I was at the grocery store yesterday, trying to decide what to have for dinner. I'd eaten a big breakfast and skipped lunch, and I was a little bit hungry, but I couldn't for the life of me decide on something to eat for dinner. I decided to go home and wait until I actually wanted something. The only thing I knew I wanted was some ice cream. I went to the frozen aisle and stared for a while. Then I started feeling self-conscious about even being in the ice cream section. Finally I left without buying anything because I didn't want to go through the checkout line buying nothing but ice cream.
As I was driving home, I couldn't stop thinking about how ridiculous it was. I refused to have something for reasons that had nothing to do with what I wanted, but because I didn't want other people to see what I wanted to eat. And I'm far from alone. There's a tremendous amount of judgment around fat people and what they eat - not even a fat person's overall eating habits (though those aren't anyone's business, either), but what fat people are choosing to eat at any given moment. That fat-shaming is a thing is no surprise to anyone with the most basic level of awareness of the world around them. But the depth and breadth of shame directed at and heaped upon fat people is astonishing - or at least it would be, if it wasn't something that I deal with every day, along with millions of other fat people.
This isn't something imagined. Talking about the feeling of being judged because of what we eat draws the inevitable exhortation that "no one cares what you're eating" and "you're just being paranoid." Despite what the most determined fat-shamers and concern trolls will tell you, people actually do care about, look at and judge what a fat person chooses to eat. Scrutiny of what a fat person chooses to eat literally happens all the damn time, and people aren't afraid to let the world know that they disapprove of our choices.
(These literally took less than 15 seconds to find.)
These people don't really disapprove of fat people making "unhealthy" choices (as if "healthy" is a universal truth); they really just have a hatred of fat people that borders on the pathological. A fat person literally can't win, because you can't reason with people that view you as less than human. When we're shamed (either explicitly or implicitly) into ordering a salad, because we're eating in public and fatties shouldn't be eating burgers, we're shamed for that too.
The world is a hostile place for fat people, and we're told that it's for our own good, despite the fact that studies show that fat-shaming is the opposite of helpful. The truth is that the only real goal of fat-shamers is to make people feel badly, not for any positive outcome, but as an endgame in itself. It's a noxious, disgusting way to live, and there comes a point where stating plain facts is an exercise in futility. This isn't a debate, and fat-shamers aren't arguing in good faith. They're purposely abusing people for their own enjoyment and it's time we starting calling it out as such.
There's really only one argument against fat-shaming that matters: people deserve respect and to be treated with basic humanity and kindness because they are people. I've written before about the fact that many of the ways that people defend against fat-shaming are damaging. Yes, some people have a health issue that leads to obesity. Yes, lots of fat people eat well and exercise regularly. But fat people don't need extenuating circumstances to deserve being treated like people. It makes a distinction between acceptable fatness and unacceptable fatness, as if that line exists anywhere but in the minds of bigots.
Despite their protestations to the contrary, there are no acceptable food choices for a fat person in the mind of these hateful fools, because our very existence is what they find offensive. I've run half-marathons at a weight that pegs me firmly as obese. But I would still get side-eye if I walked into Dairy Queen after the race, and ordering double meat on my sandwich doesn't make them hate me any more than ordering a garden salad will make them love me. The unacceptable choice was entering the public sphere on my own terms. As long as I'm a fat person, I will be considered a blight, and nothing short of not being fat will change that.
I originally ended this piece with a blustery and defiant statement, like a fat Howard Beale, that basically I was mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. But the truth is, I will take it, sometimes. That twinge I felt when I was in the grocery store? That's pain. That's knowing that I live in a world where people hate me because of the way I look. It's knowing that society and pop culture and the weight loss industry fucking encourage people to hate me and for me to hate myself. The times I've gone through the drive-thru and eaten their food in the parking lot was giving in to that pain. When I say, "oh no, I'm so full" when I know I'm still hungry, knowing that when I go to bed I'll feel a pit in my stomach, I know it's because the pain of actual hunger is less than the pain of knowing what everyone is thinking about me. That pain is real - I know that many, many people feel that same pain and feel that same shame. The worst part is knowing that this is the way that the world wants us to feel.
Here's how I want to be able to end this piece one day: It's nobody's goddamn business but my own what I or anyone else chooses to eat, and those choices have never and will never make us less deserving of respect and just basic humanity. Fatness is not a moral failing, unlike hatred, malice and cruelty. It takes a petty and unpleasant person to intentionally inflict pain on someone for the way they look, and the permeation of this anti-fat thinking is depriving people of the basic ability to fully participate in society, and I'm done apologizing for my own mistreatment. People can say what they want to say and laugh if they want to laugh. I hope that one day they can be convinced to change their ways. But until then? Fuck you, I'm eating ice cream.
Joshua David can be found on Twitter at @joshuaadavidd.
Image via suzette.nu.