Fat Acceptance and New Year's Resolutions: Hate The Diet, Not The Dieter

I'm on a fat people mailing list and, every new year, there is the same discussion. It's the gleeful discussion of how people's new year's diets are doomed to fail.

Jan 13, 2012 at 2:00pm | Leave a comment

I don't know if y'all have noticed (I'm pretty sure you've all noticed), but it's that time of year again -- the new year, when people resolve to be "better" people, for whatever value of better strikes them at the moment.

For a lot of people, this includes resolutions focused on "getting healthy" and losing weight. Often, those resolutions are actually the same because people conflate weight loss with health.

But that's another soap box.

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I'm not a resolution maker. Not because I don't value self-improvement -- I just regard it as a constant process. And I'm more likely to start new projects in the fall, right around my birthday in September. For some reason, that's always felt like the true beginning of the year. I blame the American school system. (This year, I do actually have a resolution: to wear more high heels.)

But my own lack of resolutions -- and my own fat acceptance stance on bodies -- doesn't stop the people around me from throwing their resolutions to the winds. And while I worry about friends who are still riding the diet rollercoaster or who have what seems to me to be to be unrealistic weight loss goals... that's about as far as that goes. Because I'm not in charge of their bodies and/or choices.

I'm on a fat people mailing list and, every new year, there is the same discussion that actively grosses me out and distances me from people who are supposed to be my allies. It's the gleeful discussion of how people's new year's diets are doomed to fail.

Please, y'all, if you have any respect for bodies in general, do not do this.

I believe in body autonomy -- the idea that we all have our own body and what we do with it is really our own business. You don't make decisions about my body, and I don't make decisions about your body.

We aren't going to get very far if we can't agree to that kind of basic respect for each other. Bodies aren't public property.

It's a profoundly respectful position to take -- and sometimes a difficult one. It isn't like we're practicing body autonomy in a vacuum, after all. Our culture doesn't do us the service of not having an opinion about bodies.

That's why I spend so much time talking about fat acceptance -- it's important to let people know there is some kind of alternative, there are other options.

But it's equally important to not fall into the trap of thinking I know what is best for other people -- turning the oppression around. That's not paradigm busting at all.

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I am involved in anti-oppression work because I believe it makes the world a better place when people are actually equal or working toward that. I am involved in fat acceptance as a whole because I will be damned if I'm going to hate myself for not rating high enough on an arbitrary fuckability scale. I am involved in what is essentially confessional blogging because I believe the personal and the political are inextricably intertwined when it comes to identity politics.

And I think eagerly wishing for an individual to fail is vastly different from finding the diet industry as a whole problematic.

And I do.. I think diet culture is damaging and actively dangerous and sometimes really terrifying.

Amazingly -- or actually not so amazingly because this is part of what humans do -- I can believe that and still not eagerly anticipate the failure of my friends who have begun diets. This is because the validity of my position does not depend on their failure.

And, because I have basic human respect for other people, actively wishing for things to happen that will cause them pain makes me feel like a sorry ass person. I just can't wrap my brain around that, even when I don't know a person.

I do have limits, of course. I think diet talk is just about the most boring thing in the entire world and I have enough problems without getting caught back up in that mindset, thanks. But rather than bitching about it, I avoid the conversation all together and if it means avoiding some people at this time of year, well, that's the price I pay for taking care of my own mental health.

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So, really, here is my challenge to people who believe in body autonomy: Apply it to everyone. Let that be your resolution if you make them. All bodies are worthy of respect -- and while I may not agree with people's choices, I don't have to sink to a low low road of wanting them to come to harm.

Me and my body are going to hang out and live in a  diet-free bubble that I've worked really hard to create and protect. That is my choice. I hope you and your body are having a fantastic new year, whatever choice you make.