This is Thin Privilege

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I just realized that whenever people ask me why I’m vegan/vegetarian (I used to be full vegan but I eat eggs now), very often they also ask if it’s for health reasons, without waiting for my answer.  At first I barely noticed it; then I was like “huh that’s weird people keep asking if it’s for health reasons and nobody ever asks if it’s for animal rights;” now I’m beginning to think people are assuming it’s for health reasons because why else would I be a fat vegetarian? Or they think fat people only make food decisions based on losing weight and not like, ethical concerns or anything.  

I also am not sure how to respond, if this really is because people are trying to reconcile the existence of fat non-dairy vegetarians—I’ve been saying that no, it’s for ethical reasons, but now that I’m realizing this is probably a microaggression I kind of want to point that out without actually being like “NOT ALL VEGANS/VEGETARIANS ARE TINY OK AND FAT PEOPLE CAN BE HEALTHY!” Just because often this question is coming from people I’m meeting for the first time, who are well-meaning and completely unaware of how offensive/prejudiced that question is.  It’s also tricky because I feel like I have to counter fat stereotypes in addition to vegan stereotypes (vegans are militant, judgmental extremists, etc). 

Have any other fat vegans/vegetarians had that experience?  Am I being paranoid? Or is this just another instance where “health reasons” is code for “to lose weight?”  And if you’ve had that experience, how do you handle it? Do you try to draw attention to that assumption? Do you let it go?  Are you incredibly frustrated about people acting like fat vegans/vegetarians don’t exist and want to vent? This happened to me last weekend and now that I’m realizing there’s a pattern this (and how I’m not supposed to exist in general) is bothering me.

Thin privilege is when my sister said to me that someone being mean to a 17 year old girl when she doesn’t play a sport very well is as bad if not worse than being told not to eat again. 
I reminded her that even if the girl never played the sport again, it would still be better than never eating again, seeing as you would die. (That’s not to say I think what the person who was mean was correct in their comments. I thought they were rude and wrong.)
Her response? “Yeah but not playing sports could lead to obesity which could lead to death or other health issues!”
I just wanted to tell her that a) we are talking one sport here, not all sports, b) stopping playing sports may or may not cause weight gain, but refusing to eat will certainly cause death c) weight gain is not bad in and of itself, and d) Is “obesity” or pretty much any other health concern it “causes” really worse than death? (I put cause in quotations for obvious reasons).

She didn’t understand how damaging such a statement could be because she has never been fat a day in her life. She has always eaten whatever she wants. She now eats “healthy” because she’s a vegetarian who likes to cook lots of dishes, but it wasn’t always so. I, on the other hand, was not so lucky with the genetics.

Now I love my sister, but her ignorance on the experiences of being fat angers me more than I can express. For example, she can’t understand why I find it very annoying and am not flattered when men call me pretty. According to her I need to be nicer about it and say “thank you” or something, because the men are trying to be nice. She doesn’t understand that when I was fat, the same men that call me pretty now were horrible towards me and would never be “nice”. Sorry, they’re not “nice”. And I will not be all thankful for someone pointing out a trait of mine that I don’t care much about. Where were all of these nice men when I was fat? (I’m not even going to get into why I find such “compliments” mysoginistic and devious in nature, and how a lot of times my sister doesn’t notice that the compliments are more geared towards her and then just bounced on me to get her attention. Example of something someone says to her: “Oh, you’re so pretty! And your sister, too!”)

Having the luxury to be unaware of fat phobia and fat discrimination is thin privilege.

Thin privilege is getting to eat at your favorite restaurant without seeing posters pitted against you. (Fat discrimination tw, body policing tw)

The other day I was at Nando’s, my absolute favorite place to eat. I had not been to this particular location before. While my family and I were waiting for our food to come, I was looking around the room from my seat. One thing I saw was a poster that said: “If you’re shaped like an apple or pear, eat apples and pears.”

Oh, of course. How dare fat people want to eat anything besides fruit and vegetables and ‘safe’ food? I mean, why wouldn’t we? We all should want to lose weight, after all, right?

Thin privilege is being able to eat a salad in public without everyone assuming you’re on a diet and judging what’s in your salad. Thin privilege is being able to eat junk food in public without everyone assuming you’re unhealthy, undisciplined, and unaware of your body. Thin privilege is being able to think that ”eat a cheeseburger!” is equivalent to the day in and day out pressure and abuse fat people get every day. Thin privilege is having people more likely to be concerned about your weight, rather than disgusted. Thin privilege is not having to go through a pre-built layer of stereotypes with each new person you meet.

Doctors rarely ask me what my diet is like before telling me to change it. Sometimes it’s a pamphlet with some patronizing “go, slow, no” chart on it, and sometimes it’s an eyeroll accompanied by something to the effect of “you know how to eat less”. Often it’s just a featureless assertion that I should lose weight. When I do get to describe my diet and exercise habits, they are either OBVS inadequate and I’m told I need to do x more exercise (after my habits being classified as a “moderate to high activity level” when I described them over the phone, before anyone saw how fat I was), or they just assume I must be lying, and insert their own assumptions.

Thin privilege is not feeling obliged to explain or excuse your food choices when eating in public or in company.

After reading over 400 pages of this blog in the past 2-3 weeks, I examined my behavior a lot more closely (for example, even in my head, I was using “fat” (though neutrally, but still) as a first descriptor of people. I would look out the car window and register “man walking dog”, “fat woman at bus stop”, “girl on bike” -  it’s messed up) and I decided never again to make excuses for what I did and didn’t eat. I used to do this with people who had never given me the impression that they were food policing me or anyone. I would meet a friend for dinner, and, when deciding to get dessert, feel the need to say “just this once”, for example.

After reading a lot here, I understood that food-policing yourself in front of others makes them feel judged. If you judge yourself in front of them, they conclude you monitor and judge their eating, too (among other things). Plus, it ruins the enjoyment for everyone. I felt like I had grasped that concept well and was going to “turn things around” for myself. 

Today I was at a café with a lady I had met through work. She asked if I wanted something to eat (she was treating me). I said “oh, yes, great” and then, as if remote-controlled, I added “I didn’t have time to have breakfast today”. As if I need an excuse or a “good reason” to eat something. I thought I was “over” this kind of internalized food-shaming, but apparently, it’s a lot harder to shake than to read this blog and say “I’ll NEVER DO THAT AGAIN! GO ME!”

Thank you to the mods and all of the submitters for helping me gain more awareness (and knowledge. I read a lot of the studies and I feel like I’ve been lied to and made miserable all my life for no reason other than someone else’s idea of aesthetic pleasure). I didn’t even realize how little I liked myself for so long. This is a long road, because fat hate and internalized messaging seem to be everywhere, but I’m so glad I found this blog! You’re truly fighting the good fight. <3 Thank you!

Thin privilege is having the potentially dangerous side effects of a new medication takes seriously.

I recently started a new antidepressant, and had mentioned to my partner’s mother that I have had practically no appetite since starting it.  I’ve been trying my best to remember to eat, but I just don’t feel hungry, and I have a hard time keeping things down.  She is usually a very nice and open-minded person, so I was shocked, appalled, and kind of hurt when she responded with “Oh, but that’s a good thing!”

Thin privilege is when you’d do everything possible to have your children be thin before they’re even born. My boyfriend and I got into a huge argument last night because he wanted to tell his newly pregnant cousin to eat a lot while she’s pregnant so that the baby wouldn’t be fat. This is based on a single article we read months ago that suggested that mothers who don’t eat enough while pregnant set their kids up for obesity, and that eating too much during pregnancy might then do the opposite and set them up to be thin (further research shows that it doesn’t). Anything to avoid being fat, right…?

Let’s just start with the fact that I have some privilege at being a small fat at 5’ 3”  and 178 pounds. I recognize that I have it. Some don’t. I hang out with a small group of friends and a girl was talking about ordering chocolate on amazon. She ordered two pounds of cholocate. two freaking pounds! a guy from our group said how are you going to put that away and then she said mockingly im a whole lotta woman! and laughed. she then included the next sentence that left me flabbergasted : Nah, not really, I just wanted to say something fat.

Fiction Sopranos Thin Privilege

So, I have thin privilege, but I’ve been reading this blog a lot lately and noticing things I had never noticed in the past. Well, I have been watching The Sopranos a lot lately as well and as you know there are some larger characters ie Anthony, and Bobby, among others. Who also have male privilege… but there was this episode in season 3 I believe where John’s wife, Gigi, who is a very large woman and would probably be categorized as obese, is the center of the show. Someone apparently insulted Gigi’s ass, saying she could have a 90 lb mole removed from it, and John spends the rest of the episode defending his wife and going so far as to order a hit on the man who said it. And then at the very end John leaves the house and unexpectedly returns to find his wife gorging herself on hidden candies in the basement. She cries and he’s upset and they hug, and then John calls off the hit on the guy and tells him he accepts his apology. I found all of this incredibly interesting. In Johns’ mind it seems, as long as his wife was doing everything in her power to lose weight, her honor justified him killing a man. But once he realized she wasn’t working to become thin and in fact was causing herself to potentially gain more weight by binging, he no longer left the need to uphold her honor. I think that says a lot. 

It’s automatically my weight, right?

Let me start this off by prefacing it with the fact that I drive a great deal for work.  It’s an inescapable part of my job.  About five years ago, I started getting killer cramps.  Killer because I literally had to pull off the road into the hard shoulder because I was curling up in pain, tears running down my face because of the intensity.  While in pain, I had to try to straighten up enough to find a service station because following the cramps, I had about 10 minutes to find a bathroom because otherwise there would be some really bad consequences.  I got into the habit of having spare clothes in the back of the car, just in case, and honestly, the level of pain that I was experiencing was so bad that I was really worried that something serious was wrong.

I went to my local doctor.  He said that it was probably just a gastro-intestinal issue, and that it could last anywhere from 6-8 weeks.  I told him that it had already lasted 8 weeks.  He looked me up and down and told me that I should “lay off the food so much”, and take a couple of ibuprofen for the pain. 

Meanwhile at work, I was getting some hassle from my boss because I’d arrived late at a couple of appointments.  I started leaving earlier in the morning, often leaving at 6am to reach a customer by 10, and there were still mornings where that didn’t work out.  One morning in particular, I had to pull off the road three times and ended up calling my mother just to hear someone at the other end of the phone and have her talk to me through the pain.

I went back to my doctor at week 10 and insisted that something was wrong, that something was up.  He said, “Yeah, your weight.”  I’d actually lost half a stone due to not eating over those two weeks, and his assessment wasn’t due to any actual standing on scales.  I insisted and he started going through my diet with me.  He insisted that I cut out fruit and veg, because they seemed to set off whatever this was.

My work complicated things because I was starting to experience some driving related issues in my feet and legs.  Plantar fasciitis, RSI in my ankles, cartilage problems in my knees, and during the following Summer, my feet swelled up so much that I felt that one millimeter more and my skin would burst.  I could press on my feet and leave a depression that would take ten minutes to bounce back. 

Back I went to the practice nurse and she looked at them, poked them and said, “Well, dear, what do you expect?  You’re fat.”  I barely held back the tears.  “Lose some weight.”  I turned around to her and told her that I could barely walk for more than 10 minutes without pain and that the doctor had put me on a diet that included no fruit and veg.  How exactly did she expect me to lose weight.  “Well, that is tricky, isn’t it?” was her sole reply.

I stayed on that diet suggestion for 2 years and I still had cramping incidents bad enough to pull me off the road.  It was mum who finally suggested that I fly home to their home and go to the doctor who I’d seen growing up.  I flew home the next weekend and mum made an appointment for me.  I walked in and she was so understanding that I ended up crying on her for ten minutes solid.  I had all the signs and symptoms of two conditions, Diverticulitus or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  She had me down and scheduled for a colonoscopy the following day.  I was so relieved.

I met the consultant, who was a wonderfully soothing man, and changed into my gown and waited for him to come back and explain in detail what was going to happen.  Instead, it was his registrar who came back.  I heard him in the cubicle next to me.  He was swapping kid stories with the woman in there (a short, dumpy woman of about 50 with 5 kids).  He told her that there was nothing to worry about, that if it was IBS that it was manageable, that it was the result of a change in food types and that our digestive systems weren’t adapting to certain non-native food types.  Nothing to worry about.  As I listened in, I was relaxed and thinking that I did the right thing, that everything was going to be fine.

The registrar came around my curtain, checked my chart and confirmed my age (28) and looked up.  “There is no such thing as IBS in your age group.  You are fat and need to lose about 3 stone.”  To say that I was shocked would be an understatement.  I looked over at the nurse who just looked away, her cheeks red.  He went over my pre-op list and disappeared off. 

I went for my colonoscopy and met with the consultant the following day.  After 30 months of pain and bathroom emergencies, I finally had a clear and concise definition of what was wrong with me.  I had a bad case of IBS.  During the procedure, my insides were so sensitive that they cramped down so hard that they had to wait fifteen minutes to be able to pull the camera out safely.  He referred me back to my GP to start working on what foods were causing the issues. 

I took the opportunity to tell him about his registrar because I couldn’t just leave it.  I didn’t get how he could be so nice to one patient, bonding over kids and reassuring her, and then turn around and say something so humiliating to me.  He was shocked, and said that he would deal with the matter himself.  I have no idea if he did, but I did get a followup letter from him with an official apology in it. (It did accompany the bill, so, ya know…)

My GP immediately got me set up for an intolerance test which came back and since then, I turned a corner.  No more morning cramps, no more cramps while walking through the supermarket, no more cramps (as long as I keep away from my intolerance foods). 

I ended up going back to my local doctor and told him about what had happened.  His closing words on the situation? “I should have guessed.  You are fat after all.”

I changed to a different practice.

I am Sorry.

Lately, I have seen many fatshion bloggers posting selfies with captions varying on the theme of “learning to love my body.”

As a fellow fat person, I applaud empowerment and live my life in the headspace of an advocate for those who have not had the opportunity or support to come as far as I have. But today, the hidden implications of these words made me sorry.

I am sorry that thin privilege means we have to struggle to learn what ought to be innate.

I am sorry that we have to climb a mountain while those of socially-sanctioned body sizes shake their heads at the top, wondering why we don’t have the perspective they have.

I am sorry that, a lot of days, my aspiration is limited to keeping negative body thoughts at bay.

I am sorry that living life in my body the way a thin person does is seen as a political statement, even when it is something as simple as taking adequate seat room on the bus, revealing parts of my body because I wish to, or eating what I want without making a string of apologies and justifications.

I am sorry that equating thin shaming with fat shaming a) paints the oppressed as oppressors and b) reduces pervasive, systematic economic, social, political, and moral discrimination to the level of teasing someone for lacking flaws.

I am sorry that I am judged by the vehicle I have.

I am sorry that when I say, “I am fat.” my friends and family hear, “I am lazy, dirty, undisciplined, desexualized, gluttonous, slow, and maybe someone to settle for, at best.”

I am sorry that I know I am not any of those things, but perhaps, subconsciously, they do not.

I am sorry that our statements of fat love have to be fashioned from and respond to the terrible words and sentiments thrown at us every day.

I am sorry that this blog has to exist at all.

I do not pity us -

For we are speaking up and pointing out inconsistencies, prejudices, and double standards intelligently and safely, working as educators and advocates, and living life large.

But I am sorry.

Thin privilege is blaming Girl Scout cookies for creating a health crisis (i.e. obesity)

"The problem is that selling high-fat sugar-laden cookies to an increasingly calorie-addicted populace is no longer congruent with [the Girl Scouts’ aim to make the world a better place]." That’s what John Mandrola, a heart doctor in Louisville, Ky., wrote on his blog in March. (He also blogs for Medscape/Cardiology.)

The sentiment was echoed by Diane Hartman, a writer and editor in Denver, who penned an indignant op-ed in the Denver Post, “Why are we letting Girl Scouts sell these fattening cookies?”