We are social creatures, and community is important. But when you are divesting from rampant diet culture and are in a larger body, how do you find community when so many people are spouting off about their current diets and body dissatisfaction?
On the Dietitians Unplugged podcast recently, we discussed this issue with our colleague, Dr. Rachel Millner. She shared with us her thoughts on the importance of fat-positive spaces for clinicians and individuals and how weight stigma continues to negatively impact those working on healing from their eating disorder.
Rachel Millner, Psy.D., CEDS-S, CBTP (she/her) is a psychologist/activist, a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and Supervisor, and a Certified Body Trust Provider. Dr. Millner has been practicing as a psychologist since 2005 and has been specializing in treating people with eating disorders throughout her career. Dr. Millner works with people struggling with all eating disorders as well as those trying to break free from diet culture. Dr. Millner is a fat positive provider who works from a Health at Every Size® and Body Trust® lens.
Nike recently unveiled a new plus-size line of athletic clothing and with it, a plus-size mannequin on which to display the clothing. Makes sense, right? A plus-size mannequin to display plus-size clothing.
One journalist, however, railed against this move as “promoting obesity.” In this Dietitians Unplugged episode, Aaron and I talk about the reaction to the mannequin, both good and bad, how promoting obesity is not actually “a thing”, and the role that internalized weight stigma may have played in this reaction.
I’m not linking to the original article because it’s pretty mean, and you can search the Tanya Gold/Nike article if you want to read it (it’s pretty easy to find). Instead, here are some great articles clapping back.
I’m a long-time TV fan but as I get older, my time is precious. I want to watch things that I find really entertaining. And with the rise of more fat representation on TV, there are more things for me to think about watching. But just because something includes a fat person doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a great show.
So in this episode, Aaron and I discussed the viewing options presented over the past year (thanks to streaming!) and offered up some criticism to help you in deciding what to watch. And it is summer after all, which, if you’re old enough, you remember as the time of summer reruns and trying to figure out what’s on that’s good (apparently this is no longer a problem, but nostalgia dies hard in my home).
In this episode, we talked about the TV show Dietland, based on the book of the same name by Sarai Walker, that aired last year on AMC and now streams on Hulu, and Shrill, which debuted this spring and runs on Hulu as well. We also mention a few shows with dubious fat representation that we have not and will not be watching (return of The Biggest Loser, Insatiable) for a variety of reasons.
I rarely bring up the concept of thin privilege with thin people unless the situation warrants it (like when they are tsk tsking about fat people). My goal is always to try to bring people into the HAES fold with kindness and compassion, and I find bringing up something like thin privilege gets them on the defensive fast and shuts everything down and my seed planting goes to waste. Some might disagree with this philosophy and that’s okay.
I do talk about this quite a bit, however, with my clients in larger bodies because it provides a framework and understanding for why they experience weight stigma, and for why they long to be in thinner bodies. Who doesn’t want privilege?? We all want that.
At the same time, I strongly feel that dietitians and dietitians-to-be — thin or not –absolutely must understand this concept if they want to practice compassionate care. At some point, dietitians will treat people in fat bodies, and it is imperative that they understand how people suffer so under such an unfair system of privilege. (It’s also important to understand that we need to change the unfair system and not the body size)
So when Aaron and I gave an introductory talk on Health at Every Size and Intuitive Eating to a large group of dietetic interns, we were a little surprised at the “feedback” (more like vitriolic criticism) we got from several attendees for mentioning thin privilege (an example of the aforementioned shutting down). They felt they had been attacked personally by even the mention of thin privilege, even though no person in the room had actually been identified by us as having it — we were simply bring it up as a concept to consider when treating people in larger bodies.
Since we consider all life experiences fodder for a podcast, this was our effort to process the whole experience and talk about why acknowledging thin privilege exists is so important (I had it once and can tell you it exists). If you are in a smaller body, I hope you’ll listen to this podcast with an open heart and mind, because no matter what, all bodies are good bodies, and we always appreciate our thin allies.
People often send us questions for our Dietitians Unplugged podcast. We love getting questions and once in a while we’ll pick one to answer in our show. This one in particular was one we felt was probably on the minds of many people for whom HAES was a completely new concept.
Our listener wrote:
I just listened to Dietitians Unplugged episode about Tess Holiday. Can you explain to me your feelings around obesity in a little more context. I am confused with what you actually promote around being very overweight. I do understand intuitive eating. And let me note, I’m not commenting on Tess Holiday specifically or her being on a cover of a magazine. I’m talking about obesity in general. In your opinion obesity is not bad? How can you support that opinion if obesity is linked to an endless number of medical conditions? I see how one can be overweight but still healthy. Just as someone can be skinny and unhealthy. But at a certain point in time, if you are so over weight that you are declared obese then you have fat crushing your major organisms, you are shortening your life, and setting yourself up for a difficult aging processes. How can someone with that amount of excess weight still “healthy.” Thank you for reading, your inquisitive listener.
We decided to answer these questions in a podcast episode! You can check that out here:
Needless to say, I’ve been remiss in posting the last few Dietitians Unplugged podcasts here, on my blog. I’m particular about things being complete, so I’m going to tuck the last few eps into one neat and tidy post for you all to find some day in the future when you’re casting about the internet, looking for some vintage HAES podcasts…