International NO Diet Day (INDD) is May 6. The National Organization for Women invites your readers to a potluck, scale-smashing, celebration of INDD, 6 p.m., at my house, 87 Sunset St. in Brewer.
I am a fat woman who has done local workshops on Fat Liberation for about seven years. The Fat Movement has been active since the 1960s, and the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) is the equivalent of NOW or the NAACP for people opposed to discrimination against fat people.
Fat girls and women face discrimination, since the $50 billion diet industry aims directly at females. The weight control angle of the tobacco industry is also highly lucrative, with 39 percent of women and 25 percent of men smoking to avoid weight gain.
Fear of fat, and hateful behavior toward fat people is rampant. The sooner we can expose the myths about fat people, thin people, dieting and health, the sooner we can lose our prejudices and more thoughtfully teach the next generation.
Myth: People are fat because they eat too much.
Truth: The common belief that obesity results simply from overeating or from a sedentary lifestyle has influenced thinking for a long time. However, it is increasingly apparent that the body has a highly complex and sophisticated system of regulating fat stores and energy balance.
Fat people do not eat any more or any differently than thin people, though hundreds of studies have tried to disprove this fact. Most fat women are lead to believe that they eat more than thin friends but careful studies do not bear this out. Fat people are not more likely than thin people to be compulsive eaters, or suffer other eating disorders. Fat people are not lazier than thin people. Fat people are not physically or morally inferior to thin people.
Environmental factors can have an effect on genetic predisposition, but not usually in the way most people think. Only some people get fat from overeating, and only some people get fat from eating fatty foods. In one study, prison inmates were asked to overeat. The thin prisoners had great difficulty gaining weight, despite intakes of more than 7,000 calories a day. Some people, especially supersized people and frequent dieters, can gain weight on as little as 500 calories a day (too few calories to stay alive).
Myth: Obesity is a disease. Obesity causes disease.
Truth: “The establishment clings to the belief that weight causes disease and death just as people once insisted that the world was flat. There are no studies proving that weight causes disease…” Dr. Susan Wooley, director of eating disorders at the University of Cincinnati.
In fact, just as with other natural body shapes and sizes, there are health benefits to natural obesity, according to The Journal of Obesity and Weight Regulation. Benefits include lower incidence of cancer, hronic bronchitis, infectious diseases, TB, urinary tract infections, bone diseases including osteoporosis, certain cardiovascular diseases, gynecological and obstetric problems and so on.
Myth: Fat liberation encourages people to eat fat, eat a lot, eat junk.
Truth: Fat liberation encourages all people to eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables and grains, low on meat and fat, but not no fat. (The government recommends at least 30 percent fat — more for growing children). We also encourage a passion for the leisurely, sensuous enjoyment of good food.
Fat liberation encourages all people — fat or thin — to stop dieting. It is bad for your health. Scales are for fish, not for women. Most of the health problems incorrectly associated for so long with obesity are actually caused by dieting. As more and more people diet, the prognosis is disaster.
Myth: Fat liberation encourages people to stop exercising.
Truth: The shape you are, says nothing about the shape you are in. Fat liberation encourages all people to make moderate exercise part of every day, as many days of your life as you can. Virtually all respected studies on health and longevity show that fat people and thin people have an equal shot at health. Your thinness will not protect you from ill-health if you fail to exercise. No matter how fat you are, exercise — even a short walk each day, will make you healthier than thin people who do not exercise.
Myth: Fat liberation encourages thin people to get fat and fat people to give up.
Truth: Fat liberation encourages fat people to rise up, speak up, and never give up on trying to change the world. Fat liberation encourages all people to treat all people respectfully regardless of size, shape, color, race, class, sexual orientation, age, physical challenges, gender, and so on. Politically correct and proud of it, you might say.
Physical beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Open your eyes wide, and you may glimpse this truth. In the face of the widespread Thin Supremacy Movement, we urge fat people to cast off any shame or stereotype with which people try to burden you. Nurture your fat beautiful self. Stop starving and torturing yourself. Carry yourself with pride.
Fat people of the world unite! We have nothing to lose.
JoAnne Dauphinee is a certified nurses assistant at Bangor Mental Health Institute and coordinator and chapter newsletter writer-editor for Greater Bangor NOW.