A little 101 – I get to exist.

It’s come to my attention that not everyone in the world takes for granted many of the things I’ve come to accept as truth about health and weight.

I forget that sometimes. And when I am reminded, it is not always in the kindest terms. Usually, it’s in terms like, “But your body is not okay because it’s fat and I find that gross! I mean, unhealthy!”

Comments like these question my right to bodily autonomy, and even my right to exist.

I find it stunning that in a country — the US, where many of my commenters live — that is supposed to be so staggeringly individualistic and freedom-oriented, and which, by the way, does not have universal health care yet, commenters will so readily lean on the notion of costs to the state as an excuse to strip away someone’s bodily autonomy.

Trust me, this is not a road that has led anywhere good in the past.

Commenters also question my right to privacy, by asking me openly about confidential medical information — which might seem reasonable at first, but consider whether someone else in a similar position, but who is thin and promoting the popular view would be asked the same questions.

Probably not, even though the questions would be just as relevant. Maybe we should start asking Dr. Oz about his blood glucose and cholesterol numbers. It’s only fair, right?

No. Not only is it rude and presumptuous, it’s incredibly ableist – a term you’re probably not familiar with if you haven’t heard about this Health at Every Size thing (and maybe even if you have.)

In short: shaming people based on physical impairments or medical conditions is wrong. Treating someone as less of a person, or presuming that they are stupid, illogical, or not worthy of listening to because they have physical impairments or medical conditions is wrong.

I have worked with health care professionals who had diabetes. Did it make them less capable? No.

Was it any of my business? No.

Was it the business of their patients, most of whom were being treated for diabetes?

No. Not even then.

Refusing to engage with the logic of someone’s argument because it might be easier to attack them for the way they look, or for the way their body functions, is not only wrong but transparently foolish.

Engage with the argument, not with the arguer’s body.

I used to be willing to talk about my metabolic health indicators as a way of stereotype-breaking, but I’m not going to do that here. It is a way of throwing “unhealthy” people under the bus. It implies that it’s okay to be fat only if you meet X criteria.

You know what? No.

It is okay to be fat, full stop.

It is okay to be fat, because fat people already exist.

Fat people have existed for a very, very long time.

Even if all of us tried, not all of us would become permanently thin.

Fat people exist. We have existed. We will continue to exist. So to say that it’s not acceptable to be fat is to deny our right to exist.

Weight is not a behaviour; it is a physical trait. You don’t get to decide that people with certain physical traits don’t get to exist, no matter how distasteful you may find them.

And despite popular belief, you cannot presume to know a person’s behaviour based solely on their weight.

If you are fat and you don’t want to be, that’s fine with me. Do your thing — I’m not going to stop you.

But you do not get a say in my right to exist as I am, or to treat my body the way I think is best.

I am fat and I do not participate in intentional weight loss for various reasons, both personal and professional, and I still get to exist. The fact of my existence makes it okay, because whether or not you like me, or agree with me, or find me gross to look at, or “worry about my health,” I still get to have human rights. I don’t need you to find me appealing, or to agree with me, in order to have civil rights.

I still have the right not to be subject to appearance-based discrimination. I still have the right to exist.

My fatness is not an attack on anyone. And those of you who want to complain about how many “health care dollars!!!” it costs to help fellow citizens fallen ill need to re-examine your priorities. Nobody wakes up and says, “You know what? I just want to get really, really sick and use up lots of health care dollars!!!”

Thin people get sick too. What if I refused to fund medical care of thin people because they were thin? Because I assumed they all had eating disorders, or smoked cigarettes, or were heroin addicts?

I’d be a complete asshole, that’s what. Because you can’t assume behaviours based on weight.

Also – I am happy that some of my tax dollars go to help people with eating disorders and people who develop addiction-related illnesses. I’m not glad those people got sick in the first place, no, and I wish they hadn’t — but I can’t possibly wish it more than they do.

How much do you value Health Care Dollars ™ above the most intimate, basic forms of bodily autonomy? Above the right to eat and move in the way you want? Above the right to exist in the body that is naturally yours?

Your money doesn’t give you any rights over my body. Since I don’t live in the US — and even if I did, I would be denied the privilege of paying for my own private health insurance based on my weight* — you can stop worrying about it anyhow.

Don’t be such a willing little proto-fascist, playing games of who gets to exist and who doesn’t, based on weird appearance-based prejudices — you might end up on the wrong side of someone’s aesthetic preferences one day and find your own right to exist called into serious question.

Because fat or thin, you get to exist, too.

*Edited to Add: lol Affordable Health Care Act was upheld by the US Supreme Court minutes after I published this.






141 responses to “A little 101 – I get to exist.”

  1. Deniselle Avatar

    Sometimes I feel like having my own blog is pointless because someone has already said it all so well.

    This is one of those moments. Awesome post. Keep on keeping on :*

    1. Michelle Avatar

      We need as many people as possible, saying it over and over and over again, for as long as it takes.

      It’s not okay to devalue people based on the way they look, or their race, ethnic identity, gender presentation, sexual orientation, the size and shape of their body, or how their body functions. It is not okay to deny people rights or to question their existence. So please keep helping us say it.

      1. Deniselle Avatar

        Oh, I’m not leaving! I just meant it in a general sense like “why be a writer when everything beautiful has been said already”.

        If I had more mental energy, I’d definitely be saying it over and over. I think I just need some time to practice before I can come out fully again. But I’m really glad you’re out there doing this right now, and writing so well.

  2. Beth Spencer Avatar

    Damned great rant!

  3. Stéphanie Avatar

    Hi Michelle

    Same as Deniselle. Thank you so much.

    Here’s an article on a report published in the UK that does not merely mentions the “dangers” of dieting but also identifies it as a cause of obesity. (At last !)


  4. WendyRG Avatar

    Thanks for the post, Michelle. What you say has to be said, over and ove–even though there is a tidal wave of fat hate out there.

    I recently got involved in what I thought would be a rational discussion of of weight, HAES and dieting on an Australian website. Boy, was I naive. The 100+ responses to an excellent article were dominated by “medical professionals” lamenting all the usual things: cost to taxpayers, dangerous working conditions (back injuries due to transferring morbidly obese patients), willpower (I was told just to refuse that piece of cake–not that I had mentioned cake in any of my previous comments–when going out for a coffee with friends), the view that FA and HAES just mean you’re promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, etc. etc.

    The worst comment, though, which wasn’t directed at me but which made my heart break, was the one by the fellow who’s worried about his back. His comment on the picture in the article of a fat woman happily riding her bike was “I’m sorry, but a photo of a fat person riding a pushbike does not prove that fat people can be fit. It only ‘proves’ that that particular person can ride a pushbike.” Although I was sorely tempted to ask him what he thought of when he saw pictures of slim people engaging in physical activity, I knew it was a waste of time and sanity points.

    So thanks for this post and the reminder that we have to keep standing up and fighting for the rights of all people.

  5. Screaming Fat Girl Avatar

    You get to exist. You have the right to privacy. You should be respected.

    Regarding invasive questions about your health, to many people, a fat person dispensing eating advice is like an anorexic doing so. They view you as possessing a condition that is correlated with health problems. They figure that, you aren’t following your own advice or that your advice is faulty. Fat people (and I am one of them) can deny that weight is often correlated with health all they want, but the stats are out there and conditions do exist which are solely connected to weight and weight loss is correlated with those conditions going into remission or being cured.

    Very few mordibly or super obese people are not suffering health problems from their size (Ragen Chastain being a huge exception). HAES means “health at every size”, but the big point that everyone keeps pretending that that is possible at all sizes for all people. It simply is not. You will be challenged to prove that you possess health at your size, since the vast majority of medical studies support the idea that you are unlikely to possess health at your current size. HAES advocates can’t have it both ways. You are, essentially, being asked to put, your money where you mouth is and prove that you possess health at every size before telling others that it is possible for them.

    If I were a part of HAES, I’d get every FA blogger to post a print-out of their medical results including height and weight data but excluding full name and contact details. I’d flood the internet with proof of health at all sizes. I’d give people the proof they wanted instead of giving lip service and then hiding under the seal of “privacy” when people asked me to prove that HAES is possible. You can’t effectively be a public advocate for something unless you give up something of yourself, and often what you lose is privacy.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      This comment is really troubling.

      It’s ableist to do what you suggest, and I won’t engage in it.

      People of all sizes have health conditions, and fat people do not get any unique health conditions that thin people do not get.

      The definition of health needs to be redefined – I do not believe a laundry list of “risk factors” fully encompasses it, and that is a problem that the Health at Every Size movement is also seeking to address. Risk factors get redefined all the time – they are not just pure science, but also socially constructed, and can be used as a form of social control.

      Health is the ability to live a meaningful life, whatever your physical or mental condition. A person with diabetes who manages their condition well and lives a full life with lots of support is healthier than a physically “healthy” person whose energy is fully invested in maintaining that “health” at all costs, out of fear.

      The notion of biomedical health is not a cudgel to be used to keep people in line, knock people down, and prop other people up.

      I realize that many people see “obesity” as essentially “the opposite of anorexia” but this is total BS, and very intellectually lazy.

      Fatness is actually the opposite, physically, of thinness. Thin people do not all have anorexia nervosa, or even any other disease. In the same way, fat people do not all have eating disorders or other health conditions. To compare a physical trait to an eating disorder is literally like comparing apples to oranges.

      People who get very fat in a way that becomes disabling are 1) not only subject to a physical impairment, but also to a society that actively disables them through excluding them, and 2) also not offered health care appropriate to their needs – they are only ever offered weight loss in some form, rather than having their underlying conditions investigated, their current physical needs accommodated, and their strength and self-efficacy built up. Extremely fat people deserve better care than simply an offer to sew up their stomachs so they have a small chance of fitting into an actively hostile world.

      1. Kathy Avatar

        Might be appropriate to post this:

        (one of my favorite quotes)

        “Our society arbitrarily defines health as the capacity for work and a capacity for enjoyment, but true health is something quite different. True health is the strength to live, the strength to suffer, the strength to die. Health is not a condition of my body; it is the power of my soul to cope with the varying conditions of my body.”-Jürgen Moltmann, God in Creation

        1. Kathy Avatar

          And I get damned tired of the old saw fat = unhealthy. I’m fat and all my labs and blood pressure etc. are normal thank you very much.

          1. Emgee Avatar

            Have I told you lately that I love you? This post makes me feel SO much better because I am fat and I take meds for high BP. So it has made me feel that I have no right to be fat advocate of FA and HAES. Never mind that my mom (the thin one who has never weighed more than 130 lbs. in her life) ALSO has to take meds for high BP. Mine is because I’m fat, not because of genetics, right? Never mind that thyroid issue I have, either. THANKS FOR BEING YOU!

        2. Michelle Avatar

          This is beautiful, thank you.

        3. Sarah Avatar

          Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this quote, it’s exactly what I needed to hear today. (I haven’t been working for like 10 months because of health issues, and it’s easy to beat myself up for being “lazy” even when I know it’s not true.)

    2. closetpuritan Avatar

      Michelle has made the ethical argument. Here’s the practical argument:

      If Michelle, or even all FA bloggers, posted their health data would prove nothing. If they were all in perfect health, they’d be dismissed as huge exceptions just as Ragen Chastain is in your comment. Guaranteed. It might sway a few fence-sitters, at best. And that’s only if they were in BETTER health than you’d expect an otherwise-similar group of thin people to be–if they were about the same, then anything less than perfect health would be blamed on their fat–at least if it was correlated with high BMI, and quite possibly if it wasn’t.

      If all the bloggers were all in terrible health, they’d STILL just be anecdata. And anyone who wants to dismiss them as anecdata, whether they were in perfect health or in terrible health, would be completely justified in doing so.

      (Just recently there was a similar point made in comments on Dances With Fat. It won’t let me link the comment, but do a CTRL+F for “chip said”.)

      Very few mordibly or super obese people are not suffering health problems from their size (Ragen Chastain being a huge exception).

      Show me the data. There are plenty of disease correlated to obesity, but with diabetes, for example, although it’s correlated with higher BMIs, most fat people still do not have diabetes (and some thin people do). I don’t know if that’s still true when you’re only talking about morbidly obese/superfat people–I don’t have that data. Do you? You can’t expect to come to a site like this, make that assertion, and get it taken seriously without some kind of further evidence.

      1. Michelle Avatar

        Thank you. Show me the data indeed.

        This commenter has left a handful of remarkable comments on my blog over time, so it doesn’t come as a total surprise.

        1. JoannaDW Avatar

          Just so you know, Screaming Fat Girl is a troll that has been making the rounds on FA blogs for some time now. She is opposed to fat acceptance and her goal is to get us to privilege her views in our spaces. Just a tidbit, use it as you wish.

          And just for the record, brilliant post. Keep at it.

          1. Michelle Avatar

            Ah, good to know. Thanks.

          2. Catherine Avatar

            I think it does make a bit of sense to have a very public study wherein heavier people and thin people are asked to voluntarily supply their health records. How can you scientifically prove something without data and statistics? And it seems that something needs to be proven. If the information is freely given by both parties, maybe it can be prove that heavier people are not plagued with diseases that thin people avoid. As this seems to be the popular opinion.

          3. Michelle Avatar

            A study is one thing – that’s actual research. Asking random bloggers you dislike to supply their health records is another. In order for people’s information to add up to mean anything, you have to collect the data from pools of subjects who represent the population you are studying – not just random anecdata from people who may or may not be representative of average fat or average thin people. That’s not how science works.

            If you want statistics, then you should look at the research. It does exist. In fact, there is a whole tab up top supplying articles and evidence, including a study on “metabolically benign obesity.” Take a look.

            Research subjects give their informed consent to have their information used. I have not.

          4. WendyRG Avatar

            Hasn’t Dr. Steven Blair done a lot of data collection, or at least analysis of huge data sets, and shown that overweight and moderately obese people (by the hated BMI standards) who are also active actually live longer than “normal” weight or thin people?

          5. Michelle Avatar

            I believe so, yes. Aerobic fitness is a stronger predictor of life expectancy than weight.

        2. closetpuritan Avatar

          Yeah, I’ve been seeing her around on FA blogs for a couple years now. I don’t think I’d call her a troll, but she’s not on board with all parts of FA. She’s very unhappy about being fat and is pro-weight-loss; she is also pro-treating fat people with respect.

          1. Michelle Avatar

            I have noticed her here before, most notably disgreeing with every point, major or minor, that I make. That doesn’t give me a very good feeling about her. Most people discussing and reading in good faith will have mixed opinions.

          2. KellyK Avatar

            Yeah, if the only things you post on a given blog are disagreements, that’s trolling. It might be more of the “concern troll” variety than the “I will say outlandish things to piss people off and then make popcorn and watch while the forum explodes” kind, but it’s still trolling.

          3. closetpuritan Avatar

            Right, it’s not the classic trolling; I’m not sure ‘concern troll’ quite fits either; but you could say it’s a species of trolling. I don’t think there’s anything insincere about her comments, but I don’t remember seeing her leave a positive or neutral comment on any blog.

          4. KellyK Avatar

            Yeah, you’re right. Concern troll is more “I agree with your general premise, now let me nitpick all the ways you’re doing it wrong.”

      2. Whirlwitch Avatar

        I want to add that correlation does not equal causation, nor does causation necessarily work the way you think it does. At Dances With Fat, there was a recent discussion on how, while type 2 diabetes has a correlation with obesity, research suggests that rather than the diabetes being caused by the obesity, a low-level manifestation of the tendency towards the diabetes results in obesity, which may then hasten the onset of full-blown diabetes.

        To use a personal example, my obesity correlates with my fibromyalgia. I had a very typical weight before, and for a while after, getting sick. My weight has increased as my symptoms have worsened. And should I recover or go into remission, it is likely that I will lose weight. None of which means, as many ignorant people like to think, that my being fat caused my illness and disability. Instead, it is most likely that my illness caused the weight gain.

        1. Meems Avatar

          Whirlwitch, this is exactly what I was thinking.

          I have a family history of type 2 diabetes. About two years ago, despite no lifestyle changes, I started gaining weight. After pushing and pushing (and having already gained 40 lbs.), I finally got a doctor to run an in depth blood panel. Whaddayaknow, I’d developed insulin resistance, which is typically a precursor to type 2 diabetes. I didn’t develop insulin resistance because I am/was fat. I became fat(ter) because I’d developed insulin resistance.

          (BTW, once we figured out what was going on and how to treat it, I stopped randomly gaining weight.)

          1. La Avatar

            Meems – you are so blessed to have had a doctor care that much to check into things. My insulin resistence went unchecked for many, many years. I am type 2 diabetic now (so is my dad – can we say heridity????). Weight piling on and on and on. I also have PCOS, which was also undiagnosed (still don’t have any treatment for that – not sure if there is a treatment for it) and hypothyroidism, also undiagnosed for many years, but on treatment for that now. I have lost vast amounts of weight three to four times in my lifetime (I am 50), but those pounds always come right back and they bring a few friends with them. I weigh 350+ now, BUT am so happy to have found the “FA” websites. It has helped me to know that I am not just a careless about my health, crazy person. I so appreciate each and every one of you. I have vowed to NEVER go on a diet again. Do I try and make healthy choices? For the most part, I do. But, I have my days where it doesn’t go so well. I don’t beat myself up over that anymore. I feel like life is just beginning – at the age of 50!

        2. jaed Avatar

          Research doesn’t “suggest” it; insulin resistance causes weight gain, and the mechanisms for this are well understood and have been for decades.

          There is some research that suggests that high amounts of adipose tissue may increase insulin resistance via hormonal effects (so we’d be looking at a vicious circle), but this is still pretty speculative, while causation in the other direction is not.

          Complicating all of this is the fact that some people are fat but not insulin resistant, some people are insulin resistant but don’t gain weight, and many of these latter go undiagnosed because doctors don’t tend to aggressively test thin people. Further confusing matters is the fact that most doctors now practicing have been taught that fat causes… well, just about everything… and that weight-loss is a panacea.

          The whole thing’s a mess. But it’s a mistake to think that the idea that insulin resistance causes weight gain is somehow new or speculative.

    3. KellyK Avatar

      What you’re asking for isn’t proof. Like closetpuritan said, it’s anecdata. Highly personal anecdata.

      Proof is in studies and actual medical research, not in badgering people to make their personal medical data public.

      And where else are people subject to “Prove it works for you personally” before they’re allowed to give advice in a subject they’re trained in? I certainly have never asked any of my endocrinologists what their thyroid numbers are, nor do I ask my mechanic for a list of everything that’s gone wrong with their car in the last year before I let them take a look at mine. Are we entitled to our teachers’ SAT scores too?

      For that matter, I don’t recall getting a copy of Jillian Michaels’ bloodwork or Dr. Oz’s blood pressure numbers. Nor is there an outcry for the spokespeople for weight loss to make their metabolic numbers public or prove that they don’t have gallstones.

      It’s a double standard to say that proponents of research-based HAES practices have to prove that they, personally, are healthy, while proponents of pretty thoroughly disproven weight loss attempts don’t have to prove jack.

    4. FatChickinLycra Avatar

      Only if every thin person has to produce a diet and exercise log to prove they’re actually engaging in healthy behavior and aren’t just naturally that body size.

      And as for Ragen being an exception, I believe we’d have more healthy fat people if we quit making it about the scale and make it about good food and joyful movement. Hating my body never motivated me to take care of it.

    5. Cara Avatar

      Regarding Screaming Fat Girl’s comment:

      “Fat people (and I am one of them) can deny that weight is often correlated with health all they want, but the stats are out there and conditions do exist which are solely connected to weight and weight loss is correlated with those conditions going into remission or being cured. ”

      The body is so much more complex than you are implying. There are no conditions that are solely connected to weight. We cannot reduce this down to A causes B.

      I don’t disagree that weight loss is correlated with conditions going into remission or being cured, but don’t you think there were other factors involved? Being correlated is quite different than causing the outcome. I will not risk my personal well-being by dieting for a correlation alone. It has only caused me physical, social, psychological and spiritual pain. Is this health?

      As much as our culture likes to act as though there is no question about extra weight being the primary culprit of many diseases, there are no definitive answers. The stats “out there” that you reference are based on supporting enormously entrenched ideas and institutions. There are also huge social barriers and medical biases that prevent proper healthcare for overweight and obese individuals, skewing the statistics.

      So is it irresponsible to tell people that they can be healthy at every size? HAES encourages individual discernment rather than an unquestioned acceptance of ideas, like most weigh loss gurus. I think this is more responsible than anything out there.

  6. Holly Avatar

    I love this! Awesome work, keep it up, beautiful!

  7. closetpuritan Avatar

    I have worked with health care professionals who had diabetes. Did it make them less capable? No.

    Was it any of my business? No.

    Was it the business of their patients, most of whom were being treated for diabetes?

    No. Not even then.


    I mentioned the Citizens Medical Center fat discrimination to one of my coworkers, and he was saying how if someone fat is talking to him about controlling his weight, they’re not going to have much credibility. (He also said that BMI>35 is “really big”.) I don’t really think that doctors should be telling patients to lose weight, and even somewhat pro-weight loss people like Dr. Sharma think that non-specialists should stay out of it. I’m also wondering if he really thinks that someone being fat is evidence that they don’t know how to lose/maintain weight; I think most pro-weight loss people would say that the problem isn’t knowing how to do it, it’s sticking to your plan. What I chose to say to him to end the conversation was that someone skinny won’t necessarily have a lot of credibility either, since they won’t appear to know what it’s like to struggle to lose weight. (And got a noncommittal response, but it ended the conversation, which was my goal at that point.)

    1. MadGastronomer Avatar

      Well, actually, fat people don’t know how to lose more than about 10% of their body weight and keep it off effectively — because, in fact, no one does. There is absolutely no known method by which more than a small percentage of the population can achieve this, and indeed the medical community define successful weight loss as losing 10% of initial weight.

      1. Michelle Avatar

        I think closetpuritan understands this.

      2. closetpuritan Avatar

        Yes, I understand it; I could have made that clearer, though. But that’s why a doctor who’s currently fat would have more credibility with me if they were trying to get me to lose weight. I mean, I still wouldn’t want to do it, but I would feel more of a need to actually defend my decision (to myself) than if someone I assumed was naturally skinny was recommending it, in which case I would be more dismissive, and say to myself, “Yeah, right, like they know what it’s like to lose/maintain weight. I bet they lost 10 lbs and think that they’re an expert now.” (This would still happen with someone who was formerly fat unless they revealed their formerly-fat status.)

        I think in one sense, people who’ve studied radical weight loss maintenance do more or less know “how” as far as what behaviors to follow (which are different from what an always-skinny person does), but they don’t know “how” as in “how to make it work outside the small number of people who can mostly ignore biological imperatives for the rest of their lives”.

  8. Lisa Avatar

    YES! yes yes yes yes yes. Sing it, sister.

  9. Amanda Avatar


    I find it kind of amazing that people like that commenter up there are remaining willfully ignorant about being fat and healthy. There is so much research on the topic. In order to feel that way, a person who would have to be purposefully ignoring the data, and like… watching Dr. Oz for their medical information.

    There are many, many fat people who exercise daily and eat a heart healthy diet. Those people probably won’t have metabolic disorders. People who are fat and choose not to exercise and who eat processed food are at risk for getting sick. So are thin people who make those choices. What is so hard to understand about that?

    Is it just the fact that being sedentary and eating processed, sugary food can often make a person fat, while also making them unhealthy? Is that why people assume that ALL fat people are making unhealthy choices?

    Oh, and also, it’s nobody’s business.

    THANK YOU for being so smart and awesome. I love reading your posts.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I agree with much of what you say here, and I appreciate your support.

      I do want to point out, though, that some people will eat a heart healthy diet and exercise daily, and do all the “right” things, and still develop heart disease or other diseases. Life isn’t always fair.

      1. krismcn Avatar


        It’s far more relevant that my husband’s (thin) father has a history of heart disease, while mine does not, when considering which of us is at greater risk, than the fact that I am fatter than he is. We have similar diets and active lifestyles, but his genetic predisposition trumps my fat ass. He is much more likely to have a heart attack than I am, statistics tells me so. Science!

      2. rebecca Avatar

        some people will eat a heart healthy diet and exercise daily, and do all the “right” things, and still develop heart disease or other diseases. Life isn’t always fair.

        Thank you for pointing that out (again. Thank you for every time you do it!). It goes to ablism too. There is literary fiction being published, still, in 2012, in which blindness and other disabilities are symbols of evil; and how can we be surprised, when this fiction is written in a culture that believes illness and disability are results of behavior? There’s some magical thinking going on.

        1. rebecca Avatar

          Fatness, too, is of course used in fiction as symbolic of evil or weakness. A fat character is almost always a bully or a victim; finding a fat character whose body isn’t symbolic of inner character is incredibly rare. Sometimes the fatness is symbolic of immaturity, as shown when the character must lose weight over the course of their emotional growth arc. So yes: fiction matches its culture. The culture doesn’t believe that we (I’m personally both fat and disabled, in unconnected ways) should be allowed to exist, so nor do most of our books.

        2. Elodie Avatar

          I’ve been told that my disability is because I did something bad to deserve it both by left-wing New Agey (“karma”) types and by right-wing Christian types (“judgment”). It’s almost funny to see what two ends of the spectrum agree on. I think it’s based on fear. Believing bad stuff only happens to people who deserve it almost convinces victim-blamers that nothing bad will happen to them so long as they follow some kind of rules.

          But they’re wrong, of course, and the evidence of their lives tells them they’re wrong constantly. So they end up with massive cognitive dissonance. The only way they can silence their doubts is to shout louder at other people.

          1. Michelle Avatar

            It is absolutely based on fear – and based on the Just-world Hypothesis that makes people want to believe that people only get what they deserve. Real life doesn’t work that way, and it terrifies them.

          2. RachelB Avatar

            *nods* I have encountered a number of people who seem to think that if they are “virtuous” enough, where food and activity are concerned, they will never die. It’s weird– they’re highly educated, otherwise rational people, but they are in utter (and IMO wasted) panic that they might someday gain weight, thus ruining their chance to live forever. Equal parts ridiculous and sad. What’s even sadder to me is that most of them work in health care, where they can project their fears onto people who outweigh them.

          3. Gerald Rubin Avatar

            Some comeuppance to the longevity moralists: Remember J.I Rodale editor of Prevention Magazine and longevity advocate died at 72 during a TV interview. My own experience – my new website that refutes the obesity epidemic on scientific grounds http://no-obesity-epidemic.org, received a piece of hate mail. I tracked down the sender to be owner of a longevity business in California. Everyone who wants to live forever or blames all other people for not being immortal (e.g., most physicians) please heed the statistic that half of all people will contract Alzheimer’s disease by the age of 85. I believe that Nature is telling us something about our vain attempts to defy her, ranging from trying to attain extreme longevity to becoming immortal.

          4. Michelle Avatar

            I think you would enjoy reading The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker, and The Death of Humane Medicine by Petr Skrabanek, if you haven’t already. Skrabanek says some troubling ableist stuff, but there are a lot of provocative questions worth asking, as well. Also Ivan Illich (Medical Nemesis) though he also says things that I totally disagree with. But the criticisms of medicine and the obsession with never dying or getting sick are important and deserve to be developed.

          5. Kathy Avatar

            I personally do NOT want to live “forever” (and no I’m not suicidal.) I just have a better place to be than on Earth and look forward to going to it.

          6. Michelle Avatar

            I can totally understand this.

          7. Gerald Rubin Avatar

            Thank you for (indirectly) introducing me to the concept of “coercive healthism”, this is exactly what is happening in America, and it goes way beyond this issue of obesity although that is a major focal point. The US government becomes more totalitarian every day and all they can seem to talk about is rewarding people who are responsible (and punishing those who are not). What penalty does a government official pay if he is overweight for example? I once heard that runners have an average onset delay for Alzheimers disease of 6 years. After we are relegated by law to a diet consisting of broccoli, lettuce, and sprouts, will we be mandated to run 6 miles a day under penalty of law if we don’t. Are we going to have to run it under 45 minutes? Would “vital” governmental officials be off the hook on this? Obama was known to be a chain smoker, does anybody believe that he has actually given them up? It is the medical community that is the enabler of all this with its reactive fears that disregard scientific fact. Did they ever apologize for scaring us into eating one egg per week then finding out that cholesterol is generated by the body. Hell I can’t have just on egg at a sitting or I will feel deprived the rest of the day. What’s his face, I can’t remember his name, head of FDA and dean of UCSF wants to outlaw all high fat high sugar foods because of his own problems with them and his weird pet theory, untested of course. Kessler I think.

            I guess I am a pretty good ranter in my own right. Here is a good link that I found. http://author-doc.blogspot.com/2011/03/rise-of-coercive-healthism.html

          8. Michelle Avatar

            Is it Lustig? That guy gets on my last nerve. Kessler might believe something similar, and he sounds like he has a disordered relationship with food in his book. Thanks for your link and your thoughts. I love a good rant :)

          9. RNegade (hopefulandf Avatar

            Glad to see you mention these writers (Becker, Skrabanek, & Illich) because they move the arguments in directions that profoundly call into question many of our current assumptions about health, health care, and human rights.

          10. Michelle Avatar

            I love philosophy (though I haven’t read very much of it) and I wish all people in health care fields were exposed to more of it. I think it is vitally important that we question ourselves and our institutions in order to remain ethical and constructive to humanity.

          11. WendyRG Avatar

            Cognitive dissidence. Absolutely.

          12. Kathy Avatar

            My friend when her back (herniated disc) was at it’s worst, pre-surgery, and she was on morphine etc just to get thru the day and was off work, had people from her church tell her that she had a Demon in her & that’s why she had this back issue. (When I heard this, I said “hmph..I’ll show you a demon” in righteous indignation / solidarity).

          13. Chris Avatar

            Oh God yes. It drives me nuts – there’s this compulsion to try to control everything, and then when someone who ‘does everything right’ gets sick, the whole world comes crashing down, not because of illness, but because they can’t hide from the fact that they’ve been wrong. This has been a troubling theme recently for a number of people I know.

          14. Michelle Avatar

            This is why I favour an approach to health, and maybe a redefinition of health itself, that focuses on managing and treating what you can, such that you can have the best quality of life possible, but also incorporating a basic acceptance of disease and death as facts of life, and not being so quick to blame or assume one can control everything.

            I am going to die someday. Either I will be injured, or disabled, or sick, or aged, or some combination of all of them, somewhere along the way. That is part of life, and yes, it is scary and painful. But it also reminds me to enjoy what I have, that life is precious because it is limited, and also to remember that one can live meaningfully even in the midst of illness or disability or age.

          15. Chris Avatar

            I’m with you. In fact, I’m no longer confident that it’s possible to make the most of life without coming to terms with one’s own mortality. At my gym (where I work), sometimes you see people running on the treadmills as if they can literally out-run death. And one woman in particular, a friend of hers died (which is tragic, so I don’t mean to make light of it), and he was of ‘fine health’, and she couldn’t accept it at all, because not only did she have to deal with his death, she had to deal with the possibility (I would use the term certainty, but I don’t think she’s there yet) that her beliefs were not built on such a solid foundation as she had thought…. The fantasies of immortality we keep close to ourselves, so close we’d deny them if anyone asked directly. If only you do this – if only you do not become fat, if only you can maintain the illusion of blah, then you’ll never have to suffer. But how much joy can you have if you never understand suffering and acceptance?

            Without too much rambling, this has been the biggest issue for me to face recently. I got diabetes when I was 12 (20 years ago), and I have realised for me, fat acceptance = diabetes acceptance (that I have it, and that it’s actually okay, and I don’t need to compensate) and diabetes acceptance = acceptance of my own mortality. I had a blog drafted about all this, but it’s a bit too raw to publish as yet. It’s hard to find a way to break this shit down.

          16. Michelle Avatar

            I completely understand, but I hope you do publish it someday. I think it is hugely important.

            You might get a lot out of reading some disability studies literature, if you haven’t already. There is the idea that some diseases and conditions are socially constructed due to the fact that our world either totally excludes people with those conditions from participation, or else stigmatizes them to such a degree that it actually makes living with the condition worse than the condition itself.

            There is a lot of overlap between this kind of thinking and fat acceptance. Have you read Jon Robison’s stuff? I believe he also talks about redefining health in this way.

          17. Chris Avatar

            I haven’t read Jon Robison’s stuff, but if it’s more of this kind of stuff I’ll take a look. I’m more than familiar with how discouraging it can be if you don’t fit the mould – hey you! You don’t look right – go to the gym. And now that you’re at the gym, and you don’t look right, we’ll discourage you from training. So we’re just going to make it hard for you across the board.

          18. AnnieJ Avatar

            Chris, I’m right there with you. I worked with a trainer at a small private gym for a year, and now I’m on my own at a local franchise of a popular gym. So now I’m much more comfortable with myself and have discovered what types (and levels) of activities work for me, which is great. But it’s still frustrating and exhausting to go to the gym, because even though I want to be there and do this for myself, I have to find the energy to get there and work out, and also the energy to maintain a psychological buffer against the negative attitudes of the “normal” looking people who are disturbed or offended by my presence. Granted, this is not always the case, and those are good days, but it happens frequently. This makes me wonder about whether the effect of added stress reduces the value of my workout. That makes me angry, because I have just as much right to be there as anyone else, of course. Sigh. Vicious circle.

          19. Chris Avatar

            Thanks for the support!

  10. Petra Avatar

    Thank you! I am becoming more and more aware of how strongly our society is judging fatness. But I never know how to counter other people’s remarks. And everytime I read you it makes so much sense. I think I am slowly learning what I can say. So thank you!

  11. […] Fat Nutritionist has an excellent, and sadly useful, post titled “A little 101 – I get to exist.” It is okay to be fat, because fat people already […]

  12. WendyRG Avatar

    Over the years, I have read many blogs written by weight-loss bloggers, in other words, people who have (or are in the process of) losing massive amounts of weight.

    If these were the only blogs I read (and the fact that I’m here demonstrates that this is far from the truth), I would have the impression that all morbidly obese people were indeed massive consumers of junk food, uninterested in doing any physical activity, the victims of some sort of physical or mental abuse (particularly women), binge eaters, “emotional eaters”–in other words, either lazy gluttons or people with “problems” who were self-medicating with food.

    For the weight-loss blogging world, there is always a reason why you are fat and always a way to combat it. Being fat is always associated with being in bad health and losing weight is always associated with regaining (pardon the pun) one’s health. It is a world of people constantly berating themselves (and sometimes others) for falling off the wagon, going off plan, eating a piece of bread, in short, not being “perfect”, whatever their current definition of perfect is. And above all, they are highly invested in proving to themselves and the world that weight loss is possible, despite all odds, and that you must never give up since it is always the right thing to do.

    I have met some lovely, sincere weight-loss bloggers but the idea that anyone can live a happy, healthy life and still be fat is totally unpalatable to them. It just “does not compute”, as they used to say on old science-fiction shows.

    1. Renee Avatar

      You just described my entire childhood. When I hit puberty my body changed, I gained weight. Before puberty I’d been a very small, very thin kid but then then puberty changed all that. Suddenly I wasn’t small anymore, I was bigger than all the other girls (and I had these damn pesky boobs) and everyone in my family became concerned about my ‘health.’ No, they were concerned about my weight and then when my mom died when I was 12 my weight became a constant discussion point. What size pants was I wearing, how often was I eating, what was I eating, shouldn’t I get some exercise (nevermind I walked 2 miles to school and back everyday, but that’s not freaking exercise, right?).

      My weight is still a constant discussion point for my family (more now because I’m pregnant, next time I’m just gonna move to siberia for 9 months and come home after the baby is born). The difference is I realize there’s nothing wrong with my body, sure it’s bigger than most of my family but so what? My weight, my health and my body are my business. I know it’s such a shock to people that a person can be fat and happy but it’s not surprising to me. Some of the happiest people I know are people who have accepted their bodies as they are, whether that’s fat or thin.

  13. Elodie Avatar

    Anti-fat prejudice is one allowable prejudice these days, one that is sadly accepted by most liberals, and it’s interwoven with misogyny and ableism. Thank goodness for people like you who tell it like it is.

  14. Sandra Avatar

    I think you are very brave to be The Fat Nutritionist in a society that considers a persons body fair game for commentary.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww, thank you. Hope you’re well :)

      1. Sandra Avatar

        Had a crappy winter with a fibromyalgia flare, but it is GREAT not to be beating myself up about my eating while not felling well! Thinking “hmm, seems my body needs ice cream” is much better than “no wonder I feel crappy, look what I’m eating”

        1. Michelle Avatar

          I am sorry to hear about the fibro flare, but it makes me happy to know you can eat ice cream in peace when you need/want it!

  15. Kim Avatar

    I always love this argument in the US. We talk about the cost, but it’s so obvious it has nothing to do with cost since ultra rich people like Oprah Winfrey (and everyone in Hollywood) are constantly critcized about their weight. The sad thing is a ultra successful billionaire like Oprah or the millionaires like those actors/actresses even bow to the pressure. The world has watched Oprah struggle with gaining/losing weight many times. Maybe people like her have more important things to do, like run her multi billion dollar media corporations than pedal her exercise bike all day every day while snorting cocaine to prevent hunger pangs and (GASP!) eating. Maybe everyone that isn’t a millionaire or billionaire should have their worth questioned because if something seriously goes wrong with their health they can’t afford shit that’s going to make it right. Maybe all people that live in big cities should be ostrasized because all that pollution and stress probably leads to higher cancer rates (I don’t need facts, but I just KNOW it has to be unwholesome FOR ALL). Maybe the people of that town represented in Erin Brockovich should have been fined instead of paid for all their health problems and suffering because they should’ve been smart enough (and rich enough) to just pack their bags and move their families somewhere less polluted. Maybe we should punish anyone with a family history of any disease for breeding because they KNOW, it has been scientifically proven, that genetic risk for disease plays perhaps the biggest role in determining whether or not you will get that disease. Great grandpa had a heart attack at 50, Grandpa had a heart attack at 50, older brother had a heart attack at 50, and you had children! I think we need to enforce some mandatory sterilization of those male children before they breed additional walking heart attacks and health expense!

    In more positive news…the FDA has approved Belviq as an anti-obesity drug with a huge success rate of 3-7% weight loss in clinical trials when used for 1 year and combined with lifestyle changes. I am sure the cost-to-benefit analysis plus potential side effects really will justify this (maybe temporary) weight loss of 12-28 lbs in a 400 lb individual. I am sure that 12-28 lbs will make their life so much better, they will now be at a size where they will not have to endure stigmatism about their weight, and they won’t have to waste their time taking a #2 each day, since they will be constipated from the drugs.

    We are a ridiculous species.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I just don’t have anything to say sometimes except, lol.

    2. Chris Avatar

      3 – 7 %? It’s a wonder drug! Where can I get me some of that? :P

  16. Chris Avatar

    I love it!!!

  17. Mikk Avatar

    This post made my day, so well written and wise. Thank you.

  18. Daniel Avatar

    People say mean shit when you’re obese (been there) and they still say it when you’re anorexic and underweight (current position). I wish that there was a way to get your word out to every individual and somehow just convince people to drop the whole “thin=healthy” stereotype / belief. It’s utter nonsense (I’m living proof), and I feel the world needs more leaders like you, Michelle.

    I feel like if we maybe dropped these stereotypes there might be less incidences of obesity / anorexia in the first place… just my opinion.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I agree. I think the stigmatization of bodies hurts everyone, of all sizes, including people who go on to develop eating disorders. We’re all living under the same intense pressure and suffering from the effects.

      1. idontwanttobepretty Avatar

        Sorry, no.
        Anorexia and bulimia are real mental illnesses. They existed in medieval times, when fatness was considered the beauty ideal/ . They have probably existed as long as human beings have. They exist in cultures w here fat people are the sexy, healthy ones.

        If eating disorders were caused by culture, then 100% of the population would be sufferers.

        We are not weak. We are not people who are under exactly the same pressures as everyone else who just caved in more easily because we’re shallow and stupid and worthless pieces of shit. Many of us are even far more indifferent to physical appearance than average people. It’s not about how we look, even for those of us who do have real body image difficulties. Eating disorders are not choices. If you’re not going to shame people for having diabetes and you’re going to pick fights with people who say that diabetes is a choice, then we should get the same resp react We exist, we have always existed and we have a right to exist, to not have our illness appropriated by people who do not have it, to not be treated without our consent, to not be accused of choosing a disease.

        1. Michelle Avatar

          Did I say that eating disorders were 100% culturally caused? Because I don’t actually believe that. I believe that people are born with a biological vulnerability to eating disorders, which can then be triggered by the environment. I’m sorry if I gave a different impression, but I think you perhaps misread me.

          I do think the incidence of these diseases is higher in a culture where more of that vulnerability is triggered, due to the intense pressures on weight and shape.

          I absolutely do not shame people for having eating disorders. I used to volunteer in eating disorders, and I used to work in eating disorders, so I think you are picking a fight with the wrong person.

  19. Gerald Rubin Avatar

    Excellent piece. I am new here. Contempt always comes from a person who is trying to ward off his own feeling of inadequacy. It really becomes sordid when an entire nation, government and many authorities band together and not only spew out contempt, but start creating oppressive policies because of it. This spells the United States and it is getting worse. One thing to remember, contemptors will always superficially try to hide their contempt in trying to seem like they want to help you. Watch out because maybe they won’t chop your heads of yet, but they do mutilate 225,000 wonderful young women within an experimental alteration called bariatric surgery, if it does not kill you it will destroy your life and mind. These victims have been too traumatized to even speak out. Contempt has reached the state of murder, more than 10 percent of bariatric victims are dead within 10 years and their suicide rate is 5 times normal

    1. Amy Avatar

      I would love to have access to the data that backs that up. Could you point me to the mortality and suicide info? I have several family members and doctors who won’t take “No Way In Hell” for an answer. It would be great to hand them abstracts.

  20. lilacsigil Avatar

    I am from a country with universal health care, and it does absolutely no good to say “the expensive people are sick people, not people of a particular size or habit.” On average, 80% of your lifetime healthcare costs accrue in the last year of your life. Fat, thin, in between, almost everyone ages, sickens and dies (and even people who die suddenly often accrue costs trying to revive them.) I think a good part of the fat=unhealthy part of discrimination is fear of death, hence the tremendous resistance to the idea that many fat people can be healthy, and some others (like me) became fat because of illness rather than the other way around.

    If you live the perfect, thin, life and do everything right, you will never die. Therefore, the fat/poor/meat-eating/whatever-is-bad person dying young is an important part of this mental prop.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Sadly, I agree. Our species’ enormous psychological defense mechanism gets in the way of compassion and logic.

  21. Suze Avatar

    I so badly needed to read this, which I got to via PsychCentral yesterday. My self-loathing, waking up every morning knowing my entire day will be based on what I ate the night before, is getting to be a trap that I have no idea how to get out of. Since I have bouts of severe suicidal depression, this is not just a “I don’t like myself too much” thing. I’m 54, and have been told I was Just Too Big And No One Will Ever Love You since…well, one of my earliest memories was being told I needed to go on a diet (“What’s that?”, said a confused 4-year-old me). I had read books by Geneen Roth when I was younger, was planning to look for something along that lines, but this came in my in-box. It’s a place to start. Thanks — I got through my morning a little better today because of this.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      You are so welcome. No one is ever “too big” to be loved. What a crock.

      If you’re looking for books and resources, there are lots. On the right-hand sidebar, under Notes from the Fatosphere, there are links to other blogs that write about intuitive eating, self acceptance, body image, etc. It’s a great resource.

      Some favourite books of mine are Never Too Thin by Roberta Pollack Seid, Losing It by Laura Fraser, Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, Fat Politics by J. Eric Oliver, The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos, Fat!So? by Marilyn Wann, Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere by Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby, and lots and lots of others.

      Ragen Chastain’s blog Dances with Fat is an especially good one about self acceptance – http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/blog/

      1. RNegade Avatar

        I apologize if you have already mentioned the following resource:

        “Biopolitics and the ‘Obesity Epidemic’: Governing Bodies” Edited by Jan Wright and Valerie Hardwood, published 2009 by Routledge Studies in Health and Social Welfare. The book presents a “critical analysis of health, obesity and society, and the impact of obesity discourses on different individuals, social groups and institutions.”

        I have only read a few chapters, but it appears very helpful in illuminating ways by which various rhetorical strategies socially construct body size (“obesity”) as pathological.

        1. Michelle Avatar

          Sounds good! I haven’t heard of that one. Jan Wright also co-wrote the book The Obesity Epidemic: Science, Morality and Ideology, which is a really great critical analysis of weight science. We need to put together some kind of bibliography.

  22. Sue Ellen Avatar

    I live in country with universal (and excellent) health care. It seems to me it’s not the fat people who are costing the tax payers all the money; it’s the people who have kids. Baby Bonus, Childcare Rebates, tax cuts, parent pensions… the list goes on. Is anyone suggesting that parents justify their existence? Or demanding they stop having kids, because OMG THERE’S A PREGNANCY EPIDEMIC! ?? Is anyone lecturing parents on contraception, because clearly they are stupid and need people to tell them how to “fix” the problem that’s costing us billions of dollars each year??? Is anyone saying, “This is all your own fault, tsk tsk tsk, let us tell you how to fix yourself? Er… no. Because that would be invasive and would take away their rights and their dignity as human beings. Also, STUPID. But hey, if you’re fat then apparently the normal rules of decent behaviour don’t apply.

    Also? My tiny, skinny sister, who is that way naturally, has high blood pressure, a dodgy thyroid, PCOS and a heart condition. Other than her doctors, no one EVER asks her about her health, her exercise habits, her food intake or anything else. She’s welcome to exist because she fits the mould… despite the fact she’s costing ‘the taxpayers’ far more than many fat people who are in much better health.

    1. Sue Ellen Avatar

      The above was sarcasm, by the way. :) (And apparently I didn’t log in properly…) The whole “obesity is costing us X dollars per year” argument just shits me to tears. Why should people have to prove they’re worthy of decent health care? Are you sick? Then you’re worthy of decent health care. The end.

    2. Ashley Avatar

      I don’t mean to go off topic here, but where I am from, there actually is quite a bit of commentary about people who are having a bunch of kids they can’t afford. Unfortunately, I know several people I am around on a regular basis who for some reason won’t go on birth control, and not because it’s unaffordable, it’s actually easy to get it for under 10 a month and sometimes even free. But there seems to be a lot of people who keep having kids they don’t even want or can’t afford to support, and they just keep letting it happen, and I’m sorry to say but I see many of them start to abuse child support and abuse the entire system. I don’t want to stereotype single moms on welfare, but I can’t help but shake my head at some of how they are behaving, especially when they keep trying to stick their kids with me, my roommates, and friends while they go out partying. Sorry, not trying to be a downer here or invalidate your argument but I just had to mention that yeah, there is talk about it too.

      1. Michelle Avatar

        Other People: Making Choices I Disagree With Since 48,000 BC

        1. FatChickinLycra Avatar

          Oh, I am so saving this quote.

      2. Sue Ellen Avatar

        I wasn’t really making a comment on people having children. I was just trying to make the point that the ‘obesity is costing us billions of dollars’ argument is bogus. There are plenty of other things that cost of money but no one is seeking to ‘fix’ them because to do so would be a massive invasion of personal rights – yet the idea of ‘personal rights’ goes out the window when we’re talking obesity.

        1. Ashley Pariseau Avatar

          I understand. I read my comment now and wondered why I even decided to mention that. I need to stop doing my blog surfing when I’m tired and cranky.

  23. Gretchen Avatar

    Thank you for putting this so clearly.

    Over the last few years (and with some help from your blog) I’ve really started to understand that people’s attitude towards certain foods and size AKA fatness is usually an aesthetic position, but they usually put their preferences forward in terms of moral absolutes.

    There are some moral questions about food, like whether to eat animals, or whether to support fair trade and other agreements that help the farmers and producers. But wondering whether to eat cake or salad is not a moral problem, because cake and salad have no moral weight. And yet, so many people would argue that cake is bad and salad is good, because they are so used to these things being presented as morally good and morally bad, or right and wrong, or healthy (good) and fattening (bad).

    Which supports the thin=healthy=good versus fat=unhealthy=bad mindset.

    Which is a complete load of bollocks, as you know.

    At this point in time, I have the most psychologically healthy relationship with food that I’ve had since I was 12, and I’m also the biggest I’ve ever been. There’s not a direct causal link there, but it does help me like myself at this size, and that makes so much difference to my general psychological health.

    And yet I sometimes have to deal with people describing my food choices as “naughty”, and questioning me when I tell them there are no good or bad foods, just foods I want to eat, and foods I don’t want to eat.

  24. Alexie Avatar

    You sure hit the nail on the head with the Health Care Dollars (HCDs) issue. I’ve never understood why Americans carry on about this, considering their brutal, callous system that actively diverts HCDs to those who need it least – the shareholders of health insurers. Maybe if they spent a few more HCDs on people, there would be less diabetes, metabolic syndrome and therefore less costs all round.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Absolutely. I’m a US American who immigrated to Canada over a decade ago. I live under a universal health care system, and guess what? Our nation has not collapsed.

  25. deeleigh Avatar

    I just want to say “Fucking brilliant, Michelle. Brava!!!!”

  26. ElizabethW Avatar

    Like Suze (commenter #20), I found your blog through PsychCentral and I’m glad I did! This is a very interesting discussion; your commenters have expressed a lot of ideas which I will continue to think about. Thanks for the great rant!

  27. Renée Avatar

    Well said Lady!

  28. […] “You don’t get to decide that people with certain physical traits don’t get to exist, no matter how distasteful you may find them. And despite popular belief, you cannot presume to know a person’s behaviour based solely on their weight.” […]

  29. The Well-Rounded Mam Avatar

    Thank you for pointing out, again and again, that you can have healthy habits and still develop various diseases. No one could have eaten “healthier” than my adoptive mom, and she still developed high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and eventually, diabetes too. And yes, she was skinny. If she’d been fat, that would have been blamed, rather than genetics. But getting these while skinny? Must be genetics. Or fate. Or random chance.

    I think it’s important to point out that many fat people are metabolically healthy. This is an important point that goes underrecognized in the media. But of course, not all are. Some develop diabetes or hypertension etc. as they age. We must work to eliminate the stigma from the fat folk who do develop various conditions. Sometimes people just get certain things, and you can only do so much to prevent/mitigate that risk. Even with good habits, whatever your size.

    The health blame/shame game is such a terrible thing.

  30. Richie79 Avatar

    Excellent post and just what I needed after reading an 800+ comment BBC thread on how ‘British women’s waists are too big’ where most of the top rated posts contained variations on the them of ‘we need to tell fat people that it’s not OK to be fat’, a couple even qualifying this with ‘…because it’s unsightly, disgusting, soooo not sexy (oh, and unhealthy, yeah, unhealthy, that’s the real reason)’.

    How do we get the sort of basic logic contained in this post out into a big wide world that’s been successfully brainwashed by the antis and warmongers?? When I try, all I get for my trouble is the bottom rated comment on any given thread. It’s so demoralising.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Hi Richie!!!!!!!!

      Sorry, I get excited to see old cronies from BFB stopping by :)

      I really feel like getting the message out on one’s own terms, by creating something rather than only RESPONDING to something, is more productive and fruitful. If I spent all my time arguing with commenters on news articles, I would literally never have time to write anything. And less people would hear my message.

      Charlotte Cooper says an important part of fat activism is CREATING culture instead of merely responding to a hostile overculture. I tend to agree. We need to do our thing and create our own spaces in addition to, or sometimes instead of, trying to change spaces that exclude us.

      One thing I have learned about comments in general (not in this space or in most blogs, but especially on news articles or more mainstream blogs with a huge general audience), and I’ve learned it the hard way, is that if I am the subject of the article or blog post, going into comments to defend myself actually makes the vitriol WORSE. But if I leave the bigots to stew in their own juices, nothing much really happens.

      Even having friends and allies wade in to defend me makes it worse. I knew that, and forgot it again until this time around, when I remembered again when it was too late! For me, personally, it’s better to take a pacifist stance when it comes to harsh criticisms about myself. If I need to do any serious responding (like if the criticisms are worth responding to, or if they trigger an idea for a blog post) it is more effective if it takes place in my own space, like this blog post here. This post was inspired by some of the comments left on a guest post I wrote for PsychCentral’s Weightless blog, but the commenters themselves, I’m sorry to say, were not worth responding to, in my opinion. Some of the points made may have been important to address, but I would have had to wade through so much abuse to get to them that it was not worth my mental health to do so. I have to take care of myself.

      With articles/posts about bigger “obesity” issues it’s a bit harder to know what to do, and that same exact approach may not work. But I tend to think that it’s a waste of precious time, energy, and Sanity Watchers Points to wade into comments sections that are not well-moderated. The people who comment on news articles are a self-selected population of cranks and conspiracy theorists with a tenuous grasp of reality. The more thoughtful people who might not agree, but will still listen and understand nuance, are not as likely to post comments in the first place.

      They are more likely to Google for more information on the topic, and lo and behold, might run into a blog with a well-reasoned post about the subject, where they can participate in a real discussion far from the spotlight.

  31. tacticalnuke Avatar

    I’m 5’4″, 170 lbs. I also have a 28″ waist.
    What does that tell someone who doesn’t know me?
    I don’t carry much fat next to my internal organs, which isn’t exactly something I can control. And that’s about it.

  32. Julie W Avatar
    Julie W

    Thank you. Feeling I don’t have the right to exist because I’m fat has caused me to put off seeing a doctor about some basic things that I need to take care of because I am so fed up with the guilt trip I get. Things that happen to skinny people too, but whenever I see a doctor, my weight is automatically blamed for every health issue. I swear the next time a doctor assumes my weight is the cause of anything, I am going to ask these questions: 1) “Do thin people develop this health problem?” And if the answer is yes, 2) “So what do you tell thin people then?”

    1. Michelle Avatar

      And this is how fat hate hurts people – not just because it hurts our feelings or causes stress (which it does), but because it has very real effects on our ability to care for ourselves.

  33. Doly Avatar

    I have a question for you: what’s your take on sugar? Because just about everyone likes sweet things. But, at the same time, too much sugar in the diet can cause medical conditions like diabetes. So, if you tell people to eat whatever they feel like eating, isn’t there a risk that they will have too much sugar and be at risk of things like diabetes?

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Okay, so sugar does not cause diabetes. The American Diabetes Association itself will back me up on that one – they say as much on their website in the myths & facts section.

      I think, like with anything, it is possible to eat too much sugar and it can have effects on your health, though we may not fully understand what those effects are yet. We know for certain sugar can cause dental caries – all the other diseases that are proposed to be caused by sugar (“obesity”, etc.) are still considered controversial and under investigation.

      Most people won’t eat too much sugar if they learn to trust themselves and become eating competent, because guess what? It feels like absolute crap to eat a ton of sugar all the time. Most people have had this experience at some point in their lives, most commonly as children on Halloween or during other holidays with lots of candy. It makes you feel like shit to eat an unbalanced diet in ANY direction, and most people I know do not want to feel like shit.

      What you’re suggesting is a really common misconception, so I wrote a post about this here – http://www.fatnutritionist.com/index.php/food-you-like-is-food-that-feels-good/

    2. FatChickinLycra Avatar

      Doly – you raise a concern a lot of people have. I believe it boils down to whether you believe humans and the human body is inherently out of control or not. If all the rules are gone, what’s to stop us from eating a vat full of twinkies every night?

      I do not believe we are inherently out of control. Since I began reading this blog, I gave myself radical permission to eat whatever I wanted. My diet has improved, VASTLY. Now that I’m not wrapped up in what I’m “supposed” to eat, I can listen to my body and see what it wants. It wants lots of veggies and protein, not quite so much starch. I go with that. Treats have become less compelling, because I know how cruddy a donut makes me feel. If I still want one, I eat it totally without guilt.

      I had an ex-brother in law (now deceased), who when you were sitting down, butt not quite in chair but too late to reverse course, would yell “Sit down!” It was maddening. For me, feeling like I am being forced from outside only incites rebellion.

      I realize my experience is my own — and n=1 anecdotal experiment. But I’m glad I ran the experiment.

  34. Stephani Avatar

    Thank you so much for this post, Michelle. It’s right on the money. I’m sure it’s the case in many other countries, as well as in the U.S., that fat people, even just the somewhat overweight, are the newest scapegoats for all of society’s ills. Fat-hate is the only socially allowable prejudice these days. (Others still exist, of course, but they’re not supported publically and are even punished to a large degree when incidents become public knowledge. But not prejudice and hate acts against fat people.) And it’s true that it’s all about fear of death.
    Bottom line: fat or thin, we will all be dead one day. No one can change that. Maybe caused by disease, maybe caused by a horrific traffic accident. My question for anyone whose life focuses on achieving or maintaining thinness to the exclusion of every other joy, rather than on living the happiest, most fulfilled life they can live, is: what will be carved on your tombstone: “She/he was thin”? There’s more to life than the desperate struggle to fit into the molds other people dictate; whether those other people are health care professionals, your best friend, or your mother.
    Thin people aren’t the enemy; fat people aren’t the enemy. We all deserve basic human respect and decent treatment from each other. Fear is the enemy. It’s about time we stopped being afraid of people who look different, live different, think different and just accept that people are different and that’s okay.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I want fat activism to be one more facet of the fight to eliminate all forms of oppression and discrimination. Sadly, a lot of them are still even socially allowable – in certain circles, saying racist shit is totally tolerated, as is misogyny, as is anti-semitism, as is islamophobia, as is homophobia and transphobia and ableism. Only the most obvious, blatant acts are really frowned on, in my opinion. I think we are getting better at calling these things out (I hope) and seeing that there is a common thread underlying all forms of oppression: the fear of the Other, and the need to have a hierarchy that empowers the few at the expense of the many, and that uses a divide-and-conquer strategy to pit us against each other, and ourselves.

      I agree that people of all shapes and sizes deserve respect and deserve to exist. I support anyone who is marginalized based on their appearance or identity.

      1. RNegade (hopefulandf Avatar

        “I want fat activism to be one more facet of the fight to eliminate all forms of oppression and discrimination.”

        I love this statement, and what it represents, so much! All lives are damaged and harmed to some extent whenever particular categories of people are socially constructed and then oppressed. Those directly targeted often suffer emotionally and physically in ways that scientific reductionism cannot begin to fully reveal. Chronic stress, for instance, may impact numerous systems including nervous, digestive, endocrine, immunological, etc. Others who are not directly targeted also suffer when their loved ones are harmed by oppression, for example, while still others are harmed because they become perpetrators of oppression (often in the guise of helping or providing “care” or “healing”) who then actively work as co-constructors and maintainers of socially constructed stigma, economic discrimination, shame, hate, fear, and so forth, while believing falsely that their actions are benevolent. It’s so sad, and a tragic waste (misuse) of the human drive or desire to help each other and to cooperate together for the common good of humanity. Thus, even many caring people get conned into acting in harmful ways while believing they are helping others.

        1. Cait B Avatar
          Cait B

          As someone who was the “fat kid” and struggled with anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating for over a decade, this post is something I’m honestly struggling to process.

          As someone who has felt firsthand the physical impact of starving on a half an apple and many cigarettes per day and, conversely, with the difficulties of carrying around tens of pounds more than my body can handle, I find it incredibly difficult to reconcile “scientific reductionism” with the reality that I’ve faced – that being “fat” is harder on my joints, makes it significantly more difficult to go about daily life, and takes a considerable toll on my mental health.

          I wholeheartedly agree that every person has inherent worth and – whether I’m 115 pounds or 350 pounds – that I deserve respect. I want to be on board with fat activism, but do “healthy” messages truly do more harm than good? I fear I’m one of those folks being “conned” – I can’t help but feel empathy with other people who face the same unhealthy relationships with food that I battle and I’ve actually been heartened by recent trends in American public education campaigns. For my own father (who had a significant heart attack several years ago and will never regain full cardiovascular function), I see each pound added to his frame with a sinking heart and hope that the messages he receives will spur him to action.

          Can you please point me to more literature to educate myself?

          1. Michelle Avatar

            Hi Caitlin – Not every fat person’s experience with weight and health is the same. Various people experience good (or ill) health at different weights. If you want to learn more, I’d suggest reading Linda Bacon’s book Health at Every Size. There is also a wealth of articles in the Articles & Evidence tab up top, but those tend to be peer-reviewed articles about more specific aspects of weight and health.

            Here is a great review article that talks about the topic as a whole:


  35. hungryandfrozen Avatar

    Michelle, I’d like to add my voice to all the positivity here. As well as being a brilliant post in general, there are so many quotable sentences that I can use to throw back at people who spout those same old baseless, hurtful, marginalising words. Thank you! And kindly continue being awesome.

  36. Bronwyn Avatar

    I have to admit this is the tricky part. I attended a seminar when I went to the dietitians of Canada conference on Health At Every Size and as I expected there was a lot of backlash. HAES is something I completely support, but many of my peers were absolutely stunned (if not kinda angry) about the idea of “allowing” people to *gasp* stay fat (the speakers promoted instead focusing on a healthy relationship with food). It is something that has always struck me about dietetics is that many do not accept a HAES, and instead there is still a strong belief that fat people should be told to lose weight. I find it difficult to navigate this area sometimes. Can I ask, did you have trouble going through the dietetics program itself with your views?

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I didn’t have trouble with the dietetics program itself at all, and I think perhaps I was just lucky, or maybe just incredibly stubborn. I went to Ryerson, and the professors (most of them RDs) that I encountered were very progressive. Even my clinical nutrition professor, an ICU RD, cheerfully put up with me :)

      1. RNegade (hopefulandf Avatar

        OMG, YES!!! It is so encouraging and inspiring to hear that there are actually advances toward strengthening social theory within the “helping” professions (“Critical Dietetics”–YAY!)– professions that claim to be focused on assisting people yet, tragically, contribute so much harm when the professionals remain unaware of critical perspectives (in sociology, communication, philosophy, anthropology, post-positivist science, etc) which expose the damaging philosophical foundations and harmful assumptions (false beliefs) underlying and supporting their routine “health care” practices. I’m so impressed with the great work you are doing here in translating some of these complex social constructs into comprehensible language. Thank you!

      2. Bronwyn Avatar

        That is so good to hear! I do think many of my classmates might tend towards a more HAES, but I can definitely name a lot of people who are in the weight bias disguised as “caring for the health”, and it’s funny as you can just see that they are terrified of fat.

  37. Kath Avatar

    Thank you Michelle. This is a brilliant post and I will be sharing the hell out of it as soon as I’ve hit “Post comment”!

    As a “super morbidly obese” person by the average fat hater’s standards (and also by the redundant BMI standard) who is a Type 2 diabetes sufferer, I am constantly trolled for my health, told I’m not allowed to speak on the subject of fatness unless I “declare” my health status. Or I’m dismissed as being “biased” because I don’t meet some arbitrary standard of health.

    The reality is, even if someone is “super morbidly obese” and suffers either illness, injury or disability, that doesn’t exclude them from being valued members of society and worthy human beings. It doesn’t prevent them from contributing to society either. After all, just in my case alone, I hold down a full time career in an industry that has a positive impact on all communities; I pay a high rate of taxes that I am happy contributes to all citizens who need things like roads, health care, education, libraries, public transport, footpaths and all those other things taxes and rates go towards paying; I give my time and money to causes that are dear to my heart, like refugees, cancer research, LGBT rights, and many more; I support and love my friends and the family around me; and most of all, I stand up for the quality of life of fat people. In fact, I contribute a whole lot more to society than many of the people who whinge that fat people are costing society.

    Fat people, even “super morbidly obese” fat people, even fat people with illness, injury and/or disability are not living in some kind of vacuum where they only receive and never give anything. But even if they were, even the most passive, incapacitated, person has the right to exist. We don’t go around pulling the plug on every person who is in a coma or vegetative state because they “don’t contribute to society”, we don’t instantly euthanase people with terminal illness because they “don’t contribute to society” and we don’t cull elderly people because they “no longer contribute to society”.

    Fat hate is NEVER about who contributes to society, it’s about hatred and disgust of fat bodies. Period.

    Every human being contributes something somewhere by their existence and has the right to that existence.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      You are brilliant. Don’t ever stop.

  38. Lisa Avatar

    Amen!… Thankyou

  39. sanabituranima Avatar

    I think a lot of people are pissed off at FA because they are jealous of people who believe that they have the right to exist without pre-conditions. That you don’t have to control your food or be super-good at anything or look how society wants in order to earn existence – most people would really like to believe that and not many do. I know when I first heard about FA it pissed me off and looking back it was for PRECISELY THOSE REASONS. Which makes me a shitty person, but even shitty people get to exist.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      You’re not a shitty person for having felt that way – you’re human. And I agree with you. Much of the criticism I receive has the distinct flavour of someone who is mad at me because I have opted out of the rules that they still feel they have to follow in order to be a worthy person. If I still believed in those rules, I would be pissed off at me too :)

  40. DebraSY Avatar

    Lovely words, Michelle, and very interesting discussion. I hope your influence in the world of dietetics grows. You are too generous with your colleagues. The field needs, er, some consciousness raising.

  41. Beth Avatar

    I just started reading, and like what I see so far, very much. I clicked partially because of your “eating 101” ‘s— I’m reworking my diet as I’m a celiac who got myself lost along the way and have to add in calories- I’m also working on absorbing the foods and vitamins, as it won’t do you any good to put it in if your body won’t use it!— While I’m working with doctors/ nutritionists/ etc. (I knew 600 cal a day was bad… so I made it a goal to give myself what I wanted and to worry later)… I’ve also dealt with guilt, because my family thinks I’m picky and that I need to eat wheat again. So… anyway, long rant short… while I have professionals… and a lot of support, I’m glad to see an “expert” of sorts who isn’t… um… so fugging clinical and can have fun. And thank you… not only will I exist, I will thrive. Strangely, I’m working on getting into a nutrition program…I figured that with my celiac disease and my nephew’s gluten intolerance, all the extra work I put in and the interest I developed should be nurtured too,

  42. Mary Avatar

    I always feel great about me and about food after reading your thoughtful and articulate posts.

    Thank you.

    That is all :)

  43. […] really enjoyed this article by Michelle, also know as The Fat Nutritionist about size discrimintion and why it is wrong. What do you think, readers? Share […]

  44. […] your­self per­mis­sion to be exactly who you are. What­ever your size, you deserve to exist. And when you’re hav­ing a hard time see­ing the beauty in you, you might like these 10 tips on […]

  45. […] A little 101 – I get to exist is a refreshing rant from Michelle at The Fat Nutritionist. […]

  46. Sarah Avatar

    I want to start by saying I totally support you and any other health professional in not talking about your personal health–blood sugar numbers, cholesterol, etc.

    At the same time, I want to put out there that as a future nutritionist with a ton of health issues, I plan on being really open with clients about the specific chronic stuff I’ve struggled with–how I’ve overcome some of it and probably how some of it will always be with me. Some days I worry that being a nutritionist without “perfect health” will make people less likely to listen to me, but in my own experience I’ve learned a lot more from practitioners who shared their own health struggles with me–including ones they hadn’t one-hundred percent healed. In a lot of ways, I’d rather go to the hypothetical practitioner with diabetes.

    p.s. just wanted to throw my anecdotal evidence into the mix about the correlation between health and weight–my health problems correlate with weight loss, not weight gain. The sicker I was the thinner I got, and now that I’m feeling much better I am at a more “normal” weight for myself. Whenever people want to say fat=unhealthy, my scrawny self wants to show them my medical history!

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Warning: big exposition ahead.

      I think it’s great if you have health issues and you want to share. I think it can be really helpful. I just don’t think it should be a requirement for those who want to work in health care, or write about health. Here’s the thing – you are making that choice, not being goaded and bullied into it by people who don’t really give a rip about your health, but just want to have a reason to dump on you and dismiss everything you say.

      That is what was going on while I was writing this blog post – a bunch of people basically think that it’s impossible I am healthy, and so challenge me to disclose something I am not comfortable disclosing just to “prove them wrong.” They are basically double-dog daring me to do something that runs the risk of hurting other people, and reinforcing a culture of ableism, and I’m not playing that game with them.

      I am uncomfortable that we often throw “unhealthy” people under the bus by striving to break stereotypes by bragging about our good health. Even if I were perfectly “healthy,” which I’m not, it would be only a matter of time before that changed somehow. (I do have chronic depression, and I talk about that pretty openly and I often disclose it to my clients when it seems like it might help them. I’m actually considered disabled, according to many pieces of paperwork filed at various places, due to my depression.)

      On a personal note, I don’t want to set myself up to feel like I have somehow failed when my health changes, as it almost certainly will, sooner or later. A lot of times this is just part of the aging process, and no one should somehow feel that life is so much less worth living, or broken somehow, when they experience an almost inevitable part of the human condition.

      Type 2 diabetes runs rampant on one side of my family. I would prefer not to develop it, but if I eventually do, should I hate myself and feel like a failure? Of course not. But waving my “I’m healthy!” status card around as a way to prove my validity as a human being brings with it the subtext that, if that status card is taken away some day, of course I am less of a person. This is simply not true.

      Anyway, I am willing to bet that people will listen to you, health conditions or no. The ones who most need to hear what you’re saying will, anyway. Those who won’t will basically just be confirming their bigotry, and you’re free to dismiss them.

      I would also probably be more comfortable going to a doctor or nutritionist or whomever, who hasn’t always experienced perfect health. But they get to choose when it’s appropriate to disclose that. It’s not a requirement for them to be heard in public and given basic respect.

      I will disclose to people who care, not random jerks on the internet [important note: not referring to you] who have a bone to pick with me because I’m a fat woman who dares to write about nutrition as though I know what I’m talking about.

      1. FatChickinLycra Avatar

        I always have slightly mixed feelings about this. I totally believe that people deserve basic human respect no matter their size, health conditions or habits. I understand completely that we don’t want to divide into “good fatties” and “bad fatties,” so that there is still a group (albeit smaller) that it is OK to demonize.

        I’m also pretty sure that no matter what numbers you put out there if you are fat are going to be picked to pieces and dismissed by the trolls if every single one is not perfect. And even if every one is perfect, it will be dismissed with the “you’ll pay 20 years down the road.” No one deserves to get sick, but if they believe you deserve it, that means it will never, ever, ever happen to them, right?

        On a less proud note, I find myself wanting to play the health card for my own ego sometimes. I am struggling to overcome this, and trying to get better at not inflicting it on others inappropriately.

        On the other hand, there are two areas where I might see value with sharing stories. First, to let people who are fat and still absorbing the yer gonna die, die, die message that they do not have to lose weight to become healthier, no matter where they start. (Although conversely, for some it might simply discourage them further…) I absorbed the “my fat is going to kill me” message for years and years, and it never once encouraged me to improve my health. It only deepened my depression and made it even harder to take positive steps.

        The second is that although these stories are anecdotal, and the plural of anecdote is not data, the “wait just a minute, this is not what I’m seeing” thing is often what leads scientists to start asking these questions.

        This does not mean anyone must respond to a double-dog dare, nor reveal information they do not want to. People who are openly hostile are simply looking for an excuse to slam you further when they want your numbers. Or to say, “OK you’re fine, but what these OTHER people who are just gluttonous/lazy.” But I also think of the people in the middle, that there is a chance of influencing. The people who still cluck their tongues over their friends’ bodies because they clearly must be diving into Twinkie frenzies, but who are acting out of genuine concern rather than hostility. I believe concern can be turned to tolerance can be turned to support. Personal stories coupled with some evidence — even anecdotal — can be a powerful message.

        Of course, as I read your comment, you make it clear that this is a personal underpants issue and our own decision. Not just this, but in other blog posts, you’ve given me a lot to consider. Thanks!

  47. […] Fat people exist. Fat people have always existed. Fatness is partly genetic, partly not, and not anyone else’s business.  […]

  48. Rose Avatar

    Amazing post! It’s so good to hear someone boldly stand up against ableists and generally grumpy people who believe there’s some standard you must reach to breath air! :)

    It made me wonder though, when do you believe this right to exist begins? I know most people shy away from this because of all the fights about abortion, but I believe it is an important ethical issue we need to figure out, not a religious one. Because if everyone, regardless of gender, ability, orientation, color, etc. has a right to existence, what about gender and disability based abortion (so common), and the after birth abortion of disabled or terminal infants? I don’t know why these are considered religious issues or “issues of choice” when they have to do with our basic right of existence (and are so closely tied to eugenics and ableism).
    Anyway, just my 2 cents. A little off topic but I believe very relevant. I’d just love to know when this right begins. It seems important.