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  • Kath Reid is a fat activist and blogger.
Is it possible to be both overweight and healthy? Well there's an increasing number of people who say that it is. The Feed meets people from the fat acceptance movement to see why many people are choosing to embrace their weight.
By
Mike Clay and Nick McDougall

26 May 2014 - 7:31 PM  UPDATED 27 May 2014 - 3:46 PM

Obesity rates in Australia have been on the rise in recent decades with over 60 per cent of the population now considered to be either overweight or obese.

The normal reaction to obesity statistics is to shock people into weight loss - pushing new diets and exercise regimes. But is being fat really that bad?

Kath Reid is a fat activist and blogger who wants to change the way society perceives being overweight.

Kath started her blog 'Fat Heffalump' five years ago and is now part of a growing movement of people who want fat acceptance.

"I've always been called fat," says Kath. "I believed that the worst thing a person could possibly be was fat."

"I just battled it in every single way I could... I believed that I couldn't do anything in life that was good until I was thin."

After discovering the fat acceptance movement online, Kath changed her attitude to being overweight. She embraced a new look, dressing in bright colours, dying her hair, and even getting tattoos.

"I used to be what I'd refer to as a brown sparrow," says Kath. "I would wear dark colours, not wear anything that was visible."

"People would kind of, even then, still sort of make a comment about 'fatty'."

"You can't go anywhere without being watched by people."

Nick and Natalie Perkins are both fat activists who, like Kath, have joined the fat acceptance movement and embraced being overweight.

"Fat acceptance is the radical notion that fat people are human beings and deserve respect," says Natalie. "People judge me for my weight all the time."

"We take up a lot of space when we walk down the road holding hands on a footpath."

Natalie wasn't always overweight but when she was 17 her weight gain started after she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

"I slowly became fatter and fatter," says Natalie. "When I began to gain weight, I was a little worried... but as time went on I became OK with being fat."

Wherever people look in the media it's hard to avoid discussions about weight gain and what's the right weight to be considered healthy.

Dr Linda Bacon is the author of 'Health at every size' and says that being thin seems to be a cultural obsession.

She says people should embrace the bodies they have and not try to fit into a social ideal of being skinny.

"We hear in the news all the time about an obesity epidemic and how people are dying of obesity," says Dr Bacon. "It's just not true. What is true is that people are heavier than they used to be but what's also true is that we're living longer than ever before."

"There are many reasons for why someone might be living in a fat body... for some people that's just genetics... to try to judge somebody by their weight will give you a lot of misinformation."

So is it possible to be fat and healthy?

Sarah Harry is a yoga teacher and counsellor who specialises in body image. Sarah considers herself to be both fat and healthy.

"[People] expect a yoga teacher to be a certain way... very small and light and flexible," says Sarah. "I'm very flexible, but I'm not small or light."

And being a yoga teacher Sarah often gets plenty of interesting reactions when she tells people what she does for a living.

She says there's a real problem with how society links exercise and weight loss.

"The problem with aligning exercise and weight loss is that then we put a whole lot of pressure on the only benefit of exercise is a way to lose weight," says Sarah. "The benefits of exercise are so enormous."

"I think we're doing exercise a great disservice in only making it about weight loss."

But while there are many people ready to offer opinions on what it means to be fat - Kath wants to tell people that while she's not an expert on societal health being fat is not an illness.

"I'm not a disease and I'm not diseased," says Kath. "This is the body that I come in."

"Fat acceptance led me to a place where I could be who I wanted to be.... and that was positive, and bright, and colourful, and fun."

"It's a really good feeling to not hate myself."

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