Before I start: It’s important that I clarify that I am not someone who lives in a larger body. I have not faced the degree of discrimination people in larger bodies face on a daily basis. These types of posts are for educational purposes and I am still learning/unlearning how I can be supportive in making an active change in our weight centric culture that desperately needs to change!
A received a DM on Instagram about a post I did recently, talking about fatphobia and addressing how weight gain is not a bad thing. This person was asking great questions to try and learn more about this topic so I thought I would create an entire blog post addressing the layers of this question. It can be an awkward conversation to have, but it’s an important one.
The question was (paraphrased):
To what extent can food freedom be detrimental to your health? Although being in a larger body isn’t bad, is there not a limit to how much someone can weigh before it becomes harmful?
Many of us have been taught to fear weight gain and that being big is the worst thing. If you think that way, or you used to think that way, I want you to give yourself compassion, because this is a byproduct of living in diet culture, until you start challenging those beliefs. The truth is that many of us have been taught from a young age to adopt a fatphobic perspective on health and bodies.
Fatphobia has been described in many different ways. But, the general and common use of the term is essentially “fearing fatness”.
So when you hear someone say something like “that was a fatphobic comment” , it means they said something that is rooted in the fear of weight gain, which means weight gain/larger bodies aren’t as good, thus fearing “becoming fat” because there is the underlying belief that being in a larger body is “less than” those in smaller bodies.
The reality for a lot of people in larger bodies is that they live in a world that is not safe for them. They are confronted with people and industries that are fatphobic, all the time.
The idea that, it’s okay to gain weight until you reach a certain point doesn’t work.
When we think of the concept of Health at Every Size, it’s the idea that all sizes have the ability to:
Regardless of the body you have, there is not weight limit to start engaging in disordered eating behaviours.
Think about it… when we notice someone in a smaller body restricting their food intake and engaging in disordered eating behaviours, we question it and we worry! We can acknowledge that this is disordered, a lot easier and quicker.
But when someone in a larger body engages in the exact same behaviours, sometimes even more intensely, it’s perceived as “this person is taking charge of their health”, with the underlying belief that they SHOULD be doing this because they SHOULD be losing weight for their health.
This is an example of fatphobia, and again, there is no evidence supporting that being in a larger body alone is what results in “poor health”, but rather the presence/absence of health promoting behaviours.
To internalize something means you are subconsciously holding on to a certain belief, feeling or attitude towards other individuals or groups. So internalized fatphobia is a form of oppression, where someone buys into the idea (subconsciously) that people in larger bodies are lower on the worthiness scale than smaller bodies.
Unfortunately, it’s a lot more common than you may think and a lot of us have this. It can manifest in many different ways!
Think of the example I gave above. Ask yourself truthfully, which one would you have labelled as problematic behavior? The thinner bodied person engaging in disordered eating or the larger bodies person?
I don’t want you to feel like I am telling you that you are a bad person for thinking this way. I used to think this way too! Heck, I still catch myself thinking and saying things that are rooted in fatphobia. We are human and that goes to show how much we need to PRACTICE changing our vocabulary and EDUCATE ourselves on what fatphobia IS and how we can make changes on a personal level to change our culture.
(PS – I don’t know who the creator of this image is but I found it on google and I love their work. If you know who it is, please let me know!)
Short answer = No.
This is a totally fair question and I get this a lot. I get where it comes from and why people may think this way!
I say this nicely, but if you think this way it means you have not fully grasped what the food freedom, health at every size and the anti-diet movement are all about.
Because at the end of the day, you cannot tell if someone’s healthy by looking at their size. Health and weight need to be decoupled because they are not synonymous! Health is a value you get to choose!
YOU get to decide if you want to be healthy or not, and whether or not you are healthy. Even if you are unhealthy, that does not mean that you deserve to be treated in any disrespectful way.
Think about it, it is so much easier to choose to engage in health promoting behaviours and to take care of yourself when you’re not constantly shamed to feel like your body is an issue.
Learn more about what Health At Every Size IS vs ISN’T in my previous blog post here.
I kindly ask you to reflect on what beliefs you have towards people in larger bodies and what beliefs you have towards your own body.
This is not to shame you if you believe that thinner bodies are better bodies. Again, I understand where this belief comes from, but we need to call it out first and acknowledge it in order for things to change!
So, although I can do my own research and spread the message about these controversial topics, learning from people who have the lived experiences in larger bodies is imperative.
If your source of information and education on this topic is solely coming from me or from other healthcare providers who are smaller bodied white folks, please, please, please, go learn from people who live in all different body types.
It can be difficult to identify these thought patterns and to even accept within ourselves! It’s hard and awkward work. But it takes a lot of learning and unlearning to understand how we can support the body acceptance movement and take down the belief that larger bodies are LESS THAN any other type of body.
Check out my FREE Class to learn more about my Guilt Free Method so that you can find food freedom and feel good in your body.
Hear me talk about this topic in this week’s short podcast! Click the links below to listen:
The Balanced Practice is a team of professionals specialized in eating disorder outpatient treatment, disordered eating. Our mission is to help as many folks heal their relationship with food and their bodies so they can live happily outside of diet culture!
We strive to provide evidence based nutrition counselling to support you, or your loved one, in achieving full recovery. Schedule a connection call now.
Marie-Pier Pitre-D’Iorio, RD, B.Sc.Psychology
Lead Registered Dietitian and Founder of The Balanced Practice