Last year, Sun columnist and British reality star Katie Hopkins caused a stir when she declared, “I don’t believe you can be fat and happy. I think that’s just a cop out.” This, she said to an overweight woman’s face on national television. More than once.
In the backlash that followed, critics maintained that she didn’t “understand the psychological, as well as physical, factors behind weight gain,” according to TODAY.com. They accused her of “fat shaming ” — an accusation that is entirely accurate. She made an ignorant comment based on absolutely no research or personal experience.
But instead of apologizing, she decided to try and understand the problem better. On the surface, it sounds commendable; in actuality, it’s something else entirely.
See, Hopkins decided to understand obesity by consuming 6,500 calories every day and gaining 50 pounds in three months. Now she is determined to lose those 50 pounds in three months by changing her diet and upping her exercise — and she’s recording the whole journey for a new documentary. Her mission? To prove that being thin is “as simple as eating less and moving more.”
In her words: “I’ve learned a lot about how it feels to be big, how difficult it is to be big, how horrible it is to have fat sitting on the top of your thighs, and how much more challenging it is just to do everyday life when you’re bigger.”
So you see? She GETS IT. She really, really gets it. She understands the lifelong struggle that millions around the world face every day. The pain it causes on a psychological level over the course of years and years.
Wait, no she doesn’t. She couldn’t possibly understand the magnitude of the problem. She isn’t being ostracized or shamed for her weight gain. She isn’t a vulnerable 8-year-old girl being bullied on the bus every single day for weighing more than the other girls. She’s never given up on her dreams because she was told repeatedly for years that she would never be pretty enough to attain them.
She is a woman who is comfortable in her body — so much so that she can gain and lose 50 pounds in six months without the experience ever truly altering her perspective on the issue. And I know this because, in this clip from the documentary, after she lists everything she ate that day, she sobs, “I hate fat people for making me do this.”
Yes, it is your fault, “fat people,” for putting her through such a traumatic personal journey.
Except the problem has never been that obese people blame anyone else for their obesity, Katie. The problem is that they blame themselves. There is shame and fear and internal disgust for most. But for others there is pride and acceptance and an acknowledgement that they look the way they look because they are supposed to look the way they look. Some people hate themselves for their weight — and others embrace it.
Yes, it is possible for an overweight person to love themselves. If they didn’t, that would be a sad state of affairs in the world. After all, this is a woman who has said that red-headed babies are harder to love. And women named Charmaine are “thick and ignorant.” She’s also a woman who finds the disabled to be “intolerable.” Clearly if we were all graded against Katie Hopkins’ standards of beauty the world would be a lot less colorful — and a lot more depressed.
There are many, many obvious flaws in this journey of “understanding.” To start with, this experiment is entirely self-serving. Hopkins has no intention of making a groundbreaking discovery or really understanding anyone else’s plight. At best, this is a desperate attempt to stay relevant. At worst, it is a woman who didn’t hesitate to exploit the pain of others for a television series that only perpetuates the misconceptions of obesity. Because unless you’re Renee Zellweger putting on weight for Bridget Jones’ Diary, no one sets out with the intention of gaining 50 pounds as quickly as possible. For most people it happens gradually over time due to a childhood of poor eating habits that are hard to break, a medical condition like hypothyroidism that makes it difficult to lose weight, clinical depression … the list goes on and on.
Obesity isn’t the problem. It is a symptom of something larger one could never purposely replicate, and Hopkins’ experiment is oversimplifying an issue she had no business weighing in on in the first place.
Gaining weight to prove a point doesn’t actually prove anything, because she gained it on a mission. She gained it with purpose. To her, it’s a simple problem with an easy (and obvious) solution. If that were the case, we would all be thin. But for the average overweight person, there is a whole other element to it, and a lot of complexities to their individual situations.
By belittling it, Hopkins makes it clear that she has no interest in understanding the problem in a way that is authentic, no interest in offering any real guidance or support.
To use what to so many people is the largest personal cross they will ever bear in an attempt to stay relevant is unconscionable, unfathomable, and just plain disgusting.
No one has ever solved a problem by shaming those who suffer from it.
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