Opting Out of the Game

Published July 3, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I am inspired by this post over on Spilt Milk to talk tonight about the thinking behind fat acceptance as an alternative to the whole beauty industry and beauty standards of Western culture.

One of the things I keep seeing from the anti-fat acceptance camp is the attitude that fat acceptance in any form is encouraging people to become fat.  That by celebrating fat bodies, encouraging fat bodies to be seen and respected, that we’re somehow advocating that people who are not already fat, should become fat.  Or already fat people get fatter.

What I think it all boils down to is that there is a perception that fat acceptance is the direct opposite of the current beauty ideal.  That beauty ideal being that thinner = better.  So therefore, those who oppose fat acceptance on these grounds are suggesting that fat acceptance advocates believe that fatter = better.

That’s just not how it works.

The key word in here is acceptance.

The thinner = better camp are pushing constantly for bodies to change to fit  a beauty ideal, ie; fat people should lose weight because if they get thinner, their lives will be better.

But fat acceptance is not about changing your body to make your life better.  We’re not saying that you will be happier if you are fat like us.  What we are saying is that if you accept yourself as you are, right now, whatever your size and/or shape, your life will be better.  That includes the thin people too.

It is a difficult concept to grapple with, when magazines, advertising, movies and television, books, gossip blogs, everything in the mainstream is telling you that you need to change yourself to be happy.  That you need to lose weight, remove body hair, flatten your stomach, wear these clothes, drink that drink, buy those products and so on.

You don’t need to change yourself to be happy.

You do need to accept yourself to be happy.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t have goals to change things in your life, not at all.  But it does mean that if you are making that change to be happy, or because other people think you should, or because you can’t stand who you are right now, or because you don’t match what magazines and telly tell you that you should be like, then you’re going to come out the other side of that change and find that there will be a whole new set of things that you will feel compelled to change to make yourself happy.  To find that the goalposts have been moved.

Here’s the thing.  Happiness isn’t something you achieve, or earn, or find.  Happiness is right there in you at every single moment of your life.  It’s not out there to be found, it’s just in you to be seen.  You carry it with you, whether you’re using it or not, it’s there.

The best way to see it?  Acceptance of it’s presence.  Acceptance of who you are.  And acceptance doesn’t mean resignation.  It doesn’t mean you throw your hands up and say “Well right!  I’m a big fat ass!  There!  I accept it!”  Acceptance is saying “This is my body.  It’s mine and it’s me.  It works very hard for me, and is beautiful in it’s own way.  And I love it for what it does for me, despite it not always doing what I, or the world around me, think it should do and be.”

Then, and only then, can you successfully move to the “Now, what can I do with this wonderful body of mine to make life even better?”  That’s where the ability to change things comes in.

That’s where fat acceptance works against the “thinner = better” mentality.  Not to be the opposite of it, but to opt out of it.

Because that’s the lie we’re being sold.  The lie that you have to be someone else, to change yourself, for life to be better.  You don’t have to buy that lie.  You don’t have to play that game.  You don’t have to follow that path.

You can just opt out and make your own fabulous path.  That’s what fat acceptance is about.  Opting out of that game, not being the direct opposite of it.

29 comments on “Opting Out of the Game

  • One way I like to think about it by saying that fat acceptance is not about making excuses, it’s about making peace.

    SHORT AND SWEET, THAT’S HOW I DO IT.

  • Beautifully said, Sleepydumpling.

    I think that attitude comes from the whole binary assumption mode we live in. Yes/no, black/white, on/off, straight/gay… we tend to forget that there are shades of grey and possibilities in between the extremes.

    • I couldn’t have said it better myself. Life’s for living, not passing judgments and trying to make every single person in the world into just one big monolith.

    • As Nathan Fillion would say Twistie… “BAM!” You got it, it’s that damn binary thinking again. Everything is forced into one or the other – gender, sexuality, politics, body image…

      Down with binary thinking I say! (Though I always liked learning binary code in high school, lol!)

  • It’s all about misunderstanding. I think both of the thinner=better people and that fat acceptance people have misconceptions about each other. If everyone took some time to really understand what the other is about, they would realize they they really aren’t that different about a lot of issues. Some issues, yes there are differences. But it’s just that every time I see MeMe Roth duke it out with someone in FA, I laugh at how they both don’t see how much they actually agree with each other, and that they are just misconstruing what the other is saying.

    • Ashley I’m going to let this one through, but two things:

      a) MeMe Roth is not ever to be mentioned on this website other than for the hateful, vitriolic, bigoted woman she is. She is the Grand Wizard of fat hatred, and I don’t want anyone mentioning her as in any way someone that fat acceptance activists “should listen to”. Not in this space. It goes back to my post on “safe space”.

      b) Please go back and read the article I linked to on Spilt Milk. There is no misunderstanding the people I am talking about. They believe that fat acceptance is encouraging people to be fat, or get fatter. I am talking about that set of people.

      • Meme Roth strikes me as an incredibly unbalanced whackjob who totally hates herself.

        And if you ever look up her whole “National Action Against Obesity” BS, it doesn’t even appear to be a real organization.

        I just remember some total horseshit she had about your “goal weight”– it was something like “take the weight you want to be, multiply that number by 10, and that is how many calories you should limit yourself to daily.”

        Uh yeah, this comes from an ex PR woman who doesn’t have a degree in something like health sciences, medicine, or nutrition; just a piece of toilet paper from some degree mill that is NOT the same as being a Registered Dietician or similar designation.

  • That really is fantastic and I agree with all of it. So brilliantly worded, so counter cultural, accepting ourselves as we are right now. Thanks for writing it and please continue to write such thoughtful and articulate pieces, the world needs to hear more of it.
    Do you ever submit any of your writing to newspapers, opinion sites etc?

    • Thanks Mel, I’m very touched by your compliements. I’m happy to share my work with other sites on the condition that they can provide a hate free commenting policy. That’s the problem with so many of the media sites – the comments. So long as they allow the language of hate to be used in their comments, they’re saying it’s ok to bully and belittle fat people. I really dream of a media site saying “Ok, we’re all for free speech, but if you use the language of hate, you’re blocked.”

      No writer, or other reader, should have to suffer that crap.

      • I noticed that yesterday on MSNBC, I made the mistake of skimming the comments after the article on the woman who’d lost her job for talking people out of risky lap band surgery. The comments were full of the sort of hateful trollery no blogger tolerates.

  • To me, fat acceptance is about no longer hating myself for my body; that I’m just a failure when all my efforts to make it smaller ended up being in vain and I made myself and everyone around me totally miserable all for naught.

    That life is for living– not for starving myself, spending more time at the gym than I do at work, and worrying myself with diets, drugs, questionable products and procedures, doctors’ bullshit, other peoples’ bullshit, concern-trolls, hell, even the fashion industry.

    That if I ignore all those things and the fascist beauty standards women are held to? I can actually just LIVE. If someone says something douchey? I can ignore it or retort it depending on how I feel. They don’t own my body. They don’t own my mind.

    Instead, I can focus on things that these assclowns think fat people don’t have– friends, family, love life, education, and profession.

    Letting go of all that BS has enabled me to embrace the great social and professional lives I have!

    To me, that applies to everyone who is unfortunately brainwashed with what society instills in us– not just those who happen to be fat.

    • It’s all about personal choice. Informed choice. If someone wants to make the choice to continue dieting and all of the other “must get skinny” behaviour, they need to do so out of an informed choice and for themselves, not because anyone else tells them they should. To me, once you have all that information, the choice is a pretty straight forward one…

      • Well yeah, I’m not going to tell someone what to do with their body just as they shouldn’t tell me what to do with mine.

        I’m just saying that FA helped me break free from hating myself as a result of all the fat hatred around me. It got me to talk to many other people who had similar experiences as me. Namely fighting their bodies to get smaller to the point of being exhausted all the time, neurotically figuring the exact calories eaten to the point of shaming oneself if gone above a certain number, to the point where it started to interfere with social lives and interpersonal relationships– like for a while I avoided parties and going out to restaurants because of that lockdown mentality I was in.

        From what I saw at least, FA didn’t seem to give the message “hey we’re right, the right choice is to stay fat or become fatter”. It seemed to give me the message that I shouldn’t have any shame for my body, or have to apologize for it. That having a fat body is not a bad thing; it is not a character flaw.

        One individual’s happiness is another’s hell. But learning that my body is not my enemy has helped me become a happier person, and I really have FA to thank for that.

  • “…the attitude that fat acceptance in any form is encouraging people to become fat.”

    But this is a normal everyday false argument used by haters all the time. Look at the gay rights movement – certain people have come right out and said if we expose children to the concept that homosexuality is normal, then they will all want to become homosexuals. Its the same old argument – if given a choice people will make the “wrong” one.

    There are so many implications in this single sentence – right from choosing to be fat would be a wrong thing. That being fat is a choice. That all our bodies were designed to be exactly the same. The assumption that people can’t make sensible decisions without being brow beaten and/or terrified into doing so. The fact we are no longer allowed to choose to make unhealthful decisions.The point that we aren’t allowed to decide what’s healthy and what’s not for ourselves (I’ve seen the effects of yo-yo dieting and think that’s far more unhealthy than eating a varied diet where I usually eat sensibly, but occasionally don’t). Not to mention the implication that deriding, bullying and hating of fat people is keeping us all skinny!

  • “Here’s the thing. Happiness isn’t something you achieve, or earn, or find. Happiness is right there in you at every single moment of your life. It’s not out there to be found, it’s just in you to be seen. You carry it with you, whether you’re using it or not, it’s there.”

    – Spoken like someone who has converted knowledge into wisdom.

    The only sure-fire way to happiness is to be happy about what you have and are.🙂

    With Love and Gratitude,

    The Intentional Sage

  • It reminds me of some religious people who devoutly believe that if you’re not completely and unquestioningly on the Lord’s side, then you must be a Satan worshipper. So atheists worship Satan, right? And fat acceptance is the evil mirror image of fat hate, right? Some people just cannot think past binary.
    Oh and Intentional Sage? Sometimes the happiness isn’t inside and you do need something to put it there, or at least give you the capacity for it. Ask any major depressive. Your philosophy is just as likely to get people to feel guilty as to feel happy.

    • Or the other way around. There are people who believe that if you’re a believer that you must be a crazy fundamentalist nutcase who shoots abortionists and damns everyone to hell.

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