“Fat-bashing in all its varied forms–criticism, exclusion, shaming, fat talk, self-deprecation, jokes, gossip, bullying–is one of the last acceptable forms of prejudice.”
– excerpted from Good Girls Don’t Get Fat by Robyn Silverman, PhD
In the five years since Robyn Silverman’s book was published, weight obsession has gotten worse. Prejudice against fat people is more prevalent and in some cases, more vicious, than ever. It used to be the overweight were mostly just easy targets for “fat jokes.” Now, obese individuals experience less laughter at their expense, and more nasty stares, disapproving looks and often harsh words. Just because the speaker of the harsh words says them behind obese backs, instead of to their faces, it doesn’t excuse or support the behavior.
The self-righteous defend their rude and prejudice actions, and even disgust, with an argument that basically asserts:
“Obesity is expensive, and I resent having to pay higher health care costs because of fat slobs who refuse to change their gluttonous, lazy behaviors so that they can maintain an acceptable weight. Obese people must lose weight so that my health insurance costs don’t keep rising!”
In essence these people are saying, “Good citizens don’t get fat because they don’t want to be a burden on society. Everybody will have to share the costs of their obesity.”
It escapes me how fat-bashing in all its various forms is justified by the belief that “they do it to themselves.” After being in the business of helping people to lose weight for more than 20 years I know the pain obesity causes and the struggles people have with weight management.
I guess there may be the rare obese people who say, “I’m eating to spite the world. I hope I get really fat and sick and can’t even get out of bed. I want to shut myself off from the world and all the activities that I enjoy because I have no willpower. I’m going to try to get sympathy by convincing people that I can’t lose weight because there is something genetically or metabolically wrong with me, but the truth is I’m just a fast-food, pizza-eating, doughnut stuffing, no-exercise-getting slob! Everybody will be paying higher insurance premiums to help keep me alive and that’s my plan!”
Perhaps you didn’t know that losing just 5-10% of one’s body weight can dramatically improve one’s health.
That means that if an individual who weighed 350 pounds were to lose 35 pounds, his risk of metabolic disease is reduced significantly. Of course, he now weighs 315, which still makes him look (and is) obese to the casual observer.
Problem is the fat-bashers aren’t going to see a person who’s working to improve his health and is making real progress. They are going to see somebody whom they think is a disgusting, inconsiderate citizen.
Strange thing about human nature is that we tend to become what others tell us we are.
The man who has lost weight, improved his health, and is maintaining his loss before working on losing the next 10% is still getting the same dirty looks, snickers, comments and treatment that tell him he’s a fat, disgusting, bad citizen that he received when he was 35 pounds heavier.
And I bet there are some readers who think he deserves it. He deserves to be bashed until he has achieved a weight that no longer makes him obese. I know from experience that fat-bashing is more likely to promote obesity than be a catalyst for weight management.
Let’s stay with that logic that people who do things that put them at risk of high medical treatments are inconsiderate, bad citizens who are unfairly raising the insurance premiums for the rest of us perfect citizens.
That means the following are inconsiderate and also bad citizens:
People who drink alcohol
People, at any weight, who sit at desks all day long doing their job
Tanning bed users/sun worshippers
Extreme sports enthusiasts
People who text and drive
People who engage in any manner of distracted driving
People who speed
People who disregard traffic laws
People who don’t wear seatbelts
People who ride motorcycles (with or without helmets)
People who ride bikes (with or without helmets)
People who ride horse (with or without helmets)
People who ride snowmobiles
People who ride ATVs
People who eat a steady diet of nutritionally-deficient food (of any weight)
People with family histories of genetic disease, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, etc., who have children
People who have unprotected sex with one or multiple partners
People who don’t go for their annual screenings
I could continue this list, but I hope that I’ve made the point that somebody’s weight and their value as a citizen and of course, as a human, are completely and utterly unrelated.
Unless you truly are perfect in every way, you have no right to judge the good citizenship of anybody else.