Whether it’s in internet articles, comments on internet articles, or e-mails that I get, I see “obesity”/being fat used in comparisons that don’t actually make any sense. Let’s clear up some of this confusion.
Obesity is not heroin addiction.
Almost every day I get a couple of people, who think they are geniuses, who leave comments asking if I’m going to start a heroin acceptance movement since it’s the same as size acceptance. These are not comparable because heroin use is a single, specific behavior – everyone heroin addict does heroin. “Obesity” is the end result of a math equation (weight in pounds time 703 divided by height in inches squared is greater than or equal to 30, a group that includes actors, professional athletes, and me.) Obese/fat people cannot be identified by a single or even a group of common activities that are different from people who fall into different weight categories. Whatever your beliefs about heroin addiction and “obesity”, this comparison does not make any damn sense.
Obesity is not an eating disorder, nor is it the opposite of anorexia.
An eating disorder is an illness with mental and physical components, and though sometimes it can affect body size, body size is not a definitive diagnosis of an eating disorder. People with active eating disorders participate in disordered behaviors around eating. Eating disorders are serious, dangerous, and can be fatal. Using anorexia and obesity as opposite sides of the same coin is a completely faulty comparison that ends up hurting fat people by suggesting that their body size is a definitive diagnosis of the need for a medial intervention, and for people with anorexia who have enough difficulty getting access to treatment without having a potentially fatal mental illness treated as the same thing as having a fat body.
The idea that someone can’t get “that fat” (for varying, subjective and completely random definitions of “that fat”) without having an eating disorder is a myth. Many fat people have very healthy relationships with food, and there are some fat people with eating disorders. It should be noted that while some fat people have Binge Eating Disorder, there are also fat people with anorexia and bulimia and other restrictive EDs and often family, friends, even doctors make the dangerous mistake of encouraging disordered eating behavior/full blown eating disorders in a fat person that they would correctly diagnose as dangerous in a thin person
Obesity is not a cost that can be calculated
Obesity is a body size, there are healthy and unhealthy fat people just like there are healthy and unhealthy thin people. The current state of oppression, stigma and shame around obesity means that any calculation of the cost of obesity is impossible to separate from the cost of that oppression, stigma and shame.
Obesity is correlated to a number of diseases so it is considered a “risk factor” although the term is used loosely since there is no proof of causality of risk, it’s as if they found out that short people get a certain disease more often but they have no idea why so they say that shortness is a “risk factor”. So naming “obesity” as a risk factor does not prove that it causes the health issue, nor does it prove that making someone thinner would change the risk factor (certain types of male baldness correlate very highly with an increased risk factor for heart attacks, but getting bald men to grow hair does not lower that risk.) Correlation does not imply causation. The calculations that are commonly used to show the “cost of obesity” are often based on the assumption that every “obese” person will get every disease for which they have a risk factor, and/or that every health issue they get is caused by their fat. It’s just crap research that would get a college freshman failed in Research Methods 101.
Besides which, attempting to take a group of people who share a single physical characteristic and make an attempt to calculate their “cost to society” in order to promote the eradication of that population because the world would be cheaper if they didn’t exist is clearly dangerous and wrong.
Obesity is not a Metaphor
Using a fat person to represent greed, over-consumption, a negative view of capitalism etc. is stereotyping and bigotry, pure and simple. It’s wrong on every level. We are not yours for the metaphoring.
While we’re at it, let’s talk about Size Acceptance.
Size Acceptance is not the opposite of “Thinspiration”.
Thinspiration exists to reinforce a stereotype of beauty, and in many cases is used to reinforce disordered eating/eating disorders.
Size Acceptance is a civil rights concept that reminds us that everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the body they have now, and that other people’s bodies are not our business. It is not about telling people who size body they should have, nor is it about the mythical, ridiculous notions of “promoting obesity” or “my tax dollars“.
Obesity is not your business, unless we are talking about your obesity, in which case it’s nobody else’s business unless you want to make it their business. Other than that nobody has any business making comments, assumptions, metaphors, cost calculations or comparisons about someone else’s body.
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