The Death Threat: It’s not about health.

Stacy Bias posted an amazing sample of fat hatred today, and it reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while. Namely, The Death Threat.

Ragen has written about The Vague Future Health Threat before, and The Death Threat is its close cousin.

The Vague Future Health Threat and The Death Threat are two of a kind because they allow a person to openly vent their fat hatred in public, but under cover of plausible deniability: it’s not about hatred, it’s about your health!

Let’s unpack this.

Here’s how the theory goes: “obesity” is a disease – the disease of being fat, specifically.

The word “obese” implies that the “disease” is caused by eating yourself fat. Which, you know, might not be true. These studies imply that not only do fat people eat roughly the same amount as thin people, but also that recent calorie intake has increased by the same amount across people of different weights. So maybe some people are just fat, because different bodies have different genetic blueprints that respond differently to the same environment? I know, weird.

But for the sake of this thought experiment, let’s go with “obesity is a disease caused by eating too much,” which means you did it to yourself, fatty.

In the grown-up world where rational people live, it is not actually set in stone that “obesity” is a disease, not least of all because the definition of “disease” is still somewhat fuzzy – which is handy, because it can be stretched to conveniently cover physical traits and behaviours that you find distasteful, thus becoming a useful means of social control that sets “health” (definition also fuzzy) as the new meritocratic standard of Good Dog/Bad Dog, a game we all love to play.

The “obesity = disease” theory is also not set in stone because being fat does not lead to an exclusive, inevitable set of symptoms or health outcomes, despite all the alarmism in the media.

There are fat people who exist in all states of biomedical health, with different health conditions, and with varying life expectancies – just like thin people. There is no particular disease or syndrome that all fat people get, or that only fat people get* – just like thin people. And some fat people don’t seem to have any symptoms or risk factors (other than weight) at all – just like some thin people. So it’s a fairly controversial classification that is still under debate.

But for the sake of this thought experiment, let’s also roll with the “obesity is a disease” theory, within which The Death Threat operates.

If “obesity” is a disease, then that means people are concerned about fat people’s health. Because we care about each other, right? (And our very important Health Care Dollars ™ which we alone contribute to the system through the sweat of our virtuous little brows.)

And when you see someone who has a real, honest-to-goodness disease, it’s only natural to remind them that THEY ARE GOING TO DIE, and also to take some measure of delight in the fact.

Because only losers get sick and die, amirite?

I imagine the death threateners would argue that, no, it’s only people who are clearly not treating their disease in the prescribed manner who receive their judgment. And also because fat people brought their “obesity” on themselves by simply eating too much, something that is super-easy to remedy by simply eating less.

So, if a fat person is caught in the act of being “obese,” it means that not only is it their fault, they are being willfully non-compliant. They aren’t following The Rules.

And just like you would taunt a smoker who develops lung cancer, and just like you would taunt a person with cancer who is trying non-traditional treatments, you would naturally take it upon yourself to charitably spread the news to all the diseased, doomed, and non-compliant fat people of the world that they are GOING TO DIE. HA HA!

Of course you would! It makes perfect sense, provided you’re a terrible person.

*With the rare exception of fat-person-who-literally-can’t-leave-the-house syndrome, in which case there are probably underlying medical issues, just as there are with thin-person-who-wastes-away-to-nothing syndrome.

A place where we don’t threaten each other with death does exist, in comments.

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136 Comments

  1. Natalie
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    This is among the best (and funniest) explanations of the medicalization of the fat body that I’ve seen. Nicely done!

  2. Jen
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    While I am of the camp that believes that obesity is, in many cases, a health risk, and the higher rates of obesity in the US than many other “first world” countries does indicate that we must be doing something differently to cause it (like, oh, I don’t know, sneaking high fructose corn syrup into EVERYTHING???)… just like you say, it’s certainly not my place to go badger people about it. I don’t understand that mindset at all. I don’t badger smokers either, for that matter. People get to make their own decisions about their health and how they want to handle it, it’s not my business and I don’t understand why anyone would freak out (and not just freak out, but freak out to the point of being OPENLY HATEFUL) about something that DOES NOT AFFECT THEM IN ANY WAY.

    (Nevermind the fact that I have *no idea* why a given person is overweight. Maybe they live off mayo, maybe they’re on medication that causes weight gain, maybe they have thyroid or hormonal problems… it’s not my damn business.)

    • Posted July 6, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      There is an answer to why people would be openly hateful about it: because our cultural perception of fat people is that they are physically and morally disgusting.

      Basically, it’s hateful behaviour rooted in hateful attitudes that exist because…humans need someone to hate, apparently.

      The justifications for WHY we treat fat people like crap are just window-dressing for indulging in childish, unreflective, irrational disgust.

    • Posted July 6, 2012 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Or, Jen, maybe they’re just fat.

      I’m fat because I’m fat. Not because I eat too much or have a thyroid problem or take meds that make me gain weight.

      Something to take away from this article is that being fat does not always have a cause that can be fixed.

      • Posted July 6, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        Yes. I also wanted to add that the prevalence of fat people (particularly those of >BMI 40, or “extremely obese”) has increased, but perhaps the incidence has not.

        Which is a fancy way of saying, maybe part of the trend is that very large people are surviving better and living longer due to advances in medical care or other social determinants of health. Which would be a good thing, unless you just hate fat people.

        • Posted July 7, 2012 at 2:03 am | Permalink

          I can’t help but wonder… and I get that there might be more to it than this – if fat is so bad, why is the average life expectancy so much better than ever before? What’s good about fat? Because if it was bad for us, our body would naturally fight it, like it does everything that harms us. And if heart disease and cancer rates are higher than they were in 1900 (a little off topic, I know), is that because we’re omigod so much sicker now, or is it because we’re not dying of other shit before the cancer gets us or our hearts give out? What I’m wondering about is – if our life expectancy is better than ever before, why does anyone care how big someone else is or isn’t? And if it’s about health, why don’t we run around telling everyone we see eating packets of chips to get their cholesterol tested? Or triglicerides, or whatever? If it really was about health, nobody would talk about weight. And if it really was all about health, which I suppose is more the point of this particular article – what’s with the hatred? If, y’know, it’s not just a hatred and fear of one’s own mortality that’s projected onto someone else? I could rant for days…

          • Posted July 7, 2012 at 2:07 am | Permalink

            PS. I have nothing against chips, and realise that consumption of chips does not necessarily have anything to do with cholesterol. Just jumping on the prejudice-based-on-someone-else’s-perceived-behaviour-and-therefore-assumed-lifestyle-choices-and-morality-and-intelligence bandwagon.

          • Mich
            Posted March 9, 2013 at 3:45 am | Permalink

            I totally agree with this. Before old age was common, everyone was dying of the plague, TB, polio, or some crazy infection.

            Another issue is that we not necessarily are getting more cancer, but that diagnostics are able to show it at ever increasing smaller levels, giving the illusion that there are more people with cancer. Or I as I usually put it with friends, there probably is the same % of people worldwide with x disease, but we are hearing about it more. And on Sandy’s blog, Junk Food Science, she pointed out that an artificial increase of a disease in one area is likely due to there only being one diagnostic centre there, giving the illusion that it’s an epidemic.

            Also ditto on the comment below, where we may be seeing humans weighing what they’re supposed to weigh, and heights too, for the first time in 1000s of years because only now do we have good food available.

        • Emily H.
          Posted July 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

          I wonder if it’s also possible that, a hundred years ago, a lot more people were eating starvation-level calories not because they were dieting but because they were way too poor. (Not that the US has gotten TOO much better about povery since then, but at least we have food stamps, and calories are cheaper now if you’re not too picky about where they come from.) And people who would have stayed skinny just by getting not nearly enough to eat back then, are now getting fat because they have the calories that their bodies need.

          Not a nutritionist or anything, just a random theory!

          • Posted July 7, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

            I’ve often wondered the same thing. I once saw someone ask where all the fat people were in Europe in the 40s, as if that was what they were using as a reference for a healthy weight. Y’know, during the Second World War. It’s not like, you know, the entire continent was on limited rations for a whole bunch of years….

          • Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

            I’ve wondered about this too. You don’t need to have a degree in nutrition to ask questions like this! I’m a firm believer in DIY nutrition and research :)

            For example, the increase in height seen in the late 19th-20th century was attributed to “better nutrition,” I believe. But somehow, because we view weight through a moral lens, unlike height, that same hypothesis hasn’t been put forth for increasing weights.

          • JMS
            Posted July 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

            Exactly! People are taller in the US than ever before, but you don’t see hand-wringing about the “height epidemic” blah blah blah.

          • Posted July 13, 2012 at 2:28 am | Permalink

            Oh, don’t get me started on all those tall people! They ruin my enjoyment of movies! And tallness carries serious health risks, when you’re walking through doorways made for your average 1940s kind of citizen. It’s a public safety issue really, yes – my primary concern is for their foreheads. Which is why I believe tallness is wrong.

          • Emily
            Posted July 10, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

            I wonder if it’s also possible that, a hundred years ago, a lot more people were eating starvation-level calories not because they were dieting but because they were way too poor.

            Yes. They were.

            This was even more true in the 1930s.

            Also, way back in the day, women didn’t breastfeed much. In the 1950s this was because they were told breastfeeding was bad, but before that there were various reasons for it, all adding up to: generations after the Baby Boomers were breastfed more often by healthier mothers than any generations before.

            Further, from the 1920s on, everyone smoked. Everyone. Smoking makes people thinner. Far fewer people smoke now.

            These are only a few of the historical reasons as to why people are fatter now. And every single one of them is an indicator of improved health.

            Here’s a factoid: before the Industrial Revolution came the Agricultural Revolution, which really picked up steam in the early 18th century in Europe and the Americas, though it started earlier. People figured out how to grow more and better crops, and people were able to eat more varied diets. They started living longer — meaning children had a good chance of surviving childhood, rather than a pitiful chance. Women started giving birth to far more babies who survived. People were stronger, and could fight off sickness much more often and thoroughly than they had been able to before. Western society changed drastically. All because people were getting more food.

          • Posted July 11, 2012 at 6:54 am | Permalink

            This is fascinating, thanks! Any history books you would recommend? There are so many out there.

          • Emily
            Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

            I’m afraid I can’t think of any books that particularly look at nutrition levels over time in the eras I mentioned. Everything I said above is stuff I’ve learned from a bunch of different classes, mostly in lectures and/or from reading assigned papers. Food is, of course, very important in history, and its importance is being studied more now.

            The Agricultural Revolution is mentioned in a lot of scholarly works on colonialism, class, gender, and/or race, but I can’t think of any books that focus on it. If you have access to jstor, searching for papers there may be a better bet. It’s the kind of thing that’s taught in classes and textbooks about the era, an important and central fact to always keep in mind, but I know of no books focused on it. Which is kind of strange now that I think of it.

            There are a bajillion books on class in the Victorian era, and some recent ones do talk about food a bit, since that was when popular culture started to embrace the idea of “good” and “bad” food. (Bad food = cheap. Good food = expensive.) Daily Life in Victorian England, by Sally Mitchell, looks good, though I haven’t read it myself.

            Novels are actually a good source for how people ate in the early 20th century — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, for instance. The Depression era isn’t my focus, but The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan looks excellent. The Way We Never Were by Stephanie Coontz is a good source for starting to learn about the 1950s.

            You can also count on the fact that any time the economy is bad, people are getting less to eat. The middle class starts scrimping; the lower middle class starts panicking; the poor become even more malnourished; and the poorest die. The degree this happens is directly related to the scope and severity of the economic collapse, and to social safety nets the government provides. Better social safety nets = fewer dead people, fewer riots, fewer rebellions. (Speaking of which, it is not possible to get enough to eat on U.S. government food stamps unless you eat ramen all the time. The idea that poor people eat unbalanced diets because they’re stupid about nutrition is untrue and offensive. They’re not stupid; fruit and vegetables are expensive and they provide few calories per dollar. I’m sure you know this already, just felt like ranting.)

            This has me thinking how odd the fact that there aren’t more scholarly books on food in history is. Though it’s only in the past 30 years or so that historians as a whole have decided it’s actually important to focus on the way common people lived. I would not be surprised to see a lot of historical works on food come out in the next decade or so, possibly from the new environmental history movement.

          • Posted July 12, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

            Thanks…I appreciate your suggestions. It is kind of weird that there aren’t books specifically on the topic, or at least more of them, or more well-known ones. I’ve read a couple about food and poverty, like Round About a Pound a Week by Maud Pember Reeves, and Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell. A similar contemporary book to the latter is Nickel and Dimed. But I’d like to find some more stuff. The Cambridge World History of Food has been pretty interesting so far. I’ll have to dig around for food security/poverty stuff and also sociological stuff on foodways. I’ll definitely take a look at some of the Victorian culture stuff you mentioned.

          • Posted July 17, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

            Michelle I haven’t read this, but I wonder if Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has food history in it? http://www.kingsolver.com/books/animal-vegetable-miracle.html

          • Posted July 13, 2012 at 2:38 am | Permalink

            Isn’t it amazing how good novels are at covering aspects of life and culture that Official Books often miss? There are many questions, but truth is revealed through fiction in many indirect ways. I just read Clan of the Cave Bear, and they were eating grains pre-farming-culture-days, and of course I realised when people started farming, grains didn’t magically start existing then – they’d already been around for a long time. And people had been eating them. So of course they’ve been a part of the human diet for much longer than we’re generally told, but I’d never thought of it like that, which makes me feel a bit ignorant. Stupid paleo diet fad…

          • Mander
            Posted July 14, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

            Argh, the palaeo diet drives me nuts. While it is at least somewhat plausible, given that people only started growing grains on a large scale relatively recently, as an archaeologist I’d love to know how these diet book authors got such great data on early human diet when we’ve been exploring that question through, you know, excavations and scientific analysis and stuff for years. Obviously we archaeologists are doing something wrong since we still debate topics like how much hunting vs. scavenging actually happened, the degree to which plant foods were gathered and consumed, when our ancestors started cooking, etc. etc…..

          • Posted July 15, 2012 at 3:14 am | Permalink

            Maybe the archaeologist they consulted was Harrison Ford, and he was all like ‘yeah, whatever, that’s what they did’….

          • Posted July 15, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

            Okay, now it’s your turn: please give me your history book recommendations, especially ones concerning food and foodways. Anyone who comes to this blog identifying as a person in any field connected somehow to history will not be allowed to leave until they give me a book recommendation. You have been warned.

          • Posted July 16, 2012 at 3:32 am | Permalink

            Oh no! A history book! Does ‘Clan of the Cave Bear’ count? It’s a novel, but Jean Auel won honourary things for accuracy… They eat burdock leaves… If you’re into kung fu, check out “Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals: A Historical Survey”. It breaks apart a lot of kung fu myths – speaking of novels, the earliest written reference to Shaolin Monks practicing kung fu was written in a novel, only a hundred years ago.

          • Ruadhan
            Posted July 23, 2012 at 3:07 am | Permalink

            One of the reasons that an increase in height isn’t pathologised the same way that an increase in weight is simple : tall people are valued more in Western society. How many actors are openly under 5’8″? 5’8″ is also the AVERAGE height of a US-born male. There have been very few presidents under 5’10”. Short actors are relegated to comic stories and seldom in the lead; only exceptions off the top of my head are the films starring 5’3″ Prince, which are essentially vanity projects and very poorly rated, also, he seems to have few shoes with less than a 4″ heel. Women get more of a break from heightism because short women are “demure”, “petite”, and in all honesty, tall women have been observed to have a smaller dating pool than short women because of either misogyny (it’s believed that she is “threatening”) or cissexism (it is believed she might “really” be TS/TG, even if there is no reason besides height to believe that she is. There was one study reported by the BBC some years ago (which I lost the bookmark for) that suggests that men deemed “too short” (which is typicall under 5’8″) get paid around 15%less, about the same rate the average cisgender woman in the States gets paid.

            To be short is to be “sickly”, it’s often assumed that there must have been SOME kind of traumatic childhood illness that drastically stunted growth. This is in spite of the fact that another BBC study found that the difference in height between people with the “tall” and “short” version of a particular gene is only about an inch, and childhood nutrition and other childhood health indicators rarely shed much, if any measurable light on why there is such a great variance in human height. Some people are just short.

          • Mich
            Posted March 9, 2013 at 3:51 am | Permalink

            Ok, I identify as someone with a history background, particularly a BA in History. While studying, I found a 2 vol. book, in Spanish translation, of medieval Muslim documents that were written in Spain from about 900-1200. There were several recipes.

            Unfortunately, my paper wasn’t about food, so I never read them, but if I ever do find the books again, I’ll have a look, as ancient recipes shed light on what was available. There might also be class distinction there too.

          • Posted March 9, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

            Hah, very interesting!

        • Jamie
          Posted July 20, 2012 at 4:13 am | Permalink

          “Which is a fancy way of saying, maybe part of the trend is that very large people are surviving better and living longer due to advances in medical care or other social determinants of health. Which would be a good thing, unless you just hate fat people.”

          Erm, I’d take out the part about very large people living longer because of medical care. Kind of goes against your whole “obesity is perfectly healthy” schtick, if you think about it. An increase in prevalence would imply a selective survival advantage from medical care for larger people that less heavy people are not getting. This would imply that we need more medical care for larger people, not less, and that your advice is actually, medically speaking, dangerous.

          • Posted July 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

            I have never denied that people of higher body weights have increased health risks – the question is about why those risks are in place, whether it’s purely a function of the fat, or whether sometimes high weight is a symptom of other underlying diseases, or due to some social determinants of health, as well as stigma and oppression. The question is also whether the commonly proposed “cure” (intentional weight loss) is actually more dangerous than the condition itself. A lot of people think it may be, and that instead we should focus on improving health directly instead of using weight as a proxy.

            I think we need more medical care (or better access to medical care) for everyone, and that fat people need medical care that is actually sensitive to their needs instead of purely focusing on weight loss (which is risky and does not have a good track record of permanent success for most people.) I also think it is possible that fat people are surviving longer due to better medical care, since fat people may disproportionately suffer from health conditions that we have better treatments for now (heart disease, diabetes.) That still doesn’t mean being fat caused those illnesses, or that every fat person will inevitably get them.

            My advice to eat regular meals, a variety of different food groups, and to not hate yourself is clearly very dangerous, compared to a $60 billion industry that doles out revolving-door treatments and pseudoscientific BS like it’s Christmas.

  3. Posted July 6, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    People are always passing their judgments, concerns, and suggestions on to other people for all sorts of reason. I’m thin so I have never been shamed for my weight, but I have been shamed for eating a lot of junk food by lots of people and have been told I will become diseased if I keep eating that way. Honestly, they are right. I have had bad habits of overeating sweets and high fats because my body doesn’t respond to it by gaining weight, so I always thought I could get away with it, but it doesn’t mean my insides aren’t subjected to suffering or put at risk. I wasn’t aware of the risks of overeating while thin so I am glad I had people to share their warnings. However, warning someone for just being fat isn’t the same, because we don’t always know why they are fat.

    • Posted July 6, 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Your comments are consistently baffling. It is inappropriate for people to give unsolicited advice to others about their eating, at any weight. You are right that eating poorly (though eating poorly looks a lot different to different people) induces risk in people at all weights, but it isn’t okay for people to glory in the perceived doom of others.

      • Posted July 7, 2012 at 2:11 am | Permalink

        I was just trying to say I am ok with it personally, but I understand others aren’t, and they have a right to be. I’m sorry but people can judge ME on what I do…I don’t care, and I have the right to not care. I’m not going to tell someone they can’t have their opinion on the way I live my life. That’s my choice.

        • Trippmadam
          Posted July 9, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

          People may well have an opinion about my way of life, but I do not always want to hear it. If I want advice, I ask for it. (No offense intended, o.k.?)

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

      I’m glad that it was good for you to hear those warnings, but it still makes me sad that they came in the form of shaming, and (from what it sounds like) people who weren’t directly in the business of advising you on your health. In my perfect world, people would have access to health education in schools, and to doctors with whom they could discuss their personal health circumstances and behaviors, and would get the information they needed that way. It sounds like it didn’t happen that way for you, which is unfortunate, and it seems what happened instead — being counseled on your habits by non-experts whose advice you didn’t ask for — has a lot of risks. For example, how could they know that you didn’t have some specific health condition that was helped by sugary food? What if you did have such a condition, and wanted to maintain your privacy about it, and were put in an awkward position by their hassling you? I also think “shame” should have no place in this no matter who the advice is coming from. Even if we’re talking about professionals whose input you’ve sought, I feel like the emphasis should be on informing you better so that you can make the choices that will best satisfy you, not on imposing their own judgments on you. It really upsets me if, as a society, we’ve gotten so bad at appropriate and supportive means of informing people’s personal choices that “being shamed by lots of people” seems like the necessary alternative to ignorance.

      • Posted July 6, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        This is a much nicer way of putting it than mine. Thanks!

        • Linda Strout
          Posted October 24, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

          Also, if you bothered to check, she has training around eating and nutrition. She is not pulling this stuff out of thin air.

        • Posted October 24, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

          You certainly think you are a medical and social proffessional just because of your unique physique.

          Um, no. As Linda already said, she thinks she’s a medical professional because she works in this field and has a degree in it. You know, because she *is* one. (And, presumably, can spell “professional.”)

      • Posted July 7, 2012 at 6:18 am | Permalink

        I understand. I apologize if my comment came off as saying it was ok to judge other people for their weight because that is certainly not what I think. I do think most people to offer advice to others on virtually anything could be constructed in better ways that are nonshaming.

  4. Emgee
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Yes, this! But in the U.S., especially, people have come to believe that they have a right to hate fat people because they are sick (their own fault, of course), and sick people make our health insurance rates go up, which has led us to the evil Obamacare, and none of this would have happened if not for fat people! And I beg to disagree: It is NOT that fat people die earlier that upsets people. If all of us fat people would just keel over and be dead before we hit the ground, it wouldn’t cost the healthcare system (read: everyone else) anything, and it would be so much tidier. The thin people could just shake their heads sadly, cluck their tongues, and say, “S/he brung it on her/himself. ” No, we occasionally do not die, but get sick and linger, and THAT is causing the current healthcare crisis. And, as you may recall, Gluttony IS one of the seven deadly sins, along with its brother, Sloth. And everyone knows that fatties are gluttonous sloths who do nothing but eat mass quantitites of food while laying on the couch.
    Well written, by the way. Thanks for listening to the rant. :)

    • Posted July 6, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      It really is all about morally judging people based on their appearance. So incredibly lazy.

      I like universal health care, but with the health care debate in the US, and the kneejerk policing of other people’s habits and infringing on their personal choices, it’s made me think, “Oh crap. Maybe this is why Americans don’t have universal health care – they really just can’t handle it without turning into fascists.” Which is why I’m glad I moved to Canada.

      • Emgee
        Posted July 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I think you are on to something. Did you hear about New York outlawing Big Gulps in the name of obesity prevention? And yet we do not outlaw cigarettes, despite evidence that they cause many health problems. The reason? Tobacco lobby would never allow it, too much money involved. And no, I don’t yell at smokers, either, as long as they keep their smoke out of my face (except for my knuckleheaded son, and I spent 9 months earning that right :).

        • purpleshoes
          Posted July 8, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

          Hah, there are a couple of ways that I like the Big Gulp ban:

          1) Unlike the recent hike in my health insurance company’s premiums, it’s applied democratically to everyone who buys soda in restaurants, not just to people of a certain build

          2) Unlike 99% of the food-scare-related messages in our culture, it follows “some foods are SCARY and BAD” to the logical conclusion of “the commercial providers of those foods should be regulated” instead of the more standard “tell people there are lurking horrors in every place of commerce that could kill them until they’re too anxious to have dinner”. (I am not saying SCARYBAD is a good message, just that our current attitude towards food is generally like the Victorian home economics movement, which, observing that sometimes pickles were adulterated with arsenic, lobbied to educate women in how to carry out home arsenic tests on every jar of pickles they bought instead of regulating food safety. If SCARYBAD is actually a real property of the food, surely the moral burden lies with the person selling it, not with the consumer.)

          • Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:35 am | Permalink

            If SCARYBAD is actually a real property of the food, surely the moral burden lies with the person selling it, not with the consumer.

            Totally agree with you here, and the Victorian pure food movement is really interesting to me.

            I do have mixed feelings on the soda thing, however. I feel like it’s not actually regulating the food producers as directly as it could be, it’s imposing a restriction on individual choice. Should people have access to smaller sizes if they want them? Sure! That would make me happy. But to treat people like they’re too stupid to know that a huge container of soda probably shouldn’t be the centerpiece of their entire diet is kind of insulting. And of course with the logic being BECAUSE FAT PEOPLE is straight-up fatphobia, and totally uncool (even if the law is applied equally to everyone.)

            The great Meowser has written a far more intelligent thing on that here: http://fatfu.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/on-being-believed/

            Mostly, though, I don’t like the precedent set. If they are going to regulate food producers, it needs to happen farther upstream in my opinion, instead of point-of-sale. Point-of-sale is still too uncomfortably close to placing the burden on the individual, for me. Regulate the advertising. Do more research to make damn sure the ingredients are safe and being produced in an environmentally responsible way. Make the manufacturers act like contributing members of society instead of the sociopathic parasites they often are. Make sure their workers are being paid and treated fairly.

            I feel like it’s a cheap PR ploy for “corporate responsibility” rather than a change that will be very meaningful. It also conveniently still manages to use fat people as scapegoats, and I’m sure plenty of people are all THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS, FATTIES!

          • purpleshoes
            Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

            I agree with all your points and also with all of mine :D The media coverage of this thing has bothered the crud out of me. (I don’t want to come off as stigmatizing soda, which I drink and enjoy as a form of delicious fizzy candy when that’s what I want to have, but the thing where Jon Stewart pointed out that you can get LOTS of BAD FOOD at RESTAURANTS made me want to throw my shoes at the television, because I think we can agree that there is a 64-ounce soda and a very large steak play materially different roles in most diets and only the idea that CALORIES ARE SCARY THINGS THAT KILL YOU would keep someone from noticing that fact). At the same time, having spent a lot of my life around people who work in the restaurant industry on a variety of levels, I kind of already had a huge grudge against how fountain soda is marketed and the people it’s marketed by (as you note, there are objections to be had to the major soda purveyors on lots of levels). If the ban actually prevented people from getting refills or getting multiple cups, my objections would be more material and less tonal.

          • Posted July 8, 2012 at 11:27 am | Permalink

            Should people have access to smaller sizes if they want them? Sure!

            Oh, I wish, I wish. When I’m at the airport and the smallest thing I can find is a macaroon as big as a horse’s eyeball, I so want vendors to offer smaller sizes among their choices. I come from a pretty frugal background, so throwing out half an overpriced cookie is difficult for me. It just all seems so over the top sometimes. I love the mini-scones at Starbucks, and the place in the Denver airport that sells small cookies. At the movie theater, I get the kids pack and am perfectly happy with it.

      • Posted July 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        Honestly, I think the USA will get more fathatred implented either way. I still think universal health care is incredibly important. And if they misuse it, it’s not the fault of the universal health care system.

        • Posted July 6, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

          True, and ultimately I agree. I’ve just become really cynical about it because the intensity of the vitriol is discouraging.

          • Emily
            Posted July 10, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

            The new healthcare law is going to let me get surgery. I can afford health insurance, if they’ll let me have it, but they wouldn’t let me have it before the law. I could not afford $50,000 at once for surgery.

            There are people who are helped even more by the law, who would die if not for it. I’ll only be able to stop being in constant debilitating pain, stop taking Tramadol and Flexoril every day (speaking of unhealthy), and regain mobility enough to do stuff like clean.

          • Posted July 11, 2012 at 6:55 am | Permalink

            I’m not actually against the law at all, though I would prefer truly universal health care. I celebrated when it was upheld. I am just feeling cynical about American culture.

  5. s.h.
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    This makes me think of how we treat people who do have diseases that are at least partially the result of a person’s actions / lifestyle. Eating disorders and substance abuse and addiction come to mind. Certainly when it comes to society at large blame and shame are employed, but at least the medical establishment seems to have largely moved beyond that when it comes to treatment of ED and addiction. This is clearly not the case with obesity.

    It also makes me think of how we react to our loved ones who might have these diseases with “it hurts that I see you doing this to yourself, I want to help you get better” sorts of discussions. Those same discussions in HAES spaces related to weight are, of course, discouraged. But when viewed through the lens of people who have been trained to think that weight=disease those conversations seem less shaming and blaming and more like a sad miscommunication with people talking past each other.

    Of course, there’s also the response that even if something is a disease that’s caused or exacerbated by certain behaviors we can do those things anyway because we’re adults and it’s our life, etc. Which in some cases (stopping or not starting chemo, for example) is a choice that I might not agree with but respect, whereas in others I find profoundly wrong and have no respect for (drinking to excess while recovering from another addiction). I suspect that many people would come down on the “profoundly wrong” side when it comes to things like obesity and someone not following “the rules”.

    Anyway, just continuing your thought experiment really — I don’t have conclusions with all of this, merely questions and observations.

    • Posted July 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      I definitely think there is room for a more compassionate response to people with all kinds of health conditions, whether we perceive them as “self-induced” or not, and whether we know the person or not. Really, when it comes down to it, no one wants to be ill.

      Much of the time, when it comes from loved ones and health care providers, it is well-intentioned. But the way commenters and random people on the street use this “concern” exposes it for the fat hatred it really is.

      And even when it is well-intended, telling someone they are GOING TO DIE OR ELSE is generally not an effective or compassionate way to deal with a health concern.

      • s.h.
        Posted July 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

        Oh totally! I wasn’t really responding to the BS that jerks say, more thinking about the less jerky responses people have to “self-inflicted” illnesses (which is itself is a problematic idea; I guess I didn’t make that clear originally) and how those correlate to less jerky (but still wrong) responses people have to obesity.

        The difference between being mean, being a concern troll, and being genuinely concerned can unfortunately blend together.

        Though, to be fair, isn’t everyone eventually going to die or else? (Wherein “or else” is “confuse scientists for eternity”.) I think the best response to someone saying you are going to die or else, no matter what their reasons, is pretty much “OMG YOU TOO”. But then again I’m morbid like that.

      • Sandra
        Posted July 8, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

        Also threats don’t work. If we leave the compassion/moral good out of it scolding and shaming people (particularly adult people) doesn’t change behaviour except in the very short run. It is kind of like spanking – yes it is morally wrong, but even more to the point it is a very ineffective way of altering children’s behaviour. So those of us who think hating on people “for their own good” is wrong can use the “even if it isn’t wrong it does not work” argument.

  6. Patsy Nevins
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I don’t believe at all that it is, with the vast majority of people, that it is what or how much we eat. Body size has been well-established to be at least 80% genetic &, as Michelle just said herself, it is also well-established that, on average, fat people eat no more or differently than thin people on average. I also do not buy the healthist BS about ‘evil’ high fructose corn syrup, or MSG or whatever else you want to find to moan about. If those things are causing weight gain, several things actually…why are we still generally the same size & body type as our close blood relatives, even if we live far apart, eat very differently, & have far different lifestyles? Why are there still quite a few thin people, many of whom are eating those ‘processed’ foods with the ‘evil’ ingredients over which you wring your hands, sometimes in larger amounts than many thin people? If HFCS or MSG or anything else had these effects, everyone who eats them would be fat & everyone who does not would be thin. From what I see around the fatosphere, there are plenty of fat people who are as careful about what they eat & as determined to avoid ‘bad’ foods or ‘bad’ additives as thin people, yet they are still fat. There are also plenty of thin people who consume large amounts of what our culture terms ‘junk food’, yet they remain thin.

    No, for most of us, there IS no ‘fix’ for being fat. But that is okay, fat is not a thing which needs to be fixed. We are all fine as we are & it is normal & natural for people to come in different sizes & shapes. Unfortunately, it is also apparently normal for a lot of people to hate anyone who is different from themselves.

    • Erin S.
      Posted July 6, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      If we had like buttons, I would like your post about a thousand times!

  7. Patsy Nevins
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Obviously, I meant in much larger amounts than many FAT people, not thin people. This is something which has burned my ass, if you will pardon my expression, all my life. I am from a fat…& generally long-lived…family & will in fact be 63 years old in two months. I have spent less time being sick, in doctors’ offices, or hospitals than a lot of thin people half my age. Most of my siblings have also been fat, but we have ONE thin brother, who is built exactly like our thin father, who killed himself with tobacco & alcohol at age 63. Our fat mother lived to be 85, despite inheriting kidney disease & having one kidney for over 40 years. My one thin brother would sit across from me at family dinners, eating exactly the same foods I was eating, but eating 2-3 times as MUCH as I was eating, & lecture me about ‘letting yourself go. Oh, & I need a third piece of pie.” He is 80 years old now, so eating a lot not only did not make him fat, it apparently has not shortened his life any. We all really need to learn to mind our own damn business & let up on each other about what or how much we eat.

    • AnnieJ
      Posted July 17, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      We all really need to learn to mind our own damn business & let up on each other about what or how much we eat.

      LIKE!

  8. Rachel
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    I love how the second study regarding caloric intake linked still concludes that it’s necessary to decrease energy intake in order to address obesity despite the fact that they found no difference in energy intake levels between thin and fat people… Willful self-delusion is rampant in the study of obesity.

    • Posted July 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      It is very common. That’s why it’s difficult to deal with the evidence sometimes, because the conclusions of the authors often have little to do with the actual data presented.

  9. Bex
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    “So maybe some people are just fat, because different bodies have different genetic blueprints that respond differently to the same environment? I know, weird.”

    The issue here, of course, is that just because someone is “skinny” rather than “fat” doesn’t mean they are healthy. The food we eat and the rate we eat it at, as a culture, is incredibly destructive and unhealthy. The fact that some people show that differently than others doesn’t change the underlying issue that most of our food has been poisoned.

    • Posted July 6, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      I disagree with you about food, but I agree with your point about weight not equaling health.

      Thankfully, we are not going to debate about poisoned food here today.

  10. Alicia
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    When I was fat it was my fault and it was dangerous for my health, now I am thin after a awful weight reduction surgery and chronic ill and people say it’s my fault, I just lack willpower and I have a bad life style/morality/religion/mind state/attitude/etc, it doesn’t matter if it’s obesity, illness, disability, anything that people see as bad is connected to morality, anything that makes people uncomfortable can be judge and shamed, any body (or mind) that doesn’t look or work how people think it’s normal and good are public property to be judge and hated.

    • Posted July 6, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      Alicia, I am so sorry you have endured all that. It just makes my heart hurt to hear.

      Sometimes I think people shame and blame anyone who’s had misfortune out of some kind of delusion that they aren’t at risk of illness, job loss, you name it, if they just do everything right. Admitting “There but for the grace of God go I,” is admitting it could happen to them, and they want to deny that.

    • Posted July 6, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      A large number of people in our society spend much of their time figuring out ways to be contemptuous of others. Under a veneer of authoritarian aggressiveness, they are really warding of feelings of strong but unacknowledged contempt for themselves. There is not much you can do but stay away or counter them. Unfortunately, way too much or our lives is dealing with unfair hurts from others. I handle this in my own case by accepting the authenticity of my anger and feelings of revenge. It is very hard for most of us because we are taught not to feel as children, but allowing negative feelings does help one to recover their composure more quickly.

    • Elle
      Posted August 12, 2012 at 1:35 am | Permalink

      How did you come to the conclusion it was your fault? I am curious?

  11. Fat Fox
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    In today’s creative swearing lesson, I shall now refer to these haters as:

    Assbrained Chucklefucks

    Stay tuned for tomorrows lesson!

    • Amy
      Posted November 26, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      OH! Thank you. “Assbrained Chucklefucks”.
      How delicious.

  12. Chris Gregory
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    The technical term for the phenomenon is the just-world hypothesis. It’s ugly stuff: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_hypothesis

    On a purely rational basis it’s an awful tendency to fall into, because it colours your actions and makes for poor decision-making. But then again, it’s a common and effective tool for shaping public opinion and justifying self-serving behaviour, so that may be just my bias speaking.

  13. Beth
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Hi Michelle,

    Great post as always! I haven’t commented before but I came across this abstract and it seemed to fit with your topic today:
    http://www.jabfm.org/content/25/4/422.abstract

    I haven’t read the full text yet but from what I’m seeing… omigosh perhaps we are not bringing about the collapse of western civilization?!?

    • Posted July 6, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

      Wow, I haven’t seen this – how great that the full text is available for free. I’ll definitely read it!

  14. Rose
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    Hi!
    I’m a dental hygienist and let me tell you…… Those skinny (or not obese) people that are telling you to be ashamed of being fat are the same ones sitting in my chair telling me they don’t know how they could have gingivitis. Not flossing leads to periodontal disease which is linked with heart disease, diabetes, and premature babies.
    I don’t try to shame my patients into flossing, I try to help them come up with the reason why they don’t floss, then alternatives that fit their lifestyle, and when they come back six months later, they tell me no they haven’t started we look for other alternatives till we find what works. I don’t judge these patients, they are good people, they are not bad because they don’t floss. I work with another hygienist who does shame people. A lot of patients have it marked in their file not to schedule their appointments with her. When they see me they tell me “I didn’t floss, don’t yell at me”. I tell them that I don’t yell at people for not flossing, but they will feel it in their cleaning because they will have more tartar.
    Anyhow…. Enough about dental hygiene. But I will say when somebody tries to shame you or anybody for being fat,I would look at them, ask them if they flossed today because they DO have research that shows the link between perio disease and heart disease, diabetes, and premature births, then take a big bite of your burger and tell them shame on them for being one of those people responsible for the rise in health care costs, just because they don’t want to spend about 60 seconds to put some string between their teeth ;-)

    • Trippmadam
      Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Rose. I have been shamed by a dentist (in front of other patients) for my poor dental hygiene, despite brushing and flossing like hell. The only effect this shaming had on me was that I did not go back to the dentist for 18 months! So, last month I decided I had had enough and made an appointment at another dentist’s. There was a nice lady, who told me she would be happy to make an appointment with an hygienist for me if I had any questions about dental hygiene. As I had many questions, we scheduled an appointment for the following week, and the hygienist taught me how to floss correctly. Problem solved without any further shaming;-)

      • Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:51 am | Permalink

        Aww, this is so nice to hear. My teeth are total wimps, and I’ve flossed pretty religiously since I was 12. But I hate going to the dentist. Someone I know has really strong teeth and lived in a wilderness situation where she just didn’t brush her teeth for like a year – when she came back home and went to the dentist, they complimented her on her good dental hygiene, hahahaha. I have to work extra hard to keep my wimpy teeth and gums healthy. Yay for shame-free dentistry!

  15. Posted July 7, 2012 at 2:16 am | Permalink

    What the hell is it with this holier-than-thou ‘these people did it to themselves’ crap? How many fat people haven’t tried dieting? How many people did what they were told, and thought they were doing all the right things, only to wake up one day and discover that what they were told to do was wrong, that ‘doing the right thing’ was actually the thing that was harming them? I know I’ve been there (low fat eating), doing what I thought was right, only to have it harm me. I see now how harmful dieting is for anyone who attempts it, and when we have so many people trying (through thoroughly obedient and socially regarded ‘correct’ means) to ‘do the right thing’ and ‘be good’ and lose weight and all that crap – when doing the right thing fails, again and again as it always does, who the hell has the gall to tell people it’s their own fault they’re fat? Other personal trainers I know think if a fat person says they’re not eating much they must be lying, because “you couldn’t possibly be fat if that’s all you’re eating” and it’s the worst kind of ignorance. It’s the kind of ignorance that makes you think those who tell the truth are the ones who lie, because for some reason you bought the lie in the first place.

  16. Almah
    Posted July 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    This post is everything. Thank the Fat Goddess for you!

  17. don't give up!
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    I understand that some people have a inclination to be fat, but in the end, it is USUALLY something that most people can control. I don’t hate on fat people, but if someone I love is super fat, I usually try to help them lose weight in a loving way. I have been overweight and have lost the weight. I changed the way I ate, limited portions, and exercised. I know that some people have thyroid issues and other medical problems, but most people, especially young people, can still lose weight normally.

    I guess my point is, while hating on fat people is wrong, it is also wrong to trick yourself into thinking most fat people aren’t in control of their own bodies. Don’t give up the fight! No one LIKES being fat, they just dislike the pain of losing weight more than they dislike being fat. If you burn more calories than you eat, you lose weight.

    PS I still choose my food/portions carefully and exercise HARD 5-6 days a week. Its a choice I made.

    • Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      The estimated heritability of weight in the population is about 70%. There are definitely environmental factors as well, but there are no long-term studies that can demonstrate the safety and permanence of weight loss for most people. “Environmental factors” does not just equal choices you make about eating and moving, but also incorporate the social determinants of health, which are not something people can directly control.

      The failure rate of intentional weight loss is sky high, always has been, though a few people do lose weight and apparently keep it off. They are the outliers, and most fat people have tried to lose weight at some point, if not repeatedly over years. A lot of people cannot or choose not to do portion control and HARD exercise 5-6 times a week for life. No one should have to live that way to be considered an acceptable human being who doesn’t deserve to be subjected to other people’s gleeful speculation on their impending death.

      Biodiversity is a wonderful thing. If everyone were the same, our species would be weaker on the whole, and humanity would miss out on so much. If you love and care about the fat people in your life, you’ll let them make their own decisions and not threaten them. Apparently plenty of us like being fat just fine – it’s the stigma that is a problem, and that is caused by the culture and other people. Not our fat.

      Don’t come here and cheerlead for weight loss again – this isn’t that kind of space.

    • Emgee
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

      “I don’t hate on fat people, but if someone I love is super fat, I usually try to help them lose weight in a loving way.”
      Did this person you love ASK you to help them to lose weight? If yes, great. If not, BACK OFF! You are telling this person that you claim to love that they are not worth loving as they are. I have family members who do this and I resent the hell out of it. Their dieting “help” as a child has shredded my metabolism, so I will probably always be fat.

      • Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

        eeeeeeexactly.

      • La
        Posted July 11, 2012 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        That is exactly right Emgee!!!! Plus, the working out “hard” several times per week ended up causing me to have double knee replacements and limited mobility and, of course, the regaining of the 152 pounds I had lost doing Weight Watchers and working out like a maniac. I used to think like “don’t give up!,” but now I know she’s headed down the wrong path. You’re right – the metabolism is gone – I so wish I had found the FA community before I tortured myself and ruined my health just so I could fit into society without being hated. Ridiculous! Hind sight is 20/20!

    • JMS
      Posted July 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      I understand that some people have a inclination to be fat, but in the end, it is USUALLY something that most people can control.

      Statistics alone would indicate that you’re wrong. Seriously, if 2/3 of the people in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia are considered to be “overweight” then perhaps it’s not “something that most people can control” but just the way their bodies work in most cases?

      And then you look at places like Tonga where 90% of the population is over the WHO BMI threshold for overweight and obesity, and you’ve got to think that something else is going on other than people just eating “too much,” don’t you?

    • Cynthia
      Posted July 9, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      You know what? I too, have lost substantial weight and maintained it. I’m still “overweight” but my weight is stable. In order to lose weight, it takes me approximately the equivalent of a second, half-time job on top of my demanding full-time job. So I am not going to pursue losing that last 15 pounds that keeps me from joining the ranks of the BMI-acceptable. You exercise hard 5-6 days a week and restrict yourself. Good for you. What if I don’t want to live like that? You don’t get to tell me I should make the same choice, and if you were my friend and you started “lovingly” bugging me about it, we’d probably be seeing less of each other.

    • Emily
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

      “I don’t want years on my life if I can only eat steamed azna.”

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fStubnGCqIs

      I’m not fat. I also cannot exercise. You cannot tell that from looking at me if I forget my cane (which I often do because my subconscious is rebelling against the fact of my disability, but that’s another issue.) I am sure there are a whole lot of people who are fat who are in the same boat as me. There are more disabled people in the world than you think. There are also a whole lot of people in the world who are fat who are a heck of a lot healthier than me, because they can move around, they can get out of the house on their own, and they aren’t on strong medication that causes side effects and possible kidney damage.

      My fiancé is fat. He can exercise, and he does. But I would never ask him to go through life the way you do, because it would be pure torture for him, as it would for me. I’d rather have a happy fat man than an unhappy thin one. Besides, despite your erroneous belief, it is not actually possible for the vast majority of people to keep weight off, and weight reduction does not lead to health gains anyway. Even if it did, quality of life matters. It matters far more than the numbers on the scale or on your clothing tags or how you think you look in the mirror.

    • bananacat
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      No one LIKES being fat

      I do.

  18. Posted July 8, 2012 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    I am (according to the BMI, which I realise is bullshit) slightly overweight. Not obese; probably pretty average for a woman in Australia. And I still cop shit from doctors and the like about what I’m eating and whether I exercise… all with the veiled – and sometimes blatant – threat of one day catching FAT due to not looking after myself properly. Like if they lecture me now, I’ll learn my lesson and not be like those fatties who bring it on themselves. Then they ask me about my family history of disease and I mention that I have two siblings with Type 1 diabetes… doctors will jump right on that and start talking to me about eating right and exercising. Um… TYPE ONE diabetes. It’s an auto-immune disease. I’m not going to get it from eating doughnuts. There’s no guarantee I’d get the other kind from eating doughnuts either, of course.

    My (rambling) point here is, the Death Threat seems to be trickling down. Not only are my fatter friends being lectured… and believe me, they are… now those of us who look like we MIGHT one day become obese possibly maybe ifwedon’ttakecareofourselvesandfollowtherules are getting the Death Threat lecture. Which is utter bullshit.

    • Posted July 8, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      I got blindsided by a new doc recently, where they tacked on a “wellness plan” to my patient plan, suggesting I lose weight. I got the impression from the assistant that this was auto-generated, I’m assuming thanks to my BMI (between 28 and 29). There was no discussion of my weight in the appointment. The “wellness plan” helpfully suggested the cutting out calories, adding activity — all without 1st assessing what I eat or what I do. I am currently training for what I hope will be my first century ride and am averaging an hour of exercise a day — most of it pretty vigorous. My friends will tell you I eat more fruits/veggies than anyone they know. Lipids, glucose, resting pulse all disgustingly good. BP slightly “pre-hypertensive” but not bad. I weigh in my mid-40s what I weighed in my early 30s. And I should do this… why? I would love for them to explain to me a) how I’m supposed to work in more exercise than this unless I quit my job, and b) why I should agree to be hungry all the time.

      • Posted July 15, 2012 at 3:26 am | Permalink

        Hungry all the time sure as heck does not equal athletic progression! That would be totally contrary to your goals! Oh my God, we might have spoken of this before – but endurance athlete + low carb is a very bad combination.

        • Posted July 15, 2012 at 3:30 am | Permalink

          Oh, and I just checked my BMI, it’s 29.3. I gained weight from doing squats, and I’m the strongest I’ve ever been right now. Happy times!

    • Emily
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know if it’s new. I got this when I was 15 (20 years ago) and on the medium-low end of “normal weight” on the BMI scale.

  19. Posted July 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I do think obesity IS a outcome of disease. Especially at my level of obesity.

    I also believe that obesity rates are increasing to unhealthy levels because of a different degree of factors, chemicals in the food, and environment, growth hormones etc.

    I can’t bump on the obesity isn’t a disease bandwagon, because it’s extreme forms it does threaten your life.

    We don’t need to assign blame here, I certainly do not agree with the mainstream views of everyone gets fat because they are lazy gluttons,

    but obesity DOES MAKE people ILL and has made me very sick.

    http://fivehundredpoundpeeps.blogspot.com/search?q=HAES

    I had a doctor tell me even recently I am going to die far sooner because of this weight, it is showing up in the congestive heart scores. [I have heart problems too from the undiagnosed too long hypothyroidism[ but the weight is not helping.

    They want me to take the WLS spin of the roulette [even though they admit I have serious metabolic problems they tell me they believe WLS will take weight off] but understand my decision in saying no because of digestive and other problems.

    Please read what I have shared on my blog about the health stuff in size acceptance, I have written a blog for two years.

    I want some truth out there.

    • Posted July 8, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      I sympathize for your situation, and I have actually read your blog before. If you do a search, you might even find a comment or two from me.

      I do think fatness can coexist with underlying diseases, and even constitute a disabling condition. In my opinion, it still doesn’t make “obesity” a disease in itself, since not all fat people are ill or disabled. You mentioned hypothyroidism, of which weight gain is a common symptom. Some extremely thin people are ill or disabled too, but it’s not purely because of their thinness, it is because of an underlying disease process (sometimes even untreated hyperthyroidism.) For this reason, we don’t talk about thinness as a disease, though it can often be the symptom of a disease.

      There need to be better treatments and options for people in your situation. I am really angry that they don’t exist. The only ones we have currently are WLS, which is risky and not as effective as they would like us to believe, and dieting, which also doesn’t work terribly well. But I think as long as medicine focuses purely on trying to eliminate fatness, there won’t be any better options, because medicine won’t bother to evolve to address the needs of very fat people, or work to understand the underlying conditions. It will continue only to focus on removing the fat at any cost – instead of improving people’s underlying health, functionality, and quality of life.

      (And, you know, I’m sure there are people who would materially benefit from being lighter and having less fat on them, from a mobility standpoint if nothing else. Unfortunately, having a “real” reason to want to lose weight doesn’t make it more likely to happen – it would also be really helpful, for example, if people with arthritis were no longer subject to gravity. But since they are, we don’t waste a ton of effort trying to come up with pills and surgeries to reverse gravity for them. We figure out what we can do directly with the problem at hand – the inflammation of the joints.)

      The point of this blog post, though, is that, even if obesity were a disease, it would not justify the way fat people are treated. And the fact that people take pleasure in taunting us for our presumed ill-health and risk of dying means that they certainly don’t view it the way they would view any other disease.

      • Posted July 9, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        Thanks for your response. Yeah you are right, you have posted on my blog :)

        I am against fat people being treated badly, very much so obviously, but what would you think of them finding something that actually WORKS, instead of just profit and failure? I have written before if there was a ‘decent” fat cure, that did not entail failure, maiming, and abuse, what is wrong with that? It would help someone like me, stay alive? [They need to look at the whole body system to FIND ONE THAT WORKS] I am just curious as to your feelings about that?

        http://fivehundredpoundpeeps.blogspot.com/2011/10/what-is-wrong-with-fat-cure.html

        Definitely fatness is a disabling condition for me.

        I do think obesity while we can call it a symptom is part of a disease process when a certain line is crossed, ie functional and midsized is a whole different ballgame then someone like me.

        You are right there are many functional smaller fat people.
        We probably do agree that is a symptom, and I agree there should be better treatments. I find WLS more and more to be a joke, and was horrified a couple years ago when I realized so much of the research money was being poured into that rather then less harmful and risky measures. Even the sugary itself seems based on biases, and “punishing” the fat people. What could be more horrific then cutting up inner organs?

        http://fivehundredpoundpeeps.blogspot.com/2011/02/letter-to-obesity-researchers.html

        It makes me angry too, I still think about that Pubmed finding on the above article which makes a bit of steam come out of my ears.

        I do think you are correct in they need to look at the body more holistically, not just fat removal and look more at metabolism, health and nutrition.

        Interesting arthritis anthology.

        The death taunting does creep me out in that, unlike other problems where they FIGHT for a CURE, with fat people it’s almost like “hey you deserve what you get!”

        • Posted July 9, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

          Not much time, but I would have mixed feelings if there were a weight loss method that worked safely and permanently for most people. On the one hand glad, because it would prevent SO MUCH HARM that people do to themselves in the name of trying to lose weight, and it might also help people who feel disabled by their weight. But at the same time, because we live in a culture that basically just finds fat people disgusting, there would be so much social pressure for every fat person, or hell, every person who isn’t perfectly thin, to use it and to conform to some arbitrary ideal. There would be a loss of biological diversity, and even cultural/experiential diversity, and that would bother me a great deal.

          Ideally, I would wish that no one would feel they need to lose weight in order to be a valued person, or for their health/mobility. I would wish that people would find other ways of attaining those things, and for the most part, I think it’s possible to do that – though, like I said before, there needs to be a revolution in health care to create more options for fat people to live healthy lives. To me, that is what HAES is about, and that is why I believe in it. I do think we need to do a better job in HAES of addressing the issues of disabled people, however. I think HAES has the potential to prevent all that harm I mentioned earlier – and it’s something that already exists, and that isn’t waiting to be discovered. In the absence of safe, permanent weight loss, it is something we can do NOW.

          Theoretically, I guess I would prefer we had a safe, permanent method of weight loss to the current dangerous BS we have now – but that preference would not come without major (really major) reservations about how it would be misused – as a way to bludgeon people into conformity, most likely. And I am actually really pessimistic about researchers ever finding a safe, permanent weight loss method – I think the homeostatic mechanisms and the genetics involved in creating body weight are too complex, too multi-layered, and too deeply tied to survival systems, to be messed with without major ill side effects. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong someday, but this is my feeling.

          • flightless
            Posted July 13, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

            That would make a fascinating science-fiction novel. Once all the fat people were magically made slim, what would the bazillion-dollar diet industry turn to next? Femur lengthening for the very short? Even more breast implant surgeries for all the newly thin women? “Your Eyes: Are They The RIGHT Color?”

          • Posted July 13, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

            Yes to all of these, and dozens more. Gotta keep the proles in line.

  20. Posted July 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    oops meant jump not bump….

  21. Posted July 8, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    This is another one of those posts I’d like to print out (in quantity) and keep in my bag to hand to people who could use a good read. I was a fat little kid, I’ve been on the big side all my life, I take thyroid meds and wonder if birth control made me gain a bit; but I still get stuff done — I work a fairly physical job, I lift heavy stuff and climb ladders and stuff like that. I don’t usually have to deal with the retail public in this job, but I had a guy approach me, chattily mention the weather, watch me make five trips up and down a ladder, then say “Wonder why you don’t lose any more weight doing this job?” I’m used to hearing My Mom’s reminders that I’m faaaaaat and gonna diiiiiiie, but from a stranger, it threw me and I didn’t know what to say. Wonder why I didn’t lose any more weight when I had time to ride my bicycle every day. Wonder why I didn’t lose any more weight when I hurt my back and didn’t really want to eat anything at all. Thank you so much for reminding me, for not letting me forget, that I Love myself more than a stranger would ever understand. And I’m also thankful that I love my job enough that “being polite and professional” comes natural enough to keep me from flinging a ladder someone who probably didn’t know any better.

  22. Posted July 10, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Michelle,
    I love your website. I stumbled on here and I think you are just brilliant. I’ve grappled with all these issues for years and have finally managed to be in a good and healthy place about eating, my weight, food, and health. Its great to see someone bring all these issues together and call out the, what I consider, vicious culture of fat-hatred in America today.
    Thanks!
    Silvia

    • Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      Aww, thank you! I’m glad to hear you’re doing well with eating. That always makes me happy.

  23. bananacat
    Posted July 14, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    It’s great that you linked to the studies that fat people generally eat the same amount as thin people. But even for fat people who do eat more, so what? Sating hunger should never be a moral sin. Maybe some people are hungrier than other people. Maybe some people need more calorie-dense foods to be satisfied. Hunger is a very powerful force and it’s never a moral failing to respond to hunger by eating food.

  24. Georgia
    Posted July 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been struggling to lose weight or at least not gain more for 8 years. I started at 55 kg and now I’m 85. I found out 3 years ago that I have a “medical condition” related to the way insulin is metabolized by my body. The doctor told me not to try any diet other than change my life style: no carbs, no sweets, exercise often and don’t stress about it :) – easy to say. I obsessively tried to do that for a year or so and I gained 10 more kilos. I was obsessed by a piece of white chocolate or a few French fries that I couldn’t have, I stressed my family and myself when shopping by reading all the ingredients, started judging other people for eating sweets or carbs, felt guilty for every day that passed without me taking at least a walk.
    The day the scales showed me 95 kilos I understood that the freedom I took away from myself might be worth a try; as you all say here, I realized that I’ll not be so damn stupid to eat 2 kilos of French fries or 2 chocolate bars at once.
    Plus, since I like good food (as diverse as possible, flavored, colorful, fat), it would be easy to make some appealing meals that could include carbs and sweets also.
    The key was not only eating what felt good to me and diversity, but avoiding all foods that I didn’t really like: some that were available at work for lunch, the ones some friends offered at parties, some that my family cooked, etc.
    The problem: people who want to help me, by telling me all the time what I should or shouldn’t eat, the explanations I have to give – “you know, low fat is bad for my condition, I really don’t like meals 80% made of rice, pasta or potatoes, meat and cheese are good for me, no, I don’t eat more than you do, no, this wine is actually great for my well being, I can have an ice-cream, yes”. I finally got it right, except for one thing: the stress some people put me through :(

    • Posted July 15, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

      I’m sorry you have to navigate other people’s feelings and opinions about your eating (replace “your eating” with “your bathroom habits”, “your sex life”, “your favourite method of contraception” and note how ridiculous it sounds.) Having a health condition that requires a dietary change still doesn’t give people any right to make choices for you, or give you unsolicited advice. We live in a weird culture.

      One small thing I want to point out: most of the time, when people end up falling face first into 2 kg of fries or several chocolate bars, it has nothing to do with stupidity. A lot of the time it has to do with binge eating in response to restriction, or binge eating disorder as a result of other stuff (but most commonly involving a response to restriction in addition to other underlying issues.) Eating that amount of food, while it might not end up being a great thing for one’s health and well-being, is never really about stupidity.

      It sounds like you’ve come a long way on your own, and I hope you can maybe set boundaries with the armchair dietitians in your life.

      • Georgia
        Posted July 16, 2012 at 3:44 am | Permalink

        Thanks for support and I’m glad I found your site, it helps.
        I haven’t thought about the 2 kilo fries or several chocolate bars this way, even if I knew some things about binge eating, you may have a really good point and now that I think of it, I’ve done this myself, as a response to restriction.
        As for the weird culture you often speak of, here’s another weird cultural thing – I live in Europe and here people don’t usually give unsolicited advise to very fat people, they somehow realize that it is taboo and they would offend, so they very rarely pick on them.
        But they usually pick on chubby/ plump people like me quite often – maybe because they think we can still do something about it and they can be very mean. It’s enough to put on a few kilos and the advice and comments start pouring. One example from my experience: I went to a clothes shop and the sales woman told me as soon as I entered: ” I’m sorry, we have nothing your size” with some cruel polite grin on her face. I am a 46 size, but the shops usually stop at 44 :) Since that day, I stuck to second hand shops and it’s been great!
        It takes strength and patience to set boundaries for “the armchair dietitians” in my life, sometimes I manage, sometimes barely, but one thing I know for sure is that I won’t let anybody or anything make me unhappy, I won’t lead a life of pleasing others and going to the gym :)

  25. AnnieJ
    Posted July 17, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    More books:
    Since the thread on books about food in history is getting thin, I decided to post these here.

    Just last weekend I was at a Lake Michigan beach with a friend and he brought this book to read: An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage. He said it’s about how foods and spices travelled from one part of the world to another. Can you imagine Italian food without tomatoes? they didn’t start there.

    When I looked up that book on Amazon (I couldn’t remember the author), I also found this one: Food in History by Reay Tannahill. I found others in the search, too, but these seemed most on-topic.

    • Posted July 17, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      Awesome, thank you!

      • jaeclectic
        Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

        Hi,

        First time commenting here — I came across your site a few weeks ago, and have been intermittently bingeing on it :)

        I borrowed the following book from a friend, and am reading it very, very slowly. It’s dense and academic, but I’m finding it interesting nonetheless:
        The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100: Europe, America, and the Third World
        by Robert William Fogel

        Part of what makes this interesting to me is that he actually uses BMI in the way it’s meant to be used, as a tool for comparing populations. It’s clear that for him it’s completely neutral, with no value judgement attached.

        • Posted August 1, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

          Thank you so much for the recommendation! Hilarious coincidence, about two days ago I ran across this same book on the library catalogue website and it is now on my holds list. So I’m really excited to hear from someone who is actually reading it!

          Doubly looking forward to reading it now.

  26. Sara
    Posted July 23, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    It occurred to me as I watched yet another commercial telling people what was wrong with them (this time a hair replacement commercial), that all of this is about insecurity. If people don’t make an ‘effort’ to ‘fit in’ to what society as a whole thinks we should look like, whitened teeth, perfect hair, perfected vision and of course the correct body size, they obviously are not taking care of themselves! haha. This is social conformity, rooted in fear of not fitting in, under the guise of concern!
    I get double whammied as an 8 year post lung txp recipient – I’m healthy and suffer from very few of the many side effects txp patients usually do like diabetes, osteoporosis etc. My only underlying condition is “Double Lung Transplant Recipient”. I am also short and fat. My pulmonary function tests rock at 94% and I am varied and usually healthy in what I eat. I am not an Olympic athlete, but I walk most days with my husband and dogs and play with my kids. I have been plagued for years to lose weight to ‘take care of my lungs’. My lungs like it here, obviously, not one episode of rejection. Some of my thinner counterparts suffer with far more. I weighed 180 before I got sick, 80 when I was transplanted and afterwards my body was on a one way track to homeostasis – and I’m ok with that!

    • Posted July 24, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      I totally agree re: conformity and insecurity. A population of desperately insecure people who are pressured to conform to some ideal makes for a very lucrative marketplace.

      You sound like you are doing awesome post transplant. Why anyone would want to gamble with that by attempting to do something with an 80-95% failure rate (intentional weight loss) is beyond me! Anecdotally, when I lost weight, I started to have a lot of trouble with respiratory infections, which persisted for the next few years. I can’t know for sure if the two were related, but I think it’s possible that what I was doing weakened my resistance to infection a bit.

  27. Posted July 29, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant write up! I paraphrased it in German on my German-speaking FA blog, it’s so wonderfully to the point! Thanks!

  28. Emgee
    Posted August 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Well, today I officially join the ranks of the unworthy fatty. I was already on blood pressure medication. I have avoided blood work for a few years, but exercise 4-6 days per week and take fish oil and niacin, so I made the mistake of submitting to blood work today. For that I am rewarded with high cholesterol and triglyceride numbers and a prescription for Lipitor. A few years ago I took Zocor, and after awhile I thought I had fibromyalgia, I was in so much pain. Nope–it was the Zocor, so I stopped taking it and went on the fish oil and niacin. Well we see how well that worked out. Now all I lack is a diabetes diagnosis, and I’ll have the holy trinity of fathood. Just needed to vent, thanks. I am now an unhealthy fatty. Can’t wait for the upcoming colonoscopy…

    • Posted August 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      So sorry to hear that, M. But you are in no way unworthy because of high cholesterol. I know you know that, but I need to say it explicitly because it is worth hearing: having high cholesterol does not make you unworthy of anything.

      Plenty of people with high cholesterol live good lives, thanks in part to believing that they are worth self-care.

      • Emgee
        Posted August 13, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        Thanks Michelle. Good to hear. :)

  29. Posted August 17, 2012 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    Re history of nutrition: I love Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel. His history of the world is based on access to resources, including nutrients, and is absolutely fascinating.

  30. Erfie
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Wow. I was one of the ignorant and now recognise my prejudice against fat people. So thanks for opening my eyes.
    Generally I have always thought the you can’t get to really obese (like whats shown on all the tv shows) without having some unhealthy lifestyles. I don’t watch it often but shows like the biggest loser almost always have contestants who lead very sedentary lifestyles and ate nothing in moderation (like a bucket of icecream for dessert) and I think that this has coloured my opinion. Normally, I think that people should be able to do whatever they want but I guess I have always had a special form of resentment for people who have life threatening preventable disease. My sister has a genetic disorder called polysystic kidney disease which essentially means that over the course of her childhood her kidneys have slowly been failing ultimately leading to a kidney transplant at age 23. I guess I have always thought that having a healthy body to start with is an incredible gift and it annoys me that people would ruin it with smoking and excessive drinking.
    I guess thats why I loathe myself when I overindulge the “bad” foods.

  31. Posted October 2, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Without reading through 113 comments (sorry), I just want to chime in with… I have two kids. One is well within the “normal” and “recommended” BMI numbers. The other is considered obese.

    They eat the same things, in roughly the same amounts. They do nearly everything together, so they both get a lot of exercise. They both get plenty of sleep.

    How is it that two kids, from the same gene pool, in the same environment, living the same lifestyle, have two vastly different body types?

    Thank you, so much, for this blog. Ideas can change… one person at a time.

    -Mary

    • Posted October 2, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

      It’s a mystery, huh? Even within families, genetic differences (or even just the phenotypes expressed by similar genetics) can be noticeable. Biodiversity is a wonderful thing.

  32. Ezliving
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    I just found this site and LOVE it. As a old, fat woman, I understand exactly what you’re talking about, Michelle. I started to gain weight when I was 7. Why? Who knows? I didn’t eat more; I didn’t exercise less – just started putting on weight. Then, when I was 12, I started to get taller and my feet started to grow – a lot taller and a lot bigger feet. Why? Again, who knows? Could it be that I came from a long line of tall, big women with big feet? People acted like the fat MUST be my fault while of course, the height and big feet came from genetics.

    Getting old is quite freeing. I no longer care when a doctor mentions I should lose weight. Recently I had to change doctors for a brief time and I let her know right away my views of medicine. My health is just fine except for hypothyroidism (again, just about every woman in my family has it). However, when you look at those fat, tall women who went before me, they lived good, long lives – 101, 98, 93, 86….(one great-grandma died at 68 after getting hit by a car, but maybe if she’d have been skinnier, she could have run faster??? ;) and more importantly, they all had their minds right to the end. As I told this new doctor, I am fat and tall and I have big feet because I came this way. I am not going to change so save your breath. She looked at me for a minute, said ok and we’ve gotten along just fine!

    This world is a crazy place but I feel sorry for people who feel the need to fix YOUR life when surely there’s enough in their own life to fix.

    Keep up the good work, Michelle! I plan to dance at my great-granddaughter’s wedding and live to 102….but if I don’t, that’s ok too because I have never let the opinion of someone else keep me from enjoying my wonderful life each and every day, all the while being fat and tall with big feet.

    • Posted October 2, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for commenting!

  33. Felicia
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    Wow, probably the best read, in I don’t know how long. That just answered so many questions, for my dad and myself. I finally managed to get to “fair” weight, according to my highth (which I’m pretty tall, for a woman).

    I do have one question though. Can you tell me or explain why, moat men eat more or are able to eat more, then most women? I’m curious, is it because of the fact that men have more muscles or need more of a caloric intake? I’m really curious, to know? Thank you so much, for this site. Just amazing :) <3 Felicia

    • Posted October 3, 2012 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      I think the generally accepted explanation is that men have more muscle mass than women, and also tend to be taller and have more body mass in general. But there is a lot of overlap there, and some women eat just as much if not more than some men.

  34. Felicia
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 2:23 am | Permalink

    Uhh that would be* height, not highth lol. And *most not moat hehe. Sorry, I typed that from my phone :/

  35. Welly
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this.
    I stumbled onto this blog through one of the links from Upworthy. I have a friend who has taught me so much about being fat positive and body positive. Her discussions have been invaluable in helping me understand the constant body shaming that fat people encounter specifically, but also women in general. Years ago when I first met her, she called herself fat and I said (in a horrified voice) ‘No you’re not!’, I couldn’t believe she would use such a ‘horrible’ word. Well you know what, she was fat, she is still fat, and she taught me that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. She is a strong and amazing person, and even thought she is so knowledgeable I still see the pain that is caused by the stereotypes that she must fight against everyday. All of these people who talk about ‘cures’, who talk about the day when we ‘healthy’ people can finally ridicule people for eating too much just as we do about people who smoke too much- they are the crazy ones.
    There is no positive outcome to body shaming. I absolutely hate it when (and this happens everyday single day at work) someone comes up to me and says ‘What, are you a rabbit?’, or ‘No wonder you are so skinny, you don’t eat anything’, or ‘Aren’t you lucky?’ , or my personal favourite because it is a sure measure of genius ‘I knew exactly which lunch was yours ‘ (usually they are male, and it does nothing but make me aware that yes they are monitoring my body in a disgusting way). I just want to tell those dumb- ass people to fuck right off. I hate that some genetics ‘add value’ while others ‘decrease value’ in a human being. Don’t praise me for my genetics, I didn’t do anything to get them. Don’t shame anyone for their genetics, they didn’t do anything to get them. Don’t shame people full-stop. Being fat positive is a feminist issue. I am so glad I have seen this blog, I have learned so so much more about fat shaming, and the ignorant stereotypes that exist around fatness. I will devotedly read this blog to become more aware.
    Thank you.

  36. Celia
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Holy Mackeral!!! I am so glad that I found you. I am a formerly-morbidly-obese-but-currently-still-fat-personal-trainer, and I will be sharing your words with all my clients and friends. Thank you!!!

    Celia
    ACE Certified Personal Trainer

  37. Babette Law
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Your page is great. I love your sense of humor in all of this. My job is forcing all of us to meet certain health requirements or pay penalties. Right now we don’t get a “rebate” if we don’t meet BMI requirements, among other things. And under the new rules, smokers have to pay an extra $1200 per year for health insurance and don’t get to choose which insurance plan they get (they HAVE to pay higher premiums & deductables). I fear that in the coming years, those of us who don’t meet the BMI requirements will also be paying extra and not having choices.

  38. Annie
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    My mother had a heart attack in her 30’s (she’s fine and in great health now). She was very thin and from what I can tell had a fairly healthy diet. So what do you know, thin and young people can suffer from heart disease as well. It turns out that there’s more to the problem than just BMI. In my mother’s case it turned out that she naturally had a poor bad cholesterol/good cholesterol ratio.

    I was wondering if anyone knows where to find that study or studies that point to BMI being a risk factor for heart disease. I’d be very interested in learning more about this. I believe that there’s a correlation but I still resent it when some weight loss sites, my Wii, and various other agents with knowledge of my BMI tell me I’m probably going to die young. An interesting note: my BMI is 26 and it puts me in the “overweight” category. At BMI 25 though I don’t get as much of a horrid “you’re at risk for heart disease” response. I don’t understand why it’s in any way “ok” to objectively judge whether someone gets a death threat or not based on one BMI point. Actually, why is it ok to make judgements and scare people based on sweeping generalizations and a finding of a correlation in some study(ies)?

  39. Wendy
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Hi. I’m not necessarily commenting on this post; I’ve read a few and these are my collective thoughts. I am SO glad to hear someone calling out the elitist skinny people who eat paleo diets and run triathlons and think it is their duty to humiliate the fat people into saving their own lives and FINALLY making a contribution to society through getting skinny.
    That said, I am thin and active and a firm believer in food as medicine. Our bodies run on the stuff we put in them over and over every single day. It’s got to be more important than whatever is easiest/cheapest/tastiest…. right?
    I don’t know where you stand on everything but here’s my concern. My mom is obese and has spent more than half her life this way. She has very little stamina. She aches all the time. She gets so grumpy, I assume because she feels like crap and is probably frustrated that her body won’t allow her to do as much as her youthful, creative, intelligent mind would like. Now, I don’t know why she has so much excess fat. She doesn’t have the best diet, but neither do I. Regardless of the reason she’s fat or whether her life is truly at risk bc of her weight, I think it’s pretty clear that her quality of life would improve drastically if she were able to lose 100 pounds or so.

    I live next to a senior citizen housing development and often see a woman who is quite large and confined to a motorized wheel chair. It scares me to think of my mom losing the gift of independent mobility. So I’m all for changing stereotypes but I can’t help but feel that losing weight does lead to an improved life and should be encouraged (not shoved down throats in a condescending, threatening way, but help and tools offered in an accepting, empowering way).

    • Posted October 3, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      My stance here is that it is most important to focus first on healthy behaviours (like eating well and moving well) and on direct indicators of health (blood pressure, blood glucose, hormone levels, etc.) and then let weight sort itself out. Sometimes people will lose weight as a result, as well as being healthier. Sometimes people won’t lose weight, but they will be more mobile and healthy as a result, and then the weight won’t matter so much.

      Focusing on weight loss, even if done in a “healthy” manner, often sets people up for failure because, for the vast majority of people, weight loss is not permanently maintained. And when people start to regain weight, or can no longer stand eating in a way that promotes active weight loss (through restrained eating or special diet or whatever), they understandably feel discouraged – and THEN what happens is they often give up all the healthy behaviours that were helping them in the first place.

      There are some people who get to the point where their weight directly impacts their mobility. For those people, even though weight loss could very well be helpful, it doesn’t automatically become more possible than it is for the average person. Focusing on health, in that instance, I think is also the first order of business. If weight concerns are really pressing and extreme, unfortunately we don’t have a lot of options other than weight loss surgery, which is quite risky and often reduces people’s quality of life in other ways. Until we start treating fat people (including extremely fat and disabled people) as worthy of care for their underlying problems, and worthy of treatments that are not cruel and punishing and basically amputate healthy organs, we won’t have better treatments for people in that situation.

      • KellyK
        Posted October 3, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        Another thing that’s really important to keep in mind is that without knowing an individual’s health history, it’s easy to make assumptions about cause and effect, when the reverse might actually be true. Certainly there are fat people in scooters who gained weight *as a result* of becoming disabled, rather than the other way around.

        The other thing to consider is that weight loss attempts often result in people gaining *more* weight. Yes, someone might be more mobile and have more energy if they lose 30 pounds (key word being might). *But* if that weight loss attempt means they lose 30 for a year or two and within five years are 50 pounds heavier than they started, it’s not a net positive.

        • Wendy
          Posted October 3, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

          I absolutely agree. I don’t use the woman in my neighborhood as an example because I think her inability to lose weight brought her to her current situation, only because it is a visual trigger for a fear I harbor in regards to my mom. I know she worries about it too and I think as it gets harder and harder for her to do the things she enjoys, she worries all the more. No one wants to miss out on the things that make them happy. Being thin won’t make her happy, obviously, but being more mobile, carrying around less weight, would absolutely improve her quality of life…. assuming she can achieve it without compromising her health or lifestyle in other ways that would ultimately keep her from doing the things she enjoys.

          I don’t know the right way to lose weight and I’ve never tried to tell anyone how to or even that they should. My purpose in commenting was only to voice my opinion that while existing stereotypes about fat people are absurd and infuriating, the pursuit of weight loss shouldn’t be seen as giving in to those stereotypes. I see a real concern about my mom’s growing weight. She is secure and able to navigate a very unaccepting world without giving into its pressures but that doesn’t mean that she wouldn’t rather weigh less and I don’t think she should feel guilty about wanting it. There are a lot of legitimate reasons to want to weigh less. I wish there was a better way. I’m certain her weight goes far beyond eating too much of the wrong things and not moving enough. I wish there were answers for her and I think it has to be okay to wish for that. Fat people shouldn’t be bullied for being fat but they equally shouldn’t be bullied for wanting to be thin.

      • Wendy
        Posted October 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

        Your response goes a long way toward easing my concerns. In many of your comments, I perceived a contempt for anyone who would be so foolish as to think intentionally losing weight could be a worthy pursuit. I agree that losing weight is secondary to achieving good health and quality of life. But if the pursuit of health has the side effect of dropping pounds, this is perfectly fine! And someone who is pursuing health by finding ways to be more active and making better food choices, I hope is celebrated by you and not subject to mockery.

        I think what you’re saying is that adopting unhealthy behavior for the express purpose of losing weight in order to conform is ridiculous. I agree. I hope you also think it’s okay to “cheer-lead” those who are sincerely seeking out a healthier lifestyle as well; just as long as the numbers on the scale don’t serve as the yardstick for success.

        Fat or thin, I think anyone making healthy lifestyle changes should be applauded. I realize the phrase “healthy lifestyle” can have many, many interpretations and maybe that’s why you seem to get so fired up about people counting calories and exercising “hard”…. ;) whatever that means.

        But in my opinion, it’s not all bad. I feel better when I exercise. I feel more alive and cheerful. So, for me, urging myself to exercise more consistently is a good thing, whether that means getting up early for spin class or running around at the park with my kids. I have a hard time with strict routines so I exercise when I exercise and if I just don’t do it I can’t beat myself up about it because I have to acknowledge that I also like sleeping in and lazy mornings spent in my pjs with my family. Like most everything, it all comes down to balance. But sometimes doing something that is good for you can feel hard and take a concerted effort to motivate yourself to achieve it. This doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thing. If the end result makes you happier and healthier in the whole big picture then the effort to get you there is justified. Someone said “you shouldn’t have to live this way” in response to someone’s exercise routine. It’s true, you don’t. But if it makes her feel good from a holistic stand-point and not a I-like-fitting-in-the-box-of-looking-the-way-society-thinks-I-should-look, then she should be allowed to “live that way” without enduring hate from those who assume she does it for the sole purpose of achieving society’s seal of approval.

        One more it’s not all bad thing…… Eating less. To say that trying to eat less is restrictive and no way to live can be true but for me it is often a helpful tool for leading me back to healthier habits. In a perfect world, everyone fat or thin would be perfectly apt at recognizing and responding to their body’s signals for nourishment, but I think many people struggle with this. I do. I sometimes get so caught up in eating to silence internal turmoil that even when the turmoil has passed, I have developed a habit of overeating. When this happens I spend about two weeks counting calories (evil, right?). I use this time as a tool to reset my attitude about food. Usually within two weeks I feel free from the constant nagging to eat something for no good reason and I can stop counting and just eat what my body craves. I probably settle into eating more calories than the 1500 I set as my benchmark during those two weeks but then again, I don’t know because I don’t count. All this rambling is just my way of saying that in a perfect world people would eat and move out of pure natural instinct but that’s not always as easy as it sounds, so things like gym memberships and counting calories can be useful tools when used wisely to achieve health (not weight loss) while maintaining a balance with the rest of life’s demands and personal fulfillment.

        • Posted October 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

          I have never expressed contempt for people who would like to lose weight, but I do express contempt for people who think I should think that way, and that I should pat them on the back for upholding the status quo.

          Health at Every Size as a philosophy is inherently weight-neutral, which means if your weight changes as a result, then, whatever. We accept that. It is what it is.

          What I’m saying is that making weight change the first priority is probably not a good idea for most people. Focusing on healthy behaviours, and setting weight goals aside, is what I think makes the most sense.

          • Wendy
            Posted October 3, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

            I agree, and I think there’s a lot to be learned from reading your website. Thanks for providing a strong voice in opposition to The Death Threat.

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