Well the Fatosphere has been alive this week with discussion on the rather awful piece by Jess Weiner in Glamour magazine where she claims that body acceptance (not quite sure why she chooses the word “body” when we all know she means the word “fat”) almost killed her.
I’m not really going to talk about why her article and attitudes towards FA, not when so many other people have done it already and probably better than I could. Check out these pieces by Ragen of Dances with Fat, Golda at Body Love Wellness, Marianne at The Rotund and on the Health at Every Size blog.
What I want to talk about in this context is Ms Weiner’s demonisation of diabetes, especially as using it as a death threat. In her article, she quotes her blood sugar levels pre-epiphany as 99 (and states that between 100 and 125 is pre-diabetic – which would make her 99 reading PRE-prediabetic – go figure!) and also quotes her doctor as saying:
“Jess,” she said, “your blood sugar numbers show me that you are almost in the prediabetic range. If you don’t lose some weight and watch your sugar intake, you will get diabetes.”
I have to say… this is a pretty bloody alarmist statement. Yes, Ms Weiner’s blood sugar levels were on the high side… OF NORMAL. We also don’t know if her doctor made a prognosis on anything more than Ms Weiner’s weight and current blood sugar levels. There’s no mention of Ms Weiner’s pre-epiphany eating habits or activity levels, but from the article one can surmise that she has been living a fairly active lifestyle already, and it is known she has a history of eating disorders. Is none of that a contributor to someone’s health?
This is all a prime example of just how easily fat people are given the prognosis of future diabetes, even when their blood sugar levels are in the normal range or they are active and eat well.
But let’s just say that Ms Weiner was on her way to diabetes, perhaps because she has a family history of type 2 diabetes, or for some other reason. The reason doesn’t matter. Let’s just say that diabetes was a known likely issue for her.
Why is body acceptance a threat to her life? Does body acceptance (let’s go back to calling it fat acceptance) encourage people to be sedentary in their lives? No. In fact quite the opposite, it urges people to live their lives to the full, to find activities and pursuits that they enjoy and make them feel good. Does fat acceptance encourage people to eat extreme levels of food with the purpose of gaining weight so that everyone is fat like us? Not at all, fat acceptance is all about loving the body you are in, and treating it well, while nourishing it with the food it needs. Most fat acceptance activists do not believe in changing ones body to change ones life, which includes gaining weight as much as it does losing it. Does fat acceptance discourage people from obtaining medical care from health professionals? Absolutely not! Again, quite the opposite. It encourages people to demand respectful, dignified health care that listens to the patient and works with the patient to find the best methods to encourage wellbeing in the patient, no matter what the circumstances of the patients life.
Something wants me to say to Jess Weiner – Fat/Body Acceptance… You’re doin’ it wrong!
And finally, as a diabetic myself, I get so royally fucking fed up with type 2 diabetes being used as some kind of moral measure of the population. The minute the word diabetes comes up in a conversation about bodies, people start gasping and clutching their pearls, and screaming “Won’t somebody think of the children!!??” While there are lots of us out there in the world who actually have type 2 diabetes, who are fed up with being used as some kind of cautionary tale for “bad” people who “let themselves get fat/unhealthy”.
The reality is, diabetes exists. It’s not fun, it is an illness that people suffer and if not managed, it can make your health decline rapidly and irreversibly. However, diabetes is not a death sentence. It’s not an indication that your life is over and that you have “failed”. Like any other chronic illness, it requires managing and some changes to your life to mitigate any problems that may arise. It is not an indicator of who is a lazy glutton (after all, lots of thin people and active people get Type 2 diabetes as well – I have several in my family alone) or who has “failed” to take care of their health.
Unlike Jess Weiner, I am not pre-pre-prediabetic, I actually HAVE been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and I’m fat. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to optimise my health as best I can within the circumstances of my life, nor does it mean that I have got myself this way by “loving my body”. It also doesn’t mean that I deserve to be demonised as what happens to lazy gluttons who are “bad people”.
It’s a complete “othering” of people who have a chronic illness and it’s disgusting that people do this.
To Ms Weiner and anyone else who wants to use diabetes to frighten people into dieting and following their “campaigns”, I send a hearty FUCK YOU!