|photo by Travis McKeithan|
You may have heard by now that the American Medical Association (AMA) has now officially classified "obesity" as a disease. You read that right- all fat people are now diseased and must be cured. But we already knew this didn't we? Doctors have been treating us like we were diseased for decades. The AMA hopes that classifying fatness as a disease will help end stigma, but we all know that's not true. It will only add to it. As a queer fat woman this reminds me an awful lot of the folk who want to cure me of my queerness. I've been asked, if I had a choice, would I be straight. The answer is, unequivocally, no. Because being queer is not a disease. My sexuality is not a disease to be cured. And neither is my body. In fact, there's a great hashtag going around twitter right now- #IAmNotADisease. So take to twitter everyone and hashtag away!
What's funny is that the AMA made this decision against the advice of it's own council of Science and Public Health which studied the issue for about a year. “Given the existing limitations of B.M.I. to diagnose obesity in clinical practice, it is unclear that recognizing obesity as a disease, as opposed to a ‘condition’ or ‘disorder,’ will result in improved health outcomes,” The council noted. And also, "The council said that obesity should not be considered a disease mainly because the measure usually used to define obesity, the body mass index, is simplistic and flawed. Some people with a BMI above the level that usually defines obesity are perfectly healthy while others below it can have dangerous levels of body fat and metabolic problems associated with obesity". 1
Not that the AMA has any legal weight, but this is a dangerous series of events. The Obesity Society issued a report in 2008 supporting classifying "obesity" as a disease and Medicare removed language from it's manual saying that "obesity" was not a disease in 2004. In addition the IRS has said that "obesity" treatments can qualify for tax deductions. 2
And speaking of "obesity" treatments, this decision seems to come on the heel of two new diet drugs, Qsemia and Belviq, which are both ineffective and unsafe (not that that's stopped anyone from peddling any weight loss treatment before). The FDA recently relaxed restrictions on Qsemia even though it's suspected to cause birth defects.
What is it about pathologizing a body that seems so appealing to so many people? After all, fatness doesn't necessarily go along with any disease and lots of thin people have diseases associated with fatness. So what's the point of turning my body into a disease exactly? Oh I know, stigma, And to sell shitty weight loss drugs. This move is utterly dehumanizing. You can't have a war on fat without a war on fat people. We are our bodies. Someone on TITP compared "obesity" to cancer and pointed out that a war on cancer isn't a war on cancer patients. *facepalm*. Could someone get anymore clueless? First of all, fat isn't something a person has, it's something a person is. More so, fat isn't, as much as the AMA would like to differ, a disease. It may be associated with certain diseases (note I didn't say that it caused certain diseases), but it isn't a disease in and of itself. A disease has specific symptoms, fat doesn't. A disease is a sickness, something bad and something to get rid of. My body isn't.
Did you hear me? My body is not a disease to be gotten rid of. It's my body. It's what I live with every day. And sure it comes with differences compared to a thin body, but who said different was bad? Who's the high holy arbitrator of body policing? I think the answer is clear- the multi billion dollar diet industry. The ones who literally sell us the idea that we're not good enough until we buy their products. You know those two new diet drugs I mentioned above? $150 and $200 a month for a measly few pounds of weight loss that are eventually gained back. Plus all those pesky side effects like birth defects.
So what exactly does this mean, practically, for us fat people? More doctors pushing more weight loss methods that cost us lots more money. That's it. Unfortunately I see the war on fat getting a lot worse before it gets better. There will be more casualties than ever before, but there's a silver lining. The fat acceptance and HAES movements are also gaining ground. A few years ago there were hardly any books, blogs, or articles that involved body acceptance of any kind. Now they are all over the place- a dime a dozen. We're on podcasts and radio shows, on TV and the blogosphere. We're not only all over fat acceptance spaces but body acceptance and feminist spaces as well. And every one of you who pushes back against fatphobia and fat oppression is helping the cause.
My body is my own. #IAmNotADisease