Sunday, April 26, 2020

When Did Fat Become the Worst Thing You Could Be?

All of us are stressed. No one knows what to do with themselves in the time of Quarantine. I’ve seen the social media posts about all the baking, what people are binge watching, and the struggles as well. There’s also the negativity. One of my issues I’ve noticed is the fat-phobic posts and comments.
It’s played off as a joke. A lighthearted meme or post. To fat people this isn’t a joke. When did it become a sin to be one of us? People might be thinking why I decided to write this post. For the people who read me, they know I’m body and fat positive in real life and in my stories.
Every body is worthy of love and respect. Bodies whatever their size aren’t the fodder for punchlines.

Loving our bodies isn’t easy. It’s not a decision we make overnight. We have to struggle for years, decades, and in some cases we never accept what physical form we have. A lot of us dealt with eating disorders at one time or are still struggling with them.
I know the Body Positivity Movement has received a lot of attention for glorifying obesity. At its core Body Positivity is about working to love the body you’re in. Our weight has nothing to do with our health. This might shock you but a lot of fat people exercise. There are fat athletes. And even if we’re not so-called healthy our bodies are not your business.
Social media has made it easier for people to say things, make comments about our bodies, how we deal with mental illness or just about anything. They feel there are no consequences to their actions. Maybe in the grand scheme there are none for them, but the people who see those posts take them to heart.
Those fifteen extra pounds are whatever you’ve gained and post your memes about waddling to the fridge or whatever made you chuckle are not a joke. There are statistics that show it’s not a joke.

This is in no way to belittle the people. I’m calling people out who think those little chuckles are no big deal. I’m tired of me, the people I love, and the characters I write being your punchlines. Would you say what you did if you were saying it to your children, your partner or a family member. 
Would you body shame them so freely with your chuckles?
Your children are watching you. They hear your jokes, your self-deprecating humor, and they begin to see themselves as unacceptable. 
Here are some statistics to show you what body shaming even in a joking manner can cause:
  • Children of mothers who are overly concerned about their weight are at increased risk for modeling their unhealthy attitudes and behaviors.
Andreyeva, T., Puhl, R. M. and Brownell, K. D. (2008), Changes in Perceived Weight Discrimination Among Americans, 1995–1996 Through 2004–2006. Obesity, 16: 1129–1134. doi:10.1038/oby.2008.35

  • Males represent 25% of individuals with anorexia nervosa, and they are at a higher risk of dying, in part because they are often diagnosed later since many people assume males don’t have eating disorders.
Mond, J.M., Mitchison, D., & Hay, P. (2014) “Prevalence and implications of eating disordered behavior in men” in Cohn, L., Lemberg, R. (2014) Current Findings on Males with Eating Disorders. Philadelphia, PA: Routledge. 

  • Eating disorders are serious conditions that can have a profound mental and physical impact, including death. This should not discourage anyone struggling—recovery is real, and treatment is available. Statistics on mortality and eating disorders underscore the impact of these disorders and the importance of treatment.
  • Eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders, surpassed only by opioid addiction.
Chesney, E., Goodwin, G. M., & Fazel, S. (2014). Risks of all-cause and suicide mortality in mental disorders: a meta-review. World Psychiatry, 13(2), 153-160.
  • Anorexia has an estimated mortality rate of around 10%.
Arcelus, J., Mitchell, A. J., Wales, J., & Nielsen, S. (2011). Mortality rates in patients with Anorexia Nervosa and other eating disorders. Archives of General Psychiatry, 68(7), 724-731.
  • Among those who struggle with anorexia, 1 in 5 deaths is by suicide
  • A Swedish study of 6,000 women who were treated for anorexia nervosa found that, over 30 years, women with anorexia nervosa had a six-fold increase in mortality compared to the general population. The researchers also found an increased mortality rate from ‘natural’ causes, such as cancer, compared to the general population. Younger age and longer initial hospitalizations were associated with improved outcomes, while comorbid conditions (e.g., alcohol addiction) worsened the outcome. 
Papadopoulos, F. C., A. Ekbom, L. Brandt, and L. Ekselius. "Excess Mortality, Causes of Death and Prognostic Factors in Anorexia Nervosa." The British Journal of Psychiatry 194.1 (2008): 10-17.
  • Researchers studied records of 1,885 individuals evaluated for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and EDNOS at the University of Minnesota outpatient clinic, over 8-25 years. Researchers found an increased risk of suicide for all eating disorders studied. Crude mortality rates were 4% for anorexia nervosa; 3.9% for bulimia nervosa; and 5.2% for EDNOS, now recognized as OSFED.
Crow, S. J., Peterson, C. B., Swanson, S. A., Raymond, N. C., Specker, S., Eckert, E. D., & Mitchell, J. E. (2009). Increased mortality in bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 166(12), 1342-1346. DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.09020247

No gender, race, or socioeconomic group is immune to eating disorders or the pressures of what is considered the perfect body image. LGBTQ+ Youth, especially men/boys have some of the highest rates of some eating disorders.

  • In one study, gay and bisexual boys reported being significantly more likely to have fasted, vomited, or taken laxatives or diet pills to control their weight in the last 30 days.
  • Gay males are thought to only represent 5% of the total male population but among males who have eating disorders, 42% identify as gay.
  • Gay males were seven times more likely to report binging and 12 times more likely to report purging than heterosexual males.
  • Compared with heterosexual men, gay and bisexual men had a significantly higher prevalence of lifetime full syndrome bulimia, subclinical bulimia, and any subclinical eating disorder.
  • Females identified as lesbian, bisexual, or mostly heterosexual were about twice as likely to report binge-eating at least once per month in the last year.
  • Elevated rates of binge-eating and purging by vomiting or laxative abuse was found for people who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or “mostly heterosexual” in comparison to their heterosexual peers.
  • Black and Latinx LGBs have at least as high a prevalence of eating disorders as white LGBs.
  • A sense of connectedness to the gay community was related to fewer current eating disorders, which suggests that feeling connected to the gay community may have a protective effect against eating disorders.
People are dying every day to fit into this world. Fat people don’t owe you thinness. We don’t owe you our bodies. Keep with your binge eating jokes. Keep with your gym jokes. That’s your right. Free speech and all that. But if something in this post made you stop and think for a minute, realize that people especially children are watching.
Would you rather have a happy child who is happy in their skin or a dead child that you could’ve saved by just being conscious of what you say?
Sometimes eating is self-care. A treat to make you feel better. In times like these we find our comfort items and yes sometimes that's food. So take care of yourself if that's an extra cookie or an extra lap on the treadmill. Do what makes you happy and feel good in your body.

(Statistics found on National Eating Disorders)

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