We have GOT to stop acting like we can look at someone and know tons of information about them based only on their body size. There are healthy and unhealthy people of every shape and size. This is not a difficult concept.
There are exactly two things that you can tell by looking at someone’s size:
- What size they are
- What your personal preconceived notions and prejudices about that particular body size are
When people look at someone and think they know anything other than those two things, they are just acting on their preconceived notions and prejudices by making stuff up in their heads (which wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t so often then come out of their mouths and if they weren’t doctors, eating disorder professionals and other people who should know better).
Many current cultures have developed intense preconceived notions and prejudices against body sizes (in some cultures they are against fat bodies, in some cultures they are against thin bodies). In US culture there is currently a strong bias against fat bodies. We are not the first or only group to be the subject of stereotyping and scapegoating and sadly we probably won’t be the last. But we are not powerless.
We can notice how often these messages come at us from people who either want to sell us something, or want to put us down as a way to raise themselves up. We can point out situations where we feel that people are operating from stereotypes and preconceived notions if we feel like it. We can remind people that health is multi-dimensional, not entirely under our control, and that each person gets to choose what health means to them, how important health is to them, and what path supports their priorities and goals.
Perhaps most importantly, we each decide how we feel about ourselves. We are each the only person in charge of that – unless we choose to give that power away to someone else. So as we deal with being stereotyped, stigmatized, and scapegoated, it may help to remember that it’s not us, it’s them and we are under no obligation to buy into their stereotypes when we choose how to view ourselves.