That quote about parental fat bias and it’s effects on children (from a Rudd Center report ) has haunted me all night. Over the years I’ve written a number of personal pieces, none of which have seen the light of day or the glow of the internet, attempting to exorcize tormenting memories from my youth.
This morning I dug out an old clipping from the Boston Globe (September 2012). There’s a photo whose caption reads: “Nike’s ‘Find Your Greatness‘ ad features an obese boy jogging down a country road.” I had forgotten the controversy about whether Nike did a good thing, inspiring people (even fat people?!) to greatness or whether they had exploited this fat boy.
Honestly, that doesn’t really matter to me. What I remembered were the headline and first paragraph. Under the heading ‘America’s deepest shame…The fatter we get, the more we fear and loathe fat people’, author Jennifer Graham wrote:
“When I was 12, my mother sent me into a convenience store to buy a bottle of Coca-Cola for a party. Taking the money, the cashier looked at me critically and said ‘Do you know how many calories are in that?’”
In my opinion, what that cashier essentially did was to assault an innocent child. This individual was a stranger who felt justified in shaming a child; it was emotional abuse. That may seem like a dramatic overstatement, but if you have experienced such moments, you know it is not hyperbole or exaggeration. The intensity of the shaming is directly correlated to the extreme fear and loathing many Americans feel toward fat people.
I’m angry. Maybe that’s obvious.
I’m mad that so many children grow up experiencing this stigma, internalizing the belief that they are to blame, that they are a disgrace. In the shame, blame and disgrace game, it is the food industrial complex that deserves much of the blame, for making disgraceful choices which value financial profit over the emotional and physical well-being of children. They are the ones who ought to be ashamed.