I know what it’s like to be fat, skinny-fat, and ripped
I remember being in 8th grade and telling my friends and family that I wanted to lose weight because some kids at school had called me fat.
Instead of getting suggestions on how to actually lose weight, I frequently got responses like this:
- “Don’t listen to them, they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
- “Pff, you’re not fat, that’s just baby fat, you’ll grow out of it.”
- “YOU’RE not fat, have you seen so-and-so, HE’S fat!”
As well-intentioned as these affirmations were, they didn’t help me.
Instead of feeling better about myself, I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about how I was fat and didn’t want to be.
I would even hide my efforts to lose weight so others wouldn’t ask me about it (I used to drag my dog with me on 4 mile runs in the 100 degree Houston heat as a cover for why I was running everyday).
It’s been over 7 years since I was fat, and I can say first hand that I’m much happier with my body on my worst days now than I ever was on my best days when I was fat.
Oddly, it seems that being fat and wanting to lose weight is still taboo to admit.
People are hesitant to tell others – even close friends – they’re on a weight loss diet, frequently ashamed to admit that being fat is something they don’t want to be.
This seems to be the result of a variety of movements whose aim is to have you accept yourself, and others, regardless of size – these movements go by similar names such as fat acceptance, body acceptance, fat positive, body positive, or health at every size.
These movements have a substantial number of supporters – one prominent advocate, Tess Holliday, has garnered over 1.5m followers on Instagram from posting pictures of herself and saying things like “Size doesn’t matter, it’s what’s you do with it” and her now famous hashtag “#EffYourBeautyStandards.”
Tess Holliday – Body Positive Advocate with 1.5m Instagram Followers
Sadly, many people have been openly hostile to fat acceptance advocates:
- “A bunch of people told me to kill myself: ‘fat b*tch, you’d be better off with a bullet in your head!’” – KC Slack, co-host of Bad Fat Broads
- “I hear a lot of ‘suck it up and be a man.’” – Kelvin Davis, creator of Notoriously Dapper
- “Just last week, someone went in on me saying, ‘Look at this whale standing there like she thinks she’s a human female.’” – Alysse Dalessandro, owner of Ready to Stare, a plus-size fashion and jewelry brand
Given the level of hate they receive, it’s worth looking at the underlying philosophy of the fat acceptance movement to see if we can determine what’s provoking such reactions:
- “I think people completely miss the point of me trying to educate women, and show them that it’s okay to be who you are and love yourself.” – Tess Holiday, body positive advocate
- “They say I glorify obesity when I actually glorify self-love. I don’t understand why that threatens people so much.” – Jessica Hinkle, owner of Proud Mary, a plus-size fashion site
- “Create an inclusive and respectful community, and support people of all sizes in finding compassionate ways to take care of themselves.” – Health at Every Size Community
That all seems pretty positive to me, so what’s the problem?
Well, it seems that accepting yourself as you are, supporting people of all sizes, and glorifying self-love are no longer sufficient goals for the fat acceptance community, as they also make the following claims:
- “I don’t do diets, diets don’t work.” – Tess Holliday, body positive advocate
- “If people want to work out and eat only salad, go for it. Do what makes you feel good. The problem comes when people are posting “before and after” images, which inherently champions being smaller as better.” – Jessica Hinkle, owner of Proud Mary, a plus-size fashion site
- “We’ve lost the war on obesity. Fighting fat hasn’t made the fat go away. And being thinner, even if we knew how to successfully accomplish it, will not necessarily make us healthier or happier.” – Health at Every Size Community
They are attempting to dismantle the idea that anyone knows how to lose weight and keep it off by saying “diets don’t work,” they are mischaracterizing healthy weight loss diets as “only salad,” and they are trying to convince people that they have no control over their body composition by saying “fighting fat hasn’t made the fat go away.”
It’s understandable why they want to convince people of these claims. After all, if everyone starts to believe that being fat is not a choice, fat acceptance advocates think they’ll receive the respect they deserve as human beings, rather than being discriminated against and bullied just because they are fat – but to be clear, they deserve this respect regardless of whether being fat is actually a choice.
I don’t think that fat acceptance advocates are purposefully distorting the truth either, they seem to genuinely believe they have little to no control over their body composition (the amount of fat/muscle they have).
This deep belief that “diets don’t work” is really just a reflection of the staggering amount of misinformation out there regarding weight loss. Which is again, understandable. Hell, most people think it’s all about calories in, calories out, and even DOCTORS in the U.S. still recommend people eat whole grains regularly if they want to lose weight, what a joke!
But these claims that “diets don’t work” and “fighting fat hasn’t made the fat go away” are simply untrue – and in fact there are MILLIONS of people in a variety of communities who are regularly losing weight without feeling hungry all the time, consuming a diverse diet (not “only salad”), and generally feeling better about their bodies – here are a handful of such communities: r/4HourBodySlowCarb, r/Keto, r/KetoGains, r/Paleo, r/Whole30, and gyms on the cutting edge of body transformations like Washington Gym and Ultimate Performance.
But, despite the millions of people regularly achieving repeatable results, the fat acceptance movement has played an outsized role in public perception, successfully convincing many people that they don’t have control over their body composition (or at the very least that it’s not worth trying because it requires too much effort).
As a result, it’s gotten to the point where many people who are fat and want to be thin are ashamed to publicly admit it. This makes it much harder for them to get the help they desire, find accurate information about what actually works, and more susceptible to snake-oil salesmen claiming you can get six-pack abs by next week without changing your diet or exercising.
This is a real tragedy in my opinion, because almost every person I’ve coached has had a MUCH easier time “accepting” their body once they lost, or started to lose, significant amounts of weight.
And many of these people spent years expending tremendous amounts of energy trying to “accept” their body as it was (as I did for much of my life) – only to find themselves vacillating between feeling good about themselves one day followed by feeling completely disgusted by themselves the next.
To be clear, there are people for whom losing weight doesn’t make them feel better about their bodies – people who have very little fat to lose, but they still only eat at home or by themselves, or they improve one body part only to obsess over another. This is a real phenomenon – body dysmorphic disorder – and those people shouldn’t be ashamed to seek the help they need.
Why not both?
One thing that I think the fat acceptance movement gets right is being positive about your body as it currently is – not beating yourself up or critically examining your body from head to toe everyday. Doing so won’t help you accept yourself OR lose weight (more times than not this makes people feel worse about themselves and leads them to consume even more junk food).
But my gripe is this – who says you can’t DO BOTH? Why can’t you work on accepting your body as it currently is and ALSO make progress towards what you’d like your body to look like (if you have such a goal)?
These goals are not mutually exclusive.
That’s my approach with the people I coach in any case, getting people to focus on the things they’re doing RIGHT, the things they already feel proud of – even if there are other things about themselves they’d like to change.
Seeking the Help You Need
If you think that you’re a healthy person and there’s nothing you need to change about your body, but you still can’t stop obsessing over how you look and what others think of you 24/7, then I encourage you to seek the help you need – this could be as simple as talking it through with a close friend or family member, but that may not be nearly enough and you may need to work with a therapist specializing in body dysmorphia.
But, if you think the REAL reason you can’t accept your body is simply because you need to build a body you can accept (like me years ago), then I encourage you to check out one of the many communities I listed earlier, or grab a copy of my free guide that explains how to lose weight without feeling hungry, eat at the same restaurants you already love, and keep the weight off for life.
Click here to download a copy of my free guide, and learn how to:
- Lose weight without feeling hungry
- Eat at the same restaurants you already love
- And keep the weight off for life!