I can't say that I completely understand the perspective of people who are victims of fat-shaming because (though I've struggled with my own weight and body image), I've never felt victimized by it myself. I don't, however, want to deny their responses or emotions when I say that I'm also conflicted about the narrative surrounding the obesity epidemic in America. But conflicted I remain.
Just do a Google News search for "obesity." It's a buzz word. It's everywhere. And the statistics can be pretty shocking. According to the CDC, 1 in 3 adults is obese and medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion. The health problems linked to obesity are numerous and can effect longevity, quality of life, and mobility.
The problem of the rhetoric of weight loss was summed up nicely this week with two high-profile cases: Mariah Carey and Fat Joe.
Mariah Carey is the new spokesperson for Jenny after dropping 30 pounds of post-pregnancy weight in three months. In People, Carey discusses her success:
Carey, 42, was so disgusted with her physique that she refused to let even husband Nick Cannon see her unless she covered up first, she said Tuesday.Make no mistake, self-deprecation does not detract from fat-shaming, and that's exactly what Carey is doing. By suggesting that her body was "disgusting" and "rancid," she equates being overweight with being worthless. She focuses almost entirely on the aesthetics of weight loss, concerning herself with how she would appear as a sexual partner and what she looked like.
"I had a towel on in the tub," Carey, who gave birth in April, says. "I’m not lying, I promise you! You think I would let Nick see me looking rancid like that?"
Fat Joe discusses losing 100 pounds on CNN:
I think I weighed about 450/460 at my heaviest. That's huge! That's Fat Joe. And you know, I always took pride in being fat. I represented big people, but I realized at a certain point all my big people were dying.He talks about losing six friends, all overweight, to heart attacks last year alone. His advice is practical and straightforward. He's not promoting a fad diet or even an ideal physical aesthetic. He's promoting walking more, eating healthier, and being cognizant of the social and interpersonal dynamics at play in your own health choices.
These two stories and the rhetoric surrounding them highlight the problem inherent in the "obesity epidemic" discussion. If that discussion centered entirely around health, what would it look like? If we didn't use the very real health issues surrounding obesity as an excuse to shame other people for what they look like, what would happen to the movement?
Photos: david_shankbone, TopStreetwear