Friday, 8 February 2019

Risking Fat People’s Lives “For Their Health”

One of the ways in which diet culture harms, and can even kill, fat people is its perpetuation of the idea that a fat life is more risk-able than a thin life. The underlying belief of diet culture is that it’s better to be miserable, or even dead than to be fat.

We see this in lots of ways.

Medications being prescribed to fat people that risk our health and lives for a few pounds lost (and quickly regained.) 

Gruesome and barbaric recommendations, like pumping food out of our stomachs into a bucket, are seen as totally reasonable, without any regard for how they will affect our physical or mental health.

And of course there is the horror of stomach amputation and binding (aka “bariatric” or “weight loss” surgeries.):

A pretty clear example: a thin person and a fat person go to the same doctor. Both have elevated blood sugar. Their numbers are exactly the same. The thin person is prescribed medication with few side effects that is shown to help control blood sugar. The fat person is referred for a surgery during which most of their stomach will be amputated causing a risk of death on the table, short- and long-term death from complications, and horrible lifelong side effects. The fat person is asked to risk their life and quality of life to control blood sugar. The thin person is asked to take medication.

The same thing happens when a fat person who actually needs knee surgery is told that they can’t get it because knee surgery is too dangerous, and then they are given the recommendation to have stomach amputation surgery, which is far more dangerous with far worse possible side-effects.

Sadly this isn’t limited to adults, in Australia the “Fast Track to Health” study will literally starve children, despite the fact that the evidence does not suggest that it will do anything to change their weight, there are serious questions about severe food restriction during children’s growth years, and the study perpetrators know that they are risking inducing eating disorders. (There is a fantastic take-down of this here.)

I’m writing about this because I think it’s important to realize that when we are advocating for our health and healthcare, we are often advocating against a system that thinks that it’s worth killing us, or ruining our lives, to make us thin – no matter what we think.

Fat people have the right to exist, in fat bodies, and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what the “consequences” of being fat might be, or if we could (or want to) become thin. Fat people have the right to healthcare that supports our actual bodies, rather than insisting that we risk our lives to be thin before we are treated as human beings, worthy of appropriate, evidence-based healthcare

Nobody knows what fat people’s health outcomes would look like if we lived in a society that celebrated the diversity of body sizes, gave us the opportunity to love our bodies and see them as worthy of care, and the access to take good care of them. I’d like to find out

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