Allies coming out of the closet.

In response to the ridiculous Lincoln University fat-students-can’t-graduate debacle, some allies of Health at Every Size have stepped out of the shadows.

In an unprecedented show of concern, The Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), Eating Disorder Coalition (EDC), International Association for Eating Disorder Professionals (IADEP), and National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) have joined forces and are urging focus on health and lifestyle rather than weight as a measurement of well-being.

“There is concern that we have lost sight of avoiding harm in the process of addressing obesity,” AED President Susan Paxton, PhD, FAED states.

Eating disorders practitioners have long been, in my experience, proponents of body diversity and Health at Every Size approaches, since these philosophies are essential to helping people recover from eating disorders and body image crises. In fact, I often advise people who contact me looking for a dietitian or nutritionist to search for those who specialize in eating disorders. Why? Because they are more likely to be familiar with and supportive of Health at Every Size, and less apt to promote weight loss.

And because these organizations are well-known and respected, I am extremely pleased to see them coming out against programs like Lincoln University’s — which would require students with a BMI over 30 to either lose weight, or pass a “healthy lifestyle” class in order to graduate — and firmly in favour of valuing health over weight.

Five or six years ago, I spent a year volunteering at a local eating disorders community centre. As soon as I walked in the door and saw the murals on the walls, and the signs saying “Please don’t talk about your diet,” I felt right at home. It was the first time in my life I’d ever felt I was in an explictly size-friendly space. It was an experience that made a deep impression on me in my fledgling efforts at self-acceptance and activism.

Though I was surrounded mostly by thin people, I was never uncomfortable being the fat lady because I knew we all struggled with the same cultural pressures, the same messages, and we were rebelling against a common enemy — the forces in our society that tell us we are not worthy of food or self-love. There was a simultaneous feeling of subversiveness and support. We were in it together.

Make no mistake — these are our sisters and brothers, fighting a parallel battle.

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