THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
I’m not a Republican, but I have a pretty good memory, am no fan of mice, and I’m fat. In fact, not just fat; obese. I am almost always the only fat person sitting at a conference table in a room full of people talking about health, and more specifically, the topic of obesity, exercise and nutrition, or as the people around me like to say, “chronic disease prevention.”
What is even more awkward is that I suffer from many chronic diseases. Most of them have little to do with my size, but it is not as though I can just start telling everyone, “it’s not what you think… here’s the list of conditions I suffer from…” because we’d be there all day.
We hear a lot of people call out fat-shaming these days. There is evidence that shows that a significant factor in someone remaining overweight or obese is fat shaming. And yet there is an online subculture of trolls who try to spread the message that you are actually helping fat people become healthier through merciless shaming because of one story about one person who lost weight in order to put an end to the abuse. But riddle me this anti-fat man: how does ridiculing someone who is jogging, swimming, or engaging in other activity to lose weight going to encourage them to keep doing it?
Yelling, “hey fatso” to a person on a bike is really sending the message, “how dare you exercise your ugly body in public!” The message fat-shaming really sends is that you should just take your fat-self home, lock yourself in a dark room, and depression-eat junk food until you explode.
What is even worse than overt fat shaming is being present in a group that contains both those who are opposed to fat shaming, and those who don’t accept fat people but know their name would be mud if they said anything that could be construed as fat shaming. Don’t worry, these people will still find ways to attack you if you are fat. I know. I used to regularly attend the meetings of one such group.
This was a group devoted to promoting healthy lifestyles, which is a cause that is important to me. Early on, I volunteered my time and expertise to design a logo and public relations materials for the group. At the time, I had already had more than a decade’s worth of experience as a graphic designer and had taught college courses in graphic design and visual communication. Every design I brought to the table was met with disapproval. I listened to their criticism, which never offered much in the way of clues to what they were looking for or what was actually wrong with any given design, and realized that the real disapproval was for me being a fat woman. I had the audacity of championing healthy living while being fat! How dare I!
I left that group. It dissolved not long after. I joined other groups, and while feeling more accepted, I have still, at times, had this overwhelming feeling of daggers being driven through what must be an overworked, cholesterol-encrusted heart (it’s not, by the way). What these people don’t realize is that what they see isn’t just fat; a lot of it is my thick skin and it is what keeps me fighting for health promotion for fat, thin, young, and old. It is important that people who may be a bit bigger than average not let minds smaller than average imprison them.