I am fat.
No, it’s okay to say it. That is what I am. I am five feet, three inches tall, and I weigh more than 200 pounds. That is fat. I also recognize that it is not healthy. Deep down, I always have, but I did not always voice it.
You see, in the social justice community, expressing that someone — even when you are talking about yourself — should lose weight for health purposes is seen as fatphobic. It is seen as buying into the supposed societal lie that being fat leads to all sorts of terrible health problems, or that people who are overweight should strive to do something about it. Any discussion whatsoever is shutdown as belittling fat people. In some extreme corners of the movement, even the very presence of a fat person on a weight loss journey in their midst is triggering. As bizarre as this all sounds, it is true. I know it is true, because I have lived it.
I have dated two hardcore fat activists. Both bought into some pretty bizarre theories surrounding weight, many of which made me downright miserable. I stayed with both for far too long, but thought I could do no better. One ate me into crippling credit card debt, but insisted that she was bulimic and did not each much, despite the fact that on any given date I could easily drop $100 on her food alone. The other constantly complained of joint and body pain, and still refused to believe it was even remotely related to her weight. Even her type 2 diabetes diagnosis at the age of 24 could do nothing to stop her gluttony. It was this latter relationship that led me to /r/fatlogic on Reddit, where I could anonymously post with other people recovering from the horrors of the lies of this movement and dealing with their own weight battles.
In my dating life, I always go for other fat women, because I know that women who are of a more conventional size are out of my league. If they work to keep themselves in good shape, they will seek partners who do the same. There is nothing wrong with this; in fact, it is often likely simple lifestyle compatibility. If you’re a kale-eating vegan who runs daily, you aren’t going to exactly want to date someone who eats Burger King, is 100 pounds overweight, smokes a pack a day, and can barely walk to the mailbox. In fact, I cannot imagine the aforementioned kale-eating vegan being remotely attracted to such a person. And that is okay.
But not in the fat activist community. In that that community, the kale-eating vegan would be, hands down, seen as a fatphobic bigot who pushes diet culture and cannot accept that not everyone is going to look like Kate Moss. It would matter not whether the kale-eating vegan has an actual problem with fat people. All that would matter is that (s)he would refuse to date that person. That is enough to get that kale-eating vegan labeled a bigot for life in the fat activist community. It is as if the very existence of the kale-eating vegan and his/her/hir desire to date someone with a similar lifestyle path was an affront to the movement.
And this is where I come in. I have always been fat. I grew up in a household where two things happened: 1) my mother constantly harped on our weight and how we should work on losing it, and how she did not want us to be picked on for it the way she was; and 2) the food we were given to eat — Chinese takeout most Fridays, pizza most Saturdays, fried chicken wings or pork chops, rice with butter, and other home cooking on Sundays — was in no way conducive to the weight loss goals of any sane person. The same is true of the red hot sausages, Steak-Umm sandwiches and fries, and other food that was peppered throughout our weeknight dinners. Therefore, no matter what my mother said, I was doomed to remain fat under her care. That is, until I discovered the joys of bulimia.
I had no idea that what I was doing was an eating disorder. I still vividly remember the first time I threw up on purpose. We’d had another hearty meal of Steak-Umm sandwiches and fries for dinner. I was thirteen, and I had had a long day of being bullied at school yet again. So, after I had stuffed myself with the sandwiches, I went to use the bathroom. No, legitimately use it. I was uncomfortably full, though, so after I finished urinating, instead of flushing, I suddenly had an idea. I turned the water on, washed my hands, and left it running.
I then stuck my fingers down my throat and my entire dinner came right back up. I did it a few more times to make sure I got it all. I was shocked at how easy it was. After that, I had found my “cure” for being fat. I ate nothing all day at school. I hoarded my allowance and my lunch money. My mother’s forced dinners of whatever godforsaken fattening food she had made for us that night were no longer a problem. I ate dinner, then I threw it up. By the time I made it to band camp the summer before my Freshman year of high school, I was more or less a normal size. There was to be no more bullying due to my weight (certainly there was bullying, but weight wasn’t one of the reasons).
My time with bulimia as a steady friend was the only time in my life I had ever been thin. Like many bulimics, I got lazy with it, and ballooned again. The disease never really quite went away, but became a comfortable way to relieve stress when nothing else worked. In many ways, it still is.
Now, in the fat activist community, a story like mine would be seen as proof that dieting is dangerous, that the idea that anyone should lose weight is fatphobic and killing people and forcing them to engage in dangerous behaviors to achieve a societal ideal that they can never do safely. To an extent, that is true. Our culture does value thin bodies over fat ones. However, that does not negate the dangerous nature of morbid obesity.
People who are morbidly obese are at risk for joint problems, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and all kinds of other health problems that are directly related to their weight. To fat activists, though, this cannot be true. They deny all medical fact in order to feed the lie that overeating and not exercising has nothing to with obesity, and that you are destined to be fat no matter what you do. The dangerous part is that they believe that you can literally be healthy at any size. That is actually a part of a subset of this movement. That is literally the name of it: Healthy at Any Size. However, all you have to do is look at what too much fat does to a human heart to see that this very phrase is a lie:
The thing is, had I not been force fed junk for years on end, I’d likely have never been fat. A healthy diet and some regular exercise as a child would have cleared that right up. I just was never in the right environment to deal with that. Are some people predisposed to gain weight? Of course. Should everyone aspire to look like a fashion model? Again, of course not. But, should obesity be glorified in the way these people are doing it? Again, no.
Now, I am a hardcore social justice warrior. I do not believe in discrimination of any kind. In fact, there are good elements to the movement. One of them is pointing out how there have been studies done that show that medical professionals often dismiss the concerns of fat people because they assume that these people just need to lose weight. There was even the story of the woman who died from endometrial cancer because of this sort of treatment from multiple doctors. Then there are the rumored stories of fat people being taken to the zoo for scans and x-rays in the U.K. Nobody should have to endure such dehumanizing treatment. So, the problems out there are real, and even sometimes deadly. The original premise upon which the size diversity movement was built was a noble one. However, it has now morphed into something unrecognizable that promotes dangerous myths about obesity and health, and I will not be a part of it.
People can do what they want with their bodies. However, denying the dangers of obesity and pretending that it does not have an adverse impact on health and that it is not a public health crisis is dangerously irresponsible.
Yes, I am fat. But I am also trying to lose weight. I am not telling any other fat person to do so. I am doing it for myself. I’d be lying if I said some of it were not due to vanity. I even have, in the back of my mind, the the flitting thought that gastric bypass might not be such a bad idea, lest I wind up on My 600 lb Life one day. And that is okay. It is my body, and it is my choice. Most importantly, I am glad to be free of the lies of the fat activist movement regarding the link between health and obesity.
The problems the movement originally addressed were and are real, but the idea that losing weight, promoting a healthier lifestyle, or refusing to date someone is fatphobic is not a problem. It is part of the delusion that the people who follow this movement carry.