A World Gone Mad
“Someone asked me yesterday what the one thing was that helped me in recovering from an eating disorder. I’d love to say it was something like love, kindness, or self-compassion. It wasn’t. It was outrage.”
My response: “Amen.”
I could so relate.
Back in 2002 when I was walking my own path of recovery I was enraged. All the hatred I had previously turned inward had found it's rightful target and it wasn't my thighs. I was furious with my college for not doing more to prevent and treat eating disorders. I was furious with irresponsible and shallow media outlets for continuing to celebrate thinness. I was furious at the dieting industry for getting away with what I honestly consider crimes against humanity. I was angry and I was going to do something about it. I spent my first year out of college working tirelessly on prevention and outreach efforts. I moved across the country to get my master’s degree knowing my life would be dedicated to righting these wrongs.
Today though, I find it hard to maintain that same fire I had all those years ago. It’s more a steady burn with occasional pyrotechnic explosions.
While I wish it wasn’t true, when injustices and ignorance are in the air we breathe it can be hard to avoid apathy sometimes.
In this moment as I write this I don’t feel apathetic. I feel like I’m living in a world gone mad.
While driving around town last week I listened to a radio interview with a non-verbal autistic woman named Sue Rubin. Sue was able to participate in the interview by typing her responses which her aide read aloud. When I tuned in the interviewer was explaining that some people believe we should not seek a cure for autism and instead embrace autistic people’s differences. Sue responded that people who feel that way tend to be verbal because if they were ‘trapped’ in their bodies, unable to speak, they would want a cure.
Then to close the interview this question was asked: “If there was a pill you could take tomorrow to get rid of your autism would you take it?”
Sue responded with “I would probably take a pill for weightloss first, but to answer your question yes.”
WHAT THE F*CK!
First of all, Sue is not fat, for what it's worth. Second, she is unable to speak and the first pill she’d want is for weightloss?!
I’m sorry but when being fat is considered so awful people would rather die years sooner or be completely blind than be considered obese something is very very wrong.
Last night I was watching an episode of (the admittedly mediocre) show The Blacklist in which a female character notices her male colleague is self-conscious about losing his hair. This is the their exchange:
Her: Guys don’t get it. Most women don’t care if you go bald. You’re sexy no matter what.
Him: I’m not going bald, I just have a high hairline.
Her: Just don’t get fat.
I do the New York Times Crossword puzzle. A recent clue was “A question best answered with ‘no’” the answer: “Do I look fat?”
When I say ignorance is in the air we breathe I mean it. This type of comment, one that perpetuates the myth that being fat means that you’re unattractive or undesirable, is so commonplace that most people hardly notice it. But I notice it. I see it. And it’s not okay.
Last year I learned of a study from a Princeton psychologist that revealed how poverty effects cognitive ability. The basic findings of the study are that poor people's brains are bogged down by thoughts of scarcity and attempts to find a way to provide for basic needs that they perform more poorly than wealthy people on intelligence tests. The researcher said, "In many instances, it's not that the poor aren't as smart or capable of planning compared as richer people, rather, being poor takes up more mental capacity."
Similarly so many of my clients have given up such enormous portions of their mental real estate to thoughts and behaviors rooted in fat phobia and shame that their capacities to simply live, think, engage, and serve are noticeably truncated.
I think this is one of the biggest misperceptions about commonplace fat shaming and fat humor: that it’s harmless.
It’s not harmless.
Every time we participate, actively or passively, in discrimination and prejudice of any kind we perpetuate the problem.
To be clear: it’s okay to be fat.
Fat people are just like smaller bodied people in every way. Some are lazy, some are not. Some are healthy, some are not. Some are more classically beautiful, some are beautiful in a different way. Some are kind, some are not. Body size does not determine a person’s worth or well being. Some of us are poodles, some of us are mastiffs:
Unfortunately in our society body size can and often does determine how you’ll be treated, perceived, and which opportunities will be available to you.
I may not be on fire or angry everyday, but today I am.
We're living in a world gone mad.