I cannot take credit for this master work of words. Tis the wordsmithing of my dear friend HMC or in other words RebelPants. Read and Learn people.
So the other day, I’m on the bus, carrying my groceries in bulging reuseable bags, when a bleary-eyed woman reeking of cheap booze and sporting a look that can only be described as “Wrath of God” wheezed into my face “Hey, lemme ask you somethin’…Do you carry all of that shit to the gym with you?
You know, do you ever work out when you buy all that stuff?” Because this was not the first time someone had approached me in this fashion (and because I am woefully indoctrinated by my Kansas upbringing that will not allow me to tell people who sorely deserve it to “Kiss My Fat Ass” – because *that* would be rude…)I levelled her with my steeliest glare and said ” I am going to try to reserve judgement on you and hope that it will teach you to do the same.” She looked stunned, as if I had just, I don’t know, implied I was going to fist her mother, and whimpered ” I don’t know what YOUR problem is. I’m a NICE person!…I just think you could stand to loose a few pounds..that you should exercise or somethin’.”
Now, before you dismiss this as a ” woe is me, everyone is so mean, and it’s not fair, I’m just big boned” rant, let me state a few things. A)I am fat. Full stop. No excuses, no apologies. B)My reusable grocery bags were bulging because I was going to a picnic the following night and had agreed to bring food for my portion of the tickets…including bulk items like soda, and fruit ( carrots weigh more than Twinkies) C ) she may have noticed the package of Krispy Kreme donuts at the top of the bag and felt entitled to make an intervention ( which she *should* have…not because I am obese, but because no matter what they say on the box, microwaving them for 9 seconds does *not* replicate in any way shape or form the manna from heaven that is a fresh from the oil and sugar bath Krispy Kreme…if the HOT light isn’t on, it just isn’t worth it.) D) I eat the recommended #of calories for the bodyweight I would like to acheive, and walk on average 2-5 miles per day ( NOT at a gym!) Finally,E ) – and this is an important one – It is none of her damn business what I eat, where I eat it, or in what quantity. None. Period. Fin.
We have a real problem with that last one. “We have an obesity epidemic!”headlines shout. We are the fattest nation ever! It is costing us all millions in health claims, and extra gas charges to lift your fat assess into aerospace! That’s the *real* cause of the energy crisis, all the fuel guzzled by the army of scooters fat people ride at Wal-Mart…If we eat Twinkies, the terrorists win! ( ok, that last one *might* be true…does any non-stoner over the age of 18 actually eat those things? Could you explain to me why, when there is perfectly good Pain au Chocolat and Baklava to be had?)
Let’s talk about those “costs”. Obesity is sort of like that list of side effects on a medicine bottle – if one person had it, they have to report it. Obesity is linked to any and everything…when you die, if you are more than 20 lbs overweight, obesity is going to be listed as a cause. Meaning, if you drank a fifth of Jack every day, chainsmoked, did coke lines off the stomach of syph-filled underage hookers, and fell off Trump Tower, obesity would still be listed as “potential cause of death”. (Because, as we all know, FAT makes you STUPID, which is what leads you to do stuff like that.)
And stop whining about things that don’t directly benefit you driving up the cost of things…that is the way the whole system works. It’s part of being American. We all pay for one another’s choices, and resent the hell out of it until we need it ourselves, ( then we feel entitled). I have paid for health insurance my entire adult life. I have taken (over more than a decade) perhaps 20 sick days total, and had fewer prescriptions…none of which were weight – related. The hundreds of thousands of insurance dollars used by the average family of 4 likely outweigh whatever alleged increases I have contributed due to my poundage. Does that mean I am anti-family? Of course not. I am saying that families occur naturally, are medically preventable, and are a lifestyle choice that does not (at the present) benefit me, but I pay into everyday. So part of why you can go get little Billy patched up for a $15 co-pay is because some fat girl somewhere is paying her premiums, but doesn’t make time for annual visits because whenver she has an earache, her GP wants to talk to her about lap-band proceedures. You’re welcome.
And airlines – “I paid for a seat, I should get a whole seat! I was positively *squashed* for over 3 hours by the fat person next to me and I was scarred for life!” United is following Southwests’ lead and charging double for large passengers who ” can’t use the regular seatbelt” ( I wonder how hugely pregnant 2nd trimester women will feel about that rule?) citing the number of complaints they’d had in the past year about “Outsized” passengers. I wonder what percentange of their overall complaints that amounted to, because air travel these days sucks, and I don’t see enough of us obese people on the planes to be the true tipping point.
The last flight I took was in January. I was iriritated because I’d stood in line for a half hour to be told at the desk my flight was routed thru another carrier, and I would have to change terminals and repeat the waiting process. I was irritated because my 6 am flight was cancelled, and I spent over 4 hours, ferrying back and forth between 3 gates ( at opposing ends of the terminal), getting bumped on flights by people who had overslept and *missed* their flight, but had membership status that ranked above me. I was irritated by large adolescent tour groups, people with carryons the size of small children, and airline clerks who kept telling me “I’m really very sorry….good luck!” (as if I’d bought a lotto ticket, not airfare). In short, I hated EVERYONE, and it didn’t matter what size they were. My primary annoyances that flight were the aforementioned tour group (who delayed us over 20 minutes making sure everyone was there, and that no minors were sat in exit rows), and the chaperone who immediately cranked her non-plus sized body into the reclining position so she spent 3 hours watching reruns of ” The New Adventures of Old Christine” from my lap.
Point? I was uncomfortable. Not because I am overweight, or because I was being crushed by Jabba the Hut, but because flying coach is uncomfortable. I am sure I would have been able to better relax if I only had to share an Airbus with me and my 10 closest friends, but I would likely be less comfortable with the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would cost me, so I deal with the fact that being of standard economic class means I have to share as nicely as possible in sardine like conditions.
Sidenote: I love to fly, and have mostly had very pleasant experiences…Including several kind people who have lifted the arm rest, taken the outside seat, shared the middle laptray all without my request, in gestures of camraderie. When I travel, I take every precaution to stay out of everyone’s way, and if anyone is uncomfortable in their seat it is *me*. You know what is more likely to ruin your ride? The guy who sits as if he has huevos the size of bowling balls and rides broncos all day. Or the one who carries 2/3 of his body weight above his waist, so his tiny butt fits in in the 17 inch seat, but his linebacker shoulders and pile driving arms take both armrests and half a seat on either side. Or the teeny woman in stilletos who arrives 30 seconds before the plane departs, and shoves her non-regulation designer luggage in on top of every other soft- sided bag in the compartment, ignoring the crunch as she shuts the door.
But the purpose of this rant is not to indict the airlines, or pregnant women, but to basically say that it is time to put aside these circular, hugely flawed, inflammatory but ineffective arguments about fat, and have a calm, rational, adult discussion about health. Which means both sides of the argument will find things that are hard to swallow. (pardon the pun)
Fellow fat people: Some of you have medical conditions, degenerative joint disease, lupus, etc that contributes to your weight gain. But most of us, myself included, are fat because of a simple fact – we like to eat, and we don’t like to exercise. Period. Now, I have tons of thin friends that equally love to eat, and don’t like to sweat…we go out for the same delicious dinners at little known thai, mexican, and sushi spots, stuff ourselves silly, and waddle off to watch reruns of Blackadder or House,MD.. But when *they* do it, for whatever reason, they don’t gain weight, and I just put on 2 pounds typing this. Is that unfair? Yes. But so is the fact that I have a flawless complexion and naturally curly hair that looks good straight out of bed. We all have our tribulations…mine is that I have to pay closer than average attention to what I eat, and exercise 60-90 minutes every day.
Fat health advocates – is it possible to be healthy AND overweight? Yes! You can have good vitals, eat well, exercise daily and still be overweight…BUT, that is not the case for most of us, and we are not doing ourselves any favors by pretending this is so. Most of us simply need to burn more calories than we eat. Whether those calories are in boneless skinless chicken breasts, or cheeseburgers. And, when we do things that are good for our overall health (like eat whole grains and walk 30 minutes a day…NOT go on a cayenne pepper lemonade fasts and take up smoking) a pleasant side effect is, we tend to lose weight.
And thin people: Here is a partial list of what being thin does NOT make you:
Smarter, prettier, better, more virtuous, honest, brave, sexy, healthy, worthy of love, wealth and happiness, better in bed, entitled, valuable, beautiful, chic, better parents, stronger, God’s chosen… it will not give you clear skin and multiple orgasms…it will not make your whites whiter, your coat shiny, and your breath smell like Chanel #5 …
Here’s a complete list of what being thin makes you:
And that’s ALL it makes you. Simply thin. Just another descriptive word, like tall, blonde, hairy, Jewish, Bisexual. It is just what you are. It doesn’t entitle you to anything, it doesn’t protect you from anything, it is not a magic wand. I know what the ads say, but they LIE. To the tune of several billion dollars a year. (Because, well, if you were happy with yourself the way you are you wouldn’t buy half the shit you do. Insecurity and entitlement are great for the economy.) If you are thin, and an a_hole, you will still be an a_hole. And we will still hate you for it. (Not, mind you, because we are jealous of your thinness, we’re just pissed you’re such an a_hole…) Being thin entitles you to smaller pants, not a bigger life.
It was a shock to me to realize a few years ago that my “classically pretty” ( read: thin, blonde, under 5’6″) friends were living lives pretty similar to mine. They loved/hated their jobs/ parents/ boobs. They got hit on by entirely unsuitable men who called them fat, crazy bitches when they got rejected. They got bored in their relationships, had unsatisfactory sex, and their hearts broken – being thinner than me didn’t protect them from any of that. The girl I talk to the most about fashion is a co-worker who is 5’4″ and weighs 95 lbs. We are at opposite ends of the clothing spectrum – I can only shop at Lane Bryant, she can only find jeans to fit at Gap Kids. But we both are familiar with the struggle to find fashionable, functional clothes in a world that says that Women like us don’t exist, and design as if we are pre-pubescent or post-menopausal. Also, we are both equally appalled by the current trend of throwing large waist-cinching belts over everything ( SERIOUSLY, you’re not hiding anything…just stop.)
The truth about our diet is that most of us in this country, fat or thin, have an unhealthy relationship with it. We have no idea what the hell we are doing, and it is affecting us, and our children. We watch tv shows where it is perfectly alright for the heroine to drown her sorrows in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s because in real life, the actress has been on The Zone diet for the past, oh, DECADE, has a personal trainer, and secret cosmetic surgeries. I have friends who keep packing chips and snack cakes into their kids lunches, even tho they come back home everyday unopened, because when they were kids, those things were precious conmodities that only the rich kids had, and in some recess of their brain, providing a better life for their kids = unlimited Pringles, whether they want them or not. Snack Packs have become the new Piano Lessons.
We have to change the way we think about Health in this country, and by change, I mean we have to start thinking about it. Even as our headlines scream obesity panic, we still behave in the same shame/blame cycles that lead us into more panicky consumption.
We have to teach our children that exercise is not what you do to keep from becoming fat, or punishment for being fat,or has anything at all to do with being fat. Exercise is what you do every day to be a healthy person, just like brushing your teeth or bathing. We don’t tell kids to brush only once their teeth start to hurt, or bathe when the lice hatch. Nor do we tell them that good oral hygeine makes them closer to God, and that showering is good stress management. It’s just part of maintaining a healthy body. No judgement, just fact.
We also have to lead by healthy example. I was dieting ( when am I not?) around the winter holidays, and visited two different families…I was worried that I would undo all my hard work of eating pre-packaged meals by eating off the grid for two weeks. At both homes I was served an abundance of insanely delicious food. At the first home (vegan) we tended to graze all day – ate when hungry, stopped when full, on a variety of things that were mostly thrown together on impulse. We walked (and danced, and played in the surf) much. At the other home, I was served lovingly prepared 4 star meals ( many of which contained bacon,butter, cheese and – lord preserve us! Real cream) which we sat down and enjoyed thoroughly. We did not eat again until the next astonishingly good meal. We also walked all over creation including from Capital Hill back to Arlington after standing for 6 hours at the Inauguration. I finished both trips a few pounds lighter and with a lot of food for thought. Both families walked (and biked, and swam, and danced) not because they want to “win the war on obesity” but because it’s a normal, healthy way to move thru the world. They both ate leafy greens and cake for the same reason – because they are delicious. It wasn’t any more complicated than that.
Personally, I think we would all be a little better off if we adopted that style of living.If instead of focusing our rage at plus-sized people in line at the airport, or McDonald’s, we were angry about the decrease of phys ed, intramurals and arts programs in our schools, that ketchup now counts as a “vegetable”, that there are millions of kids being raised in communities where there are more liquor stores and convenience stores than markets, where broccoli (if it can be found) costs 3 times what ramen and sugary cereals do, where milk is $5 a gallon, but a 2 liter of coke is $.99…where there are few public parks, and none of them are safe to play in at any time of day, and parents are too tired from working multiple jobs to navigate all of those communal strikes against them and go play for an hour. We must stop seeing health as something only rail thin people with designer outfits and gym memberships are worthy of, and recognize that in a healthy society, we are going to grow up and not snicker or snarl when there are fat people on “our” beaches, bike paths and yoga mats. ( Walking is excellent exercise, and only requires a good pair of shoes. Yoga is equally free, free-ing, portable and potent. And I, like a lot of fat folks, am WAY bendy!)
Finally, we must stop seeing thinness as an intergral part of health, and instead see it as what it is – a possible side effect of healthier choices that all citizens are entitled to. Both sides of the argument will have to acknowledged the truths of the other before real progress can be made. And unfortunately, it’s focusing on these fanatically untrue statements ( and ingoring that which is simple and true) that conributes to the rise in obesity…
If we can separate Health from the word Fat, we can see it as something that is attainable, and that all people are worthy of. Further, the more that we see good health as something we all deserve and are entitled to, it is more likely that we will become a more physically fit nation, because we won’t be waiting until we lose weight to take a dance class, go for a walk, take a midnight swim… ( or yes, if you must, JOIN A GYM) We could all just be active and equal participants in life, without fear of recrimination from people who believe, falsely, that a healthy life is reseved only for the thin, and that health is a reward for being thin, rather than veiwing thinness as what it is: a sometime side-effect of a healthy life.