I get so many messages about what a fat body is, I thought I’d talk about some of the things that my body isn’t:
My Body is Not Embarrassing
Being fat (or being called fat) is no more embarrassing to me than being (or being called) brunette. These are just physical descriptors. It’s not that “fat” is bad in and of itself, the problem is that people attach all kinds of stereotypes to the descriptor. If someone is to be embarrassed, it’s the person who wants to mistreat a group of people based on how they look.
Often when fat people get fat-shamed or fat-bullied we get embarrassed. Let’s put the embarrassment where it belongs. It’s not embarrassing to be fat, and it shouldn’t be embarrassing to be fat-shamed. It’s embarrassing to be a fat-bigot and it’s embarrassing to be a fat-shamer.
My Body is Not a Crisis
Fat people are subjected to experimental medicine without our consent, fat kids are subjected to completely untested “anti-obesity” experiments Fat people are given stomach amputations that massively increase our mortality rate and have incredibly serious side effects. We are told that all of this is necessary because being fat is just so unhealthy that we need to try to be thin by any means and if it kills us well, at least we’ll leave a thinner corpse. This is ridiculous. Fat people have and will continue to exist, our bodies are not crises that call for the suspension of scientific method, evidence based medicine, and all logical thought.
It doesn’t matter how much a doctor (or someone who watches Dr. Oz and thinks they are a doctor) believes that being thinner will improve my life, because that doctor does not know how to make me thin. There is not a single study where more than a tiny percentage of people successfully maintained weight loss and there is no study that shows that those people are healthier than they would have been without weight loss. Even if someone believes that a fat body is a medical diagnosis (and I don’t think it is) weight loss as an intervention simply does not meet the criteria of evidence-based medicine, since evidence-based medicine requires that we have some reason to believe that a “treatment” will be successful.
People who have bad knees would be helped tremendously if they could fly, since that would take the pressure right off their knees. No matter how much a doctor believes that to be true, she cannot recommend that they go home, jump off their roof and flap their arms really hard because “it hardly ever works, but think of the benefits if it did!” Luckily there is good evidence that, for those interested in improving their odds for health (which is never guaranteed, is not entirely within our control and is not an obligation or barometer of worthiness) behaviors have a much better chance than attempting to achieve a specific height/weight ratio.
My Body is Not Immortal
Having seen the state of the research around “obesity” and mortality, I am painfully aware that If I die because an alien ship drops a futuristic piano on my head, it will be marked down as a death due to “complications of obesity.” Everyone is going to die, but if you die in a fat body someone – likely someone who should know better, often someone in a position of authority – is going to blame it on your fat.
The threat of death due to fat is used to sell fat people products from diets to stomach amputations. If I were one of those piano-dropping aliens and I listened to the conversations around weight loss and health, I would think that thin people must be immortal. In fact, thin people get all the same diseases that fat people do, and people of all sizes get sick, and people of all sizes die (and there should be no shame or blame in that.). There’s even something called the “obesity paradox” which is the name given to explain that in certain chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and chronic renal disease, being fat is associated with better survival than in “normal weight” individuals. Of course it’s only a “paradox” if you didn’t fuck up your conclusions in the first place, but that’s a topic for another blog.
Still we are told that we should see our fat bodies as large, soft death traps (like the doctor who was quoted by a reporter saying that he’s worried that Kelly Clarkson “won’t live to see her daughter grow up” when, by his own calculations she’s likely to live until almost 80,) and that the key to health is to feed our bodies less than they need to survive in the hopes that they will eat themselves and become smaller. What they never discuss is the fact that they can’t control for the effects that constant shame and stigma have on fat people (like being the subject of a war waged on us by the government based on how we look.) The brilliant Deb Burgard wrote an amazing piece that speaks about other aspects of this. We don’t know how to make fat people thinner, but we do know how to stop shaming and stigmatizing them so let’s give that the old college try and see what happens.
Fat people’s bodies are no less valuable and amazing than any other bodies, and we absolutely should not have to climb over a mountain of stigma, shame, oppression, and bullying just to be forced to fight for the ability to actually like ourselves, but that’s the world we live in now. For me, the solution to this isn’t to change fat people, it’s to change society, until then it helps me to remember that the world is messed up, but we are fine.
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