Curiosity got the better of me again, and I went out to try to investigate why the hell people are so fascinated by television shows about 600 lb humans.

I should know better than to do this. I always just end up wondering how people get into such goddamn stupid arguments.

Body image issues are always something I have to approach like an alien anthropologist. I have plenty of problems, but hating the mirror is not one of them. I ran into a picture of Mae West when I was maybe eleven or twelve and thought to myself, "I want to look like that when I grow up." And lo, for it came to pass. I am wasp-waisted and hourglassy. It's not necessarily the fashionable shape of the day, but neither does anyone complain at me about it. Nothing fits quite right when I buy it, but when your problem is "I always have to take the waist in several inches," you don't get a lot of sympathy.

Worrying about weight is especially weird to me. I don't normally know exactly what I weigh, mainly because I don't give a shit, but the urgent care stuck me on a scale so they could figure out my drug dosages. As of my trip to the clinic I was 131.8 lbs. (Just about bang on 60 kg, if you speak metric.) I've been about that, plus or minus maybe ten pounds, my entire adult life. I don't do anything about it, it just happens. American clothing sizes are so fucked you'd have better luck in some stores if you went through the rack blindfolded, but if we're pretending standard size charts bear any relation to the dimensions of our clothes, I've never been smaller than about a 4, or bigger than about an 8. I eat basically whatever, usually not quite enough of it, and then drop a multivitamin on top to ward off scurvy.

So all of this spot-reduction magic fat burner cleansing nonsense, and all of this radical political defense of having jiggly bits, have blown right past me at about equal velocities.

Having now gone out and read blogs by people on both sides of the shouting, I now wish they had passed me by as well.

Obesity is a statistically a risk factor for a bunch of stuff. Lots of things are risk factors. Some of those things are controllable. Some are not. You, a human with free will and full ownership of your own body, are still free to make the decision to take those controllable risks, once you know what they are. That is, as long as you give informed consent. As far as I can tell, the "fat acceptance" crowd is doing their damndest to make sure nobody is informed, and the "obesity epidemic" people are determined to make people change regardless of whether they consent.

The main issue I have with the FA movement is the same as the one I have with a lot of other social movements, which can be summed up as 'the average temperament of the people in it'. Because it's a movement that aims to eliminate injustices perpetrated on people by other people, it has attracted a disproportionate number of people who believe that everything wrong with their lives is an injustice perpetrated on them by other people. Psychologically, it's known as having an external locus of control. When this is your mindset, 'I'm having bad feelings' is isomorphic with 'other people are forcing me to feel bad', and facts fall by the wayside as you set about defending yourself from what you feel is perpetual attack.

I don't think it's fair to say this is representative of the reasons the fat acceptance movement began. From what I can find, it started as an offshoot of the feminist movement, with the general idea that fat people are still people and being dicks to them is just not on. I do unfortunately think, though, that it is fair to say that this mindless flailing is pretty representative of the experience most people have with the FA movement today, especially online where relative anonymity and the ease of finding yourself a nice little echo chamber to settle into make for vicious cliques. A lot of the loudest (self-appointed) spokespeople jam their fingers into their ears right up to the second knuckle when confronted with actual science. I absolutely agree that you are under no obligation to adhere to anybody's beauty standards, sit there and listen to anyone's crap advice on what you should look like or how to change your body mass, or to prioritize health, athleticism, or weight loss, but if your response to "statistically, you're at greater risk of these specific problems" is SOD OFF YOU DON'T KNOW MY LIFE I'M PERFECT, then there is something wrong.

I have a shitload of problems with the "obesity epidemic! RUN! SAVE YOURSELVES!" crowd as well. Science is not a bludgeon you can use to make everyone do what you say. That is no better than waving around your very recent English translation of your very old book of myths and demanding that everyone follow the moral code you have somehow mysteriously derived from it. You can tell people, "You're at greater risk of heart conditions!" but they are totally allowed to tell you to fuck off. It's their life. They don't have to care if they're courting health problems, if they worry you, or if they make your boner sad. They are allowed to decide they are okay eating more pie than they burn off with exercise. Shut up and stop trying to outlaw soda refills. It's not going to work. You might note that heroin didn't vanish as soon as it was made illegal, and you can't seriously try to stem the flow of food.

There is some sort of fundamental lack of empathy going on with people who insist that everyone has a duty to force themselves to a "healthy" weight. I don't know how people get to be 400 lbs any more than I know how people get to be religious -- there is obviously some sort of reward pathway in operation here that doesn't work that way for me. But I do know that hunger is incredibly stressful. I tried a generic form of that no-periods-ever birth control once that utterly broke my hunger cues. It wasn't that I wanted to eat more often, or wanted to eat more overall; it was that no matter what I ate, how much, or when, I was still just a little bit hungry. All the goddamn time. It drove me insane. I had to quit taking it, because that feeling of constantly being just a little bit hungry was so uncomfortable I had trouble sleeping. It doesn't matter where you start out on the scale; if someone's already hanging onto life by their fingernails, asking them to walk around just a little bit hungry 24/7 is not tenable.

Humans make me so damn tired sometimes.

Comments