I hadn't intended for there to be so long between posts. You know how it is, time slips by and -- well, here we are.
I have been thinking a lot about how best to respond to the kinds of "helpful" opinions and advice people seem to feel free to give to those of us who are fat. You may remember that this summer I encountered such a person in an unexpected place and that I dealt with it then by writing an open letter. I talked with the experience my own analyst who suggested that expressing my anger more directly to her was something for me to consider. And that sounded like a good idea. So I worked on writing a letter to the woman who had started it all. It took several drafts to clearly and simply state my feelings without resorting to explanations or justifications. But finally I got there and I sent the letter. I didn't expect anything back because honestly the letter didn't invite further contact and I am not naive enough to think that she would have an AHA! moment and see the error of her ways.
Well she did reply. And in her reply did not respond at all to what I said about the feelings her intrusion into my life and her unsolicited advice about my body aroused in me. No, she reiterated her beliefs and held to her position.
And that makes me wonder about how best to respond when this happens again and I know it will. I am perfectly able to summon a withering response but I am beginning to think that best response is to turn on my heels and walk away, to simply refuse to interact any further with that person because to do otherwise is too much like pissing into the wind.
This week, Arya Sharma, with whom as a reader I have an ambivalent relationship*, posts the following:
An editorial by Nikhil Dhurandar from the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre, Baton Rouge, LA, published in this month’s issue of the International Journal of Obesity, boldly suggests that it is time to move beyond conventional approaches to obesity prevention and management.
He notes that
“in 1958, Albert Stunkard stated, that ‘Most obese persons will not stay in treatment for obesity. Of those who stay in treatment most will not lose weight and of those who do lose weight, most will regain it’. In 2012, 54-years and numerous studies later, we seem to be at the same point”.
Yet, we continue investing (both research and healthcare dollars) into ever repeating cycles of ‘lifestyle’ or ‘behavioural’ interventions, with almost nothing to show for in terms of population impact.
This, according to Dhurandar, is simply due to the fact that too many folks working in the obesity field (not to mention those, who have no expertise in this area at all), continue to believe that long-term weight management is something that any reasonably motivated individual should be able to do. (which is also why we blame anyone, who is obese, for simply not trying hard enough - the key underlying assumption at the root of weight-bias and discrimination).
Many working in the obesity field continue to believe that the reason all previous attempts at lifestyle interventions for obesity have essentially failed, is simply because we have not (yet?) tried hard enough.
The dominant paradigm is indeed dominant and does not seem likely to yield any time soon to a more nuanced understanding of fat, to be willing to concede that weight is far more complex than these folks allege.
Still and all, I do believe it is important to stand my ground, not to be mute in the face of the bias we all experience every day. I just need to keep my expectations in check. And who knows, maybe someday it will make a difference in how someone sees me and fat people?
* My ambivalence is that while Sharma is pretty good overall on issues relating to fat and his staging system is much better than the "fat is a death sentence" stance so often held by "experts", sometimes I find his notions about the issues of mental health as they appear in fat people to be a bit off base.