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.