I was watching the Biggest Loser, the weight-loss reality show on NBC, as a contestant in her early 20s melodramatically sobbed. She'd been fat her whole life, never got asked on a date, never went to a prom, never had a boyfriend, and she "wanted her life back."
I rolled my eyes. I was fat in high school, and I had no trouble. I got asked to the prom (though, as a high school anarchist, I chose not to go), I had boyfriends. I couldn't help but think this crying girl on television was buckling to the pressure. What if she was just a boring person? What if, instead of accepting or trying to change her personality, she blamed her problems on being fat because everyone told her that's where her problems lay? I wanted to tell her that losing weight doesn't rid you of all your problems-in fact, she would probably just find new ones.
I hate shows like the Biggest Loser because fat becomes the enemy-the thing about yourself you should hate. If a contestant loses 5 pounds one week instead of the 20 their partner loses, they're shamed-which only reinforces the problem of the self-hating mindset. They never sit the contestants down for a pep talk about having confidence in themselves at any size. They just keep repeating that weight loss is the only road to self-acceptance, the only way to validate yourself.
I see the looks I get from people sometimes, evaluating my hips and belly, and I wonder if they know that I ran a 5k race at Thanksgiving. But would even that knowledge change their mind? I think people are afraid that if they become fat, they will lose their friends, and all respect from other people. That wouldn't happen with the people they already know. As for the rest? It's their loss. Run with me.
I wrote a version of this piece last year for an Op-Ed class. In the light of the recent Marie Claire "Fatties Shouldn't Be Seen" blog post, it seemed relevant. I'm not going to be made to feel ashamed for walking across a room, nor should anyone.
PS: If you're in NYC today, you should check out the Big Fat Kiss-In being held outside Marie Claire's HQ tonight at 6 PM.
Image of Venus of Willendorf courtesy Sweet Briar College