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This week Project Runway winner and unapologetic fatty Ashley Nell Tipton went public with her choice to undergo weight loss surgery. In the past I have talked about fat people’s participation in diet culture and the negative impacts it can have. I was wrong, I was calling out the wrong people.
Over the last several months I’ve come to realize that there is nothing fat people can do to change our culture’s view of fat bodies.
I was 17 the first time weight loss surgery was presented to me. It’s hard for me to remember a doctor’s appointment where weight loss was not mentioned – even when I was struggling with an eating disorder that had led me to lose over 80 pounds in 3 months. I have never found a doctor who honors my request to not discuss weight loss, even with my known history of eating disorders.
I have friend’s that were talked into weight loss surgery at a young age who are suffering life long consequences. In my community of plus size bodies, it’s not abnormal for people to have friends who have died from the complications of surgery. Their stories are not unique, but they are painful reminders that we are not allowed to exist without mutilating and conforming our bodies to a standard that literally kills.
And we see our friends, the people we look up to, celebrities, all succumb to weight loss surgery. We watch as these people go from happy fatties who promote self love and acceptance, to a person who was “never really happy”, who felt trapped in their fat body. And we ask ourselves how this can happen. How can a person’s values change? Is every fat person lying about loving themselves? Is this all just a facade that people are putting on? Does anyone ever actually love themselves when they are fat?
I’m here to tell you that fat people absolutely can and do love their bodies. The problem is not within each individual. The problem is with our culture.
The volume at which our society tells fat people that they are not worthy is deafening. We are discriminated against in the workplace. We receive poor medical care. We cannot find clothes that fit our bodies. We are celebrated for shrinking. Our mental illnesses are blamed on the size of our bodies. The knowledge that our lives would be vastly improved if we shrank is not inherent – it is learned.
And this is my cry for help.
I don’t know how else to say it. It’s time for those who have the privilege of not having their bodies seen as an outward expression of their unworthiness to step up. We are being encouraged to amputate a healthy organ from our body, so that we can be more visually pleasing. We are being asked to live with a lifetime of complications and increased risk for medical issues so that we can be smaller. We are told that instead of demanding equality for our differences we should conform.
I don’t know where you start. Maybe you start sharing articles about fat positivity on facebook. Or you call out fatphobic language your friends use. Maybe you examine why you’re so obsessed with other people’s health, or why you think the only good bodies are the ones who’s healthy ideal is the same as yours. I don’t know.
I am tired. I am tired of seeing people congratulated for not looking like me anymore. I’m tired of our culture acting like people who look like me are less than, as if we’re some sad reminder of what happens when you don’t love yourself.
I love myself – now I just need you to help create a world that will allow that.
edit* I am not a news outlet. I do not have an ethical obligation to allow people to engage in discourse that I find counter-productive or harmful to the audience I serve. If you leave a comment that promotes weight loss, diet culture, or weight loss surgery in any way, it will not be posted. For those of you who are preparing to have this surgery, I strongly encourage you to read Dr Linda Bacon’s book Health At Every Size. Here is an excerpt from the book about the dangers of weight loss surgery.
Wednesday 22nd of April 2020
I love this and all your articles, and what you stand for. You should know that multiple times, I have seen weight loss and dieting ads displayed in these posts. It's extremely jarring, and I'm betting you weren't aware of that.
Please keep writing! This is not a criticism of you, just an FYI. :)
Thursday 23rd of April 2020
This is such a difficult thing for me to encounter and it's just endlessly upsetting. Ads are a big part of my income, but ad networks target words like "plus size" and "fat" for weight loss and diet stuff. I have opted out of these ads as much as I can, but these advertisers are sneaky and they can categorize themselves as "health" instead of "weight loss" which would allow them to slip in. If you ever see this please click on the "report ad" button. I'm working with my media company on this. I'm incredibly sorry, I know it's triggering.
Wednesday 22nd of April 2020
You are right. I do love myself, every last inch of me. I love my plumpness and the way clothes look on it. Until the world reminds me that I shouldn't. That I'm wrong. That I'm gross or whatever other negative thing they can throw on top. I'm tired. I'm worn out trying to ignore the fat hate coming from literally everywhere. It leaves me feeling beaten and full of self hatred, and that's not fair.
Thursday 29th of June 2017
Thank you for your article, I considered the surgery during a season in my life where I was struggling with everyone else's perception of who I was because at one time in my life I was skinny and people who don't know my story constantly felt as if they had a right to either look at me with pity or speak to my weight. I used to be miserable until I realized that their issues with my weight were just that...theirs. Self love and appreciation is sooo very important. This surgery is marketed as the solution to the ills of fat people who have no control and overeat. I have a friend who had the surgery, and she is just as unhappy now as she was before she had it. She s insecure and starved for constant validation. I feel for her because she thought weigh tloss surgery would be her miracle cure. It wasn't!!!! I know she MARVELS at my joy, peace, and inner contentment because I am still a confident sized 22. Self-love is not birthed by the cut of a knife. It begins by looking in the mirror and loving what God made. Thanks for posting your article. You are amazing!
Saturday 17th of June 2017
I needed to see this today. I was just envying a friend who had wls and wishing I had the guts (and insurance coverage) for such a thing. It brings the horrifying risks back to the forefront. I'd rather be healthy and hate my body than thin and too unhealthy to function
Friday 9th of June 2017
Yes! Thank you! Very well put.