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You Do Not Have to Be Healthy to Be a Worthy Fat Person

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When I told my trauma therapist that I was no longer dieting (something I had been doing for 43 years), her response was typical. She was shocked because of my size. She said, “If I can play mother for a moment, I hope you are eating your fruits and vegetables?” In my mind, no one asked her to assume I was not eating them, and if I wasn’t, so what. She added, “I guess if you are being healthy and it is what you have decided, we will see.”

What a slap in the face. Now if I want to stop dieting and ruining my life physically and mentally, I must also qualify that decision. I cannot just be fat and free from diet culture and stigma, but I must still meet up to the ideal of healthy (whatever that means).

What does healthy mean?

Thinness, is that the health standard? Hourglass shape? Fair skin? Ripped abs? Flat tummies? Perfect BMI? No limp? No scars? Unblemished skin?

I would really like to know since I do not seem to understand how that ideal is an obtainable goal for me. I am Black, thick, blemished, disabled, and knock-kneed.

When I told my doctor that I was not going to diet anymore, and intentional weight loss was no longer my mission, she said “OK, but will measure your blood pressure and A1C to determine how you are doing health-wise.”

The reality is I have health conditions that no matter how much weight I lose, I will never meet the “healthy standard.” Not all fat people can obtain “good health.” Some of us are chronically ill and it may not have anything to do with how much we weigh.

If my worth is caught up in being “healthy,” I lose all day long.

To blame fat people for their health outcomes is absolutely wrong. You do not have to meet society’s definition of “healthy” to be an acceptable fat person. You do not have to allow others to determine your fitness to exist in your body, no matter what condition it is in.

I am a fat, Black, lesbian, disabled woman. I do not meet the definition of healthy. My worth should not be based on my health status. I often hear other fat people make the excuse that at least they are “healthy” despite being fat. This is ableist and discriminatory. Where does a sentiment like this leave me? I have chronic conditions that render me “not healthy.” Does this mean I am doomed to always being a less than? Am I relegated once again to the margins even in the fat community?

I want you to know you are worthy of love and adoration regardless of your size and or health status. The measure of “healthy” is made up and in no way determines status. Fight against the urge to judge yourself because you are chronically ill and fat. Even if the medical community tells you that your chronic illnesses are a result of your size, this does not always bear out to be true.

We are told we have worse health outcomes than people with so-called normal BMI, but what is left out of the equation. We receive poorer health care if any at all. When we get up the nerve to go to the doctor, we are often mistreated — from no chair in the waiting room that accommodates us to being forced to weigh for no apparent reason, not having a gown that fits us, or seeing a doctor that won’t make eye contact appearing to be disgusted by our size. We go to an appointment about an ear infection but the doctor starts talking about our weight and the “fact” that we are destined for an early grave.

What if the doctor said, “Come back when you are feeling better, and I will give you a physical and answer any medical questions you may have?” What if the doctor said, “It is good to see you, it has been too long, and I care about your wellbeing and want to make sure you have all you need.” What if the doctor signed you up for preventive screens and got you to specialists you may need to see? What if the doctor took a thorough history to see what might be genetic? What if the doctor treated you with dignity and respect?

We do not go to the doctor because we do not get this kind of treatment. Our chronic illnesses and cancers are caught in later stages and therefore we often die earlier. It is not your fault the medical establishment has failed you and those who produce research findings have lied to you.

I encourage you to stand up for yourself. Do not tolerate mistreatment because of your fatness. The “healthy standard” was not built for us, so let us not even put it on.

You are worthy, you are acceptable, and you are lovable, no matter your waist size or health status. Do not take on what society is dishing out. You deserve better.

Be Mighty strong!

Getty image by Igor Alecsander

Originally published: September 13, 2022
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