By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, LICSW, CEDS
Weight bias comes in many forms. I’ve experienced it personally in the form of poor medical care, poor mental health care, bullying, teasing, ostracization, and personal rejection. I have been fat off and on since elementary school. Fat to me was a four-letter word that led to a couple decades of self-loathing topped with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, weight cycling, substance abuse, and self-harm.
A new form of weightism I never expected to find has come to the fore. While we are battling the worst public health crisis in a century with COVID-19, I was told by a loved one that because I’m fat that “you better be careful. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but you are overweight.” Huh?
The new myth is that coronavirus is killing off fat people? My thin loved one said, “yes, but I’m not going outside either as I’m old. So, I’m high risk too.” And this makes me feel better?
Who knows where my loved one heard this. And I’ll accept that she said it out of love and concern for me. But let’s re-visit the issue of weightism and fat bias.
- Being fat is not a death sentence.
- Being fat is not bad, period, full stop.
- Healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes.
- Unhealthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes too!
- Assuming fat bodies are unhealthy, or the result of disordered eating behaviors, leads to systemic vilification and oppression, which in turn leads to worse health.
- Unhealthy bodies, which may be genetic in origin or not, are often the result of socio-economic, cultural, racial, gender, educational, and other forms of prejudice and injustice.
That said, everyone is at risk when it comes to COVID-19. While those with pre-existing conditions that may be associated with age, lung disease, heart disease, and other conditions are more likely to suffer mortal consequences of COVID-19, let’s never assume we can tell who any of those people are by looking at them. And let’s also be sure that everyone, everywhere stays safe, washes their hands, takes all the recommended precautions, maintains social distancing when able, and stays home until the EXPERTS tell us it’s safe to return to our lives.