You know you’re in for a thought provoking read when the first sentence read, “I was thinking today about how often we are told that, as fat people, everyone who is not fat is a better witness to our experience than we are.” (They Don’t Know Fatties, on the Dances with Fat blog)
The post is quite compelling. The author points out that, as a whole, people considered fat are constantly being told what they should think, what is the truth, and they should “expect” to be derided for how they look:
Our bodies are held up as proof that we must be lying or deluded and that we can’t possibly know, or be doing, what’s best for us. We are told that, because of how we look, we should be subject to more scrutiny than those who don’t look like us, we should lose our right to speak for ourselves, we should be stereotyped and stigmatized and bullied and war should be waged against us – that the way we look means that we shouldn’t get to choose how highly we prioritize our health or the path we choose to get there like everyone else does.
She goes on to talk about the reactions we get when we try to explain that all those hurtful things that are said or implied simply based on the fact that we aren’t skinny is a big part of the problem. For example: I eat when I’m stressed or emotional, and feeling fat is a pretty major trigger (keep in mind that fat, as defined by society, means ugly, lazy, unlovable, etc.). When we point out how all this hurt is only driving our struggle to be healthy, we’re told that the stigmatization is for our own good. A recent study indicates that this is false. As Tracy from Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty said: “Shaming doesn’t work. Stigmatizing doesn’t work. Being all judgmental and negative doesn’t work. Heck, focusing on weight loss doesn’t work!” Focusing on healthy choices, regardless of weight, does seem to work. (Tracy talks a bit more about the study in her post.)
But, back to the first post: It’s an intriguing read and I think that there’s a lot of truth in it, but I also think that it’s a lot more complicated than that. Yes, there are a lot of overweight people who are perfectly healthy and don’t deserve to be treated like stupid, lazy people. But, being from the “fat” community and being a “fat” person, I happen to know that some of the so called “stigmas” are true FOR SOME PEOPLE. There are fat people out there who either don’t care about their health or are completely delusional about how “healthy” they are. I’ve met people who are completely clueless about healthy eating or how much exercise they need (a walk everyday would be fine). I’ve also met people who don’t care enough to be bothered doing anything to improve their health. But, this is only part of the community. Some of us are relatively healthy. For example, on the whole, I eat quite well. I also go to the gym a lot, walk to/from work each day, and do most of my errands (groceries, etc.) on foot.
I’m nowhere near being an elite athlete and I have a long way to go before I’m at the fitness level I want to be at, but I’m still more fit then a lot of thin people I know. I can think of a whole bunch of people who couldn’t keep up with me at the gym, even though they weight a good 50-75 pounds less than I do. I also know a lot of thin people who have terrible diets (sugar, fast food, caffeine, more fast food, etc.). They just happen to have genetics that allow them to stay thin while eating all that crap (I, on the other hand, would be a diabetic whale after a few months of eating like they do).
My point is, being mean to fat people needs to stop, but at the same people need to accept that some people are fat despite their best efforts while others are fat because they really are lazy gluttons. The same can be said of thin people: some are thin despite their lazy gluttonous habits, others are thin because they bust their ass to stay thin.
People should not be defined by how they look or what size pants they wear. And, thin people need to stop assuming that they are healthy or that they know better just because they’re thin. You only know your own story. Talk to people before you assume the worst of them.