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Meaning my size, IS NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS.
October 19, 2012 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Humans of New York is a Facebook page that posts pictures of the humans (and sometimes pets) of New York. Yesterday, HONY got ready to post a picture of an NYU student named Stella, . Afterwards, she told the photographer about a self-portrait she recently posted on Tumblr. So, instead of just posting of the photo they took, they also included her self portrait. In the first 13 hours, the photo was been seen by 2.4 million people, and has been "liked" by 300,000.

Follow-up tumblr post by Stella herself.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (106 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
The text of the caption for the photo:
WARNING: Picture might be considered obscene because subject is not thin. And we all know that only skinny people can
show their stomachs and celebrate themselves. Well I’m not going to stand for that. This is my body. Not yours. MINE. Meaning the choices I make about it, are none of your fucking business. Meaning my size, IS NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS.

If my big belly and fat arms and stretch marks and thick thighs offend you, then that’s okay. I’m not going to hide my body and my being to benefit your delicate sensitivities.

This picture is for the strange man at my nanny’s church who told me my belly was too big when I was five.

This picture is for my horseback riding trainer telling me I was too fat when I was nine.

This picture is for the girl from summer camp who told me I’d be really pretty if I just lost a few pounds

This picture is for all the fucking stupid advertising agents who are selling us cream to get rid of our stretch marks, a perfectly normal thing most people have (I got mine during puberty)

This picture is for the boy at the party who told me I looked like a beached whale.

This picture is for Emily from middle school, who bullied me incessantly, made mocking videos about me, sent me nasty emails, and called me “lard”. She made me feel like I didn’t deserve to exist. Just because I happened to be bigger than her. I was 12. And she continued to bully me via social media into high school.

MOST OF ALL, this picture is for me. For the girl who hated her body so much she took extreme measures to try to change it. Who cried for hours over the fact she would never be thin. Who was teased and tormented and hurt just for being who she was.

I’m so over that.

THIS IS MY BODY, DEAL WITH IT."

posted by Blasdelb at 10:09 AM on October 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


On behalf of the entire Digital Underground, I'd like to inquire whether she's ticklish.
posted by rusty at 10:16 AM on October 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Stella is fabulous. I admire her courage.
posted by prefpara at 10:17 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how to feel about this. I mean, I'm all for her being good with her body, but I don't understand posting a picture of yourself in underwear to facebook and saying that your size is no one's business.
posted by Mooski at 10:17 AM on October 19, 2012 [16 favorites]


Huh, kind of a dick move for him to repost that pic without her express permission. Still, she is awesome!
posted by yellowbinder at 10:17 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


She doesn't look fat to me.

Large-framed men who aren't athletes/models usually don't get labeled as fat, and it seems pretty unfair that we apply a different standard to women.
posted by schmod at 10:20 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


1) oh shit that's what my body looks like right now, stretch marks and all
2) why the fuck do we never see bodies in public like that so this is Such A Thing
2a) because the world sucks and society is shitty ARGH.
3) god I totally understand her panicked reaction in the follow-up
4) because it's hard enough for me to just publicly SAY "my body looks like that" so everyone can judge what I look like even without providing a photo
5) I worry that in trying to normalize it brings on more objectifying shit because as long as we can prove we're sexy then we still have worth amirite OH HEY ON PREVIEW
posted by flex at 10:20 AM on October 19, 2012 [18 favorites]


Love this expression. (also - That Humans of New York fb page is great.)
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:21 AM on October 19, 2012


I'm always more interested in the extent to which overweight individuals see their size as a potential health issue. That is, is there a middle ground free of noise where a conversation can be held about whether pursuing meaningful weight loss should be a goal for a person in this setting, or is any conversation so laden with judgement that it only serves to alienate the person further.

I don't see overweight people as troubled or lazy or gluttonous or any of dozens of other stereotypical labels, but it is something that you would like to aggressively address while a person is younger and capable of enacting changes that might help temper the weight gain in the long run.

Anyway, good for her for being brave and confident.
posted by docpops at 10:26 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am so torn. I love what she is trying to do yet I am ticked at the photographer's original decision to link straight to her first picture without at least warning her.

(And frankly I don't care how tiny or big you are, I think pics in your underwear probably shouldn't be public but that's not apropo to this discussion, so whatever.)

But yeah, judging people on how big or how small or how wide one's physical body is, kinda stinks. Or to go even further, even if you think that I or anyone is too big and should way less, why on earth does that give you the right to be cruel?


We do not have the right to be cruel. Period.


(Oh, and in my head I differentiate between someone letting her know, hey, she's attractive and someone judging her, ahem, "bangability." One is encouragement and one is just crude.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:27 AM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


And docpops, did you miss the second post? Chick has PCOS. I imagine she is trying to be healthier and taking steps, but hey, none of our business. That is the business of her and HER doctor. Not trying to be rude, but that's part of the problem. WE cannot normally judge why someone is heavy. You being a doctor might have more right, but only if you are HER doctor.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:29 AM on October 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


St. Alia, that picture is no more risque than any bikini picture.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:30 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Chastened, enlightened comment ahead: I perceive absolutely nothing in this picture that makes me doubt the subject's value as a human being.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:31 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and on second reading I see you are trying to be nonjudgemental, docpops, but as a heavy person myself I think those conversations are best held in general terms, not specifically regarding a particular individual, unless in a medical setting or unless the individual welcomes the conversation.

(P.S. roomthreeseventeen, I am not a great fan of bikinis either but I know I'm an outlier there so again, just an opinion on the internet.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:32 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


As hard as I may try there is no way I can stop myself from being physically attracted to women. There is a certain visceral reaction that is impossible to repress. You could say I was born this way. The best I can do is just keep it to myself. As with most things discretion is probably best.

But really, we don't know Stella's motivations for taking this self portrait. There are plenty of women who take self portraits like this specifically because they want people to tell them they are sexy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, they are entitled to use their bodies in any way they see fit, no matter what we think, and of course their lives are their own. They can post pictures all day And we aren't really entitled to say shit about it.

In reality, this picture is like about a billion other pictures you see of guys with giant guts taking their shirt off. There may be like 10 seconds of lol but there is never any controversy. Men have the freedom to "offend" whereas women don't.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:34 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was going to snark about the whole "I don't care what you think about me but I'm gonna post myself all over the internets to see what you think about me" thing, but the photo caption is pretty straight on. I'm an asshole because my first reaction was about her, rather than the social issues related to it. Lesson learned.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 10:36 AM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, yeah, heavy dude on the beach with his belly exposed = totally normal, but god forfuckingbid a large woman be comfortable with her body and wear a bikini (or anything other than a muumuu) on the beach, that's apparently worse than genocide.
posted by elizardbits at 10:36 AM on October 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


And docpops, did you miss the second post? Chick has PCOS. I imagine she is trying to be healthier and taking steps, but hey, none of our business. That is the business of her and HER doctor. Not trying to be rude, but that's part of the problem. WE cannot normally judge why someone is heavy. You being a doctor might have more right, but only if you are HER doctor.

Yeah, saw that, thanks for your help. Best to leave this to the professionals.
posted by docpops at 10:37 AM on October 19, 2012


docpops: "I'm always more interested in the extent to which overweight individuals see their size as a potential health issue. That is, is there a middle ground free of noise where a conversation can be held about whether pursuing meaningful weight loss should be a goal for a person in this setting, or is any conversation so laden with judgement that it only serves to alienate the person further."

That is, as with all potential health issues that specific people might experience, between her and her doctor and most certainly not you. Regardless, what aspects of a person's size and shape that can be discerned from an underwear picture in fact say suprising little about their overall health.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:37 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


But really, we don't know Stella's motivations for taking this self portrait.
yes we do, conveniently explained in a blog post, conveniently linked from this post
posted by MangyCarface at 10:43 AM on October 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


I see pictures of people smoking all the time and it's funny how they don't seem to get immediate reposts with comments about how disgusting they are and how unhealthy smoking is. You don't see hundreds of people smugly piling on to ask whether the person photographed realizes that they're killing themselves with cancer sticks. It's almost like you can post a photo of yourself smoking in our cancer-conscious society and not reliably incur the invasive scrutiny of hundreds or thousands of strangers despite the obvious and widely known health effects of cigarettes.

But, you know, a fat girl? HOW CAN WE SHAME HER INTO DIETING YOU GUYSSSSSSSS?
posted by prefpara at 10:44 AM on October 19, 2012 [19 favorites]


The problem with saying that someone is "still attractive" when they are outside that very narrow mainstream view of attractive - even though it is meant supportively and a woman could (and often does) take it as affirmational - is that it's reinforcing
1) I have the right to evaluate your attractiveness (and your sexy quotient)
2) I can and will judge and comment on your body more than I would a man's because that's just how things are (object)
3) being attractive is very important so of course you should feel good if other people find you attractive (and feel bad and unworthy if they don't)
4) you're not attractive if other people don't find you attractive
5) you should worry about what other people think, because even though I'm complimenting you, I'm also implying you should give worth to my opinion

I think it's telling that in her follow-up she says:
A million thoughts raced through my brain - but the most prominent one was “This is exactly the exposure you wanted to spread the message of size acceptance. This is the perfect venue for you to share your story, and you should be honored.”

Then why did I feel like utter shit? I knew that thousands of people were looking at my body. I knew thousands were judging me.

Finally, I decided to leave it. I know what I am trying to do, which is help young women struggling with their body image and expose the hypocrisy and cruelty that is sizeism, is SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT whatever feelings I may have about myself. (emphasis mine)
That's kind of ouch in a way, isn't it? It's... sacrificial. She knows this is rife with underlying meanings and complicated feelings.
posted by flex at 10:46 AM on October 19, 2012 [17 favorites]


I'm an asshole because my first reaction was about her, rather than the social issues related to it. Lesson learned.

And I'm an asshole because my first reaction was "OMG she's gorgeous!"
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 10:46 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


yes we do, conveniently explained in a blog post, conveniently linked from this post

I did read that, I know what she says but I still don't really know, becaus I don't feel her feels if you know what I mean.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:47 AM on October 19, 2012


And I'm an asshole because my first reaction was "OMG she's gorgeous!"

I don't know. She is an attractive woman. I don't think it's troubling from a feminist point of view to think that.

I loved reading that blog post. This could have been a frightening experience but I think she handled it thoughtfully. First she felt ALL THE FEELINGS and then she thought about what it really means and how it could help others. This is a good illustration of how thinking and feeling aren't two different things (this weird meme that western civilization has been struggling with for thousands of years), they need each other to do their jobs right.
posted by bleep at 10:55 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I see pictures of people smoking all the time and it's funny how they don't seem to get immediate reposts with comments about how disgusting they are and how unhealthy smoking is.

I was in Vancouver last fall, first time in Canada. The stare-downs from random strangers on the street whenever I lit a cigarette were stronger than a lvl 9 magic missile. But once I realized that me smoking was looked down on more than any of the wild expressions of subcultures or any other differences on the streets, I just started to love that city. I wouldn't be surprised if I were to walk down a street in Vancouver, smoking, with bikini-clad Stella by my side, I would be the one getting the disparaging peer-pressure looks. And I'd like that.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 11:00 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Example.
posted by prefpara at 11:02 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


In reality, this picture is like about a billion other pictures you see of guys with giant guts taking their shirt off. There may be like 10 seconds of lol but there is never any controversy. Men have the freedom to "offend" whereas women don't.

The difference is that when the big-gut man takes off his shirt, it is all laughs. There is never any controversy because no one feels the need to pretend that the man in question is "beautiful" or a "real man".
posted by Tanizaki at 11:04 AM on October 19, 2012


Pretend???
posted by prefpara at 11:05 AM on October 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


Large-framed men who aren't athletes/models usually don't get labeled as fat

I don’t know where you live, but in the U.S. that I’ve lived in that is completely false. We don’t have to make it a man vs woman thing.
posted by bongo_x at 11:09 AM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I see pictures of people smoking all the time and it's funny how they don't seem to get immediate reposts with comments about how disgusting they are and how unhealthy smoking is. You don't see hundreds of people smugly piling on to ask whether the person photographed realizes that they're killing themselves with cancer sticks. It's almost like you can post a photo of yourself smoking in our cancer-conscious society and not reliably incur the invasive scrutiny of hundreds or thousands of strangers despite the obvious and widely known health effects of cigarettes.

You may be right. I see tobacco use and immediately think of the downstream issues no different than with obesity. But smokers also tend to be more nihilistic and less demanding of a "fix" for their tobacco-induced maladies, and pointing out tobacco's role to a smoker isn't as problematic as with weight. And, all a smoker has to do is come up with the brute force will to quit. With obesity, given it's complex sources, will-power alone may not be sufficient since we understand it so poorly.
posted by docpops at 11:10 AM on October 19, 2012


There is never any controversy because no one feels the need to pretend that the man in question is "beautiful" or a "real man".

Nobody questions men's motivations for the most part. Nobody thinks a man with his shirt off is inviting critiques. He simply has his shirt off.

That is why it is one of our business, she is wearing what she is wearing.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:11 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Protip to posters who are all "...but underwear, eew!": Your moralizing is not relevant or welcome. Feel free to avoid posting whatever pictures of yourself you want to avoid posting.
posted by odinsdream at 11:13 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a full-figured woman, I had a major revelation when I started attending a gym for the first time. The locker room was literally the first time in my life I'd had the chance to see normal women's bodies naked. All of my shame about my body melted away as I realized that there actually was nothing abnormal about me at all, and even the gym regulars in above-average shape came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Breasts are sometimes big and sometimes small. Bellies are sometimes flat and sometimes not. Pubic hair is sometimes trimmed and sometimes wild and thick. Thin women can have cellulite and stretch marks, and large women can have incredible muscle tone. There is literally no such thing as "normal" when it comes to bodies. (And being around naked women in an environment that was not at all sexualized was also new, and refreshing.)

There is an incredible spectrum of women's figures that is completely concealed by everything you see in magazines, movies, and porn. What this woman did is very important; I wish every girl could grow up seeing and being comfortable with not just large figures but ALL figures. When you think women are supposed to look like Jessica Alba, of COURSE you will hate your body, no matter what you look like.

Sometimes I wonder how the world would be different if we weren't so prudish about boobies and it were completely normal and safe for women to expose and photograph their bodies, at least to the extent men do.
posted by annekate at 11:33 AM on October 19, 2012 [42 favorites]


odinsdream, people are free to throw their 2¢ in and not all feels, opinions, etc., need to meet with your welcome. Feel free to continue your pronouncements, though, because I have no standing to tell you what to do.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:34 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think men with a big belly exposed are often ridiculed, but not with a sex-background. I mean, with a woman, it's like she's committing this enormous affront by not being someone men are supposed to want to bang and yet still showing her body! Like, I mean, woman must only show their bodies to give men the opportunity to think about banging them! Otherwise, how dare they!

With men, it's more general meanness and judginess.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:36 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


In reality, this picture is like about a billion other pictures you see of guys with giant guts taking their shirt off. There may be like 10 seconds of lol but there is never any controversy. Men have the freedom to "offend" whereas women don't.

I'm not sure I follow? Pretty sure this wasn't posted for the LOLs or to offend.
posted by murfed13 at 11:36 AM on October 19, 2012


Props to Stella! Good for her!
posted by ericb at 11:41 AM on October 19, 2012


I'm not sure I follow? Pretty sure this wasn't posts for the LOLs or to offend.

Yeah I may have said that inartfully. I was saying that more about people's reactions to men, not why this is posted.

I am having issues communicating today it seems. All I've been trying to say is we shouldn't judge, nor should we read things into her motivations like "if it isn't our business why is she posting it"

Ima take a nap now.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:49 AM on October 19, 2012


I was also trying to say "yes I acknowledge you are attracted to women, we have that in common, but nobody cares who we are attracted to" but I was trying to be nice.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:52 AM on October 19, 2012


Chick has PCOS.

Chick? Really?
posted by ericb at 12:11 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I really, really want to hate this, because I would rather not have to deal with being told what I should or shouldn't find acceptable, or to be lumped in with "men" that find overweight chicks "unacceptable," or maybe wake up one day to find that I can't use the word "overweight" anymore to describe a person without being considered insensitive or judgmental.

But then I am reminded of douchebags like Nik Ritchie whose cause celebre is humiliating women based on their looks, women who choose - for whatever reason and more often than not - to augment their looks surgically in what seems to be the collective pursuit to become the supernaturally best looking. Which, coincidentally, often leads to gross disfigurement and plenty of regrets.

So maybe there is no sitting on the sidelines. I know that as a man who sometimes struggles with his weight, I often motivate myself to go to the gym by saying I don't want to be fat. And it works. But I can also see how maybe at its core this is a flawed way to go about motivating change - that is, to start with the idea that "today I'm not good enough" and try to run away from that.

Because I guess there are some things you just can't change, and certainly after a while "I'm not good enough" turns into "You're not good enough," and I think you end up in a very sad and lonely and un-accepting kind of place. A misanthrope, really.

So I'm okay with Stella posting a photo of herself and then saying it's none of my business. I understand the context in which she is saying that.
posted by phaedon at 12:11 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Stellaaaaaaaaaa!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:13 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chick? Really?

Let's not do this. I am a chick. Some people are chicks. Some people are dudes. Some people are dudes who get upset on behalf of chicks. Please don't be one of them. We chicks can defend ourselves.
posted by phunniemee at 12:14 PM on October 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


So I'm okay with Stella posting a photo of herself and then saying it's none of my business. I understand the context in which she is saying that.

Do you? I want to make sure it's clear that she posted it on her own blog and it was posted to the hugely popular Facebook page without her knowledge or consent.
posted by bleep at 12:18 PM on October 19, 2012


Reading her account of it on tumblr, it seemed like there was a miscommunication? He asked about it, but they she thought he was only talking about the clothed picture. After contacting him, he offered to delete it but she decided that she wanted to leave it up after all. It's a bit of a douche move to not make it INCREDIBLY CLEAR which pictures you're talking about when one of them in question is the one of her half naked, but I can also see it as an honest mistake.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:25 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you? I want to make sure it's clear that she posted it on her own blog and it was posted to the hugely popular Facebook page without her knowledge or consent.

I mean, I wonder if you have an axe to grind with me in particular, or just the way the FPP was framed and the direction of the ensuing conversation. Because despite my misstatement, the context I was referring to is different than the one you brought up.

It's my understanding that this photo was available on her blog? And that the only misunderstanding between Stella and HONY was whether this revealing photo was to be posted on HONY itself, or simply linked to? I'm not that familiar with HONY, so maybe the appearance of a scantily clad woman on that blog is in and of itself shocking.
posted by phaedon at 12:39 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just a heads-up, it is okay to refer to an overweight person as overweight. It's just a descriptor.

What's not okay is using that descriptor as an excuse to medically diagnose from afar, moralize about unknown choices, ridicule, or shame said individual for being describable as overweight.

That's pretty simple, right?
posted by palomar at 1:07 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


With obesity, given it's complex sources, will-power alone may not be sufficient since we understand it so poorly.

And yet, we (the cultural we, and also we right here on metafilter) don't seem to have any difficulty telling fat people "it's calories in calories out!" or otherwise giving "advice" as if it can't possibly have occurred to the person that they are obese and obesity causes health problems and we're just letting you know because we care! It's absurd.
posted by rtha at 1:10 PM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I agree that eating disorders are terrible, that cultural pressures to be extremely skinny are damaging to mental and physical health. However, isn't it clearly damaging physically to be fat? What does that make the perception that being fat and ok with it is somehow brave? Fine, destroy your body, but I am not going to praise you anymore than the alcoholic that is somehow proud of being a drunk.
posted by karmiolz at 1:26 PM on October 19, 2012


However, isn't it clearly damaging physically to be fat?

Actually, I'm pretty sure that if you're eating right/exercising regularly/living healthily, studies have shown that weight has very little effect on your overall health.

The person in question has PCOS, which causes weight gain. There are many other factors, besides dietary and exercise habits, that cause weight gain (birth control, for example!). You cannot tell why a person is fat just by looking at them, and to assume that it's all their fault is damaging.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:33 PM on October 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


However, isn't it clearly damaging physically to be fat?

Obese And Healthy: Not All Overweight People Need To Worry.

The Overweight Debate: Healthy And Heavy?

Can You Be Fat & Healthy?
posted by ericb at 1:34 PM on October 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


I am saying we need that freaking middle ground. Heroin chic, screw that, and the misogyny that supports it. I just don't see the need to to consider the other alternative a laissez faire attitude to health and weight. Being in shape, healthy, is a good thing.
posted by karmiolz at 1:36 PM on October 19, 2012


Being in shape, healthy, is a good thing.

Agreed, though I believe that the two terms are defined rather arbitrarily, and depend largely on the culture using them. Humans being what they (unfortunately) are, if you find yourself in the 'not-good' column of one of your culture's mores, you're going to have some hurdles to jump in order to be happy, both with yourself and others.

More's the pity.
posted by Mooski at 1:39 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I am saying we need that freaking middle ground. Heroin chic, screw that, and the misogyny that supports it. I just don't see the need to to consider the other alternative a laissez faire attitude to health and weight. Being in shape, healthy, is a good thing."

Exactly, so long as we're shaming women for their bodies on an equal opportunity basis everything is totally cool right?
posted by Blasdelb at 1:39 PM on October 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Kate Harding is a good person to read if you want answers about why some people reject the question "but don't you realize fat is unhealthy?"
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:40 PM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Being healthy does not necessarily mean being thin for everyone. Or even not being fat. Metabolisms don't work that way!

You can encourage healthy living better by laying off the fat shaming and just encouraging everyone to make time for healthy activities.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:41 PM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


A quote from Kate Harding's site:

“You cannot hate people for their own good.”

Quoted for truth.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:44 PM on October 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


Being in shape, healthy, is a good thing.

Sure. And someone can look fat and still be in shape and healthy. You don't have to praise someone for being fat. Presuming that they somehow don't know they're fat and need you to tell them it's unhealthy is also a thing you don't have to do. If that is "laissez faire" then so be it.

I mean, what exactly is the middle ground you're advocating?
posted by rtha at 1:50 PM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Being in shape

THIS is the language that needs to be de-emphasized. Sure, yup, being healthy is Wonderful and Amazing and Important and we should promote that like crazy. It has very little to do with being in shape. What the fuck does that even mean? Oooh yes let's be in shape. Ok, which shape did you have in mind, and should everybody try to be in that same shape? Who decides when we are in the right shape? You? Me? My doctor? Your doctor? Oprah? Good god this is madness.

I'm being a little pedantic with the word but the point remains: health is many-sided gem upon which body weight is merely a single, solitary facet. It does not deserve nearly as much attention as we pay it and we do a disservice to each other by spending so much team being dicks about it (even when we mean well).

I really, really want to hate this, because I would rather not have to deal with being told what I should or shouldn't find acceptable, or to be lumped in with "men" that find overweight chicks "unacceptable," or maybe wake up one day to find that I can't use the word "overweight" anymore to describe a person without being considered insensitive or judgmental.

Welcome to life. Feel free to ignore people if you feel they're unfairly judging you. Of course nobody involved with this story actually proposed coming to your home and making you read about this, nobody is proposing legislation to make sure YOU are lumped in with insensitive men or something odd and fighty like that. In other words, it ain't about you. But since you clicked the link, here you are, why don't you stay and see if you can learn something from some people who aren't, well, you?

It could enlightening.
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:53 PM on October 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Excess weight is probably the single biggest driver of health care and other hidden economic costs currently faced by our country. Having another debate on weight versus health on Metafilter isn't going to change that. An active person is always better suited for the aging process than an inactive one, but obesity costs us billions in ways you wouldn't even imagine once it's a doctor and patient in the room discussing their health and symptoms. I would love for this to not be the case but is is. It may not show itself at twenty or thirty, but wait long enough and all things being equal the overweight person will be impaired sooner than the normal weight person. This is not changing, we should get used to it, and start having the real conversations about the costs to our nation instead of dodging the issue at every turn by dissembling about all the normal BMI people who are unhealthy.
posted by docpops at 2:04 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Excess weight is probably the single biggest driver of health care and other hidden economic costs currently faced by our country.

No. Sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits are probably the single biggest driver of health care costs in this country. Excess weight is a possible symptom, not a cause.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:08 PM on October 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


Sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits are probably the single biggest driver of health care costs in this country.

Good point. Since those things start inevitably toward obesity our best shot at curbing the problem is early education to change eating habits and exercise habits even in kids where the parents eat like crap and don't exercise (try having that conversation at a well-child check). So we agree. Pending a wholesale change in our approach to taxation and funding of early childhood health, we can continue to rearrange deck chairs and fight past the real issue.
posted by docpops at 2:14 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is not changing, we should get used to it, and start having the real conversations

Here is the first page of a google news search for "obesity"; it's not an obscure subject. Nationally, we recently witnessed the huge argument/discussion around the banning of giant sodas in NYC. I don't watch daytime talk shows but I bet this is a popular topic there.

Who is "we" and what should those "real conversations" look like?
posted by rtha at 2:15 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


docpops, you are confusing one possible symptom with one of the likely causes. (I am convinced there are multiple causes, some of which haven't been discovered yet.)

And there is nothing "inevitable" about it. There are a lot of thin people who are far more unhealthy than I am, and yet you're not popping in to bring THEM up in these threads. No, it's always more fat-shaming.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:18 PM on October 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


So we agree.

No we don't. You're still conflating health with size, when the whole point of this post is to not conflate health with size.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:20 PM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


to change eating habits and exercise habits even in kids where the parents eat like crap and don't exercise (try having that conversation at a well-child check)

And there's no other way to talk about healthy eating and exercise? My doctor asked me about my eating and exercise habits and never once mentioned my weight. He said "You should add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, they're more effective than a multivitamin." He also said "you should try to get your heart rate up for about 20 minutes every day. It will help improve your cardiovascular health." No mention of weight, no discussion of belt buckles or pant sizes. Easy peasy.

Everybody should be exercising, regardless of their weight, right? It's not like a doctor would ever say "oh, well you already look fabulous so don't worry about exercising any more." That would be some bad medical advice. Exercise is a good thing. YAY EVERYBODY LETS EXERCISE ALSO CARROTS ARE GOOD FOR YOUR EYESIGHT YAAAAAY

It's entirely possible to promote good national health without fat shaming language.
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:25 PM on October 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


Sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits are probably the single biggest driver of health care costs in this country.

These do not equal obesity. These equal unhealthy.

In the meantime:

Pre-natal Exposure to Air Pollution Linked to Childhood Obesity

Children exposed to pesticide in womb twice as likely to be overweight

Study links chemical BPA to obesity in white children
posted by small_ruminant at 2:26 PM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


OK. I concede. Carry on.
posted by docpops at 2:39 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't want to nag, but what are you conceding? You comment sounds like eye-rolling, but text is not always the best medium for communication, so I apologize if I'm mis-reading you.

Maybe because I work in health policy and am married to someone who has done health policy and public health policy work in particular for her whole career, but I do want to try to figure out what kind of useful, effective conversation we can have about health and size and being-in-shape-ism. We have done the shaming thing for decades and it obviously doesn't work. Doleful Creature's doc sounds like a treasure; how do we have that kind of conversation nationally?
posted by rtha at 2:49 PM on October 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


rtha - I wish I knew how to have that conversation, but it's pretty hopeless as far as I am concerned if it's to happen nationally. When healthy eating habits are politicized, we can truly say we are screwed. Thank Sarah Palin amongst others for that.

In an office setting, we have more flexibility to tailor things to a patient's individual goals, circumstances and situation. Reducing it to facile aphorisms is how we got here in the first place.

It's not helpful to offer insights in these cases because the degree of pent-up anger and frustration in people over the obesity issue makes it a free-for-all. But I see examples every week of patients who are obese that lose dramatic amounts of weight and every one says a similar version of the same story - better choices, less intake, more exercise. The trick is to get kids thinking about these habits before they can see any tangible benefit, and in spite of living in a household where the parents have no interest in changing their purchasing habits. I can't think of a single adult over 40 that doesn't struggle to maintain a healthy weight, and one of the most common pieces of advice I give people is to never conflate exercise and weight as having much to do with one another and that exercise is always the better pursuit.

In any case, I was sincere. I concede that this is no place for further commentary on weight issues.
posted by docpops at 3:05 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Unfortunately it's much easier to just fat-shame than have an honest discussion about the aforementioned elephant in the room: sedentary culture + eating habits - of which obesity is a possible and common outcome. The fact that we have built our modern 21st century economy on a framework of long hours at sedentary jobs and cheap processed food is a SUPER inconvenient truth. The paradigm shift that would be required to address that root issue is not politically tenable - so instead we just say "use the elevator and not the stairs...WHEN YOU ARE ON YOUR WAY TO SIT 10 HOURS IN A CHAIR" and also fat shame people who are larger by using it as a lazy shorthand for "unhealthy" - when, as others have pointed out...sometimes it isn't.
posted by jnnla at 3:07 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


maybe if we stopped burping out the words "fat-shaming" every time someone mentions weight in a non-critical way that would help also.
posted by docpops at 3:09 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


maybe if we stopped burping out the words "fat-shaming" every time someone mentions weight in a non-critical way that would help also.

I would not characterize the way you brought up this woman's weight as non-critical. I would characterize it as fat-shaming.
posted by purpleclover at 3:18 PM on October 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


I think part of the culture of fat-shaming is turning any discussion about weight, or the appearance of those who are overweight, into a discussion about health with the disingenuous excuse that obesity is something we don't pay enough attention to.

Comments such as "I'm always more interested in the extent to which overweight individuals see their size as a potential health issue" imply that overweight people aren't aware that it's considered unhealthy when I am practically certain most of them do. I think part of the point the woman in the photo is trying to make is that her body isn't anyone else's business to comment on and yet the way we have conflated health and size feeds into the more general trend of policing people's bodies.

Discussions about healthy eating and exercise and heath in general don't need to be shored up by making people feel bad about their bodies. Weight loss is hard and some people will never be able to do it. they should have to hide their bodies or feel ashamed of them because thats going to have very practical negative effects on their well being and if we truly care about peoples health that should be a consideration.

The very fact that a picture of a woman, who's body isn't so outside the range one would see on a public street, in her underwear spurs this amount of debate says something about how messed up our perception of bodies is and the fact that it then turns into a debate about health vs size is to me sad when it ignores the larger issues of how badly we treat people who cannot conform.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 3:31 PM on October 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


"According to 2009 statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), the United States has the highest prevalence of overweight adults in the Anglosphere." It's 74.1 in the US. However people think making everyone feel comfortable with being unhealthy is much more important than addressing the skyrocketing incidence of overwhelmingly self-inflicted illness.
posted by karmiolz at 5:24 PM on October 19, 2012


However people think making everyone feel comfortable with being unhealthy

Show us where that is happening.

is much more important than addressing the skyrocketing incidence of overwhelmingly self-inflicted illness.

Please discuss your ideas for how to do this in an effective manner.
posted by rtha at 5:49 PM on October 19, 2012


A "possibly NSFW" tag would have been appreciated on the self portrait link.
posted by Kevtaro at 5:50 PM on October 19, 2012


Let me try and summarize what I believe to be "facts" about obesity/overweight/higher than average BMIs. For simplicities sake I will use the word "overweight"
1) People who are overweight may or may not be attractive to other people
2) People who are overweight may or may not think of themselves as attractive
3)People who are overweight may or may not be healthy
4) People who are overweight have a higher incidence of certain health problems, incur greater health care costs through out a life time and are at increased risk of certain illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, degenerative joint diseases etc.
5) The "higher incidence" referred to in point 4 increases as BMI increases.
6) People who have consistently exercised ( aerobically) five times a week or more are less likely to be overweight than non exercisers.
7) It does little if any good,and maybe counterproductive, to point out to a person they have a "weight" problem.
8) Fascist run the spectrum from "weight acceptance" to "you can never be to thin".
9) Long term weight maintenance/ loss is a function of healthy choices in food, caloric management and exercise.
10) The vast majority of overweight persons consume to many calories and use to few
11) Genetics/disease can contribute to weight management problems but are not in anyway a major or significant cause being overweight.
OK, I feel better.
posted by rmhsinc at 5:55 PM on October 19, 2012


This chick should pull herself up by her bootstraps and stop having polycystic ovary syndrome!! I'll be damned if my tax dollars are going to support your selfish imbalance of female sex hormones!!
posted by threeants at 6:01 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


8) Fascist run the spectrum from "weight acceptance" to "you can never be to thin".

Did you mean to write "fascist" or was that some kind of weird autocorrect typo?
posted by lalex at 6:05 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is from a recent issue of the International Journal of Obesity

Anyhow, our collective inability to reverse whatever is going on is costing us a lot of money.
posted by docpops at 6:05 PM on October 19, 2012


So we should really be cutting the agricultural subsidies that support cheap, unhealthy, processed foods, and making cars a lot more expensive to operate, and planning our towns so people will walk more. I agree.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:25 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Type "stop fat-shaming" or "fattist into google and you will see where it is happening. We are seriously screwing up healthcare by clogging it with preventable disease. I am in no way saying cruelty is productive or appropriate, but conversely we should not be comfortable with obese becoming the norm. This specific case is not the normal, according to good ol' wiki polycystic ovary syndrome appears in 5%-10% of women ages 15-45. This cannot explain the 74.1% incidence of overweight adults in the US. It is extremely difficult to legislate culture, and usually a horrible idea to try and do so. Tolerance and acceptance should always be extended in areas where the person has no control over. It is pure nonsense to try and say the explosion in obesity is not overwhelmingly the result of being sedentary and overeating. Those are choices, and I will not pretend that choosing to destroy your body in any manner is laudable.
posted by karmiolz at 6:36 PM on October 19, 2012


Choosing to treat other people with respect even when they make bad choices and hoping to influence them in positive ways rather than through shame and cruelty is laudable. Working to make changes to a society in which poor people can't afford healthy food and an out of whack economic system encourages unhealthy behavior is laudable.

Making hyperbolic comments about people whose health and lifestyle you don't know anything about is deplorable.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 6:50 PM on October 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


Nobody here is saying that being sedentary and overeating are laudable. People are saying you can't tell from looking at someone's weight whether they are sedentary and overeating.

Even if you have a person whose overweight was caused purely by overeating and inactivity, attaching a powerful negative moral judgment to their weight is not productive. If someone feels alienated from and ashamed of their body, that does not make them more likely to take difficult steps to improve the health of that body. Remove the shame and alienation, let people accept their bodies as part of themselves, as something they feel pride and ownership in, and they're more likely to take better care of themselves. So even you think if weight is the biggest health concern, "fat shaming" is not a good way to reverse it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:52 PM on October 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


You must have missed where I said cruelty is not a solution or even a rational response. There are two extreme responses, cruelty and praise. Both are equally ridiculous. We are not a physically healthy nation, it is hurting us terribly. The estimates are as high as $190 Billion annually. In an MSNBC article, University of Illinois engineer Sheldon Jacobson states, "An additional 938 million gallons of gasoline each year due to overweight and obesity in the United States, or 0.8 percent, he calculated. That's $4 billion extra." This is not a trivial issue. The problem is that we are obese, the problem is not that people feel bad about being obese.
posted by karmiolz at 7:03 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't understand then karmiolz, what is your proposed solution? What are we supposed to say to these overweight people?
posted by sweetkid at 8:00 PM on October 19, 2012


Well classifying pizza as a vegetable is certainly not going in the right direction ha. Emphasizing fitness in schools is certainly a good idea, as well as having true education about nutrition. The more difficult to implement cultural attitude would be to not allow obesity to be viewed along the lines of race, gender, sexual identity etc. The small minority of obese people that are overweight from unavoidable medical conditions differs greatly than the majority, who are sedentary and eat too much. Obesity is truly damaging to our country, and the choice to be obese should not be considered acceptable in the same manner that addiction should not be viewed as acceptable. I really would like to see the education programs for nutrition continue to grow so that people can make informed choices.
posted by karmiolz at 8:23 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, I don't mean how do you think we as a society should address the issue of obesity. What do you think we should say if an overweight person presents themselves as happy with their weight and feels that they are personally doing the best they can for themselves, whether or not that includes optimal diet and exercise. What are we meant to say to them about this, if cruelty is wrong and praise/acceptance is also wrong?
posted by sweetkid at 9:03 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The locker room was literally the first time in my life I'd had the chance to see normal women's bodies naked.

I had this experience in Korea. All the women go into these bathhouses and they bathe with each other. And the bodies are just all over the place. I was self-conscious at first. Hairier and taller than most everyone. But you look around and relax - it's little girls and old ladies and housewives, talking and laughing and scrubbing each other's backs.
posted by blueberry sushi at 10:26 PM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


What do we say as a society about people who are alcoholics, don't see the need to change, and are in fact proud to have succumb to their addiction? Is it cruelty to accurately describe behavior as destructive and detrimental not only to themselves but society at large? Cruelty would be seeking people out just to ridicule them, cruelty would be unproductive. However if we culturally accept it, and insanely actually praise people who embrace their terrible decisions, how can we combat it? Unless of course you think it doesn't need to be combated; in which case I again direct you to look up the estimates of what is costs the country, not to mention the quality of life from a purely objective assessment of personal health for the individual.
posted by karmiolz at 11:43 PM on October 19, 2012


docpops: This is from a recent issue of the International Journal of Obesity

Anyhow, our collective inability to reverse whatever is going on is costing us a lot of money.
This is from a recent issue of the It's Just Not That Cut-And-Dried.

Really. It isn't.

Seriously. Fat people don't even have increased mortality rates overall. I know: weird, right? How can that be?

Unless... we don't know everything yet.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:13 AM on October 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


In my world, the evil of bullying and attacking someone because they don't fit your idea of what they should look like is a far greater evil than the evil of declining to hate yourself because you don't look like what some people think you should look like... and therefore you are putting all of society at risk, because if you don't hate yourself and accept hate from others we will all become fatter.

Yeah, no. I don't think that the reason that obesity has become a health crisis is because the obese love themselves too much and others have failed in their duty to sufficiently shame them.

It would be great to have nuanced discussion on the subject, and I'm also very interested in the possible reasons people in general are getting heavier (and for the record, I agree with small_ruminant that we'll probably find it's not a simple matter) and the issues surrounding that, but I get discouraged because conversations typically follow the same recursion that always begins with "Large Woman Found Insufficiently Contrite About Weight," and then repeat pretty much the exact same pattern every time.
posted by taz at 3:03 AM on October 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I love her confidence, but I too find it strange that she would post something saying that her body isn't anyone's business, but accompany it with a picture of her body. Maybe I'm just being nitpicky. I think "my body size is not a problem for me so it shouldn't be for you either" would make more sense than "My body isn't any of your business."
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 6:15 AM on October 20, 2012


"I love her confidence, but I too find it strange that she would post something saying that her body isn't anyone's business, but accompany it with a picture of her body. Maybe I'm just being nitpicky. I think "my body size is not a problem for me so it shouldn't be for you either" would make more sense than "My body isn't any of your business."

It'll all make more sense when you finish reading the links.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:01 AM on October 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, overthinking the individual beans on this plate. Her message is clear; let's not criticize her for nuances "she should have said."
posted by IAmBroom at 7:41 AM on October 20, 2012


Abstract:
Western lifestyles differ markedly from those of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, and these differences in diet and activity level are often implicated in the global obesity pandemic. However, few physiological data for hunter-gatherer populations are available to test these models of obesity. In this study, we used the doubly-labeled water method to measure total daily energy expenditure (kCal/day) in Hadza hunter-gatherers to test whether foragers expend more energy each day than their Western counterparts. As expected, physical activity level, PAL, was greater among Hadza foragers than among Westerners. Nonetheless, average daily energy expenditure of traditional Hadza foragers was no different than that of Westerners after controlling for body size. The metabolic cost of walking (kcal kg−1 m−1) and resting (kcal kg−1 s−1) were also similar among Hadza and Western groups. The similarity in metabolic rates across a broad range of cultures challenges current models of obesity suggesting that Western lifestyles lead to decreased energy expenditure. We hypothesize that human daily energy expenditure may be an evolved physiological trait largely independent of cultural differences.
posted by rtha at 8:39 AM on October 20, 2012


When men start getting badgered about their weight to the same extent that women do I will be prepared to believe that it is about their health. Until that day arrives (which will most likely be "never") I vote we leave badgering to badgers and just stop it, period.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:16 AM on October 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


When men start getting badgered about their weight to the same extent that women do I will be prepared to believe that it is about their health.

I don’t know about the relative amounts, but again, the idea that men are not harassed about their weight is wrong. Maybe the problem is this is not a conversation women are as likely to hear, it’s mostly men criticizing other men. I know I hear way too much of it, and hear more of it than women being criticized. Maybe women hear more of that? Maybe I’m just around the wrong people too much. Mostly what I hear from men about women is what they prefer in terms of attractiveness, little of the moral judging they make about other men.

Now, if you’re talking about gossip shows or celebrity web sites, I don’t know what to say.
posted by bongo_x at 10:39 AM on October 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's really strange IAmBroom, because, "Mayo Clinic research presented today at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich. Those studied who had a normal body mass index but central obesity — a high waist-to-hip ratio — had the highest cardiovascular death risk and the highest death risk from all causes, the analysis found." You might as well be a climate change denier with trying to say being fat isn't unhealthy.
posted by karmiolz at 5:06 PM on October 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have a high waist-to-hip ratio ever since having children, which I didn't before I had kids. Even when I lost almost all the weight I put on (after having four children) two years ago (I was at a BMI of 22.6 - pre-children 21.5; a difference of 7 lbs. and a larger bust post-children) the difference in my bust-waist-hip measurements was within just a few inches on all three. I was eating very healthy in order to lose that weight and I was exercising almost every day as well. (I regained when I got pregnant.) My mother, with a similar body type to mine and only slightly shorter than I, has maintained her weight at a few pounds under my pre-children weight and has eaten very healthy for many years in order to do so. She has a high waist-to-hip ratio.

Many women lose waist definition after having children and after menopause. The average woman will have a higher fat percentage as a total of body weight than the average man. I posit that the simple numbers may not be the entire story here.

Women are already constantly told the ideal woman's body is tight, hourglass, and thin, with a flat belly, which is an almost impossible standard for most women to meet no matter how fit they are. For many people all it takes to consider a woman "fat" is that she has a visible belly.

You don't know anyone's history when you're evaluating them simply based on size. I was a very thin teenager who ate lots of junk food and candy, never exercised, and I smoked - never gained a pound. Was I healthy? When I went on the Pill I gained 15 lbs. in 6 weeks. When I quit smoking I gained another 10 lbs. After having a pregnancy that ended at 18 weeks, I had gained another 25 lbs. that I couldn't lose for four years. My husband gained a good amount of weight after quitting smoking and again after having open-heart surgery. My sister has a thyroid issue and can't lose weight no matter how hard she tries - and she tries very, very hard - her diet and exercise habits are pristine if we're going to judge like that; there is nothing she can do about it and she hates that all the work she does can do nothing more than maintain her where she's at.

People take medications that make them gain weight. Should they not treat their illnesses? People take anti-depressants that make them gain weight. Is it better they have mental and emotional problems than that they gain weight by treating them? I've known plenty of people who hated quitting smoking because they gained weight. Should they keep smoking, is that healthier than having someone judge them for gaining weight?
posted by flex at 5:55 PM on October 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh, and because it's relevant, here is a MeFi post from last year linking to this piece by Lindy West ("Hello, I Am Fat") and since it's a very long thread, these are three excellent comments that I favorited when I read it: one - two - three.
posted by flex at 6:39 PM on October 20, 2012


Commenting on women's bodies is weird. When i was young (14-20,about) i hated men yelling stuff at me of the 'get your tits out' sort, and now i'm older (40) i hate men yelling at me about how ugly i am or i look like a man. (Weirdly, it really scares me, it makes me worry they're going to hit me or something.) I think i just have a problem with people giving their opinion for free - we need like a taxi metre light 'available for random yelled comments':)
posted by maiamaia at 6:52 PM on October 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


[Folks, don't have the same old boring derails that we have in every single thread about weight and make this personal about certain commenters. If you want to start a thread about weight and health go right ahead (and good luck with that) but this is not that thread.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:03 PM on October 21, 2012


[karmiolz, I'm not sure why you are threadsitting at this point but you need to take stuff to MetaTalk and not continue the argument you wish to have here.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:14 PM on October 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


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