Let’s pretend that fat is a simple issue.

A comment I just posted to this site:

http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2010/07/coming_soon_the

where some folks are hating on fatties and fat activism. Just thought it was worth sharing. Would love to hear your ideas/thoughts/opinions on this:

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One of the things I often find most disturbing about the health debate, the over-consumption rhetoric or the “fatties are costing me money” debate is the fact that most of these arguments are shame-based.

If we are to accept the (i believe to be inherently flawed) presumption that fatties are a ‘problem’ to be ‘fixed’ — and if it were as simple (which it is not) as prying the fried chicken legs from the pudgy fingers of fatties everywhere and rolling us off of our couches for a run — then how would shaming someone be a valid way of doing so?

In the case of emotional eaters (whose existence I do not in the slightest deny – though not all emotional eaters are fat and I believe genetics plays a huge role in how our eating behaviors impact our visceral being) — the first step in healing the need to self-medicate with food is to get to the core of the emotional issue in the first place. Take Maslow’s Pyramid:

You’ll note the first tier is physiological – food, water, air, sleep, etc.

The second tier is safety – security of body, of employment, of shelter, resources, family, property, etc.

Let’s be honest — for a great many fat folks, getting past the second tier alone is hard work. With fat people passed over for jobs, with their body a constant source of ire both internally and externally — resources are minimal.

It’s not until the 3rd, 4th and 5th tiers that folks are actually able to self-actualize, to turn their minds from the matters of daily survival to headier endeavors such as emotional healing, self-esteem, self-respect — all of which are needed in order to overcome whatever baggage it is that caused the disordered eating in the first place.

There is so much “othering” that goes on in the fat debate, so many stereotypes, so much rote discrimination — and it has all the morality to it as does religion. Just as extremists can justify nearly anything with their god at their back, body facism has all the zealotry of religious extremism with the concept of health dressed up in papal robes holding BMI charts like the stone slabs of gospel.

Our bodies, our relationships with our bodies and the relationships of our bodies with the world are complex, emotional and daily. The interleaving of fat with disease is over-simplified. It is sedentary lifestyle, toxic food, fillers, preservatives, stress and anger that harm us. These things are not specific to fat individuals. There are fat and healthy people, there are fat and unhealthy people, there are thin and healthy people, there are thin and unhealthy people. This is as it has always been and how it shall always be.

What matters is compassion, is giving everyone an equal platform from which to make true choices about their lives — which means access. Without access, there is no choice. Without self-love, there is no healing. Without resources, without community, without compassion and love from others, there is no self-love.

Stop “othering” fat people — educate yourselves about the rampant undercurrent of shame that intersects ALL of the isms. Move forward and stop holding us all back.

1 Comment
  1. When someone brings up the topic of how much fat people cost regarding medical care, I usually say something like, “If you’re spending so much, why don’t you make sure you’re getting your money’s worth?” followed by some reference to ways in which fat bias results in second-rate medical care and worse. Check out the website firstdonoharm for many examples of this.
    Shaming is not meant to produce better health. It is meant to keep you in (what they perceive to be) your place. It is also meant to serve as a warning to people who aren’t fat that they had better stay that way. Think of how shaming and sin are used in religion and it will become clear.
    People WANT to make fat an “other”, they’re so scared of it. Talk about fat as a continuum all you like, but they will still obsess over people who are fat enough to be immobile or need hygienic help.

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