The first barrier to health for fat people is how health is defined and prioritized. The World Health Organisation defined health in 1948 as “a state of complete physically, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition moves health away from a state of being free of disease, to a label awarded to those who are able to negotiate their way through multiple physiological, behavioral, and social criteria…As Metzl and Kirkland (2010) query, in any definition of health, who is left out?…Given the anti-fat society that surrounds fat people, we can imagine that the mental and social health of fat people are at great risk; possibly greater risk than their physical health. And if we acknowledge that mental and social health have significant impacts on physical health? The entire approach to fighting the war on obesity would have to drastically revise and revisit its strategy…
In a neoliberal environment, assumptions are made that nutritious and affordable food is available for everyone, that people have the time to engage in enjoyable physical movement, and have the finances to support their food and exercise choices and time needs. All of these assumptions pose potential problems, and could exclude those fat individuals who are outside these privileged assumptions.
When the HAES® model is discussed in public forums, there is often still the assumption that good citizens want to engage in health-seeking behaviors, despite the principles directly stating that “ASDAH’s HAES Principles reject judgments about health and any discourse of individual responsibility around health, in favor of a discourse of individualized health needs” (ASDAH, 2016)…
As Stacey Nye writes, on the Association for Size Diversity & Health (ASDAH) HAES® blog: “Being healthy takes time, effort, and money, and it’s no one’s business but your own whether you choose to engage in healthy behaviors” [our emphasis](Nye, 2015). This individual time, effort and money is not often acknowledged by the dominant discourse about health.While HAES® proponents deconstruct the notion that weight is within an individual’s control, health at times is still presented as within an individual’s control.
For anyone curious about, or who has questions regarding, fat and public health, this recently published article provides an excellent introduction and seems to be pretty accessible in its presentation, especially given its use of autoethnography.
Read the full article here:
Lee, J. A. and Pause, C. J. (2016). Stigma in practice: Barriers to health for fat women. Frontiers in Psychology (7). DOI=10.3389/fpsyg.2016.02063