As a health care professional, I find myself conflicted about the fat acceptance movement. On a very deep level I want everyone to be free, self-expressed, at peace with themselves and healthy—mentally as well as physically. However, though the podcast argues that fat people can be healthy—which is true—there is unarguably a link between obesity and illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Not to mention the pain of daily movement and joint problems that come with obesity. I worry that as a society accepting the escalating rates of obesity, and the health risks that do in fact come with them, we give ourselves—as a whole—an out from dealing with the issue, which is much larger than one person and their right to be self-expressed.
If you follow the science, you know that obesity has very little, if anything, to do with personal will power. There are many forces at play, some of which, of course, are genetics. But factors such as brain chemistry, gut bacteria and physiology also play a huge role. The escalating number of “morbidly obese” (for lack of a different medical term) Americans is a reflection of a broken health care system that fails to address individuals at a systemic level. Rather, it compartmentalizes and overmedicates all problems—frequently treating the symptom rather than the root. Why are the brain chemicals imbalanced? Why are the hormones improperly regulated? How can that be addressed?
I’m lucky. I have the time and the means as a middle class Austinite with no kids, to afford to see a functional medicine practitioner and address imbalances in my gut, hormones and brain. And he’s great – but it’s not cheap and its not covered by medical insurance (for which our small business has to pay almost $1500 a month —just to cover my partner and myself). What about every body else? What about how expensive it is to buy free-range, antibiotic and hormone free proteins? I worry that if we embrace all aspects of our culture’s “fatness” too much, we won’t ever take a look at our broken systems of medicine and food.
And then there is the idea of extremes and quick fixes. Clearly, the idea of workout like crazy and eat “super clean” also doesn’t work – it just doesn’t – but we don’t look at that either.
As we began filming for our online videos, honestly, I struggled with the idea that I might need to work harder to look a certain part in order for the videos to be successful. But the project is ongoing, indefinitely, and I knew I couldn’t live in that state. I know I don’t want to spend my whole life obsessing like a narcissist about my food, my sleep, my training. I also knew that meant I was going to have to show up with an average looking body, but that despite the look, it would be well-trained in movement skills and strong. It would come with a brain that has a lot of information in it on how to preserve the longevity of movement abilities, to effectively create suppleness and strength, and to reduce pain and feel good. So that’s what I am doing. I’m putting my healthiest but definitely not my thinnest, most-cut self out in to the world and letting whatever comes of that come. And that feels like freedom—freedom that everyone deserves.
So while I can’t pretend to understand the struggle of someone who is obese, I do know the desire to be OK with who you are, wherever you are – right at this moment. And I believe everyone should get that opportunity – to be at peace with the reality of who we are now, not our future, more successful, thinner, smarter, better selves. I believe in freedom but I also believe in growth – and I hope that those two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I hope that as a society we can find a way for individuals to be self-expressed and happy, while still understanding that, as a whole, we could do better.