viernes, 5 de abril de 2019

No, we don’t need to talk about thin privilege

 Update: I have modified slightly my opinion on the term thin privilege which can be read here

This is an opinion piece by Wayne Bradley and does not reflect anybody else's views associated with this blog.

Recently I found myself in a debate with fellow nutritionists and dietitians on the Build Up Dietitians Facebook page regarding the concept of thin privilege. Thin privilege is as follows, we “thin” people live in a world where we don’t experience the stigma and prejudices that overweight people experience. We can find clothes easily, we don’t get stared at when we eat in public and so on. 

Ok, so far so good, nobody would argue with that fact. But I have several issues with labelling it “thin privilege”, firstly the word privilege and the tone of the articles I have read regarding this topic indicate that being thin, or “skinny” which gets thrown around lightly but no-one will dare say fat, is something that has been gifted to us, we haven’t earned it and we should thank our lucky stars that we’re in this position. 
Most people, especially those in the health & nutrition industry know only too well how hard maintaining/losing weight is and to hint that normal weight people are somehow blessed or “privileged” is quite insulting, but sadly nothing new. Now of course because I said I eat well and do a lot of exercise that also means I think every large person is bone idle and just eats pizzas all day long! No, it doesn’t! It means making ANY assumption about a person’s body shape is wrong. 

I feel very proud of myself when I see those scales going down, or when I get up 8am on a Sunday to go riding even though the sun is shining and I’d much rather have a few beers with my wife and friends. To suggest I should somehow feel privileged for that completely undermines the hard work and effort I (or anyone) does to maintain their healthy lifestyle. That doesn’t make me unaware of the battles large people go through, in fact, what I do with my life has nothing to do with what my patients do with theirs, which leads me on to my second issue.  

My second issue is also to do with the term “thin privilege”. It is a nonsense term and completely unnecessary. When our patients come to visit us, they will discuss with us the problems they face, not only with their food choices but with self -esteem, health issues and so on. We will listen to them and if we do not share the same problems we will use empathy to understand them and guide our patients through their journey. 
We already have the word, it is empathy, we do not need a new Insta-trendy, buzzword. If as a healthcare professional you are unable to empathise with your patients then may I suggest a career change? Politics perhaps. 

To repeat a previous point, what I do with my life has no bearing on my patient's lives and has no place in a consultation. They are there to talk about their lives not mine. If the boot was on the other foot and my coach was "acknowledging" their superior athletic ability or shall we say "athletic privilege", I would feel extremely patronised and would probably sever ties with that coach very quickly. 

Perhaps I am being too pedantic around terminologies and the use of words. However, I worry that we are going down a particular path where we will not be able to openly discuss weight, obesity and it's related health problems. Body size and shape should not be attributed to attractiveness, I will vigorously defend that there is not one "perfect" type of body in terms of what is "hot" or "sexy". We all have our own tastes and that is what makes the human race so amazing! However, obesity is not healthy, it just isn't. Many co-morbidities exist with obesity, we all know it and not discussing them does not make them go away. 

Saying "you're fat therefore ugly" is disgusting and should be stamped out immediately. But saying "you are overweight and need to make a change to improve your life" is not the same thing and should be what we are saying, but I fear we are becoming too scared of being labelled as "fat shamers". 

To repeat, I acknowledge that larger people have a tough time in regards to the society we live in, but as nutritionists/dietitians we are there to help them and we owe it to them to be honest. What use is saying "yeah I know I'm thin and my life is easier than yours"? 

During the debate, the topic of the genetic influence on body weight continued to appear, while it was beside my original point I will address it here.Yes genetics plays a large role in a person's size. The size of that role varies. However, does that mean we all just give up and say "its the genetics"? Because if that is the case then dietetics is dead!! I don't believe that is the case, some of us have been dealt a good hand in genetics, some haven't. That doesn't mean we can't make the best with what we've got. We can still strive to be the best version of ourselves and I strongly believe that externalising ourselves to the genetically thin and fat does us all a huge disservice. 

Wayne Bradley BSc (hons) MSc PG cert

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