Monday, September 26, 2011

Fat Girl Health

Actually, all health, male or female, thin or fat. But this is my particular experience with my trip to the doctor as a fat woman. I didn't jump in the recent debate about Jess Weiner, the former fat activist who wrote a sensationalized article about how fat acceptance "made her" ignore important aspects of health such as seeing a doctor. Because I don't know much about this woman or her history in fat acceptance, I stayed away from it, but my trip to see a doctor today for the first time since I can remember for a checkup did remind me of her and how our culture views health in general.

First of all, exercise and healthy eating are extremely important for health. I'm not denying that, I'm not challenging that, that's not what this is about, just so as we're clear on that. Lifestyle, however, can only take you so far. I feel empowered when I go to the gym, especially after an especially hard workout. I feel empowered when I make a delicious and healthy meal or when my son rejects someone offering him fries and asks for an apple. I feel confident that I've taught him healthy habits and that makes me proud. But nothing made me feel so empowered, so in charge of my health and my life, as going to see a doctor this past week. I had blood drawn for all of the normal things- lipids, glucose, vitamin D, etc (also had blood pressure taken which was fabulously perfect even with the white coat anxiety). I feel pretty sure they'll all come back fine, but the part that makes me feel good is knowing for sure. If they don't come back fine I feel great knowing that the knowledge means that I can take control of it, change it, or treat it. And there are plenty of issues that can arise regardless of how active you are or how well you eat. You should also regularly get tested for STI's even if you're in a monogamous relationship and don't forget your general physical exam. I also got the first dose of the HPV vaccine; if you're a woman, you should be getting this.

My point is this: taking care of yourself feels good. Great even! And it goes far beyond just lifestyle and definitely beyond weight since that number can't tell you anything about your health. Sadly, almost 50 million Americans don't have health insurance. Even more have health insurance but still don't go to the doctor's because they can't afford the deductibles and copays. I'm 26 and I just now got insurance. I haven't been to a doctor for anything other than reproductive issues in so many years that I can't even remember. In fact, I may not have been to have a regular checkup since I was a kid. I'm privileged enough to have that taken care of for me. I was able to tell the doctor that yes, I wanted the Gardasil vaccine even if my insurance didn't cover it. Health is multi faceted and while the "obesity epidemic" is complete bullshit, we do have a health epidemic. Health care should be considered a basic human right and this is one area that the US is greatly lagging behind in. Maybe that's why we resort to faux epidemics and scare tactics and sensationalism. It's a substitute for actual health care and it doesn't work, not even close.

You may have occasionally heard the word healthism come up in the fatosphere and perhaps in a post or conversation about ableism. Healthism is the idea that healthy people are more moral and better people than unhealthy people. I likely don't have to tell you, dear readers, that it's all too obvious that classism is also involved since the ability to access quality healthcare is something that's reserved for the wealthy. Not even the middle class have the kind of access they need. Because I am middle class and I still have to decide if I should go to the physical therapist that my doctor recommended for an old rotator cuff injury, the psychiatrist for my bipolar medication, the psychologist for my PTSD, the eye doctor, or the dentist. I can only pick one for this month and then I have to decide who in my family gets to go get their needs taken care of first because we can't all seek medical care at the same time.

How is this a fat issue? Because healthism is deeply intertwined with fatphobia and sizism and poor people are more likely to be fatter (there are all kinds of speculation on why- my belief is that it has to do with emotional well being as well as untreated health issues). Healthism includes fatphobia which includes classism. It's a vicious cycle of violence against the sick and the poor. Healthcare is a human rights issue.

 I feel like the importance of seeing a doctor regularly is glossed over when talking about HAES sometimes, perhaps because of the huge number of people who have no way of following this advice. Our broken health care system is proof that no one actually cares about our health when they shame us, especially when you think about government programs and initiatives such as Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" anti fat kid campaign. The same people who claim to care about your health in one breath will deny you healthcare coverage in the next. So all of you health trolls- I will be completely ignoring you until you start advocating for universal health care and stop talking about fatties driving up health care costs.


  1. Posting this one to my Fat Heffalump Facebook page, for sure. Great post!


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