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Let's Talk About Fat, Let's Talk About What You Think of Me

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America hates fat people. There, I said it. I'll say it again: America hates fat people. We make America feel uncomfortable. We require attention. You cannot ignore us as we walk down a street, or sit in our car, or dare to enter a mall.

We are the source of all of society's ills, and people are quick to let us know it. We are seen by many as the reason for high health care costs. I mean, if we remember Ashton Kutcher eloquently gave us his opinion on that topic in 2009, when on Bill Maher's HBO show he stated: "Frankly, I don't want to pay for the guy who's getting a triple-bypass because he's eating fast food all day and deep-fried Snickers bars. I don't want to pay for him! Whether he's wealthy or he's not!"

We evoke powerful reactions from people, and they just feel as if it is their right and duty to tell us. After all, fatness is more of a moral failing than a systemic issue, or an issue tied to emotions or personal histories. Remember when Marie Claire writer Maura Kelly wrote her post "Should 'Fatties' Get a Room? (Even on TV?)" about feeling "grossed out" at the idea of two fat people kissing; hell, fat people walking displeased her. And, since she stated watching fat people doing "anything" would gross her out, and since a large part of people's existence in general is being looked at and looking, I assume even breathing, just fat people existing is a problem for her. Don't worry; there was the sanctimonious backlash and she apologized so all is forgiven. Right?

We are a source of entertainment for others, bodies making karmic justice corporeal. The mighty Joan Rivers has poked fun at us, and even the once-chubby teen but now adult fashion plate Kelly Osbourn relished Christina Aguilera becoming a "fat" for, allegedly, being a "bitch" to her when she was younger. (See, fat is a punishment from on high -- bad karma.) Even on the HuffPost Live (which I love) there can be conflicting messages about bodies, which matter and which are just problematic.

We are just plain old uncool, because you know, you never actually graduate from high school. Don't believe me? Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch (that illustrious brand), is proudly announcing that fat kids (mainly fat girls) are just not "cool enough" to wear their made-under-murky-circumstances clothes. (It should be noted though that this is just the latest in a long history of A&F discriminating against different groups of people; anyone else remember the "look book"?)

But this is not a surprise; it does not shock me. Because as I said, and if you have ever been fat you probably know this, too: America hates fat people. Yet, as much of America is apparently fat or overweight, that means there is a lot of self-loathing going on. What shocks me is our response to people who voice what other people think every day.

Let me ask you -- what is more harmful: the words of a CEO of a company that we all know only markets to and for certain people, or the thoughts that people have that it is permissible to charge you more for a seat on a plane or for clothing, or for healthier food for when you try to loose weight, or all the stares you get because you are trying to just live your life?"

For me, it is the latter. This is not really about feelings. Yes, they get hurt -- oh my God, how my feelings have been hurt -- this is about treating us with dignity. Couching prejudices and disgust with obese bodies into conversations about, say, health care does not really further the debate. Medical facts about the effects of excess weight does not merit the treatment fat people receive in memes, on the news, in the various media, from strangers. Fat-shaming does not work for most people. And, let's be honest, "fat" is a capitalistic wonder; as of 2012 it is a $20 billion business, from The Biggest Loser, to Jenny Craig, to Weight Watchers, to endless segments on fat, to the conflicting messages women in particular receive -- from magazines, movies, and the media ("love yourself," "look beautiful at any size," "you are beautiful just as you are," "how to lose 10 pounds," "fat-tina," "look at how amazing celebrity X looks in their bikini now that they lost all that weight") -- to personal trainers, to diet books, to health foods, to exersice videos and the 2 a.m. Insanity commercial with the cute Shaun T -- there is money in "fat." And not all of it is bad.

I love, when I can afford it, buying the healthier options; I love finding new healthier ways to cook, and going to the Y is not the ninth circle of hell that I thought it would be. It is the eighth. I think we can and should have conversations about how and why people are becoming obese (beyond the simple mathematical equation of calories in versus calories burned), but what I would like, because I can no longer abide the lack of it, is some honesty. Let us stop being shocked when people say these horrid things because many people treat us fat people in horrid ways. It is not a progressive thing or a Republican thing, it is an epidemic. If we have an obesity epidemic (and we do) we also have an epidemic of fat-antagonism.

Like I said, it is not about feelings; it is about dignity. It is about me, and others, never having to walk into a store and wonder will someone take my picture and post it online for ridicule just because I am alive in this body. It is about me, and others, never having to walk to meet a sibling and have a stranger yell at you that "[their] tax money goes to your belly." It is about making people feel human and like they are worth something. If you want to help fat people lose weight, treat them, treat us, with dignity.

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