User voted Positive.
1 vote
Jul 12, 2016

I think it's a positive movement, with some serious caveats.

No one should be made to feel ashamed because of things they can't help. The "fat acceptance" movement actually dovetails with a lot of other body acceptance and ableist trends: many people don't match some totally arbitrary idea of beauty, even though their present weight and their present equilibrium is healthy.

Eating disorders are a serious problem in the United States and globally. Having an environment where people with eating disorders feel that they truly must be skinny to be loved is a problem.

Moreover, shaming and ridiculing people for their choices, even when those choices have negative and self-destructive effects, is useless and vile. Any addict can tell you that shame doesn't stop self-destructive spirals: it worsens it.

On the other hand, obesity is a medical and psychological issue. A fat acceptance movement with the wrong message poses two serious dangers:

  1. Instead of giving people a reason to love themselves more, it could instead enable people to continue bad, unhealthy habits that lower their energy, restrict their ability to contribute to society, and stress medical care systems.
  2. It could empower corporations that seek to continue to sell us junk food. Rather than being regulated, we'd simply come to accept obesity as a fact of life. Worse, criticisms of junk food vendors could become defended against by their surrogates and representatives saying, "You're just fat shaming people. People have a right to purchase our product". One can even imagine scenarios where it would become a discrimination issue to refuse to hire an obese person, even if that obese person couldn't perform the job.
(As to the last point: To be clear, there are real concerns about discrimination against the obese. In general, present anti-discrimination law allows for discrimination against people if they are impaired from doing the job in such a way that there is no reasonable accommodation. That should also apply to obesity).

Luckily, there's no contradiction between fat acceptance and fighting obesity. In fact, they're one and the same.

Too often, our natural instinct to try to curtail or change other peoples' behavior is to either literally or figuratively smash them into submission. We shame them, attack them, imprison them, penalize them, etc.

This is a useless approach. Even with overwhelming force, it usually only works temporarily, and at great cost to both those exerting the force and those enduring it.

Think about it. We don't want people to go onto a crash diet to lose 60 pounds to get a bikini body back. We want people to make sustainable, long-term dietary and exercise choices that will maintain their health and happiness.

The message our society should be pushing for when it comes to obesity is, "Our society accepts everyone, no matter their body shape, their hormonal balance, or their life choices. But we also want people to love themselves and each other enough to support each other to make healthy choices".

A coach who tells you "You suck" isn't helping. A coach who tells you, "You can do this, you can improve" is.

The "fat acceptance" movement is in fact a microcosm of movements about disability status and mental illness writ large. We want to give people more choices, not fewer. We want to encourage people to change, not discourage them away from their present. We want people to know that they can make mistakes and be forgiven.

The "fat acceptance" movement has to dovetail with and ally with organic food, healthy living and food regulation movements. We have to introduce more transparency into our food production, distribution and consumption system and eliminate the worst offenders (while honoring the rights of people to make informed decisions).

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