Why stop at acceptance when there's joy

{ Friday, April 18, 2008 }

My friend and colleague Debra Sapp-Yarwood wrote this column in the Kansas City Star. (The original, much better title was "Why I Hate the Word Lifestyle and You Should Too.") Debra's one of the few writers you'll find talking with authority about living a joyful life, starting right where you are.

And her article is as fine an introductory point as you could want to the ideas of the fat acceptance movement. Right now, this movement, which has a significant and cohesive Internet presence, is focused on shifting people away from patterns of thought that use weight and size as primary criteria to determine human value.

It's focused on disconnecting the ideas of body size and behavior as necessarily related; as related in a vacuum unaffected by other factors; as morally correlated.

I hadn't even heard of fat acceptance when I wrote my book. The fat acceptance movement is one of the reasons I took last year off marketing my book. It took me that long to reassess my thinking in light of its ideas and to figure out where I stood on the issues that it raises.

The ideas of this movement challenge conceptions of how we are supposed to feel about the so-called shortcomings of our bodies and how we are supposed to contort our behavior in response to these feelings. (By me, regulating one's eating to maximize nutritional benefits and personal energy is a healthy behavior. A 1000-calorie a day diet is contorted behavior that does not promote health.)

Sometimes people new to the phrase "fat acceptance" think it means "a defense of unhealthy living." To me it means something different. It means accepting that today my body is fat, and then asking a big SO WHAT and not letting fat determine what I will or won't do, joyfully, with my life today. It means encouraging others to live their best and brightest lives without waiting for another body in which to do so.

It does not mean I will not strive to become faster and stronger, more consistently energetic. I want those things. I really do want to run a ten-minute mile. I really do have to retrain my body, and in the process change it, to reach that goal. What I don't want, and what I no longer accept, is the idea that being fat disqualifies me from trying.

Debra's article is a great starting point if you've never considered a way of thinking about fat other than that presented by most media and the diet industry. Try it out, and try out some of the sites you'll find if you look up "fatosphere." You may not agree with everything there, but you may find keys to unlock new and healthier ways of thinking about your body.

I know I did.

1 comment:

peggynature said...

"It means accepting that today my body is fat, and then asking a big SO WHAT and not letting fat determine what I will or won't do, joyfully, with my life today. It means encouraging others to live their best and brightest lives without waiting for another body in which to do so."

That is a fabulous quote about what fat acceptance really means. That is how I've tried to live it for the past eight years. It's not always easy, and I don't always succeed, but it's always a challenge worth taking on.

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