Posts Tagged ‘morbidly obese’

Ragen Chastain on her blog Dances with Fat recently had a post about coming out as fat.

I don’t feel the need to come out as fat or fat and happy personally. But I thought of this when thinking about the way I talk about being classified as “morbidly obese”. I talk about this and make sure to use this terminology not in the same way I do “fat”, I don’t want to reclaim it, but to put a face to the term.

I’m 5ft and last time I stepped on a scale somewhere around 225lbs giving me a BMI close to 44, with BMIs over 40 being classified as “morbidly obese”.

photo of myself for visual reference to what my weight looks like on me, for those who don't already know.

photo of myself for visual reference to what my weight looks like on me, for those who don’t already know.

One of my very early posts on this blog was actually about what my weight is (and yeah, I weigh even more now than when I posted that). I am publicly telling you all how much I weight because I don’t think it is something I should be ashamed of.

I’ve had a lot of people express shock at my weight and even more that I would be considered “morbidly obese”. So often we treat these numbers and classifications as so secretive and shameful and the result is most people don’t have a good mental image of what it does, or more accurately, can, look like. So people can obviously look at me and see that I’m fat, that is no shocker. But when we treat weight as something so secretive and something to even be lied about, people don’t end up with good visuals of what weights look like. I think this is even worse with bmi classifications. Especially when it comes to such negative terms like “morbidly obese”, it makes sense this isn’t something those who are technically classified as are quick to identify with, and a lot of people never bother to look at what all these classifications are to know if it fits them or not. So when people use these terms, they don’t always have a good idea of who it is they are talking about.

I talk about being classified as “morbidly obese” because this is a category most people treat as so extreme that of course people that fat deserve negative treatment. “It’s ok to be a little overweight, as long as you aren’t morbidly obese”, (in response to fatshaming) “it’s not like she’s morbidly obese!”- the overall implication is that “morbidly obese” people do deserve to be treated terribly. It’s important to me to “out” myself as THAT fat because of this. Because the next time someone who knows me wants to talk about how these things are only not ok when a person isn’t “mobidly obese”, they are saying that these things are acceptable when applied to people like me.

This isn’t to say it would be ok if the definition of “morbidly obese” was something I didn’t fall under. The point isn’t that the definition isn’t high enough up there. The point is no one deserves to be treated disrespectfully or bullied and that fat people, and even us “morbidly obese” folks are people like anyone else.

It’s about putting a face to the term, which can help to humanize the group. If you don’t know anyone personally who falls into x group, it’s easy to justify their poor treatment. Sure, there are a lot of people who will feel the same regardless of if they know someone in x group or not, but there are others for whom realizing that these people are some faceless other, but people they know and even care about, does make a difference.

Still I use “morbidly obese” in quotes because while I think it important that people understand when they use this term, they are using a term that is applied to me, it’s not one I accept or agree with. The term suggest that I weigh so much that my body weight is literally killing me (and I specifically say weight rather than fat here, since this is defined by BMI which is based on weight regardless of composition. Although I am fat and have plenty of fat on my body, BMI makes no statement as to my, or anyone else’s, body fat vs lean body mass.) According to many places I’ve found online being morbidly obese means that one’s obesity interferes with basic physical functions like breathing and walking! Which my obesity does not interfere with my basic physical functions. I do not have any of the so called “obesity related” illnesses that are mentioned with “morbid obesity” and it does not significantly impair my quality of life.

Particularly as a person with disabilities, I find all of this ridiculous. I know very much what it is like to have an illness that impairs my quality of life and ability to function, and it is nothing at all like being fat. (And there is absolutely no reason to think any of my illness are caused by being fat, since I’m sure there are plenty of folks who would claim that. I love how people are always so quick to say I must be ill because I’m fat without even knowing me or what my illnesses are.)