I’ve been going down this path of having a health oriented career. From forensic pathology, to MD focusing on preventative health, to MPH, to now I’m thinking naturopathic medicine and that’s probably where I’ll end up. But (save for the forensic pathology), most of my interest in each degree has been in health disparities and addressing the obesity epidemic. Even now, my job at a non-profit health/fitness organization trying to combat childhood obesity, and obesity in general, leaves me having to do a lot of research into health effects and statistics. And quite frankly, I’m just fascinated by the issues that go in to becoming obese—the food industry, our personal food choices, hormones and additives, psychology, etc…
But one thing has really concerned me throughout the years and it manifests in many ways. Simply it would be the statement: Big is Beautiful. Now let me explain. I am by no means thin, or even in ideal shape—I’m a short, stocky, kinda pudgy, pear-shaped female. I agree with the statement that big (thick) is beautiful. But I have to make this caveat, that what was considered “big is beautiful” 20+ years ago, when having any curves or musculature as a female was frowned upon, was not visible, and was not considered beautiful.at.all—has now become “normal” and today’s “big” is quite overweight/obese/to bordering on morbid obesity or worse.
I have to admit I get a little, no very, concerned when people want to affirm that fat is okay, that, in fact, it’s wonderful, it’s beautiful, it’s just another body type, and that to not accept it is discrimination. Now I definitely disagree with the type of brutality that people who are overweight/obese face—with the ugly statements people make, the pointing, the derision, the laughing, the bullying, etc. and I think that generalizations and blame games are counterproductive to a very multifaceted and (quite) prevalent issue throughout the US and parts of the world.
HOWEVER, and this is a big however, I caution the comparison of fat discrimination being equal to racial, gender, sexuality, ability, age, etc—discrimination. I’m not one to compare people’s struggles because as individuals with different circumstances, you can’t pretend to understand someone else’s POV or the conglomeration of issues that makes up their struggle, and comparing them when you aren’t part of them only serves to heighten their struggle in terms of legitimacy.
But I guess I’m making an exception here. I’m not saying that overweight/obese people shouldn’t take pride in themselves, or that they should hide their character/personality from the world, or hide in a corner somewhere, or feel some sort of inherent shame about who they are, or that they should be subject to rhetoric that leads to depression and destructive behaviors. But at the same time, while I was born black, born female, born physically able, and born heterosexual (let’s not get into a discussion about sexual preferences and the choice v. born this way argument—because I don’t believe who you love is a choice)—NO ONE is born obese.
The people who tend to be the most vocal about “fat rights” are overweight and CAN do something about it. Will it be easy? No. Am I saying it’s all your fault and you should feel terrible about it? No. There are so many influencing factors that have lead to this epidemic, some completely out of our control, some triggers that are, in fact, prenatal.
But at the end of the day, for me, it comes down to your health. If obesity had no associated health risks, then I’d say DO YOU! But there are so many health risks, and more being discovered every day that you’re putting yourself at risk for an early death. ESPECIALLY women of color. And more than anything it concerns me—it concerns me for my friends that are struggling with their weight and trying (to no avail) to change decades old behaviors; trying to figure out how their body works. So you better believe it concerns me even more when friends and family AREN’T trying to figure out their body and change decades old behaviors.
To spend time and energy advocating for, marching for, accommodations, as if the issue of overweight/obese is inherent, that you were born that way and now someone’s limiting your freedom because of an inherent trait you have, by not having—larger seats, wider doors, items with higher weight capacity, not having to purchase extra seats on an airplane (that shit is balancing in the sky, hello), etc.—seems ridiculous. It is not the same as requesting wheel chair ramps or elevators, or even stools for little people. They can’t do anything about their ability or their genetics.
I know, I know, someone who’s never been really overweight cannot understand, but I’ve never been very small either—and I’ve had my fair share of body issues and it’s a DAILY struggle just to maintain my weight let alone lose any.
Everyone doesn’t need to be a size 2, or even a size 6—but NO ONE needs to be a size 26. You have a right to LIFE, I just wish we as society, as a culture, could spend the energy we spend feeling entitled to do whatever we want, however we want, working towards living it to its fullest instead of cutting it down by abusing food, chemically altering food, not exercising, and the MANY other issues that cut our lives short (poor environmental care, drugs, smoking, and the list could go on forever)