On being fat, double standards, and shame

So yesterday The Daily Caller posted an article called “Adam Carolla slams left’s fat girl double standard.” For some reason I clicked through and read the article, even though I had a feeling it was one that would tick me off.

And tick me off it did.

Not because there isn’t a double standard, because there is. In that regard, I agree with Carolla whole heartedly. What pissed me off was the idea that people are fat because they’re lazy or want to be fat, especially women. And then–this was the kicker:

Guest co-host Gina Grad jumped in to say that the point of the segment was to show that fat women cannot be shamed into being thin and healthy.

Carolla agreed in part.

“Well sort of and sort of not because I’ve seen plenty of instances where people did get shamed into just about everything. That worked. But there is still a difference between not shaming somebody and then celebrating somebody who is unhealthy,” he said pointing out the other unhealthy activities like not wearing a seat belt, smoking, and not wearing a helmet on a motorcycle are not celebrated.

So they’re debating whether or not shame is a motivator for a fat person to lose weight. There’s also the supposition that thin and healthy are mutually exclusive, and that one cannot be fat and healthy or thin and unhealthy. Basically, it’s the idea that being fat is a choice, just like not wearing a seat belt is a choice.

*head desk*

First, let me say, I do get a bit tired of some of the stuff that’s spouted in the body-positive community. As much as I enjoy some of the ideas in that community, there IS an overwhelming sense of “liberal” and “progressive” going on, and many of the women who are so open-minded and body positive will turn around and lambast conservatives and people who don’t think like them.

That’s not being open-minded.

So I tend to pick and choose what I read, who I follow, etc. Because, yeah, there IS a double standard.

But the thought that fat women (what about fat men?) can be shamed into losing weight?

Fuck off.

You know what being shamed about my weight has done for me?

Made me fatter.

With every single insult hurled at me as a kid and a teenager and young adult, I got fatter. Every time words were uttered that made me feel bad about myself, that clearly told me how fat and lazy and stupid I was, with every “moo” and “oink” and stupid fucking nickname, I retreated further  into myself. I would restrict until I got so hungry I couldn’t do it anymore, and then I would binge like nobody’s business. Doritos. Blue Bell ice cream. Those were my favorites, the things that brought me comfort in a household that was toxic at best. Being shamed didn’t make me magically skinny–it fucked up my head and caused massively disordered eating that only made me fatter.

And that was ON TOP of the emotional trauma that had started before I was even in kindergarten.

Since Carolla’s words were directed towards women specifically (because, y’know, it’s ok in our society for men to be fat *rolls eyes*), that’s what I’m going to focus on. A list (off the top of my head) of the reasons why a woman might be fat:

  • She simply eats too much
  • She eats and doesn’t move her body
  • She overexercises and doesn’t eat enough
  • Starvation (see: Chronic dieting, disordered eating)
  • Chronic dieting
  • Emotional trauma (e.g. childhood sexual abuse, rape, PTSD, etc.)
  • Mental, emotional, physical abuse
  • Genetics
  • Disordered eating (restrict/binge cycles are fairly common in women who are overweight)
  • Medical issues, such as thyroid problems, PCOS, autoimmune disorders, injuries
  • Medications (for example, most forms of hormonal birth control make me gain weight like crazy, which is common, but anti-depressants and thyroid medications OFTEN cause weight gain)

That’s off the top of my head. Some of those, yes, are totally within a person’s control, but if it were as simple as eating the proper amount to fuel your body and moving your body on a regular basis, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But it’s not that simple. It just isn’t.

We live in a society that rewards thinness and that DOES believe that thin and healthy are mutually exclusive, thus we have a diet industry that’s booming. Turn on the TV for any amount of time, you’re going to see a commercial for some magic bullet weight loss product, whether it’s a pill or Nutrisystem or whatever. People tune into The Biggest Loser like crazy (and then criticize this year’s “winner” for losing TOO MUCH weight…I mean, seriously, America, you can’t have it both ways). Tabloids at the grocery store feature photos and stories of celebrities, dissecting their bodies. Kim Kardashian is both reviled and applauded for her curvy figure and ass.

It’s no wonder that up to 24 million people in the U.S. (all ages and genders) suffer from an eating disorder, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. And those numbers only seem to be taking the Big 3 into account–anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. There’s a spectrum of disordered eating that isn’t even being shown in those numbers.

So we have up to 24 million people with an eating disorder.

Math isn’t my forte, but that’s a lot of people.

So now let’s look at one of the other bullets I listed, because, yeah, hitting close to home here.

According to a 2008 study in JAMA Pediatrics, women who are sexually abused as children (before age 16) do have a greater chance of developing bulimia. The study only looked at anorexia and bulimia, and internet research shows that most studies seem to focus on those two eating disorders. Anecdotally, though, if you talk to an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, or read The Courage to Heal, MANY girls who are being sexually abused turn to food as a coping mechanism. For some, it’s something they can “control.” For some, it’s a way to numb themselves–the very definition of “eating your emotions.” For some, there’s the thought that if you’re fat or big that the abuse will stop. And for some, it’s a combination of those things.

So tell me, Mr. Carolla, how shaming a fat woman who ALREADY is ashamed of her body is going to help?

It’s not.

Granted, I don’t think that shaming people to get them to stop “bad” behaviors such as smoking or drinking 50 Big Gulps a day is necessarily the best way to go about getting them to change, either. Changes like those have to come from within. If the driving force is external, the change won’t stick. Furthermore, lest we forget, there’s also the fact that with our dieting-obsessed society, overweight women CAN successfully lose weight.

And then they gain it back.

Because it isn’t sustainable and because SHAME DOESN’T WORK. And for a lot of those women, they gain weight back and end up being heavier than they were before. It’s a vicious cycle, because we have all these wrong ideas regarding women’s bodies and weight and exercise and food.

Weight is just a fucking number.

The scale is a lying bitch.

Low calorie, low carb, low fat and fad diets are stupid and harmful and unhealthy.

You know what IS healthy?

Loving yourself no matter what size you are, and doing things that make you the best you can be, and the healthiest you can be. I’m not exactly a small girl, but I’m healthy. I eat well, and finally eat enough to actually sustain my activity levels. I no longer restrict or binge. If I want something, I have it (unless it has gluten in it, because gluten makes me sick…or peanuts, because peanut allergy, yo). I don’t count shit because I turn into a crazy obsessive compulsive person when it comes to numbers and data. I don’t weigh because like I said, the scale is a lying bitch. I work out. I move my body. I do physical labor out at the ranch. I have muscles and fat and cellulite. I have curves and boobs and hips and an ass (which is getting quite spectacular, thanks to squats). I know I probably look like one of the fatties Carolla’s ranting about, but I work as hard as a dude does, and harder than some thin women do.

I’m not small. I will probably never be “small” in the true sense of the word, and I’m okay with that, because I’m strong and getting fitter with every day that passes. I’m on the GOOD side of disordered eating these days. I know the chain of events that got me to where I am today, along with the perfect shitstorm that caused me to get fat in the first place. I’m open about it, but at the same time, it’s really nobody’s business.

So Mr. Carolla and anyone else who thinks shaming fat women is an effective way to make them suddenly not fat or suddenly want to be not fat–fuck you and stop assuming that it’s a super simple, one-dimensional issue, because it’s not. It just isn’t.