It’s Not Because I’m Fat

Design by Kris Owen

I was with some friends talking about how society can tend to assume that everything that goes wrong in fat people’s lives is because we’re fat.  Single?  It’s because you’re fat.  Haven’t run a 5k yet?  It’s because you’re fat.  Stub your toe?  Blame your body size.  A friend of mine was telling me that she was in an appointment with her therapist when she had the realization that everything that had gone wrong in her life was not because of her fat – when her therapist told her that thin people sit on her couch with the exact same issues.

Let’s be clear – fat people are stigmatized, bullied, oppressed and discriminated against in our society and that has very real consequences.  But those consequences are not because we’re fat, it’s because people stigmatize, bully, oppress and discriminate against us – the problem is with them, not our bodies.  That’s why it’s crucial that we be clear that when someone suggests that we try to lose weight so that we can be treated better, they are working on the wrong end of the problem.  It is suggesting that we keep giving the bully whatever he asks for and hope he stops beating us up which is not a reasonable request.  The cure for social stigma is not weight loss. The cure for social stigma is ending social stigma.

It also means that we have the option to reject the societal idea that everything bad that happens to us is because of our fat.  There are a lot of situations where this really hurts us.  One is that people pursue weight loss with the belief that everything in their life will be better when they are thin – ignoring the fact that there are thin women who are single with knee problems.  Speaking of knee problems – this tendency bleeds into our healthcare.  I’ve happened to have had the same knee issues at two very different sizes and I got two very different treatment experiences.  When I was smaller I was asked very specific questions about the pain – when it started, where it was located exactly, and what type of pain it was. The asked about my activity, how I injured it etc. I got 4 treatment options from physical therapy to surgery and a referral to a specialist.

When I had the exact same issue but was fat, the doctor asked why I was there and I said knee pain.  He didn’t palpate my knee or ask any questions.  He turned around and left the room without saying a word. Ten minutes later a nurse came in with a piece of paper with a list that said “forbidden foods” (had they bothered to ask they would have known that I had recovered from an eating disorder, making this dangerous for me) and an exercise plan for taking 10 minute walks (at the time I was dancing and working out over 20 hours a week.)

We can insist that people start recognizing the stigma, shaming, oppression and discrimination that fat people face, acknowledge that being constantly treated poorly by every facet of society affects fat people negatively, and work on ending that stigma and oppression- never asking fat people to change ourselves.  We can also insist that people stop having the knee-jerk reaction of blaming things on our body size, especially since those things happen to people of every size.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (purchasing these also helps support my activism work, which I really appreciate):

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order

The Dance Class DVDs:  Fun classes for all levels!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 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 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.

Speaking Schedule 2013 – I am now working on my speaking schedule for next year.  If you would like me to give a talk at your university, job/company, or organization just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll talk about the options to make it work for your situation and budget.

17 thoughts on “It’s Not Because I’m Fat

  1. How does the third paragraph end? surgery and? As always, I love to read your posts, you have such a wonderful way of using words to construct obvious arguments. I wish I was able to write like you Ragen.

    1. Yikes, it should say “and a referral to a specialist” I swear I typed that out – I must have deleted accidentally during editing (which is clearly not my strong suit.) Thank you so much for compliments about my work and for letting me know about the issue – I truly appreciate it 🙂 ~Ragen


        1. Helena – Is that an invitation just for Ragen (I understand if it is; we’re all busy), or is it open to other readers/commenters who might be in editorial need?

  2. Unfortunately, I (and a lot of others, I know) have had experiences similar to the one you had with the second doctor. I’d love to hear how you responded to the situation.

  3. Is there a way to show appreciation and to recognize or even promote doctors and other health professionals who DON’T use fat as the immediate response/blame for all health issues? I think it would be amazing to have a resource list of doctors, therapists, trainers and more who are not letting bias impact the treatments and services they offer.

    1. There is a list of doctors (I think it’s available through the fathealth wordpress site).

      I sure do wish there was a list of physical therapists.
      (In NYC, since I’m wish-listing.)

    2. I’ve tried to make a point to tell doctors how much I’ve appreciated it when they’ve treated me well, without fat shaming. But since they’re good doctors they tend not to understand the significance of the compliment. I don’t think they can imagine how badly other medical professionals can treat us. But I think it’s important for us to give them positive feedback, and to let them know about negative experiences we’ve had with other doctors, so that they’ll understand what we deal with, and can make referrals for other fat patients more carefully.

      I think that because doctors seem so powerful in our lives it’s easy to imagine that they don’t need compliments and positive feedback, but I think they do.

  4. In the same spirit, it was very refreshing to read Fat Sex, a bunch of accounts by fat people. The thing is, they cover the full range of possibilities– true love, romance that doesn’t quite work, can’t shake them off with a stick, nobody’s interested…. It’s the same sexual/romantic range that thin people live in, except that thin heterosexual people (so far as I know) don’t have sexual partners who don’t want to be seen in public with them.

  5. My family has a history of ‘helpful criticism’. Not just about food, but lots of things. This has made me angry and frustrated and insecure all my life. Despite this, I am going home for Thanksgiving. I woke up this morning with my anger in full force, but I realized I am finally no longer insecure. I don’t know how well I will set boundaries (or how much I will even talk to people) but at least I won’t wonder if they are right and I am wrong.

  6. Awesome critical analysis as usual, Ragen, regarding the social construction (and advancement) of social stigma via dominant discourses (and via cultural “authorities” such as doctors, dietitians, and journalists) versus the harmful, false and distorted belief that a person’s body size (somehow) “causes” others to torment them—a belief which makes as much sense as blaming very young victims of assault for getting beaten and for being wounded—“because they are children”.


  7. I should have read my wordpress reader first before titling my last post. I called it “It’s Because You Are Fat”. It’s my experience with doctor’s not even bothering to diagnosis me, they just say “It’s because you’re obese” or “It’s common with overweight people”. Two conditions have been uncovered that would have been found sooner if they just did a blood test. Now that I am pregnant, I just made them give me the blood test anyway.

    Here it is if any one is interested:

  8. I was at my physiotherapist’s today with knee pain and my physio was FANTASTIC. She listened to my description, did a full examination of both knees, and did not once mention my weight as a cause. At one point I made one of those self-deprecating half-joking remarks about my weight being causal and she pointed out that for the specific problem I have (synovial flap being caught in the joint) my weight is not relevant or causal at all. THANK YOU PHYSIO!!

    I am so very very lucky to have her.

  9. Hi, I just found your blog and I just want to say that you are amazing. I’ve been dealing with weight issues since I was forced to take appetite supplements when I was seven and I gained so much weight. I’ve been made fun of by family, “friends” and random strangers because of my weight. Since I was twelve, (I’m fourteen now) I’ve tried starving my self, ridiculous diets, vomiting my food but none of it worked. This year, my knee dislocated and of course, everyone except most of the doctors and physiotherapists I saw just had to comment on how it was because of my weight and I needed to lose weight as if that would magically solve everything. I even had a random stranger scold me on my weight and how I should eat less which made me feel like shit because I hadn’t eaten that day and about three days prior. But now, I’ve found out about Size Acceptance.
    I’ve followed Size Acceptance blogs on tumblr and I’ve been trying to accept myself . Your blog is really helpful and you are just so amazing. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.