Growing Straw Men in a Field of False Equivalence: Conflating HAES with Fat Acceptance

The fat acceptance debate is one fraught with logical fallacies. People who don’t support fat acceptance cite a variety of reasons.

Fat is ugly.

Being fat can’t be healthy.

Fat people use up a disproportionate amount of resources.

Accepting fat people is acknowledging fat is okay.

The list goes on.

Health at Every Size is a movement dating back to the ’60s and, simply put, it states that aggressive dieting rarely works, and is emotionally and physically damaging. The idea is that everyone has their own natural metabolic weight ranges, and through intuitive eating, paying attention to what one’s body needs, and providing nutritious and varied meals combined with enjoyable exercise, the body will find its own set weight point for optimum metabolism and health. In short, many attempts to lose weight through drastic dieting do not lead to successful, sustained weight loss over time, and optimal mental and physical health comes from self-acceptance.

Self acceptance is the only real link between fat acceptance and HAES. HAES is a lifestyle. HAES is a choice people make for themselves to promote their own health and well-being. Fat acceptance is none of those things.

Fat acceptance is a movement. It is based in justice, equal rights, fairness, ethics, and inclusivity.

Fat acceptance isn’t a bunch of Tumblrinas HAES-binging on cupcakes screaming “MUH CURVES”.

Fat acceptance isn’t about hating thin people.

Fat acceptance isn’t about hating “small fats” for not having as tough a time as fatter women.

Fat acceptance isn’t about food.

Fat acceptance isn’t about dieting.

Fat acceptance isn’t even about science. Science is HAES territory.

Fat acceptance is a campaign to end weight discrimination and the negative stigma perpetuated by societal pressures of consumerism and mass media.

Fat acceptance is the idea that no one, regardless of size, deserves to be treated poorly.

No, you DON’T have to find us attractive. Attractiveness has nothing to do with equitable treatment.

No, you DON’T get to worry about our health status. Health status has nothing to do with fair treatment.

… And there’s the rub. When you lump HAES in with fat acceptance, you are opening the door for all sorts of fallacious arguments. It’s food for the Concern Trolls who seek to delegitimize the fat acceptance movement with health science “proving” fat is unhealthy and therefore is not an acceptable way to live. It also invites in all of the simplistic calories in/calories out “nutrition experts” saying that, if we’re unhappy, it’s because we aren’t taking the necessary steps to make our lives better.

How people appear, how they feel, how abled they are, what their BMI is, none of that matters. A fat person with diabetes deserves to be treated the same as a fat person with perfect metabolic health, a thin person with great metabolic health, or a thin person with terrible metabolic health.

Health. Is. Not. Relevant. Period. This is an issue of discrimination and tolerance. Using health status to justify why we shouldn’t treat everyone with the same care and compassion is a slippery slope. Making assumptions about a person’s lifestyle and then judging people based on those assumptions is unconscious, societally-bred prejudice at best, and at worst it is open hostility toward someone who does not conform to a prescribed “normal”.

If we open up HAES as a talking point in any debate about the fat acceptance movement, we are not just opening up the field in which detractors can erect straw men; we are giving them the straw for free, and showing them the best and most efficient means for construction. People will start trying to prove that being fat is bad for your health. They will turn the conversation from a social justice issue to a health science issue. It will become a discussion of will power, of laziness, of lack of motivation. It will become a conversation of “but we’re just trying to help motivate you to make better life choices!”

Fuck life choices. Who’s job is it to police life choices? Especially if said policing is, in actuality, just inferring one’s life choices with a cursory glance, confirming “yup, that’s a fatty!”, and then telling them to feel bad for it.

It’s my body. It changes. It gets bigger, it gets smaller. Why? Fuck you, that’s why. It does not matter. It’s my own goddamned business. My body, body choices, and health status do not factor into the reality that I am a human being, a member of society, and deserve to be recognized and respected as such.

“If you worked out as hard as you blogged, you wouldn’t need to blog anymore.”

Opponents will bring it back to metabolic health, again and again, because FACTS SCIENCE FATTY LIVER DEATH FAT DIABEETUS is the only real leg they have to stand on, and a hollow one at that, because again:

HEALTH STATUS IS IRRELEVANT in issues of basic human rights and social justice.

Yes, there are many fat people who practice HAES. There are thin people who practice HAES as well. HAES has self-acceptance at its core; it plays a key role in helping people overcome disordered eating, low self-esteem, and other symptoms of fat discrimination.

Fat acceptance is the movement that will end fat discrimination.

Here’s a space cupcake:

space cupcake

7 comments

  1. Thank you for writing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. It cannot be said enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well done, Shiloh! I think this is very well written and explains the two sides perfectly. I tend to lump FA/HAES together because I believe in both, but I will try to separate them from now on, as they are clearly not the same thing. Again, WELL DONE! :)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That really does help explain the difference between the two!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for writing this. I’m so glad people are talking more about the distinction. I value HAES, but Fat Acceptance is imperative.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much. It’s been easy for me to conflate the two without thinking about it, but including HAES in a trolling discussion, in any form, does concede that my body / health is someone else’s business when it clearly isn’t.
    Bookmarking.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is really beautifully said. It’s so helpful to keep articulating the differences between these two approaches. Fat acceptance and HAES may overlap a lot in some folks’ lives, and that’s great, but they may also not, and that’s also great.

    Liked by 1 person

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