I could write about body shaming, fatphobia, and how these problems are killing people every week. Instead, I write about how Black people are being killed by the police, how transgendered people are being murdered by loved ones and strangers alike, how climate change is all sentient beings by the thousands. I write about how we can do better as individuals to reduce our carbon footprint.
This week, I’m coming in even closer. I’m writing about how attitudes themselves are killing us. All of us, regardless of race, creed, color, or social status. Beauty standards and fatphobia affect us from the cradle to the grave, whether we are born rich or poor or anywhere in between. People will shame you, doctors won’t treat you, and institutions will shun you and make your life miserable if you are fat. Even if you are a baby. Fat bodies are viewed as a problem, when the problem is not the body. The problem is society.
In 2009, a four-month old baby was denied health insurance for being too fat. [The company eventually changed its mind, but the standards were not changed.] Alex Lange was 25 inches long and weighed 17 pounds. He was in the 99th percentile, and the rule was no one above the 95th percentile would be covered.
With the US Congress repeatedly trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, we are at risk again of being denied medical coverage for pre-existing conditions, including for being born fat.
In the UK, a policy was enacted which denies surgery to fat patients who need new hips or knees or other “elective” surgery. Countries around the world are learning that their citizens are larger than they were a few decades ago. They are referring to this fact as an obesity epidemic. Rather than create ways to accommodate larger humans, society uses magical thinking. They try to make people lose weight, when there is no weight loss method that is guaranteed to take off and keep off weight. More important is the fact that obesity itself is not an indicator of increased disease or illness.
Studies “prove” obesity kills, but studies are biased. When thin people die of the same diseases at the same rates, researchers are puzzled. The truth is, heart disease is the greatest killer of adults in this (and most Western countries) country and has been for decades. Although the size of humans increased over that period of time, the rate of heart disease remained steady.
Diabetes Type II is another disease we associate with obesity. But you do not have to be fat to contract it, and you can be fat and not contract diabetes. There is much about the disease that is unknown. What you eat or drink may be a bigger contributor to you risk than your body size. Or maybe you’re more at risk from your genes. They are studying the causes, but much is unknown.
Body shaming is rampant. Fat people are singled out for abuse of every type. Every form of media is filled with advertisements for weight loss, articles for how to lose weight, why your fat body is the problem, and so on. Everyone has a theory on what has caused the increase in weight (my favorite theories include sugary drinks and less exercise at school and work, but what do I know?), and how to solve the problem. Here is an article with twelve graphs on the causes of weight gain.
Fat people face problems every day that others do not. Where to find clothes that fit and look good. How to fit into seats in public places including transportation. How to shop for groceries without being judged. How to get medical care for actual medical problems. If you have a BMI greater than 30, the doctor will tell you to lose weight regardless of your medical complaint. Many fat people avoid going to the doctor for this reason, and may have problems that go untreated for far too long.
Medical people are trained to believe that fat bodies are the problem. Here is just one example of how this affects us, particularly women: “An earlier survey of primary care physicians and cardiologists showed a similar pattern. Though heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, the study found only 39 percent of physicians were “extremely concerned” about this issue, whereas 48 percent of physicians were “extremely concerned” about women’s weight.” Read the entire article here.
Even movie stars are not immune to this treatment. Fat women can’t find designers to dress them for the red carpet. If the design community is going to change, maybe the change will come from reality television. Project Runway first had a fat designer who designed clothes for real women of all sizes, and in the latest season includes models of all sizes. The judges insist on fashion for all.
Join the body positivity movement.
Attend the online Fat Activism conference Oct 6-8, 2017 While the full price of $59 is low for a three-day conference, there is a pay what you can afford option if that price is not affordable for you.
Sandra de Helen, author of the lesbian thriller Till Darkness Comes also pens the Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson series. She is a poet, journalist, and a playwright. Her plays have been produced in the Philippines, Ireland and Canada, Chicago, New York City, and in thirteen states. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Dramatists Guild. Her books are available online, at Another Read Through Bookstore in Portland, Oregon, and Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego. Samples of her work are available on her website.