My Position on Fat Acceptance

There has been speculation recently about what stance the film “Finding Thin” would take on fat acceptance — a very heated and sensitive issue. The time has come to try and make my intentions very clear.

I am obese, and I accept myself and want others to accept me. That puts me on the side of those who do not tolerate bigotry or prejudice of of any kind including discrimination against size, race, creed, religion, sexual preference, etc.

I also believe that fat is beautiful and anyone can be attractive. I sometimes waver about my own appearance and can be very self conscious. I’m lucky that I have good people, including my closest friend and business partner, around me to remind me that my weight shouldn’t stop me from what I want to do.

Despite this, I firmly believe that the health risk that obesity presents to myself, my family and to this great country of ours means we should try to understand how we came to be this way and what we can do to be healthy. I have lost almost half my family due to obesity-related illnesses, and I recently ended up in the hospital with a health scare directly attributable to my weight. If I had chosen healthier eating or a better lifestyle, I’m certain it could have been prevented. Likewise, if my family had known the risks of the weight they carried and had the tools they needed to help achieve a healthy weight, I may not have lost them prematurely to obesity.

I know there are no easy answers, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to find them for our children, who are experiencing increasing rates of obesity, or for the adults, who are dying in larger numbers due to diabetes, cancer and heart disease. These problems are not mythical and have real causes rooted in weight issues. They will catch up with each and every one of us if we don’t learn to take care of ourselves and live at a healthy weight. We know this and can’t seem to do anything about it, and I don’t think it’s acceptable.

I think the fat acceptance movement does a lot to highlight the real discrimination that people of size experience in our society, and I’m not opposed to their efforts. However, I don’t feel discrimination is the biggest problem that we face and that’s why I’m making this film.

I stand on the side of never going up against or hating anyone or anything except this terrible disease and epidemic called obesity. Certainly not the people that suffer from it because I know, love and am one of them.

– Barry Roskin Blake

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10 responses to “My Position on Fat Acceptance

  1. While you say here, you are for fat acceptance, the trailer of random fat bellies and your list of shocking obesity facts seems to suggest otherwise. (Supersize Me had about 2 minutes devoted to eating disorders, that didn’t make it size positive) Your shocking facts don’t mention that we diet now more than ever, eating disorders is often underestimated and fuzzy math seems to fuel a lot of the epidemic. I.e. the BMI rate for Overweight/obesity was lowered in 1998 Millions of normal weight people became overweight and millions of overweight people became obese.

  2. I’m sorry Barry, but what you said does not make a lot of sense. It sounds like you are trying to mollify the fat acceptance movement people while at the same time discrediting a great deal of what they stand for. Whether or not you, or anyone else for that matter, thinks someone is beautiful is not the issue. Discrimination and bigotry are unacceptable in any facet of life. OK, that’s where your acceptance of the fat acceptance movement stopped.

    For the record I don’t particularly consider myself a fat activist and my project is welcoming and supportive of people with many perspectives on weight and dieting, including medication and weight loss surgery.

    That said, it is well established that the process of weight loss – which almost inevitably ends up in weight gain, is extremely detrimental to health. Far more so than the weight itself. Bariatric surgery has an 80% long term failure rate and causes many residual health problems. And that is the “best” we’ve got when it comes to weight loss.

    Truly the fat acceptance movement is aimed at finding ways to promote health in large bodies. That means healthy eating and exercise. Since some large people have issues with food (often times as a result of years of dieting) and may find it more difficult to exercise – this is not an easy road. But “healthy eating” to lose weight is just another diet that is destined to fail. Which by the way, discredits any notion that there is fat acceptance.

    You don’t have to be a supporter of the fat acceptance movement, but let’s not pretend we are things we are not.

    And BTW – it is still quite unclear what the movie is about, much less your reasons for making it. You do not have to justify yourself – but you offered.

    If you want to promote anti-obesity, say so. If you want to find a diet that works, say so. If you want to demonstrate the costs, medical and financial, of obesity, say so. Personally I think it will likely be redundant and replete with inaccuracies, since these are by all accounts disastrous routes, and many of the people active in these efforts are intentionally blind to the other half of reality. But this is a free country.

    Given the climate of the country and the Obama obesity revolt, you will probably get far more support as a non-fat-acceptor. if you are on a quest to slim yourself down (for health or any other reason) you will surely get a parade. But a year from now the parade will be gone and you, like 95% of the rest of us who have dieted, will likely be fat again, and more unhealthy for the process.

    Then what?

    Rebecca Weinstein
    PeopleOfSize.com
    http://www.facebook.com/peopleofsize

  3. I can assure you, I am not trying to mollify the fat acceptance movement. I think you have a great point and you need to be heard, but unfortunately, I cannot support the cause. Believe it or not I share the same views on dieting and surgery. I have dieted myself and have gained it back. I have known people who have had surgery and gained it back. The film is in no way supporting that. What we have found is that in order to loose the weight appropriately and keep it off, you need to change your lifestyle. You need to make sure that what you are eating today is what you will eat for the rest of your life, which is not dieting. It’s taking care of yourself. I realize that people have difficulty with their weight, whether if it is genetic or from years of abusive eating. I am a casualty of this myself. But the Fat acceptance movement has made the impression that it is okay to be fat. I know how hard it is to eat better and exercise, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do it. It is hard to quit smoking, does that mean people have to smoke for the rest of their lives? The truth is that the health issues of being obese and over weight(heart disease, diabetes, cancer, sleep apnea, ect.) are apparent and should be addressed. Can a person be healthy without being skinny? I think so. But there is a difference between being a few pounds over weight and being obese. Bigotry and discrimination is never appropriate, but neither is masking the danger of this.

  4. Barry, you are confusing behavior with physical characteristics.

    If eating well, exercising, and living a healthy life are your goals, I’m with you. But you can do all of those things and still be fat, for a variety of reasons.

    You are making the very common mistake of conflating fat with ill health and thinness with good health.

    Some fat people have diabetes and other illnesses. Some are perfectly healthy.

    Some thin people have diabetes and other illnesses. Some are perfectly healthy.

    By the way, there is really no scientific evidence for linking obesity to ill health. There is a correlation between diabetes and weight, but the research suggests that it’s just as likely that diabetes CAUSES obesity. In other words, we don’t understand the cause and effect there yet.

    • There is no evidence linking obesity to ill health? That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. Some people are predisposed genetically to certain diseases, regardless of weight, but that comment is absurd. If you want people to not judge you based on weight that’s wonderful and I totally agree, everyone is different and should be treated fairly, but to totally misrepresent facts is wrong. Being overweight or underweight (not according to BMI, that is BS, but over/under your natural weight) is not healthy and will eventually cause health problems that otherwise would not occur.

      I don’t know what world you live in but I work as a dietitian and deal with people 100+ lbs overweight on a day to day basis and the vast majority(not all) absolutely refuse to do anything about their weight, and I have yet to come across a single person in my life who is obese and does not have some health issue CAUSED by it, overweight is possible but not obese. It is disturbing that people refuse to take responsibility for their actions at the costs not only to themselves, but the community. Many people I see are also on Medicaid, so when they keep coming back for problems that should have been resolved my hospital has to charge other people more to make up for the low reimbursement. The health care costs always get passed on to to other patients, so people are not able to comprehend the systemic damage that is being done. I always provide plenty of easy low cost options but it usually doesn’t matter. We also offer a free health club membership as part of the care, unfortunately not many people take advantage of it, and track how often people go. You can claim correlation, but with every person the more they go the more weight they lose and the healthy they are.

      I would just like to reiterate I do love all people regardless, but seeing peoples health deteriorate everyday is horrible and the answer isn’t to sweep problems under the rug claiming people need to be more tolerant, its to face them head on. Whether that means changing your lifestyle (you will be healthier if you actually do it and lose weight) or not forcing others to pay for care (not optimal) should not be up to me, it should be up to the individual, but when it starts to affect my livelihood it becomes my problem. I have four kids to feed and can’t afford to lose my job just because the hospital can no longer lose a huge amount of money being under-reimbursed on all the redundant care and is forced to close, which almost already happened.

  5. Though they do show that if you then reverse the weight issue by just a certain amount of pounds, the diabetes usually becomes revered or a lot more controlled.
    Why put yourself at risk if there are choices that can greatly ease our chances for suffering from these terrible diseases.

  6. “Lifestyle change” is rhetoric. Are you suggesting that if you eat a healthy diet and exercise you will be thin? Not even diet gurus believe that. To be thin – or let’s be more conservative – to not be obese, requires significantly more than a healthy diet and exercise for many (if not most) obese people. It requires forcing your body to use stored fat. I will leave it to the scientists to explain the biological problems with that process. But anyone can see that forcing your body to use stored fat, 95% of the time, results in a rebellion of the body, and the fat then restoring itself right back to where it was.

    This is a zero sum game. Are you going to figure out what millions upon millions of dieters have been trying to figure out since ancient times when binging and purging was in fashion? The reality is weight loss is a temporary process for most, and then gaining it back is far more unhealthy than having the weight in the first place.

    If health is what you are after, you are on the wrong road. If you are trying to find health, you should stop trying to find thin, and actually look for health.

  7. For someone who has diabetes and is fat, losing a few pounds can be helpful. Note that I said “losing a few pounds,” not “getting thin.”

    Plenty of fat people do NOT have diabetes, however. And plenty of thin people do.

    HEALTH is different from THINNESS. Your thinking is fuzzy.

  8. There is no place to comment on you post discussing MeMe Roth. Your readers, watchers, may like to know about MeMe’s background and qualifications. http://jezebel.com/5479381/just-what-are-meme-roths-qualifications-exactly?skyline=true&s=i

  9. I think my understanding of what you’re trying to say, Barry, is that you advocate “love the fat person but not the fat.” Kind of like what religious folks mean when they say “love the sinner, not the sin.” This might be possible if you look beyond the first impression of an obviously obese person to the personality underneath, but this is usually not done by the majority of people in society. The temptation to judge based on appearance is ingrained and will never go away. And, as with a body of churchgoers, there is always a mix of those who judge immediately and those who accept without judging first.

    I agree with your advocacy of “lifestyle change” and do not believe that it is rhetoric as another commenter asserted. The problems arise when we try to figure out what kind of lifestyle change will be effective and what level of improvement is acceptable. In the end, people who have a weight problem have to come to terms with the effects extra weight has on health of the body and mind. I don’t think a person has to be “thin” to be healthy, but many people who carry around a large amount of extra weight are willfully blind to the effects it has on their well-being. If they can overcome the need for a fat-blind society (which will never happen), then they can move forward to address the health issues that will inevitably rear their heads, if not now, then 10, 20, 30 years from now.

    Personally, I am waging a war on my excess intake of sugar, which has packed on about 25 extra pounds over the years, but it is not always a winning war, and I don’t bash myself now when I fail. Little victories can lead to long-term health improvement. I’ve managed to cut processed sugars and “fake foods” out of my breakfast every day. This small change has given me a LOT more energy during the day, which, in turn, allows me to be more active. A small victory, as I said. Patterns of behavior are hard to change and they take time to ingrain.

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