One of the things that I keep seeing mentioned in this whole fat pagan mess is that the people who are doing the fat shaming “mean well” and “have good intentions” and are just “worried about the health” of fatties. It’s a common theme wherever fat shaming rears its ugly head, that no matter how nasty the things they say are, we have to listen to them (top letter, warning: trolling and fat hate, that’s the troll gallery), and we have to acknowledge that they mean well.
The thing is, no we don’t. We don’t have to listen to them. They are not saying anything new, they are not saying anything we haven’t heard before, they are not saying anything useful, they often are not saying anything true or well-informed. And, frankly, since what they are saying is hateful and shaming, there is no need to acknowledge anything about what their intentions were.
I’m sure we’ve all heard by now that love is not a noun, it’s a verb. It’s a phrase that’s become cliched and overwrought, but it does have meaning. It means that love is in what you do, not how you feel. Another person can’t know what you’re feeling, they can only know what you do and say. So I love my fiancee by bringing her a glass of water, by cooking her dinner, by having flowers for her when I pick her up from work after a hard day, by snuggling with her and holding her, and simply by telling her, often, that I love her.
In the same way, hate is not a noun, it’s a verb. I can’t know what’s in people’s hearts and minds, I can only know what they say and do. And when someone threatens me with an early death because of my shape, that is speaking hate. When someone tells me I’m a bad pagan because of my weight or eating habits, that is speaking hate. When someone tells me I’m going to hell for being queer or pagan, that is speaking hate. It doesn’t matter why they do it — and many of them think that they’re doing it out of kindness — the actions itself expresses hate. It is harmful. It is damaging. It has the same effect as hate no matter how it is meant.
People really need to understand this. If it does harm, it doesn’t matter how you meant it, it still does that harm. And fat-shaming does harm, to people of every size, but especially to fatties.
Regardless of how concerned for our health people are, they do our health no good by telling us how bad our health must be, by definition, if we are fat. This would be true even if they were right about fat being bad for your health, but it is even more true because fat is not bad for your health. Being fat is correlated with certain other issues, but no causative relationship has been shown, which means that it’s just as likely that the genes for those issues tend to be associated with each other, that the other problems cause fat, or that some third thing causes both conditions. The correlation isn’t even as strong as people keep claiming it is. As more studies are done, the correlation shrinks, and the former apparent strength of the correlation appears to be due to confirmation bias: doctors were more likely to test for high blood pressure, cholesterol, etc, in fat people than in thin people, and as the testing becomes more common for thin people, the gap shrinks. Studies also show that the shorter life-expectancy for fatties people keep talking about doesn’t exist. Sure, if you have hypertension and high blood lipids, that will shorten your lifespan — but as soon as you control for that, fatties live as long as skinnies (and overweight and mildly obese people live longer), and even before then, the difference is small.
Not to mention the fact that study after study after study shows that weight loss doesn’t work for most people. Period. People can lose weight on a diet or with drugs or surgery, but 95% of people will regain all of it within 2-5 years, and two-thirds will gain back more. And the amount that most fat people can lose — about 10% of starting body weight — isn’t actually enough to make them thin. People keep trying it despite all this, and it keeps not working, and the fat-shamers come along and tell them that if they couldn’t keep the weight off, it’s their own fault, and now they better go back and do it again, or else they’ll die. (As if thin people don’t.) And the thing is, weight cycling has its own health risks, more significant ones than just being fat. (I do get tired of saying everything I just said in the past two paragraphs.)
You can tell fat-shamers this, show them all the studies and data going back to the 1940s, and they will stick their fingers in their ears and go LALALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU. I’ve even seen some of them say, ok, all of that is true, but it’s still really important to lose weight, so you have to try anyway. (Why weight loss is still important at that point, other than sheer bigotry and hate, I have no concept.)
This, to me, says that they don’t actually care about our health, if we show them studies that say that no, we’re quite reasonably healthy, and that attempting weight loss will make us less so, and they keep saying we’re not healthy and must lose weight anyway. If they really, genuinely, cared about our health, then faced with this mountain of information that they’re mistaken, they would stop, and indeed would advocate against reduction attempts. Very few of them do, though.
So. Why, exactly, should we listen to them for longer than it takes to identify what they’re saying as fat-shaming and fat-hate? And why should we give them brownie points for “meaning well”? Can someone explain that to me, using small words?