The medical establishment has so stigmatized obesity, labeled it an epidemic, and offered a variety of explanations for how and why we have reached this point. However, they have also criticized their patients by not listening to their health issues and instead focusing on weight loss. The message is quite clear: You are to blame for whatever is wrong. Or I won’t treat anything else, so lose weight.
However, as Monica and Rachel E Fox (@rachel e fox on twitter) just made clear to me, it is not your “fault.” In fact, the notion of culpability and blame are wholly unreliable justifications for removing stigma. Some individuals carry more weight and that has been true since humans were a thing, as Fox stated in a comment, “pointing to ‘the past’ or ‘not the west’ to denaturalize fat bigotry also takes the attention off of how the US has been actively, brutally attempting to get rid of fat people for at least 100 years.” You can be obese and in good health. You may be unhealthy and thin. Fat is essential to life. Yes, you’ve seen scientific research to the contrary, particularly on diabetes. However, this information is still hazy, hotly debated, and skewed by that century-long history. No one is claiming that being skinny is a sign of diabetes, despite the fact that you can have diabetes and be thin. Health is social. Nobody gets sick on their own; instead, social, interpersonal, cultural, and systemic factors all play a role in our health (or lack thereof). Access, therapy, and care are all impacted by stigma and are therefore all but impossible.
The food and health sectors are dysfunctional. Fresh meats and veggies are disproportionately pricey in the United States. Access to healthcare is limited, and it is never distributed fairly. I’ve already discussed how racism and financial may also contribute to fat shaming.
Not all fats are harmful. Fat people can be fit, attractive, successful, entertaining, active, and content. Your body should include fat since it is a required and beneficial substance for a variety of functions. I once heard someone say, “Well, at least you are skinny,” but I would much rather be healthy (I myself have an autoimmune disease and am therefore very thin). What concerns me the most is how stigma against fat transforms the very real issue of access to nutrition and healthcare into discrimination. There is no justification for fear of fat. The author of the Self piece claims that there is cause to despise the “rampant prejudice” that obese people experience in “work, health care, and education,” as well as “the incessant street harassment and sexual harassment that accompany extremely big individuals” everywhere they go.
It’s necessary to draw attention to the actual issues that underlie our health care systems, such as prejudice, access, and discrimination. We aren’t there yet, as a culture, but I hope we are moving in the right way, as Zoller says, “not a value judgment.” Being obese is OK. Being denied personhood or neglected by the medical community as a result is not acceptable.