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Hello, I am fat.
February 12, 2011 5:01 PM   Subscribe

Hello, I am fat. This is my body (over there—see it?). I have lived in this body my whole life. I have wanted to change this body my whole life. I have never wanted anything as much as I have wanted a new body. I am aware every day that other people find my body disgusting. I always thought that some day—when I finally stop failing—I will become smaller, and when I become smaller literally everything will get better (I've heard It Gets Better)! My life can begin!
posted by fernabelle (580 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite

 
You saw that dog sleeping peacefully, but you just couldn't resist, could you?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 5:06 PM on February 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


There are many things in life that are indeed cut and dried. Intra-abdominal fat is not one of them.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:06 PM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Diets don't work."

"I am not concerned with whether or not fat people can change their bodies through self-discipline and "choices.""

It's great that she is happy, but that is some mighty powerful hand-waving she is doing to there.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:07 PM on February 12, 2011 [10 favorites]


I don't think it's hand-waving so much as it's "go fuck yourself"
posted by Bonzai at 5:09 PM on February 12, 2011 [16 favorites]


Well, Bonzai, there is a one-finger hand gesture which means just that. :)
posted by oddman at 5:12 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


The first in the service of the second, I think. They go together, often.
posted by grobstein at 5:12 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


(There should be a "To be fair." at the beginning of that.)
posted by oddman at 5:12 PM on February 12, 2011


cf. insightful yet uneven documentary Bear Nation.
posted by hippybear at 5:17 PM on February 12, 2011


I was pretty heavily into the fat acceptance movement until my insurance company approved my request for gastric bypass surgery.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:17 PM on February 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


OOPS I JUST YAWNED TO DEATH.

Me too!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:24 PM on February 12, 2011


Incidentally, Lindy West is the critic who penned the most memorable takedown of Sex and the City 2.
posted by Rangeboy at 5:24 PM on February 12, 2011 [13 favorites]


The Stranger takes fairly well-accepted stance in the alternative mainstream (you know what I mean)! Film at 11. Not really seeing the new content here other than to provide a headache for the mods.
posted by proj at 5:33 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Call me old fashioned, but I think her "I am" statement/essay would be better, if she didn't revert to LOLspeak. It supports the, "I don't care what you think" attitude, but in a way that makes me feel she's less emotionally mature than she probably is.
posted by alex_skazat at 5:34 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do you know what happened as soon as I rejected all this shit and fell in unconditional luuuuurve with my entire body? I started losing weight.

So, you were fat. And depressed. Depression causes weight gain. You were shamed so much, you finally rejected the shame and stopped being depressed.

Looks like someone did you a favor.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:35 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Control f: "diet"
(i) Phrase not found

Control f: "exercise"
(i) Phrase not found

*except in the comments
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:35 PM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


yea, I'm not going to try to debate the validity of what she has to say one way or the other, but I read the article, and looked at her picture, and I liked her.

Incidentally, Lindy West is the critic who penned the most memorable takedown of Sex and the City 2.

and now I know why, because she is awesome.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:36 PM on February 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


My bad. Diet IS mentioned, exercise is not.
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:39 PM on February 12, 2011


I think you could easily take what she's saying and generalize it to "shaming is hurtful and ineffective."
posted by cali at 5:43 PM on February 12, 2011 [25 favorites]


That was a shitty, sexist review. I don't like her style.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:44 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


That was a shitty, sexist review. I don't like her style.

Try reading it again, this time imagine it as an aria.
posted by cashman at 5:57 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cool Papa Bell: “You were shamed so much, you finally rejected the shame and stopped being depressed.”

If things worked like this, the world would a beautiful paradise of shining light.
posted by koeselitz at 6:04 PM on February 12, 2011 [54 favorites]


I don't think anybody should be shamed because of their weight, but as someone who has been heavy and is not heavy now, not being heavy is easier. I can walk around in summer heat and not feel like I'm having a heart attack. Yes, people will treat you differently, and no, that isn't fair, and yes, I can understand railing against that unfair treatment, because it's bullshit; whether you're fat or not fat really doesn't need to be anybody else's business. But what I'm saying is that you can spend the rest of your life alone on a desert island and you will still be happier not being overweight. You will feel better. This isn't just about, "Fuck you, society!" If it were, I'd be behind the writer 100%. It's a thing to do for oneself.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:09 PM on February 12, 2011 [16 favorites]


Yeah, Savage is kind of an asshole that way. I guess there's gotta be someone lower in the pecking order an out gay guy can shit on.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:10 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Damn, I love Lindy West.

Kittens, I don't think Lindy would disagree with anything you just said. If being not heavy is something you do for yourself, then how is it Dan Savage's or any other fatophobe's business if someone doesn't (or can't) do it?
posted by Mavri at 6:13 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


.....crickets....................................
posted by chance at 6:14 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


These are a couple of years old, but see other FA/HAES (fat acceptance/health at every size) takedowns of Dan Savage here and here. Perhaps their tone would be preferable, though I love that this is written by someone who knows Dan Savage personally.

Because how can you pay attention to what the FAT LADEEZ are saying if they won't watch their TONE, right?
posted by camyram at 6:17 PM on February 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


I'd just like one thing to be better known. When you casually say "Oh don't they care about how they look or what they eat or their health?" let me say yes. In fact I think about ti *all the time*. As someone with a less typical shape, trust me that fact in the foreground of almost every. single. decision. I. make. all. fucking. day. I think about shit like gylmeic indexes and fat/protein ratios more then I think about brushing my teeth or what I'd like to do today. I hate that I have to turn the basic functions of staying alive into a 24-dimensional moral scorechart. I hate that things that should be fun, like eating, moving, and dressing myself have to become Very Important Life Decisions requiring reading up at the latest research and taking detailed notes Sometimes I'd like to be able to have something fried without feeling like the I'm failing at being a human being and wondering what everyone around me is thinking about my choices.
posted by The Whelk at 6:18 PM on February 12, 2011 [117 favorites]


You think fat people are icky. Eeeewww, a fat person might touch you on a plane. With their fat!

No, I don't think that. I just don't like people pushing into my space, Lindy. The same way you'd probably object if I decided to treat the airplane/bus/train seat like my armchair and stuck my elbows into your ribs, instead of keeping them tucked in. And if it's unavoidable, due to overly-narrow airplane seats or whatever, a token inquiry about whether I have enough space goes a long way.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:20 PM on February 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


Apologies to those who find this topic uninteresting or dislike the writer's style. I posted this because as a physician-in-training, I see many overweight and obese patients of all ages who struggle mightily with the shame described by Ms. West. It is especially painful to watch my elderly and chronically ill patients (many of whom were fit and health-conscious for the majority of their lives) beat themselves up for failing (yet again) to meet the BMI goals set forth in some table published by some insurance company in the 1970s. For patients with aging bodies, physical disabilities, injuries, and endocrine dysfunction, it may take years of diet and exercise to lose the same amount of poundage that can be shed in 6 months by a healthy twentysomething on the exact same weight loss plan. Why should the skinny folk care? Because most of you will be lucky enough to get older. And with age comes chronic disease and disability, which for most of you will mean some degree of fatness. Once you are past your prime, maintaining physical fitness will become work -- work which will eventually become a full-time job. And good luck staying motivated to do that work when the social milieu constantly shames you for needing to lose weight in the first place. I think we should all try to become as healthy as possible within the bodies that we have, and I agree with Ms. West that fatty-shaming gets in the way of this health -- on both the individual and community levels.
posted by fernabelle at 6:23 PM on February 12, 2011 [164 favorites]



cf. insightful yet uneven documentary Bear Nation.


Thanks for the link. The fairly graphic sex scene at the beginning of Bear Cub was my introduction to that subculture.

Anyway, I'd call this a so-so rant. A++ for feeling, but C- for "haven't I read this a few times before?" Her basic point is:

Shame doesn't work. Diets don't work. Shame is a tool of oppression, not change.

Which is ok, I guess, but begs the question of what does work? She'd say that that isn't an important question:

I don't give a shit what causes anyone's fatness. It's irrelevant and it's none of my business.

I'm ok with her being incurious, and I'm with her at the individual level. I don't care why she is fat, or why my neighbor is fat. I am, however, very curious as to why we as a society (along with many other societies around the world) are getting fat, what the implications of that are, and what societal choices might start reversing that.

I agree with her that there isn't much use in shaming any particular person, but I disagree that fatness as a phenomenon is neutral and not worth exploring and understanding.
posted by Forktine at 6:30 PM on February 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


fernabelle, I wish I could favorite your comment a hundred times.

I've otherwise said what I needed to say on MeFi about my experience as a fat person, so I won't repeat myself here. Fernabelle, you're going to make an excellent doctor, though.
posted by anastasiav at 6:31 PM on February 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Fuck it, if I want to pierce my nose, or get tattoos or not shave or grow a giant belly you can't stop me.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:31 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


And - and I really shouldn't be here cause this a touchy topic for me - I just want to say Shaming. Does. Not. Work.

Let's make it bigger.

SHAME DOES NOT WORK

I grew up with people who thought the best way to deal with a weight gain was to make pig noises at dinner and tell me my ass could support a shelf and leave lots of helpful printouts about diabetes under my door and tell me "You know every day you put off improving yourself is another day you'll have to fight to get it back."

This did two things

One: I disregarded anything they said cause they were being mean jerks, and people don't listen to people who are being mean to them.

Two: A kind of self-shame collapse of FUCK YOU. If I'm so beyond help I'll just go with it and take myself out of the game, asshole.

A few eating disorders later I'm still overweight but fitter and better then I've ever been and I still have to hear from these condescending asshats every holiday back home going "Oh you're doing *so good for yourself*. It's so important to really try."

Fuck Shame. Seriously.
posted by The Whelk at 6:31 PM on February 12, 2011 [111 favorites]


I just don't like people pushing into my space, Lindy.
If that's really a major issue in your life, then I recommend that you devote less emotional energy to angsting about it and more to being grateful for your lack of real problems. And if it's not a major issue in your life, then I recommend getting a little bit of perspective before you whine on the internet. Your righteous indignation about trivial issues just makes you look kind of petty.
posted by craichead at 6:32 PM on February 12, 2011 [19 favorites]


but as someone who has been heavy and is not heavy now, not being heavy is easier

I don't believe the writer is arguing otherwise. What she is saying is stop making people feel ashamed of themselves because it's none of your god damn business.
posted by Bonzai at 6:33 PM on February 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


but i thought the internet was created explicitly for giving us a place to whine! wahh!
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 6:36 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, the Whelk, those are some powerful and moving comments. Be well, dude.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:40 PM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thin doesn't equal better? God damn it.
posted by chunking express at 6:40 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not sure it warrants a FPP, but good for her in taking control of her own situation. I do think "fat-shaming" in society will some day be seen as destructive as gay-bashing. Judge not lest ye be judged and all that. Not that an unhealthy state should be considered acceptable or equal on a societal level, but let's take a step back here. The venom people have for fat people is alarming and counter-productive.
posted by lubujackson at 6:42 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


" I think we should all try to become as healthy as possible within the bodies that we have, and I agree with Ms. West that fatty-shaming gets in the way of this health -- on both the individual and community levels."

Good for you. The most shitty fat-shaming behavior I've gotten has been for doctors. Horrible endometriosis that was affecting my ability to sleep, have intercourse, and go longer than 30 minutes without peeing? Maybe if I weren't so fat, the endometrial/scar tissue invading my fallopian tube, connecting my vagina to my hip or some crazy shit like that, and partially obstructing my bowel and both ureters would magically disappear!
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:44 PM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


One: I disregarded anything they said cause they were being mean jerks, and people don't listen to people who are being mean to them.

Two: A kind of self-shame collapse of FUCK YOU. If I'm so beyond help I'll just go with it and take myself out of the game, asshole.


Something I've finally noticed, don't know how it relates, but true for me:

If someone says, "I don't believe you are capable of [something]" then, like the whelk says, your loss I'll take myself out of the game, and you will never have the pleasure of seeing me do it.

If someone says, "You aren't capable of [something]", that pretty much guarantees I'll do it or die trying.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:49 PM on February 12, 2011


Two things I have to say about this:
1) I have never had "unsightly rolls of fat" ever but in my late teens developed an eating disorder which was predicated on the super healthy equation: less weight = plus goodness, which is another iteration of "unsightly rolls of fat." Why Savage had to go down that road w/r/t a sex issue, I don't know (is there context for his remarks?

2) Once I got a real unpleasant shock by reading Savage's column and he made a quip about the idea of a parapalegic having sex was repellant. Yeah. That made me feel real good. I had an awesome boyfriend at the time who was eager to show me that I was not repellant, so it didn't crush me too much. Even so, I was surprised at Savage's neanderthal behavior w/r/t this. He does a lot of great stuff, but sometimes there's a shittiness that comes out in his columns.
posted by angrycat at 6:50 PM on February 12, 2011 [15 favorites]


I don't believe the writer is arguing otherwise. What she is saying is stop making people feel ashamed of themselves because it's none of your god damn business.

I agree that making people feel ashamed of themselves sucks, and for that matter, I'm skeptical that motivating people to lose weight is really the goal of such an effort. I think in some rare cases it may be genuine "tough love," but usually I think it's just some asshole of the mindset that making you feel worse will make me feel better, only it never works because that doesn't really work, but because they're assholes they only try harder. Making other people feel worse so that you'll feel better has its place, but that place is in the bedroom of consenting adults and it usually involves a magic word that means "fuck off." It's not behavior that's really awesome for everyday life.

All that said, though, I don't think this is the extent of her argument. She's also essentially saying, hey, this is never gonna change, this is me, I embrace it, etc., and to me that's just taking someone judging you as a human being because of your weight and internalizing it. She's confusing herself with her weight, and so the number that assholes have done on her is still ongoing, and will be ongoing until she's able to separate herself from her self-image. "Fat acceptance" is a term that squicks me out, because if I had decided to just accept that I was fat and be done with it, I think I'd be a lot less happy now. I mean, if it were a matter of "I will never look like a movie star, and I accept that," then okay. But you actually can get yourself to a healthy weight in the real world, and it's not somehow a triumph for Dan Savage being a dickhead if you do.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:52 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


"But you actually can get yourself to a healthy weight in the real world, and it's not somehow a triumph for Dan Savage being a dickhead if you do."

Can I, though?

Seriously--you don't know my life, my physical ability, the time and energy I have available, what meds I'm on, what food is available to me, whether or not I have an eating disorder, who I live with...
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:57 PM on February 12, 2011 [40 favorites]


I'm thinking ironic. I mean, nobody thinks that cutting back on treats will cure thyroid and eating disorders.
posted by box at 7:07 PM on February 12, 2011


I love that this is written by someone who knows Dan Savage personally.

If I understand The Stranger's hierarchy correctly: somebody who is employed by Savage personally. (Thus "you do happen to be the boss of me".)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:08 PM on February 12, 2011


Seriously--you don't know my life, my physical ability, the time and energy I have available, what meds I'm on, what food is available to me, whether or not I have an eating disorder, who I live with...

Well, you're right, I don't. And as stated earlier, it's really no one's business but yours. It's possible that there are factors that would make losing weight for you a herculean effort. It's rarely easy for anyone. I don't believe that there are factors that would make it impossible, or at least not that many. I say this not to make you feel bad if it doesn't work right away, but that so you know that when things seem their worst, it can still be done. I believe that it is something that is possible for you, but I know that it could be extremely hard. It will almost certainly be extremely hard. That's just how it is. I don't know what else to say about it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:15 PM on February 12, 2011


[comment removed - This thread will go much better if it doesn't turn into "advice for fat people" please keep your weight loss tips to yourself perhaps?]
posted by jessamyn at 7:25 PM on February 12, 2011 [29 favorites]


And if it's not a major issue in your life, then I recommend getting a little bit of perspective before you whine on the internet.

What sort of perspective? I make adjustments all the time in order to be considerate of other people. When I get unsolicited advice - and I get plenty - I give it varying degrees of consideration, depending on who's offering it and how knowledgeable (or not) they are. I don't write blog posts kvetching about what I think other people must be thinking about me or proclaiming my self-acceptance as a 'radical act.' I do not, as it happens, enjoy being crushed by some inconsiderate stranger, and it is not whiny to mention this fact.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:25 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Parts of this rant are clearly related to Kate Harding's The Fantasy of Being Thin, a piece that has changed lives and might even change mine someday :). It's especially important for those on the cusp of fat acceptance, who realize that anti-fat bigotry and shaming are bogus and who know "intellectually" that "diets don't work", but who are afraid of losing all the things we'd have to give up if we stopped trying so hard to be thin. And mostly what we'd lose is the ideal life we imagine we could have and the "thin person on the inside" who will be so much better.

If you've spent a substantial portion of your life trying to lose enough weight to become a real person, the fantasy of being thin might be all you feel you have to hold onto.

So giving up dieting and accepting my body didn’t just mean admitting I would never be thin; it meant admitting I would never be a million things I might have been. (Which, I’m told, is a phenomenon sometimes known as “maturity.”) I am absolutely not one for settling — which is where the confusion about pessimism comes in, I think — but I am one for self-awareness and self-forgiveness. Meaning, there’s a big difference between saying you can’t be anything other than what you are right now, and you don’t have to be anything other than what you are right now.


Something Lindy said that I understand but I'm not sure I agree completely with:

Shame is a tool of oppression, not change.

I've come to think that shame can be a productive tool of change, but only on a deeply personal level. Shame is a sign of an integrity breach and a clue to what was lost that needs to be grieved.

This isn't a matter of people telling you that you SHOULD be ashamed (which is what much anti-fat sentiment is about). But if you have conflicted or negative feelings about your body and you experience this as shame, there might be something there that you can use. It may not have anything to do with your body at all. You may come to grips with your shame, recapture a sense of integrity, and never lose a pound. Or the weight may have been a symptom of the larger issue and you may proceed to lose weight, as often happens when people "learn to love themselves". There are a lot of possibilities and it doesn't have to get so ugly.
posted by Danila at 7:27 PM on February 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


My mother is someone who's dealt with weight issues as long as I've known her. It's not as if she looks like Jabba the Hutt navigating Walmart on a Hoveround. In fact, if you saw her walking down the street, you'd not likely notice anything particularly unusual about the chubby woman strolling down the sidewalk. You wouldn't notice that she'll never wear shorts, or go swimming, even on the hottest day in the Southern CA desert, and hasn't done either since about 1978, because she's ashamed of the body that nobody else gives any thought. It's crippling, this sense of shame and failure, much more so than the actual weight ever has been. (Interestingly, her weight has never been a health issue.) She doesn't need any more shame, as it hasn't done a bit of good for her weight control, ever. It has done the opposite, stripping her of her ability to enjoy even some of the simplest (non fattening) pleasures.

Maybe in a way it's progress when a guy like Savage can more or less get away with a "eeww, disgusting fat girl in low rise jeans" comment. Oh, but he ridicules because he's concerned. Bullshit. He ridicules because he can get away with it. The same way I could have, in a past time, ridicule a man for sucking cock, even in polite company. Insisting that fat people need to be reminded of their non compliance with body standards is an incongruity that brings out the inner Dr. Laura hiding under Savage's skin.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:28 PM on February 12, 2011 [55 favorites]


I wish all the people who are so concerned about the health of those of us less with less than perfect bodies would spend that concern on ensuring that that healthy food is widely available, cheap, and easy, the way the crap that help makes us fat is, instead of on telling anyone whose body they disapprove of that it's their personal choice to be fat and they need to fix that offensive choice for their own damned good.

(But that would get in the way of food = morality and letting our fat be the mark of our shame. Fat: the modern scarlet letter.)
posted by immlass at 7:32 PM on February 12, 2011 [17 favorites]


kittens for breakfast, you're missing the point: it really is nobody's business, and that includes you. I'm a fat woman, and I've had complete strangers approach me in public to tell me about some great new diet I should try, or I have such a pretty face and maybe if I got that surgery I could be a model. Comments like that, and comments like yours to the young rope-rider, are rude and intrusive.
posted by palomar at 7:34 PM on February 12, 2011 [13 favorites]


SHAME DOES NOT WORK

It doesn't, and I feel that it can makes things worse. I struggled with my weight when I was a teenager. My entire family, except for me, is very slim. I will never forget when my mother came back from the grocery store one day when I was about 16 and tossed a can of powdered weight-loss something-or-other and said "maybe you should get started losing weight". I won't forget the relative who used to come visit every Sunday, and greet me with "Hey, gaining some weight!" Or meeting friends of my mom's who would immediately remark, "wow, you're not as tiny as your mother!" (or worse, the tentative "Oh hi...you don't look much like your mother, do you?")

20 years later, I go back home to visit yearly, and my entire visit is set to the following chorus: "Oh, you look like you've lost weight! Good for you!" If I felt good about myself at that moment, comments like that immediately bring me down a few notches. What should be a nice moment to reconnect with loved ones becomes one more opportunity to dwell on my antagonstic relationship with my body, and it can take a while for me to talk myself down from the weird feelings I get from being so openly judged.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 7:36 PM on February 12, 2011 [13 favorites]


Good lord, why all this rancor over a person saying that they're happy with how they are and a request to stop making them feel ashamed of themselves? Seems like a simple, inoffensive request. If I made the same post about my enjoyment of browsing Bulbapedia, would I get all of this shit?

I thought MetaFilter was mostly a socially liberal, you live how you want to live kinda crowd. Weird.
posted by ignignokt at 7:36 PM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ah yes I'm already thinking of the poor mods. Kittens, I think the point you're making is valid, however in a space where you are addressing a general "you" as in anyone---

There are people for whom weight loss is truly medically impossible. Like for example my mother who had Graves Disease and they literally destroyed her thyroid. She doesn't have a thyroid. She exercises, she eats vegetables and healthy proteins. Even taking thyroid hormone she has limited control over the way her body processes the food she eats.

The same goes for certain medicines and physical disabilities. Some third of people with siezure disorder don't find a lot of success with meds and for them a high fat diet is often recommended. Further more we still have a lot of research to do on exactly what the relationship between fat and mental health is. While large quantities of fat are correlated with greater unhappiness--- Neuroskeptic has an interesting piece with a study about how a slight amount of fat is actually protective.
Because we can't prove which direction the cause and affect goes, it's possible that some people are treating mental disorders with wieght gain.

Meaning until you find them a better solution (and meds don't fix everyone dealing with mental disorders either) the research really doesn't suggest we know for sure that someone SHOULD lose wieght--- we need to find out more about the interwoven relationship between fat and health problems before we can claim that every single person "should" lose weight.

I agree it's likely that most should, but while fat may cause some (a huge portion of) health problems, it's possible it could be offering protection from other health problems.

All I'm trying to say here is don't assume you know what others can or should do for their health unless you're their doctor. (Are you our doctor? )
posted by xarnop at 7:38 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I say this not to make you feel bad if it doesn't work right away, but that so you know that when things seem their worst, it can still be done."

Things don't seem their worst, though. They seem pretty decent. I guarantee that they would seem much closer to "their worst" if I made the radical changes that would be necessary to my life for the 40+ weeks it would take to lose enough weight to be within "normal" BMI, not to mention the maintenance I would need to do after that.

I appreciate that you have good intentions, but look at what you're saying. You're telling me that my life is inherently worse/I'm inherently less happy because of the way my body is. You're telling me this with zero knowledge of how happy I am, my lifestyle, my self-esteem, or what I would need to do/change to lose weight and keep it off.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:42 PM on February 12, 2011 [16 favorites]


I thought MetaFilter was mostly a socially liberal, you live how you want to live kinda crowd. Weird.
But don't you understand? It's tremendously important to inform fat people that they're disgusting moral failures (because we're so concerned about you) at every opportunity. Otherwise they might have no idea that they're fat or that they're being judged? I mean - can you imagine? What if they don't hate their fat as much as everyone else? It would be terrible!
posted by Karmakaze at 7:43 PM on February 12, 2011 [33 favorites]


I'd like to say that even though I'm not fat anymore I still support the fat acceptance/HAES movement and agree that shame and body policing is not the way promote physical AND mental health.

But it's sort of amazing how many people in the HAES community consider people who've had WLS to be traitors. Which is still just perpetuating body policing and shame.

So let's just all shut the fuck up about other people's bodies already.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:45 PM on February 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


I fully support that no one should be shamed for their weight or food choices or anything else that is entirely personal and no one else's business, but that being said...

I wish all the people who are so concerned about the health of those of us less with less than perfect bodies would spend that concern on ensuring that that healthy food is widely available, cheap, and easy, the way the crap that help makes us fat is, instead of on telling anyone whose body they disapprove of that it's their personal choice to be fat and they need to fix that offensive choice for their own damned good.

Bullshit. I used to think this way when I was fat. I was convinced that circumstances were beyond my control because it was so much easier to eat poorly and it tasted so good and hey, soda, this is just how I am, I'm just fat, going to be fat forever, fuck the world for having a problem with it.

Then I lost weight. My circumstances haven't changed. I'm still living with access to the same foods and with the same budget. But my lifestyle is different because I took control of it and my choices and it was really, really hard but I did it. Maybe everyone can't. But I think the idea that it was out of my reach kept me at the weight I was for longer than I needed to be, and helped get me there in the first place.
posted by girih knot at 7:47 PM on February 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


As a naturally thin person, I've never bothered to try and convince overweight people to diet or whatever, because even if some people think that their HURF DURF BUTTER EATING is disgusting and/or immoral, it's none of my business. And besides, comparatively speaking, it could be a lot worse; they could be Republicans or Ke$ha fans or furries or something. Let's focus on the real evils of the world, shall we?
posted by infinitywaltz at 7:52 PM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


There are a lot of serious and important issues in this thread and a lot of ways we need to make sure we are sensitive and respectful to each other, so I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you TAKE BACK WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT KE$HA!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:56 PM on February 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


Sorry, she just seemed like an easy target.
posted by infinitywaltz at 7:57 PM on February 12, 2011


Anigbrow, wtf fantasy are you living? Shaming fat people is going to magically make them skinny, or magically make them take the train instead? This is not reality. Fat people will always get on a plane with you. There is nothing anyone can do about it, ever! Complaining about issues that NO ONE can change is the gdamn #1 definition of whining.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:59 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's okay -- I really do think that there are important issues and I would like to join in the conversation but I'm going to bed soon and I don't want to say something that needs explaining and then not be here to clarify.

Also, I've just been talking to Cleverbot for like an hour so I'm not really ready to converse with real people.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:01 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wish all the people who are so concerned about the health of those of us less with less than perfect bodies would spend that concern on ensuring that that healthy food is widely available, cheap, and easy, the way the crap that help makes us fat is, instead of on telling anyone whose body they disapprove of that it's their personal choice to be fat and they need to fix that offensive choice for their own damned good.

The untouched, nearly rotten fruit at the Starbucks didn't start out that way. People don't buy it. Store owners would sell anything, if people will buy it. They don't. The problem isn't access, but education and motivation.

If she doesn't care about what people think of her, why did she write all those words about it?

I'm all for fat acceptance as far as it goes: don't be mean to people, don't get into people's business, don't judge people on things that have nothing to do with who they are. But I do have a beef with the fat acceptance people when they veer into dispensing medical advice. Excess weight (which I am hauling plenty of) causes health problems. Maybe not for you or your 97 year old grandma who drinks a quart of moonshine every day, smokes a carton of B&H Greens a week and eats biscuits fried in crisco for every meal; but on average, excess weight is not good for people. Nobody should feel bad about it, and they should probably accept their own reality, but they shouldn't give up. And that's a big part of the FA message I see.
posted by gjc at 8:01 PM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I finally let go of the fantasy of being thin when I went on a 8-week hiking trip (about 10-20 km/day, I was taking it slow) and still had thighs like tree trunks. I was within a very healthy BMI, but I was not thin, and I never would be. I was much happier after that.
posted by jb at 8:05 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would hope that if someone said they were disgusted by seeing Dan Savage hold hands with his husband, that Lindy West would tell that person to shut up and keep their hateful opinions to themselves.

Likewise, I e-mailed Dan Savage and told him if he doesn't like seeing someone wear jeans that he doesn't think fit well, he can just shut up, keep his hateful opinions to himself, and let people wear whatever the hell they want.
posted by straight at 8:05 PM on February 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


If she doesn't care about what people think of her, why did she write all those words about it?
Most people who have arrived at size acceptance weren't born that way. We fought our way to where we are, and a lot of us suffered quite a bit on the way. I almost died; I almost bankrupted my parents; I forgot who I was and became a walking, talking eating disorder. When I call out fat-shamers, I'm not doing it for the benefit of the person I am now. I'm doing it for the miserable person I was then, and I'm doing it for all the people who are still in that bad, ugly place.
posted by craichead at 8:08 PM on February 12, 2011 [21 favorites]


Shame helped me lose 50 pounds. YMMV.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:13 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


kittens for breakfast, you're missing the point: it really is nobody's business, and that includes you. I'm a fat woman, and I've had complete strangers approach me in public to tell me about some great new diet I should try, or I have such a pretty face and maybe if I got that surgery I could be a model. Comments like that, and comments like yours to the young rope-rider, are rude and intrusive.

Palomar, the young rope-rider actually asked me something. I'm not sure whether it was meant rhetorically, but as this is a conversation, I took it as something I was meant to respond to. I don't think I was rude, and I certainly don't see how it was an intrusion. If it wasn't the answer you wanted, I'm sorry, but it's the only one I've got.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:13 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


girih knot: But my lifestyle is different because I took control of it and my choices and it was really, really hard but I did it. Maybe everyone can't. But I think the idea that it was out of my reach kept me at the weight I was for longer than I needed to be, and helped get me there in the first place.

gjc: I'm all for fat acceptance as far as it goes: don't be mean to people, don't get into people's business, don't judge people on things that have nothing to do with who they are. But I do have a beef with the fat acceptance people when they veer into dispensing medical advice. Excess weight (which I am hauling plenty of) causes health problems. Maybe not for you or your 97 year old grandma who drinks a quart of moonshine every day, smokes a carton of B&H Greens a week and eats biscuits fried in crisco for every meal; but on average, excess weight is not good for people. Nobody should feel bad about it, and they should probably accept their own reality, but they shouldn't give up. And that's a big part of the FA message I see.


How does fat acceptance mean "giving up"? My experience is more like craichead's: fat acceptance hasn't been the easier thing, it's been much harder. It would be SO MUCH EASIER for me to go on a diet tomorrow. If I embraced weight loss as a health strategy I would get along so much better with my doctors (no more embarrassed tears in the office, no more searching for third and fourth opinions because "it's your fat" doesn't seem right). I would have something so much simpler to focus on, getting thin!, as opposed to all of this "accept yourself" and "go deeper" nonsense.

It's hard for the two of you to argue that you're not being judgmental of fat, but then to imply that fat means out of control and something you shouldn't accept. It's a mixed message. This kind of thinking makes me fear that anti-fat bigotry could go the same way racism has gone: most people say the right things and "of course we're all equal human beings" while keeping all the negative stuff and the stereotypes just under the surface, ready to pop out at the slightest provocation.
posted by Danila at 8:14 PM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Jacqueline: Shame helped me lose 50 pounds. YMMV
So what made you gain that 50 pounds in the first place? Positive encouragement from others, and daily affirmations of your intrinsic self-worth?
posted by hincandenza at 8:15 PM on February 12, 2011 [21 favorites]


For a period of my life I had siezure problems. Meds didn't work and I did every diet and exercise, yoga, whatever. High fat diet worked. I still ate really healthy, lot's of veggies, quality protein, but higher fat. The siezures disappeared.

A year ago I had to get my gall bladder out and now if I try to eat fat I throw up. I am happy to lose weight and all, but it is NOT beneficial to my mental health. I think the real problem is the extra attention from males--- hmmm this makes me wonder if the high fat diet particularly helps women who developed siezure disorders as a result of trauma. Hmmm.... (oh sorry topics.. yes)

"but they shouldn't give up"

I totally get where you're coming from. I'm a health nut and one of the goals I have is to work specifically in helping people work through both internal and external obstacles to healthy lifestyle (FOR THEM). The problem is there are so many variables that we truly can't know what is best for someone elses body unless we are there doctor. I'm totally down with the "fat is linked with a lot of disease and mental illness" and that we should work to help people get knowledge of, access to, and assistance with achieving diets that will be healthy for them.

However "shouldn't give up" is a moral judgement. Look if I wanted give up living in the city and go live on a farm and grow my own food, it would be a lot healthier for myself and the environment. But it would have downsides, like farming sucks, I would miss my friends, I don't want to live in the middle of nowhere and farm and I don't have money to buy a farm.

So despite that I think it would be cool to live on a farm "some day" I'm not sitting around berating myself for not being on a farm yet, or possibly ever. And why would you care whether I live on a farm? Stop judging me for not living on a farm!!
posted by xarnop at 8:16 PM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


"So what made you gain that 50 pounds in the first place?"

Laziness and lack of attention to my weight and diet.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:22 PM on February 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


Danila: That's how the message made me feel, and it's really on the same side of the coin as size/body/fat acceptance. I started gaining weight in the first place because I wasn't as thin as I thought I was "supposed" to be. I believed that I never could be and therefore it didn't matter, so I gained and gained until I was fat. Then once I was there, a lot of what I read on fat acceptance sites gave me this impression that it was impossible to lose weight, that fat people really can never help being fat, etc, etc,.

I didn't get as far as accepting that and instead chose to force myself to lose weight. I still had to go through a process of body acceptance even after losing the weight, because I reached a level that I think is just natural for my body, and it wasn't thin enough. I developed an eating disorder, obsessively counting calories and then binging when I'd get near the limit and purging after I'd feel intense guilt, and I'd worry that I was going to gain back all the weight I lost. I did finally gain body acceptance, but part of that is that I like how much I weigh now. I don't think I ever would have gained that acceptance at 50+ pounds heavier than I am.

I am in no way suggesting that everyone should lose weight, that fat is bad, etc. But it was something that I wanted to do, and the message that I should accept the weight I was because it wasn't going to change was poisonous to me.
posted by girih knot at 8:25 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


My experience is more like craichead's: fat acceptance hasn't been the easier thing, it's been much harder. It would be SO MUCH EASIER for me to go on a diet tomorrow. If I embraced weight loss as a health strategy I would get along so much better with my doctors (no more embarrassed tears in the office, no more searching for third and fourth opinions because "it's your fat" doesn't seem right). I would have something so much simpler to focus on, getting thin!, as opposed to all of this "accept yourself" and "go deeper" nonsense.

Fat acceptance is harder with your doctors because you are trying to convince them of something that is not true:
1) Being severely overweight/obese is OK
2) Intra-abdominal fat never did anybody no harm
3) It is physiologically impossible for you to lose weight

Life is also hard for the moon-landing skeptics. ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE DISAGREE WITH THEM! Don't you know how hard it is, making all their arguments? JEEZ.

------------

Weight loss is one of the hardest tasks 99% of human beings will ever face. Your body fights against weight loss, and this gets worse the heavier your body gets. The difficulty becomes exacerbated by wide-spread misinformation about health and fitness, shaming, the prevalence of delicious foods, and and emotional eating patterns. There is a terrific physiological and psychological feedback loop that seems uncontrollable, but is absolutely not.

Nobody who has struggled with anything and failed likes to hear "It is hard, but it's possible." It's far easier to believe "It's impossible, nobody could do this, how can you expect me to do this hard thing."
posted by schroedinger at 8:25 PM on February 12, 2011 [23 favorites]


If I embraced weight loss as a health strategy I would get along so much better with my doctors (no more embarrassed tears in the office, no more searching for third and fourth opinions because "it's your fat" doesn't seem right).

Why do you think your doctor(s) is wrong? I think shaming people over their appearance is terrible, but what is so intrinsically terrible about trying to live as long and healthy a life as possible?
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 8:27 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Laziness? You mean the "not taking action" area of your brain was overactivated?
You do realize that they're going to invent drugs that will control our thoughts right? We won't have to battle with will power. It will all be done for us.

and then one day we'll see a strange flash on an apple... what was that? It was ...red?
posted by xarnop at 8:27 PM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


The untouched, nearly rotten fruit at the Starbucks didn't start out that way. People don't buy it. Store owners would sell anything, if people will buy it. They don't. The problem isn't access, but education and motivation.

Because fat people are lazy and uneducated and if we just educate (i.e., shame) them enough, they'll magically buy the fruit, right? But the idea that Starbucks sells a giant sugary coffee that's bigger than your bladder has nothing to do with the problem. That's just the individual fat person's bad choices and if they don't solve the problem on their own, it's their moral failure and they deserve whatever opprobrium is heaped on their head. The issues of how we in the US produce food, full of fat and HFCS and other things that we could all stand to eat less of, and how we consume it overall--why we don't have time to cook instead of going to the drive-thru, frex--are not considered a part of the discussion.
posted by immlass at 8:30 PM on February 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm not at all obsessed with my heavier friends bodies. They are. All they can talk about is weight; their weight, my weight, how I'm lucky to be so thin, how I don't understand how hard their lives are, how I must have a great relationship with my mother since she must love me so much because I'm thin and so on ad nauseum. I'm not naturally thin, I've always been an athlete and I gain weight like anyone else if I sit around or eat cookies and drink beer. I gained 30 lbs after I had 3 knee surgeries in a year and had to lose it and get the muscle back which was very hard of course. They don't want to hear that. As far as I can tell they want to continue to live a lifestyle that makes them overweight because they like it. They like to drink, eat out, watch movies, drive everywhere, not exercise and that sort of thing. But they complain every day about being overweight. I admit it makes no sense to me at all and it probably never will. If you want to live that lifestyle do it, I could give a shit. But don't constantly complain about the results!
posted by fshgrl at 8:31 PM on February 12, 2011 [13 favorites]


My discovery of the fat acceptance/HAES movement corresponded with the discovery of my internal feminist, and it's been an amazing thing.

As women, so many of us grow up steeped in a culture that tells us that our bodies don't truly belong to us. They're meant to be decorative (and we're somehow failing to be true women if they're not). They're meant to be looked at and evaluated, as if that's just the gosh-darned, evo-psych Way Things Are, forever and ever. They're used as ammunition in the culture wars - how we dress, how we carry ourselves, what we do with our wombs. It's part of the public discourse.

And one of the not-so-fun things about being a non-thin person is the knowledge that your body is once again being used as ammunition. I'm not a person, you see. I'm a Symbol - of ugly American over-consumption, of supposed "poor health", of the failure to be a Real Woman because most guys probably don't find me attractive. And it's so so SO familiar.

So when some people see essays like this as whining, I see it as empowerment. It's not about diets and weight loss and exercise, and it's certainly not about "giving up" or "settling" in any way. It's about reclaiming your body for yourself. It's taking a stand that you're a person, not a symbol.
posted by Salieri at 8:32 PM on February 12, 2011 [40 favorites]


Because fat people are lazy and uneducated and if we just educate (i.e., shame) them enough, they'll magically buy the fruit, right?

Well, no. Shame doesn't work. Jury's still out on what actually does work, but shame doesn't seem to be it.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:33 PM on February 12, 2011


She's confusing herself with her weight

Other people are confusing her with her weight. I think she's internalized, like a lot of us have done, all that stereotypical crap said to us about what it means to be overweight.
posted by squeak at 8:33 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Laziness? You mean the "not taking action" area of your brain was overactivated?"

I'm still incredibly lazy, but I've learned to use my laziness to help me maintain my weight (i.e. be too lazy to eat) instead of gain weight.

But back to my original point, having had the experience of losing 50 pounds (and gaining some back, and losing it again, etc.), I've learned that it really is much much easier to just not gain the weight in the first place than to go on a diet to lose weight later. The scale went over 120 today (my target weight range is 115 to 120) so I'm just going to eat less until it's back under (just as I make an effort to eat more whenever I drop below 115). Gaining weight as you age is not as inevitable as fernabelle has suggested here.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:34 PM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Fat acceptance is harder with your doctors because you are trying to convince them of something that is not true:
1) Being severely overweight/obese is OK
2) Intra-abdominal fat never did anybody no harm
3) It is physiologically impossible for you to lose weight


You're wrong about all of that. I'm not even sure you understood what I was saying. It's not about trying to get my doctors to believe that fat is "okay". A lot of times fat is irrelevant but they miss the forest for the oversized tree. My main problem with doctors is ascribing problems to fat that aren't related, and refusing to constructively help, instead preferring to offer diet handouts and judgments. I'm talking about doctors refusing pain medication after accidents (falling down the stairs, car wrecks), because "losing weight is the only way to really get rid of the pain". Really? Because I was fat before the accident and the pain wasn't there.

And then there are the times when weight is a problem but it's more a symptom of a larger, underlying issue than the main issue. This is apparently way too much nuance for many doctors, even if they know that "fat" or "weight gain" are symptoms of whatever problem you're coming to them about. Give me the medicine for the underactive thyroid, not a lecture on laziness!


Nobody who has struggled with anything and failed likes to hear "It is hard, but it's possible." It's far easier to believe "It's impossible, nobody could do this, how can you expect me to do this hard thing."


This is that judgmental nonsense again. Life is a struggle for me every day. I've overcome a heckuva lot. I don't identify with people like Jacqueline or girih knot, who "gained weight" (I've always been fat) because they weren't paying enough attention. I've paid extraordinary amounts of attention to my weight, my body, food, all of it. I am not unaware.
posted by Danila at 8:34 PM on February 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


My brain chemistry made me fat. I know this because certain medications that I'm not sure I can stay on long-term for other reasons fix the thing in my head that makes it require extreme willpower just to not clean out my fridge in an evening. I was having to make all kinds of hard choices then just to not have my BMI be twice what it currently is. And now... now this thread made me realize that I sort of missed dinner unless four crackers and two pieces of cheese counts as dinner. Not ED, just not hungry. I feel pretty good. I've lost a few pounds, I'm not exactly sure how many. It's only been a few weeks.

I'm not exercising willpower now. I was then. Now is when I'm losing weight. Life isn't fair, but above and beyond that, it's really wrong to suggest that just because your brain allows you to make certain choices that everybody else's works the same way. A lot of people can no more choose to eat significantly better than a schizophrenic person can choose not to be mentally ill. Human beings were not meant to live in this atmosphere of bizarre abundance. Modern medicine is working on it. I'm hoping I can continue to reap the benefit of that, but if not, give it twenty years. There are people who are fat because they are lazy, that does not mean that all fat people are lazy.
posted by gracedissolved at 8:36 PM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Why do you think your doctor(s) is wrong? I think shaming people over their appearance is terrible, but what is so intrinsically terrible about trying to live as long and healthy a life as possible?"

The thing is that some doctors will actually tell you that pretty much anything that is wrong with you can be solved by losing weight. For example, I was told that my weight was probably the most important factor in the extreme discomfort and chronic pain I had from endometriosis.

Surprise, the pain and discomfort were immediately solved by surgery.

When I was in college, I was rather suddenly struck with crippling fatigue and joint pain that limited my mobility. The first doctor I saw refused to test me because the problem was obviously that I was fat.

Surprise, I have an autoimmune condition that improved significantly with medication.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:37 PM on February 12, 2011 [13 favorites]


Do we have a congestive heart failure acceptance movement? A "I have diabetes and its beautiful" movement? Any other clever movements to accept terribly unhealthy lifestyles /conditions as A-OK you're alright! movements?
posted by xmutex at 8:39 PM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


The whole concept of ableism would blow your mind, xmutex.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:42 PM on February 12, 2011 [43 favorites]


I think shaming people over their appearance is terrible, but what is so intrinsically terrible about trying to live as long and healthy a life as possible?

Because you can do that and not lose a pound. It's the flip side of fat acceptance: health at every size.

It goes back to what fernabelle said about why she (a physician-in-training) posted this thread:

I think we should all try to become as healthy as possible within the bodies that we have, and I agree with Ms. West that fatty-shaming gets in the way of this health -- on both the individual and community levels.

The other problem is that by focusing on weight loss as a solution to a myriad of health problems that are unrelated or only tangentially related, people are going to end up sicker (and probably fatter, since weight gain and diets frequently go hand-in-hand).

The blog First, Do No Harm is really helpful when it comes to understanding how anti-fat attitudes and an obsession with weight loss can cause harm to patients.
posted by Danila at 8:42 PM on February 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Do we have a congestive heart failure acceptance movement? A "I have diabetes and its beautiful" movement? Any other clever movements to accept terribly unhealthy lifestyles /conditions as A-OK you're alright! movements?

It's none of my business if someone chooses to engage in "unhealthy" behavior.

If I do not approve then I can only choose to not engage in that behavior myself.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:45 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't identify with people like Jacqueline or girih knot, who "gained weight" (I've always been fat) because they weren't paying enough attention. I've paid extraordinary amounts of attention to my weight, my body, food, all of it. I am not unaware.

This is very presumptuous of the circumstances of my life, and directly contradictory to what I said a few posts ago. I gained weight because I believed I was fat and flawed because of it, until I actually was fat. Ideally body acceptance should have happened before I gained a lot of weight in the first place, but since I was maybe 11 or 12 when that began, I didn't really have the maturity or perspective to get there.

The problem I see with the fat acceptance movement is that it seems hostile to the idea of wanting to lose weight at all.
posted by girih knot at 8:46 PM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Do we have a congestive heart failure acceptance movement? A "I have diabetes and its beautiful" movement? Any other clever movements to accept terribly unhealthy lifestyles /conditions as A-OK you're alright! movements?

I'm sure Savage would fully understand this, as nobody's ever asserted that gays live unhealthy lifestyles.


The problem I see with the fat acceptance movement is that it seems hostile to the idea of wanting to lose weight at all.


This is an interesting take on the fat people I know who are generally happy with themselves. I mean, how dare they, as they are fat and all.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:52 PM on February 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


This is that judgmental nonsense again. Life is a struggle for me every day. I've overcome a heckuva lot. I don't identify with people like Jacqueline or girih knot, who "gained weight" (I've always been fat) because they weren't paying enough attention. I've paid extraordinary amounts of attention to my weight, my body, food, all of it. I am not unaware.

Judgmental nonsense? So you're saying that Jacqueline and girih knot and everyone who's ever lost weight has simply had it easier than you?

I would not say my relationship with my weight has been "easy." I grew up chubby my whole life. I dealt with eating disorders. I struggle with emotional eating. I have major depressive disorder and struggle with low-self esteem and self-hatred. I grew up in a family that actively discouraged my participation in any athletic activity, in an environment that looked down on "jocks" and active people, and I knew less than shit about fitness up until a few years ago.

On top of these psychological barriers to weight loss, there are physiological ones. I legitimately big-boned--I'm a female whose hands and wrists are as big and thick as men half a foot taller than me who compete in weight lifting contests. I will never look like a model, or someone from Victoria's Secret, or even those super-curvy girls because my body type is more like a brick. I lack coordination and balance and athleticism, and it makes doing athletic things and learning new movements extremely difficult. So much so that nearly ever athlete or coach I've worked with has commented on my unique lack of kinesthetic awareness. This adds additional psychological barriers to fitness, by the way.

I believed, with all of my heart and soul, that I could not lose weight. That it was not going to happen. That I paid attention, that I put effort into it (eating disorder, remember, I thought about food a lot) and I was tired of thinking about food and tired of feeling ashamed for not being thin and tired of all of that and afraid of slipping back into eating disorder patterns.

And then--I decided to hold myself accountable. I decided to record my food. To not say "I've been working hard, and I'm tired, so I'm going to cheat." To realize that even if people argue for the psychological benefit of "cheat meals" they meant one slice of pizza, not the amount of food I wanted to and could eat. I watched the eating habits of those who were "naturally skinny" and realized they ate when they were hungry, stopped when they were full, and did not deal with food the way I dealt with it. I had to face the emotional eating and my shame of it head-on. And I realized that healthy, sensible weight loss was not a punishment, but a gift that I was working to give my body and my athleticism--to value it, rather than giving up.

And guess what? When I weighed my food, when kept out the sugar, when I did the work, when I stopped lying to myself, when I kept my mind off the urge to binge, when I adjusted calories or carbohydrates appropriately when I stalled, when I worked at it for a long time, I lost weight.

I have encountered people who were 400lbs, 500lbs, who have lost weight and are losing weight. That's hard, when the goal is so far ahead and it takes so long. And nobody gets to that weight by having a normal relationship with food or bodies that are physiologically primed for weight loss. They work at it for years after years of telling themselves it's not possible. But when they tell themselves it can happen and push that, the weight loss happens.

It's possible. But it won't if you insist that you've got it harder than everyone else.
posted by schroedinger at 8:55 PM on February 12, 2011 [26 favorites]


This is an interesting take on the fat people I know who are generally happy with themselves. I mean, how dare they, as they are fat and all.

I'm not the fat people you know. I can only speak about my own experiences.
posted by girih knot at 8:55 PM on February 12, 2011


This is very presumptuous of the circumstances of my life, and directly contradictory to what I said a few posts ago. I gained weight because I believed I was fat and flawed because of it, until I actually was fat. Ideally body acceptance should have happened before I gained a lot of weight in the first place, but since I was maybe 11 or 12 when that began, I didn't really have the maturity or perspective to get there.

Oh, I apologize for misconstruing what you said and misrepresenting your experience. What you say does resonate with me. I think it's what I was trying to get earlier, about how personal shame can be a sign of something gone wrong, a lack of integrity, something lost that needs to be grieved and let go. I am close to someone who was once thin but started to steadily gain weight after a series of sexual assaults. For some fat people, overeating and/or emotional eating and becoming fat is a protection against attention and an outward symbol of post-traumatic stress.

But the thing is, that is a very personal thing. That is something that may not be known and properly addressed unless there is significant introspection and guidance in a therapeutic environment. And it won't apply to all, most, or even a large amount of other people.

The problem I see with the fat acceptance movement is that it seems hostile to the idea of wanting to lose weight at all.

I can see where that impression comes from, especially since some of the movement focuses on trying to establish things scientifically.

But as any movement, fat acceptance is both personal and political. I see it more of a critique of the current social structure, which emphasizes thinness, beauty, weight loss, and health as a moral good. I think that is where most of the movement's usefulness will lie.
posted by Danila at 8:57 PM on February 12, 2011


I'm not the fat people you know. I can only speak about my own experiences.

And extrapolate your experiences to others.

So you're saying that Jacqueline and girih knot and everyone who's ever lost weight has simply had it easier than you?

Quite possibly. See above.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:58 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Five years ago, in the midst of a failing attempt at being a freelance contractor, and in the aftermath of a failed relationship, and in a swirling vortex of change that knocked me off my feet, I rebooted my life. One of the things I did was to put together a well-researched, simple to follow, and essentially mathematical plan to lose about sixty pounds. I've struggled with my weight for twenty years (though notably not for my whole life, which is a distinguishing factor), but until this reboot, I'd always dealt with it in the same old way that our culture does it—feeling ashamed, losing some weight, gaining some back, feeling ashamed, sliding into shamed aimlessness, and so on and so on.

Why I was able to lose weight five years ago, and keep it off for four years before another career change threw me off a bit, was because it wasn't about shame. In fact, I felt more shame and disgust at the little rewards and accolades I got along the way, which showed me just how ugly and malignant the underlying neurotic fixations of our fucked up country actually are.

"Man, you're looking great!"

"Wow, you must be proud of yourself!"

"Lookin' sharp!"

A lot of people would probably point to the fact that each little quip like this pissed me off as some sort of sign of neurosis, but honestly, the trip from a moderately fat person to a merely stocky one really wiped the scales from my eyes about the extent to which the morbid disease of shame reinforcement infiltrates the bones and sinews of my fellow Americans. We're a country founded by self-hating puritan idiots, fleeing oppression to find an amazing new land where we could oppress other people instead, and we love the mortification of the body, and the self-flagellation of shame.

"Oh, chocolate is just sinful," the ads coo, and the dimwit brigade apes the line at length.

"Oh, this lasagna is just sinful."

"Oh, that cheesecake is sinful."

Really? Really? Food is sinful? What the fucking fuck are people talking about? Even worse, people get this little wicked charge from being "bad" and having a microwaved Trader Joe's molten lava chocolate cake thing, and regard it as a naughty reward for being a tedious wage slave beating a keyboard in prairie dog land. Shame is in the groundwater here, a stench working its way up through the foundations like radon, and your Auntie will happily tilt her head and say, "honey, we're all just concerned about you," for that double whammy of shame that (a) you're someone to be concerned about and (b) you're worrying your poor family.

So it's five years later, and I kept off all the weight I lost until the last year, when the radical change in my schedule, the physical demands of my new job (or lack thereof), the too easy access to the most kickass awesome sausages at Polock Johnny's, and an overall inattention to my state of focus had me put about thirty pounds back on.

"Honey, I'm just concerned about you," says my mother, and each time she does, I start thinking of a nice home to put her in. I wait for the more annoying things, like when she feels like she needs to tell me that "yo-yo" dieting is bad for you, and when I hear those lines, I start thinking of putting her into a home I saw on 60 Minutes.

That's the infuriating thing—not-fat, or marginally fat people think you don't know you're fat. Worse than that, they'll mince around in a typical worrywart's little air-pinching dance of awkward social insertion, looking for some opportune moment to step in like tin horn heroes and save you from diabetes.

Hey, thanks Ma. Here I was, thinking I'm skinny as a rail and writing off the tourniquet tightness of my waistband as inexplicable laundry shrinkage, but fortunately you've just saved me from losing all my limbs to high blood sugar.

I laugh it off, mostly. When I'm feeling mean, I ward my mother's obsession with societal fatness by pointing out that she, herself, is fat, and therefore unqualified to give any advice at all about how portion control. I'll point out that the bike I built for her is sitting on flat tires, buried under dust, while there is a flat, beautiful bike trail at the end of her street.

Where I really get burned, though, is watching how she is with my elder niece.

"Honey, it's just about portion control," she says, over holiday meals, and we all roll her eyes and laugh.

"Deck of cards!" we say in unison, referring to her oft-repeated assertion that you should have a protein item limited to that size in your meals, and she just scowls at us, but it's not her fault. We're a diseased country, beset by false signs of the divine pollution like the just world phenomenon and this absurd, ridiculous notion that you can shame people into goodness.

You can shame people into fear, or into self-hatred, or into finding absolution in their shame by shaming others, but no one's ever, ever saved a soul that way. Hell, the warmongers, the bankers, the realtors, and the car salesmen out there don't even have the ability to sense shame, and they're the ones who need it most.

For me, it's math. It's not the math of cholesterol (mine's great), or blood sugar (mine's great), or strength (ask me to kick the door off a car sometime), or endurance (it's good enough). It's mainly the math of how pants for men are designed, which guarantees that I will have to pull my pants up five hundred times a day because I'm long-trunked, short-waisted, and my waistline varies over the course of a day. If I could get away with wearing a kaftan all the time, I'd probably be content to just be a nice chunky guy in a kaftan. Fucking pants, though.

Losing weight was math. There's a simple formula for how many calories it takes you to maintain your weight, and every time you eat 3500 calories less than that, a pound goes away. I have a very mathematical biology in that regard—I spreadsheeted myself, and I'd weigh myself in the morning and at night (which gives you a sense of how water retention works), log my calorie count, and the spreadsheet would invariably predict my weight changes, often accurately months in advance. YMWilldefinitelyVary, but there was this game-playing satisfaction in the sense of hacking my biology.

I laugh off the shame coming from outside because it's just so stupid. The fact that people are "worried" about me and not about the fact that people waste their lives playing golf, watching The Real Housewives of Wherever, and feeling like there's such a thing as "guilt-free" brownies is what people should be concerned about, but to each their own.

So I do my math, and I'm working down to a weight that I know is my right weight (the height/weight charts disagree, but those median people are not six feet tall with a 30 inch inseam and limbs made of Russian tractor parts), and it's because I feel like it, not because I'm ashamed. Still, there are little flickers, when I stand in front of the mirror and feel the old programming instead of thinking, as I do when I look at a certain naked Olympic team captain (NSFW) who's built a lot like me, I would freaking hit that with a 13-pound sledgehammer in a New York microsecond. It's a reminder of how deep this all lies in us, the basic fact that we're all the evolutionary offspring of a primitive religious belief system that more or less revolves around shame, and how we have to stay awake and alert and challenge the things that just don't feel right.

It's hard to imagine that primitive man, stepping out into the glare of the midday sun on some African plain, ever thought "ugh, my thighs are like fucking saddlebags," but here we are.

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason,
how infinite in faculties, in form and moving,
how express and admirable in action, how like an angel in apprehension,
how like a god!


We forget, and surrender to the shame. It's just too easy, alas.
posted by sonascope at 8:58 PM on February 12, 2011 [115 favorites]


The problem I see with the fat acceptance movement is that it seems hostile to the idea of wanting to lose weight at all.
I think that's mostly backlash from the mainstream message that weight loss is mandatory for everyone. That gets pushed so hard that the response tends to be similarly absolute.

The more nuanced position is that the vast majority of the methods we're given to lose weight have an incredibly high failure rate, often result in long term weight gain, and tend to involve unhealthy habits. So trying to lose weight for the sake of losing weight can cause a lot of damage. This is where you get into one type of HAES message that folks should try to make lifestyle choices to improve their general health and if you lose weight, that's fine and if you don't, that's also fine.
posted by Karmakaze at 8:59 PM on February 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


It's possible. But it won't if you insist that you've got it harder than everyone else.

Schroedinger, you're pretending to know things that it's not possible to know.

You've been inside Danila's head? So you know that her struggle is exactly like your struggle?

If you put all human beings in a line from "loses weight effortlessly" to "has the hardest time losing weight," someone would have to be at the far end of the line. You really think you can imagine what it's like to be that person? I think not.
posted by straight at 9:00 PM on February 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


The thing is that some doctors will actually tell you that pretty much anything that is wrong with you can be solved by losing weight.

My main problem with doctors is ascribing problems to fat that aren't related, and refusing to constructively help, instead preferring to offer diet handouts and judgments.


Well, they sound like shitty doctors. With that said, a lot of the comments in this thread imply that there is no correlation between weight and health. I think that is pretty clearly not the case. Choosing not to lose weight seems like cutting off the nose to spite the face. If weighing less makes increases life expectancy, what does it matter why others think you lost it?
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 9:01 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Schroedinger, you're pretending to know things that it's not possible to know. "

(But is the cat alive or dead?!!)
posted by xarnop at 9:02 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


schroedinger: It's possible. But it won't if you insist that you've got it harder than everyone else.”

Bullshit. Do you know any doctors? Have you ever met anybody with a thyroid problem? Maybe someone with Grave's disease? You know – the people who have to face being told by doctors that it is probably physically impossible for them to be anything but overweight for the rest of their lives? Get over your ridiculous preachy nonsense and live in the real world.

posted by koeselitz at 9:08 PM on February 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


With that said, a lot of the comments in this thread imply that there is no correlation between weight and health.

I would say that the relationship is a lot more complicated than the social messaging about weight loss implies. So complicated that introducing moral judgment seems not only simple-minded, but dangerously futile.

Choosing not to lose weight

I don't know, re-reading the link in the FPP I don't see anything about "choosing not to lose weight" or anything that would imply that. That's not what it's about. It's about challenging the default assumption that people should be doing whatever it takes to change their bodies so they will "look better".

I am sure there are people who actively choose to be fat, for reasons spanning from sexual fetish to defense mechanism. But for many other people, I think being fat is much like being young, tall, extroverted, or black. It is what you are, now, maybe forever, maybe temporarily.

The other issue with weight loss and choosing to lose weight surrounds the method. My personal experience is that dieting has caused me to gain a lot of weight, and when I am not dieting my weight remains very steady. For a lot of us there is a pattern of "lose X pounds, gain X pounds back plus 10 or 20". The pattern is blindingly obvious in my own history of weight loss attempts. Thus, "choosing to lose weight" carries a significant risk, in fact, an overwhelming likelihood that you will end up gaining it.
posted by Danila at 9:13 PM on February 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


kittens for breakfast: “I don't believe that there are factors that would make it impossible, or at least not that many.”

Then you are uninformed.
posted by koeselitz at 9:13 PM on February 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don't get all the yawns. Reminders of inequality and unfairness are worth repeating over and over, in different ways, until they are completely accepted.

You can always just skip a post if you aren't interested.
posted by hermitosis at 9:15 PM on February 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


Then you are uninformed.

Uninformed people on MetaFilter?! That's unpossible.
posted by chunking express at 9:15 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


(Sorry, that was a bit glib. But it's what I believe.)
posted by koeselitz at 9:16 PM on February 12, 2011


Koeselitz: I know one woman who has a thyroid disorder, I believe hyperthyroid in nature. She states that with medication, careful attention to what she eats, and regular exercise (she's a triathlete) her weight is well within a healthy range. The other woman I know is missing her thyroid entirely due to cancer. Her situation is similar: medication, attention to her food, exercise. The one missing her thyroid says average weight gain should be about 10-15lbs--when it's more it's generally due to lifestyle habits.
posted by schroedinger at 9:17 PM on February 12, 2011


I guess I should follow that up with: do you know anyone with similar conditions, and can you cite the medical studies and information that indicate both of these conditions cause uncontrollable (i.e. nothing works) weight gain?
posted by schroedinger at 9:19 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


schroedinger: “Koeselitz: I know one woman who has a thyroid disorder, I believe hyperthyroid in nature. She states that with medication, careful attention to what she eats, and regular exercise (she's a triathlete) her weight is well within a healthy range. The other woman I know is missing her thyroid entirely due to cancer. Her situation is similar: medication, attention to her food, exercise. The one missing her thyroid says average weight gain should be about 10-15lbs--when it's more it's generally due to lifestyle habits.”

You were misinformed. The average is about 10-15 pounds. That's like saying that on average breast cancer patients are just fine, so the ones who die aren't doing it right.
posted by koeselitz at 9:22 PM on February 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


As far as I can tell they want to continue to live a lifestyle that makes them overweight because they like it. They like to drink, eat out, watch movies, drive everywhere, not exercise and that sort of thing. But they complain every day about being overweight. I admit it makes no sense to me at all and it probably never will.

Thank you, you said what I was thinking much better than I could have. I was never thin my entire life. Not severely overweight, but a chunky kid. I wasn't averse to exercising, but I wasn't interested in sports and continued with that attitude until I was a young adult. Then I made some lifestyle changes and it was shocking to me how quickly my body reacted and how quickly I lost weight. I went from 185 to 135 in about 3 months and I ate and drank whatever I wanted. I did not step foot in a single gym, consider any diets, didn't count any calories, buy any health foods, or even think about my weight at all.

All I did was decide to stop driving and cook my own meals.

I remember having some high caloric beers with a friend who was complaining about how she had to get in shape to wear a bathing suit. We were at a bar a 5 minute walk from her apartment, and she had driven. I had ridden my bike the 2 miles there in the same amount of time it took her to find a parking spot.

People are in denial about how sedentary their lives are. In most average American cities, if you are walking on a sidewalk people will stop and ask you what's wrong. We have designed our cities and lives around driving and sitting at desk all day and then wonder why diets and "exercising" don't work.
posted by bradbane at 9:23 PM on February 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


I was misinformed? So they were lying about the thyroid cancer? Interesting.

I ask again for your research on the topic, and link to appropriate medical articles in scientific journals demonstrating cases or studies on the uncontrollable weight gain of thyroid patients.
posted by schroedinger at 9:27 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I came of age in the magical fat acceptance land that many of you seem to be longing for. Everyone in my family had always been chubby. No one had ever hassled me about my weight. I was raised primarily by my father and didn't receive much indoctrination into how to be a girl. I didn't read beauty magazines or watch much TV. I spent my teens and early 20s immersed in science fiction fandom and later the Libertarian Party. Almost everyone I knew was obese and all my friends were guys. The male-to-female ratio was so high that just being under 30 years old and weighing less than 200 pounds made me a "hottie" in my community. I didn't own a scale and had no idea what I "should" weigh.

And so as my metabolism changed, my weight crept up from the 120 pounds I'd weighed as a teenager to 165 pounds by the time I was 23. Which I now know is too high for 5'6". I was already starting to have joint pain and problems with stairs -- at 23 years old!

Then I got sick of dating losers and became interested in finding a good husband. I discovered the dating/self-help/beauty section of the bookstore. I learned that men place a high priority on women's looks (yes, I was so sheltered that I didn't realize that until age 23) and that I did not measure up to conventional beauty standards. I became ashamed of my appearance and began dieting and exercising (as well as taking care of my skin, growing out my hair, wearing more flattering clothing, etc.). Two years later I had lost 45 pounds. I kept my weight in the 125 to 135 range for about five years. Shame about letting myself get fat helped me lose the weight an keep it off.

My husband and I got together 4 years ago and it turns out that we're bad influences on each other. :) If one of us wants ice cream or cookies or pizza or beer, we both eat it. If one of us doesn't want to go to the gym, neither of us go. We spent a lot of time curled up in bed watching TV and movies and eating treats and no surprise, we gained weight. My husband loves me and desires me even with some extra pudge (he likes big butts and he cannot lie) so bit by bit my appearance-based motivations for maintaining a healthy weight wore away.

Last year when the scale hit 149 I freaked out and became overcome with deep shame that I had gotten so lazy and let myself get so fat again. Even if my husband didn't care, I could not let that number cross over to 150-something without feeling like a hideous whale. So I started eating less and the pounds started coming off. The final 20 pounds were easy because I happened to start taking a medication with an appetite suppression side effect around then, but as I described above, I've also lost weight the hard way with no extra help.

I got down to 112 and realized that I was now too skinny. Shame also helps keep me from losing too much weight (that side effect is pretty powerful -- I can forget to eat) because I don't want to look like one of those gross anorexic girls either. So when my weight gets too low, I force myself to eat more.

So while shame may not work for you, don't knock it as universally "not working" for weight loss because it's worked great for me! (Shame is also probably the primary reason I ever meet a deadline at work or study for school, too.)

Meanwhile, all fat acceptance ever did for me was lull me into accepting getting fat.

I am now the only member of my biological family (including my younger brother) who is not overweight and does not have to take medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. They all think I'm too skinny.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:28 PM on February 12, 2011 [10 favorites]


This is a lot like grades. Can every kid get good grades? Are there both obstacles that prevent them from studying (cognitive difficulties, learning disabilities, mental health problems), are there things that are preventing them emotionally, i.e. trauma at home, sexual abuse issues, not having any friends or relationships with family and feeling lonely....

I'm just saying, it's one thing to want to help people. It's another thing to hammer over someone's head, "I know people who have done amazing things and therefore you're a piece of shit of you can't or DON'T CHOOSE TO do what they do."

Steven Hawking is amazingly brilliant and has accomplished a great deal of super cool well known stuff. Does that mean that everyone with the disabilities he's faced is capable of understanding quantum mechanics? Probably not. I'm not saying it isn't good to be impressed with people who have goals and work toward them... but that doesn't mean assuming that everyone has the same capacity for success.

Like for example one person might be overweight because they were being sexually abused and it seemed to stop when they gained weight.

They are probably NOT going to be that into losing the weight. And how do you know they should be? How do you know your value system is right? My cousin has Cerebral palsy but he goes to the gym five days a week and he doesn't have a weight problem and he got a Masters degree.

Does that mean everyone with CP can do these things? Does that mean I should go around finding people who have dealt with CP and say, "Hey pathetic, yeah you, person with CP without a masters, my cousin has CP and he has a masters, don't give me your bullshit excuse"

That was a nonsensical piece of anecdotal evidence. A lot of time obstacles are cumulative. It's not one thing but a host of factors that come together to overwhelm people.
posted by xarnop at 9:28 PM on February 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


schroedinger: “I guess I should follow that up with: do you know anyone with similar conditions, and can you cite the medical studies and information that indicate both of these conditions cause uncontrollable (i.e. nothing works) weight gain?”

I know several people who suffer from hypothyroid.

Look, I can't dredge up citations right now, but the accepted notion is this: the worse your thyroid deficiency, the more likely that it'll be impossible for you to approach a 'normal' BMI. This is something that's different on a case by case basis.

Doesn't that make it clear that this isn't always a possible goal? Moreover, I should point out that the people I know who have a thyroid deficiency live normal, happy lives. They are heavier, but they are happy. They are healthy. So this nonsense about how everyone must have a BMI below a certain level or they are not healthy is just that: nonsense. People are people. They have different reasons for being the way they are.

The energy you're wasting on this silly crusade to make the fat people skinny would be better spent on something that actually matters. We live in a society that can be very cruel to people. Why not rid the world of cruelty? Or do you want a world of skinny, self-satisfied assholes?
posted by koeselitz at 9:29 PM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would say that the relationship is a lot more complicated than the social messaging about weight loss implies. So complicated that introducing moral judgment seems not only simple-minded, but dangerously futile.

Well gosh, I wasn't trying to impart a moral message at all. Like others commenting, I have both gained and lost weight. I noticed a marked decrease in my ability to do everyday stuff I enjoyed, and I thought about my father and the health scares he has endured, and I went to work getting back to a healthy size.

I'm not talking about beauty, because pretty comes in all shapes and sizes. I am talking about health. It puzzles me that people will decide to live with increased risks, and in some cases decreased enjoyment, rather then losing the weight. To be extra clear, I am talking about situations in which one's size has health consequences, I am not talking about being healthy but losing weight to match some cultural ideal.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 9:31 PM on February 12, 2011


schroedinger: “I was misinformed? So they were lying about the thyroid cancer?”

Or you heard wrong. I grant that that's much more likely.

My point: that saying weight gain "should be" 10-15 pounds is vastly different from saying that weight gain "is on average" 10-15 pounts. Vastly different. Can you see the difference? The thrust here is that cases of hypothyroid differ vastly.

I have no doubt your friend told you the truth. But you clearly heard what you wanted to hear: that you can make everybody a skinny asshole if you try.
posted by koeselitz at 9:32 PM on February 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Land-use mix had the strongest association with obesity (BMI≥30 kg/m2), with each quartile increase being associated with a 12.2% reduction in the likelihood of obesity across gender and ethnicity. Each additional hour spent in a car per day was associated with a 6% increase in the likelihood of obesity. Conversely, each additional kilometer walked per day was associated with a 4.8% reduction in the likelihood of obesity.
Obesity relationships with community design, physical activity, and time spent in cars American Journal of Preventative Medicine

Sprawl and driving make you fat. Most people are unwilling to change the lifestyle that sprawl and driving enable. No amount of dieting will change that.
posted by bradbane at 9:33 PM on February 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


May be better for AskMe...but these statements:

"Man, you're looking great!"
"Wow, you must be proud of yourself!"
"Lookin' sharp!"


What would be a nice thing to way to acknowledge something that may be a source of pride and satisfaction in someone? Yes, I understand that the idea of "pride and satisfaction" actually represent the very thing you are talking about: the oppressive, insidious, unspoken, cloud that hangs silently in the room. Fat bad, thin good.

Perhaps between intimates, honest feelings can be exchanged. Between coworkers and acquaintances? Taboo subject entirely? That seems unhealthy to me as well, and how do you change an idea without acknowledging it?

It would be better if people were nicer. But the angst we each carry is our own. Some have more than others, and for unjust and capricious and arbitrary reasons. It's stupid to advise, "just let it go". It's part of what drives us as human beings, the discontent. The hard part is figuring out how much our psychological burdens are hindering or hurting us, and how much we need to keep us going.

Next time I see someone lose weight, I will feel the fleeting anxious pang of guilt and doubt, before I open my mouth and close it again, jaw working like a fish gasping. And I say nothing, but stammer something inane about the weather.
posted by Xoebe at 9:36 PM on February 12, 2011


I guess I should follow that up with: do you know anyone with similar conditions, and can you cite the medical studies and information that indicate both of these conditions cause uncontrollable (i.e. nothing works) weight gain?

That's a straw man. It's enough if the condition makes it significantly harder to lose weight. Then you have to balance everything else you have going on in your life, including fighting a disease, with the tremendous effort it would take to lose weight, knowing that you may never be at "normal" weight anyway. And by "tremendous effort", I mean doing things like cutting out medications that help you because they cause weight gain.

For everyone it comes down to weighing what is most important, setting priorities, and maintaining some measure of balance. If you're talking about a condition like hypothyroid (or Grave's disease, or PCOS, or depression, or one of the many conditions that can have an impact on weight), you may have enough else going on in your life that you can't be a triathlete or vigilantly diet for the rest of your life (which is often what it takes to sustain a normal weight if you have an exacerbating condition).
posted by Danila at 9:38 PM on February 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Koeselitz, she doesn't have a thyroid. I don't know if you get much more hypothyroid than that.

"Silly crusade"? "Skinny asshole"? All I'm saying is that people should stop thinking that their bodies are so incapable of functioning like they've been evolutionarily designed to do. People on Metafilter are so damn hung up on seeming like intellectuals that they fail to appreciate the beauty of the physical--of the things our beautiful organic machine can do when we only take care of it properly. You should not be ashamed of your body. You should be proud of what it can accomplish. And what it can accomplish--not simply in "leanness", but in strength, in movement, in mobility, dexterity, lightness of foot, and synthesis of activity--is so, so, so much more than most inactive people ever believe. Obesity limits one's ability to enjoy one's physical capabilities, as much as being skinny and weak and feeding off of Cheetoes.

I also like your assumption that I am anywhere near skinny. Perhaps you can get off your high horse and read my above narrative. I realized while my body wasn't going to be a Victoria's Secret model, it could be strong, capable, and not overweight.
posted by schroedinger at 9:39 PM on February 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Danila--as I stated, there is no evidence that "hypothyroid = 200lbs of insta-gain." I can understand if someone has the extra 10, 15, 30. But to be 350lbs and claim it's your thyroid . . . I would need to see the medical report from the doctor.
posted by schroedinger at 9:40 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, can anyone point the date/time when Dan Savage turned into a bitter old man? Because I don't remember him always being like that.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:44 PM on February 12, 2011


Danila--as I stated, there is no evidence that "hypothyroid = 200lbs of insta-gain." I can understand if someone has the extra 10, 15, 30. But to be 350lbs and claim it's your thyroid . . . I would need to see the medical report from the doctor.

No you sure wouldn't. You find yourself saying things like that, you need to check yourself.

Google hypothyroid and weight loss and you will find hundreds of posts written by people who are devastated because the condition makes things so difficult. Then someone like you comes along, with zero real experience (but convinced you're the rational one), to tell them how easy it is really and they're probably lying. Shame on you. Ah well, if only social shaming worked for good, maybe people could be shamed out of presumptuousness.
posted by Danila at 9:45 PM on February 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


"For everyone it comes down to weighing what is most important, setting priorities, and maintaining some measure of balance. If you're talking about a condition like hypothyroid (or Grave's disease, or PCOS, or depression, or one of the many conditions that can have an impact on weight), you may have enough else going on in your life that you can't be a triathlete or vigilantly diet for the rest of your life (which is often what it takes to sustain a normal weight if you have an exacerbating condition)."

Perhaps as Danila mentioned the addition of thyroid on top of depression on top of PTSD on top of being poor, on top of mourning the death of parent when you're in middle school, on top of having the remaining parent lose it and be in a mental hospital, on top of being raped, on top of being pregnant from that, on top of being in foster care and being encouraged to give that child up at birth, on top of not having anyone in the world that gives a shit about you....

maybe some people have other things to think about? Just maybe? You don't know everyone's life, what they're capable of, or what they should be doing. You don't know that some people aren't focusing on exactly what they should be focusing on and it might not include the kind of weightloss that fits into your agenda.
posted by xarnop at 9:46 PM on February 12, 2011 [13 favorites]


And yes I just described my mothers life and that's just the beginning. I could go on if you'd like to hear about a life that would quite frankly make me want to end it. And she has had to fight that and I am proud of her. I am damn proud of her and I don't give a shit if she weighs 300 pounds and you think you can put her down as trying less at life than you.

You have no fucking idea how hard some people are trying.
posted by xarnop at 9:49 PM on February 12, 2011 [18 favorites]


Okay but it shouldn't matter if someone can or can't lose weight easily or whatever because of hypothyroidism or Graves disease or laziness or ANYTHING.

You are not the body police.

You don't get to decide if the size of someone else's body is acceptable.

It is none of your goddamn business.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:50 PM on February 12, 2011 [30 favorites]


Excuse me, when did I ever say it was easy? These women with thyroid disorders absolutely have to be more careful than people with normal thyroids. I said it was possible--I said it was difficult, hugely difficult, but possible. Certainly less impossible than most HAES/"fat acceptance" people would like you to believe.

And xarnop--it is a great strawman that you have there, trying to paint me as some kind of heartless bastard who allows no exception to anyone's mental condition, but the vast majority of fat people have not just been thrown out of Darfur war camps. I will argue that often being extremely overweight is a symptom of life troubles--in which case you should focus on those, as being overweight is not going to help. I didn't make any progress with my health until I addressed the underlying psychological issues driving my eating patterns, etc.
posted by schroedinger at 9:52 PM on February 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Actually, it becomes our business when we live in a society that taxes us to pay for others' medical care...
posted by Jacqueline at 9:54 PM on February 12, 2011


Finally, for fuck's sake, I didn't realize encouraging people to love their bodies by being active and eating vegetables and whatnot and pointing out the vast majority of diets/exercise programs/etc fail due to a mixture of unaddressed psychological issues and vast cultural misinformation about appropriate diet and exercise made me the fucking body police. But OK, if saying "Being strong, healthy, active, and not having excess intra-abdominal fat will probably make you feel better in the long run," then I accept I have entered Upside-Down Land where I am a member of the Body Police.
posted by schroedinger at 9:56 PM on February 12, 2011 [25 favorites]


schroedinger: “I also like your assumption that I am anywhere near skinny. Perhaps you can get off your high horse and read my above narrative. I realized while my body wasn't going to be a Victoria's Secret model, it could be strong, capable, and not overweight.”

Well, I'm not, either, to make things clear. And I'm sorry; while I didn't say anything about you being skinny or otherwise, I did personalize this to the point where it might have seemed like I meant to imply that.

I guess there are a couple of things I'm trying to communicate here. First of all, it's complicated. As several have said, there are a lot of things that go along with hypothyroid; a very particular diet that has to be followed, psychological symptoms, depression, etc. But I guess you see that. The point is that it is entirely possible for it to be impossible for someone to lose weight. That is a scenario that can happen. I mean, for one thing, depression alone is a very real psychological disorder that can make weight loss pretty much impossible.

Beyond that, though, the thing is that weight loss just isn't that high a priority, I don't think. There are people who are obese to the point where it's really impacting their health. But many people who are "obese" are not. It's not hurting them all that much. Our society has a very narrow impression of how much weight is and isn't healthy; and even people of a normal weight are often seen as "fat" or "obese" by many people.

I just don't think it should be a big deal. I would rather live in a society of happy people that are slightly overweight (or rather, a normal weight) than a society where people have slimmed down but are unhappy.

Finally, I'm sorry if you feel attacked here. I honestly was responding with some emotion to what you'd said, and at this point I'm sorry for being so forceful. But you should know that people who aren't the stereotypical "fit" in our society get a lot of punishment daily. And my belief is that, if that punishment decreases, we will all be happier. It is enough of a goal that all of this other stuff really ought to be set aside, and we should focus our efforts on acceptance.
posted by koeselitz at 10:00 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Schroedinger, I know you're being sarcastic, but yes, that sort "I'm just telling you facts about health that maybe you've never heard before" is hurtful. Overweight people have already heard it a million times. It sucks to hear it again. Please stop.
posted by straight at 10:01 PM on February 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


"Being strong, healthy, active, and not having excess intra-abdominal fat will probably make you feel better in the long run,"

It's fine to say that. To assume that you know what obstacles people are facing or whether they are trying as hard as they can, or whether there are OTHER things that are more important that they need to devote their time to is where you're getting into policing people.

You don't know what obstacles people are facing to make that judgement call.

I agree with you that we should work to do research on effective ways to help people have health, and I also feel that we should work to help people with the obstacles they have to making those life changes.
posted by xarnop at 10:01 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


schroedinger: “I will argue that often being extremely overweight is a symptom of life troubles--in which case you should focus on those, as being overweight is not going to help. I didn't make any progress with my health until I addressed the underlying psychological issues driving my eating patterns, etc.”

Maybe we agree more than I thought. Hrm. In any case, this was my point: that weight is not the issue. Overall health and happiness is. Weight is almost ephemeral in that regard.
posted by koeselitz at 10:03 PM on February 12, 2011


Okay but it shouldn't matter if someone can or can't lose weight easily or whatever because of hypothyroidism or Graves disease or laziness or ANYTHING.

You are not the body police.


I'm bald and people make comments all the time, yet I do not let this terrible "shame" run my life and I do not consider people who make fun of my beautiful dome to be the hair police.
posted by bradbane at 10:03 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is getting kind of unproductive from me, so I guess I'll just try to say what I got out of the FPP and why fat acceptance is important.

Fat acceptance is about repudiating the voices that say "you are fat, therefore you are a failure". A failure in life, a moral failure, a failure as a woman, a failure as a man, a failure as a human being.

It's about looking at your own body with respect instead of disgust. And it's about other people doing the same.

It's about removing the veil of "it's your health, really!" from anti-fat social judgments that are much more likely to be grounded in "eww". After all, what do "muffin tops" and ill-fitting jeans have to do with health concerns?

It's about knowing that you can be worthy of love, respect, accomodation, attention, and admiration regardless of your weight.

It's about divorcing health from worth and morality.

It's about fighting classism, racism, sexism, ageism. Because combating anti-fat bigotry is inextricably linked to social justice in sundry forms. It's about exposing the links between systems of privilege in order to demolish them.

It is much less about personal choices with regard to whether or not you lose weight and if so, how you do it. Feminism isn't about never shaving your pits, black pride isn't about getting rid of your "slave name", and fat acceptance isn't about NEVER counting a calorie.
posted by Danila at 10:04 PM on February 12, 2011 [34 favorites]


"I will argue that often being extremely overweight is a symptom of life troubles--in which case you should focus on those, as being overweight is not going to help. I didn't make any progress with my health until I addressed the underlying psychological issues driving my eating patterns, etc."

You say this as if going to therapy and trying to work through the issues will just fix the weight problem for everyone.

My mother has gone to years of therapy, she goes to the gym and she eats a fairly healthy diet. She also has a really good job and is finishing her masters degree.

Her plate is full. What more do you need before you are willing to accept that you trying your best might result in more weightloss than someone else trying their best?
posted by xarnop at 10:07 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, it becomes our business when we live in a society that taxes us to pay for others' medical care...

OK, I am starting to think you are trolling.
posted by lalex at 10:07 PM on February 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


Jacqueline: “Shame helped me lose 50 pounds. YMMV.”

Given that shame represents a loss of dignity, I'd say that was a steep price to pay. Wouldn't it have been better if you got healthier simply because you wanted to be healthy?

Shame is for children. Adults have other things to motivate them. Human beings shouldn't be subjected to shame throughout their lives.
posted by koeselitz at 10:10 PM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I went skiing today, and now I get to have some cookies and milk. Tomorrow I'll ride my bicycle around the seawall and back, then I'll have some popcorn with the the movie. Works for me, but if you choose to avoid exercise, eat whatever crap you want, sit around bitching people out online, and then insist that your unhappiness is in any way my fault, you are very much mistaken.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:13 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm bald and people make comments all the time, yet I do not let this terrible "shame" run my life and I do not consider people who make fun of my beautiful dome to be the hair police.

When I used to have acne I lost count of how many times people would sidle over and tell me all about the miracle of ProActiv.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:14 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Like I've said before in some previous incarnation of this thread:

I exercise 4 to 7 times a week: serious cardio work at the boxing gym, leisurely bike rides, hiking in the hills, or just walking to the neighborhood stores etc. I have not eaten red meat in 20 something years, I cook most of my own meals - whole grains, fresh veggies, or homemade treats when I have 'em, and haven't eaten fast food in years. My blood pressure is good, my cholesterol levels are good, my blood sugar is good, and I have no trouble getting laid. And have I mentioned I'm clinically obese?

Yup, I'm fat. I have a fat BMI, a nice, fat, round belly and a dimpled, chubby ass, which you can pucker up and smooch if you insist on making assumptions about what people's weight means about their essential selves.
posted by serazin at 10:20 PM on February 12, 2011 [39 favorites]


PareidoliaticBoy: “I went skiing today, and now I get to have some cookies and milk. Tomorrow I'll ride my bicycle around the seawall and back, then I'll have some popcorn with the the movie. Works for me, but if you choose to avoid exercise, eat whatever crap you want, sit around bitching people out online, and then insist that your unhappiness is in any way my fault, you are very much mistaken.”

I'm trying to figure out why you posted this comment in this thread. Maybe you intended to post it in a different thread; I don't know.
posted by koeselitz at 10:23 PM on February 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


"It's possible. But it won't if you insist that you've got it harder than everyone else."

It sounds like you DON'T have exceptions for people because no one has it any harder than anyone else.

So no I wasn't "pretending" you don't make exceptions. You claimed that you don't.
posted by xarnop at 10:26 PM on February 12, 2011


My favourite cousin is the only person in the family who's ever been overweight. She's pretty fat actually and the family (not my god-parents who raised me) harasses her constantly, with the shame and the advice and the insults etc. Meanwhile she's in perfect health & their skinny ignorant asses have high cholesterol, diabetes, heart conditions, and cancer. Every year she gets a full physical and blood panel done and her cholesterol is perfect, she processes sugars perfectly, her heart is sound, etc, etc. She eats very healthily and goes to the gym 6 days a week, but she's fat and that's that. Healthy & fat. It freaks me out how so many people can't deal with that and might think of her as a failure of some sort. She's superior to nearly everyone I've ever met, in every way that counts.

Also, Dan Savage is qualified only to possibly tutor a failing theatre arts student, not give advice on sex or life or anything else. Why people pay him any attention is beyond me, other than for simple entertainment value.
posted by zarah at 10:36 PM on February 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


You are not the body police.

I know this wasn't directed at me, but I felt I had to put in my 2c.

I don't care whether individuals are skinny, fat, gain weight, lose weight, or whatever. People can make their own decisions.

What I care about is people supporting and promoting movements like FA and HAES, which try to persuade that obesity is unrelated to heart disease, that obesity carries no additional health risk to "normal" BMI weight. Not outright saying it, but with weasel words like "the relationship between the two is complicated".

Individuals who need to lose weight for their health are convinced by these groups not to do so, using half-truths and selective misinformation. I think that is wrong.
posted by dave99 at 10:43 PM on February 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


elsietheeel: "I was pretty heavily into the fat acceptance movement until my insurance company approved my request for gastric bypass surgery."

My best friend had gastric bypass in the late 1990s, when the surgery was still new. At 350 pounds she was not unhealthy. She played volleyball and bowled, in fact. She nearly died from complications. She had to endure a summer being fed by a backpack with a g-tube due to a hernia that got wrapped around her esophagus (approximately 3 years after the surgery). She was so malnourished that she needed repeated blood transfusions for anemia. She lost all her bottom teeth. Osteoporosis ran in her family already and now she's had her hip and both knees replaced because of bone thinning most likely due to malnutrition. She's a beautiful size 10 and yet she still looks in the mirror and sees hideous fat, and wants to lose 40 pounds, even though her collarbone sticks out prominently and she's starting to look too thin. She will go an entire day without eating and then wonder why she feels shitty, because she thinks she shouldn't get hungry anymore, or she's so depressed she forgets to eat.

Sure, I've seen more successful cases. But I wouldn't trade the health I have now to lose 100 pounds by surgery.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:54 PM on February 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Individuals who need to lose weight for their health are convinced by these groups not to do so, using half-truths and selective misinformation. I think that is wrong.

I take pleasure in this pleasant fantasy of wicked FA pushers, tempting the naive fat into the dangerous territory of self love. I picture the FA pushers in trench coats, luring the unknowing fat people into dark pits of metabolic disorder and then rubbing their hands together in self-satisfied glee.
posted by serazin at 10:56 PM on February 12, 2011 [12 favorites]


I suspect that the massive "weight-loss" industry is much more to blame for health problems than any fat acceptance movement.
posted by ODiV at 10:59 PM on February 12, 2011 [13 favorites]


I get the desire to promote exercise and diet. I am SO FOR this. I just don't think we can pressume that we know what people's obstacles are in being able to accomplish good diet and excersize. The cumulative affects of being poor, child abuse, low self esteem, lack of access to therapy of any kind, lack of access to a gym or safe place to walk, run, jog....

They can all add up and make it very difficult. Like I said, as a health nut I absolutely love researching the benefits of yoga and mind/body awareness and running and physical therapy and eating lot's of anti-inflammatory nutrient rich foods and cooking all your own fresh veggies and meats and being aware of gluten intolerances and food allergies and taking DHA... on and on, I love all that stuff.

I'm not opposed to anyone saying there is research based evidence these things are good for health and will cause weightloss in a majority of people.

The obstacles people have to living their lives this way are complicated and multi-faceted. To paint the problem as a simple "If you were trying enough you would succeed" is demeaning to many people who have tried passionately to access and use every available means of improving their health.

There is nothing wrong with advocating exercise and healthy eating. Pressuming that hard work results in the same results for everyone is just cruel. And pressuming that everone has the internal and external resources to live their lives that way is equally hurtful.
posted by xarnop at 11:00 PM on February 12, 2011 [10 favorites]


But to be 350lbs and claim it's your thyroid . . . I would need to see the medical report from the doctor.

I used to be able to lose weight fairly easily, say 15 or 20 years ago. But I'm older now and I have more health problems than I did then.

Some of those health problems would of course be mitigated if I were able to lose weight -- I realize that. It's a vicious cycle, to some extent. I'm doing what I can do, to the extent that I can do it, knowing full well that I don't have the staying power and energy and mobility that I had when I was 25.

So do you need to see the medical report from my doctor too?
posted by blucevalo at 11:03 PM on February 12, 2011


My rule of thumb is pretty much basically don't ever be like an evangelical fundamentalist. Don't try to make people do what you do; don't oppress them, don't shame them, don't try to control them, don't force your beliefs and preferences on them.

Just as I've never understood why homophobes are so obsessed with other people's sex lives, I've also never understood why some people are so obsessed with other people's weight. I just don't care if you want to fuck, love or marry someone different than I would choose, and I just don't care if you have ice cream for breakfast, or eat nothing but de-fatted celery and diet water seven days a week. I'll only be annoyed if you insist on talking to me about all the time, or try to make me do it too.
posted by taz at 11:17 PM on February 12, 2011 [26 favorites]


The important distinction is resisting puritanical shaming vs. disputing the health effects of obesity.

sonascope is totally right about American's puritanical self-hating, the absurdity of calling a chocolate cake sinful, etc. This is just as true for sexual behavior, exercise, asserting ourselves in relationships, etc. Beating ourselves up for behavior is counterproductive.

That says nothing about whether certain diets or sedentary lifestyles or promiscuity or drug use is a good or bad idea. We each need to look with clear eyes at how our choices improve or harm our lives, and shame gets in the way of that. Once you get the shame spiral out of the way, it's just mechanics. I think we all know dieting is counter productive, exercise is good, steady healthy lifestyle, yadda yadda yadda. Live your best life and fuck people if they don't like it.
posted by msalt at 11:17 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to figure out why you posted this comment in this thread. Maybe you intended to post it in a different thread; I don't know.
posted by koeselitz


Nope, I fully intended to post it here. No mistake was made that I'm aware of. Are you suggesting that it was somehow inappropriate in a discussion about the effects of diet and lifestyle on life satisfaction, and the willingness of some to blame others for their decisions? Because all the finger-pointing in the world won't make anyone happy. You can't choose your metabolism, but you can choose how you deal with that metabolism, and you can choose how you react to others around you. I would never presume to lecture someone about their appearance, and am well aware that the world isn't always fair and nice for everyone.

So I'm not sure why you are confused as you claim. Perhaps you can enlighten me.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:21 PM on February 12, 2011


kittens for breakfast: don't think anybody should be shamed because of their weight, but as someone who has been heavy and is not heavy now, not being heavy is easier. I can walk around in summer heat and not feel like I'm having a heart attack.

So far I've lost 25kg in about 18 months. A quarter of my body weight. The only thing that is remotely easier for me is clothes shopping and even that is so filled with shame and you-should-feel-better-than-her-ness that I still fucking hate it, even though I'm the one who is supposed to feel superior and secure. I cannot stand the continual 'compliments' and commentary on the weight loss - if you need to mention it, fine. But don't fucking start in with the bullshit that makes me want to gain it all back so you'll back the fuck off and hate me again. Because when you make a big damn deal about the weight loss it doesn't feel like a compliment, it feels like a condemnation and a warning and an object lesson; never be fat again or we won't love you like we do now.

And, for the love of all that is holy and good, don't start fucking drilling me for my 'secrets' because your partner, who is sitting right there isn't losing enough, or fast enough.

The medical issues I had that were FINALLY fucking addressed by non-arsehole doctors are the triggers behind the weight loss, not cured by it. So the back/hip/knee of agony thing with associated clumsiness, nerve damage and fucked up perception? Six months of physio fixed it, not the weight. But the physio meant I could walk, and balance, and even run on occasion. The stomach pain thing? Not indigestion, not an ulcer, not in my head; instead, it was my gall bladder. So now I can actually digest my food properly and the things people say about eating more fibre/fruit/protein actually work instead of making me miserable, bloated and convinced no-one had a fucking clue about food. Those two things together meant I lost weight without changing anything else. All it took was ONE doctor taking me seriously, one doctor looking beyond "lose weight fatty".

The single other factor in the weight loss? Having a child and doing baby-led weaning. It not only means preparing actual vegetables and stuff for my daughter (because my in-laws feed their kid vegetables but still manage to eat pizza, cake and pre-packaged food) but it means actively thinking about the kind of relationship I have with food. It starts that early - demand feeding instead of timing her intake/measuring her intake, allowing her to control how much she eats, offering her food rather than demanding she eat it. It's made me realise just how fucked up my eating was from that early indoctrination of 'eat it all'. I would have never thought of myself as binge eating until I put two and two together in this thread and realised that perpetually overeating was binge eating. Sure, I never sat down and ate entire packets of anything, but the damage done to my ability to eat well was all the same. Between that and my gall bladder, normal eating probably never actually happened for me; I was either still at home, or suffering from the gall bladder thing. I still have trouble discerning hunger, fullness and thirstiness. But at least I can digest what I eat properly if I do over eat.

bradbane: Sprawl and driving make you fat. Most people are unwilling to change the lifestyle that sprawl and driving enable. No amount of dieting will change that.

Yeah, because inner-city living is so fucking cheap. Totally within the range of your average retail worker with kids. Boutique suburbs are even MORE afforable I hear, particularly those houses well within range of public transport and markets. Most of them even have gardens for produce and pools for exercise at no extra charge! It's totally choice and laziness and unwillingness to change - if you'd just sacrifice living in the middle of fucking suburbia with no public transport, no shops, nothing to do, and paying through the nose for it for totally affordable, accessible and appropriate city living, we'd all be heaps thinner.

(I think I sprained my sarcasm)

schroedinger: But OK, if saying "Being strong, healthy, active, and not having excess intra-abdominal fat will probably make you feel better in the long run," then I accept I have entered Upside-Down Land where I am a member of the Body Police.

That handy MRI you've got implanted must be awesome! Because I know it's SO easy to tell who has intra-abdominal fat when you've had that done...

You can be strong, healthy and active and still fat. You can be non-fat looking and have intra-abdominal fat.
posted by geek anachronism at 11:22 PM on February 12, 2011 [18 favorites]


Everyone is missing the point. (ok, not everyone, but hyperbole is what's what, I suppose).

HAES/FA isn't about "Hey I'm fat and I'm never gonna lose weight". It is about ACCEPTING YOURSELF and being happy in the body you have.

It doesn't say that there aren't any health risks to being fat. It doesn't state that laying around eating chips all day is a good thing.

I'm fat. I've always been fat. The only time I haven't been death fat (ie - morbidly obese) is when I was smoking 2 packs a day and not eating due to depression. I am fat. When there isn't 14 inches of snow on the ground I ride my bike 10 miles a day. My job requires me to go up and down many flights of stairs a day, and I do not sit at a desk.

I could be healthier right now (grrr snow), but I'm working on it. I'll *never* be thin. This isn't defeatism. It's how my body is built. I eat very little red meat, lots of vegetables. I don't eat fast food. I am happy. I am active. I am fat. I refuse to hate my body because it is the only one I have, and I will not spend my life in misery. That was my teenage years, not now.

Anyone who wants to judge me can kiss my behind - there is a lot of room for everyone back there.
posted by bibliogrrl at 11:25 PM on February 12, 2011 [26 favorites]


I had a flu the other week thatveas awesome at achieving weight loss.

I'm not sure I'd actually recommend it, though.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:41 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


five fresh fish, when you make a new comment and I see it in "Recent Activity," the time stamp says "fresh." And I say, "yep, that's right." I keep waiting for it to one day say "fish."
posted by taz at 11:45 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why do only certain countries have high percentages of obesity?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:59 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


[few comments removed - anyone who thinks this is the thread for fat jokes or weight loss tips is confused. Thanks for keeping the discussion sensible, most of you.]
posted by jessamyn at 12:24 AM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


LOL! Being taxed to pay for health care means we can treat people like shit? Nice!
posted by Brocktoon at 12:27 AM on February 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well, we've discussed the Fat Acceptance Movement before. The thing is, it's a bit like The Force: it can be powerfully good, but there is a Dark Side to it.

Rejecting shame: good. Fighting prejudice: good. Combating the unrealistic and unfair demands on women's appearance: good. Being happy in your own skin: good. Exposing the health risks of bariatric surgery and extreme diets: good. Managing your body for yourself not the expectations of others: good.

But the dogmatic insistence that "diets don't work", the pseudoscience that even serious obesity doesn't carry health risks are not good at all.

Back in 2001 all my trousers had a 42'' waist, by 2002 I'd changed things and barring one wobble I've kept the weight off ever since. I suspect if I'd discovered that "diets don't work" back then, by now I'd probably be in 52'' jeans, on medication, and in denial.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:34 AM on February 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Koeselitz, it's waaayyyyyyyy back there, but yeah, I really do think that most people who are overweight can lose weight. I will grant that it's going to be harder for some people than for others (and attest that it will be easy for nobody). But when I said that few conditions make it impossible, I really don't think that I was speaking from a place of misinformation at all. I don't know anyone who has, to my knowledge, such an underlying problem, although I know many people who have problems that make losing weight more difficult. I know that such conditions exist, but I don't think they're so common that the average overweight person is likely to suffer from one or more of them. If a person wants to lose weight, they probably can lose it. The odds are good that person does not have such a condition. In my view...but if you would like to argue that most overweight people suffer from maladies that make weight loss a fantasy, okay, that's your call.

For me, I am at a point where I could probably still lose ten pounds, just as I'm at a point where I could probably cut off the caffeine and stop smoking. While I was at my heaviest was also when I was drinking something like three pots of coffee and smoking two packs a day. (This came after finishing school, having someone I care about suddenly die, moving to another state and starting a new job in a place where I knew no one all in the space of a half-year, so it's fair to say I was very unhappy with life.) I am, to be honest, a little shocked the couple miserable years I dwelled in that condition didn't lead to some catastrophe, healthwise. I cut out the McDonald's and reduced my coffee intake to a less heroic extreme and winnowed myself down to under a pack a day (this was harder than losing weight ever, ever was), but it's still more than a little laughable to call me the health police, obviously. I am doing better, for me. I hope to do better still (I'd like to get rid of the rest of the smoking habit, but let me tell you something: Marlboros are much more enjoyable than any Doritos I've encountered), because there's a difference between having vices and being just gluttonous, and I think there's a little more glutton in me still than is really great...for me. For others, who knows? I won't presume to tell anyone what they should do. But I do think that if a person wants to be healthier, they can do it. I had no idea that was such a controversial opinion, but here we are, I guess.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:35 AM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


If a person wants to lose weight, they probably can lose it. The odds are good that person does not have such a condition. In my view...but if you would like to argue that most overweight people suffer from maladies that make weight loss a fantasy, okay, that's your call.

It's so bizarre that you say that as if it were a matter of personal opinion.

"Gee, I don't personally know many people with medical conditions that make it hard to lose weight, so in my opinion there probably aren't very many people like that. But that's just my opinion, maybe you have a different opinion."

"Gee I lost weight by eating less and exercising. Surely most people are just like me."

But the dogmatic insistence that "diets don't work", the pseudoscience that even serious obesity doesn't carry health risks are not good at all. Back in 2001 all my trousers had a 42'' waist...

So hilarious how you rail against "pseudoscience" and then you back up your position with...a personal anecdote. Yay science!

(And who exactly in this thread was making a general "dogmatic insistence" that "diets don't work"?)
posted by straight at 1:04 AM on February 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


...if you...insist that your unhappiness is in any way my fault, you are very much mistaken.

...Because all the finger-pointing in the world won't make anyone happy.


PareidoliaticBoy, the only "finger-pointing" I see is people who are overweight asking others not to lecture them about their weight or attempt to shame them about their appearance.

Why this provoked defensive comments from you about your own awesome diet and exercise habits is not clear. Who was blaming their unhappiness on you? Are you asserting your right to shame and lecture fat people?
posted by straight at 1:20 AM on February 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


I have no problem with fatness, on principle. I mean, whatever. If you don't have a problem with it, I don't have a problem with it; it's your body, not mine.

I do, however, have a problem with people who eat horrible amounts and types of food and don't exercise and then complain about their weight. If I had a dollar for every time I had a meal with someone who ate over twice as much as I did and then proceeded to (1) whine about how they're fat and they wish they could be thin, and (2) claim proudly that they "don't do exercise" and thought sports were stupid ... well, okay, I wouldn't be a millionaire, but I would certainly be a lot richer. Like, yay new iPhone! richer.

These are people with no obesity-causing health problems. They just want to eat their cake and be thin too.
posted by Xany at 1:21 AM on February 13, 2011


It's so bizarre that you say that as if it were a matter of personal opinion.

Well, if you look at a the obesity rate in America, you'll notice it's skyrocketed in the last 50 years. Americans are fatter than the people of any other country on earth. Immigrant adults and their children often suffer from obesity after coming to the United States

All of this strongly suggests that most Americans are obese not for reasons of genetics or disease but, essentially, culture. Which gets us back to the question of whether most people "can" lose the weight. Physiologically, the answer is likely almost universally yes. In practice though, culture made people fat and culture is going to need to change to get people healthy again

I understand not wanting to shame fat people or anyone, but responding to that with a movement that whitewashes the ill-effects of obesity is not helpful
posted by crayz at 1:46 AM on February 13, 2011 [22 favorites]


straight: (And who exactly in this thread was making a general "dogmatic insistence" that "diets don't work"?)

It's in TFA.
posted by paisley henosis at 1:47 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Paying taxes does not give you the right to judge people.

Losing a bunch of weight does not give you the right to judge people.

I don't care if you used to weigh 350 pounds and eat nothing but Taco Bell but now model for the Miss Universe pageant on your brilliant diet of science. I don't care if your family is heavy or your family is skinny. I don't care if you bike 30 miles a day and eat nothing but skinless boneless chicken breast and steamed kale and brown rice.

You never have the right to judge people for something that is none of your business.

_______________________________________________________________

Now that the GRAR STFU is out of the way, can I say that I loved this article? I'm a skinny-minnie, but I wasted years of my life absolutely loathing myself. I sincerely believed I was a horrible person, that I was cursed and doomed to failure, that I was hideous, that I was fat, that no one loved me, that I didn't deserve anything good to happen to me, that I'd never fit into normal society because I was a batshit crazy monster who should probably stick to hiding in bathrooms having sobbing anxiety attacks rather than inflict myself on other people.

This is the Metafilter. We're all socially awkward nerds, to some point. We've all been there.

Learning to love yourself isn't about giving up motivation or falling into inertia or giving up or telling yourself you accomplish anything. I don't need shame and self-hatred to propel me! The only thing shame and inwardly-directed loathing ever did for me was keep me from living my life the way it was meant to be lived.

When I realized that I was, in fact, totally fucking awesome and possibly the raddest thing since al pastor tacos were invented, everything got better. Life got easier. Holding down a job was easier, making friends was easier, not turning into a total emotional mess when the slightest thing went wrong was easier, breathing was easier.

Self-loathing and shame is a crippling load that makes everything more difficult. Confidence and loving yourself is a magical superpower that makes you think you can do anything, because you can.

I can't imagine why anyone would ever want to contribute to someone's burden of crippling shame, and how they could fool themselves into thinking it was for someone's own good. But what this article, and the many intelligent voices who've chimed in on this thread are saying: you're not helping. Please stop, and if you find that difficult stopping your reflexist fat-phobia and judgement too challenging, at least just shut your mouth and fuck off.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:47 AM on February 13, 2011 [71 favorites]


I was fat and unhealthy until I decided to respect myself/body and get educated on calories,exercise and eating well.
posted by tarvuz at 2:00 AM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm a fat, disabled woman with PCOS and Hashimoto's. A triple whammy when it comes to weight loss.


For years I felt horrendous about being fat. I am shamed in the grocery store all the time. It is bullshit. Telling me I need to lose weight, or this diet works, or that diet, or I need gastric bypass surgery while I am shopping for groceries is bullshit. It is double bullshit when my cart is the one full of lean meats, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and brown rice, and your's is full of processed frozen crap and other junk food.

There are times I'll be out in public and I have people scream things at me like "whale" or "fatass," "fat bitch," etc. The worst is when they see me in my wheelchair, or an electric mart cart and call me a lazy fat bitch.

They can't tell by looking at me what is wrong with me. Even if they look close you can't see all the things that cause my disability. From the outside I look like a short fat woman, the only outward sign of something wrong is the severe lymphedema in my right leg (which was caused by having kidney cancer, losing my right kidney, and lymph node damage from the nephrectomy). All people see is a fat woman.

The shaming hasn't made my body whole so I can lose weight. It hasn't made my disability go away so I can exercise even more. SHAMING DOESN'T WORK. All you are doing is making someone feel worse. You are making the problem worse.

When I can't take anymore of the shaming I quit going out in public much. I don't socialize with people when it gets too hard. I stay home with my husband. So, yeah, you accomplished not having to look at my fat ass, which is what those who shame fat people want. Don't give me that bullshit that it is for my health. That is full of shit, or you would be shaming anyone who did anything that could be harmful to their health, not just us fatties.

Don't tell me that it is because of "I pay into health insurance, I have a right to say something." The fuck you do. I pay into health insurance, too. Does that mean I can tell you that you can't drive anymore? Car accidents happen everyday and injuries cost medical dollars. No more contact sports, they are too dangerous. Nope, you can't have that hobby, might cost us health care dollars.

You never see that though, do you? Of course not, because someone's dangerous hobbies you don't have to look at. You don't give a shit because someone driving a car isn't unattractive to you.

Well, fuck that noise. Keep your nose out of my fat business, quit trying to shame the fat away. It is my body, it is my fat. It is my health, it is none of your business. If you don't want to look at my fat, turn your head the other way.
posted by SuzySmith at 2:41 AM on February 13, 2011 [53 favorites]



I was fat and unhealthy until I decided to respect myself/body and get educated on calories,exercise and eating well.
posted by tarvuz at 5:00 AM on February 13 [+] [!]


I'll bet you I know as much about nutrition, calories, exercise, etc, as you do, if not more, and I am still fat. I'd bet you the vast majority of fat people know all that as we have all dieted a million times, read all the rules, learned the calorie counts, the percentages of protein, veggies, fruits, whole grains, etc we need to survive. It isn't a lack of knowledge that makes people fat, tarvus.
posted by SuzySmith at 2:43 AM on February 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


I was fat and unhealthy until I decided to respect myself/body and get educated on calories,exercise and eating well.

These kinds of comments are tiresome. First there's the I Am Awesome part (oh? are we talking about fat people? I just want to let everyone know I'm not fat!), and then there's the passive aggressive part ("I decided to respect myself" unlike you. You don't respect yourself and don't educate yourself like I do. Did I mention I'm not fat?). And then there's the whole not responding to the article part, which was about someone who made a choice to respect herself even though she's not thin.

So, maybe you thought this was a poll of who is fat and who isn't? It's not. Otherwise just say what you are trying to say. Are you saying there's no way she can respect herself? Is that your point? What is your point?
posted by taz at 2:48 AM on February 13, 2011 [26 favorites]


For those who feel it is difficult to empathise with the author, look beyond her weight. Imagine your own sense of inadequacy and what triggers it. What word would you slot into the italicised paragraph below if you wanted to make yourself feel stronger?

"I reject the notion that X is the goal, that X = better—that I am an unfinished thing and that my life can really start when I [attain X]. That then I will be a real person and have finally succeeded as a [person]. I am not going to waste another second of my life thinking about this."

Imagine the thing that makes you feel like this. Now imagine if you felt like that about your weight. Congratulations: you are empathising.

I'm not so worried about my weight. I am concerned about pretty much every other aspect of my future. I am a little bit less worried now. This article is a good one because it has valuable lessons that apply beyond issues of weight. I think the italicised paragraph above is a very find a very powerful lesson that repels a universe of fears. Insert whatever bothers you in there. You might find the same thing.
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 3:18 AM on February 13, 2011 [15 favorites]


The idea that we can somehow escape affecting each other is deeply conservative. Barbarous, even. Is that really what you're going for? Good old-fashioned American individualism? Please.

Hmm. Not sure how to respond to this exactly.

Something about positive rights in this...like a progressive original sin...seems like this outward entitlement sentiment is trending.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 3:23 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shame is quite useful for when you want someone to run away and hide.

I submit that it is unhelpful to make even the most pathologically fat people run away and hide.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:58 AM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've never grokked the whole fat pride weirdness. I'm both mildly fat and mildly nihilist, but neither warrants evangelism. If you don't care, fine don't care.

Individually, we should either just accept our flaws and joke about them, or else try to fix those flaws. Epidemiologically, we should tax the hell out of foods that are designed to make people fat.

For example, there was a fat brides maid at my brother's wedding who when all were joking about mooning the couple's moonlight dinner on the beach, said "suck fat bitches". Isn't that exactly how you have a healthy relationship with your body while being overweight?

And let's not forget that mom will be the source of virtually all real criticism directed at you for being overweight.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:20 AM on February 13, 2011


I've posted about my fatness before, and I was happy to see this article posted because I loved loved loved it so much. This line in particular:

I am not unsightly. No one deserves to be told that they're unsightly.

This really encapsulates the hurdles I've had to get over in the process of accepting myself and my fat body. I would not have agreed with this statement a year ago. Maybe I would've agreed with it in theory, in some wishy-washy "people ought to be nice to each other" kind of way, but on a gut level I knew I was unsightly; I couldn't expect romantic love or respectful treatment until I got thin; and my interactions with other people were going to be automatically skewed by the fact that I was undesirable to them. These have been givens for most of my life: lessons I learned from personal experience, from representations of fat people in the media, and from commentary on the Internet, including things like MetaFilter threads. I've been on MetaFilter ten years now, dating back to when I first started college, and let me tell you, we did not Do Fat Well back in the day.

But now I agree with that statement so hard I want to crush it in a bear hug. No one deserves to be told they're unsightly. When the mere existence of my fat body drives people to say cruel things to me, or to treat me disrespectfully, or to insist that their individual perception of my body is universal, the problem is not me and my fat. The problem lies with them.

And it's not like it's all willful or malicious! Our cultural is steeped in the idea that fat is a moral failing. My little cousin is eight, and she likes to talk to me at family gatherings, but she just does not know what to do with the fact that I'm fat. "It's okay that you're -- " and then her voice dips down into a whisper " -- fat." Like, the message is lovely! She loves me even though I'm fat! But that means she's already internalized the message that fat is something you're not supposed to love, something that you love people in spite of. When we were playing on the Wii, I had to make myself one of those little Wii avatars, and I started to make mine fat. "Oh no no!" she and my other cousins said. "Don't make yours like that! You're not like that!"

I am like that! I've been like that forever! Fat kid, fat teenager, fat adult. I was fat when I was little, and my parents were feeding me balanced, nutritious meals; I was fat when I got older, and my parents were working so many hours a week that we lived on fast food. I remember my parents telling me to walk on the treadmill when I was nine or ten; I remember going to Weight Watchers for a year in middle school. I have always just been fat.

But I am not unsightly. People who don't like the way I look can feel free not to have sex with me. But people who come up to me and say "I don't find the way you look aesthetically pleasing, and you should feel bad about it"? That's a weird presumption on their part, and it has nothing to do with me.
posted by brookedel at 4:32 AM on February 13, 2011 [18 favorites]




I wish everyone would calm down and have some pie.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:50 AM on February 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Another viewpoint.

And, in my opinion, a much healthier one. It seems to me that many "fat positive" people are blurring the line between acceptance and denial.
posted by Decani at 4:57 AM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


thank you to all the people in this thread who are talking about FA/HAES. thankyouthankyouthankyou a million times thank you.

because even though i'm not fat (not that it should matter to anyone reading if i am!), learning to divorce the constantly running social judgement about *what i look like* from *who i am as a valuable person* who is worthy of love and acceptance, has made me immeasurably happier.

to those who feel the need to shame people based on what their bodies look like in order to continue to feel good and superior to everyone else: i'd say you could benefit from the same lessons - it will make you a lot happier to realise that *you too* are worthy of love and acceptance, and that it should not be predicated on whether or not you are/remain thin.

i've been a runner for 25 years. it's only in the last few years, through the FA/HAES movement, that i've finally stopped running because i was paranoid about getting fat, and run because it makes me feel good. so many miles, so much time, so much life wasted in fear and unhappiness.
posted by wayward vagabond at 5:19 AM on February 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's easy to be flippant if you've never dealt with being overweight in a society that isn't very accepting...case and point...these comments.

Fat Prejudice exists...Just like all of the other ones...She doesn't need to grow up...The Fat-Racists do.
posted by gypseefire at 5:21 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


What does it matter if a racist is fat or not?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:23 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Which gets us back to the question of whether most people "can" lose the weight. Physiologically, the answer is likely almost universally yes.
Is it? My understanding is that study after study has shown that vanishingly few people who go on diets achieve long-term weight loss. I think it's around 5%. Most dieters end up weighing more than people in non-dieting control groups. Dieting is associated with worse health outcomes than not dieting. If dieting were a drug, it would never get FDA approval. No drug regulatory agency in the world would approve a drug with the efficacy and health risks of dieting.

It's not clear whether that's physiological or cultural. I don't know what kind of studies you'd do about weight-loss that could differentiate between physiological and cultural barriers. But the fact remains that there has never been a study that has shown that any diet or intervention, except weight-loss surgery, achieves long-term weight-loss in a majority, or even a substantial minority of people.

I understand that a lot of people have a moralistic, quasi-religious objection to fatness, and that causes them to reject the science on this issue. But the science supports Size Acceptance. And people here's personal anecdotes about weight-loss don't change that.
posted by craichead at 5:44 AM on February 13, 2011 [16 favorites]


SHAME DOES NOT WORK

That is so true. Pretty much the only thing that works is eating less.

And eating less does not necessarily mean you're on a diet. Three plate-sized meals a day and no snacks or fizzy drinks are not a diet.
posted by sour cream at 5:56 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


In my job, at least for the first three quarters of it, my sole coworker in twenty-two stories of novelty clock tower was a fat girl. She's quite a substantial fat girl, as those things go, and she's pretty well-read and conversant with the whole scene of fat acceptance and health at any size. We've had a lot of interesting conversations about what that all means, and sometimes I'm right there with her, like when she points out key things I'd never thought about, like the ingrained sense non-fat people have that fat people don't know they're fat. The pained, "umm, honey," and the "we're concerned about you," and the rest of that nonsense—it's all part of our society's weird fixation on setting people straight.

Sometimes, in our chats, I'm in full agreement with her, and other times, not so much.

The thing people don't seem to notice about fat acceptance is that it's a young thing, a nascent movement, and its extremes are the extremes of youth. Should we rule out feminism because of the extremes of second wave feminism? Does Valerie Solanas undermine the truth that women were (and are) getting a raw deal? Did Allen Ginsberg's promotion of NAMBLA repudiate the genuine need for recognized civil rights for queer folk?

Of course there are extremes. Some of them are pure knuckleheaded bullshit. Still, there's a need for what fat acceptance folks are saying. I didn't notice it myself until I lost weight. When you're a big guy, you get used to the undercurrents, but when you're suddenly being treated differently because you're doing the "right" thing, you start to really see just how ugly, uninformed, and grimly evangelistic the fatphobes are.

Howdy, brother! Have you had a look at what Amway has to offer lately?

I've been rebooting again, getting myself back to center after a stretch of aimlessness that occasioned me putting on some of the weight I'd lost four years prior, and we talk about that, too. It's instructive for me, because it makes me catch myself when my motives are wrongheaded and my language is the brutish language of self-disgust.

I'm counting down the pounds, but my fat friend correctly calls me out when I say things like "I've been very good today," which is muddleheaded food moralism cloaked in the mythos of positivity, and food's not something that possesses an inherent ethical charge. I'll still be technically "obese" when I get back to what I've found is my comfy weight, but my medical stats will (continue to) beg to differ.

There's truth to all sides here, but the people on the majority side really need to understand better that a patronizing, holier-than-thou, claim of "well, but we're right, you know" does not accomplish a damn thing.

The niggling doubt in my understanding of fat acceptance came when I found that, for me, it's very, very easy to lose weight when I care to. That doesn't negate the rest of the message of fat acceptance, which is largely (a) don't be a dick, and (b) you're a human being with value. It also speaks only to my unique situation—I've got great big enormous bear buddies who are healthy and happy and who leave me well behind on the C&O Canal towpath and laugh at my lack of endurance. I've got skinny friends who jog, eat vegetarian, don't smoke or drink, and yet who have had heart attacks and other health catastrophes. Some people are meant to be big burly people, and are built to be big burly people. Some people are meant to be art handlers, with bad posture and skinny jeans, and they maintain that position without effort. Some people are meant to be in-between, sort of thick, but sturdy. If your situation requires a bit of effort to be where you're meant to be, then make it, but don't make it out to be a great moral triumph, because it's not that.

I really have to smirk a bit, though, when you see how the fatphobia breaks down. Liberals, progressives, and big thinkers wouldn't dream of pointing at impoverished and poorly educated black people and saying "well, if they'd just get their act together, they wouldn't have that problem," while impoverished and poorly educated fat white people get the hardy har har treatment because presumably they're politically conservative. Al Franken gets to use "big fat idiot" as a hi-larious pejorative with impunity, because, hey, Rush Limbaugh is fat! Blue collar people are fat! Mike Huckabee was fat! Tea Party people are fat and ride scooters paid for by Medicare! All the progressive kindness and compassion goes right out the window, except for when it's doled out in jiggly gelatinous slices of ice cold "tough love," because we care about you.

Oy fucking vey.

I get discouraged, watching all this discussion, because it's just heading in the direction these things always do—stratification. Us against them, smart against dumb, my side OR your side, but rarely the side of taking it all into account. People will point out that they've dieted, they've researched, they've studied and worked diligently, and that they've still not lost weight. Others will helpfully point out that they're just not doing it right.

Can we say it's okay to be fat if you're meant to be fat, but maybe not quite so fat?

Can we think that maybe, just maybe, what works for us won't work for other people?

Isn't there a balance to be struck in all this?
posted by sonascope at 5:57 AM on February 13, 2011 [29 favorites]


kittens for breakfast: I know that such conditions exist, but I don't think they're so common that the average overweight person is likely to suffer from one or more of them.

Who is the "average" overweight person? And if "such conditions" exist, but they're not "so common," wouldn't the person who has one or more of them by definition not be the "average" overweight person? Tautology much?
posted by blucevalo at 5:59 AM on February 13, 2011


Which gets us back to the question of whether most people "can" lose the weight. Physiologically, the answer is likely almost universally yes.

Is it?

Ya'll are talking about two different things. Yes, people can lose weight. But can they kept it off over a multi year time span, i.e. the rest of their lives and is that the only way for people to remain healthy throughout their life?

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:00 AM on February 13, 2011


(This came after finishing school, having someone I care about suddenly die, moving to another state and starting a new job in a place where I knew no one all in the space of a half-year, so it's fair to say I was very unhappy with life).

Ok so you know how you're giving yourself this compassionate little space here? "Oh well things were really hard and my weight got out of hand, but then I pulled my weight back in order"

You mentioned a loved one dying and not knowing anyone for a short period. You recognize that you have no idea how much suffering some people are going through? You realize that some people have losses and hurdles to daily function that pile up and pile up and pile up and it's not a "6 month ordeal", it's their life?

Encouraging someone to do what they can to live healthy is fine. Unless you ARE someone one else YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE OR ARE NOT CAPABLE OF.

America has high obesity. We also also have incredibly low standard of child well being as compared with other wealthy nations. According to Unicef. We also have incredibly high depression rates. Something interesting family time seems to be going up But in order for that to happen it seems (same ariticle)--
"So where is the extra time coming from? Women, in particular, are spending less time cooking and cleaning their homes, while men are putting in fewer hours at the office. A 2007 report in The Quarterly Journal of Economics showed that leisure time among men and women surged four to eight hours a week from 1965 to 2003."

I could sit here and link all kind of problems we have in america and how many of of those problems lead to childhood and adult obesity--- but you know this--- there are certain changes that happen hormonally, biologicaly, neurologically when a child is over weight and getting rid of that might literally take external help. There are a bazillion interrelated cause and effect relationships.

I agree that most people could hypothetically loose weight IF THEY HAD EXTERNAL RESOURCES to do so. We do not all have equal resources. We do not all have equal past histories. We do not all have equal levels of trauma and sorrow and fucked up life shit to deal with.

If you think people should "just succeed at everything and there is no excuse for failing at anything" then why doesn't everyone have a Phd? Clearly getting a Phd would be beneficial for financial well being, increase opportunities to enhance the world, make it a better place, increase peer respect and admiration.

Morally I think everyone should try to be a doctor. Right now. Everyone who fails this moral decree is bullshitting themselves because everyone is capable of being a doctor and if you fail to be a doctor or to laothe yourself passionately for not being one right now than everyone can hate you because you're pathetic.

Does that make any sense? Does it make any sense to say that because we can find benefits to a certain way of living that we can treat anyone like shit if they can't manage to do it, or if they argue that they other priorities than we do for them?
posted by xarnop at 6:08 AM on February 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Does that mean I can tell you that you can't drive anymore?

No, but as somebody who doesn't drive, I can say that driving is dangerous.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:26 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh good GOD, this topic on Mefi brings out just as much rancor and judgey judge judging as Sarah Palin or closeted Republicans. It's surprising to me who some of the mefites are that have this anger towards fat people.

I'm fat and have commented before about being a fat woman and not having any difficulty in my life. I'm still a size 16/18/20 depending on brand, style, fabric etc of clothing and weigh far north of 225 on a 5'4 frame. I go to theme parks and fit on the rides, I wear cute clothes, I can run moderate distances without puking or needing oxygen and I've never felt that my weight held me back personally or professionally. I wasn't an especially heavy child or teen, but gained a significant amount when I was 20 while pregnant and it's been here for 25 years now.

My sister in law was my size and hated herself. She mortgaged her house to pay for gastric bypass surgery and kept urging me to have the surgery myself. I even had insurance that covered it and she just could.not.shut.the.fuck.up. about how miserable I was in my body, I just didn't know it. She kept talking on and on and ON about how people treated her SO much better now that she was a size 8. I still don't want the surgery. After she lost 90 pounds, she raided her husband's 401k to pay for multiple plastic surgeries so that she wouldn't have to see the hanging skin. That woman, to this day, still hates herself. Even after nearly bankrupting her family financially and being able to shop at Juicy Couture, she isn't happy.

On the flip side, my gorgeous daughter in law was extremely heavy. She was heavy when my son met her, when he married her and has been heavy her entire life. Her weight impacted her life-she had asthma, her periods had stopped completely for a couple years and she felt physically awful. That girl began to bust her ass-hitting the gym 6 nights a week, embarrassing herself in Zumba class and still going back, being extremely disciplined about her eating. She has that personality and temperament that by god, she was tired of feeling awful and she was going to fix it herself. In 6 months, she lost 93 pounds. Now she's pregnant (surprise!) and all sorts of worried about gaining weight again. But she has the tools, the personality and gumption to lose what she gains. BUT, she's motivated to do this. And she's a happier person now 93 pounds lighter than my sister in law is 120 pounds lighter.

Me? I'm just fine with how I look and how I feel. I am happy I can go to Charley's in Orlando and have a big ribeye and not worry about what the waiter thinks when I order, if the other tables are looking at me or if I'm offending someone by liking red meat. I don't feel the need to scream from the rooftops that I'm fat and dammit you have to like it. It's just one adjective among many that describes me.
posted by hollygoheavy at 6:32 AM on February 13, 2011 [14 favorites]


But I am not unsightly. People who don't like the way I look can feel free not to have sex with me. But people who come up to me and say "I don't find the way you look aesthetically pleasing, and you should feel bad about it"? That's a weird presumption on their part, and it has nothing to do with me.

A-fucking-men.
posted by hollygoheavy at 6:36 AM on February 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Who is the "average" overweight person? And if "such conditions" exist, but they're not "so common," wouldn't the person who has one or more of them by definition not be the "average" overweight person? Tautology much?

Well, I am schooled. But anyway, what I mean is that you (whoever the "you" is, reading this) are probably not afflicted with a condition that would make it impossible to lose weight. It's all well and good to say, "But what about the people who can't lose weight?" because, yeah, that is unfortunate. Chances are, however, such a person has more important things to worry about than his/her weight, and isn't writing epic blog entries about it. Chances are, you actually can lose weight. I'm not saying you have to, or even that you need to, because...how the hell do I know? But you probably are physically capable of doing it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:37 AM on February 13, 2011


"Chances are, you actually can lose weight. I'm not saying you have to, or even that you need to, because...how the hell do I know? But you probably are physically capable of doing it."


When you say can, do you mean "can" as in if you were execizing and dieting and finding nutritional supplements that worked and in therapy to deal with all the past issues that have lead to this and finding ways to have better relationships with people-----

then the weight could be lost?

Or do you mean can as in "I know that right now it is possible for you to exercise every day and cook your own organic veggies every day and go to therapy and handle the emotional fall out of all these things"

When you say can as in, "Under the right circumstances your body could lose the weight" it means something different than the judgement "I know whether or not you are trying your hardest"

You Do Not Fucking Know how hard many people are trying just to make it through life. Adding one more thing they are supposed to do can feel crippling.
posted by xarnop at 6:43 AM on February 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


Well, if you look at a the obesity rate in America, you'll notice it's skyrocketed in the last 50 years. Americans are fatter than the people of any other country on earth. Immigrant adults and their children often suffer from obesity after coming to the United States

All of this strongly suggests that most Americans are obese not for reasons of genetics or disease but, essentially, culture. Which gets us back to the question of whether most people "can" lose the weight. Physiologically, the answer is likely almost universally yes. In practice though, culture made people fat and culture is going to need to change to get people healthy again

I understand not wanting to shame fat people or anyone, but responding to that with a movement that whitewashes the ill-effects of obesity is not helpful


Exactly. Nobody should feel, or be made to feel, badly about anything they don't want to feel bad about. It is none of their business.

But turning it into a movement isn't the solution. Taking the shame one might feel and redirecting it onto the big bad ol' world doesn't change anything. The shame is still there. It is just a mind trick. It takes the negative emotion "I'm sad because I'm fat" and rather than changing it to "my weight and other people's ignorant reactions to it do not control my feelings", it changes it to "I'm sad because I'm fat, but it isn't my fault so I am also happy". Emotions don't cancel each other out. 10 sad units and 11 happy units don't make you happy, they make you conflicted and crazy.

And it also serves to diminish the feelings of people who ARE unhappy about their weight. Who want to be unhappy, because that is how THEY motivate themselves. It says "you are wrong for the way you feel".

Self esteem isn't about training yourself to ignore the bad feelings. It is about not having them.

No, but as somebody who doesn't drive, I can say that driving is dangerous.

This is irony, right? Nobody's opinion is more important than anyone else's. Your choice doesn't make your opinion any more or less valid or correct. Where fat acceptance is a failure is that it encourages the idea that fat people's opinions on weight hold more value than others'. ANYTHING that says "you can't know unless you've been there" is fundamentally wrong. It seems to presume that everyone else has no empathy or ability to understand the viewpoint of others.
posted by gjc at 7:02 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Encouraging someone to do what they can to live healthy is fine. Unless you ARE someone one else YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE OR ARE NOT CAPABLE OF.

I think the difference here is that you see telling someone they're probably capable of something is tantamount to telling them they should feel like shit for having failed to achieve it, whereas I think telling someone they can do something even when they've failed at it before is tantamount to telling them not to give up hope. I'm not in the habit of accosting people with unsolicited weight loss advice or anything, but when the subject is broached, as it has been here, my default is to tell people they can do it, because they probably can. You're talking about not making people feel bad. I'm people not making people feel powerless.

You Do Not Fucking Know how hard many people are trying just to make it through life. Adding one more thing they are supposed to do can feel crippling.

I don't know why you presume that my life is necessarily so much easier than anyone else's. I would say that if this is something that troubles you deeply (hypothetical "you," not you), if it's something that makes you unhappy and keeps you up nights thinking about it, then it has made itself a priority in your life, and you owe it to yourself to do something about it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:05 AM on February 13, 2011


(Wow, that last sentence in the first paragraph was garbled. I'm not even sure what I was going for there. Lots of editing happening in the pre-caffeine haze of the morning.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:07 AM on February 13, 2011




"It seems to presume that everyone else has no empathy or ability to understand the viewpoint of others."

Unless perhaps said people DO seem to be ignorant about what others are going through.

"Wow, that last sentence in the first paragraph was garbled. I'm not even sure what I was going for there. Lots of editing happening in the pre-caffeine haze of the morning.)"
-I'm in the same boat. What are we talking about? LOL

I'm not saying it isn't bad to say, "Hey maybe there's something out there that will work for you! Keep your eyes open for options and maybe there will be a time in your life when weightloss could be a goal"

But to pressume that everyone is in a position that weightloss should be their first priority or to assume that "they could do everything they need to do to lose weight right now in this moment" is just plain not necessarily true.

Like now that I've lost my weight I have a libido again and guys are talking to me. Do you realize this makes my head explode?! I'm being silly, but seriously, when I had siezures they would very often happen when guys were hitting on me, the terror would somehow cause this electricity to go up and down my spine and up into my head and then the blood flow starts to feel really funny and there's this loud noise....

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that some people may have reasons that they want to keep their weight and they may be valid life reasons. Saying everyone should or is capable of doing what it takes to lose weight at this moment in time is a moral judgement.

Not everyone should, not everyone, at this moment in time, is capable. I totally believe in all kinds of possibilities. I believe in hope. I even sort of believe in miracles although I think it's explainable with science thus not making them miracles...

LOL I'm pretty sure I'm not making any sense. Where is the coffee? Can you make me some?
posted by xarnop at 7:19 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


kittens for breakfast: As an albeit short response, I'll just point this out: wikipedia tells me that 17% of people in the United States suffer from major depressive disorder at one point in their lives. Depression, as it turns out, is indeed a disorder that can make it almost impossible to lose weight. Yes, it's a psychological disorder; but that doesn't change the force or impact it has on their lives. Seventeen percent isn't small; it's about one in five. So, no, I don't think the conditions that make weight loss impossible are so rare at all.
posted by koeselitz at 7:29 AM on February 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Isn't there a balance to be struck in all this?

Welp, here's the balance I've struck:

Good Calories, Bad Calories fundamentally changed the way I see dieting and obesity. Not for its explicit "avoid carbs message" (though I did cut my sugar intake after reading it) but for its implicit messages, which I'll summarize for you:

1.) Nutritional science is bullshit. By the standards of any 'hard' science like biology/chemistry/physics, most studies in nutritional science fall laughably short of proving anything definitively. This is why nutritionists have yet to come up with a good dietary explanation as to why a skinny person can eat 3000 calories in a day and stay skinny with a relative lack of exercise while an obese person can eat a few bowls of oatmeal all day and remain obese.

2.) This lack of definitive cause-and-effect by any accepted scientific standards lends itself to dogmatism. Ironically, the author himself inadvertently shows many of the same dogmatic traits he attacks in others.

3.) There is a highly variable push-and-pull factor at work in the correlation between physical activity and food consumption. The evidence, (insofar as we can tell, see point 1), seems to suggest that sedentary behavior can be a byproduct of poor metabolism, and that the body often reacts to restricted food intake not by losing weight, but by decreasing activity level.

So I knew that our infrastructure was crappy for health (having to drive everywhere) and our food availability was crappy for health (try finding fresh vegetables living in an American urban downtown without a car), but this book was really the third strike. I don't see how any informed person can truly fault fat people entirely for their condition. Sure, there are people who are fat because they're lazy. There also exist poor people who are poor because they're lazy. Yet all of you here would pile on me in a heartbeat for suggesting that laziness was somehow inherent to being poor (after all, I made money, why can't they?) and point to dozens of structural and sociological factors that promote that particularly toxic belief. This happens literally every time there is a discussion of libertarians on Metafilter. Why is it that somehow when it comes to fat people, this context-less stereotyping becomes acceptable?

As for the tax issue, I'd rather pay to prop up my neighbor's poor health than to blow up people on the other side of the planet that I've never met. Which one do we currently spend more money on, again?
posted by Ndwright at 7:31 AM on February 13, 2011 [30 favorites]


If you were ashamed of how you looked, and then lost weight, and now aren't ashamed of how you look, you might think (and post) that the shame "helped" you lose weight. About all you can really be sure of is that it accompanied the process.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:31 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


LOL I'm pretty sure I'm not making any sense. Where is the coffee? Can you make me some?

Heh! No, I think you do make sense, but I'm not sure I can agree, exactly. I don't think losing weight needs to be the priority of everyone who is overweight; that really is their decision, and there really may be other stuff that takes priority. But I think in this case, when you have people who have made being overweight and defending their right to be overweight into a kind of cause, their weight clearly is a huge priority for them. In that case, I think they would be better off working to lose that weight than working to ensure that everyone respects their right to be overweight. I think we should all be respectful of one another, but what I think is more important is that we all treat ourselves as well as we can. If someone asks me whether they can be healthier, I will never tell them no, it's too hard, just forget it. In the moment, that may make someone feel better, but it's not a good kind of feeling better. This may be me believing in miracles, this may be the part of me that wonders how the fuck do magnets work, I don't know, but no, I really do think we're capable of most things.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:32 AM on February 13, 2011


So kittens, as ndwright just pointed out, do you believe everyone is capable of becoming financially well off?
posted by xarnop at 7:36 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


In that case, I think they would be better off working to lose that weight than working to ensure that everyone respects their right to be overweight.
I think that ignores the fact that all the available evidence suggests that "working to lose weight" will ultimately leave them fatter and less healthy than they would be if they took a FA/ HAES approach.
posted by craichead at 7:38 AM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


kittens for breakfast: As an albeit short response, I'll just point this out: wikipedia tells me that 17% of people in the United States suffer from major depressive disorder at one point in their lives. Depression, as it turns out, is indeed a disorder that can make it almost impossible to lose weight. Yes, it's a psychological disorder; but that doesn't change the force or impact it has on their lives. Seventeen percent isn't small; it's about one in five. So, no, I don't think the conditions that make weight loss impossible are so rare at all.

"Almost impossible" isn't "impossible." It's also not impossible to treat depression, which I will grant you should probably be the priority in such a case (it should definitely be the priority in such a case, as it can kill you a lot faster than some extra pounds will).
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:38 AM on February 13, 2011


Actually, it becomes our business when we live in a society that taxes us to pay for others' medical care...

So then it must be my business to personally police the following:

Women who have children over 35- higher risk pregnancies, and higher risk of children with medical problems. Waiting to have children later in life, and choosing not it abort a fetus with abnormalities, those are both personal choices.

People who own cars/motorcycles. In 2008, motor vehicle accidents killed 37,261 people, and 2.3 million people were injured. Living in a place where you must drive is a personal choice.

Kids who play sports. More than 3.5 million children ages 14 and under receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year. Injuries associated with participation in sports and recreational activities account for 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among children in the United States. Allowing kids to play sports is a personal choice.

If people are so concerned with our "shared" medical costs, then why isn't there more hand wringing over other "choices" that drive up health care costs. The health angle of this argument is disingenuous. Fat has become a moral issue, plain and simple.
posted by kimdog at 7:41 AM on February 13, 2011 [30 favorites]


WOOOOW kittens --- "not impossible to tread depression" is a bold statement. I'm all for doing all the research and creating all the support we can, but that's like saying it's not impossible to treat cancer.

Sure we can treat and often cure cancer. Sometimes we can't.

I'm all for keeping up hope that we can continually improve services but to assume it's a simple "go to therapy relgiously for x years and take your med for x years" and that results in emotional health for everyone is really really.... really ... really not correct.

I'm all for continuing to do research into weight loss and health and to making this knowledge avaiable to the public--- as well as using that knowledge to create programs and policies that support people struggling to lose weight.

But now you pressume that mental illness is definitavely curable? This is just silly kittens. : )
posted by xarnop at 7:44 AM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think that ignores the fact that all the available evidence suggests that "working to lose weight" will ultimately leave them fatter and less healthy than they would be if they took a FA/ HAES approach.

I'm quite sure that "all the available evidence" indicates no such thing, but I wouldn't know for sure, as that's an awful lot of evidence to sift through. I applaud your fortitude, as I can only imagine that reading all the available evidence on weight loss required some effort.

So kittens, as ndwright just pointed out, do you believe everyone is capable of becoming financially well off?

Um, no.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:44 AM on February 13, 2011


So why then do you think everyone is capable of what it takes to lose weight?
posted by xarnop at 7:45 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


WOOOOW kittens --- "not impossible to tread depression" is a bold statement. I'm all for doing all the research and creating all the support we can, but that's like saying it's not impossible to treat cancer.

Well, it's not impossible to treat cancer, and it's really not impossible to treat depression. It's not like you get a shot of penicillin for it. But it's treatable. Again, I don't think this is a controversial stance to take by any means.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:47 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Um.... you're aware that a lot of people die from cancer, right? What is your definition of "treatable". Everything is "treatable" we are able to hurl treatments at people, the question is if they work.

If you read anything about mental health you would discover there are percentages of people with mental illness who do not achieve any measurable relief from meds or CBT or .. anything we've tried so far.
posted by xarnop at 7:50 AM on February 13, 2011


I'm quite sure that "all the available evidence" indicates no such thing, but I wouldn't know for sure, as that's an awful lot of evidence to sift through.
And that's why I linked above to a report about Traci Mann's meta-study, which synthesized evidence from 31 long-term studies of weight-loss. I don't think there's anything out there that has challenged Mann's conclusions that only a very small percentage of participants in any study kept the weight off for more than a year or two. The only bright spot in weight-loss is that surgery seems to work long-term. But that's an expensive, dangerous intervention with lifelong, life-altering side effects. It's not for everyone.

I'd be curious to know if you had any non-anecdotal evidence that dieting does work.
posted by craichead at 7:50 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


So why then do you think everyone is capable of what it takes to lose weight?

They're not related subjects. This is like if you said, "Do you think that we're all capable of, if we think about it really hard, growing splendorous, rainbow-colored wings from our shoulders and then flying off to Pluto under own power? No? Then why do you think we are capable of losing weight?" There are a host of issues that make money more accessible to some people than others, and as far as being well-off goes, the very condition of being rich implies having more than your neighbor. There's only so much money to go around, and a great many institutional roadblocks toward getting it. But there is not only so much health to go around. One person being in good physical condition doesn't, like, suck all the air out of the room. You can't hoard not being overweight.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:52 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love how intellectuals throw their critical thinking out the window when it comes to fat. On this subject people cling to their beliefs however flat-earth those beliefs may be.

The research shows that most people can lose weight, although this whole "calories in calories out" shit is completely laughable to anyone who's ever taken a physiology class. Sufficice it to say we are not sand bags which are simply filled by eating and emptied in the same ratios by exercising. But more importantly, study after study shows that most people who can lose weight gain it right back. Even the most optimistic researchers on this topic, the National Weight Control Registry, say that only about 20% of people who lose weight keep it off for 1 year. (And I hardly consider 1 year "long term".)

Your judgmental, black and white world view or personal anecdotes of recent weight loss success can't make up for decades of research saying that weight loss, especially long-term weight loss, is incredibly complicated and for most people, out of reach.
posted by serazin at 7:53 AM on February 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'd be curious to know if you had any non-anecdotal evidence that dieting does work.

I don't think that only dieting does work, but I'm not a nutritionist or a doctor or whatever. In my great anecdotal experience, I have seen many people lose weight and keep off weight, but I am far from qualified to tell you how it would be best for you to do it, and I would not claim otherwise.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:55 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh fun.... you're ok with saying "there are a host of issues that make money more accessible to some people that others"

Can we try "there are host of issues that make wieght loss more accessible to some people than others"
posted by xarnop at 7:55 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Physical fitness will keep you from misery and my office (often the same thing) far better than weight management.

So for the overwhelming majority of pedestrian, corrosive, insidious crap that we stink at treating, like a three month shoulder recuperation from lifting a piece of luggage, depression, chronic fatigue, insomnia, migraines, I'll rarely need to see you if you hit the gym regularly, even if you are 50 lbs overweight.

Having said that, having diabetes doesn't hurt or feel bad for years but is ridiculous in terms of the medication cost (and side effect/risks), financial, and anxiety burden it places on a person, and that's where an inability to lose weight will kill us individually and collectively as a nation. So be fit first, and if there's a chance to lose weight via brute force portion restriction, do it, but do not think one leads to the other.
posted by docpops at 7:58 AM on February 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Can we try "there are host of issues that make wieght loss more accessible to some people than others"

Sure, and I don't dispute that at all. I just dispute that weight loss is impossible for most people at most times. At no point in this whole epic thread are you going to find me saying it's easy. It's not easy. I wish that it were.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:59 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I get that you think you're actually helping people and society by contributing to the fucking Alp of shame that crushes every fat person every day of their lives—the same shame that makes it a radical act for me to post a picture of my body and tell you how much it weighs. But you're not helping. Shame doesn't work. Diets don't work. Shame is a tool of oppression, not change.

To claim that an act of blowing one's own horn in the internet, a crowing scrap of writing that cost one nothing, is a "radical act," is to further embarrass the word "radical."

Aside from the obvious fact that it's far from impossible to eat less, burn calories, and lose weight, and from my suspicion that Ms. West might treat shame as more of a "tool of change" when she is opposed to the shamed, she does imply here that change to fat bodies might be desirable, if not change motivated by oppression and shame.

"Rolls of exposed flesh are unsightly" is in no way a "tame statement of fact." It is not a fact at all—it is an incredibly cruel, subjective opinion that reinforces destructive, paternalistic, oppressive beauty ideals. I am not unsightly. No one deserves to be told that they're unsightly.

Ms. West's existential problem, while sad, is universal -- human aesthetic preferences regarding the body are partial and, by and large, unoriginal; the way one's body is perceived is beyond personal control.

The martyrdom is small.

"But but but my insurance premiums!!!" Bullshit. You live in a society with other people. I don't have kids, but I pay taxes that fund schools. The idea that we can somehow escape affecting each other is deeply conservative. Barbarous, even. Is that really what you're going for? Good old-fashioned American individualism?

And yet here is West, basically denying that obesity affects society (and has implications for other people), or maybe it does but if so, this has nothing to do with her drama and her story and being overweight.

She seems to actually be saying that we, the American nation, should accept obesity and pay for its mortal toll without complaint, issue or question just as people without children accept paying for schools. Because we must all be there for each other. To not accept the cost of obesity absolutely, as we accept that there is a shared national cost for public education, would be (shudders) "deeply conservative" and "individualism."

Obviously, using the fact of the childless paying taxes toward education (which they, in most cases, benefited from and which is a necessity for our country) to rhetorically bury the the real cost of the obesity-related health crisis to us all is just a ludicrous type of argument.

Who is the barbaric, narcissistic individualist?

Do you know what happened as soon as I rejected all this shit and fell in unconditional luuuuurve with my entire body? I started losing weight.

So she blames her weight problems on oppression from society. When she had a breakthrough and really began to blame external social forces in earnest, she began to drop the pounds.

Whatever works.
posted by knoyers at 8:05 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


But more importantly, study after study shows that most people who can lose weight gain it right back. Even the most optimistic researchers on this topic, the National Weight Control Registry, say that only about 20% of people who lose weight keep it off for 1 year.

It would probably be helpful to think of overeating as an addictive disorder, in which like other addictive disorders people engage in behaviors that have detrimental effects on their lives but result in short term pleasure. It's very difficult to cure addictive disorders once they've set in, because the behavior has become deeply ingrained in the mind

If 20% of people could cure their own AIDS just through willpower and sweat, it would be front-page news, not cause for hopelessness. There are many in this thread who are part of that 20%. It's fine to argue to us all that our experience is mere anecdote, but really it might help to try to hear what we're saying
posted by crayz at 8:11 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Part of that 20% abysmal weight loss maintenance is tied to the fact that proven models for weight loss are lacking. In 18 years the only thing I've ever see worth a damn is Weight Watchers, but most people just starve themselves, buy prepackaged meals, or go on supplements or some variant of Atkins, all guaranteed to be worse than useless in the long run for most people.
posted by docpops at 8:13 AM on February 13, 2011


Avoiding the predictable comments - there's no need for any response from me other than (a) this is true and needed to be said, and (b) stop bothering yourselves about other people's habits and lifestyles and bodies, or they may bother themselves about yours. I'm repeating a comment of my own which I have gone back to a few times in this discussion:
It's as useful to ask overweight people why they don't do better at losing weight as it is to ask you "Why didn't you do better in college? Why didn't you go to a better college? Why aren't you getting promoted at your job? Why haven't you gotten a raise? Why do you procrastinate so much? How come you make so little money? Why aren't you better looking? Why don't you have a better girlfriend? Why is your family so fucked up? Why are your personality traits so irrritating? How come you don't get a better haircut? Why do you dress so badly?"

There are superficial solutions to all these problems, but I doubt that just hearing someone say "Work harder, lazy butt! You look ugly, dress better! You're just too dumb - lower your expectations!" is enough to solve your problem.

In short, YES, taking in fewer calories than one burns will result in a weight loss. However, that is one piece of a large, interconnected, and complex puzzle. To jump around excitedly brandishing this one piece of information and considering that you have found a solution is as silly as saying subprime mortgages were the cause the financial crisis. You've got one proximal piece of a much, much bigger picture whose roots and underlying causes are much deeper and more widespread, located both in the individual and in society.
tl;dr version: Respect others. And unless someone asks you sincerely for your personal health or appearance advice: mind your own business.
posted by Miko at 8:14 AM on February 13, 2011 [28 favorites]


I think one of the better comments in this thread was crayz's. Regardless of your opinions on this issue ("loose the weight, fatty" vs. "love your fat self"), there is clearly something particularly dysfunctional about America when it comes to obesity. Is there any other country in the world with obesity rates like the US? I suspect some people are far heavier than they probably should be due to circumstances specific to the US.
posted by chunking express at 8:22 AM on February 13, 2011


But I think in this case, when you have people who have made being overweight and defending their right to be overweight into a kind of cause, their weight clearly is a huge priority for them.

I don't think this necessarily follows. I don't "defend my right to be overweight" because I'm obsessed with my weight -- I do it because society is obsessed with my weight! I defend my right to be overweight because I am being attacked -- for reasons that have nothing to do with my individual personhood and everything to do with this social construction of "fat" as equivalent to lazy, unhealthy, weak-willed, morally inferior, etc. My weight is a priority inasmuch as it's the thing people keep pointing at as an excuse to treat me poorly and make me feel bad.

If someone asks me whether they can be healthier, I will never tell them no, it's too hard, just forget it.

Clearly not! If someone has approached you about this topic, then clearly they are interested in having a conversation about the intersection of health and fat. But even then, I'd argue that "being healthier" is not equivalent to "losing weight." Losing weight is a possible by-product of a series of healthy changes in lifestyle.
posted by brookedel at 8:24 AM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


If someone asks me whether they are capable of getting a *masters degree* I will never tell them no, it's too hard just forget it.

Unless of course they had cognitive deficits, severe learning disabilities, mental disorders that have so far been untreatable, lack of funds, other life commitment that prevent them from having the time to commit to doing well in a masters program, or other obstacles that make it an unrealistic goal for them at present.

Sure, "maybe someday" or even, "sure if you really want to try, go for it, but be gentle with yourself if that doesn't turn out to be direction things go for you"
posted by xarnop at 8:32 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interestingly for the public-cost argument, America has seen a 21.3% improvement in overall health, using a ranking system developed by United Health Foundation, despite increasing obesity. I wonder if our recent obsession with obesity may be in part an indicator that such significant progress has been made in many other, more serious public health concerns over the last 20 years, such as the rates of smoking and infant mortality, that attention can now be devoted to less emergent issues. Though I don't mean to dismiss the health risks that are, in fact, associated with obesity, I also think the other risks to public health, such as the high numbers of the totally uninsured and the numbers of children in poverty, are more serious, and perhaps even more costly overall, on a public interest level.

CDC: Costs for the health care of conditions involving obesity: as high as $78.5 billion.
Kaiser Foundation: Costs for the health care of the uninsured: $125 billion.

Both problems are worthy of attention, but if you're looking to bring down shared costs, public and private, looks like obesity is the wrong place to start.

One wonders, as well, if greater access to health care could result in overall reduction of conditions involving obesity, and if the conditions would actually pose less of a health risk if they were managed in health care earlier and more frequently. In other words, morbidity in obesity is probably related at least in part to lack of adequate health care and health education.

In any case, there is simply no place for shame in public health approaches. There's no place for it at all, and no place for individuals with no training in mental or physical health to provide unasked-for critical evaluation of other people's presumed habits and behaviors.
posted by Miko at 8:35 AM on February 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


The CDC and Kaiser data is kind of old now in economic terms, though I couldn't find more recent easily.
posted by Miko at 8:36 AM on February 13, 2011


It would probably be helpful to think of overeating as an addictive disorder, in which like other addictive disorders people engage in behaviors that have detrimental effects on their lives but result in short term pleasure. It's very difficult to cure addictive disorders once they've set in, because the behavior has become deeply ingrained in the mind

Obesity is generational, so that's like being addicted from birth. I think obese children and young people have the best chance to lose weight. I don't think it's productive to generalize statements and start making grand sweeping statements about adults. Accepting fat adults is one thing, but what about children? Obesity starts young. In some situations, overweight is preferred in babies and toddlers, this sets their weight pattern for life, but when they reach a certain age, they start getting the hate. The chain keeps going because instead of getting broken it's getting festooned with shame and cultural issues and red flags of many types.
posted by fuq at 8:42 AM on February 13, 2011


It would probably be helpful to think of overeating as an addictive disorder, in which like other addictive disorders people engage in behaviors that have detrimental effects on their lives but result in short term pleasure. It's very difficult to cure addictive disorders once they've set in, because the behavior has become deeply ingrained in the mind

Yet there is not evidence for this "helpful" way of thinking about eating.
posted by serazin at 8:44 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think that only dieting does work, but I'm not a nutritionist or a doctor or whatever. In my great anecdotal experience, I have seen many people lose weight and keep off weight, but I am far from qualified to tell you how it would be best for you to do it, and I would not claim otherwise.
What?

Your "great anecdotal evidence" doesn't trump the real kind of evidence that's based on sound research principles and such. And that kind of evidence, the real kind of evidence, doesn't support your contentions. Real, non-anecdotal evidence suggests that diets usually fail and usually leave the dieter fatter and less healthy than he or she would be otherwise. Also, you shouldn't presume to know anything about my weight, fwiw.

I differ with some SA people in that I do think it's worth asking why people are gaining weight in the first place. There's no evidence that people can lose weight for the long-term, but we might be able to help people not gain more weight. I just haven't seen any evidence at all that weight-loss dieting does more good than harm. Whereas other interventions, like encouraging people to eat well and exercise for their independent health benefits, not to lose weight, seem to be much more effective. And that's pretty much the philosophy behind SA/HAES.
posted by craichead at 8:54 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do we have a congestive heart failure acceptance movement? A "I have diabetes and its beautiful" movement? Any other clever movements to accept terribly unhealthy lifestyles /conditions as A-OK you're alright! movements?

I have Type 1 Diabetes and have had it since an autoimmune disorder destroyed my pancreas when I was 12. I can attest to the fact that there *is* an "I have diabetes and it sucks, but there's support it's okay" movement, particularly online, and it's the one thing that has helped me take control and take better care of myself after half my life trying to shove away that part of myself.

One reason I've always tried to do this is because of diabetes-shaming. I was a bit chubby as a child when I was diagnosed and have always worried in the back of my mind that maybe that was a contributing factor, even though I *know* weight has nothing to do with Type 1, because all talk about diabetes is fatty-shaming. Every time I gain a little bit of weight I start freaking out that people will think I have the "fat" diabetes. Nothing worse than getting an expensive, life-worsening, barely-controllable disease *and* also having people point fingers at "you diabetics," assuming it's your fault. That's why there's such a schism in the diabetes community, because us Type 1's have a tendency to want to run away from Type 2's saying NOT LIKE US NOT OUR FAULT and I think that's a crying shame that we can't support each other for fear of getting "blamed."

I was at my thinnest when I wasn't taking insulin yet, because I was "honeymooning" and still had some beta cell production. I looked amazing, because my body was eating itself and liquefying my organs. People told me how great I looked all the time. I was so sick. I went on insulin and gained thirty pounds in a couple of months. I hated myself. I was in much better shape health-wise, but I wanted to be thin again. Thus followed a decade of off-and-on diabulemia, which involves skipping or "forgetting" shots, or doing them "later" in order to raise one's blood glucose level and lose weight; it was like not eating the meal at all because my body ignored the food and burned itself. I'm only now admitting to myself that I did do this, blaming it on having "so much on my plate," trying to deal with the ups and downs of the disease while succeeding at various Ivy institutions. Because "thinness = goodness," I mistreated myself badly and I know I'm going to pay for it. When my blood glucose level goes low, which it often does when I exercise, I have to eat sugar that I don't want. The tighter my control is, the harder it is for me to lose weight. The Diabetes On-Line Community got me off my pity party, onto a pump and having better control, BECAUSE THERE WAS NO SHAME, ONLY ACCEPTANCE.

I am so, so sick of the prevailing opinion in the media of diabetics as ice-cream-snarfing hippos, with "diabetes" as a catch-all term for "person who has no self-control and got that fat disease." It makes an impossible disease so much harder; for me, for the people who got it through some fluke of genetics. Some people may get it with obesity as a large contributing factor, but two people can easily be the same size and one will get it and one will not. This diabetes-shaming hurts me every time I read it, whether I'm "like them" or not.
posted by ilana at 9:00 AM on February 13, 2011 [24 favorites]


This woman's post was right on. Her body doesn't exist to ensure others have pretty people to look at. Or to confirm your pet theory about thermodynamics blah blah blah. She accepts herself which is far more threatening than to our society than her extra pounds of adipose tissue. She's rejecting the methods of control that we call upon to justify policing the bodies of others.

There's a lot of concern trolling in this thread. Fat people exist and sometimes they don't care whether you think they're hot or not. Panic!
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:05 AM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Dear Lindy West,

May I begin by saying you look fabulous. You have a pretty face, great legs, magnificent boobs and a fine sense of style. You are clearly a talented writer, with a wonderful brain, and much to contribute to the world. I am sorry you feel the way you do about your body, and I am pleased to read that you have come to terms with yourself, as the beautiful person you know yourself to be.

We are all of us living in an environment which challenges the way we feel about our physical appearance. Every single one of us, thin or fat, young or old, male as well as female, is dealing with some issue or other associated with our body image. We can't help it. We're bombarded daily with information that reminds us of how imperfect we are, and constantly fed airbrushed images of unattainable perfection. We deal with it as best we can.

I have enormous sympathy for people who struggle with eating disorders or thyroid problems. And I have no desire to judge, shame, or otherwise insult people whose body shape falls outside the required standards. I recognize that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a skill not everyone has been lucky enough to learn, particularly in environments where food is mostly processed, and a normal level of physical activity is not possible. So yes, I accept you as you are, and wish you all the best.

But I'd like to posit a small thought experiment. If you are asking the world to accept obesity as a valid lifestyle, would you also advocate for anorexia? Would you defend the right of a young woman to starve herself to death, in the name of body image, with the same passion you call for us to shut our mouths about an equally damaging health problem? No? I thought not.

And this is the problem I have with so-called fat acceptance. Eating yourself to death is not a natural, healthy or admirable thing to do, any more than smoking, drinking, or starving yourself to death is. Many people do it, and no doubt we all have our reasons, but that doesn't mean we should give our tacit approval to such fundamentally self-destructive behavior. And every article advocating fat acceptance does just that, taking us a little bit further down the road to a sedentary lifestyle filled with junk food and misery as a societal norm we should not try to change.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 9:09 AM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


a sedentary lifestyle filled with junk food and misery as a societal norm we should not try to change.

Great! Let's change that! Let's be against sprawl and junk food! We can do that without being against people, I'm sure.
posted by immlass at 9:16 AM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


But turning it into a movement isn't the solution.

WHO ARE YOU TO SAY THIS. Seriously. SERIOUSLY.

My mind is completely boggled. Would you say this to a gay person who wants to get married? Or, you know, EXIST? Or a woman in the 60's? Or a black person in the 50's?

YOU DO NOT GET TO JUDGE WHAT IS A MOVEMENT OR NOT. This isn't happening because it's a fun thing to do. Look at the rest of this thread and tell me that people don't need to change the way they think.

eeeeewwwww indeed.


*****
OH. And one more thing.

(not previewing, I'm still working my way through the thread, so apologies if this has been said - it's a point I forgot to make last night.)

Yes. I COULD lose weight. I could heavily restrict my caloric intake and pay money to go to a gym 5 days a week. I could obsess and obsess about numbers.

No.

I will not pay for a gym that would be a fun novelty that I would likely stop using because riding my bike is easier.

You don't pay for my health care, I do.

I will not count calories. Instead I will eat whole foods, and thank GOD the holidays are over because the baking production in this house has gone down, and I recognize part of my problem is cookies. So we just don't keep them in the house.

I may be fat, but I will not ruin the days I have on this earth with worrying about every morsel I put in my mouth and beating myself up if I have an extra cookie. I am lucky to be able to do the things I do, and will not spend all my time obsessing about it. I have better things to do. Like ride my bike.
posted by bibliogrrl at 9:19 AM on February 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


"And every article advocating fat acceptance does just that, taking us a little bit further down the road to a sedentary lifestyle filled with junk food and misery as a societal norm we should not try to change."

I don't read many fat acceptance articles because I pretty know I already accept people where they are.

You know there is a movement called "harm reduction" which you may have heard of that encourages people who use substances that may be a problem for them to find ways to improve their lives and make healthy responsible decisions about using those substances in order to live better and be healthier toward those around them.

It's controversial, you mean offer a model of support for addicts and alcoholics other than AA? However AA really isn't all that effective. It seems that if we gave people an option to get support and improve their lives without berating them for the problem behavior, we might get farther with helping them.

Like perhaps instead of berating people for food choices, we could open the door to help people get support to make these kinds of changes without pointing at what amount of body fat the person has and using it to claim they are morally inferior--- AS IF WE CAN KNOW THAT.
posted by xarnop at 9:40 AM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


And this is the problem I have with so-called fat acceptance. Eating yourself to death is not a natural, healthy or admirable thing to do, any more than smoking, drinking, or starving yourself to death is.

But what you (and a lot of other people in this thread) are not getting is that it doesn't matter if you approve or not.

It's still none of your business! If she wants to "eat herself to death" that's her fucking choice. You don't get to judge her! She doesn't exist to make you happy and she CERTAINLY doesn't exist to make you feel better about yourself.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:40 AM on February 13, 2011


My mind is completely boggled. Would you say this to a gay person who wants to get married? Or, you know, EXIST? Or a woman in the 60's? Or a black person in the 50's?

...Seriously? Is this really where you want to take this?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:43 AM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually, it becomes our business when we live in a society that taxes us to pay for others' medical care...

Yes, but you live in the U.S.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:44 AM on February 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Elizabeth the Thirteenth: “But I'd like to posit a small thought experiment. If you are asking the world to accept obesity as a valid lifestyle, would you also advocate for anorexia? Would you defend the right of a young woman to starve herself to death, in the name of body image, with the same passion you call for us to shut our mouths about an equally damaging health problem? No? I thought not.”

The trouble you're having understanding the argument here comes from the fact that you don't seem to comprehend the terms being used. Anorexia nervosa and obesity are by no means comparable. They are not opposite ends of a spectrum. In fact, they have little to do with each other at all.

To start off, you should try to understand that obesity is in no way a "lifestyle." Obesity is not a way of living; it is not an approach to the world that some people have. It's not a desire not to diet, or a desire to avoid exercise, or a desire to eat constantly and continuously. None of these things is obesity. Anorexia nervosa, on the other hand, is a disorder; and, as such, could be said to be a "lifestyle" in a sense. It is an unhealthy way of approaching the world, and approaching eating.

What is obesity? Obesity means having a body mass index, or BMI, that is above a certain average. That's all. Most people can recognize obesity when they see it; it's a relatively easy thing to see. But please note the many, many comments from people above who point out that it's entirely possible to be technically obese and yet completely healthy. In fact, there's some debate over whether BMI is a direct indicator for health in any way at all.

You tried to draw an analogy between anorexia – a disorder – and obesity – a category of BMI. There is no analogy there. If you wanted to draw a correct analogy, you would have to ask if there were any "skinny people acceptance groups; that is, acceptance groups for people whose bodies happen to be shaped in such a way that they're of somewhat lower BMI than average. I don't think Lindy West, or any of the size-acceptance people here, would have a problem with such groups.

And please note that there isn't anybody in this thread arguing for a binge-eating acceptance group. If we were, your argument might hold up.

“And every article advocating fat acceptance does just that, taking us a little bit further down the road to a sedentary lifestyle filled with junk food and misery as a societal norm we should not try to change.”

If you'd read the article, you'd see that Lindy West argues exactly the opposite of what you're saying. And I think she's right. It's not acceptance that makes people fatter. It's shame that makes people fatter. Yeah, that seems counter-intuitive, but if you disagree, maybe you should read it again and think a bit about how the psychology of it works. Oddly enough, we've also discovered that parents who punish their kids by beating them endlessly don't tend to produce happy children.

I get the feeling you don't understand the shame obese people go through. Please think about it for a while, and maybe read some of the blogs linked here.
posted by koeselitz at 9:47 AM on February 13, 2011 [23 favorites]


I think this is the meta-study that craichead refers to: Medicare's Search for Effective Obesity Treatments (American Psychologist, April 2007).

One thing is, it's largely focused on whether Medicare should fund calorie-controlled diet programs. That's not necessarily the same question as whether an individual should go on a diet.

Often, if you're entering some kind of formal weight loss program, it's because you haven't been able to lose weight informally on your own. The bulk of the studies they refer to are such programs. If such programs fail, that's useful policy information, since it suggests there's not much point ploughing public money into them. But that doesn't tell you as an individual that your informal dieting is pointless.

For instance if personal, informal attempts at weight loss are just as effective as formal public programs, that's an argument against Medicare funding such programs; but not an argument against personal, informal attempts at weight loss.

Another issue is that the study is concerned with finding the effects of diet in particular, and tries to eliminate the confounding effect of exercise. Scientifically that's absolutely the right thing to do for the purposes of the report. As they report "this confound is particularly significant because correlational studies consistently report that individuals who reported the most exercise also had the best weight loss maintenance".

So great, the scientists have eliminated the confounding factor and provided good evidence on the usefulness of diet-only weight loss. But it's a mistake to try to use this as a guide for effectiveness of personal weight loss. If you're trying to lose weight yourself, you want that confounding factor.

Finally, the body of studies they use doesn't seem that impressive. They have an awful lot of caveats about the studies they use: very low follow-up rates, they include studies that change diets to treat other conditions, there a short periods. It's not a huge body of data. It also seems a bit odd to me that it appears in "American Psychologist" rather than a journal of physical medicine.

I think there's a bit of a tendency within the Fat Acceptance Movement to latch onto particular studies, take them out of context of wider research, and use them in a way the original authors probably didn't intend. They tend to have that in common with certain other fringe groups.

For personal health advice, it might be better to rely onsources like the British NHS Live Well site, or the US Department of Health's Dietary Guidelines, than studies that aren't really meant to provide individual guidance.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:51 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


But turning it into a movement isn't the solution.

WHO ARE YOU TO SAY THIS. Seriously. SERIOUSLY.

My mind is completely boggled. Would you say this to a gay person who wants to get married? Or, you know, EXIST? Or a woman in the 60's? Or a black person in the 50's?

YOU DO NOT GET TO JUDGE WHAT IS A MOVEMENT OR NOT. This isn't happening because it's a fun thing to do. Look at the rest of this thread and tell me that people don't need to change the way they think.


Nice false equivalence. This is exactly what making a health issue into an acceptance movement creates. Outraged acolytes who ignorantly defend the dogma at the expense of anything else.

Hey, maybe I am ignorant. Did shaming me fix anything?
posted by gjc at 9:55 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am NOT stating that FA is anywhere near as important as Gay rights, or the Womens movement or Segregation.

What I *AM* saying is that you do not get to decide what movements are important. Because no one thought that any of those were important - they preferred the status quo. Time will tell how important this is, but it is NOT for you to say.

But jesus christ on a stick this thread makes is GLARINGLY OBVIOUS that there is a whole lot of hate for fat people. You don't get to choose.
posted by bibliogrrl at 10:02 AM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Koeselitz thanks for this. Just to clarify, I don't see anorexia as an equivalent, but rather as a diametrically opposed issue, which shares some commonalities. This is particularly true from the point of view of women's self-image. Food and eating is a very important part of this - in terms of self-esteem, and yes, shame as well. This is why it makes an interesting thought experiment, for me at least.

Or maybe I have this wrong - are you suggesting that obesity isn't related to eating and food intake at all?
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 10:10 AM on February 13, 2011


bibliogrrl: What I *AM* saying is that you do not get to decide what movements are important. Because no one thought that any of those were important - they preferred the status quo. Time will tell how important this is, but it is NOT for you to say.

Seriously? People aren't allowed to decide for themselves how to feel about any given issue? That's the stance you're taking here?
posted by paisley henosis at 10:18 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify, I don't see anorexia as an equivalent, but rather as a diametrically opposed issue, which shares some commonalities.
I don't think that's true, fwiw. Clinical anorexia, being 20% below "normal" body weight, is the exact analog of obesity. It's a descriptive term about weight that doesn't tell you anything about the causes or health implications of the person's weight. As with obesity, there are lots of things that cause clinical anorexia. Some people are very thin, and there's no underlying health issue or problem. Some people are very thin because of an underlying physical health problem, like cystic fibrosis or another wasting disease. Some people are very thin because they have an eating disorder. Similarly, there are many reasons a person might be obese, which is to say 20% above "normal" weight.

People who have eating disorders should get treated for their eating disorders, whether they're thin, fat or in-between. But not every clinically-anorexic or obese person has an eating disorder.
posted by craichead at 10:19 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seriously? People aren't allowed to decide for themselves how to feel about any given issue? That's the stance you're taking here?

That's not what bibliogrrl said and you know it.
posted by blucevalo at 10:21 AM on February 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


I cannot believe the number of people who can read an article basically saying "please don't judge me for my life choices" and then continue to argue "your life choices suck, here is what I did so you should just follow that because it worked for me so it will work for you, maybe if you didn't suck so much you could be skinny JUST LIKE ME." It honestly just blows my mind.
posted by kro at 10:21 AM on February 13, 2011 [20 favorites]


Or maybe I have this wrong - are you suggesting that obesity isn't related to eating and food intake at all?

I think koeselitz is suggesting that NOT ALL cases of obesity are related to eating and food intake.

I mean, don't get me wrong - I know a lot of fat people, and I know for some of them, it is not a medical issue. I'm not saying that every fat person in the United States is suffering from PCOS or a thyroid disorder or any of the hundreds of different things that hinder weight loss.

But I do. And isn't that kind of the point of this discussion? Fat people don't walk around with t-shirts saying 'It's cool, I have an hormonal imbalance' or 'Don't judge - my thyroid is wack' - but if they did, would you not judge that particular fatty that walks by you? If they were taking up a seat on the metro, would you feel less annoyed? Would you feel more sympathy for that person?

But we don't all have t-shirts. So maybe the point is that people just shouldn't judge fat people at all.
posted by kerning at 10:22 AM on February 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


craichead: “Clinical anorexia, being 20% below "normal" body weight, is the exact analog of obesity. It's a descriptive term about weight that doesn't tell you anything about the causes or health implications of the person's weight. As with obesity, there are lots of things that cause clinical anorexia.”

Hrm. I've never heard this definition of "clinical anorexia." As it's defined typically – by the DSM-IV criterion for anorexia nervosa, for instance, which doesn't mention BMI at all – anorexia nervosa is a psychological disorder, not a measure of body mass. The closest thing I could find anywhere to a claim that clinical anorexia is merely a measure of body mass is the Wikipedia article for "Body Mass Index," which says that low body mass is "an informal criterion" for anorexia nervosa. That's hardly the same thing as equivalence, right?
posted by koeselitz at 10:25 AM on February 13, 2011


craichead: there has never been a study that has shown that any diet or intervention, except weight-loss surgery, achieves long-term weight-loss in a majority, or even a substantial minority of people.

Wait, what? You're saying science has proven that it's impossible to lose weight by choice, over the long run?!? Grar kicks in. But then craichead says later:

Whereas other interventions, like encouraging people to eat well and exercise for their independent health benefits, not to lose weight, seem to be much more effective.

Oh, sure then, does anyone disagree with this? I thought everyone knew by know that dieting, in the sense of a book you buy that says eat only grapefruit and work out a lot, doesn't work. That eating the classic, whole grains and veggies and lean protein diet and regular exercise as a permanent lifestyle with no immediate weight loss goal is the way to go? Not sure why this is a SA/HAES position, or what shame has to do with it. I think it's the medical consensus as well.
posted by msalt at 10:28 AM on February 13, 2011


I'm really skinny, but I do have some experience that might be relevant here: I'm hypoglycemic. If I miss a meal my IQ falls precipitously, and eventually I fall asleep, perhaps while I'm supposed to be working.

If an obese person is also hypoglycemic, then in order to lose weight, they have to accept being a lot dumber some of the time.

Possibly not worth it.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:29 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would, personally, absolutely advocate that people with anorexia and bulimia deserve love, support, and no shaming for their food choices and body shapes and types. They do not deserve to be called disgusting, or harangued for what they eat or don't eat. People with low body weight in general should not be harassed in public by strangers. They should not be talked about behind their backs. They should not be told that they are ugly, revolting, that they won't be able to get a "good" partner without changing their weight. They do not deserve friends and family repeatedly sending them recipes for pie "for their health". None of this would help them at all.

So why would any of that behavior be helpful to the opposite end of the spectrum, if obesity is that?
posted by gracedissolved at 10:32 AM on February 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's still none of your business! If she wants to "eat herself to death" that's her fucking choice.

Sure, if that's what she wants, she is free to do that.
Just like the rest of us are free to point out that this is not really a healthy thing to do.
posted by sour cream at 10:35 AM on February 13, 2011


"Anorexia nervosa" is different from anorexia. Anorexia, without the nervosa, is a descriptive term for loss of appetite or weight-loss.

(I think I may be wrong about "clinical anorexia," though. That was the term that was used when I was in treatment for anorexia nervosa, but it looks like now it's been replaced with "underweight.")
That eating the classic, whole grains and veggies and lean protein diet and regular exercise as a permanent lifestyle with no immediate weight loss goal is the way to go? Not sure why this is a SA/HAES position, or what shame has to do with it. I think it's the medical consensus as well.
That is HAES. That's the philosophy. You should eat well and exercise because it's healthy to eat well and exercise, not because you want to lose weight. Maybe you will lose weight when you eat well and exercise, and maybe you won't. It doesn't matter. The point is to have healthy habits, not to reach or maintain a certain weight.

I actually did lose some weight when I adopted this philosophy, but nothing very dramatic, and it was probably just because my binge/starve cycle had messed up my metabolism. But I would have been better off even if I hadn't lost ten pounds, because eating well and exercising and not stressing about it is better for you than eating crap, exercising to punish yourself, and feeling like you're trash.
posted by craichead at 10:36 AM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Whole lotta anecdotes up in here.
posted by Sphinx at 10:37 AM on February 13, 2011


Not that an unhealthy state should be considered acceptable or equal on a societal level

Yeah, fuck those chronically-ill untermenschen! Anyone who isn't at the peak of his or her physical potential can go DIAF, amirite?
posted by cereselle at 10:59 AM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Whole lotta judgmental talk up in here too. I blame it all on Dan "Unsightly Rolls" Savage.
posted by blucevalo at 10:59 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


craichead: HAES = You should eat well and exercise because it's healthy to eat well and exercise, not because you want to lose weight. Maybe you will lose weight when you eat well and exercise, and maybe you won't. It doesn't matter. The point is to have healthy habits, not to reach or maintain a certain weight.

Awesome. HEY GUYS, we solved it!

Seriously though, I thought everyone knew this by now -- that the dieting cycle is destructive, that you might not lose a lot of pounds because muscle weighs more than fat but its the best long term strategy, etc.
posted by msalt at 11:07 AM on February 13, 2011


I used to be that fat-shaming person.

My first roommate in college was a big girl. She was on a diet for the entire first semester and never lost any weight. And I would ask questions like "are you really sticking to the diet all the time?" I'd just lost weight, and constantly pointed out what had worked to bring me from a size 4 to a size 2 (which is exactly the same as trying to lose 100 pounds, of course.) She would sometimes complain about her Athsma meds making it hard to lose weight, and I would encourage her that she could work around it.

And then she started losing weight. I was genuinely excited for her until she collapsed and stopped breathing one morning. She hadn't been taking her medication. And I brought it up once, and shed snapped at me that some weeks it was just fine to risk not breathing in exchange for a little relief from people like me.

See, here's the thing: I hadn't been worried about her health at all, no matter what I'd protested earlier. If I'd been worried about her health, I would have noticed how much trouble she was having trying to breathe, or how depressed all the bullshit made her, or at least not assumed she was lying about her meds/diet. I was just telling her what her body should look like, with no regard for her as a person. It was none of my goddamned business, and I'd gleefully pretended it was for months. I'd been a jerk.

So I make it a point now to assume people are telling the truth now. And I try to remember that I have never been you, with your problems and metabolism and life. Mainly, I try to not be a jerk.
posted by honeydew at 11:20 AM on February 13, 2011 [50 favorites]


msalt: Awesome. HEY GUYS, we solved it!

What's stuck in your craw? Just because you think everyone should already know this doesn't mean that everybody does, and I'm not seeing the point of your snark. I had never heard of the acronym HAES up until this point, so I learned something new today. Does this make me an ignoramus?
posted by blucevalo at 11:29 AM on February 13, 2011


some weeks it was just fine to risk not breathing in exchange for a little relief from people like me.

Yup, exactly. I never had to give up a medication to lose weight, but I was doing a whole lot of damage to my body by throwing up everything I ate and working out for 2 hours a day. And at the time I felt it was worth it, because it made a lot of people around me shut up about how I must not be trying hard enough to be thin.

This is what shame does to people. It makes them destroy themselves to win your approval, whether or not your approval is actually worth a damn. It's a horrible thing to do to people, and it needs to stop.
posted by palomar at 11:33 AM on February 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


Seriously though, I thought everyone knew this by now
You'd think, but they really don't. HAES is super controversial, even though for the most part it overlaps with mainstream recommendations about diet and exercise.

One reason that it's controversial, I think, is that intuitive eating is a really scary idea for a lot of people. I do it, and it was incredibly scary for me. It means trusting your senses and giving up the idea that your mind, which is the real you, should have dominion over your body. And that's a really basic and deep-seated idea in Western culture. I've said this elsewhere, but when I decided to eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full, it felt like jumping off a cliff. It was such an enormous leap of faith. And it really does go against the entire grain of mainstream diet advice, which is that you should carefully monitor and control what you eat.

And I think that the other controversial thing about HAES is that it emphasizes pleasure, and people in the US, in particular, are not real fans of sensual pleasure. You're not supposed to enjoy eating. You're not supposed to find exercise fun. You're especially not supposed to do those things if you're fat, but really you're not supposed to take any pleasure in your body at all, unless it's the pleasure that comes from punishment and self-denial.
posted by craichead at 11:39 AM on February 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


But to be 350lbs and claim it's your thyroid . . . I would need to see the medical report from the doctor.

Schroedinger: Papers, please.

350-lber: What?

Schroedinger: I need to see the medical report from your doctor before I'll accept that thyroid disease caused you to weigh this much.

350-lber: Oh, I see. Just a minute, it's right here... rummages in bag for doctor's note

Schroedinger: reads I see. Carry on, then.

350-lber: Whew. continues down the sidewalk

Dan Savage: Papers, please.

350-lber: But I just showed--

Dan Savage: That may have convinced Schroedinger, but I won't be convinced until I see them. Hand 'em over.

350-lber: sigh Here you go. Can I go now? I have someplace to be.

Dan Savage: peruses Well... This time. But that someplace you have to be better be the gym, buddy, or I won't let you off so lightly next time.

350-lber: Look, this is none of your--

Dan Savage: Don't take that tone with me! Who's the fat one here?

350-lber: meekly Me.

Dan Savage: That's right, and don't you forget it. Now get out of my sight.
posted by cereselle at 11:52 AM on February 13, 2011 [19 favorites]


Savage: With your unsightly rolls and such! Good God!
posted by blucevalo at 11:54 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've never exactly given up the idea that brain == self, instead I learned to interpret my emotions in much the same way as my senses. They provide information about me that I would not otherwise have. Pleasure may not mean "do this. Do it as much as you can" but it at least means that some need I have is being served.
posted by LogicalDash at 12:34 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jane: OMG, look how much money you have! You must feel so good about yourself! God, I wish I could be rich. I'm so fucking poor.

Dick: Well, it's not like I tried. My parents were rich, and left me tons of money. No matter how much I spend, there's always more.

Sally: Jane, if you tried harder you could be rich. I used to be poor, but with discipline, hard work, and willpower, I'm now as rich as Dick!

Jane: I do try not to spend money. But I don't make a lot, being a librarian, and after a long day of dealing with the public, who get mad if we don't have eighteen copies of the latest DVD release, and with the county government, who think that we don't actually need funding, and that we're all a bunch of lazy layabout bookworms anyway-- well, I just leave work at the end of the day and I want so badly to go buy a pair of shoes or something.

Sally: It's all about willpower. You have to force yourself not to buy shoes. I wouldn't be rich if I went out and bought a pair of Jimmy Choos every time I felt bad.

Jane: I buy shoes from Payless.

Sally: It doesn't matter. Shoes make you poor.

Jane: Shoes make you poor?

Sally: Yes. If you own more than one pair of shoes, you're going to be poor.

Dick: I buy shoes all the time, and I'm not poor.

Sally: Maybe so, but the fact remains, buying shoes makes you poor. I'm sick of poor people loading up on shoes and then whining about being poor.

Spot: You're right. God, poor people are disgusting. No offense, Jane. You're not really poor.

Sally: Although you should have made better choices in life. You should have become an investment banker like me; then you'd be rich too. I'm just telling you this to help you.

Jane: I feel so miserable. My life is fucked.

Sally: You can do it! Change careers to something that will make you rich, and stop buying shoes!

Jane: looking at Sally blankly Do you realize how difficult that would be?

Sally: It's harder for some people than others, yeah. But it's not impossible. At least, I've never heard of anyone for whom it was impossible to become rich. I realize there are some out there, but those cases are few and far between.

Jane: I do feel so ashamed to go out in public and inflict my shabby clothing and Payless shoes on the world.

Dick: Hey, you aren't as bad as Puff. She has unsightly holes in her shoes! I wanted to walk up to her and say "You know, if you tried harder, you'd be able to afford better shoes!" I mean, seriously. That was just... ugh.

Puff: overhearing Why is it your business what my shoes look like, anyway?

Dick: Because. Dude. You're poor. My taxes pay for welfare, so I'm supporting you, when if you just tried hard enough, you could be rich too!

Puff: I'm supporting my aged parents. They need lots of specialized medical care, plus they lost their retirement funds in the stock market.

Sally: That's just an excuse. Anyway, I don't believe you really do have aged and infirm parents. I'd have to see your bank statement.

Jane: Yeah. Hard work makes you rich. Everyone knows that.

Puff: I work three jobs.

Jane: HARD WORK MAKES YOU RICH.

Puff: Dick doesn't work at all, and he's--

Jane: HARD. WORK. MAKES. YOU. RICH.

Puff: Okay, fuck this. You know what? I don't need to be rich.

Dick: ...

Sally: ...

Jane: ...

Spot: What do you mean? You can't just give up like that! You'll be poor! Forever!

Puff: Maybe I won't be rich, but I'll still be able to do all the things I want to do in life. And I prefer to concentrate my energy on living my life rather than chasing after wealth.

Sally: So you're just going to walk around like that? Being poor in front of everyone? That makes me sick. I mean, I worked hard to be rich, and even now, I can only buy the minimum of stuff I need to stay alive, so I'll still have all my money. And you're just saying it's okay not to be rich?

Jane: I feel sorry for you. At least I respect myself enough to try to improve myself. And someday I will be rich, and then my life can begin!

Dick: Man, I'm glad I'll never have to worry about being poor like that.

Puff: Hey. Y'all aren't the Money Police. My income is none of your business, and I'm sick of you thinking it is. So in conclusion, fuck off.

Fin
posted by cereselle at 1:11 PM on February 13, 2011 [78 favorites]


A note to all anecdoters:

Professional researchers have trouble drawing conclusions from controlled dietary studies. How is it that you feel qualified to determine the dietary needs of entire populations based on yourself and your immediate circle of acquaintances?

Hang on, I have to go back to my lunch of raw seal meat. All my Inuit friends tell me that this and a few roots is all I need to be healthy. It seems to work fine for them. . .
posted by Ndwright at 1:21 PM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


A little late to the party, but crayz's statement "Americans are the fattest people on earth" is simply not true. Yes, obesity rates have increased, but they have increased in many many countries around the globe. Take a look at this chart from the WaPo; it charts global changes in male and female BMIs in 199 countries from 1980 to 2008. The US has one of the higher averages, true. But you see a lot of Gulf and other Arab countries with higher rates. Some of the Pacific Islanders nations are at the very tail of the distribution.

Two points stuck out to me:
1) There are many countries where the average BMIs have increased as much if not more than the US. Because the US started out with a higher average we outpaced them, but the gains are similar.
2) It looks like about 2/3rds of the countries have average BMIs above the cutoff for overweight.
posted by emkelley at 1:23 PM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Cereselle - that was all kinds of fucking awesome.
posted by hollygoheavy at 1:35 PM on February 13, 2011


A note to all anecdoters:

I don't think it's fair to assume that saying it's possible to lose weight is the same as telling anyone they need to lose weight or that the way I did it would work for everyone. The anecdotes I shared in this thread were in direct response to the idea that it's because we live in a society with more crappy foods available than healthy ones that people can't lose weight if they want to. To me, that's like an alcoholic saying they could quit drinking, if only all those bars would close, and you couldn't buy beer in the grocery store.

Obviously not all obese people have problems with over-eating, but that doesn't mean that no obese people have problems with over-eating. It is very empowering to realize that you can do something that you never thought was possible and I'm sorry if I've been overzealous in trying to share my realization that weight loss is possible. I am not denying that weight loss is very complicated, difficult, and related to personal issues. Saying that something is possible is not the same thing as saying it's easy.

Nor is it the same thing as saying every overweight person should lose weight. It's no one's business how much a person weighs but their own.
posted by girih knot at 1:44 PM on February 13, 2011


>> And this is the problem I have with so-called fat acceptance. Eating yourself to death is not a natural, healthy or admirable thing to do, any more than smoking, drinking, or starving yourself to death is.

> But what you (and a lot of other people in this thread) are not getting is that it doesn't matter if you approve or not.


Meta-ly: it doesn't matter if you approve of their approval, or lack thereof.

What I find weird is that there seems to be a lack of acceptance of genuine concern: I know there's a great number of people who will couch their raw judgementalism with false sympathy, but goddamn -- when I see loved ones ballooning up I worry about them as much as I do my friends who participate in more clear-cut self-injurious behaviors. Having have had much unproductive suggestions towards lifestyle change lobbed my way since youth I keep my trap shut, but it doesn't negate my concerns.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:59 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know there is a movement called "harm reduction" ...

That's an interesting connection/comparison. I'm a big supporter of harm reduction in the drug community, but it's a very controversial position in the general public. Many people think drug users deserve the fate they get, that they're somehow morally inferior. Shame is also used as a tool in this case to change behavior. Harm reduction advocates hope to reduce the harm inflicted on users, even if they choose to continue to use. Instead of shame they use clean needles and water, safe practices and education to help users.

But here's the thing. Most harm reductionists don't hold the position that a choice to continue drug use is a healthy choice. They still recognize that it's a relatively unhealthy lifestyle. Sure, there might be a statistical minority who are able to maintain a healthy injection habit. But for the vast majority, it's still a risky choice. Fat acceptance seems to veer off here, with many of them stating that a fat lifestyle is a healthy lifestyle, even if the medical science doesn't back that up.

By all means, fight for your right to make that choice, attack the shame and public attitudes that may be unhealthy. But also recognize that sometimes a choice to continue to live that way may not be the most healthy choice. Is it any of my business? It is when the culture we're building together depends on shared norms and values that we all contribute to.

As an aside, I'm not saying that fat acceptance is exactly equivalent to harm reduction, they both have different risk profiles, but it's an interesting comparison.
posted by formless at 2:02 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


blucevalo: That's not what bibliogrrl said and you know it.

My bad, I must have actually read the part where she said "you do not get to decide" and taken the words she wrote to indicate the viewpoint she believed.

So glad you could snark that up for me.
posted by paisley henosis at 2:04 PM on February 13, 2011


What I find weird is that there seems to be a lack of acceptance of genuine concern.

The place to express that concern is within those relationships, not as generalities aimed at an anonymous public.
posted by Miko at 2:10 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hey, so I just wanted to thank all of the awesome people who have been participating in this thread. Even with the best of intentions, I can't quite let go sometimes of the idea that I'm inherently unlikeable/undeserving because of my weight. The support from so many of you is just amazing.
posted by Salieri at 3:09 PM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fat shaming stole years of my life. The constant exercising left me with permanent injuries that make it very difficult and painful for me to exercise now. The binge/restrict cycles were the most humiliating experiences of my life, even though I was completely alone through them. I hated living that life so much that I would sleep as much as possible when not at work to avoid falling back into a binge. I thought I was unattractive and unlovable and fatally flawed. My body image was never particularly distorted; although I am on the thin side of normal, I was not (and am not) as thin as the Western ideal. There was a time when inducing shame in me would have directly and immediately triggered a binge. As soon as I started to work on accepting and respecting myself, I stopped binging (and indeed, stopped even craving sugary/oily food).

If you cannot understand the impact that fat shaming has on people, and think that somehow it is in their best interest to accept them as anything other than who they are at that moment, then perhaps you should be the one taking a look in the mirror.
posted by quiet coyote at 3:22 PM on February 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


short on time and ever shorter on patience from some of the anecdotes given.

Stephen Bloom Imperial College (pubmed him up the wazoo)
"essentially once we go above BMI 30 we effectively break the weight regulatory mechanisms".... that people below that have" (given that BMI 30 + if you are an athlete with lost of lean muscle is not the same)
We get above that weight for an extremely complex variety of reasons.

while in Med school I did an experiment with my OH. My metabolic rate was EFFICIENT as hell (1450 kcals) his was 2500+ we could never find the upper limit because even having a pint of Hagen Daaz as a snack he did not gain weight so we stopped cos he was feeling ill after 3 weeks)

Maybe the fact that I'm Irish and these genes survived the famine? Who the hell knows?
I spent most of my educated adult life dieting and doing extreme amounts of exercise and hating my body.
I eventually researched all of my options and realised I had to get with the programme. This was also when I was in surgical training and I saw the incredible results of bariatric surgery for Type 2 diabetes. I only need 1450kc (or less as I grow older) calories to survive.
So in order to spend the rest of my life effectivley on a diet I had an adjustable gastric band inserted. I have exchanged one group of bigots (the fat haters) for another ("you took the easy way out!")

Last year the most common operation in the USA was the RnY Gastric Bypass. Period. More common than Lap Chole (gallbladder removal) T
hat is because right now bariatric surgery is the only mechanism for long term weight loss maintanance. (oh, and of course your anecdotal two friends! data suggest your two friends must be part of the 1.6% who lose significant amounts of weight and keep it off for longer than 4 years ( oh you mean they were 10lbs overweight? OK maybe that stat moves up) PubMed the SOS Swedish Obesity Study, FDA approval of Lapband as a primary Diabetes T2 treatment,

Sometime in the future we'll have a mechanism which allows all metabolism to work equally effectively and then everyone will have to eat less.

It is as simply as calories in.... but to actually control a normal western diet to 1450 with all of the other stressors in life, in what Bloom calls an obesogenic culture we actually either need some kind of phamacological or mechanical support.
His feeling is the pills are about 20 years out much as Big Phamram would like to convince their shareholders that it's just months away. To hear him lecture of the cannaboid receptiors is an eye opener.
( know how cannabis gives you the munchies? well some French bright spark thught is we
could just block those receptors people wouldn't eat as much AAAAANNNNDDDD it worked! they didn't


BUT

What is the aim of cannabis consuption? To make you feel mellow, happy, right? so when the test subjects were thin enough and started to commit suicide in their droves they halted the experiment....

I now diet every single day & excercise a reasonable amount without cutting down on really good foods and do not feel hungry or deprived because I have a mechanical device which assists people like me.
posted by Wilder at 3:53 PM on February 13, 2011


Nthing "the shaming needs to stop". It's hurtful and cruel, and it's ridiculous. Most Americans are fat, so where does the shame come from? The "fat acceptance", if it needs to come from anywhere, needs to come from fat people.

"Fat acceptance" is evident in the array of products and services that cater to the lifestyles of people who eat large quantities of high-calorie, high-fat, nutrient-poor foods and get little exercise. There are fast food places on every other corner. Biscuits and chicken are considered an acceptable "snacker". The largest coffee chain on the planet specializes in drinks that have upwards of 500 calories. Over the last 30 years, as Americans have grown larger, clothing manufacturers have quietly expanded and shifted their size ranges. Also, there's the Tush Turner, (Just Google it). Fat "hatred" is evident in the array of weight-loss products and services, some entirely crackpot, some worthwhile, others just a "lick and a promise" (e.g., junk food with labels that boast of low-fat, low-carb qualities).

The corporations that produce and distribute these products and services do so via a complex web of subsidiaries and interrelationships. I think it can pretty much be summed up by the fact that Nestle owns Jenny Craig. As a consumer, I can't trust that Jenny has my weight-loss interests at heart when her parent company also wants to sell me crappy American chocolate.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 4:15 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Given that shame represents a loss of dignity, I'd say that was a steep price to pay. Wouldn't it have been better if you got healthier simply because you wanted to be healthy?"

I'm very shallow. :D So shame is a more effective motivator for me.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:18 PM on February 13, 2011


Last year the most common operation in the USA was the RnY Gastric Bypass. Period.

Citation, please.

While GBP surgery is becoming more prevalent, factors such as availability of trained surgeons, time to table from entry into program, and costs are still hugely limiting, as is the fact that there are still quite a number of restrictions on the type of obese individual covered.
posted by docpops at 4:24 PM on February 13, 2011


As someone pointed out above, if more than half the US is overweight, or obese, then the non-obese population is in the minority and rapidly shrinking based on current trends, so at some point fat-acceptance is going to sound increasingly silly. If you are part of the dominant demographic, whether it is skin color, political persuasion, gender, or sexual identity, feeling oppressed or shamed won't happen by osmosis. Most of who I see over twenty is overweight. They don't seem aware in the slightest that they are too heavy, unless you ask them to compare themselves to what they were ten years earlier. Being cruel is never OK, but if we can't toughen up and discuss the problem our health care system will be bankrupted.
posted by docpops at 4:32 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, if you aren't a little hungry anytime you are awake, you're doing it wrong.
posted by docpops at 4:33 PM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm very shallow. :D So shame is a more effective motivator for me.

Good for you. Shame made me attempt suicide multiple times before I turned 18, and a few times since. But hey, if it worked for you, congrats.
posted by palomar at 4:35 PM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


They don't seem aware in the slightest that they are too heavy.
Bullshit.
posted by Karmakaze at 4:35 PM on February 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


No bullshit. Unless I am witnessing some sort of mass delusion over the last fifteen years, but you are welcome to think whatever you want. I'll clarify and say this is much more prevalent in men than women, if that helps. I would agree that women are much more quick to blame their weight for a host of maladies and I'm frequently telling them that it isn't, actually.
posted by docpops at 4:44 PM on February 13, 2011


What's stuck in your craw? Just because you think everyone should already know this doesn't mean that everybody does, and I'm not seeing the point of your snark. I had never heard of the acronym HAES up until this point, so I learned something new today. Does this make me an ignoramus?

No, no no. No snark intended, just genuine amazement when what seemed to be deep disagreement in this thread seemed to evaporate. I had never heard the acronym HAES either, but the concept of don't diet, live the healthy life and don't focus on weight goals or deprivation -- sorry, I thought it was understood.

Craichead raises some good reasons why it might not be. Another, perhaps -- the diet/food obsession/delicious recipe/"show love through baking" themes running through so many magazines, Oprah, daytime TV shows, etc. I seriously think there are a lot of media that make their bread and butter off this bad cycle, diet/binge/guilt/repeat. No profit in breaking the cycle.
posted by msalt at 4:48 PM on February 13, 2011


I would agree that women are much more quick to blame their weight for a host of maladies and I'm frequently telling them that it isn't, actually.

Also almost certainly bullshit.
posted by vers at 4:49 PM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


OK, I take it back. It was all bullshit. Carry on.
posted by docpops at 4:53 PM on February 13, 2011


I would agree that women are much more quick to blame their weight...
Well, which is it? Do they not know they're "too heavy" or are they blaming their excess weight on the wrong things? Because if they don't know, then why would they be assigning blame?
posted by Karmakaze at 4:59 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, docpops, since you're here, you read the strong evidence that people in your profession have very deep-set and unfortunate biases against people based on their weight, right? There's a strong bias in the medical profession against these people that has nothing to do with health. That's something that really, really needs to be taken care of. The study linked points out that medical professionals are often unable to make eye contact with obese people.

I know it's hard for you to hear this, but your profession has a real problem here. And it needs to be taken care of. What are you doing to fix it?
posted by koeselitz at 5:00 PM on February 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


docpops, you may have some great insights in there but you crowd them out with your thesis that since so many fat people exist, then it must be accepted.

I don't know your gender, but guessing that 'docpops' means you're a guy, I wonder if you've recently taken a peek into the pages of say, Glamour, Marie Claire, any of the magazines aimed at young women. If you haven't, I wonder if you might and then think about whether the women in the ads are at a healthy weight.

This is society's ideal. This is what young women are told they should look like. Read the anecdotes here about eating disorders. Why would women, including myself, some twenty years ago, exercise/force themselves to vomit/diet to the point of injury? What is your explanation for this?


Jacqueline, okay, shame worked for you, but it's actually hurt a lot of folks, and it would be kind of nice if you weren't all glibly emoticon about it. Sheesh.
posted by angrycat at 5:03 PM on February 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


I know one woman who has a thyroid disorder, I believe hyperthyroid in nature. She states that with medication, careful attention to what she eats, and regular exercise (she's a triathlete) her weight is well within a healthy range. The other woman I know is missing her thyroid entirely due to cancer. Her situation is similar: medication, attention to her food, exercise. The one missing her thyroid says average weight gain should be about 10-15lbs--when it's more it's generally due to lifestyle habits.
posted by schroedinger at 12:17 AM on February 13

I know this is way, way back up there, but this has been bothering me all day. I'd like to make a correction to these assertions. The first case schroedinger uses is hyperthyroid; that is, her overall metabolism is faster then is the norm. Even if her meds bring her metabolism down to normal, if she's a triathelete, she isn't struggling with weight gain, joint pain, or energy levels the same way that many or most hypothyroid patients do. The second case had thyroid cancer; in my caustic opinion, those are the lucky ones, since they are prescribed a higher dose of replacement hormones to suppress the TSH in hopes that will keep recurrence of cancer at bay. Those without cancer are most often prescribed inadequate replacement hormones (often not the right ones in the right ratio) that keep them at the very lowest level of the "normal" range.
posted by vers at 5:05 PM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


"They don't seem aware in the slightest that they are too heavy"

"Bullshit."

I genuinely didn't know until my mid-twenties and started reading books about dating and attractiveness. As I wrote upthread, everyone in my family was chubby, and almost everyone I socialized with was obese.

When everyone around you is too fat and eats in an unhealthy way, you don't figure out that there's anything wrong with it until someone outside of your community tells you. And often it takes being told multiple times by multiple people before it starts to sink in that maybe it's not just one weirdo's opinion.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:05 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had a TV, as a teenager. I had magazine subscriptions. I knew who the cool kids at school were and what their waistlines looked like. I'm pretty sure, Jacqueline, that you are the exception, not the rule.
posted by gracedissolved at 5:11 PM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Jacqueline, I was sitting here completely baffled because I can't imagine growing up as a fat kid anywhere in this country, or possibly even the world, and not being mocked and belittled on a daily basis. Because that was my experience. And then I went back upthread and read the comment where you talk about your experiences being fat. And then everything made sense -- 5 foot 6, 165 pounds is not exactly the giant monument to obesity that you seem to think it is. I'm sure it was jarring for you, but honey, the reason nobody was telling you how fat you were is because you weren't.
posted by palomar at 5:13 PM on February 13, 2011 [19 favorites]


I've seen a lot of people writing about "starving themselves" in this thread, and I'm not really sure what people mean by that. It isn't, I don't think, along the lines of anorexia you mean, right?

When I lost a good percentage of my body weight a few years ago -- which has stayed off -- I did it through "starving myself," and by that I mean "I ate more each day than most people in the developing nations eat in a week."
posted by Threeway Handshake at 5:28 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bah. everyone is so angry. I am all for not being mean to people, and to kill the shaming off with a big knife.

We each have our own demons to fight, and one of mine is obesity. I won't be sharing personal stories because that seems to cloud and anger just about everyone.

Outside of our individual experiences and personal feelings, rising obesity rates are a sign of ill health in the population. So how do we do this, exactly? We have to find a way to love ourselves and not be dicks to each other- but then we need to find a way to start fixing the problems of ill health that are highlighted by rising obesity rates. The whole "healthy at any size" thing seems like a good idea... but it's too extreme. A seven hundred pound man is not healthy. He probably has trouble walking and may need help breathing at night. there is no reason to shame him, but i sure hope his doctor is doing his darnedest to help him solve whatever it is that has him there.

how about this: we don't tell poor individuals to "goddamned pull up your boot straps!" as they wait in line at the soup kitchen. Instead we are constantly trying to figure out a way to promote education and work on community-building social programs. Just like that- don't pester or judge the fatty on the street (or the skinny or whatever). We just keep truckin' on promoting public awareness of how to treat your body the best way possible.
posted by Blisterlips at 5:35 PM on February 13, 2011


...wow, I didn't see that height/weight thing above. Yeah. Jacqueline, if you weren't getting dates at 5'6" and 165lbs, it was not your attractiveness, or at least not the weight component of that, that was the problem. And if people made you feel so ashamed of that that you can now only be happy at a body weight that is literally only one pound above underweight by BMI? You are not a good example about how everybody can totally lose weight and live happy and well-adjusted lives. I wouldn't trade for your body image even if you threw in a million bucks.
posted by gracedissolved at 5:41 PM on February 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


Threeway Handshake, for me, "starving myself" was eating less than 800 calories a day. Some days I ate actual chewable food, but most days I just pounded a lot of water and three canned weight loss shakes. The ones I used clocked in at around 180 calories apiece, so that's 540 calories.

That should be considered anorexia, but because I was a size 18 at the time, most people around me just praised me for being so "good".
posted by palomar at 5:42 PM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


"And if people made you feel so ashamed of that that you can now only be happy at a body weight that is literally only one pound above underweight by BMI?"

I am very small-boned and don't have a lot of muscle mass (need to work on that) so I should be at the low end of normal BMI.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:46 PM on February 13, 2011


schroedinger: Weight loss is one of the hardest tasks 99% of human beings will ever face. Your body fights against weight loss, and this gets worse the heavier your body gets.

I totally agree that altering your body composition is a long, protracted, arduous affair. It can be profoundly disruptive to the rest of your life, even if for most people it is physically possible to lose weight. But I think this is exactly why it's offensive to expect someone to plunge into such an undertaking (especially on somebody else's behalf), or to judge them if they don't, or to assume they aren't already fighting that particular battle.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:49 PM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Threeway Handshake, I can only speak for the way I use the phrase: in my early twenties, I went through several periods of disordered eating. My behavior was very similar to anorexia nervosa - obsessive calorie counting and weighing myself, eating under 300 calories a day for weeks, withdrawing from people so I wouldn't be around food or have to explain why I wasn't eating, etc. etc. However, one of the current diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa is a body weight under 85% of "the expected weight," whatever that is. I lost a lot of weight, but since I was heavy to begin with, I was never underweight. I can't really say I was anorexic, and since I never saw a doctor about it I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder, so I say things like "I starved myself" or "I had disordered eating" instead.

I suspect some people use it to mean less extreme things, like a 1200-calorie diet that left them fatigued and fuzzy-headed. On the other hand, moderate diets can deteriorate into seriously restrictive and unhealthy behaviors more easily than some people think.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:52 PM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


When everyone around you is too fat and eats in an unhealthy way, you don't figure out that there's anything wrong with it until someone outside of your community tells you.

I think you'd have to go to another country to find that out. Get over to one of those Nordic countries and it's a shocker—OMG, they're all so fit!

What's normal in North America is not actually normal: the obesity epidemic is recent, odd, and worrying. Something has gone wrong.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:53 PM on February 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


You know, Jacqueline, people are kinda pouring out their hearts here, and I think you know that no one is saying that skinny = bad.

If it makes you feel better, rock on with your bad skinny self. I give you full acceptance. Even better, the rest of the entire western world accepts you as well. Too bad the fat folk can't say the same.
posted by Salieri at 5:54 PM on February 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


"I'm feeling a distinct lack of skinny acceptance in this thread. Why won't you respect my lifestyle choices. "

You're the one who said you had to gain weight because you didn't want to look like a gross anorexic chick or something like that. Which is nasty in another way. Seriously, you're all up in this thread shaming everyone for everything. You wanted to get laid, you lost weight, great for you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:56 PM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I just think it's extremely ironic that in a thread in which people are shouting about how shame doesn't work and we shouldn't criticize people for their size, when someone shows up and says "Actually, shame did work for me" the knee-jerk reaction is to criticize my body size and try to shame me by suggesting that I have an unhealthy body image.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:02 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The knee-jerk reaction is more to your obnoxious attitude and you were the first one in this thread to knock people for being too skinny. But whatever makes you feel better.

:D
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:04 PM on February 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


Jacqueline, can you provide us with some examples of people criticizing your body size?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:06 PM on February 13, 2011


The upside, though, is now I get to justify eating ice cream for dinner as an ironic act instead of just being a lazy butt who doesn't feel like cooking. Y'all get to feel good about hating on the skinny bitch, and I get ice cream in my belly. Everybody wins!!!!!
posted by Jacqueline at 6:07 PM on February 13, 2011


I don't hate you, Jacqueline. I feel deeply, deeply sorry for you.
posted by palomar at 6:07 PM on February 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


Jacqueline, no one hates you - or envies you, if that's what you're thinking. But thank you for making this thread all about you. I hope your self-esteem has improved as a result.
posted by Salieri at 6:09 PM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Jacqueline, I don't know your experiences, but from what you've shared in this thread, your BMI of 26 and change did not create the same shame for you that obese people get every day from strangers and loved ones alike.

Weight is a difficult issue and can be very personal and you can help by not being so disingenuous and glib in the face of other people's struggles.
posted by girih knot at 6:10 PM on February 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


What works for me is fear. Fear of being old. Being old is going to be troubling enough without compounding my problems.

Twenty to thirty years of labored breathing, of diabetes, of poor sleep, aching joints, depression, limited mobility—good gods. No. Might as well kill myself as suffer that.

Or, preferably, avoid it as much as possible by taking better care of myself. Which sucks in its own way, but I gotta figure it sucks a lot less.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:12 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think people are hating on you for being skinny. I'm skinny myself and still find you annoying. You're acting like an obnoxious, self-absorbed brat. That's why people are hating on you.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:12 PM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Eating right... now there's a topic we could really sink our jaws into. I doubt this transformation needs more exposure, but this is the progression of Dave on a primal diet.
posted by vers at 6:13 PM on February 13, 2011



But jesus christ on a stick this thread makes is GLARINGLY OBVIOUS that there is a whole lot of hate for fat people. You don't get to choose.

Exactly where? The only hate I see is against people who dare to say that they have lost weight and are happy they did. Like, this for example:

I don't hate you, Jacqueline. I feel deeply, deeply sorry for you.
posted by palomar at 6:07 PM on February 13 [+] [!]

posted by gjc at 6:14 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jacqueline, I don't know your experiences, but from what you've shared in this thread, your BMI of 26 and change did not create the same shame for you that obese people get every day from strangers and loved ones alike.

Jacqueline seems to be acting kind of deliberately provocative here, but on the other hand, hasn't a significant part of this thread been all about how no one can possibly know the struggles each of us has been through? Why is it suddenly that you feel so comfortable assessing what she's been through?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:15 PM on February 13, 2011


gjc, I feel sorry for Jacqueline due to her attitude in this thread. I could give two shits about anything else about her.
posted by palomar at 6:16 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jacqueline, if you are happy with your weight, good on you.
What is not so happy is that you seem to not be oblivious, and this in spite of the number of anecdotes in the thead. Do you think that people are making up painful stories to entertain themselves, or to fuck with you?
posted by angrycat at 6:16 PM on February 13, 2011


I know anecdotes aren't data, but I see a lot of people mistaking eating disorders for legitimate attempts at healthy diets aimed at weight loss. 800 calories a day just isn't enough for almost anyone. If you don't eat enough calories (and the right kind of nutritional ones) for an extended period of time, your body will freak out and turn on the "gather reserves!" mode of operation.
posted by gjc at 6:18 PM on February 13, 2011


Exactly where?
Well, would you say that describing people who are overweight as "eating themselves to death" is a loving sentiment?
posted by Karmakaze at 6:19 PM on February 13, 2011


What I get from Jacqueline is that she is saying that painful experiences aren't really relevant to whether advocating overweight is a good idea.
posted by gjc at 6:21 PM on February 13, 2011


Well, would you say that describing people who are overweight as "eating themselves to death" is a loving sentiment?

It might not be a kind thing to say, but it is a far cry from hateful.
posted by gjc at 6:23 PM on February 13, 2011


Jacqueline, you can be skinny and lose weight and love yourself all you want and that's awesome. However, I'm 5'6" and a couple pounds shy of 150, sometimes hitting the mark if I've been drinking a lot of water. I'm not "lazy" or a "hideous whale." I'm sure you didn't mean to imply that I am, but that's what it sounds like from here.

That's a real problem, I think: when people talk about their bodies and their self-loathing, they're only thinking about how it affects themselves, and they certainly don't mean to call anyone ugly, but it spills over. Nearly everyone's known a skinny girl who seems to truly believe she's fat and won't hear a word otherwise. And that girl will, in the same breath, convincingly exclaim that of course you are not fat, you're beautiful, she's fat, even though you know you have thirty pounds on her. And when you get constantly bombarded by people of any size calling themselves hideous whales, you start to wonder what they see when they look at you.

A lot of resources on eating disorder prevention mention that, to help instill healthy self-images in young girls, you shouldn't speak ill of your own body or others'. They will pick up on it. And I think that's the main thing the fat acceptance movement's trying to get at: can't we all just be comfortable in our own bodies, skinny or fat, work on our own health, and enjoy ice cream without any complicated feelings?
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:23 PM on February 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Who cares what other people weigh? Why is it damaging to society if people are overweight? You're going to die anyway. Eat what makes you happy
I used to be naturally thin, but I've started to gain enough weight that people joke about it. But I figure if I want to be attractive I can go to the gym or write songs, and the second seems more fun. Plus, someone close to me has an eating disorder - probably partly caused by the toxic culture of thinness

Sent from my phone at Burger King, since it's alli can afford
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:23 PM on February 13, 2011


wait wait wait people are saying that people SHOULD be overweight?
Or is that a complete straw man.
Which could it be, I wonder. Motherfuckin' mystery, that is.
posted by angrycat at 6:24 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Quick question, gjc, since the 800 calories comment makes me think you're talking about my statement: did I explicitly state that that was an example of healthy eating? Nope. That was an example of "starving oneself".

Here is where I talk about my body's dieting history. I know a shitload about diets, about healthy eating, about eating disorders, about recovering from eating disorders. A lot of fat people do -- not every fat person is eating disordered, but a large percentage of us have developed disordered eating thanks to diets and well-meaning people trying to shame us into a version of ourselves they can more readily accept.
posted by palomar at 6:28 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


(in response to gfc's spin on Jacqueline's position)
posted by angrycat at 6:29 PM on February 13, 2011


"Jacqueline, can you provide us with some examples of people criticizing your body size?"

@Mary: In general, or from this thread specifically?

In general, my overweight biological family (who all have cholesterol and blood pressure levels so high that they have to take medication) chide me about being too skinny and accuse me of being anorexic when I'm not.

My mother, who is obese, saw a recent picture of me and wanted to send me to an eating disorders clinic because her idea of what a healthy body weight is so out-of-whack. And this is a woman who watches plenty of TV and movies and reads plenty of women's magazines and has been exposed to all the mainstream media brainwashing that skinny = good. But she is so deep in denial about her obesity that the only way she can deal with her daughter being skinny is to assume that I'm the one with the problem!

In this thread specifically, "...the reason nobody was telling you how fat you were is because you weren't."

If I wasn't fat then, then I must be horribly underweight now after losing 50 pounds, right?

Then, "...you can now only be happy at a body weight that is literally only one pound above underweight by BMI? You are not a good example about how everybody can totally lose weight and live happy and well-adjusted lives. I wouldn't trade for your body image even if you threw in a million bucks."

So apparently there is something wrong with being at the low end of normal BMI? I have a body image problem because I deduced that with small bones and low muscle mass that I was exactly the type of person who should be at the low end of normal BMI (leaving the high end for the people with big bones and/or muscles)?

BTW, my ideal feminine physique is Linda Hamilton from Terminator 2, so even though I lost weight, I still fall far, far short of my ideal in the muscles department. And the only time I get motivated enough to exercise is when I shame myself to get off my lazy butt and go lift some weights.

I'm not trying to make this all about me, just point out that contrary to the majority opinion voiced in this thread, sometimes shame does work.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:32 PM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


The upside, though, is now I get to justify eating ice cream for dinner as an ironic act instead of just being a lazy butt who doesn't feel like cooking. Y'all get to feel good about hating on the skinny bitch, and I get ice cream in my belly. Everybody wins!!!!!

That is, if you are a fan of smug cruelty. As a fellow skinny [person], let me explain that it's not jealousy of your "skinny bitchness" that's causing such a negative reaction, it's the lack of empathy being shown in your last few comments. We all get it, you are at a weight that you are happy about, you felt your higher weight level made you unattractive and so you did something about it.

As far as you're concerned, your (self) shaming turned out well for you. Shaming (by oneself but primarily by others) doesn't turn out so well for lots and lots of other people. Shaming is often a contributor to depression, anxiety, and for a non-negligible percent of the shamed, suicidal thoughts or behavior.

The attractiveness (to me) and/ or size and shape of anyone else's body is:

1. none of my business

2. not an invitation for me to feel a misplaced superiority about my own looks/moral character/intelligence

There's already so much misery in the world, it's mind-boggling that a sizable number of people feel it's their right to add to it. Particularly when they've been fortunate enough to be born with whatever combination of genes/within whatever environment is conducive to being able to maintain a weight that the rest of society deems acceptable. I know how easy I have it, and yet as a woman I'm not immune to all of the body shaming I'm constantly surrounded by. It's hard for me to imagine how difficult it must be for anyone outside the standards of culturally acceptable weight to manage those external criticisms daily.
posted by stagewhisper at 6:32 PM on February 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


Misery in the world? Try this: 100 million starving people in this world. Meanwhile, up to half the waste stream over here is food, and a majority of citizens are obese. That is miserable.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:39 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Misery in the world? Try this: 100 million starving people in this world. Meanwhile, up to half the waste stream over here is food, and a majority of citizens are obese. That is miserable.

ah, concern trolling.

Yes, I'm sure if overweight people just gave all that extra food they are stuffing into their maws to the 100 million starving people in the rest of the world there would be no more world hunger.

I hope you are also keeping track of how wasteful of food and calories most of us daily exercisers are. I eat double the recommended amount of calories daily to keep up my long-term running habit. Doubtless there's a starving child somewhere who is dying because my 10 milers.
posted by stagewhisper at 6:49 PM on February 13, 2011 [8 favorites]



Yes, I'm sure if overweight people just gave all that extra food they are stuffing into their maws to the 100 million starving people in the rest of the world there would be no more world hunger.


By the numbers do you think this would be untrue?
posted by Space Coyote at 6:51 PM on February 13, 2011


concern trolling

Whatever makes it easier for you to dismiss, dude, no skin off my ass.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:56 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


By the numbers do you think this would be untrue?
I think it doesn't have much to do with how actual food distribution networks work. I also think that, given that poor people are much more likely than middle-class and rich people to be obese in the US, this is a kind of icky sentiment. Do you really want to imply that poor Americans are more responsible for hunger in the developing world than rich Americans are?

Maybe it works differently in Canada.
posted by craichead at 7:00 PM on February 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


By the numbers? Of what, calories? That question makes no sense, Space Coyote. We create surpluses of food/food products here, a lot of nutritionally empty calories, lots of it subsidized. A fair number of overweight and obese people maintain their weight on the same amount of calories that people in non-overweight categories do. Weight maintenance/gain/loss numbers are different for different people depending on a whole bunch of assorted factors. I take in far more than "my fair share" of calories.

People here eating more than whatever you define as more than their fair share of calories (because they exercise too much/weigh too much/whatever) is not a major cause of hunger in other parts of the world. I certainly hope anyone who is judging food choices that people make here as contributing to hunger in other parts of the world never leaves anything uneaten, never throws edible food out, and monitors their activity levels very carefully so as not to be wasteful.
posted by stagewhisper at 7:04 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry craichead, I just didn't think it was accurate to just quote a statement sarcastically as a way to dismiss the very true concern that we waste a ton of food in this part of the world while otehrs starve, which is more important than that some people eat too much of it.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:06 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


kittens for breakfast: As an albeit short response, I'll just point this out: wikipedia tells me that 17% of people in the United States suffer from major depressive disorder at one point in their lives. Depression, as it turns out, is indeed a disorder that can make it almost impossible to lose weight...

"Almost impossible" isn't "impossible." It's also not impossible to treat depression, which I will grant you should probably be the priority in such a case (it should definitely be the priority in such a case, as it can kill you a lot faster than some extra pounds will).


Most SSRIs have weight gain as a side effect, so that pretty much screws a lot of overweight depressed people.

since you're here, you read the strong evidence that people in your profession have very deep-set and unfortunate biases against people based on their weight, right? There's a strong bias in the medical profession against these people that has nothing to do with health...The study linked points out that medical professionals are often unable to make eye contact with obese people.

When I was 16 I gained 8lbs, going from 110 to 118 (at 5'2") and my doctor called me obese to my face and also entered that (false) diagnosis in my medical records. I flipped the fuck out and starved myself for 3 weeks until my god mother noticed the weight loss and asked me what was going on. Then she flipped the fuck out on my doctor, fired his ass, and had a long talk with me about health, body image, and the way some people in authority treat women. I haven't worried about my weight since then (I've been 110-ish ever since) but whenever I have to get a new doctor he or she is put through an extensive interview before they're hired. Doctors are just as prone to being incompetent nutjobs as anyone else is, but are more dangerous when they are.
posted by zarah at 7:09 PM on February 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Space Coyote: “Yes, I'm sure if overweight people just gave all that extra food they are stuffing into their maws to the 100 million starving people in the rest of the world there would be no more world hunger.”

Space Coyote: “By the numbers do you think this would be untrue?”

By the numbers, yes, it is untrue. Because, as we've elucidated over and over and over again, the obese don't generally eat more than the non-obese. How many times do we have to say that? How many scientific articles about this do we have to post confirming this?

Yeah, starvation is unfortunately, and we here in the US eat a lot of food. But that's as much the fault of the skinny guy as the fat guy; because odds are they eat just as much. It has nothing to do with obesity. This issue has no bearing on the subject at hand.
posted by koeselitz at 7:09 PM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's the food wastage more than obesity. Processed foods are responsible for both much of the wastage as well as obesity.

Anyhoo, it was rude of me to include obesity in that comment. It's terrible that we've got horrendous food wastage and obesity problems, but both are much more the fault of processed food than of over-eating and portion sizing.

We live in a dumb, dumb society. My apologies for the snark it induced.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:11 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


[sorry, that first quote was from stagewhisper, not you, Space Coyote.]
posted by koeselitz at 7:11 PM on February 13, 2011


[sorry, that first quote was from stagewhisper, not you, Space Coyote.]
and it was sarcastic.
posted by stagewhisper at 7:13 PM on February 13, 2011


[Yeah, I caught that. Heh. I figure I'm on your side on this, stagewhisper.]
posted by koeselitz at 7:14 PM on February 13, 2011


Of course just up and shipping all our excess food to the third would massively fuck up their farming economies so this whole train of thought was not something I should have jumped on.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:15 PM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


koeselitz - you mentioned way upthread about weight bias in the medical profession. I guess bias is one way to put it, but I think it's more that when we are caring for a person who is significantly overweight, the risks and work load rise dramatically. A heavier person is a malpractice risk because routine symptoms are hard to diagnose. Conventional imaging techniques like ultrasound do not work on them. I can't send anyone over a certain weight to the hospital CT, and instead have to wait in the longer queue across town. They are harder to operate on, carry a greater risk of post-operative infection. I mean, I could go on and on and on. If a person's weight starts to aggravate their liver, or their lipids, or their blood pressure, my visits with them demand longer and longer slots for counseling. That's time that we can't use for the twenty people we turned away to the ER or urgent care that day. It's time that Insurance doesn't pay us a dime for. So if there is bias, I would argue vehemently that it is not personal. You may want to imagine us glaring at a heavy person in their hospital gown as though they are second-class, but you would be flat out wrong. If it's a question of nuts and bolts medical care it's no different than any other higher risk group like the elderly, smokers, or someone whose brother is an attorney, we just have to presume that things could get tricky at any moment and never for a second expect things to be routine. And many of these things simply don't apply to individuals that aren't overweight.

I'm sure I did not parse my words carefully enough here, and feel free (anyone) to cut and paste and offer your own rejoinders, but I can't be any more plain spoken or honest. If this seems unpalatable or unfair you need to accept that this is what medicine is in the most benevolent conditions. We really want to help, but as this thread so well illustrates, just broaching the topic can be incredibly combustible. Most days I just don't even know where to start because I can't take thirty minutes to explore a topic as complex and potentially painful as this. And watching it worsen dramatically in my relatively short career gives me very little reason for optimism.
posted by docpops at 7:34 PM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


zarah - I'm sorry that happened to you. Your doctor was a shit.
posted by docpops at 7:35 PM on February 13, 2011


Well THIS is certainly a touchy subject. And an extremely complex one, as it involves personal experiences, laboratory science, the almost infinitely complex combinations of food one can eat in a day, and sound and unsound theories about all of the above.

Simply put, there are obese* people out there who want to be obese. That is to say, they want to eat whatever they want, which is almost certainly more than their daily caloric intake based on age and height. They do not want to exercise. They do not want to reduce their caloric intake. They are visibly obese and the combination of high daily caloric intake plus a lack of exercise makes them the obese people they are. I'm not talking about health problems that cause obesity (more on that later), I'm talking about obesity as a lifestyle choice.

It stands to reason that there are at least a few of these people in the United States. How many? How many people are obese out of lifestyle choice? I have no idea, but it's certainly in the thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions?

On the other hand there are people who have bad genes or a medical condition that makes them obese. The former I simply don't buy because human beings have been around--in present form--for about 100,000 years, if not longer, and only now in the past 20 or so have those "fat genes" seemed to kick in. That doesn't work for me.

Obesity due to medical conditions. This also undeniably exists, from thyroid conditions as well as others. How many obese people are obese as a symptom of other medical problems? Thousands? Millions?

I don't know the answer to these, no one truly does, but there are a lot of opinions, mine included.


*I use this word to differentiate from the simply chubby. I mean a person whose weight directly or indirectly damages health.
posted by zardoz at 7:37 PM on February 13, 2011


I'm fat as hell. And totally bought the "calories in, calories out, if you had more willpower you'd be thin" narrative until. . . (counts on fingers). . . about ten months ago. About two months into my second pregnancy.

See, when I'm pregnant, I lose weight EFFORTLESSLY. Just falls right off me. I lost twenty pounds in my first pregnancy, and thirty-five in my second, while eating not just anything I wanted, but deliberately cramming in high-calorie foods to try and keep it to a pound a week. I was eating cheese, ice cream, doing everything but drinking a quart of caramel a day. And then I give birth annnd. . . everything comes to a screeching halt. I've lost ten pounds since I gave birth to my 7 pound son, three months ago, and that's WITH nursing (500 calories a day), low-carb eating, portion control, and working out four times a week. It's happened with two pregnancies, both exactly the same way.

So, do I somehow have more willpower when I'm pregnant? Am I trying harder? Am I more dedicated to my weight loss? Or, is it possible -- just barely possible -- that something biochemically changes in my body to make it much, much easier to lose weight?
posted by KathrynT at 7:37 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Like Jacquilynne, I have been both fat and thin in my lifetime. Several times for each. So I also know about this a bit, personally, though I've been at it a few more years.

The problem with pronouncements that "shame works" is that this data is by no means long-term. Had you asked me at a thin period in my 20s, I might have said the same thing. But the percentage of people who are able to lose more than 20% of their highest body weight and keep it off for five years is smaller than five percent.

Like her, there have been times I ate less and worked out more and got down to a low weight for my range. But like her, there are times it's crept back on. For me, it wasn't self-shaming that worked, but a sincere desire to be fitter and lighter and improve my overall body condition, and a recognition that my focus had wandered or other priorities had taken hold, which required readjusting priorities - when I could.

Over time I've come to decide that a definition of what "works" isn't a powerful one unless it works long-term. Something that "works" when you're pregnant or a new parent; works when you've just experienced significant stresses like loss in the family or loss of a job or end of a marriage; works when you have an unsupportive partner or fall back into bad habits; works when your metabolism slows in midlife; works when your schedule changes and your routines are disrupted; works when you develop chronic pain or a disability; works when you have to devote a lot of your free time to caring for someone else; works all the time. Weight management methods that work through all those situations make for good, long-term healthy weight management methods for a lifetime. They don't speak to a single point in life, or apply only to the phases in life when you have the time and emotional energy to devote a lot of focus to weight loss.

Shame as a strategy only works sporadically, and it's not a solid motivator for the creation of lifelong good habits or a healthy self-concept. IT will be rapidly pushed aside when the other needs, noted above, intrude; and because it's highly predictable that weight is going to come back on, it's not very helpful to add shame to the list of problems a person deals with in those situations. Shame is not likely to work through all life situations as one ages, and one is probably not going to be willing to continue shaming themselves when other priorities become more important than the self from time to time.

What happens to most people who lose a lot of weight is that they do, quite reliably, gain weight back at times. For those who rely on shame throughout a lifetime, that means they'll have to endure heaping this hatred on themselves (each time getting worse, because it happened again ) while trying to get their weight back down, perhaps finding that it gets harder as they age and as life conditions change.

Bouncing back and forth between shame and pride, shame and pride, is no way to live long-term. I think it's fine to set goals for your body conditioning, but I see no advantage at all to shaming oneself into weight loss, because it's like buying into despising yourself for a large part of your life. And really, a lack of shame is not the reason people become overweight. It mixes things up and makes it actually harder to focus on maintaining good diet and exercise habits throughout life, and on being gentle with oneself when you need it. Since the shame is totally unnecessary to actually losing weight, it seems like adding shame on top of an already difficult project is unnecessarily self-punishing. It's possible to have self-acceptance and self-love AND to reduce weight and become fitter, all at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive, and in fact, self-love is a pretty strong motivator! Since that's entirely possible, why choose to feel shame?
posted by Miko at 7:39 PM on February 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


You may want to imagine us glaring at a heavy person in their hospital gown as though they are second-class, but you would be flat out wrong.

Having been the person in the hospital gown getting glared at, I can state categorically that your experiences are individual, not universal.
posted by KathrynT at 7:39 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


kathrynT,

As I stated, feel free to point out all the ways I misspoke. Doctors are human, and some (maybe a lot) have issues. Mine, frankly, is with alcoholics. It isn't my job to make apologies for my profession. I'm sorry for your experience, just the same.
posted by docpops at 7:47 PM on February 13, 2011


docpops, thanks for sticking around, I wonder if you'd answer my question upthread as to your understanding why eating disorders exist, if, as you posit, most people don't care about being overweight
posted by angrycat at 7:48 PM on February 13, 2011


"...why choose to feel shame?"

Shame, guilt, and fear are pretty much the only reason I ever do anything productive. Self-acceptance and self-love just lead to my lying around in bed watching TV and fucking off on the internet all day because that's fun right now. It's only when I feel sufficient shame about being such a slug that I'm ever motivated enough to do something with a longer-term payoff.

Perhaps I am just a statistical outlier when it comes to being mind-bogglingly lazy.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:56 PM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Most of who I see over twenty is overweight. They don't seem aware in the slightest that they are too heavy,

this is the part of your comment. I think that you might also be not counting into factors such as a) uh, shame on the part of your patients and b) you lack mind-reading abilities
posted by angrycat at 7:57 PM on February 13, 2011


sorry, that was directed to docpops, and I meant *this is the part of your comment I'm responding to*
posted by angrycat at 7:58 PM on February 13, 2011


docpops--- as someone who is really interested in creating programs to make healthy lifestyle more accessible for low income people--- I genuinely sympathize with your dilemma. I have a liver condition and I can't say how it pissed me off that my doctor is like, "Yeah eat whatever you want, just try to eat pretty healthy as that's better for everyone."

Ok. While myself personally am as researched as one can be without a degree on the subject of nutrition, I was kind of hoping for... SOMETHING. Come on I'm taking anatomy and physiology, I'm reading all kinds of crap about inflammatory cytokines and inflammation in the liver and the connection between the gut and the pancreas.... you can't tell me doctors don't know this stuff.

And despite that I'm already reading about it, I was dissappointed that here is someone ASKING and get nothing. I really want to make healthy lifestyle--- and the needed external support to maintain a healthy lifestyle-- accessible to poor and struggling people.

However it IS a huge obstacle because people feel berated with information they try and doesn't seem to work and give up, and doctors are exasperated because they've tried to give people access to the knowledge they have and no one seems to be willing or able to use it.

Something I'm sure you're better read than I am about is the relationship of usability of a treatment to it's efficacy. If people are struggling to use it, despite that IF USED it's effective, the lack of use is considered in terms of over all efficacy. If there's an issue there, we need to do some research and find out what people COULD use.

To me, we need some people in other fields to collaborate with doctors, behavioral health scientists, occupational therapists, social scientists (I know we're getting sketchy here but I think there's value there) : )

And do some research to make these changes accessible and usable for people--- that would include addressing both internal and external obstacles to healthy lifestyle change and maintanence.

Surely there's some smart people in research like this around the metafilter somewhere right? If so, jesus hit me up and I want to pick your brain and give you some ideas.
posted by xarnop at 8:02 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I suspect we're going to find out that our diet has changed our gut flora for the worse. We are fundamentally symbiotic creatures, and we've unbalanced our multitude. HFCS?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:05 PM on February 13, 2011


angrycat - I have some pretty close experience with eating disorders and am raising girls, so it's a topic very close to my heart. In my house we are incredibly vigilant about our approaches to food, and especially making sure we never raise a person's weight as a topic any more than gender, race, etc. I take it really seriously. That said, the eating disorders I see in practice are definitely about control and generally if it's a female there has always been a serious problem with the father at some level - abandonment, criticism, mild or overt sexual impropriety - to name a few. But I am far, far from an expert on this. I guess I am speaking of anorexia and bulimia, as opposed to having food issues and overeating, which is much more fluid and hard to define for me.

My comment about people's ambivalence about their weight has more to do with the vast population of people carrying fifteen to sixty pounds, give or take, over their ideal weight. And by ideal, I mean the weight where they were when they were their healthiest, the weight they were at before the reflux hit, or the high blood pressure, etc. And I am not exaggerating. People truly have no idea what they should weigh and stopped paying attention years ago, because their average day doesn't force them to confront that their weight makes them feel poorly. I went from 150 to 175 after marriage and kids. I felt fine overall. Didn't really think the tire looked all that great, but until I couldn't fall asleep because of acid reflux I never even considered my weight was an issue. And it's this mentality that is so common, I think, whether you started at 175 and hit 225 after a decade, etc.

Anyway, I don't think the medical profession, frankly, has much to offer here. It's very analogous to what teachers face. Society expects them to turn out educated citizens in the face of an inundating tide of societal corrosions that make their job laughably unrealistic. I keep trying, carefully, to encourage people to take small sustainable steps, but more often than not I just try to get people to exercise, because weight loss isn't realistic for most people.
posted by docpops at 8:06 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


and b) you lack mind-reading abilities
posted by angrycat at 7:57 PM on February 13 [+] [!]


I do lack mind reading abilities, dammit. So when I said that it was actually based on a couple decades of talking to patients about their health, and in these cases, how the fact that they are overweight is contributing to their current complaint(s).
posted by docpops at 8:09 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


So if you as a doctor can identify that a huge portion of people have medical problems that could be treated with diet and lifestyle--- and people don't seem to be able to make those changes on their own, doesn't that imply that people could be better served by professionals that assist with making these kinds of changes to the best that research and common sense can assist?

NOT by doctors, doctors are busy. But after all--- we need more jobs right?
posted by xarnop at 8:12 PM on February 13, 2011


yeah but when you talk about patient's awareness, you can't really determine that unless you have them hooked up to a lie detector, can you?

if you will allow me another question: why would women have a greater tendency to develop eating disorders than men, if it is only control/emotional trauma related?
posted by angrycat at 8:13 PM on February 13, 2011


That said, the eating disorders I see in practice are definitely about control and generally if it's a female there has always been a serious problem with the father at some level - abandonment, criticism, mild or overt sexual impropriety - to name a few.
I don't want to pounce on you, and I know that you're taking a lot of hits for the entire medical profession on this thread, but God do I hate this crap. When I was anorexic, they were blaming smothering mothers, and that was bullshit, too. I don't really know why I became anorexic, but I don't have a smothering mother or a serious problem with my father. And my eating disorder complicated my relationship with my parents enough without having them feel guilty because doctors and social workers implied it was all their fault.
posted by craichead at 8:18 PM on February 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Shame, guilt, and fear are pretty much the only reason I ever do anything productive.

. . . yikes.

That experience, at least, is certainly not universal. I would be very, very cautious of presuming that those motivations apply for anyone except yourself.
posted by KathrynT at 8:18 PM on February 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


docpops, I hear you, really I do, about the medical complications that result from being overweight.

But when you say a) I know what my patients are thinking and b) You eliminate societal pressures as a cause of eating disorders -- let me try to be polite, which I usually fail at, so apologies in advance:

Is is possible that your frustrations w/r/t your overweight patients are blinding you to the existence of certain realities?
posted by angrycat at 8:19 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I would be very, very cautious of presuming that those motivations apply for anyone except yourself."

Hyperbole and a Half's comics and all the associated comments from people gushing about how much they can relate suggest otherwise.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:23 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hyperbole and a Half's comics and all the associated comments from people gushing about how much they can relate suggest otherwise.

. . .

I've tried like four times and I can't figure out how this follows from my statement.
posted by KathrynT at 8:25 PM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


"What's normal in North America is not actually normal: the obesity epidemic is recent, odd, and worrying. Something has gone wrong."

Two data points to throw out: one is the CDC obesity trends map which is just astounding. Look how fast the change occurs across society.

Second is an comparison of obesity rates in first world countries.

I think we humans are finely tuned machines for whom the modern service-industry oriented world of plenty seems to have had interesting side-effects that are now showing up.
posted by stratastar at 8:27 PM on February 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


docpops, to put my cards on the table:

1) I was bulimic
2) Had a fucked up childhood
3) Thought if I was the skinniest chick in the land, guys would fall in love with me and I'd feel better.

Yes, I know it's fucking pathetic. Is it an outlier experience? Maybe. I don't think so. I think what you're missing is number 3 in terms of the causation problem.
posted by angrycat at 8:27 PM on February 13, 2011


@KathrynT: You implied that being motivated only by shame, guilt, and fear is so unusual that I was the only person they applied to. Allie at Hyperbole and a Half has posted several comics about being similarly motivated and received literally thousands of "me too!" comments. So it seems there are many of us out there who need a lot more than self-love and long-term payoff to get our butts moving.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:30 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it might be called Hyperbole and a Half for a reason, Jacqueline.
posted by palomar at 8:32 PM on February 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yet people identify so strongly with it for a reason too. She certainly describes my own life perfectly. (INTERNET! FOREVER!)
posted by Jacqueline at 8:34 PM on February 13, 2011


You implied that being motivated only by shame, guilt, and fear is so unusual that I was the only person they applied to.

Ah! There's the disconnect. I intended to imply no such thing. What I meant is just what I said -- your situation is not universal, and it would be a mistake to presume that any other random person is motivated the same way you are, absent affirmative data.

In particular, unless someone has ASKED you for shame-based motivation, I think it's a good idea to refrain from offering it.
posted by KathrynT at 8:34 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


So docpops--- you don't think there is ANY contribution the medical profession can make toward curbing obesity? I don't mean YOU specifically, but your profession?

It's not possible? That's like saying teachers can't make any contribution to the learning of students with ADHD. Do kids with ADHD need to be given to different teachers? do they have needs that are different than other students and perhaps other sorts of teaching methods/other teachers should be used?

In which case we ARE still talking about teachers, we're just talking specialties. And possibly inventive programs within schools and social and emotional support programs within schools to support parents having healther relationships with children, more involvement, and understanding their child's learning process and over all needs better. So in short, more money and more attention to the problems going on. But in order for such programs to be set up WE NEED TEACHERS TO BE INVOLVED IN THE DISCUSSION of how to better serve their students.

So what I mean to say is, do you really believe the medical community needs to step out of the public discourse on solutions for people who would like to lose weight but are struggling with it?
posted by xarnop at 8:35 PM on February 13, 2011


"...your situation is not universal, and it would be a mistake to presume that any other random person is motivated the same way you are, absent affirmative data."

Exactly my point to all the "SHAME DOESN'T WORK!!!" people posting in this thread.

I am glad we agree!
posted by Jacqueline at 8:37 PM on February 13, 2011


angrycat,

Like I said, I'm far from an expert. Just trying to keep my head above water, most days. Your candor is admirable and it's just that that may save or help someone else someday.

xarnop,

yes, we need nutritionists in every elementary and middle and high school. My "nutritionist" was a biochem professor who took an interest, thank-god.

craichead, see my above comment. Good luck.
posted by docpops at 8:37 PM on February 13, 2011


Motivations of shame and self-loathing work for some people, a horrible example being the legion of Pro-Anorexic community sites.

The actual issue, Jacqueline is that it is psychologically unhealthy to the majority of people with weight problems (the exception being you).

Btw lady, 5'6'' 150lbs hardly qualifies you to fall under the burden of societal shame that other people regularly experience.
posted by stratastar at 8:37 PM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was actually 165 lbs before I lost weight, and more importantly (since weight and thus BMI aren't great indicators of health), at 35% body fat. So yeah, I was dangerously fat and didn't know it because everyone around me was so accepting.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:39 PM on February 13, 2011


Btw lady, 5'6'' 150lbs hardly qualifies you to fall under the burden of societal shame that other people regularly experience.
posted by stratastar at 8:37 PM on February 13 [+] [!]


Beautiful, so now a person has to qualify by your metric in order to feel self-conscious?

Good night and good luck.
posted by docpops at 8:40 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


self-consciousness and being mocked in public by strangers are pretty far apart, dude.
posted by palomar at 8:41 PM on February 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Ugh. Sorry.
posted by stratastar at 8:43 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


My mother, who is obese, saw a recent picture of me and wanted to send me to an eating disorders clinic because her idea of what a healthy body weight is so out-of-whack. And this is a woman who watches plenty of TV and movies and reads plenty of women's magazines and has been exposed to all the mainstream media brainwashing that skinny = good. But she is so deep in denial about her obesity that the only way she can deal with her daughter being skinny is to assume that I'm the one with the problem!

In other words, her attempts to shame didn't work on you?
posted by Ndwright at 8:48 PM on February 13, 2011


"In other words, her attempts to shame didn't work on you?"

Survival necessitated developing an immunity to her a looooooong time ago. :D
posted by Jacqueline at 8:50 PM on February 13, 2011


God, Jacqueline, this conversation really is not about you and your sassy emoticons.

I wish you no ill but maybe you could read this comment through your SHAME GUILT FEAR filter and develop some sensitivities accordingly.
posted by angrycat at 8:53 PM on February 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


"self-consciousness and being mocked in public by strangers are pretty far apart, dude."

Many years ago I was a semi-famous (C-list, perhaps?) blogger. I think you all know what the internet does to any woman who dares to post both her pictures AND her opinions online.

My physical appearance has been mocked at great length and vigor not only in public but in print (so I can look it up again whenever my memory of the insults begins to fade, yay) and with the aid of Photoshop special effects to emphasize their critiques.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:56 PM on February 13, 2011


Wow. One would think you'd have more empathy, but I forgot, you thrive on abuse. So it sounds like it was a win/win for you -- internet fame AND fuel for your general awesomeness. Yay for you!
posted by palomar at 8:59 PM on February 13, 2011


[few weird snarky comments removed - at this point at which is this is everyone piling on one user, that conversation needs to go to email or MetaTalk.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:00 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"In other words, her attempts to shame didn't work on you?"

Survival necessitated developing an immunity to her a looooooong time ago. :D


This seems to directly contradict your earlier statement: "I'm very shallow. :D So shame is a more effective motivator for me."

So is it effective or are you immune to it? I'm confused.
posted by Ndwright at 9:01 PM on February 13, 2011


I'm immune to criticism from my MOTHER. Criticism from other people can still sting. My own self-criticism is the worst.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:03 PM on February 13, 2011


I am a fat person and I tire of these discussions.

I require that you treat me as a human being.

The following only applies to a small vocal minority.

You do not know all the answers any more than I do. I have spent my whole life dealing with that and you have not. I am intelligent enough to evaluate this situation. AND I AM TELLING YOU that your actions today have been harmful.

Stop it.
posted by Bonzai at 9:33 PM on February 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


While I agree with the fundamental point of the article - that to shame overweight people is not a constructive or healthy way to encourage people into weight loss - I am somewhat disturbed by this rising trend (which seems to have its roots primarily in the United States) to redefine obesity as a civil rights issue on par with race and sexuality. The idea that obesity may be a permanent state of affairs is illogical and, quite frankly, anti-science. That it is being espoused by an obviously intelligent woman is disappointing.
posted by smithsmith at 9:45 PM on February 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


If you look at the (really, pretty astonishing) map charting obesity in the U.S. from 1985 to 2009 that stratastar linked above, it becomes really, really obvious that hoping to stem the problem by shaming individuals is pretty ludicrous. It's not referred to as an "epidemic" in some hyperbolic way; this is viral and complex, and it has vectors that go beyond any idea of some sort of moral failing or character weakness on the part of individuals.

The sort of thing that xarnop has been advocating in several comments here is clearly needed — a multidisciplinary cadre of scientists, researchers, medical professionals, mental health experts, nutritionists, political scientists, environmentalists, social scientists, agriculturalists, statisticians, programmers, anthropologists ... hell, historians, poets, bloggers, marketing experts, NASA, and Justin Bieber. So far, the best efforts of fashion designers and medical doctors have been resoundingly unsuccessful in addressing the issue, and it's not because the population of the U.S. (and the much of the rest of the world) suddenly in the space of a few years became weak-willed gluttonous cretins.

The problem is that this wouldn't make billions of dollars for anyone (or would it? I forgot to throw economists into the mix), so it hasn't coalesced. But it should. At this point it seems that anyone working on the problem in (relative) seclusion only has hold of one part of the elephant.
posted by taz at 10:11 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


this rising trend (which seems to have its roots primarily in the United States) to redefine obesity as a civil rights issue on par with race and sexuality

I'm sorry, where are you getting this? Where in the article do you see the words "civil rights"?

The idea that obesity may be a permanent state of affairs is illogical and, quite frankly, anti-science.

I'm not really sure what you're getting at here but if by "a permanent state of affairs" you mean that some obese people may try repeatedly to lose weight and ultimately be unable to do so, it is actually pretty easy to verify that this does in fact happen all the time. If you are trying to mount an argument that calories must balance, this is of course true but ignores the fact that the number of calories burned is not constant - instead, it is actively modulated by the body, particularly in response to calorie intake, making sustained weight loss very difficult (link goes to New England Journal of Medicine; article is pay but the summary is free).
posted by en forme de poire at 10:40 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


If I may overreach to speak for docpops, I think he seems to be saying that people expect their doctors to be health educators, nutritionists and lifestyle counselors, and even imply that their failure is the root of some of these problems -- but that in reality, on insurance company/PPO stopwatches, they simply don't have time to play that role.

It seems that we (99%) agree that crash diets are a bad idea, that healthy exercise and food choices (HAES or otherwise) is better. But this message apparently isn't getting out that widely.

How can this be helped? There must be plenty of writers on the subject here who can do something about it, directly.
posted by msalt at 10:43 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, where are you getting this?

Um the part where she clearly makes an analogy between anti-fat bigots and anti-gay bigots? If you can't see how comparing self-inflicted obesity with being born homosexual is completely offensive then you're a lost cause, I'm afraid.
posted by smithsmith at 12:13 AM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


What makes obesity self-inflicted? There is obviously a range of ability to affect one's own weight, from completely able to completely unable. To say that all obesity is self-inflicted is silly. This is a list of things I can think of off of the top of my head:

There are some medical causes of weight gain (PCOS, depression, eating disorders, hypothyroid, impulse control disorders)

There are medications that can cause weight gain (birth control pills, atypical antipsychotics, SSRIs)

Some people are unable to be active because of physical limitations (arthritis, fatigue, asthma, conditions worsened by over-exertion, joint injuries, agoraphobia, heart conditions)

Some people are unable to be active for environmental reasons (nowhere safe to exercise, no facilities available for the activity they're physically able to do, no appropriate clothing, no free time, no knowledge of appropriate activities, shaming or exclusion from group activities or facilities due to weight, race, language spoken, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc.)

Some people are unable to adequately estimate and change their own caloric intake (lack of time to count calories and track food intake, relying on others to prepare meals, lack of information about appropriate intake, lack of access to a scale to weigh food, lack of access to healthy and satiating food, limited diet due to intolerances, allergies, or other digestive problems)

Effectively losing weight is dangerous for some people (triggers eating disorders or other harmful behavior, ends in weight gain which exacerbates the problem, yo-yoing affects their heart)
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:30 AM on February 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


re: HAES - can anyone point me to a good explanation of intuitive eating? I'd sort of heard of it before, but from people who regularly spout off about the latest 'miracle' foods or whatever so I dismissed it. If there's a serious concept behind it that's been distorted by vague rumours, I'd appreciate knowing more from a reliable source.
posted by harriet vane at 12:31 AM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


To say that all obesity is self-inflicted is silly.

Sorry, where did I say that? At least have the decency not to put words in my mouth.
posted by smithsmith at 12:51 AM on February 14, 2011


If you can't see how comparing self-inflicted obesity with being born homosexual is completely offensive then you're a lost cause, I'm afraid.

What a great many people are saying on the thread is that obesity is not always "self-inflicted," and you say not to put words in your mouth but the comment you were referring to did not solely outline "self-inflicted obesity" -- is such a term pertinent in this thread? What is 'self-inflicted obesity'? Where the hell do you start? (Everything sounds like it has a mysterious background if you preface it with self-inflicted. Self-inflicted cancer. Self-inflicted pregnancy. Self-inflicted basketball fan.)

I don't think anyone is saying the struggle of gay rights is size rights is race rights is transgender rights etc etc, only as a card-carrying homo I'd say that some of the Concerned! responses sound similarly inane in their dreariness: have you tried not being fat?

I cannot think of a situation where this isn't assumptive and horrible and unfortunately a lot of well-meaning people above have said it in various masked forms, probably often not realising they are saying just that. It is not a needed revelation, not even in Jacqueline's anecdote about the fat town where the fat emperor had no clothes and nobody noticed, I'm not quite sure and have no wish to antagonise Jacqueline but I got confused by the Silent Hill village of fatness up there, anyway --

The relation for Gay and Fat here is the perception there is something you are not doing correctly. There isn't a response for that kind of thing when you're gay, isn't a response for it when you are the wrong size. Holy shit! I have never tried not being fat. Everything is changed now, and flowers smell better. Or: I am a skinny bitch and I should try eating a sandwich? The newness of it, tell me more.

In the relating and comparison of movements: comparison doesn't work and can offend, but it's uncharitable to shoot the messenger on that point, smithsmith. There are strong links of the size acceptance movement to the feminist and anti-ableism movements, and through that web interconnected to many others. Being overweight in this society results in being seen as less than human, deficient. It is the same for other disadvantaged people, to a number of results and extents, and generally it's all what I shall scientifically dub immensely fucked up. The justice movements could really do with less infighting and hate, so let us respect and take it from there.
posted by monster truck weekend at 1:30 AM on February 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


If you can't see how comparing self-inflicted obesity with being born homosexual is completely offensive then you're a lost cause, I'm afraid.

Suffice to say that I'm gay and skinny and far from taking offense, I welcome the suggestion that maybe we shouldn't use the number of pounds someone weighs as a proxy for their worth as a human being. Perhaps that makes me a lost cause, although I have to admit it sounds pretty reasonable to me.

(Also, I like how you snuck "self-inflicted" in there, as though we can precisely measure how much of someone's weight is their own "fault" -- whatever that means -- and how much is attributable to genetics, epigenetics, symbionts, etc., etc.)
posted by en forme de poire at 1:43 AM on February 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


docpops: A heavier person is a malpractice risk because routine symptoms are hard to diagnose. Conventional imaging techniques like ultrasound do not work on them. I can't send anyone over a certain weight to the hospital CT, and instead have to wait in the longer queue across town. They are harder to operate on, carry a greater risk of post-operative infection.

Except when you can send them through the CT but don't because they're just a fat kid trying to get out of sport. Pity about the tumour threading through their knee that's about to contribute to ten years of sedentary behaviour, after the previous 5 years of sedentary behaviour because doctor after doctor after fucking doctor couldn't see past the chub to work out a lump in one's knee isn't directly fat related.

I was on the high end of normal BMI at the time - just a fan of grunge, loose jeans and victim of a pathological need to downplay my femininity. So I got 15 years of pain out of that - five years with a tumour, ten dealing with the aftermath of surgery/nerve damage with doctors still convinced there wasn't actually anything wrong with me.

Unlike my knee, I don't know that doctors ignored the gallbladder disease in favour of 'fatty fat fat' - I do know they never once did a diagnostic test for it. Even though every woman in my family from great-great-grandma down have had theirs crap out in their late twenties/early thirties. I wonder how much the gallbladder thing affected my pregnancy as well. By the end I was not only hypertensive but heading to gestational diabetes in spite of passing the earlier tests, yet gaining no weight until the fluid retention part of hypertension kicked in (last three weeks, a kilo a week). So that was close to eight years of discomfort and pain and never really digesting anything properly.

There was also the doctor who decided losing my appetite and ten kilos in three weeks was a GOOD side effect of the anti-depressant she'd put me on to control self-harm. She was a fucking pearl.

After the knee surgery and concurrent destruction of ligaments, cartiledge and nerves, I went from 'normal' to overweight. After the anti-depressants I went to obese and I did crack 100kg by the end of the pregnancy.

docpops: My comment about people's ambivalence about their weight has more to do with the vast population of people carrying fifteen to sixty pounds, give or take, over their ideal weight. And by ideal, I mean the weight where they were when they were their healthiest, the weight they were at before the reflux hit, or the high blood pressure, etc.

Or they don't have those things at all...my father didn't until he got to 50 years old AND 160kg. I have no barometer for 'healthy' because I was 13 when the tumour in my knee first became symptomatic. By the time it was removed I was 18 and starting to feel the effects of a dicky gallbladder. I was 28 when that was removed. I have NO concept of healthy, or fit, or what my body is really like. My physio couldn't help but laugh at how excited I got to HOP! And BALANCE! Then he'd get pissed off that for 15 years no-one had pointed out that an adult inability to hop or balance should be looked at and is probably not due to weight.

And even now, I don't think there's a whole lot of difference made by the weight - I certainly don't see all that much of a difference between the last 15 kilos. I see a LOT of difference with the gallbladder out and with the back/knee/hip fixed.

I'm back to an 'acceptable' weight, so where's my fucking prize? Because it sure hasn't actually fixed a whole lot, nothing at all like what the doctors and the therapists and the media promises. That's the rub of it - those of us who didn't hate ourselves for our weight still had photos taken, still fucked like minks, still played sports*, still wore nice clothes where we could, still did all this 'living' people act like we can't possibly do. So all this shit I get about how much 'happier' I should be now makes no sense - I was happy before, once I got the depression under control. I wasn't ashamed of myself before either - or rather, I was, then I had the whole depression thing treated and whaddyaknow! No shame! I didn't need to lose weight to convince myself I am a good person, worthy of something other than shame and condemnation. But the world acts like I only just found that out now I've shed some weight.

*well, I didn't, but I'm grateful for that now since the activity I did do made the knee issues worse, not better. And yes, that included walking.

docpops: yes, we need nutritionists in every elementary and middle and high school. My "nutritionist" was a biochem professor who took an interest, thank-god

i hope to god they're not fat-hating carb-loathing jerks - and I hope they don't sermonise about the 'evil calories'.


zardoz: The former I simply don't buy because human beings have been around--in present form--for about 100,000 years, if not longer, and only now in the past 20 or so have those "fat genes" seemed to kick in. That doesn't work for me.

I figure this is a rare point in history where the most easily accessible and easily consumed food is the most calorie dense. I also figure that there are those among us, for whatever reason, have a lot more trouble self-monitoring food that our bodies were never ever designed to consume.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:02 AM on February 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


Anyhow, this is getting a bit nasty. Let's all hug it out. I like hugging squishy people.

Yeah, that's not even trying to hide the skinny bitchiness.
posted by hollygoheavy at 4:47 AM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


y'all, smithsmith is a brand spankin' new account starting shit in an already contentious thread -- if it's not a troll it's a remarkable copy. don't engage.
posted by palomar at 5:56 AM on February 14, 2011


geek,

glad I could useful here to help you tell your story. I hope you feel better.
posted by docpops at 6:09 AM on February 14, 2011


re: HAES - can anyone point me to a good explanation of intuitive eating?
I'm definitely not an authority. It's not like I bought the book. I just figured out what worked for me, and then I read something about intuitive eating, and then I thought "oh! That's what I do!"

The big thing was learning to pay attention to my body's cues about hunger and satiety. That sounds really basic, but I'd had an eating disorder for ten years, and I had completely trained myself to ignore those cues. I had to learn to tell when I was hungry and when I was full and to distinguish hunger from other sensations, like being tired or stressed out. And now that I can do that, I use those cues to regulate my eating. I eat when I'm hungry. I stop when I'm full. I don't count calories or weigh and measure portions, which I used to do religiously.

The second thing was to decide that eating is supposed to be pleasurable. I'm supposed to enjoy food. I try to prepare food that I like and to eat it in a setting that is conducive to enjoying it.

The third thing is to focus on what I should be eating, rather than what I shouldn't. I don't stress about not eating cheesecake. If I want cheesecake, I can have it. I do put some effort into making sure that I'm eating enough fruit and vegetables every day, and I try to eat whole grains. As long as I'm eating the things that I should be eating and stopping when I'm full, no food is off-limits.

Finally, I made some other lifestyle choices at the same time that weren't really related to intuitive eating but that I think have helped me do it better. I decided that I needed to get 8 hours of sleep every night, and that was non-negotiable. I cut back on my drinking. I decided to incorporate exercise into my life, first by walking to work and now by riding my bike.

And that's it. That's intuitive eating, at least according to my definition. I lost some weight in the first couple of years that I did it, but I think that's just because I stopped being bulimic, and I've maintained my weight ever since then. It was really scary just to let myself go, but it's been a really good decision for me.
posted by craichead at 6:13 AM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Intuitive Eating? Yeah, you can start by buying the book. It has three different subtitles in three different editions. My nutritionist recommended it to me the first time I saw her, as a guide to helping to break the back of emotional and, yes, shame-based eating. It was a breakthrough, and I recommend it strongly.
posted by KathrynT at 7:21 AM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Repeating myself a bit, but the substance of my comment that shame is an effective strategy is that's a short-term view. And, as research shows, most weight-loss approaches can work in the short term for most people who use them. The health challenge, though, is not keeping weight off for a year or two, climbing back up and taking it off again, but maintaining a healthy level of fitness and weight over a lifetime.

Internalized shame will not be sufficient for that. There will be times when shame is simply not powerful enough to combat the changing conditions of different life stages. It takes a tremendous amount of mental energy to inflict and endure shame, energy that's not going to be available at times of particular intensity in life, such as childrearing, caring for a sick spouse or elderly parent, etc. In fact, it's quite likely to interfere with the healthy progress of those relationships as they develop - a self-shaming mom, for instance, is not going to good things for a kid's mental health. In addition, individuals tire of it. When motivations change, the relative power of shame changes too. It's one thing to be conscious of self-image in your 20s, when a social milieu poses certain demands. The social milieu in the 40s will be different, and in the 60s different still. Spouses and sex partners change, as well. What seemed terribly important at one age pales in importance when serious concerns arise at other ages. It may not be possible to drum up the same amount of shame when it's next needed. This, in fact, is what happens all around us, it's what you discover when you interview people about their weight experiences. Repeated weight gain and loss over a lifetime, varying degrees of ability to focus on it, shame and fear complicating the simple effort to manage activity, inputs and outputs.

I don't deny that shame can be a motivator, but not a healthy motivator, and I see it as a short-term strategy to spur extra effort which can work when it's a prime concern, but not a long-term healthy approach to weight maintenance that needs to be able to weather the storms of life and changing perspectives. What would be interesting is to check in with people who advocate for shame as a strategy in five years, ten years, fifteen years and so on, to see whether (a) the strategy has changed and/or (b) the weight has returned, and for how many episodes. I suspect its long-term performance would be pretty lousy. Most people, in my experience, who get in control of weight and health and manage it well for a lifetime have found it necessary to let go of shame, because it interferes with the development of a permanent, healthy self-concept and , in fact, gets in the way of a happy and positive relationship with the body (which, not coincidentally, tends to be important in maintaining weight loss long-term).
posted by Miko at 7:23 AM on February 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


In case anyone's interested, Dan Savage posted his reply to Lindy West today.

However, his "response" is a repost of something he posted on Slog two years ago (which generated some controversy when he first posted it), and he's disabled comments. Class act, that guy.
posted by palomar at 7:57 AM on February 14, 2011


docpops, regarding numbers, the stat we're hearing here in the UK for the last 2 years is as Wilder suggested (I am a member of the Society of Bariatric anaesthetists, SOBA)
Probably from the AHRQ report.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality which I understand is part of your Department of Health issued a report at the start of 2007 which covered the period 1998 to 2004 and showed a large increase in the number of bariatric surgeries being performed in the United States.
Although I believe that report says 127,000 + procedures at a recent IFSO conference the word was it is now close to 200,00.

I wasn't interested enough to take note of the source as my interest lies elsewhere. Sorry.
posted by kairab at 8:38 AM on February 14, 2011


Er… given that obesity rates only recently sky-rocketed, it seems to me there are only two possible explanations: either this is an actual disease, viral or bacterial; or it is self-inflicted insofar as one chooses diet and lifestyle.

What other explanatory options are there? I suppose parent-inflicted; or perhaps situation-inflicted, if one doesn't have the knowledge or opportunity to make alternative choices.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:33 AM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Even ignoring the shift in the types of food that we eat regularly. It could be a whole set of vectors that add up, little by little over a lifetime.

Work related? If we spend 2 more hours per person sitting at a desk, instead of loading stuff in a factory, or standing at an assembly line (see the recent standing desk trend).

A change in our interactions with our living milieau? If we are 10% more likely to spend time in cars for regular activities like walking to a store, or if we spend 30 more minutes per day due to traffic on a commute, how does that add up?

Hormonally inflicted: if we are 15% more stressed than 20 years ago, what does that cortisol running around our system mean? If we deal with that with SSRI's, how much does that add?

Do these changes explain the increased rates of childhood obesity?
posted by stratastar at 9:41 AM on February 14, 2011


Er… given that obesity rates only recently sky-rocketed, it seems to me there are only two possible explanations: either this is an actual disease, viral or bacterial; or it is self-inflicted insofar as one chooses diet and lifestyle.

What other explanatory options are there? I suppose parent-inflicted; or perhaps situation-inflicted, if one doesn't have the knowledge or opportunity to make alternative choices.


You're right. People have just got greedier. It's the only explanation.
posted by Summer at 10:04 AM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


? I'm sorry, that reads as snark to me. Gut flora changes are an explanation. And Stratastar offers several non-greed lifestyle choice explanations. Your snark is unwarranted.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:12 AM on February 14, 2011


This blog post from Foreign Policy on overweight islanders and its links might be of interest to anyone still reading this discussion.
posted by immlass at 11:53 AM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


According to a 2006 article titled "The epidemiology of overweight and obesity: public health crisis or moral panic?" in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Epidemiology, there is no "obesity epidemic".

Some points from the article:
The claim that we are seeing an ‘epidemic’ of overweight and obesity implies an exponential pattern of growth typical of epidemics. The available data do not support this claim. Instead, what we have seen, in the US, is a relatively modest rightward skewing of average weight on the distribution curve, with people of lower weights gaining little or no weight, and the majority of people weighing ∼3–5 kg more than they did a generation ago.…

Except at true statistical extremes, high body mass is a very weak predictor of mortality, and may even be protective in older populations. In particular, the claim that ‘overweight’ (BMI 25–29.9) increases mortality risk in any meaningful way is impossible to reconcile with numerous large-scale studies that have found no increase in relative risk among the so-called ‘overweight’, or have found a lower relative risk for premature mortality among this cohort than among persons of so-called ‘normal’ or ‘ideal’ [sic] weight.…

It is a remarkable fact that the central premise of the current war on fat—that turning obese and overweight people into so-called ‘normal weight’ individuals will improve their health—remains an untested hypothesis. One main reason the hypothesis remains untested is because there is no method available to produce the result that would have to be produced—significant long-term weight loss, in statistically significant cohorts—in order to test the claim. It is particularly striking that studies that have found health benefits associated with various levels of weight loss generally record no dose response: in other words, people who lose a small amount of weight, or even gain weight, get as much health benefit from the intervention as those who lose larger amounts.
posted by Lexica at 12:13 PM on February 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Random thoughts:
* My understanding is that obesity IS a major health issue, but it's blown up even bigger by the media who think that healthy = has to look like a magazine cover model. If people knew that health meant losing 10 pounds instead of 50, they'd be a lot more likely to start.

* It takes months or years to lose weight. Shame is a short term motivator -- after a few weeks of shame, most people's egos collapse and they maintain their positive energy. It doesn't help that diet ads on TV say you can LOSE 30 POUNDS IN A MONTH when most people wouldn't be able to do that if they stopped eating for the entire month.

* My health has radically improved since I took the rather odd step of buying a chest freezer and making massive pots of yummy soup to freeze, which is now most of what I eat except when going out with people. Also cut my grocery bill by 3/4ths. My upcoming book The Soup Kitchen Diet will explain this system for only $29.95.

* Free idea for a Web app: you enter your age, sex, height, and weight, and it matches you up with a team of strangers who have similar body types and also want to lose weight.
posted by miyabo at 12:21 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


As someone who's only recently tipped the scales at 100 lbs for the first time in my life*, and who has held some judgy stupid thoughts about others, mefi has been instrumental at changing my attitudes. I was teased for reasons related to my physical appearance and I thought that gave me some insight into what obese people go through. But teasing, however cruel, is not the same thing as shaming, because there's nothing I can do about my appearance (birth defect). There's no perceived moral component. I don't look how I look because I did something or failed to do something. I've had plenty of body image issues, but I've never been made to feel like it was because I was too stupid or lazy to do something about my appearance.

I don't think I can ever fully imagine how fat-shaming feels, but I have become 100% more mindful of how I perceive others based on the stories some of you have shared. So thank you for that.

*due to natural metabolism, not an eating disorder, also I'm 5'0"
posted by desjardins at 12:55 PM on February 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Lexica -- that study you cite is problematic in a number of ways. One of its main points is that there is no way to lose weight, so why even talk about? But they define the "current" weight loss methods as "diet drugs, weight loss surgery, eating disordered behaviour, fad diets, and the chronic weight cycling they induce." Well, yeah, those are bad methods but they aren't the only current ones.

Their counter-explanation for the success of weight loss? Such contrasting results suggest strongly that the diet and exercise modifications undertaken by the subjects in
these programmes, rather than any subsequent loss of body fat, are the causes of the observed health improvements.

That's a distinction without a difference, since diet and exercise modifications are the consensus best method for weight control. So yes, again you've proven that fad diets and fen-phen are bad ideas.

Their recommendation? You might guess exercise and nutrition, since they just documented that it works. Nope -- Just give patients statins and other drugs, and everybody's happy!
dozens of double blind randomized controlled clinical trials have shown that obese patients are protected from death and heart disease by lipid lowering and antihypertensive medications, without losing any weight whatsoever. One class of drugs, the thiazolidinediones, improves multiple risk factors in obese diabetics while causing significant increases in body fat.

IE, no worries people, doctors and big pharma will take care of it all for you.
posted by msalt at 1:18 PM on February 14, 2011


That's a distinction without a difference, since diet and exercise modifications are the consensus best method for weight control. So yes, again you've proven that fad diets and fen-phen are bad ideas.
It's really not a distinction without a difference. What they say is that when people were put on weight-loss programs based on nutrition and exercise, those who didn't lose any weight experienced the same benefits as those who did lose weight. Eating well and exercising had health benefits, but losing weight didn't confer any extra health benefits. You really don't understand why that would be significant? You really don't understand why that would suggest that people should concentrate on eating well and exercising, rather than losing weight? You don't get why it would be completely counterproductive to tell people who were eating well and exercising that they were failures because they hadn't lost weight?
posted by craichead at 1:53 PM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry if I haven't been clear. I was under the impression that you and I have been agreeing for half this topic on the superiority of HAES type lifestyle improvements over fad diets and focus on losing weight.

The distinction without a difference is arguing that there is no obesity epidemic, and no point in working against obesity, because losing weight in a vacuum, carefully distinguished from better nutrition and exercise shows no benefit.

If this study had billed itself as documenting the superiority of steady improved lifestyle for its own sake over crash diets, then yay them. But that's not their conclusion. Instead, they go for the cheap headline saying, no obesity problem at all, and no point in trying to lose weight because it doesn't work, just take these drugs we prescribe for you and everyone's happy.
posted by msalt at 2:21 PM on February 14, 2011


It's weird, because this seems so obvious to me!

When you tell people to eat well and exercise so they will lose weight, you set them up to measure success or failure based on how much weight they lose. For a lot of people, that's going to mean they'll consider themselves failures. They won't lose weight, so the entire exercise will seem futile and will just reinforce their sense of shame and powerlessness.

If you tell people to eat well and exercise for those activities' independent health benefits, then people will measure success differently. If they're sticking to their program, feeling better, and experiencing health benefits, they'll think they've succeeded. A substantial portion of them won't lose any weight, but they won't count themselves failures and quit, because that's not the measure of success.

The advice may be the same, but people are going to react really differently depending on how you tell them to measure success.
Instead, they go for the cheap headline saying, no obesity problem at all, and no point in trying to lose weight because it doesn't work, just take these drugs we prescribe for you and everyone's happy.
I really don't think that's what they're saying. Did you read the part where they suggest that the "obesity epidemic" serves the interest of doctors and pharmaceutical companies who make a lot of money treating obesity? Or that it creates a convenient scapegoat, the fat American, for rising healthcare costs, thereby letting business interests off the hook?
posted by craichead at 2:32 PM on February 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


Er… given that obesity rates only recently sky-rocketed, it seems to me there are only two possible explanations: either this is an actual disease, viral or bacterial; or it is self-inflicted insofar as one chooses diet and lifestyle.

I would argue that it is as self-inflicted as, say, depression is, ie, dependent on so many factors both genetic and societal that it is not self-inflicted at all.

Very few things like this are 'self-inflicted,' and I find 'self-inflicted' contemptuous and unkind, though I don't honestly think you intended it to be such. Choice of lifestyle and diet is often less a choice and more a privilege.

It's terms like 'self-inflicted' which see society expecting people to live out their whole lives as paeans to the fact that they are fat, because they should do! no! less! as though you have to pay penance for your size. All the time. Every day in every way. The same expectation is not given to most other conditions, even 'self-inflicted' ones (RSI? DO MORE ORTHOPAEDIC HAND EXERCISES NOW, YOU BOW-WRISTED SLACKASS).

If you tell people to eat well and exercise for those activities' independent health benefits, then people will measure success differently.

craichead, I wish I could put this in a firework and light up the sky with it. Yes.
posted by monster truck weekend at 2:38 PM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is an incredibly long comment thread, and while I swear I will read the rest of it later, I want to talk about this before I leave my computer today—sorry if it's already been covered.

I thought my reaction to the checklist the author linked to was really interesting. That checklist revealed a lot of things for me, because I do not think it worked as intended.

I am pretty thin—arguably very thin. I'm 5'5" and a bit less and 130 lbs, and most of those pounds are in culturally acceptable fat receptacles. I wear between a size 2 and a size 4. Yet, reading through that checklist, I could not honestly agree with at least a third of the points.

Even though I am thin, I am still pretty constantly subjected to critiques of my body size, and I can't remember a time when that wasn't true, even though this is the largest I have ever been. I've had friends tell me I should diet. In high school and college, my mother often derided me for my weight, once at the beach telling me I had "thunder thighs." And of course, the mean kind of cat caller has called me fat-based names from the side of the road.

But I am the subject of envy of a large proportion of people I know who are larger than me or shaped differently! What does it say about our culture that no thin is ever thin enough—until you get "too thin" and people make fun of you for that? It's obvious to me that fat shaming is just a symptom of the desire to shame everyone for everything they do or are that is different from you.
posted by audacity at 2:59 PM on February 14, 2011 [13 favorites]


I haven't read the entire thread, but Whelk's wonderful comment earlier on triggered something in my brain.

I'm going through a Relationship Situation where all of ask's advice would be to simply stop seeing her and cut off contact and do my best to move on. That's also my friends advice. I don't actually think the advice is wrong, and I don't argue with it... but I haven't been capable of doing that. Not yet.

When I talk to my Guy Friends (which isn't necessarily all of my male friends, just the capital-G Guy ones) about it, they're pretty much aggressive and jerky about it, and just spit rules at me that I need to follow. They're basically trying to shame me into doing the right thing. So... I stopped talking to them. And one weekend of that pretty much guaranteed that I was immediately going to turn around and go see the girl in question. A lot.

But my other friends, the ones I'm still willing to talk to about it, help a lot more when they tell me it's good that I've realized I really do need to do that, and they'll be there to help if I falter, but aren't going to jump down my throat and give me shit if it comes up that I've seen her again. . . they'll just remind me that they want me to be happy and hey next time give them a call instead.

Both groups here genuinely want me to be happy, and really both are giving the same advice. One is just doing it in a way that might actually eventually help me follow it, by understanding that it's not as easy as just making the decision. I suspect this is true in more than just the two difficult situations of dieting and dating.
posted by flaterik at 3:30 PM on February 14, 2011


In particular, unless someone has ASKED you for shame-based motivation, I think it's a good idea to refrain from offering it.

Words to live by.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:49 PM on February 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


I just want to say thank you.

Thank you to the people here who GET IT. Really get it. Those who have been through it. Those who are allies. Those who realize that shaming someone isn't going to make them thin, and will actually just more likely make them hide.

Thank you for the people who are trying to understand.

Thank you for the trolls. I now know who to avoid.

Thank you to the people who got what I was trying to say, and who said it better than I ever could.

Nothing can be accomplished without a dialog. It may be contentious, and it may take a while for one side to reach the other, but it will happen, somehow.
posted by bibliogrrl at 4:06 PM on February 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


I really don't think that's what they're saying. Did you read the part where they suggest that the "obesity epidemic" serves the interest of doctors and pharmaceutical companies who make a lot of money treating obesity? Or that it creates a convenient scapegoat, the fat American, for rising healthcare costs, thereby letting business interests off the hook?

I continue to think we agree, though you seem eager to prove me wrong. Yes, I read the study, and I'll resist counter-snark asking you if you read cetain portions.
You have found the evidence in that paper (it's not a study) that supports the position we agree on, that people should eat good food and exercise for their own sakes and not worry about the number of pounds, let that take care of itself. But the paper is a mess -- it ignores its own evidence, in favor of a rather conspiratorial view of a fake moral panic over obesity.

OMG, the Center for Disease Control raises alarms about obesity, at the same time they ask for more funding to fight obesity!! Self-interest! But isn't that exactly what the CDC is supposed to do? Find health problems and mobilize resources to counter them? Was it a conflict of interest when the CDC raised the alarm over AIDS and sought research funding to fight it? Of course not.

The evidence they present suggests is that we have a mis-diagnosis: there is a poor nutrition and lack of exercise epidemic, not an obesity epidemic, so let's focus on that. Great. But what they conclude is, there is no problem at all, extra weight is fine, it's a phony concern ginned up by big business, and/or racists and anti-feminists attacking working women and immigrants.
posted by msalt at 4:52 PM on February 14, 2011


In case anyone's interested, Dan Savage posted his reply to Lindy West today.

However, his "response" is a repost of something he posted on Slog two years ago (which generated some controversy when he first posted it), and he's disabled comments. Class act, that guy.
posted by palomar at 7:57 AM on February 14 [+] [!]


Here is a new post from Dan Savage today that addresses West specifically (comments enabled).
posted by Majorita at 10:00 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks, craichead and KathrynT, just what I needed. I'm not overweight (yet) but it seems to me on first glance that intuitive eating is less about losing weight and more about being in tune with your physical needs. And that seems like something it'd be good for anyone to learn.
posted by harriet vane at 10:48 PM on February 14, 2011


I would argue that it is as self-inflicted as, say, depression is, ie, dependent on so many factors both genetic and societal that it is not self-inflicted at all.

I see what you mean. The phrase is coarse and carries baggage.

Still, as someone with depression, I will readily admit that components of my depressive phases have been "self-inflicted." For instance, choosing to hole up and hide instead of dragging myself out into public. While the root cause is biological and not in my control, the severity of it can be reduced by behaving differently.

I find the same is true of my weight, especially during the winter. I have to fight to keep my food urges in tight check, or I'll put on fat that's a right royal bitch to get rid of.

I'd love to say that I didn't cause my last weight gain—it was depression, it was the season, it was the pressure to eat party foods—but I think I have to acknowledge that ultimately, I made the choices of what to eat and how much.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:34 PM on February 14, 2011


Docpocs, the figures I quoted came from Paul O'Brien & Christopher Coulson's 2 Training days at the Royal College of Surgeon's of England in November & December 2010 and they were referencing the ASMBS data.
posted by Wilder at 12:29 AM on February 15, 2011


What does it mean to say the "shame doesn't work."? It doesn't mean that no one ever felt ashamed and changed their behavior. It's more like saying "torture doesn't work." It's unreliable and has lots of side effects and is reprehensible.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:24 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


right. i read the savage response, and here's my take away:
1) He sounds more defensive and pissed off than willing to parse the issue
2) I bet things are a bit tense at The Stranger right now.
posted by angrycat at 6:37 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd love to say that I didn't cause my last weight gain—it was depression, it was the season, it was the pressure to eat party foods—but I think I have to acknowledge that ultimately, I made the choices of what to eat and how much.

Saying this is self-inflicted plays into a particular (IMO, unhelpful and bad) narrative. I don't know if you're familiar with the spoons theory, which was originally conceived by a woman with lupus, but it also applies to depression. People who are depressed have less energy and harder choices than people who are not. One of the ugly secrets of spoon theory is that even very healthy people have limits; it's just that they don't encounter them normally when they are young and well, only when they grow older or suffer illness or injury.

So yes, you made those choices, and you wish, particularly now, that you had made different choices. But at the same time, maybe your depression or physical illness or seasonal affective made it harder to make good choices and easier to make bad choices (along with social and environmental issues like the pressure of holiday eating and being in a hurry and the crappy nature of prepared foods and driving places instead of walking and taking public transit). Maybe the choice to eat healthy food and exercise wasn't your number one priority over the holidays.

There's nothing wrong with wanting good health to be a higher priority and moving to make it a higher priority, but weight-based public shaming is all about how aesthetics--not good health--should be the number one priority of anyone above their socially approved weight. (I don't think I have to explain why this is particularly a feminist issue, either.) US society supports bad choices by making incorporating exercise more difficult and subsidizing prepared food full of empty calories, fat, and refined sugars. It's hard to make good choices in a world where it's easy to make bad ones and anyone trying to improve health/lose weight may have other (illness, money, family, etc.) priorities. Losing weight and/or improving health sustainably requires sorting priorities and changing lifestyle in a way that incorporates priority and energy (spoons). So try to do better, and recognize your choices played a role, but calling weight gain "self-inflicted", which is self-blaming and judgey language, doesn't help you or anyone else.

tl;dr You can recognize how your own choices play a role in weight gain and still not blame yourself, just realistically figure out how to do things better in the future.
posted by immlass at 6:56 AM on February 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Response from Dan Savage (newly written, not a repost) here
posted by operalass at 9:29 AM on February 15, 2011




You can recognize how your own choices play a role in weight gain and still not blame yourself, just realistically figure out how to do things better in the future.

"Blame" is, again, one of those loaded words. I'm saying that ultimately, I own my decisions, regardless the influence of depression and our shitty culture.

If I don't take ownership of my decisions then there is no way to change my behaviour.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:45 AM on February 15, 2011


Dan Savage makes a point often in his podcast about how certain "friendly" but accessible people / groups are often used as foils for people to vent; precisely because they are the most targetable.

Savage as a "love columnist" faces issues about weight alot in the context of a relationships and makes a point that it is important for people to take care of themselves, in order to retain their attractiveness for their partners.

It's pretty easy to read "don't gain extreme amounts of weight or you risk no longer being attractive to your partner" especially in Savage's snark tone as "don't get fat, or you won't be attractive."
posted by stratastar at 9:48 AM on February 15, 2011


Man. I thought Dan Savage's reply was fair and put his own words in context well and then I read comments like:
Dan,

In following this, it's been my hunch that while you accuse Lindy of projecting, you yourself project your fat-phobia in your writing.

But remember: You are one sidelining injury (knees, back, etc.) from losing your six-pack.

And, don't ever get a health condition where you have to go on steroids.
and
I'm eating popcorn with a drizzle of organic olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Just kidding, fuck you Dan, I'm drinking a protein drink I bought at Grocery Outlet because my fat-but-much-stronger-than-yours ass works out several times a week.

You sound just like my grandma when she tried to kick me out of the house when I came out to her at 16. I told her I'd stay in the closet for as long as I could handle and she would shut the fuck up and stop prying into my life. Oh, it's for your own good, oh, I'm using science, oh, I'm trying to have your best interests in mind, oh, I had feelings kinda like yours when I was young, oh, ME ME ME. I can do it, too.

You're just pissed that your advice, your bread, your life's work, is being treated like dickery. SURPRISE! YOU GIVE BAD ADVICE FROM TIME TO TIME! STOP TWISTING IN THE WIND.
and I wonder if these people read the same post I did. Where in his post does he say fat is bad? The closest he comes is:

The science is in: obesity has serious potential health consequences. Which is not to say that all the obese folks are unhealthy and all the skinny bitches are healthy. Individual results may vary. But being seriously overweight is likely to harm a person's health.

I feel like people want him to be a straw man in this.
posted by girih knot at 10:24 AM on February 15, 2011


People like to be assholes. A major function of ideologies that tell you you're righteous is to allow you to be an asshole without feeling bad about it.
posted by grobstein at 10:26 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I don't take ownership of my decisions then there is no way to change my behaviour.

Sure, and obviously. Frex: if you have diabetes, all the sugar in the world is still going to be out there and you have to not eat it (not because you'll get OMG FAT but because you'll DIE). Starbucks will sell you a sugary frappe no matter how bad your diabetes is. And folks with diabetes have to own this on their own, because if they leave it to a partner to control their sugar intake, often by letting a spouse cook only diabetic-friendly meals, they'll end up in trouble if anything happens to their partner. Apparently that's a known concern with older diabetic men: the spouse that did the cooking dies and the man follows when he doesn't/can't/doesn't know how to keep his blood sugar under control. But realistically, you also have to recognize that you didn't pick a world where there's a Starbucks on every corner and moderate exercise is a time-consuming luxury instead of a part of daily life. You do have to figure that all into the decisions you have to own to reduce weight.

I hate "self-inflicted" because it's the sort of bullshit glibertarian "bad choices" terminology that covers so many sins and doesn't acknowledge that everybody doesn't start out on a level playing field. Your bad choice to be poor, to have made a mistake somewhere in life, to not have the safety net other people have. Own your choices. Don't hate yourself for them, though.
posted by immlass at 11:23 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pretty much every story of weight loss posted here (only read 30% of it) seems to be wrapped in an air of "Thank goodness I am no longer fat, since that was disgusting" judgement.

Good on you, you are still making ridiculous judgements and validating the necessity of a HAES movement.
If there is an pervasive innate sense that thinner=better, then there is still work to be done.
posted by Theta States at 11:42 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have no beef with the idea of the "spoons theory" but it drives me nuts that it's called a 'theory'. It's not a theory. It's an analogy. The spoons analogy. /pedantic rant.
posted by Miko at 11:49 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


One thing that annoyed me a bit in his response was that it does put stuff in context, which I appreciate, but part of that context is that at The Stranger, they joke about things such as child rape.

I'm all for edgy humor. All for it. But sometimes you step over the line and become an asshole. And if you want to be edgy, you have to accept that once in a while you are going to step over the line, and your words may be doing more harm than good, and you have a bit more humility in dealing with responses.

It's like Louis C.K. In I think, Shameless, he does this bit about how he likes the word faggot and he doesn't use it in a gay-bashing sense so he thinks it's a legitimate word. Then later in a skit in his T.V. show, there's this bit where one of his friends tells him about the etymology of the word faggot -- how gay men were not so much burned at the stake but tossed into the fire like a "faggot" of wood.

I really have a hard time evaluating his response in light of his defensive, oh no you didn't accuse me of that and by the way why did you post this when I was out on the ranch or whatever and away from email.

Fine. Maybe she handled it shittly. But as a columnist, he has a responsibility to deal with the issue at hand, doesn't he? Maybe he did it didn't scan because the thing read like he was trying to score points at every opportunity, rather than demonstrating that he is capable of empathy on this issue.
posted by angrycat at 12:06 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


the thing read like he was trying to score points at every opportunity

I agree. It was quite manipulative, as well, though he's got a subtle hand at that so it's not immediately evident. I've long thought he is a capital-A asshole, and his response confirms it for me.

Also, his brother doesn't understand science.
posted by Miko at 1:00 PM on February 15, 2011


Yuck - Savage is such a douche. I've never gotten the appeal of his mean spirited column. He seems to raise some valid concerns in his response which I'd be more open to if he was willing to take responsibility for anything or acknowledge how he may have caused some harm. He doesn't have to just lay down and agree with everything she says, but taking a moment to examine his actions and acknowledge that he's hurt someone really shouldn't be impossible.
posted by serazin at 2:00 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also love how he's all, "I'm not her boss! I mean, yeah, I can fire her if I want, but I totally wouldn't!" Sorry dude, in real land if you can fire someone, you are her boss. You admit weight discrimination is a real issue, so use some thought in how you talk about fat people who work under you.
posted by serazin at 2:09 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


seems to be wrapped in an air of "Thank goodness I am no longer fat, since that was disgusting" judgement.

Because people are still carrying around all that pain, hate, guilt and, shame.
posted by squeak at 2:43 PM on February 15, 2011


He faults her for an ad hominem argument, then uses one himself: that she's freeing herself of shame by projecting it on him.
posted by Miko at 3:24 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I reread Lindy's article again, because I was so amazed by the "NO FUCK YOU" and lack of anything like an apology in Savage's response, and a couple things struck me:

1) The links she presented (and here's a weird thing; in his response he goes off on her for publishing this when he was away, but she is offering links to what he said in response to his request, which makes his whole "help I was blindsided by this" thing weird) really do present Savage as an ass on this subject. His posting an article about how a child was killed when an obese relative fell on her/him, and presenting it as "another victim of the obesity epidemic" strikes me as funny as making fun of a person who killed another person with a car because of a seizure or mental impairment or something. His talking about how all the water was displaced in some pool by the fat people. Jesus.

2) Her saying that when she accepted her body, she lost weight -- I completely relate. When I was binging and purging, I was keeping a lot of calories in because (sorry) it's pretty hard to barf everything up you put down your gullet. When I stopped -- because I'd rather live than be thin -- I lost a BUNCH of weight.

Fuck Dan Savage. He comes across as somebody who is so sure his liberal credentials are so awesome he has carte blanche to say whatever the hell he pleases.
posted by angrycat at 3:43 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Savage as a "love columnist" faces issues about weight alot in the context of a relationships and makes a point that it is important for people to take care of themselves, in order to retain their attractiveness for their partners.

It's pretty easy to read "don't gain extreme amounts of weight or you risk no longer being attractive to your partner" especially in Savage's snark tone as "don't get fat, or you won't be attractive."


Um. Just because someone is saying something you wouldn't like to hear? That doesn't mean that person is lying. I basically guarantee "extreme" weight gain over a short period of time -- let's say fifty, sixty pounds -- will make that person seem less attractive to their partner, unless that person started out anorexic and extreme weight gain is a good thing. I mean, extreme weight loss (again -- fifty, sixty pounds) would probably be a problem for most people's partners, unless that person started out obese (though to be fair in most cases I think the worry would be less that one's partner is less attractive and more that one's partner could be, you know, actually dying).
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:19 PM on February 15, 2011


I basically guarantee "extreme" weight gain over a short period of time -- let's say fifty, sixty pounds -- will make that person seem less attractive to their partner, unless that person started out anorexic and extreme weight gain is a good thing.

I gained sixty pounds in eight months when I quit smoking, taking me from 160 to 220 on a 5'2" frame. My boyfriend did not appear to think me notably less attractive.

I'm now 230, following a 45 pound weight loss largely attained while pregnant with my now three-month-old son. And I love my body -- I just love it, I think it's fabulous. My body conceived, bore, and nourished two children. My body walks my brain around, all day, every day. My body is my instrument for my art; I'm a professional classical singer. My body is awesome, and I love it.

Now, loving my body -- like loving my children or my husband -- does not mean thinking it's without weakness or flaw. Loving my body means accepting those weaknesses, working to change them when I can and working around them when I can't change them, or while I'm changing them. For example, I'm quite short, so I need to keep a stool in the kitchen to get to a high shelf. For another example, I'm a hundred pounds overweight, so I do my workouts on an elliptical machine rather than a treadmill, to protect my knees and ankles. Shame tells me that if I can't run a mile on a treadmill, I'm lazy and not trying hard enough, but love says "OK, you can't do that, and for good reason. What CAN you do?" What I can do is a 30-45 minute cardio workout at 85% of PHR, 4 times a week. If I get in the water, I can swim a mile. I could go longer on the cardio, but my schedule doesn't permit it; I have to work out, shower, clean my house, do my laundry, and care for my infant during the 3 hours my daughter's at preschool. Shame says "Why bother? You're such a fatty you need a 3 hour workout every day!" Love says "You showed up, again. Good job."

(A thought experiment for those who are not overweight and who think, publicly or secretly, that fat people are lazy for not exercising more: A gallon of milk weighs eight pounds. Put on a backpack, put six gallons of milk in it. Put another backpack on your abdomen, and put four more gallons of milk in that one. Pick up yet another gallon in each hand. Now go for a jog, and see how you feel after a quarter mile. I wear those 12 gallon jugs for each and every moment of my life, from rolling over in bed to chasing after my children, and it's exhausting. I'm not lazy, I'm TIRED.)

Love also means looking at what my body can do, and celebrating it. Because of those extra hundred pounds, I'm really strong. Our local fire department works out at my gym, and when I work in sets on the Smith machine with them, they have to take weight OFF the bar after I'm done. I do three sets on the ab and oblique machines, because I have them set to the maximum amount of weight they carry. That's fitness. It's not thinness, but it is fitness, and I love it.

Loving my body means caring what I put into it; it means eating good food, whole foods, and making sure every meal is loaded with micronutrients. I'm working a lot of mass here, plus feeding another entire human being; I can't afford empty calories. Loving my body means feeding it REAL food, not fake chemicals like Olestra and aspartame and HFCS. Loving my body means recognizing that even if I fail my saving throw vs. a Cadbury Egg, that's no reason to gorge on junk food while wallowing in my failure. Shame says "You can't even be trusted to leave the house without stuffing your face." Love says "You'll be feeling this in the mood and energy crash later, but skinny people eat Cadbury Eggs too! Account for it in your daily carb allowance and move on." Shame says "You're so fat, you don't deserve to eat, hunger is good for you." Love says "Deserve has nothing to do with it! Food is essential. Eat when you're hungry, stop when you're not."

So, yeah, I exercise. I don't diet, but I don't eat a lot of crap and I get 2-4 servings of fruit and 8-12 servings of vegetables a day. I don't drink beverages besides water, save the occasional glass of wine, a morning cup of tea without sugar, and a VERY occasional latte. I do it because I don't want to get diabetes, because I want to be stronger, because I want to be in better condition. Because I want to be less tired. Because I want my teeth to be better. Because I want to sleep better. Because it lets me stay off my antidepressants, because it stops my acid reflux, because it helps me be gentle and joyful with my children rather than snappish and weary. I do it for a thousand reasons, but not to lose weight. . . and certainly not because I'm ashamed. And anyone who thinks I SHOULD be ashamed? Can kiss my fat white ass.
posted by KathrynT at 5:13 PM on February 15, 2011 [24 favorites]


That doesn't mean that person is lying.

It doesn't mean they know anything about your life, either. Generalities are useless here. My partner weighed 50 pounds more than he currently does about two years ago, when he worked long hours at an intense but sedentary desk job, and was so tired at the end of the day that he just went out for a quick, easy dinner instead of cooking. During that time, I noticed absolutely no variation in either my attraction to him, my enjoyment of his appearance, or my sexual interest in him. His lifestyle changed, the weight came off. He still looks good to me. We are both in our early forties. We've seen each other change hair, size, skin tone, clothing style, seen each other age a bit. I like the way he looks and it's hard for me to imagine a change in appearance so severe I would feel differently - it would have to be really massive. These blanket generalizations about what's "attractive" aren't all that accurate in real life.

Should people who develop scars or discolorations on their skin, from burns or skin conditions, lose the love of their partners? What about people who lose a limb - is that less attractive? What about crow's feet, wattles, age spots, and male pattern baldness? Is it acceptable to tell people with those conditions they should expect to be less loved and desired? If so, we're all in big trouble.
posted by Miko at 5:28 PM on February 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


What does should have to do with anything? I don't think they should, but that's neither relevant nor my call to make.
posted by ODiV at 5:48 PM on February 15, 2011


What does should have to do with anything? I don't think they should, but that's neither relevant nor my call to make.

Exactly.
posted by Miko at 7:39 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It doesn't mean they know anything about your life, either. Generalities are useless here.

Well, they are and they're not. What you and KathrynT are speaking to here -- and quite well -- is a greater bond that exists between long-term couples and that goes well beyond the kind of nitpicking that might disrupt a young relationship. More to the point, you're talking about your own relationships, which sound enviously healthy and wonderful, and therefore are unlikely to be the subject of an advice letter sent to Dan Savage. To broadly address such concerns, you kind of have to generalize, and I don't know that it's a great idea to presume that a person's partner will overlook their physical appearance, or be thoughtful enough to contextualize it (i.e., he takes on weight working a job so that he can contribute to your mutual well-being; she takes on weight giving birth to and raising their children). I hate to say it, but I think we're generally better off presuming that the default relationship is made of shallower stuff...or anyway, the default relationship of a person who is seeking the advice of a snarky sex columnist. In any case, whether it's the best generalization or not, I don't think there is a way to do anything but generalize if you're going to answer questions from people you don't know for a wide audience of people you also do not know.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:57 PM on February 15, 2011


First of all, my partner wasn't a co-contributor to my well-being when this happened, and our relationship was less than two years old, not especially "long-term."

I don't think there is a way to do anything but generalize if you're going to answer questions from people you don't know for a wide audience of people you also do not know.

Perhaps not, so why should he be so reluctant to admit that such broad statements are generalizations and that any answers offered to people you don't know aren't likely to be very insightful, personal, or personally useful? Why so reluctant to admit that for a certain percentage of people, the answers aren't just inapplicable but directly wrong?

If these messages are nonspecific and inaccurate for a certain amount of instances of the problem, what is this exercise all about anyway? Why are these statements, supposedly in response to personal, private and individual problems, so public?

I posit: because they are not really solutions to problems meant to improve lives - they are entertainment, and rely for their impact on an implicit shared superiority between writer and reader, both enjoying lulz and eye-rolls at the expense of those who are not as seemingly enlightened as those presumably more sophisticated parties.

If he's doing what you suggest, knowlngly, this paragon of honesty should say so directly. "My answers apply more to shallower and newer relationships, and are broad generalizations that I know, based on evidence, do not hold true with perfect consistency across the range of relationships and across a lifetime." Would this disclaimer be so hard for him to make?
posted by Miko at 8:15 PM on February 15, 2011


Weren't we just talking about how there's a pervasive anti-fat bias in society, though? I don't think it's ridiculous to assume that it extends to sexual relationships. I not going to make such generalizations, but I'm no advice columnist.

I'm also not convinced it's true. Depending on who (and what media) you surround yourself with, it's very easy to have a completely different perception about the society we live in, including how relationships work, than someone who lives just across the hall.
posted by ODiV at 8:56 PM on February 15, 2011


Pretty much the whole schtick behind Dan "Dump The Motherfucker Already" Savage's column is that he's a straight-talking, take-no-prisoners, no-bullshit, offensive, brutally honest sayer of things people don't want to hear. He used to refuse to even answer any letter that didn't address him with "Hey faggot,"

So a large part of his mailbag consists of people saying "Yeah, but on my pet issue you've got to be super-sensitive, OK?" and him saying "No."
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:02 AM on February 16, 2011


Sorry if this has been mentioned already, but wasn't there an AskMe recently about a guy whose boyfriend had stopped having sex with him because the guy had gained 10 lbs over the holidays? (The boyfriend directly admitted it, so it's not just inference.) Oh, here it is. There are some other factors in that question, most notably the asker's own insecurities, but it's silly to pretend that everyone is OK with their partner's weight gain.
posted by desjardins at 7:46 AM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Weren't we just talking about how there's a pervasive anti-fat bias in society, though?

Yeah, but I think his approach is to suggest that the widespread anti-fat bias is totally justified, because it makes a person so "unattractive." Hey, he's no bigot, he's just calling it like it is. And if that's not enough for you, or you have a reasonable response saying "it's not unattractive to everyone, or to the people I care about, or not any more unattractive than other body conditions that are equally hard to combat," then he backs away to the line that he's just "concerned" about how "unhealthy" you are. It's not him, he's got nothing against you, it's the culture, it's biology, it's reality, it's the facts. All this means he's willingly taken on the role of apologist for the blanket condemnation of other people.

I think it's fair not to buy any of that, or to think he's the final arbiter or capturer of truth about relationships - he maintains his reputation and career by being provocative and judgmental in print, that's his bread and butter, and this is one more way to do it.

Savage is overly lionized. He has contributed some good things to the culture ("It Gets Better," brilliant, and lots of awareness raising and increased acceptance around kink and gay issues), but there's a way in which some of his helpful and progressive stances on certain specific issues have given him a "halo effect" of correctness, even where he's wrong, prejudiced, or blind to another issue. He's not right all the time, about everything. He's got personal biases. He has no specific training in psychology, human development, or human relations (his BA is in theatre and history, and his formal education seems to have ended there), and is just out of his element when discussing many of these topics.

For a long time I've found him to advocate points of view that are so extreme as to be somewhat ridiculous - those make for better reading, more vociferous back-and-forth, and a more provocative persona. There's nothing wrong with calling him on that and pointing out the areas of his non-expertise and inaccuracy, especially where they seem to indicate an underlying contempt.
posted by Miko at 8:00 AM on February 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


it's silly to pretend that everyone is OK with their partner's weight gain.

It's silly to pretend everyone's not OK. People differ.
posted by Miko at 8:01 AM on February 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


I agree that it can't be taken for granted that people will find their partner unattractive if they gain weight. Some will, some won't, for many it will vary based on the amount of weight. If someone does not find their partner attractive because they've gained weight, it may mean they're a shallow jerk, it may just mean they have certain preferences, but it doesn't necessarily mean they view all fat people with contempt or disgust.
posted by desjardins at 8:59 AM on February 16, 2011


There are people for whom weight loss is truly medically impossible. Like for example my mother who had Graves Disease and they literally destroyed her thyroid. She doesn't have a thyroid. She exercises, she eats vegetables and healthy proteins. Even taking thyroid hormone she has limited control over the way her body processes the food she eats.

Unless your mother has no metabolism (which means she is dead), it is not impossible for her to lose weight. Moreover, the second law of thermodynamics makes it clear that if one eats less energy than one expends, one will lose weight. Medical conditions may make weight loss difficult, but not impossible.

And now a word on the "love is blind" sentiment that has been voiced by some: sell crazy elsewhere. While I am no fan of Dan Savage, he hit the nail on the head with a true statement of fact. If one blimps out, one risks becoming unattractive to one's partner. A risk, not a certainty. There is no affirmative action for physical unattractiveness. No one claims that one should enter relationships with people to whom they are not attracted, so why stay with someone who had become unattractive?

The ode to 230 lbs in a 5'2" package was one of the more delusional things I have read.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:32 AM on February 16, 2011


No one claims that one should enter relationships with people to whom they are not attracted, so why stay with someone who had become unattractive?

I'm having a hard time formulating a response to this that isn't extremely snide. The closest I can come is that I don't understand, and feel somewhat sorry for, people past a certain rather young age for whom the single most important factor in their relationship is the immediate physical attraction and perceived attractiveness of their partner. It excludes so many other qualities, including sexual attraction based on compatibility and emotional attractiveness, never mind other nonsexual qualities that might interest you in a relationship.

(This discussion has made me realize that I've learned all I needed to learn from Dan Savage. I D'd the MTFA from my RSS reader today.)
posted by immlass at 9:47 AM on February 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


the second law of thermodynamics makes it clear that if one eats less energy than one expends, one will lose weight

I think there was another recent fathate thread where a physicist piped in to let everyone know that this is only true in a closed system, which the human body is not.

sell crazy elsewhere

There's no crazy on offer here, except maybe the crazy that someone who's become less attractive to you should be dumped because of that single fact. That philosophy, were it to be lived out, would prescribe either being alone, shallow relationships, the cost of intense emotional stress, or all of the above. Attractiveness is just one factor in relationship formation and maintenance. It's not unimportant, but it's just not the only feature in a partner that matters. And tastes differ as to what's 'attractive' anyway, as do one's priorities when considering a partner. They vary by person, and they vary over a lifetime.

I agree that there is a risk of a change in appearance resulting in a change in a partner's desire. There are a lot of risks in relationships. A change in income might, too. A change in mobility. A change in parental status. A change in taste or interests. A change of hobby or pastime. All these changes may result in changed feelings on the other partner's side. But they're always only that - risks, not guarantees - sometimes a change will happen, sometimes it won't. Oftentimes, people work through their issues around their partners - who are living, changing beings, after all - changing. When they don't work through the changes, the relationship doesn't work out. And most relationships don't work out, in the long-term, anyway. That doesn't mean changing is bad.

Savage, though, presents the results of bodily change as a certainty, not a risk. It's almost laughable that it's even up for debate that it's not a certainty, when we are, all of us, surrounded by examples of relationships that are working differently and working well.
posted by Miko at 10:53 AM on February 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


I feel like we're having two separate conversations here or something.

We were talking about how there's so much discrimination against people who are overweight. Then the suggestion that this discrimination carries through and has an effect on sexual attraction and relationships is dismissed because, "It's not true in all cases." Well yeah, obviously not in all cases. Virtually nothing is true in all cases.

immlass, when I read that you don't understand, and feel somewhat sorry for, people who place an extremely high value on sexual attraction in their relationships, I agree with what you're saying, but I don't really see how it addresses the issue.

Here's how I'm reading the conversation:

"If you gain a lot of weight you risk becoming less attractive to your partner."
"This isn't always true, here's an example."
"Well of course it's not *always* true, but in general it's often the case."
"Then those people are shallow."

Okay, so they're shallow and have issues with weight. Isn't that what we've been talking about? That people here have these issues?

on preview:
Oh, Savage has been arguing that it's a certainty? Well that's stupid, nevermind pretty much everything I've said then. I was under the impression that, as with say becoming unemployed or depressed (two other things we as a society have hangups about), he was just saying that becoming overweight might very well cause attraction issues with your partner.
posted by ODiV at 11:05 AM on February 16, 2011


Also, bringing up the second law of thermodynamics? Really?
posted by ODiV at 11:07 AM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The ode to 230 lbs in a 5'2" package was one of the more delusional things I have read.

"230 lbs. in a 5'2" package" has a name, and is an active member of this community. Disagreeing with her might be your prerogative, but dehumanizing her, and describing her life experience as "delusional," is pretty loathsome behavior.
posted by bakerina at 11:57 AM on February 16, 2011 [18 favorites]


The ode to 230 lbs in a 5'2" package was one of the more delusional things I have read.

Hi! I'm right here!! What about it was delusional, exactly? I'm all ears.
posted by KathrynT at 12:29 PM on February 16, 2011 [17 favorites]


I read that you don't understand, and feel somewhat sorry for, people who place an extremely high value on sexual attraction in their relationships

You mischaracterize, or do not understand, what I said. Conventional physical attractiveness, including being thin, is not the same thing as sexual attractiveness to your partner, which was the point I was making.
posted by immlass at 12:35 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, Savage has been arguing that it's a certainty? Well that's stupid, nevermind pretty much everything I've said then

Yeah, I don't think there are two separate points. There's the general discussion about weight discrimination, and the specific instance of same (the actual topic of the thread) found in Dan Savage's writing.
posted by Miko at 12:53 PM on February 16, 2011


I should have quoted verbatim, sorry, immlass. Was trying to pare down what you were saying into fewer words, and after rewording several times, obviously didn't get it right.

Yeah, I get that you don't understand these people and feel sorry for them, but that doesn't stop them from existing, surely? I don't understand and feel sorry for middle aged men who cheat with women in their twenties, but that's not to say it's uncommon or surprising.

But yeah, I'm not going to defend Savage's position on weight gain and attractiveness because I've read literally nothing he's written on the subject. I was just going by the impression I'd gotten from this thread.
posted by ODiV at 1:24 PM on February 16, 2011


ODiV, I know those folks exist (and I was avoiding as best I could taking a hard swipe with namecalling at people in the thread), and obviously there's a difference between relationships primarily centered on sex and relationships that include good sex as a part of your balanced breakfast. What I was getting at was the flip side of Miko's point about how other aspects of relationships are just the same as the weight of one partner and that any major change can be a risk to the dynamic between partners. The idea that weight gain is special, and inevitably causes people to DTMFA, as opposed to (non-weight) sexual/emotional/financial/health/etc issues, doesn't make sense to me.
posted by immlass at 1:51 PM on February 16, 2011


Okay, I guess this is where my Savage misinterpretation comes in (Savage Misinterpretation would be a great band name). I don't think that weight gain is special. It wouldn't surprise me if an advice columnist came out and told people that aging, losing a limb, becoming depressed, losing a job, going into debt, developing halitosis, etc might very well cause attraction issues with their partners. If Savage focuses on weight gain and ignores the others then yeah, stupid.

mmm, balanced breakfast
posted by ODiV at 1:58 PM on February 16, 2011


[folks, take it to MeTa if you need to but "fuck you too" isn't really okay here.]
posted by jessamyn at 3:29 PM on February 16, 2011


I think there was another recent fathate thread where a physicist piped in to let everyone know that this is only true in a closed system, which the human body is not.

While I am sure his explanation was correct, your understanding of it apparently was not.

Yes, the human body is an open system i.e. matter may flow in and out of the system. However, energy balance still applies. The human body, like every other open system in the history of the universe, cannot expend more energy than in takes in. To use an example accessible to laymen, a car will only travel as far as its gasoline stores will permit. Once depleted, it will not run. Nothing will make energy magically appear.

Fat, like gasoline, is stored energy. If a person is accumulating fat despite eating less than maintenance, that means energy creation is happening.* To date, no one has observed the creation of energy. If Thyroid Mom is exhibiting energy creation, her kid should publish the data, win the Nobel Prize in physics, and be known as one of the greatest scientists of all time.

(I did brainfart when I wrote 2nd. I meant the first law.)

* or that there is some other source of energy, like solar rays. Maybe fat people get their energy from the yellow sun like Superman.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:02 PM on February 16, 2011


Tanizaki, you're not really being very cool here.
posted by angrycat at 5:06 PM on February 16, 2011


Hi! I'm right here!! What about it was delusional, exactly? I'm all ears.

"My body is awesome" was a start.

Also, the belief that your having strength makes you fit. Of course you have strength because as you noted, you have to lug around a lot of extra weight that you put on yourself. Instead of raw numbers, how about looking at your strength-to-weight ratio? Let's say you use the Smith to bench press 225, while one of those firemen is Smith benching 180. But, you weight 230 and he weighs 165. It is obvious who is stronger in such an instance. For more fun with the firemen, do a standard physical fitness test of running, pull-ups, and sit ups. Can you do more pull-ups than a fireman?

You also might want to switch from the Smith to free weights. The firemen are there, so needing a spotter is not an issue.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:12 PM on February 16, 2011


Surely you realize that "awesome" is a subjective opinion and calling that opinion "delusional" is hilariously faux-objective.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:23 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Tanizaki-wtf is up with your hostility? You're being flat out obnoxious and insulting.
posted by hollygoheavy at 5:38 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


My body IS awesome. I enumerated several ways in which it's awesome. Is that really your standard for "most delusional ever," that you don't think making people or music is awesome and I do?

I never said my strength makes me fit. I said that strength is fitness, and it is. Of course I can't do more pullups than a fireman, and if you think I'd say otherwise, YOU'RE delusional. That doesn't take away from the fact that I'm strong, and it certainly doesn't take away from the fact that thinness is not the only measure of fitness.

As for workout advice . . . I'll stick with what my doctor and my trainer tell me over the advice of a lawyer on the internet, thanks. Particularly one who's so blinded by his own prejudices that he thinks a fat woman's positive self-talk deserves a callout as the most delusional thing ever.
posted by KathrynT at 5:42 PM on February 16, 2011 [13 favorites]


If you think that's delusional, wait until...
posted by fuq at 6:10 PM on February 16, 2011


While I am sure his explanation was correct, your understanding of it apparently was not.

My understanding of it is absolutely minimal - it's not an area I claim any expertise in. If you want to argue the point, your argument is with this guy: 1, 2, 3. But it seems like a pretty direct argument against your conception of the idea.

As to strength-to-weight ratio, I'm not sure it's been demonstrated that it's linked to better health for those with higher SWR. It's a quantitative measure of relative fitness, but it's like any specific measure, just like BMI: independently of other variables, how much does it matter? Gymnasts, for instance, focus on the SWR, but often at detriment to their normal and healthy overall body development. It can be increased, but that hasn't been demonstrated to be a guarantee of optimal health.

You may be right that the fireman lifting 180 has developed a more efficient power to weight ratio. However, what tasks is he fit for? Fitness in a vacuum is somewhat meaningless. If the job I need doing requires a comfortable ability to exert 200 pounds of horizontal force via the arms on a car stuck in the snow, for instance, I want the person who can generate more thrust with their body and move more weight in absolute terms. Same if I'm hiking with this person and I want to know whether they can carry me out of harm's way if I get injured. Looking at efficiency is not a fully dimensional measure.

Whether or not a high SWR is important to you, I think the significant point in this argument would still be your linking it to lower health risks at any size. Has that been done? I'm only aware of the very real risks that arise when the drive toward it is pushed too far.
posted by Miko at 6:27 PM on February 16, 2011


The ode to 230 lbs in a 5'2" package was one of the more delusional things I have read.

Hey Tanizaki, this statement is dehumanizing, which is rude to KathrynT, a person who is having a conversation in good faith with you on this site. It's also flippant and unsupported, which brings down the tenor of what's otherwise been a pretty thoughtful conversation.

"My body is awesome" was a start.

Now you're universalizing your own personal perception, which is disingenuous, and rude besides. Why not let your facts and arguments stand for themselves?
posted by brookedel at 6:36 PM on February 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Tanizaki: “There is no affirmative action for physical unattractiveness. No one claims that one should enter relationships with people to whom they are not attracted, so why stay with someone who had become unattractive? The ode to 230 lbs in a 5'2" package was one of the more delusional things I have read.”

Well, you seem to be the resident expert on ugliness, so I guess your arguments have a certain amount of weight.
posted by koeselitz at 6:47 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


oh man oh man oh man oh man
Tanikazi, what the heck are you doing? Is this trolling? Or is it an unfortunate personality thing?
I mean, I know I've said stupid things on metafilter, but it's never been in an oldish thread where folks have really let down their guard in order to grapple with painful shit.
Here's a great opportunity for you: Read what you've written, how others have responded, and come up with a response that doesn't sound like you wanted to kick a puppy to death on the way home but couldn't find one and so came here again
posted by angrycat at 6:58 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


also weird: of your four comments on metafilter, three are in this thread.
posted by angrycat at 7:07 PM on February 16, 2011


To use an example accessible to laymen, a car will only travel as far as its gasoline stores will permit. Once depleted, it will not run.

A car wont auto-cannibalize itself once the tank is empty, humans when fat stores get low will start to consume muscle. A car at idle will burn the same amount of energy the next day regardless of whether you've raced down a farm road at 100km the day before, humans will increase their energy expenditure based on work done. For instance, if you work out for 1 hour you will burn more calories while asleep compared to not working out at all. Cars won't burn more energy because its cold out to keep themselves warm, humans will. Etc.

I really wish people would stop oversimplifying the law into a calories in/calories out equation, it's specious at best.
posted by squeak at 7:08 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


also weird: of your four comments on metafilter, three are in this thread

Sort of a sockpuppet participation model.
posted by Miko at 8:09 PM on February 16, 2011


huh. hear I thought the device of sockputting was to be funny, like when usernames Barack Obama and Sara Palin pop in to say something. Not to weirdly vent some spleen.
posted by angrycat at 8:30 PM on February 16, 2011


*here*
posted by angrycat at 8:30 PM on February 16, 2011


shorter Tanizaki:

* SCIENCE! (except for that part that I got wrong, and the other part that I don't understand. Still, SCIENCE!)

* Why Stay With Someone Who Had Become Unattractive? (NOT RHETORICAL, I really don't understand why anyone would stay with anyone I don't find attractive if they don't stay the same forever and ever. Also, I is not need no stinkin' tense agreement)

* Random insult of another member (because I really work to polish and refine these rare and jewel-like comments for ultimate brilliance)
posted by taz at 11:24 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


also weird: of your four comments on metafilter, three are in this thread.

What aspect do you find most weird about that?

Apropros to Ms. West's original column, I found a possible explanation for her condition in the following restaurant review she wrote just a few days earlier:
http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/uneeda-eat-this-immediately-if-not-sooner/Content?oid=6676063

The Wagyu patty was soft without being insubstantial, drippier, darker, and beefier than its counterpart. The Wagyu burger made you forget that ketchup exists. Seriously, it was so good. If my mother were a cow, I would still eat this hamburger. If I were a hamburger, I would eat this hamburger. If I were this hamburger, I would eat myself.

[...]

Oh, and also, aside from the chocolate milk shake (AWESOME, even though it was technically a black-and-white, which I usually do NOT condone), everything else was kind of legit gross. Onion rings ($4) were battered so thickly they resembled Krispy Kreme doughnuts with a fryer-fat glaze of visible grease. And a small Cobb salad ($5)—despite a promising abundance of hard-boiled egg—was weirdly both sweet and bitter, with a dressing reminiscent of frozen Minute Maid lemonade concentrate. We picked out the bacon and left the rest. But you know what? Guess how much I cared? Zero. Zero much. I am smitten with another.

She must have a thyroid problem.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:22 AM on February 17, 2011


Well, if we're going to go on with this in an ad hominem way, Tanizaki, I guess this is the part where you post a picture of yourself and a description of your eating and exercise habits so we can decide if you're sufficiently healthy to talk about this.
posted by koeselitz at 9:38 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your judgmental attitude probably makes you a lot of fun at parties. I only wish you were this sanctimonious and nasty in more threads. Surely it would add much to our collective body of knowledge.

p.s. Olympic weightlifters think they are strong but NEWS FLASH many ants are way stronger! Bet that gold medal feels pretty worthless now, weaklings!
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:15 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


What aspect do you find most weird about that?

What's weird about it is that this is a community that leans a lot on long-term participation and relative goodwill. You haven't been a participant very long, and you're already lobbing attacks and using a nasty tone. That is weird for MetaFilter, and not very welcome.

I don't think it's worth engaging any more with you, Tanizaki. Your hostility to strangers is a little bit out of the ordinary and certainly not something people have invited. You seem to be unable not to judge others or use a hostile tone. There's no reason to argue with you about it, because it isn't something rational.
posted by Miko at 10:17 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I found a possible explanation for her condition in the following restaurant review she wrote just a few days earlier:

congratulations, you found a website on the internet.

Here's a secret, though: Skinny people love food too. Skinny people eat hamburgers and ice cream and donuts, all the time. Anthony Bourdain? Thin as a rail. There is nothing wrong with taking pleasure from your food, regardless of your physical condition. Food has nutritional value, sensory value, and sociocultural value, but it does not have a moral value. So all the "hurf durf Lindy ate a hamburger" is, really, bigoted fat-shaming at its most pure. It's not up to you to police the eating habits of others.
posted by KathrynT at 11:05 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


News Flash: Restaurant reviewers often don't eat more than a few bites of each thing they order. Writing about terrible onion rings requires consuming, perhaps, two of them. It's really not a great way to judge whether someone is eating healthfully in general. More to the point, there's no reason for you to feel you need to judge her at all. It's not useful to her, it's not useful to you and it makes you seem like a jerk.

Since you are a lawyer and not a scientist, I understand that you're having a problem understanding closed vs. open systems. In a closed system, you can be very sure that if energy is being consumed it was there in the first place. In an open system, that assumption is really poor. Some people just don't burn fat. (Indulge my hyperbole a moment.) Their bodies just aren't set up in such a way that they can make use of fat stores. If this weren't the case, there would never be an instance of a fat person starving to death. (Hint: there are plenty.) Another reason some people don't lose weight? Extremely efficient metabolism. The better your body is at utilizing the food you take in, the less of it you need to eat. However, it is not reasonable to expect people to get down to 500 or fewer calories a day just because they have incredibly efficient metabolisms. They have better things to do than develop a diet that delivers so few calories but still delivers the necessary micro and macro nutrients. If we circle around and talk about open vs. closed systems again, you can see that if we take those two factors into consideration it's not reasonable to treat the human body as a closed system. Just because there is "energy" present in the equation (fat) doesn't mean that your body is capable of burning it or would rather burn it than the energy you consume (food).

Bodies are complex and not really analogous to cars at all. The first person who comes up with a theory/equation that can accurately predict what 100% of the population needs to do in order to be healthy or thin is going to be filthy rich. However, what makes one person healthy isn't what makes another person healthy. The same is true for being skinny. And while there is sometimes a correlation between those two, it's not anywhere near universal enough to make broad statements or proscriptions based on it.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:19 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's a secret, though: Skinny people love food too. Skinny people eat hamburgers and ice cream and donuts, all the time. Anthony Bourdain? Thin as a rail. There is nothing wrong with taking pleasure from your food, regardless of your physical condition. Food has nutritional value, sensory value, and sociocultural value, but it does not have a moral value. So all the "hurf durf Lindy ate a hamburger" is, really, bigoted fat-shaming at its most pure. It's not up to you to police the eating habits of others.

I never said that one is not allowed to enjoy food. The point is that Lindy is not persuasive when she says, "I have wanted to change this body my whole life. I have never wanted anything as much as I have wanted a new body." as she is penning Apostrophe To Burgers And Milkshakes: A Dramatic Reading.

Anthony Bourdain and I are on the same page, btw.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5OkcRVs5ik

Lindy is digging her her grave with a knife and fork just as Bourdain is digging his grave with current tobacco use and past drug use.

If Dan Savage has said that smokers were unsightly and unattractive, would a similar thread of smoking acceptance have come into being? I suspect not.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:22 AM on February 17, 2011


Lindy is not persuasive when she says, "I have wanted to change this body my whole life. I have never wanted anything as much as I have wanted a new body.

I am certain that you know it is possible to wish your body had different natural tendencies, different proportions, different coloring or different whatever, while still enjoying the food you do eat. She's entirely persuasive.
posted by Miko at 11:29 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Since you are a lawyer and not a scientist, I understand that you're having a problem understanding closed vs. open systems. In a closed system, you can be very sure that if energy is being consumed it was there in the first place. In an open system, that assumption is really poor. Some people just don't burn fat. (Indulge my hyperbole a moment.) Their bodies just aren't set up in such a way that they can make use of fat stores. If this weren't the case, there would never be an instance of a fat person starving to death. (Hint: there are plenty.) Another reason some people don't lose weight? Extremely efficient metabolism. The better your body is at utilizing the food you take in, the less of it you need to eat. However, it is not reasonable to expect people to get down to 500 or fewer calories a day just because they have incredibly efficient metabolisms. They have better things to do than develop a diet that delivers so few calories but still delivers the necessary micro and macro nutrients. If we circle around and talk about open vs. closed systems again, you can see that if we take those two factors into consideration it's not reasonable to treat the human body as a closed system. Just because there is "energy" present in the equation (fat) doesn't mean that your body is capable of burning it or would rather burn it than the energy you consume (food).

Although I am a lawyer, I did enter college with physics credit for having scored a 5 on the AP Physics exam, so I don't exactly need to use Wikipedia to learn about thermodynamics. Some lawyers do have science backgrounds, you see. We aren't all liberal arts majors who got C's in org chem.

I have already said that the human body is not a closed system, so I do not understand why you said "you can see that if we take those two factors into consideration it's not reasonable to treat the human body as a closed system."

Every cell in the body is the result of food that one has consumed (we can assume that for adults, all cells formed from food our mothers consumed have long since died). If a person has energy storage in the form of fat, the energy has come from somewhere. Most people acquire energy from consuming and metabolizing food. If you wish to say that the fat does not come from eating a caloric excess, fine, but you must propose the mechanism that provides the extra energy.

This is not to say that people do not have different metabolisms, although they do not differ as much as some think (or as little as others claim). Do you have evidence of an adult human who has a BMR of 500 calories per day? There must be something on PubMed. HINT: Such a person would feel cold to the touch (a very efficient body would radiate less heat than a normal person)
posted by Tanizaki at 11:35 AM on February 17, 2011


I am certain that you know it is possible to wish your body had different natural tendencies, different proportions, different coloring or different whatever, while still enjoying the food you do eat. She's entirely persuasive.

Her body has the same natural tendencies as everyone else's: it puts on pounds when there is a caloric excess. She is persuasive as the smoker who says "I gotta quit" as he lights up.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:37 AM on February 17, 2011


Why should she have to be persuasive? Whom do you think she is obligated to persuade?
posted by KathrynT at 11:41 AM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Tanizaki: “Her body has the same natural tendencies as everyone else's: it puts on pounds when there is a caloric excess. She is persuasive as the smoker who says "I gotta quit" as he lights up.”

Ad hominem arguments may work in law, but they're not strictly rational. You may wish to amend your approach to these problems; that is, if you'd rather everybody else didn't start dismissing you as a "typical lawyer."
posted by koeselitz at 11:42 AM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


She is persuasive as the smoker who says "I gotta quit" as he lights up.

Because what...that statement is not true? You seem to think that the statement is true. Smokers, on average, have to try 6 to 7 times before they quit. That means that many times, they fail to quit. However, it doesn't make the statement that they want to quit less true. Eventually, they may quit, showing the statement was always true. Or they may fail again, and the statement may still be true.
posted by Miko at 11:44 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Although I am a lawyer, I did enter college with physics credit for having scored a 5 on the AP Physics exam, so I don't exactly need to use Wikipedia to learn about thermodynamics.

Tanizaki, if you're genuinely interested in the science and not just snarking, there's plenty of links in this thread already.

Hint: thermodynamics is not exactly the most relevant discipline if you're studying the range differences among human metabolisms and the actual real-world relationship between diet, exercise and weight loss. You're basically assuming a spherical cow here.
posted by straight at 11:45 AM on February 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Absolutely. Otherwise there would be no reason for so much intensive study of obesity and metabolism in medical research centers - if we were so certain that a cut-and-dried solution would work for everyone, it would be universally recommended and we would all be done with it. That's not how things are. The body's systems are much more complex than you suggest, and the behavioral dimension complicates the issue further.
posted by Miko at 11:48 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


[Folks, this sort of needs to wrap up here and not become one pile-on on one user. MetaTalk is your option. Taking cheap shots in this thread is not.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:54 AM on February 17, 2011


Tanizaki: Although I am a lawyer, I did enter college with physics credit for having scored a 5 on the AP Physics exam, so I don't exactly need to use Wikipedia to learn about thermodynamics.

Physics is a lovely science but one that is quite divorced from the context of living organisms. It deals primarily with the forces governing inanimate objects and has very limited utility with respect to questions of metabolism. After 6 years of undergraduate study and 4 years of medical school, I still don't pretend to understand why all fat people are fat, nor why all thin people are thin. The body at its simplest is terribly complex. If my cumulative experience with patients in controlled hospital environments has convinced me of anything, it is this: WE DO NOT FULLY UNDERSTAND METABOLISM YET. If it were just about thermodynamics, I'd have no trouble at all fattening up my cachectic hospital patients (and there are plenty of them) who remain at dangerously low BMIs despite 4000 kcal/day diets on strict bed rest. The biochemical pathways responsible for metabolism are insanely complex. A single enzyme deficiency (or excess) in any step of any of these pathways may result in metabolic derangement, and there is as yet no way to examine the function of each step of every metabolic pathway in an obese or cachectic patient to verify that they indeed have a "legit" (i.e. non-behavioral, non-controllable) reason for having an "abnormal" body habitus.

And medical crap aside, I have tremendous respect for the mefites posting here about their private struggles with weight and body image. I encourage everyone reading this thread to take a position of humility, an attitude of intellectual curiosity, and a tone of neutrality if not kindness.
posted by fernabelle at 12:52 PM on February 17, 2011 [15 favorites]


fernabelle, I think that pathways link is the most awesome thing I've seen all day. Maybe all week or month.
posted by Miko at 1:22 PM on February 17, 2011


Because what...that statement is not true? You seem to think that the statement is true. Smokers, on average, have to try 6 to 7 times before they quit. That means that many times, they fail to quit. However, it doesn't make the statement that they want to quit less true. Eventually, they may quit, showing the statement was always true. Or they may fail again, and the statement may still be true.

That may be, but I imagine they don't post reviews extolling J.R. Reynolds' latest offerings. "These new Camel Crushes deliver the quality menthol hit we've come to expect!"
posted by Tanizaki at 1:43 PM on February 17, 2011


Physics is a lovely science but one that is quite divorced from the context of living organisms.

No. If a living organism exist in the physical universe, it is subject to the laws of physics. I am surprised that you did not learn this fact in medical school.

While I do not dispute that metabolism is not fully understood, what is not in dispute is that energy cannot be created. Do you have a proposed mechanism for how energy enters the human body besides through eating? (please don't be cute and say something like "a glucose drip")

Just because metabolism is not fully understood does not mean that a magic process is happening that creates energy.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:48 PM on February 17, 2011


Otherwise there would be no reason for so much intensive study of obesity and metabolism in medical research centers - if we were so certain that a cut-and-dried solution would work for everyone, it would be universally recommended and we would all be done with it. That's not how things are. The body's systems are much more complex than you suggest, and the behavioral dimension complicates the issue further.

You misunderstand. Certainly, biological processes are complex. Many phenomena are. However, all processes, no matter how complex, ultimately must bow to the laws of the physical universe. One's very need to eat is an excellent example of this fact; one cannot conjure the energy needed to breathe, run, and think (the brain is highly energy-needy) out of nothing. We must acquire this energy in the form of food.

We can devise a model for metabolism as complex as is needed, but if that model requires violation of a physical law, the model must be discarded. If it were discovered that energy could be created, it would shake the very foundations of science.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:53 PM on February 17, 2011


Maybe it would help to get back to the actual FPP. Lindy West's column isn't really about attempting to justify or explain away fatness. The entire health issue and "how the body works" is a massive derail making this conversation just like every other conversation on fat and weight, when in reality she is saying some things that are pretty radical.

I am not making excuses, because I have nothing to excuse. I reject the notion that thinness is the goal, that thin = better—that I am an unfinished thing and that my life can really start when I lose weight.

This is the statement which I take to be the point of her column. I don't even know where anyone got the impression that she was trying to make excuses or claiming some kind of thyroid problem or whatever. I don't see any need to troll through other websites to expose her eating habits. None of that matters.

I think where things go off the rails is the claim that "thin !=! better" because then people respond, "thin is healthier, therefore it is better". But that response misses a lot of the point. cereselle's brilliant analogy comparing being fat to being poor exposes the deficiency of the narratives surrounding anti-fat evangelism. In the end, on a societal level, it boils down to what kind of a person you are and whether you are the kind of person who "fits in with us" or if you are going to be marked as an outsider. Being fat is not a physical disease, but it is a social disease and that is the problem.

She is divorcing her weight from her worth as a human being. She is doing this because she has to and here's why:

I am not concerned with whether or not fat people can change their bodies through self-discipline and "choices." Pretty much all of them have tried already. A couple of them have succeeded. Whatever. My question is, what if they try and try and try and still fail? What if they are still fat? What if they are fat forever? What do you do with them then?

That's the question (well really it's several all asking the same thing). These are questions fat people need to ask themselves if they are ashamed and that shame is keeping them from living their lives more fully. And it will be the shame or their natural personality, not the fat. But this is also a question for anyone who claims to care about a fat person. And anyone who wants to think more critically about this issue and go beyond their socialized reaction to someone else's body fat. The answer depends on if you think fat people are fully human or not, worthy of love, respect, dignity, heartbreak, reason and all of those other human things. If you do think so, then nothing should change if a person never loses the weight or if they gain weight.
posted by Danila at 2:27 PM on February 17, 2011 [11 favorites]


We can devise a model for metabolism as complex as is needed, but if that model requires violation of a physical law, the model must be discarded.

Tanizaki are you seriously claiming there are biologists that propose models for metabolism that violate the second law of thermodynamics?
posted by straight at 2:33 PM on February 17, 2011


Tanizaki are you seriously claiming there are biologists that propose models for metabolism that violate the second law of thermodynamics?

I am claiming nothing of the sort. However, some participants in this thread are skirting that line when they claim, "metabolism is complicated so physics doesn't apply."
posted by Tanizaki at 2:41 PM on February 17, 2011


Maybe it would help to get back to the actual FPP. Lindy West's column isn't really about attempting to justify or explain away fatness.

True. It is about her being upset because Dan Savage said "Rolls of exposed flesh are unsightly". Guess what? Dan accurately described the opinion of just about everyone not in the BBW-fetish community. Dan Savage is allowed to be disgusted by Lindy's rolls just like Lindy is allowed to have all the rolls she wants. I do not dispute her right to have all the burgers and milkshakes she wants.

"I reject the notion"? Hurrah for you, Lindy. Pompously proclaiming that you reject an idea does not prevent reality from having its way with you.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:51 PM on February 17, 2011


It's pompous to decide that you're going to like yourself the way you are? Wow. What a horrible way to think about other people.
posted by palomar at 3:07 PM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe it would help to get back to the actual FPP

Nothing's going to help, because we are being enjoyed by a troll playing Whack-a-Mole.
posted by Miko at 3:19 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


...great, on-point comment, though, Danila.
posted by Miko at 3:20 PM on February 17, 2011


It's pompous to decide that you're going to like yourself the way you are? Wow. What a horrible way to think about other people.

No, that is not what I said. I said that pompously rejected a notion does not prevent reality from having its way.

To your straw man of liking one's self just the way one is, do you like yourself just the way you are? If so, what motivation do you have for self-improvement?
posted by Tanizaki at 3:22 PM on February 17, 2011


Tanizaki. Nowhere in my post did I say that energy is "created" nor that "magic" occurs. I am attempting to point out that there is a complex calculus of high individual variability that determines how many calories it takes to fuel any given body's activity during any given hour of any given day. There ARE people who cannot lose weight on the diets we prescribe, and this is not exactly a rare phenomenon. For example, there are a number of tremendously valuable and commonly prescribed psychiatric medications (lithium, risperidone, depakote, and paroxetine, to name a few) that can derange the body's metabolism so profoundly that even disciplined patients on highly regimented diet/exercise plans find it nearly impossible to maintain their pre-treatment BMIs. And here's the thing: the psychiatric disorders for which these meds are prescribed are DISABLING in most untreated patients. They HAVE to be on these medications if they wish to have any hope of functioning in the world in a meaningful way. It is not realistic to expect anybody to spend 5 hours a day on a treadmill and eat a maximally restrictive prescription diet for the rest of his or her life. Because the whole point of prescribing these medications in the first place is to alleviate a person's suffering and allow him or her to participate as fully as possible in the world -- and the level of obsession required to adhere to that kind of weight control program would itself be a significant source of suffering and a towering obstacle to one's participation in the world. And this kind of adverse effect isn't limited to psych drugs. We see it all the time in patients on systemic steroids for such disabling conditions as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. Hopefully you're getting the idea because I really don't feel like detailing the litany of endocrine diseases in which metabolism is downregulated.

Now, if you are proposing that a fat person engage in an absolute starvation diet (i.e. zero caloric intake -- or anything like that) in order to lose weight, please understand that the body cannot synthesize everything it needs to sustain life (let alone functional physical and mental status) from stored fat. Anorexics don't die because of low fat stores. They die of cardiac arrhythmias triggered by the severe electrolyte imbalances that result from extreme restriction of dietary intake.

And one more thing: These "laws" of the physical universe that you reference above are positively elegant and incredibly useful, but they are still imperfect human constructs, and any physicist (or student of philosophy) worth his or her salt will happily chat about their limitations for hours. In fact, you really might enjoy reading up on current topics in physics if it has been awhile since you were in high school. I'll bet there are some awesome physics links right here on Metafilter.
posted by fernabelle at 3:30 PM on February 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Liking oneself is a straw man? Oh, lord, son.

To answer your really weird question, yes, I do like myself just the way I am. What helped me get there was the size acceptance movement, and the realization that just because I am not thin does not mean I am not human, and does not mean that I deserve to be treated poorly.

My motivation for self-improvement is something that I consider personal, private, and not something I share with questionable strangers on the internet who appear to be here just to stir up shit. But thanks! Have a great day!
posted by palomar at 3:32 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's talk of physical reality. Talk of one's internal thinking. And talk of other's internal thinking.

The three do not necessarily coincide. And all three factions are talking past one another.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:57 PM on February 17, 2011


I do love myself just as I am. I posted extensively about my reasons for self-improvement above, in the "ode" which you dismissed as "delusional."
posted by KathrynT at 4:07 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


five fresh fish: All three are important to this issue, though, and I think all three have a place at this table, even if the execution is imperfect.

KathrynT: That "ode" is fabulously rational, healthy, and true -- it may be the most useful thing anybody has said on this thread.
posted by fernabelle at 4:15 PM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


"I reject the notion"? Hurrah for you, Lindy. Pompously proclaiming that you reject an idea does not prevent reality from having its way with you.

I see this sentiment a lot, and it's the essence of Dan Savage's approach to this topic. That fat people are just denying "reality", as if reality is not in part a socially constructed thing. And to the extent that it is socially constructed then it can change, hence social movements (i.e. fat acceptance).

Reality is also complex. Just as an example, I see fat people in relationships all the time, everywhere. Strangers on the street, family members, friends. Somebody is finding somebody attractive. It can't be reality if a fat person believes no one could ever desire to be with them because they are fat. If anything, that pessimistic belief will do a lot more to keep them alone than their rolls of fat. But a lot of people are very invested in promoting this belief. Our cultural institutions promote it (magazines, tv shows, movies). They are neither standing up for "reality" (to maintain this belief you have to deny a lot) nor are they really helping anyone. That's the other issue.

For those who use this kind of reasoning and believe they are helping in some way (as Savage claims), what Lindy and others are saying is that this actually doesn't help, rather it degrades. Yet there is very little interest in this fact, this "reality".
posted by Danila at 4:22 PM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


And one more thing: These "laws" of the physical universe that you reference above are positively elegant and incredibly useful, but they are still imperfect human constructs, and any physicist (or student of philosophy) worth his or her salt will happily chat about their limitations for hours. In fact, you really might enjoy reading up on current topics in physics if it has been awhile since you were in high school. I'll bet there are some awesome physics links right here on Metafilter.

Actually, physical laws are not human constructs. Energy went around not being destroyed long before abiogenesis, and will continue to do so long after we have gone the way of the dodo. Your calculations can be as complex as you like, but if they violate conservation of energy, they are wrong.

Since you have described the laws of thermodynamics as being imperfect, you must have evidence to support that claim. Can you name a single phenomenon in the history of the universe that violates conservation of energy? Do you have a perpetual motion machine? (Answering "yes" will make you a lock for the new physics Nobel Prize)
posted by Tanizaki at 4:41 PM on February 17, 2011


I see this sentiment a lot, and it's the essence of Dan Savage's approach to this topic. That fat people are just denying "reality", as if reality is not in part a socially constructed thing. And to the extent that it is socially constructed then it can change, hence social movements (i.e. fat acceptance).

Reality is also complex. Just as an example, I see fat people in relationships all the time, everywhere. Strangers on the street, family members, friends. Somebody is finding somebody attractive. It can't be reality if a fat person believes no one could ever desire to be with them because they are fat.


Actually, reality is an empirical fact. If you think it is a social construct, maybe you could visit a starving nation and socially construct the kids into thinking they have full bellies.

You have hit upon something, though: "fat acceptance". I don't do that. I do "fat tolerance". Neither I, Dan Savage, nor anyone is required to find Lindy attractive. And really, this is what this all about. One need only pay a passing glance to the "fat acceptance" movement and the fat acceptance comments in this thread to see this is almost exclusively an area of female concern because increasing body fat decreases value in the sexual marketplace. Men get fat, too, but they manage to shut up about it.

Since 2/3 of the population is out of shape, it is no wonder that you see fat people in relationships everywhere. You will also notice that people tend to have partners at their level. In other words, a woman who is a 3 is not going to have a guy who is an 8. (maybe she could get a 5 if he's some insecure guy who thinks he can't do any better)

I also note that despite Lindy's protestations of pride, the picture she posted is a classic Myspace Fat Girl Angle Shot from above. She can't be that secure in her own skin.
posted by Tanizaki at 4:57 PM on February 17, 2011


Tanizaki, I'm interested what your dog in this fight is.
Many folks in this huge thread have spoken to how their experiences touch upon the FPP.
I don't know physics so I'm unqualified to argue that point with you.
But your hostility keeps coming through, so I'm wondering what's the what here.
Or are you trolling in lawyer mode, and perhaps this should go to metatalk, as suggested. I'm feeling like you have an agenda here and said agenda is making this mostly awesome thread ugly.
posted by angrycat at 4:59 PM on February 17, 2011


Tanizaki, I'm interested what your dog in this fight is.

I don't see why one must disclose a "dog in the fight" in order to state an opinion.

I don't know that I have displayed hostility, but if I have, why is my hostility a problem while hostility towards Dan Savage's opinion is conscionable?
posted by Tanizaki at 5:14 PM on February 17, 2011


Tanizaki: One need only pay a passing glance to the "fat acceptance" movement and the fat acceptance comments in this thread to see this is almost exclusively an area of female concern because increasing body fat decreases value in the sexual marketplace. Men get fat, too, but they manage to shut up about it.
Demonstrably untrue, as I- Hal "Rageman" Incandenza- have been incredibly vocal on Metafilter and elsewhere that I'm unredeemably ugly, hideous, and unloveable, and how this is the reason for the end of my life. And it's because I'm fat, and by extension I am gross, not human, and shouldn't be touched. It's a steady drumbeat, and it's not some "female problem" to be insecure, or self-loathing. I find it odd/offensive that you'd imply only women have this concern.

Also, seriously- that Lindy West shot is not a "MySpace Fat Girl" shot- those are the angled overhead shots that in essence hide the body altogether, and not a straight on full body shot pose like she has posted in her article. You're not even dealing with reality at this point, if you think that picture is anything like the "MySpace Fat Girl Shot". It's the absolute opposite of it: it's a "here is me, my body, no illusions or tricks", defying you to make her feel bad because of how she looks.


The one thing I'd agree with you on is that reality is not a 'construction'; despite claims of fat people being in loving relationships, that doesn't mean all fat people "deserve" love. The proof of whether someone deserves love can be found in the hearts and minds of each individual they encounter, who individually makes the decision "Yeah... not for me". If everyone a person meets come to the independent conclusion "Eh... not for me, but I'm sure there's someone out there who's perfect for you!", then by definition they don't deserve love. We only have the value that other people say we have, period.

However, I find that this delusion is not one held even by the "fat acceptance" movement, who are struggling to not internalize that thinking, but rather by skinny people who would profess they are not "size-ist" and only care about personality... yet have internalized the scaling of 1-10 as rigidly as anyone else. I'm guessing you're one of those people, so it's at least honest that your venom and disdain is on the surface, and not hidden.

I wish I could find it, but one of my all-time favorite theonion.com sidebars was a headline like "Obese man and woman introduced to each other for fifth time at party", and how various mutual friends/guests kept saying "Oh, there's someone you just HAVE to meet!". A better summation of what skinny people really think of fatties has not been made. Okay, except for what cereselle wrote a few days ago.
posted by hincandenza at 5:23 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ah, here it is. Yep...
posted by hincandenza at 5:26 PM on February 17, 2011


Heya, Tanizaki, you're brand new here and I'm not sure what you're hoping for from your time here but you don't seem to really have much of a handle on the general mefi vibe. I'm gonna ask you at this point to give this thread a rest; whether you're actively scrapping for an internet argument or not, the effect at this point is this turning into a You Vs. All Comers thing that's derailing the hell out of this thread, and that needs to stop.

If you're here for something other than an argument, I'd recommend you take it easy and lurk some more and maybe try participating in threads that are a little less charged and ease into things here. But, speaking as one of the folks that runs this place, you need to let it go in here, and you need to do that now.
posted by cortex at 5:26 PM on February 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Neither I, Dan Savage, nor anyone is required to find Lindy attractive.

This is correct. No one is required to find anyone else attractive.

And really, this is what this all about.

Oh, honey, no. You're so incredibly wrong about this that I'm almost embarrassed for you. No, no, no. Outside of my relationship with my partner, I could give a hoot about who finds me attractive and who doesn't. Fat acceptance isn't at all about forcing people to love you, it's about loving yourself. That you can't or won't understand that makes me really sad for you.
posted by palomar at 5:50 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, reality is an empirical fact. If you think it is a social construct, maybe you could visit a starving nation and socially construct the kids into thinking they have full bellies.

Lindy's response was to Dan Savage, and Dan Savage does believe that we can change the way things are (i.e. reality) through social movements. Hence, the "It Gets Better" campaign. If he really believed that "people are just going to think you're disgusting because you're gay and it's always going to suck no matter what because that's reality" then his campaign would be worthless. Much of the problem is the hypocrisy of Dan Savage and other progressives. More is expected of him, which is maybe why Lindy didn't address her comments to a more conservative person who touts "individual responsibility" as the answer to everything.

what skinny people really think of fatties

But what is that though hincandenza? Every time I try to pinpoint "what skinny people really think" I honestly run into the problem of there being so many exceptions that I am forced to conclude they are not some monolithic entity.

I guess from my perspective I have so long been the enemy of myself and my body, that if I start to look at "skinny people" with suspicion, even if it is sometimes warranted, I might lose my grasp completely. I don't need more enemies. But we are all a part of this problem. Anti-fat bigotry cannot be fixed by fat people alone.
posted by Danila at 6:19 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


With respect to cortex, I think I see Tanizaki's misunderstanding here and think it might be of interest beyond that particular piece of the conversation.

Yes, nutritionists agree with the laws of physics: mass and energy are conserved. If a person burns more calories in a week than they consume then they will lose weight.

But here's why that's not really relevant:

(..setting aside all the social, environmental, biological, and psychological reasons a person might have great difficulty consuming fewer calories or adding more calorie-consuming activities to their life...)

Even if someone eats fewer calories in a week, while maintaining the same activity level, the ratio of calories consumed to calories burned may not change, because the body's metabolism is complicated. It can adjust itself to burn fewer calories even though the activity level remains the same.

Even if someone adds more calorie-burning activities to their week while consuming the same number of calories, the ratio of calories consumed to calories burned may not change, because the body's metabolism is complicated. It can adjust itself to burn fewer calories even though the activity level has increased.

Yes, if you can get the body to burn more calories than it consumes, physics will kick in and a person will lose weight. No one disputes that. The problem is that simply eating less and/or exercising more does not automatically cause the body to do that.
posted by straight at 7:01 PM on February 17, 2011 [11 favorites]


I don't think that this has been posted in the thread yet, but there's a NYT article this week on how demonstrating a big appetite (for food, and, metaphorically, sex) has become an important part of interviews and profiles of actresses. While it doesn't directly touch on fat hatred/acceptance, it seems to be an important part of the conversation, particularly given the picking at Lindy West's documented food choices in this very thread.
posted by immlass at 9:06 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was reading an article that claims a broad swath of animals are, on average, heavier now than they were a decade or two ago. Something in our environment has changed.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:33 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


fff, I'd like to read that article, either in print or online. Any chance you can point me to it?
posted by vers at 12:02 PM on February 20, 2011


This article about obesity studies in primates points out some of the variation in weight gain and loss among individuals given the same diets and activity level.
posted by serazin at 12:44 PM on February 20, 2011


THAT a gestating mother’s environment can have a permanent effect on the physiology of her offspring is well established. The children of Dutch women who were pregnant during the "Hunger Winter" of 1944, for example, suffer much higher rates of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease than those born a year or two earlier. Similar observations in other famines, together with experiments on rodents, suggest this is an accidental consequence of an evolutionary adaptation to food scarcity. The offspring of starving mothers, anticipating hard times during their own future lives, adjust their metabolisms to hoard calories. If the hard times then go away, the result is a tendency to put on weight, with the unpleasant consequences that entails.

Part of this adaptation is a response by the embryo to the nutrition it receives through the placenta. In some cases, though, the unfertilised ovum itself is believed to be affected. Its DNA is reprogrammed, the theory goes, by a process called cytosine methylation. This switches genes on and off in a way that is maintained when DNA replicates during the process of cell division--and can thus be passed down the generations. It is, moreover, a process that could apply equally to the sperm of putative fathers who were starved around the time of mating.
posted by Miko at 1:14 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't want to get beat up for this, but I feel it should be said. There is a cultural aspect to the obesity problem as well. It is happening primarily in the U.S. and other developed countries, though the increase in obesity in European countries isn't nearly that of the U.S. So the question is, why America?

The first, obvious choice, is that it's the diet and exercise differences between these places. The typical American diet contains a lot of carbohydrates, a lot of sugar, a lot of fatty/fried foods, a lot of meat. A lot of processed food in general. That is different from Europe and different from other developed nations in the world, such as Japan.

So the diet is different. A lot of that has to do with the ease of access to cheap, filling, but unhealthy fast and processed food, a la McDonald's and TV dinners from the grocery store. Often times this food is cheaper than making it at home (or at least many will profess this).

Exercise. Americans tend to drive a lot. Much more than, again, Europeans and other countries. And, again, it's the folks in rural areas that absolutely need to drive; often times it's downright dangerous to walk in an American town simply because of a lack of sidewalks. There's also an almost complete dearth of public transportation--as in no trains--outside of New England. I live in Tokyo, and the vast majority of people take trains around the city, and that means everyday you get out and walk the half kilometer or kilometer or two to your station. It's not a great deal of exercise, but I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that, along with the Japanese diet, Japanese people, by and large (pardon the pun), are quite trim and fit, at least compared with many Americans.

Tanizaki is being a jerk, but he's not actually wrong about some people, and this is the crux of the debate of this issue. Tanizaki wants to lump all obese people into the same category of people who either a) eat too much or b) don't exercise enough or c) both a and b.

Imagine a Bell curve of obese people. Some of them are obese strictly because of a, b, or c listed above. Some of them are obese strictly because of medical conditions totally beyond their control. Most of them are obese because of a blend of these things? I put a question mark there because I don't know if that is accurate. I don't know the true percentage of the people at the ends of the curve, but does anyone?

If someone is obese, it is not possible to tell if that person is--to put it bluntly--lazy or unlucky. Tanizaki is assuming that person is the lazy kind. That person may well be the unlucky kind, or some blend of both things.

Another aspect to all of this is time. Fifty, seventy five, a hundred years ago we didn't have the obesity problem we have today. So why now? Different diet habits. Is that the same thing, though, as medical problems you have no control over? Control over your weight is the issue at hand--can you control it?
posted by zardoz at 4:42 PM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually, the issue at hand is that no fat person should have to submit themselves to that kind of analysis every time they eat a meal or buy clothes. It might be accurate, but it shouldn't define anyone's ability to get some basic human respect.
posted by KathrynT at 4:56 PM on February 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


How can this be made more simple?

The question "why are people, on average, heavier than people used to be" is, perhaps, answerable though complex, but at the same time is an entirely different one from "is it acceptable to shame, mock and degrade people whose bodies vary from some specific standard?"
posted by Miko at 7:10 PM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Control over your weight is the issue at hand--can you control it?

Control over weight is not the issue. KathrynT puts it in terms of basic respect, but I tend to think of it in another, more old-fashioned, way: manners. No matter how much it disgusts you to look at the rolls of fat on somebody's body, it's rude to make a big stink about it. It's rude to offer your judgement on someone else's appearance, particularly if you do it in public. It's rude to tell people who have not asked your advice what they need to do to get thinner. If you're endorsing old-fashioned virtues in this thread, try this one: keep your mouth shut until your opinion is solicited. Miss Manners, and many of the rest of us, will thank you.
posted by immlass at 7:10 PM on February 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


it's rude to make a big stink about it. It's rude to offer your judgement on someone else's appearance, particularly if you do it in public. It's rude to tell people who have not asked your advice what they need to do to get thinner. If you're endorsing old-fashioned virtues in this thread, try this one: keep your mouth shut until your opinion is solicited.

Though, in fairness, this thread is about a newspaper article that Lindy West published (as a person of girth), brought to Metafilter's attention by a presumably supportive OP. So, you can't really say opinions were not solicited. MF does not have a "support only" option for opinions.
posted by msalt at 6:37 AM on February 22, 2011


So, you can't really say opinions were not solicited.

Lindy West opened up discussion about discrimination against fat people. She did not, in fact, solicit further opinions from the general public about her weight. The fact that you cannot have the former on the internet without getting a lot of the latter unless you police the hell out of the comments was part of the point of her article.
posted by immlass at 6:51 AM on February 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Vets: "animal obesity" http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40345440/ns/technology_and_science-science
posted by five fresh fish at 9:13 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lindy West opened up discussion about discrimination against fat people. She did not, in fact, solicit further opinions from the general public about her weight. The fact that you cannot have the former on the internet without getting a lot of the latter unless you police the hell out of the comments was part of the point of her article.

That description of the article is a bit disingenuous. Her article begins "This is my body over there (see it?)," states how great her body is and how proud she is of it, and then attacks a lot of people disagrees with, including Dan Savage over weight issues.

I agree with her article and like it a lot. I'm just saying, I get that she has been heavily provoked by various comments over her life, but she wrote and published this piece in a newspaper specifically to get a reaction from people. It's ridiculous to say people are wrong to react. She is a very skilled writer -- she knew exactly what she was doing in calling attention to her body.
posted by msalt at 2:16 PM on February 22, 2011


Her article begins "This is my body over there (see it?)," states how great her body is and how proud she is of it, and then attacks a lot of people disagrees with, including Dan Savage over weight issues.

Which is not the same as soliciting further opinions from the general public about her weight, except that for a fat person merely to go out in public seems to be interpreted as soliciting opinions from the general public about their weight.

In fact, this would seem to express quite clearly that she doesn't care about and is uninterested in hearing what other people think about her weight:
This is my body. It is MINE. I am not ashamed of it in any way. In fact, I love everything about it. Men find it attractive. Clothes look awesome on it. My brain rides around in it all day and comes up with funny jokes. Also, I don't have to justify its awesomeness/attractiveness/healthiness/usefulness to anyone, because it is MINE. Not yours.
posted by Lexica at 6:17 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


msalt, your bizarre assumption that posting a picture of herself and saying, "I really don't want to hear your opinion about how I look or whether I should lose weight/exercise/eat less/whatever." = open season for people to make comments about how she looks, what she should eat, etc. is exactly what she is objecting to.

You're essentially saying, "She was asking for it. She shouldn't have gone out in public like that if she didn't want that reaction." Ick.
posted by straight at 6:47 PM on February 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


she knew exactly what she was doing in calling attention to her body.

I get some of that for going out in public with purple hair, although people are generally very nice about it (and occasionally want to know how my hairdresser did it). Even though all the comments I've gotten on my most recent round of color are positive, the way that men and women, complete strangers to me, feel like it's OK to express their opinion about my appearance because I'm out in public with purple hair, boggles me a little.

The purple hair is for me. If it's for anyone who isn't me, it's a little bit to please my husband. It's kind of creepy that every day in the last couple of weeks that I've been out in public has involved a stranger judging my appearance. I can only imagine what it would be like if people were criticizing my appearance and telling me I had to alter it in ways that took a lot more time and effort than two hours in the hands of a hairdresser.

So yeah, it's rude express your judgement of Lindy West's appearance, msalt, and would be even if what you had to say was "she's hot!"
posted by immlass at 9:14 PM on February 22, 2011


So yeah, it's rude express your judgement of Lindy West's appearance, msalt, and would be even if what you had to say was "she's hot!"

Where did I express a judgement of Lindy West's appearance?
posted by msalt at 10:19 PM on February 22, 2011


immlass -- I completely agree that it's nobody's business that your hair is purple when you walk out in public, minding your own business, just as it's nobody's business what Lindy West's body looks like when she walks out in public.

But if you write a newspaper article that starts out "Here's a picture of my hair. it's purple. Deal with it" -- that's different. You are calling attention to it in a public forum that invites public comments. And, IMHO, it would be a bit silly, and unfair, then for someone to say "I can't believe people are talking about imlass' hair. How dare they! None of their goddamned business."
posted by msalt at 10:27 PM on February 22, 2011


You are calling attention to it in a public forum that invites public comments

If I were writing a commentary about what it's like to be constantly hassled and criticized in public for purple hair, it would not, in fact, be inviting public comment about my hair, it would be inviting public comment about people talking about my hair. There is a difference. It's only because people feel completely free to do something that is, when you get right down to it, pretty rude, and because newspaper comments, including the Stranger and SLOG, are cesspits of nasty behavior generally, that it turns out to have a lot of comments about Lindy West's appearance. Also, she wrote that commentary in response to her bosses' public statements about fat people generally; it didn't come out of nowhere. It was, in fact, a public shaming of her boss for being an asshole because he was saying, publicly, that fat people (a class which includes her) are gross/unattractive/disgusting/whatever. I.e., he made unsolicited public statements about people like her. She called him on his shit.

Of course, assholes being what they are, there was a free-for-all (including a lot of people here) who say "she should be on a diet", "she's ugly", "she ate [this food I don't approve of] which proves it's her fault she's fat", and now, "she put up a picture of herself so she was asking for it". You are entitled to your humble opinion, msalt, but you are wrong. Also, bluntly, check your male privilege on why you think it's EVER ok to assess a woman's body in public. This is the same kind of thing we've talked about many times in catcalling threads. It's not an ok behavior when the catcalling is "you're fat" at a newspaper columnist in the comments, either.

This is the third time I've repeated myself in this thread on this point; in accordance with my own no-threadshitting rules, I'm finished here.
posted by immlass at 7:36 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I were writing a commentary about what it's like to be constantly hassled and criticized in public for purple hair, it would not, in fact, be inviting public comment about my hair, it would be inviting public comment about people talking about my hair.

Bluntly, you failed your own distinction, by accusing me of rudely expressing my judgment of Lindy West's appearance, when I did no such thing. Of course, you ignored my request to show me where I had. All I did was precisely discuss people talking about her appearance, exactly what you say she invited.
posted by msalt at 12:44 PM on February 23, 2011


msalt, do you want to discuss the issue, or do you want to win?
posted by KathrynT at 1:00 PM on February 23, 2011


I want to be able to discuss issues on Metafilter without being personally attacked for rudeness, judging people's bodies, male privilege, etc. Or at least, if you're going to do that, back it up. I just reread each of my comments in this thread too make sure I didn't forget something, and I sure don't see where I earned any of that.

Interesting you should say that, though. In retrospect, I think both Dan Savage and Lindy West are going for the win in their columns, and that's part of what's making this heated.
posted by msalt at 1:10 PM on February 23, 2011


I think when immlass said "It's rude of you &c," the "you" was the general you, not you specifically. You've taken an attack where none was intended. You have, however,moved the goalposts a bit as to whether it's OK to say that Lindy doesn't deserve respect because she ate a burger once.
posted by KathrynT at 1:17 PM on February 23, 2011


Please remind me where I said that.
posted by msalt at 1:35 PM on February 23, 2011


I think when immlass said "It's rude of you &c," the "you" was the general you, not you specifically

Except maybe for the fact that she specified my name:

So yeah, it's rude express your judgement of Lindy West's appearance, msalt, and would be even if what you had to say was "she's hot!"
posted by msalt at 1:39 PM on February 23, 2011


Ok, you're interested in winning. Peace out.
posted by KathrynT at 1:43 PM on February 23, 2011


Peace out.

Take it easy. It's a shame, though, that you won't take responsibility for the false accusation you just made, blaming me for one of Tanizaki's provocations.
posted by msalt at 1:58 PM on February 23, 2011


Though, in fairness, this thread is about a newspaper article that Lindy West published (as a person of girth), brought to Metafilter's attention by a presumably supportive OP. So, you can't really say opinions were not solicited.

She wrote and published this piece in a newspaper specifically to get a reaction from people. It's ridiculous to say people are wrong to react.


msalt, I understand that you are basically in support of the piece in the link, but it's fair to note that in these comments you're promoting the idea that Lindy West invited people to comment on her body in a way that includes value judgement.

She did not. She never did that.She never invited value judgment about her body.

It's this narrow point which others are frustrated that you don't see. It's also this very point she is directly combating by asking people to examine Dan Savage's messaging about bodies, rather than examining her own body as evidence of something or other.

This article is not about Lindy West's body, or anyone's opinion of how it came to look as it does. It's about everyone else - about the bias that exists outside of her body. People are not "wrong to react," but they're not getting it if what they're reacting to is the information she provides about her own body, photographic and otherwise. She provides it to establish fact and get it out of the way, and to turn attention on the issue she argues is problematic: that of the widespread feeling that all women's bodies are an appropriate subject of public comment, and derision if they fail to meet a standard.
posted by Miko at 8:20 PM on February 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


I hear you, and I want to be clear. For people in daily life, I think she's absolutely right. It's nobody's business. But I think she contradicts herself by writing and publishing an article (for pay) that deliberately shines the spotlight on her body and her experience with weight.

I think it's human nature to see one's own experience battling weight as a huge data point, plus, it's a truism of writing, that people connect with personal experience. We see the same thing in this thread a lot. Stuff like, "My body is like this, and it's great, and men/women think I'm sexy, and my doctor says I'm healthier than most of his patients, so you don't know what you're talking about."

I don't you can have it both ways. If it's nobody's business, don't inject it into an argument. I haven't mentioned my personal experience, or anyone else's, for exactly that reason. It isn't anyone's business. I guess that's why I got so offended at being called out for doing so. Sorry I dug in. I do think there's some personal attacking going on here (by defenders of Lindy West) that is also uncalled for, ironically given the discussion.
posted by msalt at 4:37 PM on February 24, 2011


msalt, I'm not sure if I'm reading you right but:
Because I'm in a wheelchair, people make alllll sorts of assumptions/judgments about me that are sometimes annoying (e.g. when somebody assumes that I want a push even though I haven't asked for it and grabs my chair, freaking me the fuck out) and some are more annoying (like people assuming there's something wrong with my brain).

For me to write an article saying: that's me, in my wheelchair, see me? I like my body, I like to wear funky clothes, I like my piercings and tattoo. I even like to have sex, as gross as that may seem.

I wouldn't then intend to have opened the door for everybody to say things from (actually, you're really hot) to (you are obviously insecure because you have one of those Myspace photos that fat and crippled chicks get). I mean, realistically, sure, those comments would come in, but that's not really the point. The point is to say, people, my body is my business, and that includes any assumptions that are to be made about it.
posted by angrycat at 5:11 PM on February 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


to add: one assumption that is made by many people, it averages maybe one every two months, is that because I use medical equipment and they can see that they have every right to ask questions about my diagnosis, how it happened. It's reaaaaalllly intrusive. Once it took me by surprise (well it always does) when I was shopping and thinking about something and this total stranger (it's always a total stranger) sez, "Honey, what happened to you!"

I honestly for a second or two had no idea what she was talking about, in part because I was preoccupied. Perhaps because I was so off-guard, I actually was somewhat clever: I said, "Honey, what happened to you?"

The lady was all flustered and shit and started muttering, "Well, I was just curious --"
And again, me oddly self-assured, got right in her grill and said, "Right. I get that. But your curiosity does not equal my obligation to talk to you about my body."
posted by angrycat at 5:56 PM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Funny story, and I couldn't agree more about the rudeness you describe. (In my imagination, you go further and say to the lady, "No, I mean, what happened to you, growing up, so that you never learned manners?)

But yeah, if you don't want people to talk about your body or medical history, I don't think you should write an article describing it or showing a picture. I think that's a mixed message. The way to be private is to be private, not announce publicly that you want privacy. And I don't think you should use your personal experience as a data point in public discussions if you want privacy.

There might be a way to write an essay or opinion piece that gets this point across by NOT revealing, but it will always be difficult. EG, "My body is very different than yours. Maybe I'm extremely tall, or very short, or heavy, or six-fingered, or disabled. Frankly, it's none of your business. And that's my point. People come up to me every day, make comments, point, stare, offer help. Don't do that. If you're older than 5, you're being an asshole. I get that it's intriguing. Too bad. Look up pictures on the Internet if you have to, and leave me alone. If I need help, I'll ask." Something like that.
posted by msalt at 6:26 PM on February 24, 2011


if you don't want people to talk about your body or medical history, I don't think you should write an article describing it or showing a picture.


Really? That seems pretty extreme to me. In fact, it kind of continues the shaming. "Don't speak about it; don't bring it up; keep it abstract and unrelated to any actual person."

I think that's a mixed message.

You don't seem to recognize that it's possible to bring up a proposition in an argument only to do away with it immediately. In this case, the proposition is "people who are fat are unhappy." Lindy's response is "I am fat - here is the evidence - and I am not unhappy. I ahve now demonstrated that your proposition does not hold in all cases. Now that that is dealt with, let's talk about why you felt it was OK to make this generalization, and how this generalization hurts people."

The way to be private is to be private, not announce publicly that you want privacy

She didn't ask for privacy. She asked not to be shamed. Those are different.

Had she written the article the way you propose, I don't think it would be very effective. Imagine a civil rights or gay rights movement not based around "But I'm gay, and your propositions about me are unjust or wrong," and a civil rights or gay rights movement based around "I might be gay or black or Native American or not, who knows what I am, it doesn't matter, but your propositions are wrong." Like it or not, humans are moved more by stories in which someone takes a risk and declares a personal stake than in abstract statements about nobody in particular.
posted by Miko at 7:22 PM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


msalt, I think the analogy would be something like this:
Dan Savage: Sex with people with spinal cord injuries can be repulsive to imagine. (He said something like this btw). So many people with spinal cord injuries get them because they get drunk and dive into swimming pools.

Me as another writer Look, here I am, and I actually don't find my body repulsive, and did not receive my injury in the way you describe. And by the way, sod off. My body is my business.

[huge metafilter thread]

msalt: Well, we should be talking about her body, as she brought it up.

My answer would be: No. He brought it up. I responded. That's what happened.
posted by angrycat at 7:27 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Miko: I don't want to repeat myself, so here's my final thought.

It would be preposterous if someone wrote an article like you described, outing themselves as gay, and then complained that people talked about them being gay. It would be extremely naive. That's the distinction between public and private.

This is recognized in U.S. law by the way -- defamation and libel rules are very much less strict for public figures, and saying the exact same thing about someone's private behavior might be strong grounds for a civil lawsuit -- if kept private -- or completely unactionable, if that someone wrote an article exactly like Lindy West's about that behavior.
posted by msalt at 9:31 PM on February 24, 2011


Angrycat: I'm not saying "we should be talking about her body," but rather that "it's not unreasonable to discuss an argument raised in a public forum, and if someone cites their personal experience as a data point in a public argument, then they have less grounds to complain about someone discussing that experience." I still have not discussed the personal experience or body of Lindy West or anyone else in this discussion, nor will I.

Your point about Savage bringing it up first is, IMHO, the strongest argument against my position. Here's the thing: I don't know what Savage said. I read this FPP here which started with Lindy West's piece, and clearly was all "Yay her, you show 'em, Lindy." So I take it on its own terms.

I'm not ultimately convinced by this argument about replying, because he wasn't addressing her particularly. It was entirely optional for her to write a reply; she's not the spokesperson for girthy America (and frankly, I think she assumes that mantle a bit too eagerly. Who is she to write "There is not a fat person on earth who hasn't lived this way" ?)

Anyway, I don't want to be overbearing here, though I'm very interested in this topic. I'd be happy to continue this conversation in MeMail with anyone who'd like to, but will sign off here.
posted by msalt at 9:35 PM on February 24, 2011


It would be preposterous if someone wrote an article like you described, outing themselves as gay, and then complained that people talked about them being gay. It would be extremely naive.

On what evidence do you say this would be "preposterous?" This kind of argumentative essay is quite common! "People say that X is bad because Y and Z. I am X, and Y and Z do not apply to me. Now let's discuss whether X is really bad in and of itself." I feel that, if you have not read many examples of work of this kind, then you probably do not read much in the way of op-ed, political commentary, personal essay, or human-rights literature from any such movement.

That's the distinction between public and private.

This really has nothing to do with an issue of public vs. private.

This is recognized in U.S. law by the way -- defamation and libel rules are very much less strict for public figures, and saying the exact same thing about someone's private behavior might be strong grounds for a civil lawsuit -- if kept private -- or completely unactionable, if that someone wrote an article exactly like Lindy West's about that behavior.

Because I have some journalism background, I know quite a bit about defamation law. There's nothing here that is at all related to defamation law, and bringing it in here is just irrelevant. No one is accusing anyone of defamation.

Of course people are welcome to talk about her, if that's their inclination. What people here are saying is something different: we're saying that she has not invited that discussion just by revealing personal information while writing an essay about people who shame others for being fat. She needs to reveal the information to support her argument and to demonstrate the misplacement of shame. It's vital to the way she is constructing the argument.

I think the difference may be that you are saying "Hey, the discussion of her personal information is inevitable - she put the information out there." But that discussion is totally ancillary to her argument. Though it may be one result of including personal information, it's actually not inevitable. It's an individual choice to take up that uninvited aspect of the discussion she introduced, or not. And to choose to take it up, uninvited, is actually symptomatic of the very issue she's arguing against. Because of that, the discussion is not honorable or relevant to her point - it's wilfully dismissive of her point. It reveals a bias to critiquing a woman's appearance rather than her argument, toward not addressing the substance of her concerns but focusing instead on ad hominem pronouncements. Do you see how making that leap from her argument to attention to her body is problematic?

As an analogy, can you imagine an op-ed on civil rights law that ran a head shot of the writer next to her byline, and began with a few paragraphs like "I am black. I was born into a segregated society, and from the time I was eight I recall being asked to step aside for white people, to use separate facilities, to understand that there were certain jobs and opportunities I would never be able to compete for. I was called by epithets, and it was common for well-known media figures to openly admit their bias toward people like me, arguing that it was just reality that we are inferior," and went on to describe how that idea about reality is incorrect? Now, can you imagine defending a response to that op-ed that focused solely on the photograph -- I won't try to draft example text here, but imagine it loaded with epithets and derisions about her looks, hairstyle, features - and did not address her arguments?

Could it happen? Sure, and it did. I guess your argument would be "well, she put it out there and has to take whatever comes; that's what writing for publication is." However, she did not invite it. The writer may be willing to tolerate it in the service of her larger goal, but she does not invite it. And, in fact, those who take up the photograph discussion are wilfully ignoring the actual argument in the piece, of which the statement "I am black and had such-and-such experiences" is an important part.

Add to this the decades-long history of delegitimizing minority points of view by attacking their source, rather than the strength of their basic human-rights argument, and it becomes more prejudicial to say she's 'asking for it.' If you choose to offer a value judgment of the writer's physical nature as a response, that's your personal decision. But that response was never explicitly asked for in the writing, and instead the writer asked readers to direct their attention to a phenomenon external to her, which are statements of bias which are at least in part incorrect. To instead turn attention back to her in order to make evaluative judgments of her body is to participate in the bias she is arguing against.
posted by Miko at 5:35 AM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


t would be preposterous if someone wrote an article like you described, outing themselves as gay, and then complained that people talked about them being gay. It would be extremely naive.

You left an important part out of this as an example: it's not just "being gay" that's being written about, but being shamed. In order to be a parallel example with the West piece, your hypothetical article would not be just about stating the fact of someone's being gay. It would have to be about the fact of others stating that to be gay is bad.
posted by Miko at 5:41 AM on February 25, 2011


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