Fat People Can Have Disabilities, And Those Disabilities Are Not Necessarily Because They Are Fat

Posted: August 22, 2014 in Disability
Tags: ,

hmm… is that a long title? I guess. Whatever.

So this post is initially inspired by my own experiences today. I woke up in a lot of pain, and walking today was very difficult and very painful. It happens sometimes. And stress makes it worse. And right now the stress in my life is through the roof. Unfortunately this came on a day when I had to do more walking than normal for work. So I’m walking outside, near tears from the pain, having to stop and rest here and there, probably looking clearly pained (or something). And so of course, being fat, I wonder how many people around me are judging, assuming that they reason I’m having difficulty with the simple task of walking is just because I’m fat, and I must always have this kind of difficulty walking. I mean, if you don’t know me you wouldn’t know passing me on the street. You wouldn’t know if you caught me on a very bad day when even walking is very difficult and painful, that this is a particularly bad day for me and that most other days you are more likely to find me walking miles for fun, even running sometimes, and lifting weights. You would just see a fat person who is having trouble walking.

I’m lucky in multiple ways that this is (at least currently) a fairly rare occurrence. Usually my pain is not so bad as to cause me noticeable problems walking.  A lot of other people are not as lucky. Many other people have difficulty walking on a regular basis, many even need mobility devices to help get around. And remember my post about how fat acceptance doesn’t mean denying any connection between food, exercise, and weight? That drastically changing one’s food and/or exercise can most certainly impact weight? Well guess what- that also means that people who lost mobility due to disabilities can and often do gain weight as a result.

Which makes it incredibly ridiculous the common mocking of fat people who use mobility devices, with the assumption that they need to device because they are fat. In reality, the vast majority of people need those devices due to other disabilities. Disabilities which may have also contributed to weight gain.

It reminds me of one day, awhile back, I saw a commercial for a tv style documentary about Manuel Uribe, the World’s Heaviest Man. He had been confined to his bed  for years due to his weight. And honestly, my first though was “how can someone let themselves get so huge they can’t even walk?” The idea was so hard for me to imagine, because walking seems so necessary- and surely if you are walking you are going to be able to manage to keep your weight within a range you can walk with, right? So I watched this documentary. And then they start talking about how he had tumors on his legs that made it difficult and painful to walk. … oh. So it turns out a primary reason he “let” himself get so large he couldn’t walk was because he already couldn’t walk before his weight got that high. I bring up this anecdote and remind myself of it often because I think it’s a good reminder not to make assumptions about people, the way I did.


So, in summary, fat people can have disabilities. Disabilities not caused by being fat. And for many these disabilities that limit mobility were actually a contributing factor to their weight gain, not the other way around.

So when you see someone using a mobility device who is fat, don’t assume it’s simply because of their weight. And if you see someone like me walking down the street in pain and having difficulty walking, don’t assume it’ simply because I’m fat.

Also keep in mind that many people with disabilities have good days and bad days- days where we are not effected or minorly effected by our condition(s) and days were we are severely effected by our condition(s). So someone using a mobility aid one day and not the next is probably not faking it, but just using aids as necessary based on their abilities that day. But I suppose that is also a rant for another time.

  1. A long title but a true title! I hear you on the anemia front – the fatigue is ridiculous. This makes me think of a coworker who has degenerative arthritis that causes him a lot of pain, so he walks with a limp because of it. A lot of people just blame his weight, and it’s like…no, he’d have problems walking no matter what he weighs. Also – it sucks when fat stigma and disability stigma overlap, and that one is assumed because of the other (as you pointed out.) (Also, I hope you feel better.)

    • ebay313 says:

      Ya know, I actually thought I had taken the anemia anecdote out (and I edited it out now), because I felt like I wasn’t really be clear about it. Idk. There is this awkward issue with disability stuff sometimes, at least I feel, where I feel like I either give just a little information and people might misunderstand things, or I end up rambling on with too much information, and then sometimes I don’t remember all the details of stuff.
      My anemia anecdote was like that. I feel like with just the basic details of the anecdote it sounds like “well, obviously you didn’t really need a wheelchair cart because you could walk instead!”, but then it felt too long when I start trying to explain how because of not using one, it meant I was more limited in what I could do. And then I get caught trying to explain it because I don’t remember all the details of that story. I think I had just been discharged from the hospital and had to run by the store for something, but can’t remember what. What would I have needed immediately after being discharged? Idk it all feels convoluted for a fairly simple point.

      But also I do a much poorer job at communicating and explaining things when I’m ill and/or in pain. (I have a funny- at least to me- anecdote about not thinking clearly while in pain regarding an ER doctor and alien abductions actually! If anyone’s ever curious, lol.)

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