I didn’t scream. I participated, as politely as possible, in the discussion. It could have been worse. The systemic contributors to unhealthy eating and sedentary lifestyles were being addressed, rather than just FAT BAD EW FAT GET RID OF IT. But I wish we hadn’t been examining obesity, as a class, through the lens of disease.
Obesity is not the failsafe signifier of poor health, and the war on obesity is not a war on poor health; it is the shitty rationalization of cultural hatred for fat people. By all means, promote healthy habits in some nationwide campaign if you feel it necessary, although I have to admit that the words DON’T GIVE A SHIT flash repeatedly in front of my eyes whenever somebody tries to proselytize. Thanks for the advice, but I’ll take my sodium and pork fat and all the blissful enjoyment that comes with it, because my psychological well being is not well aided by meaningless deprivation. I have decided that I prefer sausages and Entenmann’s cinnamon buns to the extra ten or twenty years I may be adding by abstaining from processed foods.
I used to be the asshole who silently sneered at fat people on the subway, as though it were symbolic of uncontrolled, first world gluttony. I have been a size zero since forever, so I guess I got off on that bullshit sense of superiority, moronic teenager that I was at the time. Assholes love feeling better about themselves at the expense of others, particularly if they’re insecure, which I was. Very. It took me a while to realize the stunningly obvious, which goes to show you how smart I am:
I have never willfully exercised a day in my life. I am forced to do it infrequently. I eat red meat and french fries and ice cream by the shovelful. The idea of running on a treadmill is absolutely abhorrent to me, and I would rather sit in bed playing video games than go outside for a jog. Ugh, a jog! How dreadfully boring. I can’t believe people do it.
If anyone’s a glutton, it’s me. I just don’t have the same biological response to food that others do. Yet here I am, seventeen years old, in yet another doctor’s office, coincidentally flipping through a Seventeen magazine, which is already bombarding kids with images of impossibly thin models and what exercises they can do to get “toned abs.” (I had toned abs exactly once in my life. Because, with a broken leg, I was forced to use crutches. Forget the pain in my shin; the pain of working those muscles was, absolutely, my least favorite part of that injury.) The doctor does not implicate my weight in my exhaustion and gastointestinal pains, instead drawing blood to check for vitamin deficiencies, and asking about my how my anxiety has been. I have wavered between 10 and 20 pounds underweight for the last several years, but it is never suggested that this could be the problem.
Meanwhile, my dad is going through his 57845094759034th weight loss endeavor. He put on a lot of weight since his first really stressful job. Despite working 60 hour weeks, plus the time he spends glued to his Blackberry at home, he is finding the time to exercise five days a week. He screwed up his knee running on the treadmill, though, so he takes pain medication to be able to continue working out. He eats meals I wouldn’t consider fit for a small rodent. He suffers, to no avail.
He’ll give up after a few months of imperceptible results — maybe a few pounds here and there, but nothing major. Who wouldn’t? When he gives up he just switches up the exercise routine to every other day, and doesn’t restrict his meals as much. It’s still more than I have ever done. At least it does not seem anywhere near as painful for him. Why would I expect somebody to endure pain, instead of allowing them what feels good? Because their body doesn’t look right? To whom? Who cares? Aren’t there better reasons to shame people? Like if they’re being an asshole? Being an asshole is a great reason to shame somebody. Existing in a fat body is a piss poor one, and I’m ashamed it took me 17 years of existence to realize that.
Seventeen doesn’t bother telling me that my body is the way it is for reasons that are obviously genetic in nature (my mom was the same way), and that all bodies are totally cool, and that you can definitely eat those fast food cheeseburgers because they’re delicious and fucking awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a women’s magazine that didn’t want to offer me advice on how to limit, restrict, deprive, and modify. I don’t see advertisements espousing the legitimacy of ALL bodies, no matter the size; I see newspapers and books attacking obesity rather than the socioeconomic contexts that cause people, big and small, to be in poor health. I see human beings reduced to the butts of jokes, to eradicable ailments, and perhaps most disgustingly, to “healthcare burdens.” I rarely encounter peers who are willing to challenge these assumptions. We are told obesity is bad, and we accept this at face value.
Sorry. This was a longer post than I intended. I started it because I got really mad after reblogging that last post and I thought about how much I hate the pathologizing of bodies AND I KEPT TYPING FOREVER
Yes to this post times every number times itself.