I n a culture where thin bodies are idolized, thought beautiful and healthy, and sought for at the cost of women's (and increasingly men's) time and money and sometimes health, some people don't want them. There is an ever-growing movement variously referred to as "size acceptance," "fat acceptance," "fat positive," and "body positive." This movement has its forerunners in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century physicians such Hutchinson Woods, who critiqued the dieting culture as it became established. While both women and men are involved, many organizations have a decidedly feminist take on the perils of dieting culture and its celebration of a narrow standard of beauty.
The NAAFA (originally the National Association to Aid Fat Americans, later changed to National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) was founded in 1969 to "eliminate discrimination based on body size and provide fat people with the tools for self-empowerment through public education, advocacy, and member support." It splintered in 1973, and members of the Los Angeles chapter founded the Fat Underground, a collective of fat activists with strong ties to the radical ther apy, lesbian, and feminist communities. They published the "Fat Liberation Manifesto," a document outlining the collective's political ties to other oppressed groups, its antidiet stance, and its demand for equality in all areas of life for fat women. They argue, as does the International Size Acceptance Association (ISAA), that a person can be healthy at any size. They condemn the use of fear, guilt, and misinformation by the diet industry to sell (at best useless and at worst dangerous) products to consumers of all sizes. In their official position statement on dieting and the diet industry, the NAAFA emphasizes that the suffering of fat people is due to the stereotypes perpetuated by the diet industry. The various permutations of NAAFA, such as the Chicago Size Acceptance Group, have turned the tables, it is claimed, on the diet culture by allowing women to take pride in their size.
Their position paper includes the following recommendations:
• That local, state, and federal legislatures introduce, pass, enact, and enforce legislation which protects consumers against dangerous or ineffective diets and misleading diet advertising.
• That state and federal regulatory agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), adopt regulations based on NAAFA's "Guidelines for the Diet Industry" and closely monitor and control all aspects of the multibillion-dollar diet industry.
• That all commercials for weight-loss diets and diet products be banned from radio and television because of lack of product success, negative health consequences, and the extreme negative impact of anti-fat propaganda on the self-esteem and quality of life of fat people.
• That federal regulations require all diets and weight-loss products to clearly display a health warning (similar to those found on cigarettes) regarding possible hazards and side effects.
• That regulations be adopted that require the diet industry to publish five-year (minimum) follow-up studies and "success" rates. All such statistics must be verifiable by objective outside researchers and clearly displayed on all diet products and advertising.
• That the Centers for Disease Control track morbidity and mortality caused by dieting and make the findings available to the public.
• That the National Institutes of Health (NIH) include input from consumer advocacy groups in establishing public health policy about dieting and obesity.
• That consumer-protection agencies, such as Consumers Union, conduct biannual studies on the efficacy of diet products and programs.
• That institutions such as the military, hospitals, schools, mental institutions, or prisons provide adequate food and not force anyone to diet against their will.
• That employers, schools, and judges never use weight loss or dieting as a condition for employment, promotion, admission, or avoiding incarceration.
• That healthcare professionals and medical institutions never deny other medical treatment to patients who choose not to diet.
• That the diet industry refrain from creating or perpetuating negative stereotypes about fat people in its marketing strategies.
• That diet companies and diet industry trade organizations voluntarily comply with NAAFA's "Guidelines for the Diet Industry."
• That individuals considering dieting study available literature on long-term results and side effects and carefully weigh dieting's possible benefits and risks.
• That dieters refuse to feel guilty or blame themselves for presumed lack of willpower if a diet fails.
• That no one allow themselves to be coerced into dieting against their will.
• That no one make assumptions or judge another person on the basis of body size or dietary preferences.
The ISAA, founded in 1997, has similar goals, with an international scope. They have active chapters in the U.S.A., U.K., France, Norway, Russia, Brazil, Australia, and the Philippines. Much of their work is internet-based, including downloadable literature, electronic magazines, and health and other resources on their site. They are currently focusing attention on "the obesity epidemic." They provide a link, for example, to a study at Yale that found anti-fat bias among health specialists working on obesity. The ISAA also provides an official position denouncing research on the "obesity virus" as "quackery." They therefore do not support the public health interventions trying to reduce obesity. In the past decade there has been a "celebrity" movement that paralleled the "plus size" movement in fashion.
See also Anorexia; Imes-Jackson; Infectobesity; Manheim; Obesity Epidemic
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