Clifton: Fatphobia weighs heavy on my mind

Derrick Clifton

Fat•pho•bi•a: n. the excessive fear and dislike of fat in oneself and in others.

Northwestern, at some point, we’ve all been fatphobic. Whether we said, “I’m such a fat ass for eating this” or “she is so fat and sloppy,” we were being fatphobic and did not even know it.

Fatphobia is something even I still struggle with after losing 30 pounds. I started going to SPAC to further center myself, but I was in a tug-of-war between doing it for me and doing it for social conformity. I’ll cop to that.

It’s not your fault if you struggle with fatphobia and body negative remarks. So much around us reinforces self-hatred of our bodies, especially if we’re not supermodels. Hollywood and the media are bastions of fatphobia. Every time you look at a magazine, the ones getting all the lights, camera, action are either the woman with the boring, predictable size two or smaller waist or the man with a defined six pack of abs. When we do see people of size in the media, they’re mocked and disgraced.

For one, Eddie Murphy’s “The Nutty Professor” series made light of connections between weight and self-esteem, but his movie “Norbit” comically demonized and denigrated a fat woman. Gabourey Sidibe, the breakout star of the movie “Precious,” made the cover of Elle magazine, yet we barely see a woman her size as the star of most movies. I love Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn on TV reality series “Project Runway,” but we never see the runway models display a diversity of shapes and sizes. For many average women, the bias for “fit people” in the media makes their mascara runny.

Speaking of runny, the medical establishment often instructs running for weight loss, tying body fat too heavily to poor health and illness. The emphasis on weight loss, rather than healthy habits, is the problem. Someone can appear supermodel skinny and still have higher cholesterol and body fat than someone who fails on the body mass index (BMI) scale. It’s called normal weight obesity. Think you’re cheating “getting fat” by staying skinny even though you eat Five Guys everyday? You thought wrong. Normal weight obesity is even more deadly because it’s harder to target and arguably deadlier.

Some doctors are even predatory in their targeting of fat patients, often advocating crazy diets, diet pills, liposuction or gastric bypass surgery. Some health insurance companies even deny patient coverage based upon weight. But the point is that a healthy body can be a slim or a fuller figure. While overly excessive body fat can trigger issues like hypertension or diabetes, demonizing most or all types of body fat sends the wrong message and doesn’t cater to all audiences.

It’s no secret that fuller-figured children and teens are often bullied, harassed and even beaten. Bullying is even pervasive in the workplace, as some employers unconsciously or overtly make negative judgment calls about otherwise well-qualified candidates who are of a certain size.

It’s not your fault if you struggle with fatphobia, but it is your fault if you consciously choose not to change your negative, fatphobic body talk. Just like homophobia, fatphobia is an ignored kind of discrimination because of social norms.

If you indulge in discounted chocolates after Valentine’s Day, expose your six-pack-lacking belly at the beach or wish to embrace those extra curves, know that there is a new movement of people cheering you on. Just look online, and you’ll see a movement for fat acceptance mounting and growing stronger.

While I’m no longer subjected to fatphobia, I still embrace what is considered a bigger body for most conventional standards. I love my tree trunk legs and “my humps.” You know what I’m talking about – those humps Fergie had us shaking.

Love your body, whatever size it is, and love yourself. That’s a kind of love no bathroom scale can measure.

Derrick Clifton is a Communication junior. He can be reached at [email protected]