I am not sure how many of you are familiar with Emily McCombs who is the managing editor at XOJane.com, but I’m a fan. Emily often writes candidly about her struggles with her own body image and her attempts to embrace a Health at Every Size (HAES)® approach, a perspective which forwards the idea that good health can be reached independent of size.
Last week, Emily wrote an Article entitled, “I Worked Out With Jillian Michaels and She Made Me Feel Bad About My Body”. For those of you that don’t know, Jillian Michaels is one of the trainers on NBC’s The Biggest Loser.
In the article Emily admits that she “used to really like Jillian Michaels” but after posing a HAES oriented question Emily’s affinity for Michael’s has dimmed. You should probably read the whole article, but I’m most concerned with Michael’s Response to Emily’s Question:
[Emily]: A lot of our readers are really into size acceptance and Health at Every Size. Your brand is so aligned with weight loss, I just wonder how you feel about exercise for fitness vs. exercise for weight loss.
JilIian: I don’t even really know what that means. I’ll define health for you. If your cholesterol is good, your blood sugar’s good, your blood pressure is good, that to me is healthy. I believe that you should accept yourself as every size. But I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that you’re physically healthy at every size because you’re not.
And I also don’t believe that even though you might be 100 pounds overweight, you’re going, “Oh I’m good the way that I am.” BULLSHIT. I don’t believe that you don’t wake up in the morning and feel uncomfortable in your skin. I don’t believe that you don’t feel insecure when you pick your kid up from school. I don’t believe that you don’t feel uncomfortable when you’re naked in front of your husband or your wife for that matter. I don’t believe you.”
Clearly, The Biggest Loser is a show that buys in to the fat=bad/thin=good paradigm and according to the blog Dances with Fat, Michaels has a history of fat-shaming beyond the hollering, screaming and berating she does while training fat people on NBC. In particular, Michaels has been known to use the hashtag “#hateobesitynotobesepeople,” and as Ragen Chastain explains, “you can’t hate obesity but not obese people – it doesn’t work that way. If you hate obesity, then you hate me. I’m not a thin woman covered in fat, I’m a fat woman. You can’t love the thin person who you wish I was without hating the fat woman I am now.” In other words, if someone accepts their fat body or is trying to accept their fat body – they must begin by understanding that their fat is a casing to be shed. It is part of them. Jillian Michaels has made it clear that she doesn’t understand this.
Soooo… there is no reason that one would have expected Michaels to respond to Emily’s question in a manner that was fat-positive or fat-accepting, but still when I was reading Michaels’ comments my face contorted and smoke came out my ears. Who is this woman to say that if I’m fat I cannot enjoy my body? Why does she think she has the right to call my comfort and self acceptance “BULLSHIT” and impose upon me the idea that during my morning nude hours, when I’m showering, blow-drying and primping for the day, I’m also feeling shame that my husband can see my nakedness?
And worse than insulting me, Micheals is confirming the fat fears of women everywhere: if I don’t ever get thin (a statistically improbably goal), I will never be happy.
ARGH! %^$&%*!!!! (Wave hands about in frustration)
The idea, that all fat women hate their bodies and not one person ever has loved them, is a lie. It’s fat-shaming, a fat-specific form of body-shaming.
Please hear me. No matter what Jillian Micheals has to say, I am here to tell you that there are fat women, like me, who enjoy our bodies and feel comfortable in our own skin. I can’t speak for all fat women but my fat body wears a bikini, has orgasms, lifts weights, runs, dances, has ideal blood pressure and cholesterol, eats fruits and veggies, laughs, cries, loves, struts about naked, and allows me to do pretty much anything I desire. My fat body is amazing. It is nothing to be ashamed of.
Furthermore – women of all sizes and shapes – not just fat women – feel uncomfortable in their bodies and this discomfort is the issue. Being a thin or thinner woman does not ensure a release from the trappings of bodily-hate.
In western culture – which is rife with toxic messages about woman’s bodies – there is no perfect body image. (How much do you wanna bet that Jillian Michaels has days where she feels icky about her appearance?) That said, self-hate is not the only option. We can fight for our acceptance – we can acknowledge that some days we are able to embrace our bodies and feel awesome and other days not so much; we can point out body-shaming, fat-hate and fat-shaming and tell people it’s not okay; we can insist that fashion designers acknowledge the fat body as a viable canvas for cool clothes or make these clothes ourselves; we can write letters to the media calling for a diversity of bodies in our representation or better yet make media that represents a diversity of body-types. We can stop trying to hide, step into the light and say, “I’m Fat – and it’s none of your business, so keep you hands off my body.”
If you’re interested in thinking about body acceptance you should go like Emily McCombs on Facebook, and while you’re at it go like her colleague Lesley Kinzel, and my body positive website, Extraordinary Being too. [Side note: Lesley Kinzel’s awesome book, Two Whole Cakes was published in 2011 by the Feminist Press]
To learn more about the HAES® approach or to have a speaker talk to your group about fat-positive living check out Kate Harding, Hanne Blank or me.
This post was originally posted on Soapbox, Inc.