I’ve been thinking about the policies directly aimed at fat people – paying for extra seats on airplanes, penalities of thousands of dollars from work insurance companies if you aren’t thin enough, etc. I think that one of the main things standing in the way of a fatty uprising against all of the stigma, bullying and oppression of fat people is the belief that weight loss is possible, even likely, for all fat people. It’s not just that the people doing the stigmatizing buy into this idea, it’s that fat people do too. That’s pretty problematic since in over half a century of research there has never been a single study where weight loss worked long term for more than a tiny fraction of people. The truth based on the information that we have now is that most fat people will always be fat.
For me the realization that I would always be fat was painful, since I had believed for so long that societal acceptance was just a diet away, but it was also the impetus for my activism. It allowed me to clearly see that when I attempted to change myself in order to escape poor treatment, I had been working the wrong end of the problem. The problem was the social stigma, bullying, and oppression and the cure for poor treatment is to fix the poor treatment, not to change myself.
When people get charged more for the same plane ride because they are fat, when they get charged more for their insurance because they are fat, when they are treated poorly because they are fat, they often think that the solution is to lose weight. What if fat people accepted that they will probably never lose weight long term. I think a lot more people would become activists.
So many things are only acceptable because of fat phobia and because people (including fat people) believe that fat people not only can, but actually should, be obligated to lose weight in order to be treated better. Imagine what would happen if the airlines decided to fit in more seats by creating seats that are designed to fit the average 7 year old boy? Do you think people would be so cavalier to say that the seats are the size they are and if you are bigger you should just pay extra? I seriously doubt it. That system works because of fat phobia, because people think that if you are fat you can and should get thin and you should be punished until you do. What if fat people stopped believing that the insurance penalties are only going to be in effect until the work-sponsored Watchers Meeting that they have to give up their free time for makes them thin (despite WW’s own studies which show that they are likely to maintain only a 5 pounds weight loss for 2 years.) What if instead, fat people all realized that the Thin Fairy is probably not showing up and that the only way to stop paying more for every plane ride and being paid less than our thin counterparts, the only way to stop the stigma, shaming, bullying etc. is activism
A tiny fraction of people survive skydiving falls when their parachutes don’t open, but we don’t encourage people to try to beat the odds and jump out of planes without chutes, nor do we shame people who go ahead and grab that parachute before jumping. A tiny fraction of people win the lottery, but we don’t encourage people to try to beat the odds and quit their job because today’s ticket could be a winner, nor do we fine them if they fail to win the lottery. A tiny fraction of people succeed at longterm weight loss but that doesn’t mean that we should recommend that every fat person should try it, or that we should penalize people for failing.
How would things be different if every fat person operated from the knowledge that they are probably going to be fat their whole lives? I think it would be a better world and I’m ready for the fatty uprising.
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