Part three and there is still another round of this stuff. I kid you not.
In which we talk about activity and moving our bodies and ‘health’.
So I wanted to tackle this section without sounding like an ableist asshole. I tried to write in a good way and also probably some of this still might sound sketchy. If it does feel free to slide into the comments and let me know – if you have the spoons that is. Just to be totally clear, I do not think fat bodies only have value if they are healthy AND I do not think that ‘health’ is a ethical metric for measuring worth.
6. Move your body cause you love it, not cause you hate it.
We talk about learning our bodies and how good it feels to move them, to get sweaty, play games, run. Too often people are exercising as punishment for being fat, or a consequence for something that they ate. That babes, is a heaping serving of bullshit. We should every time move our bodies because it feels good, or because we get a major benefit from doing it. There is a reason so many people feel like they should drag their ass to the gym or outside or whatever and I blame this on our fucked-up belief in the ‘activity as punishment’ model (I also blame rampant fatphobia in gyms, but I digress). Our kids should not learn that every time they eat dessert they should do 50 crunches and a couple laps around the block. Adults suck the fun out of so much the least we can do is keep fun policing away from food and activity. Kids want to be active. They want to play and run and learn what their bodies can do. This step is easy, we literally just have to get out of their way! We try to give our munchkin all kinds of chances to be active. Even just little things like climbing trees, digging in mud, creating weird obstacle courses, or jumping onto a stool from the ground without a head start, all these little moments of learning what our bodies can do help our kid feel great in her skin and curious about what else she can learn to do.
7. Fat bodies don’t tell us anything about what people eat or whether they are ‘healthy’.
We talk to our kid about how looking at someone does not tell us their story. We started this early by talking about gender (since she has so many queer people in her life and she was learning pronouns at the time anyways). We learned our approach from an 8-year-old we know. She taught us that we never know whether people feel like a girl or a boy or both, or neither, or something else entirely unless we ask them ‘how they feel in their heart’. Is that not the goddamn nicest? So, we talk a lot about how people feel in their heart and that it is a personal question that we can only come at lovingly. Our kid, like all kids, is boss about the flexibility of gender and doesn’t blink an eye if what is in someone’s heart is different than what she first thought. It is gentle and kind and creates space for the queer or gender non-conforming kids in her life to talk about how they feel and identify. Thank goodness for genius kids who understand implicitly how to be generous about gender (unlike the vast majority of adults, currently).
We have also applied a similar line of thinking to fatness. We talk about how different bodies can do different things and we can’t tell by looking at them what they can do. So, we should ask if it (whatever activity ‘it’ is) is something people can do and something they want to do and not assume that because a body is skinny that it can do a thing or that because a body is fat, that it can’t. Look, the truth is that someone’s ability to engage in a particular activity, or their overall health status are not things we can know unless we are told. Lots of skinny bodies have high blood pressure or bad backs, lots of fat bodies don’t and so on. The definition of ‘health’ is widely debated and hotly discussed out there in the world and so we don’t spend any time talking to the kid about what is healthy and what isn’t, instead we emphasize the importance of moving her body and putting the food that she needs for fuel into it (also, for the record the idea that a person is only valuable if they are ‘healthy’ is ableist and just a shit thing to believe overall). We debunk myths about fat people, like the assumption that if you are fat, you are ‘unhealthy’ AND that ‘health’ should be the ultimate goal for fat people- especially when skinny people get to choose from any number of other life goals. If skinny people can have life goals that do not revolve around their bodies and health than so the hell can I. With our kid, we mostly just talk about how silly it is to value people based on what their bodies can and cannot do, rather than explore the gifts people do have and honour those.
Health trolling side bar – everyone wants to shame fat people and say that they are concerned about our health when the truth is people, almost exclusively, only give a shit about ‘health’ when they encounter a fat body. There are tons of medical studies out there (google ‘obesity paradox’ instead of getting up in my comments about this) that show that people who are in the first couple categories over ‘normal’ on the BMI scale (also problematic as hell, but whatever) live longer healthier lives, but you don’t see ‘concerned citizens’ on Instagram, or doctors for that matter, encouraging people who are underweight or even in the ‘normal’ BMI ranges to gain weight. Skinny people do not have to deal with the same pervasive and never ending health trolling that comes with fat bodies, it is a different scenario all together (although many like to insist that they are also targeted and maybe they are and that sucks, but it is not the same level of cultural and social pervasiveness and honestly, let’s be real, the visceral hatred is reserved for people with bodies like mine). Also, the idea that my body only deserves respect if it fits into some fucked up definition of health is ludicrous, mean-spirited, and, categorically illogical.
Last round tomorrow…