More than two years ago I posted about people who are disabled by their own fat and garnered quite a set of responses in the comments section. Thanks in large part to my efforts to draw attention to the matter scientists are finally on track to develop a fat vaccine, but let's take blast to the past and revisit fat from the year 2003.
As I start to write this, I'm not planning on making fat jokes, so if one creeps in, forgive me. I used to be overweight as a kid and a teenager, but I took control of my lifestyle when I was 18 and lost around 70 pounds over the course of a few years. I did it the old-fashioned way: by changing my diet, and by exercising. I don't have a lot of sympathy for fat people who act like they can't help being fat.
''This is one of the only groups where an employer could say, 'We don't want fat people,' and get away with it,'' said Massachusetts Representative Byron Rushing. ''Fat people are still targets. Professional comedians can still make fun of them, and fat jokes are still being passed around.'' ...
Protests by groups like the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance as well as a flurry of recent lawsuits have led to greater awareness of the problems the overweight face in the workplace. Some of the lawsuits seek to create new legal ground by arguing that obesity ought to be seen as an impairment under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
For the vast majority of fat people, their "disability" is not primarily physical: it's mental. The fat that hinders their activity is merely a symptom of their lack of self-discipline.
Yes, some people are biologically more inclined toward being fat than others -- so what? Some people are more likely to get addicted to alcohol than others, but when someone does become an alcoholic we still know it's their fault. Same with being fat. If your arm gets blown off by a terrorist, you're disabled. If you simply can't muster up the willpower to resist stuffing your face with creamy lard, you're just addicted to food. Also, comedians will make fun of you, because they're insensitive.
Unlike racial discrimination -- and even religious discrimination -- discrimination based on being fat is entirely within your control. It would be absurd to tell a black guy to lighten his skin (and it wouldn't gain him acceptance even if he did, *cough*Michael Jackson*cough*). But if people make fun of you for being fat, or for not knowing how to read, or for terrible body odor, or for having no sense of style... there's something you can do! Lose weight, get hooked on phonics, use deodorant, watch "Queer Eye".
Sixty-one percent of Americans are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Of those, the CDC says 35 percent are moderately overweight and 26 percent are obese. The findings, from a National Health and Nutrition Examination survey, sounded an alarm when they were released in 2000, but the hubbub did little to change poor perceptions of overweight people or spur the creation of new laws.
Maybe the problem here is that so many Americans are fat. Don't you all realize that the Europeans are making fun of you? There are only two options: bomb Europe, or lose some weight. I'm impartial.
Look, America, I understand that food is yummy. Sometimes I want to eat a whole truckload of cheesecake, and it's really hard to resist. But guess what? I don't eat it. Sometimes I feel like sitting around on the couch all day, eating Fritos and watching the Simpsons. But guess what? I marshal my mental faculties, throw off the lethargy that so easily besets me, and I go out for a walk, or a run, or I lift some big metal plates up over my head. It's takes about 30 minutes. Then I go back and lie on the couch, watch Simpsons, and eat fruit or something.
While there is little data available detailing the extent of size bias, Deidra Everett, secretary of the New England Chapter of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, believes there have been a few changes in society's view of the overweight. ''Society has changed its image a little when it comes to smaller large people [huh? maybe "small or large"],'' Everett said. ''It is more accepted now that a woman can be a size 12 through 18 and still be fit. Also, in the media, the whole extreme leanness [trend] is not as popular as it was six or seven years ago. So, the media is trying to show that curves can be OK.''
No one has a problem with luscious curves, the problem is when your whole body is just one single curve. This is commonly called a "sphere", and it doesn't count as an affirmative answer for when people ask you whether or not you're "in shape".
At most workplaces, she said, little has changed. Everett, who, at 36, weighs 460 pounds and is 5 feet 10 inches, knows firsthand. She said prospective employers have pursued her aggressively over the phone, and then suddenly changed their minds after meeting her. Stunned by her appearance, the recruiter will scan her body, pausing at the fattest part, and then look away.
''Eventually, they'll get back to your face and give you this nervous smile that says, 'Oh, dear!' They don't know where to look. They become flustered and there is not a lot of eye contact,'' she said. ''I can't understand how people can be so judgmental without knowing who I am. It makes you feel terrible.''
Yes, people are mean. Heck, I've been mean in this very essay. I'm an anti-fattite, I guess. Until the Museum of Tolerance adds that new fat wing they've been planning, I recommend that if you find yourself in situations where people can't even look at you without becoming flustered and uncomfortable, you're probably too fat.
You should consider that maybe the problem isn't the genetic predisposition of humans to use peer pressure to discourage harmful behavior -- maybe the problem is you. Give in to the peer pressure. The negative, "terrible", feelings you're experiencing may be for your own good.
I was never as fat as Deidra Everett, but I suffered social consequences when I was overweight. Which do you think helped more?
1. "Hey baby, yeah I'm fat, but you'd go out with me if you weren't so judgemental without knowing who I am. It makes me feel terrible. Help me advance fat acceptance."
2. Lose weight.
If you guessed #2, you're right. You can't control what other people think, but you can control how fat you are. Instead of wasting time making pro-fat organizations, go to the gym. Stop eating twinkies. As our corporate masters say, "Just Do It".