Suffering from Obesity

Belly Bump with one of my heroes - Marilyn Wann
Belly Bump with one of my heroes – Marilyn Wann

I decided to repost this blog based on a few conversations I had and saw in the last few days.  I see people talk a lot about how we need to “do something,” and how abusive and exploitative things like The Biggest Loser are justified  because so many people are “suffering from obesity”.  I won’t presume to speak for everyone but I will say that while I sometimes do suffer because I’m obese, I’ve never suffered from obesity.

I’m suffering from living in a society where I’m shamed, stigmatized and humiliated because of the way I look. Where I’m oppressed by people who choose to believe that I could be thin if I tried (even though there’s no evidence for that), and that I am, in fact, obligated to try to be thin because that’s what they want me to do – as if personal responsibility means that I’m personally responsible for doing what they think I should do and looking like they think I should look (though this does not seem to be a two way street as none of these people has ever invited by commentary and suggestions on their life and choices.)

I’m suffering from doctors who have bought into a weight=health paradigm so deeply that they are incapable of giving me appropriate evidence-based healthcare.  I’m not just talking about diagnosing me as fat and giving me a treatment plan of weight loss (which is using a completely unreliable diagnostic and then prescribing a treatment that has the opposite result 95% of the time).  I’m also talking about the two doctors who tried to prescribe me blood pressure medication without taking my blood pressure or looking at my chart to see that it is always 117/70 (which means that taking blood pressure medication would have been dangerous).  I’m talking about a doctor trying to get me to lose weight to treat me for Type 2 Diabetes when I actually had anemia.  I’m talking about a doctor telling me that my strep throat was due to my weight. I’m talking about people who are supposed to be scientists abandoning science and research in a way that strongly resembles the time when the Catholic church told Galileo to sit down and shut up.

I’m suffering from a societal witch hunt where instead of putting me in a river they put me on a scale.  People look at my body and feel comfortable blaming me for everything from global warming to healthcare costs despite a lack of evidence for either. People send me ridiculous hate mail, say nasty things to me at the gym (although making fun of a fat person at the gym is something I will never understand).  People who are drenched in thin privilege try to use that position of privilege to make me feel bad about myself.

I’m suffering from the misinformation campaign that is led by the diet industry, weight loss pharmaceutical industry and surgeons who profit from mutilating people who look like me, none of whom are willing to be honest about the risks or horrible success rates of their interventions long term, and some of whom just don’t seem to care.

I am suffering from living in a society that tells me that the cure for social stigma, shame, humiliation and incompetent healthcare is for me to lose weight, when the truth is that the cure for social stigma is ending social stigma.

What has lessened my suffering is that I now realize that this isn’t my fault – although it becomes my problem. One of the reasons that I choose to pursue a life of social justice work is that nothing makes me feel better than knowing that I am doing what I can to fight this and making some kind of difference – whether it’s in the lives of individuals or in society, or just in my own life.  I deserve better and so does everyone else and I and lots of others are fighting for it and we’re going to win.  But to be clear, we shouldn’t have to.  Nobody should have to fight to be treated with basic human respect.   And that’s what I find so sad – all of this suffering of fat people could end right this second and nobody needs to lose a pound – society just needs to stop trying to shame, stigmatize, humiliate and hate people healthy.  We can work on access to healthy foods, we can work on access to safe movement options that people enjoy, we can work on making sure that people have access to appropriate, evidence-based healthcare.  If we give up being a horribly failed example for making people thin, we could be a successful example for giving people options for health.

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22 thoughts on “Suffering from Obesity

  1. Girl, you are one strong woman!! I just read some of your hate mail. What the hell is wrong with people? Thank you doing what you do, in spite of the haters (and the people that send you death threats). You are incredible and I appreciate you very much. Thank you for this post. If these haters would use just a little compassion and a tiny bit of common sense, they could see it for themselves. Hope you have an awesome weekend!!!

  2. “…although making fun of a fat person at the gym is something I will never understand…”

    It’s especially confusing when combined with the “I’m bullying you to *help* you” line of BS. If you buy into the load of crap that bullying fat people is to help make them thin, where’s the percentage in bullying the subset of fat people who are already trying to comply with your ridiculous demands?

    I have to admit, I have had mocking thoughts about folks at the gym, but it’s ordinarily the show-offs — the guys making faces and grunting to show you how hard they’re working out, or the folks who are working the weight-resistance machines so quickly they’re not getting a benefit, just to show you they can go faster than you.

  3. I’d definitely rather be an example of a happy fatty living life on her own terms than a failed diet cautionary tale.

    Quite frankly, I like me and I don’t give a fig who knows it.

    If someone else doesn’t like me, I invite them to do so elsewhere. I’m sick and tired of people trying to make their negative feelings about me my problem.

  4. I always thought it was only me, because I assumed there could only be one doctor ridiculous enough take fever + swollen glands + sore throat + “a bunch of my students are out with strep throat” and come up with a diagnosis of “you’re fat” and a treatment plan of “quit drinking soda.” But I keep finding other fat people — usually fat women — who have had the same experience. I really, really don’t get it.

    I ended up informing the doctor that I would not be leaving her exam room until she performed a strep test. If I weren’t a nice middle-class white lady, I suspect that would have ended very badly. I got my strep test, I got my antibiotics, and I didn’t go to a doctor (other than my psychiatrist) again for 18 months. Which I’m sure had no negative effects on my health at all.

    1. I didn’t have strep misdiagnosed but I did have pneumonia misdiagnosed as “lolurfat.” True, the pneumonia was causing some tachycardia and possibly high blood pressure (the high blood pressure was definitely there, but I also wonder how much of that was attributable to my anxiety over the tachycardia). But it was also *sudden onset* of those symptoms accompanied by cough, congestion, headache, body ache, and — oh yeah — a fever of one hundred and four fucking degrees.

      I am fortunate that when I finally panicked and went to the ER for my symptoms — after being dissatisfied with a diagnoses of lolurfat from my primary provider’s office (though not from my then-GP himself) — I was treated with the utmost care, consideration, and respect. But, according to both me and my bank account paying the ER fee, it never should have come to that.

      1. Or the elevated blood pressure could come from the known fact that part of the body’s immune response to infections like pneumonia is elevated BP. SMH

  5. One thing I have been working on lately is getting myself to a mental place where I’m comfortable telling people that my weight isn’t a problem unless/until other people make it one. Fortunately the opportunity to say so doesn’t come up very often because I’m lucky to live a life where I don’t get much verbal grief about my weight from people so I haven’t had opportunities to actually say that to anyone (unfortunately the grief I do get takes other forms — I’m convinced I got fired from my dream job this summer, after paying a ton of money to fly to the orientation for it and despite being one of the two most qualified candidates hired, just because I’m fat).

    1. It’s terrible when you think you’re being discriminated against because you’re fat, but sometimes you don’t know what else to think.

      I’ve recently returned to school and ended up dropping a class because I was constantly butting heads with a lab teacher. He treated me completely differently than he treated other students and it’s either because I’m fat or old or I wouldn’t tell him why I was coming back to school or something else, but there’s a lot about me that can’t change (my weight, my age). It’s sad because I’m open to real criticism, even when it hurts my feelings to hear, I can take it and process it and decide if it’s something I want to change, like I’m bossy, I have worked hard to change that. But to just be treated badly with no chance to find out why, you’re just left wondering if it’s because you’re fat.

      1. Thank you. I actually do have another chance coming up — I found an almost identical job with another company and I have an interview for it on the 30th. I’m kind of nervous because of my previous experience though, and I wish there was some way for me to address my weight without seeming too defensive.

        That teacher sounds absolutely ridiculous. Ugh. I wonder if the department would take a complaint about that behavior seriously. There’s just no way he should be allowed to keep thinking that kind of behavior is acceptable. Reminds me of the prof I had once who had a thing out for me because of my grades…

        1. I hate interviewing, I’m such a good worker, I just suck at interviewing. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie Party Girl, but Guillermo Diaz’s character has a scene where he desperately wants a job as a club DJ and the person interviewing him is asking him about bands, then says “imitate a cat puking” and he starts making cat puking noises. I always think of that to help me relax.

          I have a very noticeable psoriasis and I asked the HR person who screened me at my last job if I should address my condition when I was interviewing for another company (we had both left the original company we had worked for) and her advice was to not say anything. She thought there were going to people who were just so put off by my skin that I wasn’t going to get the job no matter what I said and others who wouldn’t give a fig, until I brought it up myself and made it an issue. So take that advice for what it’s worth.

          I don’t think the department would take a complaint seriously, about 75% of his students LOVE him and 25% hate him, but it’s a really hard class, so I think they just assume the people who don’t like him aren’t doing well, but I had a low A when I withdrew. It worked out well for me because was overwhelmed with classwork and now I’m back at a level I can handle in my life, it was a community college so I’m not out loads of money, but I still don’t like being treated unfairly.

  6. In my German class today, we were doing basic questions like, “What do you like to eat and drink?” When I replied that no, I don’t drink soda (unless it’s ginger ale, and I’m sick), I don’t really eat meat, I don’t watch TV, I don’t eat potato chips, and I love to go hiking, it was met with stunned looks, and I could practically hear the professor thinking, “But you’re fat!”

    Why don’t you just judge me on the power of my intellect which, I assure you, is quite astounding in its own right?

  7. Another great column, Ragen, and great comments as ever all you peoples. What came to mind reading La’s comment on haters is the cliche “the best revenge is living well”. Being at peace with ourselves and our bodies, enjoying life, living it fully, wearing a smile. That’s one part of what wins the “war on fatties”. Let’s all be so grateful to Ragen and all the out there activists leading the charge and inspiring us. Thank you.

  8. I’ve noticed that the *star* of every commercial aimed at diabetes control is always a fat person. Now I know for a fact at anyone, at any weight can become diabetic. I have thin friends who have Type II just as I do.

    Now why do you supposed that not one person in any commercial is thin? I guess we all know, don’t we?

  9. I don’t think doctors are usually considered to be scientists. They are highly skilled technicians. Of course, some MDs also have PhDs and/or conduct research. And there are MDs who don’t do research, but are “science-minded” (curious, inquisitive, open-minded, etc.).

    1. I would disagree, medicine is an applied science. Though there is certainly an art – owing to the application of science with human beings and everything that entails, it’s still based in the scientific method.



  10. Ragen, you have mentioned about the weight = health myth in several of your blogs. Following your underpants rule here, I personally have found that my weight fluxs are one of the signs that something else is “off” and needs to be looked into. In your opinion, experiences or other sources, do you think or believe that over weight, obesity or “fatness” is an underlying symptom to other health issues? Is the “skyrocketing obesity rates” the outcome of something else that is affecting us?
    (Poisoned food and water sources, polluted air, chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis… )
    I have not had the experiences with doctors that alot of other ladies here have had. I am truly sorry for your mistreatment at the hands of a so called medical professional. I hope that those who were abused by their medical team have the courage to say “No, thanks” and seek other options else where. From what I’ve read, it sounds like your life may depend on it!

  11. Just today, someone asked about my hip osteoarthritis. I said it still hurts, but the doctors will not do surgery yet. The well meaning person asked, “Why?” I said age and weight. As we were parting he said, “Well, lose the weight.” As I began to say something snarky, he added “You’ll feel better.”

    Yeah, my friends and family are stumped. The orthopedic surgeons won’t do surgery until I lose weight – “20-30 good faith pounds” – “as much as possible.” One surgeon said I was at too much risk for the hip replacement surgery, but that I should consider weight loss surgery! Sigh. Thankfully, I don’t quality for that. “Why won’t she just lose the weight?” I believe everyone is saying. Yes, why, indeed!

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