Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Healthism creates saints and sinners

It was interesting to read Shannon's take on on the supposed good/bad fattie dichotomy. It provoked several different responses in me. The basis of good fatt(y)ism to me is healthism. The belief that eating what is defined healthy foods, and taking part in healthy activity;exercise = healthiness or the creation of health.

Healthism's mentality is reminiscent of a deeply human feeling, that if you ascribe certain values to things, (including people, i.e. cannibalism) and ingest them, you will become imbued with those same qualities.

e.g. if you eat healthy/ good food, you become a healthy/good person.

This idea has no weight limit. It's become a dominant code in society and virtually everyone pays some tribute to it. Therefore it's understandable, that some fat people within fat acceptance are healtists. This is perhaps a slightly more problematic ideal than for healthists who are of an acceptable weight. Fatness has become such a sign of intrinsic unhealthiness that being fat and living healthy forces you to challenge one of those beliefs fundamentally. It's hard to see how you can believe healthy food can transmit health, if you believe fatness is unhealth. 

It's difficult to accept a fat person can be following healthist dictates.

For a lot of fat healthists, this has meant that they altered their belief that fat is intrinsically unhealthy. So in that sense it has positively contributed to fat acceptance, like it or not. But they have maintained the belief that healthy living =health and this can mean the potential to be a bit judgey.

It isn't only them. We've all been conditioned to accept this view of health and weight, so even those who are not, or do not see themselves as living this way, take it as the measure of being healthy. They cast themselves as bad if they're not living accordingly-rather than question that premise- this view is also prevalent in and out of FA.

Unless you see healthism as unimpeachably correct. Unless you agree it is right, you cannot see yourself crudely as a bad fattie. If you respect your own needs and fulfilling them may not make you nutritionists pet, then you won't feel bad about those who are candidates.

Your feeling bad about what you do or don't eat, or what you do or don't do, is itself based on healthist dogma. You are just seeing yourself in the part of the sinner, not the saint. And are looking somewhat enviously at the latter. You could be a sceptic, you could choose to acknowledge that healthy lifestyle is not necessarily definitively validated by evidence. It's often a bit of a guess.

An investment in the hope that if we can just 'control' what we eat, we will control our health. Control. It's similar to what fuels eating disorders, if I can just control what I eat. I can cope with the vicissitudes of life.

Some may feel that's a tainted comparison, but it isn't. Those who develop neuroses have more in common with those who don't than they may like to imagine. 

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