A Little Thought on the “Big” Issue

Dee Richards
6 min readJun 13, 2024

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CW: Mentions of sexual assault, discussion of albeism, discussion of fatphobia

In..som…ni…a! So, I was scheduled to move on Monday, then they called and said it wasn’t ready and we had to wait an additional 11 days. Then, our car broke down. These things coupled with an MFA program that I’m apprehensive about affording, and we get insomnia. Thought-racing, joint-inflaming, jaw-clenching insomnia. Three nights since I slept well. I know it probably isn’t helping to spend my insomnia mornings (because it usually hits in the very early morning, like 4 am), skimming suggested articles by Google News. This morning, I got an AI-generated article regarding some guy who posted a “AITA (Am I the Asshole)” question.

The situation unravels that he is a hiking coach (didn’t know that was a job one could have, but hey, the more you learn…). He has booked with a group that he mistakenly thought was queer — it was called Women+ and because the term LGBTQ+ has a plus at the end too, he thought it was a queer hiking group. That really sets the stage for this guy as a person, I’d say, being it seems the worst assumption to make based on the most trivial of things, a “+” sign! It was not a queer group, but a plus-sized group. He contends that the group leader lied about the abilities of the women in the group because the first “easy” hike was a 4-mile round trip with mild inclines and it went, according to his account, “awful.” Other points he felt he must mention were that one participant asked for a break every half-mile, one participant ate all of their snacks before the first break, and one complained about starting at a level she wasn’t prepared for, which was something he thought was the easiest hike he knew of. He told the leader that he wanted to change the course goals, but she refused saying they could do it. Eventually, he just refunded and refused further service, then took to the internet to find out if he is, indeed, the asshole in the story.

This delivers into my sleep-deprived mind obvious messages that I’ve heard, as I’m sure many plus-sized women and female-adjacent people have, throughout life. If you aren’t already aware of the messages, let me break it down. He says he is not fatphobic and has trained with many overweight people. I must wonder what he considers overweight but, still, if he thinks that a four-mile workout is easy, then he is not being fatphobic, he is being ableist. There are many reasons that someone would be what is considered “overweight,” including a condition I have, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. A possible effect of this autoimmune disorder is low metabolism. It is very painful living in an image-obsessed world to know that you can try everything and still not lose weight. Another effect of this disease, if untreated or improperly treated, is very low energy and sluggishness. This could easily explain the person needing regular breaks but, instead, he decided it was her being “out of shape” — the old stand-by that still allows for fat jokes in every form of media.

I am physically stronger than most people I know and have regularly surprised doctors with my (mostly) normal heart function, great liver enzymes, and exemplary levels of blood sugar and blood pressure (which changed a bit during and following the pandemic as my cortisone has risen intensely). However, I would not be able to complete a 4-mile hike on my best days. Is it because I am out of shape? No. I have comorbid autoimmune disorders; one that attacks my thyroid, one that destroys my joints. This all leads to my next point beyond this asshole’s ableism. I did a research paper in college about the occurrence of childhood trauma and the prevalence of autoimmune disorders, and the connections are ASTOUNDING. A 2014 study, found here, shows that 95.1% of respondent women with eating disorders, including binge eating disorder, had between 1 and 11 traumatic events in their life, but among the top 3 was sexual assault. Let’s look at the lady who “ate all of her snacks before the first break.” This is fatphobia. There is no concern or wonder at why she would have done that, but judgment at having done so. Picture this: I have a binge-eating disorder, I have been sexually attacked by a man (I mean here a person with a penis presenting male), and I am in a high-stress situation that I was not prepared for (all true statements for me). He is a man in control of what is happening with my body, and I am feeling pressured to submit to his expectations. It would be completely understandable to turn to binge eating immediately, which cannot be controlled by guilt or social pressure. The social pressure actually makes the experience more upsetting and can trigger intense anxiety. However, this “hiking coach” had decided this woman couldn’t tolerate going long without eating, showing no concern over what was happening to her emotionally. Then he took to the internet to indirectly shame her for having responded in such a way. That, my friends, is precisely fatphobia.

I have to wonder why, for fuck’s sake, he didn’t even attempt to understand the situation better. He took a direct route to fatphobia and ableism, then went to be coddled by the trolls of the internet. Most notably, another self-admitted, plus-sized person who was an avid hiker. She condemned the women by only hearsay from his perspective, stating that she took all the right steps toward becoming an avid hiker and they should have been more honest about their capabilities. Revealing personal medical diagnoses is PROTECTED BY HIPAA. They are in no way obligated to reveal these things. The claim was that they lied about their abilities. In a world that overwhelmingly fat-shames people, we have to constantly establish our value (as illustrated above in my statements and the personal perspective of the exceptional plus-sized hiker). And, much like anyone else, we might overestimate ourselves a bit to compensate for our negative self-image. Body positivity isn’t a segue into the self-care industry or a way to feel good enough to start a diet or go to the gym, it is about changing the narrative that anyone besides oneself knows what their body should do or look like. Until that wonderful day, we have to deal with assclowns like this guy all the time.

I’ve been offered dietary advice from an old woman in Costco who saw me sitting with my 5-month-old on a couch for a few minutes. I’ve been told by an actual doctor (an old man) that I was fat because I drank 8 oz of orange juice a day to increase my iron supplement absorption. I got put on diabetes medication without my consent, which nearly caused me to become hypoglycemic before I refused to take it any longer. And these are just the minor offenses that have been put upon me as a larger person. The sexual assaults I’ve endured, and the subsequent gaslighting I’ve received from the majority fatphobic populace, are far worse. It’s not that I thought Google News was a source of cutting-edge news that contributes to our understanding of the world, most of what I see is complete garbage, and leans heavily shitty. I’m not here to discuss why in the world I try to relax myself by reading anything the internet has to offer — that is a discussion for another time. But, I will answer his question: yes, you are the asshole. However, you are not the asshole compared to the staggering majority of the highly opinionated world. You are just another internet troll trying to be comforted that you are still a good person while being an obviously garbage one. If you ever have to ask “AITA,” really look into why you might be tempted to ask that. Spoilers, you probably are.

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Dee Richards

Dee is a neurodiverse writer in SoCal with 3 awards in CNF & 13 pubs in many genres. Subjects: feminism, identity theory, media criticism, personal narrative.