Oh dear. There’s some
public health fat shaming pearl clutching happening…according this study summarized by The Guardian, it seems that Size Acceptance has convinced some a bunch of fat teens that it’s okay to be fat.
It seems that teens are are a “healthy weight” (whatever that means) are less likely to perceive themselves as fat, but a third of fat teenagers perceive themselves as being the right weight. The Guardian and the study seem to think the first thing is good, but the second thing is bad.
First of all, I find the phrase “rates of size overestimation” appalling. This study is coming from a position of bias – the researchers have decided what is healthy and what is not, and are measuring teenagers’ self-perceptions against their determination of what these teens should look like. So already I’m like, nah. Major researcher bias here. There’s nothing about the actual overall health of these kids, they were simply weighed, measured, then asked if they think they’re the right weight, too heavy, or too light.
The result of the fact that a third of the teens that this study’s researchers decided were fat indicated that they don’t feel they’re too heavy is a lot of scientific hand-wringing about the fatties who don’t seem to think their size is a problem. The Guardian states that “eighty-four per cent of those who were of normal weight answered correctly, while 4% of boys and 11% of girls said they were too heavy. But only 53% of boys and 68% of girls who were overweight or obese recognised the fact.”
Oh dear…only the majority of fatties think they’re too fat. We want ALL THE FATTIES to think they’re too fat! Whatever shall we do?
But what really gets me is this lovely quote, from the study itself: “There is a need to develop methods of improving recognition of overweight and obesity among adolescents that do not cause unnecessary concern over weight in those whose weight is healthy.”
In other words, how to we fat shame and break down the self-esteem these fat teenagers have and make them recognize that they’re fat and unhealthy and make them want to be good fatties who pursue weight loss…but without negatively impacting thin teenagers?
And damn you, Size Acceptance, for helping undermine public health’s mission to narrow fat shaming to people who are actually fat. Here’s another brilliant quote:
“…mass media coverage of obesity often uses images of severely obese individuals, which could give the impression that medical criteria for overweight and obesity require exceptionally high body weights.”
While public health campaigns urge people to maintain a healthy weight, “grassroots movements campaign for size acceptance and billion-dollar industries market diet plans and products promising rapid weight loss,” the paper says.
Stupid Size Acceptance, encouraging people to accept their bodies. Stupid HAES, encouraging people to focus on health instead of weight.
Stupid liberal bloggers, calling out the scientific community’s bullshit biases.
Because I looked up this study, and here’s the astounding conclusion in its abstract:
“Overestimation of body weight among normal-weight adolescents is relatively uncommon; potentially a cause for celebration. However, almost half of boys and a third of girls with a BMI placing them in the overweight or obese BMI range perceived themselves to be about the right weight. Lack of awareness of excess weight among overweight and obese adolescents could be cause for concern.“
Emphasis mine – because they think these fat teenagers are delusional. That they’re unaware of their “excess weight.” Please allow me to correct that false notion – fat people know they’re fat. All fat people know it. Fat children and fat teenagers know it just as well as fat adults. They’re never allowed to forget it. So I don’t think these kids are in denial, or simply delusional. I think that maybe, just maybe, Size Acceptance has done its part to help them realize that it’s okay to be fat. That no one owes it to society to be thin. That weight loss is not an obligation. The researchers asked the teens if they thought they were the right weight. Maybe these teenagers have decided that they’re the right weight for them. Which again underscores the strong researcher bias that led to the astoundingly idiotic conclusion that fat people don’t know they’re fat, and that public health officials/doctors/society need to make them aware of it.
They also celebrate the fact that “normal-weight” adolescents tend not to feel they’re too fat. Why do they celebrate this? Because when they do, it can lead to eating disorders, which leads to weight loss, which leads to people who are too thin, and thin people trying to lose weight because they feel fat is tragic and we need to do what we can do stop it. Yet they admit they’re trying to find a way to encourage that feeling of being too fat in fat people to encourage them to lose weight.
Are they implying that fat people’s mental health and self-esteem doesn’t matter? Are they implying that fat people never develop eating disorders, or that an eating disorder is only an eating disorder if the person is already thin? There’s so much to unpack here.
But here’s what it comes down to – there are a lot of things that contribute to fat phobia and fat shaming, and one of those things is how the public health, science, and medical communities discuss fat. The solution, according to The Guardian and people who worked on and support this study, is to find a way to fat shame fat people while protecting thin people. They’re fretting over how to find a rhetorical strategy that will only impact those that this study has decided are actually fat while protecting thin people and encouraging thin privilege. That’s an absolutely terrible and dehumanizing solution. It continues to promote the idea that there are good bodies and bad bodies, that weight is a good indicator of current or future health, and that fat people have no right to feel good about their bodies or choose not to pursue weight loss, and that the worst thing you can possibly be is fat.
Any institution or movement which equates the concept of health mainly with physical health is already shortsighted. An institution or movement that values the overall health and well-being of one group over another is discriminatory. And any institution or movement encouraging a false standard of physical health (thinness) by encouraging poor mental health (wanting people to feel bad about being fat) is not an institution or movement that actually cares about people or about health.