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Rally lets obese weigh in with the skinny on fat

Knight Ridder Newspapers

SANTA MONICA -- The fat ladies sang. They also cheered and mamboed, preened and hugged Saturday during a public act of defiance, self-celebration and audacious politics called the Million Pound March.

A group of around 200 people weighing 250, 300, even 400 pounds and more -- mostly women -- gathered on a bluff above a golden California beach to chant, ``Fat is sexy'' and to hear speakers shout that ``Life is too short for self-hatred and celery sticks.''

Lisa Ayers, a marcher from Hayward, noted that, according to U.S. government figures, nearly 55 percent of Americans are overweight.

``With so many people classified as (overweight and) obese,'' she asked, ``what kind of society will we have if we all hate ourselves?''

So, here on the same coast that gave the world the American beauty ideal -- the shining, bikini-clad California girl -- here is where the Million Pounders made their stand.

As those thonged throngs watched the event, organized by the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, speaker after speaker hammered similar themes:

  •  Permanent weight loss is impossible.

  •  Diets fail, not people.

  •  Being fat is not a choice.

    While medical science has, at one time or other, disputed all of those claims, the Million Pounders insist that obesity does not come from emptying the refrigerator each night, but from genes or from dieting and binging, then dieting again.

    The demonstrators said they had felt like outlaws all their lives. They spoke of job and housing discrimination, self-loathing, the suicides of teenagers unable to live fat in a thin-obsessed country.

    ``Being fat in America means not getting jobs, respect, boyfriends, good clothes,'' said Marilyn Wann, pink-haired, outspoken publisher of Fat!So? Magazine. ``We waste $40 billion a year on the diet industry, trying to be thin. Hoping to be thin is not hope, it's hatred.

    ``Here's real hope: Love your body. Diversity is beautiful.''