John Steinbeck famously said:
“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”
This quote makes an interesting point about how the way people perceive themselves affects everything from their political views, to their choices about what is best for them.
Those of us in the fat acceptance community often confront the difficulty of getting fellow fat folks to accept a fat identity. Like some poor folks not seeing themselves as currently poor and poor for the foreseeable future, fat folks often see themselves as temporarily embarrassed thin people. They’ve bought into the very persuasive argument that fatness is merely a temporary state, one that can be easily changed if you just work hard enough or have the luck of finding the right “lifestyle changes” or whatever.
Not that I blame fat people for believing that fat is temporary. Everywhere you turn, weight loss is being sold as a reality, something that works, a solution to the stresses of being fat in a fat-hating society.
The facts that weight is about as genetic as height, that 95% of people who diet gain the weight back within 3 to 5 years, 83% of people who diet gain back more weight than they lose, and 70% of weight variation can be accounted for by genetics, are all very hard to hear. When you’re constantly being sold the idea that fat is unhealthy, unattractive, undesirable, and worthy of discrimination and ridicule, you don’t want to hear that fatness may just be your lot in life. It’s very hard to identify as fat in a society that makes thinness a pinnacle of achievement.
I get that. I totally get it. It is hard to be fat in most of the world, and fat people may feel like they need the hope of eventually becoming thin to make it through.
But there are benefits to identifying as fat, or identifying as just having the body you have, rather than being a temporarily embarrassed thin person. I want to identify a couple of these benefits for you now.
- Political Power — The more folks are willing to identify as fat, the more political power we can have. When we approach our fat bodies as embarrassments, we don’t recognize that we’re worthy of rights like protection from discrimination at work, truth in advertising from the diet industry, etc. There is power in identifying as what you are rather than what you hope to be.
- Fun– Fat positive community is a total blast. It’s a true pleasure to hang out with folks who don’t talk about diets and are focused on loving their bodies as they are.
- Actual Health — When you stop trying to lose weight for your health, you’ll be able to focus on actual health. Using principles like Health At Every Size can help to actually improve your health and lower your stress levels.
- Happiness — When you are unhappy with your current state and always striving to change it, it’s hard to just be and enjoy the life you have. You can be present to the good things in your life and the wondrousness of your body when you let go of the idea that you are a “temporarily embarrassed” thin person.
So my bit of advice for this week is to stop seeing yourself as a temporarily embarrassed thin person and begin to see yourself as having a body that is perfectly normal and natural. Begin to see the power in identifying as fat. Allow it to change your worldview for this week. Let me know how it goes in the comment section below.
Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. Go to http://www.bodylovewellness.com/free to get her NEW free gift — Golda’s Top 5 Tips For Loving The Body You Have Right Now!
-  Linda Bacon,<em> Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight</em> (Dallas: Benbella Books, 2008) 137 ↩