Popularly Positive Program Director Whitney Mooney chatted with Ragen Chastain, owner of the DancesWithFat.org blog, and co-founder of the Fit Fatties Facebook Group – which boasts over 6,000 members. She is a NEDA ambassador, as well as a marathon runner and certified health coach.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m an intersectional fat activist who speaks and writes full-time about Body Image, Size Acceptance, Health at Every Size, being an Athlete at any size, and weight stigma.
How did you get involved with NEDA? What do you do as an ambassadors?
Of course I’ve known about NEDA for years and have been involved in various campaigns. I got personally involved after NEDA merged with BEDA. I’ve always been appreciative of the work of both organizations, and especially BEDA’s work around weight stigma within the Eating Disorder Community, so when Chevese Turner (BEDA’s former Director, and NEDA’s new Chief Policy and Strategy Officer) and Claire Mysko (NEDA’s Chief Executive Officer) asked if I would be interested in becoming an ambassador I jumped at the chance!
As an ambassador I work with NEDA on special projects like NEDA Awareness Week and No Diet Day, give press interviews, public speaking, and do anything I can to connect people with the resources they need around dealing with eating disorders for themselves and/or their loved ones, especially when it comes to the intersections of eating disorders, weight stigma, and diet culture.
How do we break away from diet culture?
Breaking away from diet culture means moving to a Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size paradigm, and celebrating bodies of all sizes. It also means fighting the racism, ableism, and healthism that are at the core of our current beauty ideal. Otherwise, diet culture perpetuates negative body image, dangerous behaviors, and eating disorders. I actually wrote about this for the NEDA blog…
You started “Fit Fatties” on Facebook. What drove you to do this?
My dear friend Jeanette DePatie and I were sick of joining fitness groups to talk about our fitness, just to find tons of diet talk and fatphobia. We wanted a place where people of all sizes and abilities who are interested in fitness from a Size Acceptance, Health at Every Size perspective could connect, get support, and make friends without dealing with weight loss talk and fatphobia, so we created one! We always want to be clear that nobody of any size is obligated to participate in movement/fitness/exercise, and running a marathon and having a Netflix marathon are morally equivalent activities. We just want to help create a fitness world where every body is welcome.
You hike, run marathons, do yoga – what’s your favorite activity?
I’ve been in sports my whole life. In school I was involved in volleyball, soccer, cheerleading, and figure skating, but I think my first love will always be dance. As a kid growing up in rural America I was enthusiastic, if poorly trained.
As an adult I’m a three-time national champion ballroom dancer. My move to marathons and triathlons is part of a specific project to push outside my comfort zone and participate in sports that I’m not very good at and I’m trying to decide what I want to do next.
What advice do you have for our readers?
The world is messed up, we are fine. So we have a choice. We can choose to spend our time, energy, and money trying to make ourselves small enough to stuff into an unrealistic stereotype of beauty (with very little chance of long-term success,) or we can spend our time, energy, and money to change our culture to be a place that celebrates all bodies! Loving our bodies is never an obligation, but it’s always an option.
Whitney Mooney is the Program Director for Popularly Positive. She works full time for YWCA Cambridge, a social justice non-profit organization in Cambridge, MA, as the Fund Development Manager. She is available via email and text any day of the week. She is an avid reader and political activist.