Revolt Against Harmful New Year’s Resolutions

We often think of New Year’s Resolutions as a chance to make up or change the things we didn’t like about the year before. This is normally directed at ourselves since most resolutions focus on how we can change who we are by making ourselves better. Living in a body that you hate, due to your weight or any other reason that you want to change it, normally leads you to enter the New Year down a path filled with self destructive behaviors that in the end do more harm than good.

Learning to love ones self or have a healthier relationship with your body can be a really positive way to start the year if you are not doing it from a negative place. One of the best ways that this can be found if you find yourself wanting to diet is to do the exact opposite and ditch dieting. A health movement that has become part of the forefront of the fat rights movement is Health at Every Size. This is in so many ways one of the simplest ways to not only have a better connection with your body, especially if you have or still are suffering through disordered eating patterns or weight loss attempts. This is about finding that connection with your body that is lost during weight loss attempts that create an inner conflict between your body and your mind.

This was the last step that I needed to finding complete happiness within myself. Learning to listen to my body instead of listening to others about how I should take care of myself was the tipping point to finding what I was looking for. This means finding joy in moving my body, eating intuitively or listening to hunger cues and knowing what I need to nourish my body while feeling good living in it. This means having a connection that stops denying the body I live in.

Basic Principles of Health At Every Size®

  1. Accepting and respecting the diversity of body shapes and sizes.
  2. Recognizing that health and well-being are multi-dimensional and that they include physical, social, spiritual, occupational, emotional, and intellectual aspects.
  3. Promoting all aspects of health and well-being for people of all sizes.
  4. Promoting eating in a manner which balances individual nutritional needs, hunger, satiety, appetite, and pleasure.
  5. Promoting individually appropriate, enjoyable, life-enhancing physical activity, rather than exercise that is focused on a goal of weight loss.

From the Association for Size, Diversity and Health

Links

Health at Every Size by Dr. Linda Bacon

HAES Community – Local resources and more information

Taking Back Your Body

This will be posted on the Ferndale Patch tomorrow.

I was 18 when I found the fat rights movement. Unlike my peers who spent years of weight cycling and trying every diet they could, I have only ever been on one diet. My entry into this movement came from understanding the ways beauty ideals oppress those who cannot conform to them. I spent my whole senior year losing weight believing if I just got down to a size where I would no longer be fat, I would be worthy, I would be beautiful.

My need to be beautiful began at the age of 5 when my parents were told I should participate in beauty pageants. The recommendation came from the mother of Ashley Johnson who at the time was in my brother’s preschool class and moved away the same year to take the part of Chrissy Seaver on the show Growing Pains. After that I was thrown into a life where my outward appearance was made to be more important than the characteristics that made me who I am today. While I only spent a year actually participating in beauty pageants the need to be pretty stayed with me and attached itself to my sense of worth and to my gender. Once I became fat those values I built up around me were ripped away over night.

I was 11 when I was first called fat. I was not always called fat; I had a whole slew of names that came with the change in status when I entered middle school, big bertha, earthquake (this was often screamed while my classmates shook tables), and jolly green giant. When I think back on it now I find it amusing that my classmates somehow thought that my body would create a seismic event when I walked. To be honest I changed that year, emotionally shutting down and trying to build up a wall around myself for fear of being vulnerable to their attacks but it wasn’t until I took a road trip with my dad at the end of the school year to visit my aunt everything came into focus.

When I talk about my past with body shame and fat stigma, it isn’t abnormal for people to tell me how it wasn’t the media, or their peers but parents and family members that brought on their own shame and the resulting consequences. I truly believe it is different when it comes from your family. We are told family is suppose to love us no matter what, but this isn’t true and when they say hurtful or damaging things it should be addressed as such.

The words my aunt said to me were simple and in her own mind were probably coming from a place of misplaced care.  When she told me, “You would be so beautiful if you were thin,” it was not only the first time a family member addressed my body, but also the first time it became clear that I lost something tangible by being fat.

That is why I am so passionate about the work I do today. Being taught to hold my personal appearance as a sign of my worth and my femininity, only to have it taken away when I no longer conformed to societies beauty ideals changed how I felt about myself. Because performing beauty is a standard requirement for someone who is gendered female, I spent a long time disassociating with my body and my gender. When I was finally able to understand that my pain was from the way I was socialized in my early childhood and teens I was able to disconnect myself from the equation. In other words, the way I was treated was not my fault or because of my body but due to the fat stigma in our society.

The changes were drastic, I stopped speaking negatively about myself, my body and/or otherwise. I also stopped speaking negatively about other people’s appearance instead judging them on their own interactions with me personally. This alone made learning to love my body and feel more connected with it, after hating it for so long, easier. Once I change the ways I thought and talked about bodies I started to address why I learned to feel that way, taking my life and tearing it apart to give myself a deeper understanding of where all of my shame came from.

Stopping my own body shaming was not an overnight process, it is still something that comes up at unexpected times, but when it does I’m not scared anymore. The only thing I fear now is going back to where I was before.

If you suffer from body shame, seek help. Surround yourself with people who will support you no matter what body you live in. Address why you feel the way you do about your body, and know that those feelings are not because of you. The Center for Eating Disorders in Ann Arbor and is an amazing resource to take back your body. 

October 19th is Love Your Body Day.

The National Organization for Women’s Oakland County chapter will be holding an event titled “Love Your Body: Media and Body Image” I will be speaking about the language we use to talk about our bodies. For more information visit their event page, linked above.

AND! Don’t forget about Love Your Body Detroit’s Body Positive Scavenger Hunt.

Defining and Fostering Health

This post was written for the Ferndale Patch, click here to see original.

When I talk about fat rights, the main argument is it isn’t healthy. This is also where most conversations stop, because we have so deeply engrained into our psyche that fat bodies are inherently unhealthy. We are taught fat bodies are a sign of disease, no matter how many healthy behaviors we choose to do, if we still live in a fat body in the end it is often believed that we just haven’t tried hard enough.

To define health you must first define what health looks like, this is often a thin, young, able-bodied individual. This denies old people, fat people, mentally ill people, people with chronic illness or disease and people with disabilities their health status due to situations they often have no control over.

The main reason that I believe this really boils down to how we frame health in our society, specifically what we believe a healthy body looks like and why it has so much social value. We value health in a way that is far deeper then just believing that it should be important to people, we believe that people are better if they are health conscious. Studies even show if we believe fat people are trying to lose weight they will have far better reactions from their peers than if they are not. We demonize unhealthy behaviors and certain foods, and expect people who do not have health status to conform to those healthy behaviors so that we consider them socially acceptable.

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When we frame health in this fashion we also ignore the fact that health is not accessible to all people, particularly people who have a lower socioeconomic status. Because health is not as dependent on body size as we are lead to believe and fat people can be healthy (see http://alturl.com/ngedg), to actually have overall health in our society we must address the social and structural inequalities that limit people’s ability to be healthy.

This means we must invest in the fresh foods movement while make healthy foods more available and affordable to all people. We much make access to preventative healthcare a huge priority as communities with low income clinic show better health than those where healthcare is not affordable, available, or accessible to its people. We must also support the creation of not only safe and clean places for people to be physically active but have access to indoor swimming pools, rooms and halls where all bodies able bodied or not can take part. The city of Ferndale is an amazing example of what a community with these features should look like, but it still can be improved.

These measures must be addressed alongside wage disparities between all classes for bodies fat or thin to find health, even though healthy it will never look the way we believe it should and should never be used as a measure of someone’s worth.

For further reading:

danceswithfat.wordpress.com

fatheffalump.wordpress.com/

http://www.definatalie.com

createwithspirit.squarespace.com/

Introductions: Personal, Political and Fat Rights

I’m going to be blogging for my city’s online newspaper, the majority of the first posts will be very basic to give an understanding of fat rights and where I stand on the issues.

You can see the original here.

My name is Amanda Levitt and I am a fat activist.

I am not only an activist who lives in a fat body but I am just one person out of thousands who are part of the fat rights movement, we are working towards ending weight bias and fat stigma. I want to change public perceptions of health and make people aware of how health is a socially constructed concept that is not accessible to all people.

Weight bias is a multi-faceted issue and comes in many forms, fat people are more likely the recipients of health care prejudice, inequitable hiring, wages and promotional practices in the workplace, verbal and physical attacks, the belief that they are inherently unhealthy, and their worth being directly derived from their appearance or body size.

The ways in which we talk about fat bodies has made us believe that to be healthy it means we much conform to a thin ideal, even though is not possible for a majority of fat people. Weight based health initiatives (aka diets) fail 95-98 percent within the first three years after they begin, by five years the average total weight loss for that 2-5 percent of people only accounts for 10 percent of body mass. To put that into perspective, I currently weigh 230 pounds, that loss would only be 23 pounds.

The correlation between this movement and other social movements comes from the narratives that often play out before activists change them. Fat bodies are denied health status, in similar fashion to people who are not able-bodied. The way we deny fat bodies diversity status by deeming them unnatural or deviant was and still is a tactic used against the LGBTQ+ movement. The ways in which these movements intersect means we must not only understand our own oppression but also understand how they all work together to create social inequalities.

I moved to Ferndale because the LGBTQ+ community is strong; an environment where positive social and political growth is more likely because of that alone. I want to help carve out a space in this community that allows all people of minority status to thrive. My goal is to normalize fat bodies and make this community a livable space for all people.