Fat people often hear that we should try to lose weight so that we can live a longer, healthier life. I’m not capitulating, in fact I think it’s crap, but for the sake of argument let’s say that’s true.
First, remember that there are plenty of people who put themselves in a position to have shorter, less healthy lives:
There are the daring: People who choose to be professional bull riders, race car drivers and stunt people. People who sky dive, bungee jump, and white water raft. People who live fast and die young with a sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle. People who try to climb Everest and swim the English channel.
And society typically thinks that’s great. In fact, most of the people who engage in the activities above are celebrated. Not because their life will be as long as possible, but because we perceive that it will be as full as possible.
There are the otherwise prioritized: Attorneys, CEOs, social workers, parents and others who are stressed, sleepless, and not eating as well as they should.
Society tends to give them a pass, as long as they are not fat, because they are driven and dedicated.
There are the lifestylers: People who eat a steady diet of junkfood and never workout because it’s not important to them.
As long as they stay thin, society is either fascinated or oblivious to this.
To be clear, all of these are completely valid choices and I don’t believe that these people should be shamed or judged.
Then we have one last category. Fat people. Since fat is simply a physical characteristic, fat people are as varied as any group of people who share one physical characteristic. Some of us are daredevils, some of us are otherwise prioritized, some of are lifestylers. Some live healthy lifestyles by the public health definition.
Regardless, fat people are told that our body size tells people everything that they need to know about us and that we have to “do something” so that we can live a longer, healthier life.
Even if we assume that being fat is a choice for every single fat person (and I don’t think it is), the treatment is still unequal when compared to others who choose a “risky lifestyle”. Nobody is launching a “War against people who don’t get enough sleep”. If an NFL linebacker needs two seats on a plane people ask for his autograph. If a fat woman needs two seats on a plane people publicly humiliate her.
I lived a diet lifestyle for many years and I know what that looks like for me. Losing weight, gaining it back, never being happy with myself, my body or my situation.
The thing we’re forgetting about is having the happiest life. I choose Health at Every Size for the same reasons that I hear from people who choose to skydive. I think that the odds are in my favor and if not I choose the fullest, happiest life – not the longest one. If a healthy diet and exercise aren’t enough to keep me healthy then I’ve made my peace with that because I’m happy, I feel great, and I love my life. I’d rather have fewer years of that than more years of hating my body, and trying a strategy that fails 95% of the time.
I think that the odds are in my favor that healthy behaviors gives me the best chance at health. And I get to make that choice, just like others get to choose to eat a vegan raw food diet, do two hours of yoga a day, or drink like a fish or BASE jump, or live in a bubble if you want. And maybe I’ll die of a heart attack at 40 and wonder if dieting would have given me more time. Or maybe they’ll get hit by a bus at 40 and wonder what cake tastes like. Or maybe we can hang out when we’re 90 and talk about how both of our choices were valid. Either way, we both get to make our own choices.