(photo credit to Jeff Higgins)
I show you this picture, not to show off my roller derby background (this was a practice exercise to build strength), but to illustrate a point. What if I were to tell you that at least three girls in this photo of "body loving roller derby women" suffered the consequences of weight stigma? That no, those three women are not the heaviest ones in the picture either. Rather the girl in front of me and behind me.. and myself as well. Weight stigma knows no size constraint. If we tried to recreate this picture you would discover that the three of us have all altered in size (I graduated to filling out my Wonder Wounder costume and being able to wear real non-little kiddo padding - my knees were quite thankful... and those two other girls shrank in size)
When I was growing up I never got to see my mother thin or even of average weight. She's been overweight my whole life (well, to be fair for the life that I remember). This greatly affected our relationship. Even at my heaviest (in my running heydey - before the eating disorder recommenced) I was never overweight. My mother and I would get into arguments often. My weight would be brought up. Sometimes that I was too heavy (the word "fatass" was commonplace in my household) and sometimes that I was too thin and didn't understand her hardships.
She once told me I didn't understand what it was like to be overweight in today's society and that I would never understand. That my life was better quality, that people treated me better because I was thin. That I was afforded more advantages due to my size. She had such bitterness in her voice when she said this to me. She was a "normal weight" (read healthy BMI for whatever that's worth) until she had me, so she had some basis... but she still had not experienced my reality. My reality where people have held my weight against me by believing I have a "thin privilege" not granted to them. Making me feel as if I have to defend myself for being thin... or for them not being thin.
What contributed to me feeling this way? Being told that it's not fair that I'm treated better due to my weight. Being called a fatass because of people's insecurities with their own weight (or because they know it's upsetting to me) amongst other things. Having to always sit next to my mother on plane flights, because I was always the thinnest in my family and my mother didn't want to impede on anyone else's space. "You're thin, you won't mind - this is your sacrifice" -- Or people getting upset with me at work in the dressing room area telling me that I don't understand because I could fit into anything. That I can eat anything I want, that I won't gain weight, and that it's not fair.
It was worse when I was thin enough to look ill. People assuming I had an eating disorder and either making judgments about me or telling me, "oh you won't eat that much... here's a 'Kristie' portion" and literally only giving me two bites worth of food (true story). People staring at me while eating and whispering. Being labeled a "Bulimic Barbie" in high school (despite NOT purging).
Now, I'm not thin enough to look stereotypically eating disordered so I get these sorts of "it's natural" comments and bitterness regarding how I "don't understand" directed at me. Meanwhile, I still have an eating disorder. It's not natural and I do understand (albeit on a different level).
Where does this bitterness come from though?
I truly believe it comes from weight stigma and anti-fat bias being directed at the people who have said these things to me
I think anti-fat bias and weight stigma do more damage than causing people to want to lose weight (by healthy or unhealthy means) - that's what happened with the two girls I pointed out in the roller derby picture -- and perpetuating fallacious thought process such as "all fat people must be lazy." I also think it can initiate a transference of that stigma to others. The pain that weight stigma causes travels... I actually think it damages the most people this way.
so what are we to do?
Realize that what weight stigma really means is that we need to change...
We need to realize that weight stigma hurts no matter the person's size and that treating someone differently due to their weight is not going to do us any good. Easier to type than it is to enact though. You have years and years of pain to undo. But we can do this. Together we can do this. Regardless of our sizes.