Weighty Matters

This TNR article is four years old but recently reposted, and nothing much has changed in the interim about American's obsession with weight, as a health and a beauty issue. I really recommend reading the whole thing, but here's a brief excerpt to whet your appetite, so to speak:

[Americans] long to believe that medical experts can solve the problem of their expanding waistlines. The reason for this can be summed up in six words: Americans think being fat is disgusting. That psychological truth creates an enormous incentive to give our disgust a respectable motivation. In other words, being fat must be terrible for one's health, because if it isn't that means our increasing hatred of fat represents a social, psychological, and moral problem rather than a medical one.

…A rational public health policy would emphasize that the keys to good health (at least those that anyone can do anything about—genetic factors remain far more important than anything else) are, in roughly descending order of importance: not to smoke, not to be an alcoholic or drug addict, not to be sedentary, and not to eat a diet packed with junk food.
Hmm…sounds suspiciously like that zany Health at Every Size bizness I keep mentioning.

It's true that a more active populace that ate a healthier diet would be somewhat thinner, as would a nation that wasn't dieting obsessively. Even so, there is no reason why there shouldn't be millions of healthy, happy fat people in the United States, as there no doubt would be in a culture that maintained a rational attitude toward the fact that people will always come in all shapes and sizes, whether they live healthy lives or not.
It remains a radical act to be fat and happy in America, especially if you're a woman (for whom "jolly" fatness isn't an option). If you're fat, you're not only meant to be unhappy, but deeply ashamed of yourself, projecting at all times an apologetic nature, indicative of your everlasting remorse for having wrought your monstrous self upon the world. You are certainly not meant to be bold, or assertive, or confident—and should you manage to overcome the constant drumbeat of messages that you are ugly and unsexy and have earned equally society's disdain and your own self-hatred, should you forget your place and walk into the world one day with your head held high, you are to be reminded by the cow-calls and contemptuous looks of perfect strangers that you are not supposed to have self-esteem; you don't deserve it. Being publicly fat and happy is hard; being publicly, shamelessly, unshakably fat and happy is an act of both will and bravery.

Rare indeed is the fat chick who manages to find contentment in her own skin, because everything around her is designed so that she will not. Thusly, the idea of a culture that maintains a rational attitude about a spectrum of natural (and acceptable) shapes and sizes is almost impossible to imagine—and yet important enough to imagine and set as goal nevertheless, because the girl who is healthy but fat is not being served by our scorn, and the girl who is unhealthy but thin is not being served by our approbation. And that is to say nothing of the boy who suffers under this grand delusion as well, of whom I know less, since he has never been in my mirror.

(Via Amp.)

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