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!
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