Edmund Burke, Irish Statesman and Philosopher
“What is objectionable, what is dangerous, about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”
“… once evil is invited in, tremendous effort is required to show it to the door and kick its cloven hoof off the threshold.”
E.A. Bucchianeri, Author, Vocation of a Gadfly
For a number of years, Militant Fat Activists (“MFAs”) have been allowed to infiltrate and wreak havoc in the eating disorder community. This is particularly perplexing since obesity, in and of itself, is not recognized nor treated as a mental illness. Whereas, research studies seem to indicate that people at a higher weight are at increased risk of disordered eating compared with the general population, living in a larger body (or “obesity” as it is referred to in a biomedical context) is not an eating disorder or mental disorder. And yet, MFAs have engaged in reprehensible conduct without consequence or ramifications in the eating disorder community.
MFAs have verbally abused, interrupted and harassed medical and mental health experts giving presentations at national and international conferences.
MFAs have demanded that the medical and mental health professionals stop using the terms “obesity” and “overweight” because they are allegedly terms of derision which do not accurately describe a health condition. According to one MFA, “the medical community has it all wrong.”
MFAs have demanded that weight stigma and weight discrimination be elevated to the highest level of importance in the study and research of eating disorders.
MFAs have looked upon the research and treatment of eating disorders as a “Zero Sum Game” in which the eating disorder with the highest mortality rate, anorexia nervosa, must be minimized because anorexia is traditionally represented in the media by thin, white women.
MFAs have taken HAES, a principle that was designed by very few people and which has no research based origins, to address their own, one sided perspectives on social justice and healthcare. They moved it away from their self-proclaimed, “new, peace movement.” Instead, MFAs have turned it into an angst filled, antagonistic, sordid battleground as they bask in their own self-loathing. If you disagree with any of their positions, you are “fat-phobic.”
MFAs uncompromisingly promote their own positions as superior to all others and thus betray their own core values of inclusion and equality whether you are on the privileged or disadvantaged spectrums.
MFAs refuse to intelligently discuss the obvious medical and societal shortcomings of HAES and instead attempt to denigrate and back stab any persons who do not slavishly adhere to every nuance of HAES no matter how extreme, illogical or ignorant of medical knowledge those positions are.
MFAs make blatant misrepresentations to the general public in order to solicit donations ostensibly for eating disorder advocacy when in truth and in fact, those persons are soliciting donations for “fat-centric” weight discrimination laws.
MFAs utilize and bastardize eating disorder organizations to further their own agendas, agendas which emphasize obesity and fat acceptance rather than eating disorder research.
There are many other ways in which MFAs have caused an incredible amount of harm in the eating disorder community. MFAs cause this harm without regret, without remorse and without apology. And yet ironically, MFAs cannot grasp that they are the very authors of their own destruction.
For with a more reasoned, intelligent, rational approach, “obesity” could have been elevated into a protected right under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). As a practical matter, this means that employers could not discriminate against people who are fat, obese or “morbidly obese.” People who provide housing not only could not discriminate but would have to provide special accommodations. Through intelligence, guile, wisdom and collaboration, MFAs could have already reached one of their main goals. And yet even using the word “obesity” is tantamount to waving a red flag in front of a charging bull… a bull which is heedlessly running to its own demise.
So, let’s explore how the MFAs have self-sabotaged their own movement.
There is no Constitutional right to Health Care.
MFAs have argued there is a constitutional right to health care for fat persons or obesity. They are incorrect.
First, the U.S. Constitution does not set forth an explicit right to health care … unless you are incarcerated. The Supreme Court has not interpreted the Constitution as guaranteeing a right to health care services. While the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court interpretations do not identify a constitutional right to health care for those who cannot afford it, Congress has enacted numerous statutes, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which establish and define specific statutory rights of individuals to receive health care services from the government.
So, any type of argument alleging there is a Constitutional right to health care for obesity or fat people will fail in the United States court system.
Civil Rights laws do not apply to obesity.
Sadly, one now disgraced, former officer of an eating disorder organization stated, “It’s a civil rights issue because people are discriminated against and harmed by their body size.” To characterize that statement as foolishly wrong and misguided would be charitable.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Provisions of this civil rights act forbids discrimination on the basis of sex, as well as, race in hiring, promoting, and firing. The Act prohibits discrimination in public accommodations and federally funded programs.
But, Title VII does not include obesity as a protected standard. This means it does not prohibit employers from discriminating based on weight or obesity. In fact, there is no federal law protecting persons who are overweight or obese. Only 1 of the 50 states has passed legislation protecting overweight or obese people in the workplace.
So without the protections of the Constitution or civil rights laws, the MFAs logically should be turning towards the Americans with Disability Act (“ADA”) for statutory protection and expansion of their mission. And yet, MFAs stubbornly refuse to pursue that option.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA protects employees with disabilities from discrimination, and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. The ADA states that height and weight, within normal parameters, are not disabilities.
Under the ADA, “disability” is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.” In 2008, Congress amended the ADA to provide a broader interpretation of the definition of disability, and added a “regarded as” disabled component of disability discrimination. Thus, under the amendments, employees who cannot show they have an actual disability within the meaning of the ADA may nonetheless prevail if they can prove their employer regarded them as disabled.
The EEOC issued interpretive guidance explaining that the definition of the term “impairment” does not include physical characteristics, including weight, that are within “normal” range and are not the result of a physiological disorder. Applying a “natural reading” of the EEOC’s interpretive guidance, four federal courts of appeal (the courts just below the US Supreme Court) have all held that obesity alone, without evidence of an underlying physiological condition, is not a physical impairment amounting to a disability under the ADA. In 2020, the Fifth Circuit in dicta, also made this determination.
Therefore, the law appears to be settling on the principle that obesity only qualifies as a disability under the ADA if it is caused by an underlying physiological disorder or condition (such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, or a thyroid disorder) and that obesity is an ADA impairment only if it is the result of an underlying physiological disorder or condition. In addition, the EEOC has said that “severe” obesity, defined as a weight that more than twice the norm, is itself an impairment that could be a disability. Again, the employee would have to show that it substantially limited a major life activity or major bodily function. So, why is this so important?
If the MFAs were willing to intelligently discuss the benefits and drawbacks of HAES and their views on obesity in an objective manner, working with the medical community to further a “severe obesity as a disability” agenda in the court system, that could have resulted in unprecedented progress in advancing their objectivities in the courts, before legislative bodies and in mainstream society. Yet, MFAs cannot get out of their own way.
Hoisted With Her Own Petard
Instead of engaging in a lucid, thoughtful strategic plan emphasizing positivity and long term goals and objectives, the MFAs blindfold themselves and attempt to play a game of checkers using bottlecaps for some of the missing pieces on Funk & Wagnall’s porch.
MFAs do not trust evidence base medical or mental health care for the reason that it allegedly did not help them. They openly state that there are people who are publicly chastised and harmed continuously by the medical profession. They believe that public health in this country is getting it so wrong and that there is a better way. And all people need to do is ignore science and medical professionals and be willing to actually listen to those being harmed.
MFAs seek to play the ultimate Zero Sum Game by stating, “We must also be centering and supporting BiPOC, LGBTQ+, fat therapists and professionals. This is no space for white, straight and thin folks to jump in.”
We even have examples of how MFAs have sabotaged their agenda in court. In the case of Gena Powell vs. Gentiva Health Services, Inc. filed in a federal court in Alabama, Powell worked for the defendant for about one year. Powell alleged that the defendant terminated her employment on the basis of her disability, “morbid obesity,” in violation of her rights under the ADA. Powell was 5’3”, approximately 230 pounds.
With respect to her weight, Powell testified, “I know I’m overweight, I’m not an idiot.” And then, despite the fact that she sued on the basis that her disability was caused by morbid obesity, she claimed then not to be disabled, that her weight did not impact her job or her daily life activities. No medical expert testimony was offered to refute Powell’s statements. Naturally, the court made short work of Powell’s case.
One can only imagine how differently the case would have turned out had Powell been open to embracing the medical community to assist her claim and lack of self-awareness. A positive decision in the Powell case could have been a springboard for other cases and the precedential value of that decision would have been utilized to further greater knowledge and acceptance of obesity. Instead? Powell is the poster child for the MFAs, destroying her own case and negatively impacting others because she stubbornly turned away from medical science.
That is the perfect characterization of MFAs.
MFAs can no longer be permitted to bellow their angst and anguish to the detriment of those suffering from eating disorders. No longer. The line in the sand must be drawn.
No more. No longer. The lives of far too many children have been offered as sacrifices on the altar of eating disorders.
The MFA’s days of being allowed to poison the messaging of the deadly nature of eating disorders must be over. The MFA’s days of causing dissension, of bullying, of harassing and abusing medical and research professionals are over.
Instead of simply identifying issues and problems and hoping that a solution will “magically appear,” [as is characteristic of MFAs and others in the community] there are practical solutions to address the wrongdoing perpetrated by the MFAs.
Universities which may employ MFAs have ethics committees. Tenure at most universities simply means “due process.” Even tenured professors can be fired for acts of incompetence or unethical or unprofessional conduct. Complaints to those ethics committees can be made.
Every state has oversight boards for counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists. Some professionals have malpractice and general liability insurance policies. Well worded complaints with evidence of gross conduct will start the process and impose accountability.
Eating disorders are a deadly mental illness. The community does not exist for Militant Fact Activists to spew forth their venom, gross incompetence and to parade their injured psyches and fractured egos.
If that is not sufficient then I can arrange for any Militant Fat Activist to meet, face to face with a number of parents whose children have died from this disease. And MFAs can try to convince them that whereas it may be unfortunate that their child died, the fragile egos and self-loathing of the Militant Fat Activists are far more important.
The time of the Militant Fat Activists is over. It surely must be. For the sake of those suffering from eating disorders. And for the sake of those who have died from eating disorders.