Bigotry is a nasty little word. The definition from Wikipedia is one I can only improve on with the addition of four words;
Bigotry is the state of mind of a bigot: someone who, as a result of their prejudices, treats or views other people with fear, distrust or hatred on the basis of a person’s ethnicity, evaluative orientation, race, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, socio-economic status, or other characteristics.
To which I add body size and smoker status. I’m overweight, but right now I’m not “clinically obese.” However my health issues are not fat related. My cholesterol is fine and my blood pressure is on the low side of normal. I know these things because of my other health issues; I am tested regularly. I am not a lazy couch potato slob, yet I get fat shamed every day of my life. I do as much as it is physically and mentally possible for me to do every day and I eat healthily. Yes. I. Eat. Healthily. Do not for a second assume that I do not; I know exactly what I eat. I am not sitting here stuffing crisps, sweets and bloody pizza. Out and about I’m in a wheelchair and I’m not able to exercise. I could swim and I was prescribed hydrotherapy years ago but I can’t get transport to and from the pool and someone to help me get dressed and undressed, so I can’t take the opportunity. These attitudes to fat make my fight for adequate care for my health issues more of a battle than they should be. I know this because I was underweight for a good length of the time I’ve been chronically ill, and the healthcare experience was totally different. When I see a different healthcare provider the first thing they say is, “Well, you do need to lose some weight.” Other issues are framed through fat-goggles. This is not an uncommon experience. Every part of our society fat shames, when fat can be fit, and the health issues surrounding fat are linked more with yo-yo dieting than with obesity. All diets are yo-yo; they are designed to be so. Dieting is big business. I have been accused more than once of lying about my food intake when gaining weight on a strict calorie controlled diet that I followed to the last detail. Shaming me into starving myself, when advocating impossible standards achieved by a method which is damaging my health? Wrong, wrong and seriously wrong.
As a smoker I was demonised in the same way. Every health visit included the “are you still smoking?” Every health issue not dismissed by obesity was put down to smoking. “Give up smoking” was the cure all to my ills. Nothing would ever be achieved unless I first did the one thing that would send my weight absolutely out of control, and put me through months of misery and depression followed by the inevitable relapse to smoking. I avoided talking about my smoker status, downplayed the amount I smoked and during hospital stays I just stopped until I got home. Temporary abstinence done on the sly. I switched the need to smoke off, knowing that I would be able to smoke again once out of the situation. I’ve given up enough times (before vaping) to know that mental trick. I think there are certain methods out there that try and explain how to flip that mental switch permanently, but it requires far more effort than it’s worth to maintain for me. Every quit attempt is expected to be a yo-yo. Smoking cessation is big business. Shaming me into a withdrawal process which harms my health and is designed to fail? Wrong, wrong and seriously wrong.
The top down solutions to these issues: “eat less, move more, just quit” don’t work for everyone. The societal pressure into doing the “right thing”. The fat jokes, the smoker shaming, the whole damn way society is set up against “live and let live.” All of these things make me angry enough to spit nails. For the love of our short time on this earth, can’t we please accept and treasure the differences between us. Accept that people are not perfect, but let us choose what works for us over what’s being forced on us? It’s never been about health. It has always been about control. I wonder if part of that control is as a result of the push to over consume for economic reasons. Societal Norm isn’t a nice bloke; I don’t like the bully he’s become.
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