Photo depicting the three founders of Liberating Jasper.

Liberating Jasper’s Fat Bazaar Celebrates Fat Positivity

by Amanda Ong

On Sunday, Aug. 21, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Liberating Jasper will host their inaugural Fat Bazaar, a free event celebrating fat positivity with music from DJ Fat Beetz, fat-loving vendors, a fat clothing swap, and more. The event will take place at Liberating Jasper’s Dock in Tacoma. 

Liberating Jasper provides radical mental health therapy and nutrition counseling. The cofounders, nutritionist Maggie Mills, therapist Colleen Young, and dietician Alex McKee, had worked within the corporate eating disorder treatment model. Seeing what did and did not work, they decided to start their own organization in 2018. They began with weekend retreats and later opened a counseling space for outpatient mental health and nutrition counseling. Together, they started a model focused on compassionate care, body liberation, and person-centered work.

“Speaking as somebody who is in a larger body and has been in a larger body most of my life, despite having a long history of disordered eating and eating disorder behaviors, if I had had this work when I was young, my eating disorder would never have affected me the way that it did,” Mills said. “Being in a larger body, I’ve had a lot of medical fatphobia that has really impacted my health and my health care. And that was one of the reasons I wanted to get into this work, into the nutrition field specifically, because I wanted to be that voice of reason, compassion, acceptance that I didn’t have when I was going through what I was going through.”

The concept for the Fat Bazaar came from the desire to host an event highlighting the body liberation community’s creatives. The Bazaar will host vendors such as Ascent Fitness, Tacoma East Asian Medicine, Olympia Community Acupuncture, Quilted Health, Curvy Cactus, Doozie Bella, Groggy Potters, Fluffy Girl Creations, Resilient Fat Goddex SJ Thompson, and Grae Water

While all bodies are welcome, the space will be focused on fat positivity and celebrating fatness, though overall the organization approaches their work with an emphasis on body neutrality, or that we can respect and accept our bodies regardless of how they look. The Fat Bazaar reflects Liberating Jasper’s more radical approach to eating disorder treatment and mental health, rejecting the traditional culture of simply dieting for a certain body type Instead, they celebrate bodily autonomy, and want to offer a platform for fatness. Their clothing swap and clothing vendors will only offer sizes extra large and up, as it can be hard to find clothing that fits larger bodies.

“We see [our work] as a spectrum of disordered eating and disordered relationship to food and body, because I think we all have that to some degree, given cultural influences,” Maggie Mills said in an interview with the South Seattle Emerald. “So to separate [eating disorders] and work on [eating disorders] alone is one thing, but without body acceptance or the practice of body neutrality … How far do you get? [Eating disorder treatment] and [body neutrality] are intimately entwined.”

Liberating Jasper namely hosts outpatient counseling but also has regular virtual support groups, ranging from queer eating disorder support groups to chronic pain support groups. “In our experience, working in eating disorder treatment, we found it really helpful and impactful for, let’s say binge eating, that people who have binge eating disorder have a space dedicated to them alone,” Mills said. “Because when you start to put all eating disorders in general, in the same support group, you have people who are like talking about their experiences, which are totally valid, but triggering each other like crazy.”

Having worked individually with many clients as well as with Liberating Jasper’s support groups, Mills says that the Fat Bazaar is also an opportunity for people in the community to be able to meet other people in person, as well as for people who might be new to the space to learn what fat positivity and body liberation are about.

“The message is really one of just inclusivity, body diversity, is a beautiful thing,” Mills said, “because maybe that’s not something that a lot of people do experience if their social circles are very one note in terms of body size. Body diversity is beautiful, and it’s not something we should change, or try to change about ourselves.”

The Fat Bazaar is a free event and will be held on Sunday, Aug. 21, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., at the Dock on 535 Dock St. Suite 104, Tacoma, Washington.

Amanda Ong (she/her) is a Chinese American writer from California. She is currently a master’s candidate at the University of Washington Museology program and graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with degrees in creative writing and ethnicity and race studies.

📸 Featured Image: The three founders of Liberating Jasper: Maggie Mills, Colleen Young, and Alex McKee. (Photo courtesy of Liberating Jasper.)

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