Intuitive Eating Is For Every Body, But It Was Built On Fat Bodies

Intuitive Eating is for everyone. It is for me and for you, for all bodies, fat or thin. We all want, and we all need, peace with food and peace with our bodies, and the principles of Intuitive Eating are a tried and true method to achieve that peace. The very first principle of intuitive eating is to reject the diet mentality — the idea that thinness is achievable through controlling food and movement. Built into that process is the need to address one’s internalized fat-phobia and dismantle it. To quote The F*ck It Diet, “Our relationship with weight, and our deep fear of becoming fat ourselves, is one of the biggest causes of our dysfunction with food. Neutralizing the word fat, as well as the actual body type, is a really essential step in healing your relationship to food.” In other words, you cannot hold onto your fat phobia AND achieve peace with food and your body. It is not possible. Pointing out that you are struggling with this is not only a means of protecting the fat people around you from the demoralizing message that fat bodies are somehow ineligible for food freedom and body peace, it also helps you on your way toward the same goals. It is not an attack, it is an offer of support.

That said, I also need you to understand that your fear of fatness comes at my expense. When I say that, I don’t just mean that it makes me feel bad about myself. That, too, in my most vulnerable moments, but that is the smallest part of it. What I mean is that your perpetuating the pervasive idea that fatness is inherently bad makes it harder for fat people to access the self-esteem that you are grappling for when you make these fat-phobic comments. You only think you are fat, and when you express that fear, everyone will come to your rescue reassuring you the you are not, that you should not feel bad. Not only do fat people witness this and are forced to grapple with the implication that they therefore should feel bad, but, when n actually fat person expresses the same pain, nobody will come to their rescue with affirmations of who and what they are right now. They will be met with encouragement to change their bodies in order to qualify for access to that same affirmation that you receive automatically.

I also mean that bodies like mine have been unethically experimented on in the pursuit of evidence that our bodies are wrong, and those experimental interventions have caused harm to the individual fat bodies they were enacted upon as well as the fat bodies in society on whom those manipulated results have been foisted as “medically necessary” interventions. The conclusion that has mostly been reached – that diets don’t work after all and people just need to accept and care for whatever body they have – was paid for by fat bodies. The current insights into Health At Every Size and Intuitive Eating, which absolutely apply to fat and thin people alike, were built on the backs of fat bodies. It is fat bodies who were subjected to all of the failed interventions and attempts to solve the “problem” of fatness. Therefore, it is fat bodies that paved the way for you to access intuitive eating as a means to finding peace with your thin body’s imperfections*, and it adds insult to injury for small-bodied people to not only fail to recognize that history, but also attempt to silence fat people who point out that it is actually fat phobia that keeps you stuck in your process.

Fat people are not trying to silence thin people who are afraid of being fat. We are trying to tell you that when you constantly bring that fear up in mixed company without examining the underlying assumptions driving it or without acknowledging the implications for the actual fat bodies in the room, it hurts us, and that pain deserves acknowledgement also. We are trying to help you understand that being fat is only something to fear because of attitudes exactly like the one you are currently expressing, and that learning to let that go, and learning from people who understand exactly what being fat is about because they actually experience it, is the only way to help yourself and everyone witnessing and being impacted by your expressions of pain.

You cannot justly choose to access the supports and insights that were built by fat people – or thin people practicing on fat people – while simultaneously rejecting the insights of fat people. Intuitive eating is for everyone, but if not for fat phobia, there would be no need to relearn it, and if not for fat people, the insights that make this learning possible would not exist. If not for fat people (of color, for the record), body positivity would not exist as a cultural concept, and you would not feel half as liberated as you are already starting to feel if you are reading this blog.

The next time a fat person calls you to account for saying something fat phobic, instead of reacting, why not try reflecting? Why not sit with their response for a moment and consider it? Consider how learning to unravel the cords of fat-phobia that keep you tied to old habits that are not serving you could actually be the support you needed in that moment, even if you didn’t understand that. As a white person who has learned many lessons on racism from people who were not as gentle with my feelings as they were sure of my goodness, I can tell you, leaning into those hurt feelings is the best, most empowering way forward. For everyone.

* The notion of perfection/imperfection with respect to bodies is a false construct; bodies naturally have creases and folds, dimples and spots, lines and errant hairs, divots and bulges, and all manner of organic variety. The overwhelming majority of bodies do not look like the hairless, smooth, evenly-colored images in media. That is photoshop. So the idea that your body is imperfect because it doesn’t look like digitally-manipulated or extremely rare bodies seen in media is false.

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