Category: Fatness

We deserve to look like ourselves.

One day a while ago, my husband asked me, “Why do you have three-thousand pictures of yourself on your hard drive?”

This was not an easy question to answer. A little background:

From the time I was about nine, I was told almost daily by my peers that I was unforgivably ugly.

During childhood, for a long time, I appreciated the way I looked. I liked my face, my shoulders, even my wispy baby-hair. I knew that no one else could see what I saw, I knew that I was not “pretty” in the tightly-defined way girls are supposed to be, but I liked myself. I looked in the mirror with some amount of pleasure, a recognition that what I saw there was human, that it was me, and that I liked being me.

This liking was slowly eroded by two things: 1) being told, over and over again, that I was ugly, would always be ugly, and 2) being told that if I betrayed any sign of liking myself, I was vain.

I wanted to be pretty, and I was supposed to be pretty, and if I wasn’t naturally pretty I was supposed to work at it, but I wasn’t supposed to let anyone know I was working at it. It was a confusing way to grow up.

By the time I was 12, I started to suspect that the whole idea of “pretty” was bullshit — that year, I kicked a dentist who yanked my tooth without any warning/consent/anaesthesia, and who then tried to sell me braces with, “Don’t you want to be pretty?” I ran out of the room with crooked teeth and blood on my chin.

There were several confusing years after that, culminating in a moment, at 16, when people suddenly decided to find me pretty, and to loudly and aggressively tell me to my face that I was pretty, and to treat me as though I were now a more valuable and sought-after person because of it. I messed around with people’s perceptions whenever I could, dressing down at first, then suddenly showing up in my Pretty Lady Costume, and watching the same people who’d ignored me the day before become deferential.

I decided the entire thing, top to bottom, front to back, was a steaming pyramid of bullshit. My value as a human being could not possibly fluctuate as readily as people wanted me to believe, based on whether or not I wore certain clothes or put on makeup or didn’t bother with my hair that day or gained or lost weight. I was a person, not a fucking junk bond.

A few years later, I got fat, which meant that I was persona non grata again.

Bullshit: confirmed.

I didn’t look in the mirror for a long time, still believing in the misogynist fever-dream of “vanity.” For a long time, after I gained weight, I felt I didn’t have the right to leave the house or exist in public, that maybe I was too ugly to even deserve to live — even though I knew that, intellectually, to be bullshit. I took steps to fight against it, but it was a long, slow battle.

I started to come out of it around age 27, and took the first photos of myself in a long time. A couple years later, I got my first webcam and began taking more self portraits. When I was surprised by the way I looked in the pictures, I realized that I wasn’t actually familiar with how I looked, because I avoided looking at myself so much. This disturbed me; I deserved to carry a self-image in my head instead of a vague, dread-inducing void.

Later, as I took more pictures, this thought changed slightly: I also deserved to show other people what my image of myself looked like, how I saw myself. Whether or not this matched up with how they saw me was almost irrelevant — their image of me was no more objective or true than my image of myself. I deserved to be able to say, with my photos, to other people, “Hey, I know you see a crude barometer of my social status when you look at me, but this is what I, a human, actually look like.”

I took a lot of pictures.

Here’s the thing about pictures: they help to determine what image of yourself, and of human beings in general, you carry in your head. In a way, they help you to define what “human” is, and, if you are represented in the images, to include yourself in that definition.

I have weighed a lot of weights in my life, and looked a lot of different ways, and I have been human the whole time.

For reasons I shouldn’t have to spell out, this is really, really important for people’s health and well-being. We need to be allowed to see ourselves as human, at any size, and to see ourselves represented alongside other humans. We need to be able to share our images in public, if we want, and push the recognition of our humanity. Mostly, we need to be allowed to have images of ourselves imbedded in our brains, alongside everyone else. When we see nothing but images of people who don’t look like us celebrated and represented by our own culture, little by little, it degrades our sense of being human. It is a form of systemic emotional abuse.

When someone takes the images of stigmatized people and digitally alters them to fit the mainstream ideal of beauty, they have effectively turned those people’s images against them, and further degraded those people’s sense of their own humanity.

In places where fat people post their selfies, trolls needle them for posting “deceptive angles” that make them appear thinner, or “hiding their bodies” with headshots, or “using filters” (that is, the wide-angle lens standard on most smartphones) to elongate themselves, but — somehow without imploding from cognitive dissonance — consider themselves to be performing charity by poorly and aggressively Photoshopping fat people’s photos to make them look thin.

It’s just a joke, okay. It’s just trolling, okay. Trolling is subversive comedy, you know, okay. Man the harpoons, okay. It’s “promoting health,” okay. If I react with outrage, lel. Okay.

It’s just funny how it aligns with the status quo.
It’s just funny how it perpetuates health disparities.
It’s just funny how it always upholds the existing hierarchy.
It’s just funny how it’s never actually subversive.

They do it because they enjoy pushing people’s faces in the dirt. That’s all. They’re not rebels; they’re lackeys in service of the most pedestrian cultural norms, and boring enough that those norms are indistinguishable from their personalities.

I feel for them. Let’s hope they make a full recovery. Until then.

What I’m saying, and what I’m not saying.

Since people seem to be awfully confused.

What I am saying: “Weight loss interventions have very low permanent success rates for most people.”
What I’m not saying: “No one in history has ever lost weight permanently in a healthy manner.”

Health At Every Size is, fundamentally, a weight-neutral approach, which means it focuses directly on health-supporting behaviours, and allows weight to adjust as it will. Sometimes it will adjust up, sometimes down, and sometimes it will stabilize. It is true that only a small percentage of people seem to lose weight permanently, according to research, but I do not deny that those people exist. Some of them may have even lost weight by using a HAES approach.

What I am saying: “People have the literal, legal right to eat any food they like, because human beings are condemned to be free. Food choices cannot make you a better or worse person, and food choices are only one factor among many that influence health.”
What I’m not saying: “No food choice ever has an impact on health, and you can eat anything you like without having it impact your health in any way.”

Food choices do impact health, but food choices have also been spun up in the media as the only or the most important thing that influences health, which is not accurate. (The largest impact on health actually comes from living conditions and other social determinants of health.) You are allowed, as an autonomous human being, to choose to eat any food that’s available to you – but, as an autonomous human being, you will also be the one to bear the brunt of the consequences of those choices. Health at Every Size includes a focus on intuitive eating and getting good nutrition because we believe a healthy relationship with food, and a good quality diet, can help improve people’s health. Eating well, in the HAES philosophy, is not the same as eating in a restrictive, restrained manner that is the current popular conception of “healthy eating.” Instead, it focuses on understanding internal signals of hunger and fullness, truly getting enough to eat, improving one’s attitudes toward food so that you are not feeling guilty or anxious, and getting balance, variety, and pleasure in the diet.

What I am saying:Weight is not a behaviour. Weight is a multifactorial trait that is highly heritable. It is not completely within anyone’s control, and no one can simply choose how much to weigh.”
What I’m not saying: “Weight is never, ever influenced by behaviour [see the first point, above.]”

In arguments about fat and health, people often enjoy claiming that fatness (a phenotypic trait) is opposite but equivalent to anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder with a specific set of behavioural and clinical diagnostic criteria. I think they do this because it gives their arguments (often very abusive, stigmatizing arguments) a veneer of respectable concern and clinical authority, but it’s a false equivalence. Fatness is actually the opposite of thinness, which is also a trait. Traits can be associated with diseases, they can even be implicated in diseases, or symptomatic of diseases, but they are not, in and of themselves, diseases. If you believe fatness is an eating disorder, then in order to be logically consistent, you would have to believe that thinness is also an eating disorder. It’s not. Binge eating disorder is a disorder, and it can cause people to gain weight. However, most fat people do not have binge eating disorder. Moreover, the treatment for binge eating disorder is not dieting and weight loss, it’s learning to eat normally and intuitively, without shame.

What I am saying: “Giving fat people the autonomy to make their own choices around food and exercise and weight, instead of abusing, threatening, and coercing them, is not only more ethical, but also more likely to result in people prioritizing their health in a way that makes sense for them.”
What I’m not saying: “Encouragement to eat well, exercise, or value one’s health is inherently oppressive to fat people.”

Health at Every Size actively encourages people to eat well and find activities that suit them, while not hating themselves. Random strangers on the street shouting abuse at fat people “for their own good”? No. Not acceptable. Doctors withholding effective treatment for certain health issues on the condition that fat people engage in a risky, non-evidence-based treatment (dieting)? No. Not acceptable, and not health-promoting. Well-meaning but ignorant, or even frankly abusive, family members or friends tossing off health advice to adults who have not solicited it? No. Not acceptable.

Black-and-white thinking is the order of the day when it comes to discussions about weight and health. It’s tempting, but don’t get sucked in. A fun trick I like to use, when I encounter two statements that seem to be totally at odds, is to ask myself, “Is there any way both of these things can be true at the same time?” (e.g. Is it possible to believe both that fat people may have a higher risk of disease, and that they can take steps to gain health without losing weight? I think so!) Reality is usually complex enough to sustain seeming paradoxes. Sniff them out. They are good medicine for dichotomous thinking.

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Refreshing nuance in comments.

Health at Every Size is not fat politics.

Despite all the words I have spent on this topic over the past decade or so, there are still a lot of misunderstandings about what Health at Every Size is and what it isn’t.

People often conflate the Health at Every Size philosophy with the fat political movement, assuming they are one and the same thing, while simultaneously framing Health at Every Size as completely opposed to current weight and health science.

In truth, Health at Every Size does intersect with both fat politics and weight science, and yet it is neither of these things. It incorporates parts of both to form a bridge between them.

Health at Every Size developed as something of a response, or corollary, to fat politics. The principles of HAES arise from a foundation of (personal, and maybe political) fat acceptance, while not actually being the fat acceptance movement. It is a different, but attached, thing.

Health at Every Size is also not in complete disagreement with current weight science — or at least, not any more than weight science is in disagreement with itself much of the time. Health at Every Size acknowledges the data of weight science, but interprets its methods and context critically — sometimes agreeing, and sometimes disagreeing with its conclusions. It is a different, but compatible, thing.

I’d like to offer a more in-depth definition of these terms, and describe how they relate to Health at Every Size, starting today with the fat political movement.

1. Fat Politics

Fat politics is sometimes termed “the fat acceptance movement” or “fat liberation,” but it goes by other names as well. The goal of this movement is political and social: to address societal power imbalances affecting fat people, and, hopefully, to restore balance through political actions like agitating for legal protections from size discrimination, and advocating for change in how fat people are treated in settings ranging from the sidewalk to the workplace to local businesses to the doctor’s office.

People who benefit from thin privilege may feel excluded from fat politics and from the social milieu that has developed around the fat acceptance movement. That is because fat politics is primarily a movement for fat people — even though fat stigma affects people of all shapes and sizes, even though a reduction in fat discrimination and inequality is likely to benefit everyone as a side effect, and even though, fundamentally, the problem of fat oppression is not located in the fat body itself, but rather in a hierarchical social order that is pathologically devoted to defining certain people as worthy, and others as garbage to be thrown away.

Because it is intended expressly to help fat people, the fat acceptance movement is one of the few areas of our thin-centric culture that does not prioritize the needs, viewpoints, and feelings of thin or average-sized people. This can make it an uncomfortable place for thin or average-sized people to be, especially if they are not well-versed in these concepts.

That’s okay; as a thin or average-sized person, you can still educate yourself and be supportive of people of all shapes and sizes without needing to access fat politics or fat social spaces for your own personal use. I know it hurts to feel excluded on the basis of your body size, trust me. You will survive.

Within fat politics, sometimes people talk about the science of health and weight, but that science is presented to make a political and moral argument: that fat people are worthy of rights and equal respect, and that negative stereotypes about fat people (most of which centre around health because, in our culture, health is used as a proxy for moral goodness and deservingness of basic human rights) are both inaccurate and morally wrong.

I actually wish that the conversation about health within fat politics would shift more to a social model of disability perspective — which means affirming that people naturally come in a diverse array of different bodies, and rather than labeling some bodies “right” and other bodies “wrong,” and setting up societies to only accommodate “right” bodies, and then seeking to address the resulting inequities by forcing the “wrong” ones to more closely resemble the “right,” it is actually the responsibility of society at large to ensure that all bodies are accommodated, valued, and given equitable access to the human world.

I also wish the conversation would focus more on social determinants of health and less on individual health habits, and also less on stereotype-busting to prove that fat people can be “healthy” by what I think is an exclusionary, unrealistic, and ultimately oppressive definition of “health” — but you can’t always get what you want.

When people discuss health and science within fat politics, you must take those points in context, for what they are: they are tools to serve an ultimately moral, not scientific, argument — that fat people are human beings who belong in the world, and who deserve basic rights, compassion, and dignity. They are not intended, in the context of a political discussion, to be engaged in a search for the ultimate medical and scientific truth about body weight (interesting as that subject is to me), nor are they being used with clinical detachment. This doesn’t make the scientific arguments inherently untrue, but it does mean they are secondary to the moral agenda.

There is always some bias in using scientific evidence to service what is fundamentally a moral argument (as opposed to a political argument that arises from scientific findings.) The truth is, regardless of what the science says about weight and health, the moral argument will always stand: fat people exist, they are in the world, and if human history is any example, they will continue to exist — and therefore, they must be afforded the same rights, access, and dignity that other human beings enjoy. Regardless of their health.

Within fat acceptance, some people do a better job at scientific accuracy than others, and many fat political arguments using weight science have been published in peer-reviewed journals. But when you enter the world of fat social gatherings, Facebook status updates, message board grudge matches, Twitter and personal blogs, you are going to witness wide variation in the accuracy and subjectivity with which science is presented to service the moral argument. Some arguments will be painstakingly accurate. Others will highlight one truth while displacing another to make a larger point. And some will be hopelessly garbled, or oversimplified to the point of uselessness.

There is also going to be heat and defensiveness and loss of temper — because people are not really fighting about whether science shows that fat people can be healthy, they are fighting to be treated as human beings.

That is true for any political movement. Politics are emotional. Politics are important. But they are not science, and they are not exactly Health at Every Size.

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This should always be assumed, but I want to make it clear that I am not the official ambassador for Health at Every Size or the fat acceptance movement, and the above is just my viewpoint. I’m sure people involved in either movement might disagree, and that is fine.

The third option.

Cross-posted to Shameless.

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Two days ago, there were rumblings. First, I heard that the American Medical Association’s science council had advised them against declaring “obesity” a disease.

My initial feeling was one of mild surprise – hadn’t they declared it a disease already? I honestly didn’t know, but given the way our culture and our doctors treat fat people – as diseased, as a burden on society, and possibly doomed to explode of sheer fatness – I would’ve assumed they had.

My second feeling was lack of surprise that the science council, after examining the evidence, was recommending not to declare “obesity” a disease, because everyone knows that the diagnostic tool used for defining “obesity,” the Body Mass Index, is too blunt to be used in the absence of other health indicators, right?

And because everyone knows that there is a sizable population of healthy – by any definition – fat people, right?

And because we also all know that illness is largely socially constructed, right?

No, not right. Wrong, in fact, because the next day the AMA went ahead and did exactly what their science council had advised them not to do, and declared that “obesity” – measured solely by a height-weight measurement, and defined by an imaginary line in the sand – to be a disease.

Here is why I have a problem with that.

First, what is a disease? Why do we define certain physical conditions as “diseases” and not others? You would think the answer would be “incontrovertible scientific evidence!”…and you would be wrong.

Diseases are defined partly on the basis of evidence that they impact a person’s ability to function, or cause suffering and death, but also partly (perhaps mostly) due to social and economic reasons.

What counts as a disease also changes over historical time, partly as a result of increasing expectations of health, partly due to changes in diagnostic ability, but mostly for a mixture of social and economic reasons…This has consequences for sufferers’ sense of whether they are…’ill’, but more concretely for their ability to have treatment reimbursed by health service providers.

(Emphasis mine.)

And, from the New York Times article on the AMA decision – see if you can spot the similarity:

Still, some doctors and obesity advocates said that having the nation’s largest physician group make the declaration would focus more attention on obesity. And it could help improve reimbursement for obesity drugs, surgery and counseling.

(Emphasis mine again.)

Imagine red, blinking, reindeer lights circling that quote. This is what I believe this new definition is about: defining a market (fat people who don’t want to be fat) and making it easier to sell things to them (drugs and surgeries and diet programs that promise to make them not-fat.)

If you can label a condition as a disease, it naturally follows that someone is going to develop a treatment for it, and people who suddenly realize they have an honest-to-goodness disease, and not merely a quaint variation on the human theme, are going to want to buy it. In this case, “people” represents a full third of the U.S. population. That’s over 100 million people, most of whom desperately do not want to be fat.

If you truly believe, in your heart of hearts, that “obesity” is a disease, then this is not a bad thing. In fact, it would seem to be a very, very good thing. I mean, fat is killing people! There’s an epidemic on, people! We’ve got to do something! Besides, people desperately want weight loss drugs, and they want them now. Pharmaceutical companies are simply trying to give people what they want. Capitalism in action. The system works!

And that might even be all well and good, provided the treatments actually work and do not harm people, and provided there are regulations in place to ensure that before releasing them to the public. But let’s look at a little history, shall we?

Historical medical treatments for fat include:

Thyroid hormone given to fat people with normal thyroids around 1900 – stopped being used for this purpose after causing hyperthyroidism
2,4-Dinitrophenol – withdrawn from the market in 1938 due to causing fatal hyperthermia
Amphetamines – addictive, with many unpleasant side effects; brand name Obetrol was removed from the market in 1973
Fen-phen – withdrawn from the market in 1997 after it was suspected of causing heart problems
Redux – withdrawn from the market in 1997 after it was suspected of causing heart problems
Meridia – withdrawn from the market in 2010 due to risk of cardiovascular events and strokes
Orlistat – still on the market; causes oily butt leakage, kidney damage, vitamin malabsorption, and modest weight loss

Maybe someday someone will come up with a safe, effective weight-loss drug, but since this experiment has been going on for over 100 years now, I’m not holding my breath.

In announcing their decision, the AMA offered up two seemingly reasonable options: either we define “obesity” as a disease so that fat people are no longer blamed for their condition and can receive appropriate medical care…or we don’t, and the stigma and lack of treatments continue.

This is a false dichotomy. There is a third option that has been conveniently left out of the discussion, though a vocal minority of fat people have been arguing for it since the late 1960s: what if fatness is neither a disease nor a cause for blame and stigma?

What if there are so many different reasons people are fat that it’s impossible to boil it down to “personal responsibility” and moral failure?

What if being fat is just the way some of us are, and while we deserve appropriate medical care for whatever actual diseases we might have, we don’t need blame, shame, or a cure for our very existence?

What if fatness is not a disease, let alone an epidemic? What if fatness is part of human biodiversity – yes, a trait that intersects and interacts with disease, just as other traits like sex, skin colour, and height do – but not something to be eradicated at all costs?

Well, then we might have trouble selling things to people. For the weight loss industry, this would be a very big problem indeed.

Though I don’t share their goals, I would prefer that, for people who want to lose weight, safe and effective weight loss approaches were available. But those treatments should be optional, not mandatory, and they should not be the only treatments offered to fat people who go to the doctor for a medical issue. Losing weight should not be a prerequisite to receiving medical care.

Another problem is that we’ve been trying, with increasing desperation, to find those approaches for the last hundred years, and we have failed. People are not thinner. Attempting to lose weight may even cause some to get fatter over time. And the stigma attached to being fat has gotten worse.

I don’t think this stigma will be helped by calling fatness a disease. The doctors who seem to believe it will apparently don’t live in the same world I do, where HIV, Type 2 diabetes, mental illness, and lung cancer – to name only a few – are all officially recognized as diseases, and have all been incredibly stigmatized.

They also don’t seem to think doctors are taking “obesity” seriously enough, despite numerous reports from fat people of health care providers providing weight loss advice over and above actual care, and evidence of considerable weight bias among those who treat fat patients. Again – apparently the AMA doesn’t live in the same world I do.

In my world, my body and I are an indivisible unit. I am an embodied self, not a problem to be solved – and I happen to be fat. My fatness is part genetic heritage, part cultural identity, part vital organ. And it is not going anywhere, no matter who decides to call it a disease.

On debates and comments and exhaustion.

I’ve never published an official comments policy, because it always seemed kind of an unnecessary thing to do. I mean, obviously this is my website, so what I say goes, and if I don’t like a comment, I don’t have to publish it. End of story. Pretty self-explanatory, right?

It gets fuzzy at times. I am actually quite lucky in that I don’t come under attack too often, and usually the really obvious stuff (UR A DUMB *$%@!!!) doesn’t get to me much, and I just delete it. But recently, it has been harder than usual to stomach that stuff because I am exhausted.

It gets especially fuzzy when people want to come here to debate. I want them to have a chance to air their questions and arguments so that I may answer them honestly for the sake of everyone else reading who may have similar questions. For some people, this is simply an engaging intellectual exercise in which they get to argue for or against the right of fat people to exist without having their bodies legislated against or their personal choices controlled. Debate club! Fun!

But it’s a little bit less fun and intellectual for those of us who live in those bodies – it is no longer just an exercise in civil debate, it is an exhausting and frankly scary conversation to have. In the current political climate, our lives may literally be on the line.

For some others, this is an issue of intense emotion because they have struggled with weight, and either found a way to lose weight and keep it off, or are still struggling and are very angry and frustrated with me for seeming to take their hope away. Or they have a family member who is struggling, or who died of some illness associated with being fat. Difficult personal experience has led them to the firm belief that fat kills, and that they must do everything they can to save themselves and others from that fate – and my viewpoint, and the statistical indicators that fat people can be healthy, represents an intolerable fly in the ointment.

For me, this is also an emotional conversation, for reasons I mentioned above, and because my beliefs about this issue are anchored to an immovable ethical conclusion that I have come to in my life: that it is not right to treat people poorly, or to afford them fewer rights, because of their body or appearance. This belief is the foundation not just for my beliefs about how fat people should be treated in society, but also my beliefs about racism, misogyny, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, and all the various ways we have of marginalizing each other as human beings.

People have complained about my inability to be shaken from my position, to which I respond: to some extent, that is true. From this position – that it is not right to treat people poorly or afford them fewer rights because of their appearance – I will not be moved. It is not a position based solely on logic (although there are logical arguments to be made in its favour) – it is a deeply-held moral conviction arrived at after years of study, relationships and conversations with others, questioning my priorities, spiritual belief/unbelief, and often painful personal experience.

On all other matters, I may be impressed by evidence, though I will not accept evidence on the strength of forced consensus, or comfortable and privileged status-quo. I also recognize that, while the scientific method is the best way humans have of observing and grasping something of a reality that is much larger and more complex than we can fully apprehend, the humans themselves, the researchers, reviewers, publishers of journals, university PR departments, and finally, the journalists who disseminate findings through the mass media, are all vulnerable to bias.

Nevertheless, science and sociological research has shown some things about fatness that I accept.

I am comfortable with the fact that, yes, there is a clear association between higher levels of weight and ill health. (There is a similar association between underweight and ill health, and there is data to show that healthy behaviours can lower this risk for fat people, even without weight loss.)

I am comfortable with the fact that, yes, behaviour contributes to weight. (But it is not the whole story. There are also significant contributions to weight from genetics, living conditions, and social determinants of health.)

I am comfortable with the fact that, yes, many people do not find fat people sexually or aesthetically attractive. (I don’t need them to. There is a subset of people who do, and aesthetic ideals of beauty are partly socially constructed, subject to change over time and place, and should never be used as a referendum on whether someone has the right to exist and be treated fairly.)

None of these facts shakes my conviction that It Is Not Okay To Engage In Appearance-Based Discrimination, to deny rights or enforce unfavourable social policies on people because of their appearance.

These facts also do not preclude the peculiar theory to which I subscribe, that people can be healthy and happy at a variety of weights by focusing on self-care instead of weight loss, and that, in my opinion, this is a preferable policy to the destructive and ineffective “War on Obesity” we have waged for the last decade.

I have been studying this topic, and writing about it online, for over ten years. I was so interested in it that I went and got a degree in nutrition, and worked in hospitals for nearly five years. I am not always right about everything, certainly, and my friends, mentors and colleagues can easily point out holes in my arguments and flaws in my reasoning that make me laugh and blush (Dee, Joy, Kate, Regina, Katja, Linda, Ellyn, Deb, Jacqui, Ricky, Kelly, closetpuritan, the two Chrises, and many others, I am indebted to you.)

I usually welcome this, though it may smart at times, because ultimately it makes my understanding better and my arguments stronger. What makes me able to take in these suggestions is the trust and respect we have established, and the fact that I can count on their sharing my moral belief that it is not right to discriminate against people based on appearance, and that all people have the right to bodily autonomy.

It is going to be much harder for me to engage in intellectual exercises and arguments with people who do not share those ethical underpinnings. It is uncomfortable and draining to talk with someone who seems to wish, more than anything, that people of my size and shape would just go away and stop ruining the world for everyone, or someone who genuinely believes that my body is proof of my laziness, gluttony, and moral corruption. I don’t debate about women’s rights with transparent misogynists, either. How could I have a productive, civil debate with a person who, not to put too fine a point on it, hates me at first sight?

Occasionally, I am up for it, and sometimes I am not. Right now is one of the latter times. As great as the outpouring of support and interest has been, it cannot undo the damage that is done when someone hurls epithets at me, wishes my death, or questions my worth as a human being. Love and abuse are two different things, and one cannot entirely erase the other, which is both a blessing and a shame.

This is my long-winded way of saying, I hosted a bit of debate at the beginning of the month for the sake of people who were finding my website, and this wild notion of fat people being equally valuable, for the first time. Now I’m done. Maybe we’ll have another debate again sometime, but it’s time for me to take care of myself, to take care of my regular readers and commenters, and to get on with the business of communicating with the people who largely get it, even if we disagree on the details.

As such, I’m no longer letting through naysayer or pro-weight-loss comments, because I do not have the time and energy to deal with them, and since this website is not intended to be a Speakers’ Corner, I will not let them stand without rebuttal.

If I get caught up in devoting my time to the same arguments I have had repeatedly for the last ten years (all of which ultimately boil down to the question, “Is it okay for fat people to be fat? Is it acceptable for fat people to exist?”), I could use all of my energy doing that and never progress in doing what I am trying to do, which is to help people who are looking for ways to care for themselves at their current weight, and to offer a different viewpoint in the largely negative, punitive, controlling and orthorexic discourse around eating, health and nutrition.

The right of fat people to exist as fat people is assumed here, and it is the foundation on which I am attempting to construct something larger. Continually questioning that foundation at the request of new commenters spoiling for a fight undermines my work.

I may touch on the basic arguments in my writing, like whether or not fat people are unrepentant gluttons, or whether food is poisonous and killing us all, or whether safe, permanent weight loss is possible for most people, or the health risks of being fat and what to do about them, but I am not going to engage in those arguments with commenters who come here with the agenda of proving, once and for all, that fat people are less than other people, and need to be forcibly re-educated into complying with the prevailing aesthetic standard.

Everyone else may stay.

Thank you all for the support you’ve given me, and all the sharing of personal stories and experiences, and the support you’ve given each other.

Carry on, and be excellent to each other.