And when I recently attended an interview to be a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters, I was asked if I had any objection to mentoring a dirty and/or obese child. The woman asking, with her rushed speech and stiff posture, betrayed that she was uneasy about the question’s existence on the official questionnaire. But it wasn’t her asking the question that made me uneasy. Rather, it was that a lonesome child’s obesity (paired “naturally” with dirtiness) made a difference to enough to compassionate volunteers that it had become necessary to ask.However I feel about We Are the Real Deal in general and MamaV in particular, this guest post has made an impression. The situation described above is wrong on so many levels, I just don’t know where to start. The author of this piece, Kim Brittingham, went on to say:
The swelling trend of fat hatred in the United States makes me profoundly sad.
I’ve never been much of a political person. I’m pretty self-centered, generally. It’s usually enough for me to concentrate on my own life and making the most of it. And I don’t feel particularly oppressed by fat hatred on a daily basis. I have operated from a perspective of complicity for so long (I was an avid self-flagellating dieter for years and years, after all) that it’s hard to switch the script sometimes.
But you know what, it’s not OK . It’s not OK that every other news snippet is about the latest “new” weight loss technique, spouting all types of short term benefits without any disclaimer about the long term physical and emotional damage these diets – I mean “lifestyle changes” – leave in their wake. It’s not OK that my doctor automatically assumes I’m unhealthy because of my BMI and makes every visit about that, as opposed to things that can actually be diagnosed and dealt with. It’s not OK that I’m more familiar with actual clinical studies, most of which show no link between obesity and shorter life span, than the medical experts I interact with. In fact, these studies point to the aptly named Obesity Paradox). It’s a “paradox” because studies continually show that overweight and obese people live longer on average but people continue to cling to the “common knowledge” that obesity kills. How come I know all about this but get blank stares and condescending pats on the shoulder from people who should be in the know?
And it’s just not OK, not anymore. Kids involved in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program are in need. Those needs are no less for the obese child. It is not OK that they are made to feel diminished in any way whatsoever. The thought that our society is so messed up that a well meaning person would choose to specifically not work with a child because he is obese (or dirty, for that matter – that is ridiculous as well, just not the subject here) is unconscionable . Something has gone awry, folks. Obese people are not broken and in need of fixing. We are not contagious and something to avoid being around. We are not greedy and somehow unworthy of respect. Food and exercise are not a weapons or moral issues in any way nor are our bodies up for public discussion.
I’m hoping that my involvement in the Big Fat Lie Project, will help spread some new “common sense” about weight, health, and how the two are not necessarily conflated. How punishing ourselves through dieting or moving our bodies for the sole purpose of making ourselves somehow less instead of for the sheer JOY of it, is just plain wrong and counterproductive. We do not need to be starved and shamed into conformity and told that it's all for our own good. I hope to be a part of a shift that has to happen in our understanding and treatment of people like me, the obese, who are not headless fat people on the news, but real and complex individuals deserving of love, respect, and human kindness.