Tuesday, August 21, 2007

And what's the point, anyway?

This whole you-can't-be-fat-and-fit, fat-is-always-unhealthy thing is really bugging me. Because really, what's the point?

The debate is beginning to remind me of my second-grade friend Linda Read, who had just learned in catechism that people like me--i.e., Jews--were going to burn in hell forever. And because she was my friend, she tried to convert me, of course, to spare me the suffering she knew was coming my way someday and forever.

Now let's say that guys like Walter Willett and Paul Raeburn (see previous post) are like my friend Linda. They really really believe that people like me--i.e., fat people--are going to health hell. Either we're going to get terrible diseases or we're just going to keel over at a tender age. (I once listened in astonishment to a neighbor talking about a certain fat actress on TV: "I can't even stand to watch her because I just know she's going to drop dead at any second!") So they set out to convert us.

But they know that it's not that simple. They know, for instance, that for most people dieting does not work, for a variety of reasons. Now here's where I really don't get it. Because you'd think the next tactic would be to encourage positive behaviors like fitness. Some fat people will lose weight that way; some won't. But we do know that being fit is a good thing no matter what your weight.

So why, then, do we get drivel like Raeburn's piece in Scientific American on how you can't be fat and fit?

Is the point to to shame us out of getting out there on our bikes and exercising? (I thought the photo at the front of that piece was exploitative.) Is the point to make us throw up our hands and say, "Well, no reason to bother exercising, since the only thing that counts is losing weight."

It feels so disingenuous. It feels like the point, such as it is, is fat bashing. So what if you're a triathlete--if you weigh 300 pounds then you can't possibly be healthy, so don't even bother.

And this bothers me far more than the other kind of health crusaders, the ones who are really like my friend Linda Read. Who worry for our fat souls, as it were, and want to save us.

These guys just want us to go to health hell already. And that makes me mad.


cynth said...

Like back in the second grade I get a "na na na na na " vibe when I read that article. You're right it is fat bashing.

They want to shame us into spending our life and money to become "like them". They could care less about the health of fatties, its how we "look" thats important to them.

aufderheide said...

Hi Harriet,

I feel your link of the article with your second grade experience hits an important point: that there is an underlying Puritanism/morality that colors our perceptions on deeply-felt issues like weight and health which are divided into rigid black and white categories of "good" and "bad." And yes indeed, heaven help you if you are "bad." I wonder when we, as a society, will learn to go beyond these categories and see people for the complex, interesting humans with potential that we are.

vesta44 said...

I think that what really pisses them off the most is that, while they think/know fat is bad/unhealthy/will kill you, we're not dropping dead like flies. We're living our lives, healthy and unhealthy, just like thin people. Some of us are dying young, just like thin people, and some of us are living to a ripe old age, just like thin people.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I see/hear anyone complaining about fat people walking around, or at the gym (where we're just piddling around and slowing things down for the buff crowd, you see, no fat person could possibly be getting an actual workout there), or dancing, or riding around on bikes, it totally gives the lie to the "unhealthy! unhealthy! diabetes! diabetes!" meme. Because people like that would totally rather we stay home and stuff our fat faces where they can't see us, rather than actually move around. I believe my mother cares about my health. I don't think some random stranger who doesn't know me really gives a damn if I'm "healthy" or not, and in fact, it would really piss them off no end if I had numbers proving that, apart from my weight, there is nothing wrong with me.

mary said...

I know Linda Read! She's everywhere and she's a bully. Sadly, she wasn't born this way. She was taught that her way was the only way and that those who are different are, well, they are different than her. And wrong according her and her friend Raeburn and others who are sure the world is sinking because of the weight of sinners, fat people, and those who think differently than them.
I am still saddened more than angry at them as they've lost the ability to see the beauty and good in ways they don't understand and they refuse to think about it. People who have this 'problem' come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. My neighbor who happens to be rather large let me know a few years back that we ( my family) were different than her. It was said in a bad way. Somehow I think she was the loser in that argument as we stepped away from her life and haven't looked back. It hurt but we remain different and that's the way it will always be to her. They don't want to save us, they want to separate themselves from us.
Hang in there Harriet. This promises to be a better day.

Harriet said...

Meowser, I think you're so right. They *would* rather we stay home and not be visible.

Mary, you tell 'em!