Your Weight Loss Talk is Classist and Abelist

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It’s that time of year again. That wonderful time when gyms and industries geared to making us feel bad about ourselves get a slew of new memberships because it’s a new year and it’s a new you! If you want to spend your time and money chasing the magical weight loss solution that will somehow solve all of your health/self-esteem issues, that’s fine (it’s not but that’s not what we’re talking about today). You can do what you want but think twice about how you talk about it because conversations based in weight loss are extremely abelist and classist.

Chances are the person speaking about their goals doesn’t mean to be abelist. They don’t think they’re being classist but the fact of the matter is that the weight loss industry is skewed strongly in the favor of able bodied people who are likely working at a level above poverty.

When we talk about weight loss there is often a component of working out and there are a ton of suggestions for how to work out with or without a gym, low impact, high impact, whatever. With all the options out there, one can question how can it be abelist? But the fact of the matter is that there are many people for whom even the most low impact of work outs is too much or very, very difficult.

Also, if you feel the need to mention some internet story you say with some disabled person who was ripped like Jesus even though they are missing a leg or something, just stop. Not here for the inspiration porn either.

Disability isn’t always obvious. Many people live with chronic, invisible illnesses and casually recommending water aerobics to someone ignores the very real health struggles they may have. Simply insisting that someone just needs to “try” ignores the struggles of people who have other health issues above and beyond their love handles and muffin top.

Some people have gained weight due to medication. Telling a person that they’ll feel better if they take the weight off is a slap in the face to a person who picked up extra pounds due to taking medication that keeps them alive and able to function.

Then there is the matter of telling someone to just “eat better” which is so problematic. Unfortunately “good” food (defined here as foods that are rich in nutrients for the purposes of this blog. In reality there is no such thing as good or bad food) is very expensive and many people live in food deserts adding an extra expense to going to get the food.

This is where the classism comes in with the added bonus of intersectionality because sadly, many disabled people live at or below the poverty line. Simply saying eat better ignores the fact that food is a commodity that many people do not have solid access too.

Then there are the invisible costs to food which include full kitchens to prepare and store as well as time to plan and cook. These are things that many people do not have in abundance and talking about food as if it falls from the sky ready to eat like we live in the world of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs stinks of privilege.

When we talk about weight loss, we talk about it as if it will be easy and all you need is willpower. This is what the diet industry wants you to believe. The fact of the matter is that a lot goes into losing weight or why weight was gained to begin with. Having the health and resources to lose weight is not something that everyone has access to and if you’re talking about it, then you should be mindful of that.

The circumstances that allow people to focus on exercise and diet are a privilege. Having access to grocery stores, gyms, and safe walking areas are privileges. Having the space to store food and the time to prepare it are privileges. Having a body strong and healthy enough to engage in physical activity is a huge privilege. Be mindful that not everyone has these.

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Skinny Shaming Isn’t Real Because Fat Shaming Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

This is a photo that came up for 'fat'.

This is a photo that came up for ‘fat’.

Skinny shaming isn’t real. Yes, people who are thin are subjected to attacks on their feelings by others for the way their bodies look. This is true and no one is arguing that it doesn’t happen however, skinny shaming as the opposite end of the spectrum to fat shaming isn’t real. It is not the same thing as fat shaming. It is a fault of language and understanding because when people speak of skinny shaming, 99% of the time they talking about hurt feelings whereas hurt feelings are only part of the issue when talking about fat shaming.

Fat shaming is a side effect of living in a fat phobic culture. It is the constant and insidious practice of uplifting a thin body type while systematically oppressing those that do not possess it. It permeates every level of culture from media, to healthcare, to social interactions.

So in effect, it is not some guy in the Subway line telling a large person to get a veggie sub, it’s the culture that allows that person to believe it’s ok for them to make that judgement and for the person recieving that judgement to believe that they are right.

When we are talking about fat shaming, we are using that as a blanket term for a variety of things. This includes medical issues being dismissed as simply needing to lose some pounds. The likelihood that you’ve been passed over for a job because you were fat and the employer had preconceived notions about what kind of worker you would be because of that. Your body type being considered a fetish so you’re not sure if the person you’re with actually likes you. Being constantly attacked through media to ensure that you know your body type is wrong, wrong, wrong.

These issues go above and beyond simply some harsh words and thin or skinny people are not subjected to these same things en masse. Yes, a thin person may have difficulty finding clothing from time to time or even experience one of the above mentioned issues but that is not the same thing as constant oppression.

Just because someone in the privileged class experiences some sort of negativity does not mean that they are no longer in that privileged class. Merely having someone make fun of a thin body does not mean that thin bodies are suddenly out of vogue.

This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt when someone tells a skinny person to eat a burger or any other terrible thing. That’s awful and in no way is it ok to be mean to another person based on their bodies. However, that being said, understand that skinny shaming, as practiced, is not the same as fat shaming. It does not have the same cultural effects and even if the abuse of a thin bodied person leads the person to dislike their body that does not mean that it has created a cultural shift in which society dislikes their body.

Fat Shaming is an umbrella term for a host of issues that affect people with bodies deemed undesirable due to their largeness. It is a constant attack and an uphill battle to just live. Skinny shaming is a term for when people are mean. These are not the same things.