Fabulously Fat Friday: But What About Your Health???

Fabulously Fat Friday is back! I’m not sure what topics to cover in upcoming weeks, though, so please leave suggestions in the comments.

Here’s a few things this post is not:

  • An explanation of how fat =/= unhealthy. If you haven’t caught up to this point yet, feel free to educate yourself, as there are people who have done a far better job explaining it and gathering the evidence than I could here, here, here, hereand here
  • A defense of my own health and habits backing up the incredibly ableist and misguided good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy. 
  •  An explanation of why diets don’t work, and why you can’t just expect fat people to be able to magically become thin. (See the above links for more on that issue.) 

Okay, so, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s get started. First of all, my health is none of your business. You know nothing about my health from looking at me. You are not my doctor, and unless I invite your opinion, you have no right to say anything about my health. Same goes for any person in your life, fat or thin. Health is personal. This is just how to be a decent human being. This part is not up for discussion. That’s why I’m not talking about my health here: it’s none of your business.

People are people, and they all deserve to be treated decently, no matter what their health. Some people are unhealthy, through no fault of their own, due to disabilities or illnesses or genetics or injuries, and that is not a moral failing. Some people choose other priorities over working out or eating salads, and that is not a moral failing. It’s a personal choice. Some people have too much else going on in their lives, and that is not a moral failing. Some people don’t have access to safe spaces for exercise or to healthy foods, and that is not a moral failing. And we can’t forget mental health: sometimes, focusing on mental health means doing things that might not contribute to physical health, ie spending a day relaxing on the couch with a good book, or eating nachos for breakfast. Sometimes, that’s good for us!

You know what’s not good for our mental health? Shame and hatred. So if you’re really worried about someone’s health, harassing them about their weight is not helping. Quite the opposite. If you care about someone, you care about them as a human being, not just about how they look. Trust that we are grown ass adults who know how to look after ourselves, and unless we have asked for it, we do not want your opinion.

Now, we get to all the fear-mongering rhetoric pushed by the government and the media about “obesity as a public health issue.” (I put all this in quotes because a. I hate the word obesity and b. it’s not a public health issue.) It’s not a health issue, not really, as I pointed out above, so I’m going to focus on something else: even if you believe it is a health issue, how does that justify harassing or hating fat people?

Smoking is a health issue. Food deserts are a health issue. Cancer is a health issue. Depression is a health issue. Does the entire world think it’s okay to be awful and hateful to people suffering from these issues? Does the media make them the butt of jokes, if they’re represented at all? No. So even if you believe this nonsense about fat being a health issue, that does not give you license to be an asshole. It’s clear when we consider it from this angle that it’s not really about concern. It’s about superficial beauty standards, discrimination, and hate.

And it has very real consequences. Doctors like to blame every health issue a fat person faces on their weight, and prescribe weight loss as the first (and sometimes only) treatment, even when, for a thin person, there are other causes to be considered and treatments to be explored. This isn’t just an inconvenience. It doesn’t just hurt our feelings. This kind of fat hate kills people. So if you’re really worried about us and our health, buying into this kind of rhetoric is not helping. Not even a little. It’s killing us. Don’t believe me? Here are some sources:

  • This CNN article comes to a few problematic conclusions that I clearly disagree with, but has good information about the hazards faced by fat people when it comes to getting good medical care, including personal anecdotes.
  • This information from NAAFA gives statistics about the biases of medical professionals.
  • This Slate article is also not without its problems, but it does have some interesting information.

In conclusion: someone else’s health is none of your business, regardless of their weight, and fat shame and discrimination are bigger health issues than fat itself. So if you really care, stop concern-trolling and respect our ability to make our own decisions. Learn some respect for your fellow human beings, regardless of size. Or more simply? Stop being such a dick and mind your own business.

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12 thoughts on “Fabulously Fat Friday: But What About Your Health???

  1. I can’t agree that obesity isn’t a health issue that increases the likelihood of a variety of diseases and health problems. That said, I completely agree with your general premise. You don’t know someone’s health by looking at them – poor lifestyle choices in thin people can be equally as damaging to one’s health. We definitely treat fatness differently than other concerns, and I agree that a lot of this comes from stereotypes and a culture obsessed with thinness.

    My personal pet peeve is people telling me I need to lose weight. It’s like, Jeez, thanks! I never thought of that before!

    Great post!

    Cassie
    stylecassentials.blogspot.com

    • Thanks for commenting. You don’t know someone’s health by looking at them, and additionally, health is not a moral imperative–that is to say, if I’m unhealthy and fat, or unhealthy and thin, it doesn’t make me a bad person. I’m glad we’re on the same page as far as most of this goes, but I’d also like to encourage you to please look at some of the links I posted regarding the effectiveness of diets and the links between fat and health. The evidence that links between disease and fat work the way we are commonly taught that they do–that is to say, that fat causes disease, hands down, and that if fat people just tried hard enough, they could lose weight and thus be magically healthy–is slim at best. Dieting is unhealthy. Behaviors that would be called anorexia and require hospitalisation in thin people are recommended to fat people all the time in the name of “health,” and it’s hugely damaging and counterproductive, if public health is your real concern. You don’t have to agree with me 100%, but I really would appreciate it if you’d at least look at the other side of the coin.

      • I completely agree regarding the morality issue. Our culture definitely puts a moral imperative on thinness. Let me just give you a little bit of my background – I have a master’s in sociology and taught in for nine years. I am very self-educated in the areas of holistic/vegetarian/organic health (one of my obsessive phases). I am a major conspiracy theorist when it comes to the U.S.D.A. and F.D.A. and don’t trust anything they say.

        I think you may me misinterpreting what I said a bit. I don’t believe in diets. Diets are horrible. A healthy lifestyle filled with plenty of natural food and limited processed foods is good. NO BODY, in my opinion, should be on a diet, except in very extreme, extenuating circumstances. Yo-yo dieting is especially bad.

        No body should judge anybody for the size or shape of their body because none of us know by looking at someone why he or she looks the way they do. It is none of our business and it doesn’t matter. Again, I completely agree, that appearance or what we consume or whether we exercise have no bearing on our moral character.

        Saying all this, being overweight is most certainly linked to a number of health concerns, and it is very taxing on the heart, for one. This doesn’t mean that other conditions or behaviors are any less damaging to the body (such as anorexia), but I think to ignore the real threats that can come with being significantly overweight is to do a disservice to ourselves and others.

        Cassie

        • I guess this just doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe I’m misunderstanding something, but it sounds like you and I are on the same page with these points:

          -Dieting is unhealthy and does not work.
          -There is no tried-and-true foolproof way for fat people to be come thin.
          -However, they can become healthy!
          -Fat people can be healthy or unhealthy, just like thin people, depending on their habits.

          So if that’s true, I guess I just don’t see the logical jump to believing in “the real threats tat can come with being significantly overweight,” as you put it. It sounds like you believe the same things I do, you just don’t think the end conclusion is the same?

          Anyway, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

  2. Thanks for this great post. *thumbsup*

    The treatment of fat people in the medical sector IS a problem and it is simply not ok.
    I’ll put out my conspiration theories: There are studies which says that every diet shorten your life. And studies about the treatment of fat people by doctors. And then are there those studies which said that we fat people die earlier. I could find some causations if I would search for. Thats why: “the only statistics you can trust are those you falsified yourself”

    • Thanks for commenting! Totally agree with you there. It’s just so messed up that behavior that would be seen as eating disordered in thin people, is actively encouraged for fat people. Insanely unhealthy, yet done in the name of “health”??? It’s a crazy world we live in.

  3. Brilliant article. As a super active fat person who has yo-yo dieted and used starvation to lose weight, this hits home. I am an avid horseback rider, I have two jobs, I’ve done Zumba, I jog and I’ve recently joined CrossFit. I have perfect cholesterol (despite actually being on a mental health medication that increases your cholesterol!), perfect blood pressure and I have never had a poor health assessment. By all accounts, I am a perfectly healthy woman who’s body prefers being 200 pounds instead of 150 pounds. So I get really pissy with people who presume to know that I am clearly at risk for diabetes and cancer just because my ass jiggles. I am more healthy than the majority of my skinny friends who can eat literally anything they want and never gain a pound and actually have real health problems like low blood pressure and difficulties with circulation as a result. I try hard to just love myself and love my body but boy society makes it hard when the vast majority of people choose to believe I am a fat unhealthy cow JUST because I’m fat.

  4. I agree with the comments in your blog. Thin people can be extremely unfit and have the same conditions that overweight people do. Just because we don’t meet an ideal of the media, does not mean to say that we are a complete drain on the medical economy, despite the scaremongering in the NHS.

    I’m a 32 year old widow. I used to be slim and extremely fit. I danced for twenty hours a week, ran, swam, etc. My goal was the police force. From the moment I could walk and talk, that was my ambition. Nothing else would do. Then, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and asthma. After years of being told that I simply had a “dicky tummy” and that I was prone to severe bronchitis, my dream of being a WPC, shattered into a million tiny fragments of unobtainable achievement. I have to take a significant amount of steroids, daily, and when I have flare ups, the dosage is increased. Those who say steroids don’t cause weight gain are deceiving themselves. Steroids do. They increase the appetite, cause the body to retain water and with prolonged use, cause joint and muscle issues which leave you in such pain, that going to one, half hour dance class, or swimming for twenty minutes, can leave me exhausted and in pain for three or four days afterwards. I was recently diagnosed with chronic pain syndrome.

    I also suffered from Poly Cystic Ovaries and Endometriosis, which made me look 8 months pregnant at one point. I was told that the gynae issues were down to weight. However, this was retracted when the consultant realised that I had been suffering since I was 11 and had collapsed on the way to school. Now that I’ve had a complete hysterectomy, ovaries and cervix removed, my system no longer has a hormonal regulation (I can’t take HRT as it will cause any scarring from Endo to flare up).

    I have experienced the “fat hate”. Some doctors refused to believe that I was able to dance in my pointe shoes elegantly, and often contribute my tiredness to the weight. I went to Slimming World and managed to lose 3 1/2 stones (approx. 50lbs) over four months. They didn’t believe that I try and go to the gym as much as possible, without being exhausted. As far as they were concerned, it was nothing to do with the countless pain medications, steroids and immune-suppressants I have to take. Cue me getting a printout of my gym sessions, and bringing my pointes in to show that I was capable, when I wasn’t severely ill. I also changed my GP and things improved almost immediately.

    Now, they don’t immediately dismiss me and will monitor me for a few weeks if I am quite ill. Since my husband died, I have been in and out of hospital because of my conditions. During one admission, one of the med students began to berate me about my weight and she was shot down in flames by my consultant. He said that if the condition were weight related, then advice would be given, but in an neutral way. As my conditions were not weight-related, they had no right to make me feel the way they did. I suppose it also helped that my consultant lived locally and went to the same gym and his daughter danced with me, so it wasn’t easy to miss him…lol.

  5. I had to quote your blog post in one of my own, because you totally blew my mind with your first little bullet list. This is so well-written and worth reading, so thought provoking, and yet just exactly what needs to be said by a woman who wants to write a fashion blog, not a body blog. Thank you! You’re beautiful because you’ve not only moved me, but made me think!

  6. Thank you sooo much for posting this. Amazing post. I’m strongly against appearance discrimination. Public fat shaming is especially rage provoking. Also, poor mental health can kill you. Being overweight is sometimes a symptom of something else, which can easily be cured. Poor self esteem can never be fully cured in my opinion.

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