In the Blog

Size Acceptance 101

November 1st, 2009     by Julia Horel     Comments

I’d like to start my month-long series on size acceptance with a general overview of some of the terms and concepts I’ll be building discussions on.

One of the main issues in the movement is actually what to call it. While I have settled on the term “size acceptance,” many folks in the movement use “fat acceptance” to describe what they do. This term works because most of the negative stereotypes and body-bashing these people seek to refute are about fat people. Some other activists choose the term “size acceptance” to reflect the fact that people of all shapes and sizes are affected by stereotypes, lazy science, expectations, eating disorders, etc. I take this approach because I think that society’s standards for acceptable body size and shape harm everyone, but I don’t quarrel with the term “fat acceptance” one bit. It’s true that fat people experience a different kind of discrimination and pressure, and that in general, Western society demonizes fat.

One of the most prominent alternatives to the “thinner is better” paradigm is a concept called Health at Every Size (HAES). The idea is simply that health can be measured in so many ways that are completely separate from weight, and that one can be fat and healthy. Or thin and healthy. Or disabled and healthy. Or with a chronic illness and healthy. “Health” can be defined differently for everyone! Practicing HAES means respecting diversity of sizes and shapes, eating for pleasure as well as trying a diversity of nutritious food, and enjoying whatever types of movement your body is capable of and make you feel good. Doesn’t that sound nicer than counting calories and punishing your body with exercise you feel you have to do? Trust me, having experienced both: it is way nicer.

Finally, a major part of size acceptance is the concept of body autonomy. Some people, when they first hear about the movement, think that it means we’re telling everyone to eat only junk food, never exercise, and be fat. Setting aside the fact that not everyone who eats a lot of junk food and lives a sedentary lifestyle is fat (more on the connections between fat and health in a future post), the assertion is ridiculous. The whole concept of size acceptance is rooted in accepting your size, be it fat, thin, or anything in between. By extension, this also means accepting others’ sizes and respecting their bodies and the ways they choose to use them. You do not owe it to anyone else, and they do not owe it to you, to fit a certain size or personal aesthetic. Your body is no one’s business but your own.

Next up: debunking some of the myths about body size and health.

Tags: body politics

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