I’ve been meaning to write about this post I read a few days ago.
John has a great blog called TOTALTRANSFORMATION in which he chronicles his weight loss journey, as well as his musings on particular topics that interest him and that may offer inspiration along the way.
The post I’m going to talk about here is titled “Fatophile vs. Fatophobe?”
In his post, John speaks of an underground feud that is going on between those that preach fat acceptance and Health At Every Size (HAES) – “Fatophiles” – and those that encourage weight loss to those that are more than a few pounds overweight as a means of being healthier – “Fatophobes”. The reason I say that this feud is underground is because you would not realize the immensity of it unless you spent a lot of time reading blogs and their comments.
Let’s be clear about the wording of each of the names themselves. Each of the two groups are worded as though the OTHER group named them. “FATophile” uses the Greek root – phil – which means a particular affinity for. “FATophobe” uses the root – phob – which means an irrational, disabling fear of. Both labels are, for the most part, an extreme definition of either group. This is actually what John’s post touches on. The idea that both sides can cause harm if taken to the extreme.
John does a great job explaining the differences as well as some of the debates between the two groups. However, I will add a couple of my thoughts.
The fatophiles come off as bent on rationalizing unhealthy body sizes by whatever means possible, while the fatophobes appear unrealistic and intolerant of variations in body size.
This is a good point that each side most often comes off as severe and unmalleable. It’s pretty tough when opposing groups feel so strongly about their viewpoints that they can’t have an intelligent, calm discussion about the topic at hand without getting emotional and taking things personal. This is perhaps why, if you were to read the comments on any controversial article about body size or body image, you would find a lot of people offering details about themselves and their lives to complete strangers. Not because it helps any argument, but because they take the comment personal, and feel as though they need to offer a back story as to why they are agreeing or dissenting.
(You may have noticed some comments like that here…)
When I follow these debates, I am often reminded of debates about religion. They usually end with both sides thinking they’ve won (when neither has), and both thinking the other side is more absurd in their beliefs than when they started.
The fatophiles do have some things going for them and they are worth mentioning here. First, variation in body size is often a good thing. We definitely shouldn’t try to pigeon-hole everyone into looking like a magazine cover model. However, as often happens with acceptance movements, the fatophiles are so accepting that they refuse to recognize that there is such a thing as an unhealthy body type. Second, weight loss for the sake of weight loss often leads to self-destructive behavior (not to mention crackpot weight loss methods).
I absolutely agree with this. Despite my blog, I do not think that everyone needs to look like anything close to what magazine covers depict. I too get disgusted and chuckle to myself when I wait at the checkout and gaze at all of the shitty magazines with beautiful people staring at me, telling me I can lose 10 pounds in 10 days, or trying to show me the secret to great abs, or offering suggestions for desserts under 100 calories, or 5 easy steps to this or that. This is actually one of the big triggers that made me decide to go ahead and create this blog. The fact that people buy these magazines for those very things amazes me. Why? Because those tips are obviously not working one bit. They only make people feel worse about themselves, inadvertently. Yet, they still buy them. It’s sad really.
This is why I recognize that Fat Acceptance blogs most definitely have their place in helping those that may have destructive behavior due to a poor body image, even though I have spelled out my many issues with their blogs before, more than once. I have said it before, and I still think that they are so accepting and so willing to say “it’s not your fault” with their HAES ideas, that ALL SIZES feel as though they are a part of this group. I do not agree with this idea because health is NOT AT EVERY SIZE no matter how much they are in denial. Sure, you can be lucky, but you can easily look up the slew of diseases that occur more frequently with excess weight. The saddest part, they don’t believe it. They think the entire medical industry is involved in some big conspiracy to make money and feed doctors false information, fueled by discrimination and a hatred of fat people. The obesity epidemic is all made up, they say. Amazing.
And that leads to perhaps the strongest argument in favor of the fatophiles- thinness alone isn’t enough. All too often people want to simply “lose weight” and get thin, instead of seeking to live healthier and get fit.
Excellent point. One argument the Fatophiles have is that there are plenty of skinny people that eat very unhealthy, yet happen to not be fat. Of course this is true. Well, first, this argument is turning the word “healthy” into a relative term, when within the walls of this discussion, it doesn’t need to be. Second, if they witness non-fat people eating “unhealthy”, when do they see this? Where do people eat food other than their home so that the fatophiles can witness it? Restaurants. Most people eat most of their meals at home. Seeing a thin person at a restaurant inhaling a cheeseburger is only a tiny slice of their life. We do not know what every one of their meals is like. We also don’t know how many steps they take in a day, or if they eat plenty of fiber and vitamins, or if they drink plenty of water, or if they usually take the stairs rather than the elevator, or if this is their first double cheeseburger in months. You get the idea. They are making assumptions, and drawing attention away from the fact that they are fat. While I very much recognize that there are plenty of skinny people that eat very poorly, I choose to not talk just about health and fitness in general, but how living an unhealthy lifestyle in addition to having excess fat is especially detrimental.
This leads to my major problem with the fatophile movement- they don’t speak about living a healthy lifestyle. They are the body image equivalent of the 70s free love hippies. Hippies preached a message of free love that ignored the problem of S.T.D.’s. Similarly, the fatophiles proclaim an intoxicating message of acceptance while they not only ignore but even condemn those who would dare point out the unhealthy consequences of certain body shapes and sizes. Their imperative is on some subjective idea of loving your body no matter its size while they remain willfully oblivious to the actual damage they might be doing to their own body by living an unhealthy lifestyle.
Very well said. An intoxicating message of acceptance. I have, however, actually read some mentions that a part of their message is supposed to encourage a healthy lifestyle. BUT, like you said, because they wouldn’t dare lay out how much is too much, nor allow anyone to even suggest such a thing, their message is WAY too open to anyone and everyone that is willing to jump on the “victim” bandwagon in order to rationalize that it isn’t their obesity that is the problem, but society’s prejudice towards fat people. Also known as, FATOPHOBES.
Unfortunately, just like the fatophiles tend to lump all overweight people – including the morbidly obese – into their movement, they also lump anyone who would question what they preach into one group as well: Fat-hating, prejudice, discriminating fatophobes.
Admittedly, people can be very cruel toward the overweight. While I have been called a fatophobe in the blogging world, I have never said or written anything my entire life to intentionally hurt an overweight person’s feelings. Because of this, I actually take offense when called this. I believe it is all about intentions, and there are plenty of hateful people out there that use names and harsh words with the intention of hurting. While I also use names and harsh words, it is with only the best intentions. Kind of like a football coach that is yelling at his players to kick it up a notch. Keep in mind, that I am still honing my craft.
That some readers would like to label me or others a fatophobe will always be a side issue. It has no bearing on the fact that having less body fat is healthier than having too much.