Saying that it might be ok for people to be fat is apparently pretty radical. No, not ok because they’re working on losing weight, but actually ok.
Did I just make you uncomfortable? Are you thinking of reasons to argue with me? It’s hard to understand, right? I didn’t get it at first. I can honestly say I don’t really even completely get it now – I’m still filled with way too much self-loathing to really accept that statement.
But I’m trying. Because once you start thinking about it, all of a sudden the world presents itself to you in a new way. Suddenly, you realize people are making fat jokes everywhere. Every day you hear about the obesity epidemic and how we’re basically all going to die of diabetes. And you see constant weight loss ads, diet foods, and nutrition counters. Fat people are everywhere and the world won’t let you forget it.
What’s more, you realize that every discussion about fatness is framed as a discussion about health. Only there’s never any distinction between fatness and poor health. They are one and the same. If you are fat, you must be unhealthy. It’s basically a fact. (Other facts: you’re a drain on the health care system, you’re setting a horrible example for your children who, in some cases, should probably just be removed from your care, you’re lazy, unlovable and gross.) Once you start paying attention, it’s astonishing how hateful the world can be – whether they’re trying to be that way or not.
Today, someone new followed me on Twitter so I went to check out her page. Immediately, I felt the need to pick a fight.
Driving around my hood today I suddenly noticed how many obese people there are. Why don’t people care about their health? 😦
I’m not sharing that to embarrass the tweeter. When I called her on it, she acknowledged that it was unfair, but still didn’t seem to get it. I guess because it’s a radical concept. And isn’t that insane? That suggesting that people just might be meant to have different body types is hard for people to understand?
I have several problems with that tweet though. Let’s start with the obvious:
- Being fat is not the same thing as being unhealthy. Just as being skinny is not the same thing as being healthy. If you can look at a person and determine their health then you must have magical powers. Congratulations for that. But for the rest of you, you’re making assumptions based on one factor.My Wii tells me I’m obese. My doctor has never once found anything wrong with my health that is in any way attributed to my weight. I’ve got perfect blood pressure. Normal cholesterol. I don’t have diabetes. I ride my bike every day. And yes, I am trying to lose weight. I’ve been dieting since I was 12. Never, in all those years, has it ever been about getting healthy. I just wanted to be skinny.But there are plenty of skinny people out there. Those people who have rapid metabolisms that allow them to eat crappy food and never gain weight. And some of those people are unhealthy. I’ve met them.
And that’s what’s so screwed up about all our discussions about weight: they always link fatness to poor health so that must mean skinniness, the ultimate goal, equals good health. Maybe if the discussion was actually about health and didn’t conflate the two issues, people, in general, would be healthier.
- Being fat is probably not a choice. If you’ve never struggled with your weight, it’s not because you’re so much better at life than I am, it’s because you’re lucky. You have genes that allow you to process foods differently. You really love broccoli and hate anything with calories. You have a body that’s naturally suited to run marathons. I don’t know what the deal is. But people are different. What works for you might not work the same for others.
- We accept so many other unhealthy things in our world that cause disease and don’t blame individuals for it. Let’s use cars as an example. Driving a car spews toxins into the atmosphere. It affects everyone’s health. But we’ve accepted that even though we’re going to try to improve emissions, cars are necessary in our lives.
But what about fat people’s health? What about it? No one is advocating for poor health. I’m only suggesting that you not assume every fat person is in poor health.
I’m not an idiot. I know that bad foods and lack of exercise cause weight gain. And bad foods and lack of exercise also contribute to things like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. But people can take care of their health and still be fat. And accepting fatness is not the same thing as suggesting people should do bad things for their health. If your diet or lack of exercise is hurting your body, then you should worry about that. But you don’t need the world to shame you for it.
As someone on the internet said: If shame could make people lose weight, everyone would be skinny. I can guarantee you that every fat person in North America has been made to feel bad about his/herself at some point and it didn’t make a difference on the scale. I can also tell you that tons of people are way better at shaming and hating themselves than any stranger will ever be. So your efforts are futile.
I’m not going to pretend that it’s not crazy hypocritical of me to suggest that you all be a bit more accepting of fat people when I’m going around blogging about trying to lose weight. But I will say that I’m working on examining the way I think about these things, and I’ve come around a bit. I’m no longer hoping to be a size 4. That’s not going to happen. My body is not meant to be a size 4. That’s ok with me. Bring on the size 12. Or 14. Or whatever I end up being. What I’m saying, is that it’s my decision to make how I deal with my own body. It’s really none of your damn business.