Saturday, September 19, 2009

Exceptions to Fat Acceptance

So often I hear the talk around the fat acceptance community proclaim it is possible to be obese and healthy or some sort of personal report in some sort of form like I am in better shape at 230 lbs and 5'4 than my spouse.

I think this is the area that I am trying to find my own personal peace with. I am trying a weight neutral approach to my various health issues. My trouble with it is that so much of the data and the "press" about the size acceptance movement is about the erroneous correlation of health issues with fat. So I think to myself, where does that leave me, with my asthma, my nerve damage, my difficulty moving around. I am accepting myself, however, I can't seem to find my own consistent logic in being size neutral and working on my health issues.

I get that I am working on my own fitness ( walking more, going to a drum circle in place of the dance class I do not have the lung capacity to handle. I am considering buying an adult tricycle so I can go biking which I love but don't have the lung capacity to handle a two wheeler.)

I think I understand that the weight cycling and the resulting set point changes are more damaging than any benefits from losing the weight,

Yet, when it comes to all the fat hate, I feel like I have to do like I used to do in photos.. I would hide in the back so all that would appear in the photos was my head. I feel that way with the FA movement, like I have to hide in the back out of site when all the fat and fit, fat and healthy talk dominates the battling of the fat hate.

I sound a little whiney here and I do not want to... I am grateful, happy and glad to be a part of this. I would like to find a little more certainty of where I stand... I'd like to feel a little more included and a little less excluded when the community talks about the erroneous studies linking this or that health issue to my fat.

When I spoke of my health challenges at the conference, I spoke to some amazing people who use scooters to zip around. I can get around with my walker, (with a cane on a good day) but I don't zip. I get winded if I move any faster than a snail. But I do move. So now, with the safety of the conference all but gone, I am back to thoughts of what I look like with my walker and what people think of me. I feel awkward if I run into someone who hasn't seen me with a walker and I anticipate feeling ashamed because I am fat with a walker... the truth is that two years ago, my intestines became "strangulated", and ruptured, sepsis started, a brilliant surgeon saved my life, but I spent 5 weeks in a coma and I woke up paralyzed from the neck down, Seven months in a rehab nursing home got me to the point where I cold use a wheelchair and now two years after that emergency I can use a walker and don't have to wear the leg braces when I do... So I am a winner, a strong survivor,

Yet, sometimes, as I wait here in NYC for the bus driver to lower the chairlift so I can get on the bus... I see the folks looking at my size and I spend too much time thinking about what they might be thinking about me. I know that I have come so far.

When I hear you can be fat and healthy, I wonder to myself how much farther I might be in my recovery if I wasn't Fat...

I'd really like to find a place to stand in my beliefs about myself that I feel certain about when it comes to my own personal Fat Acceptance.

Most of FA/ HAES I can do that with, I get shaky only when I think about the arguments based on Fat can Be Healthy. I do believe that there are a lot of fat and healthy folks out there.

I am a fat guy with some serious health and mobility problems. Sometimes I think that I am not worthy of fat acceptance because I have all these health problems.

Has anyone else found their way through this type of concern and if so how?




  1. I've had similar concerns about my own health, and in the end, there's still no need to feel ashamed whether or not your weight contributes to your bad health. Sickness, Disease, Frailty, and Disability are not states of morality, no more than being fat is. (That is to say, not at all). It's still no one else's business if you need help.

    And think about this- the weight you've got on you probably contributed to your recovery more than you know. People who are on the thinner side don't have the same stored energy to use for recovery from serious trauma. Even now, you're able to move without collapsing, to endure.

    You don't have to, and shouldn't worry, what other people think about your disability and your size, because by the very essence that they are judging you, they have a character that you can pity and feel sorry for. You can take pride that you have survived something that kills many people. You've chosen to live, instead of give up. That matters a lot.

    Personally speaking, my health isn't always 100%, but it just makes me count my blessings every day that I can walk for miles and work for hours, that-God, wow- I can *walk*, period! When I've sprained/broken my feet more than a few times in my life. I remind myself that it's no one's business, because they don't know how I've suffered or how I've triumphed.

    Something that's helped me with not worrying as much about how other people see me is this amazing book, "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz. If you can get your hands on a copy, it's well worth the read. Just, some of the basic things that seem like they should be common sense, but aren't, made me cry almost all the way through the book.

    Sorry for the long comment, but it's one of those things that strikes close to home for me. I hope you're able to accept ALL of yourself.

  2. You can be fat and healthy, but you can also be fat and unhealthy, or thin and healthy or thin and unhealthy, or somewhere inbetween and healthy or not. None of that reflects on your worth as a person, not even a little bit. I admire your strength for having come this far, both in FA/HAES thinking and your own personal health and recovery. Good luck and keep your chin up. :)

  3. I've noticed, myself, that there are balding healthy/ill people, as well as those of the more hirsute persuasion, tall healthy/ill people, as well as short, etc. etc.

    Fat, like nearly all other personal descriptors, is neutral. It may or may not have contributing causes related to some kind of health issue. One might be tall because of a pituitary malfunction, or they might be short because their mothers took drugs during pregnancy or because they were starved during their formative years. They might be bald as a result of trichotillomania, or extra hairy because of some rare glandular issue, or again as a result of starvation. Or - they might just be born that way.

    Keep in mind that although you and I receive negative messages about fat every day, the sources of those messages has no idea why you or I are fat. We might be fat as a result of some health issue, or environmental influence, or because we were simply born that way. They don't know, and often, neither do we. But you need not feel self-conscious for being fat and ill, fat and short of breath, fat and limited in mobility, etc., than I should need to feel self-conscious about being black and having any of those issues.

    Cheers, and I just wanted to let you know that I think you are very brave.

  4. Ivan I don't believe that the fat acceptance movement is only about healthy fatties. It's about dignity for all human beings, based on who they are, not what shape or size their bodies are.

    All of us go through patches in our lives where we suffer serious health issues. Some people more serious than others. And regardless of size, healing takes time. The more serious the issue, the longer the time required to heal from it.

    You are clearly taking your health into your own hands, which is highly commendable. Challenging yourself is great, but at a sensible pace and take the time to be proud of how far you have come. Look backwards from time to time, it gives a good perspective.

  5. Wow Ivan, you've been through the wars! And come out the other side.

    You have absolutely nothing to apologise to anyone for, for me I just kept in mind that I can't change what other people may or may not be thinking, I can only change what I think.

    In my mind fat acceptance is self acceptance, it keeps me grounded in it's purpose for me. I personally have little if any desire to prove anything to anyone, with regard, my so-called fitness, morality, sanity or whatever.

    The original ideal of HAES was about what you're doing self rescue for fat people with mobility issues who found there was nothing for them, but weight loss is all that can save you.

    It was about their attempts-along with their supporters- at self rescue.Thinking about it in that light, that is most fat people's (and people of other weights) struggle, to regain their physical integrity to whatever level made sense to them.

    The problem is we live in an age of healthism and just because you're fat or part of FA, doesn't mean you are free of this. I don't feel badly towards fat healthism, for instance,if it wasn't for them, we wouldn't know that no form of eating makes fat, thin.

    I just feel that sometimes they don't see the inherent contradiction of their position.

  6. I can certainly relate to what you're going through though you've had a far harder row to hoe than I! I walk with a cane (finally graduated from a forearm crutch) because I almost lost my leg a year and a half ago from a serious fracture and compartment syndrome. I was in the hospital and nursing home about four months all in all. I have a great deal of difficulty walking for any distance and need the bus "kneeler" most of the time. And yes, I wonder if people think I'm lame because I'm fat or fat because I'm lame or whatever. It comes down to it's none of anyone's business at all why I'm fat or why I'm lame. It gets wearying some days, but I try to remember that I can't control what other people think so I just move on.