Last night my husband and I attended the NAAFA annual General Meeting followed by their Alliance Reception. We were graciously invited by their Board of Directors. I was thrilled when the invitation arrived as I'd been disappointed that my schedule would not allow me to attend their full convention and HAES®1 Summit, but I was able to accept the Friday night invite.
During the General Meeting we listened to an overview of NAAFA's recent accomplishments. A number of these are "tool kits" that speak to size diversity issues providing specific guidelines on how various professionals (therapists, healthcare providers, fitness professionals, employers, teachers) can support and treat/work more effectively with fat clients (those publications not available on their web site can be ordered via their web site's contact page.)
The Guidelines are beautifully written and contain valuable tips. The one for Fitness Professionals is succinct and comprehensive and includes "A better way to say it" with suggestions such as: Instead of "overweight or obese" say "large or fat;" use "you may want to" instead of "have to." Guidelines for Healthcare Providers discusses "philosophy of health care including attitude and weighing patients; Medical treatment covering diagnosing medical problems, treating medical problems, and medical procedures." It concludes with how to provide adequate accommodations both in the waiting and examination rooms. My favorite Guidelines, though, are those for therapists who treat fat clients. It opens by stating:
There are several assumptions, based on myth and prejudice rather than fact, which many members of our culture--including psychotherapists--believe to be true about fat people. These assumptions affect how therapists view and work with fat people in their practices.
It continues with a few recommendations and then debunks five major assumptions. The one that touches on an often overlooked (or denied) assumption is, "#5: I am not biased against fat people." I believe the response to this (co-written by Dr. Barbara Altman Bruno and Dr. Deb Burgard) contains guidance for us all:
Research consistently shows that most people, including most healthcare professionals and even those who work closely with fat people, hold negative beliefs about fat people. Please investigate your own associations with weight and bodies of different sizes, including your own body, as essential preparation for working with fat people.2 Therapists should be able to let go of any agenda to eliminate fatness, and see the beauty in fat bodies and the strengths of fat people living under oppression.
The beauty in fat bodies was abundant last night (no pun intended). It was especially evident during the entertainment portion of the evening which included a performance from two young bellydancers from Your Body Raks! Their dancing was fluid and sinuous (not to mention sexy!) Then there was the general dancing, which was a delight to witness: all body sizes moving to the musical beat with bold joy and beauty. It was a blast!
With blessings until next time,
1Health At Every Size is a registered trademark of the Association for Size Diversity and Health and used with permission.
2Implicit Associations Test to test your associations to fat/thin