one woman’s story about fat discrimination and a plea for kindness
Recently, a friend of mine, Kath, appeared in an article in the June issue of the Australian Women’s Weekly.
I remember her talking about it when it was happening and how excited she was. I even got to see a sneak peek photograph of the shoot and it looked AMAZING.
It is a largely positive article, on an always controversial topic: ‘obesity’, the issue of ‘fault’, and how society treats fat people.
Kath has been taunted for being fat all her life. According to the article she has spent the past forty years feeling like
the most worthless person on the planet (84).
She has attempted to kill herself more than once. She’s been on countless diets and exercise programs. And yet, some people will still say horrible stuff about her, tell her she deserves it, and even tell her that she should have gone through with her suicide attempts.
How do these sorts of comments help people? How is telling someone to KILL THEMSELVES helping them? How is cruelty anything but detrimental?
If you say a person is worthless, obviously, they are going to FEEL worthless and begin to not care about themselves. And Kath didn’t.
The Australian Women’s Weekly quotes statistics that:
between 2010-11, Australians spent $789.6 million on weight-loss programs, low-calorie products, dietary supplements, low-fat cookbooks and even surgery (87).
If weight-loss was as simple as going on a diet, or even eating ‘right’ and exercising (providing you’ve got constant access to fresh food, money, are not disabled), wouldn’t everyone in the world be fit and toned? If it is as simple as calories in and out, why is the diet industry so huge?
Because it isn’t as simple as that.
Experts are beginning to learn, losing weight and keeping it off is far more difficult. It requires not only relentless discipline, but an almost unwinnable fight against our own bodies (87).
Genetics, predisposition, hormones, mental health, physical health, society, sexism, patriarchy, it all plays a part in how our bodies are treated and how they will look. Fat people face immeasurable discrimination, in jobs, in life, in love. And the people committing the discrimination feel justified in doing it. Kath spoke about a doctor’s visit after she banged her knee on a bike ride:
She said, ‘You need to do some exercise’ and I told her I was riding my bike. She wouldn’t even examine my knee, all she heard was, ‘Fat, fat, fat fat.’(88).
However, fat acceptance and all body acceptance has helped Kath to brush the dirt slung at her off her shoulders and she’s happier for it.
People still make those comments, but what I’ve realised is that other people’s crappy behaviour is not my burden to carry. It doesn’t measure my worth. I still get shocked [by those comments] and, of course, it still hurts, but I’m not going to let anyone else stop me from living my life. (90).
Nor should she.
I’ve spoken before about how shaming people doesn’t work. When I was shamed for my body, I was more likely to binge eat, more likely to not even bother exercising or alternatively, punish myself with exercise. My mental health was horrible.
Once I began examining the fat acceptance movement myself, I started feeling better about myself. I started loving myself. I stopped binge eating. I started exercising for enjoyment and the sheer pleasure of moving my body the way it wanted to be moved. I began recognising the reasons why I was treating my body like an enemy and started treating it like a friend.
I think we all need to practice a little kindness towards each other and ourselves. No one deserves to be treated like they’re worthless or they don’t matter.