Mind, Love, Wellness

Why body positivity is nothing without fat acceptance

Newsflash: Body positivity was started by fat activists

I remember the first time someone criticized my weight. I was in fourth grade, and for some reason, some girls in my class and I were going around in a circle talking about what made us pretty. I said I was happy with the way I look, and a girl in that group that I would be prettier “if I lost a few pounds.” That’s the time when my insecurity with my weight started. As I’ve gotten older, I have grown increasingly aware that even while many people talking about body positivity – fat acceptance is often either left out of these conversations or ignored altogether.

Well, it’s time that this changes. Besides the fact that everyone’s body should be celebrated – no matter what they look like – fat activists actually started the body positivity movement. According to Time Magazine, the fat acceptance movement started in the 1960s, at the same time of the Civil Rights movement and second-wave feminism.  Time Magazine wrote that these activists  “staged [an] event in New York City’s Central Park, dubbed it a ‘Fat-In’ and ate ice cream while burning posters of über-thin model Twiggy.” While this event was important invisibly promoting fat acceptance, shamming Twiggy for her stature was unnecessary.

Besides the fact that everyone's body should be celebrated – no matter what they look like – fat activists actually started the body positivity movement. Click To Tweet

The term “body positivity” came around in 1996, roughly 30 years after the fat acceptance movement started. Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott, LCSW, founded The Body Positive, a nonprofit, to encourage people to have more healthy and peaceful relationships with their bodies. Connie’s own experience with an eating disorder when she was a teen and her sister’s death from an eating disorder inspired the two women to create the nonprofit, according to its website. Nothing about the nonprofit itself promotes fat-shamming, but fat acceptance somehow got lost .

Fat acceptance is needed more than ever, and one can look at the media to see just how present fat-shaming is. You don’t have to look far to see a celebrity being fat-shammed in the tabloids or social media, like how  Kim Kardashian was fat-shamed on the covers of weekly tabloids when she was pregnant. Fat-shaming also has financial implications for people outside of the public eye. The Council on Size and Weight Discrimination found that “workers who are heavier than average are paid $1.25 less an hour. Over a 40-year career, they will earn up to $100,000 less before taxes than their thinner counterparts.” Any discrimination should be illegal, so it’s absurd that people who are deemed to be heavier are paid less.

Fat-shaming also has financial implications for people outside of the public eye. The Council on Size and Weight Discrimination found that 'workers who are heavier than average are paid $1.25 less an hour.' Click To Tweet

Despite fat acceptance not being as prominent as it should be, people are definitely fighting for it. Model Tess Holiday is a fat acceptance activist, and she fights weight-based discrimination in the fashion industry. Holiday, who has a large following on social media with 1.8 million followers on Instagram, refuses to “walk in a show unless they were actually making [her] size,”  which she believes encourages designers to be more diverse in their sizing. Fatventure Mag founder and editor Samantha Puc, who was interviewed by The Tempest, shared that  she created her publication because she wanted to share her experiences and others’ experiences “about leading an active lifestyle” as a self-identifying fat people.

We never know what anyone is going through – whether it be battling a disease that makes them lose or gain weight, having an off month, or they're the happiest at that size – so let's be kinder to each other. Click To Tweet

We have a long way to go in terms of embracing fat acceptance. To work to get there, let’s stop judging people for their size. We never know what anyone is going through – whether it be battling a disease that makes them lose or gain weight,  having an off month, or they’re the happiest at that size – so let’s be kinder to each other.