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You are not alone

February 27, 2013

It’s not easy being ahead of your time. The emotional resources required to go against the status quo can sometimes seem more than you can spare. And that’s just to be you. Let’s not even think about the resources needed to actually do something about that status quo.

Self improvementMany of us here have spent our lives trying to fit into the prevailing paradigm of Thin Is The Only Thing Worth Being. We have failed over and over, often getting fatter and fatter. The disgust and disapprobation of friends, family, and strangers alike was tempered only by the knowledge that at least we were trying. Trying not to be fat is considered acceptable, praised, supported. However unhealthy your attempts, however miserable it’s making you, however much it rules your entire life at the expense of actually living it — you are a good fatty.

So it may come as a bit of a shock to one and all if you suddenly decide to stop.

Stop dieting.

Stop trying to fit in to a cultural ideal.

Stop trying to manipulate your body into some arbitrary shape or weight that will suddenly make you perfectly healthy. Take it from me — it doesn’t exist.

Doctors, friends, and the world in general will disapprove. Your loved ones may accuse you of giving up. Letting yourself go. Never mind that increasing amounts of evidence are pointing to a new truth — that health is not a number on the scale. That healthy lifestyles make healthy bodies, or at least, they give you a damn sight better shot at a healthy body than dieting ever will. That weight needn’t come into it. Or that being made to feel like crap, by society in general or even in your own mind (particularly in your own mind) is really, really bad for you.

For those of you new, and even not so new, to Health At Every Size® (HAES) and Size Acceptance, one of the biggest barriers can be the push back you will get from everyone around you. We can only hope that one day, the growing mountain of evidence will finally make a dent in the anti-obesity crusade, and ultimately trickle down into mass consciousness. But until then, you’re fighting against the tide. It doesn’t matter that the tide should have turned long ago; it is what it is, and you have to live with it.
So today I’d like to share with you my four simple survival tips for maintaining relationships and your sanity.

  1. Dealing with strangers — Depending on the kind of person you are and how you like to interact with people, you can tell them to mind their own business; you can develop The Look — you know, the one that will reduce even a grown man into whimpering shell; or simply walk away.
  2. Dealing with doctors — Ask them for any evidence they have that the methods they are suggesting lead to long-term weight loss in a significant number of people. Point out that thin people can also be unhealthy and therefore thinness is no guarantee of health. If you are currently healthy, remind them about the obesity paradox and that more and more evidence is confirming the existence of metabolically healthy “obese” people, and that these people have similar long-term outcomes to metabolically healthy “normal weight” people and better outcomes than metabolically unhealthy people, whatever their weight, and that weight loss tends not to bring benefits to this population and can actually worsen health. On the other hand, if you are currently unhealthy, show them this graph and ask them to support you in your efforts to adopt a healthier lifestyle that doesn’t involve focusing on weight, seeing as that almost never works, and oftentimes creates the very problems it is designed to fix. Linda Bacon has produced a letter for healthcare providers that might help, as well. And if you do require some form of treatment, ask them to provide the same treatment they would recommend to a thin person with the same condition. Oh, and take a friend with you.
  3. Dealing with friends and loved ones — Ask them to read Linda’s book, “Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight” prior to discussing this further. If a book is too much to ask for, you can point them to this page on my website that summarises the key point.

Some people also suggest [HAES is] about “giving up” and “letting yourself go”… seriously, there is nothing less like giving up on yourself than adopting a HAES lifestyle. Possibly for the first time in your life, you are genuinely caring for yourself, body and mind. And you will find it easier and more rewarding to take good care of yourself once you believe you are worth taking care of, when you stop believing that you are totally worthless, simply because of the number on the scales. ( some people

And if none of this works, declare a moratorium on discussions about your body and your health, and ask and expect them to respect those boundaries if they really care about you — do not accept excuses for not doing so; walk away if necessary, however hard.

And I’ve saved the most important tip till last.

  1. Dealing with your own doubts, struggles, and isolation — Reach out. There is a whole world of awesome fatties (and thinnies, and inbetweenies) who get it, who get you, and who will be there when you need them. The incredible people who populate the Fatosphere have, literally, saved lives, and made countless numbers of others, including mine, seem worth living. There’s even research now that documents the value of the Fatosphere in the lives of us fatties, from emotional support to empowerment to nurturing our journeys of self discovery, whatever our starting point, and contributing to our improved mental and physical wellbeing.

I’d like to tell you a story. Two actually. Just about one year ago, I attended my first scientific and professional conference in this field, roughly 18 months after discovering HAES and Size Acceptance. At the time, the self-acceptance part was still a bit of a struggle for me, and something I continued to work on as I tried to undo nearly 40 years of culturally mandated self-loathing. The conference was organized by the Binge Eating Disorder Association and it was held in Philadelphia. Over the course of three days I met a series of incredible (mostly) women of all shapes and sizes — some of whom have been activists since the early days, some whose books I had read (and one whose book I had in my bag to read on the plane — yes, I got it signed — starstruck), some I had yet to hear of, but who are key players in the HAES and Fat Acceptance communities, and many who worked at the coalface, helping individuals on a daily basis deal with their lifelong issues with food and body image. Several have since become good personal friends.

It was absolutely fascinating and I had a wonderful time. But the pivotal moment for me came on the third day. I was taking part in a workshop on negative body talk, the terrible stuff we think and say to ourselves about our bodies. Don't believe everything you thinkAnd for the purpose of the exercise, the facilitator, Judith Matz, asked us first to think of something negative we had thought about our bodies in the previous 24 hours. So I thought, and I thought, and I thought, and to my absolute astonishment, I couldn’t think of a single thing (other than that my back hurt from sitting down for so long). I only wish I could have seen the look of bewilderment and awakening on my own face as I came to the realisation that possibly for the first time in decades, I hadn’t had one, single, negative thought about my body in days. Just being in that completely supportive, non-judgmental, totally accepting community had had this effect on me. And it made me realise the effect that being in every other community also had on me.

And that kind of leads to my second story. I have a Hotmail account. I’ve had it since the mid-90s and it was my personal email account that I used to keep in touch with the world. I still use the account, and the other day I decided to have a clear out of the several hundred emails that had accumulated in my inbox. And it suddenly occurred to me that none of them were personal emails. They were about insurance, competitions, the latest offers from companies whose products I buy, theatre releases, newsletters, and updates from news services that I subscribe to. There was not one email from a friend in what used to be my personal email account. Because now, almost my entire social life revolves around people I have met through the Fatosphere. We communicate on Facebook, Twitter, or via my Never Diet Again email address.

Sometimes, but not often enough, we get to meet in real life. These are my friends now. Where geographical constraints once required that your friends were people who lived in close proximity to you, the internet means that the world is your oyster — that your social circle can now include anybody anywhere who cares about the same things that you do, who shares your values and your experiences, or your sense of gallows humour. In the last year, I have surrounded myself with people who support me, and who I am honoured to be able to support in turn. And my life has truly been transformed.

To my new friends: thank you, from the bottom of my heart. And to anyone who is out there feeling isolated: you are not alone.

Never Diet Again Sigs

6 Comments leave one →
  1. The Real Cie permalink
    February 27, 2013 3:40 pm

    I hardly ever check my email any more. None of it is personal. It’s too discouraging.
    I escaped from the yo-yo dieting cycle at the age of 45, after having been bulimic since age 12. My father, who was not obese, had a hemorrhagic stroke when he was 68. He had always been a runner and something of a healthist and ableist, although I would ask that nobody put him down for this. That is the way he was raised, and he suffered so much during the last 6 years of his life that I just can’t tolerate anyone saying something cruel about him.
    I think this was the turning point for me, watching my father struggle like this. I realized that being a certain body type was no guarantee. My father never went to the doctor. His high blood pressure and atherosclerosis weren’t discovered until it was too late.
    I didn’t present with hypertension until I was 46. I take medication for it. There are plenty of 46 year olds with hypertension. There are also plenty of younger people who get it, of all sizes.
    I’ve also realized through working with the elderly that the so called “fat people diseases” are more likely to occur AS WE AGE. By which I mean type II diabetes, hypertension and such. People of all sizes get these diseases, and we are more likely to get them the older we get, regardless of our size.
    I guess what I’m getting around to is this. Everybody dies someday. Thin people die too.
    I also started exercising again, this time without berating myself for not losing weight. This time it’s far more enjoyable and I’m sure I’ll stick with it.
    As well, my son and I have taken to “flexitarian” eating. We mostly avoid meat, but aren’t completely hardcore about it. Again, I’m not doing it to lose weight this time. I’m doing it for other reasons, so that’s a big difference.
    Sorry to blather on. Sometimes I do feel very alone in this struggle. Even though I’m now on the HAES bandwagon, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think “I’m fat” and have to convince myself that I’m okay even so, rather than it being just a neutral statement.

  2. February 27, 2013 4:07 pm

    Hi Real Cie,
    Thank you so much for sharing all this, and I’m so sorry about your father. The body hatred has been drummed into us since we were kids – it takes time to get over that. I’m still working on it myself. But you’re never alone hon x

    • The Real Cie permalink
      February 28, 2013 8:20 pm

      Thank you. 🙂
      I still have my mother’s attitudes to deal with, such as the fact that she’ll buy candy for me and my (average weight) son and then say “but you don’t have to take it.” or “well, you surely don’t need this.”
      Then why the F did you buy it, Woman?

  3. February 27, 2013 7:32 pm

    “You are not alone” really resonated with me today. I have been a supporter of HAES for years now, but almost nobody in my face to face life, especially family, really “gets it”. Thanks for the reminder that we are not alone.

  4. February 27, 2013 10:04 pm

    Time has made me a misanthrope in general. I generally don’t trust people because I’ve been shat upon too much by people I really trusted (more on that with this week’s TBL recap on Monday). And plus, I’ve exploded so many relationships over the internet that I’ve come to expect that any point I could say or do something so dickish that it severs whatever net-relationship existed. So I keep my expectations low for self-preservation sake.

    But there are some people who have supported me even when I was in the wrong, I assume because they’ve seem my benevolent intentions and eventual attempts at reconciliation. And part of me still feels confident in certain people who seem completely unphased by the drama I’ve been apart of. And these are the friendships that are my bedrocks in this community. Knowing that I’m not 100% repulsive (maybe 60-75%) gives me the security to keep going and keeping doing things the only way I know how.

    And I do love the times I meet a new person online who I never knew existed, but is so clearly a kindred spirit I can collaborate with. And Angela, you have been one of those recent wonderful additions to my life that I’m excited to know. Thanks for writing this great intro post and for all the help you’ve given me.

    Here’s to many years of successful partnership!


  5. Fab@54 permalink
    February 28, 2013 9:39 am

    Thank you, Angela. We are NOT alone…. and I love you All. ❤ ❤

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