What Is Size Acceptance?

by Kmom

Copyright © 2005-6 Kmom@Vireday.Com. All rights reserved.

This FAQ last updated: December 2006




Readers will notice that I have an unusual approach to obesity and pregnancy compared to most websites.  Instead of "gloom and doom" scare tactics and lectures, I prefer to emphasize a positive approach, with realistic looks at the risks but also at the success stories and happy outcomes.

My approach is different because I personally am a woman of size, and I am a long-time member of the "size acceptance" community.  I have been a member of NAAFA (National Association for the Advance of Fat Acceptance) for many years and have been an activist for size acceptance in many ways.   Naturally, this background influenced my approach to pregnancy as well.

Most websites on obesity and pregnancy publish distorted risk summaries, highlight only the studies with the worst outcomes, tell worst-case scenario stories as if they were everyday events, and imply that complications are inevitable for all fat women.  Some even suggest that obesity during pregnancy is akin to child abuse.  Not coincidentally, many of these websites are published by weight-loss surgeons, diet companies, or people with weight-loss agendas.  Others are published by a medical community (many of whom have ties to the weight loss industry) that has embraced the demonization of fat people.

What women of size need is more balanced information.  They do need to understand possible risks of pregnancy at larger sizes, but they also need to place those risks in perspective and know that many women of size HAVE had successful, healthy pregnancies and births.  They need to know that being at risk for a complication does not mean it will automatically happen, and that many women of size never experience complications at all.

On my website, I focus on normalcy, promoting proactive health behaviors (without preaching weight loss), and promoting empowerment about healthcare choices.  I do not downplay possible risks, but instead try to give women realistic assessments of those risks, what the research says about them, and how to lower/mitigate these risks.  I also present honestly the wide variety of experiences of big moms, from completely normal pregnancies to those with complications; from emergent cesarean births to completely natural vaginal births----and every variation in between.  

THIS is what big moms want-----honest, accurate information without scare tactics and judgment, with plenty of real-life stories from REAL big moms.


What Is Size Acceptance

The idea of size acceptance and the "Health At Every Size" movement is to: 

Size acceptance recognizes that dieting and weight cycling often has more risks than maintaining a higher but stable weight.  It de-emphasizes the number on the scale in favor of how you FEEL and how you ACT---your overall health and fitness.

Size acceptance recognizes that some risks may be associated with being fat, but knows that it is more difficult to discern the exact relationship between weight and health than authorities want to admit. Fatness may be more of a symptom of other metabolic issues that cause health problems, rather than a cause of those problems in and of itself.  But fatness does not always correlate with health problems.  The size acceptance movement knows that the relationship between size and health is complex and it resists simplistic views of it.  

Size acceptance recognizes that fatness is not just about intake and output, but also about genetics and metabolism and setpoints, and that some people are never going to be "normal-sized," no matter what they do----and that forcing them to try to be "normal-sized" often causes more harm than good.  

Size acceptance recognizes the significant harm that comes to many people from long-term dieting behaviors and yo-yo weight patterns. It dares to question the standard medical belief that weight loss is always the answer, and that dieting/weight loss is always beneficial or benign.

Size acceptance also emphasizes empowerment and intelligent healthcare consumerism at any size.  We activists know from personal experience that many people of size are discriminated against and mistreated by healthcare professionals, and that this can have many harmful outcomes.  

We believe that ALL people----including people of size-----have the right to respectful, dignified, and fair care, and the right to determine our own healthcare treatment choices.

Size acceptance is not "giving up" or "letting yourself go" as some people believe; it's emphasizing good health NOW in the body you have NOW, without necessarily tying that to weight loss. It's accepting and loving yourself the way you are NOW, while still working on improving health and habits as needed.  It's giving yourself permission to live fully regardless of your size, to embrace life and happiness and feeling good about yourself with gusto and joy.

Size acceptance is about loving the body you were given; it's about being as healthy as possible in the body you were given; it's about the right to positive, loving care; it's about empowerment to make your own choices; and it's about standing up for your rights to pursue your dreams, no matter what your size.  And those dreams should include pregnancy, birth, and parenting too!!!


The Health At Every Size Paradigm

Many people think in extremes when thinking about weight issues.  Either a person is fit and healthy and "normal-sized," or they are fat and unhealthy, sedentary and eating excessively.  

However, there is a different approach in the size-acceptance movement.  This is the "Health At Every Size" paradigm (HAES).  This approach rejects dieting to lose weight to fit into the narrow definitions of "normal" weight, but it doesn't mean "giving up on yourself" either.  Instead, it is a weight-neutral approach to good health, focusing on behavior and self-concept instead of on the number on a scale.  

The Health At Every Size paradigm emphasizes accepting and loving yourself as you are, learning to enjoy and practice physical activity regularly (but for the joy and health of moving, not as a means to weight loss), normalizing eating to eliminate restriction/over-indulging as a person moves toward a more physiological response to hunger, and focusing on overall health in mind and in body.  

The Wikipedia entry on Health At Every Size, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_at_Every_Size, summarizes it succinctly:

The major components of HAES, as described by Jon Robison, are:

  1. Self-Acceptance: Affirmation and reinforcement of human beauty and worth irrespective of differences in weight, physical size and shape.
  2. Physical Activity: Support for increasing social, pleasure-based movement for enjoyment and enhanced quality of life.
  3. Normalized Eating: Support for discarding externally-imposed rules and regimens for eating and attaining a more peaceful relationship with food by relearning to eat in response to physiological hunger and fullness cues.

HAES advocates generally do not believe that the same narrow weight range (or BMI range) is maximally healthy for every individual. Rather, the HAES approach is that as individuals include physical activity in their lives, and eat in response to physical cues rather than emotional cues, they will settle towards their own, personal ideal weights. These weights, however, can be higher or lower than those described by standard medical guidelines.

The HAES size approach recognizes that people come in all shapes and sizes naturally, and that some people will never fit into the "normal" weight ranges as they are currently defined, despite leading perfectly healthy lives.  Instead, the HAES approach redefines "ideal" or "normal" body weights.  From http://www.healthyweight.net/haes.htm

Instead of defining healthy weight with numbers, charts or BMI, it is defined in terms of the natural diversity of weight. Steven Hawks and Julie Gast, associate professors at Utah State University, define healthy weight as the natural weight the body adopts, given a healthy diet and meaningful levels of physical activity.

The Health at Every Size movement embraces the following concepts:

An excellent summary (and handout!) of the HAES paradigm is at http://www.healthyweight.net/celhaes.pdf

Another summary of the HAES tenets is at http://www.aedweb.org/sigs/health.cfm. They summarize it as:

In the past, critics have charged that the HAES approach was unhealthy and would harm the health or participants. But a two-year long U.C. Davis study, published in the June 2005 issue of the Journal o f the American Dietetic Association (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=25384) found that the Health At Every Size approach actually produced better long-term health benefits than a traditional dieting approach.   

Members of the dieting group were told to moderately restrict their food consumption, maintain food diaries and monitor their weight. They were provided with information on the benefits of exercise, on behavioral strategies for successful dieting, and on how to count calories and fat content, read food labels and shop for appropriate foods.

Participants in the non-dieting group were instructed to let go of restrictive eating habits associated with dieting. Instead they were counseled to pay close attention to internal body cues indicating when they were truly hungry or full, and to how the food made them feel. They also received standard nutritional information to help them choose healthful foods, and participated in a support group designed to help them better understand how culture influences the experience of obese people and to become more accepting of their larger bodies. In addition, they were encouraged to identify and deal with barriers, including negative self-image, which might get in the way of enjoying physical activity.

The study spanned two years, with each group meeting for 24 weekly treatment sessions and, after that, for six monthly optional support group meetings. They also attended five testing sessions...At the testing sessions, factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels were measured. The participants' levels of physical activity also were evaluated, as were their eating behaviors and attitudes toward weight, body shape and eating. Study results:

Almost all (92 percent) of the non-dieting group stayed in the study throughout the treatment period, while almost half (42 percent) of the dieters dropped out before finishing treatments. This reinforces another message of the research -- that in the long run, people are much more likely to stick with a non-diet than a diet.

When the researchers tallied the results from the participants who completed the study, they found that:

-- The non-dieters maintained their same weight throughout the study. The dieting group lost 5.2 percent of their initial weight by the end of the 24-week treatment period, but regained almost all of it by the end of the two-year study.

-- The non-dieters showed an initial increase in their total cholesterol levels, but this significantly decreased by the end of the study, as did their levels of LDL cholesterol or "bad" cholesterol. The dieters showed no significant change in total or LDL cholesterol levels at any time.

-- Both groups significantly lowered their systolic blood pressure during the first 52 weeks of the study. By the end of the study at 104 weeks, however, the non-dieters had sustained this improvement, while the diet group had not.

-- By the end of the two-year study, the non-dieters had almost quadrupled their moderate physical activity. The dieting group had a significant increase in physical activity right after the treatment period ended but had slipped back to their initial levels by the end of the study.

-- The non-dieters demonstrated significant improvements in self-esteem and depression at the end of the study, while the diet group demonstrated a worsening in self-esteem. The dieters' depression levels initially improved but then returned to baseline.

In summary, while the non-dieters did not lose weight, they succeeded in improving their overall health, as measured by cholesterol levels, blood pressure, physical activity and self-esteem. The dieters, on the other hand, were not able to sustain any of the short-term improvements they experienced and worsened in terms of their self-esteem.

So the Health At Every Size approach can be healthy.  While it may seem that dieting to lose weight is healthier, for many people the HAES approach results in better health in the long run.  And that's the most important thing, after all.  As Kelly Bliss (author and exercise maven) suggests:

I propose that we END the “War on Obese People” and BEGIN “A Campaign for Healthy Eating and Fitness for ALL People, of ALL Sizes.”  http://www.pearlsong.com/kellybliss.htm 


12 Steps to Health At Every Size    ---  by Peggy Elam, Ph.D. www.peggyelam.com/12StepstoHAES.htm

1. Stop weighing yourself. Shift your focus from weight & body fat to healthy behaviors & fitness.

2. Fire the food & body police.

3. Stop critical self-talk. Would you speak to a friend or loved one the way you do to your body?

4. Increase positive talk. Talk to & treat yourself & your body the way you would a cherished friend, loved one, or child.

5. Clean out your closets. Give or throw away everything that doesn’t fit, is uncomfortable, or that you haven’t worn in years. Fill your closets with beautiful, comfortable clothing in your present size.

6. Eat well & mindfully. Enjoy your food. Let nothing be off-limits. There are no forbidden foods. Don’t restrict what you eat in order to lose weight, as those behaviors and attitudes have negative physical and emotional consequences. Focus instead on eating & living well.

7. Be active. Find, create, or discover activities that you enjoy, and engage in them regularly.

8. Listen to your body. It is the means by which your subconscious communicates with you. No one can discern your body’s messages better than you can, although you may need to re-learn its language. Pay attention to “gut feelings.”

9. Respect your body. It is a manifestation of and a conduit for your soul. Ensure that others respect it, too.

10. Reconnect mind & body. Increase your body awareness through yoga, walking meditation, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, massage & bodywork, and/or movement therapy (such as Feldenkrais). Focus on what your body can do and how good it can feel.

11. Address any emotional eating independent of weight change.

12. Invest in and support yourself rather than the weight loss, pharmaceutical, healthcare, fashion or beauty industries.


Other links to HAES resources (see below for many other HAES links):

Making the Paradigm Shift - http://www.healthyweight.net/guides.htm#making 

Jon Robinson, PhD, writes about shifting to the HAES paradigm at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/506299. He also has an extensive website for medical professionals, comparing the old view of fitness and weight loss versus the new Health At Every Size approach.  


Quotes about Size Acceptance

Lynda Finn, NZ size-acceptance activist and author, www.sizenet.com 


Size Acceptance Terminology

"It isn't the word.  It's the intention behind it."  --Judy Sullivan, Size Wise

Terminology can be a hot-button point for many issues.  This is true in size acceptance too.  Writers have to walk a fine line between being "overly PC" with their terms, yet recognizing the negative power and associations with many of the commonly accepted terms.  And different people are comfortable with different terms, of course.  So it can be a real balancing act in deciding what terminology to use when writing about size.  

"Fat" is the trendy term in the size-acceptance movement (also known as the fat acceptance movement).  "Obese" and "morbidly obese" are the terms most used by the medical community.  "Overweight" is the term many larger women choose, seeing it as less offensive than "fat," although size acceptance activists would disagree.   "Chubby," "zaftig," "large," "plus-sized," "Rubenesque," and many other words are commonly used too.  So there are many choices for terminology.

Kmom usually uses a variety of terms on her website and in person.   Although she strongly prefers some terms over others, she mostly uses them interchangeably.  As a person of size herself, she has the right to choose the terminology she uses about herself and other people of size.

But, of course, whatever term is used carries a lot of emotional baggage for some people.  Kmom periodically gets hate mail---some of it quite unpleasant---from women of size who object to the use of the term "fat" on her website.  Occasionally she gets challenged by size-acceptance activists over the use of "obese" or other similar terms.  It's difficult to please everyone.  This section of the website is to discuss why she uses the terms that she does.  

Why Use "Fat"

The term "fat" is the term that is accepted in the size-acceptance movement.  In the size acceptance movement, which promotes better health at every size, there has been a big movement to reclaim the word "fat." They feel it is part of empowering yourself to see that word simply as a physical description instead of moral judgment or character assassination. 

Unfortunately, many people have had the word "fat" used only negatively against them and so they carry very negative connotations with it. People with some eating disorders would literally rather die than have someone use the word "fat" about them.  So of course, some people have a hard time hearing the word "fat" as simply a neutral term that is descriptive in nature. However, that is what it is----simply an adjective, not a moral judgment.   Or at least, that is what it should be.  

Other Possible Terms

Terminology is always your prerogative; of course you can call yourself whatever you prefer. But some people dislike certain terms because of the underlying assumptions behind them. 

The term "overweight" assumes that there is a proper weight that you MUST adhere to or you are abnormal, yet the standards for determining what is normal are very skewed. "Overweight? Over whose weight?" is the reply.   What is considered a "normal" weight for some people may be completely unachievable for them.  How "normal" is that?  If you are eating reasonably and getting reasonable and regular exercise, then you are at the "normal" weight for your body.  "Overweight" judges your weight by others' standards, which may or may not be realistic for your body.  Thus, most size acceptance activists reject the use of the word "overweight" as a better term than "fat," because it demands that you adhere to other people's rigid norms (and norms that change over time, too).  

As for the term "obese," it implies a medical pathology. If you are "obese," then something is wrong with you.  It doesn't matter if you have normal eating and exercise habits and this is just how your body is; your normal state is pathological and abnormal and dangerous. In other words, you are diseased

Furthermore, "obese" is an ugly word to hear or to say.  Kmom has rarely run into a person of size who prefers the term "obese."  This is very telling. Most hate the term "obese" (and especially "morbidly obese") with a passion.  Some say they hear the words, "Oh, Beast" whenever they hear "obese."  Others can't say quite why they dislike it so, but they have a very negative reaction to it. Most feel it is an ugly word, inherently full of bias and discrimination.

Although "obese" can sometimes be simply a medical description for fatness, its usual medical use implies disease and pathology and abnormality.  It is an ugly word, often one used to demonize people of size in research. Most people of size strongly prefer any term other than "obese."  So this is why the size acceptance community has adopted the word "fat" instead of "overweight" or "obese." They find it more neutral.

"People/Women of size" is a term that Kmom has come to use more and more.  At first, she felt it was overly "politically correct" and a bit stilted, but the more she heard it, the more she liked it.  It's physically descriptive without the emotional baggage some people have around the word "fat," so she often uses it when speaking to mixed audiences who may not be comfortable with "fat."  

"Plus-sized" is another fairly neutral term that seems to be well-accepted among most women.  It gets the message across without being so judgmental about size, and includes a perceptible cut-off for what is considered "plus-sized" (size 14 and larger).  Although again it forces a group of people to be measured against an arbitrary "norm," it seems less judgmental than "overweight."  Because of the relative neutrality of the term to a wide spectrum of people and the alliteration it presented, Kmom chose this as the title of her website, www.plus-size-pregnancy.org

There are many other lovely and creative terms for women of size.  Kmom's personal favorite euphemisms are "BBW," "zaftig" and "Rubenesque."  "BBW" stands for Big Beautiful Woman, while "zaftig" literally means "juicy" and "Rubenesque" refers to the bountiful womanly physique memorialized by the painter Ruben.  It is good to remember that fashions change and that the curvy and bountiful physique of times past was considered much sexier and womanly than the boyish stick-figure-with-artificial-boobs that you see in the media today.  REAL women have curves, indeed!  But unfortunately, many people do not know what these terms mean, so they are not effective as common terminology.

Other terms may include things like "large," "chubby," "ample," "portly," "hefty," "big," "stout," "plump," "heavy-set," "pudgy," "voluptuous," "big-boned," "curvaceous," "bountiful," "fluffy," etc. Some people love these, but some people find them condescending euphemisms. Of course, context is everything.  How the word is spoken  and meant by the speaker, plus the inherent judgments behind its use become more important than the actual word that is used. As Judy Sullivan notes, "It isn't the word. It's the intention behind it."

Supersize It?

Another situation that can cause many ill feelings among people of size is when we try to describe someone who is "extra" large.  Not just fat but "morbidly obese" (in medical terminology).   Some people object to defining people by levels of fatness at all, but sometimes this can be useful and needed when discussing research about differing levels of fatness.  Similarly, many "morbidly obese" women wrote to Kmom, asking for a special section of birth stories just about them, because so many stories they were reading were about women who were mildly "overweight" as opposed to truly fat. So it became apparent that a term for "extra big" people was needed, but what?  Nearly everyone loathes "morbidly obese" and "extra big" was just too ambiguous and judgmental. 

So the size acceptance community came up with the term "supersized" to describe this group. (The term came out long before junkfood restaurants used it to describe extra-large portions of food.) The size acceptance community felt supersized was empowering because they came up with the term themselves, and it was descriptive without being truly demeaning.  However, sometimes it engenders ill feelings, especially among those new to size acceptance. Exact definitions differ, but it most often is used to mean people above 300 lbs., or above a size 26/28 or so.  

Medical researchers have gone beyond "morbidly obese" to invent the term "super obese" to describe people who have an extremely high BMIs.  This may be marginally better than "morbidly obese" but not by much.  Again, any term that uses "obese" (morbidly- or super- or whatever) is seen as condescending and pathologizing to people in the size-acceptance movement.  They far prefer their own term, supersized, which they feel is more neutral.  It is not a  perfect term, but it seems better than the alternatives. 

Kmom's Choice of Terminology On This Website

You can feel free to call yourself whatever you prefer, but Kmom does not feel constrained by other people's biases.  Sooner or later, she uses nearly all of these terms on her website, just to reflect common usage by other people.  However, she does prefer some terms over others and you will see these used more often on this site.  

Kmom personally prefers "fat," "woman of size," "plus-sized," "big," or "large," and so that is what she mostly chooses to use on her website.   She sometimes uses "obese" because she reads a lot of medical research; it becomes appropriate to use their terminology when discussing this research.  Also, many women type "obesity +pregnancy" or ("overweight +pregnancy" etc.)  into their search engine; using a wide variety of terms helps this website be found sooner.  So even though she does not care for the terms "obese" and "overweight," she does sometimes use them for practical purposes, just to reflect common usage by other women and to create keywords that make the website easier to find.

Some people find it difficult to read the word "fat" on Kmom's website because they simply cannot hear it without all the judgment and venom attached to it----the voices of the past echo too strongly in their ears.  Use whatever term you prefer, but don't be offended when Kmom chooses to use the physically most descriptive word, which is "fat."  Remember that she means it in a neutral way. 

"Fat" should be simply a physical description.  It's a simple adjective, not a character judgment.  Kmom feels that if more of us reclaimed the word in its original meaning, it would lose much of its negative power to hurt others, especially our vulnerable children as they grow up.  Consider it as part of your empowerment journey.   

Other Women Write About "Fat" Terminology

One mom wrote:

I'd much rather be called "fat" or "super-sized" or "woman of size" than "morbidly obese". That makes it sound like I already have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.

Another mom wrote:

A crash course in fat acceptance...in my mind, Step #1 is accepting that you are fat and that being fat does NOT equal being bad, ugly, dumb, stupid, lazy, dirty, irresponsible, or one-foot-in-the-grave. This is why people object to being called "fat", you do understand? "Fat" has been used as an epithet so much, people forget that it's just a word to describe a person, no different from "tall" or "brunette." 

A lot of people in the fat acceptance community feel strongly about reclaiming the word "fat." Part of that is because it's unfair to use it as a word that means "bad" in some way. Part of it (at least for me) is just to stop tip-toeing around the issue and confront it head-on, like, I'd rather someone call me "fat" than "big-boned" or "plump" or "heavy-set" or anything like that (although I kinda like "zaftig" because it means "juicy!"). On more than one occasion, my husband has tried to turn around the perceptions of people he's in a group conversation with, when some topic about size comes up (I've trained him well), and when he says "Well, my wife is fat, and..." someone (usually a woman) will be shocked and appalled that he would *dare* to call his wife "fat". He will point out that it's the word I'd use for myself, but that seems to make people think I'm self-deprecating. My husband will ask if there's something wrong with *not* hating fat.

Various writers write about terminology at http://www.bigfatblog.com/discussions/archives/001289.php

I ...really hate "overweight" because it does assume that there is a magical weight we can be "over" & "obese", because it is a made-up name for a made-up disease, used as an excuse to prescribe a cure which does not work.

I think it is important to use the word "fat" as a rule---that is the only way to take the taint and the stigma from the word (which reminds me of something Lenny Bruce said about using certain words over and over again to divest them of power).

I looove the word 'fat'. It scares people. It's in-your-face. Imagine! A simple, descriptive word. People think when I describe myself as fat that I'm being self-deprecating. I have to tell them, no, I'm simply being descriptive.

Judy Sullivan says it so well in her book, Size Wise, www.sizewise.com

Overwhelmingly the descriptive word of choice among individuals who have come to terms with being a larger-than-"normal" person is the word fat. It is time to decriminalize this word. I have chosen to use it on occasion throughout the book and on this web site and mean no offense to anyone. Those of you who just don't care for the term should feel free to mentally change each occurrence of fat to whatever word you prefer. I won't be offended...[But] it isn't the word.  It's the intention behind it.  


The Self-Destructive Cycle of Yo-Yo Dieting

I'm going to rant here a bit. I may say some stuff that might offend some people, or challenge their beliefs. You don't HAVE to buy into my beliefs if you don't want. But I want to at least present a different way of thinking to consider, a step outside the paradigm. Consider it and really think about it. If you think it's totally wrong then, okay! If it's not for you, then it's not for you. Maybe this is only for me. 

But I believe with all my heart that the cycle of yo-yo dieting, of losing and regaining weight plus a little bit more, of doing it over and over again through the years, of having to "graduate" to more and more radical diets/drugs/surgical interventions over time to try and lose that weight is tremendously destructive and unhealthy.  For some people it becomes almost like an addiction.  However, it's difficult for people to step back and see the emotional patterns of the dieting addiction, it's so ingrained. If you look and consider seriously and disregard, that's okay. But take some time and do some serious soul-searching and questioning first.

This is part of the diet/binge cycle that is so poisonous to your soul. You feel crappy about yourself so you go diet. You feel great while you start, you feel really great when you lose, you get frustrated as the loss plateaus and won't budge, you get pissed and depressed as the weight loss ends and starts regaining, you feel deprived of all the foods you miss that everyone else can have, at some point you end the diet and give up.  Perhaps you binge on the forbidden foods, you feel crappy about yourself, you gain lots of weight, you give up exercising, you feel worse and worse about yourself, you "stuff" that feeling literally with food at times, you feel even worse and you blame everything on your weight, you feel so absolutely disgusted with yourself that you finally re-start the dieting thing again, only this time a more desperate or stringent form of dieting than before in hopes that THIS one will be the one to work-----and the cycle begins again. 

The disgust with yourself and the shame and self-hatred is an integral part of the diet/binge cycle. It propels you into the next diet. The dieting yo-yo is another, looooooonger version of bulimia---binge and purge, binge and purge. 

Some people feel crappy about themselves and self-medicate with alcohol or drugs or gambling or food or whatever. Other people self-medicate with dieting. That may sound strange, but it really is true. 

The shame and self-loathing you may feel is an important part of that cycle. Chronic dieters get addicted to the tremendous high of the weight loss and new clothes and new treatment from others etc, and ironically, also to the lows afterwards when it fails and your high comes crashing down. 

Chronic dieters love to commiserate about how awful they are, how disgusting their behaviors or bodies are, how horrible they are to stuff their emotional issues with food, how broken and disgusting their bodies are. They resort to more and more desperate ways to punish themselves. They get bigger highs with more dramatic weight losses, and lower lows from dramatic regains. It's like an addict---forever looking for a better high, no matter what the lows are afterwards, no matter the toll the addiction takes on your body and your psyche. It's the ride that they need.

Break free of the cycle! You don't have to be tied to it forever. Step out of the drama. Empower yourself about learning to love your body, whatever size it is. The first step is to recognize the patterns that chronic dieting creates in your psyche and just how destructive (yet also enticing) they are, and how much power they hold over your life. The self-loathing is a big part of it.

Step outside the box for a moment. Ask yourself how your diet highs and self-loathing lows are serving you. They must be reinforcing an important belief about yourself or you wouldn't keep putting yourself through that. Do you need to believe that your body is broken and doesn't work right?  How does believing that serve you?  Do you need to believe that you are bad or undeserving of happiness until you get to be "x" size?  Why?  Are you a perfectionist that needs to be self-critical and hard on yourself because you have been taught that you aren't good enough as you are?  Ask yourself if you still need to keep believing these things or if you are able to let that paradigm go, even just a little. 

What kind of fears does the thought of letting dieting go bring up? Are you afraid that if you stop dieting your weight will balloon out of control?  Are you concerned that you would then eat all the "bad" foods out of control and gain a ton of weight?  The truth is that as people let go of the dieting mindset, sometimes they do over-eat.  But once they realize that all foods are available to them, forever, they no longer have to over-indulge because another diet/famine period isn't coming. In time, they will self-regulate their eating so that they can enjoy treats without overindulging, so that they can balance their eating without feeling so restricted or denied.  In time, most people will normalize their attitudes and consumption of food, once they feel secure about food availability.  Most people will be healthier in the long run by letting dieting go----but it can be a leap of faith to do so. 

What about people with true eating disorders?  Some fat people do have true eating disorders, usually either bulimia (bingeing and purging through vomiting/laxatives) or a true binge eating disorder (eating inordinate amounts of food while feeling out of control and powerless).  The dieting mentality only serves to reinforce and worsen these behaviors over time.  They make an eating disorder worse, not better.

However, breaking out of the dieting cycle won't necessarily cure these eating disorders either.  Until the person does the internal emotional work of identifying and healing the difficult emotional issues behind food addiction, the behaviors won't disappear and food will continue to hold too much power over them.  Eventually many of these people turn to extreme weight loss schemes like diet drugs, extreme very low-calorie diets, or weight loss surgery in a desperate attempt to once again self-medicate their feelings and reduce their size.  But in the end, these often fail too, and much or all of the weight is gained back.  The bottom line is that the root of a true eating disorder is emotional and until that problem is addressed, nothing else will fix the problem.  (If you have a true eating disorder there is help; see the Size Acceptance Books: Dealing with Food Issues list at the end of the FAQ.)

But many fat people do not have true eating disorders.  They may not always eat perfectly, but many poor eating patterns are actually artifacts of the binge/diet mentality.  Eliminate the dieting cycle, and slowly the poor eating patterns disappear because they are no longer needed.  Also the dieter's need for strict nutritional perfection will diminish over time, so the emphasis moves away from self-flagellation over eating a "bad" food and towards an emphasis on overall eating patterns over time, emphasizing the big picture on health and making positive changes accordingly, rather than micro-managing every bite and obsessing about it.  

The "Oh heck, I've blown my diet so I guess I'll have another doughnut" mentality is part of the illness of the dieting cycle. It's total nutrition perfection or total food anarchy/why bother? One is the opposite mirror of the other. You only gain freedom from it when you step out of the paradigm. 

Stepping out of the dieting paradigm is finding the empowerment to be reasonably healthy in your habits without having to be rigidly perfect, it's finding the ability to love yourself and be healthy at your current size, it's letting your body self-regulate and find its own natural size, it's recognizing the body hatred that you've internalized from elsewhere and working to transform it, it's being willing to step out of the diet cycle and stop believing that having good things depends on losing weight.  In short, it's reclaiming your sanity and reclaiming your health and reclaiming your LIFE.  

For some people the transition to more healthful and conscious eating is relatively effortless, and for others it can take time and much conscious effort.  It's okay for size acceptance to be a "work in progress." Dieting mentality behaviors are not acquired overnight and it can take time to normalize them.  But it can happen.  

Break free of the hypnotic power of self-loathing. Break free of the addictive power of the highs and lows of dieting. Consider stepping outside the limiting "my body is broken" paradigm.  Choose health and choose sanity.  Choose the "Health At Every Size" paradigm. 

Whether or not your body stays forever at this size or self-regulates to some other size, SELF-LOVE STARTS NOW. Here, now, at THIS size. With all its perceived imperfections. Empower yourself. Love your body, love yourself. Let yourself be healthy---healthy in a new way to your mind perhaps, but healthy nonetheless---both mentally and physically and emotionally. 

There are other ways to live than the dieting mentality, if you choose to. Self-acceptance starts NOW.  


Ten Steps To Size Acceptance

Ten Steps to Loving Your Body Just As It Is 

Compiled by the Council on Size & Weight Discrimination, Inc.

1. Be around people who accept themselves as they are. Join a support group--or start one if necessary--and talk and listen to others who are on the same path.

2. Read books, pamphlets, and articles on self-acceptance; look at art; and watch films and videos with strong, beautiful characters of different sizes and shapes.

3. Buy full-length mirrors and appreciate yourself from all directions. Look at yourself standing, sitting, from the back, naked, clothed, every way.

4. Buy and wear great clothes you like and feel good in. Get rid of uncomfortable and ill-fitting clothing, and anything you've been saving "until it fits."

5. Take pictures of yourself. Let others take pictures of you. Don't avoid being in group pictures--in fact, insist on standing in the front.

6. Stop being so hard on yourself.

7. Start acting as if you love and have always loved your body.

8. Learn to recognize size discrimination, diet obsession, fatphobia, and body hatred in the world around you--in advertising, in television and movies, in public accommodations, on the street, and among your family and friends.

9. Start the process of "coming out" as a self-accepting person by telling your family, friends, co-workers, etc. of your decisions:

10. Become an advocate for the rights of people of any size, shape, color, ability, or physical appearance. Interrupt sizism, racism, looksism, ableism, sexism, and other prejudiced attitudes wherever you encounter them.

Copyright 2000, Council on Size & Weight Discrimination, Inc. 845-679-1209, www.cswd.org 



Size Acceptance and Health At Every Size Links

Size Acceptance Organizations General Size Acceptance Links 


Articles About Size Acceptance

Finding a Size-Friendly Provider

Pregnancy, Fertility, Birth, and Parenting Information for Women Of Size

Fitness and Health at Larger Sizes


Size Acceptance Books

There are some great books out there on size acceptance and the Health At Any Size movement. You might want to read some of these and see what you think. Reading it doesn't mean you have to buy into it 100%; usually size acceptance is a process, not an instant transformation.  Also, some people buy into some parts of the size acceptance paradigm and not others, some buy into the whole concept, some buy into parts of it at first and over time become more open to other parts, etc. You make of it what works for you, like anything else. 

Here are some good books to consider.  Many of these are listed at http://www.largesse.net/books.html, where they have links to descriptions and reviews of them at www.amazon.com

General Size Acceptance

Health/Medical About Obesity and Dieting

Dealing with Bias, Journeying to Self-Acceptance

Fitness Books

Dealing with Food Issues (if that's an issue for you)

Body Image

You can buy many of these books through NAAFA, www.naafa.org, Gurze Books www.gurze.com, Pearlsong Press www.pearlsong.com, or www.amazon.com

You can see some of Amazon's "Listmania" lists of size-acceptance books at:



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