What I wish I could tell food justice advocates

Sometimes I wish I could make everyone in the food justice movement read these fat acceptance 101 resources (or any fat acceptance resources).

I’m so sick of reading article after article, interview after interview, holding my breath for the inevitable reference to “obesity.”

The latest one is Feministing’s interview with Saru Jayaraman, the founder of Restaurant Opportunities Center United and a leader of campaigns to establish a living wage, paid sick days, and freedom from sexual harassment for restaurant workers.

She talks about the importance of sustainable labor practices as well as sustainably-grown foods; about the high poverty levels among restaurant workers, especially women and people of color; about the vulnerability to sexual harassment that comes from dependence on tips to make a living; and about the need to organize both in person and online for better wages and working conditions.  I couldn’t agree more….until I got to this part:

The reason for the fact that you have the largest and fastest growing industry in American proliferating the absolute lowest paying jobs is the power of the National Restaurant Association, which we call the Other NRA. They really are, we like to say that they kill more people annual that [sic] the Rifle Association because of obesity.

I just wish I could take Jayaraman aside and tell her:

“Obesity” is not a disease.

It’s just a ratio of height to weight. It was never intended to be used as a measure of individuals’ health, and it doesn’t tell you anything about how healthy a person is.

“Obesity” doesn’t kill people. Fat stigma does.

Restaurants don’t make fat people fat. Fat people have always existed, and always will. There are thin people who eat out regularly, and fat people who hardly ever eat out.

Fat bodies are not a symptom of corporate irresponsibility or unjust food systems. Fat bodies just are, and we’re sick of being used as pawns for pretty much every social justice cause under the sun.

8 thoughts on “What I wish I could tell food justice advocates

  1. YES. TW as I may just be playing devil’s advocate here (and let me know if you don’t want me to do that anymore), but some fat people are actually sick because they are fat. I am one of them. Even still, though, it’s damn near impossible to lost weight, as you know. I tried. I gained even more. My fat may cause my back pain for instance, but there are other things that are better to do about that sort of thing than aim for weight loss… in my case, PT and movement. Which may actually cause weight loss anyway, as sometimes happens, or it may not. Either way though, it helps my back pain, and that is actually all that matters at the end of the day. If I, on the other hand, went to PT TO lose weight…I’d probably just feel insecure all the time when I don’t.

    • Did you ever stop to think that maybe you got fat because you were sick, rather than the other way around? I’m fat too… I noticed that how I physically feel is more down to what I am eating than any other single cause. Avoiding gluten grains = avoiding migraines and knee pain. Making sure I remember my supplements (vitamins and minerals mostly) = little to no back pain. (My back has been an issue for years regardless of my weight, too. I had two nine-pound babies and an epidural with the second and I’m sure none of that contributed AT ALL.) Not eating a s?!t-ton of carbs, plus eating enough animal fat = keeping my blood sugar under control and lightening my depression considerably. All of this without losing a significant amount of weight, if I lose any at all. And I’m pretty sure I gained the fat in the first place because my body never seems to want to do anything right and I seem to be hyper-sensitive to my own hormones, as evidenced by several symptoms, including–of all things–an excess of moles. (I read recently that that’s associated with greater sensitivity to hormones, possibly estrogen in particular.) It’s hormones that lead to fat storage to begin with, insulin for example. Stands to reason that if yours are out of whack, well, there you go.

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  3. Another meme I see from food justice advocates is some variation on “there are starving people in the world because we have fat people here.” It is not usually stated that baldly. Normally I see someone talking about all the starving people and following it up with a “meanwhile we have all these obese people here at home.” As if no one could tell what they are actually saying. And never mind that there are fat people in developing countries too, including in Africa.

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