People are fat because…

The Journey is not just physical, its mental, emotional, and psychological. Over the months, I have talked about my sense of self: my changing body, the clothes, the face and I have talked about the emotional side of those topics.

One of the ongoing conversations I have with people is about “Why people are fat” and it is often a hard topic to discuss. For many, if not most people, weight gain, and being overweight or obese is considered a failing. A Failing of control, of discipline, a failing of taking care of themselves. We see this mentality all over media and in our lives. This idea is encapsulated in the quote by Congressman Mo Brook (R-AL) about not funding pre-existing conditions like obesity or diabetes n the US Healthcare system;

“it [creating high risk pools] offsets all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives. They’re healthy. They’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now those are the people who have done things the right way that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”

I have come up on this argument a lot, and in many different ways. The idea that being overweight is solely a persons choice, or the result of bad decisions is a tough one. In my daily life, I get variations of this argument all the time, and I find that I often have to defend bigger people, even those who *are* being unhealthy and making poor decisions.

On one hand, being overweight and obese makes you a greater risk for Cancer. There are other issues associated with being Obese all of which can be a detriment to your health. Being overweight is not a death sentence, but it begins the stack the odds against you in terms of long term health and happiness. Also, coming from a community that embraces the “body beautiful” theme, no matter what size, there is that push and pull about loving bigger men, but also recognising that it may be detrimental later in life. I have previously talked about the fear and trouble about losing weight in the Bear Community, and I think I hold onto my defense of “big is beautiful” strongly because of that.

I also know that we are not in an Obesity Epidemic world wide because people make bad decisions or are lazy, or whatever. Worldwide Obesity levels are rising with 1/7th of the world considered overweight or Obese. So this is not just an American issue, or just an issue in the West. This is a health issue that affects the world. This is less about poor choices, and more about how we educate people, how we frame the food and exercise debate, and how we change our relationship with food from a consumer level. There needs to be systemic change in how we make mass produced food and drinks so that the factors that can lead to obesity is minimised and taken away.

The problem is that you can’t have that conversation every time someone says “They are fat because they made poor choices” It is esoteric, and it is such a large issue that people just glaze over it, which doesn’t help. It also goes into the old arguments of the responsibility of businesses in the realm of societal movements and personal buying (and eating) choices and that never ending fight.

I try to explain that for many people, they didn’t have a choice in their size. From ¬†their biology to their upbringing, to age, to their socio-economic status and more, the factors that set in motion their current weight may have started well before they (or anyone) knew the effects of their actions. And when people *want* to change, then there are factors working against them, even from their own bodies.

This is why surgery, at least for me, was *the* tool I needed to help me win this battle. It took surgery for my body to align with what I mentally wanted; to be thinner. The surgery was only a tool that helped change how my body reacted and processed food, and because of that along with my mental attitude and determination to lose weight, I have been able to lose double what is considered the normal weight loss for my surgery type. I would not have been able to lose 58 kilos and maintain my sanity or stay healthy if it were not for the surgery.

And it affects me as well.

In the past, I have seen several “ex fat” people become very judgmental on other bigger people. I remember, back in Sydney, someone I knew lost a top of weight, became a personal trainer, and then berate all of his former bigger friends for not losing weight. As I lose weight, I am super conscious about not falling into that trope. While my journey has been transformational for me, there are others who are not ready, or don’t want to. There are people I know who strive to become bigger, I have friends who love the size they are. My new found weight loss may not be the goal for someone else right now, and I think it is important that my journey, and other people’s journey will be different. We will have different trials and tribulations. It is also important to keep an open and empathetic mind towards everyone; not every big person needs an intervention, and not every skinny person is the paragon of health.

Every time I hear “People are fat because of *insert reason here*” I hope that I will always try and defend and be even handed in my response. Life, and bodies are much more complicated than “lazy” or “choices” or whatever criticism people want to place on them.

The 4th of July

A few years ago, my mother said I was a traitor to my country.

It came up in an argument about being critical of the United States. I was living in Australia at the time, and my mother said that criticizing the US while not living there made me a traitor to my country. The conversation did not continue much beyond that.

But it is something that has come up from time to time when I am critical of the US or its policies. Some form of “Well, you don’t live here now so you don’t get a say” usually comes up, and I find that for many people, it is easy to dismiss me because I am no longer living in the US.

This always makes the 4th of July a weird holiday for me.

I have another American working in the office. He is what you would think of a patriotic American: He is wearing American Flag branded stuff today. He is flying a 8 foot by 6 foot American flag from his house today, and he is wishing everyone a very happy 4th. He is also a Trump supporter… which I have done very well to avoid any conversation on that topic (or much about America honestly.)

My…”Patriotism” is a mixed bag of sorts. Much like my family, I have a very complicated relationship with the United States. There are aspects of America that I absolutely love: I love how amazing the people can be. I love the diversity of the nation, from landscape to culture, to people, I find that every corner of the US has something of value, and something worth showing the world. When I take my Husband to the United States, I love to show him parts of America you do not see in the media, or on TV. I show him the hidden gems of the Midwest, or the surprise awesomeness of the South, or even the awe inspiring landscape of the West. From cities to the country, I am most proud of the United States when it does something that helps everyone, and when it does something amazing. I love the quiet moments when the amazing value of Americans come out, and people are constantly surprised by our curiosity, our interest, and our perspective.

But, the United States is a bit of an Asshole as well. When I see the Country’s stance on Immigration, or Refugees, or its views towards others in the world, or when the country seems content on being divided, it is hard to watch. And this is not just at the National level either. I am watching states shut down because they are no longer interested in working together. My home state of Illinois has been operating without a budget for 3 years now, and it is likely not going to change until the next election… next year. We are having basic arguments over how much we should care for our sick, and what is our responsibilities as a nation… and for many, that is “none” and it is frustrating and disheartening. We have a broken political class who seems hell bent on passing legislation that is so unpopular, you have to ask why they are doing it outside lining their pockets for the next election. It feels like the Politicians in power have no party platform, only “stay in power” and with each action, it seems to cement that feeling.

It is not like the United States is alone with these issues: the UK and Australia are also grappling with these sea changes in our nation’s conscience. I could write a very similar post about both countries, and there wouldn’t be much difference.

So, coming back to the 4th. Is it uncouth to redress the Government on the 4th of July?

Last month, there were several protests at US Gay Pride Parades. These protests were not from the Right, but rather, from the Left. Many in the LGBTQI community push harshly back, decrying the protests during a time of celebration. The irony of course was that the first Pride marches were very much protest movements. It seems almost fitting to do the same with the 4th, as it represents the United State’s biggest, and lasting example of Government criticism and redress. As the 4th is now a day of celebration, I think it is appropriate for us to also stayed cleared eyed about the United States. It is not a happy place right now. I have friends who are afraid of their rights. I have friends who are worried if they have a job this year because of politics. I have friends who are worried they will lose healthcare. I have friends who are scared they will lose insurance because they can’t currently afford it. I have friends who have just had babies and their world has gotten more scary because of all of this stuff around us. I have friends who fear that when a cop pulls them over, they will become a victim. I have friends who openly worry about whether they can stay in a city because they are being priced out.

As I watch, from the outside, but with a ring side seat at many who are struggling, it pains me to watch it continue, being unable to help outside of a kind word, or a sympathetic digital shoulder.

I want to help, but I can’t until the US admits it has a problem. Many in the US will point that finger at Trump, or the Republicans… but I feel that this has been happening for a while, and that our politicians have gotten away from us. I think we have allowed ourselves to be divided by something as arbitrary as political opinion. We have cultivated a society that values loyalty over common sense, Jingoism over openness, and has devalued the value of admitting when you are wrong.

Our leaders have become as blind and uncaring to the needs of the people as King George III was blind and uncaring to the needs of the Colonists.

I love the United States. It is my home, it will always be my home, and when it is needed, or warranted, I will defend it with as much fervor as anything. But right now, it needs some help, and I don’t feel like celebrating when I can see it in such self-inflicted pain, and it is unwilling to change itself for the better.