A Big Fat Injustice: Examining the Lives and Treatment of Obese Persons

Hello, readers,

Sometimes, it happens that I simply run out of ideas for this blog or am not sure how to order a batch of new posts. The second issue came up this time. I’ve been wanting to write about the lives of obese people and how I think they should be improved, but wasn’t sure how to do so.

Sometimes though, you simply have to write what is in your mind and heart to write. And right now, I’m going to tell you that as a society we have a big problem–and it’s not poundage.

You may wonder why on earth I am examining this topic on a blog about persons with disabilities, especially when I have said many times that obesity is not a classical disability. The answer is simple: obesity is a disabling condition, and like people with classical disabilities, the obese population is regularly marginalized, misunderstood, and told to sit down, shut up, and take society’s crap. If your obesity is tied to a condition such as Prader-Willi Syndrome, you also have the headache of knowing it is not “curable.”

Think about it. Besides people with classical disabilities (CP, MS, autism, Down’s, and so forth), people who are obese remain one of the only groups against whom we feel comfortable discriminating. Again, in this politically correct world, we’d never admit to doing that. But how many times have you opened the health section of your paper or favorite news website and seen that somebody got kicked off a plane because they were “too fat to fly?” How many times do you go out in public and see obese people ignored, especially in restaurants and clothing stores? It’s as if the wait staff thinks, “Why do they need more food” or the clothing store staff thinks, “Do they seriously believe we have something in here that fits?” It’s hateful and hurtful, and there’s no excuse for it.

The negative attitude toward obesity doesn’t even have to be that obvious. One of my favorite fiction reads is by a lady named Laura Jensen Walker. It’s called Miss Invisible, about a woman named Fredericka who has been large her whole life. She describes the fact that she picks at food in public and never eats dessert because she knows other diners are staring at her and thinking or even saying, “No wonder she’s so fat–look at her eating that cheesecake.” I have never been an obese person, but as someone whose weight has yo-yoed for years, I can amen this situation, especially in my larger periods. I can feel very self-conscious eating certain foods in public, especially desserts and fried foods.

Fredericka also describes certain “fat girl rules” she has grown up with or embraced in order to make people look past her weight. For example, lean, never stand straight. Do not wear white pants. Do not sit in a conspicuous chair in public.

Sad, right? Actually, let’s take it one step further. Does that make you angry? It does for me, especially knowing that there are people who feel like this in real life. In fact, I’ve heard of obese or even slightly overweight people equating their looks with stupidity or laziness, often because others buy those stereotypes. I know too, because I’ve done it to the person in my own mirror. That’s often the hardest person to defeat, but you must make the effort in order to find inner satisfaction.

Now, am I saying it’s good to be obese? I will approach this gently–if you can do something about it, then for your own health and peace of mind, you should. But weight is never an excuse to ignore or mistreat another person, and some people can be in double-digit sizes and be perfectly healthy. What is right for you will be a combination of your own preferences, your doctor’s recommendations, and what makes you happy.

People with disabilities are often vulnerable to judgmental, unsympathetic people, but so are people without them. Anybody can be a target, but if your differences are visible from the outside, you may have more experience than most with this. It can happen whether you’re obese or too thin (we’ll deal with that in a post down the road). But again, you do not deserve to be a target. You are a beautiful person with a purpose. So go forth, enjoy your Thanksgiving leftovers, and encourage people of all kinds to join you at life’s table.

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