- 54% of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat
- More than 90% of girls ages 15 to 17, want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance, with body weight ranking the highest
- 81% of ten year olds are afraid of being fat
- 1 out of 8 adolescent girls reported starving themselves to lose weight
- 67% of women 15-64 withdraw from life-engaging activities like giving an opinion, going to school and going to the doctor because they feel badly about their looks
- 40% of moms tell their adolescent daughters to diet; 45% of these are of average weight
- 70 million people worldwide struggle with eating disorders
- In the US, as many as 10 million are suffering from anorexia or bulimia; that's more than are suffering from breast cancer
This is a harder question to answer. I can tell you where all the messages of body and fat hate are coming from, what incorrect facts they state, the ways in which fat bodies are punished for being fat, and how hard it is to keep a brave face in the midst of it all...but WHY everyone is so scared of fat is much harder to grasp.
Some people will point to the erroneous belief that fat means unhealthy means chronic disease and death, but even that is an incomplete picture. When people are degrading fat people in social situations it's rarely about their health. It's often about the prejudices, stereotypes and bigotry people hold towards fat bodies.
There are commonly held ideas that fat people are lazy, gross, lacking in willpower, dumb, ugly, awkward, survivors of trauma, and the list goes on and on. Social norms have led us to cement these stereotypes with fat bodies to the point that many of us forget that these are TOTALLY MADE UP and that we as a society created these labels and they do not actually reflect reality. There is no evidence that being fat means you're lazy. Or ugly. Or gross. However, this perception of this made up reality is important. Because once we start to believe this reality our brains will do anything it can to avoid being associated with these negative characteristics. Who want's to be called lazy, gross, dumb, etc.? No one! So step one to avoiding being called those names would be to get rid of the first "easy" association people have, e.g. a fat body. Now you might still be all of those things, but people won't be able to necessarily tell if you at least have a thin body!
People think (theoretically) that they can change their bodies, even if they can't change many other things about themselves. Anyone who has been discriminated against based on visual cues and information probably have wished at times they could change those visuals. I've heard countless friends of color express times in their lives where they wished they could wake up with white skin, even if just to experience blending in and not having to experience discrimination for one single day. Luckily, I have rad friends and they move past that or it's only a temporary thought, because they have been surrounded by communities of people that tell them it's ok to be black, Asian, Mexican, etc. Unfortunately we don't have that overwhelming source of body loving pride...YET. But that's why the fat acceptance and radical body loving communities that are emerging are so important. There will always be hate directed at people for their differences, but if we can continue to build communities that love and support ALL sizes and really embrace the belief that bodies not only come in different colors and abilities but also in a diverse representation of sizes we might start to win this war against bodies. The first step is disentangling these negative stereotypes about fat bodies that we hold. Fat people are no more likely to be lazy, stupid, gross or any other negative characteristic than a thin person. The only thing a fat person is more likely to be is fat. That's all. And there is NOTHING wrong with fat. It isn't poisonous. It doesn't make you dumb. It doesn't make you sick. We have to shift the focus away from bodies and how they look and start dealing with reality!
Next week I'll tell you why you're losing the battle against your body and plant the seed on why you should work on loving and accepting it instead!