This morning I wrote a tweet, which started a conversation that made me think. I wrote this: “To me, fat is not funny or sympathetic. As a dangerous, debilitating, & easily-avoidable self-inflicted medical condition, fat is just sad.”
In response, I was told by a thoughtful man that what I had said was offensive to him. Now I am well aware that facts can be offensive (both in the immutable way that boys are generally stronger than girls and in the very mutable way that boys are generally paid more than girls). But was this offensive statement a fact, or was it just an offensive statement?
Keep in mind, I am talking about the physical dangers of being fat. I have never implied that fat is less smart, less attractive, less aesthetically pleasing, or less kind.
Smart: I have known brilliant minds whose bodies carried around the cross of this disorder.
Attractive: I have had girlfriends who were unilaterally considered overweight. Many people find certain kinds of fat very attractive (see this article’s featured image).
Aesthetic: Here in Mexico, they have a compound word ‘gordi-buenas,’ literally put together from the words ‘fat’ and ‘hot,’ implying that they are one and the same. (NOTE: Gordi-buenas refers to women. I have never heard of Gordi-buenos.)
Kind: I often think that due to the humor and ridicule many people (not me) associate with their condition, fat people tend to be kinder than most human beings of ideal weight.
But they’re also dying a lot faster.
I had made a number of very specific claims in my statement – that fat was 1: dangerous, 2: debilitating, 3: easily avoidable, and 4: self-inflicted. I wanted to find out if these were really the case. On a scale of one to 10, how specious was I being? Was fat really dangerous? Was it really self-inflicted?
One of the most obvious and (to me) one of the saddest types of fat also turns out to be the most dangerous. It is the visceral menace that accumulates around your waistline: belly fat. Researchers describe this fat as a brand new active organ that you have unwittingly grown inside your own body – an organ that steadily pumps poison into the rest of your organs.
Central obesity increases a woman’s risk of heart disease five times, her risk of breast cancer by a third, and doubles her risk of gallstones. It also increases men’s risk of erectile dysfunction, and of something called ‘all-cause mortality.’ That literally means that being fat increases your chances of dying early from anything, period.
Not only is fat dangerous, it is living on the fucking edge much more than skiing or skydiving. Statistically, eating and inactivity can beat any extreme sport hands down.
A debilitating disease is one that drastically weakens your body. Like congestive heart failure (four times more likely in obese persons). Or degenerative (osteo) arthritis (five times more likely in overweight persons). Or 37 other horrible illnesses that fat women are more likely to experience, and 29 debilitating conditions that fat men are more likely to develop.
In fact, the most dangerous type of fat mentioned above (belly fat) is actually the easiest to get rid of because of its proximity to the liver (fat-burning being one of the liver’s main jobs). Unfortunately, this means making healthy lifestyle choices. Every. Fucking. Day. It means taking that shit out of your mouth and getting up.
Eat actual food. Not too much. Move around. How much easier could it be?
Genes influence human physiology, but single-gene forms of obesity are very rare. It turns out that in most people, genetic factors only make a very small contribution to their weight – a contribution that can be easily counteracted by positive lifestyle choices such as physical activity and low caloric intake.
Is it because audiences see fat people as being jolly? As being out of control? As failing at being sexy so being forced to develop humor as a backup plan? A glance at Rolling Stones’ list of the 50 Funniest People in the World shows a much higher percentage of funny fat performers per capita than serious celebrity lists (Louis CK, Lena Dunham, Zach Galifianakis, Ricky Gervais, Rebel Wilson, Mindy Kaling, Tracy Morgan, Melissa McCarthy, among many other household names).
But if you are fat and you disagree with this post, chances are you mean well. A recent study on the indelible link between sugar and obesity (high sugar consumption = 50% increased likelihood of obesity) also highlighted another interesting fact: fat people are often in denial about how much they eat. The study indicated that people with a higher Body Mass Index tended to underestimate the amount of food they had eaten.
Fat people don’t make me laugh, they make me sad, much in the same way that chain smokers or heroin abusers don’t make me laugh. So if this post is fat-shaming, it is so in the way that the hideous pictures on cigarette cartons are smoker-shaming.
Cigarettes kill people. Fat kills more people and faster.
Back in 2001, Surgeon General David Satcher announced that fat was poised to take over tobacco as the leading cause of preventable deaths. In the 15 years since that announcement was made, fat has given smoking a sound beating year after year in the arena of killing humans.
But Surgeon General David Satcher was skinny and handsome and therefore not to be trusted.
Because as everyone knows, all beautiful people are stupid and have terrible personalities.