Rant: Obese does not = Evil Monster

I remember the days long ago when I felt guilty for being fat.  So much so, that I also felt guilty when eating – no matter how much, how little or how healthy I was eating.  Being fat meant I didn’t “deserve” a lot of things, but most especially enjoying my food.  If it tasted good, I was sure that I wasn’t supposed to be eating it because I didn’t deserve the pleasure.

In fact, I didn’t deserve much.  I punished myself by withholding most pleasures, telling myself I didn’t deserve any of them until I reached goal weight.

I’m very thankful that I gave up those beliefs in my 20’s when I found “Fat Acceptance.”  A controversial movement, but I do credit it with teaching me not to waste my life with self hatred.  Being obese since age 5, and having  never reached my goal weight in all that time, I would have had a very miserable existence if I were still torturing myself for being overweight, and putting my life on hold until I was magically worthy when the scale hit an arbitrary number.

I vowed not to let obesity prevent me from doing anything it didn’t prevent me from doing.  I can’t run up a flight of stairs and I accept that, but there’s no reason to avoid swimming or bicycling just because I “look ridiculous” doing it.

I’m finding though that I’m having less and less patient with folks who believe that they are evil, disgusting, and worthless because they do not weight what they’d like.  It drives me craziest when the person has only a few pounds to lose (although anything under 50 lbs feels like “only a few” to me, but even if the person has 800 lbs to lose, I still find myself internally screaming when they bash on themselves.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that shame, guilt, and embarassment are always inappropriate, and it is natural to hold yourself to higher standards than you hold others, but when a person treats themselves more harshly than they would treat a violent criminal, something is seriously WRONG.

If guilt and self-punishment worked, maybe I’d have a different opinion.  Then again, the cost still has to be considered.  What are the consequences of hating yourself to a lower weight?  Will you recognize a healthy weight when you see it?  Will you be able to turn off the self-hatred switch or will it have become a habit that you find harder to break than overeating.

Replacing self-hatred and punishment of fat isn’t easy.  It’s the social norm – so much so that women with not an ounce of body fat to spare, often call themselves “disgusting” over imagined curves.   Magazines and other media criticise petite celebrities for “letting themselves go,” if so much as a dimple can be seen on their size-4 thigh.

Fat-bashing contributes more to the problem than it does to the solution, and we’ve got to find that solution.  Obesity is becoming in reality the evil that we’ve to this point only imagined it to be – but obesity is the vilain – not the obese person.   We can’t confuse fighting obesity with fighting the obese person.  And I think that’s the distinction we are failing to make.  Punishing a fat person (even if that person is ourselves) doesn’t do much to combat the obesity.  It often does the opposite, by making the person feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless.

Without hope, nothing gets accomplished or even attempted because “what’s the use, it won’t work out anyway.”  We end up creating in ourselves, the monster that we see.









2 Responses to “Rant: Obese does not = Evil Monster”

  1. Screaming Fat Girl Says:

    I think that I would separate the people who beat themselves up from the influences that cause them to beat themselves up. I have no patience for fat bashers. I have a lot of patience for people who are overweight and hate themselves for it. We’re absolutely inundated with messages that being fat makes you less worthwhile, and we’re treated in real life in a manner which constantly affirms that that is true. If you’re fat, you have a harder time getting a job, a mate, or even the attention and respect of others. After awhile, you can’t help but buy into the notion that being fat is loathsome and makes you less human.

    I don’t think that the fat bashing is going anywhere any time soon. Personally, it’s been a huge struggle to even see myself as “human” because I’ve been belittled and treated poorly for my entire life. It’s only the influence of my husband that has brought me as far as I’ve come. Even my own mother (who has always been obese) did her part in ripping apart my esteem and making me feel worthless.

  2. kaplods Says:

    I try to make that distinction, and am often successful, but what I find so frustrating, is that both types of fat-bashing are contributing to the larger social problem. While I sympathize with the self-bashing, it’s just as evil as other-bashing.

    In fact, I think the self-bashing is the larger contributor to the problem, because if a thin person bashes the obese, they’re at least sometimes perceived as a bully, but to a large degree society expects and encourages the self-bashing. A confident, self-accepting fat person is seen as an anti-social, subversive, perhaps even dangerous freak.

    My mother, and even to a degree my much more laid-back father similarly contributed to my conflicted feelings about what it means to be fat in this society. They couldn’t help but teach me what they’d been taught. On one hand, they helped nurture my confdence to see myself as an intelligent, capable person despite the weight (but it was always despite the weight, as if the good couldn’t be acknowledged without at least mentioning the bad).

    And on the other hand, the desperation with which they tried to change me, left me feeling inadequate no matter how or in what I excelled. The fat always nullifed every achievement.

    Fat–bashing isn’t going away, but I believe it has to be fought in all its forms. I don’t mean we have to bash those who bash themselves, that isn’t likely to be helpful in anyway. But it has to be fought, because not challenging does become condoning.

    My frustration lies in my inability to help others stop the self-bashing. It’s so entrenched in our society that when I criticise the self-bashing on forums like 3FC, many people jump to the defense of the self-bashing – fully believing that they found their disgust for themselves motivating.

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