Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fat acceptance on Radio Times

I just finished doing a call-in show on Radio Times, a public radio show on WHYY, on fat acceptance and on our relationship to food and eating and weight. It was a good show, and included some excellent comments from Rebecca Puhl of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale.

You should be able to listen to an archived version of the show here eventually.

I thought it was interesting, and somewhat sad, that pretty much all the callers espoused the "thin-is-healthy" and "thin-at-any-cost" idea. For those of you who may be finding this blog after hearing the show, I'd love to direct you to a couple of good resources.

I hope you'll check out Ellyn Satter's wonderful website and books. Satter, a nutritionist, therapist, and researcher, advocates for what she calls competent eating--meaning, eating in a way that satisfies your hunger and your appetite. She writes about the need to develop a joyful relationship with food and eating--a radical concept in our current culture, and one worth considering.

One of the callers mentioned anger and snarkiness among the Fat Acceptance blogs. I don't know how you define snarkiness, exactly, but I quite like some of the FA blogs, including Shapely Prose, The F-Word, and The Fat Nutritionist.

Finally, in my recent book, Feed Me: Writers Dish About Food, Eating, Weight, and Body Image, I published a Love-Your-Body pledge, which is also available here. I hope you'll consider signing it. Paste it up where you'll see it everyday, and remind yourself about what you love and appreciate about your body.


Me said...

As the caller, I read Shapely Prose and find that to be full of snark and anger. I get nothing positive from it, and more so, Fat Acceptance seems to be Fat Anger.

We don't need Fat Acceptance or This Aspirations.

We need to be healthy and body friendly.

Harriet said...

I respect your feelings and opinions, Me. To each her own! And I agree that we need more body friendliness.

I think it's also important to understand a little context here. Anger can be a positive force for change. As women we're often told that anger is bad, unacceptable, unfeminine. I think anger can be constructive and useful. But we each have our own tolerance for it.

Good luck to you--


Me said...

Actually, as community organizer, I could write a dissertation on the role of anger in social movements. Anger leads to actions. But the anger needs to be from a place from productivity.

I have no problem being angry or using anger.

I just find this anger and snark to be incredibly stiffling and missing the point.

You can follow my journey at

Anonymous said...

Looking at your blog Me, I can't help but notice that you seem to be on a weight loss track. Perhaps this explains why you do not like the "snarkiness" and anger at FA blogs...because usually that stuff comes up in response to a goal you are pursuing yourself. It stands to reason that you wouldn't get anything out of an anti-dieting blog like Shapely Prose because, as someone trying to lose weight, you are not, how do you say, the target audience.

I hope you find the sort of support you are looking for!

Me said...

Actually, if it were not based in anger or snark, I'd love to see a community all about accepting people regardless of size. Especially if said community wasn't promoting being unhealthy.

Fantine said...

And THAT, Me, is exactly why you are not the target audience for Shapely Prose. Even if you hadn't linked your blog, from that comment, it would be entirely clear what your viewpoints are. The bloggers and commenters at Shapely Prose are not promoting being unhealthy. They are promoting being as healthy as you can be and happy even if you don't become thin. And if they are angry, it is because they were duped for so long into believing that the only way to be healthy was to be thin, which is completely untrue.

Rachel said...

Shapely Prose is snarky and while I happen to be fond of clever snark and think the SP authors exceptional at it, it's not for everyone. I would hope that you wouldn't let your experiences at ONE of MANY fat acceptance blogs color your outlook on ALL fat acceptance blogs. The wonderful thing about the Notes from the Fatosphere RSS Feed is that it showcases the sheer breadth and diversity of people who identify with the movement.

And if people within the movement are angry, it's entirely understandable. Fat people are told every day that they inhabit socially deviant bodies and take up entirely too much space; they are assumed to be slothful gluttons and harbingers of economic instability and indeed, even national security; they are denied rights and discriminated against in areas of healthcare, housing, accessibility, adoptions, etc... For the most part, I think the Fatosphere does a wonderful job at channeling this collective anger toward the social forces responsible for it.

Ms. Heathen said...

NO. I wouldn't want to be part of a community that didn't welcome and embrace the expression of an oppressed class' anger. I see the argument to put anger aside all the time, feminists, people of color, people in lower social classes are constantly harangued to "say it nicer". The real issue is that we're talking at all, so if we can just be brow beaten into lowering our voices until we're barely heard we can just disappear again.

Anger is important! How should I feel when I can't get competent health care, or employment, or accommodation for my body? How should I feel about a society that loathes my very existence? I'll stop being angry when people stop trying to disappear me.

naamenblog at Angry Black Woman had an excellent post on "politeness" and oppressed groups that sums up my feelings towards this attitude. Namely I don't think privileged groups should get to set the tone of discussion everywhere.

Me said...

They mock a funny exercise class called skinny jeans. They tell you that you'll fail if you try to diet. They block comments that are in disagreement.
I don't see the positivity. Believe me, I'd love it if it were a positive community. But, it is not positive. It's does not lead to healing. It doesn't lead to a healthy lifestyle.

I was treated poorly when I was obese. And, now I am inbetween fat and thin- and happier than ever not because of a waist size but from an all around healthier lifestyle.

Instead of FA, why don't we organize all women to support healthy body love?

Me said...

Umm, I don't think being fat arises to same level of oppression as oppressed groups have faced over the years. As a community organizer, I've seen oppression around the ground.
And, yes, the stigma and hate around body size is horrific and wrong. But, we need to create effective and strong campaigns to conteract it.

We need two tracks. At outward track that protect people who are fat, and an inward track that empowers everyone to be able to be healthy.

Harriet said...

That's the great thing about the internet. There's room for all kinds of approaches.

I really do think, though, that we're all talking about the same thing. We may not agree on methodology, but we are a community--however we define ourselves.

Joy Manning said...

I just wanted to chime in and say how valuable I've found Shapely Prose specifically and the fat acceptance movement in general. Shapely Prose has really helped me come to terms with my weight and I need all the help I can get accepting myself as I am. I find it so inspiring and illuminating, such a clarifying beam of light, that it's difficult for me to even see it as snarky. I guess I think they use snark appropriately. I would encourage anyone who is struggling to accept her body the way it is to mosey on over there and start reading. Then, decide for yourself.

Lindsay B. said...

Me, they say that diets will fail because diets will fail. Yep, even the one you're on now. I'm not saying that out of spite, but out of experience and honesty. Studies back this up- Shapely Prose, and several other FA blogs, link to those studies- and there are even new studies to show that one can be healthier at a bigger size, that it's even conducive to a longer life.

Of course there's anger. When you break out of thinking that you DESERVE to be treated poorly, there's a lot of anger at the system designed to make you sit back and accept abuse. You may not see where the FA'ers are taking out their anger in real life. Some handle it poorly, but many are outspoken against actual discrimination, and use anger to motivate them to speak out; especially in a culture that tells fat people, ESPECIALLY Fat WOMEN, that we should just shut up and take it.

We are sick of being told that dieting = healthier, because in most cases, that's not true. You've lost weight and feel better, that's fantastic; of course you would feel better. You've been taught that big = bad, so of course, being smaller than you were makes you feel better. Attitude makes a BIG difference. I never felt better in my life than the day I gave up "dieting'. I also stopped over-feeding myself, because I was actually listening to what my body wanted, ate what I felt like (which was less than I thought I wanted, and healthier than I thought, too).

Yeah, I lost weight. It didn't, and doesn't matter to me, because I was happy with or without the fat. A lot of people in the FA movement call it Body Acceptance, because many of us don't feel it's right to treat ANYONE poorly based on their bodies, for any reason.

Read "The Fantasy of Being Thin" on Shapely Prose, it's very insightful about why it's hard to let go of dieting and weight loss. Get to know more people in the community, we're not all the same, many of us are healthier than you think we are, and a lot of that is because we've stopped stressing ourselves out about our weight.

Anonymous said...

Harriet, I'm glad you had a good experience with NPR :)

Leslie said...

I can't wait to listen to the show!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your radio interview. I am going to read your book. We are under increasing pressure to lose weight at my work, at a food company no less, and I have really been feeling rotten. It's hard enough to try and lose weight on your own but add the pressure of bosses, co-workers and hints of poor lifestyle increases for health insurance and you have a "recipe" for disaster.

Andy said...

I agree with a lot said in the radio interview but I am wondering where did the personal responsibility get lost. Everyone can life with their size but extremes are rarely healthy even though the medium is somewhere else for everyone but everyone should be aware that we cannot go through life without taking care of our body and soul and for both food can help or destroy. It is especially alarming for me to see that in the US mealtime is considered superfluous which is to a big part at the heart of the matter.
We all forget to easily that Humans are made for fat and lean times and to have to move around in order to stay healthy. In all of these aspects the western civilization managed to get us out of touch with nature and our bodies and souls needs. If we all would accept our true "nature" I think we would be much happier.

Harriet said...

Well, that all may be true, but it doesn't change the fact that stigma and bias are still rampant against people who are fat, or that dieting doesn't work.

Mimi said...

I consider myself a fat acceptance activist, and I love my 280lb, size 22 self and have no intention of losing weight.
That said, I find Shapely Prose off-putting and cliquish, with an distinct classist undertone. I can understand a refusal to tolerate trolls and people who simply don't *want to* get it, but I find on SP there is zero tolerance even for those who want to learn, but aren't necessarily up to speed on all aspects of fat activism and/or political correctness. Instead of educating these people, the bloggers shame, taunt, and drive them away. This had not happened to me personally, but I've watched it enough times and I consider it offensive, immature and generally counterproductive.
There are good fat acceptance blogs out there - and good stuff to be found on Shapely Prose as well, but in my humble opinion, the criticism is well-deserved.