Defining and Fostering Health

This post was written for the Ferndale Patch, click here to see original.

When I talk about fat rights, the main argument is it isn’t healthy. This is also where most conversations stop, because we have so deeply engrained into our psyche that fat bodies are inherently unhealthy. We are taught fat bodies are a sign of disease, no matter how many healthy behaviors we choose to do, if we still live in a fat body in the end it is often believed that we just haven’t tried hard enough.

To define health you must first define what health looks like, this is often a thin, young, able-bodied individual. This denies old people, fat people, mentally ill people, people with chronic illness or disease and people with disabilities their health status due to situations they often have no control over.

The main reason that I believe this really boils down to how we frame health in our society, specifically what we believe a healthy body looks like and why it has so much social value. We value health in a way that is far deeper then just believing that it should be important to people, we believe that people are better if they are health conscious. Studies even show if we believe fat people are trying to lose weight they will have far better reactions from their peers than if they are not. We demonize unhealthy behaviors and certain foods, and expect people who do not have health status to conform to those healthy behaviors so that we consider them socially acceptable.

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When we frame health in this fashion we also ignore the fact that health is not accessible to all people, particularly people who have a lower socioeconomic status. Because health is not as dependent on body size as we are lead to believe and fat people can be healthy (see, to actually have overall health in our society we must address the social and structural inequalities that limit people’s ability to be healthy.

This means we must invest in the fresh foods movement while make healthy foods more available and affordable to all people. We much make access to preventative healthcare a huge priority as communities with low income clinic show better health than those where healthcare is not affordable, available, or accessible to its people. We must also support the creation of not only safe and clean places for people to be physically active but have access to indoor swimming pools, rooms and halls where all bodies able bodied or not can take part. The city of Ferndale is an amazing example of what a community with these features should look like, but it still can be improved.

These measures must be addressed alongside wage disparities between all classes for bodies fat or thin to find health, even though healthy it will never look the way we believe it should and should never be used as a measure of someone’s worth.

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