What is Fat Acceptance?

Fat acceptance fights discrimination against the overweight.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 July 2014
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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.


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