Do you ever do that thing where you know you shouldn’t look at something, but you do anyway? I’m not just talking about the kind of rubbernecking you might do when you pass an accident on the highway. I’m thinking in particular about the kind of peeking that happens in the comments section of, well, practically anything on the internet. You just know it’s going to be a cesspool of bile, posturing, and ignorance, but you look anyway. If you ever want to see how petty and mean your fellow humans can be, just click View Comments, sit back, and cringe.
I know I shouldn’t read comments on articles about fat. I know it, and yet morbid curiosity gets me almost every time. Maybe I’m hoping that body acceptance is creeping into the mainstream. Maybe I’m hoping that kindness and compassion can overcome ignorance and hate. Maybe I just want to get my blood pumping! Regardless of why I read comments, doing so has led me to the conclusion that many people are super reluctant – and often outright refuse – to believe what fat people say.
No matter what fat people do or experience, there are hundreds of commentors out there crying foul. Here’s a personal example: Last spring, Reddit took brief notice of me, because I participated in and wrote about No Diet Day. I talked about the last time I attempted intentional weight loss – while also training for another half marathon – and fat-hating Redditors decided that I was lying about how little food I was eating and how much I was moving my body. They don’t know me, but they were absolutely certain I was lying. Because thermodynamics, because physics, because blah blah blah. There is a subreddit whose entire purpose is to discredit and mock the things that fat people say and do.
I have experienced this same disbelief in a hundred small – and large – ways, from the doctor who insisted I read an article to help me deal with my obvious fast-food addiction, to the doubtful, suspicious look in some people’s eyes when I talk about my activity level and eating habits. And from reading the comment sections of fat articles, I’m far from alone. If a fat person dares to talk about Health at Every Size, or body acceptance, or their own health habits – unless that habit is “trying to lose weight at any cost, all the time” – they will be declared a liar. They will be bullied and shamed and told that their experiences are untrue, invalid.
And that begs the question: Why? Why do people doubt what I – and all the other fat people who talk about their experiences – talk about? Why do they refuse to accept, or even acknowledge, my truth, and the truth of countless other fat people? There is something at the core of who they are that recoils at who we are, and that manifests itself in disbelief, hatred, and fear. (It’s at this point that I need to thank my parents for teaching me to not fear what I don’t understand.)
I hope that the more I talk about my experiences, the more people will listen – and believe. I hope that the more fat voices that speak up and call out to be heard are listened to – and believed. This isn’t about you and I experiencing the same things. The ways in which we experience and interact with the world are not the same. What your body is, does, and is capable of and what my body is, does, and is capable of are different. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to understand and appreciate each other, does it?
This is not about you walking a mile in my shoes. It’s about you never having walked in my particular pair of shoes, but still believing me when I say they gave me blisters. This is about hearing each other, about listening to each others’ voices. It’s about being kind and compassionate to our fellow humans. Those things shouldn’t be reserved only for people of a certain size.