The Other “F” Word: F-A-T

Ouch- touchy subject, right?

Despite the fact that over two-thirds of the US population is now overweight[1] and the trend continues on the rise, we’re still a fat-phobic society[2].

And while it’s certainly the case that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, where’s the boundary between accepting one’s own body and hiding behind the Fat Acceptance


The movement, which grew out of the various identity politics of the 1960s and campaigns for the rights of fat people to be treated equally both socially and legally[3], has been widely criticized because “the fat acceptance movement is hazardous to our health[4]“, “fat-acceptance is not the answer to obesity.”[5]

Here’s where I have a bit of a bone to pick with the concept.

When we hear words such as acceptance, liberation, activism, and power, in terms of social movement, what comes to mind are specific races, religions or gender bias, for example.

In other words, things that we have no control over.

How can we really say we have no control over how fat we get, though?

In yesterday’s Times, the author of Dietland[6], Sarai Walker, provides insight into her use of the word fat to “describe not only the heroine of her novel, but her own body”.

She reviews in the article how “actual fat people are largely absent from the cultural landscape” and when they are, it tends to be more when they are, in her words, “paraded around like circus animals on The Biggest Loser”.

OK, true enough; we’re more likely to see a slim woman hosting the news or a fit man starring on the latest Netflix series than we are to see one who’s obese, but at the same time, we’re not seeing people who don’t look healthy on the opposite end of the spectrum.

In other words, we’re seeing people that look real, but maybe our perception of what real is, is what has changed.

If we’re thinking that how 2/3 of our (fat) population looks is “normal”, then yes, a woman or man of a healthy weight, by contrast, would be considered too thin, skinny and unrealistic in terms of what we might look for in a role model.

But just because the average weight of Americans has been steadily on the rise due to a multitude of reasons, is it fair to change what we view as a healthy body type?

It would be one thing if every single woman in the media looked like a runway model and every man, a Greek God, but that’s not the case.

We have people in the public eye of all races, colors, religions and backgrounds…and varying weights and sizes, just as it should be.

When it gets to the point, however, of someone like the fictitious person in the novel, a woman who weighs upwards of 300 pounds, it crosses the barrier of personal choice into public response.

And while, it’s not a direct correlation of fat = unhealthy, surely as the number on the scale rises and rises well past healthy, the fact is that we do see increased rates of many preventable illnesses.

Regardless of whether we can chalk it all up to the government being selective with what information they opt to make us privy to or what we as individuals choose to put in our mouths, the end result of too many obese people is still not something that’s solved simply by accepting it.

Remember the words of wisdom we’re all familiar with, the serenity prayer and consider how that might play a role here; let’s be mindful enough to distinguish the difference between the things we can and cannot change and in the case of the latter, be accepting.

In the case of the former, however, we’ve got to do our part to make change.

Accepting and settling are two very different things.

[1] “Overweight and Obesity Statistics.” Overweight and Obesity Statistics. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases and Digestive Kidney Disease, n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2016

[2] Karlin, Lily. “Want To Know How You Can Tell Our Culture Is Fat-Phobic? Watch TV.” The Huffington Post., n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2016.


[4] Young, Cathy (December 30, 2013). “Pro-fat an unhealthy status quo”. The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 19, 2015

[5] Kay, Barbara (September 11, 2013). “Fat-acceptance is not the answer to obesity”. National Post. Retrieved June 19, 2015.

[6] Walker, Sarai. Dietland. N.p.: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, n.d. Print