I’m fat. I know this. I don’t need people to tell me this about myself. I don’t need statistics proclaiming it. I don’t need a reminder from a nutritionist on the news every Tuesday to say it. I don’t need some “fitspo” model asking what excuse people have for not losing weight, but not bothering to care when they give her valid reasons. I don’t need random people on the internet to tell me it. I can tell this about myself without anyone else telling it to me. And yet, they still do it. And not only do they do it, they use my weight as a way to ridicule my position on different issues.
It’s been a while since someone used the “you’re fat, so you’re also an idiot” argument that it caught me off guard. It shouldn’t have. I’ve been fat all my life, so it shouldn’t exactly shock me that people feel justified in sticking to that ridiculous stereotype. It still bugs me, though. Even when I say it doesn’t, it does. Because for me, being larger is something deeper than just the appearance. And I hate that some deep personal issues are allowing other people to judge me as lesser than them.
So I’m going to try to deal with those issues, but first I’m going to rant about some of the ignorance. Let’s start with the fitspo mom, who didn’t actually ask or say anything about me personally. Instead, she just did a blanket shaming exercise of all people who are overweight, obese, or just out of shape.
Many people who are overweight or obese have actual reasons for their weight/size. They may have no time to exercise. They may have a hormone issue. They may have a history of some type of trauma and use the weight as a way to keep people away from them.
That last one is part of my reason. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I’m fairly certain that I was molested by someone when I was a toddler. This person had a history of nepiophilia, aka infantophilia.12 That abuse is part of what causes me to eat, even when I’m not hungry, even when I’m not even really aware that I’m actually eating. Eating and being fat is a type of armor. Being attractive is a scary idea, so I have a tendency to ruin any attempt I make to lose weight. And I am not the only person who carries weight around as a result of childhood abuse.3456
The Obesity Action Coalition had this to say about it:
The association between childhood obesity and sexual abuse is strongest in extremely obese children and adults. It is generally thought that extreme obesity is rare; however, it affects nine million adults and two million children in the U.S. The statistics for child sexual abuse are just as alarming.
The CDC reports that approximately one in six boys and one in four girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. In 2005, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that 83,600 children were sexually abused. Sadly, extremely obese children, who have histories of sexual abuse, may be more common than we think…One explanation for weight gain in those with a history of child sexual abuse is binge eating disorder (BED). BED is at least six times more common in obese people and three to four times more common in obese people who report a history of childhood sexual abuse. The effects of child sexual abuse (poor self esteem, poor body image, impulsive behavior and drug abuse) are common predictors of the binge eating and obesity. That is, compulsive eating may be one way to manage the depression related to child sexual abuse…Other factors in the connection between child sexual abuse and obesity, along with eating disorders, might include a desire to “de-sexualize” to protect against further abuse, as well as a range of psychiatric conditions (depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, physical complaints, phobic reactions, low self esteem, suicidal feelings and substance abuse).
There are other things that contribute to my obesity, including my bad health, but I would say that the abuse was the catalyst for a lot of the other stuff. And that’s why I’m in counseling. It’s why I am going to try to get the specialized counseling for trauma victims that might help me change my hatred of my life and my body.
It’s also why I am so infuriated by these comments and by Maria Kang’s dismissive attitude. The first time I saw her image, I remember the first thing I thought of myself was that I was some sort of monster. Then, I went through all of the low-self-esteem stuff that often accompanies someone mentioning weight. But I decided that maybe I should actually let myself get pissed off at someone else for having this kind of attitude. So I got pissed off at her. And while I was pissed at her, these other comments seemed to come along.
And it made me wonder, what is wrong with our society when we have to make people feel like crap about themselves? Isn’t it possible to have a difference of opinion about something without bringing up someone’s waist size? And can we not bring up a person’s religion, orientation, skin color, age, or able-ness? Why do we have to bring people down in order to make ourselves feel better? And why bring it up at all while debating someone?
I won’t say that I’ve never stooped to insulting another person when I was claiming to debate them, but I also won’t say that I was right to make that insult. It has no purpose in a real discussion over and issue. If we actually want to have intelligent discussions, then maybe we should all start trying those adages we were taught in kindergarten or Sunday School or wherever else we might have learned lessons in morality. In a world where we are constantly reminded of our failings by the media, why do we, as individuals, have to turn on each other?
I know that not everyone means to do it as a way to make people feel badly about themselves. After all, obesity is a major health issue, but it is not right to use it as a way to make people feel worse about themselves. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fitness model who thinks she’s inspiring people or a nosy neighbor who decides to send children she thinks are obese home with a note telling their parents that they need to slim down, if you aren’t a medical professional, it really isn’t your business to tell someone how to live their life. And if you are a medical professional, lessen up on the condescension. Chances are that the people that you think are helping already know that there is a problem, and making them feel worse about said problem is not going to help them. In fact, it could hurt.
I know it’s hard to keep your opinion to yourself, but sometimes, it really is the best thing you could do.