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  1. Arc
    Arc November 19, 2007 at 1:02 am |

    This hits home. My very overweight grandmother began losing weight due to complete loss of appetite. Any food (or the thought of food) made her nauseous. She ate one small meal a day on a good day — other days, she had a few bites of tomato soup.

    She went from 300 to 220 within six months and can barely move. She has no muscles left and is just so incredibly debilitated. She is losing her independence and have to go into a nursing home soon.

    Her primary care doctor told her to keep up what she was doing to lose weight. She didn’t listen to complaints about loss of appetite, painful muscle spasms (her remaining muscles are too weak to deal with her weight), and hip pain (she needed hip replacement surgery).

    Two months and two hospital trips later due to dehydration, my great-aunt got in the face of the ER doc and got some attention to the problem. Two days later, they found she has colitis (bleeding ulcers in her intestines that can result in the loss of the colon if it goes too far).

    Her primary care doctor wrote off the weight loss because the number was going down. As another doctor told us, he would be happy if she was losing due to healthy eating and exercise, but it obviously was not due to healthy lifestyles and said it needed to be investigated asap.

    Something I’ve seen from this situation is that doctors become so fixated on fat and that weight loss is seen as such a good that anorexia was excused in this situation. The doctor just didn’t listen because the weight was going down.

    She’s recovering now and will be fine. But she may never be truly independent again.

  2. Fat Bashing « Fatadelic
    Fat Bashing « Fatadelic November 19, 2007 at 1:06 am |

    [...] Published 19 November 2007 Fatadelic , General Zuzu has some thoughtful points about the recent fat bashing comment-fest at Feministing. She observes [...]

  3. Arwen
    Arwen November 19, 2007 at 2:02 am |

    I understand your issue with the Diets Don’t Work mantra, and how it detracts from the overall political defense of the human-ness of fat people.

    But I do want to point out, that as someone with 22 years of starving under her belt, and rebound weight gain, starting at 11 because the doctor told me I was heavy and should cut down on sweets and fast food although I had little experience of either, becoming anorexic in high school, and ending up in exactly the same as my healthy, strong, portly ancestors – well, the problem is that I believe society’s indictment of me.

    Like it’s easy to believe that the reason why you failed that math test is your unfortunate XX; only, here, you’re told that if you fucking work harder, you too could be XY.

    If I could be better, smarter, stronger, more controlled, more able to hold my breath without eventually gasping, able to live on 1100 calories a day: if I could do MORE exercise, even though I already exercise every day: if I could be whatever golden wonderful person that the other women are, then I should.

    They keep telling me I can.

    Everyone does.

    And I *want* to believe them. I want it badly. I think this is the biggest part. I want it. So badly that I would put myself in danger to get it.

    SO I NEED to hear that diets don’t work for a huge statistical population. That I’m not a freak of will-less self-abusing self-hating nature. I need to hear, over and over, that trying to be skinny works for me about as well as wishing my brown eyes blue or hoping to become XY so that they stop grabbing my ass in the lab, and that’s normal, and that it’s okay to have the genes I have.

    And I need to hear it most when the concern trolls are around.

    Maybe some large people are comfortable with themselves enough to focus on the political first. Maybe it is self-evident to thin people that fat people deserve to be treated decently, like humans.

    I think the problem is, for some percentage of us – usually the ones who have kept going back to the diets, wishing, hoping, starving, hurting, having small victories pulled away by genetics – the problem is *we don’t necessarily believe we deserve to be treated decently while fat*, which is why we subject ourselves to the pain of another round of starving and failure. Diets are us not treating ourselves decently, and it is because of our fatness that we don’t believe ourselves worthy of love, and therefore diet.

    I have lived poorly, eating crap and not exercising. I choose to live well, exercising and eating well. But neither affect my weight more than 4 pounds. No one believes me – except the diets don’t work crowd. And it’s such a huge relief.

  4. Hector B.
    Hector B. November 19, 2007 at 2:06 am |

    Obviously, being fat is just a matter of insufficient willpower, just like being gay or left-handed is. In other news, only pessimists die from cancer.

    Try a little harder, pee-pul! Whatever you are is 100% your own fault.

  5. Rachel
    Rachel November 19, 2007 at 2:08 am |

    I totally agree. It’s that whole “good” fat person versus “bad” fat person mentality. Even if you are fat, a natural inclination for many is to distance themselves from those “bad” fat people who eat too much, don’t exercise, and give fat people a bad rap. But by engaging in the mob mentality, you succeed only in passively endorsing further stigmatization associated with the “sin” of gluttony and overconsumption – both of which are commonly associated with fatness.

    In essence, what you’re saying is “No, we’re really not like them, see? We eat healthy and we exercise. We’re not like those people you hate because they are fat, gluttonous sloths, really. Please like us, please? Please don’t be mean to us? Just because we may look like those people, we’re really not like them, honestly.

    You’re right. Why one is fat is completely irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is the discrimination and maltreatment of fat people. Health is not a moral imperative for basic human rights.

  6. Arwen
    Arwen November 19, 2007 at 2:11 am |

    I should amend that: it’s not “not worthy of love”, but rather, “not worthy of being treated as a human by society/doctors/employers” etc. Lots of fat people have love; just like lots of women do.

  7. nonskanse
    nonskanse November 19, 2007 at 2:18 am |

    Until things turn around and fat is attractive (to society) again this will continue. And maybe when fat is good, skinny people will get the same treatment (after all, they’re more likely to die younger overall even though they’re less likely to die younger from heart disease, so it’s unhealthy to be thin now…) and I bet a lot of people will have some vengeance.

    Human society has never been nice and never will be.

  8. Hector B.
    Hector B. November 19, 2007 at 2:32 am |

    zuzu: The main message there was that creators of grotesquely sexist humor win fame, fortune, and the approval of many. I didn’t cite it out of any fat hatred. There are fat people on both sides of my family. My dad’s brother got up over 400 pounds, and finally had his small intestine shortened to absorb fewer nutrients. This operation nearly killed him, but he did lose weight — he stabilized around 260. But he was able to live into his mid-70s. My mother’s mother was always obese — she made it to 87. I have a mental picture from when I was little of her running around getting dressed for church in her full body shaper — which held everything in with a grip of steel.

    I expect fat people have inherited fat genes. My skinny friend married a fat woman, the daughter of a skinny father and a fat mother. The siblings ran: thin boy, thin girl, fat girl, thin girl, fat girl, plump girl. Everything about their environment was the same, obviously.

    The fattest people I see on a regular basis are mothers of young children. I suspect that it’s simply that multiple childbearing has temporarily upset their metabolism, because older mothers are more slender.

    Further, consider that being fat has been essential to survival: Another friend of mine is the son of Holocaust survivors. His mother, an overweight 13 year old when she entered the camp, survived a starvation diet by living off her body fat.

  9. RacyT
    RacyT November 19, 2007 at 3:20 am |

    I have been trying to write a comprehensive post. I can’t. This makes me want to hit people. Very hard.

  10. denelian
    denelian November 19, 2007 at 3:42 am |

    i’m another person who you hit home for; but i have a bit of a different reason.
    I have Accute Intermident Porphyria. In febuary, for some reason or another, i began to have the WORST FUCKING PAIN EVER in my right hip and lower back. i’m 30. the only doctor that listens is my pain managment docter. he sent me to a neurologist, to see if there was damage to my sciatic nerve or spinal cord because the was a new and much worse pain, and because i have bands of numbness in my right leg.
    the neurologist HURT me, pushing on me so hard that at one point, i literally collapsed. then he turned around and walked out, telling me to get dressed.
    when he came back into the room, he told me that the numb spots were probably “point loci nerve death”, caused my porphyria. but the pain? that was because i was FAT.
    yep, he said i hurt because i am FAT.
    when i pointed out that it was the PAIN that made me gain weight, he brushed it off, told me to diet and exercise “even if it makes you pass out” because i needed to lose weight.
    i’m 5’8, and i weigh 200 lbs. yes, i am 40 pounds overweight, but then again, i have been in chronic pain for 10 years from the porphyria – i’m actually amazed that i don’t weigh more than i do, as little as i am capable of.
    but, hey, i’m FAT. thats all i deserve, right?

    i actually think that this was the worst thing everyone has ever said to me. and i’ve heard a lot.

  11. Cat of many faces
    Cat of many faces November 19, 2007 at 4:04 am |

    You know, it’s this sort of treatment that is probably why i look so forward to full cybernetic body replacement.

    I can always say that it’s about how cool it would be to have the options and modularity inherent in something like that.

    But in truth it’s all just a dream to have the body i actually want.

    Though i still think cyber is fricken cool.

    P.S. i know, that level of technology is probably several hundred years away. a dream is a dream. and here it is ONLY a dream. sigh.

  12. brandann
    brandann November 19, 2007 at 5:01 am |

    i know i am preaching to the choir here…but the comment thread on feministing upset me to the point of tears…i can’t believe i missed it b/c i must check all my favorites about 20 times a day…

    but seriously? the fat shaming has got to stop. it doesn’t help anyone! you don’t know why someone is the weight they are!

    i thought i was chubby in high school…i ran track and cross country. if i had that body now i would never wear clothes…ever.

    in college, i put on 20 pounds my first semester…i was a music major…i was in class from 0800 to 1800, and still had to practice about four hours a day…not a lot of time for sleep…let alone proper diet and exercise…oh and i worked too! i was a bartender.

    then i became bulimic and dropped almost 40 pounds in under three months. i weighed 135 (i am 5’7″) and looked like death warmed over…but everyone kept telling me how great i looked! so i kept on puking until it was no longer voluntary…

    after having my daughter, i worked hard to lose the weight, and even joined the military. after boot camp i was in the best shape of my life…and 155 pounds. i ran miles a day and felt great. i even ran through horrible stress fractures…which was the start of a downward spiral…

    then i developed a chronic disease. i didn’t known it three years ago when it started…but i have slowly progressed over time. now swimming for 10 minutes a day exhausts me when i used to do 1,000 meters a day and walking can be painful so forget running. i work out when i feel fine…and pay for it w/ days of pain after, and i am forbidden to allow my heart rate to exceed 90 bpm. everything else about me is *healthy* but i have climbed to 185, and one point last year beyond…and when people see me they assume i must be lazy and unhealthy…they are right…but not for the reasons they think…i get so sick and fucking tired of people telling me i would feel better if i would just work out more, eat less and lose weight (if i ate less i would not eat). if i could only stay awake to do more…or stop hurting…

    the point?

    you just don’t fucking know what causes a person to gain weight. or fucking lose weight for that matter.

    thank-you, zuzu, jill et all for posts like this that teach us that it doesn’t do anyone any good to fat shame or fucking “concern troll”. thanx to anyone who tries to stress tolerance on this subject…sorry for the long post…but my god…this shit really makes me cry…

  13. exholt
    exholt November 19, 2007 at 6:14 am |

    Call them out on their bullshit, fine. But don’t take their health-concern claims seriously. Because it’s not about health with them, it’s disgust, and no amount of exquisitely crafted debunking of their claims by your own personal example is going to sway them (because, come on. Have you ever seen one of them change their mind? No, you haven’t. Neither have I).

    Zuzu,

    Good points and I have tried calling out this BS whenever my older relatives start making disparaging remarks about the non-Asian spouses of my older cousins’ being fat. The main responses were that I am acting out of too much “do-gooder” sentiments, being yelled at for daring to challenge the word of my elder relatives, the BS reasons fat shamers use that you’ve cited, and for butting in even when they pull this BS right in front of me.

    To worsen matters is the fact most of the older relatives have extensive science education backgrounds with a few having worked in the medical field so they often leverage that in “appeal to authority” type arguments to basically say that someone without their background and experience has little/no business challenging their “informed” perspectives on this topic.

    How would you respond to such arguments/deal with such a situation?

  14. wriggles
    wriggles November 19, 2007 at 6:56 am |

    I thought your issue with diets don’t work was that you feel you need to keep trying them. DDW is not particularily defensive, it’s about understanding the human body. Sometimes that is the only thing that can enable people to stop destroying themselves, is the clear perception that they don’t work and WHY. The why does not detract in anyway from the humaness of fat people, in enhances it.

    You also seem oddly enough to forget the true cause of all this crap groups of scientists and doctors that think god has died and they are the replacement. They seem to think they can order reality and indeed science to fit what they want, the question is when they decide to do this and other scientists and medics collude with them, who or what is going to stop them? They tell us we must keep dieting, without them fat hate would not have got off the ground in the way it has amongst the public, there involvement gives fuels a lot of the aggression that people feel. It makes people feel ‘justified’.

    And yes you are right we are too defensive, but that’s because we have not fully discovered the polar opposite to the obesity crisis, we have been blinded by ‘science’.

  15. Feministe » A feel-good body-image
    Feministe » A feel-good body-image November 19, 2007 at 8:26 am |

    [...] « Rejecting the frames [...]

  16. Cassie
    Cassie November 19, 2007 at 9:07 am |

    I was recently forced to endure an argument on another forum in which the poster was whining because he (a smoker) had to pay more on his insurance, and wah wah wah, fat people don’t (an incorrect assertion). He then proceeded to compare obesity with smoking (socially), and obesity with global warming, and finally, obesity with a genetic compulsion to drive a porche.

    So my question is: where does that asinine meme come from? Anybody know?

  17. preying mantis
    preying mantis November 19, 2007 at 9:20 am |

    Huh. I always figured that being really concerned about the health of fat people would play out more in being concerned that fat people were being given subpar or malpractice-level medical care, shamed out of physical activity they want to engage in, and barraged with messages designed to tank their mental health to the point of reinforcing and promoting self-destructive behavior. Who knew that it was a simple as just telling anyone above a size 4 that, no really, they’re fat?

  18. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos November 19, 2007 at 9:36 am |

    Just a personal perspective. My sister was hit by the “you are too fat” nagging from early childhood. The effect of it was just a layer of emotional abuse that did nothing to help her deal with the problem. So on top of the health issues involving her weight, she has some fairly nasty problems with clinical depression.

    Sometime during adulthood and after quite a bit of counseling regarding my own damage. I realized that my grandmother was just plain abusive, and would fixate on some fault in a person as the focus of her intense hatred of the world in general. For my sister, it was fat. For me, it was not being manly enough. For my aunt, it was her choice in husbands. For a cousin, it was marrying a man who already had children.

    So I fully agree that much of the fat hatred has nothing to do with helping fat people with their health, and is mostly about having a legitimate target that is safe to abuse without being called on it.

  19. Rosehiptea
    Rosehiptea November 19, 2007 at 10:08 am |

    Even if you are fat, a natural inclination for many is to distance themselves from those “bad” fat people who eat too much, don’t exercise, and give fat people a bad rap.

    That’s why these threads bother me. I’m a big woman, and frankly my diet is NOT wonderful and I don’t get all that much exercise. But it’s still nobody’s damn business. If I did end up with health problems, I’d be the one who has to deal with them, by definition. (Anyone mentioning insurance statistics here is missing my point.)

  20. Fillyjonk
    Fillyjonk November 19, 2007 at 10:11 am |

    I think “diets don’t work” is an important part of rejecting concern trolls for the reason Kate states in this post: “Given that diets don’t work in the long-term for the vast, vast majority of people, even if obesity in and of itself were a health crisis, how the fuck would you propose we solve it?” As long as people think that getting thin is just a matter of having willpower, they will consider fatties to be weak and lazy, and will assume that they have not only a right but a duty to tell them how to fix themselves. Pointing out the real science of the situation knocks that leg out from under them. And where it doesn’t work on any one concern troll — because really, what does? — I am fairly confident that if we could get more people to understand that weight-loss dieting doesn’t make people permanently thin, the idea of fat as a moral failing will shift.

    Other than that, I agree with you in principle. I can’t get particularly upset about it, because almost every comment thread in the history of the internet (including this one) devolves into personal anecdotes, and if people are personally upset because untrue assumptions are being made about their lifestyle, that’s what they’re going to talk about. I’m not going to tell anyone’s commentariat that they shouldn’t use personal examples to illustrate why bigotry upsets them. But I do agree that we need to make sure that the message we’re sending isn’t “only healthy fatties in this club.”

  21. Hawise
    Hawise November 19, 2007 at 10:15 am |

    I was always the fat child in my family. It wasn’t pushed at me but it was easily apparent in family photos and such and it hurt. I was lucky to have a family that keeps its memorabilia and I grew to recognize each of the family body types. I am built exactly like my maternal grandmother, I have one of her old undergarments to prove it. I am heavy set but I am strong. I understand food and I respect it. Over time I came to the realization that people bring up your weight because they are both ignorant and rude and that it was in no way my fault that they had been poorly brought up. So when they bring up my weight, I bring up their manners- “You’re fat and should do X” is met with “You’re rude and should do Y.” They then stomp off in a huff and I am left to my own happiness. Happy is the best revenge against rudeness. There will always be people who are so unhappy that they feel that they must share it, don’t accept it. Happy relieves stress, stress kills- so to “experts”, fat blamers and men with fixations, I say leave my butt alone, I have it well in hand.

    Happy competitive baking season to all and to all a great feast.

  22. sgzax
    sgzax November 19, 2007 at 10:23 am |

    That’s a really good point about not falling for the reframing of the argument, and I’ll be sure to keep it in mind in the future.

    It can be difficult, because part of what one wants to say is that there are healthy and unhealthy people of all sizes and you can’t tell by looking. Unfortunately, what comes across more often is ‘but I’m one of the good fat people.’ And that’s just counter-productive.

  23. Hector B.
    Hector B. November 19, 2007 at 11:30 am |

    I am built exactly like my maternal grandmother

    Although people dismiss such evidence as “anecdotal”, this is what I have seen.

    Who remembers “Fit or Fat” from a PBS generation ago? Those who tried to assert that one could be chunky yet fit were shouted down by followers of this show.

  24. eruvande
    eruvande November 19, 2007 at 12:10 pm |

    I know I have commented on this before at this site but…really…HOW do people think that overweight people don’t know they’re overweight?!

    I thought I was fat when I weighed 131 pounds (I’m 5’9″ and that was six years ago). I’ve thought I was fat for over fifteen years. I actually am fat now (230 pounds), due to five years of Paxil and decreasing physical activity. The body-hatred…it is strong with me.

    I KNOW I’m not a toothpick. How could I not? The images are everywhere. Even the one store that made clothes that fit me and looked good, Old Navy, has quit carrying my sizes in-store, apparently to cater more to the toothpicks. (Nothing against you if you’re thin.)

    Sheesh.

  25. Shinobi
    Shinobi November 19, 2007 at 12:14 pm |

    Cassie:

    So my question is: where does that asinine meme come from? Anybody know?

    I don’t know where the “meme” started but I can tell you what psychological factors it is rooted in. It’s all about The Availability Heuristic.

    We’ve been told a billion times that both smoking and being fat will cause your impending doom. It’s in every newspaper and on TV all the time, film at 11 or whatever.

    Unfortunately the human brain isn’t totally prepared for the media onslaught. It doesn’t evaluate actual probabilities.
    Our brain just thinks of things that it has most recently, most often, and most vividly heard, basically whatever it can remember.

    So the people who write this are thinking:
    ” Hmm What’s bad for me? Well Fat, because I saw that on the news, and Smoking OBVIOUSLY because that’s always on the news, Oh yeah and global warming is on the news too! All these things must carry the exact same risk as eachother because I hear about them with the same frequency… didn’t I just see a show about porche driving being bad for you too? Yeah, The Porche epidemic, that’s gonna be the next worldwide problem. ”

    Frankly, I think the only way to help how people think about things like obesity, heart disease, breast cancer, so on and so forth is to reform how the media reports on it. The scandal ridden health news is just turning us into a group of people with no real idea what our actual health risks are, because we only hear about risks that will make headlines.

  26. zuzu
    zuzu November 19, 2007 at 12:30 pm |

    I think “diets don’t work” is an important part of rejecting concern trolls for the reason Kate states in this post: “Given that diets don’t work in the long-term for the vast, vast majority of people, even if obesity in and of itself were a health crisis, how the fuck would you propose we solve it?” As long as people think that getting thin is just a matter of having willpower, they will consider fatties to be weak and lazy, and will assume that they have not only a right but a duty to tell them how to fix themselves. Pointing out the real science of the situation knocks that leg out from under them. And where it doesn’t work on any one concern troll — because really, what does? — I am fairly confident that if we could get more people to understand that weight-loss dieting doesn’t make people permanently thin, the idea of fat as a moral failing will shift.

    I really think those discussions need to be kept separate, though. Because while it’s absolutely vital that we have discussions about the science and the twisting of the science, those need to stand alone and be discussed on their own merits. When those arguments are brought up to try to deal with concern trolls whose comments clearly come from disgust dressed up as health concern, they wind up just reinforcing the idea that it’s health, not disgust, that’s the motivation for bad treatment.

    Put the focus back on the concern troll, and grill them on why they feel the need to say what they do (and why they feel entitled to, as well). Don’t let them weasel by throwing up the “health” bullshit screen.

  27. Fillyjonk
    Fillyjonk November 19, 2007 at 1:11 pm |

    When those arguments are brought up to try to deal with concern trolls whose comments clearly come from disgust dressed up as health concern, they wind up just reinforcing the idea that it’s health, not disgust, that’s the motivation for bad treatment.

    So, I’m not sure I agree with this, because the disgust is symbolic rather than purely aesthetic/sexual, and part of the disgust comes from perceived laziness and overconsumption. Debunking the calories inPut the focus back on the concern troll, and grill them on why they feel the need to say what they do (and why they feel entitled to, as well). Don’t let them weasel by throwing up the “health” bullshit screen.

    This, though, I absolutely agree with. I guess I’ve long ago thrown up my hands about the fact that people will tell their personal anecdotes rather than address the issue at hand, but it would be great if we could get a unified front on this one. Because you’re absolutely right — defending oneself against concern trolling amounts to tacit acknowledgment that the concerns are valid even if they aren’t true. Trying to prove your health makes health the issue, and it isn’t. I think you’re 100% right there, and I agree that it makes more sense to take an aggressive stance (“what’s wrong with YOU that you think this is your business”) rather than a defensive one. And overall this post should be required reading on non-fat blogs when a fat concern troll shows up.

  28. Fillyjonk
    Fillyjonk November 19, 2007 at 1:12 pm |

    Aw, I effed up my blockquoting, but this is the part that the last graf is supposed to respond to:

    “Put the focus back on the concern troll, and grill them on why they feel the need to say what they do (and why they feel entitled to, as well). Don’t let them weasel by throwing up the ‘health’ bullshit screen.”

  29. Fillyjonk
    Fillyjonk November 19, 2007 at 1:14 pm |

    Oh wait, I messed it up more than I thought. The first paragraph was supposed to say something like “debunking the calories in [less than] calories out myth and the legendary One True Diet helps unpick and discard that element of the disgust.” Only I swear it was way better phrased and more mellifluous.

    Man, and here you are providing a handy preview and everything, and I still manage to jack up the html.

  30. TinaH
    TinaH November 19, 2007 at 1:31 pm |

    I’m 5’3″ and 230 lbs, give or take. I’m fat. When I mention that in passing – it’s a characteristic, like being short or brunette or mouthy – my girlfriends act all concerned “Don’t say that.” Huh? Does my not saying it make it not true? I imagine that I’m supposed to deny it? The message that I’m getting is that “I’m fat” is not a nice thing to say about oneself. I wonder if they’re upset because I don’t say it with sufficient self-loathing in my voice. Hmmm.

  31. Mustella
    Mustella November 19, 2007 at 2:23 pm |

    Thank you for this, Zuzu. I’m getting less and less willing to put up with crap beacuse of my weight as I get older- I used to try to claim Good Fattyness (It was the Depo Provera and the leg injury, I swear! Don’t moo at me!) but it never got me hated on any less. Fuck. That. I’m currently the Bad Child in my family for the holiday season because I refused to make the thanksgiving treck to gram’s house (She could die at any moment! You are so selfish not going to see her!) because I have had no conversations with her in 10 years that do not center on how FAT I am. She refuses to stop, and I would rather remember her with something other than that last dig about how I ” should really think twice about that stuffing, dear- all your cousins are married already!”

  32. Smartpatrol
    Smartpatrol November 19, 2007 at 3:23 pm |

    I’m currently the Bad Child in my family for the holiday season because I refused to make the thanksgiving treck to gram’s house (She could die at any moment! You are so selfish not going to see her! [man, Manipulation through Emotional Blackmail much? - SP]) because I have had no conversations with her in 10 years that do not center on how FAT I am. She refuses to stop, and I would rather remember her with something other than that last dig about how I ” should really think twice about that stuffing, dear- all your cousins are married already!”

    My own Oma has the Spectacularly Aggrivating Habit of referring to people in the 3rd person while they’re still present. It sounds like yours needs to hear & read exactly what you’ve stated here. She needs to hear it on the phone, read it in a letter & have it said to her face in front of the rest of the clan the next time she pulls this stunt. I imagaine that your family’s reaction to your decision is confusion in the face of a behavoral shift.

    Cheers & Best of Luck,
    SP

  33. Caro
    Caro November 19, 2007 at 3:47 pm |

    The health message of the “obesity crisis” narrative inevitably gets tied up with cultural beauty messages, and ends up hurting people more than it helps them. Sure, most people could stand to get in better cardiovascular shape, cut down their cholesterol, improve their muscle mass, whatever (and I am most certainly among them!!). However, the idea that people should be healthier is automatically mixed with the idea that they should look like actresses and fashion models. I’m no doctor, but I’m sure that many (if not most) people are never physically going to be capable of being what society considers an “ideal” size and shape, but they can probably still be healthy.
    Basically, I think we need to stop conflating “healthy” with “model skinny” and be able to see that healthy comes in all shapes and sizes and will be different for every person. I think people would actually be better able to get healthy if they didn’t have this daunting expectation that success will only be when they fit society’s very small window of ideal body size. Becoming whatever healthy looks like for you is a far more attainable goal than trying to look like Jessica Alba.

  34. Meowser
    Meowser November 19, 2007 at 4:25 pm |

    I was recently forced to endure an argument on another forum in which the poster was whining because he (a smoker) had to pay more on his insurance, and wah wah wah, fat people don’t (an incorrect assertion). He then proceeded to compare obesity with smoking (socially), and obesity with global warming, and finally, obesity with a genetic compulsion to drive a porche.

    Are you sure it’s only tobacco he’s smoking? Because I’d really like a Porsche. And because he should know that people with BMI > 30 cannot get private health insurance. It’s not that we pay more. It’s that they say no to us entirely. And he can global warm my ass. I hope he’s at least smoking unfiltered, in unbleached paper, if he cares that much about the environment.

  35. Mustella
    Mustella November 19, 2007 at 5:19 pm |

    Thanks, SP- but we have been down that road already with heartfelt discussions and there’s no changing, I’m afraid. I suspect there might be a little dementia going on as well, since she was a lifelong democrat who suddenly went all Fox news/ Rush Limbaugh on us about 5 years ago. Luckily, I can blame my refusal to attend on my very demanding job, rather than on the family issues/food issues/dislike of a manufactured, revisionist-history, slightly rascist, holiday-to-glorify-overeating.
    The most amusing part is that with very few exceptions, my entire extended family is overweight or obese, but as I am the only one who has eschewed dieting or at least feeling guilty about my fatness ( at least pubicly) so I’m the one who seems to get the grief. I am having some sucess intoducing HAES to some of them, though. We are all built like cartoon opera valkeries, and the more sensible members of the family know that they ain’t never gonna look like Jessica Alba. The fact that I’ve ceased apologizing for existing-while-fat seems to be giving them an excuse to. But yeah, it’s always rich to hear this kind of CONCERN about my HEALTH from relations that are obese themselves. People are complicated.

  36. littlem
    littlem November 19, 2007 at 5:25 pm |

    I’m 5′3″ and 230 lbs, give or take. I’m fat. When I mention that in passing – it’s a characteristic, like being short or brunette or mouthy – my girlfriends act all concerned “Don’t say that.” Huh? Does my not saying it make it not true? I imagine that I’m supposed to deny it? The message that I’m getting is that “I’m fat” is not a nice thing to say about oneself. I wonder if they’re upset because I don’t say it with sufficient self-loathing in my voice. Hmmm.

    It could be that.

    It could also be that they’ve equated “fat” with the negative stereotypes of “lazy”, “dirty”, “slothful”, “stupid”, etc. in their minds, and clearly you’re not any of the latter things, so you couldn’t possibly be “fat.”

    Complete failure of logic on their part, but we’re dealing with cultural prejudices here, not formal syllogism.

    I tried to bring this up with a friend of mine. We’ve been friends since, like, grade school. She has the quintessential culturally approved slender WASP phenotype — she’s almost literally a Heidi Klum clone — and so, although a feminist who fights professionally for international human rights, has NEVER had to personally physically deal with these prejudices and the related issues.

    She literally ran away from the discussion. I think she was afraid her head was going to explode from the cognitive dissonance. I watched her face work; she just couldn’t deal. It’s an interesting thing to actually confront the culturally embedded prejudices of your dear, progressive, feminist friends. Most disconcerting.

    Zuzu, why do you think progressives have so much trouble changing their frames on arguments?

    I think your assertions here are brilliant, and take undiluted joy in putting health concern trolls on the defensive IRL, but I’ve noticed that people who believe in a lot of other things I believe in struggle with frame-changing on those issues as well. Why do you think that is?

  37. littlem
    littlem November 19, 2007 at 5:34 pm |

    But the disgust that was palpable in those attacks had more to do with the fact that being thin wasn’t considered as sexually attractive.

    Which also has a lot to do with the current attacks on women who are “too fat”, at least from teh menz. (Women devaluing other women for being “too fat” is another animal.)

    Which, when I have my serious societal analysis hat on, I believe has a lot to do with what constitutes a “status mate” for a man in a given cultural milieu.

    But which, when I’m feeling snarky and don’t give a click,also makes me think they want little women because the littler the women are, the bigger their d*cks look in comparison.

  38. littlem
    littlem November 19, 2007 at 5:36 pm |

    She refuses to stop, and I would rather remember her with something other than that last dig about how I ” should really think twice about that stuffing, dear- all your cousins are married already!”

    Happy Holidays, y’all.

  39. littlem
    littlem November 19, 2007 at 5:37 pm |

    She refuses to stop, and I would rather remember her with something other than that last dig about how I ” should really think twice about that stuffing, dear- all your cousins are married already!”

    Heh – Happy Holidays, y’all.

  40. littlem
    littlem November 19, 2007 at 5:40 pm |

    But yeah, it’s always rich to hear this kind of CONCERN about my HEALTH from relations that are obese themselves. People are complicated.

    She refuses to stop, and I would rather remember her with something other than that last dig about how I ” should really think twice about that stuffing, dear- all your cousins are married already!”

    Heh – Happy Holidays, y’all.

  41. littlem
    littlem November 19, 2007 at 5:41 pm |

    AAAhhhhh!!

    Clearly my computer hates me. So sorry about the – what was that, triple post?

    *runs away*

  42. cinnabari
    cinnabari November 19, 2007 at 6:48 pm |

    I remember a doctor once walking into the office, eyes on my chart, and asking me did I work out, had I considered physical activity, that might help with my borderline blood pressure… When she shut the hell up long enough for me to answer, I said ‘I play indoor soccer, walk to work every day–that’s an hour, by the by–and I am at kung fu 4 nights a week. That enough activity?” THEN she looks at me. “Oh.” Clearly, my BMI was too high. Ergo, all trouble stemmed from that. Never mind I was in the middle of a divorce at the time.

    I’ve since dropped the bad marriage and about 30 lbs, the BMI is ‘normal’ and my blood pressure is low, and my last doctor didn’t even ask about my exercise habits. Meanwhile, my mother is busy telling me I don’t eat enough, and gosh, I can expect to be heavy when I hit middle age, and all that running I do is bad for my knees, and it won’t help with the heart disease anyway because that’s all genetic.

    Ya can’t win.

  43. Smartpatrol
    Smartpatrol November 19, 2007 at 9:52 pm |

    because that’s all genetic.

    *head explodes*

  44. exholt
    exholt November 19, 2007 at 11:51 pm |

    People are complicated.

    Mustella,

    That and a lot of people including those among my older relations are nosy busybodies who have some perverted need to pry into other people’s business and put them down to make themselves psychologically feel better. The old “build myself up by ripping apart others school of self-prescribed psychological therapy”.

    This reminds me of a theory one frosh college classmate put forth about why shows like “Beavis and Butthead” and Jerry Springer were so popular….there is a great demand for American MSM to put out news/entertainment about people in the worst possible conditions so they could reassure themselves with the thought “I’m fortunate as there are people who have it far worse”.

  45. Roxie
    Roxie November 20, 2007 at 12:40 am |

    what really upset me when people in that thread go SO CONCERNED! was when someone else came along and said they were glad that finally someone was talking some sense.

    Because how dare we compliment these women on their beauty and liveliness. How dare we say they inspire and how glad we are for some positivity. No. None of that can be said, none of that can possibly be true b/c they’re FAT don’t you see?

    It kind of reminds me of Boob Gate ’06. Flipping the fucking coin.

    Alright. I have to watch
    Fat Rant 1 & 2. I suggest everyone do the same!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUTJQIBI1oA

  46. Roxie
    Roxie November 20, 2007 at 12:43 am |

    little m says: It could also be that they’ve equated “fat” with the negative stereotypes of “lazy”, “dirty”, “slothful”, “stupid”, etc. in their minds, and clearly you’re not any of the latter things, so you couldn’t possibly be “fat.”

    That is EXACTLY what it is. People hear the word “fat”, they don’t hear a physical description, they hear a judgment. A set of ideals, a way of living.

  47. prairielily
    prairielily November 20, 2007 at 2:27 am |

    It could also be that they’ve equated “fat” with the negative stereotypes of “lazy”, “dirty”, “slothful”, “stupid”, etc. in their minds, and clearly you’re not any of the latter things, so you couldn’t possibly be “fat.”

    It’s not really that. I’ve had friends over the years who have hated themselves for being fat, and put themselves down for being fat, and engaged in dangerous eating habits in order to lose weight. I have a male friend who doesn’t have the greatest luck with women, and he gets really down on himself for being “fat and disgusting.” I think that’s why it makes me a little sad when people say it about themselves now. I want to say, “No, you don’t need to do anything scary to change your body, and there’s nothing wrong with you.” It’s hard to let that reaction go when someone says it matter-of-factly, and it doesn’t smack of self-hatred.

    It might also be because it’s such a short, harsh, staccato little word. The Urdu word for fat is “moti,” and I don’t seem to have the same associations with it.

    And that thread… GAAHHH. The worst part is that she went ON AND ON about how she was CONCERNED and it was UNHEALTHY, but this was a post about the Anti-Gym, right? I didn’t look at the site for a long time because I didn’t think I could deal with that much hatred, but when I did, I noticed that there’s all this stuff about how it’s a gym for people who want to look hot in bed but not give up any of their other bad habits, like drinking or smoking. It’s a gym that operates on the principle of fat hatred, and that people think better of you when you’re thin no matter how unhealthy and ill-advised your lifestyle is. It’s a gym that doesn’t value HEALTH at all, and that’s why it’s the Anti-Gym.

    Once I looked at the site, I realised that her comments were disingenuous at best.

  48. Hector B.
    Hector B. November 20, 2007 at 4:24 am |

    An analogy occurred to me. Telling fat people how they can get thin via diet and exercise is like telling a clinically depressed person all he needs to do is just cheer up.

  49. Alix
    Alix November 20, 2007 at 7:33 am |

    Telling fat people how they can get thin via diet and exercise is like telling a clinically depressed person all he needs to do is just cheer up.

    Yeah. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who do just that, on both counts.

  50. sam
    sam November 20, 2007 at 1:52 pm |

    I’m so glad this topic came up again, because I actually had a really excellent experience at the doctor the other day.

    Preface – I’m definitely in the “fat” category. Hadn’t been to the doctor in a number of years, in part because of all of the judginess of the last doctor I went to. But I’m going to India in a few months, and needed shots and stuff, and it was high time that I just went and got a physical, so I went to a new MD, recommended by my folks.

    The entire time, I’m bracing myself for the “inevitable” lecture, so that when he turns around, after doing all of the tests and looking over my chart, and says “Listen…” I immediately go on the defensive and start in with “I know I know, I see a trainer twice a week, I watch what I eat…”

    And then he says “wait! just stop! That’s not what I was going to say!” Then he goes on – he’s only ever going to say this one time. Obviously, I know I’m overweight. That there’s absolutely nothing he can say that would be either particularly enlightening or helpful. And that he’s only even saying this because, I’m so accustomed to getting the lecture that if he said absolutely nothing, I’d think he was a quack. In addition, he didn’t want to get my health evaluations all “wrapped up” and overshadowed by this other thing, because they’re two different things, and if he started lecturing me about weight, then that would overshadow everything else, only to my detriment. If my blood tests came back, and, say, my cholesterol was high, then we’d work on treating my high cholesterol, which might include modifications to my diet. But if my tests came back normal, then, frankly, it was purely “cosmetic”, not medical, and none of his concern.

    I’m obviously paraphrasing, and he said it with such a tone of genuine niceness that probably can’t be captured on screen, but I almost started crying at that point. Imagine! a doctor who understands that size is not inherently indicative of anything but…size! And I immediately thought of the thread zuzu is referring to above.

    So again, I’m glad that this topic came up again, if only because I can point out that there’s at least one doctor in NYC who gets it.

  51. Julia Colon
    Julia Colon November 20, 2007 at 3:48 pm |

    there’s at least one doctor in NYC who gets it.

    Dude. Who, and where is he? Seriously.

  52. littlem
    littlem November 20, 2007 at 10:37 pm |

    Ditto Julia. I was just going to jump on that.

    Do you think he’d be alarmed if he was suddenly besieged with clients?

    Especially since there are apparently only 2 sizes here in NYC – “Hollywood/UES” and ZOMGFAT!1!!1

    p.s . Thank you, Zuzu. I eagerly await your new framing post.

  53. Coldorderful
    Coldorderful November 21, 2007 at 4:50 am |

    Just a personal perspective. My sister was hit by the “you are too fat” nagging from early childhood. The effect of it was just a layer of emotional abuse that did nothing to help her deal with the problem. So on top of the health issues involving her weight, she has some fairly nasty problems with clinical depression.

    And a lot of people are emotional eaters who are already in crappy, painful, stressful, or difficult situations in their lives. Those situations lead to emotional eating, which leads to weight gain, which often leads to yet again not feeling so great emotionally, and off we go again. And adding the stress of being nagged by family members and strangers really? Yeah, not so helpful. If they really “cared” they’d stop being abusive and avoid creating unnecessary emotional upsets.

  54. sam
    sam November 21, 2007 at 7:43 am |

    Dude. Who, and where is he? Seriously.

    I’m not going to just write his name here, because I certainly don’t have permission for that, but if you e-mail me, I’ll give you his name individually.

    (click on my name, which will take you to my blog, which will have a link to email me).

    I’d also like to say that, given that I had to have five (five!) needles stuck in me that day, I really never thought I’d be walking out with warm fuzzy feelings (blood test, TB test, tetanus booster, and, because I’m going to India in January, both a polio booster and a typhoid shot. fun).

  55. wriggles
    wriggles November 21, 2007 at 8:11 am |

    Coldorderful, ‘emotional eating’ is normal, our emotions are a constant in our lives and the body takes this into account in it’s calculations of our requirements.

    The issue is when we are overwhelmed by circumstances our bodies may try in part to meet those needs by raising our appetites, although I’m not convinced that it’s more likely to cause weight gain than any other kind of eating. There are people who’s appetite rises at the slightest discomfort and never become fat or more than plump. There are other factors going on that lead to weight gain regardless of what you eat and why.

  56. Yeah, I’m a Junkie, and a Liar Too « fat fu

    [...] should find it funny that someone can win Fat Hate Bingo 1 and 2 in a single paragraph. Like Zuzu says, can’t these people come up with any new material? “You’re just a food [...]

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