Updated: Jan 26
I got turned down for insurance last week because I'm too fat. But mostly because we're still wildly prejudice against people in different bodies.
Something which we have laws against in many areas still manages is to exclude fat people. I believe this is, despite the evidence to the contrary, because we still blame fat people for their size.
Rather than acknowledging BMI is an arbitrary scale invented by, (the very same industry who sent medical practitioners to my house): insurance companies. BMI is not science. It is not a fact. It is capitalism. If BMI was a strict measure of health, the industry would not have been able to randomly wake up one morning and change the boundaries of acceptability, pushing more people into a higher price bracket for their insurance. (In 1998 the boundaries were changed overnight, which had the effect of redefining approximately 29 million Americans, previously healthy, to overweight* – quite a problem if you live in a country where, for example, you have to pay for your healthcare)
It is as if none of us have ever come across thin people who are unwell. We treat thinness like divinity, a prize which we can punish people into achieving.
I always think it's worth comparing the number of people you know who are or have ever tried to lose weight with the number of people you know who have lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off. Because all the studies show not only are you likely to regain all the lost weight, but that you are more likely to add more than when they originally started.** In very basic terms, your body thinks it is under attack, so it tried to store energy to protect you.
We have numerous studies showing that weight cycling (losing weight and gaining weight repeatedly) is bad for our health and this is in conflict with the multibillion dollar diet industry. If there was a diet that actually worked for everybody, then we would all know about it and medics would be recommending it. It doesn't exist. The diet industry is completely based on the idea that diets fail, so they can carry on making more money. A lot of people make a lot of money from people trying, not losing, but trying, to lose weight. If they actually lost the way ie their product worked, they have killed their own market, it is a racket and it is a scam.
As if all of this was not wild and illogical enough, one of the measurements the insurance company used to work out whether I was worthy of paying them money or not was dress size – that scientific health gauge. A measurement which is not even standardised from one shop to the next.
Why am I telling you this stuff? Because the only way they can get away with this is because of fatphobia. It is so ingrained in our culture. Which, whilst feeling suffocating in so many ways, is also really empowering because it means that we have a chance to change it. How do you speak about people in their bodies? How do you treat the food on a menu? How much judgement goes into your plate and onto your fork and into your thoughts, words and deeds? There is no possibility that you being unkind to yourself does not spill out into how you treat others.
So this is a challenge to you, as we near the end of the year and reflect on what has served us and why. We may wish to leave some things behind. Are there ways that you could disrupt fatphobia within our society, within your thoughts within the way that you speak to yourself? Maybe food isn't good or bad. Maybe it's just food. Maybe someone's weight should not be referred. (Spoiler He should never be referred to); to their faces or behind their back. Because in truth when you do so, you are making a value judgement on that person according to their body. We have a chance to begin to change this and it is going to take a lot of challenging ingrained thoughts. Are you willing to commit your efforts to make the world a more inclusive and less hateful place? Mine and others genetic history and the way our body stores energy should not dictate whether I am allowed to be covered by insurance or not. This should never be the basis upon which we are trying to build a more fair society. And if we want to build a more fair society, we cannot do it without you.