When health concerns are just a cover for fat hatred

Published on The Daily Femme – Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010

Contributed by Annamarya

Disclaimer: As a fellow “certified fat person,” I use the term fat as a descriptor, not as an insult. If you find it insulting, please look within yourself to see why that is. I am sure if I used thin, you wouldn’t have a problem.

Earlier this month, Feministe blogger Monica wrote a post about fat and healthas a response to Jezebel’s post on a New York Times article where a doctor essentially admits that the BMI scale is “far less reliable for determining fatness in individuals” because it does not accurately monitor your body mass (for example, as the NYT piece points out, if you’re a body builder or athlete, “your BMI could mistakenly put you in the range for overweight or obese.”) As a retort, Monica writes in defense of the BMI scale, claiming that “It’s an index. This is what indexes do, they aggregate individual pieces of information to tell you something about a whole. The BMI was never intended to be used as a measure of personal health, but was instead meant to tell us something about entire populations” and that “weight can signal a lack of activity or too many donuts.” Fortunately, Monica, who claims to be out of her normal BMI range, admittedly has never had the pleasure of experiencing size-discrimination at the doctor’s (you can find those stories at http://fathealth.wordpress.com/), where the physician takes one look at you, your weight and BMI chart and automatically labels you as “obese,” and attributes all of your health and mental problems to your weight, so it could explain her very naïve, very size-ist point of view.

Former Feministe blogger Zuzu posted an eloquent response to Monica’s post on her blog, Kindly Póg Mo Thóin, last week that sheds a much-needed light on the issues bigger people, especially women, face. It touches on three points:

1. That fat hatred is another form of appearance-based body policing, arguing that weight criticism is inescapable, “even if you’re running for President or nominated for Supreme Court,” and that, when fat women are confident and comfortable publicly with their bodies and trendy plus-sized clothing is manufactured, there is “panic about Encouraging! Obesity!”;

2. That health can’t be determined by the size of your jeans and

3. That, when we focus on an individual’s health, “we erase the systemic problems that contribute to health issues,” such as high food costs vs. low income, thus ignoring that the personal is political.

As a fellow “certified fat person,” everything Zuzu wrote hit a nerve (in a good way) and I couldn’t have said it better myself. Unfortunately, as a society, we too often equate health with the expansion of our waistline, disguising our fat hatred with concerns of health, which is an illusion, really, because in no way can you truly determine my health by taking one look at my size 14 ass. This fat hatred is even more concerning when doctors are guilty of it and make a diagnosis based on your pounds and, when your vitals come back excellent, show visible signs of anger, as not only Zuzu experienced and documented in her post, but yours truly, my best friend and a slew of other fat women out there. It’s heart-wrenching and enraging to be judged primarily by appearance, especially by a health care professional. How am I to trust a doctor to take the best possible care of me, to make sure that nothing is truly wrong with, if they can’t see beyond my fatness when I enter the exam room? If I wasn’t “so fat,” would I get better treatment? Would you run other, more appropriate tests? Don’t I deserve the same treatment as my skinny boyfriend counterpart?

Weight plays a big factor in the type of health and life insurance you receive, and how much it will cost you. It’s a disgusting discriminatory practice that doesn’t take into consideration the health of underweight people. According to the NYT article (and something I’ve always known), being thin is “not necessarily healthy,” as a low BMI can indicate “malnutrition, anorexia, cancer or a wasting disease. If there is really this concern for health, then why are we not also targeting the underweight population? Why aren’t shows like “Too Thin for Fifteen” or “Biggest Gainer” on the air? You want to know why, because society hates fat people. Simple as that.

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