For Obese People, Prejudice in Plain Sight
**This link has been fixed since original posting and now goes to the correct URL**
This recent NYTimes article is about the discrimination against overweight people and how socially acceptable it is to disparage someone for their weight. People who would be careful not to say anything negative about another race or gender feel fine harshly criticizing the obese.
But being obese is different, right? It’s a choice to be obese.
No, I don’t think it is. Because who would ever make that choice? Yes, obesity IS the result of a lifestyle, but it is the very lifestyle we are pushed into all our lives. There are a lot of people living that very same lifestyle who are NOT obese. Much of this is genetic. Of course we can change it, once we realize that our weight IS tied to what we eat and do. But we aren’t born knowing that! We’re born relying on our parents to teach us what to eat. I don’t know about you, but my mother taught me to eat Doritos and McDonalds. When I went to a restaurant, I merely ate what was put in front of me, as did most of my friends- fat and skinny.
The most disturbing part is the discrimination against fat people by medical professionals.
“More than half of the 620 primary care doctors questioned for one study described obese patients as “awkward, unattractive, ugly, and unlikely to comply with treatment.” (This last is significant, because doctors who think patients won’t follow their instructions treat and prescribe for them differently.) ”
So what do we do? Avoid doctors! With all the health risks associated with obesity, this is so dangerous.
I’ve been working really hard on being NOT obese. I get it now. But I think it is really important to take the time to reflect on what it was like to be heavy and to remember to be kind to others who are heavy. In my case, I intend to stick up for others who are heavy.
I’ve embraced the notion that LOVING yourself, not HATING yourself is the only way to make a permanent change for your health and body. Making people feel bad about themselves does not help anything. Making the choice to change your lifestyle is many times more difficult when everything around you is telling you you are a fat, worthless loser.
A person’s worth should never be based on his/her weight. Not by society, not by your family, not by you. Being obese doesn’t mean life stops and you don’t matter. Nobody should make you feel that way.
Healthy eating and exercise should be a part of everybody’s lives. Fat or thin. You cannot tell what a person’s lifestyle is by looking at him/her. But who are any of us to judge what other people do? And if we are concerned about our friends or family, we should express our concern in the most supportive and accepting way possible.
I’ve had it happen that people said horrible things about other fat people right in front of me when I weighed a lot more than I do now. It was like… I was invisible. A horrible feeling. Like what can you even do then? I think I just laughed along and allowed my soul to be crushed just a little more.
Not anymore, that’s just unacceptable to me. It’s like being fat is so stigmatized that we don’t even stick up for ourselves, even if we aren’t fat anymore because we don’t even want to be associated with fatness. I don’t care what my weight is- if you make fun of a fat person, you are making fun of ME. I’m the same person now as I always was.
I’m not saying let’s all be politically correct and we can’t express anything funny that might be remotely offensive. I actually really like offensive humor. But what I’m talking about is the vile hatred that accompanies these remarks. It is dangerous. Just as dangerous as racism or sexism because it makes hatred OK. Hatred is what leads to hate crimes.
Some people are addicted to food – a lot of people not just obese people. And heroin addicts are treated with more respect.
There are also plenty of fat AND thin people with eating disorders.
And plenty of fat AND thin people who just never learned to eat right.
And plenty of fat AND thin people with a medical condition or injury.
Stigmatizing fat only makes us fatter, especially when combined with the mixed messages we receive about food, diet, and the sedentary nature of our day to day lives. We need honesty, but we also need respect. We need to be treated like human beings regardless of our weight. And we need better trained medical professionals who understand that weight loss IS about diet and exercise, but it is also about mental health and self image.