A doctor tells a fat patient that they need to eat less and exercise more without asking them what they eat or how much they exercise. When they say that they do eat healthy and exercise instead of asking for details the doctor says “That can’t possibly be true.”
A fat person goes to a personal trainer, explains that they practice the Health at Every Size(r) method and want to increase their strength, stamina, and flexibility. The trainer ignores their request and devises a weight loss plan.
A fat person is out for ice cream with their thin friends. Ignoring the fact that the thin people are eating the same thing someone walks up and tells the fat person “This is why you’re fat.”
Paula Deen eats a hamburger on a cruise and a website puts up a poll asking if that’s “ok” or if she “should only be seen eating healthier foods” (a poll that the Rolls not Trolls Group totally fat bombed by the way, when last I looked 84% of respondents said that people should mind their own business)
A fat child is told that he shouldn’t have any cake at his own birthday party because he shouldn’t ever have any sweets until he is thin.
Parents are accused of child abuse because one of their kids is fat. Even though these parents are officially labeled “child abusers” and the fat child is moved to foster care, social services allows their thin child to remain in the home of these so-called “abusers”
What do all of these situations have in common? If you answered “They are all effed up” you are totally right but it goes beyond that.
Fat bodies are seen as “evidence”. People try to claim that our bodies are evidence of unhealthy behaviors, lack of willpower, lack of self-care. Then they claim that this evidence is compelling enough to make it ok to target us for shame, stigma and humiliation “for our own good”.
Even more damaging, fat people start to internalize this message thinking “If I’m fat then no matter how healthy my habits are I must be doing something wrong. I deserve to be treated poorly and have my body and choices treated like public property.”
This is just not true. Fat bodies are not public property, they are not evidence, and they are not a sign that we need someone to step in and tell us how to take care of ourselves. First because nobody can tell what our habits are based on our body size. Second because our health is our decision – we each get to choose how highly to prioritize our health and what path we want to take to get there, with the understanding that we may be limited by the resources that are available to us.
If people really want to do something about health they will start concentrating on making sure that everyone has access to the foods that they would choose to eat, safe movement options that they enjoy, and appropriate evidence-based health care. Claiming to be for health while running a ridiculous “one shamed fatty at a time” campaign sounds a whole lot like being a bully and then blaming the bullied. I don’t know about you, but those bullies can’t have my lunch money any more.
Slightly off-topic, I am now blogging on issues of body image, beauty, and women’s health for NBC’s iVillage. My first post (about the intersection of body image and high heels) can be found here! Since I’m new it would be awesome and helpful if you wanted to check it out and comment!
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