When I do break the cardinal rule of being fat on the internet and read the comments, I’m always shocked at the authority with which complete strangers tell me things about myself that, apparently, I did not know:
- You cannot be healthy at [arbitrary] weight
- Obesity causes [insert disease never proven to be caused by obesity]
- Everyone who is fat will eventually get sick from it
These three things are common comments that are proven false but I think that one of the things that gives them power is that they are stated with authority. Never mind that they are being typed out by someone who gets their information from diet commercials and wouldn’t know the difference between correlation and causation if it bit them in the ass. We live in a soundbite society and this type of comment is perfectly suited for that.
I think that one of the issues is that the more you learn, the more you know how very few things are certain, and how much is grey rather than black and white.
This leads to people like me saying things like:
Health is multi-dimensional and includes access, genetics, environment, stress, and behaviors. The evidence that I’ve seen shows that 95% of intentional weight loss efforts fail and so for me, I think that if I want to be healthy the best course of action is to practice healthy behaviors rather than trying to change the size and shape of my body.
Then someone else who has not done one one-hundredth of the research I’ve done about this says:
It’s impossible to be fat and healthy
So I sound like I’m hedging and qualifying and trying to talk around an issue and they sound direct and authoritative.
This also applies to emotional intelligence. I notice that the more emotionally intelligent and mature a person is, the more they realize that their experience is not everyone’s experience. So I say
We celebrate X Games athletes who risk their lives everyday for a sport. We celebrate people who jump out of helicopters wearing skis, who push their bodies to the limit running Iron Man Triathalons even those things are physically risky. I value health but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to make it a priority, or that people who do the same things that I do will have the same results. In the end, I believe in giving people correct information and affordable accessible options, and then respecting their choices as I expect them to respect mine.
And somebody else says:
I lost weight and I’m healthier and so all fat people should lose weight and they’ll be healthier to.
Again, I sound like Wordy McWorderson while they appear to be brief and to the point (however erroneous that point might be).
So what is there to do? Rarely do you get points for appearing to complicate an argument. But the situation isn’t black and white and I don’t want to act like it is. So I’ve tried to find statements that are short, factual, and that I can say with equal authority:
- You cannot look at a person and tell how healthy they are
- There are healthy and unhealthy people of every size
- I am fat and healthy
- People of all sizes deserve to be treated with respect
I believe in the power of discourse, and I have the intellectual humility, and emotional intelligence to know that I don’t know everything and to understand that my experience is not extrapolatable to others. I do not want to overstate or overgeneralize but I also think that in a soundbite society, it’s important to have some brief statements that we can make with the firm authority that Body Positivity and Health at Every Size deserve.