I had planned on diving in to my inbox with gusto and not emerging until I was at least below 500 emails, but then I read via Big Fat Deal the latest weight-loss insanity to come from new Zealand. New Zealand Herald columnist Deborah Coddington — who is apparently not only prejudiced against Asian people, but also fat people — argues that we should publicly shame “over-fat” people because if Jewish prisoners in Nazi death camps can get thin, then fat folk have simply no excuse. Yes, really. I can’t make this kind of degree of offensive ridiculousness up.
Coddington doesn’t herself explicitly make the emaciated Holocaust victim/modern day fat person analogy; she chooses instead to hide behind the words of two others who’ve pointed it out in the past, both of whom were roundly condemned for it. But she does agree that each are “correct” in their assertions and goes on to use the fact that Jewish people (and gypsies and gay people) were starved, overworked and subjected to inhumane and brutally cruel conditions to the point of death in perhaps the largest and most evil act of genocide the world has ever seen as some sort of inane justification for the public shaming and blaming of fat people. She writes:
Look what we do to smokers. We treat them like lepers, forcing them out into the street, away from bars and restaurants. Two decades ago it was acceptable to smoke on planes, in offices and pubs. Now everywhere is proudly a smokefree environment… If it’s acceptable to shame and sin tax anyone addicted to nicotine and alcohol, why not do the same to those addicted to food?
Over-fat people eat too much for numerous reasons. They’re unhappy, unloved, lazy, don’t care, love food, are weak-willed, can’t cook properly, but they’re not obese for cultural reasons, or because they’re big-boned, have hormone problems, or other “it’s not my fault” excuses. Thankfully, we all come in different sizes – large, petite, slim, solid – but basically obesity is caused by eating too much food… But molly-coddling won’t help. Tough love works with treating other addictions – we should use it on food addictions.
Let’s set aside for a moment the appalling abhorrence of Coddington’s commentary to the ancestors of those who died in the camps and indeed to all of humanity itself, as well as the fact that obesity is not an eating disorder and that not all fat people have disordered relationships with food, are a drain in national resources or lead miserable, wretched lives. There is a fundamental difference between vices like alcoholism and cigarette addiction and “food addictions” like bulimia and binge eating disorder: YOU DO NOT NEED ALCOHOL AND CIGARETTES TO LIVE. The emotional overeater or binge eater is tempted with relapse at every meal and every snack, making recovery a potentially lifelong battle simply to maintain. These people do not deserve to be made into more of social pariahs than they already are and subjected to further humiliation and abuse; they deserve our empathy, kindness, understanding and support in overcoming their emotional problems and in leading happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.
While I’m sure Deborah Coddington hopes in the black, shriveled up organ she calls a heart that anyone with a BMI above 25 would just go on and die already, public shame and ridicule of fat people and the increasing adulation of a skeletal thinness aesthetic are exactly among the chief reasons why people develop “food addictions” and why eating disorders are on the rise. Monique pretty much sums up my thoughts on the whole matter:
Yes, people in concentration camps were thin. Because they were being starved and worked TO DEATH. That is not hyperbole. THEY FUCKING DIED.
And of course it is possible for we fat people to be thin if we starve ourselves to the point of malnutrition and death. This of course runs counter to every biological imperative, every shred of human decency, and every iota of self-preservation we might have. Because, uh, we are not prisoners of the fucking Nazis. And yet according to Coddington, this self-starvation is desirable because she finds fat people in need of “tough love.”
Oh my god, fuck you, lady.
Make that a second fuck you, Deborah Coddington. During my eating disorder, I read somewhere that the Jewish prisoners in the ghettos ate, on average, 800 calories a day. That number instantly became my maximum daily caloric limit, progressively dropping lower and lower until it finally became nothing, nada. Deborah Coddington would have been proud: I lost the weight. In the course of one year, my BMI plummeted from the morbidly “obese” range of the BMI scale to the lower- to mid-range of “normal weight”; I went from a U.S. size 26 to a size 4. I also developed a heart condition, became dangerously depressed, twice attempted suicide, lost some of my hair, destroyed my metabolism, was fired from my job, alienated friends and family, racked up thousands of dollars in medical bills and debt and overall, forfeited three years of my life I can never reclaim. Deborah Coddington’s call for a “tough love” approach to fat people is no less than a call for the social cleansing of them.
Folks, personal blogs are open game for any wingnut extremist to post uneducated and bigoted ramblings, but we shouldn’t tolerate this sort of patent discrimination in a mainstream newspaper that supposedly practices ethical journalism. I urge you to make your voices heard: Send a letter to the editor of the New Zealand Herald here; contact APN News & Media, publisher of the New Zealand Herald, here; post a comment to the article here (registration required); or spread word of the outrage on your own blog and/or on messageboards and social media sites.