She Recovers Food & Body Neutrality Philosophy

SHE RECOVERS® Food & Body Neutrality Philosophy

Contemporaneous to this iteration of the SRF Body & Food Neutrality statement, the recovery industry has experienced a significant upheaval in terms of the way we treat and talk about disordered eating, eating disorders, and body-related issues. To our organization, this shake up has served as a reminder from the collective consciousness that we are on the right path. To the body liberation pioneers and the people they serve, this disruption of the status quo is long overdue. SHE RECOVERS Foundation released this statement on August 21, 2023 in honor of fat liberation month

SHE RECOVERS endeavors to co-create a welcoming and supportive environment built on mutual respect for all participants, volunteers, and facilitators. Just as we embrace all races, sexual orientations, abilities, backgrounds, and differences of life situations, we also embrace all body shapes, sizes, and abilities. We believe in body liberation and the disruption and dismantling of oppressive systems that deny people in different bodies full participation in society and life. As we strive to change the culture that surrounds our bodies by embracing corporeal diversity, we want to make clear that we will not tolerate any iteration of anti-fat bias

Anti-fat bias refers to negative attitudes, stereotypes, and discrimination against individuals with larger bodies. This bias is pervasive in society and can lead to body shame, low self-esteem, and feelings of inadequacy among those who do not meet the societal standards of thinness. The internalization of anti-fat bias can contribute to the development of disordered eating patterns as individuals strive to conform to societal expectations.

The Impacts of Anti-Fat Bias

On any average day, ninety-seven percent of women say that they dislike their bodies. Acclaimed shame researcher Dr. Brené Brown found that the number one source of shame for women was body and weight. Shame has been linked to several mental health diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disorders. Statistics also show that the stigma and discrimination faced by people in larger bodies leads to suffering and distress and results in acute psychological and physical health consequences. In the US alone, more than forty percent of adults (across a wide range of body sizes) reported experiencing weight stigma at some point in their lives. Amongst young people, weight-based bullying was more common than any other form, including disability, status, race, or sexual orientation. And, women are affected disproportionately with more reported cases of internalization of weight stigma resulting in more self-disparaging thoughts, higher levels of depression and anxiety, increased social isolation, and other health disparities. Also, the amount of sizeism that women experience exponentially rises as their size goes up. 

Not only does anti-fat bias increase the risk of poor mental and physical health outcomes for fat folks, it can lead to increased eating disorders, substance use, health care avoidance, decreased physical activity, and even suicidal ideation. As leaders in women’s recovery, it’s up to us to help end this stigma by willingly acknowledging that this bias exists and by encouraging empathy and education around the subject. 

Anti-fat bias, sizeism, weight stigma, fatism, fat-shaming, or fatmisia, whatever you call it, is hatred. It is “prejudice plus power…thin people have institutional power, therefore fatmisia is a systematized discrimination or antagonism directed against fat bodies/people based on the belief that thinness is superior.” We understand the divide that exists between those with and without thin privilege – thin privilege being the unearned advantages that people in smaller bodies hold, the societal benefits and freedoms they experience in a world where anti-fat bias is prevalent.

We recognize the impact that size and weight-based implicit and explicit bias/prejudice/discrimination/stereotyping/stigma has had and continues to have on women, and the pervasiveness of diet culture in our society — permeating institutions such as education, workplaces, healthcare, policy, and of course, the media. In the last two decades, anti-fat sentiment has increased by sixty-six percent putting it on par with the prevalence of racism in America.    

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