Let's just be honest: we live in a fat-phobic world, a place where the dieting industry is worth $60 billion in the US alone, and is really the only industry that profits on failure, because most people who lose weight, gain it back, and then get into a yo-yo cycle. Additionally, we have fashion, which promotes emaciation, partly so the clothes look the same on a model as they do on a hanger. Digest that for a moment, and think then, just how important being skinny is. Lots of people are on the path to skinny nirvana through dieting, exercise, bariatric surgery, and so forth, but the focus on emaciation is especially hard for people with eating disorders. Obese people are often charaterised as "lazy" and as gluttons on a pure diet of junk food and fast food. Media portrayals often demonize and dehumanise fat people by showing photos only of their bodies, with heads and legs cut off, as if somehow one's abdomen defines anyone.
But since eating disorders come in all weights and shapes, fat people can experience a double stigma, that of being fat, and that of being mentally ill. The same applies to emaciated people, whom many pass with the kind of horror usually reserved for rubbernecking at a serious accident. And then there are the people of "normal" size, whose mental illness goes largely unnoticed because they cannot obtain that fatphobic body. Here's the thing: any one of the people I have listed can struggle with an eating disorder. A fat person can struggle with excessive and life-threatening food restriction. A skinny person can suffer from bingeing and purging. A normal weight person may suffer in silence about thei binge eating.
Let's start challenging our fatphobia; let's start treating all bodies as good bodies; let's start helping all people with eating disorders get treatment and support. Let's challenge stigma; with one in four Canadians like to struggle with a mental illness at some point in their lives, let's treat all persons with respect and ensure they have access to the assistance they need.
This Refinery29 article on What This Woman Noticed At A Bookstore Says So Much About Society's Obsession With Weight uncovers an interesting take on weight loss versus health. While looking through a bookstore for obscure mid-century weight loss books (why? Actually I dunno why she collects these), she could not help but notice the space provided for a wealth of weight loss diet books, compared to the handful of books about eating disorders.
Everyday Feminism publish this post on Here's How Fatphobia Is Being Marketed to You - And Why So Many of Us Buy Into It. Note her observation that:
“...nearly half (47.4%) of overweight people and 29% of obese people were, from a metabolic standpoint, quite healthy.” On the flip side, more than 30% of individuals with “normal” weights were metabolically unhealthy."
Fat is not the problem; stigma and misleading "facts" and diets are.
Ragan Chastain has penned a piece that should get us all thinking about fat-phobia and the very real consequences is has, and costs, for fat and obese peoplei in What's Stopping the Fatty Uprising? Ask yourselves: is this the kind of society we want to live in? Some of you may answer "yes", some "no", and hopefully a large group of people who hadn't thought about it before.