I talk a lot on this blog about access, specifically that I believe that those people who want to spend their time waging a war on fat people because of how we look might consider instead spending their time focusing on making sure that everyone has access to the foods that they would choose to et, safe movement options that they enjoy, affordable, accessible, evidence based healthcare and true information. Today I want to look deeper into what “access” really means and where the barriers are.
First, if you read my blog regularly you know that I don’t believe that health is a personal, societal, or moral obligation, or a barometer of worthiness. The choice of how highly to prioritize health and the path you want to choose to get there is an intensely personal decision that is nobody else’s business. Health is multi-dimensional and includes aspects that are in our control and aspects that are out of our control and no amount of healthy habits guarantees health to anybody of any size. I’m not “promoting” any specific kind of “lifestyle”, I believe that people should have all of their options and that what they choose from there is nobody else’s business. (If you’re wondering “but what about my tax dollars” head over to this post.)
Now let’s talk about access:
The first thing I talk about is access to the foods people would choose to eat. Notice that I did not say the foods somebody else thinks that people should eat. Food choices are personal and involve nourishment, taste, culture, and any number of factors for any individual person. I don’t believe that it’s up to society to tell people what to eat, I believe it’s up to us to work to make a variety of foods accessible or affordable, and to give people access to good information about it.
Next is safe movement options. To me this means that the movement that someone wants to do is accessible to them and safe both physically and psychologically. So if someone wants to do water aerobics that would meant that they have access to a class that they can afford and get to, and where they can put on a bathing suit and walk around without any fear of ridicule, shame or unwelcome comments about their body, weight, health, etc. So opening up a community center with a sliding pay scale on the bus lines is not enough. That community center also needs to have policies in place and enforced that are fiercely anti-shame. It’s not enough to just have a walking trail or bike path, we need to create a society where nobody would think it was ok to yell insults out of their car at the fatty who is using the trail.
Healthcare is another place where access is tricky. In order to be accessible healthcare has to be affordable – which means that the person who needs the care can afford to take the time off work, get to the facility, afford the care including medicine and follow up care. But that’s just the beginning, once you get to the appointment you have to have a doctor who will provide evidence based care. So it’s not enough to build a low cost community clinic, it means that the doctors who work there have to practice medicine a bit more sophisticated than just diagnosing someone as fat and prescribing weight loss (as has happened to me for strep throat, a separated shoulder,and a broken toe.) It also means that the doctor doesn’t prescribe weight loss without letting the patient know that it is an experimental treatment that fails the vast majority of the time, that often has the exact opposite of the intended effect, and that there is no evidence that it will lead to better health in any case. As long as fat people are treated differently than thin people for the same medical issue, we have major barriers to healthcare access.
Finally is true information. There is currently a major barrier to access here in that a sixty billion dollar diet industry has created a massive misinformation campaign for profit, Michelle Obama has declared war on fat kids, and told them to use people who dehydrate themselves to the point of urinating blood to win a game show as role models for health. Meanwhile, actual research about health and weight gets shouted down by the same “everybody knows” type who told Galileo to sit down and shut up. Note that access means that people can find the information to do their own research if they choose, not that information is forced upon them.
Considering all of this it seems to me like there are some better uses for all that time money that we’re spending waging war against fat people, policing drink sizes in restaurants and paying the diet industry to lie to us for profit – it turns out that sixty billion dollars will go a long way.
So to the people who harass fat people in the name of improving public health, let me suggest that instead of trying to be the fatty whisperer, you instead start to work on these actual barriers to health access. Then you can make choices for yourself and let others make choices for themselves.
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I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact so it is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price”
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I do size acceptance activism full time. A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.
The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post. Thanks for reading! ~Ragen