How Dare Fat People Be Healthy

One of the most used methods of fat shaming and justification for fat hate is tell fat people you are only mocking and/or insulting them for their health. You’re not participating in the sociocultural punishment of fat because you’ve been culturally conditioned to view fat as a physical manifestation of sloth, gluttony, and lack of control! Nope! You just care about their health and are calling them disgusting vermin for their own good

This is a pernicious form of concern-trolling, and it’s based on culturally approved and codified malarkey.

Fat is not an axiomatic tell for health. Thin does not automatically equal healthy and fat does not automatically equal unhealthy. Health at Every Size, a book by Dr. Linda Bacon, goes into the nitty-gritty of research and statistics proving fat people are often just as healthy as thin people, and I highly recommend it. Moreover, multiple studies done after her book was published continue to support her assertions. Just recently research has found that more than 54 million “overweight” and “obese” people in America are actually healthy.

Scientists in California say that 34.4 million Americans considered technically overweight due to their BMI are actually healthy based on a range of cardiometabolic health markers, as are some 19.8 million ‘obese’ people.

There are several markers for cardiometabolic health and these markers — rather than BMI or waist circumference or the size of your pants – tell you whether or not you are healthy in general. The most commonly used markers are:

1) subendocardial viability ratio (SEVR); also known as Buckberg index, is an index of myocardial oxygen supply and demand calculated through pulse wave analysis

2) blood pressure

3) total cholesterol levels; you want lots of “good” HDL cholesterol and as little of the “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides as possible

4) glycated haemoglobin; also known as your A1C readings, tell you how much sugar is running amok in your blood plasma. Even a slightly elevated blood sugar means a multifold increase to your risk of heart disease.

People who are fat often have excellent cardiometabolic health. Health is largely a function of nutritional intake and physical activity, and just because someone is fat doesn’t mean they eat unhealthy foods and are sedentary. There is more and more evidence that biology, not diet and exercise, determines how much you will weigh.

The reality that fat is not a visible or viable method of determining anything about a person’s worth or health has not lessened concern-trolling or the social stigma of being fat. In fact, evidence that a person is both fat and healthy can actually cause concern-trolls to fly into a rage, since it undermines cultural understandings. This is particularly true when the fat and healthy person is also a woman. Fat hate is aimed more at women than at men, in part because (as I explained in The Jezebel Effect) fat equates with “slutty” behavior and makes a woman “bad” and thus someone to be reviled on multiple levels.

One of the most obvious examples of the sociocultural angst regarding women who are fat and healthy is the hate mail received by athlete and dancer Ragen Chastain. She is both fat and incredibly physically fit. This fills trolls with unholy ire and they demand she “prove” her health and fitness. She does, in spades.

ragen chastain heel stretch

Almost inevitably the trolls’ responses to her demonstration of fitness devolve into attacks on her looks.

I was e-mailed and challenged to state my numbers.  I posted my cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure etc., all in the exceptionally healthy range.  People called me a liar … So I posted pictures of my strength and flexibility … They got mean. They called me a whale, they called me a hippo, they said that it doesn’t matter because I’m still fat. And there it was, staring me in the face.  The truth.  The reason that “proving it” will never work and the proof that I was wasting my time. Their core belief is that accomplishments only count if you’re thin, so since I’m fat no amount of proving it will ever be enough.

Ragen Chastain has even received death threats because how dare she be fat and healthy and unashamedly athletic? She is not alone. Other female fat activists often receive death threats, and have even been stalked, terrorized, threatened with rape, and physically harassed.

These are the consequences for flouting the sociocultural norm that fat makes you “bad” and all the scientific evidence in the world won’t protect you if you contradict what “everybody knows”. 

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