Model Ashley Graham. Photograph: Evan Agostini/ Invision/ AP
The solution to this one is simple: we all need to wear what we want. People who feel anxious about what other people are wearing should interrogate their beliefs and stop acting on their bigotry.
8. Dread of being seen in public with fat people
Many people, fat and thin, avoid being friends with or dating fat people for fear of public criticism. I once gratified someone who quite literally adored my body, but when it was time to take our casual hangouts into the public sphere he told me he did not have the balls to be seen with me. I objective the relationship, and have since vetted my dates in order to avoid partners like him.
The journal Appetite published the” fat suit study” in 2014. This involved a professional performer going out in public on different occasions, with and without a fat suit, and serving herself either a small amount of pasta and a large amount of salad or a large amount of pasta and a small amount of salad. It was found that participants served and ate a greater amount of pasta when she was wearing the prosthesis than when “shes not”, and it was therefore posited that being near a fat person inspires people to eat more. This various kinds of inquiry legitimises the sense that proximity to fatness bears the threat of contamination.
It is an unfortunate reality that we are taught to avoid being assured with people who differ from the norm- whether because of body size, gender, disability or even way. We all lose when we live like this. It is important for fat people to recognise that we are worthy and deserve to develop borders when it comes to the kind of behaviour we will accept. And it is important for thin people who are afraid of being watched with fat people to interrogate their fear and ask themselves what they lose when they deny someone else’s humanity.
9. Unsolicited weight-loss advice
Just the other day, a complete stranger came up to me while I was sipping a latte in public and told me to avoid pork so I could reduce my weight. This behaviour is jarring- and more often comes from well-meaning people we know. Though I am no longer friends with people who offer me weight-loss advice, there were many years in which I detected myself on the receiving aim of incessant suggestions from my grandmother, my extended family at vacation parties, the woman who sold me coffee every day, educators, nurses and doctors. Trust me. Fat people have tried every kind of diet; this kind of advice only makes us feel alienated.
10. Medical discrimination
Often doctors refuse to treat fat people properly, insisting that if we lose weight the issue- whatever it is- will simply go away. I have gone to the doctor with a sore throat and left with a prescription for weight loss. When I edited an anthology in 2012, a woman submitted a narrative about going to her doctor with distrusts she might have a serious uterine problem- doctors diagnosed her on sight as having polycystic ovary disorder without examining her. Three years later she found out she had cancer, which could have been treated much earlier if her health had been taken seriously. I met a woman who was pressured to get weight loss surgery as a teen and now, because of the route that kind of surgery can affect bones and teeth, she deals with huge dental bills. Medical discrimination leads to delayed diagnosis and therapy, and poorer health in the long run. It has to stop, for everyone’s sake.
Virgie Tovar’s You Have the Right to Remain Fat is published by Melville House at PS7. 99. To order a copy for PS6. 79 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846.