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  • Explode and Die!A Fat Woman’s Perspective on Prenatal Care and the Fat Panic Epidemic
  • Jennifer Hansen

Classifying obesity as a disease provides more ammunition for the “war on obesity.” I gather that this is supposed to be a good thing. The problem is that obesity isn’t a germ or a crime; it’s a word applied to a particular kind of body—and thus to the person inhabiting it.

From a fat person’s perspective, the “war on obesity” is a war on fat people. It’s a license to bully, shame, and ostracize fat people and deny us employment, medical care, and even ordinary family life because we don’t look right. Fat people, proclaimed by medical authority to be the enemy and identifiable on sight as outsiders, are made into targets for all kinds of free–floating anger. For example, I am apparently sucking away people’s tax dollars via my fat, and it’s also my fault that men expecting to fantasize about every woman they see on the street encounter my distasteful fatness instead. But no matter how many times we get told that we are wrong just for existing, we go on existing, in public even. How dare we? The answer, obviously, is to keep at us. If we would just admit that we have no right to exist, then we would all either vanish or become socially acceptably thin, and then the whole world would be unicorns and butterflies and everyone would be rich and nobody would get old. Or something like that. If obesity is a disease, then phrenology is a science.

Of course, we get a lot of well–meaning flak along with the bullying; after all, concentrating on weight loss can only be good for us, because fat people are always about to explode and die. This assumption has definitely affected my relationship with the only medical practice I can reach that’s in my network. During the 20–plus years since I became visibly obese, I have gotten used to the constant drone of “You’re fat, you’re fat, you’re about to explode and die, we don’t care about what you actually came in for because it’s vitally important that we bug you yet again about your pants size,” but some things can still shock me. For example, during all three of my pregnancies, I never had a result that was even borderline for gestational diabetes (GD). And yet, some time after my last baby was born, someone wrote “HISTORY OF GESTATIONAL DIABETES” in my file. I first heard about it during my annual checkup, when the doctor referred to it when talking about my increased risk of Type 2 diabetes due to age (unavoidable), my first–ever non–whitecoat–syndrome borderline blood pressure (BP) reading (taken with a standard cuff, gee how could it possibly have been inaccurate), and GD (gosh, I felt so safe and supported at this fine reality–based practice). And of course my weight.

Whoever wrote that felt free to make things up because I’m fat. To repeat, somebody with access to my file at my only source for affordable health care felt free to write things in it that were completely contradicted by the facts just a few sheets below. There’s no need to fact–check your assumptions when you can tell by looking at her that she’s F–A–T, and everybody knows what they are. They’ll explode and die, every last one of them. Better medicate them now before they inevitably break down!

Speaking of which, there’s a particular OB at the practice who I’ll call Doctor Eeyore. At every appointment, Doctor Eeyore would take measurements, stare, and say, “Hmm … tch.” If I asked him to tell me what he had found, he would say, “Too big,” or, “Too small,” or indicate some other inadequacy in his glum, word–miserly way. He only bothered to produce complete sentences when he enthusiastically told me that I would die if I didn’t give birth with an IV in place to administer the life–saving drugs for my inevitable cardiac event...


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pp. 99-101
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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