I’m NOT going swimming today. And that’s okay. I think…

I’ve read a lot of very good posts very recently about what it means to be a “good fatty”; how maintaining that healthy behaviors don’t necessarily lead to weight loss but can still encourage better health might actually be alienating to anyone who DOESN’T follow all of said “Healthy” behaviors by insinuating that there is some sort of delineation between Fat and Following the Rules and Fat and Naughty.  As though one camp somehow deserves accolades, understanding, respect in all the ways that FA proposes…and the other somehow just doesn’t…or at the very least gets treated like the outcast family member who ends up reading in the corner at all those happy FA parties.*

And it was by reading these posts and finally shining a bit of light on that dark little mental monster hidden deep (or not even that deep) in my own mind that I’ve pulled to light for analysis my OWN habits here while blogging: especially those of declaring, perhaps too often, that I do Everything Right Yet Remain Fat and Healthy… as though continuing to not yet lose the Health Lottery somehow makes me a poster-child for FA or something.  Is this behavior of mine, of declaring loud and proud that I follow the rules, just another diet-esque trapping into which I’ve fallen??  Am I just a stage two FA troll; pushing the virtues of HAES instead of WW; disdainful somehow of any who do not follow the RIGHT set of Lifestyle Changes???

What do you do when something pulls you up mentally short and leaves you questioning what you even blog about in the first place and if it makes you any “better” than those shilling the very thing you claim to distrust (ie: diets)???  You poke it with a stick of course and analyze the hell out of it!

The first post that really helped me to poke a stick into that mental crevice and analyze my own behaviors (namely that of speaking up loudly when I behave in any way culturally seen as Good For Health; and remaining a bit more silent, head turned away, whistling, toeing the dirt when I behave in ways deemed Bad for Health) was The Good Fatty by JoGeek:

Maybe there’s a part of me that I haven’t managed to excise yet which still contains the internalized message that I have to toe a certain line in order to deserve to be accepted as a fat person. Maybe I’ve transformed that message into the idea that I would be somehow “letting down the team” if I didn’t exercise and eat a balanced diet whenever I could afford to do so; That I have some kind of responsibility to the FA movement to be as perfect a representative as possible.

Or is it simply anticipating the fat prejudice of others? It could be that I’m afraid of being diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease (I expect both will show up in my life like genetic clockwork) because if I am fat and have one of the stigmatized “fat diseases” it will somehow take away the authority of my message.

Over at Another Change the post Addicted to Life really got me thinking about this further with this quote especially:

I know intellectually how FA activists work against the symbolic opposition of the “good fattie” (someone with pristine nutritional and exercise habits who remains fat) vs. the “bad fattie” (someone with imperfect eating and exercise habits). But as I’m trying to find my own voice in FA circles, I can feel the weight of internal pressure about how I’m not being a “good example” of Fat Acceptance, and I’m not being any sort of example for the idea of Health at Every Size. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive Dissonance indeed!  And boy have I been feeling similarly and struggling with this very set of confused feelings.  Am I really hiding some sort of prejudice against anyone NOT being all “healthy” as defined by HAES, saying somehow that any disease or mis-health that befalls them is “their fault”???  After poking around for a while I have to say that this isn’t the main thought behind why I proclaim my adherence to behaviors more strongly allied with current thoughts on what is healthy; though I’m sure some of that lingers inside somewhere; a vestige of that dieting mentality whereby those who fall off the diet-wagontrain somehow are deserving of any ill health they may come upon.  That is a bit alarming to me and is something I’m  going to address, because it has no place here. Because I can’t go around claiming it is wrong to pick on fat folks and then feel, even a smidgen, that it is OK if they are picked on because they are part of the wrong group of fat people!!  I don’t think that is the message I’ve pushed here and it is never a message I’ve intended; though as we all know sometimes it doesn’t matter your intentions; all that matters is others’ perceptions of your words and actions.

So why does this message of fighting against showing off as an FA poster child strike so close to home for me?  For one thing; I’ve been struggling with feeling as though any week when I don’t get out to swim or when I have Non-Healthy meals more than once that I have somehow gone over and fallen off some non-existent HAES wagon or something… as though for some reason my only and best purpose in blogging is in holding myself out as an example of How FA could be Using HAES! I’ve been feeling pinned in by thoughts like “Well, I shouldn’t put anything up because I haven’t gone swimming all week, or I ate something greasy that upset my stomach last night so I’m not as “enlightened” in the ways of FA as I keep proclaiming, someone might just call me a LIAR! (Which, come on, I already have been so I don’t know what I’m really afraid of there!)  But this is so fundamentally flawed!  How is it any less FA to talk about the awesome chocolate chip cookies I baked than it is to discuss the beauty of fresh blueberries?  It shouldn’t be.  And I need to shift my way of writing if that has truly become such a concern of mine.  There is no need for my own mind to supply the sorts of obstacles to my speaking out that the rest of society is already so willing to eagerly provide me.

So, I’m not here to be all, “Nah, nah!  I’m not “dieting” I’m just changing my LIFESTYLE!  I’ve moved my desired focus from Being Thin(ner) to Being Healthy(er) and that makes the way I’m acting somehow magically All OK!  Whee!”  At least, after a bit of introspection that is what I’ve decided is NOT why I’m here; which might mean my posts do alter slightly in tone now.  But, that’s what blogging is about, no?  Putting down in electronic permanence the path your thoughts have taken over time.  I’m here to explore the life I have While Fat.  Some of my behaviors might mesh with what is currently accepted as being Inherently Healthy.  Some may NOT.  I need to stop being entirely vocal about only the Healthy behaviors and so silent about the rest because you know what, I am NOT trying to be a poster child for FA.  The true “poster” image of FA is a conglomeration of thoughts, beliefs, sizes, shapes, eating habits, activity levels… there IS no One Way of behaving that means you are Doing FA Right.  Just by refusing to be silenced and existing in the body I have is a way of being an example of FA.

Just as any person can boast a shirt saying “THIS is what a feminist looks like”; perhaps what I’ve gained today is a feeling that I need to shift my own mental focus and really understand (more than just “For Others”); that Anyone With ANY food/exercise behaviors IS a poster-child for FA; even me, but even not me.  Perhaps we need a shirt which boasts “THIS is what a Fat Acceptance Activist looks AND ACTS like”.

The point that the above posts have helped me clarify, for myself at least, is that: eating and exercising behaviors do not have moral ramifications which are manifested by means of outward looks OR EVEN health and no one has the right to judge the choices or lifestyle of another person.  Yes, that even means dieters.  If you don’t push your habits on me, I won’t push my habits on you because neither of us has any sort of Inherent Right to judge the other.

Whether a person never touches something considered “naughty food”, eats it only once in a while or thrills to its taste every day; we are all deserving of existence and the rights to it.  If I have in any way alienated anyone with previous posts by singing the “I’m Healthy but Fat” mantra; I apologize here in earnest. Because, frankly, my own (or your own) personal current stake-hold in the lottery of Healthy! Personhood!, is no one else’s business.  No matter a person’s size or shape, no matter their Actual Eating Behaviors and/or Activity Levels: we are each granted the right to exist in peace. I am just as much a FA and Fat Rights activist on days that I choose to swim laps as I am on those I choose to go home early instead.  I don’t have to fit some sort of mandatory level of Healthy Hat-tipping first in order to deserve the right to FIGHT for equal treatment of all body sizes/shapes/behaviors.

So, I’m not going swimming today.  I’ve had to backspace through a LOT of rational and reasoning why that I keep trying to put here but the point after all of this reading, thinking and now posting is this: I don’t HAVE to have an excuse.  What I do with my food intake and my body’s movements or lack-thereof do not need to be excused in order to make me an acceptable human being.  I am not beholden to HAES or WW or any other regime of living in order to prove my worth as a living, breathing, body filled with the spirit of life (in whatever form you take that to be). The same goes for you and every other body out there.  I guess sometimes it is just good to be reminded of that, even it if means poking your (albiet now FA tinted) assumptions with a big old stick of introspection.

*I WAS this child during family gatherings all growing up.  Usually because I found family “parties” to be insufferably boring once talk got onto relatives I didn’t know or care about and I didn’t want to hear about how if I ever got outside instead of staying in and reading then I might be a thinner kid…

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13 thoughts on “I’m NOT going swimming today. And that’s okay. I think…

  1. Good post & I am glad that some of the younger people are confronting these issues & talking about them. The belief in what some pioneers of fat acceptance called “healthism” & what many now call “HAES” or ‘living responsibly’ has been a divisive force in the movement for 40 years & is part of what has prevented us from making any REAL progress ending the discrimination against fat people & securing full rights, access, & protection under the law for all people. I have heard & DO hear virtually every day that we can prove our worth, that we are as good as thin people, as healthy, as this or that, by eating ‘right’ (when, in actual fact, there ARE NO ‘bad’ foods, &, ye gods, do I get totally fed up with hearing people, including many fat bloggers, moaning about ‘junk food’; the science pretty much discounts any existence of ‘superfoods’ & tells us that as long as we eat a reasonable variety of foods, we are fine, & that we derive more nutrients from any food we eat if we really LIKE it), & exercising whatever we are being told that week is ‘enough’. The early organizers of NAAFA had, so I have been told by someone who was there, the belief that the women in particular always had to be neat, clean, tastefully dressed & decorously comported, should not gain any MORE weight, & should not be eating much in public, because God forbid that they should give anyone an excuse to abuse them or believe in fat stereotypes (as if anyone needs an excuse.) And the message that fat activists must watch how they eat & be very active (& preferably only be moderately fat) is one which has been disseminated for years.

    I posted regularly for years on the BBS, Hank’s Gabcafe, started by Marilyn Wann. I myself swallowed some of the healthist propaganda early on, & there were many of us who bragged often about how much we worked out, how much produce we ate (some saw the need to add that their produce was, by God, organic), or how ‘perfect’ our numbers (those numbers which are SUPPOSED to say something meaningful about health, but, as it turns out, really don’t) were, so the bigots, narrow-minded doctors, etc., could kiss our butts! A lot of good people who posted there, people with whom I wish I still had contact, were hurt by these attitudes & did indeed internalize the message that they were not good enough, that they weren’t doing it right, & they left the community, most of them never to return.

    We hurt ourselves, we hurt each other, & we weaken a very important human rights movement when we buy too much of the fearmongering & marketing & try too hard to prove that we are ‘good’, but which most people assume we mean we are the exception to the rule. That is how we (& I include myself here) get those reactions of, “I don’t mean YOU, I mean those lazy slobs who eat junk all the time & never get off their butts, who are pushing up the cost of MY health insurance.” We get a world where the ‘good’, fit, temporarily healthy fat (or plump) people get some grudging acceptance, but where attitudes toward fat people as a group do not improve at all, or change except to, so our culture seems, become worse. We get a world where our thin, smoking president addresses ‘town meetings’ about health care reform, & assures his listeners that a matter of the highest priority in improving health & reducing healthcare costs is getting most of the population to lose weight.

    More now than ever, people of all lifestyles, health status, ages, abilities, & sizes need to support & encourage each other & become more of a community. We do not need to be holding ourselves apart & ‘othering’ those who do not eat or exercise or dress or whatever as we do, or as the culture insists we are SUPPOSED to. Our lives, our bodies, belong to US, even if it does seem as if some want us to belong to the government, & how we live in our bodies is no one’s business but our own, nor is it a measure of worth or character.

    • Patsy I love your comments; they always manage to elaborate on points that I was trying to make and flesh them out even better!! Perhaps the key to my thoughts here is indeed this phrase in particular: “we weaken a very important human rights movement when we buy too much of the fearmongering & marketing & try too hard to prove that we are ‘good’,” By gods that is a powerful way to word what I’ve been thinking.

    • Frances, I agree and these recent posts I’ve been seeing have really helped bring that point home to me. It isn’t, at the end of the day, ABOUT if you’re healthy or not…because the state of one’s immune system is no reflection upon their morals or ethics or an indication of what level of scorn/hate/disdain is “deserved”. It’s a point I will work well to keep top in the front of my mind.

      Also I had to add that yours was actually a post I read a while back and started me thinking along this path so it was a pleasure to read it again just now!!

  2. I think the thing is: We have all lived most of our life feeling “not good enough”. And it’s hard to change that. You seem to be on the right road though. Applaus.

  3. For me, HAES is sort of separate from FA. There’s a health movement and a human rights movement.

    The human rights movement is staring a boatload of prejudice in the face.

    The health movement is a subset, less important in major ways, and is for those who would like to be part of a health movement and are non-normative.

    To me it is okay to be (and blog) about both, but not conflate the two: you don’t need to have any health practice to qualify for human rights. (Besides, self-care is self-care, and HAES recommends different behaviours to each of us.)

    However, I think the discussion of veggies and exercise comes up more from people who find FA similar to the way I did.

    I’m not alone in that I was attentive to the strictures of diets and regimens and yet got to a point that I couldn’t shift weight; it was the final dieting push of hunger and fear and not a single shifted pound that brought me to FA, not a sense of my own worth that made me examine my oppression. That came after.

    My own lightbulb re: FA was learning that I was not alone in finding my body did not act as proof of lifestyle. I was not alone showing lifestyle and thigh circumference were independent variables!

    That I’m STILL not over. My inability to see the prejudice against fat folks was constructed on an idea that these variables were dependent. I couldn’t figure out the finger puzzle of HOW to make the choice not to be fat! So the sheer gobsmacked idea of fat & fit for me isn’t about disproving stereotypes to the observer, but is the still radical concept that everything I thought I knew about lifestyle and fatness was wrong.

    I thought I was fundamentally unhinged in some way, lying in some way I couldn’t figure out. If the laws of the universe are absolute it had to be my head that was broken, not the “simple” formula out > in = weightloss.

    • Arwen this is what I really identify with from your comment: “I was not alone showing lifestyle and thigh circumference were independent variables!”

      And I agree, hearing that message in many ways CAN help to break into a person to say “Hey! You don’t need all that self loathing, right? Your bum-size is not an indicator of your virtues!” but your distinctions between the human rights/health movements are crucial and what I’m addressing here and mentally all along now; trying to keep my eye on the reality that just as thigh size is no indicator of morals; neither is the state of one’s physical health.

      • Oh, I absolutely agree! I think it’s the central and most important point that health isn’t worth, and health behaviours aren’t worth, and I totally agree with your post.

        I think I phrased it wrong, because I was just trying to add a different reason why the “I’m fat & exercising” can be so compelling and why, I think, it might come up for many of us. Why this divide keeps coming up – why the ‘fat and exercising’ narrative can be so important to some of us, even thought it’s not at all important to our worth or right to human rights and dignity.

        Because for me, it wasn’t about thighs showing virtue, so much as my radical disconnect making me question my own *sanity*. That’s the side I was trying to add.

        The bombshell for me in realizing lifestyle did not equal physical size is almost entirely divorced from *morality*. It wasn’t about virtue, being good, vs. fat as representative of immoral and bad, even though of course that was the societal stew – it was that I wasn’t utterly INSANE, lying to myself… I didn’t even know what. Sleep eating? Inability to do math? I didn’t know what was fundamentally WRONG with me.

        The utter crystalline “oh my god I exercise and eat salad am still fat and I’m not alone” wasn’t about good/bad fatty or my virtue being displayed in my thighs – it was I’m not insane or alone. I’m not schizophrenic localized to food, I am not forgetting what I eat, I am not so pulled around by powerful subconscious forces that I cannot construct reality. To hear tell from diets and doctors and even Oprah I was LYING TO MYSELF. And since I wanted to stop lying to myself, I had to figure out the mechanism for that. I couldn’t find one.

        I am in fact exercising and eating salad, and not instead eating donuts and thinking they’re salad. But my cognitive dissonance was so incredibly severe over a lifetime, that the relief from that mental dissonance was awesome. So the OMG I’m STILL fat and EATING SALAD! will probably continue to be this incredible sense of relief of cognitive dissonance for years, I imagine, until it finally becomes the reality and the dissonance not so much. Salad: these days, largely a choice based on what I like and have on hand. Not virtuous at all, but still a miracle of anti-dissonance!

  4. Great post and great comments. Gives me more to think about. I’m just coming into FA and trying to stop dieting. I think I can be healthier if I exercise more and cook for myself and eat more veggies. I do have HBP, high cholesterol although part of me thinks that is genetic. So maybe you stopped me from thinking that I will be a good worthy (fat)person if I move more and if I don’t I’m still bad and unworthy.

    • Martha, thanks. And you know, maybe that (stopped me from thinking that I will be a good worthy (fat)person if I move more and if I don’t I’m still bad and unworthy.) IS a very good thing to propose here. 🙂

  5. Pingback: 4th most “harmless habit” that “ages” you « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

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