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Fat Acceptance as Grieving: Jeanne Courtney’s NOLOSE Workshop

Lynne Murray says:

I just heard of a brilliant insight and an intriguing approach to overcoming fat phobia as a grieving process from Jeanne Courtney, MFT, therapist at Feminist Therapy Associates, who will be presenting a workshop at the NOLOSE conference which will be held June 4-6 in Oakland, California. NOLOSE stands for National Organization for Lesbians of Size, and the conference bills itself as “the conference for fat queer women & trans folks (and our female & trans allies).”

The minute I heard of this way of coming to terms with our bodies as they are it made sense to me. Although the workshop is directed at feminists, I have often spoken to women who do not identify as feminists who fear fat acceptance as a form of “giving up” the pursuit of whatever it is that they desire in life that could not be obtained if they accepted their bodies as they are.

In a message describing her workshop “Letting Go of Fear: Fat Acceptance as a Grief Process” Courtney asks:

What happens inside us when we begin to let go of fat phobia and the mainstream messages telling us we can and should control our size? We’ll talk about what that letting go can look like during each of five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, with an emphasis on what the bargaining stage is like for feminists, whose political ideals may not always match the way we feel about our own bodies in the moment.

The idea of accepting one’s body as a kind of death (using the stages of grief model first described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross) reminds me of the kind of mourning one goes through when a relationship crashes and burns. You mourn not what the actual relationship really was, but the dream of what it could have been, and in some cases briefly was, but could never be for long.

4 Responses to “Fat Acceptance as Grieving: Jeanne Courtney’s NOLOSE Workshop”

  1. Nancy Lebovitz Says:

    For me, the hardest thing to believe was that my home culture was arbitrarily cruel.

    What snapped me over into believing it was thinking about the long history of anti-Semitism– if people could be that wrong about Jews, it was plausible that they could be that wrong about fat people.

  2. Lynne Murray Says:

    Hi Nancy, I think you make a good point and I know in my own life the hardest challenge in fighting (both internalized fat phobia and the external kind) is the invisibility of the prejudice because it is so commonly accepted.

    What makes it a little easier for me to deal with was how angry the injustice of it make me…a little of the old “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” helps me remember that we explode these prejudicial myths because they are lies and the truth needs to be told.

    Each person who thinks for herself or himself and refuses to be force-fed damaging body hatred has an impact and makes a difference.

  3. Jeanne Courtney Says:

    Lynne, I came across this post by accident and was delighted to see that you mentioned NOLOSE and my workshop. (I really enjoyed giving the workshop, btw, and I’m giving a similar one at my El Cerrito office on July 10.) You honed in on something really important — “whatever it is that they desire in life that could not be obtained if they accepted their bodies as they are.” This is a great way to articulate the idea behind one of my workshop exercises — in which I ask women to write and share about some activity they’re putting off while waiting for weight loss, and then ask them to plan a way to do that activity NOW.

    Btw, I’ve been a Josephine Fuller fan for years!

  4. Lynne Murray Says:

    Jeanne, you are doing such important work, those changes do get done one person at a time. I’m honored that you enjoyed Josephine Fuller’s adventures–thanks!

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