About that video.

French version of this post here, courtesy Stéphanie Potin-Grevrend.

break50

Yesterday, the video of Jennifer Livingston (and here’s a transcript of the video), a fat news anchor responding to an email about how fat and unhealthy she was, went viral. I figured I should probably talk about it, rather than just making oblique references to it.

Here’s the email:

Community responsibility.

Hi Jennifer,

It’s unusual that I see your morning show, but I did so for a very short time today. I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years. Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.

A lot of people have tried to make the argument that the email was not bullying, since it referenced concern for her health.

Health is always and forever the argument weight bigots lean on to give a socially acceptable veneer to their harassment. Marianne has something to say about that:

If you gave a good goddamn about the health of fat people, you’d shut up about our fatness. You are destroying our mental health — and that can kill a person just as surely as anything else.

Every single fat person in the world already knows they are fat. They may not know their exact BMI, or where that BMI falls on the ridiculously arbitrary classification system from overweight to obese to morbidly obese, but it is very difficult in this culture not to be aware when your weight is higher than average, or higher than the cultural ideal.

Telling someone that they are fat, even when couched in expressions of “concern for their health” is not giving them any new information. It’s not helping them. And, especially when that person is a perfect stranger, it is most likely a transparently aggressive maneuver to shame and put them in their place.

Women in the public eye are held to ridiculous and gender-specific scrutiny for the way they look – their hair, their clothes, whether their faces are pretty, and the size and shape of their bodies. While people have the legal right to say whatever they want about any woman in the public eye, that doesn’t mean that it’s not a total crap move, that it’s not an expression of one of the most insidious forms of entitled misogyny.

And that means we are going to call you out on it, just to make sure everyone knows what a jerk you just revealed yourself to be.

This issue, despite the protests of the emailer and some of his defenders, is not really about health at all. It’s about making sure there is always an underclass of people who can be readily identified, and that identity used as the foundation on which to prop up hackneyed stereotypes and value judgments (lazy, smelly, gluttonous, stupid, low-class), which ultimately results in an entire group of people being devalued as human beings for having one, relatively unimportant characteristic in common.

Welcome to appearance-based discrimination 101.

Humanity seems to revel in this. We have done this to so many different groups of people over time. It is our calling-card as humans, and it is complete and utter crap.

Oppression hurts all human beings. It hurts civilization itself, which requires the contribution of many and diverse people to remain strong and to grow in sophisticated and sustainable ways. Oppression effectively prevents, or marginalizes, certain people’s contributions to society, often based on nothing more than a surface characteristic. It squanders their talents, lives, health, intelligence, and humanity by arbitrarily deciding that, because they look a certain way or their body does or doesn’t do certain things, they are simply not good enough to contribute.

A psychiatrist named Claudia Howard coined what are sometimes referred to as Howard’s Laws of Human Worth, summarized below:

  • All have infinite, internal, eternal, and unconditional worth as persons.
  • All have equal worth as people. Worth is not comparative or competitive. Although you might be better at sports, academics, or business, and I might be better in social skills, we both have equal worth as human beings.
  • Externals neither add to nor diminish worth. Externals include things like money, looks, performance, and achievements. These only increase one’s market or social worth. Worth as a person, however, is infinite and unchanging.
  • Worth is stable and never in jeopardy (even if someone rejects you.)
  • Worth doesn’t have to be earned or proved. It already exists.

Weight is not an indicator of human worth. Weight is also not a behaviour; you cannot accurately assume behaviours or health status based on appearance.

Healthy people come in all shapes and sizes. Health is not a fixed, one-dimensional commodity; good health looks different to different people, and it encompasses factors from every area of a person’s life, not just their weight or blood pressure or how fast they can run upstairs. Even people who are “unhealthy” by conventional definitions deserve respect and equality, and not to have their private affairs questioned by strangers. Every single person in our society has inherent value as a human being.

Telling fat people that they are bad examples for daring to have jobs and exist in public spaces is eliminationist rhetoric – it suggests that fat people have no place in this world, that they need to just go away, hide at home with the lights off, and starve themselves until they are fit to be seen in public again.

Fuck that. Fat people exist, we have existed, we will continue to exist. We have as much right to this world, and our jobs, and the public eye, as anyone else.

Our bodies and the status of our health are not public property. Our existence is not open to debate or discussion. We are here, and our health is between us and the people to whom we’ve given informed consent to make judgments about it. It is not a handy club for you to beat us with. And if you cared one iota for fat people’s health, you would shut up and let us handle our business. The constant pressure and questioning and needling and harassment fat people get from family, friends, coworkers, neighbours, and perfect strangers all combines to increase stigma, and that stigma materially hurts people’s health.

Ragen had something brilliant to say:

Everybody has the right exist in the body they have without shame, stigma or oppression. That right is inalienable and not yours to confer. This is not up for discussion, debate, or vote. There are no other valid opinions. Fat people have the right to exist in the bodies we have now. Period.

Next time you are concerned about a fat person’s health, consider that the best thing you might do for them is to treat them like capable adults and let them sort it out for themselves. Don’t add to the unhealthy storm of negativity and pressure and fear-mongering that is already surrounding them.

Until we ask for your advice, just hush. Let us be.

Hey all – I’m getting too tired to respond properly/nicely/in-depthly to commenters. I’ve got my actual day job to attend to for the rest of the night, so for everyone’s sake I’m just shutting them off until tomorrow. Have a good night! It’s been fun. Here, have this video about fat trolling to tide you over. Comments are now closed. It’s been three weeks. Time to move on.

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202 Comments

  1. John
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    So, basically, I am the way I want to be, so shut up and don’t comment on it unless I tell you your allowed to.

    • Posted October 3, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Yes. You say this like it’s a radical idea.

      • Kristen from MA
        Posted October 5, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        Awesome! :D

      • Larissa
        Posted October 15, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        Exactly!!!

    • Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      Actually, yes. Why do you have a problem with that? Do you think your right to lecture and insult people whose bodies you don’t enjoy looking out outweighs other peoples’ right to go out in public without harassment?

      • James
        Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        How is that relevant to a private letter sent to a public figure suggesting that she’s a bad example to children due to her poor decision to remain overweight?

        • Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

          Being a public figure doesn’t mean you don’t get to talk back when someone insults you.

        • ALKD
          Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

          Why do you assume that being fat is a decision, or a choice, that she has made?

          Additionally, anytime anyone sends a letter to a public figure, it’s never a private letter. Theoretically, one could argue that this counts double when the public figure actively works in the media. To expect to send a public figure a private letter is incredibly naive.

          • Posted October 4, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

            Because “being fat” is a decision. Now I’m not talking about being a healthy weight, which we need more education on, but “being fat”, which is ultimately a decision based on what you eat and how much you exercise or move during the day, except for a few and small percentage of exceptions based on extenuating medical reasons. It is a decision that can be much easier or much harder depending on your background, genetics and a myriad of factors, but its a decision nonetheless. I know, because I am fat. I acknowledge that when I do things like eat too much junk food, sweets and other snacks, I am making a decision to be fat. I also know because my husband is fat. He is so fat that it is very difficult for him to even go for an evening walk, and he has a very stressful job, and he soothes himself with food. It’s not that I look in the mirror everyday and hate myself, or that I feel that anyone should be treated better or worse because of their weight. I love my husband. I love him no matter how large he is, and I will continue loving him. I believe that everyone should be treated with respect, but I don’t think its right to start saying that daily lifestyle decisions are not choices. They are and should be acknowledged as such.

          • Posted October 4, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

            Daily lifestyle choices are not the only factors that influence weight. Daily lifestyle choices are also influenced by larger factors that are sometimes outside of a person’s direct control. You are oversimplifying the issue. Weight is multifactorial.

          • Scott
            Posted October 4, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

            It is a choice. She has chosen to eat over her caloric maintenance for an extended period of time. Ergo, you gain weight.

          • Posted October 4, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

            You do not know how much she eats. You also don’t know what the other factors might be that affect her weight, or even direct her food intake and how her body deals with her food intake. It is not that simple, as much as we all would like it to be.

          • Peach
            Posted October 5, 2012 at 11:43 am | Permalink

            No, it’s not as simple as eat less, weigh less. There are other dietary factors. I have never been really fat but I could starve myself and not lose weight due to a condition that I have. I actually started losing weight by eating -more- it just had to be very specific things. I actually needed -more- fat and protein in my diet, and any extra weight I had just fell off.

            Telling people that they if they starve themselves they will be thin is false, and there are far more health concerns being too thin than too fat. Skinny people tend to carry fat under the rib cage which is far more dangerous, they also tend to count calories and have a higher body fat percentage, and a less rounded diet than a fat person. In numerous studies on length of life as it relates to weight it goes as follows:

            Dies First: Underweight/thin
            Dies Second: Morbidly obese
            Lives the longest: A person with 10-15 extra lbs on them.

            I unfortunately have to stay really lean because my joints cannot sustain any weight (again due to a condition that I have) but just telling people to stop “shoveling food in their mouth” is extremely myopic and shows a piss poor understanding of nutrition.

            Even how much fat and/or how little protein your mother ate while she was pregnant can have a huge impact on how many fat cells you have, and how prone you are to obesity. Those people have to fight twice as hard because momma had a craving for some chocolate cake too many times.

    • Theresa
      Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      Yes, exactly! Thank you for getting it!

  2. Posted October 3, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I have been following this and noticing that some of the people like to claim her health as their right because it’s their tax dollars at work. Even if you accepted the premise, she’s fat, therefore she isn’t healthy, these people are completely missing the point. How much do we spend on health issues for young women suffering from anorexia and bulemia? And how many of these young woman end up with these disorders BECAUSE of comments and attitudes like the one perpetuated by the writer of the letters? This man is not “helping” in any way shape or form in his “concern”. He is actually hurting the young women who see this kind of stuff and make them think they should be just a little thinner and for many of them, it becomes never thin enough.

    For the record, one of the best things about that video, was referencing your blog–it’s my new favorite read–how could I be a healthcare provider for over 10 years and completely MISS this? Especially because I’ve always tried to promote healthy eating (ie eating real food rather than dieting).

    • Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know about Canada, but in the U.S., “we” do not spend much money on the treatment of eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or otherwise) because “our” average private insurance program does not cover much beyond 30 psychiatric calendar visits a year. There are, of course, exceptions. But by and large, those of us with anorexia, bulimia, etc., are out of pocket and on our own. “I” am spending the money.

      Meanwhile the letter-writer has doubled down and given the station a statement. He offers that if Jennifer would like to take him up on it, he’s happy to offer whatever advice or support he can give her. Because apparently in addition to being a lawyer, he’s, I don’t know, a nutritionist or a metabolic specialist or something?

      • Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        Dear Lord, of course he is. Of course he is. What an entitled creeper.

        • Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

          He’s a special snowflake! The station has a video including the statement up on their site now. It is one of the more tone-deaf, privilege-blind, mansplainy things I’ve read recently. (Usually just one of those adjectives might suffice, but I feel the need to use them all here.)

          And just a clarification on my above comment: I hope, Bonnie, that that did not come off as sniping at you. I reread it and the tone might leave that open to question. No sniping intended.

          • Posted October 4, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

            Privilege-denying and mansplainy, you say? Why does that not surprise me?

      • ALKD
        Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        after working for customer service centers for several large companies — EVERYONE is a “doctor” AND a “lawyer.” To which I say, hmm. “impressive” that must be so nice to know everything about anything important, like you believe those two titles infer.

      • Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        The point being that in US “we” don’t pay for obesity related issues either, as so many people in comments about this issue have suggested. We each pay for our own healthcare through insurance. There are very real physical problems that are associated with eating disorders. Far more of those are directly related to the eating disorder that comes from trying not to be fat (due to such cultural perceptions as shown by this gentleman) than are directly related to obesity.

        • Posted October 3, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

          And I’m clarifying for anyone else who thinks that I’m only talking about the psychological issues too– That’s not it at all. I’ve had several patients who spent time in clinics and friends who were anorexic and their long term physical issues (not even the psychological treatments) were far more intense and ongoing than most people have simply because they are overweight.

          • Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

            Absolutely – eating disorders are devastating both physically and psychologically. Much moreso than being fat. Eating disorders have the highest fatality rate of any mental illness.

            And sadly, more children have eating disorders than diseases like Type 2 diabetes, despite all the alarmism over diabetes in the media. When are we going to talk about eating disorders? Once all the fat people lose weight? Or never because they don’t fit the cultural narrative of weight loss and restrictive eating always and forever being a good thing?

          • Posted October 4, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

            Absolutely. It makes me facepalm so intensely, the mass cognitive dissonance that’s apparently going on. “We keep vilifying the idea of putting weight on and growing a larger shape, and these kids ~just keep getting more and more eating disorders~ and younger and younger, too. It’s so confusing!!”

            Yeah, no, it’s not. >_< That's the ah-may-zing part of his original letter, for me: the assertion that fat-shaming someone will ~help~ the girls of the community. In the parlance of our times, what is this I can't even.

            As to U.S. insurance rates and group pooling, my rate automatically went up when I turned 30, mostly because I have a presumably working uterus and am therefore more likely to cost BCBS more sometime in the next ten years or so. And yet, people seem to be freaking out about the falling birth rate here, not telling potentially childbearing women to quit causing them so much more money. Just sayin'.

          • Lizzie82
            Posted October 5, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

            It doesn’t cost us money? In the United States, cardiovascular disease is a contributing factor of 58% of deaths a year. This generates over $430 billion in direct and indirect healthcare costs. #1 contributor to heart disease is lifestyle choices. For overweight and obese individuals, Medicaid and Medicare pay up to half of the expenditure, which exemplifies the growing burden of overweight and obesity on federal and state spending. You mean to tell me that 68% of our population have eating disorders resulting in being overweight and obese? How is it, other countries don’t have this percentage? Do you just have more psychological disorders than other countries? I don’t think treating people who CHOOSE to be overweight and obese (and yes there are some exceptions) should be treated as victims. Treating them as if they are victims is part of the problem. And yes, most people who go on disability because of a weight related problem resulting in immobility or a heart attack file for disability. We pay for their poor lifestyle choices. Most people overweight or obese are paying for these health problems through medicaid and medicare, not private insurance. Please check your facts before you say people are paying for it themselves.

          • Posted October 11, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

            Fatness does not equal heart disease. Yes, there can be a correlation, but they are not the same thing. It is conflating, once again, the way a person looks with an actual health condition.

            #1 contributor to all disease, actually, is poverty and socioeconomic status and other social determinants of health. Poverty is common factor associated with both heart disease risk and obesity.

            I guess you could say that’s a “lifestyle choice” but it’s certainly not of the type most people would think of.

            No one chooses to be overweight or obese. No one says to themselves, “I’m just going to make myself really fat, and maybe really ill, too, so I can use up those sexy, sexy health care dollars in this lavish American health care system of ours! Screw you, taxpayer!” And thanks so much for backing up your wildly speculative statements about how most fat people are on medicaid/medicare (lolwut?) with no actual data. Fat people pay into the system, as do thin people. In fact, given that over 65% of the US population is considered to be overweight or obese, you could say that probably the majority of people paying into the system are fat.

            The health care argument always rubs me the wrong way because Americans are always the ones carping about it, and yet the US does not have universal health care where people literally all pay for each other. I live in a country with a publicly funded health care system, and no one here makes 1/8th the fuss about fat people using THEIR HEALTHCARE DOLLARS!!!! ™ that Americans do.

            Fat people are regularly denied the privilege of paying for their own private insurance in the US simply because they are fat. This hopefully will no longer be the case under the ACA, but it has been a problem for a long time. Apparently the biggest reason people file bankruptcy in the US is due to medical bills. THAT likely costs the average American citizen a lot more, given all the administrative and legal costs that come with bankruptcy, than just paying into one universal health care system to take care of each other like decent human beings would.

            I’m done with this argument. I am a dual American-Canadian citizen, having resided for roughly half my life under each system, and I get really tired of hearing Americans whine about how they PAY FOR EACH OTHER when they actually don’t, until someone declares bankruptcy or uses medicare/medicaid, and likely would be denied private insurance even if they tried to pay their own way. The rest of the world thinks you sound like ridiculous whiny babies when you go on this way. Because you are.

        • Posted October 4, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

          The reason people can state that “we” all pay because of people’s health is because in the United States we never have rates set based in individual weight issues. People are “pooled” into groups and pay based on the average health of the entire group. So, if I am a young, vital, and relatively healthy employee, but I work in a field that has lots of older people approaching retirement, I will pay more for my insurance, because I have been “pooled” into a group where the average age is much higher than my own. Thus, I am paying a lot more than I would otherwise, because I am making up the difference for those who are in the pool who are older and more likely to need more intensive and frequent health care.

          This doesn’t mean that I think people should be denied healthcare or that our elderly are bad, because they are statistically more likely to need health care. I’m trying to explain the logic.

          And if, as a society, we as a pool become more in need of health care, because the majority of us have obesity related issues, then it affects everyone in the pool. The cost is balanced out between all of us.

          My own personal opinion is that people should pay for their own healthcare individually — just like car insurance. But that would have its own ramifications as well — some of which could affect me personally, because I am not the healthiest person alive. But I would rather be accountable for my own actions and choices than be forced to account for the actions and choices of others.

          • Alexie
            Posted October 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

            Health insurance is different because there are larger social issues at stake.

            For example, let’s say Stephen Hawking had to pay insurance based on his own risk profile. He wouldn’t get it, because his ‘risk’ would be so great that the insurance premiums would be deliberately set in a way to ensure he couldn’t pay them. The insurance company wouldn’t want him on board, under any circumstances.

            He could then go bankrupt, or just go away and die somewhere. Hey, look at all the money saved!

            Except that we would lose a unique mind, who has made extraordinary contributions to society.

            Single payer health systems are not just more equitable, but they’re more efficient. Because everyone is in the pool, you get a better spread of risk, while taking in more contributions through taxation or whatever, so the financial costs go down, while social gains rise.

          • Danielle
            Posted October 4, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

            You assume that everyone’s health problems are the logical consequence of their actions and choices. That assumption is a couple of things: it’s mean, it’s cold, it’s incompassionate, and in the face of reality and the lack of control we really have over all the cells present in our bodies makes it completely wrong, too.

            Health problems happen to everyone. They happen to people who eat tons of fruit and exercise all day and they happen to people who eat junkfood and don’t exercise. They happen to young people, to old people. And it sucks. Nobody likes being sick, nobody likes going to the hospital. But you know what’s worse? Being sick and having people tell you it’s all your own fault. Feeling so terrible only to have some jackass gloat over you going “I told you so, because you’re fat”. That is the absolute worst thing to say to another human being. If you think that way, you are being an awful person without a shred of compassion or empathy.

            And once again, health problems happen to all of us, and they are not only a logical consequence to our actions and choices. We are not as in control of our bodies as we would like to believe. It’s a safe feeling: to believe that if we just eat the right things and do the right things that we will be okay. That it’s all logical. But it’s not. Our bodies are imperfect and they can break down.

            Holding people fully financially accountable for their health problems is an idea based on a total lack of compassion and empathy and the false belief that our bodies are 100% within our control.

          • Posted October 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

            And, people who were born with asthma, or have childhood cancers, or congenital metabolic disorders, or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, etc etc etc….we should just leave that up to the “free market” and “individual responsibility”?

            I’ll remember that when I’m working in the ER tonight, seeing patients without insurance, and treating them, many for conditions that could have been treated better with insurance and preventative care.

            Like the woman with the small bowel obstruction who came in with excruciating pain last night, who may have perforated her bowel by this afternoon. Her family member actually apologized for bringing her to the ER, but she couldn’t take the pain any more. She has had severe constipation forever but couldn’t afford insurance or a GI specialist. Now she’s admitted to a hospital, had an expensive ER visit, will have an expensive ICU stay, an expensive surgical consult, and may die. Which we will all be paying for.

            But yeah, freedom. Responsibility. “Healthy eating and exercise.” “Choice.”

          • Scott Gessford
            Posted October 5, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

            Thanks for sharing, hazelnutmegan (Love that handle!).

            I understand the frustration of being a customer in a health care system that pools certain strata of society together but then does not account for other factors that are so strongly related to general health. It only adds to it when we feel like others are not (please pardon the silly cliché) pulling their weight. Obesity is an epidemic that our society has not fully reflected upon, and our efforts to address are marginal at best. That needs to change.

            But as I consider it, I also think that the individualism we as U.S. citizens pride ourselves by comes at a certain price sometimes. We strive to be self-made but forget that almost nothing in our lives happens because of our own choices. Rather, almost any major thing in our lives (e.g. education, career, relationships, love, etc.) happens as a result of efforts of a collection of people. It’s not so isolated.

            So, when I think about it that way, I as a young healthy man do not mind being pooled among people who are not so fortunate, whether by choice or otherwise. We are a community of collective health, and we need to take care of one another.

            What do you think?

  3. tara
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Like. Like, like, like. Thank you for saying all this, and saying it so well.

  4. Karolina
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    People are going to comment on things because we have this thing called “freedom of speech”… I say this because when I was a kid I was teased for being tall, skinny, wearing glasses and had an eye condition. By telling people not to comment you’re basically sending an invitation to comment anyway. I turned out fine. Secondly, when did we all become so sensitive? If you have a strong support system it shouldn’t matter what people say. I am not promoting bullying but calling it fear mongering is being a little dramatic. Also, if this is such a serious matter why is it not considered so? Not being able to control something so basic as your weight should equate to some serious illness, and well it actually does. So in reality all her response should have entailed to that guy was thanks for the input but you can take your opinion and shove it up your ass. If you truly loved yourself you wouldn’t care, so please drop it we all get negative comments no one is perfect.

    • Posted October 3, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      We all became so sensitive when weight bias reached the point where it results in material discrimination and poor health outcomes.

      People deserve to talk back to the people who treat them badly. Freedom of speech is a two-way street. That’s what she was doing. That’s what I’m doing here.

    • Julia
      Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      Actually, “freedom of speech” doesn’t apply on a personal blog. Michelle can allow or disallow any comments as she damn well pleases. You have a whole big internet on which you can share your views.

      • Michelle F
        Posted October 14, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

        Thank you. It’s so nice to see someone who actually understand this.

    • Danielle
      Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Michelle’s article right up there says that yes, you have freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean you’re excused from acting like a total ass towards others.

      You were bullied, and you turned out fine. That’s great for you. But your experience is not automatically everyone else’s experience, and people get to set limits for themselves. One of those limits can be not tolerating negative commentary on your body. Just because we might be able to tolerate and take the abuse, does not mean we should. Most people would rather not, actually. We didn’t all become ‘so sensitive'; we all realized that it is not actually okay for other people to treat us like crap for the way we look without knowing anything else about us. That is not sensitivity, that is standing up for ourselves.

      Then, weight is not actually ‘something so basic’. There are so many factors involved in the way someone’s body works. Our bodies are somehow simplified to a number on the scale we should strive to make lower, but our bodies are incredibly complex and wonderful and cannot be made ‘basic’ or reduced to a number. Not being able to ‘control’ our weight isn’t a serious illness. We’re humans, not bunsen burners.

      Finally, “if you loved yourself you wouldn’t care” is a really messed up argument. With that statement, you are telling people that they should put up with being mentally and physically abused because that means they love themselves. And somehow caring about their own mental wellbeing means they don’t love themselves. Doesn’t that seem kind of twisted to you? Isn’t that the kind of logic abusers use? If we love ourselves, we DO care. And we stand up for ourselves and for others against this kind of abuse.

      • ALKD
        Posted October 3, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

        amen.

      • mel
        Posted October 3, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        Beautifully put. Thank you.

      • Ursula
        Posted October 3, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

        I want to point out that October is anti-bullying month. I think modeling standing up to a bully is incredibly positive, and fat people get bullied a lot. It’s great that she didn’t just dismiss the words of a cowardly asshole hiding behind his feigned “concern.” Bullies want to knock people down and take things away from them, like their sense of self-worth. She didn’t go for it. Good for her! I hope more bully-busters get press.

      • Chris
        Posted October 13, 2012 at 2:06 am | Permalink

        Damn right. It’s true – if you love yourself you do care, and when people stand up for themselves, they’re always trivialized in an attempt to make them stop being pesky, disobedient peasants who stand up for their rights.

    • Jamie
      Posted October 5, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      Pretty sure that if controlling my weight was all that “basic” I would have gotten thin and remained that way long ago– right after those boys who sat in front of me in art class started telling me how fat and ugly I am. I’m fairly tired of thin people telling me how simple it is to be thin. Why, exactly, is it that they think my body works just like theirs? Or that my life is like theirs? I would SO LOVE to have a life in which I could spend hours at the gym every day and afford a personal trainer like some of my thin friends. Instead, I sit at a desk all day making a meager salary then come home and work on my farm until I am too exhausted to wash the dinner dishes. My body is not like yours. My life is not like yours. Do not judge me based on your personal experience.

    • Posted October 5, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      In addition to agreeing with all the other replies, I disagree with this part:

      By telling people not to comment you’re basically sending an invitation to comment anyway.

      Telling people not to comment is called “having boundaries”.

      I was bullied on the bus for about a year in middle school because the two boys bullying me were bored. I wasn’t bullied about my weight; I was bullied because I was a nerdy, socially awkward, goody-two-shoes. Because I was a goody-two-shoes I kept following the adult-approved “just ignore them” advice long past when it was clear that it wasn’t working. I didn’t tell them not to comment, yet they kept doing it. Would telling them not to comment have made them bully me even more? I doubt it. It certainly would have made me feel better, though. I really wish I had.

      You’re asking “when did we all become so sensitive?” but did she really seem overly sensitive to you? I thought she seemed confident and passionate in her gratitude for the people who supported her and her desire to protect kids from bullying. “If you have a strong support system it shouldn’t matter what people say”–She did, which was why she was able to speak out so convincingly. And not all kids do, so she was speaking out for them. You do realize that a lot of bullied kids kill themselves, and a lot more miss school or do more poorly in school. What’s your message to them, that it’s their own fault and they deserve it because they just didn’t love themselves enough or have a good enough support network?

      We’re social animals, not robots, and saying that an entire world full of fatphobia or even a brief period of bullying should have zero effect on people seems like a profound denial of human nature to me.

    • Posted October 5, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      If you have a strong support system it shouldn’t matter what people say.

      Perhaps, yes, if one has a strong support system, one may be able to withstand negative comments in isolation.

      But what happens when the vast majority of that “support system” also echoes the “OHNOEZFATS!” rhetoric, encourages a body and health image based predominantly on weight, and champions one’s disordered and restrictive eating? Because that’s what happened with my — still probably better-than-average — support system.

    • Sarah
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      I never understand this argument…”I was bullied too, and I made it through, so deal with it.” You know who that argument does not apply to? The children who kill themselves because they are bullied everyday in school for something they have no control over. I sincerely hope with all of my heart that every person who has ever been bullied learns that it hurts and it sucks and it makes you feel worthless, if only for a minute, so it’s not worth doing to anyone else. Period. There is no excuse, no argument, no justification for perpetuating the verbal and emotional abuse that is bullying when you have been a victim of it to.

      And yes, people should have support systems, but a lot (A LOT) of children do not. I know because I work with these children every day. I sure as hell am not going to judge a 9-year-old child with drug addict parents living in the foster care system for not having a support system in place that gives him the self-esteem to move past being calling a “nasty fag” or a “stupid fat nigger.”

      I really wonder what kind of world my nieces would inherit if people practiced compassion and learned from their own pain not to cause pain for others.

      • Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, I don’t get that either. I think, though, that it’s part of how bullying (and abuse in general) is cyclical. People who have been bullied might learn compassion and decide they don’t want to hurt others in the way they’ve been hurt. But people who’ve been bullied can also decide that the world is pretty much divided into bullies and victims and that if you’re the bully, sure, you’re an asshole, but at least you’ll be safe. It’s a self-protection kind of thing. Not that that makes it okay.

  5. Posted October 3, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    simply, THANK YOU! :-)

  6. Linda Strout
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    I feel like I have been posting a lot, but you are definitely making me think.

    I did a quick Google search for ‘obesity disease’ and while I turned up a bunch of sites for obesity BEING a disease, and a few sites that said obesity was LINKED to several disease, there wasn’t anything to indicate obesity CAUSED any disease. None.

    Maybe obesity makes a few things worse, that is up to the individual to decide what to do about it. Some claims were made that obesity elevates blood pressure and cholesterol, but I’ve read enough to know that plenty of skinny people have high blood pressure and/or cholesterol and fat people don’t automatically get these problems.

    I am finally convinced the poor health argument is complete bullshit, but it has been spread around so much it is taken as a given. If any one has any links to actual studies showing obesity causes any disease, please share them. Obesity being connected to a disease isn’t good enough. Connection isn’t cause. Also, be wary of people who ‘prove’ something they want to believe is true. Actual science is rigorous and requires good control for variables, something that is notoriously hard to do with a human health.

    Now I will eat some chocolate and get back to work.

    • Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      I tend to agree:

      Assumption: Adiposity poses significant morbidity risk

      Evidence: While it is well established that obesity is associated with increased risk for many diseases, causation is less well-established. Epidemiological studies rarely acknowledge factors like fitness, activity, nutrient intake, weight cycling or socioeconomic status when considering connections between weight and disease. Yet all play a role in determining health risk. When studies do control for these factors, increased risk of disease disappears or is significantly reduced [61]. (This is less true at statistical extremes.) It is likely that these other factors increase disease risk at the same time they increase the risk of weight gain.

      • MonicaMarie
        Posted October 4, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

        Hi Michelle, I’ve been reading, and loving, this blog for a while now, and decided to un-lurk.:) Anywho, I saw this article in the NY Times, and immediately thought about you: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/health/research/more-data-suggests-fitness-matters-more-than-weight.html?_r=1&amp;. It talks about the “obesity paradox”, wherein researchers have found that overweight and obese patients with some chronic illnesses tend to fare better than “normal” or underweight counterparts. It goes on to say that some of this research is casting doubt on the role of body weight in causing disease. To which I say a hearty “bout damn time”.

        Jennifer Livingston is my new hero, and I plan to copy her spirit, poise, and strength every chance I get.

    • Posted October 7, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      I think you are splitting hairs to claim that obesity does not cause disease. With that preface, I’ll acknowledge the scientific hypothesis that leaves significant doubt that the cause-effect relationship is obesity–>diabetes.

      Type-2 diabetes appears to be caused by repeated blood-sugar spikes putting prolonged stress on the body’s system for regulating blood sugar. Even though the great majority of obese Americans have blood-sugar patterns that show stress on the blood-sugar regulation system, there simply isn’t convincing evidence that obesity causes the stress, because it’s entirely possible that the glucose spikes actually cause the obesity.

      But, from a public-health perspective, we have an obesity epidemic that goes hand-in-hand with a Type-2 diabetes epidemic. We have unhealthy patterns of diet and exercise that lead to both. The part that is unclear is whether it’s actually
      unhealthy lifestyle –>obesity–>diabetes
      or it’s actually
      unhealthy lifestyle–>obesityand unhealthy lifestyle–>diabetes.

      From a public-health perspective, battling the causes of Type-2 diabetes is the same as battling the dietary and exercise patterns that lead to obesity in most overweight Americans.

      From the perspective of personal interaction, we should all take a cue from Jennifer and Michelle. Although I think it’s factually correct to say that being obese is a “choice” for most obese people, it’s just the wrong way to approach the issue. That’s like saying that failing to save for retirement is a choice. Well, sure, but if you don’t have enough money to buy food, clothes, shelter and transportation, it’s hard to cut back and save for retirement. Theoretically, it’s possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s realistic, at least until some other things get fixed. Think of it that way, and just back off. Fat people know they’re fat, and you can reasonably assume that they care. It’s not your problem, and you’re not the victim here.

      • Posted October 11, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        I appreciate your comment, but I wouldn’t be too quick to assume we know the cause of Type 2 diabetes. As with Type 1, it’s possible there could be some autoimmune mechanism at work there. The official stance is that we don’t really know the cause. However, it’s true that taking care of one’s body using a health-centred approach (rather than a weight-centred one) is likely to help people manage Type 2 or perhaps lessen their risk of developing it. Insulin resistance, which usually is the beginning process with Type 2, can actually cause people to gain weight, instead of the other way around, and insulin sensitivity can be improved through exercise, whether or not you lose weight.

        I don’t think it’s splitting hairs to claim that obesity doesn’t CAUSE disease – it’s actually an important distinction to make because it affects how people think we should *address* those diseases. Through weight loss (which has a poor long-term effectiveness rate)? Or through direct treatments for the issue at hand (blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc.)? When we acknowledge that we do not know whether fatness directly causes disease (because we don’t), it makes it easier for people to adjust to taking a health-centred approach and dealing with direct measures of health, rather than trying to improve health through the proxy of weight.

        (I also think it’s really important to question the classification of obesity as a disease in and of itself, but that’s another big conversation.)

      • emi11n
        Posted October 11, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        Steve, I think you’re missing something in your discussion of diabetes. According the the American Diabetes Association, most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are normal weight or only moderately overweight.
        Really, it’s more likely that obesity is a side effect of processes leading to diabetes than the cause of the diabetes. And let’s not ignore family history, ethnicity, and age, all non-voluntary factors involved in the development of diabetes.

  7. Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Being obese is bad FOR ME. That is a realization I have come to with my doctors. How it affects someone else’s health is between them and their doctors and none of my or anyone else’s business. For many, many people – possibly most people – there are other factors that are much, much more important. For instance, having a stable weight, eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, surviving a stressful emotional or physical state I know nothing about, …

    I struggle with writing about my weight struggle without detracting from those who have different needs and goals (and I think I usually fail, honestly.) Claiming an interest in someone’s health and then telling them they are too fat is BS. Flossing (correctly) twice daily is more universally beneficial than being some mythical optimal weight, yet if someone was walking up to strangers on the street and asking if they’d flossed yet today or if they had a good flossing habit, we’d all be outraged.

    • Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      I really love mint dental floss, incidentally. Thank you.

  8. Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    By completely mischaracterizing obesity as a personal choice or a habit that one choses to maintain, this guy demonstrates himself to be a fascist bent on oppressing others.

    • Posted October 4, 2012 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      You know how I feel about fascists.

  9. Jenni
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for being a voice for the chunky in this argument! Oh, if being a liar turned one ‘s skin green…maybe we’d all get more upset about dishonesty. My sister’s health insurance premiums are going to double this year and the SOLE reason for this is her weight. She is a perfectly healthy adult, takes care of herself, has no pre existing conditions, only sees a doc for a regular checkup. She’s the cheapest person on the planet to insure. And yet SHE is being penalized because she’s off their BMI standard. Either she loses weight by a certain date and submits a doctor approved diet plan or she pays double. I find this outrageous and completely discriminatory based on LOOKS….not health..LOOKS! Isn’t this just racism in a different form? And yet, those that consider themselves above physical reproach, are allowed to be judgmental all in the name of health?! I’m relatively average in height and weight, I eat well, I exercise. Do I think I’m any smarter, better, or healthier than my sister? Hell no.

    • Posted October 4, 2012 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      It is discriminatory, I agree. I am so glad I live in a country with publicly-funded health care. I believe the underlying impulses toward appearance-based discrimination of all kinds are similar, though of course racism has a completely different history and a much broader/more intense impact, and is still tacitly (sometimes overtly) accepted by our society, in my opinion. There are parallels to draw, but it is always tricky to try to compare one to the other, since it risks erasing the experiences of people who suffer from both, or attempts to place one above the other. That said, I think there are connections, and I wish they could all be eradicated.

  10. James
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    “A lot of people have tried to make the argument that the email was not bullying, since it referenced concern for her health.”

    Well, those people are missing the (extremely clear) main thrust of the letter, which is that she’s a bad ROLE MODEL because of her choices. People have the right to make the decision to eat too much and become obese, sure, but it’s not bullying to say “those people should not be role models for our impressionable children.” In the same way, it’s bullying to say “you’re an idiot you IDIOT!!” but it’s not bullying to say “they need to kick that idiot off the air, her commentary adds nothing to the conversation.”

    INB4 “being obese is not a choice because genetics/hormonalproblems/etc”: in the vast majority of cases it is because of a choice to eat too much (or a choice not to start dieting). Also funny how you allow biological determinism (genetics/hormones cause obesity) in the conversation here, when I am sure you would (rightly) object to it in a conversation about sexuality, gender etc.

    INB4 “being obese isn’t bad for you”: if you actually believe this, there’s no point in talking to you rationally. Being obese leads to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, triglycerides in the blood, inability to exercise, joint pain, shortness of breath, incontinence . . . I could go on.

    BTW I was obese for 4 years, then I lost 60 pounds and I’ve kept it off for 4.5. My blood work has improved, I can run for miles and miles, my sex life is better, I’m stronger . . . Don’t tell me it can’t be done, don’t tell me you don’t wish you could do the same, and don’t tell me I can’t judge you for not doing it yourself.

    • Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      I’m approving this, but you’re done. I have explained about twenty times, nicely, since yesterday the answer to your questions. Saying “INB4″ doesn’t change the fact that you are an ignorant tool.

      Weight is not a behaviour. You cannot assume anyone’s behaviour based on their weight.

      • Dnelle
        Posted October 4, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        That attitude cracks me up. If it were really that simple there would be no overweight public figures in the world. Let alone fat celebrities. Do you really think anyone chooses to be fat, you ignorant, self-righteous asshat? We are trying to assert our right to be considered human. When you make comments like that you deny my essential humanity, and that is something that I will not stand for. You have no right to condemn ME based on your own experience.

    • Evaline Auerbach
      Posted October 3, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      But maybe you could make a lot of money by opening up a clinic and having people do rituals to keep the from eating “too much”. If you are a liscensed doctor you might get away with it for a while. If however most of your patients fail to get it off and keep it off, as they will and you know it, I hope you get very publicly sued.

    • Chris
      Posted October 5, 2012 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      So all that hate and judgment’s working out well for you then? Given you a better, happier life? Don’t think that just because you’re fighting in defense of the status-quo you don’t need to back up your arguments with valid sources. That poor status-quo that can’t defend itself. If you want to use terms like ‘rationally’ you gotta bring a different deck of cards to the table, good Sir, and be prepared to argue evidence, not prejudice. If all you want to do is talk testimonials, I got a hundred to argue your one.

    • Posted October 5, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

      If you insist on putting words in people’s mouths, there’s no point in talking to you rationally. Which is why Michelle has wisely said that you’re done.

      I know that it’s often considered bad form to reply to someone who can’t reply back, but…

      Also funny how you allow biological determinism (genetics/hormones cause obesity) in the conversation here, when I am sure you would (rightly) object to it in a conversation about sexuality, gender etc.

      Really? You have the people here pegged as the sort that would say sexuality is not determined by genes/hormones, it’s determined by refrigerator mothers or some such BS? I suppose maybe there are some people like that commenting here, but that’s not my sense of this crowd.

      As far as gender, yeah, my views are closer to Deborah Cameron’s than Steve Pinker’s, but I don’t go around arguing that growing breasts or being shorter than the average man is something imposed on me by the patriarchy. We’re talking physical bodies when we’re talking about fat; if I believe genes and hormones can influence our physical bodies and how they display both primary and secondary sexual characteristics, not to mention height, skin, eye, and hair color, cancer risk… why would I believe that set point would be a big fat exception?

    • Posted October 12, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      This comment is still annoying me a week later. SO, let’s talk about biological determinism.

      First point: BIOLOGY DOES ACTUALLY EXIST! Let’s explore some ways:

      1) It is biologically determined that people with dark skin have more active melanocytes, that put out more pigment, than people with light skin.

      2) It is biologically determined that people are born with a combination of X and Y chromosomes that strongly influence which sex organs they develop.

      3) It is biologically determined that, according to twin studies, fatness has a large genetic component, making people born of fat parents far more likely to be fat themselves.

      Second point: we layer SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONS on top of biology that are often inaccurate and problematic:

      1) We assume that people with more active melanocytes can be gathered into groups called “races” and from there we extrapolate about their intelligence, their physical strength, their work ethic, their morals, their level of sexuality, their fitness for leadership, and their value as human beings (protip: the darker ones are usually considered less human.)

      2) We assume that chromosome combinations and genital wetware can be neatly divided into two groups called “genders” and from there we extrapolate about their intelligence, their physical strength, their work ethic, their morals, their level of sexuality, their fitness for leadership, and their value as human beings (protip: the female, trans, and intersex ones are usually considered less human.)

      3) We assume that inherited adiposity levels can be gathered into groups called “underweight,” “normal weight,” “overweight,” and “obese,” and from there we extrapolate about their intelligence, their physical strength, their work ethic, their morals, their level of sexuality, their fitness for leadership, and their value as human beings (protip: the ones with more fat are usually considered less human.)

      Third point:

      These extrapolations are often inaccurate, stigmatizing, stereotyping, and can actually result in social inequalities and outcomes that become self-fulfilling prophecies – because the effects of poor social treatment are then blamed on the biology itself. As though active melanocytes naturally make you underrepresented in media and politics, as though having a vagina or identifying as female makes you naturally earn less money, and as though an inherited level of fat mass makes you automatically and irrevocably unhealthy.

      This is morally reprehensible and it reveals a truly stunning level of misanthropy that is damaging to civilization.

      Fourth point:

      Fuck you.

      • Julia
        Posted October 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        *applause*

      • Natalie
        Posted October 12, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        YES. *slow clap*

      • Posted October 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        OMG SO MUCH THIS

      • Mere
        Posted October 12, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        Michelle, I salute you! Thank you.

  11. Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I hadn’t made my mind up on the issue until someone pointed me to you and this article. You’ve converted me. I get it.
    I’m always endlessly going on about injustice and the right to not-conform, so it was rather hypocritical of me to open an exception when ‘over-weight’ people were concerned.
    BTW, you’re gorgeous ;)

  12. Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! I am so grateful to you for adding your voice to a dialogue that needs more voices of reason. Your response yesterday to the video of Ms. Livingston (I found it through the link that you said almost killed your website with traffic) inspired me to finally speak out about my own experience of size discrimination in the recent past. Thanks to you, I had the courage to write a blog post that I’ve been reticent to write. Your voice helped me find my courage. Thank you again!

    • Posted October 4, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      Wow, thanks for coming over, and thanks for writing a blog post!

  13. Bob Hope
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Hello, so just a little about me to start off so you know my background, I am currently a 2nd year veterinary student and I have a BMI around just a few points over where it should be. (named changed for privacy reasons)

    What this person emailed to Jennifer was very ignorant. The size of a person has nothing to do with how they can make a difference in someones life or be a good role model, but I do feel there is a way that people can express there concern for overweight or obese people in a sensitive fashion. The main person for the job of course would be your family doctor who can refer you to a nutritionist who can give you good information on how being overweight can effect your lifestyle and health and five bucks says your doctor has a pamphlet on obesity. I don’t think that going to Google and doing a quick search for correlations with out reading proper published research is a good way to make a choice on whether obesity is a problem or not. Studies have shown that obesity can have significant effects on the health and lifespan of animals and people, from everything to diabetes and heart disease. As a vet student I have learned that studies have shown that a lot of owners don’t actually know there dog is overweight and will give them lower body condition scores then Boarded Animal Nutritionist and private practice vets would give, so I wonder if this translates over to a persons-self image and image of other people, I know a lot of people who aren’t overweight think they are to big so I wonder if that can happen with overweight people thinking that they are skinny enough (this is just an aside and probably deserves its own discussion, but I just thought of it since there where some comments that everybody who is overweight weight knows they are, but that seems like a generalization, maybe there are some who don’t)

    I would never approach a person on the street or email somebody I didnt know and tell them they need to lose weight because that would be rude, but I have no problem confronting a family member or close friend and talking to them about my concerns of there obesity. Just recently a close cousin of mine hurt his back one day just from getting up off the couch and he is confined to a wheel chair for a short while. He is in his early 30’s, about 5′ 9″ and weighs well over 300 pounds and this back injury can most likely be contributed to his obesity, so my father ( a vet himself and a person who has also lost about 60 pounds recently and entered a healthy BMI) had a talk with him because as family he is concerned about his health and would hate to see him succumb to heart disease or some other disease that is seen in obese people more than normal body weight people.

    TL;DR – Hate people like the emailer but I think overweight people should ask there doctor about the risks of being obese. Ask questions! Ask for studies that show links to obesity and disease. Confronting people you don’t know about being obese is a little extreme but I have no problem confronting family and close friends.

    • Posted October 3, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      There is an association between fatness and various health risks. However, the mechanism behind that association is as yet poorly understood, and some researchers question whether the association is due to fatness itself or some other (or various other) factors that impact both health and weight.

      • Posted October 4, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

        Some other factor that impacts both health and weight…hmm, like dieting?

    • Brian
      Posted October 4, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      Wanted to respond to this because I match your cousin’s physical description. No, you’re not helping, you just feel like you are. You know nothing about your cousin’s health other than that he’s fat and that he had a back injury. You don’t even know if his fat contributed to the injury (there are tons of people who suffer musculo-skeletal injuries of all weights, even just getting off the couch–usually because accumulated damage from bad posture or bad positioning just happens to snap at the wrong time), and you have absolutely no idea about his internal health. I do know that my athletic friends have had a lot more frequent injuries and musculoskeletal problems than I have, because I haven’t killed my knees playing soccer or softball.

      I don’t know if your veterinary height/weight charts are based on actual science. I do know that BMI charts aren’t, that they don’t correlate well to mortality or morbidity (best life expectancies being among the overweight and slightly obese, not among “normal weight” people. There is some value in encouraging your cousin to see a doctor, but not in encouraging him to lose weight. By seeing a doctor, I was able to get treatment for my hypertension (which is heavily genetic–my average sized father also had very high blood pressure at 30), and confirm that my metabolic numbers are all perfect and my cholesterol is if anything unusually low. There are a lot of type 2 diabetics who are thinner than I am, because the cause and effect arrow usually is that being genetically predisposed to diabetes causes weight gain, not the other way around. If your cousin actually has health problems, those are worth treating. But dieting is not a treatment–with its long term failure rate, it would never survive FDA approval if it were a pill. And trust me, your cousin knows perfectly well that he’s fat, and that your dad lost a lot of weight.

      As an aside, I’d note that weight loss also isn’t an indicator of health. I know that my cousin in law recently lost a lot of weight; if you saw his before and after pictures you’d be very impressed, and it wasn’t because he made a conscious effort to diet. You’d probably be willing to pay to follow his diet plan. Except that the actual diet plan was “get hit by a forklift.”

    • Kristin
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:37 am | Permalink

      My “weight” past looks a bit like this:

      Super scrawny child who was apparently also a neighborhood forager (has anyone ever tried Japanese Knotwood?) —> Teenager and young adult with eating disorders (when I was 20, I thought I was a fat as I am now! Oh NO!) —> Thyroid enlargement diagnosed, TSH levels OK, no treatment —> Gain 50 pounds in less than two years and enter the “obese” category on the weight chart —> diagnosed hypothyroid (based on TSH) and put on hormone replacement —> gain five pounds, but a lot of my (previously ignored) symptoms dwindle —> ugh, elevated blood sugar puts me in the almost type 2 diabetes group…

      It’s probably my job (ten hours a day on my feet), or my four/five days a week of 35-50 minutes of cardio followed by weights, or my big old platter of broccoli, cauliflower and squash that makes me obese and at risk for diabetes… not my seaweed-for-breakfast thyroid…

      Anyway, sometimes I am really mad at my 22-year old self that couldn’t accept how GREAT I looked in those white jeans… luckily, my ass was made for many different weights, ’cause it still looks great.

  14. Spin Doctor
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    “Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain.”

    Are you Jennifer’s doctor? Then kindly STFU.

    • Evaline Auerbach
      Posted October 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      Oh so obesity is a “choice” is it? I weighed 200 lbs in the 8th grade without having eaten more than my younger sister and brother on the farm. Got lots of exercise as the oldest and biggest of the siblings. At the end of high school I was 306 lbs. again no binges no different eating, same exercise. At that point I was sent to a hospital for study and they found I had CAH, an adren gland failure. All they could do was put me on a very strict diet. In the next 9 months with a diet that caused me stress, I lost 100 lbs. So In was 206 lbs. with no counseling and no one to enforce my diet at age 19. Subsequently I gained back no more than 30 of that, meanwhile taking birth control pills to help with other symptoms of CAH. At age 39 I went off the pills (after marriage) and became pregnant. Gained 50 lbs. didn’t lose most of it. Got spinal stenosis and couldn’t exercise much. By age 59 after 3 operations. I was again at 306 in a care home. Back down to 280 now. I want to know what choices I made to be obese. If I could have chosen to live a normal life while keeping my weight down why didn’t I? Am I crazy? ( a psychiatrist and a psychologist have at different times in the process said definitely not crazy)?

      • Posted October 3, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        I think Spin Doctor was quoting the original email, but point taken.

  15. Kristi
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    A couple of years ago I was diagnosed in the early stages of cancer. Before starting treatments, they ran me through every imaginable test. By their standards, other than this tiny spot on my fallopian tube – and my weight, I was perfectly healthy. Twice in my life I’ve lost enough weight to be considered “normal” sized. I’m pretty sure living on caffeine pills and rum isn’t considered healthy by anyone’s standards. Since my surgery, the medicines I’m on have caused me to be heavier than ever before. You can’t judge someone’s well-being by the way they look.

    I shouldn’t have to explain to anyone what I do or what I eat or why I am the size I am. It’s none of their business.

    • Posted October 4, 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      I was at my thinnest when I had pneumonia for 10 weeks and was constantly injured from running too much. HEALTHY!

  16. James
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for posting your opinion, a point of view is very helpful in trying to understand issues that someone who is overweight is dealing with.

    I will admit that in my opinion, the person that sent the e-mail is an ass. The way he wrote shows a a valid concern of a setting an example but I will concede that he went about it in an insensitive way.

    What does not get covered, however, is that the e-mail was not posted publicly, and was posted by the lady’s husband.

    As such, it is her choice to frame it as a personal attack, attack the poster under the guise of “teaching kindness”.

    What I find really disturbing is that she is using logical fallacies to suggest that his e-mail would teach kids to call others fat. The letter was private and not public – which makes her argument invalid.

    She also takes offense to being called fat – which the e-mail did not say, it referenced her obesity. She herself calls herself “overweight, fat, even obese – in a medical chart.”

    What it does for me is destroy her credibility as an informed and a trusted source.

    If it was me, I would reference general ignorance or unkindness of the person writing the e-mail and choose to focus on the fact that it’s a struggle for people like her to be both understood and accepted.

    Instead, she is choosing to lash out and fabricate logical proof, making assumption of the poster’s character where she herself is claiming he “knows nothing about her as a person.”

    Of course he does not – he does not make any reference to it, she’s making a flawed argument to frame it as an attack on her as a person, rather than a role model.

    I understand and I agree with most of what you wrote, and I would have hoped that the achor would have taken a less retaliatory gesture and use this as opportunity to actually dissect and prove the ignorance, bias, or mistakes in the reasoning of the person sending the e-mail and use it for good.

    Instead, she is making it look like a personal vendetta and she’s mixing in the message that he might be sending about treating obesity to kids.

    In my opinion, she stoops down to the level of being a bully herself, which is sadly, beneath a level of professional reply I know she would be capable of.

    Interestingly, your approach to illustrating your point is more journalistic and critically thoughtful than hers, which makes me respect and trust your opinion more than hers.

    With regards,

    J.

    • Posted October 3, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      You know what, I am not engaging in this argument today. You sound like a concern troll, sincerely.

    • Posted October 12, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      Of course he does not – he does not make any reference to it, she’s making a flawed argument to frame it as an attack on her as a person, rather than a role model.

      Expecting her to be a “role model” when she hasn’t signed up for that, and narrowly defining “role model” as “having a body that’s considered healthy and attractive” *is* an attack on her as a person. It’s an attack on her right to do a job she’s good at, it’s an attack on her right to be visible as a fat person in public, it’s an assumption about her “behaviors” and “choices” that’s pulled straight out of the emailer’s arrogant backside.

      I don’t care how many platitudes it’s dressed up in; the emailer told her that she was a bad example for being publicly visible, strongly implying that she should work somewhere nobody can see her until she’s a socially acceptable size.

      And it gets really old to have bullying ignored and treated as fine and dandy, but the minute someone retaliates, they’re the bad guy. This guy took it upon himself to shame a woman for just doing her job, and instead of meekly accepting it, she stood up to him. If he can’t deal with that backlash, perhaps he should stop pretending that he’s both a doctor and a psychic by making pronouncements about the behaviors and choices of someone he’s never met.

  17. H. T.
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Well said! I focused on my weight from the age of 8 years old until I was about 35. I finally decided I would stop worrying about it every second of every day, leave the guilt behind and proceed with my life of raising my 3 boys and volunteer in my community as much as my time allows. Man do I have a lot of extra time to do good for others when I don’t have to continually write down my calories, log my work out time and weigh myself several times a day to make sure I’m still an “ok” person! I do eat healthy and do exercise. I’m just not a fanatic about it anymore. No I’m not a size 8, but I never really was. I was a 14 trying to “fit in”. I think I’m beautiful and so does my husband and family, and God for that matter. That is what counts in life. I could care less what a stranger thinks. Love your post :)

  18. Anthony A
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    I agree that discrimination based on weight is horrible. I also think that nowhere in our evolution as a species is there an indication that it is “natural” or “ok” or “healthy” to carry over a certain % of bodyfat.

    Looking at the poor science of nutrition – recommending whole wheats and grains that our digestive and endocrine system have NO business trying to process, dairy that no other animal in the world eats after they are infants, just to name two – I think that it is the perverted science of low-fat, high grain diets that are just as responsible for overweight Americans than fast food.

    We were not created – either by God or by evolution – to carry around an extra 25 lbs around our gut. This is something synthetic, it is something bad. That doesn’t make people who are overweight bad in themselves, but it means they are by nature less healthy than they could be.

    This is not about image or sexiness. This is about dental problems, autoimmune problems, cancer, and diabetes. These things are a result of fat. Bellyfat. That we are not supposed to carry around with us as human beings.

    • Posted October 3, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Ooookay then.

      You sound like someone who would be interested in Time Cube. Go forth, brave champion of truth and justice.

      • Denise
        Posted October 3, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

        Actually, there are conditions that cause the bloating, or “belly fat,” as you say. To argue that causality is a one-way street (that belly fat causes dental problems, for example) is an overly reductive description of how our bodies actually operate.

      • Posted October 5, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

        You just made me LOL loudly enough to make people prairie-dog in the cubicle farm. Thanks!

      • Posted October 13, 2012 at 2:20 am | Permalink

        It’s been a long time since I saw a link to TimeCube, and rarely has it been so appropriate.

  19. Josh
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    As someone that is obese I am disgusted by this. Being overweight is absolutely a behavior. When I have changed my behavior (better diet, more exercise), my weight goes down. When I start to slack off (worse diet, less exercise), I gain weight. As overweight people we cannot continue to deny the health consequences. Obesity was not much of an issue 100 years ago, because people got proper exercise and did not over eat. You do not have to be a doctor to know this. If that man had wrote the anchor an email that said he thought she was a bad role model because she smoked or drank heavily on air, I really doubt there would be much outrage. And to say that in the US we don’t pay for people that make unhealthy choices, is patently false. We pay for ER visits all the time from people that have heart disease, or a diabetic coma, that do not have insurance. And soon, under the new healthcare legislation, we all must buy health insurance. So we will be paying ever year through premiums for people that choose to be unhealthy. Guys it’s time to stop making excuses and get healthy. I know I am, and I hope you do too. With that being said, I do feel the email could have been worded a bit nicer.

    • Posted October 3, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for reading nothing else on my site. Being overweight is absolutely not a behaviour. It is a phenotype (or a phenotypic trait, to be more specific.) They are literally not the same thing.

      Is weight the result of a combination of behaviours and genetics and underlying metabolic conditions? Yes. But that is not the same thing as weight being solely the result of a behaviour. Which means? You cannot assume to know someone’s behaviour by looking at their weight alone.

      • Denise
        Posted October 3, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

        Precisely. What Michelle said.

      • Posted October 4, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        I don’t know why something so simple is so hard for people to understand.

    • Posted October 5, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

      “If someone smoked or drank on air” would equate to “if someone ate”… what is it we’re eating now, three pieces of pie? Two whole cakes? I’m having trouble keeping up. Not merely appearing on television doing the same things everyone else is doing.

      When Obama was running for president, he was still a smoker, and despite how stigmatized smoking has become, I don’t remember anyone saying that that made him a bad role model. He didn’t smoke on camera, but Jennifer Livingston didn’t do whatever you think she was doing wrong on camera, either.

      Furthermore, I think that for standing up for herself and against bullying, and for not waiting to start her life until she loses weight, Jennifer is a GREAT role model.

      • Posted October 5, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

        omg I have been looking for that three pieces of pie article! Hahahahahaha.

    • Posted October 5, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

      When I have changed my behavior (better diet, more exercise), my weight goes down. When I start to slack off (worse diet, less exercise), I gain weight.

      I’m glad your experience speaks for 100% of fat people.

      Except, it really doesn’t. In fact, my personal experience is precisely the opposite of yours.

  20. Posted October 3, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for pointing out to me that she’s fat.
    When I watched the video, I saw an intelligent, articulate, passionate, attractive young woman.

    Although — come to think of it – I suppose she is somewhat larger than most TV anchors.
    Hmmmm. Now that I know that she’s fat, I suppose I should stop listening to what she has to say?

    Not bloody likely!

  21. Posted October 3, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    If I hear this “behavior” thing one more time…

    I’m an actress. I literally starved myself for years while dancing in musical theatre because I was told I was fat. I’ve seen the pictures – I was not in any way fat. I believed it and who knows how much damage I’ve done?

    Now, I am fat. I have PCOS, which makes life hard on several fronts, but all anyone sees is the fat. I was actually coming home from an opera rehearsal in NYC, when I was accosted by a man who yelled at me for being fat and asked if I had any concern for my husband (FYI, I’m currently unmarried, my boyfriend loves my shape and I have always had my share of admirers, thank you). I was stunned. I kept walking and called a friend. I felt like I was attacked. I WAS attacked!

    Whether my condition is medical or not, this kind of crap unreasonable judgement has to stop. It falls in the same category of judging brilliant women on their looks. It’s nonsense!! And I want it ceased!

    End of rant. So glad I found your blog!

    • Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      What the hell. Because obviously your body BELONGS to your husband (or boyfriend, or anyone.)

      God we live in such a messed up society.

      • littlem
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        That’s two rants in one, isn’t it?

        “I felt like I was attacked. “

        You totally were.

        (((((hugs))))) from a fellow NYC-er if you would like them.

  22. Posted October 3, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Growing up my dad and my grandmother criticized me about my weight and caused severe depression to the point of suicide at times. They never suggested better ways of eating or bringing more healthy food into my life, they just told me things like “nobody will ever love you if you are fat.” I still carry this around with me and this constant self doubt makes it really hard to get healthy as I really want to and work on regularly. When I get depressed/stressed I beat myself by eating crappy food. So telling people they are fat doesn’t help, it makes it worse. The only thing being told I was fat has ever done for me was dash my confidence. Thank you for this post, even before this whole anchor thing I really needed this because on a regular basis I feel like society thinks I don’t deserve to go out in public.

    • Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      I’m so sorry this happened to you. That is emotional and verbal abuse, plain and simple. It goes beyond bullying.

      There has been at least one study indicating that lots of people do what you describe in reaction to harassment – they binge eat, and even avoid exercise. This is one way that harassment, abuse, and bullying undermine the health of fat people, and it’s evil.

      You deserve to go out in public as much as anyone. This world is for all of us.

  23. Dee Bauchery
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Just wow. Somehow, I allowed myself to forget (read: ignored it so hard I forgot) how many complete jerkfaces are out there.

    I’m a 6′ tall female, carrying 220 AWESOME pounds, and I’m in better shape than most of the thinner people I know. STRONG is sexy, whether of body, mind, spirit, or all of the above! Mean is just…mean. Good luck making sense of the tangle that is humanity if you’re not willing to be a human for even just that split second before hitting the “Send” button.

    It’s not comforting knowing that in order to point a finger at a person for a superficial characteristic like weight, a person must be feeling pretty low about themselves. Even if they don’t mean to bully, taking the time to write an email that the author knows very well is completely unnecessary would indicate (to me, anyway) a superiority complex. Superiority complexes are what break society. Try fixing society, Sir Jerkface, and start with yourself. Look in the mirror – do you want some random stranger to email you about your quirks? If so, kindly post your email address, and CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. Douche.

    Also? You, Michelle, are lovely. Your confidence, quick wit, and beautiful grammar (no, really…it’s important to a few of us) make you shine above most. Inspiring, really. :)

    • Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      I especially appreciate the compliment on my grammar :)

      • Posted October 4, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        Your excellent grammar is definitely one of the things I’ve always admired about you.

        That and your awesome ability to cut through bullshit in a single bound.

  24. Agnes
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Usually, when we see someone who is unhealthy or disabled or whatever succeeding in a public occupation, we consider this a good thing. Overcoming adversity! Not letting one’s disability get in one’s way! So, even if you consider obesity a horrible, disfiguring disease, shouldn’t you be honoring this woman?

  25. Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Thanks for such an insightful piece. In light of Bullying Awareness month I thought it might be telling to share a graphic I helped create last year, “School Bullying Outbreak:” http://mat.usc.edu/school-bullying-outbreak-infographic/ — Bullying, like Jennifer encountered, is totally unacceptable and it is a learned behavior. If we can help keep bullying out of schools, maybe this sort of behavior will die out — I can only hope!

    • Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      Great infographic – thank you for linking it.

      On a personal note, I just want to state for the record that while I was still in school, I was bullied on a couple of occasions for my weight (even though, ironically, I was not fat as a kid), and experienced sexual harassment (technically sexual assault) by the time I was 12. As an adult, I’ve continued to experience both forms of harassment, usually from strangers on the street. It makes life miserable and it affects a person’s ability to function. I developed chronic depression and anxiety directly after I was harassed/assaulted at school and on the street as an adolescent. 20 years later, it still affects me every day. So I feel like this is a really important issue and I’m glad people are talking about it.

  26. Posted October 4, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Thank you, for all of this.

  27. moki
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    interesting that the negative comments are almost all men. just sayin’

    • Posted October 4, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      Yeah, strangely, men’s bodies don’t tend to require a certain % of body fat to maintain fertility, meaning their bodies tend not to defend their fat mass quite as fiercely, which makes it easier, on average, for them to lose weight. I wonder if that might have anything to do with it.

      Well, that and being raised in a culture that teaches them that they’re entitled to receive ONE FREE BONER from every woman, ever.

      Thankfully I have a small cadre of regular, awesome men commenters who don’t act like troglodytes.

      • gidget commando
        Posted October 4, 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        Well, that and being raised in a culture that teaches them that they’re entitled to receive ONE FREE BONER from every woman, ever.

        Because we all know the greatest crisis ever to curse humankind is that of the poor suffering ween.

        I <3 you so damn hard right now.

        • Posted October 4, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

          I told my husband once that, by being fat in public, I was violating our city’s Boner Ordinance. I love Lesley.

      • Posted October 4, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        Actually, men who are overweight do have more fertility problems. Once again, as you state on your website — causality is hard to define, but men who are overweight or obese tend to have lower sperm counts and higher rates of erectile dysfunction.

        • Posted October 4, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          I was referring to underweight, not overweight.

      • Posted October 5, 2012 at 5:24 am | Permalink

        I’m one of the awesome men readers who isn’t a douchebag! Hello!

        * so far as I know :)

        • Posted October 6, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink

          You totally are one of my awesome male readers, and you know it.

  28. Marisa LaTorre
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I just want to say Thank You and to let you know how happy I am to have found your blog. The one prejudice that is still socially acceptable in our society: fat haters.

    I think the emailer actually contradicted himself, because the fact that Jennifer’s size didn’t prevent her from being successful, is an INSPIRATION and positive role model to young girls. Instead of developing an eating disorder in order to try to reach a specific body type as a prerequisite to being acceptable members of society, they can focus on their strengths and talents in order to do whatever they want with their lives. In other words, their focus can extend beyond a number on a scale or in a doctor’s chart.

    The so-called concern for fat people’s health is such a whitewash of preconceived bullshit. So, all thin people are healthier than all fat people? We know that is not true. Not even counting eating disorders, unhealthy habits cross all weight lines.

    I quit smoking eight months ago – and I know I’m better off, I can breathe better, and I can walk up a flight of stairs without passing out. And guess what I added more weight to my already bulky body. BUT my lungs aren’t being damaged by nasty smoke anymore. Is a skinny smoker better off? NOT to bash smokers, but just pointing out that some behaviors that help keep skinny people skinny, like starvation, yo-yo- dieting, diet pills, smoking, cocaine, speed, exercise junkies, etc. do not exactly promote good health, even if they keep weight off.

    And – “obesity is one of the most dangerous habits to maintain” ? well, what about the above-referenced habits? And I know a guy who is addicted to sky-diving and base-jumping. He’s pretty skinny, but you know what I think his habit is pretty dangerous, but it’s his life, so he has a right to live it the way he wants. Just like I do, and you do, and Jennifer does. Who appointed thin people the health police?

    And how is “obesity” a habit? There are so many myriad reasons for people being fat, to just automatically assume that overeating is the only reason, is just showing willful ignorance.

    My mother was a two-pack a day smoker for 30 years. She has always been thin. She doesn’t exercise at all, and barely eats, she has a hate-hate relationship with food. But that’s her own pathology. She now has advanced emphysema, no longer smokes, but hey she’s still thin. WAY healthier than me, right? I’m bitter, because she is a fat-phobe and I hear from her, “you used to be so pretty” (I was thin – but not happier or healthier – when I was younger, and “you have such pretty hair” or “you have such good taste in clothes”, the implication being that IF ONLY I could lose weight, I’d be pretty.

    Well, here’s the thing. I have had my share of relationships, with jerks and nice guys, you’re right being fat helps weed out a lot of the jerks. And if my being loveable depends on my weight, then it isn’t really love. Just as the prejudiced emailer didn’t really write out of CONCERN but just to try to impose the narrow-minded standards of beauty and acceptability.

    I rambled on so much here, but this blog and your thought-provoking and eloquent posts have stirred up a lot, and just wrote stream-of-consciousness. Sorry about that.

    Thank you, thank you Michelle, for this blog and for being you. You are so beautiful and intelligent, and you are awesome. Thank you.

    • Posted October 4, 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your support, and congrats on stopping smoking. A lot of people keep smoking because they are afraid to gain weight, which is so…backward.

      Sadly, I don’t think this is the last acceptable prejudice, but I hope we can work on all of them together.

    • Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Congrats on stopping smoking! That is truly awesome.

  29. ~julie~
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Michelle, you rock. When I have a bit more time and $$ in my life, I’d like to work with you, because I love your perspective and think you could really help me. Keep up your amazingly awesome work. Love the blog!!!

  30. Former Fatty
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Here’s an interesting thought experiment. Go through the article and replace “fat people” with drug addicts and “obesity” with drug addiction and see if you have the same emotional response while reading it. I’ll start:

    Telling drug addicts that they are bad examples for daring to have jobs and exist in public spaces is eliminationist rhetoric – it suggests that drug addicts have no place in this world, that they need to just go away, hide at home with the lights off, and sober up until they are fit to be seen in public again.

    Fuck that. Drug addicts exist, we have existed, we will continue to exist. We have as much right to this world, and our jobs, and the public eye, as anyone else.

    Our bodies and the status of our health are not public property. Our existence is not open to debate or discussion. We are here, and our health is between us and the people to whom we’ve given informed consent to make judgments about it. It is not a handy club for you to beat us with. And if you cared one iota for drug addicts’ health, you would shut the fuck up and let us handle our business. The constant pressure and questioning and needling and harassment drug addicts get from family, friends, coworkers, neighbours, and perfect strangers all combines to create stigma, and that stigma materially hurts people’s health.

    Ragen had something brilliant to say:

    Everybody has the right exist in the body they have without shame, stigma or oppression. That right is inalienable and not yours to confer. This is not up for discussion, debate, or vote. There are no other valid opinions. Drug addicts have the right to exist in the bodies we have now. Period.

    Next time you are concerned about a drug addict’s health, consider that the best thing you might do for them is to treat them like capable adults and let them sort it out for themselves. Don’t add to the unhealthy storm of negativity and pressure and fear-mongering that is already surrounding them.

    • Posted October 4, 2012 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      False equivalence. You lose. Good day, sir.

      You’ve obviously never heard of Al-Anon either. I hope you get some help.

      Note to commenters: I’m basically just deleting stuff like this, at this point. If you haven’t bothered to read the myriad links I have posted in the comments to this post, and the previous one, and want to continue harping on points we’ve already discussed (like the idea that weight is not a behaviour, oh and that fat people aren’t actually breaking physics) then you don’t get to play. Sorry. This space isn’t for you.

      • Posted October 4, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        When I say “weight is not a behaviour” here is what I mean: Weight is the result of a complex interaction between genetics (x), social determinants of health (y), and behaviours like eating and moving (z). For the sake of simplicity, I am not even going to include underlying medical conditions, drug side-effects, or environmental contaminants.

        If you were to put it into an equation, just assuming a basic multiplication of variables, it would look like this:

        weight = x · y · z

        Assuming you know a person’s weight, the equation would be:

        150 lbs = x · y · z

        In order to solve for z (how much they eat and how much they move), you need to know the value for at least one of the other variables.

        So, literally, you cannot know a person’s behaviour based only on knowing their weight. There are too many unknown variables. You can’t assume that a person’s weight tells you what their behaviour is. Weight *includes* behavioural factors, but it is not equivalent to behaviour. It is more than that.

        • Sergey
          Posted October 4, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

          I presume you deleted my response for the same reason. So, no, it is not a binary-false analogy. Addiction also has genetic component, and weight does have a behavioral component as you yourself admit.
          I/we are not saying we should assume all overweight people have bad behavior (the guy who wrote the original email probably did, I don’t agree with him on that – I just think you are somewhat too much the other side); what we are saying is that there IS behavior improvement for most overweight people, and society should encourage that. True, the behavioral component is smaller (in relative terms), and extra weight is less harmful than many addictions – that only means we shouldn’t discourage it as much.
          Self-acceptance may not only be harmful for overweight people themselves, but also to others around them. Some of my relatives in Russia smoke (and also gain weight) because that is a typical lifestyle for their generation, they see it all around them. I can see their health deteriorate because of both. If some of them were to move to Seattle and see that, to put it bluntly, most of the people who smoke are losers, they’d be much more likely to give up than when all their collegues/friends/bosses/etc. smoke.
          If their friends were eating vegetables and playing tennis instead of eating some fried potatoes with delicious fat pork and watching TV, ditto.
          Yes, it will not cause everyone to become thin. But it will definitely improve the situations.

          • Posted October 11, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

            Things we know about a drug addict’s behaviour, by definition: they use drugs. Also, they are addicted to them.

            Things we know about a fat person’s behaviour: nothing, except they eat and sleep and breathe and poop like every other human being.

            It is a false analogy because it is comparing one person’s appearance with another person’s known behaviour. The actual analogy would be comparing a visibly fat person to a person who looks as though they may have a drug addiction. Let’s say, the person looks thin and perhaps has visible medical issues often associated with drug addiction (sores, or jitteriness, or dental problems.)

            The appearance may be suggestive of behaviour, but you are on really thin ice and risk stereotyping people in a pretty awful and stigmatizing way if you assume their appearance is a 100% accurate marker for behaviour. Some people have health conditions other than drug addiction that will result in appearing a certain way, and they don’t deserve to be stereotyped or stigmatized. And drug addicts themselves don’t deserve to be stereotyped or stigmatized either – they have a disease and they deserve help.

            Self acceptance as part of a health approach was shown in at least one randomized control trial to improve health in fat women. So speculating based on your relatives’ experiences isn’t really all that convincing to me.

            We already stigmatize fat people like we do smokers. We have for a while. The stigma is intense and widespread, and it hasn’t made any of us thinner. So why not try something that not only stands a better chance of helping people’s health, but isn’t ethically and morally repugnant? I know it is super-fun to shame people, and it’s going to be a bummer to give that up, but maybe we could all try growing up and being decent human beings.

            I don’t know if I deleted your prior comment. It may have been trapped in the spam filter. But I am warning you, and everyone else: I have a limited amount of time, wrist strength, and emotional resources to handle this conversation. Usually I reserve this space for people to talk about health at every size and the work of self-acceptance in a world that treats you like garbage. That is more important to me, at this point, than arguing with people who spew bigoted, ignorant vomit all over my website. So if you think you’re coming back for round two, it ain’t gonna happen.

            I have repeated several points over and over in the comments on this thread. I have linked to several articles and websites and sources of information, and I would suggest people look at those and direct any further questions with caution, information, and civility.

    • Chris
      Posted October 5, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      Good God FF. Are you serious?

      Y’know what – if you cared for the health of anyone, you’d shut the fuck up. What are you, allergic to listening?

    • Yara
      Posted October 5, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Actually that sounds fine to me. People who are addicted to drugs? They have a right to exist and decide if and how they want help for their addiction. They have a right to participate in society. They have the right to bodily autonomy. If their addiction actively harms others, that can be dealt with. Stigma is a contributing cause to a lot of drug addiction (especially where people are self-medicating because the health system has failed them) as well as a barrier to seeking help. Drug addicts have the right to not be stigmatised. We SHOULD treat drug addicts like adults.

      And drug addiction and “obesity” is totally comparable. That’s why you can get arrested for driving under the influence of fat because fat makes you highly likely to crash your car and likely kill someone. Oh wait. That’s alcohol or other intoxicants.

      • Chris
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:36 am | Permalink

        Driving under the influence of fat. I love it!

      • Dnelle
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

        That’s the new trend amongst young people, isn’t it?
        “Oh dude! We went out last night and got so FAT! It was crazy, man. I could barely drive home.”

        It’s a real problem…

    • Amanda
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      I don’t even think you’ve succeeded in making Michelle’s powerful statement sound ridiculous the way you meant to. Drug addicts *do* have the right to exist, and have the right to autonomy, just like everyone else. They still have worth as people. And, kind of like how pretty much everyone who is overweight knows it and doesn’t need anyone to tell them, every drug addict in the world knows that they have a problem, and many of them are struggling to fix it. The way society stigmatizes and shames them does nothing to address the underlying issues that made then turn to drugs in the first place. Honestly, I think drug addicts are another group that gets attacked under the guise of “health concern” ect. by people who don’t do research and don’t have any grasp on the facts.

  31. Posted October 4, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Probably shouldn’t have commented until I saw your last post. So, if you deleted the previous comments I submitted, I won’t be offended.

    I agree that no one should be judged for their weight. I agree that people who are overweight, obese, and even morbidly obese have the right to exist and have the right to live without fear of being ridiculed in public. I personally believe that unless someone has offended you personally, no matter what they look like, you should treat them politely and with respect.

    And I believe that weight is a result of several factors, and that maintaining a “healthy weight” — a real “healthy weight”, not society’s view of “thin enough” is more difficult for some people than for others, because of genetics, how they were raised to cope with stress and social situations and a myriad of other things.

    But I do believe we do ourselves a disservice when we don’t acknowledge our own choices as part of the equation. I will never be a size 3 – that is not possible, because of my frame size and the genetics I inherited, but I do know that when I am truly eating more fruits and vegetables and exercising regularly, my body works better and I am able to maintain a thinner size than I do when I am stressed out, not sleeping enough, and using food to cope with life — rather than as a true nutritional source when I am actually hungry.

    Does this mean people should assume things about a person’s behavior based on weight? or treat them differently because of it? No.
    Does it mean that if I am that person who is so overweight that I can’t move freely and truly participate in life I might need to reconsider my daily lifestyle choices? Yes.

    I guess I feel that in general society is trying to say more and more that everything isn’t your fault anymore — Bad credit? That’s not your fault or a result of bad choices. Bad grades in school? Not your fault. Can’t find a job? Not your fault. And so it bothers me when people try to remove our personal responsibility from any equation. As human beings we should be striving to improve our behavior every day in all areas in life, so I worry that if people are constantly fed the idea that its not their fault, they won’t try to improve themselves. And that is bad for everyone.

    • Lindsay
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      “I do know that when I am truly eating more fruits and vegetables and exercising regularly, my body works better and I am able to maintain a thinner size than I do when I am stressed out, not sleeping enough, and using food to cope with life”

      That is your experience only. Why do you imply here that others will have bodies that respond the same way? And that everyone has the accomodations in their life to eat those foods, exercise, and sleep enough?

      “I guess I feel that in general society is trying to say more and more that everything isn’t your fault anymore — Bad credit? That’s not your fault or a result of bad choices. Bad grades in school? Not your fault. Can’t find a job? Not your fault. And so it bothers me when people try to remove our personal responsibility from any equation”

      There are situations when all of those things are not people’s faults whatsoever. Acknowledging that there are multiple components to weight and health ecouraging others to feel good about their bodies is not going to make people complacent or not care. In fact the opposite is true. I think society is extremely hard on everyone who isn’t perfect, and not to their benefit.

      “As human beings we should be striving to improve our behavior every day in all areas in life”

      Why should we? We are allowed to prioritize. This is almost laughable to me that people should be trying to improve EVERYTHING EVERY DAY. I’ve got a great work ethic but you know what? That sounds exhausting.

      • Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink
        “As human beings we should be striving to improve our behavior every day in all areas in life”

        Why should we? We are allowed to prioritize. This is almost laughable to me that people should be trying to improve EVERYTHING EVERY DAY. I’ve got a great work ethic but you know what? That sounds exhausting.

        Abso-freaking-lutely. Exhausting and panic-inducing. Especially because “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

        Believing that I must be “good” about health, exercise, cleaning, or whatever-the-heck else is waaaaay less useful than giving myself permission to prioritize, having reasonable expectations and cutting myself some freaking slack.

  32. Clgz
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    I can totally identify with this woman. See, I enjoy lifting weights. To me it’s almost a spiritual experience. It clears my mind. It’s meditative. As a result of my choice to participate in this activity I’ve developed some noticeable muscle size. Wen people started seeing these “results” I was approached by “friends” and family who expressed concern that I was using illegal drugs, steroids. They were also afraid that I was becoming self absorbed and vain. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. Now that I’m swole people only want to talk to me about working out, dieting, all that stuff; which I really don’t enjoy talking about. When I do try to talk about things I enjoy, like politics, history, or art, they’re surprised that I’m capable of anything else outside of the gym. That kind of behavior is discriminatory and is unacceptable.

    I’m swole. It’s who I am. Accept it! And please don’t treat me like a piece of meat because I’m a person too; with a heart, brains, and all the related emotions.

    Thank you!

  33. Jen
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    You would think all of these very concerned people who are so worried about my health would be glad to hear I can reduce my obesity-associated risk by a ridiculous amount by not smoking (never did, so check), moderate exercise (check), a glass of wine at dinner (sometimes), and more fruits and veggies (my goal), even if I never lose a pound.

    And yet, I’m sure we’ve all noticed no concerned person is ever happy or even aware of this. Strange, it’s almost as if they don’t know what they’re talking about and they are just glad their visceral distaste is justified by SCIENCE!…

  34. Marisa
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Hi,
    Just wanted to share a link to an article I just read, thought you might be interested… thanks again. ~ Marisa

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/health/research/more-data-suggests-fitness-matters-more-than-weight.html?_r=0

  35. TheNailPixi
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    First of all, I absolutely LOVE that I found this blog! What a great community to find!

    Now for my response to this conversation.

    I have struggled with my weight for many years. Tho I did not always make the best food choices when I was younger (I am 33 now) I have tried for years to lose weight. I have tried diets. I have had personal trainers. What I have accually been told is that I DON’T EAT ENOUGH! Because of my profession (I am a nail technician) I only eat when I don’t have clients. Many-a-10 hour day has gone by without a meal. My body panics and stores up all the fat it can find. So, please, all of you saying that being fat is cause by eating too much, this really is not always the reason. Now, I have been trying to eat more often and make healthy food choices and I have lost 17lbs. I have a ways to go, but I do know I will forever be a “Fat girl” and I am okay with that. Healthy is the goal.

    • flightless
      Posted October 11, 2012 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      >> Many-a-10 hour day has gone by without a meal. My body panics and stores up all the fat it can find.

      Yes – and another situation wherein people don’t eat enough? DIETING. It stands to reason that our bodies, which evolved to survive famines and hard winters, would start conserving calories when they aren’t getting enough. (I don’t know if it was here, Ragen’s blog or elsewhere, but my favorite version of this went something like: crash dieting plus working out on a treadmill –> your body reads that as “there’s a famine and something is chasing me” = hoard all fat cells! we may need them!)

  36. Posted October 4, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    I just finished reading all the comments and I don’t know where to begin. This is SUCH a sensitive issue! So forgive me if I ramble.

    First off, the belief that obesity “causes” diabetes. My grandmother had diabetes, and while she was chunky when diagnosed in her 40’s, she lost weight and actually became very “normal” in appearance, and it didn’t go away. It’s a myth that if you just lose weight, the diabetes will go away. That’s because obesity DOESN’T cause Type 2, it’s just sometimes a marker for a genetic predisposition. When you look at all the large people in the US, 33.8% of them are classified as obese, but only about 8% of the population has ANY kind of diabetes. So there is 25% of the population that is obese, and will never get diabetes because they don’t have the genes for it. And thin people get Type 2 diabetes, too.

    Then, I was diagnosed at the age of 44, and I wasn’t obese, but did fall into the arbitrary “overweight” category. So I struggled and struggled, and did lose about 15% of my body weight, and no, the diabetes didn’t go away or get any better. That’s because my weight (and I do carry my weight around my belly) did NOT cause my diabetes. The diagnosis was a catastrophe to me, and I bawled and bawled, because I was raised with the admonition, “Natalie, don’t eat that; you’ll get fat, and you’ll get diabetes!” And it didn’t help that my sister was skin and bones, and of course I was rounder than she was. So here I was, sitting in a room crying my eyes out because all the voices in my head were saying “I told you so! I told you so!”

    This is one of the reasons I’m skeptical about Michelle Obama’s War on Childhood Obesity. Yes, we want our children to be healthy, but this is a subject that needs to be treated with great sensitivity and with great concern for the child’s mental health as well as their physical health.

    In my case, I have both binged myself into a diabetic coma, and starved myself for 18 months because of my obsessive preoccupation with my weight, even though I’m at a weight which is probably exactly the right weight for my age and build, i.e. the weight that my body naturally settles at when I eat well and exercise moderately. I am currently, at age 64, in a program for eating disorders (I’ve had an eating disorder for a long time, but only recently realized it and got myself into treatment) — do you think my family REALLY intended to do this to me? And if it happened to me, how many others is it happening to?

    Maybe someday, scientists will figure out the biochemistry of weight regulation, and people will be able to “choose” to be thin, but then they should also be able to choose to be their natural weight, too.

    As far as other health problems, I do feel bad when a large person develops joint problems and is in pain, and yes, being large can exacerbate this problem, but the answer is to treat the pain and let the person live as fulfilling a life as possible, not to lecture them about their weight, and certainly not to reject them as a patient, as some doctors are now doing. Of all the discrimination against fat people, I think medical discrimination is actually the worst, because it’s their lives at stake. I think they should have every right to live free from pain, and able to do what they want to do. And all of us will eventually deteriorate, and become frail and all of us will die, so to hell with diets and losing weight and up with freedom and meaning and value in our lives.

  37. Cindy
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    Hi Michelle,

    I stumbled across your blog yesterday and spent some time reading quite a few of your posts. I’ve weighed more than most people think I should for the past 25 years. I have finally learned to pay attention to my body, and I now know that, FOR ME, eating a lot of processed carbs makes me gain weight. I also know that I don’t feel great when I eat them, and so I’ve tried to make food choices that work for my body. But over the past year and a half, I’ve had some health challenges, haven’t been able to work, and ended up on food stamps. We’ve eaten a lot of pasta just so there’s enough food to go around, and I’ve gained about 10 lbs. over the past 6 months.

    Your blog has made me realize that I have been trying to lose weight only because I thought I was supposed to. I’m still trying to limit the rice and pasta only because I feel better when I do, but if that’s what we have, then that’s what we have, and it’s OK. I’ve realized that I actually eat a lot less than my “normal” weight kids and that my weight does not boil down to a simple equation of food – activity = body mass. So I’ve decided to just stop worrying about it, and I have you to thank.

    So . . . thanks. :)

  38. Gene Bernstein
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    As a fat person that is medically diagnosed as “Morbidly Obese”, I have to say how refreshing it is to see somebody expose some of the complexities involved with Obesity. In the last 3 years I have been on a path of slowly but steadily losing weight. When one is “Morbidly Obese” there are so many emotional things that become intertwined with one’s eating, that you have to deal with those emotional issues to ever lose and keep the weight off. For me, it has been a journey of self-discovery that has been a process of getting over much of the self loathing I have lived with. It has also been a journey of growing and accepting myself for who I am, and changing who I am to improve my own self-image.
    Do you know what I find the most intriguing? Many people who are fit and slim have the same kinds of issues, they just cope in different ways than eating, and in many cases just hide their problems better.
    In a way, I have found it to be blessing to be obese. As I lose and keep the weight off, I have an external and visible indicator of my growth. Many people that lose the weight, just convert from a food addiction, to something worse like drugs and alcohol. This is very common among bariatric patients.

  39. Ava
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I think what makes me angriest, besides this person’s blatent disrespect for a stranger, is the comment that she can’t be a good role model for “young people, especially girls”, because of her weight. I am so tired of this obsession America has with women and weight. The media helps to cultivate it by casting mainly slim, attractive women in leading roles, by making it front-page news whenever a celebrity gains (or loses) more than five pounds. I think caring about our nation’s youth means cultivating an attitude of confidence and security in our children, rather than teaching them that physical appearance is everything. Encourage them to be healthy for them, not for each other. It’s no wonder educational standards are dropping with everyone focusing on appearances. Drop the looks, pick up the books!

  40. Mab
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Oh dear. I’ve just watched this video and can’t stop crying. It’s been almost 10 years since I’ve had been bullied in school (mostly because of my weight), and oh god, how I wished I had someone like this woman to inspire me and help me to stand up against them.

  41. anon
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    The one thing people keep focusing on is the “weight” issue. And the myriad of opinions of what that means, and is it good or bad, etc etc etc.
    The larger picture going on here is of the man who sent the email to this news anchor. The fact that he felt the need to contact a complete stranger, put her down in a backhanded , seemingly “concerned” way, judge her, then try to force his opinions onto her as to how she should live her life.
    To get to this point, seeing her on tv triggered some sort of psychological anxiety in which she becomes a symbol for something else in his psyche, and his desperate need to seek some sort of relief or control over that psychological distress was to send that email.
    He knows nothing of this woman. She is a stranger. He is not connecting with her as a human being. He is seeing some sort of symbol.
    He obviously views her (in an exaggerated way) as someone with immense power, otherwise how can he make the conclusion that her presence as a weather news reporter on a local cable channel would have such powerful influence over a population of young women and their bodies.
    This train of thought is messed up.
    This troubles him so much, it strikes a deep chord emotionally that he has no choice but to try and control this, and to do so means to put her in her place.

    This is where bullying comes in – the need to maintain some sort of control in ones life, and trying to achieve this through controlling/hurting/abusing others.
    Its messed up but its a tool that people have developed and learned to use because they have not learned or been taught any other way.

    We all struggle for a need of control in our lives, and we do it on this level, or through comments on a webpage/blog, through trying to have our voices and opinions heard.
    But what this man is missing is the acknowledgment of this news anchor as a person – someone who is just as complex a human being as he is, who struggles with their own set of anxiety in this world.
    I wonder if he actually knew this woman, would he have done the same thing. If he knew her as a person, he would view her in a different context, and perhaps he could see the essence of her as a human, not as some label or ideology about weight and appearance that is either good or bad.

    • Agnes
      Posted October 5, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      I think it is possible for a viewer to write an appropriate letter about the woman’s work. Presumably, the channel wants to appeal to its audience.
      That might look like this: “In your interview with Congressman Creepo, you didn’t question him hard enough about that suitcase of money found at his house.”

      It’s even possible to write an appropriate letter focused on the reporter’s health.
      “In your recent interview, as you were chasing after Congressman Creepo to ask him about that suitcase of money found at his house, I couldn’t help noticing you were wheezing. As someone who values your hard-hitting reporting, I hope you are feeling better and getting appropriate medical care so you’ll be able to continue this important work.”
      We could question whether that is the letter-writer’s business. But it expresses genuine concern related to the person’s actual job. Supposedly, that is what motivated the original letter- but it looks nothing like this.

  42. anon
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Also, very excellent article and comments Michelle. Thankyou.

  43. Debbie
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    For what it’s worth — it’s not always a simple matter of reducing calories and exercising. Our bodies truly do process food and handle exercise very differently. In fact, I was the heaviest I’ve ever been while training for a half marathon, which I totally rocked! But I’m overweight. Even maintaining a diet of 1200 – 1500 calories a day for weeks/months at a time results in not much change. And I’ve got a lazy thyroid to boot :)

    I’ve even found that the more I exercise, the more my body holds onto weight. It just is what it is. I am overweight and I am also fit and healthy with a BP of 100 over 70 and good blood sugar and cholesterol and resting heartrate … so on and so on. If we were all trapped on a desert island and we had no food, the heaviest of us might very well live the longest :)

    It’s fine for the guy who wrote the email to have an opinion. And he may make sacrifices every day and only eat clean food and never touch sugar and he may exercise like an olympian – rock on for him. You go, buddy! But I think true compassion, understanding and wisdom in this world comes when we accept our own moral standards as exactly that — our own. No one else needs to follow them, agree with them or support them. We each are the navigatoprs of our own lives and we are each responsible for the decisions we make and we all know that. It’s never for anyone else to judge or try and change. Worry about your own life. Live your life as an example if you want. That’s fine. But let others live as they see fit. We were all born with that right and no one can take that away from us.

    I also just want to add that someone who has never struggled with weight or has had great results from increasing activity and reducing the amount of calories may never understand the complexity of being overweight. And they may never get it. But just as it’s not his place to judge Jennifer — it’s not our place to judge him.

    Find what maters to you. And hold yourself to your own loving standards. Be true to you and let others be true to themselves. Easier said than done – but a worthy goal to aspire to. Live and let live.

  44. Posted October 5, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    In regards to the news anchor, i saw the video where she responded to the letter and literally it brought tears to my eyes. I am not obese. I am overweight, but regardless I thought the way she responded was amazing. She spoke so well, so respectful but to the point. I totally agree with her. In the words of Thumper’s mother from the movie Bambi, “if you don’t have nothing good to say, don’t say nothing at all”. Someone that is out on the public eye like her surely hears comments like that all the time. I find it ridiculous that this person thought that it was necessary to point another finger at her. No one should judge her for her decisions. Her husband, her kids and her family they could help motivate her to eat better and exercise etc. (no one, absolutely no one needs to point out her being overweight, that does not solve anything, but just brings her down) her family Because they know her circumstances, but if we don’t know her then just keep your suggestions to yourself.

    • Posted October 5, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      I did not explain myself correctly at the end. What i mean was that not even here family has to tell her she is fat Or. Overweight. All they should do is encourage her and set an example. I believe being overweight does affect your health. But your seight is such a personal topic. No one should ever tell somebody they are overweight. Everyone should just mind your own business. The best thing you could do is lead by example. Focus on yourself and others will follow. But no need to speak. Actions are louder than words. That person struggling with weight might approach u one day for help. But really don’t get involved in others peoples’ personal lives.

  45. Posted October 5, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    The guy, the guy who wrote the original letter, god what a tool!

    All I could think watching the newscaster was: Bill Clinton at the Democratic convention. It’s that same kind of passionate, truth-speaking, unafraid language and it is soooo charismatic and so sexy! It is irresistible. A really good lesson for me and probably for others? Speaking up against bias and these kind of heinous, really quite stupid but so socially sanctioned concern trolls is just a beautiful, elegant, gorgeous thing to do, in addition to being the RIGHT thing to do.

    I am so grateful for the work you do, Michelle, constantly reminding the internet and individuals about the reality of our innate worth and the total unreality of thinness as a measure of health, worth, hard-workingness, self-control, etc.

  46. Alice
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    Hi Michelle,

    I’ve been reading both your and Regan’s blogs for some time. Thank you for the work you do. I’ve never commented as I am now an inbetweenie almost patriarchally defined ‘right’ sized woman. I used to be mega death fat. I worry that my story is heard so often that I don’t tend to post but these replies, they make me very upset and angry.

    I used to believe that all fat people had the same story that I had to some degree. I was a thin kid who grew up in a fat loathing household, put on a diet at puberty when I gained puppy fat, shamed in ballet and thought I was a terrible person because of my weight.

    I gained weight throughout my twenties due to eating a large amount of high caloric food and reducing exercise. When I do that my body gains weight. I binged, I was unhappy, I ended up severely depressed and the medication prescribed added to the weight gain.

    Luckily I was successfully treated for depression and eating disorders. When I came off the medication and changed my caloric intake and started to exercise more my body dropped a lot of weight. I successfully continued my ‘lifestyle change’ as all my numbers were terrible and along with the loss of weight came lower blood pressure, and cholesterol etc.

    For me being fat was correlated with being unhealthy by the standard tests. When I changed behaviors I became thinner and healthier.

    So I thought everyone else who was fat was like me. I made a pretty terrible logical error. I started to read size acceptance blogs because of lingering issues and I found that nope, there are lots of fat people who have a similar way of eating and exercising as I do, have the associated health benefits but their bodies don’t respond by losing weight.

    I started to look around. I saw my genuinely tiny room mate who eats three times what I do, mainly in the form of processed foods and never moves ever unless she is being chased by wolves. I saw people I work out with at the gym who complained they couldn’t gain muscle. (I happen to gain muscle really easily by doing less than them).

    I have a group of people I work out with, my body changes as theirs stay the same. I have a highly changeable body. Not everyone does. I also have access to healthcare which allowed me to treat my mental illness and am currently able bodied.

    Please, please stop thinking we are all the same. Former fatties, I get it, but when I hear people say ‘I know you are fat because you eat too much because when I was fat I ate too much’ I want to scream.

    Everyone has a different story, our bodies work differently, listen to people and be kind. Oh and if my mental health deteriorates and I have to go on medication or I find the way I eat now triggering, I will probably gain weight by making the healthiest decision for me, as mental health is my top priority.

    And guess what? Even if there are fat people who eat high caloric processed foods and don’t exercise (like my tiny pretty friend) they are human beings who should be treated with empathy, kindness and respect. Guess how often my thin friend is shamed for how she eats, smokes and doesn’t work out? People see her as kind and generous and funny. She is. If she was fat, would anyone see that? I get treated so differently now and moreso as I continue to get closer to the supposed beauty norm and it upsets me terribly. I know boo hoo, but until you have lived both sides you don’t know how badly fat people are treated. I’m seen as a person now, not as a fat person.

    That means I get to be me and not a stereotype. Oh I should mention I’m also white and straight so I win all the unfair advantages a woman can have. I have a muscular body with less adipose tissue so it is obvious I work out. For that I get told I’m ‘good’ or ‘virtuous’. Um no, I spend a lot of time in the gym because it is very effective for my mental health and my number of physical issues. I have enough time and money to do it. If I were good and virtuous maybe I’d be volunteering for charity for those hours instead.

    I hope this doesn’t come off as obnoxious, that people should take my word over a fat person’s when I say knock it the fuck off. I haven’t commented in these spaces before and I want them to remain safe. I want to be a good ally to fat people if they want me.

    Sorry for the essay, thank you Michelle again!

    Alice

    Oh and thanks for stopping the fat people versus drug addicts talk. I’m an addict in recovery. If any non addicts think we are treated with near constant compassion and kindness and addiction accepted as a ‘disease’, um wow. Just no.

    • Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:24 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Alice. Sometimes people lose weight as a side-effect of making changes for the better. Sometimes they don’t, but are healthier anyway for making those changes. That’s how health at every size is supposed to work.

      • Alice
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

        I spelled Ragen’s name incorrectly. Face palm.

    • Posted October 6, 2012 at 6:00 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Alice. You sound like an ally who “gets it”.

      • Alice
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

        Thanks ClosetPuritan! It took years to start to think this way but I try really hard to challenge fat loathing when I see it.

  47. Posted October 5, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Hi! I’m here, giving some loving on your blog. <3

    Actually, I really enjoyed your post (and your blog). I think that you are correct, that this is one example of the open discrimination that fat people, and fat women in particular, suffer from every day. Other examples would be the assholes who populate these comments and say rude, trollish things. I want you to know that every hateful comment you reply to, every person you stand up to, and every person you stand up for, it really does make a difference. Even if it seems slow, it is sure. It is because people like you, like Ragen, like Linda Bacon, that change the minds of people who will then force change. Don't give up, you really are appreciated.

    Even if no one else does, everyday at least one other random person appreciates you. Keep up your great work.

  48. Chris
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:20 am | Permalink

    I wonder why it is that so many people who are offering their critiques are all like “one day you’ll see that you’re wrong”, and what? Oh no, then my ego is going to hurt, because it feels so bad to be wrong. Anything but that! My precious ego couldn’t take it! Could that be why the critics are holding onto old prejudices, with closed minds?

    But maybe then we’ll all be penitent. We’re sorry, Mister Patriarchy. One of us got sick, so we see now that we were wrong. One sick obese person proves that we’re wrong, and we cannot be trusted. If only we’d all been thin, and obedient, we never would have had to endure suffering. We bow down to your superior rightness. Oh, show us the way! Please tell us what to do and we’ll do it. How many virgins did you need again?

  49. DJ
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Relatives would express “concern” about my weight even though I was a 10 year old boy. My grandmother would make a big deal of giving me a small low-calorie dessert while my siblings had a bowl of ice cream during the few times I saw her each year.

    I’ve seen photographs of me as a child and I always looked average weight for a child of the 1970s. My BMI at high school graduation was 23.3.

    But I always considered myself fat and unattractive, being very self-conscious about my body. I kept remembering the things that my grandmother and other relatives said to me as a young boy.

    As an adult, I have gone up in weight, then lost 20-40 pounds, over and over. I’m currently 95 pounds over what I weighed in high school.

    Words can be weapons and my life has had considerably less joy because of people’s “concern.”

    • Renee
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      Right there with you DJ! Because of “we’ll-meaning family and a doc” I have struggled with disordered eating for far too long.

      Michelle – I love stopping by and “hearing” what you have to say. Keep it up lady!

    • Lisa
      Posted October 11, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Oh yes DJ, I’ve been there! My mother used to fret about “how skinny” my brother was and make him banana milkshakes for snacks, while making sure every time that I knew they weren’t for me (with an angry look up and down my 9 year old body).

  50. mark stolzoff
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    So are people no longer allowed to Criticize a drunk for for being a drunkard? The only person who called the news caster fat, was herself. Instead of answering the guys honest question in the letter she went off on a rant. The thing about stopping bullying is a good message, but it’s got nothing to do with the letter. a Letter to a Person on TV questioning their appearance is not bullying! if you dont want people commenting on what you look like, move behind the camera! I Have 2 obese parents who i worry about every single day, I myself have been 50 lbs overweight. If my child were to be big, I wouldn’t love them any less, but I would want to them to u, understand the health risks involved because of it, and what they could do to fix the problem if they choose to.

    • Posted October 11, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      A fat person is not equivalent to a drunkard. I just don’t even know what to say to the rest of this comment, but I’m sure it doesn’t really matter since you clearly have not read any of the arguments or citations I put forth to support my ideas. Godspeed.

  51. Hypocritopotamus
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Bullying is bad, but you know what is potentially worse? When charge of “bullying” is thrown around when people find themselves challenged for any reason. Sometimes, calling criticism “bullying” is a transparent attempt to delegitimize criticism by likening the critic to a schoolyard thug. In this case, the anchor is assuming something about the letter-writer when she calls it bullying–she assumes something negative about his or her motives which may not be the truth. Maybe the viewer was simply bad at expressing themselves. Maybe he or she is a formerly obese person who has genuine concern for the health of other obese people. Saying something like “Hey fatso, lay off the Ho-ho’s” is bullying. Saying that a public figure has a responsibility to set a good example is debatable– but not obvious bullying, at least to me.

    We can also have a discussion about how unfair it is that the newsanchor has privileged access to the public airwaves to “destroy” her critic, but the viewer is not given the opportunity to respond. Doesn’t strike me as a particularly fair debate. How about you?

    Obesity IS at epidemic levels in this country. One can certainly claim that obese individuals already know they have a problem…but promoting the notion that obesity is normal or irrelevant may have the pernicious effect of “normalizing” overweight in many peoples’ minds. Did you know that foreign auto-makers are already making the seats of cars they sell here bigger, because so many Americans are heavy? One can imagine that in such a world of oversize seats, clothes, etc., where any peep of “size intolerance” is called “bullying”, being overweight CAN be seen as normal. But alas, your adrenal gland can’t be conveniently upsized–you can’t standardize away Type II diabetes.

    Of course, there is never any excuse to stigmatize or devalue other people; in fact, ridicule often it has the opposite effect than the attacker intends. But believe me: when the word “bullying” is overused, then even bullies will use it to defend their bigoted views. Let’s be careful when we use it.

    • Posted October 11, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      omg you’re so right – it’s SO MUCH WORSE TO BE CALLED A BULLY than to actually be the target of harassment. What was I thinking.

      Saying a public figure is setting a bad example because she is a fat person – without knowing her health, her background, or what she does to take care of her body – who has the nerve to do her job while still fat is eliminationist. It suggests that fat people should not be seen until they have “fixed” their bodies by losing weight, and it suggests that looking a certain way harms other people (lolwut?) And even if someone is struggling with health problems or has a disability? IT IS STILL JUST BETWEEN THEM AND THEIR DOCTOR, AND THEY STILL HAVE THE RIGHT TO HAVE A JOB AND NOT BE HARASSED ABOUT THEIR BODY.

      Some people question whether obesity is at “epidemic” levels. The average weight gain during the apparent epidemic was in the range of 7-14 lbs (some say 3-5 kg.) We are also taller now than we were a hundred years ago.

      Pearl-clutching at the idea that product manufacturers are taking steps to accommodate the real-life bodies of their customers is ridiculous. Fat people exist, whether you like it or not. Despite the $60 BILLION spent each year in the US to lose weight, many people are not losing weight. They still need cars, they still need to have jobs, they still need to live their lives, and they deserve to do it without unsolicited commentary from moronic, self-righteous strangers about what a bad example they are setting by existing.

      I dearly hope that we all end up in a world where being “overweight” (or any size) can be seen as normal. Because guess what, humans come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The fact that we have selected a very narrow range of shapes and sizes to be considered “acceptable” is a social construction, and it harms people.

      • emi11n
        Posted October 12, 2012 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        I find it kind of sadly funny that so many people are SOOO worried that obesity will be “normalized” that they immediately jump up to object whenever a fat person visibly opposes harrassment or is shown in the media as anything other than sick/miserable/dying/lonely or as a “good fatty” working to lose weight. Do they not see the many thousands of fat-hating messages that we are bombarded with every day? I don’t think we’re in any danger of accepting fattys any time soon. God forbid we should ever be told anything other than “get skinny or hate yourself.”

        • Posted October 12, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

          This. If obesity is so “normalized”, why can’t fat people go through their daily lives and do their jobs without people pointing out that they’re fat and telling them to stop being fat at them?

    • Hypocritopotamus
      Posted October 12, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      Michelle, I can respect your passion, but not your logic. You seem fond of saying that obese is a phenotype, not a choice. But in fact it’s nothing like that simple: certain phenotypes afford certain choices, and certain choices disproportionately affect certain phenotypes. This is not even to consider the effects of environment on both. In short, it’s complicated, and to say that obesity is just a “body type” is as false as it is to claim it is entirely a matter of free choice.

      I’m sure that on this fine Internet you can find justification for anything, even so implausible an assertion that we’re all heavier now because we’re “taller.” But in the world of real data, it’s actually not true that Americans are getting taller. In fact, we have fallen behind some European populations, such as the Dutch, in height even as our obesity rate had outstripped theirs by a wide margin. The vast majority of public health experts agree that we are heavy, and getting heavier every year.

      As for “pearl-clutching”, let me understand you: European carmaker are upsizing our seats, suspensions, etc. because of an outbreak of “reality” in body sizes in America? Really? So I have to wonder–are Europeans, who have obesity rates a fraction of ours, somehow uniquely capable of defying reality?

      I agree that there is “pearl clutching” going on here, though. Rationalizing what is at root a public health problem is just wrongheaded, even if its done out of a concern for the healthy self- image of those affected most. There is a huge financial incentive for corporations to make us over-eat– it makes certain people rich when we over-consume. I have to wonder why some people think its a good idea to, in effect, make their case for them that all is “normal” with how Anericans eat.

      Finally, about bullying. Obviously it’s no fun to be abused, devalued, marginalized. I know something about this myself, from personal experience. But I still maintain that calling every bit of criticism “bullying” is corrosive to our public discourse. Pretty soon (if not already) every intolerant prick is going to want a piece of that defense, to say he was “bullied” for whatever benighted views were “normal” for him. Is that really a place we all want to go as a society?

      • Danielle
        Posted October 12, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Excuse me, I’m Dutch and fat. Many of my Dutch friends are fat, too.

        The Dutch are not some magical European ideal of thin healthy tall people as opposed to the obese masses of America or something. Don’t use our population statistics to justify your own bigotry. Thanks.

        • Hypocritopotamus
          Posted October 12, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

          Danielle, obviously there are Dutch people who are fat. I was talking about averages for populations.

          You might consider understanding what people are saying before exposing your own ignorance. Thanks.

          • Posted October 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

            When Americans reference Europeans for favourable comparison, they often come off sounding like ignorant jackasses. Just a tip for the future.

          • Danielle
            Posted October 12, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

            Yes, you were talking about averages for populations. To justify your own bigotry. As I was saying.

      • Posted October 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        I never said we were heavier because we were taller. I just mentioned that we are also taller because that fact is often accepted as benign and goes without much commentary, though obviously height is both highly heritable, and somewhat influenced by environment. I also didn’t say we are still getting taller, just that we are taller now than we once were.

        I also never said that Europeans are “uniquely capable of defying reality.” You are putting words in my mouth, and that does not fly around here.

        Environmental changes definitely contribute to changes in weight, but that does not automatically mean that those changes in weight are a unilateral disaster, nor that they are a matter of personal choice instead of complex, systemic environmental issues.

        “Bullying” in this case is used to describe an expression of stereotyping and prejudice, which is what happened to the news anchor. It is not simple criticism, because it is aimed at the news anchor’s body, not at her words, the quality of her work, or her actions. That is wrong.

        You are done.

        P.S. Guess what also stands to be hugely profitable to certain companies? Making people think that weight loss is the One True Way to good health and happiness.

        • Hypocritopotamus
          Posted October 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

          Wow, talk about “eliminationist”!

          Michelle, know what’s a handy metric for figuring out if a blogger is closed-minded and unable to cope with reasonable dissent? Count how many times she uses a phrase like “you are done”. How high is your count?

          Maybe it’s hard for you to fathom, but not all those who respect your opinions necessarily respond to you with fawning agreement. Sometimes they just call you on your bullshit. So naturally you didn’t outright SAY we are heavier because we’re taller–that would be an absurd statement. You merely implied it, on lieu of an actual, you know, factual argument.

          I guess it’s possible that snarky rationalization is your strong suit, not qualitative argument. So when I correctly cited the Dutch as a population that is taller but not heavier, and a single Dutch person who doesn’t understand statistics objects, you naturally take her bleat as proof of my bring a “jackass”. Honey, I never called you names. What gives you the impression you were entitled to?

          Equally shaky is your suggestion that the diet industry is somehow anything like as big and profitable as the behemoths that are destroying our health. Ok Michelle–when Archer Daniels Midland, Con-Agra, mcDonalds, etc had corporate valuations less than Jenny Craig, maybe you’ll have a point there. But that’s not remotely true. And you know it.

          You know, there are all kinds of fools in the world. Some of them go on by convincing themselves that their bullshit “liberates” people and makes them feel better. But in your case, Michelle, your act may also be harming people. At the very least, maybe you should try a little humility, a little more patience with those who take the time to write into your sad little blog. And never try to bullshit a bullshitter.

          Ok, NOW we’re done.

          • Posted October 12, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

            I’m letting this through because I want people to see how ridiculous you are.

            This is my blog. I put up with a high ratio of really offensive comments, and I have tried (after nearly 200 comments on this thread) to answer amicably and reasonably, and to assume good faith until proven otherwise. There is only so much one person can put up with, and I need to defend my boundaries, and the space that I maintain for commenters to talk about the realities of living as a fat person in a world that is openly hostile. Not for people like you to come in and accuse me of eliminationism because I am tired of you putting words in my mouth, and acting like an arrogant jackass to other commenters.

            This is not your space. That is why I tell people when they are done. I’ll do it as often as I need to. I am not the government or the internet police, I am a person writing a blog. (A sad little blog that you seem unhealthily invested in commenting on, I should add.)

            I would also suggest to you that diet concerns and food industry concerns are tightly linked. You actually don’t know my position on the food industry, because you have never asked and I have not written about it in detail. Summary: I am unimpressed and wary, but also pragmatic and not willing to moralize about people relying on the food that is available to them.

            If I am harming people by suggesting they would be better off to focus on direct measures of health, and learning to eat well and exercise without pursuing weight loss, and to try to make people see that bigotry and discrimination against people based on their appearance is morally wrong and directly harmful to people’s health, then you’re not a BSer. But you just said you are, and I wholeheartedly agree. So I guess that settles it.

          • Danielle
            Posted October 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

            Why do you keep saying Michelle’s name? I’m pretty sure she knows it, and others here know it, and the wonder of webdesign allows us to see which person you are replying to. And what’s with the ‘honey’? Ewww.

            She gets to say you are done because this is her blog and there is no law that she should tolerate torrents of verbal jackassery under the guise of ‘reasonable dissent’. Frankly, I’m impressed with her current level of tolerance.

            Every paragraph in your comment radiates creepiness, seriously. ‘What gives you the impression you were entitled to’? ‘Try a little humility’? This isn’t about fat people. You’re trying to put an opinionated woman on the internet in her place. And it’s quite pathetic.

          • Posted October 12, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

            Wow. “Honey”? Really?!

            Good job making yourself look bad. Between that, assumption of bad faith on Michelle’s part, and putting words into people’s mouths in order to claim that people who disagreed with you don’t understand statistics… you have seriously discredited yourself.

          • Posted October 12, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

            It’s cute how you think your arrogant, sarcastic jackassery is “reasonable dissent” or that Michelle is obligated to give you a space to bitch about how she’s oppressing you by not agreeing with you.

      • Posted October 12, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        “The vast majority of public health experts agree that we are heavy, and getting heavier every year. ”

        There’s quite a bit of disagreement about whether BMIs are still increasing in the US. Many public health experts are saying that obesity rates have mostly leveled off, actually. I have heard of one recent study predicting an increase in BMIs >30, but I’ve heard multiple reports of leveling off.

        As far as BMI and height, if you’re interested in the connection between the two, I recommend this piece.

  52. Ticia
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I have enjoyed this wonderful conversation, and I think I have also learned a few things. Thank you.
    I am a ‘stocky’ but not actually overweight person. I use the weightwatchers’ system to keep my weight under control. I was 30 pounds heavier at one point, and my particular body could not handle the extra weight. I have seen the headlines about the so called medical risks of being overweight, and my own experience might seem to bear them out. HOWEVER, I have known a few ‘fat’ women who were so beautiful, so energetic, and so full of life that I had to wonder.
    Thanks for helping me remember that a correlation between two things (ie: overweight and health) does not presuppose a cause and effect relationship. Humans are complicated, and making assumptions about someone else is always a bad idea, especially if you are basing your assumptions on something as shallow as physical appearance.

    As far as weight watchers’ goes, I love it. It works for me, but now I am realizing that I need to be very sensitive to the fact that it might not work for others. I know that I have a fairly high metabolism, and I engage in a lot of physical activity because I enjoy it. This makes the program a good fit for me, but you have given me food for thought. I will keep reading your blog because I am interested in learning more about nutrition and healthy attitudes toward food.

    Your blog has helped me see that I need to keep working on my own stupid assumptions about weight, and people who are overweight. On the surface, I realize that American standards of beauty are ridiculous, but I have accepted some pretty stupid ideas without thinking.

  53. Ob
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    How are we as professionals to address a patients obesity if it appears to be creating a co-morbid disease? If they are in for an unrelated problem do we address this secondary one? If a client of yours has hypertension and obesity do you address their size as well even if not asked to do so? I am asking these questions in all honesty. I have learned the hard way to never point out a problem un-asked for. My mother died of emphysema and told people I was responsible for her not quitting smoking as I “stressed” her out by tell her that she should quit. She told me to my face that if I had just left her alone years earlier she would have stopped “at the first hint” that they were effecting her health. She was on oxygen supplementation when she said this.

    • Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      First, just a quick note, I don’t treat people for hypertension – I teach eating competence (basic, healthy eating skills) and I don’t personally do clinical nutrition. But once people achieve eating competence, it often becomes easier for them to take on therapeutic diets or food restrictions for health reasons, if necessary. I refer people to registered dietitians who are willing to do this for them, without making all treatment centre around weight loss. (Though good eating competence is associated with lower BP.)

      However, in the case of hypertension, the HAES approach would ask that you address comorbid conditions directly: with dietary changes (like lowered sodium), with exercise, and with medication if necessary. The answer is always to DIRECTLY address the condition, often with the same treatments you would give to a thin person with the same condition, instead of using the proxy of weight loss as treatment.

      I am sorry to hear about your mom. That is really sad and it must feel awful for her to have blamed you. I’m sure you did the best you knew how to do for her. You obviously cared about her health. Unfortunately it is true that people often do not respond well to well-meaning unsolicited advice. I’m willing to bet that there was more going on with your mom, however, than just the pressure from you to quit smoking.

  54. Mary
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    I just stumbled across your blog and I wanted to let you know what a breath of fresh air it is! As someone who has spent all of her adult life overweight (except for a few months after an intense reduction of calories regimen) I have always struggled with feeling not quite “good enough.” I also grew up with a mother who is very into nutrition and, while not intentionally doing or saying anything, made me feel like I was doing something wrong by being overweight.

    I have felt so much dissonance with the world because I really don’t think that being overweight makes me less healthy than someone who is “normal” weight. I exercise regularly and eat healthfully. I’ve even run three marathons! There are plenty of “normal” weight folks who don’t even take the stairs.

    Kudos to you for taking your message seriously and sending it to the world! I will be a regular reader from now on.

  55. Steph
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    So many problems with the viewer’s letter to Jennifer. First of all, she does not exist–NO ONE ON THIS PLANET exists–solely for the purpose of providing ANYONE ELSE something pretty or attractive to look at.
    Second, why is it that she’s a particularly poor role model for the girls in her viewing community? Because girls in particular should always be thin? What about the boys? Doesn’t their fatness or thinness matter?
    And how does the viewer’s being a lawyer imbue him with the knowledge and training to guide a complete stranger toward a narrowly defined “better” health?
    The viewer is so obviously an ignorant misogynist pig, I’m almost amazed that his letter was given air-time. Seriously. I understand Jennifer wanted to address this head-on and say her piece, and I applaud the way she did it. But on the other hand, a simple “I don’t exist for your aesthetic pleasure, and I don’t exist to be a role model to your kids–that’s your job–My job is to read the news” is really all that letter deserved, in my opinion.
    I wonder if at a certain point the better approach to this kind of attack is simply to refuse the validity of the attacker’s arguments and their “right” to question or criticize another human being’s appearance, and refuse to engage. Because the ignorant very often can’t be educated–their narrow minds are apparently incapable of taking in new information and applying it to their previously formed beliefs.

  56. xhaller
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this site and for all the other sites you’ve pointed me toward. I have become obsessed with devouring your insights and your witty ways of looking at the world. I feel like my brain has actually grown from reading what you have to say and reframing how I look at the world. I see now that so many things in my life were the result of thin privilege and I never realized how hard the world is (and probably how I was part of that) on people who are heavier. The world is so mean. And yet your blog is so compassionate. You’ve really taught me so much since I was introduced to your site a week ago. I am forever a fan. Thanks for fighting the good fight every day. Thanks for educating me.

  57. Linda Strout
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    So the BMI is not intended for individuals and shouldn’t be used. That makes me feel better about myself.

    What about the waist to hip ratio thing? It must be bullshit since I seem to naturally have a thicker waist and narrow hips. Throughout weight ups and downs, I only ever have a couple of inches between the two, which means (OH NO) I am overweight and in danger of all the horrible things that go with it. Also, shopping for pants is a pain.

    Who comes up with these dumb things?

    • Posted October 10, 2012 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      I would say that the most important thing in both cases (BMI or WHR) is knowing direct measures of the person’s health. BMI and WHR are basically used as proxies for measuring metabolic health because they are cheap and easy. But they’re not terribly sensitive/specific. You might have really great blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol numbers, but a high WHR.

      • Linda Strout
        Posted October 10, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        Sadly, all of those things suck for me, but I know the diabetes runs in my family and I suspect the other things do to. I don’t think my two skinny brothers have these issues, but they may just be keeping it to themselves.

        On the other hand, those of us who are heavier who do have these issues may have inherited genetic coding for ‘hold onto weight and get diabetes’. Science doesn’t seem to know.

        I am just glad I’ve been insisting on watching for diabetes so it was noticed right at the start.

        • Posted October 10, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

          I feel like the important part of knowing whether your numbers are good or not, is not so you can rend your garments and gnash your teeth, but so that you can know how to take care of yourself. You’re right, some people inherit a susceptibility to weight gain as well as metabolic abnormalities. That is just a fact of life for some people. And if that’s your case, then it gives you information about caring for your body. It says that your body requires a bit of extra attention, and that you need to eat good, nourishing food that has plenty of fibre and healthy fats to help you stay healthy, and that taking the time to make sure your heart and lungs are strengthened by doing some kind of enjoyable activity will be an especially good investment for you. It is good that you made sure they screened you for diabetes. My family has a strong history of it as well, so I check my blood sugar whenever I can. I try to eat regular meals at regular times to prevent weird dips and rises in blood sugar, and I have been learning how to be active now that I work from home (it was easier before when I walked to and from work every day.) I look at all these things as self-care issues for my own personal health and well-being, and not moral issues, not anything that determines my self-worth, and not as being anyone else’s business.

          • Linda Strout
            Posted October 25, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

            I’ve gotten really good about not spiking my blood sugar, but I could probably do with more vegetables.

            Recently I discovered I am anemic, which explains why I have been too darned tired to cook in the evening.

            I am working on the movement. I need to avoid media stuff about exercise like the plague, though, so I don’t expect impossible things.

  58. Posted October 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    I do want to add a note to Hypocritapotamous: I looked back at our exchange and realized after the fact that I answered you with ALL CAPS right out of the gate at your first comment. I think that was unnecessary and got this off on the wrong foot, and I’m actually sorry for that. My only excuse is that I was highly caffeinated and answering several comments that got under my skin at the same time, and wasn’t very careful to differentiate psychologically between commenters. First time commenters usually get a soft landing pad here, but you didn’t, and I’m sorry about that.

  59. Sergey
    Posted October 25, 2012 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    Sorry for late reply.
    You missed my point entirely in the previous component. Pop quiz – how many percentages can you name other than 0% and 100%?

    Simple, stupid example – (DISCLAIMER – I NOT making an analogy, I am making an example of a policy decision based on incomplete information) not all criminals are convicted in court, and not all convicted people are criminals. However, we don’t say “well, you cannot be 100% sure someone committed a crime just because he was convicted”, and put the convicted people in prison anyway.

    There’s a definite correlation between weight and behavior for most people. If we think weight is indicative (not 100% indicative!) of the behavior detrimental to health, which we presently do, we would be wise to apply the policy that proportionally discourages being overweight.

    • Posted October 25, 2012 at 5:49 am | Permalink

      There are tons and tons of problems with that approach (even ignoring the flaws in your analogy).

      -Focusing on weight loss encourages any behavior that will result in weight loss, healthy or unhealthy. Crash dieting, inducing vomiting, taking meth, smoking cigarettes and abusing diet pills can all result in weight loss. Similarly, taking needed medications can result in weight gain. And yet, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be healthier if I replaced my SSRI with a couple diet pills and ran until I puked every day. But I bet I’d lose weight.

      -We don’t have a proven way for people to lose weight long-term, and certainly not a safe one. So “discouraging” being overweight is like discouraging aging. You can make people feel bad about it, but not necessarily change it.

      -Shame, stigma, and stress can cause ill health all by themselves. So not only are you doing no good by trying to get someone to feel bad about something they may not be able to change in a healthy way, you’re actually making their health *worse* than if you’d just left them the hell alone.

      -Individual health is still an individual’s business. Even if you knew (which you don’t) that Jennifer Livingston was doing something unhealthy, and even if not doing that unhealthy thing would result in weight loss (it might not), it’s still her business, and she still doesn’t deserve judgmental emails for just doing her job.

    • Posted October 25, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Weight is multifactorial. I am not the only person who seems to believe this. You also seem to think it’s appropriate to compare being fat to being a convicted criminal – analogy or not, it’s a poor choice of comparison when attempting to argue about a very stigmatized group of people.

      As Kelly said, there is little to no proof that those “policies” actually result in healthy, sustained, permanent weight loss for most people, whatever else you want to believe about the health risks of being fat or how much behaviour contributes to it. If weight loss approaches worked for more than a small percentage of people, we wouldn’t be here having this conversation.

      You’ve mocked me by assuming I don’t know any numbers other than 0% or 100% (How about 70%, the estimated heritability of weight? Or does that not matter to you?)

      I’m tired of hosting insulting conversations on this blog. No more. In the past few weeks I’ve been called misogynist names, told to go kill myself, and called stupid in myriad subtle and unsubtle ways. As relatively polite as you have been, I’m simply not up for this conversation anymore at this time. To be honest, I’m not really following where you’re going, and I suspect we are talking past each other at this point. You’ve got a whole big internet to use, and you don’t need this space, too.

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