I have been a clinical massage therapist for 11 years. I have worked on thousands of bodies, all body types, male and female. I had one young female patient ask me once, “Do you ever hate someone’s body?” Wow. “No”. That would be a bit incongruous with being a healer, don’t you think? Yet, Dr. David Katz, M.D., a fairly well-read and popular doctor, wrote this great article for Huffington Post on obesity bias in healthcare. Please read it before you go on.
He doesn’t support obesity bias either and is calling for an end to it. I don’t think he delves quite far enough though. He cites the surveys that have been done in the healthcare profession that show that a good percentage of professionals feel revulsion, disgust, prejudice, bias, and emotional disgust when dealing with fat patients. They have an emotional response toward large amounts of adipose tissue. Even people who are fairly large themselves will express revulsion at those with even more adipose tissue than them, feeling that they are superior because “at least they’re not THAT fat!” Everyone says, “But come ON! It’s SO unhealthy!!!!” Practitioners in holistic health think that a thin vegetarian might live forever whereas a carnivorous fat person will probably die at 55. It doesn’t matter whether you’re happy or not? Frankly, I see clinical studies going both ways. I dated a fellow who is built large, but he was fit. He had lost a lot of weight too quickly and suffered for it. The doctor couldn’t re-align his internal organs for him so he was in pain. I’m on the scientific fence on this issue. I think it’s healthier to be happy than to be a people pleaser for superficial reasons. Yo-Yo dieting and intolerance of yourself and others is more unhealthy. Casting yourself into an elite, “beautiful people group” and exercising 2 hours a day, 5 days a week and dissing others is supremely unhealthy in a myriad of ways…and not cool. Some big people work out 5 days a week and are still big!
Diabetes is unhealthy. So is having cancer. So is having 3rd degree burns all over your body. But you don’t hear people emotionally exclaim, with disgust, “Your 3rd degree burns repulse me. Get away from me.” “Your cancer repulses me. That’s it. You’re going to be punished! We are going to pay you less. What’s the problem? We are going to call you names. We don’t want you to work here. We are going to laugh at you. We are going to kick you off the airplane because you have something “different” going on in your body than I do.” Yes, people have a fear of being around the vibes of illness, especially cancer. But they don’t have a judgmental bias toward sick people. For the most part, they have compassion and are supportive. Yet you continue to hear the social cover-up that belies hypocrisy to obesity, “But it so unhealthy!” You know there is something deeper going on than a health issue. What’s going on is BODY TYPE INTOLERANCE. The person judging needs others to look like them. That’s messed up. And it’s very weak. It’s even vampirism.
You don’t hear people say, “Your pancreatitis repulses me. Get away from me”. Acceptable disease bias does not routinely exist. But excess adipose tissue gets this special place on the rung of “body alignments” that serves as a social whipping post for thin people or even people who just have body/eating disorders.
It’s social intolerance!~ It’s Projection 101 from the person that has a bad self-body image. If you stigmatize or have emotional (intolerance) about obesity, frankly, you have a body image problem of your own and you really need to admit it to yourself and leave everyone else alone. Talk to someone who you can trust. Get some help. You likely have an eating disorder no matter what your body size. It’s not just very thin people who have eating disorders. You don’t like yourself no matter what size you are. What addiction are you indulging in to cope with your self-loathing? It’s an epidemic. And it’s socially sanctioned.
It manifests socially as Xenophobia-not liking people who look different from you because you are so insecure. That’s as old as the hills. It’s what starts wars. It’s the cause of divorce. It’s the way criminals and predators are. They feel like victims, so they victimize others. It’s also a symptom of the scarcity model that underpins Capitalism. Capitalism thrives on the economic caste system. God Bless America.
Personally, I have been all body sizes. When I was a teenager (18-19) I was a size 9 and weighed 135. I was not happy for other reasons. When I was in my 20’s I was a size 12. I was not happy for other reasons. After I had my baby at 36, I was at 170 and was a size 14-16. I was happy because I had my baby. And I loved having a cushy, mama marshmallow body. Then, in my very bad, stressful marriage where I was attacked verbally and emotionally and had to defend myself all the time, I got up to size 24. I’ve been divorced for nine years and now I’m back down to a size 14 and going down and settling down, and dealing with the kind of sensitive person I am. Because I want to bounce around for the next fifty years and to save my joints, I’m working out every day and eating healthy. But I feel good no matter what and I get A’s on my yearly physical.
My point is, at all times, I kept moving forward, had sex, was told I was gorgeous, had men pawing on me, and succeeded at whatever I wanted to. It was not due to the size I was. It was due to the fact that I am the Queen of my body and my mind and I think I’m hot stuff. I see how everyone has a “hot side”. I love all people. I support every woman and man to feel the same way about themselves. I felt comfy sitting in my marshmallow padding getting very intellectual in college and graduating magna cum laude. That’s what I wanted! I didn’t WANT to be small and bouncy. My plush body served my purposes then. And it serves my purposes now at size 18. When you look at cushy people, know that it’s serving their life purposes right now or they’d be different.
People have the right to have the size body they need at the time, when they need it, for their own personal reasons. When they want to change it THEY WILL, for their own reasons! Or, if they don’t want to, THEY WON’T, for their own reasons. You do not have the right to project your self-loathing and judgment, and teasing onto them, then justify it by saying, “But it’s SO unhealthy!” They won’t be changing themselves TO PLEASE YOU, WHO ARE UNCOMFORTABLE with yourself no matter what size you are!
This culture needs to stop scapegoating fat people, start loving themselves and taking care of themselves at ALL stages in their body. The health and happiness of your body are in your hands. It’s not in your spouse’s hands, your doctor’s hands, your kids hands, your parent’s hands, or the pastor’s hands. What you feel in your body is what matters most. It’s your body!
Everyone is different. Everyone has a story. Everyone has different needs. Be cool.