One of the things about being a highly visible, deeply combative fat activist is that everyone seems to think you’re made of steel. That you are so strong and confident, that nothing ever hurts you or makes you feel bad. Nobody believes that you have bad days, that there are times where the fight just goes out of you and you can’t face another moment of trying to claw your way out of the hatred and stigma that surrounds fat people.
But that’s not true. It’s not true in the slightest. Even the most radical fatty, the most sartorially brave, the fiercest fighter, the strongest critic of the dominant paradigm around fatness struggles. Every single one of us have those times where we just run out of oomph.
I am having one of those days today, and have been really struggling all afternoon. You see, the American Medical Association today declared obesity as a disease despite a report from their own council on science and public health urging them not to. According to the AMA, we fat people are no longer just people, we are diseased, defective, damaged, broken. We are officially diseases to be cured, prevented, eradicated. And this news has shaken me to the core. I simply feel so defeated right now, like all the work that I and many other fat activists have done, and are doing to claw back our rights and improve our quality of life has just been taken away from us.
Rationally, I know why the AMA has made this ruling. They’ve done so because big pharmaceutical companies, the weight loss industry and big health insurance companies, have lobbied, threatened, bullied and bribed them to do so. Rationally I know that the reason these big corporations have done this is because it’s in their best interest financially to do so. After all, they’re raking in HUGE amounts of money by convincing society in general that appearance = health, and that if you don’t meet the arbitrary levels of appearance that you must be sick, and surprise surprise, they have a drug, or a surgery, or a device, or a diet plan or an extra expensive health insurance plan to sell you to fix it. The weight loss industry alone was worth almost $800 million just here in Australia. Can you imagine what could be done for $800 million per year in this country? We could all have completely free health care for every Australian, more than we would ever need. People with disabilities could have all of the equipment that they would ever need, and any support and care they would ever need. No human being in Australia would go without food, water or housing. Education would be free for our whole lives, from kindergarten through any university studies that we would care to take on. Medical research into every known actual disease, from the common cold to cancer could be funded fully.
All this just from the money that the diet and weight loss industry is worth in a single year, and there would be change. In fact, if we only took their profit margin for ONE year, approximately $63 million dollars, and applied that to public funding annually – we could fund a lot of the things I’ve listed above. And that’s just here in Australia, a country of only about 22 million people. In the US, the weight loss industry is worth 66 BILLION DOLLARS. Let alone the cumulative value of the rest of the world’s weight loss industries.
There is NO WAY ON EARTH that the weight loss industry is not behind this ruling from the AMA. They have $66 billion dollars worth of power per annum in the US alone. $66 billion dollars they can spend on lobbying, propaganda, graft, legal threats to anyone who opposes them, you name it to make sure the ruling falls the way they want it to.
Rationally I know this. I know the facts. I’ve done years of my own research into this because what I was being told about my fat body wasn’t matching up to reality.
But despite that knowledge… I feel so defeated today. I feel so disheartened. I feel so cheated. I feel like I’m being marked as inferior, defective, broken. Simply because my body happens to fall on the far end of a bell curve of diverse human bodies. Simply because my body doesn’t fall in the small peak of the bell curve, the median of human bodies, a tiny arbitrary band of people who are granted the “normal” status just because they’re in the middle statistically.
But being at one end of the statistics doesn’t reflect who I am. It doesn’t reflect how I feel. It doesn’t reflect what my body can do. It doesn’t reflect my value as a human being. The AMA doesn’t know what it feels like to exist in my fat body. They don’t know what it’s like in my body to wake up after a deep sleep, stretch and feel that stretch go down to my toes and up to my outstretched fingertips. They don’t know what it feels like in my body to go swimming, feeling the cool water soft and cocooning around my body, and the wonderful sleepy feeling I get afterwards. They don’t know what it feels like in my body to walk along the waterfront near my house on a windy but crystal clear winters day, with the sun warming my back as the wind nips my nose and fingertips. They don’t know what it feels like in my body to laugh with my friends, my belly rocking, tears rolling down my face and my ribs hurting from giggling so hard. They don’t know anything about what it feels like in my body. All they know is that I am at the far end of a bell curve, and that someone out there can make money from making me hate myself and by encouraging society to hate me, and to repeatedly attempt to move myself to another point on the statistical bell curve, something we scientifically know fails for 95% of all attempts. And with that they have marked me, and people like me, as diseased, defective, broken.
The only time I feel diseased, defective, broken is when society repeatedly pushes me down because of how I look and what numbers show up on a scale when I step on it. I don’t feel those things unless I am taught to feel them. Not even when I actually suffer illness or injury.
How is simply declaring me as diseased based on statistics, and despite how I feel or the quality of my life, good for my health?
How is that good for anyone’s health?