You know what I find funny? How everyone and their grandma is suddenly a nutritionist. I’m referring to the fact that people love to assume that every chubby person they see is incredibly unhealthy and knocking on death’s door.
We’re very used to the image of overweight people being sad, sedentary gluttons who gobble down soda, cookies, burgers, pizzas and ice cream in front of a television. With every other television show on the air focusing on weight loss, it can be a little hard not to assume that that is the case. But believe it or not, not every single overweight person has an unhealthy lifestyle.
Even more “shocking” is the fact that you can’t look at somebody and automatically determine their health status. In fact, studies have shown that being overweight is not an automatic death wish! So why is it that someone can look at a chubby person walking down the street and assume they’re unhealthy, but not think twice about someone skinny walking along as well? For all we know, the overweight individual eats loads of fruits and veggies and exercises regularly, while the skinny person chain smokes and only eats Cheetos dust and Redbull.
Fat acceptance, a movement that hopes to deter anti-fat bias and societal norms, is growing in popularity, especially among young women and teen girls online. Fat acceptance isn’t about promoting unhealthy lifestyles or encouraging people to become fat; it is about fighting against prejudice and shame. And yet, among the people who begrudgingly accept the positive elements of fat acceptance, they still feel the need to say, “As long as you’re healthy…” To me, this translates to, “Well, okay, as long as you don’t look too fat. Well, okay, as long as you don’t feel too confident about those love handles.”
What is it with this society’s constant paternalistic monitoring of overweight people? Do we think that without our gentle reminders to eat plenty of apples, that they’ll immediately start to inhale taco after taco? How condescending can we be? Those who feel the need to remind an overweight person interested in fat acceptance to be healthy are likely the same people who can’t quite process the fact that there are fat people out there who aren’t spending their free time sobbing on a scale.
Some people are overweight because of genetic factors, others because they eat a lot of food. But no matter why someone is overweight, it isn’t the business of a judgmental stranger who, frankly, doesn’t know anything about a fat person’s health beyond “they’re fat.”
Of course health shouldn’t be taken for granted. And of course there are diseases that are triggered by the side effects of being incredibly overweight. But there are thin and “normal sized” people with high cholesterol, and no stranger is making a blind judgement on their health status; that’s because they don’t look a certain way. If people are truly as invested in health as they claim to be, why are superficial assumptions always used to discuss it? If we want to have a serious discussion about health and eating we need to dig deeper, like discussing access to healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods. If we want to be have a serious discussion about poor eating habits, then we need to talk about the poor eating habits of every sized person, not just fat people.
Seriously, overweight people have to deal with enough problems in our society without having strangers give them a visual physical exam.
Do you think health is always determined by weight? What do you think about fat acceptance? Tell us in the comments!