You can call her chubby, chunky but NOT obese: How one female scholar is challenging super-size stereotypes with 'fat pride'
22:05 GMT, 13 July 2012
While obesity is considered a disease by medical experts the world over, a group of academics are contesting the issue in a show of 'fat pride'.
American scholar Cat Pause, 39, is leading of a movement to reclaim the word 'fat' and remove the negative connotations surrounding it and those it is used to describe.
Arguing that while euphemisms like 'curvy', 'chunky' and 'chubby' are descriptive, adjective like 'obese' and 'overweight' are loaded with suggestion that a person does not live up to standards set unfairly by society.
Proud: Academic Cat Pause, who weighs 237lbs, wants to change the way society assumes all obese people are unhealthy by reclaiming the word 'fat'
At a conference in Wellington, New Zealand recently, Ms Pause compared the emerging field of fat studies to history and political science in terms of importance.
Challenging the assumptions that anyone tipping the scales is unhealthy, she led a discussion on papers with titles like, 'Fat hatred and the Left in the time of “the obesity epidemic”', and, 'The role of diagnosis in marginalising corpulence'.
Weighing 237lbs last time she bothered to check, Ms Pause explained to AFP: 'When people look at a fat body like mine, it tells them I'm unhealthy and that this is a diseased body. It tells them I don't ever exercise and eat nothing but junk.'
But she says, some people are just bigger than others and discriminating against person based on their physical appearance is a mistake.
Positive: Ms Pause has removed the numbers from her scale and replaced them with affirmations to keep good humoured about her weight
Ms Pause's belief goes against prevailing medical opinion that obesity encourages diabetes and other related illnesses.
Auckland University of Technology nutritionist Elaine Rush, told TVNZ: 'It's not just how much you weigh for your height, it's where it [fat] is in the liver, pancreas, and places that you can't see.'
For her part, Ms Pause keeps upbeat about her shape and in good humour has replaced the number on her bathroom scales with affirmations like 'sexy', 'hot' and 'perfect'.
Andrew Dickinson, a lecturer at Massey University, where the conference was held, is a perfect example he says of someone who is fat but who takes good care of their health.
Pointing the finger at the weight loss industry as a giant force making people with generous waistlines social pariahs, he noted: 'We know 95 percent of people who attempt to lose weight will fail to do so, therefore, there is not a weight-loss industry, what they do is sell solutions to weight anxiety.
'We're getting this horrible, obsessive anxiety about weight issues.'
'When people look at a fat body like mine, it tells them I'm unhealthy and that this is a diseased body'
Having once dropped to 176lbs, he recalled how a diet of weight loss pills and endurance training made him more stressed and nervous than he had ever been at his original weight of 287lbs.
Now that he is at a stable 220lbs, though he still runs about 37 miles a week, conventional charts would classify him as obese.
'I don't do them fast and I'm never going to win… [but] it's not all about looking like Usain Bolt,' he concluded.
Between the laughs, Ms Pause has to face constant jibes about her weight.
'I barely go through a day where I'm not called something nasty on the street by a stranger,' she admitted. 'It's not the kind of people, like teenagers, that you'd expect to be [doing the] abusing.
'It's by people in business suits, by women my own age – I'm almost 40 – by people you'd expect, on the face of it, to be respectable human beings.'
It is discrimination she feels should be outlawed.
'It's illegal in most countries to discriminate based on someone's sex or race, sexual orientation is becoming more protected too,' she said. 'I'd like size to become a protected class.'