I get this question a lot. Sometimes it’s well meaning people who are concerned about my identity as a fat person being put into question if I lose weight training for the IM. More often it’s from my haters – some suggesting that if I lose weight it means that I’m not practicing Health at Every Size correctly, and some of my very most special little snowflakes suggesting that this whole IM is an elaborate plot to disguise the fact that I’m purposefully trying to lose weight. (They’re so adorable when they’re conspiracy theorizing.)
Let’s clear up some confusion first. I practice Health at Every Size. HAES is a paradigm for personal health choices and healthcare, it’s tenets include that:
- Health/healthy habits, by any definition, are not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control
- Each person should have the opportunity choose how to prioritize their health and the path that they want to get there. People’s choices are limited by factors including oppression, socioeconomic status and other issues of access, and solving those problems should within the purview of Public Health
- Each person should have access to evidence-based medicine that focuses on health intervention and not diagnosing people as fat and prescribing weight loss
- On a personal level we follow the evidence which clearly shows that our best chance to support our health is to focus on things that we can control, like our behaviors and let our weight settle where it settles (and not on trying to manipulate our body size to a specific size or height/weight ratio ie: BMI)
- Nobody needs to practice HAES, or any form of health, in order to be covered until the civil rights movement of Size Acceptance
Notice that nowhere does it suggest that Health at Every Size requires that people maintain a specific weight – in fact, that’s actually the other guys. When people begin their Health at Every Size practice they may lose weight, gain weight, or stay the same, and weight may fluctuate over time due to any number of life events. The whole idea of Health at Every Size is that we focus on our behaviors and don’t attempt to manipulate our weight.
Next let me be super clear that doing an IM doesn’t prioritize my health – like everyone who does endurance sports, or any sports really, it puts me at risk for any number of injuries that I wouldn’t face if I just did moderate movement 30 minutes a day like the research suggests would support my health. Still we are all allowed to do things like this because we’re under no obligation to “prioritize our health” by any definition.
This IM goal is not about health, it’s about pushing myself to do something way outside of my comfort zone, and it’s about crossing the finish line and getting a medal.
So, with all of that said, what happens if I lose weight on the path to the IM? First of all, if I do experience weight loss then it would most likely be a short term loss in response to extraordinary circumstances and, like all weight loss, the chances of me maintaining it are miniscule.
It’s highly unlikely that if I lose weight at all I would lose enough weight to no longer be considered “fat” There are plenty of fat endurance athletes. What I think is more likely is that I will lose a couple of pounds and have to deal with annoying and unwanted “compliments” from people who assume I’ll be grateful that they are keeping tabs on my body size, or who assume that I will be happier with a body that is smaller.
In the highly unlikely event that I become “not fat” because of IM training or any other reason, then I would be a thin fat activist. Of course the way that I do my activism would meed to change and I will cross that bridge when I come to it.
Regardless, if I did become uncomfortable with my body for any reason, I would go back to the basics – appreciating the body I have, focusing on the behaviors I choose, speaking out against and fighting the social stigma and oppression that threaten my health, and letting my weight settle where it will.
More Cool Stuff:
If you have questions about my IRONMAN journey the FAQ might help!
If you’re looking for a place to talk about fitness from a weight neutral perspective, check out the Fit Fatties Forum. and the Fit Fatties Facebook page.
Book Me! I’m a professional speaker and I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!
Buy my book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details
The people who make comments like this about HAES demonstrate such an incredible, fundamental misunderstanding of the entire premise of HAES that it’s laughable. Or would be if it didn’t give them what they perceive as ammunition to attack people who are simply trying to live their lives.
One of the biggest misconceptions of HAES is that it’s only fat people who are using it as a tool for their health. Of course, that happens because the haters see it as an “excuse” for us fatties to just eat whatever we want (because eating what we like and what we need to feel full, of course, is not allowed), and stop dieting. So they assume it’s only for fat people, when that’s not at all true.
I know people in ED recovery from anorexia and bulimia, people who would either be perceived as a “normal” weight or as “too thin” by the weight Nazis who have nothing better to do with their time than obsess about the size of others. In some cases, these people are eating in a way intended to help them rebuild their bodies and recovery from anorexia typically means gaining weight, simply by virtue of properly nourishing the body again.
So the idea that body size changes mean you’re not practicing HAES “right” is absolutely preposterous. The point of HAES is very simple… Health. At. EVERY. Size. Not just your current size, but whatever size you may become in the future, whether it’s larger or smaller.
yeah, the word “every” in HAES seems to be really hard to understand ….
Not only do the people who make these comments misunderstand the point of HAES, but they also display their disbelief in your agency and knowledge of your own body. Implicit in the comment is that, if you only did ‘enough’ activity, you could be thin. Nevermind that you’ve been plenty active for a long time and it hasn’t changed your weight significantly (and that wasn’t one of your goals anyway)! Obvs wasn’t ‘enough’.
I hope you continue to get stronger and faster as you train, and your body adapts in ways that support your IM goals.
Thank you for posting this. I admit, I did have that question in my mind, but was hesitant to ask, because, really, it’s none of my business. When I was training for an Alcatraz swim a few years ago, I did a lot of the same things you are doing for the IM…swam a lot, rode my bike a lot, walked (never ran!) a lot. I probably did lose a little weight, but as you said, never enough to be called “thin.” However, several people did comment on how “buff” I looked…which I definitely took as a compliment. I like “buff.” 🙂 I am so in awe of you for doing this IM…and running in general. Good luck to you and please keep posting about your training. It is really inspiring!!
Pingback: Sunday links, 2/15/15: snowpocalypse edition | Tutus And Tiny Hats