I Am NOT a Disease

Published June 19, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

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?

The inimitable Marilyn Wann has started a petition against this AMA ruling here.  Please sign.

*Edited because the figures I got from a study were incorrect – not that they change anything.  Let’s try to not kick me while I’m fucking down, OK?

25 comments on “I Am NOT a Disease

  • Oh Kath. It sure is a set back, but you won’t be defined by the ruling of the AMA, and the fight much continue. Of course we all get tired and weary and need to take a break and build ourselves up again. Kath you will rise to the fore in this matter and I will be there to cheer you on. hugs

  • I’m with you, Kath. I also worry… there’s increasing evidence that if there’s a “cause” of obesity, it may lie in epigenetics. Some experience or stressor that your parents had may have changed the expression of their genes in you. If that’s the case, if the “cause” is at least one generation removed, or maybe more, and with as low-quality as the research already is, we’ll never see the end of the flailing, pointless, accusatory studies that show how being fat is all. our. own. fault.


    Let’s take a few days to mourn. I know we’ll all buck up and get back on the horse eventually. But sometimes it just sucks.

    • You know O.C. – I honestly don’t care what “causes” fatness. All I care about is that all of us, regardless of size, weight, shape or appearance are treated with dignity and respect, and are allowed the agency over our own lives and bodies that is our right.

  • I guess I misunderstood what I read on my facebook page. I thought that it said that they say ‘obesity’ was NOT a disease, but, then, I guess I should know better than to expect common sense from anyone making so much money from demonizing fat. I signed the petition.

    I do believe that, as research has pretty much demonstrated, that body size is 75-80% genetic, but not in the sense that something is WRONG with our genes, or that we have a disease which is hereditary, but in the same sense that height, eye color, hair color, shape of features, etc., are genetic. We are very likely to look somewhat like & be built somewhat like some of our relatives. The problem is not our bodies but the culture around us which turns our bodies into something ‘bad’. They keep going from bad to worse & will not give up this war on fat people. I personally find the whole ‘obesity is a disease’ bullshit more than a bit ironic because, for nearly 64 years, I have been one of the healthiest people I know of any size & I knock on wood & am grateful for that & I understand that it is mostly genetics & dumb luck, just like the size of my fat body. We GET the same diseases that thin people get, but we are NOT a disease, a freak of nature, or an abomination. We do not need to be cured or eradicated. We need to be respected, accepted, & given the same rights, access, courtesy & decency as everyone else.

    • Patsy the AMA council for science and public health actually advised that they should NOT declare obesity a disease, but the AMA itself ignored that advice and did so anyway.

      And yes, this is an issue about human diversity, not disease.

  • The AMA was told that obesity is not a disease, but they went right ahead & declared it one anyway. Gotta love those assholes! Glad I got that misunderstanding cleared up. We wouldn’t want to think that the AMA ever mistakenly does anything right in regard to fat people. They can kiss my ‘diseased’ ass!!

    • Yup, as I mentioned in the post above Patsy, they ignored their own council for science and public health and ruled against them anyway. That tells you how much they care about science and public health.

  • Petition signed with a tart comment, to boot.

    I don’t need curing. I need respecting, dammit.

    Oh, and I know that many of my fellow ‘sufferers’ from this ‘disease’ aren’t going to be hounded to seek ‘treatment’ for it. Just imagine Tom Cruise’s doctor recommending bariatric surgery for him! Yeah, I think not, even though the charts call him obese, too.

  • I was going to write a smart, coherent comment about the hypocrisy of the average person’s views of the fat people in their life… But I got half way through writing it and stopped to calculate my BMI, because I know I’m medically classified as obese, but it’s been a while since I’ve had to cite the number to prove people’s assumptions wrong (I’m lucky enough that my family and friends jumped on the FA support wagon long ago) and I figured I might as well be accurate in my examples. So I typed in “BMI calculator” into google and clicked on the first result. The australia lite’n’easy calculator, which asks for height in cms and weight in kilos. According to their calculator my BMI is 71.8.

    I tried inputting various weights to see how much smaller I would have to be in order to classify as ‘healthy’ according to this calculator. Apparently I need to lose at least 40 kilos to get into the ‘healthy’ weight range. So I’d need to weigh around 80 kilos at most. Now, back in highschool I was visibly skinny – a tall size 10-12 in AU sizing, literally half the size I am now at a 20-22 – and I weighed 90 kilos. According to this calculator, I was obese in highschool. So according to the AMA I would have been suffering from obesity as a disease as a size 10 highschooler, since my BMI would have been 30.

    Now you could easily say that perhaps this is simply a defective calculator. It’s true, I tried another and my current BMI is apparently 36.6. But even with that one 90 kilo teenage me was still classed as ‘overweight’, just barely squeaking in under ‘obese’ at 28.1.

    How the fuck do people justify this bullshit as medicine?

  • Simple, Riley, it’s called money! And as long as people are seen as expendable because they don’t fit some damn standard and doctors throw the idea of “first, do no harm” right out the fucking window as soon as some corporate type waves a dollar bill in front of their greedy little faces, this kind of bullshit will continue! Reading this kind of thing makes me so damn mad, I want to punch something! Hell, I want to beat it to a pulp! (Starting with those damn self-righteous AMA people!) Don’t worry, Kath, we got your back. We need to up the ante and go on the fucking offensive! Quit waiting for them to finally decide that the way to end the “obesity epidemic” is to start taking fat people out of their fucking homes and shooting them! Sorry if I’m cussing a lot, but that kind of BS cannot be tolerated!

  • Anybody who thinks you are immune, or expects you not to have bad days, has to be a few marbles short, especially on a painful day like today. I have to say though, that even hurting like this, you still make such a huge difference when you share your inspiring words. Especially, what you just wrote about your/our beautiful big fat body/ies. It brought me the comfort I was seeking today, and many bittersweet tears. Where would so many of us be without your bravery and perseverance? Where would we be if you weren’t more often than not one of the fiercest allies all of us amazing fat people in the world could have? I hope you know how much your words help me through it all today and every day, and that I’m sure I speak for many when I say I am so thankful for you.

  • Just a quick comment, I will come back and respond to those of you published here all individually later. Any comments telling me not to be “silly” that the AMA isn’t declaring me personally a disease, will be sent straight to spam where they belong. The same goes for those suggesting that declaring “obesity” (which is a disgusting term) a disease is a good thing, or that it will be helpful for “making people better/getting treatment”. Anyone who believes this is perpetuating fat hate and stigmatisation. I don’t need to be “made better”. I don’t need “treatment”. I am perfectly fine and happy as I am. I am not a disease, nor do I suffer a disease of fatness. What I do suffer is the stigmatisation and hatred of fat from society in general, and the AMA’s ruling makes this worse.

    No argument will be entered into, I will just be banning anyone who pushes that agenda on sight.

    Clear enough for you?

  • This has really thrown me for a loop too. I think it made me realize that I need a vacation in a nice secluded spot in the mountains, away from the media and all this fat-phobic AMA BS.

    Kath, you’re an amazing woman! Your blog has inspired me and helped me change my life for the better. I’m sorry that you’re having one of those really hard days. Right now it feels like a giant hammer of “fuck you fatties” have landed on all our heads. I know that in a couple weeks we will all feel better once most of this hoopla around the AMA’s idiotic decision has died down a bit. For now, though, my heart, my thoughts, and my prayers are with you and all the wonderful Fat Activists who have felt this blow much harder than those who aren’t so invested in helping to make this world a better place for those of us who don’t fit into the mold of “normal sized”.

    This AMA move has really felt like a hard blow, something I wish my family and fiance would/could understand. I can’t get them to understand why this has infuriated and frightened me so much.

    “We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” ~ Marie Curie

    YOU, my dear Kath, are gifted in helping to turn the tide of self hatred, fat hatred, and fat phobia, in many of our lives. Your work in Fat Activism helps so many people. I hope you realize how much it means to have you here in our corner!

    You are only human, you have bad days, weeks, even months, just like the rest of us. And if someone doesn’t understand that, screw ’em.

    I love you, Kath! How can I not love such an amazing woman who has helped changed my life so much – and all without even having met me! heheh You rock, sister!

  • Hi there, I have never commented before but I have read your blog for a while and I have learned so much! Just want to say thank you for all that you do, you are definitely making the world a better place for all people. The AMA thing is horrible. Sending virtual hugs.

  • I don’t comment much, and frankly when I do, it’s to be a ham (yep, fat ham alert) but I just want to say keep your chin up. You are obviously a very special and strong person.

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