Anti-Fat Bias in Academia

The monetization of self-hate in science.

I teach in the human development department, in the school of human ecology, in a natural sciences college at a major university. Yes, that is a mouthful. University>College>School>Department. This will be important to my story so listen up.

During my first year of teaching at this institution, I encountered a couple of instances of discrimination or prevalent fatphobia. As the years have progressed (5 of them so far), and I became more engaged with faculty committees and such, I have encountered many more.

Before I start cataloging the shit I’ve seen (and experienced directly) I want to establish some evidence-based facts. Fat bodies are not inherently unhealthy. Fat people often live longer than thin people. While some diseases are correlated with (not caused by) higher weight, weight loss does not cure them. Intentional Weight Loss (IWL), otherwise known as dieting, does not last, and almost always results in regaining the weight lost, and often more. However, anti-fat bias in healthcare can affect your health through underdiagnosis or misdiagnosis of symptoms. Exercise and a varied diet are both very good for your health but do not necessarily make you thinner. Healthism, or the idea that healthy people are superior to unhealthy people, is based in bigotry and prejudice. The roots of fatphobia are in white supremacy and racism, both in culture and in western science.

In essence, one’s appearance and weight do not determine their health, happiness, or lifespan. This is all well documented and researched, but is only starting to make its way into the public consciousness.

So back to my job. In my first semester, I taught a class on the socioeconomics of families and children. It was my first sociology-based class and it was pretty fun. I inherited a good syllabus from the previous teacher, and it included a formal research paper. Working late into the night to finish grading at the end of the semester, I read a paper about childhood obesity written by a Nutrition major. She claimed that the Body Positive movement was bad—because diabetes. I was pretty upset by this, as a fat woman and the teacher of the class. It felt pointed. I learned not to grade papers late at night when my defenses were low. I also learned (from other students) that the Nutrition department had a lot of students with untreated eating disorders and pathologizing fatness was very common. Nutrition is part of the School of Human Ecology (remember my flow chart?) so this comes up again later. The other departments are Textiles & Apparel and Public Health.

Next up, senior theses. I gained popularity as a teacher pretty quickly and my classes filled up. I was also asked to be the first or second reader (supervisor) on a variety of senior theses (these are research projects like master’s theses but for honors students in undergrad). When I went to my first day of presentations of these works, almost every single one was about the horrors of obesity and how to make fat people less fat. It was deeply uncomfortable. I learned to show up for my students’ presentations and then leave quickly.

There were a few other incidents in my first couple of years. I had a TA whose research was on how parents could make fat kids less fat, and she told me, to my actual fat face, that she had to be thin because she had to set a good example for her research. Yeah, that happened.

I need to backtrack for a second. When I was finishing my Ph.D. and freaking the hell out about how to pay it off, I looked at think tanks as possible places of employment. I found many of them doing research on the so-called obesity epidemic, but not any particularly interested in fat discrimination. That was my first clue that funding research that problematizes fatness is big money in academia. I already knew that the diet industry made tons of money off of people’s insecurity and fears, and that patriarchy was all about social control, but I hadn’t realized how monetized the research was. I was long past the point in my life where I felt like I had to perform self-hate while being fat, so this was pretty discouraging.

Anyway, back to the saga. As I’ve written about (and published!) when COVID hit online support became really, really important to my mental health. I met regularly with my Trauma-Informed Pedagogy peeps, who were very anti-fatphobia and pro-eating disorder recovery. That was awesome. I also started going to monthly happy hours with other teaching faculty, and then committee meetings as I became more engaged in university service. I don’t remember any weird moments in the early days, but over the last two years, I’ve noticed some really toxic stuff starting to spill out in these non-student groups. A shortlist of weird shit I’ve seen/heard:

  1. A discussion of the best pies before Thanksgiving in a committee meeting led to someone commenting that the person who liked baking pies was so thin and them talking about how they used to be fat.
  2. A breakout room in a faculty meeting about how to support students where a Nutrition faculty member told the rest of us how they performatively eat salad and use their Peleton during Zoom student meetings to “set a good example” but they secretly like cheese.
  3. A committee meeting where a discussion of favorite Easter candy was ended by a white male faculty member asking how many of us had diabetes (two of us were visibly fat).
  4. The same meeting – a teacher said that students got “soft and flabby” during quarantine and that was why they had sports injuries.
  5. I observed a senior colleague’s class in my department who discussed the health risks of ob***y including a diagram of a “healthy” thin body and an “unhealthy” visibly fat and conventionally unattractive body (both female) without any discussion about the flaws or variations in this research.
  6. A lack of accessibility for both disabled and larger bodies in many classrooms, roads, and building entrances throughout the campus.

On the positive side, my students and grad students seem far, far more aware of the dangers of diet culture than in the past. I see and hear many more discussions of the problems with diet culture and eating disorders than I hear fatphobia from this population, which is an encouraging, welcome change. That said, I’ve had many students confide in me about their EDs and seek treatment, especially during quarantine.

I spoke with one faculty member in Nutrition who was combating diet culture and anti-fat bias. This was because she was assigned a large class with a syllabus that demanded students count calories for a week. While she admitted to me she was in eating disorder recovery, she didn’t rethink the calorie counting assignment until some of her students told her it was harming their recovery. She removed it and started including more Health at Every Size information. I don’t know if she made much progress or not on that front, but at least she was supporting a student-driven change.

To return to the funding issue, consider this: the US government is prohibited by Congress from funding research into gun deaths and injuries as a public health issue, but there is copious funding for why it’s bad to be fat. The reason behind this apparent contradiction is the same: money. The NRA funds a good chunk of the Republican party and has insisted on the block on funding research on gun violence, in spite of it being one of the biggest public health risks in our country (especially compared to other wealthy countries). Meanwhile, continuing to support research that upholds constructed ideas like the “ob***y epidemic” and uses made up and thoroughly discredited measures like BMI to assess individual health is a veritable cash cow.

We cannot change public perception if we continue to uphold and recreate biased assumptions in scientific research design. Anti-fat bias in research intersects and complicates false assumptions about women’s bodies, black bodies, queer bodies, and disabled bodies, all of which are well-researched and deeply harmful. I have a non-exhaustive but significant list of articles and studies on gender and race bias in medicine and research that I share with my students, many of whom will have careers in related areas. It is my hope that my students continue to unpack these biases and critically consume research that upholds inequity in medicine as they progress in their careers.

My students give me hope for the future; unfortunately, many of my colleagues do the opposite. We must stop upholding the hierarchy of bodies if we want academia to be a less toxic place to exist if you are not a thin, hetero, cis-gendered, white man. And finally, we must consider the ethics of research funding. If your funding requires or allows you to build on false assumptions about a marginalized group of people, it’s not ethical.

A Tweet-Delineated Rant in Many Parts

So much crazy, so little time.

I don’t have the mental capacity to write individual articles about all of the crazy going on in the world, particularly in Texas right now, so I’m going to rant in response to tweets. Enjoy.

WTF

White professors: DO NOT DO THIS. This is called tokenism and it assumes that a person who shares superficial traits with a group (such as race or gender identity) must be expected to represent that group, explain all their actions, defend them, and generally expend untold amounts of energy for no reason or compensation. Your job as a professor is to first, I don’t know, GOOGLE IT? Wikipedia? TikTok is choc-full of creators talking about the Black experience (trans, nonbinary, disabled, indigenous, and the intersections of all these identities) for free. Read a book. That’s a thing we are supposed to be able to do. And don’t assume that you know someone’s race, culture, religion, history, or experiences based on how they look. Or their health (re: fatphobia), socioeconomic status, or nationality. Just. Freaking. Stop. Also read the comments for a whole slew of just bad, bad learning experiences experienced by minorities.

Disabled people are not less deserving of not dying from Covid.

Freaking THIS. Yes, Mary, I know that you’re tired of being scared and wearing masks and dealing with the Rona. But having the freedom to pretend it’s all over and risking the lives of immunocompromised and disabled people is a crock. It was true two years ago and it’s still freaking true. It turns out people get sick and die even when the numbers are lower than at the peak of a variant surge. We did, and my husband came within about 15 minutes of a very possibly fatal heart attack. Fucking wear your mask and maybe don’t kill a kid in chemo. You know, like a human.

Get a Hobby

Give @fatnutritionist a follow. Bullying fat people is like a national pastime, and yes, Helen, it’s intersectional. I’m all for body positivity/acceptance/neutrality, but pretending that just bucking up and being less sensitive to people telling you to kill yourselves or amputate your stomach will make everything better is nonsensical. We have to live in this world, and, as previously noted, looking at someone does not mean you know anything about them, including their health or lifestyle, and it’s none of your goddamn business. Find something better to do with your time.

Maybe rethink police budgets? Maybe?

I’m just going to leave this right here. Read the thread.

High-stakes testing has ruined US education. Don’t believe me? Look at our rankings.

Read the thread. This is why I haven’t considered working in k-12 education, despite the fact that it pays more than teaching full time at a top university (I shit you not). Even if my state hadn’t muzzled teachers who want to talk about, oh, I don’t know, OBJECTIVE REALITY, I would still have to teach to a test written by people less knowledgeable than me so somebody somewhere can cash in on taxpayer dollars. Not a vibe.

Hahahahah. Hah. Ha.

I love the anti-intellectual set who thinks academics are rolling in dough. A few are; most of us, not so much. Tenured profs at private colleges make about what I make as a non-tenured prof and it is very, very little. Adjunct professors make a fraction of that. So think about it this way: A tenured prof (if they make it through all the bullshit and debt that it takes to get a PhD and get tenured) might make 100k+ at a top research institution, but not many other places. Full-time lecturers will make maybe half that, and adjuncts, about half that again (But with no benefits! Whee!). Academia, bless her rotted soul, gaslights all of us into thinking that unending intellectual and emotional labor doesn’t need to be compensated fairly, and then encourages us to exploit our students. It’s a shell game, which really sucks for those of us who love learning and teaching.

Trauma makes it hard to think.

PTSD can be short-term from a bad year or a really catastrophic experience, or it can be long-term because you were subjected to abuse and/or extreme danger for years or decades (cPTSD). We’ve been in a hell spiral from Covid for 2+ years now and everyone has some trauma (and possibly triggered -retraumatization), and many people have a whole lot of trauma and it’s not ending. Please find a soul and some compassion, and if you have these symptoms, talk to a counselor if you can.

In “Why is Texas?” news…

Criminalizing the parents of trans kids and denying them treatments that prevent suicide to boost your cred during an election year is not classy. 1 in 5 trans and nonbinary kids attempt suicide. Trans inclusive healthcare is suicide prevention. I hope Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton get their asses handed to them by the DoJ and lose their elections. In other news, why isn’t Ken Paxton in jail like three years ago?

Academia is exploitation masquerading as public service.

I see you, grad students. You don’t deserve to be abused and exploited for five years. Most of your profs and advisors stuffed down their own grad school trauma and now take it out on you. Professors: get therapy. I promise you will be happier and less destructive.

What’s for dinner? Word salad!

Um. This GenX leftist totally remembers the cold war and because my dad was a science nerd I knew exactly what would happen after I stopped, dropped, and rolled. A slow painful death from various cancers. Asshole. Also, how drunk was he when he tweeted this? The comments are gold though.

The patriarchal bargain is not cute.

Did I mention you should follow @fatnutritionist? Because you totally should. Patriarchy doesn’t just create hierarchies of race or gender, it creates hierarchies of bodies. Credit to Sonya Rene Taylor for an amazing exploration of this in her book, The body is not an apology. So every time you performatively diet, especially in front of your kids, you’re telling them that they must align themselves with thinness (by either being thin at any cost or by attempting to be thin at any cost) in order to maintain superiority over fat people. Maybe try to not to?

Race is constructed to maintain a hierarchy of bodies. See above.

Fantastic thread on the western construction of “orientalism” and how it affects AAPI actors and Asian and Asian mixed people in general. Get amongst it.

That’s all for now, folks.

Out of bounds: The myth of the skinny anorexic

I am a fat anorexic.

I was put on my first diet by my parent when I was 11 years old. I hit puberty early and started my period that same year. I was not fat, but as any parent knows, the medical system starts tracking kids’ height-weight ratios super early, and even in the early 80s, that meant being constantly scrutinized for a body that might someday be out of bounds. (I think my kid’s pediatrician started tracking their BMI at about 5. Just think about that for a sec.)

Our bodies need EVERYTHING when we are growing. The last thing we should do is put developing kids and adolescents on diets, but this seems to be the time when adults are most likely to start monitoring and depriving kids of nutrition.

As a sociology/psychology scholar, I know a lot of backstory to this that as an 11-year old, I did not have access to. Womens’ hard-won rights to autonomy over their reproductive systems did not include the right to present however we wanted to — we were still supposed to be slim, tall, white, and full of hard angles (but have really big boobs and hair). The early 80s was the domain of Phyllis Schlafly and a regressive backlash against feminism that taught me and my peers that everything was fine and that we didn’t need to be loud like our moms, those obnoxious women’s libbers. The pop culture of the era celebrated women’s newfound agency over their sexuality by constantly separating women into sluts — those who invite rape, and virgins — those who deserved to be loved and protected. Anyone who didn’t meet the physical requirements of beauty was a punchline or a token (or often both). Nobody I knew questioned diet culture or even identified it as a thing.

I don’t remember having food issues until about age 7 when my parents started criticizing how and what I ate. This was after my male pediatrician warned my mother that I might, someday, be fat. We now know most of the research on what constitutes fatness is deeply flawed, and I was never a fat kid, but it didn’t matter. I internalized the idea that I was by the time I was 10 and experienced increasing body dysmorphia as I grew towards adulthood.

Even before that, as early as I can remember, my mom would go on diets and cruelly critique her own body. She had a lifelong membership with Weight Watchers and would eat weird snacks like buttermilk blended with frozen strawberries. I didn’t understand why the person I loved most was so mean to herself, but in my young mind, I must have absorbed that there was something virtuous about it. My mom would talk about how she went on Weight Watchers after she had my brother and reached her goal weight of 98 pounds. When I was later diagnosed with an eating disorder (anorexia), it may have been this claim that kept her from accepting that I had a dangerous problem. If I was 117 pounds compared to her 98, I couldn’t possibly be anorexic. The toxic diet culture of that era told us all that we were fundamentally flawed, and self-starvation was the only way to compensate for it.

Eventually (meaning by age 11), the monitoring became intense, specific critiques of my body and body parts that seemed to go on for hours. If I protested that I liked my body and didn’t want to change it, I was told I was deluded. I was an embarrassment. I wouldn’t find love. Nobody would hire me. I was also accused of gaining weight to “protect myself” from others. This is not so fun when you are 11, or 13, or 15…My body was small, but I had curves that did not fit the ideal of the 80s. Short legs, small waist, round hips and butt… ironically the kind of body that women get injections to create now, I was made to believe was out of bounds. It took up space it wasn’t entitled to, and that — that was dangerous and immoral. This message wasn’t just from my parents, it was all around me — in media, in the women and men in my extended family, and don’t get me started on dating culture in the 80s.

I started putting myself on restrictive diets in high school, culminating in a Slim-Fast regimen that was about 800 calories a day and consisted of two meal replacement shakes and a low-calorie frozen meal. I also went on Weight Watchers with my mother at least twice (once after the anorexia diagnosis).

I graduated from high school early and spent a year at a community college getting some credits. When I was barely 17, I moved to San Francisco to go to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I lived in an apartment with two roommates who also attended school there (there were no dorms). I was alone and scared and determined to be as skinny as possible. I got a lot of attention from men at my school that reinforced my need to be as physically perfect as possible. I directed a lot of my fear and anxiety about living in a new city and starting college into fear of gaining weight. By this point I was suffering from extreme body dysmorphia; I saw my increasingly tiny body as huge and ungainly. By the middle of my first semester, I was eating an apple for lunch and feeling panicky if I ate anything else except meal replacement shakes. I started having dizzy spells and seeing bright spots in the periphery of my vision when I stood up.

I took myself to a walk-in clinic. They asked me what drugs I was doing and why they were cocaine several hundred times. Since I wasn’t doing drugs, they eventually turned me over to a nutritionist who asked me how much I ate per day. When I told her my limit was 800 calories, she explained that I didn’t have any body fat and I needed more food than that to live. She also told me I could still “tone up” if I wanted to. (Ugh.) I didn’t believe her, because my maximum weight for my short body, as prescribed by Weight Watchers, was 113 lbs. I was 117. Therefore, I was still unacceptably fat.

I never saw her again. She tried to call me and even sent me a letter stating her concern, but I blew her off. I did start eating more normally and started gaining weight. What I didn’t know, for a long, long time, was that the weight cycling I had done in my early through late adolescence had convinced my body that I was in real danger of starvation (because I was), so losing weight became much harder, and gaining it became easier. (This is widely known scientifically now, but health care providers still prescribe weight loss instead of diagnosis and treatment of patient symptoms, which has resulted in the untimely deaths of people who weren’t diagnosed with things like cancer until it was too late.)

The culture in which I grew up taught me several totally false things about food and eating:

  1. Hunger is weakness
  2. Vanquishing hunger is strength
  3. Weight gain is weakness
  4. Weight loss is strength
  5. Eating until you are full is gluttonous
  6. Staying slightly hungry all the time is healthy
  7. My body is too weak to know what it needs and doesn’t need
  8. My mind is too weak to control my errant body
  9. Only skinny people are anorexic.

I continued to struggle with body dysmorphia through my 20s. I gained weight steadily, punctuated by bouts of weight loss from restriction. I never thought that I might still be anorexic because I didn’t look like an anorexic anymore. I realized that I had been dangerously thin at 17, but none of that applied to me now because I wasn’t thin. But my body knew the truth; it knew that I was always a step away from self-imposed starvation. My body wanted me to live more than I wanted to starve it to death.

In my late 20s, I decided that diets could get fucked and I was going to stop yearning for a body I didn’t have. I found a gym and a trainer and started to learn what healthy, gradual exercise felt like. I think it was the first time I really started to inhabit my body. I bought cute plus-sized clothes and dumped my fatphobic boyfriend (and my fatphobic career).

My 30s were the years of the good fatty, a trope that body liberation people are intimately familiar with. I was okay because I was a good fat person — I exercised, I dressed cute, I presented as feminine, and I was healthy (whatever that means). I was what we now call a “small fat” — a person who can shop at mainstream plus-sized stores and some stores with extended sizing. I didn’t have many role models, and I certainly wasn’t ready to confront my own fatphobia, but I wasn’t actively starving myself either. My weight stabilized, mainly because I was hyper-fixated on it being stable. I used exercise mainly to control weight gain, but I still restricted periodically; it was just “lifestyle change” instead of diets. (Yeah, right.) Still, I was happier and far more confident than I had been in my pre-teens, teens, and 20s. I had a career, I dated a lot, met my now-husband, changed careers, and towards the end of my 30s, had a baby.

I kept a blog during my pregnancy, a time when I felt particularly liberated from body dysmorphia. Ironically, when I reread the blog, just about every entry has something in it about my weight. No, not weight-obsessed at all. I didn’t gain body fat during my pregnancy, and I lost a lot after it. My body used up a chunk of its reserves for baby building, nursing, and pumping. I felt great (other than the PPD and constant exhaustion), and dare I say, virtuous. I could eat like a horse and still lose weight. BECAUSE I HAD JUST MADE AND WAS FEEDING A BABY WITH MY BODY. It wasn’t virtue, it was continuation of the species, Mary.

So when I weaned and started to gain back the weight I’d lost, it sucked. Still, I had become more aware of the body positive movement and its early leaders. However, it wasn’t until well into my 40s that I realized that I had never stopped restricting. Ever. The BOPO movement became more intersectional and more critical of the good fatty trope, which was also very white, feminine, and heteronormative. I was by that time working on my PhD and becoming more aware of critical theories. I also started following some people on social media who were at the intersection of the eating disorder recovery community and the body positive community, and the intersectional and Black feminist community.

That was a rude ass awakening. I realized I had far more in common with the ED recovery community than I had ever considered. Fat women, particularly queer or black or other combinations of intersectional oppressions were treated like shit and assumed to be secretly binging instead of engaging in obsessive restriction. Skinny=anorexic. Fat=binge eating. Fat women were denied medical tests and medical care because all their problems were blamed on fatness and its falsely-associated lack of self-care and self-control. I’ve been on the receiving end of some of this bullshit, but not too frequently because I have the privilege to choose my providers and I also avoid going to the doctor like the plague because I don’t want to be harassed or shamed.

I have never been a binge eater. The further I got away from diets, the less I overate at all. As I started to read about Health at Every Size approaches and Intuitive Eating, I realized that I had been sold a whole ass bill of goods about the value and strength of my own body. And that the very diets that I forced myself on over and over until my 30s were responsible for my easy weight gain. Not only that, but I realized that I often revert to restricting behaviors when I am stressed or feeling out of control. I would skip meals and then wonder why I was gaining weight? The answer; my body wanted me to live more than I wanted to starve it. It still does.

I’m now 50. I’ve realized that food restriction has permeated most of my life, and I’m still prone to it if I’m not careful. Even working from home for the last two years, it’s still too easy to drink coffee instead of eating lunch, and then wonder why I feel like shit in the evening. When I signed up for a grocery delivery service, I realized that this low-level anxiety I always have had about food scarcity started to go away. I could always find something in my fridge to eat that would taste good and make my body feel good.

I have internalized so many negative, false narratives about how my body works. I’ve gained weight during the pandemic. I’m 50, perimenopausal, and it’s harder to exercise regularly. But for the first time in my life, I haven’t completely freaked the fuck out about it. I have bad days, but mostly I’m okay. I’m not a small fat anymore. I can still find clothes that fit me and look cute. I’m white, present as feminine, and therefore have a lot of unearned privilege, so I have an unfair advantage over the people struggling with an abusive system that marginalizes them from multiple directions. And I still hate living in a fatphobic society that believes in a set of pernicious lies about fat people.

  1. We are not lazy or weak.
  2. We are not dumb.
  3. We are not more or less healthy, as a population than anyone else (in fact research shows we live longer).
  4. We are discriminated against persistently for no reason other than bigotry and peoples’ own internalized fatphobia and projected existential fears (see my dissertation).
  5. We are loveable and attractive.

All the horrors I was told about how my life would turn out were straight-up bullshit. If I died tomorrow, I could say that I had lived a meaningful, love-filled life.

When Tess Holiday came out publically as having anorexia, more puzzle pieces clicked into place. So many of us are fat because our body-mind relationships were damaged at a really young age, and our bodies compensated by gaining weight to counteract our habitual starvation. Some of us would be fat anyway because fat bodies are part of the normal range of human bodies. But many of us damaged this vital link so young we will never know what our bodies would have been like without episodic starvation paired with deep self-loathing. However, regardless of what my body looked like, it still would have been monitored, critiqued, and judged based on things I have no control over and have nothing do to with my health, attractiveness, or value as a human.

Between our parents, grandparents, society, and the media, there was no way to learn to see fatness as part of the normal range of human bodies. The constant monitoring of bodies, particularly female-presenting bodies, is insidious and incredibly damaging. I had so many random adults “warn” me about my body before it was fat, or when I just wasn’t skinny. My high school choir director. Almost all of my voice teachers (fatphobia was one of the reasons I left opera). Some random dude at my conservatory seemed personally offended when I wasn’t anorexic-thin anymore. Another who I did an opera scene with who was supposed to lift me up and was disgusted that I, a human woman, weighed 150lbs. Many doctors, in spite of the fact that intentional weight loss has been proven to be 1) almost universally unsustainable, and 2) Not particularly conducive to better health, other than it may reduce medical discrimination and mistreatment. (It does nothing to reduce medical racism, transphobia, or healthism).

One light at the end of this tunnel of crap is that younger people are figuring it out way sooner than I did. Skinny and fat, black, white, brown, queer and disabled — we are all recognizing that our culture’s obsession with our appearance is just thinly veiled social control. We don’t need it.

The craziest thing I’ve learned is that having an abundance of nourishing, tasty food available is the best antidote to my anorexic restricting behaviors and their effects. The less I skip meals, the happier and safer I feel. The more excited I am to move — to walk or dance or stretch. The oppressive weight of other people’s perceptions doesn’t do nearly as much to my psyche when it and — my body — feels safe and loved.

My kid, bless them, can spot fatphobia from a mile away. They know that judging people based on how they look is something to work through and release, not justify and cling to. Fun fact: I’ve never put my kid on any kind of diet, or critiqued their body or their food. Their diet may look nuts to broccoli-obsessed parents, but my kid does what I never had a chance to do: just listen to their body and not judge it for what it wants. We don’t force food. My husband and I eat a really wide variety of food, and slowly but surely, the kid is integrating more stuff into their own nutrition. They have an unbroken relationship between their hunger, eating, and how their body feels.

If I can raise just one person who isn’t weight-obsessed and fatphobic, I will have done a damn fine thing. I know other parents like me who are jettisoning diets and weight monitoring for their kids, the way many of us are also jettisoning oppressive falsehoods about gender and sexuality. Some of these kids are going to be unbelievable badasses. Hopefully, they will help the kids whose parents haven’t unpacked all the bullshit and are continuing to pass this generational abuse on to their kids. My kid witnesses casual fatphobia at their middle school all the time — from 11-year-old girls to 60 something-year-old teachers. But at least they recognize it for what it is, rather than internalizing it as some kind of valor.

I’ve had decades of therapy but I am still pretty fragile when it comes to pervasive fatphobia. While I haven’t “dieted” in many years, I slip into restriction without realizing it, though I recover more quickly than before. Luckily, (and deliberately) I have surrounded myself with people who also recognize how damaging diet culture and fatphobia are and don’t trigger my shit. There’s no way to escape it completely, but the saner the people around you, the more obvious the crazy is when you encounter it.

Undereating is not a virtue. Eating is not a sin. Feed your body.

Learn more:
The Body is Not an Apology by Sonia Rene Taylor
Fearing the Black Body by Sabrina Strings
Health at Every Size by Lindo Bacon
Podcast: Maintenance Phase
What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey Gordon