You hear it all the time. It’s on the news, ads, billboards, magazines, tv, experts and so on – fat is bad! Being fat can kill you. You need to lose weight. Fair enough, but when reading some of these articles and just by virtue of being alive the pressure to ‘be healthy’ or ‘not be fat’ is overwhelming.
First off, the definition of fat or overweight is constantly being redefined. Health experts resort to the good old BMI scale as often as they say it shouldn’t be the only benchmark. Ad companies now hammer it home that it’s not enough to be a size 10 or 8; you’re only healthy if you fit into a 4 or 2, no matter what your height or your skeletal build says. Peers will slander anyone with the term ‘fat’ regardless of their dress size, body shape, or level of fitness. In fact, nothing brings out the bullies, trolls, medical know-it-alls, and nasty people like writing a piece that promotes self love and beauty at all sizes. Even doctors can be downright horrible people, only seeing the fat and not the person under it or the disease they’re supposed to be treating. My aunt almost died because of this. Her red blood count had dropped to about a quarter of what it should have been. Since she has type 2 diabetes, the doctor already had a baseline of what her blood count should be. Her complaints of fatigue and back pain were dismissed as her being too fat. If it weren’t for my cousin’s intervention we would have lost her way too soon. The doctor saw the fat, not the person, and that is the whole problem. These are people we’re talking about. People who have names and faces, and are loved by others.
Then you have the not-so-helpful studies that say you can be fit and fat at the same time. The journalists covering these studies will trip over themselves to drive the point home that fat is unhealthy, even when the studies show that it’s possible to be healthy and fat at the same time! Remember – ITS UNHEALTHY THAT YOU’RE FAT!!! DON’T FORGET THAT YOU’RE FAT WHICH IS BAD FOR HEALTH! But yeah, you can be fit – BUT MAYBE NOT! Which point are you trying to make? Are you discussing the findings that were in the study or are you terrified that Johnny is going to miss the point and take out an S&S cheese cake single handed? Finish your extra lean turkey burger, sans bun, before you go on your ‘don’t eat dessert’ tear.
When dealing with science, reporting on the latest studies usually takes results out of context, or gets them wrong in whole or in part. Journalists are people too, with all the prejudices that everyone else has. If a study doesn’t confirm their biases, they’re likely to ignore it, or ‘massage’ the results for the public. For example – there was a ‘study’ done by one doctor that resulted in “women don’t have orgasms” and because a doctor said it, and it confirmed what the journalists of the day believed, well it must be true! There were plenty of these studies done until someone did another study that disproved that. So because some chuckle head had no idea on how to get a woman to climax, it was suddenly her problem. But I digress… Yet, it’s kind of the same old song played over and over again. Science studies something and the media runs away with it. The latest on fat and fit was that you can’t haz cheezeburger because it’ll still kill you no matter how long you run on the treadmill. If you read it all the way to the end there’s still that, “You can’t be fat and fit!! I told you so!!….MAYBE!” waffling as the author wraps up using soft language so she doesn’t have to pick a side.
I’m pretty sure after years and years of being told fat is ultimately unhealthy we all got the message and no one with common sense is going to be able to justify a bucket of KFC as health food. You even hear it in our language when someone is eating chocolate. “Oh, this is so bad for me.” “I can’t eat that, it’ll go straight to my thighs.” Has anyone ever stopped to think about Angel’s food cake vs. Devil’s food cake? One is light and fluffy and a more ‘virtuous’ choice if you have to have something sweet. The other is decadent and sinful and oh you bad, bad girl, give me a slice. We even call our food good and bad, which then gets into the body images of good and bad, which brings me to my next point.
What exactly is so dangerous about a fat person loving the person they are? I’m being serious here. We talk a good game about how important good self esteem is to children, but there seems to be a line drawn when he or she is over an arbitrary number. Even if we say to the kid that they’re beautiful and worthy just as they are, there’s always the “but you know that you’re not healthy” caveat at the end. Like this article from CNN Health that questions whether or not it’s a good idea to promote fat acceptance. I have one question for that. Can you think of anyone that came out of the other side of constant rejection, bullying, abuse and/or shaming that was a sound, functioning, happy human? I assure you, we don’t forget that we’re overweight; a mirror clears that up in seconds. To have our faces ground into it every second, every time we shop for clothes, with every forkful, be it salad or fried chicken, wears down the psyche and destroys a piece of the person each time a cruel or ‘well-intentioned’ barb is thrown. People need support. You do no one any favors by constantly tearing them down or reminding them of how long a road they have to travel. THEY KNOW! They wake up with that body every day. They can’t just put it down and be something else any more than they can put down their race, gender or permanently attached body parts. I’d love to take off chunks of my weight and say, “I think I’ll be a size 4 today.” Doesn’t work like that. I have to haul around a size 16 ass until the miles on the stationary bike catch up to my body turn it into a size 10.
I don’t hate skinny people. I’m not on a fat crusade. I don’t think we should all burn broccoli in effigy and dance through fields of pizza and beer. All I’m looking for is that a little logic and civility be brought to the table. When fat people are discussed in popular media outlets, it’s skinny people doing the talking. Fat people are talked about in the abstract, as if they’re a topic or demographic and not actual human beings. Then you have shows that exploit them like The Biggest Loser and shows of that ilk. That’s harmful too, because now you’re taking someone’s life path and making it a sideshow for others to cheer or jeer and for every one winner who gets to their goal there are countless others kicked or voted off that are left to flounder without help.
These are people. That point gets lost so often. If you read the comments at the end of this really wonderful and necessary article, you can see how society will not let anyone forget their station. What those comments are really saying in response to that post is that you can’t tell a little girl that she’s worthy unless she fits into a certain size range. They say, “how dare you think that sweater looks good on you, you can’t be cute because of your cankles.” They say, “I want you to be ashamed.” Why? Why is there this visceral need to tear down people? We already covered that fat people won’t forget their fat because you said they are worthy of common decency and respect. What if we turned it around? We shouldn’t tell skinny people they’re beautiful! They might think its ok to be skinny and get anorexic and then die! See how stupid that sounds?
We’re not talking about some made up fat person laughing maniacally while rubbing their naked cascading rolls with Crisco™ shortening and fried Oreos™. There’s no fat mascot for us to shame or cast out. This phantom unhealthy fat slob is not going to break into your homes and eat all of your ice cream. These are people who live their lives like everyone else and who don’t need to be torn down. They need logic, understanding, and support just like anyone else who is trying to reach a goal. A goal which they can set their damn self.
Lastly, if fat people really push your buttons, walk away or turn off the internet for a while. No one is forcing anyone to spew hateful shit towards people you don’t know. That’s just being horrible. They can lose weight, but horrible people will always be ugly on the inside and that’s a hell of a lot harder to get rid of. There is always the option to say nothing. Fascinating how underused that option is.