I’m part of an initiative at work to reduce bias at our university campus. It’s work that I’m very interested in and grateful for the opportunity in my new position to be part of as an “extracurricular”.
One of the projects is dedicated to inclusive teaching learning at our institution. As part of this project, I was directed to Project Implicit, an Implicit Association Test developed by Harvard psychologists. On this site, there are a wide variety of tests you can take: religion, gender, age disability, sexuality, and more. There’s even one on Presidential Popularity…I won’t go there…
Of course, given my eating disorder history, I chose the weight test:
- “Weight (‘Fat – Thin’ IAT). This IAT requires the ability to distinguish faces of people who are obese and people who are thin. It often reveals an automatic preference for thin people relative to fat people.”
At the end, they give you the overall results for people who have taken the test:
To go ahead and out myself, my result was “moderate automatic preference for thin people compared to fat people”.
I wasn’t surprised, other than being a little surprised I didn’t get “strong” instead of “moderate.”
So, almost 60% of people who take this test have a moderate or strong preference for thin people. Adding in the next group, we can say that exactly 75% or three-quarters of testers have a preference for thin over fat people.
Question: how many fat people took the test? Did some of their results indicate that even they prefer thin people?
UGH. At forty years old, I have had a diagnosable eating disorder for 18 years. For one year, I have been reading voraciously on the topic of body image, fat positivity, eating disorders, body liberation, beauty myth, etc – books, articles, blogs. I have listened to podcasts. I have been in the hands of professionals who treat those with eating disorders and body dysmorphia.
I am a person who is REALLY TRYING to not have a preference, and it’s still moderate. What about everyone else out there who just accepts our screwed up culture that says thin = good and fat = bad. It’s so much crap.
WHY does it matter? Now that I have information, I’m finding it really hard to stick with restriction. Because LOGIC creeps in…
- I was miserable when I was in restriction
- I yelled at my daughter and husband. A lot.
- I had no friends, pretty much.
- I had to leave my daughter and husband for 6 weeks of inpatient treatment.
- In the past 6 years, despite everything, I literally weight EXACTLY the same.
- Dieting doesn’t work.
- I can be sick without feeling sick.
- No one that matters loves me for my weight.
And, french fries are not the devil’s play things.
America needs to wake the hell up. Weight is not an issue of morality. The judgment laid on fat people is sickening. The more I talk about this stuff, the more it’s clear. ALL of us struggle with body image. We all do. We are all human. We all deserve love and are worthy of existing with respect.
I am committed to continuing to see people for their stories, their experiences. I am not great at it yet, but I want to learn. I want to see all people beyond their bodies. #fatbodiesmatter is a thing. Fat people are a marginalized group in our society, so marginalized that little girls in this country are more afraid of becoming fat than getting cancer or being hit by a truck. That’s some ugly truth, folks.
How do we do this? How do we love? How do we erase judgment? How do we listen for people’s intelligence, wit, and beauty? Pay attention. We all have it. This is not a fight for the faint of heart. It requires swimming upstream in a very powerful current charged by our society’s cultural norms and expectations, and it’s EVERYWHERE.
But if you want to get in the fight (because if you’re human, you DO have a dog in it), you can go to my Readings, Resources, and Talks at the top of the blog to learn from some of the fantastic people who have been showing me what it is to be bigger than my weight.