A few months ago, Reddit made news because it banned a 150,000-strong group dedicated to tracking down and harassing fat people (don't worry, several fat-hating subreddits are still there, at least one with over 100,000 members). The existence of those groups surprised some people -- not that there was mockery of the overweight, but that there wasfrothing, pathological hatred of them. And if you're an overweight female, then God help you -- girls' self-esteem is inversely proportional to their body weight. And this is because society makes it clear that the overweight are inhuman, soulless monsters.
And where you find irrational hatred, you find lots of people who have no idea what the hell they're talking about. Almost every aspect of our war against fat is screwed by a slew of misconceptions, mistakes, and dodgy data. For instance, did you know that ...
5Weight Discrimination Is Widely Accepted (But Makes No Sense)
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It would be one thing if the obese were merely easy comedy targets around the office (and they are), but there is an entire system of discrimination aimed directly at the horizontally-challenged amongst us. Workplace bias against the fat is more prevalent than discrimination based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability. And as you can probably guess, it's worse for women.
To clarify, neither the study nor we are insinuating that weight discrimination is somehow "worse" than racism or sexism. However, unlike its competitors, weight discrimination isn't often talked about, and actually seems kind of acceptable. While we're all pretty much in agreement that you can't choose your sex and race, lots of people cling to the mentality that weight is not only a choice, but also a moral choice. "If those lazy bastards just had some self-respect, they'd put down the ice cream and get off their asses!" Yes, now tell us again about the time you had to sit next to a fat person on a long flight!
... Also, tell us about how when you eat ice cream, it doesn't count.
Never mind that researchers now know over 140 locations across the human genome that contribute to obesity in various ways. Or that whether or not you're overweight depends heavily on what part of the world you grew up in, what prescription drugs you're taking, whether you have children (yes, in the case of both mothers and fathers), and your income and demographic group. Think the problem is that people these days have simply gotten too lazy? Well, studies show that in parts of the country where physical activity increased, so did obesity. (Note: People who exercise tend to eat more.) Oh, and your "lazy" Western lifestyle burns the same amount of energy as that of your hunter-gatherer ancestors.
Roughly translated, "Ugg's mama so fat, when she gather around fire, she gather around fire."
What we're saying is that while you do control what you eat, factors outside your control determine how often you get hungry, how strongly you feel hunger, what food is most easily available to you, and how much time and energy you have to devote to fitness. In other words, a thin person mocking a fat person is no different than a rich person mocking the poor -- it requires willful ignorance about how both of you got that way.
4Our Dietary Habits Are More About Vanity Than Health ... And That Can Kill You
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Ask overweight people why they want to lose the pounds, and a desire to improve appearance comes in as the top answer. We all know why -- the fat-hate crowd likes to insist that they really just worry about their targets' health. But the stigma against the overweight has far less to do with health than it does with finding fat people unpleasant to look at. Channing Tatum can be seen smoking tobacco and weed on camera in between bites of pure butter, but no one will blink as long as he has those abs. But if he gains 150 pounds, his film career will be over and the tabloids will call him a monster. Twenty pounds if he was a woman:
"We demand every cell of fat be in your butt and breasts! Your body is only for our amusement!"
The problem with this should be obvious: If we're thin, it's all too easy to be lulled to a false sense of security, despite the multitude of ways traditional "fat people diseases" such as cardiovascular problems and diabetes can plague thin people, too. Who cares if the doctor's yelling at you when your six-pack says you're as healthy as can be, right? Nobody looks at a sexy model on a billboard and asks how their blood pressure is doing.
Here's how crazy it's gotten. It's well-known that quitting smoking leads to weight gain (about ten pounds, on average). Society has made us so scared of being overweight that smokers are afraid to quit because of this. A third of smokers say that the reason they don't quit is that they're afraid they'll get fat. Hell, many who actually manage to quit soon find themselves contemplating picking up the habit again because of the pounds they packed on after quitting.
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"At least now the judgy assholes just make faces and walk away."
That's how ingrained the "thin is better than fat" thing is in our culture. There are people out there who'd rather risk dying from cancer than living as a fat person, even though no doctor in the world would recommend it. "You've put on a few pounds, Steve, I'm going to prescribe you this here carton of Camels. What's wrong, Steve? Don't you want to be cool? Are you a pussy?"