I wrote a paper last year for Cultural Politics of the Body (hell yes for interesting freshman writing seminars) on fat activism – which I didn’t even know existed before writing the paper. Because it always makes it more interesting to research and write about topics related to one’s life, I knew I wanted to write something related to body image and disordered eating. After learning more about and then delving into the topic of fat activism, I was hooked. And I had a paper as a natural lead in for conversations with people over dinner about my enthusiasm over my findings, which I could semi-disguise as academic interest when needed or wanted.
Now, however, although I’ve forgotten a lot of the specifics of the movement, I’ve explored my own relationship with my past, body and mind in the past year, and am ready to “come out” of the fat activist closet.
I am fat.
And sometimes I’m not, according to BMI standards (which are hogwash anyway – more about that later). I’m right at that cusp between “normal” and “overweight.” And no, by saying that I am fat I do not mean lazy, stupid, sad, pathetic, slothful, unhealthy, ugly, or a whole host of other adjectives that people commonly mean when they say fat. I mean that I am fat, as a purely physical descriptor.
I am also healthy and generally happy. (When I’m not happy, it has nothing to do with my weight, although, being somebody of this culture, I do sometimes still blame my emotions on my weight.) Is it possible to be fat and healthy? Yes, very much so. Does this statement bring up any sort of emotion in you? Take a breath, and examine what’s hit home for you.
I’m still trying to explore how to express my thoughts and feelings on the subject in a way that is productive towards my mission of promoting body acceptance and health for everybody and at least stimulating the lifelong unlearning of the fat = bad / thin = good brainwashing message. So let me know – what are your thoughts? Any ideas on how I can get across these points? I think it’s more of a live and bumble around trying to figure it out kind of deal, but in case anybody reading has any insight, please do share.
I wrote this post because a friend of mine who remembered my distate for the health industry’s support of our cultural bias towards thinness sent me an article about the recent Canadian study described in the New York Times article “Excess Pounds, but Not Too Many, May Lead to Longer Life.” This sounds pretty good to support me in my statement that my “extra” pounds are okay. HOWEVER, by digging a little deeper the news gets better for fat activists. Even the New York Times is part of our society, and shys away from telling the complete truth, as Junkfood Science, a great blog on “critcal examinations of studies and news on food, weight, health and healthcare that mainstream media misses,” describes:
“…The report, published online last week in the journal Obesity, found that overall, people who were overweight but not obese — defined as a body mass index of 25 to 29.9 — were actually less likely to die than people of normal weight, defined as a B.M.I. of 18.5 to 24.9…”
False. The study found obesity (BMIs 30-<35) were also less likely to die than people of a “normal” weight, and that the highest BMIs had statistically the same mortality risks as “normal” weight people.
“‘Overweight may not be the problem we thought it was,’ said Dr. David H. Feeny, a senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., and one of the authors of the study. ‘Overweight was protective.'”
So was obesity. The relative risks for mortality associated with the corrected BMIs were 25% to 16% lower among the overweight and obese (BMI 30-<35), respectively, compared to “normal weight.” And the risks associated with the most “morbidly obese” — the highest 3% of the population — were effectively the same as those with “normal” BMIs (18.5-<25).
I’ll definitely be writing more on the topic now that I’ve gotten the ball rolling on the blog, but that’s probably enough food for thought for tonight. (Unintended. ha. ha. I know.)