What About Fat Acceptance?

When I was overweight I struggled greatly with self-confidence and with self -esteem. Maybe they are one in the same. I never felt comfortable in my new bigger body and winced every single time I actually looked at myself in the mirror. I have given a lot of thought over the past months to the concept of self-acceptance. On one hand you read about people who have accepted their body shape and size exactly where they are and don’t want to change anything about themselves. On the other hand, there are people like me, who just couldn’t accept my new body and tried valiantly to change.

In thinking about acceptance and self-love, I was very curious what you think about the concept of accepting your body where it is and not feeling the need or desire to change anything. Perhaps even accepting your body at an unhealthy weight, thus opening yourself up to the myriad of diseases that often accompany obesity. Is this wise or even possible?

I’ve counseled a lot of people who struggle with their weight – in person, over the phone, through email, and with the class I occasionally teach. One thing I’ve rarely found is the person who doesn’t desire a change. The change may be losing 20 pounds, or if may be losing 100 pounds, but the desire is still there. What isn’t there is the acceptance and happiness of how their body appears and functions right then. And for them, that unhappiness is often the impetus that drives them to make hard choices.

Choices concerning their food habits, emotional eating patterns, activity levels, and more. They make those choices to try and change the course of their current path and hopefully improve their health at the same time. Sometimes those new choices are lifelong, and sometimes not. But generally they don’t give up completely.

What of the individuals who don’t really see the need to change their lifestyles to improve their health and appearance? Are they wrong? Are they being truthful?

For me, there were times during my struggle with obesity where I outwardly “gave up” and professed contentment and happiness with myself. Personally, I wasn’t exactly being truthful with myself, John, or my friends. Inside there was still an internal struggle raging with regards to my weight. I said I was “happy” but I wasn’t. I said I felt “healthy” but I really didn’t. I said I didn’t “need” to change, but I did.

This is a touchy subject, because there is a fine line between accepting who we are but at the same time knowing there are positive changes that could be made, and accepting who we are period. I feel that although there are obese people who are healthy at the moment, over time, their obesity will begin to affect their health in a negative way.

What’s your take on accepting where you are even if your health may be jeopardized? Good idea or bad?  Diane

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49 thoughts on “What About Fat Acceptance?

  1. Miz says:

    This is such a sticky and loaded question. and one I struggled to help people answer when I was a trainer.
    for me it is all about me. in the sense that 40+ pounds heavier I wasnt happy. I was tired and sluggish and moody.
    Until Ive walked miles and miles in someone else’s shoes I cant tell them how or what they feel.

    cant wait to read more comments.
    .-= Miz´s last blog ..Earth Footwear 30 Day Challenge (video post). =-.

  2. Fattie Fatterton says:

    I have often wondered if part of my issue with losing weight is that I don’t “see” myself that way. Yes, I know what size I wear and all, but I actually believe I am thinner than that. I think I’m the opposite of anorexics, who only see themselves as fat. I see myself thinner than I actually am. And I’ve not had anyone treat me badly because of my weight since my mid-20s.

    I think it’s okay to love yourself no matter what. I don’t want to be judged on my looks (though I know humans do that naturally). And I was lucky in that my parents emphasized that brains were more desirable than beauty to all of us.

    You have to love YOU before anyone else will.

    The reason I want to be healthy has NOTHING to do with my love life – Future Hubby fell in love with me at my highest weight. It has to do with me wanting to do the activities that make me happy and this weight stops that.
    .-= Fattie Fatterton´s last blog ..Can she do it? Oh yes, she can! =-.

  3. Amy says:

    This is a very tricky subject, because there is a fine line between accepting and loving yourself as you are and at the same time having the desire to improve yourself – and on the other hand being in denial about your health and life situation and not having the motivation to improve. I think we all struggle with this, and probably most of us waver somewhere between the two from time to time. Who hasn’t felt discouraged about not making the progress we would like to make, and just feel like giving up and trying to be content with things the way they are? Sometimes I think it is perhaps even harder to accept that no matter how much effort we put into it, how hard we work out and how clean we eat, no one is “perfect” and part of life is learning to accept our imperfections and limitations and still making the best of our lives and finding that elusive balance between taking good care of ourselves while at the same time being happy with ourselves just the way we are. Life is a work in progress!
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..Carpe Diem =-.

  4. JourneyBeyondSurvival says:

    I think there are many triggers to wanting to change. In the weightloss cycle I think it is too often self hatred and disgust that get me there. Lately though, I’ve been through so much that I can’t withstand that kind of assault.

    I think the healthiest way for me to do it has been this time. I gradually started treating myself better. And not with food. I’ve needed something to pound, but this time I’m not the enemy!
    .-= JourneyBeyondSurvival´s last blog ..Sunset =-.

  5. MrsFatass says:

    Such a tricky question. Because I think it is important to accept yourself whatever shell you’re in. But the thing is, accepting yourself in your own skin runs much deeper than repeating motivational quotes or telling yourself you’re pretty. I have 2 close friends who struggle with this deeply – they both say that they want to make a change in their bodies, and want to support each other to get fit, but instead of helping hold each other accountable to the work, committment, and discipline, they pat each other on the back and say “it’s okay, you’re entitled to the chips” or whatever when the going gets hard. And they do that in the name of self acceptance.
    I’ve been struggling to write a post about this myself, but it’s so sticky. So thanks for getting the thoughts rolling in my head again.

  6. Diane says:

    For some people, obesity is not a simple matter of unhealthy lifestyle, but a metabolic problem that is not easily defined, and therefore cannot be easily addressed. For these people, no amount of desire, intellectual enlightenment or encouragement will make any difference, and you are left with the choice of totally losing faith in life itself or changing the way you look at everything ( Overweight 18 month old children are not binge eating, eating on the sneak, insufficiently exercising or any of those other behaviors and not all physicians have the knowledge to run the necessary diagnostic tests to identify the problem).In all cases and all people, true love must first begin with self. If you do not love yourself you will never be motivated to find or make a change. With self love you discover the strength to question the status quo and break free from the mass produced same ole way of doing things, and make a change.Without self love and acceptance, the world and the way things are will swallow you whole.Self love must come first- the very first stage of rebellion !
    .-= Diane´s last blog ..Uggh =-.

  7. Deniz says:

    Hmmm, “accepting where you are even if your health may be jeopardized”. A tricky one for sure and Miz is right, the way I read it. I don’t think I can say ‘good’ or ‘bad’ idea for anyone but me. For me, my token ‘acceptance’ of obesity was a bad idea, and still is.

    I’ll probably get myself shot down in flames over this, but acceptance of where you are (with the assumption that this means being unhealthily overweight), even if this is at serious risk to your health, can only ever be down to the person wearing that skin. I agree that it may not be kind or fair to family, or to friends, or even to the person themselves, but, like drinking, doing drugs or any other ‘life affecting’ choice it still is the decision and prerogative of one person alone… the individual. Others may suggest, or counsel or guide, but cannot ever force or make the decision for another person to change themselves. If someone truly accepts who and what they are, even if that puts them at high risk, so be it.

    Now if the question were to go on… “and is this acceptance usually based on honesty?”, I’d say that a lot of the time it is may well not be, based on my own personal experience.

    Saying I was ‘happy’ and ‘accepted myself as I was’ at my heaviest, which I did if anyone ever pushed me to change, was not honest for me. In fact it was a huge lie. Complete BS! I knew that in my heart and am pretty sure other people knew it too.

    But a lot of my acceptance lie was based on fear – fear that I would try again and fail again, fear of looking ‘stoopid’, fear of drawing attention to myself, fear that I wouldn’t be able to ‘enjoy’ life if I ‘gave up’ all the food I loved, fear that I’d left it too late to change. All sorts of fear.

    Real acceptance wasn’t an option when I was honest with myself and looked at my own health being badly at risk – right then, not in some nebulous ‘future’. So I bit the bullet and began to change – it wasn’t easy then and still isn’t, but it was ‘my’ choice to make.

    I’m a long way on, and now learning to see the difference between what is and is not achieveable (better fitness = achieveable, zero-fat, iron-flat belly = not), and finding my way to acceptance of that. I can’t say that I’m not still doing something that puts my health ‘at risk’ in some way, but I am trying hard to be healthy. Yes, that’s for the good of my husband and family to some extent, but mostly it’s for ‘my’ good and I stand by that decision being mine alone to make. I guess the same goes for everyone.

    Rant over 🙂
    .-= Deniz´s last blog ..A little light…? =-.

  8. Gina Fit by 41 Maybe 42 says:

    True self-love and acceptance, imo, is being able to not be fazed by media’s idea of what our body should look like and not comparing ourselves to others.

    AND it means treating ourselves well by eating mostly nourishing foods and moving our body regularly. If we eat one too many cookies, it’s not a big deal (we don’t GIVE UP nor become discouraged because we know we are usually doing the what is best for us).

    If you love something, you take care of it.
    .-= Gina Fit by 41 Maybe 42´s last blog ..Meal PLANNING Worksheet =-.

  9. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    A toughie today Diane! A packed post & question! I think it is great that people feel good about themselves no matter what for sure! For some, it may be an act but we really don’t know that if they don’t tell us….

    BUT, I do feel health is of utmost importance. Ya got to want to be around for yourself, family, kids if you have them AND being healthy is important as setting an example for kids if you have them too. Yes, loving yourself is very important BUT we do want our kids healthy too.

    Got me thinking!
    .-= Jody – Fit at 52´s last blog ..Calories In, Calories Out – What is the Truth? =-.

  10. Mia says:

    To accept yourself at any weight is a good thing…Meaning, you should love yourself warts and all. But in the same breath, loving yourself means taking care of yourself. Being obese is unhealthy and, with kindness, one should do something about it. This doesn’t necessarily mean a gun-ho diet either. Little things are good. More walking, more water, etc. They say that even loosing 10-15 pounds helps.

    But what about the person who is 5-10 pounds over weight, who belittles herself because she is not perfect. Again, it is important to love yourself warts, cellulite, and all! As long as that person is healthy, let it go.

  11. Dr. J says:

    We all meed to take personal responsibility for our impact on others, and the world in general and do the best we can with that.

    Diane, my column is running again, thank you! 🙂

  12. Barbara says:

    I am reminded of the serenity prayer about changing the things you can change and not changing those that you can’t change and the wisdom to know the difference. I think that if you truly love yourself, you will treat yourself well, that means eating nutritiously and exercising. If you accept your obesity, you are giving up on yourself and essentially saying that you can’t change or that you don’t care enough about yourself to make that change.

  13. anne h says:

    When I was heavy, I never felt “heavy.”
    Now I never feel “skinny.”
    (20 pounds to go)
    It’s like there is a blind spot in the center of our vision that keeps us from seeing at all.
    How we see, and esteem and value ourselves.

  14. Free Weight Loss Newsletter says:

    I’ve often wondered the same thing. How can you love yourself as you are and at the same time have a strong desire to change yourself? Is that possible?

    Yeah, I think it is. Let’s look at this another way. Can you love a friend even though you wish they would change? Of course. You can look at them as a complete person and realize that if they didn’t have those faults, they wouldn’t be who they are, the person that you love. So at the exact same time, you may wish that they fix their faults and be happy that they have them.

    It’s now simple to realize that you can feel the same way about yourself. Now to answer the question I think you were asking: You can accept who you are, have a desire to change, and love who you are right now.

    Is it possible for a person to accept who they are as obese in full knowledge of the problems that come with being overweight, and still be happy with who they are? The only answer I can come up with is that they do want to work on themselves, but weight loss is so far down the list that they must begrudgingly accept themselves as is. Please feel free to disagree.

    Very thought-provoking post.

  15. RNegade says:

    Thin does not equal healthy. Eventually, thin or fat, we all become less healthy, and we all die. My point: If my self-acceptance and body acceptance is dependent on how “healthy” I am, or on my appearance, then I am putting boundaries on my self love, which is NOT healthy (for me) and is definately not a loving mindset with which to live.

    Lack of self acceptance and lack of self love create a lot of STRESS, and chronic stress is VERY unhealthy. Also, discrimination (yes, even fat discrimination) creates stress. If you’re worried about the health of a fat person, try treating them with respect and loving kindness.

    Finally, as a person who has disabilities, I KNOW that my value or my self-love cannot be determined by how well my body can function in the world or by how healthy other people may think I am. I depend on the kindness of strangers. Literally.

    If any of you (God forbid) become disabled, and if you cannot exercise and move as much (or at all), I hope you won’t stop loving yourself if you gain weight.

  16. Lauren @ Eater not a runner says:

    I think that learning to love yourself is an important part of the process of getting healthier. Once you are more focused internally than externally, you can focus on your health and not your appearance, and usually weight loss will happen more naturally. At least that’s what worked for me!
    .-= Lauren @ Eater not a runner´s last blog ..Back to the Grind =-.

  17. Melissa says:

    Just before I decided to get healthy (not lose weight, but get healthier) I had kind of made peace with how I looked. I think that made things easier when the weight started to come off, because at any time if the weight loss had stopped, I would have been happy.
    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..Be my Virtual Shopping Assistant!! =-.

  18. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman says:

    I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. Why can’t someone love who they are as a person—funny, kind, nurturing, whatever—but understand their weight is unhealthy and poses future risks? When we say we love ourselves, it doesn’t have to revolve around weight. Maybe I love that I’m smart or a good listener but I know I need to get into a healthy weight range.
    .-= Tracey @ I’m Not Superhuman´s last blog ..Snack Attack: Why Kids Who Eat Junk All Day Get Fat =-.

  19. Jules - Big Girl Bombshell says:

    You are so right! It is such a fine, fine line. I am working on self wisdom instead. Several posts, such as yours, inspired my own on change and instead of working harder, learning to think differently. That might be the key for the middle ground of the fine line.

    Thanks again Diane! You are helping me in SO many ways, just like dr. j said you would!
    .-= Jules – Big Girl Bombshell´s last blog ..What Type of Person are You? =-.

  20. Lara (Thinspired) says:

    Definitely a fine line!

    I guess my answer is that I think you can still “accept” someone and still encourage change. Of course I think ALL people should be “accepted” and judged by their inner character. However, that is separate from addressing larger, physical health concerns. I don’t like the term “Fat Acceptance,” so much as perhaps size acceptance. We are all different shapes and sizes, but I do believe that optimum health should always be encouraged.
    .-= Lara (Thinspired)´s last blog ..Quick Meals =-.

  21. 'Drea says:

    For me, I didn’t realize what I was doing was jeopardizing my health — even though people pointed out that I was putting my health in jeopardy.

    Was I in denial? Probably.

    At the time, there was no duality for me: I said that I was okay with my weight and I was okay with my weight.

    Later on, something clicked for me but I was definitely the one who had to see the light.
    .-= ‘Drea´s last blog ..Month-End Review, February =-.

  22. Chad says:

    I think it’s important to care about yourself enough to accept that you are where you are with weight, but still make the changes you need to be happy. I think denying that obesity can have health effects, even if your lab results may be okay at a particular moment, is very, very dangerous.
    .-= Chad´s last blog ..Nutrition From the Ground Up =-.

  23. julie says:

    I actually like the concept of Health at Every Size, and I think people have the right to be fat. I think there’s way too much fat-hate, and I don’t think one has to be skinny to be healthy. Whether one can be healthy at 350 is another story, maybe at 20, but not into 40s and beyond.

    But considering how uncomfortable the FA blogs are about the scale, being called fat, and possible health implications that many insist are fabricated, I think they’re not really accepting, just denying.
    .-= julie´s last blog ..My mother, my enabler =-.

  24. Leah says:

    Boy you got all of us thinking today, Diane. 🙂 I’m trying to figure out how best to answer, but honestly I’m not sure.

    As I’ve said before, I believe that learning to accept yourself as you are, if you never lost another pound is one of the beginning steps to caring for your weight and health.

    That’s my story. I had to learn to love myself if I never lost any weight. It was very hard to do that. I gained a little more weight, got more uncomfortable and then finally began having pain in my knees.

    It was then that it hit me that loving myself didn’t mean letting myself go to pot, but it meant caring for myself also. And thus began my weight loss journey.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  25. Jeremy Logsdon says:

    I don’t go for Fat Acceptance, myself. I definitely believe everyone should strive for their best. Appearance is truly irrelevant, but health isn’t. Now if someone is not the cover model they’d like to be, that’s different, but as far as being okay with being morbidly obese, to me, that’s an unhealthy place to be and there is no need to accept that. For me, it’s a continual quest to be healthier. But I do wonder sometimes if I’ll ever feel fully at peace with my appearance. 30+ years of struggling with obesity can take its mental toll.
    .-= Jeremy Logsdon´s last blog ..Twittering Again =-.

  26. Jen says:

    Losing weight is not a guarantee that you will feel better about yourself. When I was at my lowest weight, I hated my looks as much as when I was 300 lbs. It is not a fix all in your life.

    If I had good self esteem when I started, maybe I would not have hit the snags I did.
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..A Trip to Target =-.

  27. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    A tricky question indeed. When I was about 50 pounds heavier than I am today, I wasn’t healthy and I wasn’t comfortable with myself. And, much like you, I hardly ever looked at myself. And there was a point when I didn’t love myself very much anymore. And I think that’s a problem. Because I truly believe I was only able to change once I loved myself enough to change. It wasn’t about how I looked but about how I felt. I was getting older, but I knew that I should have more energy and feel better.
    .-= Andrea@WellnessNotes´s last blog ..Happy Monday and Weekly Meals =-.

  28. Deb says:

    Accepting yourself as fat has absolutely NOTHING to do with loving yourself–at least not in the way it is being used in some the comments above.

    IF you loved yourself–your whole self, including your physical self–you would not accept yourself at 50 or 100 or 200 pounds overweight.

    That is abusive–not loving. I wouldn’t forcefeed chocolate to my overweight child because I loved him.
    Would you?

    If I loved myself, I would give myself healthy food and get to a healthy weight. I would also not torture myself to lose that “extra” 20 pounds that the fashion magazines and Hollywood say I am carrying.

    Loving yourself is shown by caring for your body and allowing yourself the opportunity to feel good, have energy and enjoy life.

    chuckle. I kind of got on a tear there, didn’t I?

    .-= Deb´s last blog ..Where Do I Want This Highway To Lead Me? =-.

  29. Sally says:

    The way I see it you have to accept yourself as you are, and love yourself before you can get the motivation to lose weight. Self hatred, and low self esteem mean you feel you are not worth bothering about so wny put the effort into LOSE weight?
    .-= Sally´s last blog ..Motivation =-.

  30. Jen-JensFitnessTips.com says:

    It is a touchy subject but I think it’s great you are addressing this. I think it is very rare for obese or overweight people to not want to change. Accepting obesity is death. Obesity=depression, diseases, heart problems, diabetes, breathing problems and so much more. How can a person who appreciated life and wants to live accept this?! I’m all for helping people lose weight…not to be a size 2 but to be healthy and live a long and happy life. But before one goes on the journey of weight loss, one has to love themselves first. Self-worth must be there to make the changes. One people start to see slight changes in their body, is great motivation to continue. Thank you Diane for addressing this.
    .-= Jen-JensFitnessTips.com´s last blog ..Olympic Special #10: Curling Crescent Lunge =-.

  31. Merry Mary says:

    This is a hard one. I know for me I had to learn to love myself before I could get healthy. My hatred for myself and my body (learned from years of verbal/emotional abuse from family members) fueled the negative habits and the rise in weight. So once I learned how to love myself, at least a little in the beginning, that spurred on the actions that made me healthier and better. I think there needs to be some love for yourself no matter what your weight. Being fat doesn’t mean you are a bad person. It doesn’t mean you are a failure. You might be unhealthy but that doesn’t make you a bad person or unworthy of love. Somehow we’ve created this false idea that it does. Basically everyone believes fat = not worth of love. Where the heck did that come from? No matter what you weigh you still deserve to be loved by others and yourself.
    .-= Merry Mary´s last blog ..Music and Exercise – Your Suggestons =-.

  32. Linda says:

    For me, when I was heavier accepting myself as I was, was a cop-out. Sometimes I would say to my self “well, not everyone is skinny! I’m just always going to be fat” It was avoidance. A way to not acknowledge something. Because there was great fear. Fear that I would fail. Fear that someone would notice me and say “are you losing weight?” then I would regain all of it. Fear of being someone different and new. But along the journey I have learned so much. My thinking has changed. My outlook has changed. I feel so much better.
    .-= Linda´s last blog ..Chicken Tetrazzini =-.

  33. Lori (Finding Radiance) says:

    I have trouble with this concept. There is a fine line between accepting oneself for who you are and denying yourself the chance to be more than you think you can be.

    In a lot of cases, I think fat acceptance is more giving up than truly accepting. I sort of thought I would always be fat, but that is not what I *wanted*. I accepted the fact that I was fat, and I actually liked myself, but I did not want to be fat.

    That said, if someone is accepting of themselves as fat and are okay with that – more power to them and they should be left along.
    .-= Lori (Finding Radiance)´s last blog ..Attune chocolate bars giveaway! =-.

  34. Taryl says:

    I find that self acceptance and weight should be entirely exclusive. Love your marvelously designed body and your mind regardless, and understand thet you owe it to yourself and your family to work at being the healthiest person you can reasonably be. I loved myself at 270 pounds, but that didn’t mean I loved the extra weight I was carrying. But heck, in hindsight it is simply amazing my body could carry so much extra weight and still function so well! I dot love myself more now than I did then, but I do recognize that my body is in better shape and that improves my quality of life.

    I agree with some of the other posters – I generally find acceptance or contentedness with a dangerous health situation (be it weight, alcoholism, untreated illnesses, whatever) to be the copout of a coward who is unwilling to face down a hard truth about themselves and make a change. It sounds harsh, but I think that as long as one is healthy the weight is a minor concern, and self love doesn’t need to exclude the possibility or necessity of change if one’s health is in jeopardy.
    .-= Taryl´s last blog ..The up and down game =-.

  35. empower me photo guy says:

    I think that you should, of course, love yourself – but also in loving yourself you should recognise that you deserve what is best for you. And in most cases, for someone who is overweight, losing a few pounds is best for their health, their self esteem, and their lives in general. Most people who lose weight find they feel empowered and energized, and this can only be a good thing!

  36. Fattie Fatterton says:

    I also want to add that I think it matters whether or not you have ever been thin. I have never been considered thin, although I know now that I was at a healthy weight in high school and college. The issue there was that the other girls were petite and so I stuck out like a sore thumb.

    Because I’ve never been thin or perceived as a healthy weight, I think it’s easier for me to accept myself and be comfortable in my skin. Had I gone from thin to fat, it would be different.
    .-= Fattie Fatterton´s last blog ..Can she do it? Oh yes, she can! =-.

  37. Marcelle says:

    Look at all your fans you have since I last visited your blog!!! Way you gooooooo…

    Am still on holiday but today wanted to come in to say hello and catch up…have all your entries saves on my feedreader, will read them all over time.

    I hated myself when overweight…I often would say…* This is the new me, I’m older, I cant expect to look like I used to * and then a week or two later, I would break down seeing myself in the mirror and say * No I cant accept this new me, its not me, I dont feel like me anymore, I want me back *
    So no, I could never accept and it upsets me when I see others accepting themselves when they are not in good healthy shape…I know it can be done, if the desire is there you can do it…without the desire to lose the weight one will continue the battle.
    I never want to be that me again…even while on holiday I train daily and watch what I eat, not as strictly, but I make good choices where possible.
    My desire is there
    .-= Marcelle´s last blog ..Hair sorted!! =-.

  38. Amy S, says:

    I would follow this same cycle… want to lose, desire to make choices, begin the journey to get to a healthy weight.. fall off the wagon, and then begin this whole “who cares.. I am fine… what’s the big deal anyways” kind of thinking. If I am truly honest with myself, it was just denial…self defeat.

    I do think you can love yourself tho no matter what size you are, BUT loving yourself means taking care of yourself. Not continuing down a road to sickness and possible death, you know? I would actually tell myself that in the beginning… when I am dragging myself to exercise.. “Amy this is loving yourself!! Taking care of yourself is LOVE, not eating the whole package of cookies.” LOL!

    Anywho, just my 2 cents! Great subject, Diane!
    .-= Amy S,´s last blog ..Mmmmmk… thoughts… =-.

  39. Collette says:

    A lot of great points made here. I just don’t know that there really is such a thing as truly accepting and being content with oneself when a person is not treating their body with respect. And, let’s be honest, if you are overweight you are obviously not fully listening to your body. I also think health and happiness go hand in hand, and you can’t have one without the other.
    .-= Collette´s last blog ..Pedx x USM New Era Snapback =-.

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