5 Fat Acceptance Myths Debunked

As of late, I’ve noticed that some folks in and outside of the fat accpetance movement have some misconceptions about what the movement encourages. Here are some of the myths I’ve come across debunked.

5. Fat acceptance says don’t exercise.

Fat acceptance doesn’t want to control your behavior. It doesn’t want to tell you what to eat, how to eat, what to wear, how to wear it, or what your body should/shouldn’t be doing. Whatever you choose to do with your body is what you choose to do with your body. If you like to exercise, great; do it. If you don’t, great; don’t do it! Your body is yours, and no one should be able to tell you what to do or what not to do. Personally, I exercise. I do for mental health reasons; it gives me a boost of the good chemicals I feel are essential for my mental stability. When I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I worked with my behavioral therapist to look at options other than medication. She suggested exercise because I had mentioned that doing yoga helped me relax and gave me a positive boost. Since then, I have been exercising because I like it. However, any reason is a good reason to do what you want with your body. If you just like it, then you just like. If you don’t like, then you just don’t like it. Fat acceptance wants you to have complete ownership of your body, and whatever that means to you is whatever it means to you.

4. Fat acceptance is a “women only” movement.

It may seem like the conversation is dominated by women, but fat acceptance isn’t trying to keep men out of a women’s only conversation. Men face an increasingly rigid standard of beauty that is being marketed through the media. We have only begun to see the repercussions of a male beauty standard, as it’s something that folks are just starting to research. Women are usually the ones writing about fat acceptance because there has been a lot of in depth research into the harm female beauty standards cause to women and girls. However, men are encouraged to participate in the discussion. If you are interested in reading fat acceptance writings from men, here are a few to blogs with male/gender neutral FA bloggers: (Edit: gender neutral blog)

Fat acceptance also seems to be cis centered, meaning it tends to focus on cisgendered bodies. It’s imperative that trans* individuals are part of the discussion about body image. My one big criticism of the fat acceptance movement is its lack of trans* visibility. I suggest that the fat acceptance community involve trans* bodies in their campaigns because, if we don’t, we are guilty of maintaining a power structure that would like to erase trans* individuals.

3. Fat acceptance wants to reverse the power dynamic between thin and fat.

If you belong to the blogging community–hell, if you’ve logged into Facebook lately–you might I have seen images like this:

These message, in effect, undermines the struggle for fat acceptance. Fat acceptance is not about when thin became hotter than curvy women, what straight cis men find attractive, or the policing of bodies. This type of argument only seeks to reverse the power structure of thin/fat so that fat (or curvy) is favored, and therefore privileged, over thin. Regardless of what the beauty standard is, it’s still oppressive in that one must adhere to it, be shamed if one doesn’t adhere to it, and bodies that don’t fit said standard are seen as not real, good, or worthy. True fat acceptance wants to smash the power structure that says one body is “better” than another. Fat acceptance is about people loving their bodies without having to fit into a standard of beauty: it says that all bodies are real bodies; all bodies are good bodies. Pitting bodies against each other should never be the focus fat acceptance activism.

2. Fat acceptance glorifies obesity.

To me, this myth is nearly laughable. The idea that loving your body regardless of who says you are beautiful glorifies obesity really just translates to “but isn’t being fat bad for you??” The short answer is No, being fat is not bad for you. In fact, fat acceptance is linked to better health outcomes. The fact of the matter is that no one should be shamed about their body. No standard of beauty can tell you whether someone is healthy. Most importantly, shaming someone into being who you want to see is not going to help them feel good about themselves. If one doesn’t feel good about one’s self, one is less likely to care for one’s body and mind. It’s important to understand that the only things being glorified by fat acceptance are self care and self love

1. Fat acceptance demands complete confidence and self-love at all times.

Some mornings I wake up and I can’t look at my body in the mirror. Some mornings I wake up and feel fabulously fat and fierce. Some mornings I wake I and don’t feel anything about my body at all. How we feel and what we think about our bodies fluctuates as often as our moods. No one is asking for complete and total self love, no exceptions, no excuses. Self acceptance is a process; there are challenges we face in that process. Most of the challenges come in the form of self-doubt, insecurity, self-hate, and feelings or inferiority/invisibility. The reason why fat acceptance activists are constantly shouting from roof tops, “Love Your Body!” is because we struggle with loving our bodies on a daily basis. When I say Love your body it’s more like a reminder to myself: Hey, you, don’t be so hard on yourself; see your body for what it is; care for it and love it and treat it with kindness and respect. 

In addition, self love and acceptance is more difficult for some than others. No one is giving you a time frame to work in; no one expects you to wake up tomorrow from the slumber of self-hate, bursting with a passionate love for your body. Loving any aspect of yourself is a day to day challenge that requires a plethora of strategies to overcome said challenges. Fat acceptance simply asks you to work on undoing years of shame and self hate through compassion, care, and love. Some folks my not be ready to establish that relationship to their bodies yet. Perhaps there are other things a person needs/wants to accept about themselves before they can begin work on fat acceptance. That is great. Work on whatever aspects of self that will challenge how you see yourself and what you can do. Again, there is no timeline, and there is no one cracking a self-love whip. However you experience your journey of fat acceptance is right.

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  • Millie Axis

    That is some good debunking. And that “When did this…” pic was I think the only time I got drawn into HULKSMASH on Facebook with a bunch of very dense people (it devolved VERY quickly into a ‘health’ discussion and doing basic 101 “you can’t tell someone’s health by looking at them and you’re affecting their mental health if you try” got the response “Perhaps it is easier to diagnose someone’s mental health by their physical health… Good luck to us all on our own quest for happy & healthy.”


  • Bipolar Bear

    Thank you for this. It may sound dumb but this helps me to identify the issues I have in my life that are dragging me down. I’m obese but being fat is not the highest problem on my list of solving. It’s the mental part. Once I can deal with my own self worth I can actually get out and get moving. Not that that will make me lose a lot of weight but that I will be able to improve my mental state enough to get around and do things I used to be able to do without a second thought.

  • Jo

    This is Jo from unapologetically fat. While I love the post and thank you for the link to my blog, I need to correct my listing as a male blogger. I try to make my blog gender-neutral and a welcoming space for men, but I’m not one. :-) I don’t want to take attention away from the few male bloggers who need support from the FA community to feel less othered. Maybe I can join the list if I can convince my partner to do more guest blogs.

    I really like that you address the gender issue in the list of myths, because the assumption that this is a women-only space and journey is pretty widespread. It’s difficult for many women to see the exclusion working on a subtle level, through language, topics, etc. I identify as gender-queer, and can see the little things, just as a fat person can see the little body-shaming messages that thin people are innured to because it’s not directed at them.

  • William Morton

    I like that you included fat men in the fat bias that is directed at fat people. I do not agree with the vein that you took that fat male bias is something that is just recently been growing. Like myself most fat males who do share their experiences talk about biases as far back as elementary school.

  • Angela

    Hi Will,

    Thank you so much for your comment. I see your point. I suppose I meant that until 15 years ago, researchers weren’t really focusing on male body image. It’s always been a topic for men, I am sure, just as it has always been a topic for women. Thanks for reading!

  • Angela

    Hi Jo,

    Thank you so much for correcting my mistake! I am glad to know there is a gender neutral FA blog out there. I apologize for assuming the gender of the writer. Your comment here is right now. Thanks for your support!

  • Angela

    Correction: Your comment is right on.*

  • Angela

    Hi Bipolar Bear,

    Thanks for your comment. And you do not sound dumb at all! I’m very pleased that this piece helped you out. Everyone works on different aspects of themselves. We can only do so much at a time. You are doing great just by caring for yourself in any way you can.

  • Angela

    Hi Millie,

    I know what you mean. I absolutely hate this debate. It’s so simplistic in nature that it reduces body acceptance to a power struggle. It ridicules the very core of FA. It’s such a divisive argument for FA. Totally silly.

  • William Morton

    Thanks for replying Angela The silence surrounding heterosexual male body issues is confounding. I have seen many online forums fail. Until the point where more fat men feel confident enough to come online and discuss their issue in a non-fetish manner, fat men will be on the fringe of Fat Acceptance.

  • William Morton

    I was thinking of intersectionality in Fat Acceptance and I think that one of the best ways would be to adjust the underlying themes of Fat Acceptance.

    1. Fat Acceptance uses Venus of Willendorf as a Symbol. This figure is useless for fat men, Fat trans-men and many fat cis women who happen not to be a fat apples shaped women with extremely large breasts, big kind of firm belly and small hips.
    2. Often the body image that Fat Acceptance promotes is useless for fat men, fat trans men & women and many fat cis women.

    In this aspect Fat Acceptance is often just a much of a offender as the society that Fat Acceptance fights.

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