Notes on “Heavy.”

I don’t normally write about TV shows. In fact, I purposely avoid watching TV shows about nutrition, fitness, and weight loss because they annoy me, and my yelling at the television then annoys my husband.

But when I saw the advertisements for A&E’s new show Heavy (in between advertisements for Hoarders and Intervention, in case you were wondering about the tenor of the show), I really wanted to watch it. And, this time, to avoid yelling at the television, I decided to yell at the internet instead.

Episode one, “Tom and Jodi,” opens with this quote:

“Nearly 100 million Americans suffer from debilitating obesity.”

And here’s our first fact-check, before the show even properly begins. While 1/3rd of Americans are “obese” by the BMI (BMI of 30 or greater), only 5.7% are considered “extremely obese” (BMI of 40 or greater. I’m one of them. Hi!) The people featured on Heavy are in this weight category — it’s the highest one. Tom weighs 638 pounds and has a BMI of around 94. Jodi weighs 367 pounds.

If your BMI is 30, do you consider yourself debilitated by your obesity?

At a BMI of well over 40, I may sometimes move and bend a bit differently than thinner people, but I don’t really feel debilitated.

The most limiting thing about being “extremely obese,” for me, is being afraid to exercise in public because I am likely to be harassed (and have been. Thanks, random lady joggers and dudes in cars! You have successfully encouraged me to exercise and get healthy!)

That, and certain seatbelts. But at least the seatbelts don’t call me names.

The people on the show are not only fatter than 94% of the population, they exhibit very obvious signs of compulsive or binge eating. (Which the show repeatedly refers to in terms of “addiction,” something I have a problem with.) Whether or not they meet the clinical criteria for an eating disorder, these are disordered eating patterns. Most fat people do not binge eat, and many binge eaters are not obese. Conflating compulsive overeating with fatness is not just inaccurate, it can be dangerous.

Fat people going to doctors for non-eating-related complaints may be told to stop binge eating, even if they don’t binge eat. (I have been.) And thinner people who do experience binge eating — which is a type of eating that is not exactly optional, voluntary, pleasant, and definitely not the result of gluttony, greed, or general immorality — may go undiagnosed and untreated.

None of this is to minimize OR marginalize what Jodi and Tom experience. My intent is only to put into perspective a serious condition that the show’s creators obviously have tried to render commonplace — perhaps epidemic? — by suggesting that fully one-third of the US population lives and suffers like this.

If anything, this attempt to make the exceptional seem typical diminishes the seriousness of what these people experience. An audience of (potentially) 100 million “obese” individuals is likely to try and relate their experience as relatively unimpaired fat people to those on the show. And since many of those fat people will not have experienced compulsive or binge eating, or the immobility and physical challenges of being extremely large, they may be unable to empathize with these issues, and the fact that recovery is more than a matter of “willpower.” And, let’s be frank — like Hoarders and Intervention, this is likely to become a point-and-pity affair, not something that the majority of the audience can truly relate to.

Jodi and Tom are clearly in pain, and their weight definitely appears to contribute to that pain, both emotionally and physically. Their eating habits likely to contribute to their weight — but “contribute” is not the same thing as “cause.” Furthermore, the drive to eat compulsively is not under one’s control, and may even be the result of an underlying physiological imbalance, not just a psychological one.

Much of the emotional suffering described on the show is not even directly caused by the physical reality of extreme obesity. Rather, the pain described is often the pain of discrimination, social ostracization, and prejudice. Jodi describes giving up her career as a singer in a rock band because of the discomfort of standing on stage, knowing that people in the audience were judging her. Tom hasn’t been to the doctor in fifteen years — anyone want to take a wild guess as to why?

The physical pain is another matter. Some of it, maybe a lot of it, is caused directly by weight, but there are other issues at play as well. Tom exhibits signs that look (to me) like exercise-induced asthma, a condition that weight can exacerbate but does not cause, and that discourages people from moving because, untreated, it can be life-threatening. He also has high blood pressure — again, a condition that can be exacerbated by weight, but is not caused by weight alone. Jodi has had a mini-stroke, and the same can be said for weight’s role in that condition.

So what other issues might be at play? Lack of fitness, as a result of finding movement uncomfortable or inaccessible (for either physical or social reasons), independently contributes to physical suffering and immobility. Emotional stress, such as that caused by living in a world that does not physically accommodate you or socially accept you, can also independently contribute to physical health problems like those described.

These are complex issues for which weight is only one factor.

Next time, maybe I’ll yell at the blog about the month-long weight loss program presented on Heavy.

This entry was posted in eating, Eating Disorders, Fatness and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

134 Comments

  1. Kaylen
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    My BMI is 34 and I am decidedly not debilitated. I’m strong and flexible. (And, yes, random folks comment on my fatness while I’m walking my dogs.)

    • Posted January 21, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Random folks really need a nice, hot mug of shut-the-fuck-up sometimes.

      • Posted January 21, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        Instant blog follow. :D

      • JonelB
        Posted January 21, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        Seasoned with a creamy jigger of mind-your-own-damn-business.
        :D
        I am so following this blog now.

  2. Julia
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    If your BMI is 30, do you consider yourself debilitated by your obesity?

    My BMI is 37. Wow, I’m not far off from “morbidly obese”! Do I get a prize for trying? ;)

    And 3-4 spin classes per week plus 1-2 swims per week would suggest that no, I’m not particularly debilitated by my obesity. :D

    • Julia
      Posted January 21, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      Oops, it’s actually 36. Always trying to fatten myself up.

  3. Tina
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Ok, I’m officially de-lurking here.

    I love your blog. I love everything you stand for on this blog. I love that you teach ordered eating and health, and I LOVE that you believe that healthy people come in all sizes.

    I have a BMI of 36. I think BMIs are not particularly helpful in general, since I’m quite large-framed and have a lot of muscle under my fat. I do have more fat on my body than I would like (my choice – I gained lots of weight when I was suffering immensely, and I want to be free from the physical reminder of that suffering that has now ended). I used to be unhealthy (ate to punish myself and never moved, had a lot of body image issues), and now I am healthy.

    I am healthy and fat. I eat stunning food and move every other day. I bike, I run, I do yoga. I will not magically be healthy when my weight goes down, and my current weight does not determine the state of my health. I know this because I live in my own body. I love my body. It’s getting healthiER, but having a BMI of 36 does not mean I am debilitated.

    And why in the world are the trainers on Heavy super muscular body builders? Just wondering if anyone else noticed.

    Thanks for the amazing blog.

    • Posted January 21, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      And why in the world are the trainers on Heavy super muscular body builders? Just wondering if anyone else noticed.

      I totally noticed that, and in fact, Jodi on the show had something to say about it that I found really poignant. Hopefully I will write more about that in an upcoming post.

      • Posted January 21, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        Ironically enough, those body builder trainers may – in fact likely do – register as obese on the BMI scale, since it doesn’t factor in muscle tone. Most of the NBA are obese to morbidly obese (Deathfatz! Represent!) according to this ridiculous, painfully flawed, wildly misused scale.

      • Joanne
        Posted January 27, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

        Was that “no fat person wants to work with a personal trainer who isn’t fat’? I thought that was pretty insightful, actually.

        • Posted January 27, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

          Yeah. I think she said no fat person wants to work out with a personal trainer who has never been fat, because it makes it harder for them to understand the experience (and thus empathize.)

    • Happy
      Posted January 21, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      They are the trainers because they obviously have a great deal of experience with both exercise and building muscle. They have a wealth of experience that other people would not have.

      • Posted January 21, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

        The point here is that the super-fatz have a hard time relating to and TRUSTING the super-muscular trainers. Believe it or not, there are actual fat fitness trainers (or ones who have a more average build) out there who do know what they are doing. One doesn’t have to look a certain way to have skill or knowledge about fitness.

        And Jodi herself said on the show that the trainer made her uncomfortable because she was hard to relate to. Okay? Okay. I think that covers it.

  4. funder
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    When my BMI was 34, I didn’t feel debilitated. Now it’s 28 and I feel exactly the same, just smaller. :rolleyes:

  5. Simone
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    My BMI is 30. I weigh the same as I did before my first starvation diet during my junior year of high school. I’m almost 40 now, and I’m not physically debilitated and never have been. The really crucial difference between high-school me and current me is that I accept myself now, and that makes me feel stronger and healthier than I’ve ever felt before.

  6. Posted January 21, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I can totally relate to not wanting to go the doctor. I recently fired mine because I was tired of hearing her tell me eat less/move more, I’m not prescribing narcotics for your pain (I wasn’t asking for narcotics, just something stronger than ibuprofen), and it’s calories in/out. After asking her WTF I was supposed to do when I had done every diet there was, diet pills galore, and had a failed WLS, all she could suggest was an in-patient weight loss diet center. Yeah, I can leave my husband, house, and pets for a couple of months, no problem (NOT – I’m the one that does the shopping, the budget, pays the bills, plans the menus for his type 2 diabetes, figures out his insulin, etc). I told her losing the weight wasn’t the problem, keeping it off forever was the problem, and I was done trying. She expects me to exercise when I’m in excruciating pain, with no pain meds. I was so mad, I walked out of our last appointment and haven’t been back. I sent her a letter telling her I was pissed , why I was pissed, and that I wouldn’t be back to see her ever again. And I put up with that from her for 4 years before I got mad enough to walk out on her and fire her. Now I’m looking for another doctor, and I’m going to be much pickier about the next one, I’ll be having a serious heart-to-heart with whoever it is, with the express understanding that my health concerns will be taken seriously, that they won’t be blamed on my weight alone, and that weight loss won’t be the solution because it doesn’t work. And for the record, my BMI is 57, and my blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol are all in the normal range. Other than arthritis, fibromyalgia, and possible MS, I’m metabolically healthy.

    • Posted January 21, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      She expects me to exercise when I’m in excruciating pain, with no pain meds.

      This is an issue that especially bothers me, and one that was depicted on the show, I think, though they didn’t really stop and expand on it. Both of the featured people were in a lot of pain before beginning exercise, and I didn’t see them do anything to try to alleviate that pain before prescribing a really intense exercise regime to both of them.

      • KellyK
        Posted January 21, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        That’s horrifically cruel. I have a friend who can’t get her knee fixed and is in pain on a regular basis. That her doctors can tell her “Go exercise and lose weight, then we’ll repair your knee” upsets me a lot.

        • Tiferet
          Posted January 21, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

          I heard that a lot about my chronic pain which kept me from exercising much. Then I got some painkillers and I started doing some fun things again.

          Then I switched to Splenda because I noticed that drinking HFCS made my ADHD worse and I was having trouble with my teeth, and I lost 20 pounds but I still had chronic pain.

          The chronic pain got worse (though the knees improved) and worse and worse. So did the chronic fatigue I’ve been fighting since my early 20s.

          Finally, fed up, I did a lot of research and discovered that two things fit my symptoms, fibro and celiac disease.

          I convinced my doctor to test me for celiac disease.

          I have celiac disease.

          It causes chronic pain and bad teeth. It also causes ADHD-like inability to concentrate and depression. And chronic fatigue.

          I wonder how quickly someone would have decided to test me for celiac disease if I hadn’t been fat.

          The treatment is a gluten free diet. Not a calorie restricted diet. In fact, I have to start looking into supplements because it is likely that I have been malnourished for years. Celiac causes malnutrition–it’s an allergic-like reaction to gluten protein that kills off the cells in your intestines that take in the nutrients in your food.

          Interestingly, when I don’t eat gluten (okay, it’s only been a few days, BUT) I don’t actually want to eat nearly as often as I did before. This is because I’m eating food that does not make me sick and my digestive system is able to digest it. In fact, eating a lot makes perfect sense when your body is only able to get about half of the nutrition that is in your food because the rest of it slides out the other end because your guts are damaged.

          I am actually really thrilled to know that I have it and happy to know that I can now be much healthier and possibly get off some drugs. It feels good to eat things that are good for me.

          But underneath that exuberant, want-to-tell-everyone, feels like I just got engaged layer of happy happy is a layer of rage, because my guess is that if I had been thin, I would have been diagnosed 10-15 years ago, and this disease has taken a huge toll on my LIFE in terms of job performance, and hence getting paid, in terms of my happiness, in terms of my having the energy to seek out relationships (I’ve literally had too much chronic fatigue to date), in terms of my ability to do things.

          I’m glad I got diagnosed and I’m glad that the treatment is simple, safe and effective. I’m not glad I had to wait this long to get diagnosed and that it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t done the research…because I have a BMI of 40.

          • Posted January 21, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

            So glad you found out you have celiac. So many people go undiagnosed and live that way for years, or their entire lives.

          • i-geek
            Posted January 22, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

            The answer to your question about the likelihood of being tested for celiac disease if one is thinner: not much better, if at all.

            I had to self-diagnose celiac disease after 15 years of doctors running the wrong tests, treating the symptoms and not the causes, and finally dismissing my problems as “stress-induced IBS” despite positive response to a low-gluten diet and strong family history of autoimmune disease. I have a BMI of 20.5, probably lower when I started complaining of gut pain at age 16 (am now 32). I don’t tend toward hysteria, and in fact I’ve been working on a doctorate in immunology for the past 5 years, but none of that stopped any of the medical professionals from telling me that I couldn’t possibly have CD, there was no point in testing for it, and I needed to seek counseling to reduce stress and eat more whole wheat for fiber (!). I have never felt so good in my adult life as I have in the past 13 months of gluten-free living. I can run for more than a couple of minutes without wheezing. I can stay awake for more than a few hours at a time. I can eat dairy again. But- I have tooth enamel and gum damage, I’m infertile, and who knows what my bone density is after years of nutrient malabsorption?

            I really hope this doesn’t feel like a dismissal of your experiences as a fatter woman trying to receive medical treatment. It is certainly not intended to be. I’ve never been in your shoes and I am appalled at many of the accounts I’ve read from other posters who have experienced size discrimination from supposed professionals. No one deserves to be treated that way for any reason. But…my experience with medical students is that most of them don’t give a rat’s ass about immunology, and most of them, if they learned about CD at all, consider it a childhood disease that is then outgrown. Sadly, that means that a LOT of people who would benefit from diagnosis and GF diet will continue to suffer, regardless of BMI. I’m so glad that you are one of the few who did finally get a diagnosis. Take care and be well.

          • Posted January 22, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

            Celiac often goes undiagnosed, you’re right. So it’s not that thinner people are necessarily always going to be diagnosed quicker because they are thin. But weight loss can be a symptom for it that doctors would consider when screening people for it.

            Thankfully there is much more awareness of celiac now, and I think it’s *starting* to be diagnosed more quickly.

          • KellyK
            Posted February 4, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

            I’m really sorry that it took you that long to get a diagnosis, and glad you finally got one and are starting to do better. It is really rage-inducing to have doctors see you suffer and not do anything.

            In my friend’s case, they know exactly what’s wrong–she was in a car accident when she was younger (teen or early 20s, she’s in her 40s now). They did an experimental knee replacement with grafts from other bones, and it did its thing for a long time, but it’s toast now and time for a titanium one or whatever sorts of knee replacements they do now. But she’s asked doctor after doctor, and they won’t do the surgery because of her weight.

            Anyway, I’m really glad that the GF diet is helping you, and I hope that doctors start taking their heads out of their posteriors when it comes to treating fat people.

  7. KellyK
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    My BMI is 38, and I”m also definitely not debilitated by my weight. By my fracked-up ankle, yes. (Post-tibial tendonitis combined with old sprains apparently not healing quite right.) Yes, that’s right, the skinniest part of my body (well, aside from my pinkie finger, I guess) is what gives me the most trouble in exercising.

  8. Gingerbug
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Hi my name is Ginger and I am obese. (not sure on the BMI because I think the measure is crap but I’m 220 and 5ft9). I also run… a lot. In an average week I run at least 13k and play soccer every Sunday. I Can Run 10 KM. I am not debilitated by anything other than the snarky comments made when I run past ignorant people who have no idea that while I may have huge thighs, I’m probably fitter than they are. Fat skinny people are all the rage on our society. Just look at Hollywood and their flabby size 0 asses.

    I really hate A&E now and called it the Arrests&Exploitation channel. What a downward spiral of content. What makes my heart hurt though (besides the bacon double cheeseburger I’m pounding back-lol) is that this shit gets the ratings. People want to see Fatty suffer, how people lose their dignity in drug addiction or their sense of worth in mental illness. How sick is THAT?!?!

    • Jen
      Posted January 21, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      Personally, I didn’t tune into Heavy because I wanted to see Fatties suffer. I tuned in because I am fascinated by the willingness of people like Tom and Jodi to display themselves and their struggles with such emotional transparency. I think thats at the core of why many people watch these shows – not because we want to watch these people suffer but because we want to know that *we* aren’t the only ones suffering. Also, I used to avidly watch Intervention. Again, this is not because I enjoy the sufferings of others. It was because I have personally experienced the unimaginably devastating force of alcoholism in my own immediate family… and there are no words to explain the desire to sympathize, share and feel for others in the same situation.
      This is all just to say – take heart! The ratings for shows like this might possibly have quite a lot to do with the commonality of suffering and our innate human desire to connect with others. Not everyone watching is watching to exploit these people.
      Michelle mentioned the emotional pain that Tom and Jodi were in – “the pain of discrimination, social ostracization, and prejudice” – I couldn’t agree with her more and that was something that patricularly struck me as I watched. And Jodi just made me weep…literally… I had to find the tissue box. That woman was so broken hearted she was literally sobbing her way through her workouts – how could that not move me? How could I not try to understand that and want to support and emphathize (albeit from my living room couch)?
      I’ll be watching next Monday as well. Not because I think the ripped trainers and the retreat program necessarily have answers for these individuals, and not because I think weight loss is what these people need to get everything fixrd, and certainly not because I just want to be entertained by people who are obviously suffering… but because a part of me just connects to deeply to the emotional transparency of these people, and in some sense shows like these keep me in tune to the fact that my heart needs to be soft to others – compassionate and open to their needs and situations.
      I don’t know.. maybe the next door neighbors aren’t watching with a whole lot of love, but I think there’s lots of people who watch for reasons like mine too!

      • Posted January 21, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        That woman was so broken hearted she was literally sobbing her way through her workouts – how could that not move me?

        Yeah, that was hard to watch. And I cry at the drop of a hat.

        I also have to own up to watching Intervention quite a few times, mainly because I have very little to no direct experience with addiction, and it was a (rare) opportunity for me to see it, at least in its most extreme forms. The thing I took away from that show, most of all, was how few of the people fully recover for the long term. It was really shocking, and really sad, and something I was totally unaware of. But I still do feel discomfort with the show and how it works. That’s TV for you, especially reality TV.

  9. Erin
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    34.5 here…well, probably 35 what with the post-Christmas sugar dependancy…

    just the other day I had two other swimmers comment “Wow, you are fast. Wish I was that fast.” Can’t hide anything in a suit, they knew who was smoking them!

    So, no, not debilitating…

    The show sounds sad. Noted that I don’t need to see it.

  10. Christina
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Great post summarizing what is wrong with a lot of these TV shows. I guess the un-debilitated people who make up the majority don’t make for good TV!

  11. Christina
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I wanted add kudos to Vesta44 for passing that information on to her doctor, hopefully she will not treat others the same way in the future.

  12. Posted January 21, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    54 BMI. To check, I’m 5’4″ and 314 lbs. Size 30 women’s pants.

    I can touch my toes bending both forwards and backwards (Wheel pose in Yoga language).

    My coworker, with a BMI of 23, can’t touch his toes bending forwards. Bending backwards? Yeah, forget it.

    We’re actually great friends, because in our office we’re the only two who don’t spend practically all our time obsessing over how many calories are in our food and whining about what a wee little cupcake is going to do to our diet.

    • KellyK
      Posted January 21, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      I wasn’t familiar with wheel pose, so I looked it up on yogajournal.com, and I am now in awe of your awesomeness. :)

  13. Brett
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Hey I’ve been looking for a blog like yours. I’m finishing my last semester of my DPD program, and all I keep hearing about “obesity” and “obesity” that from my classes. Luckily I took a class over the summer on Eating Disorders, where we spent a lot of time discussing the work of Ellyn Satter. For as much as RD’s work with people with eating disorders, I don’t understand why this class was optional.

    I can completely relate to yelling at the TV whenever topics of “obesity” or “weight loss” come up. Shows like “heavy” rely on the most extreme examples to justify weight loss. But they never consider the idea that many if not all of their “obesity-related health issues” can be solved without weight loss being the ultimate goal. Nor do they talk about the actual long term success of ANY weight loss programs (only 2% keep the weight off after 5 years).

    That’s why I have no interest in watching “Heavy”. It’s just more anti-fat propaganda, giving people the illusion that A) losing weight will solve all their health issues, and B) being “heavy” is what is causing their problem in the first place. I think I would get the same disappointment from “heavy” as I did with “What’s eating you”. Both directly or indirectly promote negative body image issues.

    • Posted January 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      For as much as RD’s work with people with eating disorders, I don’t understand why this class was optional.

      Amen, fellow dietetics student.

    • Posted January 21, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      If you really want to feel your explode, watch any show starring Gillian McKeith. You will be AMAZED and HORRIFIED by what passes as “science” for her.

      • Tina
        Posted January 21, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Isn’t she AWFUL?!?!?!?!?

        In the first few seasons she actually called herself a “doctor”, got called out by the press, disappeared for awhile, and is now back with a vengeance. She epitomizes the shaming and disgust that people of size have to face. It’s not surprising that her “patients” lose significant amounts of weight in 6 weeks – they are bullied and terrified into eating tiny portions of kale and lentils (I adore both, but come on).

        • Posted January 21, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

          I have an uncontrollable fascination for her. Kind of like her uncontrollable fascination with strangers’ feces.

      • Brett
        Posted January 21, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

        Never heard of her, but made me think of Jillian Michaels who also fills me with rage. Definitely a sign of a decaying society.

  14. foreveropera
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t tell you the exact number–I’ve made a promise to myself to stop weighing/calculating my fatness as it only leads to emotional issues–but last time I checked it was around 44. And that was when I was running 4-6 miles 6 days a week. Definitely not debilitated.
    I recently had to visit the doctor (I waited through 3 weeks of sickness because I knew what I’d get if I went) because of a sinus infection that just wouldn’t quit. In the midst of my hacking and talking about my poor runny nose the doctor decided she just had to inform me that I really needed to lose some weight. If only I’d eat *healthy* snacks and move a little I’d be just fine and get on my merry way to thinness. Oh, and I should really watch my blood pressure (even though my numbers weren’t even on the high side of NORMAL). Sometimes I’d like to say, WOW! I’m FAT? And all I have to do is eat healthy snacks AND exercise? No one’s told me that before! And you know what? The antibiotics she gave me didn’t even take care of my sinus infection!

  15. Lampdevil
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    May I chime in? 28 years old, BMI of 35 or so, and I’m definitely NOT debilitated. I do martial arts, I dance, I walk nearly everywhere… I’m not a spectacular athlete, but I can run flights of stairs and I can touch my toes, and I can do everything that I need to do in the course of a day. Not debilitated. At all.

    Mind you, this took some effort on my part. I’ve had to exercise to get this way. A few years back, I didn’t have enough leg strength to get out of a car without a bit of a struggle. It sucked. It sucked a lot. I treasure the strength and capacity that my new hobbies have given me. And I’m still fat! Fatty McFatterson, right here! So there’s something to be taken away from that.

  16. Posted January 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I stand 5’2″ and weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 240lbs. If anyone wants to work out my BMI, they are more than free to do so. What I can tell you is that I’m far from debilitated by my weight. I walk regularly, laugh, sing out loud, and have helped my husband overcome his fear of many, many vegetables through my kickass cooking of them. Oh, and I’m also a fabulous baker. Yes, that takes physical effort as well as skill.

    I didn’t tune in to Heavy because I feared and expected massive (excuse the pun) exploitation and I just didn’t have the Sanity Watchers points available (I use those up on Bridezillas since I write for a bridal blog). Reading this makes me extra glad I didn’t tune in.

    • Jen
      Posted January 21, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Sanity Watchers points?? Funniest thing I’ve heard all day! I’m gonna have to borrow that one!

    • apple
      Posted January 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      “Sanity Watchers points” is my new favorite thing in the entire world.

      Not sure of my BMI, but I’m 5’7″ and 290 lbs. I go to the gym and lift weights and stand on my head in yoga class and climb up a huge hill every morning walking to work. OK, I’d like to be stronger and faster and less winded when I’m climbing that hill, and I’m working to get into better shape… but I’m sure as hell not debilitated.

      Shut up, stupid show that I will never watch.

      (Michelle, please DON’T EVER shut up, because we are all banking a lot of Sanity Watchers points by listening to you.)

      • Posted January 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        Sanity Watchers is, indeed, a wonderful program that we should all follow.

        The beginnings of Sanity Watchers may be found here. If you have not yet, please read all the archives of Shapely Prose. Your life will thank you.

  17. Teresa
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I’m probably about 5’4″, and weigh 296, so pretty much, I have a BMI of 50.

    My blood pressure isn’t even on the high end of normal, nor is my pulse rate, or my cholesterol. Until I got sick this past year, I weighed 20 pounds less and I was active all over the place. The doctor now wants to place my lack of energy on motivational problems and depression and my weight. I had her run tests anyway.

    Funny, my ferritin levels were low. So yeah, working on getting those back up.

    I told her I ate well, and she asked me if I was fooling myself. I almost fell off the table.

    I don’t have problems with movement when I’ve got the energy to move. I’ve been told that I’m pretty fast for a fat chick. ;) At least that’s how it translated in my head. I love ice skating and running and playing soccer. I just can’t do any of these things right now because my energy levels are still tanked.

    Yeah, and shows like these do tend to contribute to disordered eating in my household, so I don’t think we’ll be watching this show any time soon. Like, at all.

    • Posted January 21, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      I told her I ate well, and she asked me if I was fooling myself.

      What. The. Fuck.

      How do these kinds of doctors manage to crawl their way out from whatever rock they were born under in order to attend medical school?

      Please, if you can, go shopping for a new one. Good ones do exist, I promise.

  18. Posted January 21, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    THANK YOU for writing this! I chose not to watch the show for a variety of reasons (well, I don’t have a television, so there’s the first one), but mainly because I had a sneaking suspicion that medical facts would go amiss, BIG DRAMATIC MUSIC would be omnipresent, and it would just make me super ragey. So i appreciate that you took one for the team and wrote an excellent piece about it!

    Oh also, I’m 30, no idea what my BMI but i’m pretty sure I fall in the “extremely obese” category, and nope, it hasn’t been debilitating (not that it matters, frankly, with the whole “good fatty”/”bad fatty” dichotomy).

    • Posted January 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      (not that it matters, frankly, with the whole “good fatty”/”bad fatty” dichotomy).

      Yes, completely and totally. That point can easily get lost in discussions like this. So I am just going to shout this, because I enjoy repeating it:

      BEING AN “UNHEALTHY” FAT PERSON DOES NOT MAKE YOU BAD OR INFERIOR IN ANY WAY.

      Painting all people who happen to share a physical trait with the same brush, however…I’m willing to say that makes you a total asshole.

      • Posted January 22, 2011 at 12:32 am | Permalink

        word. (to the total asshole part)

  19. Elizabeth
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    And for a bit of statistics – I took the BMI numbers that you linked on that page and monkeyed around with them for a bit, and got a best-fit (to my eyes, nothing fancy) to a normal distribution for a mean BMI of 28.3 and a standard deviation of 7. If those are roughly accurate, then the percentage of people having a BMI greater than 60 (like Tom and Jodi) would be about 0.0003%.

    Even if those distribution characteristics are not accurate, the number of people this fat is vanishingly small, not 1/3 of the population like the show implied.

    • Posted January 21, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Fascinating, Elizabeth. Thank you.

      The idea that people like Tom and Jodi exist: important. Important enough that it should not be misrepresented. Important enough that it should not be misrepresented by telling 1/3rd of your viewing audience that you ARE JUST LIKE THEM, and yet somehow have better health/mobility/whatever, presumably due to your individual awesomeness and bootstrappiness.

      Tom and Jodi are exceptional. That doesn’t mean we should disregard their experience and stories, but it does mean that we need to be responsible for accurately depicting the context of those stories and experiences.

    • Jennifer
      Posted January 21, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      Oh, god, it bothers me on so many levels. It’s fairly clear to me that by using statistical outliers as the “representative fattie” (and all reality shows about fat seem to do this), it’s a method to justify fat prejudice. If we used a more statistically common obese person – the 45 year old mom who’s 5’5′ and 185 and not in particularly bad health – well, then Jillian Michaels’ abuse doesn’t play so well.

      Of course, that’s the point of using statistical outliers and/or concealing that the outlier has a medical condition, but it grinds my gears.

      • Posted January 21, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

        Yes. Totally.

        And the fallout is this: people who desperately need some kind of help with their health concerns related to weight? All they get is a fucking bootcamp, in the service of trying to PSA the 100 million other fatties in the country into dieting themselves thin.

        So, rather than actually HELPING the people who are in pain, suffering, and whatnot — they are exploited as a scare tactic. Instead of helped substantially.

        I mean, seriously? For issues as serious as the ones faced by Tom and Jodi on the show, the best answers modern medicine has come up with are personal trainers, calorie restriction, and maybe stomach amputation?

        You’ve got to be kidding me.

        Why not trepanation? Or bloodletting? Or tapeworms? I mean, whatever. They’re fat people! REALLY fat people! Which means…oh who gives a shit, let’s sell some more SlimFast.

        • Posted January 23, 2011 at 12:03 am | Permalink

          Good point. One thing that really angered me about the show is that lymphadema is not only related to obesity. Why the hell wasn’t Tom being seen by a Lymphadema clinic to have his legs properly compression bandaged prior to him losing 100 lbs? Oh wait, you don’t deserve basic medical care till you prove you can lose weight.

          Also, I have to wonder if the first few weeks would have been better done at a cardiac rehab facility if they were really that dangerously unhealthy. Or how about having the first week supervised by a physical therapist rather than a trainer? Oh yeah, good medical care would mean treating them like human beings.

      • Jennifer
        Posted January 21, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        Which is not to say that fat-shaming is OK, but when you’re trying to manipulate a large audience, it’s usually better to go for outliers because if an audience can connect the person onscreen with someone he or she personally knows, dehumanizing behavior is less acceptable.

        Sorry. Realized that might sound like it was okay to fat-shame instead of the point that some sophisticated techniques are at use to dehumanize obese people, and I find the use of “edge cases” to justify oppressive behavior extra-evil (it is used a lot in the abortion debate, for example, and to much the same purpose and effect).

      • Posted January 22, 2011 at 4:25 am | Permalink

        A dear friend has told me that if I were to go on a reality show she’d have to track trolls down and kill them.

        (I think she’s joking.)

    • G
      Posted January 23, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      If I remember correctly weight doesn’t follow a normal distribution; it’s skewed towards the right (heavier) side of the curve and has a long tail (makes sense; weight can go up but it certainly can’t go under 0). But still, yes, a very small number of people are this size.

  20. tree
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Reading these comments has made me understand just what a treasure I have in my GP. I mean, I’ve always known she was wonderful, but now I’m thinking maybe we should clone her. I’ve been seeing her for five years now and not once, ever, has she commented on my weight — and she has seen all my wobbly bits!

  21. Posted January 21, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for writing about this. I’ve heard about Heavy, but I don’t have American TV and can’t be bothered to find something I know I’ll hate online. So, I’m glad to read about it, especially through your eyes.

    The thing that got me when I read the description of the show was the fact that Jodi had given up singing because of her fat. I never understood why, because they made it sound like it was a PHYSICAL problem that prevented her from doing it.

    Oh, and also? I went back and read your post on food addiction and why it’s problematic, and I now know why I ate ice (like tray after tray after tray) when I was eating disordered and very, very anemic. I found that post interesting as well, but it felt weird to comment to something that old.

    But yes. Please keep shouting about Heavy, I’m interested in hearing more about it.

    • Posted January 21, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

      The thing that got me when I read the description of the show was the fact that Jodi had given up singing because of her fat.

      Yeah. I’d love to hear Jodi explaining to Beth Ditto that fat women can’t sing.

      • Posted January 22, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

        Shit, I never thought of that! I bet it would have been pretty encouraging for Jodi to be exposed to someone like Beth Ditto (if she hasn’t already been.) I mean, wouldn’t that encourage you, whether or not you still wanted to lose weight? It would make me feel a whole lot more comfortable with the idea of putting myself out there.

  22. Posted January 21, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    THank you thank you thank you for this.
    I’ve been following you on Twitter for a while, and now greedily catching up on your blog.
    Me? BMI over 40. Becoming a fat activist, already a stong proponent of fat acceptance. Thank you for being awesome!!

    • Posted January 21, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, and welcome to the jungle baybaaaaay.

  23. Posted January 21, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Had to delurk here, too. Count me in the definitely not debilitated group.

    I’m 5’1″, 260 pounds or so, and a size 20/22 depending on cut. (Which puts me at a 49 BMI or so.)

    No joint issues. (Erm. Occasional twinges of tendonitis in one wrist, but that’s not weight.) Good sleep. Various other health measures somewhere between good and excellent. I mostly fit into airplane seats without an extender (my shoulders are the most inclined to give trouble there, but given that those are bone, I’m not sure how losing weight would improve things.) Librarian, so a lot of low-key movement and rapid task switching in work settings, including bending over to look at things on low shelves, crawling on the floor to fix computer plugs, and so on.

    I do have some chronic health issues that make exercise tricky – I’ve had asthma and lung scarring from pneumonia in my early teens, which make some kinds of exercise a lot harder than others, and I was diagnosed last year with hypothyroidism and vitamin D deficiency, both of which did a number on my level of energy, stamina, and a lot more. (I’m slowly building that back up.) (Plus a hugely stressful job year.)

    But I do what I can, and build slowly and things are hugely better than last year. I do pay close attention to what I eat right now, but it’s because I’m optimising for brain: higher protein/lower carbs gives me less brain fog.

  24. Posted January 21, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    My BMI is 26.6 (just checked it).

    When I went to the doctor a year and a half ago with debilitating fatigue and numb feet after a nasty bout of H1N1, she told me to exercise and lose weight. I told her I couldn’t exercise, I couldn’t even clean the bathtub without feeling faint and being more exhausted for days. She said well, you need to exercise more then. And try to lose some weight.

    About two months later my fiance dragged me to another doctor (I was afraid to go and be told it was all my fault again, and get nothing accomplished). He — a stout, handsome man — tested me and put me on B12. It helped, and I got steadily better for a while, but now I’m stuck and have to go back to another doctor. The prospect is terrifying.

  25. Posted January 21, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I just found your blog through a twitter follower. You are fucking brilliant, and the epic snark just turned an incredibly frustrating day into one. Thank you.

    I am overweight with lots of knee issues. I had 3 surgeries when I weighed under 200…shockingly, at 235, I STILL have the same arthritis I’ve had since I was 16, and the same knee pain. One specialist I saw told me (when I was still playing roller derby, so epic workout 3 times a week) that if I only lost 60 lbs, my knees wouldn’t hurt any more. Just to double check, I asked my surgeon his thoughts. He told me that if arthritis disappeared with weight loss, he’d try to lose weight too, but it doesn’t, so to tell the other doctor to bugger off. My old GP ran a barrage of tests on me when I first joined his practice, and told me I was probably the healthiest patient he had based on blood pressure, cholesterol, etc (aside from my migraines and knee issues).

    I’ve been a vegetarian for 19 years, and am so sick of people telling me to stop eating meat if I want to lose weight. I don’t eat meat, or eggs, and I drink almond/rice/soy milk, and I eat more chard, kale and bell peppers than a rabbit. Next person who tells me I should try to eat better is going to get beaten with a bag of organic veggies.

    I am legally disabled, but it has nothing to do with my size. It has to do with have danced ballet from the age of 3, having flat feet and shallow patellar groves that all combined to leave me with fucked up knees and hips that cause me constant pain. So to all the douche nozzels that feel that fat people just should eat less and that all fat person disability is caused by size, fuck off.

  26. Peska
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Wait! The internet tells me my BMI is 39.5. I didn’t know I was debilitated! I got up and rode my bike to work and everything, without even recognizing my own state of debilitation! Does this mean I get to call in to work tomorrow? Sorry boss, debilitated by my @ss. Can’t make it.

    More seriously – no, I’m not debilitated by my weight. I may round up to deathfatz, but I move and walk and bike and yoga, and all kinds of things. Just like anyone else.

    -Peska

    • Posted January 21, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      Sorry. You’re debilitated. Pick up your identity card on the way out.

      • Peska
        Posted January 21, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

        Rats. Another label to carry around. My purse already weighs a ton.

  27. Emerald
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    I don’t weigh myself, but I’m a British size 18 if that’s any sort of guide. I’ll admit to being pretty sedentary a lot of the time, but I can bend, stretch, run up stairs, dance, and swim as well as anyone (that last one I’m meaning to get back to, because I need the relaxing effect of being in water).

    The only ailment I’ve ever suffered from in my life that I’ve found to be truly debilitating has been depression. And, while the causes of that are pretty complex, at least one factor has been the body-shaming I’ve received over the years in the bosom of my own family. Not all of it fat-related (my mother had big control issues which were focused on my appearance), but a lot of it. I’ve been very, very lucky as regards healthcare providers, but I can only imagine how much worse things might have been if they’d suggested weight loss rather than meds and counseling as a cure for my particular debility.

    And, I can’t watch ‘reality’ TV any more. So much of it just seems to be based on pure nastiness.

  28. Robyn
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I am fat. I’m 5’2″ and 208 lbs. That’s a bmi of 38. That’s close to 40. Oooga booga. I’m a size 18. And my husband, my mother, and *I* all think I’m beautiful.

    But I am debilitated. I have fibromyalgia. Which means I’m utterly exhausted and in pain EVERY.DAY. It’s all I can do to make it through my work day as a high school teacher, cook dinner, tidy my house and play with my 4-year-old and 11-month-old. I know I *should* exercise. I’m told it will even help the fibro. But I don’t. Because I’m SO DAMN TIRED. And my body HURTS. And my body feels heavy and tired. Sometimes I do a yoga dvd that I enjoy. When I feel up to it. My fibro has been worse since becoming pregnant with my second child and having symphysis pubis dysfunction that rendered me barely able to walk and placed on bedrest. Also, a fucking horrible case of post-partum depression landed me in a mental health hospital because I was suicidal, so I haven’t been very active for the past two years (since becoming pregnant).

    When I was young, a teenager and young 20-something, I exercised daily for an hour and I was 140 lbs and a size 4. I’ll never be that again, and you know what? I don’t really care. This is my new reality. Accept it. Accept myself.

    So, yeah, I’m fat and debilitated. But I’m not debilitated because I am fat.

  29. Tina
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    There really are amazing doctors out there (I’m in Ontario). My doctor is young, full-figured, and totally honest about her own relationship with food. She also has a prosthetic foot and wear the most gorgeous, bright shoes that scream, “LOOK AT MY FEET! FUCK YOU, I’M NOT DISABLED I’M FABULOUS” I think the shoes are the thing I love most about her. She loves bread! (she says this often) She will never EVER stop eating bread and will not dictate what anyone else should or should not eat. She will help you reach whatever your health goal is, and if it’s not a problem for you, it’s not a problem for her. Cigarettes are her one issue – if she takes you on, you must work with her (WITH her) to shake the habit.

    Her health philosophy is that doctor and patient work TOGETHER toward YOUR best health, she is open to alternative medicine (no ego, she often says, “If it works and you feel better, that’s perfect”), and she is interested in healthy eating and movement.

    I love her. I promise, there are body-positive doctors out there. She has never told me to diet or that I’m too fat to run or anything of the sort. She thinks I am awesome. I think she is awesome too.

    • Erin S.
      Posted January 21, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

      “Cigarettes are her one issue – if she takes you on, you must work with her (WITH her) to shake the habit.”

      Because everyone knows that of course, smoking is the worst thing ever. Even worse than being fat. And there are totally no beneficial side effects of the practice, and if there are, why you can just take a pill that costs ten times as much and has even worse side effects.

      Sorry but I’m tired of the smokers are morally bankrupt, disgusting, smelly, and unhealthy thing. Where have I heard that before I wonder.

      I quit smoking two years ago. In absolutely NO WAY has it improved my life, and in many many ways my life is worse. I have constant headaches now, I’m so tense all the time that the muscles around my eyes twitch. I haven’t been able to stretch my legs in two years because it will trigger a muscle cramp… just holding my foot at the wrong angle will trigger a muscle cramp in my soles.

      I have not been able to enjoy sex with my husband for TWO F*ING YEARS because every time I actually participate instead of acting like a blow up doll, my legs cramp so bad that they hurt for two days (just from tensing my leg muscles… you try actually participating in sex without tensing your muscles, it’s not possible as far as I’ve discovered).

      I used to be able to make fairly realistic horse graphics, good enough that I actually got paid to do so and my graphics were used in an online game that is still running despite the mismanagement of it’s owner… now? I can’t concentrate on any one thing long enough to actually finish a single graphic much less the couple hundred any project like that requires.

      So yeah. Something that makes me able to function, enjoy sex, and not be in constant pain… but doesn’t require hundreds of dollars a month for doctor’s visits because I’m in the US and don’t have insurance, and then hundreds more for prescriptions with side effects that are absolutely no better than possibly dying of cancer later? Not really all that evil in my book. Except that since I can’t work because I can’t concentrate and am jumpy all the damn time, I have no money of my own and it wouldn’t be fair to my husband (who also quit at the same time) to start smoking again.

      But it just enrages me when everyone presents quitting smoking as this entirely great thing that could never ever have a downside for anyone.

      • Posted January 21, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        Very interesting — I’ve never heard of anyone having these side effects from quitting. But yeah, really, pretty much no change you make to your habits (even seemingly “healthy changes!”) carries no risk. I really hope you get something sorted out.

        And, of course, the idea of presenting anyone other than a psychopath as morally bankrupt is shitty. Smokers are just people who smoke, not the devil for crying out loud.

        • Erin S.
          Posted January 23, 2011 at 2:29 am | Permalink

          Some of it may be coincidental and completely unrelated — no way to know, since *even if* I had access to a doctor, all he’d tell me is to lose weight anyway. Actually at the start, we did have insurance… literally all the doctor did was write a prescription for a drug that isn’t even available anymore outside of countries with severe malaria epidemics. When every pharmacy in town told him it wasn’t available, he just shrugged and said to live with it.

          I guess I’m just disturbed that a medical doctor could use her position to essentially deny a patient’s free will, and it is seen as either no big deal or a good thing because the practice isn’t popular.

          Being fat isn’t popular either, and millions of doctors absolutely believe it is as harmful to one’s health as smoking… but I doubt that the poster would have been ok if her doctor was insisting that people actively attempt to lose weight as a condition of treatment.

          • Amy
            Posted February 9, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

            Also I think tonic water has quinine in it (the malaria drug that they sometimes prescribe for leg cramps).

      • Posted January 23, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

        Just a thought: have you tried magnesium for leg cramps?

  30. Posted January 21, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    I’m a death fat fatty and I am debilitated, but not by my fat, by my perma-jackedup leg and knee from a tibial plateau fracture with a side order of compartment syndrome about three years ago. Before that I was a hiking, dancing, bowling fool. Surgeon figured the lack of mobility wouldn’t bother me much since I plainly wasn’t athletic. I should have offered to arm-wrestle him them but now it’s too late. I’m not as strong and not as active, but strangely enough I’m pretty much the exact same size I was three years ago.
    I can’t watch this show, I won’t watch it, even the promos on Hoarders bothered me. Thanks for taking one for the team, Michelle!

  31. Cyndi
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    My BMI is 50+ and I skate with a roller derby league. I am a fat fat fatty who should, by all accounts be near death, walking with a cane, have diabetes and need an oxygen tank to breathe. Yet somehow, I manage to lace up my skates 3 time a week and spend 2 hours skating the equivalent of several miles around the track, while doing sprints and various drills, plus endurance practice up and down the ramp at the local parking garage and cardio and core at the gym.

    My endurance is crap, but it is getting better. When I started skating a year ago, I couldn’t go two laps around without having to stop. Now I can skate 9 laps in two minutes, and am inching ever closer to the goal of 11 in two minutes needed to be drafted to a team. (That’s three sets of 11 in two minutes, with a 30 second break between each set.)`

    It always makes me laugh a little when I go to my Weight Watchers meetings and they talk about short walks around the block, or extra trips to the refrigerator for water.

  32. Katie F.
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Delurking for this one as well. I love this blog! So glad to see you’re posting againg!

    Anyway, it seems my BMI is 43.6. I don’t feel especially debilitated. I do have bellybulk that makes things like sitting cross-legged on the ground kind of a pain, and makes it awkward for me to get up from the couch sometimes — but oh well? Much more debilitating is the embarassment. Like, I go to someone’s house and I’m afraid to relax on the couch, because the way I need to push myself to the edge to stand up might look weird. Especially since I’m young (24).

    Aside from that, though, I’m generally okay. I don’t have the stamina other people have, but I never have had that. Even when I was thin-ish, I was never fit. I’ve never been able to run, really. But since I’ve never felt a desire to run, I guess I don’t consider it debilitating. I can still exercise. When I had a gym membership I absolutely loved the elliptical machine.

    I somehow missed “Heavy”, and I’m glad. After this review, I don’t think I’ll be watching. Because, really… :(

  33. outrageandsprinkles
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know my BMI, but I weigh about 20 pounds more than Jodi. I just took a trip to San Francisco where I walked for miles and miles. I also work in retail, which means being on my feet for my entire shift. The only time I feel debilitated is when I have to spend a lot of time on my feet in cheap, uncomfortable shoes, which are unfortunately the only shoes I can afford sometimes.

  34. Intransigentia
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Another Death-Fattie (BMI right around 40) who has a disability, representing! That disability being depression. It takes away years of my life, that the only thing I can remember from those years during the periods that I’m well, is a grey heaviness and a sense of futility. I had my first major depressive episode when I was actually quite thin, and have had them at every weight from thin to my current death-fat.

    How the fat disables me? I kindof dislike stairs and steep hills. And sometimes my belly fat gets uncomfortably squished when I bend over. Oh, and sometimes I worry that people are judging me. Booga booga heaven forbid living a pathetic, empty, fat-limited life like mine!

    • Posted January 21, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      Another Death-Fattie (BMI right around 40) who has a disability, representing! That disability being depression.

      Solidarity, fellow disabled depression-haver! Glad I’m not the only one who identifies my depression as a disability.

    • Robyn
      Posted January 22, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Depression is the fucking black hole of my life.

  35. shyvixen
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    “Point-and-pity” that phrase perfectly sums up A&E’s programs – “Feel like your life is going nowhere? Look and THESE people and feel better about you!” Bleh.

    I can’t bring myself to watch Heavy and I am absolutely appalled that the show can get away with claiming 100 million people are suffering from “debilitating obesity”. I did see a promo for the show where they had a young man shouting at the trainer to “LEAVE ME ALONE!” and I was cheering him on. But I’m sure he eventually saw the Error of His Ways and Repented. *sigh*

  36. Posted January 21, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    My BMI has been around 40 for almost thirty years now. During that time period I have swam, lifted weights, done yoga, done heavy gardening, walked a lot and taken up competitive figure skating. Yes, as a 47 year old 5’2″ 220lb women I got a bronze and a silver medal for figure skating. Jumps and all. Is my weight deblilitating? Hell NO!!

    What is debilitating is having fibro or depression. What is debilitating is having docs that don’t believe you when you go in and say something is wrong with your body and they tell you to go home and loose weight when that isn’t the reason your sick. What is debilitating is having joint pain and not being given pain meds because it is just a weight thing even though weight lifting hurts like hell! Or docs that tell you that exercise can cure depression. WTF people??? I think I know when my body chemistry is out of whack. After all I’ve been this weight a long long time and hey most years I’m fine. My weight isn’t the problem.

  37. Posted January 21, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    I got so caught up in my rant I forgot to mention my idea. I think you should collect pictures of us fatties exercising and enjoying life and post them to your web site. I’ve got a great one of me holding up my silver figure skating medal!

  38. Carolyn
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    I have a BMI of 54. Translated that means I am 5 feet 8 inches and 354 pounds. I do not find my weight to be debilitating. I am however debilitated by depression (when not on medication) and by chronic pain (which has been there even when I was 175 lbs).

    This giant BMI of 54 carcass of mine can do the following:

    have sex (and enjoy it)
    go for a 2 mile bike ride
    walk a mile (before it becomes difficult)
    work an 8-10 hour shift that includes about 75% of the time be standing
    drive my car
    sit in a restaurant booth
    etc. etc. etc.

    I have people in my family who do find their body size to be debilitating (IE: it impairs their movement and ability to function). However, categorizing any obese person as disabled is ludicrous. My husband weighs in the obese category, but also works out 5-6 days a week and can bench 330lbs for 3 reps. I wonder if HE considers his size to be disabling? hrmmm . . .

    • Posted January 22, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      Your husband is debilitated by having a ridiculously hot wife.

      • carolyn
        Posted January 22, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

        Heck yeah!

  39. Posted January 21, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    The physical pain is another matter. Some of it, maybe a lot of it, is caused directly by weight, but there are other issues at play as well. Tom exhibits signs that look (to me) like exercise-induced asthma, a condition that weight can exacerbate but does not cause, and that discourages people from moving because, untreated, it can be life-threatening. He also has high blood pressure — again, a condition that can be exacerbated by weight, but is not caused by weight alone. Jodi has had a mini-stroke, and the same can be said for weight’s role in that condition.

    One of the most popular hits on my blog is “400lbs exercise”.

    One of the most commonly linked pages on my blog is my “Exercise” page, where I talk about the exercises I do and how I rebuilt to a very basic level of fitness after injuring myself. (It’s frequently linked to from diet sites under “Exercise” ;)

    I have exercise-induced asthma, and this means I do go to the doctor and have maintenance meds. But I spent a long time in denial about it because I assumed my symptoms (wheezing, trouble catching my breath, occasional chest tightness) were due to being fat and out of shape. Currently I figure if my asthma meds fix it? It’s asthma.

  40. Posted January 21, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    You wanna talk “debilitated”? I’ve had two bad cases of back pain in my life, bad enough to keep me out of work for a while. Both of those cases happened after I lost weight. And it wasn’t rapid weight loss, or a fad diet, or any crap like that, just dropping maybe 8% of my body weight, very slowly.

    The last time it happened, I asked my doctor (who’s a D.O. — they have an extra year of osteopathic training on top of their M.D.) if he thought the weight loss might have been a factor, and he said it very well could have been. After all, it’s a change from what your body is used to, and even so-called “healthy” changes have more to them than meets the eye. When the legendary songwriter Townes Van Zandt went into the hospital towards the end of his life, after decades of alcohol and drug abuse, the doctors there told his ex-wife that if he tried to detox one more time, it could kill him. And it did.

    Nobody ever bothers to ask whether Tom losing 450 pounds (!) would actually be good for him.

    • Posted January 22, 2011 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Nobody ever bothers to ask whether Tom losing 450 pounds (!) would actually be good for him.

      This is a really good point. I think he was pretty clearly suffering at this current weight, but there are risks to losing that much weight that need to be taken into account in the total cost/benefit analysis. A more modest weight loss might actually be less risky, and just as helpful physically, for someone like Tom.

      But, you know, that doesn’t fit with where the BMI says he should be! So, no, that can’t be healthy.

  41. MReap
    Posted January 22, 2011 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Hmm, just got back in after having a great Indian dinner in downtown Minneapolis (Bombay Bistro, if you’re ever here.) I guess with a BMI of 58, walking four blocks in sub-zero F weather was impossible for me. Had I known I would have taken a cab!

  42. bananacat
    Posted January 22, 2011 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    I keep vowing to stop watching these shows, but I can’t help myself! I keep hoping and hoping that they’ll present it in a better way, and I am always disappointed.

    I did have a couple of thoughts when I watched this though. I did notice that it is actually better than most other similar shows in some ways. I know that’s a pretty low standard to beat and overall the show was bad, but not as bad as it could be.

    One thing I liked is that the personal trainers were much more supportive than other TV trainers. They were also more realistic about appropriate exercise. I am a firm believer that exercise is healthy for people of any weight, but that forcing people to do it until they puke will never get people to enjoy it and want to do it on their own. So in this show the woman did puke once which was bad, but overall it was much less intense than I’ve seen on other shows. The trainers also seemed to care about these people and seemed to use encouragement more than insults, or at least that’s how it was edited.

    I also liked that they provided counseling for these people. They clearly had/have other issues in their lives besides their weight. For someone who is as stressed out and depressed as Jodi was, it can be live-saving to get a month away from it all. I think it’s fantastic that she had help to deal with the issues with her mother.

    Now of course there were plenty of bad things about the show. I’m not qualified to diagnose it, but as Michelle pointed out, Tom probably had an eating disorder and maybe Jodi too. It really bothers me that binge eating disorders are treated so differently than other EDs like anorexia. People who suffer from binge eating need intensive therapy, NOT a diet plan. If they could stick to a plan, then they wouldn’t have a disorder in the first place. It just really really bothers me when mental illnesses are ignored and treated as a lack of willpower.

    And of course this has many of the other bad things about weight loss reality shows, like reinforcing the myth that fat people are lazy and miserable, and this does effect me.

    After years of suffering with hypothyroidism and anemia, I’m fairly weak. My treatment is under control now, but I want to build up my strength and endurance to a level where I can function in daily life without getting exhausted. So I go to the gym twice a week, and I constantly feel like I am being judged. I’m only a little fat and can almost pass for “normal” in the regular world, but I’m certainly not gym-skinny. So I walk on the treadmill at 3 mph at the highest incline I can tolerate, and I get all sweaty and out of breath, and I feel like everyone else is judging me for getting winded at such a slow speed. But I am making progress, because I monitor my heart rate and got a little faster or a slightly higher incline every few weeks. And it takes all my willpower to go there and face those other people who have no idea that I’m making progress, especially because I’m not losing or trying to lose weight from it.

    I know this was a long comment but I just had to get all that stuff off my chest. I really should just stop watching these shows.

    • Posted January 22, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      and I feel like everyone else is judging me for getting winded at such a slow speed.

      I know this is hard. And they might be, but you can’t know for sure. They very well might NOT be. Either way…it’s none of your business what they’re thinking until or unless they get in your face about it. Let them have their thoughts. You know you’re doing right by yourself, and that is awesome.

      I also think it is really sad that a show where the woman cries almost continually while exercising is less intense than other shows. You can tell I have specifically avoided watching The Biggest Loser :)

  43. Posted January 22, 2011 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    I’m 5’9 and about 360 with a bullshit mass index of 55. And while there probably would be many people who would find doing things difficult at my current weight, I haven’t had any major problems. I think staying at a stable weight for over 10 years has actually helped me and kept me pretty healthy than if I constantly dieted.

    To classify all deathfat people as disabled or debilitated when some of us aren’t suffering from chronic pain disorders or are not able-bodied is a huge injustice. The panic over fat has made people forget that not all of us can just “get our asses off the couch and move.”

  44. Posted January 22, 2011 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    I just looked up my BMI based on my last known weight… 43.
    I can bend forward and put my hands flat on the floor with my legs straight. Well, thanks to a genetic defect I can. ;) So I’m flexible and no matter what my BMI will ever be I’ll be in pain. I might actually be as able as I am because I built muscle lugging my deathfat self around.

    At least this show had a therapist. I think this is the first one of this ilk to do that. I’m still unimpressed overall. Only the woman is shown getting therapy.

    If these shows are going to exist can one at least happen where they help people find movement they like?

    • Posted January 22, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      can one at least happen where they help people find movement they like?

      Yes, I would like that. A lot. Guess what, exercise can be fun. It doesn’t have to be one of the outer rings of Dante’s Inferno the way people pushing this kind of shit would have you believe.

  45. lonelypedestrian
    Posted January 22, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    I watched the show and in the context of recent family events it was very upsetting. A relative of mine recently died of a heart attack at 55. She had a series of health problems exacerbated by her weight which was in the range of Jodi on the show but her primary problems were that she smoked and spent at least 2 decades living as inactive a life as I have seen. (She remedied this in the last couple of years but with arthritis and breathing problems her motion was limited)

    Personally I think the show should be called Sedentary. I think the problem is that many people do not move and do not participate. They do it for a lot of reasons and fat hatred is definitely one of them but if we can inspire essentially able-bodied people to value themselves, participate and exercise the long term health benefits would be great.

    • Robyn
      Posted January 22, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      Yeah. Have you even read the above posts?

    • Posted January 22, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

      Personally I think the show should be called Sedentary. I think the problem is that many people do not move and do not participate. They do it for a lot of reasons and fat hatred is definitely one of them but if we can inspire essentially able-bodied people to value themselves, participate and exercise the long term health benefits would be great.

      I think this is interesting, and I definitely think that helping people to actually care for themselves and enjoy it at the same time is…well…shouldn’t that be the whole point in the first place?

      But I also kind of think that there are plenty of truly sedentary people out there who don’t necessarily end up with health problems. I know this idea is going to seem bananas given our current environment, but I think it’s important to remember that all these scare stories don’t necessarily represent the destiny of those who don’t follow the socially accepted prescription for “healthy living.”

  46. Posted January 22, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for an inspiring and awesome post! And thank you, commenter, for the Bullshit Mass Index label; I just might start using that as an intro to my discussion on BMI!

    It’s so unfortunate that people are critical of those on the high end of the scale, and those on the very low end. Yes, even the very thin take abuse from the public.
    It’s striking to me how insensitive and self righteous people can be about other peoples weight and perceived struggles. (Check out post about my patient, Erin:http://dropitandeat.blogspot.com/2010/09/meg-hit-300-pounds-wednesday-and-was.html) And while she was someone who struggles with emotional overeating, I certainly am not stereotyping those who are overweight.

  47. Posted January 22, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    If your BMI is 30, do you consider yourself debilitated by your obesity?

    Late to the party as usual, but with a BMI around 32, I don’t even register as fat to most people. I’m able bodied, strong, and in good health. I’m fairly muscular and can often shop in “straight” sizes. I’ve written about about how much it frustrates me that “obese” has become shorthand for “debilitated.” It’s lazy and inaccurate.

  48. JennyRose
    Posted January 22, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    It is heartening to hear how many of you are not debilitated and what a crock the assumption that fat people cannot be fit.

    But I am also on the verge of tears because someone I love is extremely obese (cannot bring myself to say deathfat as it hits to close to home). For many yeas she has been physically debilitated due to weight on her joints, chronic pain and depression. The weight isn’t the whole cause but it is a factor. I hope we can all have as much sympathy for someone who is hurting from her weight as we have pride or joy for every fat person who is fully abled. I don’t think it is intentional but some comments could be understood by someone who is disabled as smug and self-satisfied. Luck, genes (I guess that’s luck), mental state,and social class play a role as well.

    I think it is helpful that FA activists can personally show that they are not debilitated by weight in the least. It shows how silly the fat/lazy/debilitated stereotype it. Just remember, some people may have disabilities which are exacerbated by weight and they deserve our love and support as well.

    Is there a way to argue against fat-phobia by saying weight does not automatically create disability while still supporting those who are disabled from fat?

    I guess it is a “let’s not air our dirty laundry in public” sort of thing. But at least within our own ranks we need to realize some are disabled in part by weight and are just as deserving of support as fatty who is fit.

    • Posted January 22, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

      But at least within our own ranks we need to realize some are disabled in part by weight and are just as deserving of support as fatty who is fit.

      Totally and completely agreed. I’m glad you said this.

      I’m hoping to write some more about disability in the very near future.

  49. Regina T
    Posted January 22, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Yeah…..that quote from the very first second of the show claiming 100 million people in the U.S are debilitated by obesity? It set the tone of the whole show for me. I watched it on my own time through on-demand. This allowed me to pause it so I could catch my breath and regain my sanity. It was a bit unnerving seeing “my body” via Jodi being depicted in such a harsh and negative way…..and I weigh more than she does and have 6 inches on her.

    I found it strange that no one seemed to make the connection to genetics, especially in Jodi’s case, because she had the same body type as her own mother. They only made a cursory mention of genetics during the entire show, but failed to let explain just how genetics truly does dictate a whole host of outcomes for most people. Things like appetite, metabolism, bone structure, energy levels, stomach size, hormone levels, tastes and preferences, stamina, lung capacity, brain disorders, genetic diseases, fat storage ability. etc. etc. etc. All of these things have a tremendous impact on our size and weight, yet the mere mention of genetics was shrugged off. They didn’t even bother to explain the weight loss differences between the two—which shows so succinctly the differences between men and women’s bodies in regards to weight loss.

    I hated the “nutritionist” most of all (sorry Michelle). Her constant pairings of calories to weight gain or loss was so fraught with misconceptions it made my head spin. The human body is not simply an internal combustion engine that burns the fuel it receives equally and without exception. Thermodynamics is an incredibly flawed method of describing how the body burns fuel for energy and uses calories. So for the nutritionist to say that if you eat this yogurt instead of that ice cream you can easily eliminate 5000 calories a week, which equals more than one pound…..was just erroneous and misleading.

    Overall, the program seemed so determined to make the viewer believe that the obese outliers (which includes me) is the norm when in fact, it isn’t. As many here have stated, it is a much smaller number than 100 million. I found all the dramatization unnecessary and dehumanizing…as usual.

  50. are
    Posted January 22, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    first of all, this post was SO necessary!

    second of all, as a person who is 5ft 7ins with a bmi of about 24 i can say that i definitely cannot do half of the workout that my beststest best friend who is 4 inches shorter and maybe 20-25 lbs more than me can do. when we went to the gym together i could barely make it wheezingly past a mile while she easily ran her way through five and that was AFTER she’d gone to a yoga class which i did not attend. then we moved onto some weight lifting at which she also kicked my ass. so weight always being depicted as this awful debhilitating thing, like some sort of disease or something? yeah, i don’t think so. i wish people wouldn’t equate weight with fitness. its just silly….hell, its insulting.

  51. Posted January 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to interject something here some might find random. I’m one of those skinny people with a binging eating disorder. I’ve had an eating disorder since I was in 2nd grade, but I spent most of my life overweight. Then after kids and a grip of stress, I got up to a size 22. I wanted to say that before anyone rolled their eyes at “another skinny girl” who is complaining of an eating disorder. I wasn’t always skinny. I used to be a big girl, but now I’m a size 6. (BTW, not skinny according to Hollywood standard, but skinny for my own standards.)

    But I wanted to say something about binging, since I’m so intimately knowledgeable about it. My oldest son has Aspergers and over the past 3 years I’ve learned a lot about “sensory disorders” and how they can impact your everyday life. After talking to my mom, I realized that a lot of his “sensory” issues were VERY similar to things my mom saw in me when I was a child. And I was considered a “behavioral” problem for most of my childhood. I just couldn’t sit still or stop talking or fidgeting, etc. And I couldn’t stop eating. (No one ever saw that as a “problem” because I think no one wanted to hurt my feelings and my mom was also overweight.) I REALLY think that binging is tied to a sensory disorder. I know they are starting to do studies about this, but I haven’t heard any results yet. But I think we are going to start to see how these people actually have a disorder that is bigger than compulsive eating.

    Another thing I wanted to say, is I completely agree with you about being heavier and healthy. When I was losing weight and in the low 200s, I was healthier but could move faster and do more than the vast majority of the skinny people I knew. Couldn’t run fast, but my endurance would beat them out and if we had a natural disaster I’d be the one surviving. I like to look at waist circumference as more of a sign of health because the BMI sucks! BMI doesn’t take into account how much muscle you have on your body. According to it, my husband is overweight…and trust me he’s not…he’s solid muscle w/ a tiny bit of belly fat. It’s your waist circumference that is directly tied to health problems. That is what all the cutting edge studies are saying.

    Okay, now that I’ve rambled on because I have a tendency to do that when I’m interested in a topic…I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Leah Segedie. Also known as @Bookieboo on twitter and I’m kinda known for fitness & health. Yes, I’m an annoying fitness person, but I love everyone equally. I’m NOT here to tell you that you need to lose weight or change you in any way. I just want to come over and say hi! Saw this article from a tweet that I saw w/ @CecilyK…who is a friend of mine. I love her. Nice to meet you!!!

  52. G
    Posted January 23, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    I’m so glad to see this discussion! Not really about the show, but more about the people who are fit no matter their size. So my Bullshit Mass Index (love it) is around 36 last I checked; I run 3 times a week and do other structured exercise too.

    I also had an issue with my doctor… after my last physical my bloodwork numbers were great, my doc was impressed with my exercise tolerance, but she still said I needed to lose weight (24 pounds this year, orly). She said it would “catch up with me”. Hi There, Vague Future Health Threat! I haven’t fired her yet though. :(

  53. Posted January 24, 2011 at 3:25 am | Permalink

    Late to the party, too — but I had to just add: What a great post, Michelle!

    I have never been a binge eater — my very thin girlfriend once was.

    I have gained some pounds (which now places my BMI at 32+ instead of 30.5)since this picture was included in the BMI index you linked to, but if you took a picture of me now, the only real change you’d probably notice is in the wrinkles I’ve added, and a slight de-elevation of my boobs.

  54. R. L.
    Posted January 24, 2011 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    Great post!

    So, my BMI is 42. I have lost and gained weight (80 to 100 bls) many many times. I always thought that there was something fundamentally wrong with me- and if I could just loose the right amount of weight, then I’d be alright! As I tried to seek answers, I found that genetically I come from fatties. I have had to take medications that increase my appetite since I was 12. My childhood was pretty chaotic. And, I use food to sooth my emotions (or restrict food intake and excessively exercise). I list some of these “factors” because in the end, my recovery with self acceptance wasn’t in these details. They were all “red flags” so to speak of the underlying issues- that my suffering was not because I didn’t fit into a size ( insert whatever size is acceptable nowadays!), but that I felt empty as a person. Like finding the right doctor (which I haven’t yet, but am seen regularly by specialists), finding the right therapist has been paramount. So, these shows tick me off to no end. I’m on the road to acceptance and a healthy relationship to food, but this all began with acceptance to myself. These shows remind me of the self hate spiral I was in (and still go to sometimes) and society’s acceptance of severe non-proven techniques to punish people who are suffering. I’m uncomfortable with food as addiction theory, but I have used food to self sooth difficult emotions and without a trusting therapist who has worked on their own countertransferences, then that spiral of hate can easily be continued and reinforced. I’m not saying all fatties binge or need a therapist, but shows like these don’t even seem to acknowledge that being kind and gentle to oneself, as opposed to punishment and public humiliation, maybe the only thing some us need to recover from suffering.

    Oh, and hell no I’m not debilitated by my weight!

  55. Posted January 24, 2011 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    My BMI is 53 and I don’t feel debilitated by my weight. I exercise (lift weights, walk and swim) and other than some arthritis in my ankle from an old break am pretty agile.

    I go between a hearty “fuck you” to the people who feel compelled to shout things or comment when I am exercising and feeling like I want to run away depending on my mood and my cycle. I perfer to be in the “fuck you” frame of mind but sometimes I just want to be invisible when it happens. As it stands now I am usually 70% fuck off and 30% run away. I hope it contines to improve.

    By the way, I don’t binge eat and I have been fat my entire life. I am also pretty new to the fat acceptance movement.

  56. Posted January 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    I have a BMI just shy of 50 (295 lbs, 5’5″.) I’m not going to be running marathons anytime soon, but that’s hardly my idea of a good time. I exercise regularly, I can do all the things I want to do, physically speaking, and I eat a “normal” amount of calories for my frame. My blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol are normal.

    I’m just fat. Not ‘debilitated.’

  57. Posted January 24, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Great post! I’ve been seeing advertisements for this show all over NYC, and every single time I see a poster, which includes the super awesome headline, “Losing is their only hope,” I freak out a little. And all this talk of BMI has GOT to stop. I loved reading through these comments and realizing, oh yeah, I’m not the only one with a BMI of 34 who isn’t debilitated.

    I just recently completed a physical. One doctor, in the past, actually said to me, “You know, you’re overweight, but I’m not too concerned about your weight since you don’t really look that big.” THANKS! So when my latest doctor started to bring up my weight, I said, “I don’t want to talk about that. My bloodwork is great. I feel great. We’re not going to talk about me needing to lose weight.”

    Thanks for creating a space to discuss!

  58. JennyRose
    Posted January 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    And another thing..“Nearly 100 million Americans suffer from debilitating obesity.”

    I call BS on the stats. The US population is about 310M. So a third of the population is debilitated by size? Impossible. Maybe they have a different definition of nearly.

    • Posted January 24, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      Yes, the problem is that, technically, by the BMI, 1/3rd of the (adult) US population is “obese.” But we know that most people who are technically obese pass for “normal” in our society.

  59. Cathy S.
    Posted January 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    My BMI is 31.5. I exercise 6 days a week, my cholesterol levels are fabulous, blood pressure and blood sugar are great. I do not feel debilitated. I was happy recently when my 9-year old went for his annual checkup. These days, so much crap is out there about how fat our kids are–my son’s a bit chunky, short and stout like me. His doctor did the usual charting and told my husband that our son is in the 95th percentile for weight for his height, but he wasn’t worried about it because he could feel how muscular our son is (soccer, swimming, football, basketball, tae kwon do–he’ll do anything that involves moving). I was relieved that the doctor used his eyes and his brain and didn’t focus on the numbers on the stupid piece of paper.

  60. Posted January 24, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I heart you. My new favorite blog. I loved what you wrote and love your sassiness!

  61. Loris
    Posted January 27, 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    5’9, BMI of 27 here. I like to think of my extra chub like a camel’s hump. It’s there in case of disaster. Like when I had the flu and had to live on bananas and Sprite for a week. If I hadn’t had that cushion, things would have been pretty grim.

  62. Posted February 4, 2011 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for writing about these issues in a way that isn’t preachy, hyperbolic and overblown. I think our society is truly insane – and I mean that in the realest sense of the word – about weight. We are so screwed up about it that a reasonable discussion is practically impossible.

    The thing I want to talk about is how 95% of the people who lose weight gain it all back within a year, but no one ever mentions that in their diet plan. Is there something wrong with a system that guarantees a 95% failure rate? I mean, if we bought cars with the knowledge that 95% would break in the first year – WHO WOULD DO THAT??

  63. Alix
    Posted February 19, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    BMI currently 56 (size 22) and I play tennis, bike, swim, do yoga, tai chi, and pilates, run/walk, weights, etc. etc. Several years ago I was in a wheelchair for about a year at BMI 67 (size 36), but once I figured out to stop eating gluten, I stopped needing it.

    We live in Central Florida and I go to Disney and put in a full day at least a few times a month and my feet are never tired at the end of it. I figure that means I’m doing okay.

    I do have depression (well, PMDD) that can be crippling, but I’ve had that since I was 12, and normal BMI.

  64. MamaCheshire
    Posted March 2, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m 5’10″. My scale’s broken at the moment but I think I weigh just over 300 pounds, which would give me a BMI in the low-mid 40s, I think?

    I have a very complex relationship to the “disabled?” question. I have a “bad leg” that didn’t quite heal right after breaking in a car accident when I was 14. I sprained the ankle on the same leg when I was 19 and then over the years ended up with a nasty case of heel spurs and a hip with bursitis, all on the same side. And I’ve steadily gained weight over the same period – the only times I lost a significant amount of weight was while breastfeeding, and it always came back after I stopped.

    I used to meet the proposed criteria for Binge Eating Disorder. I also, it turns out, have “moderate” inattentive-type ADD, for which I am now taking medication. I think these two things are related, and that a lot of the binge-eating I did was a backfire from “forgetting to eat” because I was all hyperfocused and stuff.

    Since I used to be pretty active, even though clumsy, I feel disabled in comparison to what I used to be able to do. And yet, I am functional enough to walk, even if not as fast or as far as people in “better” shape, and to combine parenting, a 30-hour/week job, and 12 credits of grad school. The bad-leg pain is occasionally quite debilitating, and my own personal “fantasy of being thin” is that the pain will all just go away. I’m trying to be gentler with myself and take in activity in amounts that are enough to make me feel good instead of bad, but it’s a struggle – especially In My Copious Spare Time.

  65. jmdr
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    “If your BMI is 30, do you consider yourself debilitated by your obesity?”

    I’m late to the party, but HELL NO. I am a professional dancer. People pay money to hire me to dance with my BMI 31.5 body. And to teach them to dance with their (fat and thin) bodies.

    I do get somewhat less performance work than when I was on the thinner side of inbetweenie, but that’s an issue of prejudice, rather than ability.

    A bigger problem for me is people assuming that the physical limitations I do have were caused by my size, when in fact they were caused by injuries I sustained when I was thinner.

  66. Posted March 29, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    At my heaviest my BMI was 36. I suppose it depends on the definition of “debilitated”, but I certainly could not walk up the stairs in my split level house without getting out of breath, or keep up with my husband walking around an art exhibit for an afternoon, without having to stop often and sit. I was not comfortable in airplane seats. My knees and ankles cracked and hurt. So, I think to some degree, I was debilitated. Perhaps not severely debilitated, but I imagine I would have gotten there if my BMI went up over 40. Once I started getting in shape (to be able to walk up the stairs without huffing and puffing) my BMI decreased. I obviously cannot speak for other people, but for me, to get to a fitness level where I was able to comfortably perform daily activities, my BMI necessarily went down. FWIW, I am in the best shape of my life now, and still have an “overweight” BMI. But it was mutually exclusive for my body to maintain this level of fitness and be obese.

  67. amarilla
    Posted August 27, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    My BMI, at its highest point two years ago, was right over 30. I can honestly say yes, I did feel limited by my size. I remember my first week at college, walking around campus in a skirt and getting a serious case of chub rub. All I could was, wow my ancestors thrived and evolved for eons, to come to this point- my gluttonous body rubbing against itself and making my inner thighs sore and itchy. I did not evolve to become this. We are all robust machines by nature, and I wanted to capture that. Since then, I decided my only lifestyle rule would be to live like my ancestors, to work as hard as they did and to really earn the natural, clean meals I get to eat. My BMI is now 22ish(sounds drastic but I’m very short), and regardless of weight or BMI, the smaller volume of fat makes me feel so free. I can run, jump, and ride my bike for hours without being weighed down. I really feel like a kid again.

    • Posted August 27, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      I used to get chub-rub when I was 14 and a size 8. So…

      I also think “gluttonous” is a pretty awful way to describe your own, or anyone’s, body. I find the rest of your comment disturbingly disordered-sounding, and not because of your size. But I hope you really do feel well, and I mean that.

      • amarilla
        Posted August 27, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        Ouch… “disordered”?

        Maybe my post over-articulated my main point, which is just that I base my life on my ethical beliefs and ancestral knowledge, as best I can. That means moderation, not self-denial in any way. I will admit that I’m definitely in the Michael Pollan camp of thought, and I’m sad to see that that seems to put me completely at odds with the FA camp.

        Do you think FA/intuitive eating and environmentally conscious eating are compatible? That’s my only issue with what I’ve been reading in this blog and similar ones – opposition to food rules because it’s of no consequence to anyone but oneself, ignoring the fact that food choices have big implications that go beyond self.

        Eating ethically requires giving thought to what you’re eating, which I guess is tantamount to an eating disorder.

        • Posted August 28, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

          No, I don’t think ethical eating – or even Pollan’s beliefs – are absolutely at odds with intuitive eating or FA. I do think, however, that the way they are often presented is quite pressuring to people and gets wrapped up in a lot of individual moralizing blame, and further stigmatizing poor people, which really angers me. It also places the burden of SYSTEMIC problems onto INDIVIDUALS who may or may not have the privilege or resources to enact such changes.

          I’m sorry if that bothered you, but I absolutely don’t believe that giving thought to what you eat = an eating disorder. In fact, that’s rather uncharitable.

          I actually teach mindful eating to people, which, by definition, means giving thought to what you’re eating. But I really should address my thoughts on ethical eating and making choices based on systemic food production problems in a more in-depth post, since it’s kind of complicated and doesn’t come out well in comments.

          What you said about gluttony and the body as machine, and working to “earn” “clean meals”, yes, does have similarities to what you will read in disordered commentary. I don’t know how familiar you are with the pro-ana community online, but I can tell you that this stuff is really familiar, even if you yourself are not disordered in any way. I can’t make assumptions about your own eating habits, and as I said, I hope they truly are healthful and great for you, but I can absolutely point out problematic language. And that is.

          Romanticizing the nasty, brutish, and short existence of our ancestors and oversimplifying how that applies to contemporary lifestyles requires a whole post unto itself.

          Tangentially – not referring to you here, amarilla – I also find it fascinating how people so concerned with ethics and compassion as it relates to environmental food issues and animal welfare are so often (but not ALWAYS) willing to show a lack of compassion to other people by judging them for their weight or how they eat. It seems really morally inconsistent to me, and shows a lack of integrity.

  68. Posted August 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for parsing that out about disordered language, Michelle. I’m currently in a relapse of my eating disorder, and reading your blog and your twitter feed is so helpful to me, especially when you’re able to articulate some things that are swirling around much more nebulously in my own head.

    • Posted August 28, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      Wow, thank you. Tough times…I hope you have better days with eating very, very soon!

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