Feminism

Weight Stigma Awareness Week: My Present

[Content Notice: weight, weight loss, body image]
me, at close to my highest adult weight
Me, at close to my highest adult weight

While I do have a checkered past with the medical establishment, thankfully, about two years ago, I found much better doctors than any of my childhood ones. Sadly, I’ve been unable to find a less fat-hating world in which to live. For that reason, I’ve been restricting my caloric intake for eighteen months and, since January, have been¬†low-carbing. So far, I’ve lost about thirty pounds. I’m not yet “healthy” (where “health” is a euphemism for “thinness”) in the eyes of society (especially here in Southern California) or according to the BMI (I’m still “diagnosed with obesity” every time I got to the doctor), but I’ve noticed some curious changes in my life.

Out in the world of dating and sex, men check me out less furtively than they used to — and sometimes even less-than-furtively. I find myself suddenly placed on a pedestal, with doors opened, chairs pulled, and obstacles pointed out for me. In terms of my weekly errands, store employees who used to ignore me now notice me and ask me if I need help. At the checkout aisle, they scrutinize the expiration date on my coupons and punch cards far less.

The most ridiculous example of this happened the last time I visited a GNC. The smiling, solicitous employee managed, through means I can only guess at, to ring up $50 worth of meal bars and only charge me $20. I walked out with a bag full of portable meals and a head filled with immense confusion (you’d think that far fitter, prettier women than me would visit a store like GNC, right?).

Conservapedia's listing of fat atheists
Conservapedia thinks I’m fat. At least I’m in good company?

I don’t carry myself with more confidence than before, as I still am very much Southern California fat. I don’t dress better; indeed, I paid more attention to the details of my appearance when I was fatter (a coincidence based on time factors). I’m not much happier than I was before, since I’m now uncomfortably aware of my fat rather than resigned to it. The ugly truth is that people see the smaller me as someone deserving better treatment than the bigger me did.

The worst part is that, if asked about it, most people would probably deny it. People don’t like to consider the fact that human beings are prejudiced and act upon those prejudices without a second thought. We often don’t realize what we’re doing, let alone why. People don’t realize that they overlook fat women as much as they do, and so my life in the 180s is different from my life in the 210s.

I do not accept this new state of affairs with anything resembling gratitude or complacency. I cannot forget what I know: Fatter Heina was treated with scorn for no reason other than being bigger than Fat Heina, and she never deserved it. Whether I maintain, regain, or lose more of my weight, I deserve to be treated with common courtesy and decency, as does any other human being.

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Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy [hee-na dad-uh-boy] spent her childhood as a practicing Muslim who never in her right mind would have believed that she would grow up to be an atheist feminist secular humanist, or, in other words, a Skepchick. She has been an active participant in atheist organizations and events in and around Orange County, CA since 2007. She is currently writing A Skeptic's Guide to Islam. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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8 Comments

  1. You are gaining new insight into how the world works, take full advantage of it.

    I have one quibble with the article. The examples you give are all ones where people give extra attention and help to thin people, not ones where fat people are given extra obstacles. Having doors held open and getting unexpected discounts are nice but you can function just fine without those extra perks. I’m willing to bet you’re finding the extra obstacles disappearing too, fewer strangers stopping you to share unsolicited diet advice for example.

    I’m looking forward to more of your writings. You are a very different person from me yet we share the common problem of fat stigma. The solutions you find might be ones I’d never reach on my own.

    1. That’s a good point. Time for me to ponder what no longer happens to me now that I’m on the less-fat side of things.

      In terms of your example, in my experience, I’ve been finding that people are somewhat more likely to offer me unsolicited diet advice now, although they definitely did before. I think it’s because I’m low-carbing. I do try not the mention it to avoid the unwanted “tips”/opinions, but it’s hard to not show any signs of it since what I eat is so different from what most people eat.

  2. A close friend of mine lost 150+ lbs. She’s still a big gal — tall, very broad shouldered, and 250 or so lbs. — but she is now more “normal” and is treated as such. She has talked about the differences in her interactions with the public now that she’s thinner. She used to get straight-up aggression from both sexes, along with being completely ignored in some situations. Now she’s treated like a much more normal human being. She lives in a tiny town on the mid-coast, so her current level of fatness is probably more normal there. I totally get “Southern California fat”.

  3. My sad person: Low carb “induction” style for 10 months with no weight loss and the tiniest dip in one category of cholesterol numbers, and a doubling of already high uric acid. Starts eating moderate carbs again (still less than me), immediately gains enough weight to be just barely above the largest sizes they make non-stretch clothes in. And not fitting into decent clothes is a huge trigger for dysmorphic nasty thoughts. Good times.

  4. The latest episode of ‘White Coat, Black Art’, a medical program on CBC Radio, discussed the difficulties medical professionals have caring for morbidly obese (bariatric) patients and the bias against such patients in health care. There’s also a September 22 interview with bariatric specialist Dr Arya Sharma. The emphasis here is bariatric patients, not *ordinary* fat folk, but it’s informative. I like when Dr Sharma says (I’m paraphrasing) that we wouldn’t tell an alcoholic you can have one glass of wine for breakfast, one glass of gin or whiskey for lunch, two glasses of beer for dinner and that’s it.
    http://www.cbc.ca/whitecoat/index.html

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