Human Behavior?

It dawned on me today, as someone went out of their way to make sure I got into the elevator before the doors closed (I’m telling you, this guy nearly wrestled with the door) that people treat me differently now post-op than they did pre-op. Now, it could be argued that this may be a misunderstanding on my part, based on how my self-image and self-esteem has changed; but I don’t really think so. Based on my personal experience; I believe that most people treat obese people differently than they would a smaller/thinner person. It isn’t something totally obvious, people didn’t go out of their way to be mean to me in the past, but I was definitely treated differently in subtle ways; snide looks at the food I was eating at a restaurant (or the food I was buying at a supermarket), trying to hide a scoff if I ordered a diet soda; and basically automatically dismissing me because of my looks. Sizeism is something I’ve written about in the past, when I was exploring the Fat Acceptance Movement and also I’ve alluded to my past experiences with it; but it’s something that just keeps coming up. Things like what happened at the elevator today; how male co-workers started being a lot nicer to me and going out of their way to do favors for me once the pounds started melting off; or how even members of my own family seem more interested in what I have to say now than before.

Could it be that this is all in my head? That people are only reacting to my new confident attitude and therefore treat me better than before? Possibly, but things like Tyra Banks’ “Fat Suit Experiment” make me think that maybe, not so much.

In 2005, former model Tyra Banks donned a fat suit that made her look like she was 350 lbs to see if people would treat her differently. She went shopping, rode a bus and went on three blind dates wearing the fat suit and said she was “appalled” and “hurt” at how people treated her. They laughed in her face and snickered behind her back, one of her blind dates told her that if he’d brought her home to his parents’ house they would have asked him “What’s wrong with you?” Now, when the whole Tyra-Fatsuit thing first came out, I felt offended when I saw her crying during her talk show because she “understood what (fat people) went through everyday” because how could she understand what it was like just by wearing a fat suit for a couple of hours? I still think that her proclamations of “understanding” are ridiculous, but her little experiment does show how people are quick to ostracize larger people. It seems like this form of discrimination just keeps getting worse and worse. There was the Marie Claire article, where the “reporter” expressed her disgust at seeing a “very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.”But of course, it was okay for her to say that because she had “plump” friends. That’s just as bad as saying something racist about black people but saying it’s ok because you have a black friend. Ridiculous. And it isn’t just that silly magazine; not a day goes by that I don’t see something in the news about the scary “Obesity Epidemic” and how our health care costs keep going up because of it. Now, they’re even fat-shaming our kids! Georgia has these billboards now featuring pictures of chubby kids with captions like “Big bones didn’t make me this way. Big meals did.” Really? Like we don’t have enough bullying going around now you’re shaming these poor kids in billboards?! I’m all for parents encouraging their kids to eat healthy food, but I really don’t see how these billboards (or the commercials that go with it) help do anything but make a kid who may already feel bad about themselves just feel worse; or make a child that’s considered “normal” sized make even more fun of an overweight kid. And what about the poor kids in the ads themselves? How did the parents agree to this? This is just as bad as the anti-abortion billboards in NYC that featured the little African American girl.

So, this whole Sizeism thing is what’s on my mind today, and honestly, it makes me sad and more than a little pissed off. I wish things could change but that won’t happen until we all make an effort not to judge anyone based on appearance and/or calling out someone who does it in front of you.

How about you? Has anyone treated you differently because of the way you look? Do you think you’re quick to judge others based on what they look like?


What I Have Learned About Fat Acceptance

I spoke vaguely about the Fat Acceptance Movement on a previous entry, but felt that I hadn’t really done it justice because I wasn’t too informed on it myself. So, instead the entry ended up sounding more like a “Waah, poor me, fat girls are mean to me” rant. Not feeling too satisfied with that post, I’ve been reading up a bit more on the subject because I feel that I need to see what the other end of the spectrum is like. So, after a whole week of researching the subject, these are the few things I have taken away from it.

Fat is NOT a Bad Word – This is something that was very clear since the beginning of my reserarch. If you’re fat, then you call yourself fat and you own it! No curvy, voluptuous, plus-sized or any other euphemisms are allowed. “Fat” is a neutral-value word that just means what it means. I find that both empowering and kind of scary at the same time. For my entire life I lived afraid of being called fat and just really hating everything that meant: a life of feeling ugly, undesirable, and depressed. To question all that now feels very liberating but it definitely takes some getting used to.

Fat Does Not Automatically Mean Unhealthy – This is a big one. As blogger Kate Harding writes: “Weight itself is not a health problem, except in the most extreme cases (i.e., being underweight or so fat you’re immobilized). (…) Poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle do cause health problems, in people of all sizes.” It is definitely something that I’ve heard all my life; from doctors, my parents, family, everyone: If you’re fat then you’re unhealthy. Hell, I was a firm believer of that too. But this is something that has been questioned in every Fat Acceptance article I’ve read. It goes hand in hand with the Health At Every Size (HAES) movement; which according to author Linda Bacon, PhD “acknowledges that good health can best be realized independent from considerations of size. It supports people—of all sizes—in addressing health directly by adopting healthy behaviors.” While I agree that poor eating and exercise habits equal being unhealthy (as that is exactly what happened to me: I ate a lot of fast food and never worked out and constantly over-ate and ended at 320 lbs); I find it a little hard to believe that someone who is active and a healthy eater would be 320 lbs, you know what I mean? And I struggle, because I wonder, is that my personal belief or what I’ve been taught to believe by society? I guess the fact that I’m questioning my beliefs is a good thing, because I’m using my brain and not automatically believing what I’ve been fed all my life. But I definitely agree on the whole HAES thing, because I think everyone should practice healthy eating habits and get into exercise as well, not only do you live longer but you enjoy life, and who doesn’t love that?

Fat People Don’t Need Your Concern Trolling – Concern Trolling refers to people who feign concern for you and give you backhanded comments such as “You look great, have you lost weight?” therefore insulting what you looked like when you were heavier. Or giving you unrequested advice to lose weight because they are “concerned for your health.” Now, I can definitely relate to this. All my life, all kinds of people (even strangers!) have felt they had the right to give me unsolicited weight loss tips. I’m not exaggerating! I’ve had people in the supermarket recommend diets to me! I’ve had people laugh at me when I’ve ordered diet soda in the past, and I’ve had people ask me when I was going to stop “killing (myself) with food.” I’ve grown up hearing “Oh, but you have such a pretty face” even from my own family. Basically saying “Too bad the rest of you is so disgusting.” Yeah, it’s fucked up. I definitely agree that no one has the right to do that to anyone. And I will admit here that I have made stupid comments like this in the past to other overweight friends, and it didn’t always come from a genuine concern for their health. It’s sad. But I can recognize that I fucked up, and I am being a lot more mindful about eradicating my judgments of people because of their size. It’s strange to think that I was part of the problem, and basically acting out and hurting others like I had been hurt in the past. I’m not very proud of that.

Fat Acceptance is About Accepting of All Sizes and the Choices People Make About their Bodies – This was almost taken verbatim from Tasha Fierce’s Size Matters Blog because it struck such a cord with me. She goes on to say: “Note ‘acceptance’ and not ‘approval’ or ‘admiration.’ (…) fat people are not expecting you to do anything but respect them as human beings and respect that they have the right to decide what they do with their bodies. ‘My body, my choice.’ Sound familiar? Fat people should be allowed agency over their bodies without you up in their faces telling them how wrong what they’re doing is. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to accept it.” I love that. I hate the fact that society has made it okay to pick on fat people. There was that whole Marie Claire Blog, where the author Maura Kelley goes on to say “I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.” So not only is she openly expressing disgust at fat people but also comparing being fat to being a drug addict or alcoholic. I was so enraged when I read that, that a magazine geared towards women would even PRINT that! No wonder people think it’s okay to pick on other fat people, this magazine just puts it out there! I think the stigma of being overweight is awful and definitely something worth fighting against.

So, in conclusion, although there are still some things about this that I don’t agree with (the side of this movement that is against any weight loss attempts), I certainly find myself drawn to this idea of Body Acceptance. I choose to still work my body into a healthier weight and that might make me “part of the problem” but I aren’t just working to lose weight but to be a healthier me. I do agree that we are not all the same and we are not “one size fits all,” which is why I think Health at Every Size is awesome. Lastly, I think we should all confront our own issues with fat and try and see where we stand on this topic.

I welcome any replies or comments that any of you have about this topic that I’m still very intrigued by.

Here are some links if you’re interested in reading more about the subject: