posted by meowser
When I was a baby second-wave feminist, way back in the days when Gloria Steinem was a household name (yep, that long ago), I used to muse aloud about why, if women were over half the U.S. population, that women had such a hard time earning basic legal and social rights for themselves. (You know, piddly things like making the doctor tell you you have cancer instead of telling your husband or father and letting him decide whether you’re strong enough to handle it, which in 1970 terms he’d probably decide you aren’t. Yes, it really was like that, kids.) The answer, as you probably know if you’ve studied feminism for more than five minutes, was that too many women not only thought they didn’t deserve such rights, but were convinced it would be bad for them to have them. After all, they were just women — how could they possibly be trusted to know what was best for them, let alone actually act on their own behalf?
So it is these days with fatties. Supposedly, we represent a majority of people in developed nations, and even a fair percentage of people in developing nations. So why, then, don’t we rule, or at least get a seat at the rulership table?
Obviously, it’s because there are some situations where the majority doesn’t rule, or even have much of a say in how things are set up, because they’ve been sold on the illusion that their presence in the non-ruling-class is temporary, or would be if only they did all the “right” things — and that once they’re in the ruling class, they get to stay there forever. Even these days, with the U.S. economy in the crapper and upward mobility more infrequent here than ever, at least a third of Americans believe they will be “wealthy” one day, while only 2 percent believe themselves to be “wealthy” right now. Anyone else besides me think that if a similar study was done about weight, that almost all the fat people would say they believe they will be thin-‘n’-healthy one day, although a shockingly tiny percentage of people actually do manage to lose 50 or 75 or 100 pounds or more from diet and exercise alone and go permanently from fat to thin in the process? And when I say “shockingly tiny,” I mean shockingly tiny enough that almost anyone who actually manages to do this can get themselves a book deal, even if they can’t write.
But just try telling most fatties that they have about as much of a chance of that happening as they do of someday belonging to a yacht club. Just try telling one, at random, right now. I’ll wait. Didn’t like it much, did they? After all, they know that someone, somewhere, has done it. And once they gave up cheesecake for a month and lost five pounds, so nyaah on you and your negativity. They’re going to be thin, dammit, and you can’t stop them!
Well, here’s what I always tell people in that situation: If you are meant to be a substantially smaller size than you are (or were), there’s not a damn thing I could possibly do to stop you. Nor do I even want to try. I mean, that sounds like work, and you know what a lazybutt I am. Yeah, like here in the ‘Sphere, we regularly take calorie, fat-gram, and carb count surveys of our members and readers, and if you’re not eating as much as we think you should, off you go! No. Not happening ever.
I just want everyone to understand that not everyone has the same shot at permanent thinness, at least not the kind that is associated with the kind of vim and vigor that people typically pursue thinness for. (Yeah, if you made me eat cardboard pudding and do hard labor all day for a year, you might be able to get some weight off me. And if I strapped you to a bed and gave you hyperalimentation for a year, maybe we could do a clothes swap — maybe. What’s your point?) That’s how I came up with my “fategories” theory — specifically, that there are four basic categories of people in the world when it comes to weight. To wit:
Category 1 is people who can get and/or stay thin through no effort whatsoever; in fact, they would have a very hard time not being thin, if ever called upon to do so.
Category 2 is people who can get and/or stay thin with a token effort — that is, doing so doesn’t take over their entire life. (Although they might not be able to get quite as thin as they think they should be, if their body ideal hovers somewhere below a BMI of 20.)
Category 3 is people who can get and/or stay thin (or even anywhere close to it) only by devoting their entire lives forever to the cause.
And Category 4 is people who won’t be able to get and/or stay thin (or anywhere close) no matter what they do.
I am pretty well convinced that (despite Category 3’s and 4’s being anything but freak occurrences) it’s Category 2’s who run things in most of the world, because they believe they represent nearly every human body, to the point where an awful lot of Category 3’s and 4’s, and even a fair number of 1’s, mistakenly believe they are 2’s. An easy mistake to make, given all the 300-decibel hype. (Although many people do move up in category with age, very few people move down unless they become very ill.) The Category 2’s who make the most noise (along with those who loudly claim to be 3’s but are probably 2’s, like She Whose Name Must Not Be Typed In Its Entirety) pooh-pooh any possible existence of Category 4’s, and state that 3’s, if they exist at all, must simply accept that their lives will be ruled forever by their cockamamie diet plans. Hungry? Tired? Sore? Constipated? In four-alarm physical pain from your workouts? Have to give up decadent sedentary activities like sitting in classrooms or writing a novel? Can’t concentrate on reading books on a treadmill? Tough shit. You shouldn’t have asked to be born, then.
As for me, knowing everything I know about my body, I’m quite certain that I am a category 4. But really, even if I was category 3 (I know damn well I’m not a 1 or a 2), what right does anyone have to demand that I devote every ounce of time, energy, and money I have to obtaining and maintaining a more socially acceptable body? Seriously. What right does anyone have to expect that I will do absolutely nothing else with my life than try with all my might to force my weight down? It’s really not reasonable to demand that from people, any more than it’s reasonable to demand that they climb a mountain to get to work every day. If you want to climb a mountain to get to work, and you can, knock yourself out. But really, it’s a lot to ask of people.
And yeah, even in a society that was less “obesogenic” (gag me) those categories would probably hold, for the most part, provided there was nothing truly catastrophic like world famine. Maybe a few 3’s would instead be 2’s, maybe a few 4’s would become 3’s. (If anyone comes up with a less fattening antidepressant that actually does squat for serotonin, give them my number.) Maybe some 2’s who could be convinced (along with their parents and doctors) that dieting when you’re 8 years old is an Officially Bad Idea wouldn’t become 3’s and 4’s.
But it’s just as true that in a less “obesogenic” society, it would take less in the way of “extra” weight to make one an outcast (or “unhealthy,” same diff). Don’t think for half an atomic second that if they somehow managed to get everyone’s BMI under 30, that 25 wouldn’t become the new 30, and 20 the new 25. I mean, if we lived on Planet Walter Willett, my partner, who’d be hard-pressed to get his BMI much over 21, would be getting stern warnings from his doctor that he was putting too many naughty things in his mouth and he’d be a big old pillowbutt before he knew it. It sounds hilarious, but 30 years ago, if you’d told me that the high-rent health-yups would today be equating eating a bowl of spaghetti with shooting heroin, I’d have been laughing then too. I laugh not now.
The categories get trickier still when you realize that a lot of us fatties could lose a substantial amount of weight, even 50 or 75 or 100 pounds or more, and not even approach a socially acceptable (“healthy”) weight. Can you imagine losing 75 pounds, actually keeping all of them off, and being told that that’s not good enough? Meet my ex-husband, then. Thanks to certain longstanding health issues having been addressed for him, he’s quite a bit thinner than his peak weight, but nowhere near thin. Tell him he should be doing more to get his weight down, and he’ll give you the Boob Pistol of Disdain (yes, his boobs are still big enough). Category 3? Category 4? Say I, there’s no material difference between the two, if you understand that volunteering to give up your life for thinness is not an option. That doesn’t mean nobody will ever want to do it, mind you — just that people shouldn’t even be reaching for that as any kind of prescription to give to you. You get to decide whether it would be best for you to sit down and write a novel, go jogging, or blob out and watch TV, or whatever kazillion other activities (or inactivities) there are to do in the world. You do. You can be trusted. No matter what they say.