Fatphobia is defined simplistically as the fear or hate of fat people. When asked, do you fear or hate fat people, your immediate answer to the question might be a no but let’s break this down shall we?
When you see fat people or pictures of fat people, do you automatically think “they must be lazy” or a variation of “eww, why would anyone let themselves get like THAT” or maybe it’s you sending pictures of a fat person to your close friends wondering how they can still eat at their size?
If you’ve had these thoughts or done something similar, you’re not alone. Go to any Instagram picture of a fat-bodied person and you’ll immediately see the hundreds of comments telling them to kill themselves or calling them unmentionable names. We live in a culture that rewards skinny. We’re bombarded with images of how to get and stay skinny. Children are not immune to this either. There are weight-loss programs marketed to grade-schoolers in the guise of the “health concerns” as they relate to obesity. We are CONDITIONED to hate fat people, and that includes self-hate if we ourselves are fat.
But while we’re conditioned to be fat phobic, we don’t have to stay fat phobic and as with most things, the key to overcoming hate and fear is through education. I too, had to learn having grown up with a mom who was/is morbidly obese. I didn’t hate my mom because of her weight but I was constantly on her about her weight because I didn’t want her to have health conditions that could be avoided if she only lost some visceral fat and moved more. Let’s get into some facts then shall we and how these facts have helped me overcome the fatphobia I had masquerading as concerns over her health.
These are the things being fat doesn’t mean:
- lack of intelligence
The ONLY thing you can tell when you see someone who’s fat is that…they’re fat. Literally, that’s it. Nothing else. Ok, now that we have that clear, let’s address this myth that being fat equals being unhealthy.
While this can be the case as with my mom, it can also be the case for every skinny person you see. As a nurse, I will tell you that most of my patients are average-sized. The patients with heart disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal impairments, etc. are mostly average-sized.
Yes, obesity is a modifiable risk for some of these diseases I’ve listed, but then again, so is smoking, alcoholism, lack of physical activity, and so on. However, we don’t jump on the phone every time we see a smoker talking about how disgusting they are. Maybe we do sometimes with smokers (not condoning this mind you) but do we with that skinny person we know who has is not involved in any physical activity with high cholesterol?
No, we don’t! Mostly because how someone looks is not a determinant of health. Repeat after me: the way a person looks tells you NOTHING about how healthy or unhealthy they are. That might be a hard one to unlearn but if you want to learn and grow to be a better person, you must do this.
Another thing to consider perhaps is what those at the fore-front of the Body Positive Movement have been saying for the longest time: no one owes us good health. No one! Yup, not even my mother or your best friend and definitely not some stranger. Good health is not a measure of respect, one must not meet our standard of health to be accorded the respect and dignity they deserve as human beings. Also, on the matter of health, physical well-being is not all there is to good health. Again, people in the Body Positive Movement have been screaming it from the rooftops, a person’s mental health has to be taken into consideration when interacting with people.
If we care about people, the way we say we do when talking about how unhealthy obese people are, let’s take the time to ask them how they’re doing. Let’s check in on them and ask them if there’s anyway we can support them. That’s what it means to care for people. Judging and making fun of them all in a guise of “concern?” yeah…not so much. To this point, only when I dropped the issue of weight with my mom and spoke to her about her mental health were we able to address her depression. Addressing her depression was then the catalyst to get her to ask me for help with her weight loss goals. Her managing her depression led to her managing her weight and that in turn, enables her to move more. But again, this was all her choice, and it wasn’t until I stopped harping on her weight was she able to take the steps she did.
Lastly, there’s another angle to this whole thing, that is the fear aspect. Many people fear being fat. They have internalized fatphobia they project onto other fat people. If you want to lose weight and get healthier – whatever that means for you – that’s okay. Just make sure you’ve done the work needed to make sure your desire is born out of self-love and not hate. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look skinny or run a 6 minute mile or whatever your goals are, again, just make sure it is coming from a place of love and not hate.
When we grow in love for self, we can hopefully extend that love to others. Remember that the evil entity here is the $66.3 million dollar weight-loss industry which benefits only when we hate ourselves and others. I read somewhere recently that every time we have a negative thought about ourselves or others, we should ask ourselves who is profiting from it. Chances are, it is some big cooperation.