Why Is Fatness So Grotesque?

Honestly, I tried to answer this question for so long, I can’t even remember. I come from a family that has never been shockingly overweight, but more often than not on the large sight of ok. This fact in itself has resulted in diets attempts gone bad from simple yo-yo dieting to more than one person that had to be treated for sever anorexia. But why do we live in a society and culture that has such an aversion to fat and fat people that someone feels forced to hate themselves in order to feel accepted?

First and foremost, fat is something positive. Most archeologist, anthropologist and pre-historians are convinced that without the body’s ability to accumulate fat most of us wouldn’t be here today. The evolutionary trick to store energy within the body made it possible for humans to survive long stretches of time without access to food (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00hbsk2). So, hurray! And while too much fat can present a person with serious health risks, have to little of it and you are in a whole lot more trouble.

Knowing all that actually presents me with a conundrum, as I am as biased towards fat people as the next person: Fat people are lazy, can’t control what they eat, are stupid and too ignorant to find information about how much energy = food they need. When I see a ‘grotesquely’ fat person behind the wheel of a very small car or on the subway with shins that are as huge as my stomach, I can’t help myself but to stare at such a mass of fat.

During this semester, I looked at a lot of theoretical texts trying to explain why fat is equaled to being bad. They ranged from fat being connected to being female and therefore to being weak to fat being connected to foreigners and therefore something bad and finally to fat being a sin against God[1]. Not satisfied with that I read other sources, e.g. “Calories and Corsets” by Louise Foxcroft and found even more reasons why fat is bad: If you are fat, you are a bad politician, if you are fat, you are a bad woman and finally, if you are fat, you are uneducated and a sloth. Considering all the labeling in regards to fat that has been going on for almost all of our written history, it’s no miracle fat doesn’t stand a chance. I’m actually starting to wonder why there aren’t even more people despairing over their weight.

So although between a third and a half of the general population is supposed to be overweight the individual is constantly taught that being overweight is not the norm but something horrible far outside of it. And what do we as humans do with things that don’t fit neatly in the category they are supposed to? We ostracize and we stare. To change this fact will be an uphill battle.


[1] On a side note: The Christian faith and its fear of the body is believed to have produced the first anorexics in the form of martyrs already 2000 years ago.

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