Isn’t being fat just unhealthy?

So goes the question in zeitgeist. A lot to unpack, as they say. I was thinking about this after staring at a slide Virgie Tovar posted to Instagram that reframes instead of directly answering:

Here are a few from that slide.

Better questions:

Q: Why do we use BMI — a tool created in the 1800s by a European man whose work went on to become the basis of eugencics — as a measure of health?

Q: Why are thin people who smoke less stigmatized than higher weight people who don’t?

Q: Why do doctors prescribe weight-loss, a treatment with a 90-99% failure rate and that is correlated with anxiety, depression and an increased liklihood of developing an eating disorder?

That’s gut-wrenching stuff to me. It’s the kind of stuff they get into on Aubrey Gordon and Michael Hobbes’ Maintenance Phase podcast and that Roxane Gay masterfully dissects.

So the problem with the question is partially that “fat” and “unhealthy” aren’t particularly well defined, and that phrasing leans into a steaming pile of stigma that, ughkgh, really needs to get torn down despite near-zero progress on that by any metric.

As a fat, I’m mostly I’m annoyed at the world for all the fatphobia. Fat jokes, like gay jokes and trans jokes, tend to be incredibly lazy. Haha the cartoon fat kid likes cake! The cake-liking is the joke! Shopping for us fats is largely relegated to embarrassing experiences of digging to the very bottom of stacks of clothing praying for the off chance this stack has something that will fit, or even going to special sections or special stores, none of which concern themselves with actual style. Not to mention, ya know, all the bigger systemic problems that the smart people above talk about.

And yet. The question haunts me still. I’ve yo-yo’d a number of times in my life, occasionally flirting with being close to traditionally healthy and fit. During those times, I’m afraid I need to report: I felt healthier. I could do more, physically. I could run, at least a 5k. I felt like I could bike anywhere. I could ski. I was strong. I could fit into more stylish clothes and it helped my confidence. I felt sleepy when I put in a long hard day, not at noon on a Wednesday after sitting in a chair all morning. My blood pressure didn’t cause my dentist to worryingly suggest they might not even be able to clean my teeth if it doesn’t come down.

So even though I feel like the world has a lot of progress to make, I can’t help but think, for myself, that being fat is kinda unhealthy. And then that thought makes me feel like I’m feeding the stigma that I largely want to disagree with and it’s all a big mess in my head.

I think I’m thinking about all this more right now because my back has been killing me. I’ve been to the doctor and physical therapist over and over. I’m on meds. I’m doing exercises. But my brain goes: you know the real answer, it’s unfat yourself.

Anyway, Ruby and I just went hiking so it’s not like… all bad.



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One response to “Isn’t being fat just unhealthy?”

  1. Robbie says:

    You should try swimming when you eventually feel well enough. All through my twenties I constantly got knots and pain in my back. If a desk chair combo wasn’t 100% perfect I would get really sore shoulders and back. I’ve been swimming pretty regularly (1 to 3 times a week) for the last two years and my back has been perfect ever since. It takes a lot of effort to get started, but once you figure out the basics (breathing and such) you should be able to go swim for a half hour and feel amazing.

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