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Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 11:30 am
I've been just inundated with stuff about size and health since what I wrote yesterday, stuff that isn't "getting thin will solve all your problems." I haven't looked for it and it isn't in the usual FA/HAES blogs I read; it's just suddenly seemed like it's everywhere. Which is pretty awesome, even as some of it's kind of depressing. That's just because the truth about being fat is depressing, and it isn't depressing because we're unhealthy or lazy, it's depressing because we're treated like shit.

As Michael Moore says in a Facebook post I'm seeing mentioned in a lot of different places
skinny people (1/3 of the country) want us, the majority, to be like them. That's so nice of them.

But the truth is, exercise does not work, diets do not work, feeling crummy does not work. Nothing works. My advice: Quit trying to be something you're not, be happy with the life you've been given, and just go for a pleasant walk outside. With me. Wherever you are. Get off the treadmill, stop drinking diet Coke, throw out all the rules. It's all a scam and it conspires to keep you miserable. If it says "low-fat" or "sugar-free" or "just 100 calories!" throw it out. Remember, one of the main tenets of capitalism is to have the consumer filled with fear, insecurity, envy and unhappiness so that we can spend, spend, spend our way out of it and, dammit, just feel better for a little while. But we don't, do we? The path to happiness - and deep down, we all know this -- is created by love, and being kind to oneself, sharing a sense of community with others, becoming a participant instead of a spectator, and being in motion. Moving....You do not feel better admonishing yourself or beating yourself up or setting up a bunch of unrealistic rules and goals with all the do's and dont's that are just begging to be broken. You wanna know something? I eat ice cream every friggin' day. I drink a regular Coke every single day. I put butter on things. But I also walk every day.
He's too quick to generalize his experience -- not everyone can physically move every day, thin or fat -- but it's always good to hear someone acknowledge that the things we're told will make us happy are usually being sold to us by someone who wants to make a profit on our misery.

Then, I saw a couple of links on Twitter last night, first one that had been RTed by a man and someone else with a male-sounding name about how "interesting" this is, when maybe because I'm a woman who's fat I just found it belonged in the "no shit, Sherlock" file: women are more worried about being judged by their appearances if they're fat. Um, yes? And?

Annoyingly, the study uses BMI as an unquestioned metric of both "what counts as an overweight/obese person" and "attractiveness," when not only is BMI bullshit (more on this later) but also many people are neutral or even positive about the prospect of fat partners.

Actually what I thought was most interesting -- depressing, actually -- about this was that it didn't matter if the "overweight/obese" women were happy with their bodies, they still experienced the same blood pressure increase that the study used to indicate stress levels. Self-esteem is a great thing, but it doesn't change the fact that we live in a culture that stigmatizes and discriminates against people above a certain size.

The second Twitter link is the one about how BMI is bullshit...kinda. It starts off good, talking about how current ideas of healthy weights are very recent, and that fatter people actually tend to do better when old/ill, but it's like it can't give up the status quo: "But don't scrap those New Year's weight-loss resolutions and start gorging on fried Belgian waffles or triple cheeseburgers." They're keen to point out that just because fat people are less likely to die is no reason to be okay about being fat or eating food you like.

And baffled by the "obesity paradox," (here, "paradox" means "we've decided this thing is bad but science is saying it's good! we can't cope!), people try to explain it away with such gems as this: "You're more likely to be in your doctor's office and more likely to be treated," said Dr. Robert Eckel, a past president of the American Heart Association and a professor at University of Colorado.

I will bet you that Dr. Robert Eckel is not fat. I am pretty willing to assert that no fat people were involved in writing or editing this article. Because I really doubt that any fat person would have let that sentence get through. The experience of most fat people is the exact opposite: we don't go to the doctor very often at all, because we expect to be told that all our problems are because we're fat. The only thing we can't necessarily predict is the amount of bullying that will come along with the "lose weight" message. We can't win, though: if fat people put off going to the doctor, it might exacerbate their conditions and reinforce the mistaken belief that fat people are more unhealthy.

Dr. Eckel, and all others who think fat people live longer because we're getting such good and frequent care, should be aware that There are unacceptable levels of weight bias among UK students training to become nurses, doctors, nutritionists and dietitians. So you don't have to take my word for it, or that of my fat friends who laughed hollowly and bitterly when I tweeted Eckel's quote.

A lot of the fat people I know are aware that fat people can be as healthy as thin people, but since thin people seem to think "yeah but you would say that, wouldn't you?" it's lucky we've got evidence on our side. This is really important because so many fatphobic people have learned not to say "I am prejudiced against you because I think you're gross and lazy and ugly and unclean" and replaced it with concern trolling about health. "I just want you to be healthy!" can be dismissed as the bullshit it is, the thin veneer over the hate and disgust.

I am pleased to see signs that the culture's starting to shift, the old views on how weight and health conflate are being reconsidered and how bias based on body size impacts our health and the care we receive. I know it's selection bias but it feels good to be surrounded by so many positive changes and articulation of the surviving negative effects, because nothing will change if we stay silent.