If I eat more than you, it’s for one simple reason.


Did someone say “third piece of pie“?

I’d like to say something about how much fat people eat. I, personally, would be neither surprised nor offended if it were somehow proven that fat people, on average, eat more than thinner people. Of course, this hasn’t been proven, and if it were, there would be exceptions and outliers — but if it were found to be the general case, it wouldn’t surprise or offend me in any way.

I think I eat a fair amount of food, but I do not binge, and I do not habitually overeat. By its definition, overeating is eating “too much,” or an unhealthy amount. In our culture, this means “eating enough to get fat,” because fat is shorthand for “unhealthy” — and it suddenly becomes a lovely example of perfectly circular logic: overeating is what fat people do when they eat, whether it’s a two-pound steak or the parsley garnishing it. Therefore, if you are fat, you are fat because you overeat, else you wouldn’t be fat; and if you are fat, any act of eating you undertake is defined as “overeating” — because you are fat.

I’ll tell you what; I eat exactly the amount of food I want and need at any given time. This is not overeating. This is called Being a Grown-Up Human Being Who Can Take Care of Her Own Damn Self, Thank You Very Much. And if I found that I ate more than a thin person, or that the average fat person ate more than the average thin person, I wouldn’t be offended because I don’t think it’s morally wrong for different people to eat different food in different amounts. I wouldn’t be offended because I don’t think what a person eats reflects on their character. And I wouldn’t be surprised because, well, I am hungry.

I could go into the biological reasons for why I am hungry, into the fact that I support more fat mass than the average person, and to do that requires more muscle mass, more bone mass, more vasculature, more everything, and the fact that, beyond that, nutrient requirements are normally distributed — but I won’t, because there’s really no explanation necessary (and if you think there is, you’re well on your way to a bingo.) I am simply hungry, and there is nothing anyone can say to dissuade me from being hungry, or talk me out of being hungry, or trick me into thinking I am not hungry when I am, in fact, hungry.

I am hungry, and my body is a much better estimator of calories and portion sizes and even balanced nutrition than my head, or anyone else’s, will ever be. I eat exactly what I’m hungry for, and I do this because I learned how — something that many people won’t ever learn, because that is exactly how messed-up our culture is over food. If I overeat, it’s an occurrence relative only to myself, not to the thin person next to me. And if I eat more than someone else, say, more than someone thin, it is not because I am stupid and they aren’t, not because I don’t understand nutrition and they do, not because I’ve never been read the Riot Act Obesity Act, and certainly not because I am an immoral, no-good, greedy, wanton symbol of evil Western imperialism and overconsumption.

It is because I am hungry, and I know how to feed myself so that I am no longer hungry. It’s something no one else can do for me; I have to do it for myself. And I thank the good Lord every day that I can, and do.

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13 Comments

  1. Posted June 3, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    I am glad that you have a good relationship between your body and what you eat such that you feel certain that whatever you eat is solely because your body needs it. I don’t think this is true for everyone. I sometimes eat because I’m bored, or lonely, or want something that will touch off the pleasure center in my brain (e.g. chocolate). I eat more and worse when I am very tired and sleep-deprived, an scientific research indicates that I am not alone and the reason for this is that sleep deprivation reduces the stomach’s ability to successfully signal the brain that no more food is needed.

    I think the difficulty I have in getting on board with the fat advocacy movement is that everyone I hear speaking in it is like you: certain that they are exercising the right amount, eating the right amount and type of food, etc. I am not nearly so certain about these things and therefore feel doubtful that I can assert, as you do here, that my body right now is definitely the one I ought to have (as opposed to, say, the body I had before I was working full-time at a desk job, when I had part-time work that had me moving constantly and because I had less money but more time, preparing more of my own food and not going out to eat much). I don’t think it’s a sign of self-hatred to prefer the way my body was when I was carrying less fat in my chest and more muscle in my back and stomach, so that the weight of my breasts didn’t cause my back to hurt.

    And I’m not sure that most people perceived as fat are like you rather than like me.

    • Posted June 4, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      PG – I can totally understand your uncertainty. In fact, I don’t want to give the impression that I am overly certain all the time. I definitely don’t have all the answers, and it took me a hell of a long time to get to where I am now.

      The thing is, I do believe most people (barring problems like serious eating disorders, and even then, there’s hope) can get to that place. Doesn’t mean it will be easy. Anyway, that’s what I hope to do with my career.

      Thanks for letting me know your thoughts — I actually think what you expressed is a very common problem among people who *like* the idea of Health at Every Size and self acceptance. And that’s exactly what I want to help people with. I appreciate your honesty.

  2. Nikki
    Posted June 4, 2009 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    LOVE this post. I used to be a size 14/16 but cut back my food so I could be thinner (size 6/8). My health was fine at 14/16 (low blood pressure and total cholesterol of 130 thankyouverymuch) but I just wanted to be thin like all my friends.

    Even though I eat a “normal” amount of calories now (about 1600 a day) I feel like I’m STARVING! And if I eat any more than 1600 calories, it immediately shows up as a gain on the scale the next day.

    I really, really admire that you are so comfortable and happy with your weight and that you eat what you want. At this point I think I might have to give up dieting and just get big again, because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life dreaming about burgers and brownies and everything else I don’t eat anymore. I’m just not ready to let go of the smaller sizes yet.

    • Alfonso
      Posted March 8, 2010 at 2:08 am | Permalink

      Take an hour-long brisk walk five days a week (preferably during the morning) and take your caloric intake up to 1800-1900 on those days. The walk will also help make you feel energized throughout the day, raise your metabolism so that you burn more efficiently for the rest of the day (even if you’re sitting at your desk), and promote heart health. Oh! It’ll also help tone your legs quite nicely. You can’t lose.

      • Posted March 8, 2010 at 2:16 am | Permalink

        I think you mean well, but this is not the kind of comment I’d like to see on my blog. Unsolicited advice is generally not okay here.

  3. Piffle
    Posted June 4, 2009 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    I noticed twenty years ago at college that I was hungrier after less sleep, I attributed it to needing more energy than if I’d slept well. I still think this might be the case.

  4. Posted June 5, 2009 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    Oh Michelle, your posts are awesome.
    Confession time — I thought about becoming an RD and decided against it because at the time I was making that decision, I didn’t think I could pull off being a “fat nutritionist.” So, I’m a fat MPH instead, which is easier and less brave, most of the time.
    You are strong, amazing, a fabulous writer, a real expert (unlike some people who call themselves nutritionists). You are also a mench.

    In terms of this post specifically, I do think that I eat more than some women the same height as me who weigh less, but not very much more, and not more than a calculation of my metabolic needs would indicate. If I eat less, I feel hungry, and if I eat more, I feel too full. I do eat the right amount for myself most of the time, and like people who weigh less than me, I sometimes eat more when I’m more active and my weight stays basically the same.

    I also seek “unified theory” about this stuff. If anyone can do it, though, I place my bets on you — you have the education, the experience, the mind and the language to do it.

    I know this is the beginning (or continuation) of something fabulous for you.

  5. feministgamer
    Posted June 5, 2009 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    PG–Nothing in fat acceptance says you shouldn’t work out your stomach and back muscles to relieve pain. The problem is when you start looking to lose weight, which studies show doesn’t work in the long term, and isn’t healthy. It sounds like what you really want to deal with is some unhealthy habits (eating food that has too much fat), not your weight. Fix those (hard as it may be) and you should feel a lot more comfortable in your body. But try to fix your weight and you’re going to just end up sicker and fatter.

  6. Posted June 5, 2009 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    PG – Even if you are eating for emotional reasons that still doesn’t give anyone else the right to judge you for it. Trust me, plenty of people down ice cream by the half gallon after a good break up or nosh on popcorn in front of a movie and not all of them are fat.

    I indulge in some emotional eating and I indulge in lots of *bored* eating.

    I eat when I surf the web. I eat when I read. I eat when I watch TV. I’m not hungry, so much. I just like to eat. Probably a bad habit, but it’s my bad habit, and I don’t much care what anyone else thinks of it.

    As for your health, that is something you should be able to feel. Something you should be able to measure. If eating makes you feel physically crappy, take a look at what you are eating or when you are eating and adjust accordingly.

    If, like me, you have blood pressure issues or diabetes, get home testing kits and learn as much as you can about your conditions (whatever they might be). There is nothing wrong with wanting to be healthy. And there is nothing wrong with being big and healthy. If you want to exercise, find exercises that are fun (I have three children, so that is never a problem, I just play with them until I can’t get up) and enjoy yourself at it.

    I’ll even go out on a limb and say there is nothing wrong with losing weight provided you can do so within the parameters your body will accept. (Generally that means a little at a time – and make sure you aren’t gaining it back. I don’t think weight loss in and of itself is unhealthy, if you can sustain it, but yo-yo-ing back and forth on your weight isn’t healthy at all). But even that should be on your terms because you want to do it. Not because it is what society expects.

    Likewise, Fat Acceptance should be on your own terms, not because you feel it is something you “should” be into – and you don’t have to be into it the same way someone else is into it. I’ve been into it since before it came with it’s own universally understood cute little set of initials, but I’ve only ever rarely blogged about it and I’ve never felt overly militant about it (yeah, there is a lot of stupidity out there and a lot of bald ignorance, but not every fat joke is aimed at us, and sometimes we don’t fit on the rides because the rides were designed for kids).

    In any case, I wish you well on your journey.

  7. wriggles
    Posted June 5, 2009 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    I think the difficulty I have in getting on board with the fat advocacy movement is that everyone I hear speaking in it is like you: certain that they are exercising the right amount, eating the right amount and type of food, etc.

    Nope,

    I’m not interested in ‘exercise’, movement is to my body what thinking is to my brain. I don’t understand eating in terms of the ‘idea’ that there is a right amount that can be told to me by scientific experiment, I no longer see how it can be properly understood it this way.

    I don’t feel certain about anything, the last time I did was when I was certain that if I ate ‘healthily’ and did ‘exercise’, I would be slim. There is no other certainty allowed but that.

    Like god, I just don’t believe in it anymore.

  8. Kay
    Posted June 5, 2009 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    You are my hero! Fantastic post!! I love your blog!!!

  9. medic
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    This is such a sad thread to read.

    Nikki, you ARE starving. You’re eating far fewer calories than normal for any woman. The fact you gain whenever you allow yourself to respond to hunger shows that you are starving and trying to keep your body below the weight natural for it.

    EVERYONE of all sizes eats when they need comfort, aren’t hungry, etc. That is not why people are different sizes and shapes. Nor did our grandparents “exercise” and the longest living people will laugh at the idea of dieting and putting on running shoes. It is biologically impossible for anyone to eat to another body type. If your genes bless you with a fat body, then accept it, love it, nourish it and live your life to the fullest. Certainly don’t live apologizing, feeling guilty, punishing yourself, and trying to starve it to become something else.

    Recommended: The Dieter’s Dilemma by Dr. Bennett.

  10. Posted September 20, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    This was an amazing post. I felt like nodding my head all the way through! I really hope to be able to ‘feed myself’ like you do and not be so influenced by what other people are telling me ‘i should eat’

    I’m working towards it though, i will get there on of these days :)

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  • By Hunger « Kelly Thinks Too Much on December 14, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    [...] I’m pretty sure she said it more pithily than I could. I didn’t find it, but I did find this: I am hungry, and my body is a much better estimator of calories and portion sizes and even [...]

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