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The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

A brief note on fat, health, and body normativity

September8

Someone on a feminist website recently posted a bit about the BMI and ended it with the admonition that fat people should just put down the donuts, a line that was cliche years ago and thinking that is, frankly, dangerous and hateful. I mean, seriously, if it was that easy to lose weight there wouldn’t be so many fat people and the dieting industry wouldn’t be raking in the money hand over fist the way it is. But it’s easy (lazy) thinking that fat people are just weak and immoral and more in love with shoving food into their gaping maws than being slender, and it paints thin people as morally superior since they can just step away from the food and not indulge. Why yes, there is a reason that it’s bad to be fat, it’s bad to be female, and it’s fucking awful to be fat and female. This ties into the whole puritanical don’t-have-pleasure-ever women shouldn’t lust after or enjoy ANYTHING (sex, alcohol, food in general, “decadent” food in specific, chocolate in specific, shopping in general, shoes, money, power, respect) mindset so very prevalent.

I digress a bit.

One of the arguments against fat people being healthy or active is that every single fat person it’s mentioned who is fat and vegetarian, is fat and exercises, is fat and jogs, is fat and participates in triathlons, is fat and hikes, is fat and mountain climbs, is fat and swims, is fat and rows boats, etc is that that particular fat person is a statistical outlier. Sure, THAT fat person acts in ways that are healthy and active and is still fat, but that’s the exception to the rule! Fat people in general are ticking time bombs of obese ill-health, and it is ALL. THEIR. FAULT. If only they’d just PUT DOWN THE DAMN DONUTS and BACK AWAY FROM THE TABLE. On the flip side of that, however, nobody ever says that thin people who are completely sedentary and/or eat nothing but junk food are statistical outliers. They are given an automatic pass for having an acceptable body shape, just as the fat people are automatically damned for having an unacceptable body shape. And yes, “overly” or “excessively” thin people are damned and told to eat a sandwich.

Meanwhile, the USA is a country with a great deal of poverty and many many people– many of them fat– who go to bed hungry each night. It’s a country where many children cannot count on having enough food to eat, where it can be difficult to find fruits and vegetables or anything that doesn’t come in a box or can and loaded with preservatives and additives. It’s a country where a person can be both overweight and malnourished at the same time. But with all the focus on OH MY GOD FAT PEOPLE ARE EVERYWHERE there’s very little attention paid to the fact that these fat people are often starving/malnourished or came from a childhood of food scarcity, and that the body’s natural reaction to starvation/malnourishment is to cling to fat– cling to iiiiiiiit!!!– and that it’s not an issue of overindulgence at all.

Because it’s easier to shame people than it is to address a serious social injustice. And it’s easier to point fingers at people who are lesser than it is to examine critical fallacies in the medical system. And it’s really easy to forget that the BMI was rewritten so that literally overnight a bunch of people were suddenly classified as overweight who before hadn’t been, and that likewise the critical numbers for cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar have been rewritten so that more people now have medical conditions they wouldn’t have been labeled with a few years ago. Explosive epidemic? Not really. Just a re-writing of criteria.

But that doesn’t write headlines, sell diet products and plans, and make people into disgusting non-humans so, you know, it’s not talked about that much.

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