When I talk about fat rights, the main argument is it isn’t healthy. This is also where most conversations stop, because we have deeply ingrained into our culture that fat bodies are inherently unhealthy. We are taught fat bodies are a sign of disease, no matter how many healthy behaviors we choose to do. If we still live in a fat body, it’s often believed we just haven’t tried hard enough.
Many believe to define health you must define what health looks like, too, which is often a thin, young, able-bodied individual. This denies old people, fat people, mentally ill people, people with chronic illness or disease and people with disabilities from being perceived to be healthy, when it could be due to situations they often have no control over.
I believe this really boils down to how we frame health in our society. Specifically, what we believe a healthy body looks like and why it has so much social value. Our culture dictates the ideal person is good looking and thin, implying this is the standard all people should be judged. We value health in a way that is far deeper than just believing it should be important to people and are better if they are health conscious. Studies even show if fat people are trying to lose weight they will earn more respect from their peers than if they are not. We demonize unhealthy behaviors and certain foods, and expect people who fit this ideal to conform to those healthy behaviors so we will consider them socially acceptable.
When we frame health in this fashion we also ignore the fact that health is not accessible to all people, particularly people who have a lower socioeconomic status. Because health is not as dependent on body size as we are lead to believe and fat people can be healthy, to actually achieve a healthy society we must address the social and structural inequalities that limit people’s ability to be healthy.
We must invest in the fresh foods movement, making healthy foods more available and affordable to all people. Make access to preventative healthcare a huge priority as communities show better health than those where healthcare is not affordable, obtainable, or accessible to everyone. Support the creation of safe, clean places for people to be physically active, and access to indoor swimming pools, rooms and halls where one and all, able bodied or not can take part. The city of Ferndale is an amazing example of what a community with these features should look like, but it still can be improved.
These issues must be addressed alongside wage disparities between all classes, fat or thin, offering equal opportunities to enjoy healthy living. Even with all of these changes health should never be used to define someone’s worth.
For further reading: