YouTube sensation Meghan Tonjes has amassed hundreds of thousands of followers for her amazing pop song covers and her in depth analyses of social issues from the perspective of a plus size, white woman. Her most recent YouTube video "Hate the Donut, Not the Fatty" explores our different perceptions of junk food, depending on the body size of the person eating it. And she hits the nail on the head with her ridiculously quotable vlog:
"If I were 120 pounds eating a pizza in my underwear on Tumblr, I would be 'quirky' and 'cute' and 'real.' But if I'm 300 pounds and eating pizza in my underwear, people are gonna be like: 'You're killing yourself,' 'You're disgusting,' 'You're everything that's wrong with America!'"
What Tonjes is trying to make us realize by using the very current example of Ariana Grande licking donuts and her subsequent (arguably fat shaming) apology video, is that there is a double standard around how we perceive "unhealthy" food based entirely on how fat the person eating it is.
Ariana Grande managed to not actually apologize for licking donuts, apologize for upsetting Americans, and then go on to upset even more Americans such as Tonjes by taking the heat off herself and placing it onto the "obesity epidemic" that America is supposedly suffering from. Her words have been just another example of the tiring tirade against fat people, who are used to being pegged as embodiments of everything that's "wrong" with contemporary living. What about racial profiling in America? What about poverty in America? What about sexism in America? What about all the issues that are actually destroying a nation? You know, other than a person feeling uncomfortable at seeing an unapologetic fat woman showing some self love?
I have a mantra that I repeat to myself when I feel upset about being fat... when I consider returning to a world of disordered eating and hating myself. If my thin friends can eat what they want when they want without exercising, why am I expected to do the opposite to try and look like them? Why must I alter my lifestyle and mental health drastically to achieve what comes to them naturally? It's a ridiculous state of society that one person is expected to diet and restrict and starve to look the way that another person looks whilst eating loads of pizza and carbs and donuts.
There's a huge stigma around disordered eating in fat women. The Western world typically believes that you cannot have an eating disorder if you're not thin. I spent years berating myself for not "looking" mentally ill because not only had I never seen a fat representation of disordered eating, but I had never seen a fat representation of depression or anxiety or any other mental illness. As if to be mentally frail, you must be physically frail, too.
As many of us know, these deeply rooted issues within the plus size community often stem from the assumption that fat people are inherently unhealthy, or the general association of unhealthiness with fatness. As Tonjes puts it, "I know that every person that comes for me and comes for any other fat person about 'what you do' and 'what you eat' and 'what you are' went to McDonald's last night and had a Big Mac... The difference is that people don't know you went and got a quarter pounder but people look at me and assume I got four this morning for breakfast." The hypocrisy of naturally thin people attacking naturally fat people astounds me daily. It's simple enough to say, "It's easy to be thin," when you don't have to actually do anything to remain thin. And it's nothing short of unfair that people who have never been fat get to make judgements about those who are.
When considering food, "unhealthy" food, and weight, the observations we make are simply so much more different when we're looking at a fat person versus a thin one. I'm almost constantly thinking about food but not in that cute, Instagrammable, "It's breakfast and I'm dreaming about getting pizza for dinner," kind of way; but in a constantly-calculating-my-own-worth kind of way. Because I'm fat, I'm supposed to feel guilty for eating something I've been told is unhealthy in a way that my thin friends on the same exact diet will never feel. And because I'm part of the body positive movement, I in turn beat myself up again and again for getting upset about the guilt in the first place.
Ultimately, what Meghan Tonjes is trying to get at, via an Ariana Grande analogy, is that it's perfectly fine to stay away from unhealthy food, to be worried about the effects of overloading on salt or fat or sugar; but it's ridiculous to pin your views on food and health on plus size people. You can choose to eat healthily yourself; but don't allow that choice to lead to a superiority complex over those who don't. Especially if you're not considering that thin people can be equally unhealthy. Or if you're not considering that most of your qualms with the "obesity epidemic" are probably just an excuse to shame fat others.