Friday, August 9, 2013

My Line in the Sand against Fat Shaming

"Smoking is ALWAYS unhealthy and it involves a substance that theoretically could be completely removed from the person's life. It also harms other people besides the person doing the activity.

Eating is something that EVERYONE must do in order to survive and doing so harms no one except for potentially the person doing the eating."

I started writing this response to a Facebook friend who had posted a picture with the following words:

"Tell a smoker that smoking is unhealthy and no one bats an eye. Tell a fat person that being fat is unhealthy and everybody loses their minds."

It seemed to me that I was not losing my mind, but rather that I was thinking remarkably clearly and synthesizing much of the information that I have gained in my life. It seemed like now was the time to bring it all together into a post that would articulate all my ideas on the matter. It came out better than I expected so I decided to make it a writing project, clean it up, and post it here.

Physical manifestation of weight is not always an indicator of health, though it is one indicator for medical professionals to look at. Average people think they know what is going on by looking at a person but in reality they have no idea unless they are close with the person or have studied it for a decade.

Many people would think that my partner is obese. The truth is that the way he carries his muscles makes him look that way. You wouldn't want to get in a fight with him however. It would feel like fighting a bear. I know about him because I am close. I see what he eats, I see the workouts he does, and I've seen the raw power. That wouldn't stop people from judging him for eating a doughnut in public. That doesn't stop him from getting a complex thinking that anything that Americans eat too much of in general are issues he has himself. He has made himself unwell before by inadvertently cutting too much salt or too much cholesterol.
Bodies are diverse, why can't we accept that?

In some industries and contexts the person on the far right would be seen as overweight. In most contexts the person on the far left would get comments or glares for what she eats in public.

Evidence is still out on the harms of fat. It is a question for scientific debate and research it is not a topic for hounding average citizens that aren't harming anyone besides maybe themselves.   

"Relative to normal weight, both obesity (all grades) and grades 2 and 3 obesity were associated with significantly higher all-cause mortality. Grade 1 obesity overall was not associated with higher mortality, and overweight was associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality. The use of predefined standard BMI groupings can facilitate between-study comparisons."

As a translation, this means that people who are "overweight" are actually more likely to survive. People who are "grade 1 obese" are equally likely to survive. The only people who have statistically increased chance of mortality are those in grade 2 and 3 obesity.

Additionally, in the cases where being obese is to an extent and style that does cause health problems, there also needs to be psychological research work done to figure out how to best help these people. Like I said it is different from smoking because a person who smokes could just stop the activity altogether and not die. I believe this difference is the cause of the phenomenon discussed in this article on the effects of fat shaming.

In the society we live in right now most of us have big problems that are too big to face alone. In order to feel good about ourselves we judge others and this needs to stop. We need to start seeing everyone's struggles as interconnected. In a country with insufficient health care, combined with increased economic stress, commuting stress, and demands on our time in a go-go-go world, it is no surprise that our population is not healthy in a large variety of ways. The thing is that people who have a problem tend to know they have a problem. They tend to know how much it is hurting them. Pointing this out does no one any good.

Solutions would be helpful if we had them. The truth is though that we don't have them for many of these issues. Obesity for instance. We can't even agree on what health is, much less talk about healthy sustainable ways to approach it. Many of the ideas that people have had in this regard end up being harmful and I think that obese people have a right to seem skeptical when your plan seems either to be quackery, unbalanced, or not accessible to the necessities of our modern life. That skepticism can actually be good for them as many have been harmed by these methods or inconsistent pursuit of tactics that are inconsistent with their required lived experience. 

At the end of the day, unless you are the person's doctor and are willing to put in the time to get the background of their lifestyle and set up something that will work for them, you are not doing anyone any favors. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.