In “Fat and Happy: In Defense of Fat Acceptance,” Mary Ray Worley offers a poignant account of her participation in a conference held by the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. She compares attending this conference with visiting another planet. Until she had the opportunity to visit this other planet, she had not realized just how ostracized she felt. (Worley, element 1). Her participation in this conference made her realize that “20th century American society” (Worley, element 4) is very much responsible for the shame that she and other overweight individuals have been made to feel.
While there are several aspects of society that contribute to the alienation of individuals who are overweight, Worley suggests that the medical field bears a great deal of the responsibility: “Although the data gathered for most current studies indicate that body size is primarily determined by one’s genetic makeup, most researchers conclude–in spite of their own findings–that fat individuals should try to lose weight anyway” (Worley, element 3).
She than goes on to argue that oftentimes attempts to diet only result in more weight gain. Worley marvels that “apparently [scientists] cannot bring themselves to say that since body size is largely a result of one’s genetic makeup it’s best to get on with the business of learning to live in the body you have, whatever its size” (Worley, element 5). She also claims that doctors often make the situation worse: “Regardless of the ailment…your doctor may put you on a diet before she treats your cough” (Worley, element 6).
I believe that Worley makes a good point regarding the medical profession, but there is indeed a great deal of research that links obesity with increased heart problems among other things, which Worley ignores in this essay. In her uplifting conclusion, Worley encourages overweight individuals to love their bodies despite what society may say about them. You’re entitled to the space you take up.
You can find clothes that show off the gorgeous person you are, you can play and dance without self-consciousness, you can be proud of yourself and never dread unwanted attention, you can be a brave pioneer and a friend to those who have suffered on planets less kind and less joyous than this one (Worley, element 2). In light of the many forces that are stacked against overweight individuals in our society, Worley’s words of encouragement are astute and empowering.