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What is Fat Acceptance?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Fat acceptance is a social movement which aims to eliminate discrimination and bias against fat people. As is the case with many social movements fighting discrimination, the fat acceptance movement has tried to reclaim “fat,” turning it into a simple adjective, rather than a derogatory word. Members of the fat acceptance community run the gamut from anorexic to morbidly obese, and they engage with the larger global community in a variety of ways which are designed to promote size equality.

The roots of fat acceptance can be found in the protest movement of the 1960s and 1970s. A notable milestone in the fat acceptance movement occurred in 1969, when the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) was founded in the United States. Members of the early fat acceptance movement sponsored Fat-ins, fat pride marches, and fat power demonstrations, much like members of other marginalized communities who were also fighting for equal rights during this tumultuous period.

There are numerous aspects to the fat acceptance movement. Most activists agree that they are working to promote the treatment of fat people as fellow human beings who are deserving of dignity and respect whether they are applying for jobs, seeking medical care, or walking down the street. Some activists are also part of the Health at Every Size movement, which promotes healthy diet and lifestyle choices for people of all sizes, with the goal of encouraging people to understand that size is not necessarily linked to health.

A major goal of many activists is to break down the shame, fear, and hatred which surrounds fat in many cultures. This is accomplished in a variety of ways. Fat activists may stage marches, demonstrations, or teach-ins, for example, and they also hold conferences, distribute magazines like Fat!So?, and engage in letter writing campaigns to encourage fair portrayal of fat people in the media and to ask for anti-discrimination language to be written into laws and business plans. In the world of activism, many people say that every little bit counts, and people who are new to fat acceptance are typically encouraged to participate in fat activism at whatever level they feel comfortable with.

As with many social movements, the fat acceptance movement has not been without its hiccups. Members of the movement are split over issues like dieting, weight loss surgery, and binge eating. Some activists argue that diets should never be undertaken, for example, and they view fellow fat activists who undertake diets negatively, while others welcome a diversity of opinions and activities. This activist community also experiences a great deal of criticism from a range of sources, with some people expressing hatred and fear of fat acceptance, while others raise reasonable although overstated concerns about the promotion of dangerous weight gain. While this may occur in a very small subset of the fat acceptance community, most fat activists do not, in fact, promote rampant weight gain, and many stress acceptance of people of all sizes.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Raynbow — On Sep 06, 2014

@talentryto- Though I agree with you, it is also important to keep the possibility of potential health problems of being overweight in mind. Many diseases and illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease are the result of being too heavy and of a poor diet. So while it is important to have fat acceptance in society, it is also important to stay fit and healthy.

By Talentryto — On Sep 06, 2014

In today's beauty and thin obsessed world, it is difficult to accept your body. I think that fat acceptance is a great thing, and anyone who has been able to embrace it and his or her body should be applauded.

For years, large people were made fun of and ridiculed for their weight problems. Accepting yourself as a fat person was unheard of in the past. However, in the past decade, models and TV shows with large people portrayed as beautiful and heroic has changed hearts and minds. It is a positive measure for society as a whole.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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