Aaron R. Davis
I was just reading this long rant on Tumblr, and in among the ridiculousness the author was spewing about people whose hardships he can’t imagine for one second was this bit about fat people and how fat people are doing it to themselves and making the choice to be fat and he honestly seemed upset and angry that it wasn’t socially acceptable to make fun of those people when that’s “what they chose.”
It was pretty fucking vile, I thought.
Look, it’s no secret that I’m pretty fucking overweight. If I didn’t know that, there are a long parade of anonymous commenters on Tumblr ready to remind me. And there’s always, you know, society and the media to remind me that I should be an object of ridicule because of the “choice” I’ve made to be fat.
But here’s the thing.
No one makes the conscious choice to be fat. No one aspires to be fat. We know it’s unhealthy. We know what it does to our bodies a hell of a lot better than someone who’s never been overweight a day in their lives. We know the pain, we know the risks and we know the health problems we have.
Calling it a “choice” is ignorant at best.
A lot of people, me included, have other problems that compound our weight problems. Some of us have emotional issues or anxiety disorders that make it very, very hard to lose weight.
I’m speaking for myself right now: I have four diagnosed mental disorders. Part of Generalized Anxiety Disorder is having a problem controlling your impulses. Agoraphobia is being afraid to go out into the open world. Part of Panic Disorder is being unable to control the intensity of your fear response, which in turn makes it hard to stop letting your immediate emotional responses irrationally control how you make decisions. Basically, for most of my life I’ve been making decisions out of fear, and it’s gotten so intense I’ve finally had to seek professional help.
Also, because of this I was on a drug for years of my life that were basically lost to a drug-induced numbness that robbed me of my motivation, and in that time period I gained 200 pounds. And I’ve been heavy all of my life, so it’s all unhealthy add-on to an unhealthy situation. Nevertheless, it took me years to gain this much weight, and as much work as I do now to take it off, it’s probably going to take just as much time (if not more) to take off as it did to put on. That’s just how the human body works.
I’m not saying any of this to abdicate personal responsibility in regards to my weight or my health. I’m actively trying to take control because I don’t want to die. But I am illustrating how my weight is not as simple as just choosing to let myself be this way.
It’s the most frustrating thing to know that I can expect when someone disagrees with me or gets mad at something I’ve said online, they’re just going to call me fat as a way to invalidate who I am and what my opinions are. And someone who doesn’t know what that feels like — to be called a fat cunt or a fat piece of shit simply because someone doesn’t like something you said — doesn’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to dismissing fat people as having chosen this problem. Who would choose that?
I’m only speaking to my own experience, which is all I can do. It’s all any of us can really do: speak from our own experience and listen and try to empathize with others. Only the ignorant and deluded claim that their experience is universal and that they know what the cause of everyone’s problem is despite never having had to deal with them.
Being fat, by the way, is very often a symptom of a larger issue, not the issue itself. It’s the same for people who are extremely underweight. But the response to underweight people is to be helpful, to guide them to seek professional help, to try and build their self-esteem and find the root problems to their unhealthy relationship with food. Fat people are ridiculed and treated as though they’re too stupid to know how to take care of themselves. Look, not everyone with an extreme weight problem in either direction has an eating disorder or psychological/emotional problems, but why is one direction sympathetic and another the subject of scorn? Telling an overweight person “work out more” or “eat less” is as insultingly simplistic as telling an underweight person “eat a burger.” We all get it: you don’t think we look normal for you to be comfortable, because the entire world is about you.
People are fat for a lot of reasons. Some people internalize ridicule as children and grow up genuinely believing they are worthless and it doesn’t matter what size they are because they believe no one could ever accept them or like them. Some people medicate themselves with food, either because it makes them feel in control or because it makes them feel anything at all. Some people have other health issues that affect their mobility. Some people have genetic disorders or a genetic propensity. And yeah, some people actually have slow metabolisms that play havoc with their diet.
But you know what no one has ever done? No one has ever woken up and thought to themselves “I think I’ll just be fat from now on” and let themselves go.
And hey, even if they have, you don’t get to decide for them that they’re worthy of ridicule or unworthy of basic respect and dignity just because of what their body is.
Sorry my existence is such a burden for you, and me not just accepting your derision without standing up for myself is such a fucking oppression.
But I forgive you, because if you’re saying something as stupid as “fat people chose to do this to themselves,” you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.