With increased media attention for the size acceptance movement inevitably comes gross and astonishing misinterpretation, as well as deliberately poor reporting. The size acceptance movement is by no means unified, just like many other social movements, but it is safe to say that there are a few things which the majority of the movement is not about.
One of the most common pieces of misinformation I see distributed about size acceptance is that members of the movement are promoting fat, discouraging weight loss, and encouraging society as a whole to get fatter. Since fat and health are so closely married in the minds of many people, the assumption is that the size acceptance movement is also opposed to healthy people. I can’t figure out if this misinformation is just the result of rank journalistic stupidity, a deliberate and willful decision to ignore the facts, or an attempt to actively discredit the movement by people who find the idea of size acceptance icky.
Size acceptance is not about encouraging people to get fat. Straight up. It is about encouraging collective social acceptance of people who are fat, and about promoting the idea that fat people are also human beings, who deserve to be treated with respect. Nowhere in this mission is the idea that members of the movement are all out to fatten everyone up. In fact, there are people of all sizes involved in size acceptance, and many people, like me, prefer to use the term “size acceptance” rather than “fat acceptance” to stress the idea that bodies of all sizes and shapes are included in the movement. I care just as much about a slender woman being called “scrawny” and insulted for her body as I do about a large woman being called “repulsive” and insulted for her body.
I don’t think that the size acceptance movement has done a poor job of pushing its fundamental message, which is about equality for all bodies, and promotion of the idea that all humans deserve equal treatment and respect. But I do think that the message is often twisted in the media, just like the core missions of other social movements. Organizations which promote the welfare of minorities, for example, are accused of being “racist” just because they focus on a particular race, or feminists are accused of being manhaters because they have the shocking and revolutionary belief that women are people.
People also seem to believe that the size acceptance movement is anti-health. We aren’t. Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m not, and most of the people in the movement that I am in contact with aren’t anti-health either. We are actually all pretty huge fans of health. It’s just that we don’t believe that size is necessarily a good measure of health, and science agrees, actually.
In fact, we have a very vested interest in getting people to eat healthier diets. By “healthier diets,” we aren’t referring to caloric restriction or fad diets which will force people to lose weight, but rather to diets which are balanced and healthy, with an ample supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, and other sources of healthy nutrition. Many of us feel very strongly that diet does play a critical role in health, and that healthy diets make for healthier and happier bodies. There are a lot of problems with the American diet which we are concerned about, not because these problems make people fat, but because they make people unhealthy. We’re also big fans of exercise, because exercise promotes health, and we like healthy people. No one in the size acceptance movement is going to dispute the argument that exercise is beneficial, and that everyone should do it. But we’re also not about telling people what to do or eat, or how to live, because the primary core here is acceptance of the fact that people come in all shapes and sizes, and that’s their business.
We have no intentions of pinning everyone to couches and forcing them to eat doughnuts all the time. But we would like a world in which all people have access to fresh, healthy food if that’s what they want to eat. In which fat people feel comfortable exercising, and welcomed at gyms and other athletic facilities. We want to live in a world in which people are allowed to be fat, and in which fat isn’t treated as something evil, or as a character negative which makes someone fundamentally flawed. We want to live in a world in which the desire for weight loss is not considered a norm, in which a naturally thin and a naturally fat woman are both equally welcome, and in which both are recognized as healthy, happy human beings who just happen to have different body types.
We want to live in a world without bodysnarking. In a world where fat isn’t a four letter word, in which people of size who are confident and happy are not treated as reprehensible or unusual. We want to live in a world in which health for all people is promoted, in which health and fat are decoupled.
Tell me, please, how exactly this is promoting fat? Or how it’s anti-health?