As Long As You’re Healthy

Posted: June 28, 2014 in Uncategorized
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So this post is most recently inspired by Dances with Fat’s post by the same title, though something that I’ve thought about and talked about before (just not on this blog yet).

I decided to add my own post on the topic when I realized my reply to that post was going to get very long and ranty and it seemed that perhaps I was better leaving a shorter comment and saving most of my ranting for my own blog. While I write up my own post, some of this will be repetitive if you’ve read the Dances with Fat post, and some will be different based on my own thoughts, anecdotes, and experiences.

I hate when people say something about how being fat is fine “as long as you’re healthy”, or often “as long as you are happy and healthy”. People saying this think they are being supportive. And they think what they are saying is “it’s fine to be fat as long as it’s not hurting your health”, which isn’t even what that statement is actually saying though. Of course even if that were the statement, there are a lot of problems with that too.

You can’t assume fat is a cause or weight loss is a solution.

As mentioned in by Dances with Fat the first problem is that “as long as you’re healthy” assumes that if one is not healthy it is the result of being fat. This is not true. This may come as a shock to fat concern trolls out there, but not all health problems are the result of being fat! Some health problems are even things people are born with, and thus have long before they could seriously be considered fat. Not to mention numerous health issues that can come up later in life that are not correlated with obesity whatsoever.

There is also the assumption that losing weight will fix whatever health issues, which is most of the time not accurate.

Why is fat and unhealthy not ok, but thin and unhealthy is ok? 

I’m fat and not healthy- I have numerous health problems that would exclude me from that. Being fat and healthy is not an option for me, but neither is being thin and healthy! Even if I lost weight and wasn’t fat, I still would have all the same health problems and still be just as unhealthy (and based on how I lost that weight, possibly even more unhealthy for it). So basically what you are saying if you say that it’s only ok for me to be fat if I’m healthy is that it’s fine with you if I’m thin and unhealthy. Fat and unhealthy is bad, but thin and unhealthy is ok.

That’s certainly what is implied by expecting me and other fat folks to prove some minimum level of health in order to justify our existence when thin folks are not expected the same thing. I’ve never heard anyone say “it’s ok to be thin as long as you’re healthy”. We don’t say that thin folks are only justified in existing based on meeting certain health criteria.

But an even bigger issue here is who the hell are you to get to decide whether I’m allowed to be anything?

Who the hell put you in charge of determining if it’s acceptable for me to be fat or not? Or to be unhealthy or not? It’s my body, my life, my health, I’m the only one who gets a say in that.

My right to existence is not subject to your approval.

You are not entitled to information about my health

To say that being fat is ok as long as you are healthy suggests that fat folks like myself owe you some sort of commentary on our health. That we should have to answer as to whether we are healthy or not. And for me, with the answer being no, it really pisses me off that it puts me on the defensive of feeling that I need to explain in what ways I’m not healthy and how it’s not because I’m fat, when I should not have to. It’s none of your business. Whether my health problems are not any that are associated with obesity or whether they are the dreaded so-called “obesity related” disorders, it’s no one’s damn business! The only people entitled to that information are myself and those involved in my medical treatment, and maybe I choose to share some information about my health with others at times but I will do so only on my terms when I want, because no one else has a right to that information.

I do not owe complete strangers a justification for my health. You are not entitled to any information about, even a simple yes or no to the question “are you healthy?” Whether you demand details or even just a small yes or not, it’s still not your business and you have no right to expect a stranger to provide you that.

It’s not just offensive to fat people, it’s offensive to people with chronic health problems.

Another issue I have with this is not just from a fat perspective, but I have a problem with the way health is treated as a moral imperative period. The implication is that people with chronic health problems are lesser people, less worthy of dignity, respect, or even life. This is also a disability issue. And sadly, there are a lot of people who really do think this. When arguing this online before I’ve had people chime in that people who are sick and have chronic health problems are bad people because they cost other, morally superior by being healthy, people more money in pooled health systems because sick people cost more.

There is a very real problem with people suggesting that those who are not in perfect health have less right to life, to healthcare, to happiness than others. That we should be denied care and left to die in order to possibly save someone else a few dollars.

And if you are not one of those people who thinks that the lives of people with chronic health issues are worth less- great, but also don’t use language then that feeds into the notion that our disabilities make us morally inferior people.

Happy is not a valid requirement either.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned that I’ve seen this often phrased as healthy and happy. Happy sounds like a fine thing on the surface, but there are several reasons it’s not. First off, fat people can have mental health challenges just the same as thin people. Suffering from depression doesn’t mean a person owes it to anyone to lose weight. And again, weight loss is not a magic cure for depression.

Even if we aren’t talking about clinical depression but just generally whether or not one is ok with their body- poor body image still doesn’t mean one is obligated to lose weight. Losing weight is not guarantee that one will be happier with their body. Women are often taught to have very unrealistic expectations of what we should look like. I think most folks are better off learning to love their bodies than thinking that they can change their body to something they will love when they don’t. Because for many women, even if you successfully lose that weight, there will still be something you will find to dislike. Maybe it’s the stretch marks, or the excess loose skin you have no that you’ve lost weight, or just your shape isn’t what you wanted it to be, or you still aren’t thin enough, or don’t have enough muscle definition, or… or… or… When we look for flaws in our bodies, we are always going to be able to find something. What needs to change is how we look at ourselves, not our bodies.

How do you define health?

Lastly, there is also a problem with this in terms of how one defines health. The question, “are you healthy” assumes one simple definition of that. In reality, many different people have many different ideas of what that means.

In  a previous discussion online about this, someone responded to me that I was not unhealthy based on my exercising. They thought being unhealthy here would only mean people who don’t bother to exercise. Which I suppose is their prerogative to define health that way. But to me, I don’t think that makes me healthy. Because when I’m in the hospital and a doctor (who for some reason doesn’t check my records they have access to on their computers) asks if prior to what brought me in the hospital I was totally healthy, I’m going to say no. As a person who has health problems, and takes medications everyday for them, and has to followup regularly with several different specialists, medically speaking that’s not considered totally healthy, even if I workout regularly and eat well. And if the problem that lead me to coming into the hospital was related to a known disorder of mine, it would be a significant hindrance to my diagnosis and treatment if I tell the doctor I was totally healthy prior, on the basis that I exercise.

But on the other side of things someone else could have no diagnosed health problems, be completely sedentary and eat fast food everyday and they may say they are totally healthy on the basis that they have no diagnosed health problems.

Or maybe they do have health problems but they don’t see those as meaning they aren’t overall healthy. I mean, when does one move from healthy to unhealthy? This seems to vary a lot from person to person. A lot of people will have some health problem but will not see themselves as overall unhealthy, especially if that health problem causes few or no difficulties to that person in day to day life.

And when we ask if a person is healthy or not, do we mean at that moment or in a long term sense? If you go to donate blood you will probably be asked if you are feeling healthy that day- in this context a temporary illness would mean a person is no longer in the healthy to donate category. But in general, when we talk about health, we consider people with temporary illnesses to still be overall healthy. When we talk about who is at the most danger of a particular virus going around we will say that the illness does not pose a serious risk to healthy adults. Of course as soon as you contract the virus by some definition you are no longer healthy. Because “healthy” doesn’t really have one standard,clear definition.



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