One of my life goals is to be named to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. The Council’s mission is “to engage, educate and empower all Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition.” I think that “all Americans” includes people who look like me and that Health at Every Size is a “healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition” and I think it would be amazing to be able to have influence at that level. Especially since in 2002 the PCFSN (then the President’s Council on Physical Fitness) said “The health risks of obesity are largely controlled if a person is physically active and physically fit.”
But it’s not just the PCFSN, there are thousands of “obesity intervention” programs going on that don’t have a single obese person as a member of their team.
Thousands of people who think that we need them to “save” us by telling us how to make our bodies look like they think everyone should look
Thousands of people and programs deciding what constitutes “appropriate” treatment of fat people in the process of eradicating us from the Earth. Groups of thin people who are empowered by grants from federal, state, and local governments, insurance companies, public health non-profits, and their own exaggerated sense of self importance to decide what to do about, for, and to fat people..
Groups of thin people who decide, for example, that they should only use images of us with no heads, or fat kids looking depressed and dressed in ill-fitting clothes.
Then they get to dictate that the only appropriate response for fat people to have to these interventions is to agree with them that we are a plague upon the Earth and do what they think is right until we are thin and can participate in as many unhealthy behaviors as we want, as long as we don’t get fat again, and nobody will bother us.
If we refuse to obey and speak out that that those images are shaming, stigmatizing, or humiliating, then a group of people – that does not include any fat people – tells us that we’re wrong for feeling those things, and that the only correct way to feel is how they say we should. I saw an article by a thin pediatrician who saw the Disney Habit Heroes Ride and said with certainty that “nobody’s vacation would be ruined” by seeing it. How the hell would she know? What is she, the fat-person whisperer? Back off lady.
It’s not that these people are ill-intentioned, or that there is anything wrong with them because they are thin, the problem is that if someone is thin then they have NO IDEA what it’s like to be fat in this society, and trying to create interventions to help people, especially people who haven’t asked for your help, without actually involving those people is horribly (and I would think obviously) misguided.
Compounding this problem is the fact that obesity has been so mischaracterized and overblown as a health problem, that people aren’t even required to show evidence that their intervention will be successful, or at the very least not more harmful. Programs can make a guess (like “putting pictures of depressed looking fat kids in ill-fitting clothes on billboards will help kids be healthier”). Then they throw around a bunch of scary statistics about obesity and nobody bothers to ask if they have any statistics to show that their intervention has any chance of success, or to prove that it’s not likely to harm the people it’s supposed to help. We have studies (by Peter Muennig from Columbia University) that women who are concerned about their weight have more physical and mental illnesses than women who are fine with their size, regardless of their weight, and that the stress of constant stigma is correlated with the same diseases that are correlated with obesity. So we are aware that public health interventions that cause people to be concerned about their weight may actually be causing the exact problems they purport to solve but somehow this isn’t important and the people who are likely being harmed aren’t given the opportunity to speak up.
This is ridiculous. It’s a system built upon the idea that fat people aren’t the most credible witnesses to our own experiences, that we shouldn’t have a say in the way that we are treated, and that we need people to save us. And that’s bullshit. We need to demand our place at the table.
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