Exceptions don’t validate fat acceptance movement.

This post is mostly fresh, and partly re-warmed leftovers from a 2012 entry on my now defunct blog. The message is still relevant as the trend of forcing the national consciousness towards acceptance of what should be rejected has gained more steam over the past five years.

This couple’s photo and story, along with glowing commentary on how this husband proves that love and sexual attraction are much more about what’s on the inside than the outside, is another boon to the fat acceptance movement. It comes when many women are working out harder to look good in bikinis and tank tops as summer kicks into high gear.

This hoopla is an attempt to do two things. The first is discouraging women from exercising self-control and taking charge of their health. The second is to denigrate natural, healthy male sexuality by implying that men who prefer fit women are evil, mean and shallow creatures who value a woman’s appearance over her character.

The problem with this is that our outer life is usually a decent gauge of our inner life. In other words, a few extra pounds as we age or after the birth of a baby are one thing. It’s easy to see how this can happen when we do not make the necessary adjustments to mitigate the natural changes which come with aging or child birth. Perpetually carrying around an extra 50 or more pounds for years on end, however, may indicate an issue with self-control that will rear its head in other areas of life as well.

To use a woman who has earned the love and devotion of a man over several years, has given him two young children so far ( this is a young couple),  as an example to indicate that any chubby chick can reasonably expect to land a hot guy is ridiculous on its face. Does it happen occasionally? It does, but exceptions don’t create new rules. Rather, they highlight the opposite tendency of most people.

I seem -perpetually- to be losing (and gaining) 20-25 pounds so this isn’t body shaming. I am also, despite the extra weight which makes me painfully average among American women my age, married to a man who is above average in looks and indisputably conventionally handsome. He is not rocking abs anymore like that guy, but I digress.

Like the husband in the Yahoo story, mine is virtually blind to what I view as the disparity in our presentation, roundly dismissing with incredulity any assertion on my part that he is the better looking half of this duo. Gratitude doesn’t begin to summarize my response, but I’ve also had nearly 25 years to rack up the track record that led to his love blindness. I was also pretty fit when he first laid eyes on me.

There is a bigger problem here though, no pun intended. I was discussing this with a friend and she pointed out that we (the larger culture) have reduced this subject to black and white, when there is plenty of room for gray.

We have relegated “fit” almost entirely to the realm of emaciated models or world class athletes. Normal healthy ladies who aren’t obese yet also without muscled arms and bikini worthy abs lament their lack of fitness. So you’re either a total health nut or you eat donuts and Doritos, without much middle ground in between.

For those women who can’t or don’t want to get to super fit, they give up on just trying to be a normal healthy human weight. It would be good for us to accept that normal human doesn’t usually look like an athlete or a model, but nor does normal healthy human equal obese. We’ve fallen into the ditches of extremes.

As I thought about her words, I was reminded of a trip I recently took with our girls into an Under Armor outlet store, drawn in by the desire to take a closer look at a very large Incredible Hulk statue they had placed there. Instead of being shirtless, as the Hulk is normally seen, he was wearing an Under Armor shirt.

The store was a picture of the extremes my friend mentioned, with the super fit perusing the racks alongside those who clearly seemed to view the clothing as athleisure rather than something to get sweaty in. Since I don’t fall into the former category, I voiced my concern that I looked like I belong in the latter category. Our daughter looked at me and assured me that I am not what anyone has in mind when they think “fat people”. In other words, I’ve allowed my mind to be trapped in the thinking of extreme dichotomies when considering what it means to be healthy. And I know better.

Even though I find this love story romantic and sweet, it’s a bad idea in these cases to celebrate exceptions. Especially at the expense of encouraging the greater population to do their best to be as healthy as possible. It is not only foolish. For many women, this is downright deadly.

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28 thoughts on “Exceptions don’t validate fat acceptance movement.

  1. Yep. Lots of normal, healthy looking women who won’t win any fitness model contests but who clearly live healthy active lives and are of normal weight.

    In fact they look a lot like the generation of rural women who lived right before us. My hubs’ family is full of them. My last living aunt is one as well.

    Good suggestion, Hearth.

    Edited to add
    (from deleted comment):

    For all I know the woman in this story could be the picture of health. I don’t know, but neither does anyone else, and that’s the point. Better to err on the side of encouraging women to eat healthfully and maintain a healthy weight rather than tell them, “You can still land a hot dude even if you’re fat. See? She did it!”

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  2. It took me a while to internalize my husband’s view of women, but now I actually see it from his perspective. Both very thin or very muscular are unappealing to him. I can understand it because I like him in his natural, normal state. I think you make a great point that “normal” has been forgotten and it’s really more the ideal than most realize 🙂 I call it “embracing the matron years.” There’s nothing wrong with looking like a mature woman; in fact, it’s a really good look. Our husbands don’t want us looking like teenagers; they want us looking like respectable wives.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beyond issues of attractiveness are the issues of heart disease, diabetes, joint degeneration, and even deaths during childbirth.

    Side note; the husband may be almost as bad off, health-wise, as his wife. When Ken Cooper of “Aerobics” fame started testing Air Force officers back in the 1960s with his 12 minute aerobic test, bodybuilders did very badly–they had two muscles they hadn’t developed, the diaphragm and the heart. Not quite as bad as just carrying fat–metabolic syndrome keys around abdominal fat–but no great shakes, either, in terms of health.

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  4. You are right. My husband is not particularly interested in muscles on me either, and never has been. He does want me to accomplish what I want to accomplish, and that is to get to (and STAY at) my desired healthy weight, which is on the high end for my height and sex rather than the low end.

    Being 5’9″ hides a multitude of flaws when you know how to dress, but health markers and their attendant risks can not be fooled by fashion sleights of hand.

    This is why I think it is so damaging to extol women who are not even trying to get to normal (in general, not referring to the young wife in the story), while telling women who are struggling but trying that “it’s okay, stop trying to be healthier, you can still have a great life and great love even when you’re 50+ pounds overweight.”

    This may be true (although I think it stretches the truth), but it’s not as if the only thing that matters in life is finding a man who’ll have you.

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  5. They should have lifted heavy. 😀 (I have a heart monitor on my phone – lifting heavy gets my heart into the desired zone no prob).

    I lift ’cause this is the only thing my body has ever wanted to do well (other than long, long walks, which are out of the picture). What it makes my body look like – eh. I don’t really want the slabs of muscle on my back (and yes, I have them) but whatever. These are the cards I was dealt.

    It’s good to do things that make you happy. I still get to the gym and do stuff and say, “I can’t believe I did that! That was so cool! Wow!”

    A goal this summer is just to get out and use my body more. More gardening. More swimming. More LIFE. And yes, more time in the gym, I want it back to 4x/wk. Will I get there? I hope so.

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  6. Hmmm.

    Like Hearth, I’m just trying to use my body more, and better. I am healthy, recently had a physical with full blood work and the numbers say I’m tip-top shape. I don’t always feel that way, but on paper im not at risk for T2D, heart disease, cancer, anything!

    Well, that’s good. I’m strong, I have enough energy most days to keep up with the kids and the chores. I’m sleeping better finally after I stopped taking, of all things, Benadryl daily for my allergies. It helped me sleep, too, but was causing weight gain and a fogged up brain. We’ll see if I can strip off some of the fat my last bout of weeks of panic attacks piled up on me.

    As for fat acceptance, I think of this from the same perspective, Els. Telling a fairy tale story and then expecting it all to magically work itself out is a cruelty. Overweight people should lose weight, should be encouraged to eat better and exercise, for health. Too often I think people get wrapped up in image and that can be a bad place to start or draw continued inspiration, and in this manner, I agree wit “fat acceptance ” because looking at fitspo (which is highly styled and often unrealistic, too) is no way to have a healthy relationship with being…healthy.

    The point you made about it denigrating healthy ale sexuality is on point. Men are always to blame, for everything! I’ve fallen into it, too. Boys called me fat when I was a tween/teen. At 5’6″ and 128 lbs I was definitely not, but I didn’t see it that way, all I saw was someone boys didn’t like, and I desperately wanted them to like me. But you’re kinda helpless at that point. You don’t know yourself or much about life and so it starts. But, WE ALLOW IT TO CONTINUE EVEN AFTER WE KNOW BETTER and that is where being responsible for ourselves is cast off in a blame game on men. Men don’t like me, I’ll be fat anyway, my problems are their fault because fat is not attractive to them…wait, what?

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  7. Pinterest has been featuring ads for Champion athletic wear lately, featuring obese women. Not a little chubby, or average but not muscular, but outright very fat women, likely 100 lbs or more overweight.

    I don’t know what to make of it. Is it good to show women of all sizes getting active and taking charge of their health? Yes. Depicting it as normal and sexy? No. That’s where it falls apart for me.

    http://tinyurl.com/y97tlsdk

    This article talks about the downside of social media as a motivator for fitness. I rather agree with it, as I’ve wasted many hours agonizing that I’ll never have legs or abs that look like that (whatever “that” is on that day). I mean, I could have them, but the cutting diet feels like starvation to me and all those fitness models who say they never feel bored/deprived/hungry/anxious on their cutting plans are L-I-A-R-S. I’m convinced they are all deluded and lying to make it look easy.

    But fat acceptance pretty much says don’t bother! In the middle are normal weight people with a few little jiggly spots that are strong and capable of things you wouldn’t imagine, who are loved and respected, whom are probably walking around internally torturing themselves over their lack of lifted glutes and six pack abs.

    And please don’t let’s start in on the fact that this mostly only matters because we insist on walking around half-dressed all the time…🙄

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I think the campaigns with heavy people doing intensely physical things is another example of the type of exceptions I am referring to in this post.

    Are they out there? Of course they are. But in the majority of cases our bodies will eventually catch up and respond to positive changes.

    Besides family members and a few friends, my social media (I only have Instagram no Facebook) consists of Whole30 recipes and a couple of other recipe feeds. I don’t see a lot of fitness pics.

    You are shaped very similar to me, GTTF. Even when very fit, bottom half curves stay put. It’s one of those things you have to learn to live with. Of course I come from a culture and ethnicity of people who appreciate my figure type so long as it isn’t too big, LOL. You don’t so I can appreciate your dilemma.

    Having endurance, strength and being of normal weight with imperfections is a hard sell for many. And yes the fact that wearing less clothing is normal is a large part of the problem.

    Why do we need strangers to know if we look good naked? And why can’t a man make a trip to Ace Hardware without seeing semi-naked women?

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  9. Imagine how many fewer hangups we’d have if we kept the spandex to swimming and working out and wore clothing … clothing made out of woven fibers… the rest of the time?

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  10. I like skirts and dresses most of the time. In my garden and doing heavy yard work, jeans or denim shorts are preferred because skirts and chainsaws don’t mix (ask me how I know…). But yeah, Hearth, I agree.

    It goes back to the contentment issue Els raised a few posts back. We go about half naked or pierced or tatted up or whatever because we seek validation and are, at our very core of being, unhappy with ourselves or our lives or our circumstances.

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  11. Using it or not, a loose-ish dress or skirt and comfy somewhat fitted tee or blouse is my fave. I rather like a blouse with sleeves rolled up, half buttoned, and tied at the tails, over a tank, with jeans or a linen or cotton skirt.

    I adore wovens. Knits have their place but…hmm. Remember some time ago on FB I shared that hippie dippie company that makes organic hemp and cotton clothing? I took advantage of a closeout and got a pair of their unisex linen pants in a dreamy blue color called Platinum Moonlight. Woven, hand sewn, to DIE! I wear them around the house and garden and coop, even in these awful 90+ temps we’re having here lately, and they’re so comfortable. They move with me, and they BREATHE. Ever notice you’re less comfy in clothes that don’t breathe?

    We’re not comfortable with anything lately. Our bodies, clothing, truth, beauty…we second guess everything.

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  12. ‘Xactly, GTTF.

    There’s something good and pure and true and right, and we’ve lost it. I have a hard time communicating “it”… FWIW, it’s what I meant the other day when I said your food and your outsides were both ‘good’. Good like healthy dirt and the air after rain and a baby’s laughter. They fit, they’re right, they’re healthy and true. Same goes for Els. She’s *good*. You aren’t the same (and yes, we all have our broken bits) but you’re good. Health. You know? (I *need* to find a way to communicate this).

    We keep trying to define bodies/clothing/truth (to quote you) from the outside and not from the inside, and we know they’re distorted somehow, even though they seem perfect, and we can’t figure it out… we’re uncomfortable because that center isn’t there. The rightness isn’t there.

    Yes. very helpful convo. Very.

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  13. @Kate

    “Our husbands don’t want us looking like teenagers; ”

    I don’t know about your husband, but every other husband would be thrilled if his wife still looked like a sexy young woman (but didn’t dress like a tramp the way they do). However, those husbands also realize that people do age and that they themselves don’t look like they’re 18 anymore. What they don’t want is a fat slob they’re embarrassed to be seen with.

    When you say “mature woman” I think “old lady”. There’s a couple 50+ women who work out at my gym who are doing their best (and succeeding) to keep fit and looking good. They don’t look mature, they look great for their age. I’d be thrilled with them if I was their husband. However, they’re outnumbered 50-1 in the general population, and it’s not much better in the 30-50 age bracket.

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  14. I don’t believe Kate is a fat apologist, LOL.

    I know that my husband has grown increasingly conservative about a lot of things as he has gotten older, and he’s “only” 43. Not as conservative as some, but mores.

    What I read from her words is what you said: look good, be fit, but age appropriate rather than (to use your words) dressing like a tramp.

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  15. @elspeth Her comment seemed too squishy to me with that stuff about “embracing the matron years”, but it may be as you say. As for “normal”, its normal to be fat now-a-days. American woman are 30 lbs heavier now than they were in the 60’s, while adding less than an inch in height. Men are also much heavier, but that’s just less competition for me.

    @ hearthie Her skin has really taken a beating, and you can’t see anything below the neck so not really very informative. Seriously, she’s at risk for skin cancer. She should move to Oregon or Washington State.

    Nancy Travis (b. 1961, plays Vanessa on Last Man Standing) looks terrific and would make >95% of husbands eager to get home after work.

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001802/

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  16. A more recent photo of Nancy Travis may be in order:

    Still looks good, but with more lines than the IMDB pic. It’s worth noting that 1) the woman in Hearth’s photo was makeup-free while NT is in full paint on both the photos., and 2) a homeschooling SAHM of 25 years isn’t usually going to have the resources for that kind of upkeep. If she wants to eat, NT has to invest big to look like that at 56.

    But you are correct. “Normal” for the average American woman does indeed equal “fat”. Please keep in mind that when I am using the word “normal” here I am using it with the understanding that overweight isn’t any normal than women being rail thin or fitness model buff after having given birth to several children.

    I think makeup free is a better gauge since the majority of men see their wives without it more than with it. I actually think I look younger without it on my good days (very recent image on my about page is make up free). Hearth’s skin looks very good for a white chick (love you Hearth!). That’s why I think she will look a lot better than the woman in the photo she chose.

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  17. Aww…. 🙂 Yeah, no I don’t want that much sundamage, but I do live in SoCal, and I am a white girl with blue eyes. Yes, the first basal cell got frozen off last year. It is what it is, I’ve lived here all my life.

    What I meant was that she looks like she lives in her body, in that skin, and that she LIVES there. She’s not parked in front of a TV watching life go by, she’s LIVING.

    The farm women I encouraged you to google – they’re LIVING. Using their bodies to do things. Eating good things. Laughing.

    To me, that’s beauty. Of *course* I’d like to have the face I had at 25 and the body I had at 17. But that’s not reality. I’m 44. At 44… I want to look like someone who is inhabited by joy. Not cupcakes. Joy.

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  18. Hi! It’s nice to read such wise thoughts. I like your blog very much. I hope you reach your goal weight and stay in it. Actually, I’m 5’10” and 130 lbs and I dont starve myself. I just have small appetite since I was a child. I remember how my grandmother forced me to eat her big 3-course meals and I resisted (she’s not fat herself, just a great cook and loves to feed others… too much). When I got old enough to control my own meals, I cut that to 1 course + a salad and a cup of tea without sugar. I eat sweets every day, but a little of them, and just one slice of bread in the morning. Having a baby didn’t change my habits… we’ll see about old age, but I see enough skinny old ladies in the streets to believe gaining weight is not inevitable. I’m in Canada and it has less obesity problem than the US. I heard almost all the US food in stores is sweetened – not so here, and we have fewer fast food chains and lots of parks to walk in. By the way, I love to wear dresses and skirts – it’s a happy break from many months when you’re stuck in winter coats, sweaters and snow pants, lol.

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  19. Hello Nina. How’s the weather?

    Your comment reminds me of something I read about the dietary habits of women of yesteryear. How very little they ate, how redundant their diets were, and how that combined with lots of activity kept them thin.

    Food variety is such a thing here in the states that I would think just overcoming that would do many of us a lot of good. Such as being willing to just eat a slice of bread in the morning rather than some of the elaborate breakfasts I cook for my family.

    Thanks for commenting.

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  20. Nina, Els, agreed. We also don’t do near as much physical labor.

    My great grandmother, grandmother, and mom grew up in a city. Yeah they had cold water in the flat, and when things got better, hot water, too…but laundry wasn’t automated and had to be lugged up and down stairs. Cars weren’t everywhere so you walked everywhere. Sugar and sweets and candies weren’t everywhere, they were for holidays nand special occasions.

    My grandmother grew up pre-WWII in a large city in NJ that had a working class population of mostly Eastern European immigrants. They were poor. She used to chase pigeons around the park to bring home for food.

    What? What?

    But genetics has a huge part to play despite how we want or try to outwit them. My moms dad is from a family of rather ample women. Larger bones, bigger backsides. My dad? Tall, thin athletes, all of them. Blonde blue eyed and gorgeous. All of the men top 6,3 and the women top 5’10.

    Not stumpy old me. I have to fight my appetite every day, and eating less does not work for me to lose and maintain long term.

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  21. Yep. And if you google those farm women, you’ll see some who are built like me… square. I’m NOT saying it’s ideal. But it’s what it is. I’m a hobbit.

    I want to be a healthier, smaller hobbit. But ain’t nothin’ gonna turn me into an elf.

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  22. Genetics matter.

    My mother and her sisters were fairly trim, although my mother was quite tall compared to the other two. I definitely inherited her height and her curves. People who knew her and met me for the first time have expressed incredulity at how much I look like her, so… tall and curvy is probably what it is and no amount of exercise or starvation will get me too slim hip and a tiny butt, LOL. Thankfully she gave me some proportion to go with it.

    The women in my father’s family were a bit rounder, but not huge.

    I was a very skinny kid, and a fairly slender teenager but no sooner than I hit 14 or 15, the disparity between my waist and hips became more than obvious.

    I just want to get to my goal (which isn’t skinny anyway) and stay at it. We’ll see.

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