This week Project Runway winner and unapologetic fatty Ashley Nell Tipton went public with her choice to undergo weight loss surgery. In the past I have talked about fat people’s participation in diet culture and the negative impacts it can have. I was wrong, I was calling out the wrong people.
Over the last several months I’ve come to realize that there is nothing fat people can do to change our culture’s view of fat bodies.
I was 17 the first time weight loss surgery was presented to me. It’s hard for me to remember a doctor’s appointment where weight loss was not mentioned – even when I was struggling with an eating disorder that had led me to lose over 80 pounds in 3 months. I have never found a doctor who honors my request to not discuss weight loss, even with my known history of eating disorders.
I have friend’s that were talked into weight loss surgery at a young age who are suffering life long consequences. In my community of plus size bodies, it’s not abnormal for people to have friends who have died from the complications of surgery. Their stories are not unique, but they are painful reminders that we are not allowed to exist without mutilating and conforming our bodies to a standard that literally kills.
And we see our friends, the people we look up to, celebrities, all succumb to weight loss surgery. We watch as these people go from happy fatties who promote self love and acceptance, to a person who was “never really happy”, who felt trapped in their fat body. And we ask ourselves how this can happen. How can a person’s values change? Is every fat person lying about loving themselves? Is this all just a facade that people are putting on? Does anyone ever actually love themselves when they are fat?
I’m here to tell you that fat people absolutely can and do love their bodies. The problem is not within each individual. The problem is with our culture.
The volume at which our society tells fat people that they are not worthy is deafening. We are discriminated against in the workplace. We receive poor medical care. We cannot find clothes that fit our bodies. We are celebrated for shrinking. Our mental illnesses are blamed on the size of our bodies. The knowledge that our lives would be vastly improved if we shrank is not inherent – it is learned.
And this is my cry for help.
I don’t know how else to say it. It’s time for those who have the privilege of not having their bodies seen as an outward expression of their unworthiness to step up. We are being encouraged to amputate a healthy organ from our body, so that we can be more visually pleasing. We are being asked to live with a lifetime of complications and increased risk for medical issues so that we can be smaller. We are told that instead of demanding equality for our differences we should conform.
I don’t know where you start. Maybe you start sharing articles about fat positivity on facebook. Or you call out fatphobic language your friends use. Maybe you examine why you’re so obsessed with other people’s health, or why you think the only good bodies are the ones who’s healthy ideal is the same as yours. I don’t know.
I am tired. I am tired of seeing people congratulated for not looking like me anymore. I’m tired of our culture acting like people who look like me are less than, as if we’re some sad reminder of what happens when you don’t love yourself.
I love myself – now I just need you to help create a world that will allow that.
edit* I am not a news outlet. I do not have an ethical obligation to allow people to engage in discourse that I find counter-productive or harmful to the audience I serve. If you leave a comment that promotes weight loss, diet culture, or weight loss surgery in any way, it will not be posted. For those of you who are preparing to have this surgery, I strongly encourage you to read Dr Linda Bacon’s book Health At Every Size. Here is an excerpt from the book about the dangers of weight loss surgery.