In response to my blog about the inconsistencies with the way obesity is treated when compared to other people who are viewed, whether correctly or erroneously, to not prioritize their health, reader Anna responded:
I have never taken the statement “war on obesity” as a war against a group of humans. So, although I get your post and where you are coming from, I believe the statement has been misconstrued.
I’ve heard this sentiment repeated many times and of course Anna is allowed to believe whatever she wants, but let’s examine the situation.
Let’s look at some ways in which the war on obesity is fought:
- Fat people are made unwilling participants in experimental medicine
- Articles about the war on obesity are accompanied by dehumanizing pictures of fat people’s bodies without their heads
- Forced medical treatment that has no evidence of success.
- Fat people are told that they are not the best witnesses to our experience, and dictated to by policy makers without being given the opportunity to participate in the discussion
- Those in power encourage society to negatively stereotype fat people and blame us for everything from global warming to global hunger
- Healthcare laws are passed allowing employers to punish fat people monetarily strictly for their size, so that even if their health is exactly the same as a thin counter part they can be charged 30% more for the same insurance
Now let’s examine how this plays out (aka, the casualties of the war)
- Fat people are policed by others on their bodies, food and movement
- Fat people are shamed, stigmatized, and bullied – the Journal of Pediatrics has identified bullying of overweight/obese children as the number one type of bullying that takes place
- Fat people’s parenting abilities are called into question
- Fat people experience stigma from their healthcare practitioners
- Fat people get hired less and paid less than their thin counterparts
- Fat people who suggest that they are human and deserve basic human respect get hatemail and deathreats
- Studies find that “Those who are obese are reminded through their everyday encounters with family members, peers, healthcare providers, and strangers, that their being deviates from social norms.”
- Studies show that even if fat people manage to lose weight, they are still subject to discrimination based on being previously fat
Maybe the people who started the War on Obesity thought that they could wage war against people’s fat without waging war on the fat people, but that’s just not working out. Maybe those who started a war on obesity didn’t intend for this to happen, but intention isn’t everything and, at this point, it’s almost nothing. Maybe people think I should be okay with them hating my current self but being willing to love the thin person they believe I could become, but I refuse to participate.
I think the belief that you can have a war on obesity without creating a war, and subsequent casualties, out of fat people is at best naive and at worst intentionally obtuse. We cannot separate people from their bodies and any war on people’s fat becomes a war on fat people. Luckily the first step of the solution is pretty simple – end the war on obesity. Right now. Then we have all kinds of options to make public health about providing information, access, and options without actively contributing to stigma, low self-esteem, and poor body image.
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