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Jameela Jamil's Twitter Thread Shows How Weight Discrimination Affects People With Chronic Illness

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It’s no secret we live in a culture that often places thinness on a pedestal. However, this has led many to hold deep-seated beliefs that fatness is inherently “bad.” People who are fat or overweight are thus more likely to be discriminated against – an issue “The Good Place” actress Jameela Jamil isn’t afraid to tackle head-on.

On Wednesday, Jamil took issue with a critical and fatphobic tweet, responding, “Fatphobia and the bullying that happens because of it, should be taken as seriously as racism and homophobia.”

Several followers criticized Jamil for comparing fatphobia to racism and homophobia. The actress was quick to respond in a tweet thread explaining her reasoning:

For many people with health conditions, maintaining a certain weight can be difficult (or near impossible). Some illnesses and medications can cause unintended weight fluctuations, while some conditions may cause symptoms that affect your ability to exercise or eat. After causing rapid weight gain/loss, some illnesses can make it really difficult to either lose or put back on that same weight.

As Jamil pointed out, weight is not always something we have control over. Still, regardless of whether a person’s weight is the result of underlying health issues or not, they deserve respect and compassion – never judgment or discrimination.

Though some followers clapped back to say that fatphobia is not as serious as other forms of discrimination, Jamil disagreed.

The actress brought up how dangerous fatphobia can be in regards to people seeking treatment for health concerns. Weight discrimination is unfortunately common in medical settings as well, with many patients having their complaints brushed off as simply being a result of their weight.

While being overweight can increase the risk of developing certain health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or kidney disease, a person’s weight isn’t always to blame for every symptom they experience. It’s important for doctors to thoroughly investigate a person’s symptoms and consider all options before immediately “blaming” a health problem on weight.

For Mighty contributor Jenn Heater, this discrimination prevented her from receiving proper care and pain management in the emergency room. Heater, who lives with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), trigeminal neuralgia and fibromyalgia, explained:

The final blow came when a second nurse came in with two shots for pain and my discharge papers. My father left the room and she proceeded to give me the shots, then asked if I had any questions. I asked what they usually do for people with CRPS and she replied, ‘You just need to lose weight.’

Wait, what? My CRPS is caused by my weight? Um, nope. And even if it were, does that mean I don’t deserve treatment to ease my pain? I think she freaked out a little when I started to bawl. I told her about having Cushing’s (the obesity tumor) three times. Human growth deficiency, broken thyroid, a nonfunctioning pituitary gland and almost constant pain.

She looked alarmed and quietly responded, ‘I guess you’re screwed.’

Jamil also shared her own experience with doctors dismissing her symptoms due to her weight.

“An example of medical discrimination against fat people is that I had major PCOS symptoms as a fat teenager, which were all ignored, and I couldn’t get TESTED even until I was thin,” Jamil wrote. “So my fertility is now further damaged because a doctor couldn’t see past my size.”

PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a common health problem among those born female that’s caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones. This creates problems in the ovaries and can lead to cysts (small fluid-filled sacs) or infertility. Other common symptoms of PCOS include an irregular menstrual cycle, excessive hair growth on the face or chin (hirsutism), acne, thinning hair and weight gain. PCOS can also make it very difficult to lose weight.

This is not the first time Jamil has spoken out about her health issues. In Feb. 2019, she confirmed she has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a rare genetic connective tissue disorder that can cause symptoms such as joint hypermobility, skin hyperextensibility and tissue fragility.

In response to Jamil’s thread, many people commented to share their own stories of discrimination, demonstrating how pervasive and harmful fatphobia can be.

Jamil thanked everyone for sharing their experiences. “Nobody reports your struggle because fatphobia is the most accepted and hypernormalized form of bullying,” she wrote. “I’m so sorry and I stand with you all.”

If you have experienced judgment, discrimination or a lack of proper medical treatment because of your weight, know you are not alone. You deserve to be respected and have your health concerns taken seriously no matter what. As Mighty contributor Ann-Marie D’Arcy-Sharpe wrote:

There will always be people who make judgments, but I am proud of myself as a person. I know I am beautiful inside and out. I know what I face and what I overcome every day, I know that I am doing my best at all times and I hope that every other person out there who is going through struggles is proud of themselves. Whatever your shape or size, we are all worthy, we are all beautiful in our own way, and we all deserve to be judgment-free!

To read more about weight and chronic illness, check out the following stories from our community:

Originally published: April 20, 2019
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