I haven’t dressed up for Halloween for years but I know the perfect costume to strike fear into the hearts of almost every woman and girl across the country. (and you’ll never guess what it is…)
No, it’s not an internet stalker
No, it’s not a dead Ryan Gosling
No, it’s not the last sale EVER at Nordstrom’s (although that would be really scary)
I would dress up as fat.
Not a fat person but a representation of fat. Think this is silly and not scary? Think again.
Did you know, research shows that 81% of ten-year-old girls are scared of being fat (which is a higher percentage than 10-year-olds scared of their parents divorcing), 40% of 10-year-old girls have tried to lose weight, 1 in 6 women would rather be blind than be categorized as obese, 91% of all women diet because they are unhappy with the bodies and 54% of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat?
Look around at our country and our society and the reason for these outrageous statistics is unfortunately obvious.
We live in a country that fears fat (and celebrates the thin) just as much as it fears terrorists. In fact if you live in the United States you most likely fall into one of these two categories:
1. Fat and ashamed and embarrassed about your size – also scared to death you will die an early death
2. Not fat but scared to death of becoming fat because everyone would think you are lazy, unhealthy, a slob and just not as “good” or attractive as someone that is thinner. You fear your fat would cause you to lose friends, never get married (or end up divorced) and be alone for the rest of your life.
(Yep – I said it)
Obesity is labeled as an “epidemic”. Even the formal surgeon general called obesity “the terror within, a threat that is every bit as real to America as weapons of mass destruction.” (over dramatic much?).
I bet if you consider yourself as fat right now, you imagine your day-to-day life would be so much better if you lived in a thin body. Right?
Unfortunately it’s true. I used to argue against this but the more and more weight bias I see in my daily life as well as in the media, the more I can say with certainty that yes, living in a fat body in America is one of the scariest things a woman can ever endure.
And this needs to change.
Prejudice and bias toward fat people is everywhere. Fatter individuals deal with disrespect in public, especially clothing shops and restaurants, and stigmatizing stereotypes in the media. Research also shows that fatter individuals deal with discrimination in employment and lower quality health care as well as a healthy amount of biased attitudes from health care practitioners. In fact weight discrimination is so prevalent and so insidious it now equals or exceeds discrimination based on race and gender.
What can we do to change this?
The first step is take the negative power away from the word fat. Not long ago Jennifer Lawrence said she wished that the word fat was removed from our vocabulary and at that time I agreed with her. However, I have come to realize that doing this would only perpetuate the negativity surrounding this simple yet powerful adjective.
The word fat has every right to remain in our vocabulary just like people who are fat have every right to exist and be respected in our culture. It’s not the word we need to eradicate but the negative and shameful stigma that surrounds it.
I have spent years telling my clients “you are not fat” when they complain about their size and weight and just recently I have decided to make a change. I really don’t care if they think of themselves as fat or thin, all I care about is how they feel inside their body. The truth is, you can feel amazing at any size, it all begins with how you choose to see yourself, who you choose to listen to, who you allow yourself to be influenced by and how you choose to feel about your current situation; are you a victim or a fighter? Being fat is a hell of a lot more difficult than being thin in our society and I seriously admire those in larger bodies that don’t allow the haters to bring them down. Fat or thin, we’re all blessed with the ability to make choices about our life and about how we want to feel. Choosing to see our body, as something that is a miracle and something to be grateful for is never a bad choice no matter how big or small you happen to be.
The second step is to understand the facts about the “Obesity Epidemic”.
My favorite explanation for almost anything is “follow the money”. This unfortunately holds true for the hundreds of studies, government agencies and health care systems that love inducing the fear of fat into everyone and anyone. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) publicized in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) that “more than 400,000 Americans die of overweight and obesity every year, so many that it may soon surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable death.” This report was given days before the director of the CDC was scheduled to appear before congress to request increased funding for the organization. This report was also prepared by the director herself and NOT by any of the CDC’s obesity or health experts. An updated report was later issued but surprisingly never publicized. The updated report dropped the death toll to 26,000 annual deaths; a number below gun related deaths, alcohol related deaths or car crash related deaths.
Why keep this updated report a secret?
Unfortunately most of our government officials who make decisions regarding public policy and federal grant money funding are almost always in bed with the weight-loss and/or pharmaceutical companies, which presents a big conflict of interest since many of these companies thrive on our insecurities and fear of fat by selling fat loss supplements, shakes and potions.
If you really want to afraid of something, it should the corruption within some of our government officials (but if you’re like me, that’s already on your list).
Still worried about death by fatness?
Did you know that studies show those classified as “overweight” (BMI 30-35 – where the majority of fat Americans fall) live LONGER than those that fall under the “normal weight” category? The excess deaths in the obesity category were all at the top of the extreme range (greater than 35 on the BMI). Even more interesting to note is that the same study found slightly more deaths in the US in the “underweight” category than in the two heaviest categories.
Still scared of fat? I hope not or at least not as scared as before.
Although it can be fun to be scared on Halloween, lets make it about ghosts and vampires. Let’s make our day to day fears rational fears (like paying our on time) and stay away from the irrational fears (like being fat) because honestly, there are far bigger things (no pun intended) to be sacred of than fat.