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Your body is a good body,

even during the holidays.

Some learnings and committments around anti-fat bias

Happy holidays! Tis the season of rampant diet culture and anti-fat bias! The 72+ billion dollar industry profiting off you feeling bad about your body and misinformation about body size and health is gearing up for prime season! I have recently dedicated myself to learning more about living in a larger body and how to combat mistaken beliefs about body size and the discrimination that comes with that. I'm going to share some of what I've learned, you can contact me for sources or better yet start to do your own research. I hope this may help you enjoy your body and your culinary traditions this time of year and think about your 'resolutions' in a new way. 

Here is some of what I've learned so far: 

-Anti-fat bias is so prevalent you probably do it, even if you are progressive, ‘woke’, or whatever. If you haven't really wondered before if you have implicit anti-fat bias, then it’s time to add it to your list of biases and privileges to work on. Notice your negative thoughts or assumptions about fat people or your own body and notice how the places you go are made for thin people. If this is the first time you’re considering thin privilege, yay, good for you, now dig in. 

-Anti-fat bias is directly related to white supremacy. If you think thin is better regardless of other health measures or thin is inherently more ‘beautiful’, you got these messages in part due to white supremacy. I also want to acknowledge that anti-fat bias also compounds with other types of biases and discrimination. I write this as a fat woman acknowledging the biases against my weight and gender but that I still walk around with significant privilege, including white, economic and thin privilege-compared to people with bodies larger than mine. 

-Studies DO NOT show ‘obesity’ causes all the many major diseases (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc). They can show a correlation. This distinction between causation and correlation is a very important one. If you open your awareness you will find scientific, large, peer reviewed studies that show lack of sleep more highly correlated with diabetes than BMI and that show fit fat people (with normal range lipids, blood pressure, cholesterol) are at lower risk for diabetes than thin people with just one of those measures in ‘unhealthy’ range. And MANY more studies like this that do not get the light of day for lots of reasons (financial, political, social, cultural-remember what I said about white supremacy earlier...and that 72 billion dollar industry...). Focusing on BMI and/or losing weight is the wrong way to help our society get healthier!! Also, 7 of the 9 people who set the most recent BMI categories financially PROFIT off you trying to lose weight.  

-Weight loss companies, such as WW, BeachBody, etc profit off you being a repeat customer. If you used their product once and then stopped because you ‘succeeded’, they would not profit. You losing weight and keeping it off is not part of their business model. 

-95% of attempts to lose weight fail, and this isn’t because the people doing the diets fail. It’s not your/their fault. We are biologically wired to gain weight more easily than lose and the more we diet or restrict and the more messed up messages in our heads about food (i.e. good tasting food is indulgent or bad, or ‘overeating’ causes diseases) the more we mess with our internal, intuitive system that KNOWS what and how to eat for OUR INDIVIDUAL body. And just because someone else ‘successfully’ lost weight, does not mean that you can too or that you should want or need to. 

-The discrimination and bias larger bodies experience (especially in the health care system) and dieting itself has been shown to directly contribute to the poor health measures that doctors blame on the 'excess' weight. We'd all benefit from a shift in focus away from weight and BMI to actual support and policy change around access to whole, nourishing food and moving our bodies in a discrimination free and toxin free environment with less stress and more sleep. Let's focus on that!

-And so, so much more to learn. 

Here’s what I’m committed to (work in progress): 

-Mindful work on awareness and dismantling of my privilege and bias, even anti-fat bias myself that I’ve learned over 4 decades. This includes learning about the intersectionality of types of bias and privilege and learning what I can do to advocate for increased access to whole nourishing foods, movement opportunities, green spaces, mental health, and no discrimination for ALL people and ALL bodies. 

- I seek out information to help me understand the vast amount of research going on that often contradicts the things we take as a default, sound science truth about body size and health. 

-I never speak negatively about any bodies, including mine. Especially in front of my daughters. The other day my daughter said, ‘Your body is big’ and I gave her a silly, intense stare and held up my arms and said, ‘Big and strong!’ and we giggled while we struck various muscle poses. 

-I never comment on anyone else's body or ‘beauty’. Including ‘positive’ comments about someone losing weight. Doing so perpetuates anti-fat bias by deeming the thinner body as 'better' by complimenting it. It also can be triggering in so many ways, I don’t know how or why that person lost weight and what it means for them (disordered eating, self-hate, physical illness, recent loss/grief, depression?). Plus their body is none of my business. I focus my compliments on people’s non-physical traits or the color of their shirt, or I simply say that I’m so glad to see their smile.    

-I’m learning how to eat intuitively and it’s amazing the transformation that that has made with my relationship with food. I know better what I’m craving and when I’m full. It’s not tied to a goal of losing weight, just nurturing my body physically, socially, spiritually, culturally and emotionally. I move my body in ways I enjoy that fill my spirit and connect me to the people and places I love. I try to manage stress and get more sleep (our country should help moms of young kids do this!!) 

-I never shame myself or my daughters for enjoying food or wish aloud that I didn’t love french fries or candy. We are biologically wired to enjoy food and fighting that is part of what causes our body to lose the ability to know what and how to eat in a nourishing way. I never force my kids to clear their plate or eat their vegetables or use ‘bad’ food as a reward for eating ‘good’ food. I just present the foods that I am comfortable with my children eating and ask them to listen to their bodies. 

-I help my therapy clients to reframe what they have learned about their health and their body and help them release the shame and guilt that has come with that. I work to make my therapy practice a safe space (physically and emotionally) for larger bodies. If my client has a goal to lose weight I acknowledge that and validate that desire, and then I offer them opportunities to reframe into goals that are disconnected from society’s expectations and stigmas; goals to feel physically and/or emotionally well, move their body, eat more fruit, gain flexibility or strength to make certain tasks easier, etc. 

-I am writing this post and being vulnerable, sharing my story and learning and experience to hopefully help my community and society be a more welcoming place for ALL bodies.

What are you doing to combat anti-fat bias and to accept your body as a good body? 

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