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Corollary to Wheaton's Law.
February 21, 2013 7:03 PM   Subscribe

How not to be a dick to your fat friends. (SLXOJ) Thought-provoking reading for anyone who is fat, or is friends with someone who is fat.
posted by shiu mai baby (183 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks for posting. I'm newly close friends with a larger lady, and I've caught myself saying things that probably made her kind of uncomfortable -- the, "Ugh, I've gained weight, I feel so fat" comments or, "I felt so gross, all the girls in their bikinis with their picture-perfect bodies make me feel huge" (when really, my BMI is average and my friend's is not). It's something I'm working on being more aware of.
posted by samthemander at 7:30 PM on February 21, 2013


Maybe I missed something, but I'd like alternatives to these "asshole statements.". It's one thing to avoid saying these things in a conversation, but at some point people discuss their bodies and awkward silence can't be much better.
posted by missriss89 at 7:49 PM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it's probably tougher to think about these examples in the abstract, but if you consider them in the context of your existing friendships and conversations then you might come up with some things that are no problem at all, but also some ways in which you might have been a bit thoughtless.

(I'm using "you" in the general sense.)

I don't think she is literally saying everyone needs to go out and find a thinner friend to talk about body issues with.
posted by ODiV at 7:54 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know that 'alternatives' are the point. Maybe instead, we can just find other topics to talk about? Just as an example, I like going to the beach. I don't like that my going to the beach seems to signal to all of my friends that I'm deeply in need of their advice on my body. You know what would make me a hell of a lot happier? Talking about anything else.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:01 PM on February 21, 2013 [33 favorites]


"I felt so gross, all the girls in their bikinis with their picture-perfect bodies make me feel huge"

I'm conflicted on the last point. If this quote above is how you feel, you should be allowed to express how you feel, when talking to your friends. Self-censoring out of concern that someone else has it worse than you is, yeah, I get that it can be prudent or safer, but I would prefer to live in a world where we can sympathize for the woes of our more fortunate friends, even as we would love to have their problems.

Someone is upset that their 250K salary isn't enough to get them the things they really want, if they were my friend, I'd like to think I could look past the fact that they're immensely better off than me, and that the things they thought they could have are loftier than the ambitions I am allowed, and that I would still be able to sympathize with their struggle and readjustment.

On a more practical level though, a lot of people will just get offended or upset. But if a topic comes up, I don't see much value in a discussion being dishonest and policed either. I guess it's change the subject or don't participate. I'm not sure that's not patronizing either.
posted by anonymisc at 8:02 PM on February 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think all of these are good except for the last one. I think it's quite a bit more subtle than the author indicates. Which is fine; it's a short, pithy article about compassion for others. I just feel that sharing your feelings about yourself and your body (without using incredibly the judgemental language indicated in the article) is valid amongst friends, especially if you take care to emphasize the personal nature of the feelings, eg "I feel terrible about my body lately because I've gained a lot of weight." That sort of expression can (hopefully) lead to some sympathy over shared issues.
posted by TypographicalError at 8:04 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


So what do you do when you are fit, you put a good amount of work into eating healthy and staying fit, and maybe you want to talk about it because it's become something of a hobby of yours? I guess it's not a big deal to clarify that "Hey dude, I'm just talking about this stuff because it's something I do" but then can't that just be read as "Oh, you would be concerned about this stuff because you obviously don't care"? So... what, it becomes difficult and trying to talk about your own issues with body image and how you used to be overweight verging on obesity and now you've come a long way, sweated through a lot, and controlled your diet to a point of frustration before it all became habit, all right, and sort of fun to do, all without it being read like some kind of self-help message?

I mean, I guess you can just not talk about it but what if this "exclusive" club of talking about exercise and nutrition makes its way through the grapevine and there are hurt feelings there, too?

I guess it's just hard for me to understand obesity which seems to come by way of a lot of lifestyle choices and some institutional factors in the same terms that I would if someone said they had gender dysphoria or had lost a loved one recently or were an immigrant from a politically tumultuous country. I can tiptoe around the niceties and the etiquette but the social rules and functions seem particularly treacherous for something that is ethically abstract and, based on personal experience, should be somewhat manageable on their part.
posted by dubusadus at 8:08 PM on February 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I personally wish body issues would stop being the primary social currency for women altogether. A. It's boring B. it's uncomfortable. There should be some kind of etiquette rule about it, like religion and politics.
posted by Jess the Mess at 8:11 PM on February 21, 2013 [78 favorites]


I loved the article. Thanks for posting it, shui mai baby, even though I didn't read it here. She was able to say things a lot nicer than I would have said them- and funnier, too.

She makes a lot of really great points, but really this is only just barely skimming the tip of the iceberg with the FA movement. But it's great that it's out there, because you have to start somewhere.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:20 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I personally wish body issues would stop being the primary social currency for women altogether. A. It's boring B. it's uncomfortable. There should be some kind of etiquette rule about it, like religion and politics.

Yes. And maybe us dudes can find some better things to talk about than women's bodies? If you can't restrain yourself from commenting about someone whose looks you like, maybe you can at least stop gossiping about people whose looks you don't like.
posted by straight at 8:29 PM on February 21, 2013 [23 favorites]


Scrolling through the comments gives some examples of how a person might word comments about their body, but generally speaking the idea is to be as judgment-free as possible about fatness. So: "Oh my stars and garters, I ate more than usual and it is making me feel uncomfortable" as opposed to "OMG I was bad and had seconds! I am a fat pig!"

Also, remember that this is specific to talking to someone who is fat. It makes me sad when people of any size put down their appearance, but in my experience as a Lady of Fatness, people who want to tell me how fat they're feeling and expect me to commiserate are often doing it because they want me to tell them how un-fat they are, especially compared to me. (See also: "Well, I guess if camyram is having dessert, I can, too.") I encounter the weird silence when I refuse to judge the other person's body.

As an aside: Nice (ha!) to see the Concern Trolling has already begun.
posted by camyram at 8:31 PM on February 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


The first fight I've had with my mom in years - like easily more than a decade - was over my weight. She's concerned because I'm fat and because I can't walk as far as I used to be, and so very earnestly started telling me about how I could develop diabetes, and have to give myself shots, and could lose a foot! And she was worried because she saw me drinking vitamin waters and those, like, have a lot of sugar in them!

And after educating her on the difference between type I and type II diabetes, I read her the riot act on treating me like 1) I didn't realize I was fat and 2) I needed some really transparent shaming and fear mongering to want to not be fat anymore ('cause all us fat people have secret magic wands that we can just wave and *poof!* skinny).

Ironically, one of the things I'd asked for for Christmas was a bike so I could increase my physical activity.

As for other things one could talk about, here is a non-exhaustive list: the weather, music you heard recently that you like, that dog that just walked past, a video game or television show you enjoy, a funny joke you read on the internetwebs, this awesome little bistro your friend Miguel took you to last week, a new programming language you're learning, and what color of crayon you would eat if you had to eat one.
posted by Deoridhe at 8:50 PM on February 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


I guess it's just hard for me to understand obesity which seems to come by way of a lot of lifestyle choices and some institutional factors in the same terms that I would if someone said they had gender dysphoria or had lost a loved one recently or were an immigrant from a politically tumultuous country. I can tiptoe around the niceties and the etiquette but the social rules and functions seem particularly treacherous for something that is ethically abstract and, based on personal experience, should be somewhat manageable on their part.

I'm confused by your comment. Why is it something you tiptoe around? I mean.. In your post, you seem to sound like you want to talk about your own struggles with your weight and body image, and how you've dealt with them, and your own exercise routines and eating habits.... And absolutely nothing in the FPP or in this thread implies that you can't talk about those things with a fat person. It's not like all topics related to food, health, and exercise are being completely stricken from the table. And the article very pointedly notes that fat people should be careful not to silence, or dispute, or diminish the experiences of less-fat or no-longer-fat people.

The problem is when you make the move from wanting to talk about your experiences to talking about my experiences. The problem is when there is no gap between "Here are my interests, and my eating habits, and what has made me happy" and "Here is what you should do, because you're fat." The problem is when you fail to recognize the difference between speaking to your own experiences, on the one hand, and trying to tell someone else what they should do or how they should feel about it.
posted by meese at 9:06 PM on February 21, 2013 [23 favorites]


....lifestyle choices ... somewhat manageable on their part...

I'm not a woman, but I am fat. And I feel that this is honestly where all the problem with discussion lies.

It goes like this:

(A) fat people did it to themselves...
(B) ...therefore, they can damn well undo it...
(C) ...but they have not yet undone it...
(D) ...therefore they are ignorant, lazy, weak-willed, or in need of help and/or pity.

Well. (A) is mostly true; with rare exceptions, obesity is due to a combination of lifestyle choices with other factors that are less controllable. (B) is similarly dependent on lifestyle choices combined with other factors, but frankly, it should be obvious that those factors work harder against losing weight than gaining it -- otherwise there would be no epidemic.

Let's look at (C): unless you have known someone for a long time and kept tabs on their body in ways you probably shouldn't, you don't know how much success they have had in losing weight. And even they don't really know how much success they have had at resisting putting on more.

Someone who sees me is going to see "ewww, fat" but not see "30 pounds less fat than before." Therefore, in your eyes, all the effort I put into losing that weight counts for nothing because I'm still fat.

And (D): unless you know what a person's lifestyle truly is, you have no basis for making judgements about the effort they may put in toward their own health.

I'm 41. I spent the first 26 years of my life gaining weight, and have been losing weight in fits and starts ever since -- always more difficult than gaining it. I don't eat junk food or empty calories. The staples of my diet are oatmeal and salad. I freely admit that I am not the most consistent exerciser in the world, but I do try. I love walking, when the weather's half decent, and occasionally tolerate riding a stationary bike.



after educating her on the difference between type I and type II diabetes

To be fair though, I'm type II and need insulin -- Levemir twice per day and Novolog before each meal. It's a degenerative disease. My beta cells are entirely burned out. If I eat nothing at all, my blood glucose levels go up because the liver's dumping glucose into the bloodstream and my pancreas is doing zilch to balance it out.

In fact, even playing Team Fortress 2 made my blood glucose rise because of the stress hormones.

That said, I'm reasonbly under control (given 5 injections per day and an oral medication and being very careful about carbs and geting some exercise) and the whole "you'll lose a foot!" thing is not even a concern for me.
posted by Foosnark at 9:10 PM on February 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


So what do you do when you are fit, you put a good amount of work into eating healthy and staying fit, and maybe you want to talk about it because it's become something of a hobby of yours?

If I talk about my lifting like "Gosh, I had such a fun time at my competition last weekend", the same way someone might talk about their fun run, or their fishing trip, or the beer they brewed, most people are happy to listen.

If I talk about my lifting like "Hey guys do you want to hear about the minutest details of my diet and exercise plan with the implications that I work so hard at it and how amazing my life is and how great I look and how my pants are so much smaller and how I just needed to learn to buckle down and do it while I shoot knowing glances at your fat asses WELL SURE YOU DO", the reactions are not quite as positive.

I think oftentimes people who claim they are simply trying to talk about how "they put a good amount of work into eating healthy and staying fit" are having the second conversation, not the first, and that's what others find offensive. This is especially the case with the newly fit, who have just discovered the wonders of smaller pants and feel they cannot help but shove it in all their friends' faces.

Someone is upset that their 250K salary isn't enough to get them the things they really want, if they were my friend, I'd like to think I could look past the fact that they're immensely better off than me, and that the things they thought they could have are loftier than the ambitions I am allowed, and that I would still be able to sympathize with their struggle and readjustment.

I'm only now earning more than a tenth of that for the first time in my life, so if I had a friend who was bemoaning their quarter-million-dollar salary I'd have a hard time telling them not to shove it up their bums. By the same token, if I was particularly blessed in the looks department I would not bemoan my lack of resemblance to Beyonce or Scarlett Johansson in front of an acid attack victim, and if I had abs sticking out everywhere I wouldn't complain about my perceived saddlebags to a 300+lbs friend. It's basic courtesy.
posted by schroedinger at 9:17 PM on February 21, 2013 [45 favorites]


So what do you do when you are fit, you put a good amount of work into eating healthy and staying fit, and maybe you want to talk about it because it's become something of a hobby of yours?

On preview, schroedinger said pretty much what I was going to say. There's casually talking about the things that interest you, and there's evangelizing. If I'm hanging out with a friend and they're really into a new workout routine or something, I'm happy to hear about it, maybe it's something I might want to try. Hanging out with that friend becomes just another opportunity for them to blather on and on about the thousand tiny tweaks they've made to their diet and exercise routine? Meh. I won't be hanging out with that friend very often, I'd rather spend my time with someone who has more varied interests. Kinda like how I try not to dominate conversations with blather about knitting with friends who don't share that interest, because... what's the point? We have so many other things to talk about.
posted by palomar at 9:30 PM on February 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you are about to describe your diet and exercise plan like somebody in a hobby store who wants you to know about his Dungeons and Dragons character, you should probably shut the fuck up.

Now I you'll excuse me, I have to plan my kettlebell targets for tomorrow (arm is hurting from long cycles at 50 lb x 10 sets) and think about what my 15th level warforged ranger is gonna do next.
posted by mobunited at 9:36 PM on February 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


I have friends who are at least 100 pounds lighter than me who routinely complain about how fat they are, and it makes me feel terrible because what must they think of me? I understand to some degree they don't... they are harsher on themselves... but still, it bothers me.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:36 PM on February 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


Count me as another person who wishes we can stop talking about the flaws in our bodies already. I know it's just another facet of the societal emphasis on a woman's worth as being tied up to her appearance, and part of a much bigger structural problem that we're still fighting every day, but Christ, body issues are the source of so much heartbreak. We are lovely people with smart things to say about a plethora of topics. We don't have to resort to putting ourselves and each other down for not living up to impossible beauty standards as a bonding mechanism.

Sigh.
posted by Phire at 10:10 PM on February 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is there a difference between complaining about how fat you feel and complaining about hating your body?

I hope so, because my best friend is curvier than I am and has a much healthier attitude about her body, and when she brings it up (in the context of, "other people tell me I should be ashamed of my body because I am curvy, but I love my body") I feel envious that I do not love my body and say so.

I am now worried that I am a jerk. Perhaps this is better-suited for an AskMe.
posted by k8lin at 10:14 PM on February 21, 2013


So what do you do when you are fit, you put a good amount of work into eating healthy and staying fit, and maybe you want to talk about it because it's become something of a hobby of yours?

Lots of people are interested in fitness and are also fat.

I cycle and walk everywhere, enjoy the awesome sport of fencing, and am pretty darn fat. I am in better shape than some skinny folks I know who could not cycle as far as me.

I think you should discuss these things with friends because they interest you, and discuss even more if they are a shared interest, but certainly don't assume a friend isn't interested because she or he is larger.

And can I just say I forever love Louis Garneau for having this line of cycling gear?



And k8lin you are not a jerk. Ask her for advice, maybe, on body image.
posted by chapps at 10:24 PM on February 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


So what do you do when you are fit, you put a good amount of work into eating healthy and staying fit, and maybe you want to talk about it because it's become something of a hobby of yours?

/r/swoleacceptance/
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:36 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a larger lady. Nearly everyone I know is thinner and I've just learned to tune out the "OMG I'm so fat" chatter that i occassionally have to hear. It's just noise, and I've finally gotten to the age where I just don't take it personally. It's their own issues.

I'm pretty lucky (or maybe my friends are just scared of me?) that I don't ever get unsolicited dieting advice or comments. But that's probably inbetweenie privelege.
posted by lollipopgomez at 10:38 PM on February 21, 2013


I love that we can have this conversation here and I have no idea what anyone looks like. I think this would be very different in real life. And it feels to me like I've struck gold when i DO have these kinds of conversations in real life, even when I know what everbody looks like.

It's about trust.
posted by salishsea at 11:16 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing: she is as fat as she is because she eats an unnecessary amount of food; more food than her body needs or is healthy for her. If she was an alcoholic or chain smoker, I would also agree her friends should not make all activities "about" that unhealthy behavior of hers, however I also think being responsible friends it's something they'd try to broach from time to time, since they cared about her health. She says friends should trust she's taking care of herself, but she isn't.

To go beyond that into promoting "fat acceptance" without talking candidly about the health consequences of the behavior she is willingly choosing to engage in implicitly encourages others to engage in the same unhealthy behavior.
posted by crayz at 11:45 PM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Crayz - what is the point of repeatedly broaching the subject? All the smokers I know are perfectly aware of what they're doing to their health. Ditto friends who drink to much, and friends who are obese. All of them have, to a greater or lesser extent, and with greater or lesser degrees of success, tried to change those behaviours. What do you think that you'll achieve? Do you genuinely think that you can nag someone into health? Or is it about making you feel better about yourself - you're a "responsible" friend, and by nagging, you have Done Your Bit to reform the fat person/smoker/alcoholic.
posted by Coobeastie at 12:21 AM on February 22, 2013 [28 favorites]


It's like people who want to come and tell me about Jesus: I get it already. If you, a non-fat person, think you are telling a fat person something they don't already know, with regards to the implications for their long term health, you are living in a dream world. A lot of people think they are some kind of health heroes for "talking candidly" about other people's health: and I wonder if they also hector their friends (or strangers!) who endanger their health in a zillion other common ways, all of whom are most likely perfectly aware of the risks inherent in their choices.

There are some real reasons why people stay fat (who want to lose weight). When nutritionists and doctors say it is hard to lose weight when you are very fat, they aren't talking about willpower, or breaking habits or anything like that (although those are also real issues). It is actually physically harder to lose weight when you are very fat than when you are just a little bit fat. There are important hormonal differences between fat and non fat people - it simply is not a simple matter of eat less/move more.
posted by thylacinthine at 12:30 AM on February 22, 2013 [25 favorites]


While it's of course true that a certain level of being fat is negatively correlated with being healthy, it's of course equally true that being fat does not equal being unhealthy. It's just that it's so much easier for lay people and health professionals alike to diagnose one's health problems as the consequences of being fat. It requires no thought whatsoever.

Actually measuring whether or not a person is unhealthy is difficult and expensive after all, as is finding out what is actually wrong with them.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:31 AM on February 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think it would be helpful for those who have expressed concerns about self-censoring to view it as an issue of sensitivity as it is that of repeated exposure. Which is to say: even the most patient and mannered person would get irate after being exposed to the same rude and self-esteem damaging message over and over again. By the time that they, say, meet you for dinner plans, they've heard the same message a hundred times over and over again, from the billboards they encountered on the commute to work, from that snarky co-worker who made a snide remark about it, from the waitress who asked them if they wanted diet coke during lunch, from the magazine they leafed through in the washroom telling them how fat and disgusting they were...

If you think about it that way, it becomes less of an issue of self-censoring as it is an issue of "how can I make my limited time around my dear friend as enjoyable as it can be for the both of us?" Ultimately, every little interaction with our fat-phobic society that larger people have will take away a bit of their self-esteem and that is absolutely exhausting. The least we can do is to provide a safe place away from that when they're engaging in an activity that should be intimate and fun, so they can drop their guard a little and recoup from all of that.

Similarly, while yes yes yes being fat is unhealthy and maybe they should get some exercise and etc and you're only saying these things because you're concerned for them, well, you sort of realize after thinking about all of the messages that they encounter every single day that they already have heard whatever you could possibly say about that to them anyway, every single day, on a daily basis, right? So while you could throw more messages onto the stack, what's the real point of it? Maybe you should just relax and try to have fun with your friend instead of stressing yourself out by judging them and stressing them out by putting the weight of judgment on them.

I mean. I'm not fat, but I think we all know what it feels like to be subject to a constant self-esteem drain. We all have our unique challenges in lives where we're constantly bombarded by a stream of negative messages about ourselves. For some reason, it's more socially acceptable to be personally harmful in intimate situations to fat people than it is for anything else, and I don't particularly like that.
posted by Conspire at 12:41 AM on February 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


it simply is not a simple matter of eat less/move more.

Indeed.

With all the best motivation in the world: I was losing weight so I could be a kidney donor for my partner, as the surgeons involved insisted any donor should have a BMI of less than 30, and with a diet that left me thinking about food all the time, not to mention going to the gym religiously, almost every day, it still cost me the best part of a year to lose fifteen kilos.

Which still left me with a BMI of 30 and I wasn't necessarily more healthy than I was at the start of the process. Meanwhile it left my partner, dependent on dialysis every other day, much much worse of than she had been, which led to a bad recovery for her from the operation and the start of two years of spiralling health problems and ultimately, death.

Myself, apart from a wound infection weight loss doesn't help with, I recovered from the surgery with no complications, am back to being as fat as I was before.

Had the surgeons not been so obsessed with my weight and had I not let them, she might have stronger going into surgery and recovered much more easily, perhaps still be alive today.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:47 AM on February 22, 2013 [20 favorites]


I mean. I'm not fat, but I think we all know what it feels like to be subject to a constant self-esteem drain...

Brother, you don't know.
posted by fleacircus at 4:03 AM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I ended up falling out a little bit with a thinner friend of mine who couldn't stop talking about how few calories she was eating, how much exercise she was doing, and who was -- sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly -- talking a fair bit about how terrible it was to be fat.

If you think that I'm terrible, then I'm probably not your friend. And it's easy to think that you're the one person heroically telling your friend the harsh truth, but even when I have a friend who I think is screwing up their life -- if you're really their friend, you understand that things aren't as simple as all that.

I get along great with my sister who's a marathon runner. (Hi, matcha action!) It's actually possible to say "I got a PR at my ten mile run today!" or "Ugh, I ran 23 miles today and it was so cold!" without making it about how bad my body is. (And, yes, there are marathon runners who are fat, too...)
posted by Jeanne at 4:24 AM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


To the article I'd add:

* Don't think you can touch part of a fat person's body and comment on it.
* Don't act like a fat person, just by being out in public, is asking for the world's attention and comment on their body.
* Don't call them "big guy" thinking that's a friendly nickname.
* Don't make fat jokes.
* Don't always mention some stranger who angered you is fat when it's otherwise irrelevant.
* Don't get extra mad at a fat person for being in your way.
* Don't tell them what they're not allowed to wear.
* Don't assume if you have fat friend A, they will be attracted to fat friend B, or that they belong together.
* Don't act like you don't see fatness, or that attraction is totally arbitrary in society at large.
* Don't tell them about how you had a roommate who was fat and didn't have problem X so therefore fat people shouldn't have a problem with X.
* Don't refuse to be friends with fat people "because they're all so sad", as someone told me once.
* Don't dismiss your friend's severe social handicap.
* Don't be surprised if they want to stop and rest.
* Don't start thinking that because they choose to be fat they shouldn't really get any special treatment whatsoever, and start doing weird stuff like making a point of not accommodating them.
* Don't start thinking that, if they are fat because they choose to be fat, ergo you are not fat because you choose to be not fat, and because this is a superior state of being, you are actually entitled to the better treatment. In fact it's kind of not fair to be nice to the fat people, because otherwise what did you do all that work for?
posted by fleacircus at 5:06 AM on February 22, 2013 [30 favorites]


Hello, I'm shiu mai baby, and I am a 38-year-old woman who is fat. I have been overweight for literally as long as I've had memories. Being fat has always been a part of my identity, how I perceive myself, starting all the way back probably when I was six or seven. The funny thing is that if you look at pictures of me as a kid, I'm really not overweight, certainly not by the standards of all the pearl-clutching going on about the obesity epidemic in our children. I had little-kid softness, babyfat, whatever, but by the time I was in second grade I was already self-identifying (and being identified by my classmates: thanks, guys!) as fat.

I mean, just sit with that for a second, those of you who don't already know what I'm talking about. Second grade you're supposed to be worried about, shit, I don't know, cursive writing and multiplication tables and monkey bars. In second grade I clearly remember asking my mom if I ate only fruit, do you think I'd stop being fat?

So. It's been thirty years, y'all. Thirty years of being seen as a fat person first and then, if I'm lucky, whatever awesome things I am after that. Thirty years of assholes (strangers on the street, the media, well-meaning friends) deeming me gross and worthy of public derision just because of how I'm shaped. Three decades of internalizing the endless barrage of messages that if I'd just eat less, if I exercised more, if I tried harder, if I weren't so "weak-willed," if I pushed more, if I punished myself more, if I wanted it bad enough, I could be thin enough, skinny enough, and finally, finally, finally be worthy of love and acceptance.

You know what? Fuck that. Fuck that noise right in the ear. Because I am here to tell you, brothers and sisters, that none of that matters a flea's fart. None of that matters or should matter when it comes to loving and being loved exactly for who you are.

Let me tell this to the put-down-the-donut brigade: my entire adult life I have hovered within +/- 5 lbs of 220, in spite of diets, exercise, all the stuff y'all claim is THE ANSWER to my fatness. My lowest weight, which (ironically) was right before I got pregnant, was 215. I gained precisely 25 pounds during my pregnancy. My heaviest weight, not long after I gave birth, was 235. Through no effort on my own, my weight did eventually drift back down to the low 220s. I eat no junk food, do not eat fast food, don't eat out except on special occasions. My husband and I, we cook healthy. We're great about portion control, balancing fats and carbs and proteins. I live an active, happy lifestyle that includes plenty of exercise, due in no small part to chasing a three-year-old. And yet? This is how I look. Two years I spent tracking my calories, being extremely conscious about my intake and the kind of calories I was eating, restricting myself to 1500 calories per day, max. And yet? Always within the +/- 5 lbs of 220.

Last year, just for the challenge of it, I decided to become a runner. I'm a runner, y'all! I ran two 5Ks last year, after starting in January from barely being able to run a minute without collapsing. By the summertime, I was run/walking 10+ miles on a Saturday morning. I now run regularly, typically four times a week (as anyone who is so unfortunate to be on my Twitter feed can tell you, heh). And yet? Never dropped below 215. My cholesterol is excellent and my blood sugars are sterling. But anyone who sees me walking down the street doesn't know that. The unkind people of this world see me and think I'm a weak-willed fattie guzzling cheetos and have never seen the inside of the gym or whatever.

But here's the thing: I don't care. Not about the number, not about the assholes, not anymore. I care that I am happy. I care and I am proud of myself for running. I love the energy I have. I am loved by a wonderful man. I have a beautiful daughter. And dammit, as I approach 40, I will not let myself get sucked into this mindset that has haunted me since I was in grade school. Not any more.

I don't know what changed in my attitude, or when, but I am so, SO over it. I'm over the self-hatred and judging, both aimed at myself and others. It is ugly, it is useless, and I will not be a part of it any more. That, to me, is the core of Health At Every Size.
posted by shiu mai baby at 5:23 AM on February 22, 2013 [123 favorites]


I can't understand why people get so mad just because I constantly point out that their driving skills are terrible, because I'm only thinking of their health and well-being. Plus, they get bent out shape when I point out that they're being foolish driving to the grocery store instead of walking there, like I do! What? The store is ten miles away? Well, whose fault is that, sweetie?

I'm only telling you because I care, you know.
posted by sonascope at 5:31 AM on February 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


* Don't call them "big guy" thinking that's a friendly nickname.

Oh, god, that. Especially from people taller than I am. I fucking hate that. Hate. That.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:36 AM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you love your fat friend, please understand that there's a chance that what is lacking in that person's life is not the ability to engage in self-deprivation, but the ability to engage in self-care. (That's not to say it's true of everyone; it is not; everyone is different.)

If you want to encourage your fat friend (or fat people you don't know) to engage in better self-care, you cannot do it by assuming, tacitly or explicitly, that they're unworthy people as they are. I wrote several pages once about how, if this is something you've dealt with all your life from (as someone else said) before you had memories, it's like being shackled, from birth, to a dog. (I weighed, I think, two pounds more than my sister at birth. BIRTH.) And all the messages you receive from childhood forward is that the dog is bad, unwelcome, unlovable, unworthy. So you kind of hate the dog, right? "Why do I have this bullshit dog?" The dog is in all your childhood photos, you took it to every dance, date, job interview, class, party and public event you have ever attended, and eventually, you just expected everyone to roll their eyes at it. It's not very good for the soul.

But you are also the only one who can care for the dog, and how well you care for it affects it enormously. But you've hated it for as long as you can remember, and the more you hate it, the worse you treat it, and then it really is kind of a bullshit dog, because you don't take care of it, because it sucks and you hate it and everyone else hates it.

You, in this example, are both the bad dog and the bad owner (the dog, perhaps, is being fat and the owner is everything else about you), and some of it is your fault and some of it isn't, but no analysis of what the combination of factors might be at work changes the fact that mustering the energy to take meticulous, time-consuming care of that part of yourself other people hate and have been encouraging you to hate since you were a small child is very hard. As to the health aspects (which vary enormously from person to person), it's hard to create urgency without shame, but you've got to do it. Because "start getting up at 5:00 in the morning to take better care of this person [YOU] who is bad and less" will always fail. Always.

You have to learn how to love that bullshit dog enough to give it a break, and it's not easy.

[It's possible that this is the worst metaphor the world has ever known; it really only matters that it makes sense to me.]
posted by Linda_Holmes at 5:44 AM on February 22, 2013 [20 favorites]


I'm distressed to see at least two "they did it to themselves" comments. I kept thinking surely people don't really believe that and then - yup, they really do.

I can't have my entire life be about food and that's what it would take to be a size 12 (! Still a fatty!). I need to live a balanced life, not to mention I also need to be able to function at work which is near impossible to do when you are starving yourself. Seriously folks, if you've never been fat you simply don't know.
posted by double bubble at 5:46 AM on February 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


I just don't think the conversation is helped by sweeping statements of any sort. Some people who were fat for a long time find it fairly easy to lose weight, some really don't. The idea that we have to have a debate over the souls of fat people is one of the problems, not part of the solution.
posted by howfar at 5:50 AM on February 22, 2013


Good lord. It doesn't matter if they did it to themselves or not. It's none of your damn business either way.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:51 AM on February 22, 2013 [24 favorites]


By the way, trying to tell another person how to lose weight is like a white girl trying to tell a black girl how to fix her hair.
posted by double bubble at 6:11 AM on February 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Interestingly, fleacircus' list with only a few tweaks could be about how to treat your Black friends as well.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:12 AM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


For all you concern trolls out there (I'm looking at you crayz), here's an article on a study that says the FA has done more to help fat people become healthy than fat shaming ever has (what a shocker!) Now, if you really, really, feel the need to interject for their health (even though it's none of your damn business) I'd suggest by starting to mind your own damn business.
posted by FirstMateKate at 6:29 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've caught myself saying things that probably made her kind of uncomfortable -- the, "Ugh, I've gained weight, I feel so fat" comments or, "I felt so gross, all the girls in their bikinis with their picture-perfect bodies make me feel huge

I've realised in the last year or so that I'd be classed as a 'larger lady' - partly because medication has caused my weight to climb to a point that my 'baseline size' no longer fits comfortably, and partly because my industry means that if I have a meeting with clients, I am almost always the largest (and tallest, and least groomed, and least middle-class) person in the room. (Seriously, put me next to one of these lasses and it's like putting a chihuahua next to a Great Dane.) I don't feel upset by comments like this, except to feel a bit sorry for the person saying them, because it's unpleasant to feel self-critical enough to say it out loud.

I often felt like I wasn't a 'real girl', because I wasn't obsessed with weight, either my own or that of passers-by/celebrities - I'm still staggered when people try and guess someone's dress size by looking at them. (Luckily my friends don't participate in this crap - one grew up having to be responsible for her bulimic sister and will not go near crash diets and the like as a result.) I've only started weighing myself recently because I'm on some new contraception and I want to keep an eye on things whilst trying to eat more healthily. I'm hitting the point now where I am tipping into plus size - so I'm not as large as many are, but in the eyes of some am hideously obese - and I'm really struggling to deal with that in a way that makes me feel happy about myself. Being miserable is 100% more likely to make me not want to deal with it and stuff myself with junk food, and a closet of clothes that don't quite fit now isn't fun either - that's what makes me feel very much aware of being Bigger Than You Used To Be.

I find that spending time around people who are self-critical and obsessed with diets, food and weight is actively quite damaging, as historically the best and easiest way for me to lose weight is to ignore it all together and just eat food and do activities which make me feel happy about my body. On the other hand, a good portion of the weight gain is down to a medicine that more or less keeps me alive, so fuck anyone who thinks they can lecture me 'for your health' despite not knowing the first thing about my disability or lifestyle.
posted by mippy at 6:39 AM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't understand why people get so mad just because I constantly point out that their driving skills are terrible, because I'm only thinking of their health and well-being.

If I have a friend who keeps driving after too many drinks, I'm damn well going to tell them to knock it off, yeah.

here's an article on a study that says the FA has done more to help fat people become healthy than fat shaming ever has

Firstmatekate, the link didn't come through---could you post it again? I've been really curious to see if there's any real data on the subject.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:43 AM on February 22, 2013


Sadly, the thing I really want to do when I get the "Oh, but honey, I'm only saying this because I worry about you," is not to requote my stellar cholesterol and blood pressure numbers as well as point out that I'm strong enough to kick the door off a car and have enough stamina to ride a bicycle all day, but rather to so say, "Sugar dumplin', I'm concerned about your emotional health, since you feel such a desperate need to save the world through incessant, insulting nagging," but then I would fall into an infinite Droste stairwell of motivational recursion. Instead, a quick eye roll and a subject change is in order.

On the "big guy" side, I actually relish that little number, coming as it does almost entirely from stunted heterosexual Mamet antihero wannabees who love it as much as calling me "chief," "sport," and other such things, because I can then respond thus:

"Hey there, big guy."

[I squint a bit, look confused, furrow my brow, then fake-surreptitiously look down as if checking my fly, then back up with a wry and knowing smile blooming on my face like the flower of all knowledge.]

"Oh, shit—did you see those pictures on the internet? Um, well, thanks, I guess. Do me a favor and don't tell anyone else about 'em, if you don't mind."

Guaranteed blush and awkwardness for the rest of the work day, which means SCORE, baby! There's being a dick and then there's being a whimsical dick.
posted by sonascope at 6:46 AM on February 22, 2013 [26 favorites]


I'm quite tall for a woman as well (5ft 10) so I wonder what the 'big guy' equivalent for women would be. Lots of clothing stores don't believe tall women exist, even if they've realised large women do.

When I was much younger, considerably thinner (if you can fit into Topshop pants, you are not fat in my book) but with the same hourglass curves, and less good at choosing men, someone sat at the foot of the bed when we were both naked and exclaimed in a wondrous tone: 'you're built like a brick shithouse!'

What. The actual. Fuck.
posted by mippy at 6:53 AM on February 22, 2013


Generally I assume that being fat is an unhealthy lifestyle choice, like smoking cigarettes or sporting a neon-green rattail fauxhawk. My friends are smart enough to know that such decisions have consequences (if they weren't, they wouldn't be my friends), so it seems like it would be really insulting to assume they are unaware of the risks. I know "friends are supposed to care about friends" and all that, but it would be really weird and aggravating to comment on your friend's hairstyle or cigarette smoking every time you see them, so in that respect I certainly see where the author is coming from.

That said, it's somewhat aggravating when I'm talking to a fat friend who has made it her personal crusade to change people's views on body image in order to make society understand that "larger women can be beautiful." I respect other people's right to pick the body type they want, but I'm the only one who gets to decide what I think is beautiful, and it makes me uncomfortable when I feel like I'm being pressured to like a body type that I'm not naturally attracted to.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:54 AM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


If I have a friend who keeps driving after too many drinks, I'm damn well going to tell them to knock it off, yeah.

Except being fat isn't drunk driving. It's being fat. You're not going to run down a busload of orphans while you're out fat driving, and booze is not food. It's an absolutely false parallel, despite how many times people want to make it.

By extension, too, since meat-eating is implicated in health issues, should vegetarians needle us at every turn out of loving concern?

Should vegans needle the ovo-lactos?

Should fruitarians needle the vegans?

Where do you set a boundary, and when has incessant nagging ever, ever changed something about a person beyond their view of you as a tiresome scold?

If you think you're living right, set an example. That's all you need to do.
posted by sonascope at 6:54 AM on February 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


I have an eating disorder. I have had an eating disorder for well over half of my life. It bites the big one. I am in recovery. It is hard. Being around people who feel like it is acceptable to:

a) talk about my body
b) talk about their body in a self-denigrating way (OMG, I'm so fat.)
c) talk about other people's bodies ("she could stand to lose some weight", or the perennial favorite "no one wants to see that.")

makes me want to go barf up my well-planned lunch. I don't understand the focus on our bodies or the social currency that Jess the Mess noted so succinctly and beautifully above. As a person with an eating disorder, talking about my weight or the weight of others has never, ever been a topic of conversation in my life. Just thinking about talking like that makes me want to crawl in a hole.

I promise, your concern trolling about me and my body or other people and their bodies is not helping. EVER.
posted by Sophie1 at 6:56 AM on February 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


Generally I assume that being fat is an unhealthy lifestyle choice, like smoking cigarettes or sporting a neon green rattail fauxhawk.

Many comments on this thread indicate the wisdom of such an assumption.

Cigarette smoking, for example, isn't a habit picked up from medication, contraception, injuries that make it difficult to move, metabolism/genetic issues, poverty* (both food poverty and the twin issues of calorie-dense food being cheaper than nutritionally-dense - hence many obese people being classed as malnourished - and convenience food being cheaper and quicker to prepare for those working long hours on little pay). It's a habit picked up from people deciding, for whatever reason, that smoking would be a good idea.

If being fat was always but always a question of people shoving more pies into their face than they get to walk off, then yes, the cigarette analogy works. The other problem? Nobody *has* to smoke, but everybody's gotta eat. Going cold turkey on food is not an option unless it's Ramadan.

* I know cigarette smoking, at least in the UK, is a huge signifier for poverty - it tends to be lower income groups who smoke, for a number of reasons which I can't give you citations. The wealth of benefit-bashing comments wondering why those on low incomes/benefits is notable, and while I personally would be first to cut out the fags were I made redundant or living off JSA, it shows that the choices others make are complex and sometimes difficult to pass judgement on. After all, I don't smoke.
posted by mippy at 7:03 AM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


exclaimed in a wondrous tone: 'you're built like a brick shithouse!' What. The actual. Fuck.

This might be regional, but that's a very, very common midwestern and southern compliment---refers to a woman with solid legs, large boobs, and wide hips. The song "Brick House" is a cleaned-up version of the expression ("She's mighty, mighty, and lettin' it all hang out"). It seems to date from the years of outhouse construction, when building out of brick meant you were making something that would last no matter what the weather.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:07 AM on February 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'd like to note, as an add on, how much I love Wil Wheaton and his Law.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:11 AM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


As an aside: anyone who is fat, or who is genuinely curious about what it is like to be fat, should pick up a copy of Stranger Here: How Weight-Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed with My Head. It is a memoir about a woman who was sort of railroaded into WLS, expecting it to be a cure-all. She dropped over 150 pounds, but also realized that the ugly thought processes don't go away when the weight does. It is very funny, painfully honest, revelatory, and reads more like a novel than a memoir.

Full disclosure -- this was written by a dear friend of mine. But even if I didn't know the author, I'd still recommend the book with my whole heart.
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:12 AM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Dickish? Only a little. Fuck her victimhood.

Those are not things an asshole says. Assholes are deliberately judgemental and voice those judgements without compassion.

She's describing conversational patterns people typically use as we navigate the epidemic of obesity sweeping friends, family, and acquaintances. Should we avoid those conversational patterns? We'll try. But the world is a sick fucking place and we're doing our best when dealing with all kinds of addictions in our face every day.
posted by surplus at 7:13 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


ThatFuzzyBastard - I wish this was true, but this was a guy from a public school/Oxbridge background rather than southern, and was the least funky person I've ever met. He wore snot-green anoraks with accidental tears in them.

'Brick shithouse' in the UK (see definition 1 here) tends to mean 'huge hard bloke who will beat you up for spilling his pint'. I hope this didn't cause problems for Lionel Ritchie.
posted by mippy at 7:19 AM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


What I mean is that no twenty year old woman, especially not one entirely comfortable with her body, wants to hear that. It's second only to someone remarking on your 'slack fanny' or something.
posted by mippy at 7:22 AM on February 22, 2013


That said, it's somewhat aggravating when I'm talking to a fat friend who has made it her personal crusade to change people's views on body image in order to make society understand that "larger women can be beautiful." I respect other people's right to pick the body type they want, but I'm the only one who gets to decide what I think is beautiful, and it makes me uncomfortable when I feel like I'm being pressured to like a body type that I'm not naturally attracted to.

It's not all about you. She's not saying that you, personally, have to be attracted to her. And if you're as vocal to her about the willpower and personal morality of fat people as you've been on MeFi, I would doubt very much that her fat acceptance "crusade" is about making you personally be attracted to her.

There's a difference between an individual saying "I personally am not attracted to physical trait X" and saying "people with physical trait X are so gross, why would anyone be attracted to that?" Fat Acceptance is about getting people to get their heads out of their asses and treat fat people as human beings as well, with intrinsic worth and beauty and life outside of how they look. Not as lesser beings to be pitied or cajoled or reviled for their body at every turn.

No one is saying you must immediately go out and start hooking up with fat people. People are simply asking that you not be an asshole to fat people just because they're fat. The fact that there's so much pushback against this in this thread--"but I'm justified in being a jerk because their fatness is their own fault"--is pretty reprehensible. Are people really fighting for the right to make someone else's day a little worse because they think they understand someone else's body better than that person does??
posted by Phire at 7:23 AM on February 22, 2013 [38 favorites]


mippy: Fascinating. The Straight Dope column linked above actually notes that in the U.S., it also used to meant a linebacker-built tough guy. Then in the early 30s it was applied to women as a derogatory term, it became a compliment in the African-American community around the late 30s, and then it re-entered general U.S. English as a compliment. But in the UK, perhaps older standards prevail.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:25 AM on February 22, 2013


I've always liked the song, so it would be nice had it travelled. But yes, now that you know that you can avoid faux-pas when you travel. See also: 'you have such a cute fanny!'
posted by mippy at 7:26 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing: she is as fat as she is because she eats an unnecessary amount of food; more food than her body needs or is healthy for her.

Dude! I didn't know that you personally know Marianne, the author of this article, and that you have known her since birth and that you eat every single meal with her and that you are also her doctor and have been treating her for years. That's amazing!

Wait, what's that? You don't actually know her or know anything about her aside from having seen a picture of her? Oh. So you don't really know why she's fat, you just wanted to make an assumption and judgement about her without knowing the facts of her life. I see. That's a shame.
posted by palomar at 7:41 AM on February 22, 2013 [27 favorites]


A life change that's been really instructive to me in working to be less of a hectoring counter-dick is that I was able to stop driving to work about four years ago. It's freaking bliss, because I get up, make myself a delicious breakfast, stretch and lift weights, work in some snuggle time with the dog, wash and groom, then walk to the end of my street and catch a train to Baltimore. I read a book, work on my own manuscript, make some music on the tablet, or just listen to podcasts and watch the world outside the window, then walk five minutes from the ball park to my giant novelty clock tower. Every day, I get four walks and two relaxing rides, and my truck sits in front of my house not burning 3.14 gallons of four dollar gasoline for that trip.

When I do have to drive, it's misery. I never realized how much I hated driving to commute, or how much leftover stress from the drive hung there in my office like a cloud of diesel smoke, until I set myself up in a career that allowed me to be free of the damn drive. I dread the days in the month when time issues demand I drive (No @&*%! trains on the weekends! Thank you very much, America!), and it furthers my resolve to avoid driving at all costs. I have, to some degree, manipulated my career to keep myself on feet, bicycles, and steel wheels as much as possible, and it's really easy to start to think that everyone should do the same thing.

Thing is, I'm single, no kids, have a dog and a former dog that get looked after during the daytimes by my ex. I adore repetition and routines and I like waiting for things and I am nerdy about trains, public transportation, and urban multimodalism. I live literally two blocks from a MARC train station and work literally two blocks from another that is, fortunately, on the same line. I work in a trade that gives me broad choices over where to work, because what I do is needed everywhere. In the same way that Douglas Adam's sentient puddle sees that the world is oddly suited to his needs, I have pooled in a place that is comfortable to me, and when I'm feeling self-aware, I have to remember that, to stop myself thinking I've somehow solved the puzzle.

I think people would be happier and healthier if they did what I do. I wish I wasn't the only person I see on the sidewalks when I'm walking back from the grocery store, and I wish my bicycle wasn't the only bicycle chained up in front of the Amish farm market on Saturday mornings. I think society as whole would be better off with the sort of street level human contact that comes from not being constantly wrapped in a car, and that it's better for us ecologically to build cities according to new urbanist principles, where we put people first and hide our oversized tin shames in alleys, set aside for occasional longer trips.

Thing is—I am where I am because I am lucky. I was lucky to have parents who conveyed the values to me that I hold. I am lucky to live in a small, walkable town wedged conveniently between two mid-sized, dynamic cities. I am lucky to have gone from drifting aimlessly in the work world to falling unexpectedly into a line of work that I'm very, very good at, and which has gotten me into two amazing workplaces. While I find that I'm lonesome at times, I am lucky in that being single doesn't make me anxious, and the nature of my life is that I can schedule things as I like. It's really easy to buy into the ego trip of thinking I'm so good at this when, in reality, I'm just good at being where I need to be and making the best of situations that arise.

I could tell you that you are not living right when you climb into a four thousand pound exhaustmobile to lumber along every day, being traffic, and I could say that you're not living right when you drive to the store instead of walking, or when you train your kids to be dependent on the parental limousine for every trip, but we all land where we land, and sometimes it's better to be able to look to people who you see living well and think "hmmm, I wonder if I could..." instead of being nagged and criticized and browbeaten by carbon footprints and other such methods. The fact that I know exactly what people are feeling when they stick their noses in is illuminating of my own worse instincts, and though I do snap here and there, I can see myself in them.

I've stopped my personal evangelism for the train. I've mostly stopped trying to get everyone I know to own and use a bicycle, albeit with a bit of sadness, because the bicycle is the greatest human invention ever. I just do what I do and, when I have a chance, write romantic and florid prose about what it's like to live this way. If I do it well, people will get curious. If not, they'll roll their eyes. If I approach them with condescension or pretend that my life isn't one that's made it relatively easy to do what I think they should do, I'm not going to change anything. I'm just going to alienate, insult, and build suspicion.

I guess that's what I wish I saw more of—some understanding that things are not always so easy, and more people who didn't feel like every single impulse to evangelize ought to be honored. I'm a skeptic of a great many of the health claims of the obesity rangers, but if I did think I have the divine task of changing the attitudes of fat people, I would have to hope that I'd let this peripheral experience shape my approach.

Mind you, your mileage may well vary.
posted by sonascope at 7:48 AM on February 22, 2013 [22 favorites]


Self-censoring out of concern that someone else has it worse than you is, yeah, I get that it can be prudent or safer, but I would prefer to live in a world where we can sympathize for the woes of our more fortunate friends, even as we would love to have their problems.

Would you tell your double amputee friend "don't you just hate it when your feet hurt?"
posted by Ironmouth at 7:50 AM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


sonascope, preach the gospel at all times. when absolutely required, use words.
posted by surplus at 8:01 AM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sonascope - the UK is seeing huge rises in obesity, but we are a much less car-dependent society than you are. I wonder if it's less because of how we get around and more down to what we do when we're there. Manufacturing jobs are replaced by office jobs - the biggest unskilled manual work that exists now is the supermarket sector, and I'd be interested to know how much that compares with, say, factory work in terms of energy expenditure.

Very few people in London drive on a daily basis, and cycling is more popular - however, there are many who are put off because unlike some cities, the road network is built to favour the car rather than the pedestrian or cyclist, and there are relatively frequent fatal accidents. (I can't drive, but this puts me off cycling rather than taking a bus or train - I am dyspraxic, and inexperienced compared to the vast majority who learned at five rather than twenty-six.) My actual experience of being a pedestrian in the US is based on California (if you're from London and have ever tried to cross between the various retail parks near Brent Cross on foot - it was all like that) and I know not all the US is similar, but I can't see how it would be easy to essentially redesign the flow of the road to make it useful for cyclists.

The only time I wish I could drive is when I move house - I think I'm starting to exhaust my friends' capacity for goodwill when it comes to getting them to shift things around in vans. Otherwise, if I carried on living in a city or large town, I couldn't see myself wanting or needing to drive. Part of this, I think, is having the driving parent in our family be someone who could never be bothered to give us lifts anywhere, so from an early age I became dependent on using public transport and working out how to get to places - not having a car feels more independent to me than being dependent on a personal vehicle to get around.
posted by mippy at 8:03 AM on February 22, 2013


It's not all about you. She's not saying that you, personally, have to be attracted to her. And if you're as vocal to her about the willpower and personal morality of fat people as you've been on MeFi, I would doubt very much that her fat acceptance "crusade" is about making you personally be attracted to her.

Sorry, I guess I totally miscommunicated in my last comment. My first paragraph was related to the article directly, but the second paragraph was related only tangentially. I fully recognize that the author is not on some fat acceptance crusade - actually she seems like a pretty reasonable woman, and I wasn't trying to imply that she was on some sort of crusade. However, I have certainly met a number of other people on fat acceptance crusades and it always comes across as insecure and off-putting to me.

The intent of my second paragraph in the comment which you quoted was that just as the author gives useful pointers in her article for thin people to interact with fat people respectfully, it would be nice for fat people to have some useful pointers on how to interact with thin people respectfully. "Concern trolling" is certainly a real thing and I can totally see how it would be annoying for fat people, but from the other side it's equally annoying to hear a fat female acquaintance complain about her latest crush not being interested in her because of "society's warped standards of beauty." People have the right to be attracted to whatever they want, and sometimes I've been in conversations with fat people where it feels like they don't recognize the legitimacy of that.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:05 AM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


So what do you do when you are fit, you put a good amount of work into eating healthy and staying fit, and maybe you want to talk about it because it's become something of a hobby of yours?

I don't generally talk in detail about my hobbies with people who aren't also involved in my hobbies. It might be an occasional thing, sure, if they ask questions about the things I do, but I don't spend every dinner with friends talking to people who don't knit about the latest handpaint I picked up from an indie or how much I hate intarsia.

The thing about diet and exercise talk is it comes up constantly. Which is understandable -- we all eat every day -- but also really frustrating if it's something that's a loaded issue for some of the people in the conversation.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:07 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


it would be nice for fat people to have some useful pointers on how to interact with thin people respectfully.

Are you kidding? I am a thin person. Not because I am strong-willed, or a morally superior person, or because I don't like food. I am thin because through whatever combination of genetics happened, I am thin. I can not think of a single time in my life I've had to say "MAN, I WISH SOCIETY WOULD STOP JUDGING ME FOR MY WEIGHT AND TREAT ME WITH RESPECT." I also have enough human decency to not judge the willpower of other people because I am not clairvoyant, and I have no idea what contributed to anyone I know being the size or shape they are.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 8:12 AM on February 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


> I personally wish body issues would stop being the primary social currency for women altogether

Are they? I'm a woman and I rarely talk about body issues with my friends. Sure, it comes up, but so does the weather and dentistry and vitamin D and running and pets and food and our children, oh my god, always our children. The whole "I'm so fat!" "No, I'm so fat!" discussion is one I've never had and never seen anywhere other than TV, movies, and Cathy strips.

Note: I am not fat. But my understanding is that actual fatness is not required for this exchange to take place. But also: I am not a fictional character in a quickly written sitcom.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:16 AM on February 22, 2013


actually she seems like a pretty reasonable woman, and I wasn't trying to imply that she was on some sort of crusade. However, I have certainly met a number of other people on fat acceptance crusades and it always comes across as insecure and off-putting to me.

Actually she seems like a reasonable woman and she is on some sort of crusade. Marianne Kirby is author of The Rotund and co-author with Kate Harding of Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere, a great book published by Penguin Perigree.

Her crusade, as she plainly makes clear in her article is to stop telling people who have a lot of fat on their bodies that they are:

less than,
lazier than,
stupider than,
less disciplined than,
uglier than
inferior to
less worthy of love than people who have less fat on their bodies.

That's her crusade.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:16 AM on February 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


Are they? I'm a woman and I rarely talk about body issues with my friends. Sure, it comes up, but so does the weather and dentistry and vitamin D and running and pets and food and our children, oh my god, always our children. The whole "I'm so fat!" "No, I'm so fat!" discussion is one I've never had and never seen anywhere other than TV, movies, and Cathy strips.

I don't usually talk about body issues with my friends. But I work in an office that's 90% female, and definitely a lot of the conversation revolves around dieting, or feeling bad about one's body, or looking at pictures of cakes and feeling sad. If someone has a party, then someone will bring a cake. And if someone brings a cake, the entire conversation at the party will consist of variations on, "I am TERRIBLE because I am eating this delicious cake! This is a delicious cake, and you are a terrible person for tempting me with it!"
posted by Jeanne at 8:32 AM on February 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm a very large man. If you're my friend and you need help moving, I'll be there with furniture pads and a dolly. If you tell me that your boss is a jerk, I'll commiserate with you. Hell, I'll hold the fucker down while you kick his ass. If life has got you down, I'll do what I can to cheer you up.

If you need a foil against your own body image insecurity or need someone to hear you constantly preach the gospel of Eating Right and Getting Exercise, well, I'm not interested in that. Just like you're probably not interested in hearing about the healing power of magnets or how accepting Jesus into your heart is the only path to Eternal Salvation, right?

Wolfsdream, there's a huge range of reactions when seeing a fat girl between "I want to fuck her!" and "Who in the world would touch that fat pig?". Your friend isn't asking for the first when she tells you that she doesn't want the second.
posted by double block and bleed at 8:33 AM on February 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am thin because through whatever combination of genetics happened, I am thin. I can not think of a single time in my life I've had to say "MAN, I WISH SOCIETY WOULD STOP JUDGING ME FOR MY WEIGHT AND TREAT ME WITH RESPECT."

I was similarly thin in my 20's, similarly because of genetics and a hyperdrive metabolism.

And I frequently found myself saying this. Most likely not as frequently as I would have had to say it if I were fat, but I heard a lot of noise about being skinny. And no, it was not all "damn I wish I was skinny" like that, I'm talking getting weighed by a new doctor and then having him immediately pull me off the scale and start talking to me about body-image issues and anorexia, or having to put up with TWO SOLID FUCKING YEARS of my parents calling me after every visit because they'd gotten freaked out about how skinny I looked and they were trying to do Save Our Daughter From Her Bulimia Outreach over the damn phone.

I wasn't the kind of person to ever talk about diet or weight or anything like that with my friends anyway (there's way more interesting stuff to talk about, let's be honest), but that all completely killed any possible future impulse in me. And it also taught me not to judge anyone's life from a distance, because honestly, y'all don't don't get a vote, dammit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:39 AM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I go 50/50 here. I have some female friends who don't talk about our bodies when we get together; at the very least, if we're at a restaurant/bar that offers delicious things to eat, we will gleefully talk about eating those things without once using "Oh, I know I shouldn't but I am gonna anyway!" (If anything, it would have been me to say something like that but I don't because why bring that up?)

And then I have a couple of girlfriends who I think look perfectly fine who discuss their WW meetings, calorie counting, etc. Sometimes I fall in line and discuss that shit too, though I love them enough to wish that they didn't have to focus on their waistlines so much because, dammit, I think they're wonderful. It makes me sad.
posted by Kitteh at 8:39 AM on February 22, 2013


> I don't usually talk about body issues with my friends. But I work in an office that's 90% female, and definitely a lot of the conversation revolves around dieting, or feeling bad about one's body, or looking at pictures of cakes and feeling sad

Oh, that's a good point. It's been a long time since I worked in an office, but I did run into it there.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:41 AM on February 22, 2013


I think I would find it difficult to be friends with someone who talks about their size/diet constantly - not because it would feel personal to me or offend me (unless I'd baked the cake which they were berating themselves for eating) but because it's just not an interesting conversation. It's not a conscious decision - I can't be that clinical about with whom I spend my time - but anyone who is a close friend or with whom I spend a lot of time doesn't tend to have weight/diet as top of their conversational agenda. We do discuss it, in the same way we discuss any health issues or anything that can affect your physical or mental well-being ('hey, you're good at cooking - what's quick and less likely to leave me feeling really crappy an hour later?") but there isn't the undercurrent of masochism involved. I would find someone who enjoyed that kind of talk, or liked to dissect body changes/life choices in celebrities, really difficult to relate to and I would find myself wanting to start discussions about, say, whether capitalism is really a race to the bottom and what that says about us in terms of Bourdieu's theories of lifestyle JUST OUT OF SPITE. Because it's more interesting to me.

I find constant diet/weight talk annoying on the same level I would constant interior decorating talk, but at the same time, yes, if you are larger the question of being judged forms in your mind in a way that it wouldn't about, say, you not wanting a feature wall in your home.

It's curious that we find discussing money openly as being quite vulgar and potentially offensive but not other issues which can carry the same potential for someone to feel judged, inadequate or offended.
posted by mippy at 8:42 AM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


No one is saying you must immediately go out and start hooking up with fat people. People are simply asking that you not be an asshole to fat people just because they're fat.

No one including me is suggesting that you should be an asshole. However, the "it's all relative" push back is simply also like, your opinion man. My opinion is, obesity is unattractive just like alcoholism, and for the same reasons that it displays a lack of self-control and the result is a visibly unhealthy body (and many of the same underlying metabolic reasons, even - read Robert Lustig).

Wait, what's that? You don't actually know her or know anything about her aside from having seen a picture of her? Oh. So you don't really know why she's fat, you just wanted to make an assumption and judgement about her without knowing the facts of her life.

Yes and every alcoholic has a story too - maybe some have underlying medical issues. And alcoholism is attractive to some people! The fact is, you can look at societies around the world and throughout history, and the USA 2013 is the fattest. Obesity is this country's leading health epidemic - too much of the wrong food and a sedentary lifestyle are the main contributing factors. That is science.

If the author has a medical condition causing her obesity, she should be advocating research into that and not promoting the idea that morbid obesity is ok, any more than a person who had to drink vodka for medical reasons should be promoting alcoholism acceptance.

Every thread on alcoholism doesn't include the "alcoholism acceptance" brigade and the "I'm an *healthy* alcoholic, who runs!", etc. I wonder what the difference is ... maybe that 80% of MeFi isn't alcoholic?
posted by crayz at 9:05 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


As I write this, I am a skinny woman eating a donut with extra frosting.

Judge me by my size, do you?
posted by casarkos at 9:09 AM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


My opinion is, obesity is unattractive just like alcoholism, and for the same reasons that it displays a lack of self-control and the result is a visibly unhealthy body (and many of the same underlying metabolic reasons, even - read Robert Lustig).

And as you just said - that's just, like, your opinion, man.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:12 AM on February 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


posted by crayz at 9:05 AM on February 22
No one including me is suggesting that you should be an asshole.
I wonder what the difference is ... maybe that 80% of MeFi isn't alcoholic?
posted by Sophie1 at 9:16 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sophie1 - Watching people promote an unhealthy lifestyle which is debilitating and killing millions of their fellow citizens as ok and out of our control seems to me deeply irresponsible, bordering on unethical. So yes, I am going to speak strongly about it, in a thread specifically about the topic.
posted by crayz at 9:21 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


No one is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle! Marianne is saying in this article, don't be an asshole to people who have more fat than you do. She is not saying, "GO! Go out and have a cake! EVERYONE should do it!

Do you get the difference?
posted by Sophie1 at 9:26 AM on February 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Dude, suggesting that we could stop being assholes to fat people isn't promoting obesity. It's like if you thought the only way to fight cancer was to sneer at people undergoing chemo, or if the only way to fight Alzheimer's was to shame people who lose their keys. It doesn't help, it's just looking for an excuse to be an asshole.
posted by KathrynT at 9:27 AM on February 22, 2013 [30 favorites]


Ah yes, the old "OMG FAT PEOPLE ARE THE RUININATION OF SOCIETY" trope.

Bah.
posted by palomar at 9:28 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


and the "I'm an *healthy* alcoholic, who runs!", etc.

I'm sorry, but I sorta feel like this is aimed pretty much right at me. You don't know me, crayz, you don't know my habits, and you're sure as fuck not entitled to this information, but I'm feeling magnanimous, so here, let me break this down for you:

This morning, (most mornings, in fact) I had a poached egg, 1 slice of wheat toast, and some sliced tomatoes with a bit of olive oil.

For lunch, I've got a quinoa salad made with kale and some feta and lemon zest mixed in.

Dinner I haven't planned yet, but it will be about 3 oz of some lean protein, maybe a quarter cup of a healthy grain, and a bunch of whatever green veg looks good at the grocery store. The veg will be roasted or steamed, depending on what I pick up.

In total, today I will have consumed between 1400 and 1800 calories. All made up of healthy fats, complex, slow-to-digest carbohydrates, and lean proteins. Nothing refined, processed, or packaged, and most of it organic. This is how I eat every day, dude, because I am lucky enough to a) know how to eat properly, b) have the resources to eat properly, c) live in an area where I have access to good food.

I drink a ton of water throughout the day. No sodas. Some unsweetened iced tea (brewed, not mix) in there as well.

I haven't run this week because I've been sick as a dog, but I'm looking forward to getting back to it this weekend.

My fasting blood sugar this morning was 87, and I've never had a post-meal blood sugar go past 140.

I can (and do!) run at a steady pace for a solid 15 minutes. My average workout run is usually 2-3 miles, although on the weekend (as I already said), I've pushed passed 10 miles many a time.

I'm at the gym/running outside (when it's nice) an average of four times a week. Sometimes five or six.

My cholesterol is exemplary, my blood pressure makes my own PCP weep with envy.

And yet, and yet, and yet. It's not good enough, at least not by your unforgiving standards. Even with all that, I do not lose weight. Even with all that, I am not skinny. Even with all that, I am still "an alcoholic" by your estimation.

So please, enlighten me: what would you have me do? Pay tens of thousands of dollars as my friend did to have a surgeon physically rearrange my digestive track, lopping off a part of an organ that my body needs to be able to function? Hide myself in shame from the rest of the world? Wear a scarlet F on my chest for all time? Pay double the insurance premiums of someone whose BMI is lower than mine but whom I could beat in a footrace?

What's gonna make me good enough in your eyes?*


* I don't, in fact, give a flying fuck about being "good enough" in your eyes, or in wolfdream's eyes, or anyone else's but in mine and those of the people I love. It's an academic question, since you seem to have all the answers.
posted by shiu mai baby at 9:36 AM on February 22, 2013 [37 favorites]


All her advice is for friends. Well-meaning friends and acquaintances. Who she calls dickish and assholes.
posted by surplus at 9:39 AM on February 22, 2013


maybe that 80% of MeFi isn't alcholic

We've got our share of alcoholics, drunks, boozers and good time drinkers. The point is we let those people decide whether to define their own drinking as a problem. We don't do it for them. This isn't fucking complicated.
posted by howfar at 9:40 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cigarette smoking, for example, isn't a habit picked up from medication

It is, however often a habit picked up as medication, whether consciously or unconsciously, by people trying to deal with stress or mental illness.

It is also not actually an automatic death sentence.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:43 AM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Folks, cool it now.]
posted by cortex at 9:43 AM on February 22, 2013


Thanks, I was talking about people and their health

But you aren't, because you don't know anything about these people's 'health' other than a vague guess at their BMI. I'm not a big fan of smoking as a hobby, but despite the fact that I know two smokers who died of cancer/heart problems, I also know two smokers who run marathons, cycle a lot and are twice as fit as I am. Sure, this doesn't mean that smoking isn't unhealthy, but it also means that pointing at someone with a cigarette and laughing at their unhealthy lack of willpower isn't proving anything.

Besides, lots of things promote an unhealthy lifestyle - for one thing, we aren't designed to sit in a chair all day looking at a screen. We aren't designed to use a car to transport us from one place to another instead of walking - heck, we aren't designed to run marathons or build huge muscles either.
posted by mippy at 9:45 AM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


It is, however often a habit picked up as medication, whether consciously or unconsciously, by people trying to deal with stress or mental illness.

Fair point. When my auntie was dying from cancer, my other aunt - her sister - took up smoking again at 65. Most smokers I know started in the cliched peer pressure let's all be grown-up kind of way, but then there are those who give up and relapse for similar reasons I suppose.
posted by mippy at 9:47 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's interesting, from the perspective of someone who was a freshly-minted fag in the mid-eighties, is how much this parallels the public furor at the time about American faggotry, and how often conversations I have now about fat mirror those I had about gayness and AIDS back in the day.

Well, I'm concerned that this lifestyle is unhealthy for you.

Are we supposed to condone this behavior, when it has such terrible risks?

Being gay may be the way you're born, but alcoholics may be born that way, too!

Took a lot of years getting past being America's scapegoat before I could just take that as a sign that the speaker is an uninformed fool and roll my eyes.

No thought of "maybe we might want to investigate how much of the obesity epidemic hysteria is fact and how much is fiction" or "maybe being round and being unhealthy aren't necessarily the same thing" or even "maybe we should approach this subject without going directly to the models of disease, addiction, crime, and disorder," particularly if we're hoping to change behavior. I was the scourge of America in the eighties, and now I'm the scourge of America again. It'd be funny if it wasn't so sad.
posted by sonascope at 9:52 AM on February 22, 2013 [18 favorites]


I can't understand why people get so mad just because I constantly point out that their driving skills are terrible, because I'm only thinking of their health and well-being.

If I have a friend who keeps driving after too many drinks, I'm damn well going to tell them to knock it off, yeah.

here's an article on a study that says the FA has done more to help fat people become healthy than fat shaming ever has

Firstmatekate, the link didn't come through---could you post it again? I've been really curious to see if there's any real data on the subject.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:43 AM on February 22 [+] [!]


1)Drunk driving is VASTLY different from obesity (and fatness) in many ways, the first being that drunk driving endangers other people. The second being that it's almost always, without fail, a stupid fucking idea. Being fat, on the other hand, is a completely personal experience (or it would be if the trolls/haters would just leave you alone), and also it's not always terrible. There are healthy fat people. There are also extremely unhealthy skinny people, but we never seem to have to write articles about how their health is not other people's business, do we?

2)Sorry about the link. Here's the article, here's a link to the abstract with the PDF of the study.
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:59 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


A couple weeks back a supposed friend said to me "You gotta work on that gut". The thing I did not do was think "oh god, he's right! I have a gut and I gotta get in shape! This is unhealthy!" What I will do is avoid him in the future.

I'm not sure what people hope to accomplish with comments like that. I think the guy is a total loser, but I keep my opinions to myself. I'm going to just start unloading on people, giving them life advice out of concern for their will being. "You should really work on getting a job" or "You should really work on moving out of your parent's place". You know, because I care.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:00 AM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


So please, enlighten me: what would you have me do?

I'd suggest looking into the health benefits of caloric restriction/intermittent fasting (macroautophagy ftw). I think the cultural norm of scheduled meals doesn't help, because it encourages us to eat when we don't really need to. Skipping meals here and there also causes your stomach to shrink and feel full faster (to a surprising degree). I've also found short term near/total elimination of carbs helps with weight loss/feelings of satiety.

You didn't say what sort of exercise you do at the gym, but research/anecdata seems to point to HIIT and resistance training as having the best bang-for-buck in terms of raising overall metabolism, where a lot of people seem to focus on lower-intensity aerobics.
posted by crayz at 10:05 AM on February 22, 2013


....

Okay, can someone do an FPP about busybodyism?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:06 AM on February 22, 2013 [14 favorites]


Kate Harding's piece on concern trolling re:obesity (Don't You Realize Being Fat is Unhealthy?) says pretty much all I have to say about this anymore. Shaming fat people is hurtful and counterproductive. You cannot hate people for their own good. You either accept this, and we can have a discussion, or you don't, which signals to me that your opinion won't change regardless of whatever lived experience or research I present you with.

When I sense that someone is going to insist they have an obligation to help out the fatties they know, with their special insider knowledge, I tend to end the conversation abruptly. Because I'm about to roll my eyes pretty hard, and then we'd both be rude.
posted by almostmanda at 10:07 AM on February 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


Building on what sonascope said about the similarities between fat and gay shaming, what struck me while mulling all this over is that being fat as a white bloke is one of the few ways in which I can experience something of the low grade harassment people of colour or gay people or women have to deal with / think about in their day to day life.

Not to say that I'm being oppressed because I'm fat, or that (for me) it's on a comparable scale or whatever, just that even when I'm not actively harassed for being fat, which luckily haven't been that much, just that I'm constantly aware of my stout physique and what other people might think of it.

Which struck me as not quite unsimilar to what I've seen women or people of colour talk about, how much in day to day life you're treated in terms of your gender or race, that this has to be something you're constantly aware of, in a way that isn't the case for (white) men.

Is being fat somewhat like that, or am I talking nonsense?
posted by MartinWisse at 10:08 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


No thought of "maybe we might want to investigate how much of the obesity epidemic hysteria is fact and how much is fiction" or "maybe being round and being unhealthy aren't necessarily the same thing"

Go walk into a Walmart, past the motorized scooters, and check out the *aisle* in the pharmaceutical section dedicated to blood glucose monitoring. I don't think it's "hysteria" to say this is an epidemic which is incapacitating and killing millions of people.

There are always exceptions, just like ole gramma who chain-smoked until she was 90. Does that mean you disagreed with the "cigarettes are uncool" and "go smoke your dirty cancer sticks outside" campaigns because they stigmatized smokers?
posted by crayz at 10:09 AM on February 22, 2013


Dude, I said multiple times what kind of cardio I do. I also was pretty clear about the ridiculously low caloric restriction I've already done, for two years with negligible effect on my weight.

I'm not about to turn this into the Help Shiu Mai Baby Lose Weight thread, so that plus the fact that you can't be arsed to even read what I said means this cannot be a productive conversation. Quel suprise.
posted by shiu mai baby at 10:14 AM on February 22, 2013 [20 favorites]


I have a three year old. She likes pouncing on my belly, and beating on it like a bongo.

"Daddy, you have a big belly!"

Yes, yes I do.

"It's so big since you eat too much food."

Yes, yes it is.

"You should to ride bikes more."

Yes, yes I should.

Almost every discussion on the topic with a non-professional, and a few pros speaking outside their domain of expertise, boils down to that. Yes, I know I'm fat. Yes, I know I overeat. Yes, I'm aware that more exercise is always better. No, you are not helping. You are behaving like a three year old.

Unless you're a three year old, you better damn well be aware of the current state of the art in long term weight loss when talking about my weight and what to do about it, or I am going to treat you with the same condescending kindness I reserve for those who want to talk about my astrological star chart or The Secret or aromatherapy as a cure for asthma.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:18 AM on February 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


Does that mean you disagreed with the "cigarettes are uncool" and "go smoke your dirty cancer sticks outside" campaigns because they stigmatized smokers?

'Course that whole campaign, like your own campaign to teach fatties the errors of their ways, did assume that it was a smoker's own fault that they started and continued to smoke, without taking into consideration the whole industrial complex and related ad businesses working hard to get them and keep them smoking, just as your "use the force, Luke" approach to getting fit, ignores the realities of the food and dieting industries in our late capitalist societies and the systemic barriers they've put up against this.

It's of course always possible to examine an individual fattie and see where they made the wrong choices, but if there are millions of us heffalumps, you may want to question whether we really are all lazy mclayabouts with no willpower who just need to be made aware of the importance of diet and exercise.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:19 AM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Haha man. Crayz, I kind of have to admire how you've stuck to your jerk guns here. I feel like I could ask, "If the only way for me to be thinner is to be hungry and miserable and exhausted all the time, then I should do that?" and you'd be like "YES! Yes. Because that is your curse, Narrative Priorities. Your body has doomed you to a lifetime of hunger pangs and dizziness and grueling exercise. You're a bad person and you SHOULD FEEL BAD."

I mean WOW! Wow.

Wow.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:20 AM on February 22, 2013 [32 favorites]


Dude, I said multiple times what kind of cardio I do. ... I'm not about to turn this into the Help Shiu Mai Baby Lose Weight thread

Where? You said how far you go and for how long, not the intensity or what specific type of training you do, which is what I was specifically talking about. You mentioned how many calories you eat but not how many you burn. It's not caloric restriction if you're eating more calories than you're burning. The mice they put on calorie restricted diets stay obese 0% of the time (and for humans it'll cure type-2 diabetes in humans in a few months)

You specifically asked for advice and said your weight loss problem was intractable, but you now refused to respond to any of the detailed advice I gave and just doubled-down on your claim that obviously your weight cannot be altered via behavior, so ... with that attitude I guess I agree!
posted by crayz at 10:24 AM on February 22, 2013


Crayz, you honestly thought she was sincerely asking for advice?

Dude, the fact that she was speaking rhetorically was, like, visible from space.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:27 AM on February 22, 2013 [29 favorites]


Huh. I took shiu mai baby's "Please, enlighten me: ...what would I have to do to be good enough in your eyes?" as a rhetorical question, not a plea for help from anyone. She sounds remarkably healthy, and not someone who needs help at all.
posted by palomar at 10:27 AM on February 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


And another thing - y'know, I think if you're going to offer yourself up as The Resident Expert In How To Lose Weight Regardless Of One's Own Medical History, I think we need to see some evidence first.

I think we need to see your medical history and pictures of you naked.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:29 AM on February 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I feel like I could ask, "If the only way for me to be thinner is to be hungry and miserable and exhausted all the time, then I should do that?" and you'd be like ...

Except in France, in Vietnam, in Germany, in Tunisia, in Bosnia, levels of obesity are drastically drastically lower than in the USA and those people don't go around hungry, miserable and exhausted. In fact they are seemingly much healthier and more active than Americans. So no, I am not advocating living a life of misery, I am advocating looking at how most humans on earth live and have lived for millions of years, without a majority of the population being significantly overweight/obese. If you disagree this is possible for you or most Americans for some reason, I would say the burden is on you to argue why that should be, since the shared history of human experience suggests it does not have to be that way.
posted by crayz at 10:29 AM on February 22, 2013


I feel like I need to bring this back around to the original article.

How Not To Be A Dick To Your Fat Friends. In it, the author writes, "I feel like I can say these things to you, in the hopes that you will think about them the next time you hang out with a friend who might be fat -- or even the next time you interact with a fat person that you don't know."

Then she goes on to give the reader some tips on how not to unconsciously make a person with more fat on their body than you feel bad. This is reasonable advice. Also, we know that shame does nothing positive in behavior modification (I'll cite articles if I have to).

It is not about whether obesity is an epidemic or a drain on society or repulsive or a historical oddity (which it isn't). It is about treating people with respect.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:34 AM on February 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


If you disagree this is possible for you or most Americans for some reason, I would say the burden is on you to argue why that should be

Why are you conflating an argument for oneself with an argument for all of America?
posted by palomar at 10:42 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know...I feel like a thing that often gets overlooked in conversations like this one is that lot of people end up with lifelong weight problems before they're old enough to even be making informed decisions about their own health. Things that happen to us as children or young teenagers -- a time when most of us are completely at the mercy of food decisions being made by adults -- can set us up for a lifetime of struggling against the momentum of weight gain. I am not a fan of "CHILDHOOD OBESITY" hysteria, but there's a reason people get so crazy about that topic.

I was heavy as a teenager because no one had ever taught me anything useful about what or how much I should be eating -- the adults in my life were happy to make me feel bad about being fat, but they didn't model good eating habits and they filled our freezer with 1000 calorie "personal" pizzas and microwave burritos. And now, as an adult, while I've lost a pretty good amount of weight and I'm solidly in the "normal" range of the chart, I'm still MUCH larger than many of the women around me here in NYC. And experience has taught me that this is just the weight my body has decided it wants to be at, give or take ten pounds. My mom feeding me a lot of cheese when I was twelve means that I will never be thin without starving myself, and there's NOTHING I can do about that.

I know that many people want to make this into an easy problem any reasonable person can solve, but that's just not how this shit works.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:56 AM on February 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


[Seriously, either find a way to disengage from the interpersonal stuff here or go do something else. crayz, wolfdreams01, and folks who are having trouble not responding to them, this means you specifically.]
posted by cortex at 11:01 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


My totally uninformed guess as to why America seems to be fatter? cars,suburbs and cheap gas with a secondary cause that we live in much smaller family units, without people dedicated to making food at home. Granted I don't know how the rest of the world lives, Germany and Vietnam could be full of bedroom communities and people who commute by car 2 hours a day. They could also send all the old people to assisted living facilities or off to the beach somewhere instead of letting them while away the hours cooking healthy nutritious meals at home.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:01 AM on February 22, 2013


I know that many people want to make this into an easy problem any reasonable person can solve

I was overweight throughout childhood, peaking the first time at about age 17-20, in retrospect due to extremely poor food choices made/examples set by my parents. It took a long time and a lot of struggle and research and abortive efforts and yo-yos to overcome the actual weight problems, the body set-point problems, the mindset towards food and exercise, etc. There are stretch marks.

Don't tell me how easy I think this is or think you can speak for my lived experience, either.
posted by crayz at 11:04 AM on February 22, 2013


Skipping meals here and there also causes your stomach to shrink

This is a myth, you are wrong, and you should stop giving people advice here, or anywhere.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:05 AM on February 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


More on topic though: it's remarkably simple: if you really are a health and fitness nut, you understand how metabolism works differently for different people, and how being visibly overweight is a poor indicator of cardiovascular health (before you tell someone to put down a burger, pick up a book and read up on subcutaneous fat, or the "skinnyfat" problem if you're rushed).

So, chances are, you're much better informed than the average person, so if you dole out this diet/exercise advice to EVERYONE, then good on you, you're probably not a jerk, and if you know your stuff, you might actually enlighten someone.

However, if you rationalize your irresistible urge to say "Hey chubby, are you aware of jogging?", well, if you're NOT trying to be mean, you're proudly displaying your ignorance, helping no one, and hurting people's feelings in the meantime, so instead of sitting there befuddled that no one appreciates your 'help', you should think about stopping.

Sincerely,
Uther "I am a 5'11" male who weights 240 lbs with a noticable gut and probably knows more about muscle development than you do." Bentrazor.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:12 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Sophie1, let's talk about the article some more!

Here's another one, though it's a bit specific and I can see why she didn't include it in the article, though I feel it sums up a lot of the underlying problems with the media's view of fat people.

•Don't use fat as an adjective to describe anything other than actual fat. Also, fat is not a feeling.

-Do not say you feel fat. Say what you feel (I believe someone else brought this up here). If you feel bloated, unmotivated, full, self-loathing, use those words. Do not use "fat" as a catchall for negative emotions. Not all fat people feel this way, and doing it gives people the idea that fat people should feel that way.

-Do not use fat to describe behavior. Getting seconds is not "being fat". Pigging out on the couch because you "feel like being a fatty" is wrong. Feel like pigging out. Again, this promotes the idea that all fat people are lazy body haters who constantly feel down about themselves.


Also relative: 21 Things to Stop Saying Unless You Hate Fat Peolple
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:16 AM on February 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


This is a myth, you are wrong, and you should stop giving people advice here, or anywhere.

Reduced stomach capacity in obese subjects after dieting.

and

"Thus, gastric capacity appears more related to binge eating behavior than to body weight."
posted by crayz at 11:19 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was overweight throughout childhood, peaking the first time at about age 17-20, in retrospect due to extremely poor food choices made/examples set by my parents. It took a long time and a lot of struggle and research and abortive efforts and yo-yos to overcome the actual weight problems, the body set-point problems, the mindset towards food and exercise, etc. There are stretch marks.

Hey congrats. Applause for you. You didn't like how you looked, and you took steps to remedy that, and that's actually great because we should all feel comfortable in our own skins, and you managed to lose the weight you didn't want... on your body.

Your body. Not anyone else's. Certainly not shiu mai baby's. Yours and yours alone, with your own quirks and idiosyncrasies and metabolic characteristics. Want to lay off policing other people's bodies just because their exercise and diet regimen wasn't exactly to the letter everything that you, in your moral and scientific superiority, think they ought to do? And don't even try to give me that "I'm just concerned for them" BS because you clearly have no interest in actually connecting to anyone in here who has different narratives than the one you personally believe. When someone tells you that they are very much fit, thank you, and you doubt their word because they didn't give you a MET level or whatever? THAT is disrespecting other people's lived experiences.
posted by Phire at 11:21 AM on February 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


From the article: Fat people are culturally encouraged to police themselves and other fat people with a quickness.

Certainly borne out in this thread. Also the very old observation that nobody is as zealous as the ex-sinner.

Which is of course what a lot of the fat angst revolves around, a secular replacement for sin, fat as a moral issue, the consequences of your sin (that whole litany of problems your fatness will supposedly bring) the just punishment for your lifestyle.

And while this is not unique to the US, it is striking that in a country in which healthcare is a for profit business, this sort of evangelism is so widespread; similarly, as the UK or Holland moves in emulation of America, how much more we're being moralised for our lifestyle and the cost it brings.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:26 AM on February 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Good effing christ. I used to be fat. I started getting fat at puberty. I was a fat teenager. I was a fat adult. I dieted for years. I tried and tried and tried to lose weight and NOTHING. EVER. WORKED. But I learned about fat acceptance and HAES. I know Marianne. I know lots of people in the HAES movement. I tried to stick it out and be okay with myself, but I never truly could.

So I had gastric bypass surgery. Now that I have "mutilated" my body I am officially Not Fat.

And let me tell you. I was healthier when I was fat. My cholesterol (which is awesome) is exactly the same now as then. My blood pressure was perfectly normal before, now it borders on hypotension. But now I'm chronically, perilously anemic because iron containing foods no longer pass through my duodenum for absorption. And I'm always, always tired.

I'd still rather be Not Fat and vaguely unwell though. Because I don't have assholes assuming things about me because I don't fit into their notion of "healthy". I don't get judged when I go grocery shopping, or eat in public, or exercise. People don't yell at me on the street anymore.

I do have to deal with judgement when I tell people about my WLS, but that's my choice. I did that to myself.

I didn't make me fat.

For Christmas I got a BodyMedia armband. It tells me that I burn a paltry 2000 calories during a normal weekday. Which explains why the only way I was able to produce a significant enough caloric deficit for weight loss was through WLS.

I also used to have acne. And if I had a dollar for every person that told me I needed to stop touching my face, or stop eating dairy, or try this cleanser or that cleanser or to whisper to me about the miracles of Proactive, I'd be a rich fucking woman. Stop fucking concern trolling!

Look. The bottom line is this.

YOU DO NOT GET TO JUDGE PEOPLE BASED ON ASPECTS OF THEIR APPEARANCE THAT THEY CANNOT NECESSARILY CONTROL.

You can talk about their makeup, their glasses, their outfit, their shoes, etc. They made a conscious decision about those things.

You do not get to say ANYTHING about the size of their body, the size of parts of their body, their skin color, etc. They might not have been able to choose it.

You don't know. You can't judge either way. So no nasty comments and no compliments either.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:27 AM on February 22, 2013 [22 favorites]


Which is of course what a lot of the fat angst revolves around, a secular replacement for sin, fat as a moral issue, the consequences of your sin (that whole litany of problems your fatness will supposedly bring) the just punishment for your lifestyle.

There is a lot of interesting research on anorexia as asceticism and the ethics of gluttony/virtue of restriction.

(Or maybe I'm just a recovering bulimic and this is interesting to me...)
posted by Sophie1 at 11:36 AM on February 22, 2013


Alright, I will concede that the stomach does physically grow and shrink in size.

So, your assertion is that if you skip meals, you'll shrink your stomach and reduce your appetite. So by that metric, the people who have gastric bypass surgery should never be hungry at all, right? But it isn't. Because that's not how appetite works. Skipping meals to starve yourself might 'shrink' your stomach, but you're more likely to send your body into starvation mode and fuck up your metabolism, and torture yourself unnecessarily.

I don't care how hard it was for you to lose weight, because you clearly don't care how hard it is for anyone else.

So, I'll now amend my statement to say: The idea that the physical capacity of one's stomach has anything to do with appetite is a myth, you are wrong, and you should stop giving people advice here, or anywhere.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:39 AM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel like I'm stating the obvious here, but if you read an article titled "how not to be a dick to your fat friends" and your response is along the lines of "but HEALTH and SELF-CONTROL and CALORIES IN CALORIES OUT, DUH" then... you're effectively arguing in favor of being a dick to fat people.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:51 AM on February 22, 2013 [28 favorites]


what is the point of repeatedly broaching the subject? All the smokers I know are perfectly aware of what they're doing to their health

Exactly. As a former smoker, I knew it was bad. I mean, actual informational campaigns about the dangers of X/Y/Z are useful. Thats how people came to know smoking was bad. Its good to educate people about, say, Type 2 diabetes and how they can avoid it (hint: not necessarily related to being fat!).

But nagging / shaming? Never really works. I didn't quit smoking because someone wanted me to, or because they kept telling me "hey that stuff is bad for you". In fact, I quit when I had less of that in my life -- maybe because it felt more like my choice and not giving in to peer pressure (I know that sounds odd when talking about cigarettes --- but I've lived in California for a long time and there's more pressure to quit than to start here -- and I feel that many/most remaining smokers tend towards being stubborn about that kind of societal pressure, I certainly was).

The smoking thing is _kind_ of a derail, but it is related in that Strangers Everywhere are suddenly concerned about you (but not really, of course, they don't want to know about how your marriage is going or what your dreams in life are or anything, they just want to feel good about themselves). At least with smoking it's not visible all the time, so I can only imagine how much worse the Concerned Stranger effect is for overweight people.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:30 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've never struggled with weight issues, genetics gave me an out there, but I have struggled real bad with depression and life ruining procrastination problems. An enormous help was discovering that feelings of shame and guilt make that whole cycle worse, so I'm nicer to myself, even when I fall flat on my face, and I can see ongoing signs that shit's getting better.

And then I have some horrible relative barge in and sneer that I should just stop being so fucking lazy.

How the hell is that supposed to help?? I know what I need to do, I'm having trouble doing it, but your judgement and shame was the missing key? For serious?

The only type of support you should ever offer someone is compassionate support, if the best you can manage is shame and guilt then stay out of it. That's your own problem that you need to find a way to overcome. I've noticed the more likely someone is to kick me when I'm down, the less happy they are about their own life. Fix your own shit first.
posted by Dynex at 12:36 PM on February 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Can I tell a story?

I am a woman who is about a size 16 most of the time, sometimes less and sometimes more. I am not obese, and I am not slender. I'm also a runner--I like to run in Vibrams (the goofy looking toe shoes) and have done so for a significant amount of time. When I was running in the park last weekend, an older man in street clothes called for me to stop. He said he was a runner, too, and wanted to tell me something in order to help with my running form. "Lady," he said, "You are too fat to be wearing those shoes."

I think he was speaking from a place of concern--he said he knew they would destroy my knees because I was so fat. But you know what? I have run with those shoes for a good long while, and my knees have never hurt. My bones are in good shape. There was no need for him to stop a stranger and tell her she was too fat to wear ANYTHING. If he wanted a surefire way to make me disregard any of his (possibly) well-meaning advice, he nailed it. Telling me how to eat in order to lose weight, which was his next comment, was also pretty unnecessary.

Dude, I am fine. I'm not running in order to lose weight, I'm running to stay healthy. I promise, you can run just because you like it, even if you're a tubby broad like me. My weight is nobody's business but mine and my doctor's.
posted by zoetrope at 12:38 PM on February 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


I want to return to a point someone made above, about how they don't encounter constant fat and food-talk from women...

I don't either. Furthermore, I imagine a lot of people who know me would use me as an example of a fat woman who isn't obsessed with weight or food. I don't talk about it. I never say things like, "Oh, I'm trying to diet!" or "Cake is sooo bad, don't tempt me!" I never criticize my body, and I never really comment on other's bodies, and I certainly never comment on how my body compares to others.

But I'm thinking it.

Every single day. Every hour. I've never really counted, but I suspect at least once every ten minutes, I think something about my body or my food choices. Critical in nature. Self-hating in nature. "I'm such a horrible person, because of FAT." "I look so much worse than her, because of FAT." "I can't believe anyone could love me, because of FAT." "I must be the laziest, worst human, because of FAT." "The fact I want to eat this piece of chocolate makes me deplorable and disgusting, because of FAT."

I hate it. I don't even believe these things. I know I'm loved. I know my diet's normal (not GREAT, but normal). I know I am just as intrinsically valuable as any other human being. But I can't stop it. It's the constant monologue of self-hatred and doubt I have going on in my mind.

I see it as our society's gift to me. Thanks, society! You have successfully helped me hate myself.

I know I'd be better off if I could stop thinking that way. The self-hatred makes me feel less worthy of being happy, which makes me fall into horrible cycles of self-abuse and emotional eating. I'm not someone who's fat because it's how my body is -- I'm someone who's fat because I have some pretty deep psychological wounds, and I've self-medicated with food for most of my life. I want to change this. I'm trying to change this. But the change can't come from a place of disgust and hatred for myself. It has to, instead, come from a place of self-acceptance, peace, and downright love.

So, I'm one of those women who only ever extremely rarely talks about my weight, physical appearance, or food. From my external behavior, you'd take me to be a great example of someone who has avoided accepting all the horrible, terrible things our society says are true about fat people. But I have. It's in my head. I can't escape fat shaming, because it's built into my own mind.
posted by meese at 12:51 PM on February 22, 2013 [19 favorites]


For all of America's fucked-upedness about weight, I was blown away when I visited my family in Korea. My two new sister-in-laws don't like going to less busy neighborhoods because people will go out of their way to clip into them, and if they complain, the response is, "Oh, I couldn't avoid you because you're too fat." In crowded areas, people clip left and right, but there it's easier to put down to just being in a press of people and Korean pedestrian norms.
posted by klangklangston at 1:04 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have totally lost interest in doing the whole "Zomg this cheesecake is going right to my fat thighs" coy little conversational dance with other women. Everyone I encounter, save for a small handful, wants to play this tedious game and I'm so over it.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:06 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


klangklangston, there was a piece about Korean girls and this sort of behavior in the prologue of this episode of This American Life recently.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:11 PM on February 22, 2013


And since I've been following this thread with interest and haven't stepped into it, really: I find frankness ("I'm not going to discuss this topic with y'all," when it's acquaintances chatting about diet or how fat we all are or how dangerous that cake is) to be most effective at shutting this thing down. My actual friends know that I've been dealing with an eating disorder literally my entire adult life, and wisely don't broach the topic with me.

We can put our foot down and choose not to participate. And as for the cake, or what someone else is eating: first of all, it's always rude to talk about what someone else is eating -- full stop -- and second, each of us is only responsible for what we put in our own mouths. If you're concerned with someone else, when they're an adult who clearly knows what they are doing and for all you know has just fought a hard battle with themselves to have and enjoy even that sliver of cake, you are being rude and should back the fuck off. Because everybody deserves to enjoy their cake.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:17 PM on February 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


For my own peace of mind, I've avoided participating in this thread today. But I do want to poke my head in and thank those of you who have been making eloquent, thoughtful responses to those commenters who have (apparently) misinterpreted the point of the essay, and feel comfortable passing judgements against anyone who is overweight.
posted by zarq at 2:11 PM on February 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


The cake is a lie.

“if you really are a health and fitness nut, you understand how metabolism works differently for different people, and how being visibly overweight is a poor indicator of cardiovascular health”


Among other things.

I don't think there's any interest at all in health in the U.S. it's all appearance conscious.

I gain weight every year in the winter and every year some wit at the gym pokes fun at the fat pooching out in contrast to being sculpted. So I'm getting out of shape then? Care to step into the ring? No? Didn't think so.

Only thing you need to do to be healthy is eat clean and exercise regularly. How you look isn't necessarily how healthy you are. But that's where the judgement seems to come in. We're inundated with commercials and images and "diets" and "exercises" and "exercise" equipment and people buy into it whether they know it or not.

I guarantee you most "trainers" people hire are selling the idea of health and fostering dependency, not actually trying to get you healthy.

It's this vague idea of health as linked to our obsession with appearance that leads to judgement.
It's easier to feel good about yourself if you have a bad guy.
I get looks - and I'm in outstanding shape - from thin but slack and flabby people when I shove a big fatty meat burrito dripping with sauce hot enough to etch steel into my face like "oh, well, you're not being healthy." Smug.

Now I grant, I have to pay for the burrito later - and anyone in the car with me, oh yeah, they're going to be paying too.

But even the term "overweight" is judgmental from initial premises. Over the weight of what? Humans aren't cut to an industrial standard - except in media, they are. And that's where we seem to get the idea we can push ourselves on people who don't conform to that standard as much as we think.
But the only real standard that matters is the one you set for yourself.
Which, apart from giving grief to people for no reason is another reason that those people are assholes, they're concerned with themselves only as a contrast. Which makes a "lesser" person necessary.

I have friends who like to eat a lot. I don't give them any shit. For a while I ran with a buddy of mine who smokes. And he's asked me not to give him shit about it. So I said my piece once - you shouldn't do that - and that was it. And as time went on he would cough up a lung and I stopped slowing my pace. Pretty soon we stopped running together. Nothing was said. Nothing needed to be said. He didn't ask me why I wouldn't slow my pace and I didn't condemn him for not being able to quit.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:39 PM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Another "food shame consequences" anecdote:

I have a friend who does not like cake. As in, she doesn't enjoy eating it, so the exercise of cake consumption is a total waste for her.

She currently works in an office where birthdays are celebrated with cake. And up until recently, every time this happened all the other (totally well-meaning!) women would give her a hard time about not wanting any cake. Oh, just this one slice won't hurt! Oh, come on, let's sin a little! Because they're so used to the whole "oh, I couldn't possibly!" song and dance of baked goods refusal, they just automatically assumed that my friend secretly wanted to be talked into having a slice of delicious delicious cake.

It took the better part of a year for them to believe her that she genuinely just didn't want it because she thinks it's kind of gross.

Which is all to say that I'm glad I don't have to deal with office food politics anymore!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:56 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


klangklangston, there was an article about Asian attitudes towards physical perfection recently that really resonated with me: Fat for an Asian. (Linked from that, and just as stunning and heartbreaking - Being a Fat Foreign Girl In China.)

I hesitated to post the "Fat for an Asian" piece here initially because it's from the perspective of a skinny woman talking about not having her efforts to be skinny recognized because she's Asian (and thus expected to be such), but it definitely talks a lot about that really harsh and blunt judgment Asian families are more than happy to dole out to their daughters (and to a lesser extent, sons).

There was a period of time between my senior year in high school and my senior year in college when I was probably around 20 pounds than I am now. I was severely depressed, sleeping poorly, and generally felt miserable about myself. But I was still what was culturally considered in the West as being skinny. Looking back at photos now I had a slightly chubbier face and thicker arms, but for fuck's sake, my BMI was still borderline 'underweight'. (Insert debunking of the relevance of BMI as a tool of measurement here.)

The only people I got grief from over my weight were my parents. My dad in a teasing "no guy will want to date you way", my mom giving me a once-over anytime she saw me after some time away and asking whether I was exercising (five times a week, thank you) and what I was eating (pretty much nothing). I was admonished for eating pasta instead of rice because "Asian bodies absorb rice better and pasta will make you even fatter". I was torn between the 10% of me that knew that rationally my body was fine, and the 90% of me that wanted my parents' approval and hated myself for not living up to it.

But then I graduated, I started work, moved to a new city, the meds I'd started to take were starting to sink in, and I was generally in a better place. And without trying at all, I slowly lost the weight I gained in high school. The first time I went home after graduation, for Thanksgiving, I hadn't seen my parents in about five months. I got in from a five-hour Greyhound ride and then a 45-minute bus ride home from the Greyhound station, hugged my sister, and then went to hug my mom. Her first words to me?

"Good to see you're finally losing weight."

Which is pretty much when I decided - fuck that noise. No questions about work. No questions about school. No questions about my relationship, or my state of mind, or whether I'd had a good trip. My weight was the first thing she noticed, and the first thing she wanted to talk about. And I'm just done with all of that. Chinese expectations of female daintiness or not, my body is not up for judgment. She has her own body issues; all I can do is protect me and my sister.

And when I think about how these interactions with my mom make me feel, and realize that my fat friends face that and so much worse from acquaintances and friends and relatives and complete strangers on a daily basis, it makes me want to throw something. People can be so awful to each other.
posted by Phire at 2:57 PM on February 22, 2013 [21 favorites]


So wait, the article proving that FA produces better health outcomes is based entirely on the self-reporting of 44 people, all of them bloggers? Sheesh---that's the kind of tiny study b.s. that would be laughed off Metafilter under any other circumstances!

I mean, look, I'm fat. That's because I eat too much and don't exercise enough. My blood pressure and cholesterol are pretty good, but I definitely don't have the stamina I would if I were in better shape. Meanwhile, all over the country, kids are growing up morbidly obese, and it's killing them. For all the talk about eating disorders, it's is a fact that the most common eating disorder, and the most deadly, is overeating.

If love and acceptance produces better outcomes, hoorah for it. If shaming produces better outcomes, then perhaps it should be considered. I'd be interested in seeing some proof that FA leads to people being healthier, rather than just "I swim more now that no one guilts me" (personal anecdote isn't data). Shaming has been tremendously effective in reducing the health scourge of smoking (along with hefty taxes and regulations, there have been endless PSAs about how gross it is). Would it help improve obesity stats? Dunno, but would like to see. And have zero interest in "Don't make me feeeeeeeel bad" bleating.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:20 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If shaming produced better outcomes, we wouldn't have an obesity problem. This nation is not short on shame for its fat folks. Trust me on this.
posted by shiu mai baby at 3:26 PM on February 22, 2013 [33 favorites]


Phire, thanks for the link to the woman teaching in Wuhan. I actually taught there, as that part was a nice trip down memory lane. On the other hand, I know a lot of the crap she has to deal with, and I experience it pretty much every day. Once, when I was talking to a teacher at my school, who had lived overseas about my cousin, who is taller and just bigger than I am, she looked shocked, and said, 'but no one is bigger than you!'

Students think that their playful attempts to poke my belly are something that I actually enjoy. Our annual health checks at school are seen as a great opportunity by other teachers to point out that I'm fat, as if I didn't know it, as ifthe doctor doing the health check didn't point it out to me.

Being fat isn't easy. Being fat in a culture where it's perfectly normal to point out that someone has gained weight? Where people seem to think you're the biggest person they've ever seen? I'm glad that teacher has found a way to be at ease with living in that situation. I'm still working at it.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:29 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


You specifically asked for advice and said your weight loss problem was intractable...

She did not ask for advice, except in the most literal sense, and as pointed out already it was a rhetorical question, but more importantly the whole point of her original post is that she doesn't have a weight loss PROBLEM. She's not interested in losing weight, therefore it isn't a problem. She's interested in being healthy, and she's extremly healthy. So how is her weight a problem other than an offense to your sense of aesthetics?

You should put down that backpack. It's really not helping you.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 3:35 PM on February 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


Shaming has been tremendously effective in reducing the health scourge of smoking (along with hefty taxes and regulations, there have been endless PSAs about how gross it is). Would it help improve obesity stats? Dunno, but would like to see.

Alright, but can we first get some kind of stats on how the bystander can ascertain whether a given person is medically a suitable candidate for "shame therapy"?

Or is such "shame therapy" perhaps best left up to a doctor's discretion and prescription, just like everything else that has to do with a given individual's health?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:41 PM on February 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Being shamed for being fat just helped to make me fatter. When you're 12 years old and dealing with the onset of puberty and the thickening up that sometimes comes with that, and your parental figure freaks out and makes you go to Jenny Craig as your Christmas present and also buys you jeans two sizes too small as a gift, with a gift tag that says "for inspiration!", and you never can quite fit into those jeans because it turns out they're for boys and there's no hip room, and there's no adult figure in your life to tell you that there's nothing actually wrong with your body* because your parent has a very damaged sense of body image... yeah, that can fuck you up real good, and make you think that since you can't pull off the seemingly simple task of not being a disgusting fat piece of crap like everyone says you are, you may as well just give up.

*saw a picture of myself recently from the time period this was happening to me. There was nothing wrong with me. If I'd just been allowed to get through puberty without having my parent's fucked up body image issues passed along to me...
posted by palomar at 3:58 PM on February 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


For all the people that think shame is something that helps, try this on for size: fat kid with no friends, bullied for (among other things) being fat. Food, especially sweet or salty food, gives that kid positive sensations, possibly the only positive sensations that kid experiences all day. The kid connects food, especially unhealthy food, with feeling good. Fast forward to the kid realizing that the same food is not, in fact, helping, it's only making things worse. So now, the kid comes home, still miserable, and out of long formed habit, reaches for the bag of chips. The kid eats the chips, desperate for that little bit of happiness that they used to bring, but now he hates himself for indulging in the one damn thing that made him happy. Every damn bite of every potato chip is shame, beating the kid down even more, and more effective than any bully could ever hope to be. Sure, other people hate you. No one is loved by everyone. But hating yourself for seeking out happiness the only way you've ever known?

And you think we should see how effective shame would be as a way to control obesity? It's been tried. It doesn't fucking work.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:58 PM on February 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


The one area where I have run into body policing in my own life is the societal pressure to lose weight and get your "pre baby" body back post-partum. It's insidious. Celebrities are paraded constantly either shamed for keeping on some "extra" weight or lauded for losing the "baby weight" quickly.

This is absolutely a reflection of the mommy-policing that goes on. Sometimes at playgroup the subject of weight comes up and it's always in context of "getting my body back." I'm not against anyone's desire to feel comfortable in their body, but I'm gonna be damned before I listen to one more well meaning piece of advice on the great ab workout you found.

Fuck. That. Noise. I'm several sizes up from my pre-pregnancy size. I'm now firmly entrenched in the "too big for most off the rack clothes at 'normal' stores, too small for plus size" nether region where I have a rough time finding anything that fits. And yet, I am not trying to get back to a size 12. My body grew a human being and fed it with my own milk. For neary two years, it was in the service of keeping another human being alive - a service that involved hormone changes and a lot of lifestyle and diet changes.

So, really, fuck fat shaming right to hell. I'm happy as a clam staring down 200lbs. And fuck going back to my "pre-baby" body. I respect my body's reproductive accomplishments too much to torture it in the name of smaller pants.
posted by sonika at 4:06 PM on February 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


If shaming produces better outcomes, then perhaps it should be considered.

Well, maybe but you don't risk a pew-pew-pew to the manberries for love and acceptance.

What's the outcome supposed to be? Not being fat or less overeating?
Because we could cut back on the vast number of causes of overeating before we lay it on the individual.

There are huge industries devoted to the science of making us overeat. Our lifestyles have eliminated the time to eat healthy.
Real estate is more important to McDonald's sales than food or advertising because they literally engineer the space around workplaces and traffic areas.

We inject everything with sugars - high fructose corn syrup in particular - then wonder why people's production of insulin breaks down and they get diabetes.
It's in f'ing baby food. Hell, it's in dog food.

We have an entire media industry dedicated to advertising, associating overeating and recreational with "good times," normalizing food as anxiety relief, constantly changing variety and outright lying about healthy content.

When I shop I study labels like I'm going to miss something containing the antidote.
But it's a real pain for me to eat healthy because it's a pain for anyone to eat healthy.
And it shouldn't be.

Hell, I tried to buy some Greek yogurt the other day - some years ago Greek yogurt meant plain dense yogurt with no (or little) whey and sugar and lactose - this had milk protein concentrate and corn starch. It was plain. There were maybe two cups. Nothing I'd consider eating though.
But they helpfully offered a row full of Raspberry Cheesecake "Greek" vaguely yogurty industrially compressed milk gel in handy squeeze tubes.

Food identity is so bad, I was talking about drinking fresh squeezed orange juice to another parent the other day and they said "I wouldn't let my kid drink that though, it's as bad as Coke."
See, I actually squeeze oranges. But "fresh squeezed orange juice" is no longer actually oranges that you squeeze the juice out of in people's mind.
Difference here being, I don't think that makes them dumb or lazy, I think it shows the level of saturation into our psyche.
(And honestly, I'm expecting to see people from Yoplait injecting HFC into my fruit.)

We have an obesity problem because we have no food.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:20 PM on February 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


So wait, the article proving that FA produces better health outcomes is based entirely on the self-reporting of 44 people, all of them bloggers? Sheesh---that's the kind of tiny study b.s. that would be laughed off Metafilter under any other circumstances!...


...If love and acceptance produces better outcomes, hoorah for it. If shaming produces better outcomes, then perhaps it should be considered. I'd be interested in seeing some proof that FA leads to people being healthier, rather than just "I swim more now that no one guilts me" (personal anecdote isn't data).

posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:20 PM on February 22 [+] [!]



So wait, several doctors taking accounts from near 50 fat individuals out of different (albeit mostly western) cultures around the world who log their health daily is "bs to laugh about", but 1 doctor going into one, very, very small and very different community and using shame to abuse* them into being healthy is A-OK ? Also, he didn't just shame them, he also provided great alternative and led by example. To say what he did was go into a village and just shame them to health is just a fucking lie, and construing the methods to fit a need.

*yes, I'm saying what he did was abuse. Refusing to treat an ill person unless they do what you tell them to is fucking bullshit and an abuse of power. If a mother brings a sick baby to you and you won't treat it because the mother gives it sugar water, and you turn that sick baby away, you deserve to get your license revoked.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:39 PM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I keep finding myself wanting to add on new comments...

Something pretty new in my life right now is exercise. I'm not in good shape, but I want to get in better shape... And this isn't something I'm used to. Especially the last few years (when I've been the heaviest I have ever been), the idea of exercising was as painful as the idea of getting punched in the face. Doing it was just not going to happen.

Not only did I not want to do it, I also was terrible at it. I got winded walking up a slight incline. I got winded going up a flight of stairs. I knew how ridiculously poor this state of health was, but I tried desperately to hide it from people. I didn't want anyone to know just how much my health deteriorated.

I didn't go see a doctor about it. I figured, I knew the cause: I was fat. If I weren't fat, I wouldn't be so ridiculously out of shape, right? If I went to a doctor and complained about getting winded all the time, he'd just look at me, scoff, and tell me to stop eating so much... Right?

Finally, I had other reasons to go to the doctor. I found out, no, it wasn't because I was fat. It was, instead, because I had an iron deficiency. I was getting winded all the time and felt completely devoid of energy, not because I was fat, but because of the lack of iron.

It's been a few months since I started taking iron supplements... And the difference is immense. I can FEEL my body want to move. I feel an actual desire for physical exertion. This is new! This is GOOD! I joined a gym, not out of some desire to lose weight or to force myself to get healthy, but instead because I want to move!

So, again, thanks fat-shaming. Fat-shaming is what made me ignore symptoms of a physical ailment. Fat-shaming is what made me assume I was just too lazy/horrible a person to exercise. Fat-shaming kept me away from a doctor when I needed one. Fat-shaming kept me from seeking help with my physical condition. Ultimately, fat-shaming kept me from getting healthier.

And tomorrow morning, I'm getting up early to go work out. And I am excited about this! Iron, I love you!
posted by meese at 8:18 PM on February 22, 2013 [19 favorites]


There comes a point in my friendships where a friend wants to know something about me. There is something heavy they have - a rock, a tree, a radial-arm table saw, a steel bookcase, locked and full of books, an engine.

"S*H - can you move that from there to here?"

Crack neck left. Crack neck right. Shake it out. Pop knuckles forward. Pop knuckles backward. Crack ankles and knees, shake it out. Look at the object, most recently a chassis-based switch chock full o' modules it took three engineers to take out of the rack - it needs to go across the datacenter. Approach it, arms outstretched, like a wrestler. Grab it, it bites, let go, grab it again from a different angle. Let the belly rest on it and flow around it. Bend the knees, and look up. They're laughing at me. Stand up, with object securely in my arms, resting atop my gut.

"Where did you say you want it?"

The flashes of fear and awe are worth it, some days. You're gonna shame me, when I can do that? Of course not. You are smaller and weaker than I am. You are going to shame someone you feel secure in shaming.

Fat shaming is inherently sexist. It's bullying, at best.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:47 PM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, please don't say 'You look great. Did you lose weight?' To anyone. Ever.
posted by bq at 10:25 PM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


"klangklangston, there was an article about Asian attitudes towards physical perfection recently that really resonated with me: Fat for an Asian. (Linked from that, and just as stunning and heartbreaking - Being a Fat Foreign Girl In China.)

I hesitated to post the "Fat for an Asian" piece here initially because it's from the perspective of a skinny woman talking about not having her efforts to be skinny recognized because she's Asian (and thus expected to be such), but it definitely talks a lot about that really harsh and blunt judgment Asian families are more than happy to dole out to their daughters (and to a lesser extent, sons).


Yeah, both my sisters-in-law are on the zaftig side, but, you know, they look like Midwesterners to me. (I'm from Mi.) Nothing insane — it's not like they have to cut special doors to leave the house or that they're finding Fritos in folds or anything. But when they came to visit, the younger sister (my bro married the older one) got such a rash of shit about how America was her one chance to find a man because no one in Korea would love her that she ended up on a treadmill for a couple hours every day, until she slipped and broke her arm. And it's like, man, she ended up having less fun in the states because her broken arm kept her from doing things than she ever would have just being "fat."

I keep trying to convince my brother that there's so much fucked up gender shit there — especially for women — that raising a kid there is gonna inculcate them with a whole bunch of weirdness. But since he's feted everywhere for being a guy, he just doesn't get why that's fucked up. His backpack isn't invisible — it's sequined and everyone compliments him on it.
posted by klangklangston at 10:37 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I read this piece a few hours before it showed up here and tweeted the crap out of it. I noted that it made me appreciate, once again, how lucky I am to be surrounded by the best people in the world.

I work, in a sort of tangential way, in fashion. I am also a fat lady. This is occasionally a terrifying thing. I used to not be a fat lady, but I hated my body forever. But here's the thing: I hated my body much more at 13 and 102 lbs and at 17 and 125 lbs then I ever do now. I've worked so hard to put aside the baggage and the bullshit and the crushing weight of being ashamed. In a lot of ways, it's been the purest work of my adult life, learning not to be disgusted by myself. Some days, I'm great at it. On my good days, I'm a foxy confident chick with a nice fashion sense that expresses my personality and a great rack I never had before I got fat. On the bad days, it's all I can do not to cover all the mirrors like I live in a house of mourning. The part I'm proud of is how much more frequent the good days are now. The biggest change has never been in my body, but in my head.

And so I sort of work in fashion, and if that (and hours of honest conversation with the amazing women I'm friends with) has taught me anything, it's that every body has its own complicated and often deeply frustrating geometry. More importantly, most every brain attached to those bodies comes preloaded with as much self doubt and shame as culture and fear can cram in there.

We all of us, fat, skinny, and the million billion unique variations thereupon, deserve better than for our fallible, plastic, aging, imperfect bodies to be judgeable public commodities. I aspire, to butcher a phrase, to be a person who judges others on the content of their characters, not the size of their ass and most surely not the moral or ethical judgements I, in my limited understanding, might cast upon that ass, even when it's my own.

This is my best self, the self I work toward. Every day she comes out on top is a triumph. And what's amazing is, once you start releasing all the shame and the judgement about body stuff, it feels so nice. It's wonderful to talk about something style and dressing to feel great about yourself with a bunch of women and men who are all shaped differently and to come away inspired instead of sick and sad and ashamed. I can't recommend it enough.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:33 PM on February 22, 2013 [26 favorites]


it's not like they have to cut special doors to leave the house or that they're finding Fritos in folds or anything.

Really? Do you really have to fucking go there? Good grief, why do I bother reading anything about fatness on MeFi?

That is just fucking hateful, klangklangston.
posted by SuzySmith at 11:41 PM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Toward whom, exactly?
posted by klangklangston at 11:57 PM on February 22, 2013


It's the sort of unconscious "I'm not fat, they're fat" body policing everybody, fat or thin, can fall into unconsciously.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:05 AM on February 23, 2013


EmpressCallipygos: "Or is such "shame therapy" perhaps best left up to a doctor's discretion and prescription, just like everything else that has to do with a given individual's health?"

I would just like to point out an entire blog dedicated to fat people who have been treated shamefully and cruelly by doctors. Quite often the doctors in question will blame some random health problem on being fat and thus leave the patient untreated and miserable, sometimes with life-threatening results. The blog is First, Do No Harm.
posted by IndigoRain at 3:41 AM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


See, I actually squeeze oranges. But "fresh squeezed orange juice" is no longer actually oranges that you squeeze the juice out of in people's mind.

To be honest, squeezing is by far the most significant part of the processing in terms of bringing orange juice closer to Coke. Removing most of the fibrous pulp increases the percentage of sugar pretty dramatically. We had a long discussion about it on MeFi a while ago. I guess my point is that there's a risk in directly associating the 'natural' and the 'healthy'.
posted by howfar at 3:48 AM on February 23, 2013


Joining the thread late.
What I don't see is any real conversation about will power and self control. It seems like skinny people always come back to saying fat people need more willpower. Well, what are the studies saying about willpower? Where is the science? If someone is deficient in will power what do people recommend they do to get more of it? Why would someone lack willpower? Is that really what makes the difference in terms of healthy behaviours? Anyone have any good links on these topics?
posted by SyraCarol at 6:42 AM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder why the argument is usually about how fat people can be, or are still healthy...lots of people aren't healthy. Lots of people can't run a 5k. Lots of people have shitty cholesterol or sleep apnea or diabetes. That's reality. While it would be great if everyone were healthy (itself a subjective term!) perfect health can't be achieved for everyone with the resources that we have. And some people will prioritize other things over their health, like their free time, their stressful careers, their desire to have a child, their desire to help someone else by donating an organ...

...and I think that's fine. I think it's okay for people to make choices that aren't perfectly designed to optimize physical health. And a lot of the time, there's not even much of a choice involved. You get a back injury that limits your mobility and income severely, well, going to the farmer's market three times a week and exercising maybe isn't going to happen. Maybe there is some choice involved there, but again, I think that's okay. Maybe you really fucking love sweet tea, too. Fine. Does that make make you a bad person? Is that something you should need to defend yourself about? I don't think so.

So maybe instead of arguing that fat people can be healthy, we should challenge the idea that health is a virtue that should be so far in the forefront of our evaluations of ourselves (and others) as valuable, good people.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:36 AM on February 23, 2013 [19 favorites]


Well, what are the studies saying about willpower? Where is the science?

I don't have the links to hand, but I'm pretty sure we've had a bunch of FPPs on how decisionmaking is actually tiring and that willpower is a resource you can run out of.

we should challenge the idea that health is a virtue that should be so far in the forefront of our evaluations of ourselves (and others) as valuable, good people.

Health (and fat as a proxy for health) are manifestations of the outward signs of inward grace for most Americans. Health is a way that you demonstrate that you are virtuous. Lack of health, depending on whether it's "your fault" (diabetes is, because clearly you got it from overeating; arthritis is probably genetic and therefore God moving mysteriously against you) gets you scorn and superiority from the blessed healthy on the one hand, or pity on the other. The cultural prism through which so many of us view health and virtue is not that far removed from our ancestors who went through all those Great Awakenings.
posted by immlass at 7:45 AM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Toward whom, exactly?

Towards hypothetical people who do need special doors, or who do have deep folds that Fritos could get lost in.

Don't get me wrong -- I laughed at this joke, too. I laughed because I like rough chuckles, but most of all, because I've been overweight for years and never that fat. That was a point of pride for me. I was never obese -- until, for a little while, I was. It made me change my life. I lost forty pounds, but I made myself promise that I would never, ever be one of those people who decide that it was just because I stopped being lazy and DID A THING and everyone else just needs to stop being lazy and DO A THING too. I managed it due to circumstances that allowed me to get the structural support I needed to put the changes in place, and the luck that allowed me to rely on those circumstances long enough to get the weight off.

So I stopped just now and realized: I shouldn't laugh at those jokes, and I shouldn't make them anymore.

The cultural prism through which so many of us view health and virtue is not that far removed from our ancestors who went through all those Great Awakenings.


It's always interesting to me that in the past fifty years or so, as women's sexual choices have become more open, less of a source of shame and policing, it's food consumption -- as reflected in body size -- that has stepped up to become the social indicator of true womanhood, continence and virtue. It's not like the Patriarchy sat down at a meeting one day and put this plan into action. Americans just naturally took to it.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:57 AM on February 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's always interesting to me that in the past fifty years or so, as women's sexual choices have become more open, less of a source of shame and policing, it's food consumption -- as reflected in body size -- that has stepped up to become the social indicator of true womanhood, continence and virtue.

This thread has made me start thinking about the virgin/whore dichotomy, in relation to fat-shaming, anorexia, and beauty.
posted by meese at 9:18 AM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have long thought that fat serves the same purpose for the left that sex serves for the right. I'm not sure what that purpose is--a need for right and wrong, a desire for rules you can follow to be virtuous, a metric by which you can measure people and find yourself superior--but the shaming, scolding, intrusive policing of other people's bodies for their own (moral or physical) good is remarkably similar with both fat and sex.
posted by Mavri at 9:29 AM on February 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


I note also that when actress-thin women are shown eating rich food in public -- such as Paris Hilton in that one cheeseburger commercial -- it's considered exciting, earthy, sexy, "real." On the other hand, eating salad, yogurt, and so forth, and refusing sweets, is considered ridiculously stereotypically feminine, mocked and derided.

Again: women are expected to want it badly, to refuse it and to be considered pedestrian and cowardly for that refusal, to be lusted after and degraded if they are ever seen to enjoy it. Hooray!
posted by Countess Elena at 9:48 AM on February 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


I have long thought that fat serves the same purpose for the left that sex serves for the right. I'm not sure what that purpose is--a need for right and wrong, a desire for rules you can follow to be virtuous, a metric by which you can measure people and find yourself superior-

Nah, it's shaming language that serves, for the left, the purpose of providing rules and a metric for personal superiority, as evidenced by the ferocious policing of it.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:55 AM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I may be speaking from ignorance, but what is the difference between some of the weight loss advice I see on mefi, including in this thread, and disordered eating? I genuinely don't fully understand at what point intermittent fasting stops being a diet plan and starts being anorexia. I would love to know what I am missing, because I am confused.
posted by prefpara at 4:18 PM on February 23, 2013


I'm no expert, but doesn't anorexia have criteria for diagnosis? Wouldn't you just use those to determine it?
posted by ODiV at 4:33 PM on February 23, 2013


Well, not just anyone, but a mental health professional.
posted by ODiV at 4:33 PM on February 23, 2013


I genuinely don't fully understand at what point intermittent fasting stops being a diet plan and starts being anorexia.

This is a bit like asking about whether there's a difference between being sad your favorite television show got cancelled and having crippling major depression. There are criteria for diagnosis as well as life impact implied by one that the other does not have. Have you really done research on the diagnostic criteria for anorexia and other eating disorders and compared the experiences of those with eating disorders to those doing intermittent fasting? Or is this a pithy comparison that you drew in your head once and trotted out without bothering to investigate any of it? Because I honestly cannot believe anybody who's ever bothered to care about eating disorders would make that kind of comparison.
posted by schroedinger at 5:18 PM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I may be speaking from ignorance, but what is the difference between some of the weight loss advice I see on mefi, including in this thread, and disordered eating?

All diets are controlled starvation. Calorie restriction, lo-carb/paleo, gastric bypass, the grapefruit diet, tapeworm eggs - all of them, without exception. You are literally starving yourself, and triggering all of the myriad defenses your body has against starving to death. You know you're going to stop starving to death once you fit in those skinny lo-rise leather jeans... but your body doesn't. It's gonna fight you, and hard.

Please note, your brain is part of your body, and included in all of those defenses your body has in keeping you from starvation. Free Will is not this noble thing that floats above everything. You are making decisions that countermand instinct, with a meat-machine that's essentially built on instinct.

Yeah. This is a non-trivial problem.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:55 PM on February 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


I may be speaking from ignorance, but what is the difference between some of the weight loss advice I see on mefi, including in this thread, and disordered eating? I genuinely don't fully understand at what point intermittent fasting stops being a diet plan and starts being anorexia. I would love to know what I am missing, because I am confused.

I'm not an expert in terms of the psychological definition, but I do have personal experience. I have lost a lot of weight through intermittent fasting. I usually skip breakfast and have just a snack to trigger my metabolism. When I need to lose weight, I cut one of those meals back to just a salad. The key thing to note is that skipping these meals is unpleasant. I dislike it but force myself to do it anyway.

By contrast, a friend of mine is a model and has been diagnosed with anorexia. (And hospitalized twice for it.) Skipping meals is not unpleasant for her - quite the contrary, she has to force herself to eat in order to meet her minimum doctor-mandated dietary plan. On the occasions when she manages to eat that much food, she is really proud of herself for having the willpower to do so.

From my perspective, the difference is in what you find difficult. Anorexics find it easy to diet but challenging to eat, whereas dieters find dieting hard but eating comes easy.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:24 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I genuinely don't fully understand at what point intermittent fasting stops being a diet plan and starts being anorexia.

Others have answered this, but I'll throw in my perspective: the line is in fact quite blurry. Sometimes it's as clear-cut as the difference between being sad your favorite show got cancelled and clinical depression, as schroedinger says. Sometimes it's a lot harder to pinpoint: what about someone who's been feeling low for a week for no reason, but feels better the next? What about being extremely unhappy at your job; is that situational, or depression?

There are diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa, but they are not perfect. One of the current criteria is "refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height." In other words, you cannot be diagnosed with anorexia if you are not underweight. However, you can have all of the behaviors of anorexia nervosa at a normal weight: eating 300 calories a day, avoiding eating around other people, weighing yourself ten times a day, and generally feeling like five kinds of shit. If you do this but don't drop below a "normal" weight, you get diagnosed as "Eating Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified," if you get diagnosed at all. This is where I was for a few years, and it's not hard to hide in plain sight if you aren't obviously underweight. People look at you and think you're in no danger, maybe just a little weird about food.

I'm personally very leery of intermittent fasting and diets that require a sub-1000-calorie daily intake, and I always recommend against them in AskMe. If you have a history of disordered eating, they can be an easy slide back into that. (One of my "plans" in my eating-disordered days had regularly scheduled fasting days.) However, per the testimonials I've read here and elsewhere, some people can do them and maintain a healthy relationship with food and their bodies. Maybe it works for people who have a more detached, clinical perspective on their weight; I haven't been one of those people (and I'm envious of the resilience of those who can be; see, oh, just about everything above re: fat shaming). Maybe it works for people who can separate their physical health from their desirability. Maybe some of us are just more likely to let a healthy diet run away with us, like how some of us have no problem stopping at one beer and others have a much harder time. Maybe some of the people who sing the praises of intermittent fasting are closer to an eating disorder than they let on. I'm not one of the people for whom it works, so I can't judge. I can only guess, and offer my own experience.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:14 AM on February 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Intermittent fasting is a fancy label for what the rest of the world calls "Skipping breakfast and having a late lunch and a big dinner". It is a pattern of eating, not a diet dictating number of calories or types of food. It's not telling you to eat sub-1000 calories or some crap like that. The people who started marketing it are pointing out it's the number of calories that are important, not really the timing of meals, so if you like having big meals have a few big meals at the end of the day instead of trying to adhere to some ridiculous six-meals-a-day pattern. The term "intermittent fasting" is a twee designation created by somebody who understands the importance of marketing and is now being used for scaremongering by its detractors.

Those with eating disorders have a problematic, emotional relationship with food. This is very different than going on a diet. Now, going on a diet can definitely enhance a problematic relationship with food, and if you start focusing on weight and food to the detriment of everything else you're going to trot off into ED-land. But these things are very different than somebody who has decided to skip breakfast and have a bigger meal, or stop eating bread, or whatever dietary choice they've made.
posted by schroedinger at 11:21 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a bald man can I also request that people not talk about hairstyles, salons, gels and mousses, graying, whether or not you are receding slightly on the sides or having a bad hair day generally?

Try having a bad hair decade.
posted by smithsmith at 4:35 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can request all you want, but people might think you're a bit of a cock.

No, not because of the because of the shape of your head.
posted by ODiV at 4:40 PM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm late to the conversation here and some of the outrageous fat-shaming comments here are too hurtful for me to address, but I did notice above that no one linked to more scholarly articles that shows that a HAES approach has a better outcome than traditional dieting. Linda Bacon goes more into depth about the trial in her book Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight (she's one of the authors in these studies).

Here is the six-month, randomized clinical trial with a two-year follow up (78 individuals; they started with 100 and I believe lost 22 from the dieting group because people dropped out); and here is another six-month, randomized clinical trial, both supporting that a HAES approach leads to longer lasting improvements in health. There are more, but I don't have the energy to do research for people like crayz who are coming across like they think that you can't shame fat people for their own good.

Personally, I'm disgusted to hear it said that shaming fat people could be a viable option to make people drop weight. Let me tell you how it feels to be shamed every time you leave the house—no, wait, scratch that, basically anytime you do anything at all, like read Metafilter or persure the Health section of any newspaper or watch movies where fat people are frequently made to be out of control sexually frustrated freaks (not to mention all the headless fatties that are left and right in the news).

People are outraged enough by my body to—at best—stare at me with utter contempt when I'm doing anything in public (and at worst I don't want to relive right now), which makes running (or just doing anything) in public an act of superhero strength, and sometimes I don't feel like coming up against that much hatred just for moving my body, so I don't. When I'm happy, I like to move my body, but when I'm ashamed of it I tend to discount what incredible things I'm capable of doing.

It was downright shocking that I even could run, let alone run as far/fast as my skinny friends when we started doing a Couch to 5k, because I'm told over and over again that my body should never be a source of inspiration to anyone. Everytime I move my body I am overcoming the shame people think I deserve, it is not because of that shame that I'm moving my body.

I'm not even going to get into the way that doctors shame me and how not being able to get competent health care because doctors look at me and think DEATHFAT and that leads to much worse health than I would have if shame the fatties! wasn't what people think they should be doing.

Also, I have given myself a personal assignment to look at as many beautiful fat people as I can (thanks, Tumblr and Pinterest for making this easy) on a regular basis. It's amazing how quickly I stopped being disgusted by the site of other fat people and it made me realize that a lot of the disgust people have for fat people is that we tend to be invisible and portrayed in the worst possible light. People who say that fat is disgusting have been trained to see fat that way, not because fat=disgusting is a fact.

I only meant to link to those studies but now I am overcome with so much emotion and could write for pages about this, but this topic makes my heart hurt.
posted by thesocietyfor at 6:41 PM on February 24, 2013 [15 favorites]


emoving most of the fibrous pulp increases the percentage of sugar pretty dramatically. We had a long discussion about it on MeFi a while ago. I guess my point is that there's a risk in directly associating the 'natural' and the 'healthy'.

Well, I core the thing out. So it's essentialy not juicing per se. It's crushed orange pulp floating in juice.

And then I blend it.

I don't know what helped me. But it wasn't shame.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:22 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like to run in Vibrams (the goofy looking toe shoes) and have done so for a significant amount of time. When I was running in the park last weekend, an older man in street clothes called for me to stop. He said he was a runner, too, and wanted to tell me something in order to help with my running form. "Lady," he said, "You are too fat to be wearing those shoes."

Whew, this dude's remark, which you generously call well-meaning, is wrong on so many levels. First, Vibrams, if anything, are ideal for heavier runners--they're designed to reduce pronation and knee injuries.

Second, it's crazy to suggest that heavier people can't take part in running. As a lighter-weighing marathoner, I was repeatedly passed at the 15-mile mark by older, heavier runners, some of whom would easily tip the scale into an over-25 BMI. These people kicked my ass by virtue of having built up their stamina to levels necessary to complete a 26 mile run and break through "the wall."

If you want to see the potential of heavier human bodies, watch a marathon. You'll be surprised at how chunkier, heavier, thicker, fatter runners beat the pants off of their skinnier brethren. Apart from the pros, low bodyweight don't mean nuttin' in a 26 mile endurance race. Training and mental fortitude does.
posted by Gordion Knott at 12:03 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel like it's a tendency of fat people such as myself to justify our very existence by talking about the exercise we do, and running especially is an activity that I use to signal to people that I'm a "good" fat lady, one that does all the things you're supposed to do and after sending that signal I guess I expect everyone to then treat me like a human being who deserves respect. Which is really fucked up.

No one owes another person exercise. If a fat person doesn't want to exercise, if a fat person isn't eating "clean" all the time or whatever, that doesn't mean you can treat them with scorn and rudeness. Very few people seem to believe that, though, most people decide it's their duty to be concern trolls who range from merely rude under the guise of helpful advice to those who take it far enough to become bullies.

And as far as running goes, I'm not sure why that is even the thing used to mark out the good fat people from the unhealthy/"bad" fat people (I'm not saying that anyone here has said that, just that I think it's a subconscious thing for people, including myself). Fat people can be good a wide range of sports and personally, I think running has such a high risk for injury that I've more or less stopped doing it because I have enough problems with doctors as it is and I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I do other physical activity. (Which I'm not going to list because I'm tired of unsolicited advice on what is best for my body.)

In addition, I (and other folks, here and everywhere) seem to feel the need to defend our food choices like they're related to our morality. I used to eat a nearly entirely whole, organic, nutrient dense diet (and all vegetarian) of home cooked meals and I felt like I was literally poisoning myself when I ate something like non organic almonds. Then I started seeing a nutritionist and I've also become friends with a few, and now I'm learning about all sorts of disordered eating and realizing that kind of attitude is so messed up and harmful. I'm slowly unpacking all this crap and finally being able to eat when I'm hungry, stop when I'm full, and enjoy a wide variety of food that involves some "junk" food.

I'm sick of all this Michael Pollan*, holier than thou stuff, where we decide who is a worthy person based on what they eat. If you want to drink orange juice or—gasp!—a fucking Fanta, why does it have to be yet another thing someone can helpfully suggest an alternative to? Why do we have to substitute all sorts of healthy alternatives for foods that really, truly aren't going to kill you in moderation? Drink the juice, enjoy it to its fullest extent, and don't give it more power than it should have. I'm practicing intuitive eating these days and I cannot believe the bullshit people believe about food. To me, occasionally eating Easter candy or soda or popcorn at the movies is as big of a courageous act as running is because of all the policing we do to other people.

Anyway. I'm at the tail end of this conversation still, so I'll try to restrain myself from yet more ranting.

*And I used to like this guy, I read the Botany of Desire and followed his writings closely from there, but now he's just getting into Oprah/Dr. Oz territory as far as his disciples go.
posted by thesocietyfor at 7:31 AM on February 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


I may be speaking from ignorance, but what is the difference between some of the weight loss advice I see on mefi, including in this thread, and disordered eating?

Speaking only as someone who has been in treatment for an eating disorder for 10 years (fuck.), the difference is not about the amount of food you eat, it is about what the food represents.

*Is the food/lack of food solving a problem?
*Is the food/lack of food serving as a stand in for emotions/relationships that are not being dealt with?
*Is the food/lack of food a way to manage feelings or numb out?

If yes, then it's disordered. Whether or not it is actually an eating disorder is another question.

As I hear almost every week in my ANAD group, it's not whether you have the cookie or not. Sometimes the cookie is disordered and sometimes it's not. Sometimes not having the cookie is disordered and sometimes it's not -- all in the same eating disordered individual. It's all about the relationship to the cookie.

And yes, it's that fucked up.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:15 AM on February 27, 2013


I have disordered, emotional eating issues that don't qualify as an eating disorder (though I could develop either bulimia or anorexia, I've had my moments). It's why I don't diet; about two weeks into a diet, my mouth starts rejecting food, even when I'm starving. I actually rarely notice when I'm starving - it's something I've been working on, since hunger when I feel it usually is experienced as extreme nausea and exhaustion. I can, without any effort, skip breakfast and lunch and eat only dinner. A few months of skipping breakfast and skipping breakfast and lunch have left me with less energy, not fitting into my clothing as well, and regularly out of breath doing basic tasks I used to do easily.

It sucks, being so out of touch with my body that I can't tell when I'm starving. Carving my way back to communication with it has been very difficult - I was shocked the first time I craved vegetables, for example. I function as well on breakfast as off, in terms of my attention during the day, but I am significantly more stressed when I skill breakfast, and after about a week of breakfast I was shocked when I actually felt hungry before eating; that was very odd, especially since it wasn't painful like the nausea is.

It's weird for me, reading all the posts above that indicate I'm a horrible person for being fat and not skipping meals. As I've been getting in touch with my body, what it can do, that it can be a source of pleasure as well as a shameful thing which should be taken out back and shot for the betterment of society, I'm finding the comments of strangers on how my absence is preferred to my presence make me angry, instead of sending me to a pint of ice cream (yay emotional eating!).

I think I've finally decided I won't let the haters win. Yes I'm disgusting, yes I take up too much space, yes I should crawl into a well and starve myself until I'm fit to be seen, yes I'm the source of all evil in our society and thoroughly suck as a human being. I hear what you say, I recognize the looks and the stares and the shaming.

I'm not going away, though.

Even though I'm fat, I deserve to be on this planet as much as anyone else. I deserve to enjoy the world, to enjoy what my body can do, to have pride in myself as a person.

I'm done colluding with people to convince myself otherwise.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:23 PM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Nice piece in the NYT: It’s the Sugar, Folks


"The key point in the article is this: “Each 150 kilocalories/person/day increase in total calorie availability related to a 0.1 percent rise in diabetes prevalence (not significant), whereas a 150 kilocalories/person/day rise in sugar availability (one 12-ounce can of soft drink) was associated with a 1.1 percent rise in diabetes prevalence.”

Thus: for every 12 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverage introduced per person per day into a country’s food system, the rate of diabetes goes up 1 percent. (The study found no significant difference in results between those countries that rely more heavily on high-fructose corn syrup and those that rely primarily on cane sugar.)
"
And
"This explains why there’s little argument from scientific quarters about the “obesity won’t kill you” studies; technically, they’re correct, because obesity is a marker for metabolic syndrome, not a cause."



I'm a horrible person for being fat and not skipping meals


I've always wondered at people who say that. It must be a kind of associative narcissism on the part people who do that to you. If I'm lifting hard and eating in bulk I can fill out to about 270. And yet, I get no crap getting on a plane by simple virtue of it being muscle mass (mostly. I do like cookies on occasion).

I've got (casual) buddies on the other end of the spectrum, chiseled and cut mass. Mostly the guys who give me crap when I fill out for the winter. I don't know where they find the time. I've got some slack in my schedule so I can devote some of the time and energy, but I've seen guys, ripped guys who have regular job type jobs and aren't competitive, poking through their feces to see if they're eating enough bran.
I really hope I've never got that kind of time.

Just a hazard at a guess here, but I suspect you enjoy the world more than they do. There are some serious things going awry in some people's heads no matter what they look like on the outside.

thesocietyfor - I think Pollan is generally right, but I think he is headed in that direction as well. It's weird how people devote thousands of hours to something then think "well, you could do it too if only you do what I did."

It lays it all on the individual for not doing what they did and because they've spent so much time at it, they think it's easy.

The method is easy. Or at least simple to explain in terms of keeping fit (eat less, move more, eat clean, exercise, in whatever variant).

The execution though takes time and plenty of people have other things going on, so the environment should be such that it facilitates being healthy.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:17 PM on February 28, 2013


This thread is really relevant to something that happened to me today.

My gym has a dry-erase board in the cardio room upon which they write inspirational glurge. Usually it's harmless, but one of the things on it today was so spectacularly shitty I'm fighting the urge to call on Monday and complain to whomever it is who actually manages the gym because it actually made me cry. It's distressing me all over again just thinking of it.

It said 'It's not that heart disease and obesity run in your family. It's that no one in your family runs.'

I can't be the only person who walks by that sign who has just lost a family member to heart disease, but whomever the smug piece of shit was that copied that nasty sentiment off the Internet couldn't be bothered thinking about how it would make all of us feel. No, being virtuous about being skinny was more important that simple human decency. I hope to Christ when that person dies due to undiagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy I'm there to enjoy the spectacle.
posted by winna at 3:17 PM on March 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


'It's not that heart disease and obesity run in your family. It's that no one in your family runs.'

Snerk. Tell that to my triathlete uncle who has cycled and kayaked his way up and down the west coast, and who had four heart attacks and a triple bypass before the age of 60.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:17 AM on March 3, 2013


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