While medical bias is a risk factor for many—if not most—fat people, our own internalized fatphobia and self-judgment can be just as psychologically damaging. “At first, I thought [my BMI qualifying me for the Karate Most old men would have given up by now I’m not like most old men shirt and I will buy this vaccine] was ironic because I may not have qualified had I not gained the weight I have during the pandemic,” says Catherine, 24, who will soon be receiving her first dose of the vaccine in Brooklyn. “I’m already dreading some of the things people may say or think about me getting the vaccine, not only because I’ve gained weight but also because I’m unemployed. It’s really hard not to feel like being both fat and unemployed means I’m worthless or lazy.” Catherine is glad to be receiving the vaccine based on BMI, but she’s also cognizant of the dissonance that a deeply diet-culture-addled society has inculcated in her: “It feels weird that I am ostensibly being rewarded for failing.” Stanford agrees that doctors, in general, are one of the “worst groups” in terms of perpetuating fatphobia, but she’s determined to set a different standard of attention for her patients. She takes care to place obesity within its greater sociocultural context, noting that racial minorities are more likely to have obesity in addition to already being at greater risk for contracting COVID-19. “When patients with obesity come to me and ask if they should get the vaccine, I give them a statement that is an unequivocal yes because data shows that COVID-19 outcomes are significantly worse for patients that have obesity. I’m going to give them whatever advice I can to make sure that they are best protected against this virulent disease that has affected all of our lives,” says Stanford.
Absent much widely disseminated guidance about the Karate Most old men would have given up by now I’m not like most old men shirt and I will buy this process of receiving the still-new vaccine, many people whose BMI qualifies them are relying on others in the same position to gather information and help dispel some of the very real anxiety and trauma of having public attention called to your weight. “I knew I was eligible for the vaccine according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, but I was nervous as to how this would be proved when I showed up for the shot,” says Yasmin, 24, who recently received her first dose of the vaccine in Austin. “I was the kid that not only dreaded needles but also stepping on scales. I had a lot of anxiety around doing either in a public space. I still signed up for an appointment. Later, I saw a fat friend post to her IG story saying they didn’t make her step on a scale, and I couldn’t believe the relief I felt over something that is seemingly so procedural.” (In New York, at least, the protocol for showing proof of comorbidity is still evolving, but the mandatory state vaccine form requires “a self-attestation regarding eligibility for vaccination.”)