I had a conversation with my therapist about what it means to be fat accepting and anti-healthist. Fat acceptance is pretty straightforward. We believe that healthy, attractive, and normal people come in all shapes and sizes and our acceptance in society shouldn’t depend on losing weight. We do not believe a lot of the common stereotypes of fat people and any health objective we presume should be weight neutral. For example, high cholesterol and diabetes can be found in people of all sizes. They are not caused by being fat and trying to be less fat won’t cure them. Pretty simple, like I said. Don’t complicate it.
Anti-healthism is more difficult to understand and is not as readily accepted, even by progressives. Lots of fat activists have healthist attitudes and lots of anti-healthists are fat-negative.
So what is anti-healthism? To start with, healthism is a cultural phenomenon wherein people believe that health can be guaranteed by living the “right” way and that certain diseases in particular are caused by bad choices and that they deserve to be sick and to die early. Healthism also supports government intervention to promote the “right” lifestyle, irrespective of people’s individual circumstances, personal goals, culture or health needs. I’m talking about things like the soda tax and preventing people on food stamps from buying so-called junk food. Anti-healthism opposes these measures and on top of that, we are a skeptic movement. We question conventional health claims and debunk myths. For example, fat is not solely a matter of diet and exercise, diabetes is not caused by eating sugar and people have different levels of physical fitness regardless of your exercise routine and on top of that, people live long and healthy lives even when physically “unfit.” That just scratches the surface.
So you have a working idea of what it means to be healthist or anti-healthist. Now we can have a discussion of what anti-healthism is NOT.
We are not:
-Denialist: There are a number of anti-healthists who defend big industry practices indiscriminately, which is why people think we are all shills for “Big Food,” such as what defenders of the tobacco industry used to do. You do NOT have to embrace this stance to be anti-healthist and in fact, I highly discourage this stance. A genuine skeptic is skeptical of all claims and is willing to be proven wrong, and isnot just a devil’s advocate for its own sake. We recognize that not all things are healthy for all people, that moderation is generally best and that industry can be unethical. Our stance is not that industry is always good, but that industry is not always bad, it can be good if not life changing, and that a lot of common beliefs about health, and most pop science (think summaries of “Processed sugars cause warts on ass!” type studies on the Today Show) are either wrong, exaggerated, distorted, or just not the best that human knowledge has to offer. As such, we as a society should not be using ten-minute segments on a talk show to shape major personal decisions or public health policies.
-Comtrarian: Just as we aren’t denialist for its own sake, we don’t purposefully do all the “wrong” things just to be rebellious. No one is advocating that we all binge eat constantly, eat as much fat and sugar is possible, purposefully gain as much weight as possible, refuse to exercise, or just ignore all health advice. I don’t do that and I can’t think of any anti-healthists that do. You can be a triathlete, stick-thim, be vegan, and be anti-healthist. The key factor is our sense of morality and sense of obligation. I don’t think my healthy habits guarantee good health or longer life, I don’t think I’m better than someone with “unhealthy” habits, and I feel zero guilt if I don’t follow my routine. No guilt about skipping gym, ordering fast food three times a week, or my screen time addiction if that’s what I feel like doing at the time.
-Reckless: We don’t give health advice we aren’t qualified to give. I’m not your endocrinologist or your cardiologist or your orthopedist or any kind of medical professional. If you have a chronic condition such as heart disease or uncontrolled diabetes, defer to the advice of a professional that specializes in your condition and that you trust. Don’t become a researcher or amateur health guru who gets her degree from the University of Google, but DO be informed and advocate for your goals and needs, and don’t be afraid to set boundaries. A good medical professional should be able to work with those stipulations within reason. They work with religious people who eat kosher or halal, they work with vegans, with tube feeding, and just about every dietary need imaginable, and they should be able to work with anti-healthists too. Also keep in mind that doctors are human and can be wrong. I can’t count the number of times I have had to correct doctors and pharmacists in my line of work (caregiver) because as trained and educated as they are…my clientele is not their specialty and they do not specialize in all the medical and mental health needs of our folks. My clientele IS my specialty, and so is the care and keeping of me, and I have no problem letting professionals know about my specialties.
I could go on, but that is a summary of what we are and what we are not. I have a lot of people, online and in person, who are curious as to what we are about, and I also have my fair share of trolls and paranoid folks who think I get paid by Montsano or something. (Please, if I was on their payroll, I would be living in Salem, MA right now). Here is a starting point and there will be more to come.