Sorry for the lapse in blogging, I’ve been traveling and out of WIFI range (a blog about my experience at the incredibly awesome Hottie Hoop Camp coming soon!) Thanks to everyone who sent me e-mails to make sure that I was ok! Now back to our regularly scheduled blog.
“There are two kinds of fat people…” I hear this all the time, most recently when I was on the fabulous Substantia Jones’ radio show (archive available here). The story always goes something like this “There are two kinds of fat people, those who eat healthy and exercise, and those who just sit around eating fast food on the couch.” Typically I’m supposed to be happy because the speaker is putting me in category one. But I’m not happy. Not even a little tiny bit. I have no interest in being categorized in this way.
This is often called the “Good Fatty, Bad Fatty Dichotomy” (I don’t know who came up with the wording, if anyone does know feel free to let me know so that I can credit them.) We’ll call it the GFBFD for short. The idea is that fat people who do the “right” things in the estimation of the person doing the judging deserve to be treated better than fat people who aren’t doing the “right” things. I think that the GFBFD needs to die and I want to actively help kill it.
First let’s pretend it’s true. If that’s the case, it’s not just fat people – you could divide any group of people into these two categories. One could claim that there are two kinds of brunettes, two kinds of people who live on their street, two kinds of thin people. In that case the person who wants to use the GFBFD would be left to explain why, even though there are people of every shape and size who can be divided into their two categories, they only think that those who are both in category two and fat should be punished (otherwise what is the sense in discussing the dichotomy in terms of fat people?)
Luckily we don’t have to travel that winding road because the whole thing is bullshit. There aren’t just two types of fat people (or two types of any people), there is a huge spectrum in terms of choices people make around food and movement, and there are a huge number of reasons for those choices – including some that are out of our control. What they have in common is that none of them are any of our damn business unless they are our choices, or someone asks us to chime in on theirs. If someone likes to run (or walk!) marathons, that’s no more laudable than if they want to crochet a badass purse out of plarn (I’m looking at you Suzi!) or watch every episode of Star Trek ever aired.
What I find is that this is often about someone trying to justify their bigotry by suggesting that that it’s ok for them to shame and stigmatize, if not all fat people, then at least some of them! Again we have a big steaming pile of bull poo. I notice that people who insist that they should get to decide how fat people should prioritize our health and the path that we choose to get there are none too keen on others making those choices for them. It’s like many people’s view of driving (a group which may or may not include me…) Everyone who drives slower than them is a slowpoke, everyone who drives faster is a dangerous menace, and their driving is juuuuuuuust riiiiiight. So it often seems to be with those who want to stick their nose into other people’s health (a group which most definitely does not include me.) Everyone who they perceive as doing less than them is lazy and wasting their tax dollars, everyone who does more than them is some kind of health nut, and what they do is juuuuuuust riiiiiiight.
It is by this reasoning that we find ourselves on a treacherously slippery slope. They claim that the “bad fatties” deserve poor treatment because they aren’t doing the healthy things that they need to do for the good of society. But where does that end? If people have studies that show that everyone going raw foods vegan and doing hot yoga will save on healthcare costs and be better for the “good of society” do we all have to eat cashew cheez while sweating our asses off in downward dog? (For the record I had cashew cheez for the first time at Hottie Hoop Camp this weekend and it was delicious, thanks Ruby!)
If people have studies that say that everyone going paleo and doing crossfit will save on healthcare costs and be better for the “good of society” do we all have to eat a steak while we flip tires in a garage with no air conditioning? The only good answer to this is that each of us gets to choose how highly we prioritize our health and what path we choose to get there. Public health should be about making information and options available to the public, not making individual bodies the public’s business. If people want to flip tires in an air conditioned gym while eating Kraft singles and wearing a plarn backpack that’s totally their deal, I say rock on.
There aren’t two kinds of fat people and suggesting that there are is simply sinking one’s self into a pool of stereotypes and bigotry and just soaking in it. Fat people are as varied as any group of people who share a single physical characteristic, and that is as it should be. The Good Fatty Bad Fatty Dichotomy needs to die, if you want to help kill it you can do things like not participating in it, and calling it out when you see it. Have other ideas? Feel free to put those in the comments!
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