Photo: Kirstin Sinclair
Why should thin women should care about fat activism? I would like to think the answer to this question is obvious -- that someone's weight, or even health status, should never be justification for shaming or discrimination, and that we as human citizens are all responsible for protecting the rights of our fellow people.
I further wish it was obvious that someone's weight is not necessarily "their fault," but often something we are brought to by the universe of which we are not in control.
I wish everyone knew that weight is not an accurate measurement or determinant of a person's health status.
But further, that a person's health status is not an acceptable defense for discrimination in the first place.
I wish these reasons were obvious and case enough for all women of all sizes to stand up and fight for those who face prejudice on the basis of size from our medical, governmental, and professional authorities -- not to mention social acquaintances, friends or even loving family members.
I would hope these things were obvious.
But in case you are unconvinced, today, I give thin women everywhere one more reason to fight with and for fat positive activists and take a stand to end weight stigma and the unending emotional and physical harm that it creates:
You -- the "thin" woman -- are also a victim of fat discrimination.
Remember that time you didn't want to have sex with the lights on?
The unending roller coaster you've been on with food since 7th grade?
The desperate fear of being fat, and endless chase of "thinness" to no end?
The painful binge-eating that seems to follow every "diet fail," and the subsequent self-loathing that follows?
Yeah, that's YOU being a victim of fat discrimination. That's YOU living in fear of being judged on the basis of size and weight.
"Fat" and "thin" women are often separated by fat activists into two distinct groups: largely those "affected" and "not affected." Thin women often see themselves as "removed" from the issue of fat activism and fat women often see thin women as untouched or unaffected. Neither of these are true.
While "thin" women enjoy privileges that women who are "fat" do not, and "fat" women incur challenges that women who are "thin" do not, thin women nonetheless suffer endlessly due to cultural fatphobia -- largely to the extent to which they fear being perceived as "fat," and battle their weight endlessly in an attempt to avoid it or to desperately grasp for the perceived rewards of being even thinner.
So let's talk about some of the internal consequences of poor body image that are shared equally by thin and fat women as a result of "fatphobia:"
We diet: We start to ignore our bodies' needs in favor of foods and amounts that other people tell us are okay. This leads to...
Physical and emotional deprivation: Dieting almost always leads to some kind of deprivation, whether that be physical deprivation and nutrient deficiency OR emotional and mental deprivation, which leads to...
BINGE-EATING (for most of us anyway)! We've all heard the statistics: 90-something-percent of diets (depending on the report) end up in weight gain in the long run. That's because your body and mind compensate by wanting to eat everything that isn't nailed down. Yeah, it's a thing. Which leads to...
A world in which how we get to feel about ourselves is determined by what we weigh, or what we ate that day, regardless of how we are perceived by the outside world.
Interestingly enough, binge-eating and emotional eating are behaviors that are almost exclusively experienced by people with a history of dieting or restriction around food, which is a direct response to "fearing" the discrimination experienced by fat women.
In other words, many "thin" women who struggle with their relationship with food -- both under-eating, overeating, or some combination of the two -- are doing so in proportion to the degree to which "fat" women are being discriminated against. This may seem obvious, but I see too much separation of the issues of these two groups not to remind women that fat discrimination affects women all along the weight spectrum, and there may be no end in sight to the "food issues" that thin and fat women face, until fat discrimination is brought to justice.
When we fight for "fat acceptance," we fight for our sanity around food and weight, regardless of whether or not we "qualify" as "fat." If YOU are a woman struggling with your relationship with food or your own body image -- regardless of where you exist on the weight spectrum -- social activism around body politics can be incredibly healing. You may also want to check out this guide to overcoming shame-eating and the diet-binge cycle.
Isabel Foxen Duke is a certified health coach and emotional eating expert.
Read more Isabel Foxen Duke here.
This story was first published on Huffington Post, republished with permission.