The first time I went on a diet, I was nine. Of course it didn’t last long, I was nine years old after all. That was only the beginning of my dieting career. I’ve tried every diet under the sun, from Weight Watchers, to Tony Ferguson even to the cabbage soup diet. Nothing worked. A couple of years ago I managed to lose nearly half my body weight. Despite my loss, up until a year ago I still thought my body wasn’t slim enough.As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised that losing weight wasn’t the point of my dieting. Instead, I realised that I needed to diet because being fat is just socially unacceptable
Hatred of fat is everywhere. For example, in my high school PE class I was taught that being obese would eventually lead to organ failure and type-two diabetes. Imagine being the fattest kid in class and hearing that. You can imagine all eyes were on me. Wonderful.
The same message is hammered home in popular culture. Watching The Biggest Loser, I remember trainer Tiffiny Hall saying that there was no way her overweight contestants could possibly be happy at their starting weight. They were simply lying if they were. Just for the record, Tiffiny Hall has never been overweight nor is she a qualified psychiatrist.
According to the World Health Organisation, 64.7 per cent of Australian’s are considered overweight. Surely we as a country want to try and decrease that number. Who could possibly be happy being overweight? Right?
I believed the link between health equals thin and that, fat equals unhappy to be true until I stumbled upon fat acceptance. Fat acceptance is a movement to change society’s views on overweight and obese people. The movement argues that overweight people are targets of hatred and discrimination. These boys and girls want to change the stigma behind the word Fat and make it into a positive word. Yeah, they’re fat. So what?
Being fat doesn’t make you less of a person. Being fat doesn’t mean you are less attractive or not as smart as someone with a healthy BMI. The fat acceptance movement wants to remind society that fat people do love their bodies and it is not OK to discriminate against them because of what their body size is or what the number on the scale says.
For the fat acceptance movement, you can be happy and healthy at any weight.
The fat acceptance movement argues for Health at Every Size (HAES). HAES is a behavioural system, which focuses on intuitive eating and pleasurable activity rather than dieting and weight loss. HAES isn’t about pursuing a particular body weight. Simply put, you can be overweight but still be fit and healthy.
Some of the biggest voices in the fat acceptance movement are here in Australia. Fat Heffalump, for example, is a popular fat activism blog run by Kath. Fat Heffalump receives hundreds of comments from women all around the world thanking Kath for making her begin to love their bodies for the way they are.
But even as I read about fat acceptance, a little voice boomed at the back of my head telling me that being overweight was bad for your health. I have spent my entire life trying to change my body because I felt that I needed to do it to fit into society. I spent my awkward teenage years hating my body and wanting to hide it away from the world, refusing to go out on weekends because I was humiliated of myself.
The Health At Every Size has taught me that it’s OK to love your body and that your body doesn’t make you who you are. Fat acceptance demands that all bodies be treated with respect and dignity.
Whether you’re fat or thin, I hope that this is a vision of a society that we can all agree with.