Last night I was reading blog posts through Google Reader, and somewhere in my reading travels, I read a commenter I think, relating something a thin colleague of hers had said to her. (I’m sorry I can’t find where I read it, if anyone knows let me know and I’ll link it up) It went something like this:
My doctor says that it’s easy to lose weight, all you have to do is stop putting anything in here. *Pointing to mouth*
I can’t quite express how it made me feel. It HURT at first. Then it made me unspeakably angry, the red mist really formed before my eyes. Then sadness, and some more hurt. Followed by a big old mix of rage and pain and sorrow that all came flooding at once.
Because it’s not the first time I’ve heard the opinion that fat people should simply stop eating, AT ALL. I’ve had it directed at me personally time and time again. Let me share with you a couple of instances that stick in my mind.
More than a decade ago. I was severely depressed, dieting (actually, pretty much starving myself) and generally just hating myself for being fat. I was at the local shopping centre and I was so hungry, I was close to tears. I hadn’t eaten all day, and I decided I could let myself have a small tub of fruit salad. I bought the fruit salad, and was sitting on a bench eating it, when an elderly couple came by, pushing a shopping trolley. The woman nudged her husband to look at me and said, loud enough for me to hear, “Look at that! People like that should never be allowed to eat.”
I simply lowered my head, and cried.
About five years ago. I was out on a date with the guy I was seeing at the time. We were having dinner in a cafe. I had improved a lot with my eating disorder by this time, but was still “watching what I ate”. I am eating my dinner, a chicken and mushroom thing with a side salad and a pineapple juice. He is eating his dinner, a burger with the works, large chips, a strawberry milkshake and a large serve of deep fried, crumbed calamari. He is tall and very lean, I am average height and very fat. Two women walk into the cafe, see us and as my date leans over, kisses me and helps himself to some of the food off MY plate, one woman says to the other “That’s disgusting, how can she just sit there eating in front of him?”
My date didn’t hear, but I did. I fought back tears, and could not enjoy the rest of my date.
It happens all the time, not just the “stop eating” but everyone seems to be an expert on what fat people should do with their bodies, without any real knowledge at all about those people, their health, their bodies, their lives. Everyone out there is an expert on fatness, you only have to take a look at the hashtag that has been busy on Twitter today #thingsfatpeoplearetold We suffer people telling us how to diet and exercise, as though we have never considered it in the past. We suffer people commenting on what we are eating, how much (or how little) we are eating, how we are eating, when we are eating and why we are eating. We suffer people making snap judgements on our bodies simply based on what they see before them, and their own fucked up assumptions about fat.
There is this fucked up thinking that if fat people simply stopped eating, ceased consuming any food at all, they would no longer be fat and the problem would be solved. How we’re supposed to do that, when you know, humans need food to live, to survive, I don’t know.
I think the assumption is that fat people can just “live off their fat”, that if we stop eating, our bodies will just consume the fat on them and go along as per usual, without any negative consequence. But it simply doesn’t work like that. Ketosis for one, can be highly damaging to a body that is consuming it’s own fat, particularly to the liver. Bodies that are not receiving nutrition can quickly become malnourished and begin to break down their own muscle and other vital materials rather than the fats stored. It raises the risk of osteoporosis later in life. And most of all, starvation makes people lose their ability to function generally throughout the day. One cannot think straight, focus, remember etc when one is starving.
But all of this is considered acceptable by some, if it means you’re losing weight.
The thing is, weight loss is not guaranteed with starvation dieting. In fact, I’m living proof that it simply doesn’t work, in fact, makes you fatter. I starved myself, for long periods, on and off from when I was in my teens to when I was in my 30’s. I rarely lost weight. Sometimes I lost some, only to have it come back, even without going off the starvation diet.
Of course, it’s really not about health at all. It’s about the sight of fat bodies being offensive to some people. Because no matter how healthy you are, if you’re still fat… well then you are not doing it right. You must get rid of your fatness, or at least hide it. Cease to be fat, and if you can’t do that, cease to be.
But what really bothers me is not so much the epic wrongness of these assumptions, but the sheer injustice of being expected to live a life of deprivation, starvation and unhappiness, simply because my body is fat. That to these people, I am never allowed to taste anything, to celebrate with food, to spend time with friends, colleagues and family over a meal, to experience the world through it’s cuisine, to enjoy food and eating, and most importantly, I am not allowed to make my own choices when it comes to food and eating.
I get angry that there are people who believe that my fatness negates my human right to live my life as I choose to do so. There are those who believe that simply because my body is fat, that they, or society, or someone, needs to intervene in my life to direct me in how to take care of myself.
Well fuck that shit. We are grown adults. We are not stupid, or lazy, or somehow morally corrupted by our fatness. We are capable of making our own choices when it comes to food and eating, particularly if you let us do so without ramming diets, or general fat loathing in our faces. When removed from all the hateful messages society shoves on us about food and fatness, we can even become competent eaters.
If you are concerned about fat people eating, then don’t be, because it’s none of your concern. Be concerned about your own eating. We don’t need you to be concerned about ours. I promise you, if fat people are left alone to eat as they wish to, without your concern, they won’t eat everything and leave you nothing. The world won’t end. You won’t miss out on that delicious thing that you are craving. The economy of the planet is not going to collapse. Children won’t suddenly drop dead from heart attacks. You’re not going to see human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.
What will happen is that grown adults, regardless of their body size, will make up their own mind about food and eating, and that will be ok.