Jezebel.com did a quick article referencing a Times of India piece about a study in which 1 in 6 women apparently said that they would rather be blind than obese. I haven’t seen the study and I can’t tell you if I think it’s accurate or not, but it’s the reporting that I want to talk about because it manages to be bad on so many levels:
First, they seem to use “affliction” and “socially stigmatized condition” interchangeably in the Times article. Obesity is not an affliction, it is a body size. I am as fat as you can get on the BMI chart: Type 3 Super Obese. I am also super healthy and happy. I am not afflicted by a health condition, I am stigmatized by society. These are two very different things. If I had a health condition I would try to cure it via healthy habits. Social Stigma I try to cure by
telling people to shut the hell up and mind their own business enforcing my personal boundaries, trying to elucidate options and suggesting that all people should be treated with dignity, even if you don’t agree with their choices.
Second - The quote that accompanied the Times article was “Experts said, “it was astonishing that people would opt – even in theory – for afflictions that were difficult or impossible to treat in favour of obesity.”
Notice the false dichotomy between “afflictions that were difficult or impossible to treat” and “obesity”. Like people can cross their arms and bounce their head like “I Dream of Jeannie” and be thin. The Jezebel article is, to me, even worse saying “Obesity is, generally speaking, a condition that can be reversed” Not so much. So far intentional weight loss has shown a long-term success rate of less than 5% in all major scientific studies, that’s within the statistical margin of error.
Maybe it’s time to accept that not only don’t we have a simple solution for long-term weight loss – we don’t have any proven solution at all. Maybe we don’t notice because the diet industry has managed to replace the concept of “health” with the concept of “thin” and is being paid handsomely for it, so we think that we need to be thin no matter what the cost or we’ll never be healthy. Unfortunately the lazy medicine and science that this situation has wrought seem to have abandoned any type of research around making people healthier for the much more lucrative pursuit of making them smaller (or, in actuality, telling them that you can make them smaller without ever delivering on that promise).
What would our health be like if we actually focused on health, rather than body size?
Finally, the Jezebel article asks “Is the fact that north of 15% of women who participated in the study would prefer blindness to obesity a testament to the shallowness that women have been driven to in American society or to the fact that women realize that society tends to treat the obese more poorly than it treats the blind?”
This is not the Oppression Olympics and I’m not interested in getting into any discussions about who is more stigmatized. I have very little understanding of what a blind person must deal with in the world and to be clear I would choose obesity any day of the freaking week. But what I’m thinking is that maybe it’s a testament to the fact that blind people aren’t constantly told that they could see if they just had some personal responsibility and will power and tried hard enough, and that if they are going to stay blind then they don’t deserve respect or love.
Luckily I don’t have to make the choice between blindness or obesity but I do make the choice to focus on my health rather than my body size and that one I’ll stand by.
By the way my blog has once again been posted to the board of “fit” people. These people are obsessed with me! I can’t imagine how much of their lives they’ve devoted to reading my blog, posting comments I’m never going to allow through, photoshopping my picture, putting negative comments on my YouTube videos (and flagging them as terrorism) etc. These people have spent a TON of time on me. I’d be flattered if I thought that they were worth the time it takes to delete their comments. Thanks for the attention and all the hits to my page but please do feel free to go do something useful with your lives. Also, feel free to stop leaving anonymous comments complaining about how I didn’t post your previous anonymous comment. It’s called comment moderation – I worked very hard to create a forum for respectful, intelligent discussion of Health at Every Size, self -esteem and body image. I am so grateful for all of the people who let me know that they’ve found support or encouragement here. If you think I’m going to use my forum to give a voice to people who are only looking to tear others down, and are, based on a preponderance of the evidence, uninterested in a respectful intelligent discussion (“fatties gonna fat” Seriously?) and typically are so cowardly that they won’t even put their real name and e-mail on their comments then you are even less bright than your comments suggest. But you know, keep clicking because it’s making my stats look great and I’m getting pretty fast with the “Trash Comment” button.
Thanks to the always awesome Beauty Schooled Project for turning me onto the Times India Article.
Here are the original articles