Last week was eating disorder awareness week and Asheville was brimming with amazing programming, thanks to T.H.E Center for Disordered Eating of Western NC. I felt connected to and inspired by all the body positive clinicians (like my buddies at Asheville dietitian group Nutritious Thoughts) who are working to educate themselves and to serve our local community - to reduce stigma and increase self-love. What could be more inspiring than that?
I was particularly moved by an amazing documentary screening at the Grail Moviehouse on Friday night (side note: this theater is one one of my favorite Asheville haunts, and if you haven't been you should go and support small locals theaters!). Fattitude the Movie does an excellent job of providing important and compelling information about fat discrimination and in creating awareness of the prejudice that fat people experience. I would encourage everyone reading this blog put to go see it but, unfortunately, it still needs help with funding to get released in a way that makes it more accessible to the general public. If you'd like to help with this, you can donate here.
The movie opened my eyes to the fact that, while we've at least started a dialogue about racial, ethnic, and religious bias and discrimination, our prejudice towards body diversity remain largely unexamined. So much so that we just assume that it's fat that makes fat people "unhealthy" or prone to disease and completely ignore the fact that fat people often face enough bullying, harassment, and disgust in our society to create the kind of stress and isolation that often lead to illness and disease.
While it was hard to hear about the pain and discrimination experienced by the brave, bad-ass and beautiful speakers in the documentary (Lindy West in particular - she is amazing, check out her site here), it was ultimately a hopeful documentary with a call to action. First of all, we need to question our assumption that being fat means being unhealthy. Yes, many people are both fat AND healthy! It's true. And just like so many other studies that come out, the studies that link weight and disease are often politically motivated.
So how can we actively work against this bias? Well for one, we can follow some fabulous and fat trailblazers on social media and see how they are capable, healthy, and active people to be admired and adored (Tess Holiday and Virgie Tovar are great starts! ). And take the time to learn about how body politics play into our biases through blogs like Fattitude's Body Positive Politics.
Another action that Fattitude calls for is to encourage yourself, your friends, family, clients, whoever - to occupy your spaces and your bodies. To say "Damn the man! I will go to the gym in a sports bra if I want to!" and "I will eat a big dessert at a restaurant and look you dead in the eye" - no matter what your size or shape. Because being seen, being joyous, being loud, being colorful - that right belongs to EVERY body.
So let's show some Fattitude my friends! I'm ready. Are you?
Dr. Martine Jones is a clinical psychologist who serves the Asheville community by providing support for relationship concerns, stress and anxiety, depression, eating disorders and body image concerns, identity development, and life and role changes.