Sunday, July 4, 2010

Goodbye NAAFA and the rest: Why I left Size Acceptance

Here is my old 2001 article: I left size acceptance many years ago, circa 2000-2001.

Here is updated version for this blog. Over the years, I did get response to my articles with many people in agreement, many repeated my concerns, and told me they were ignored as well. I have noted the size acceptance movement in examining its websites, publications, organizations and spokespeople has declined from late 1990s, honestly I am not surprised.

While some of size acceptance's ideals are sound, which include ending discrimination against fat people and advocating for their rights, the foundations are crumbling. I have noticed while things hit more of a peak in the late 90s, where one saw NAAFA and other size acceptance organizations in the news everywhere, nowadays things seem to have shrunk. Americans have gotten even fatter and corpulence is becoming even more reviled. The Size Acceptance movement as it now and then stands has failed.

Today's primere size acceptance organizations are NAAFA [National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance] and the far lesser known ISAA International Size Acceptance Association. NAAFA as of the late 90s had thousands of members {4,000}, I do not know its present numbers. ISAA being a much less known group, one can only estimate the membership. These groups match in their basic philosophies. There are size acceptance groups with activism as the main endeavor, but many have cropped up focusing on the social end of things, dances, parties, for the overweight people and their "admirer's with Heavenly Bodies in Boston, and even nightclubs such as Club Bounce in California. Here is a list of these groups. Many of these groups sprouted up from the NAAFA fountainhead, though their first priority is social functions rather the activism. When I speak of Size Accceptance in this article, it does encompass some of these groups but focuses mostly on the activism part, and what is being sold by top 'spokesmen" and "women" for size acceptance.

The first reason Size Acceptance has not grown is it promotes fat rather then just dealing with it as a physical characteristic. Sometime around 1980, NAAFA changed its name from National Association to Aid Fat Americans, to National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. This was also a philosophical stand not just a linguistical one.

Fat is great according to the size acceptance minions and while the ideals of fat people deserving right and proper treatment are commendable, this belief flies in the face of scientific logic. The demand for pasted on smiles and glorying in my hugely rotund body, basically failed as I gasped for air merely climbing some stairs.

The big names in size acceptance try to sell some nice sounding ideas such as "Health at Any Size" [does that apply to 600lbs too?] and brush all the health problems that come about from obesity whether the obesity itself is a sympton or not, right under the proverbial carpet. I still remember the day many years ago, where I challenged a certain notable in size acceptance circles, whose more extroverted personality gained her the attention in the national media for a short time, to go visit a bariatric nursing home, and to go see where "fat" could take people.

I get that people who have never exited the mid-sized world where normal living has never ceased may just "not get it" but ignoring the experiences of thousands you proport to represent is willfully neglectful.

Anyone who surpasses the 400lb mark soon learns that bikini parties with the "Padded Lilies" [an actual Size acceptance group that is compromised of mid-sized women who do synchronized swimming, conventions, and fat positive rhetoric soon rings hollow next to their scooter, sleep apnea machine, shortness of breathe and bottles of expensive prescriptions. It is good to be healthy, fit and happy, but where does denial of reality come into the size acceptance presentation on size? Marilyn Wann in her book "Fatso?!" points out at 250lbs how she climbs mountains, and dances for hours without exhaustion. As late as 1995, I would walk 2-3 miles for "fun" myself. But sadly this negates experiences of heavier people who find walking across a parking lot, an exhausting challenge. Fat people can indeed be healthier and in better shape via exercise and better food, but some reality checks are in order.

The SA publications all showed fat women frolicking in swimming pools and doing aerobics. While I liked much of what these publications had to offer, it is sad so many have gone defunct. While these activities are good for the more midsized person with better health, physical realities come crashing through for those who suffer with obesity in it's most severe forms. Those who find their stamina crumbling usually are ironically told to exercise more but not lose any weight. When the first health crises crop up, many did leave size acceptance for the university diet clinics or for weight surgery. I found myself thinking that size acceptance as presented in this country was just the flipside of the coin of the failed diet industry, all desiring to profit off everyone where very little truth was spoken. Years ago before I departed, I talked about this stuff, but the brick walls of refusing to face reality never budged. I doubt, that size activist I mentioned above ever went to go visit that nursing home.

Denying the fact that obesity is a disease or even a disabling condition, size acceptance has put its head in the sand and closed the door long ago on those who were not fat, "fit and healthy". Tracy a past person with PCOS as well, I knew on a size acceptance board had this to say

"I have in the past, held the concept of "size acceptance" dear to my
heart, but at this stage and with my health in the crisis that it is, I cannot
with a clear conscience, advocate or agree with any movement that does not
address the reality of the negative health consequences of severe

No size acceptance organizations supports a cure for obesity. None that I know of have called for there to be real medical studies {the ones on supersized people my size are nearly non-existent} or for any real help to be developed. The focus even in the 90s, as I viewed it was almost all social stuff, with only a few working indepth on the "heavier" matters. After all its all about "acceptance" rather then "aiding". The people speaking for the fat are as bad as those who wish to bilk them of their wallets for liquid diets. Imagine a kidney disease foundation telling those with kidney disease they must accept their condition. Fat people are told this is "your lot in life you must accept it". This leaves the fat person out in the cold in general between fad diet charlatans and size acceptance advocates who tell them their only other option is to make the best of it!

Logic was a sold out proposition, as the elephant in the room was ignored, that elephant being, that being "fat" for most fat people is not their perferred way of being. The secret that 99% of people hate being fat, and it wasn't about the discrimination always, but the plain fact for many it hurts, and makes everything harder to do even limiting activities for the mid-sized crowd. As one NAAFA spokesperson said
"It is my position and that of many in the movement that we need to focus on
what we can do to make fat people healthy--not make fat people thin. Right now I
believe that working toward making fat people healthy is a winnable battle--I do
not believe making fat people thin is."
What better position to remain a non-threat to the diet industry complex? But I digress.

This shows that acceptance and promotion of fat was and has been one of the most prevailing goals of size acceptance. Obesity is seen like something like tallness, a normal part of person's makeup. I wonder how a 600lb person who can barely walk is supposed to take this information?

Out of fear and justified loathing of the diet industry, size acceptance took a wholly reactionary position, shoving it's head in the sand. Repeating mantras of "Fat People are healthy" even amid oxygen and wheelchair dependent people, very few are buying into the lie.

The problem is the cost of demanding equal rights for fat people should not have as its price out and out lies and denial. Most Americans know at least one friend or relative who has suffered the out and out social ramifications as well as the physical results of being obese. The public is privy now to the sufferings of the super-obese on the Discovery network. Many fat people outside of the SA network, see it as a group of extremists who have "give up"!

Science is discovering more facts on fat people's behalf that many diseases and conditions have obesity as a sympton including PCOS, Syndrome X, Cushings, side effects of prescription drugs etc. There are also those who do have eating disorders or other conditions, then there are the facets of modern life itself [which I'll be talking about more later]. With all the writing about the futility of diet, which has some truth to it, where is the writing or academics willing to face honestly the complexities of obesity? What I noticed is that the size acceptance community walled itself off from anyone will to do this. NAAFA and groups like it have nothing to offer those who face the results of severe obesity, disabled or not, because they never want to threaten their position of ever admitting fat can be the result of a disease process.

Size acceptance in the 90s, and I doubt this has changed much, had a dark side that was unknown to the public. Being more conservative in my own lifestyle choices, that alone, was reason to depart the world of NAAFA conventions and BBW social gatherings. Some leaders are involved in the selling of plus size erotica and photos. Some "size acceptance" websites, you will find obese women selling videos and nude photographs of themselves to the proverbial "FA" [or fat admirer]. Odd that objectification of fat women, has been one of the results of the "acceptance message."

Many of the so called fat advocacy organizations and social groups then center themselves on "pleasing" the FA. The integrity has been lost by that alone. The FAs [known as "chubby chasers" too] do not want anyone to lose weight as they are sexually attracted to those who are obese. It is a fetish for many who look at weight as the primary factor in choosing a partner. One other debauched world is the one of "feeders" who seek to make their significant partner fatter and "feedees" who want to be fatter. I encountered one woman years ago who had to have serious psychological problems whose life goal was to be 600lbs. Years ago, I told her she was basically inviting the Grim Reaper over for a party, those warnings were not listened to as far as I know.

Size acceptance is a failure, but then the premise of accepting what for most is basically a health issue, that causes uncomfortableness on the low end, and serious health issues on the high end, basically has been a cop out all along. Truth about obesity has been shoved under the carpet and overweight people have remained being handed the same cup of indignity, the diet profit makers have served. Perhaps it is an impossible dream, to think of a group that truly looked out for overweight people and stood up for true help instead of serving as a conduit for all those who want to exploit the fat in different ways.


  1. Hi

    I agree with you that NAAFA is too much like it was in the days that it was in League with Fat Fatishers, but I am not to the point that I am going to turn my back on Fat Acceptance.

    The truth is that there are far too many Fat Acceptance Bloggers out there, the enemies of Fat People could make a point that all Fat People do is Blog :)

    I do not have time to read 95% or more of the FA Blog material out there. So what I do is limit myself the a few of the blogs that I like.

    I think that if I did not have FA in my life that I would be spending more time worrying about how people think I look.


  2. Thanks William. You are right there are a lot of fat acceptance bloggers. LOL. Hey tell me your favorites I need to link to more here. Fat acceptance did help me, but I guess there are aspects of it and organizations I just cannot get on board with.

  3. I don't understand exactly what you want naafa/SA community to do for you?

  4. 1. Stop the over-fat promotion. Fat does cause health problems. No this does not mean I believe everyone should be stick thin or that I support the garbage they offer as the "cure".

    2. Live in reality.

    3. Notice supersized and super supersized people are alive, and recognize their health problems.

    4. Detach from nauseating hyper-liberal agendas and social programming. Study up on what is being done to our food.

    5. Detach from the Fat admirer world.

    Shall I continue?

    1. I also think there is a strong element of fetishism from males toward the females. I watched a doco recently and the men described the women as all body parts, had pet names like 'pears' etc which negated any human characteristics resident in the females, Does this not bother the women? It seemed to me the men saw nothing about the women except gratification for THEIR desires. Nothing about the intellect or emotional parts of women, and I disliked this entirely about the movement. I prefer to be a 'whole' female to my man, not made up of 'parts'. If I were in this movement I would be running very fast in the opposite direction.

    2. They cater to the fat admierers and yes there is a strong element of fetishism.

      See this more recent post too:

      So much now is focused on the body and shallow elements. It still bothers me.

  5. Never got an answer on this one, guess I am not surprised.

  6. Hi,
    thanks for your blog, it's awesome! I have a question:
    " ".... Right now I
    believe that working toward making fat people healthy is a winnable battle--I do
    not believe making fat people thin is."
    What better position to remain a non-threat to the diet industry complex?"

    What do you mean by non-threat exactly? Is it because they don't openly attack the industry?

  7. Because it leaves fat people without real help.

    It 'enables' the lousy industrial diet complex in the giving up mode.

    This is why Marilyn Wann and those like her have to deny the health problems especially with severe obesity.

    They are no threat to the diet industry, they help to ENABLE it instead of making demands for better treatment and help.

  8. NAFFA has done a disservice to fat folks especially fat men. The problem with NAAFA is that they hate lean women more almost as much as they hate fat men.

  9. A fat man myself, I'm not sure that NAAFA's belief that "we need to focus on what we can do to make fat people healthy --not make fat people thin." is a false message. The saying asks to 'make' fat people 'healthy', it does not define them a automatically being so. As a goal, it's not a bad idea. If it's a definition, it's as false as most 'definition's of the same ilk. I can see the objection to defining 'fat' people as unhealthy. It accomplishes nothing. There are degrees of 'fatness' as in any other condition. It takes more knowledge than I have to draw the line as to where, if at all, 'fatness' automatically becomes unhealthy. That there is one is not improbable. Where it is, that's another question.

  10. As a fat man myself, I'm not sure that I see NAAFA's statement that "we need to focus on what we can do to make fat people healthy-- not make fat people thin." as inaccurate. It says that they want to make 'fat' people 'healthy.' It does not define them as such. As a goal it makes sense. As a definition it's no better than equating 'fat' with 'unhealthy'. Both would be inaccurate.
    'Fatness' is a continuum containing many degrees thereof. There may by a point at which 'fatness' is automatically unhealthy. I simply don't know where that point is, if it in fact exists. I'm not sure that anyone does.
    But my point stands. I may be seeing things wrong, but the NAAFA's statement makes sense. Whether it is practiced as I see it is something else again.

  11. I have trouble with this organization wanting to add fat discrimination to civil rights laws. Being obese isn't the same as as being a particular sex, race, religion, age or sexual orientation. It's ridiculous to attempt to equate these things. I won't go any further with my views because the overweight individuals who are part of this organization desperately want these things to be seen as equal and therefore respond based on emotions and not their intellect. Just to be clear, I'm against fat shaming of any kind and believe everyone should be judged by their personality not physique....but that isn't how the real world works, unfortunately.

  12. I'm a married nurse, weight 299. One of my biggest pet peeves is how everyone, even the medical community assumes that if you are obese, you are sick. I am 59, my blood pressure is normal, bordering on low. My blood glucose level is normal, my cholesterol is normal. It seems to surprise people. I have 2 female friends, both my age and less than half my weight, but one has high blood pressure & high cholesterol, and the other has high blood pressure. I have struggled with my weight forever. Started diet pills at age 16, drank Optimist shakes, had gastric bypass stomach stapling in 2004, lost 225, gained back 100. Now losing again. Food is addictive, and I have met a few physicians recently that finally are believing it. When my podiatrist said that sugar was more addictive than cocaine, I was shocked. In my case, my weight has affected my joints. Arthritis in my knees and hip. It did not cause it, it just makes it worse. Nobody wants to walk around going through life weighing 300-400 plus pounds. Some have just accepted it .

  13. I completely agree, as someone who was actively involved in fat acceptance, and still adheres to the basic premise of equal rights for those of all sizes.