One of the justifications for the bullying, stigmatizing, shaming, and paternalism that fat people have to deal with is that it’s because we aren’t prioritizing our health and that’s bad for society.
Of course that’s based on the idea that by looking at someone’s body you can tell their priorities, behaviors and health. Of course there are people of all sizes who prioritize their health in many different ways for many different reasons. Of course those are none of our business. Of course people are under no obligation to prioritize their health in any specific way. And of course this whole argument is based on stereotypes. But let’s pretend it’s true – that by looking at fat people you can tell that we don’t prioritize our health. Then is the poor treatment of fat people justified?
At this moment I am watching late night coverage of the Olympics. They are showing luge and a man is on a very small sled traveling over 86 miles an hour across a steep path of ice (a speed which I’m not legally allowed to reach surrounded by metal in my car on an abandoned highway.). Earlier today I watched a snowboarder compete after he broke a rib on a training run, heard from another snowboarder who had pulled out of an event because he was trying to avoid injuries before his next event, and I heard about a female mogul skier who had torn the ACL in both of her knees requiring four surgeries, and we haven’t even begun to discuss the sport of skeleton which is like luge except people go head first. Head first. Head effing first.
None of these people are prioritizing their health. In fact, very few athletes do – they tend to prioritize winning, or playing. People justify their poor treatment of fat people based on the argument that we are putting ourselves in a position to have above “normal” healthcare costs by our behaviors, and based on that logic (with which I don’t agree) athletes are doing the same thing since they are putting themselves in a position to have above “normal” healthcare costs with their behaviors. Does someone want to calculate the healthcare costs of people who participate in sports – not just sports injuries but the effect on the human body for life? With all the research on the health benefits (and low risks) of walking (for those for whom it’s not precluded by disability), why not have a war on sports?
Lots of research shows that sleep is very important to health. How many people aren’t getting the recommended amount? Should we make some guesses about the health problems that causes, do some quick back of the envelope calculations and have a war on people who under sleep?
There are thin people who engage in the behaviors which are used to justify the mistreatment and paternalistic attitude toward fat people – being sedentary, eating a lot of fast food etc. and yet there is no war on thin people who don’t prioritize their health. So I have to wonder if people believe that if these behaviors don’t make someone fat then they should be defined as healthy?
Health is complicated, it’s multi-dimensional, and it’s not entirely within our control and there are many, many competing theories about how to achieve health. The idea that if we can successfully stereotype a group of people who look a certain way, then we can justify poor treatment of them is, I would hope obviously, highly problematic. Each of us gets to decide how highly to prioritize our health and what path we should take to get there and anything other than that is a fast and slippery slope to a very bad place. Do people who believe that raw foods are the healthiest thing get to have a war on everyone else? Do people who believe that paleo is the best place get to have a war on everyone else? Those who want to talk about fat people and their tax dollars can head right over here.
The truth is that this whole “it’s about their health” thing is a sham that has been built up to justify and protect prejudice and create profit. The suggestion that society is stereotyping and bullying fat people because we aren’t prioritizing our health is ignoring the truth, not just about fat people, but about everyone else as well.
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