Wednesday, January 20, 2021

When Being Fat Doesn’t Count As Fat

November 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Fat Acceptance, HAES

This guest post is from a hip and trendy young blogger named Candice from Bookish Penguin. Candice and I have been chatting via email for a while now, and I am really impressed with her writing.  Plus, she is just one creative kid with a super cool logo (she’s 20-something, I’m 40 so I can say that 😉

This is our first piece about Weight Loss Surgery, one that is sure to get us all thinking.



Axis of Fat posted an interview with a woman who detailed her weight loss surgery (WLS) story.

His blog is featured in the Fat-O-Sphere, so when I read it I was at first surprised (WLS tends to be a big no-no topic) and then really, truly heart warmed to see a positive WLS tale appear.

At the end of the post, he asked for people to email them if they had WLS stories they wanted to share in future posts.  He said he was new to Fat Acceptance (FA) and Health at Every Size (HAES) and was trying to learn as much as possible.  I bookmarked the post so I could email him later in the day.

When I got home many hours later, there was a new post from him in the Fat-O-Sphere.  This one apologized for the previous post and stated that he wasn’t aware that the Fat-O-Sphere does not discuss WLS.  He again stated how he’s new to FA and said the previous post was taken down.  I could only assume that the world of Fat-O-Sphere readers bombarded him with comments questioning why he would publish something like this as a member of the Sphere.

I was heartbroken.

I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out my place in the FA/HAES world as a post-WLS person.  I’m still fat, but it doesn’t seem to matter or count.  All that matters is that I had myself “butchered” (as I’ve read many blogs say).  There doesn’t seem to be an open door for those of us who are still fat after WLS, whether that’s because we gained weight back or never lost enough to be considered conventionally thin.

But when I went to click the link on Alex’s apology post, it was gone – and the WLS interview post was back up! The following day Alex posted an explanation, stating:

I’m not an expert on Fat Acceptance. I’m here to learn. I’m here to say what I want to say and to get feedback in return. There is little point attacking me because it does me no good. Point me in the right direction instead. Give me some good material to read. Convey your arguments in such a tone that I want to read and understand your view.

Feel free to say “I’m offended, because…. You should read this, this and this as it will help you to understand my point of view” and I will. I posted my previous post on weight loss surgery because I took away this simple message:

It doesn’t matter whether you lose weight or not. It doesn’t matter what you do, who you are, what your background is. You need to learn to love yourself. Doreen has had surgery and is still learning to love herself. It didn’t fix that. Going on a diet and losing weight will not make you love yourself. Skinny people don’t all love themselves either.

Learn to love yourself and those around you. We are all at different places in our journey. I don’t claim to be a font of knowledge or a leader in Fat Acceptance. I claim to be but one man in a sea of fatties trying to have his voice heard, not shouted down.

I cried reading this post.  It’s so much of what I’ve been thinking and trying to put into words.

I have so many thoughts and opinions on what happens when one person tries to inhabit the WLS, FA, and HAES worlds at once (and I certainly haven’t figured it out), but I’ve felt locked out of the conversation because I had WLS – AND have had a fairly positive (if occasionally complicated) experience with it.  To boot, I know half a dozen women living quite happily post-WLS with none of the problems most anti-WLS blog posts point to.

Do I just happen to know a lot of lucky women?

I suppose that’s possible.  And any complications I’ve experienced are of the mental and emotional sort, not the physical.  One of the commenters on Alex’s post wrote:

I . . . was surprised to hear something other than a horror story but I do not doubt that was her reality. I heard a woman who was struggling and was looking for support as a fat person, not as a member of the WLS community.

Yes, yes.  WLS does not defeat the need to still be accepted as a fat person.  Even at my thinnest (a size 12), I could barely reconcile myself as thin (and by many people’s definitions, I wasn’t – but by mine, I was).  I see many people in the FA community who are a size 16 – 20, which are common sizes for post-WLS folks.  Why does it matter how you got to be a size 16? (Or 20 or 28 or 32, and so on.)  We accept the models who used to starve themselves and then made peace with their bodies and happily rest at a size 10/12/14.  Why can’t we accept women with other varied histories, who may or may not have made peace with themselves and are looking for the support and help of a community so that one day they might find that peace?

Like Alex said, it doesn’t matter what your background is; you need to learn to love yourself.

I certainly have not found peace with my body, but I have accepted that the only person who can find that peace is myself.  I’ve had the impression that I can’t count on a community for help, but I’m hoping this is changing.  I won’t ever deny people their opinions on WLS, but I also would like for it to not be something that invalidates someone’s right to speak out.


48 Responses to “When Being Fat Doesn’t Count As Fat”
  1. Cait says:

    (Hey mamaV: Loving all the new people you’re bringing on board. Thanks!)

    Short version of a much longer thought (long thought? from me?? who’d’ve thought!!):

    How many magazine covers do we see that are “X person lost Y amount of weight, WITHOUT SURGERY!!!1!!”? Once again, media has it’s hand in perception of acceptability, and I suspect there’s a myth that is just as common in the FA world as it is everywhere else that WLS is somehow “cheating”.

    Which, by extension, means that there’s a “right way” to lose weight, and the choice is either “do things according to XYZ scriptures of how it’s done” or “refuse to play”. And as long as we have such an “either/or” dichotomy, there’s going to be many people for whom that doesn’t fit their experience or needs, and who end up having their opinions and history discounted as not “fitting in” to one of the acceptable categories.

    And because WLS people’s stories are discounted/rejected, it becomes very hard to discuss the ups and downs and personal difficulties and self-acceptance issues that face them. Which perpetuates the problem, because then those stories aren’t part of the larger social consciousness, which means that, without personal experience or research in to the topic, “WLS is cheating” is the only message that people get to hear.

  2. Meems says:

    I’m totally with Forestroad and AlaskyJoey on this one. It’s a personal decision, and because I’m not considered a candidate for any sort of bariatric surgery I don’t know what it’s like to consider it.

    If people are interested in Kate Harding’s take on it, there’s an interesting post over on SP from a few years ago:

    • Zenoodle says:

      I was going to post a link to this too, but you beat me to it! But it was a post by a guest blogger (Heidi) who was invited to tell her story on the site.

      I actually thought from reading the comments there that Heidi received a lot of support from the people at that site. This one from Shinobi, in 2007, says a lot of what is being said here:


      You have to make the decisions that are appropriate for your life and your health, not someone elses. While there may be people who weigh the same amount as you who are happy and healthy, you are not. Their situation is completely irrelevant. What is important is that you make whatever choices you have to make yourself happy and healthy.

      I think that it would be wise to differentiate between WLS itself, and the frivolous nature with which it is often used. I think it is wrong of the FA movement to demonize WLS itself. It is just a tool, a tool to remove an obstacle. For while not all fat is bad, it can become a stubling block, or even a barricade for some people, and sometimes the only way for them to move forward is through WLS.

      The reason that, IMHO, WLS has become so demonized is the frivolous nature with which people have and recommend it. (Which was highlighted in the beginning of the post.) I know a girl who had bariatrics recently so she’d look hot for her wedding. This disgusts me, not because they are having WLS, but because they are having it for the wrong reasons. It is frivolous, dangerous, and wasteful. However just because some people use a tool for bad reasons does not mean that tool is always bad.

      Heidi, I really respect your strength and bravery to do go through what you have gone through. I know myself how hard it is to make decisions that you politically may disagree with. I wish you the best of everything.

      I would also like to note that, like any ‘movement’, FA isn’t *monolithic*. There are all kinds of takes on it, all kinds of differences of opinion within it. It really gets my goat when I see FA (or feminism, or any number of other movements/groups, etc) spoken about as if there is one ‘party line’ to which everyone must adhere. Pretty much every FA site I’ve visited has a slightly different take, a slightly different comments policy, etc. In any group of commenters on any kind of blog, you’ll always see a range of opinions and personalities!

      • Meems says:

        Sorry – you’re right, I should have clarified that it’s a guest post. Kate does talk a bit about her perspective in the intro, and I think it really says something that it was posted on SP at all.

        And FA is definitely not monolithic! While I fully agree with FA in general and with HAES as a principle to live by, I’m not always in agreement with the SP ladies on some of the radical feminist things, boycotting clothing stores that don’t carry plus sizes, etc. We have to do what works for us as individuals.

  3. Forestroad says:

    I haven’t had WLS and nor am I a candidate, but I think this post will resonate with anyone who is finding themselves in the awkward position of trying to inhabit the FA, HAES, and, yes, weight loss spheres simultaneously. I had read the post you are talking about, and saw the response, and I know that kind of attitude is out there. I think there are some places in the fat-0-sphere, however, that do recognize that everyone is on a different stage in their journey of self-acceptance, and bloggers do occasionally remind their readers that they “did not spring fully formed from the head of Marilyn Wann” (that’s from a recent entry on Shapely Prose.) For some people, there is no room for dieting or WLS in FA or HAES, but I think there is a common area where the only distinction between someone practicing HAES and someone making a “lifestyle change” is that the latter hasn’t yet given up on the number on the scale, whether they are trying to or not. And I think there are blogs that focus on that common ground and allow for different stages in that journey to self-acceptance (Big Fat Deal and The-F-Word come to mind as very open communities).

    On a related note, there is a place in the fat-o-sphere for WLS, even though I know some people disagree. Relatively recently there was a fat blogger who is prominent in FA (can’t remember her name…sorry 🙁 ) and ended up having WLS bc she and her doctor decided that’s what was best for her. Some members of the community disowned her for it. Others were more understanding. There are some people who do not write of WLS entirely, but moreso the way it is presented as a panacea for this horrible affliction known as obesity, and that’s what they take issue with. They think it is overused and the risks understated in the hype to make fat people thin, and the reality of what it is and what it does is glossed over and the benefits overstated. But, overall, one of the core beliefs of FA is that adults have a right to control over their own bodies, and if they want to have WLS, they are the ones who know how to make the best decision for themselves. So hopefully that courtesy would be extended to you in most of the fat-o-sphere. It’s just that with the place of WLS in our culture right now, it’s hard to make an informed decision about your body when all the force of the diet/WL/pharma industry is behind promoting this procedure as a cure-all. I think that view still leaves room to respect people who elected to have the surgery as the best choice for them.

    • mamaV says:

      Hi Forestroad: Interesting background information — if you can dig up the story you refer to on the fat prominient blogger who was disowned, I would be really interested in following up on this. This is unreal to me — how did they “disown” her?

      I was unaware of this rift with WLF and FA until Candice brought it to my attention. I then consulted with Marsha on it to get the HAES perspective. There is no doubt there is room and there will be room here for anyone who wishes to discuss WLS — pros, cons and everything in between. The WLS segment of the population have a very important voice in our body image discussions here, and I glad to see the comments (thus far) are positive.

      Thanks for your input!

      • Forestroad says:

        Hi Heather,
        This blog addressed the controversy:
        The blogger’s name was Heidi. I didn’t go searching for any of the posts that “disowned” her (that may have been poor word choice on my part) but this response pretty much sums it up and the blogger pretty much aligns with my thoughts on this.

        • Candice says:

          Thanks for linking to that. I actually thought about the WLS/pro-choice comparison myself but couldn’t find the right words for it and didn’t want to risk offending anyone. It does seem very similar to me – you can believe something should be someone’s option without believing it’s an option for you.

          Thanks again. Great reading.

  4. I have a friend and two relatives who’ve gone through WLS. I chose to lose my weight (over 120 lbs lost so far) without surgery, but that does not diminish the struggles that they have had to go through, which have still been very similar to my own, in losing their weight.

    Overweight or not, the goal should be attaining good health, not some magic number on the scale, and learning to love ourselves as we are.

  5. AlaskaJoey says:

    Overly militant people on any subject give me hives. I just don’t understand people who think shouting and putdowns (like telling people they are butchering themselves) are the way to get their point across. I tune you out. If instead you say, “I disagree, and BTW have you read this great article about…” I’m much more likely to try and understand you.

    I’d like to know who the president of the Fatosphere is, and who decided what can and can’t be discussed there. My feeling is, if you disagree with a certain type of article or will feel triggered by something, it falls on YOU to not read it, not on the author to not write it.

  6. Catgal says:

    This is a volitile subject. I have had WLS (Lap-Band), and am almost as fat as when I started out. I lost a good amount of weight, and then it just started creeping back on, slowly.

    I am not eating in the way that I should be and I know it. WLS does not fix your head. And I am quite convinced that the majority of people who have had WLS will end up gaining some, all, most, or more in a 10 to 20 year time period.

    I never “finished”, just like I never finished any diet, and if I did, it all just came back when I wasn’t dieting anymore.

    People don’t understand why I can’t just loose weight, like it’s just that easy, don’t eat so much. I usually reply by saying “I had myself surgically altered and I am still fat”. I have to learn to love myself where I am right now, today, this second, no matter what stage of my WLS story I am in. I don’t know what will happen next or in the future, so FA & HAES help me love me as I am now.

    So there, I just “outted” myself!

  7. Tempe Wick says:

    “Overly militant people on any subject give me hives. I just don’t understand people who think shouting and putdowns (like telling people they are butchering themselves) are the way to get their point across. I tune you out.”

    This, times ten. I really don’t get the sort of “you’re with us or against us” attitude I see in the fatosphere (jeez, I hate that word) about WLS. My perspective is that it’s the right choice for some people, the wrong one for others.

    My twin brother and his best friend both had weight loss surgeries. My brother had the Roux-n-Y, his friend had the lap band. Neither of them had a “fantasy of being thin” or went into this thinking it would be a cakewalk.

    They have both had good outcomes. I considered WLS surgery myself. I read about the different procedures– their recovery times, risks, benefits. I went to the seminar that one bariatric surgeon gave. I talked to my brother about his experience. And I decided that WLS wasn’t for me, at this point in my life.

    Right for my brother and his best friend, wrong for me. The same is true, over and over again for thousands of people. For some it’s the right choice, for others not.
    Not a moral issue.

  8. vitty10 says:

    I can understand why some members of the Fat-O-Sphere are anti-WLS. But I think that rather than simply writing it off I like to make an effort to hear the reason why so many people feel the need for it. WLS would not be right for me, but I would not call someone “butchered” for having it. It is their decision and their decision alone. Hopefully they are going into it with their eyes open, fully aware of all of the risks.

    That doesn’t mean that I don’t have concerns about the surgery. I have read a lot of horror stories about it. And in light of the idea that being fat is not a death sentence, the surgery might be done unnecessarily on some people.

    Though it’s not the same thing, a few people tried to discourage me from having breast reduction surgery, but I did it anyways because it was right for me.

    • Tempe Wick says:

      “the surgery might be done unnecessarily on some people”

      Last time I was driving from San Francisco to L.A., I saw billboards advertising the lap band. They made me very, very uncomfortable. The basic tone was “Hey, got a problem? We’ve got a solution!” “Step right up–Payment plans are available!” I think advertising surgery as though it’s like buying a new car is a terrible idea. And I would be surprised if the doctors behind the billboard were giving patients the best care.

      • Meems says:

        This reminds me of the LapBand ads on tv in which people talk about not being able to play with their kids or go to Paris with a spouse because of their weight. If there are health issues that prevent either of these things, I do wonder if WLS really would fix it, and the impression I always got was that the woman was either embarrassed to be fat as a tourist in France or didn’t think she’d fit in an airplane seat.

        • living400lbs says:

          Yes. This.

          I flew on a plane just last weekend. I actually fit in the seat (there was compression going on, but I could get the armrest down). Guess what? We bought 3 seats for 2 people and were fine.

          Funny how the people having surgery in those ads are always smaller than I am…

  9. Julie says:

    Candice – I just wanted to say thankyou for what to me was a very poignant and real post that I couldn’t step away from. I hung on your every word. Thankyou also for sharing some of Alex’s story. Like you, I share very similar thoughts with him about the FA movement.

    While I have never had WLS, I am fat. I am very new to the entire concept of FA and consider myself still very much learning, but I do consider myself a life long body image advocate and a positive, loving person at heart.

    This is where the friction comes in for me, because while I very much appreciate many of the things FA is trying to do, enlighten people on and change, I have found so many instances of writing by FA’s that I have found to not be open, sharing in nature and respectful to others. This often seems to particularly come out in comments on posts where – gee – some people just get ripped apart. It’s for this sole reason that I find it hard to fully step into the FA movement. I can’t fully ‘go there’ (maybe one day I will) because when I read such things my heart just sinks for people. I think of all those who are shouted down (and I have been too even though what I thought I was saying had something valid to contribute) and aren’t, for whatever reason, able to come back like Alex or the way I tried to as well. I think that such a shame as I think all movements need people to be embraced in them that have views and opinions across the spectrum where something positive could be learned by others.

    If this makes me a scaredy cat and not strong enough to stand up, then I guess for me that may have to be the way it is, even though I will not stop trying and reading all I can about FA. This is why when I read posts like this I sigh with relief and smile because for me it all comes back to the fundamental of, as Alex has so eloquently said “Learn to love yourself and those around you. We are all at different places in our journey.” Amen to that and where’s my bumber sticker?

    If that’s too fluffy and Pollyanna for others – I totally get that, but for me it’s where I’m at. I too am still trying to find my place in FA and I don’t know where that path is leading, but I’m not giving up just yet. I want to learn more and it’s posts like this that make me determined to hang in. I also love Kim Brittingham and other FA writers too. There is stuff that resonants with me so hang in there I will.

    Have wanted to write such a comment on here for a long time but never been able to find the words. They have finally arrived this morning and I thank you Candice for inspiring them in me. By they way – from my perspective – your experience does count. It very much counts.

    • Candice says:

      Thank you for this comment. I feel very similarly – I like parts of FA, but not al and I’ve come to feel that this is okay. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

      There are many people in the FA movement who scare me, too. I’m non-confrontational by nature so count me in with the scaredy cats (at times anyway).

      Hang in there. These comments give me confirmation that there are more of us. Maybe we just need to speak up a little more. Thanks for speaking up here.

      • Julie says:

        We’ll be scaredy cats together who keep trying to learn more about FA! I like the concept of it not needing to be all or nothing too. Some may then say we are fencesitters but if it’s where we are at – so be it. Truthfully though – we are clearly more than that or our feelings about FA would not want us to learn or be interested in it at all.

  10. bri says:

    First of all, the blogger who posted the story at Axis of Fat is named Nick, not Alex. Nick also posted the apology and then removed the apology etc.

    Secondly, please do not lump all Fat Acceptance followers into the same basket. Personally I do not endorse WLS but that said, if people insist on going ahead with it all I want is that they are informed of ALL the potential side effects and risks, something that simply does not happen at the moment mainly because of the lack of long term studies re gastric banding and the bias of the researchers (including the fact that most of the research is funded by manufactures etc of the product ie the lap band).

    There are several bloggers on the FA feeds who have had WLS and for whom it has been unsucessful. As their blogs are on the feed and it is common knowledge about their WLD, I can’t see how they are not being made welcome. Not to mention that some time ago now Shapely Prose featured a post by someone about to have WLS and her side of the story.

    • mamaV says:

      Hi Bri; Why the snippy tone? She screwed up the name – who cares, this does not negate Candice’s posts (and this nit-pick irrelevant crap doesn’t fly here so cut it please).

      We talk alot about the different segments of FA, and I am certain no one is attempting to place all individuals within FA into one group. I do apologize that it appears that way to you, and I certainly understand why you feel this way. This is something I have dedicated myself to have us work on here. Can you give us a few pointers on how we could do a better job at this? How can we talk about our feelings and experience without making it look like we are talking about the entire movement?

      Your perspective seems reasonable, and I am sure many of the other FA activists are as compassionate as you are. But remember –Candice is not speaking to those people — she is speaking from her personal experience. Can you try to respect that please?

      • bri says:

        Mama V, there was no intention to come across as ‘snippy’, I simply think when you are quoting someone it is important to get their name right. I thought Candice might be embarrassed to later find out she had the name wrong so I was bringing it to her attention. There was and is no intent to negate her experience.

        I appreciate that your intent is not to place all individual FAers into one basket but that does seem to happen a lot around here. Perhaps one way to address that would be for the poster (or commenters) to actually name the specific FA blog or indvidual they are referring to when they are referring to particular FA views or opinions tht they take issue with?

        As I said, there is no intent to negate Candice’s experience and my comment was also in response to other comments re the Fatosphere. I simply take issue with the idea that the FA movement is a monolithic group, that we all suffer from ‘group mind’ and think the same way about everything. Nothing could be further from the truth, there extreme diversity in FA, and the Notes from the Fatosphere feed is but one small part of the FA movement.


        • Zenoodle says:

          Bri, I didn’t read you as snippy at all, I actually thought your tone re the name error was pretty neutral. I jumped on in and made a similar comment to you before reading yours, after I saw Meems mention Heidi’s very moving and though provoking post on SP. I cried reading her post, and also felt it was very telling the amount of genuine support she received from others there.

          With respect to the generalising of the FA movement, I have to say it sometimes reminds me of the way a lot of people refer to feminism/feminists as if they’re a monolithic group with a hive mind (given how much I disagree with plenty of other feminists about a variety of things I can see this isn’t true!). I don’t think *everyone* does it, but sometimes what is meant as a sort of shorthand ends up lazily standing as a reference to a whole movement, perhaps when that isn’t even the intention… This makes it so much easier for oversimplification and prejudice to slip in. I get just as grumpy when I hear/read people referring to ‘anorexics’ as a group of identikit people, or ‘young people’, ‘those liberals’, or whatever. Broad brushstrokes are sometimes helpful, but the little tiny accurate brushes are fundamental too.

      • Cait says:

        Thanks mamaV for this comment. I read Bri’s tone as snippy as well, so I’m glad you asked her about it and gave her a chance to explain.

        I found her further comment helped my impressions a lot… I think her style of writing is perhaps just different than we are used to, but I’m glad that she’s sharing her viewpoints, I think she has some interesting things to say!

    • Candice says:

      I apologize for the error; I was pretty sure I had it right. (Oops.) My apologies to Nick.

      I was actually trying not to lump all FA folks together, so I hope it doesn’t come across that way. I read FA posts daily and often find helpful and thought-provoking ideas. My main problem is that I don’t see WLS represented positively. I don’t have a problem with people who don’t agree with the procedure and I certainly have spoken to people who had unsuccessful or negative WLS experiences. It’s just been my experience that it’s very hard to be a post-WLS person in the FA arena without being against it. There is diversity in the FA world, but I haven’t found my corner of it yet.

      Thank you for your response and input.

      • bri says:

        It s hard being part of the FA movement without being against WLS mainly because FA is primarily about accepting the size you are and then to a lesser extent, taking a HAES approach (remembering that not all FAers endorse HAES). Weight loss is to be incidental, not to be focused on as the primary intent and WLS is directly in contradiction to that. It would be pretty hypocritical of FA to come out and say ‘oh WLS is fine and dandy’ because the purpose of WLS goes against everything FA stands for. There are so many issues with WLS that I can’t even begin to go into them here but I don’t disrespect anyone who has undergone WLS. I feel a great deal of empathy for those people. To be willing to undergo surgery (which there is always a risk of complications with, no matter what type of surgery) as well as the possible side effects after such surgery, well you have to be pretty desperate. And I think it is sad that society puts fat people in that place where they do feel so desperate. I don’t think WLS would be nearly as attractive as it is to many people if society were more accepting of size diversity and embraced a HAES approach rather than a fat hatred approach. For me, WLS also is another example of the medicalisation of something that isnt necessarily a medical issue. Some people are always going to be fat and that isn’t a problem that needs to be fixed. Whereas at the moment, WLS is being pushed on every fat person, even those in the ‘overweight’ category of the BMI, not just the obese or morbidly obese.

        Anyway, Candice, thanks for your response and I hope you might give my blog ( a read sometime and that you might find it diverse enough to be ‘your corner’ in the FA world.


        • Zenoodle says:

          I’m off to check out your blog Candice! 🙂 Do you think that the reason it comes over sometimes that the FA community(ies) is hostile to WLS is more to do with being hostile to the way it’s pushed forward/promoted/cited as the answer to everything (or the fearful stick to beat people into dieting with maybe)? I can only start to imagine how painful it must be to have got the courage up (and maybe the money too, depending where you live / how heathcare works there) to have WLS, have initial weight loss and for it then to creep back on again. What you say about it not being a necessarily medical issue is so interesting (especially to me — I’m a medical historian!)… there are so many factors at work in any individual person’s decision to have WLS and I think it’s just so important to pay attention to the cultural and social stuff which informs a lot of the ‘medicalised’ rhetoric about it.

        • Cait says:

          Interesting comment (too much to think about at work, I think!)

          And I think it is sad that society puts fat people in that place where they do feel so desperate. I don’t think WLS would be nearly as attractive as it is to many people if society were more accepting of size diversity

          This is really well-worded, and I think I agree with it a lot. I do think it’s important to remember that while it wouldn’t be as attractive to “as many” people, it would still be the best choice for “some people”. Even still, if we can do something to alleviate the sense of desperation people have, that will help everybody considering it make a clearer decision about the choice they are facing.

          because the purpose of WLS goes against everything FA stands for.

          I have to say, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this statement… what an individual does on their personal journey, like the reasons “why” someone is fat, are irrelevant to the question of whether “fat” is a negative term, and whether we are accepting of others and working for equality for all sizes.

          I think partially we disagree on what the “purpose” of WLS is. If the goal is to just “be skinnier”, than that’s perhaps an ill-thought-out WLS. But usually there’s some bigger end goal behind someone’s motivations: external health issues, or physical disabilities they are are struggling with as a result of the weight they’re carrying. That’s not about being thinner because they don’t accept their fat, it’s about using an indirect route to treat a separate problem.

  11. I was just about to post the same link as Meems. I think it’s dangerous to say that the fatosphere has a single view on WLS

    I’ve just read the Axis of Fat post and as far as I can see there was only one negative post from Miriam Heddy before the post was taken down and put back up (it’s a bit difficult to tell because of the threading, so I might have missed something, but most of the negative commentary seems to have shown up once the post was put back up). So it seems a bit harsh to “assume that the world of Fat-O-Sphere readers bombarded him with comments questioning why he would publish something like this as a member of the Sphere”, when only one negative comment actually appeared.

    I am quite troubled by the anti-FA attitude I’m sensing at WATRD lately. Even above, mamaV asks who the FA blogger is who was disowned (I don’t know who this is either, mamaV – I’ve not heard of this, if it actually happened) and it almost sounds like you are looking for ammunition against FA. I don’t know if I’m reading too much into this, but I think it would be very sad if WATRD became unwelcoming to FA people. Dealing with these body image issues should unite us, not divide us.

    • Candice says:

      My assumption is that the negative comments were either deleted or privately emailed. I don’t think someone would remove a post due to one negative comment, but perhaps that was a hasty assumption on my part.

      I’m definitely not anti-FA. I love the work they do, but still feel excluded and that was what I wanted to express. I actually consider myself to be an FA person, just not in the mold of many of the ones I read. I wonder if the true issue is the FA perception that exists. (More for me to think about.)

      Thanks for your feedback.

      • Zenoodle says:

        It’s also worth bearing in mind how much trolling any blog gets, and especially a lot of FA blogs. There could be a great deal of hatred fired at a post from non-FA-ers too, so on a post about something like WLS which I can see might’ve inspired some critical posts from FA-ers (as well as many supportive ones) would be likely to catch the eye of fat-hating trolls who would’ve taken great delight in worsening the negatvity… It’s just a theory, but given the sorts of comments you see on unmoderated or infrequently moderated sites (I’m thinking about the amount of time it takes for hateful things to get removed from sites like the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ section in particular but there’re loads of them) I wouldn’t be surprised if that made it worse for the author.

      • thegirlfrommarz says:

        Hi Candice,

        I’m really glad you’re not anti-FA! And I’m sorry you’ve felt excluded – I don’t think anyone would want that to happen, especially as, as you say, you are still fat and undergo the same experiences as other fat people and will want to discuss it. While many FA proponents disagree with WLS, I am sure that most of them disagree with the concept, but understand the reasons why someone would choose to have it. It’s the same as with dieting – FA people are never going to cheer you on for trying to lose weight or validate anyone’s decision to diet/have WLS, because the very concept of intentional weight loss is antithetical to accepting your body as it is. But they will certainly get why you have chosen to lose weight and, provided you don’t start evangelising about how much better life is now that you’re thinner or tell people that you were “bad” today because you ate something sugary – in fact, as long as you don’t talk about your intentional weight loss – you will still be welcome in FA spaces to talk about all the other stuff that goes along with being fat. That might sound harsh – I hope it doesn’t! – but there’s a reason why no diet-talk/no weight-loss talk is the rule for most FA sites: it’s hard for those trying to accept themselves as they are if they’re surrounded by people chiming in with this week’s weight loss tip. It’s already really difficult to change your head enough to silence the internal negative voices, so we need places where we know those won’t be set off by other people talking about losing weight. Also, as many people have pointed out in FA comment policies, nearly everywhere else on the internet people will cheer on your weight loss, so it isn’t that unreasonable to have a few places where you need to keep quiet about it. I really hope you will feel welcome at FA spaces and will bring your perspective as someone who has undergone WLS but is still fat.

        Someone wrote something very nasty in response to the WLS post by Heidi on Shapely Prose which Meems linked to above, which might be where the confusion about someone being “disowned” for having WLS has come from. The blog with the original nasty post has been taken down, but Kate Harding’s response to it can be found here:
        Kate writes:
        And I’ll tell you what, even though I agree with you [the blogger in question] in principle about WLS, the branch of fat acceptance I want to be a part of doesn’t include bullying, hateful blog posts that wish harm on real, fat human beings with real feelings, who happen to make decisions I don’t agree with.

        So I’m a lot more interested in being part of a branch with people like Heidi and Deniselle in it than the one you speak for here, not because I remotely approve of WLS or dieting, but because to me, reason and compassion are the principles on which fat acceptance stands.

        • Cait says:

          it’s hard for those trying to accept themselves as they are if they’re surrounded by people chiming in with this week’s weight loss tip. It’s already really difficult to change your head enough to silence the internal negative voices, so we need places where we know those won’t be set off by other people talking about losing weight.

          Do you think that’s sometimes taking a narrow view of what people losing weight are going through/have to talk about though?

          I find that the whole “just don’t talk about it” thing can be a bit off-putting. Because I agree with you that “weightloss tip of the week” can be disruptive to a person’s self acceptance, and can be mighty irritating even to those who are confident in their body– and usually isn’t even all that helpful to those who are trying to lose! But I think there also are a number of issues that a intentional-weight-losing person can talk about that would be interesting to an FA community (perceptions by other people/oneself when one is visibly changing shape, for example, would be a fascinating topic to cover in a mixed-sized group… perhaps we should do it here on WATRD?) and the fact that there seems to be a “we don’t want to hear about your experiences” standard is… dismissive to an individual’s personal experience, limiting to group discussion, and also, I think, insulting to people undergoing weight loss, as if the minute they go on a diet or have surgery, they are unable to talk about it except by going “omg guys, I’m down X number of pounds! love me!”

          • Lisa says:

            There are a lot of interesting perspectives from a WLD/WLS point of view that can be and are talked about by FA bloggers and commenters — the thing is that the boundaries are a little different on each FA blog you read, and a good rule of thumb, until you are familiar with the blog in question and/or its comments policy, is to just not talk about intentional weight loss unless that’s the specific topic at hand. The whole idea is not to exclude people or discount their experiences, but to preserve a safe space — and to allow conversations to get past explaining “this is why we in FA don’t support weight loss for weight loss’ sake” again and again.

          • thegirlfrommarz says:

            Cait – “Do you think that’s sometimes taking a narrow view of what people losing weight are going through/have to talk about though?

            Honestly? No. The point of true FA spaces is that they are free of weight-loss talk and it’s not as though those intentionally losing weight would bring a perspective that is new to FA adherents. Most people on FA blogs have been through major weight-loss (I have lost about 4 stone/56 pounds twice – and put it all back on again twice!) and we know what it’s like. We know what the issues are. Again, people intentionally losing weight are welcome, but it’s the not the place to expect rah-rah cheering for your weight-loss – just bring your perspective without talking about how stoked you are about your weight loss and you will be very welcome!

            But I think there also are a number of issues that a intentional-weight-losing person can talk about that would be interesting to an FA community (perceptions by other people/oneself when one is visibly changing shape, for example, would be a fascinating topic to cover in a mixed-sized group… perhaps we should do it here on WATRD?)
            I think it depends on the FA community, to be honest. Somewhere like Big Fat Deal ( allows some weight-loss talk. Other blogs definitely don’t. I think the idea of discussing others’ reactions to your changing shape is definitely an interesting one (particularly if it includes perspectives from those going up as well as down), but it’s absolutely not an FA discussion. It would be much better situated somewhere like WATRD, as you suggested, which is interested in discussing body image but not firmly in favour of FA.

            and the fact that there seems to be a “we don’t want to hear about your experiences” standard is… dismissive to an individual’s personal experience, limiting to group discussion, and also, I think, insulting to people undergoing weight loss, as if the minute they go on a diet or have surgery, they are unable to talk about it except by going “omg guys, I’m down X number of pounds! love me!”
            Well, that’s why I’m only saying that FA spaces are not the appropriate ones to talk about weight-loss. I’m not saying that I don’t want to hear about someone’s experience of weight-loss in a different forum where that is explicitly welcomed, as it is here, or that the group discussion shouldn’t go on somewhere else. But it’s a major part of FA to give up intentional weight loss; intentional weight loss is celebrated almost everywhere outside FA spaces; and, with such a small number of places free of discussions about intentional weight-loss, I think it’s unfair to expect FA spaces to open themselves up to it just so some people don’t feel hurt or dismissed. It’s the equivalent of the What About Teh Menz argument that happens in feminist spaces, where men feel left out or dismissed because they can’t talk about their issues – but spaces other than specifically feminist spaces are by default spaces for men to talk about their issues, just as spaces other than FA spaces are by default weight-loss friendly spaces.

            Also, if you spend any time in FA spaces, you’ll see that people who come in with a thoughtful perspective on their intentional weight loss/surgery are not necessarily shown the door, as long as what they are talking about doesn’t paint weight-loss as an inherently good thing (depends on the community, in my experience – YMMV). But if you officially allow weight-loss talk in an FA space because of the more thoughtful comments, you also open the door to the “omg guys, I’m down X number of pounds! Love me!” comments.

            FA is a minority opinion. As such, it needs to actively protect its spaces and communities. Insisting that FA spaces open up to discussions of why weight-loss is a good thing is asking FA spaces to dilute their message and compromise their ideology so as not to hurt someone’s feelings – someone who has plenty of other places to be made to feel good about their choice to lose weight!

            Does that all make sense?? I am really seriously trying to engage with the points that you made and am not trying to be rude or harsh, so I hope it came over in the tone I intended.

      • thegirlfrommarz says:

        P.S. FashionableNerd also wrote an excellent piece about the brutal response from that particular blogger to Heidi’s post:

  12. Hil says:

    Wonderful post. Although I am a relatively thin person, I so relate to what you said about feeling uneasy trying to inhabit multiple spheres on the internet all at once. I love reading size acceptance and HAES blogs, and I also have ties to healthy eating, weight loss and sustainable agriculture communities. I often feel in all of those communities as though my background disqualifies me from participating. I really appreciate your honesty.

    • Nell says:

      Same here, Hil! I’m a normal girl in every aspect so I often feel as though I’m not “edgy” enough to join in on many things. I’m not really fit enough for fitness blogging, not really green enough for ecoblogging, not really aggressive enough for lawyerblogging (believe me, those are some cutthroats out there), not domestic enough for slice-of-life-blogging and just plain not interesting enough for meblogging. I know that’s probably not all true, but reading and seeing all these examples out there I can’t help but think that there’s no place on ze interwebs for boring people like me.

      Thank goodness there’s HAES blogging- found something I can “get into” enough at last!

      • Cait says:

        Hil and Nell:

        Obviously, there’s nothing there to look at yet, but the reason my blog is called “averagista” is because I’m looking to talk mostly about what it’s like to sit in that “little bit of everything, nothing in particular, just like everyone else, and yet still fascinating” kind of space.

        I think it can be done. I hope you check it out (I’m thinking mid-december at this point), and I hope if you’re inspired, you find your own cross-background niche to fill!

      • Hil says:

        I’m a law student and read lot of lawyer blogs, too, but didn’t even think to mention it for the reason you mentioned. 🙂

  13. Candice says:

    Thanks everyone for the interesting, supportive, and thought-provoking replies! I feel like sometimes maybe we’re all on the same page but just don’t realize it due to a few semantic differences.

  14. Tempe Wick says:

    “But I think there also are a number of issues that a intentional-weight-losing person can talk about that would be interesting to an FA community (perceptions by other people/oneself when one is visibly changing shape, for example, would be a fascinating topic to cover in a mixed-sized group.”

    I agree, but I don’t think FA spaces are the place for it. As has been noted, most FA blogs are intended to be weight loss/diet talk free spaces. The reasons are understandable.

    “Perhaps we should do it here on WATRD?”

    You took the words out of my mouth. I think this is absolutely an appropriate place for that.

  15. I’ve yet to hear anybody actually say this, so I’m going to: Fat Acceptance doesn’t belong to any one group of people.

    Speaking for myself, I’m proud to consider myself an individual human being with an individual set of opinions and beliefs. I do not identify myself exclusively with any one movement, and I certainly don’t try to push the idea that certain rules or guidelines MUST be STRICTLY adhered to before one can consider his or herself a fat acceptance advocate. That is entirely SELF-DETERMINED.

    Candice, I don’t think you should waste another precious moment trying to figure out your “place” in the FA/HAES movements. Your position is defined by your beliefs, period. You don’t have to swallow any one group of prescribed beliefs wholesale to call yourself a “fat acceptance” advocate or even activist, nor to claim yourself a believer in Health At Every Size.

    I think it’s the sign of a smart, strong woman to think for herself, and not to go along with any one pre-determined group of beliefs. You’re a person, not a sheep.

    And in any so-called “movement” there will inevitably be bullies; people with insecurities that drive them to identify huge parts of themselves with their causes, and simultaneously badger those who HAVEN’T signed up to go all swirly-eyed and chant “Yes, Master” over a specific set of commandments. Independent thinkers scare these people. The very outside-the-box nature of the independent thinker appears to weaken/threaten the surrogate family the bullying activist has built around themselves. They feel powerless without their numbers. The mere suggestion that anyone could feel self-sufficiently powerful in their own beliefs is unnerving to them.

    What’s often sad about these types of activists is that they claim to be passionate about creating real, radical change, but they refuse to adjust their style of communication to most efficiently achieve that change.

    Many of the widespread changes fat acceptance activists would like to see could be most quickly achieved with the aid of people in government and at certain levels in the corporate realm. However, these key people are LESS likely to listen to a shouter-downer, MORE likely to dismiss them as generic “nutcase radicals”. That’s just the way it is.

    I mean, sure, it’s a free country, so you’re free to shout down anyone you want. But if a person wants to maximize their chances of being HEARD by the people who stand to give the most help soonest, I think a tolerant position and diplomatic style are crucial. Cultivating a very public, very intolerant response towards fellow fat acceptance advocates with opinions that don’t precisely mirror one’s own might come back to bite a would-be change-maker in the ass. It’s these activists who need to honestly ask themselves what’s truly the higher priority — their cause, or their ego?

    • Candice says:

      Wow, really really great insight Kim. Thank you so much for that. I get the whole “be a person, not a sheep” thing but I still long to belong to groups (probably a holdover of teenage insecurity)… but you’re right. And I hadn’t thought of anyone as bullies – I just figured they were stronger in their convictions than I was, but we don’t have to assume they’re right. Just b/c they’re louder doesn’t mean their ideas are better.

      Really thought provoking and enlightening. Thanks so much.

    • bri says:

      Kim, I agree with you that FA is not one group of people. FA is a diverse movement made up of people with views ranging from moderate to downright radical. It would be pretty boring if it wasn’t that way!

      People often use the fact that a movement (such as FA) has ‘in-fighting’ against said movement but I think internal disagreement within a movement is simply a reflection of the diversity of the group and if disagreements didn’t happen I would tend to think the group wasn’t particularly representative.

      Not everyone is going to agree and even the people who do agree with each other on some things aren’t going to agree with each other on everything. Take Kim and I for example, we didn’t see eye to eye regarding Kim’s analogy about the Jewish concentration camp experience but I am more than happy to agree with her on this topic. I think it is a sign of mature individuals that we can agree on something, disagree on others and still be able to have a reasonable and rational discussion about the topics at hand. It is when channels of communication get shut down because either side (or both) are not willing to listen to or hear the otherside’s position (not necessarily agree with it but just hear it) that problems begin. And yes, that can be a problem within FA, just as it can be in any movement or community, couple or group.

      I think that if you want to identify with a movement (any movement) that you are obviously going to have to have certain points of view in common with the general tenets of that movement ie, it would be silly to align with pro-choice and then campaign against accessible abortion. But aside from the general concepts, movements need to have a variety of opinions, experience, actions etc. One way of doing things or one way of thinking about things is never going to appeal to everyone. If a movement is to be successful it has to have a broad appeal and it is the diversity of that movement’s members that will give it that broad appeal.

  16. Atchka! says:

    I’m a new guy to the Fatosphere and I’ve had a few posts tagged as inappropriate. Most recently, I wrote about interviewing Dr. Arya Sharma, a leading bariatric specialist in Canada who has some pretty blasphemous views on obesity (from the standpoint of the medical community, not us). But he has written about losing weight (although his philosophy is that losing weight and keeping it off is not possible) and some people were concerned about him talking weight loss on my blog.

    Bri from Fat Lot of Good contacted me and asked me to clarify, so I did. But I still wonder sometimes why there’s such a knee-jerk reaction to opposing viewpoints.

    I understand that the Fatosphere is supposed to be a safe place, but shouldn’t it be a safe AND honest place? Shouldn’t we talk about health issues, debate the merits of various viewpoints, and try to discern truth from rationalization?

    I’m new to learning about HAES, but it aligns with everything I’ve always believed about the human body. And now, Dr. Sharma has thrown his support behind it as well. I feel like he could be a valuable ally, even though his views on causation vs. correlation in regards to disease and weight gain does not align fully with FA. Can’t critical analysis exist in a “safe” place?


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