, moralisation of health status etc. On the flip side, the most reasoned, most convincing arguments about physical health (including the possibility of being both fit and fat, health as subjective, debunking the obligation to be healthy etc) will inevitably result in appeals to mental health and wellbeing connected to the social justice/civil rights, most of them bunkum (e.g. “ok, so you don’t have to be thin to be healthy, but if you were thin, then you wouldn’t face discrimination etc).

    TL;DR; They are separate, but connected issues, and should be addressed as such (IMHO).

    1. Living 400lbs Avatar

      Separate but related, yes. If my doctor asks about my health, I answer that I’m going for walks and lifting weights. If someone asks why I don’t diet, I explain that it’s a losing battle for me. Etc.

  8. lsstrout Avatar

    I’m not sure you can talk about fat acceptance without talking about health, mostly because people who don’t see anything wrong with criticizing your weight will also advise you on your health. Or your hairstyle. Clothes. Tastes. Etc.

    A friend of mine who has Chronic Vomiting Syndrome just got unsolicited diet advice from someone she knows over Facebook. (This was diet advice to correct a cough, not to lose weight and it wasn’t the ‘drink tea with honey’ sort of advice) but the point I am making is that the other person thought she knew better than my friend (or my friend’s doctor) what she should do for her health.

    But honestly, when people talk about fat, it’s usually because of appearance and not health. I can only think of one instance where someone I know lost weight for health reasons (to help their knee joints) and they have been able to keep the weight where they needed it, mostly I think because they tend to be thinner naturally. Everyone else just wants to look a certain way.

    1. blaceyda Avatar

      “But honestly, when people talk about fat, it’s usually because of appearance and not health.”

      There is a lot of truth to this. I sometimes feel that people appeal to good health (valued) in order to veil their vanity (not usually valued).
      An anecdote does not a fact make, but I remember sitting in a Weightwatchers class many years ago, and we had to make a list of reasons why we wanted to lose weight. I wanted to look a certain way, but I remember putting “health” at the top of my list.

      I see this loosely translated when individuals and organisations excuse the bullying and oppression of fat people with “concerns” about health. In these cases, concerns about health are used to veil hate and oppression.

  9. closetpuritan Avatar

    Most of the responses had a portion that I agreed with and a portion that didn’t quite fit with my views. I did check most of them.

    I certainly don’t believe that civil rights should be dependent on health or that health is a measure of worth. But access to effective health care is a civil rights issue, and the pursuit of health is important to many people.

    I think that it’s not true that health is the ONLY reason people lose weight. I think it helps to give cover to other reasons that people don’t want to admit to as much, because they don’t want to be perceived as shallow or vain.

    Anyway, my main thoughts about fat and health are that it’s not so important to contradict fat=unhealthy myths for our opponents as for ourselves. (I wrote about this a bit.) I think it should be treated as sort of analogous to fatshion/clothing–as something fat people have barriers pursuing because of social attitudes. When fatosphere bloggers write about clothing (which you, living400lbs, do), it’s to help other fat people get the clothing they want (and/or to show off their pretty clothes), not because they think civil rights should be dependent on being pretty or well-dressed. I agree with fatcarriesflavor–the idea that fat people can never be healthy is damaging to fat people. Telling people they have to lose weight or they’ll die (the “death threat”–I can’t remember who came up with calling it that) is arguably abusive. Telling people they can’t have good quality of life can have a nocebo effect, as well. This stuff is genuinely harmful.

    We still need to be careful not to make people feel bad for omitting a particular “healthy” behavior, or for having type II diabetes, etc. And I think that reducing the guilt/shame around stuff like eating donuts (in public! while fat!) can also fall under fat acceptance, even as we’re also telling people that not every fat person even likes donuts.

    Also, there is something to be said for the idea that all stereotypes are inherently damaging, no matter what their content–even positive stereotypes. Stereotypes that fat people never exercise, or eat donuts all the time, or cannot run a mile, should not be given a pass, even though we also have to be careful not to be healthist or ablist while countering them, simply because they’re stereotypes.

    Wow. I just wrote a long comment for someone who’s also just blogged about this. I can’t seem to pare it down, though.

    1. closetpuritan Avatar

      I think this post by Red No. 3 might be the first use of the term “death threats” in this context. Kath at Fat Heffalump talks about it here, too.

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