Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fat Karma, a series

I've been meaning to write about this for quite a while, but lack of time and the immensity of the project has kept me procrastinating.

I have taken lately to saying we have a Societal Eating Disorder. Some people get it right away. They've taken measure of the distortions they've been pressured to accept and learned in some measure to trust the messages of their own bodies. It really pushes the buttons of others, and it is nigh on to impossible to begin to have a conversation. Not only does this societal eating disorder mess with our perceptions of our own bodies and our own eating habits, it adds meta-messages and implied messages to anything we might try to say on the subject.

There are many women and men who have covered the subjects I intend to cover way better than I could hope to. What I intend to do is look at my own karma, my own experiences and thoughts, and draw upon the understanding I've accumulated, and the understanding of others who have put much more time and effort into fat acceptance and studies of weight.

I couldn't just let it be, as it seems to me the fervor regarding weight and health has accelerated in recent months and years, yet no new findings have surfaced that show that excess weight on its own causes life-threatening diseases. People think it does, but they confuse eating habits causing health issues with weight causing health issues. In news coverage of health care reform, in comments on articles online, everywhere I look I find people adamant, that people who are fat deserve all the abuse we might receive. The vehemence is cutting and at times overwhelming.

The other side of the commentary is no less demeaning. I'm talking about the seeming urgent need that people have to explain just how to eat better, exercise better, and lose weight, all for my, or some fat person's, own good. Believe me, I, and most fat people, are very well aware what good health habits are.

I finally figured out one of the meta-messages that comes up whenever I bring up this topic is that people think I am trying to say I can do what I want and my health will be just fine. I don't know if this is because people cannot separate weight from health indicators, or if they think I am trying to excuse what they are sure must be poor health habits. I think somehow people of 'normal' weight think that if we just had good health habits, the weight would disappear. The primary message is that more people need to know that it is possible to be healthy, and to improve your health habits, without it having to mean that you lose weight.

We all, every single one of us, has karma of poor health habits. We may have acted out dangerously, we may have had drug addictions. The thing about being fat, you see our karma. There is no disguising it. Not only do you see the likely past, perhaps present, of successful dieting, of failed dieting, you also see how people have treated us. If you see a fat person, you see someone who has been discriminated against. You see someone who has been yelled at while exercising. You see someone who has had a doctor who did not listen to them, or a doctor who missed other health issues because they focused only on the fat. You see someone who perhaps has had other health conditions that caused weight gain. You see someone who has been viewed as lazy, stupid, lacking will power, asexual, and it has affected how they've been treated. You see someone who has been entirely too aware of their body, or you might see someone who has disassociated from their body and its natural appetites. You see someone who carries the weight of society's guilt over consumption. You see someone who has been made the scapegoat, and it's been entirely acceptable to otherwise reasonable people.

What you don't always see is that we also have good health habits. You don't see that we probably don't eat as much as you think we do. You don't see that someone sees us as sexy, and that we too can feel and be sexy. You don't see that but for the weight, all our other health indicators could be quite good. You don't see that while everybody thinks we should just exercise more, there are precious few exercise programs that are tailored to the physics of our bodies.

There is a whole lot of karma in fat: societal perceptions; self-perceptions; distorted perceptions; bad choices; lack of choices; genetics; health myths; etc. I am going to try to explain my karmic experience a little at a time.

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