21 Things to Stop Saying Unless You Hate Fat People

You might not realize how the things you say are harmful to fat people. Check yourself against this list! You might have heard the terms fat-hate or fatphobia used to describe your words or what sounded to you like the reasonable words of others. Maybe you don’t hate fat people. Maybe you aren’t afraid of fat people. Maybe you aren’t less likely to hire fat people or otherwise oppress them. Maybe you have lots of fat friends.

Maybe you are fat yourself.

You might still be in the habit of saying things that contribute to the very real abuse of and discrimination against fat people. In case you’re a good person who wants to stop doing those things, I’ve tried to put together an inventory of ideas that contribute to the oppression of fat people. Some of these are big, some are small, but they all add up to a serious web of stigma that affects the quality of life for fat people.

Things to stop doing in conversations unless you want to contribute to the hatred of fat people:

1. Stating a specific size, shape, or weight that’s less okay.

  • Example: “Women who are a little bigger are more attractive, but 400 pounds? No.”
  • Example: “It’s okay to be plus-size as long as you don’t have fat rolls.”

Fat acceptance is for all fat people. If you draw a line – 400 lbs, 500 lbs, “apple”-shaped, people with mobility issues, etc – and say that people on one side of the line are okay and people on the other side aren’t, you are part of the problem.

2. Acting like a food coach whenever a fat person is eating “healthy” foods.

  • Example: (When ordering a salad): “Good for you! You’re making such a healthy choice!”

How fucking condescending can you get? You don’t know anything about that person’s regular food choices or why they’ve chosen this particular item. Even if you did, how weird is it to make this kind of judgmental comment. Keep it to yourself!

3. Talking about food in moralistic terms.

  • Example: Reader AmandaLP suggested, “The one that bugs me the most is ‘diet talk,’ or the constant justifying of food choices. ‘oh, I can have this cupcake, I deserve it, I worked out,’ as if people who don’t work out don’t ‘deserve’ tasty treats. Or the ‘No, I was bad for lunch so I’m having a salad,’ as if they have to punish themselves for eating tasty food.”

Food is lots of things. It’s comfort, it’s calories, it’s communion, it’s history and tradition, and it’s fucking yummy. Two things that it isn’t is GOOD or BAD (unless, you know, e coli). And you are not a good or bad person for eating.

4. Casually mentioning Cheetos, donuts, bonbons, or McDonalds in relation to a fat person.

  • Example: “That guy must own stock in Cheetos,” as a way to jokingly say, “That guy is fat.”

Thin people also eat these foods. Gratuitously bringing them up in the context of fat people is making an inappropriate correlation between weight and certain foods.

You might not realize how the things you say are harmful to fat people. Check yourself against this list!5. Acting surprised when a fat person is active.

  • Example: My friend Kitty said, “[S]ometimes I get a shocked look and someone says, ‘wow, you are a good dancer’ like for some reason they had thought about me dancing before and decided it was unlikely that I would be able to.”
  • Example: “She’s a really fast runner for her size!”

This kind of shock at fat people being active spans a wide spectrum. At one end, you have assholes leaning out of cars to ridicule fat people who are running or riding bikes. At the other end you have people who think they’re being encouraging with a condescending “good for you!” bestowed upon the exercising person.

If it doesn’t work for you to just stop being either condescending or an asshole (or both), consider this: one of the greatest human drives is the drive to fit in. When you call out someone for doing something weird or exceptional, even just by pointing it out, you are very likely to decrease their desire to continue with that activity.

Whatever motivation works for you fat people doing things isn’t weird, so just shut up.

Book Break! Want something fantastically ferocious to read? How about Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love & Fashion by fat activist and sex educator Virgie Tovar. Read about the lives of fat, fabulous women in their own words as they celebrate the awesomeness of being fat. Writers include activists and artist like April Flores, Alysia Angel, Charlotte Cooper, Jessica Judd, Emily Anderson, Genne Murphy, and Tigress Osborn. Go-go dancing, queer dating, urban gardening? It’s amazing what makes up the fat life when you don’t shy away from the idea of fat.

6. Literally anything about dieting, eating less, or exercising more in the context of fatness.

You have the whole rest of the world to talk about dieting. 99% of the spaces in the world are perfectly welcoming to all kinds of speech about dieting and exercising. When you bring these things up in fat-positive conversations:

  • You are stealing away the small amount of space we have carved out for ourselves.
  • You are possibly triggering to fat people who are desperately trying to heal their relationships with food.
  • You are probably jumping to conclusions, because you don’t have any idea what the eating and exercise habits are of the fat people in question.
  • And you’re boring. There is nothing you can say about food and exercise that fat people haven’t heard over and over and over again.

7. Compulsively interjecting health into any conversation about fatness.

It has become nearly impossible to talk about fatness without talking about health, because there’s always someone on hand to bring it up. But as difficult as it may be, it’s important to separate these two ideas. Fatness is a body type. It’s a shape or a size. That’s IT.

We’ve all heard that fat people are at increased risk for certain diseases (diabetes is the popular one to joke about), and then our moral panic has taken that association and run with it. People with pale skin are at increased risk for skin cancer, but skin cancer isn’t casually tossed into conversations about them. There is simply no reason to bring up health every time the topic of fatness comes up.

8. Equating fat with health.

  • Example: “I don’t understand this fat acceptance. Just because some people are fat and okay with it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be encouraging people to improve their health.”
  • Example: “My mom has diabetes, doesn’t exercise, doesn’t eat healthy, and isn’t happy at her weight. I’m concerned about her health, so how can I be fat accepting?”
  • Example: A recent cover of People magazine showed Jennie Garth and stated, “How I lost 30 lbs… The 90210 star opens up about getting healthy.”

See what’s happening there? Fat and health are two different things. You can be fat and healthy. You can be thin and unhealthy. You can be signing the praises of fat from the rooftops AND ALSO be promoting healthy lifestyle choices. You can “get healthy”, but it won’t lead to weight loss for most people. Weight and health are simply two different topics entirely.

Book Break! Want to read something just as mad about the obeeeeesity epidemic as I am? The Obesity Myth from Paul Campos bring you such biting commentary as “From the perspective of a profit-maximizing medical and pharmaceutical industry, then, the ideal disease would be one that never killed those who suffered from it, that could not be treated effectively, and that doctors and their patients would nevertheless insist on treating anyway. Luckily for it, the American health-care industry has discovered (or rather invented) just such a disease. It’s called ‘obesity’.”

9. Equating fat with anything other than fat.

  • Example: In the previous example with the Jennie Garth magazine cover, “How I lost 30 lbs” was followed parenthetically by “(And got my life back)”.
  • Example: An interactive graph at Scientific American (edit: removed broken link) is on a page titled “Bad Health Habits are on the Rise”. The items graphed are heavy drinking, binge drinking, tobacco use, obesity, and exercise.

Along with fat not being the same thing as health, fat isn’t the same thing as anything else, either. It certainly isn’t “your life”. It isn’t a “habit”, either. Also, have you noticed how many movie villains are fat? Or how many fictional fat characters are also slobs? Fat doesn’t mean evil or lazy or dirty or messy or anything other than fat. It’s just a body type. Don’t use it as a stand-in for other goals or characteristics.

10. Recommending weight loss as a treatment or solution to anything, even if you are a doctor.

  • Example: “If you lost a few pounds, your acne would clear up, too” or “Once I lost weight, my allergies got a lot better.”

Since permanent, significant weight loss is not possible for most people, and since intentional weight loss itself may have negative health effects, recommending weight loss is cruel and unethical. Also, prescribing weight loss displaces real, working treatments. Everyone deserves to have their conditions taken seriously and treated with effective care, regardless of their size.

11. Storytelling about you or your fat relative who was/is fat and unhealthy.

  • Example: You had an aunt who was fat and her knees hurt; or a brother who is really fat, hides food, and can’t walk very well; or your mom lost a bunch of weight and then she felt so much better, and you want to use those examples or tell their stories whenever weight comes up.

Here’s the thing: most people are not very good scientists. Just because you or your relative is fat and has bad knees doesn’t mean the two things are related. Just because you know someone who lost weight and then felt better doesn’t mean the “felt better” came from the weight loss and not, say, the daily yoga routine that person started. And even if you have a rock solid case for a connection between weight and some health thing, it definitely doesn’t mean that you telling your story will magically help some other fat person see the light. Fat people spend an inordinate amount of time contemplating that light. It’s not like we’re all just one inspirational/threatening story away from finally turning into thin people. These stories aren’t helpful.

12. Using the words overweight, obese, morbidly obese, unless you are specifically referencing medicine and medical literature.

A lot of people won’t agree with me on this one. Most people would say that these words are just categories with definitions. They are “factual”; they are science. But it’s incorrect to assume that the words of science don’t also convey morals and meaning. Overweight implies that there is a correct weight. The word obese has its roots in the idea of eating too much. Morbidly means sickly. All of these are medical terms, and using them conveys that fatness is a medical problem. This pathologizing of our bodies is harmful.

I sometimes use these terms when I am talking about the results of research, but as much as possible, I leave these terms out of my language.

13. Gratuitous mentions of food, inactivity, bodily processes, etc when discussing fat people.

Fat people have a certain image in our culture, as overeating, lazy slobs who sweat a lot and smell. If there’s a conversation going on about a person who is fat or about fat issues and you gratuitously insert a mention of someone’s food, how much they don’t exercise, their sweat or farts or thighs that touch, etc, you are building up that negative image. That image is harmful to ALL fat people, whether they fit the stereotype or not.

14. Mentioning your tax dollars when talking about size, weight, or health.

  • Example: “Fat people’s health is my business as long as my tax dollars go to cover their care.”

Our tax dollars go to support all kinds of programs and people. We don’t get to pick and choose. People are allowed to take risks with their health, even if we are collectively on the hook for the costs of that health.

That being said, fat people don’t really affect our health care costs very much. Any reporting you see to the contrary is simply sensationalism. Check out Obesity and Health Care Costs from Ragen at Dances With Fat for more information on the exaggerated costs of fat people. I also love this conclusion by Ragen in Your Money and My Fat Ass:

“Even if you could prove that being fat makes me unhealthy (which you can’t). And even if you had a method that was scientifically proven to lead to successful long term weight loss (which you don’t). And even if there was proof that losing weight would make me healthier (which there isn’t). And even if you were going to go around yelling at smokers, drinkers, jay walkers, and thin people who don’t exercise (which you aren’t) this slope is still too slippery.”

15. Refocusing a fat-related conversation on thin people.

  • Example: Recently I posted to my Google+ an incredibly poignant story about a fat trans man coming to terms with his fat body and the body of his fat father. Among other obnoxious things, one of my commenters tried to turn the conversation towards stigma against thin people at another time in history. That might be an interesting conversation to have but not when it’s butting into meaningful conversations about the lives of currently living fat people.

Almost no conversations are pro-fat. Almost no conversations support fat people and their concerns. If one of those conversations is occurring and you bring up thin people, what you’ve done is called “derailing”. It sends a huge message that you don’t think fat people are important, and you don’t want to listen to what they have to say.

Book Break! Want to read something about being healthy and pursuing greater health without obsessing over your size or the number on the scale? Enter Linda Bacon, a pioneer in research that challenges the anti-fat status quo. Health At Every Size uses scientific research to point you towards a more intuitive relationship with food and movement. It’s possible to improve your health and your self-esteem without trying to make yourself smaller. Health At Every Size is kind of revolutionary while also being utterly simple.

16. Going on and on and on about your opinion.

This one applies to all kinds of conversations where you have a disagreement or where you’re the newcomer to the concepts. Asking, “But isn’t being fat bad for your health?” will bug me, but it’s a far cry better than going on for 20 minutes at me about how being fat is bad for your health and that’s why it’s okay you have these offensive, harmful views about fat people.

17. Making any statements about “childhood obesity”.

“Childhood obesity” is a political buzzword. When you say those two words it doesn’t just mean “fat kids”. (It does mean at least that. Every time you hear “childhood obesity” replace it in the sentence with “fat kids” and see what that reveals about the agenda.) “Childhood obesity” is a shorthand for a moral and political platform that spans food morality/policing, issues of class warfare, and pathologizing more bodies for profit.

Here’s the bottom line: we don’t know exactly what makes kids fat or whether it’s a problem that they are and we definitely don’t have any idea whatsoever how to make a fat kid into a thin kid. Anytime you hear people (that includes you!) blaming childhood obesity on something, they are talking out of their asses. What I can tell you is that turning on the news and hearing that there’s a war on your body type sucks for adults and double sucks for kids. Stop saying “childhood obesity” as if it has anything to do with caring about fat kids.

18. Focusing on (usually heterosexual) attractiveness in general.

  • Example: “At least being bigger means you have bigger boobs, too!”
  • Example: “It’s okay, honey, men like women with a few curves.”

These types of statements are ostensibly trying to be helpful, even complimentary. However, all they really do is reiterate that the important thing is being sexually attractive to men.

19. Suggesting that a fat person do something or not do something in order to look less fat or more flattering.

  • Example: “I don’t think that’s the right style dress for you. Here, this cut would be more flattering to your shape,” or “This shape of glasses will work best with your round face.”
  • Example: “Someone her size shouldn’t be wearing THAT!”
  • Example: All clothing products that are advertised as “slimming”.

Whether or not a fat person should wear striped clothes, have a certain haircut, go out in a bikini, etc is entirely up to the fat person in question. “Flattering” is a system of control, trying to wedge us all into tiny boxes. Fuck flattering!

20. Referring to fatness as a thing that deservedly happens to bad people.

  • Example: Pointing out your evil exboyfriend in the crowd and cooing gleefully, “Hahaha, he’s gotten so fat!”

If you are a nice, non-fat-hating person, maybe you’re thinking this one goes without saying. But I had the example situation happen right in front of me by a close friend. People’s bodies change over time, and that shouldn’t be much of a surprise except that our culture tries so hard to make us struggle to stay 23 years old. But listen: if it fills you with joy when fatness is inflicted on your enemies, that means you think fatness is a terrible thing. At least keep it to yourself.

21. Any statements that imply that it’s not okay to be fat, that people shouldn’t get fat, or that people should try to weigh less.

  • Example: “I don’t understand why someone would let themselves get that fat.”
  • Example: “I’m happy with my body the way it is, but I wouldn’t want to get any bigger.”

We don’t know how to make fat people into thin people or thin people into fat people. It’s okay for the people who are fat to be fat. Fat isn’t a horrible thing that we need to try desperately to avoid.The only horrible thing is the amount of abuse heaped onto the backs of fat people.

One more book for you. You know #21 there about how you shouldn’t imply that it’s not okay to be fat? Yeah. That’s because it is. If you need help with that idea, here’s FAT!SO? From Marilyn Wann, a brilliantly funny, sweetheart of a lady. A fat one! FAT!SO? is a mix of reporting, essays, true stories from real people, quizzes, illustrations, quotes, comeback lines, superhero trading cards, and a Venus of Willedorf dressup cutout. How’s that for a grab-bag of different ways to inspire you? Get inspired to be the fabulous, fantastic, fat person you are!

Any Questions?

Edited conclusion: While originally I welcomed comments on this post, 4 days and 400 comments later I’m pretty much over it. Almost no comments are making it through moderation. Some positive comments will still trickle through, but if you are here to argue, explain, or even just take a tone I don’t like, I probably won’t approve your comment. You might think you have something useful to say, but trust me, I’ve heard it all before, explained myself till I’m blue in the face, and I just don’t care. There’s a whole wide world of fat acceptance writing on the internet for you if you really want answers to your arguments and questions.

Creative Commons License
21 Things to Stop Saying Unless You Hate Fat People by Issa Waters is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

545 thoughts on “21 Things to Stop Saying Unless You Hate Fat People”

  1. I totally respect your position and experience with this. I definitely do not hate fat people. I’m a feminist and that means equality for all people.

    But I’m also a public health scholar. I’m doing my Master of Public Health in Maternal Child Health. Obesity is a chronic disease that we talk about in nearly every class. We talk about markers for childhood obesity, what leads to adult obesity, and how to curb this epidemic. I’m not sure if speaking about the epidemic of childhood and adult obesity qualifies as “hating” fat people, but I certainly hope not. I wouldn’t say there’s a “war” on anyone’s body type – just a war on their disease. Public Health professionals fight the same wars on cancer and heart disease and communicable diseases. I hope that’s not taken as a “war” on the people suffering from those illnesses. Public Health professionals, like me, are in it to help people – not to judge or shame anyone.

    • Obesity is a chronic disease that we talk about in nearly every class.

      Isn’t this circular reasoning? The medical community considers obesity to be a chronic disease, therefore I learn about it in classes taught by the medical community, therefore it is a chronic disease.

      We talk about … how to curb this epidemic.

      And yet after 30 or 50 years or so, doctors still haven’t figured out that, “eat less and exercise more,” doesn’t work for the vast majority of people. They continue to “prescribe” this treatment for the condition of obesity.

      This is one reason why I’m skeptical of a lot of the medical community’s beliefs about obesity. That they have failed to acknowledge something so patently obvious seems to be indicative of a bias that compromises the integrity of their other conclusions.

      • But Public Health professionals aren’t medical professionals (unless they just also happen to be a medical professional, but that’s a whole separate degree and field of study.) We aren’t in clinical work. Public Health professionals are social advocates. We take on the responsibility of integrating social justice into our work. We work to find the real, evidence-based etymology of illnesses – the CAUSE – not the treatment. Public professionals have long known that blaming personal eating habits is far too discriminatory and scape-goatish. Public health pros know that our food is filled with chemicals and GMOs that make people sick. Food deserts contribute to “fat” people who are severely malnourished. These are the things we know, and we’re trying to make changes. I hope that it’s not seen as “shaming” for people to get to the root cause of health problems.

        • So you freely admit that you don’t actually have any medical knowledge. And then you turn around and declare obesity “the root cause of health problems.” Really?

          Real medical professionals–which, again, you freely admit you aren’t–know that being UNDERWEIGHT is actually far more dangerous than being “overweight,” but for some strange reason that little fact always seems to slip through the cracks when weight and health are being discussed.

          It couldn’t possibly be because we as a society are conditioned to see underweight bodies as “beautiful.” And it couldn’t possibly be that all this demonizing of “overweight” people actually has nothing to do with any concern for anyone’s health and has everything to do with “eww fat people.”

          • I’m not a medical professional, either, but I know a lot of the science relevant to fat acceptance issues. And on the other hand, I’ve heard of lots of doctors making incredibly stupid statements about weight. It would be more helpful to stick to addressing the specific statements TheFeministBreeder makes.

            Also, pitting “underweight” vs “overweight” is distracting from the topic of this post, which is the things people say that contribute to the hatred of fat people.

            Stump, can you address some of the claims made in TheFeministBreeder’s comments, like that obesity is a disease like cancer? I’m interested in untangling the association between fatness and disease. Can you help out with this line of thinking?

          • I didn’t say I have no medical knowledge. I said that Public Health professionals have a different scientific basis than Medical professionals. We are both scientists. One treats the person, the other addresses the population. Public Health professionals address epidemiology, biostatistics, etiology, and social determinants of health. A Ph.D. in Public Health often knows a whole lot more about keeping people healthy than your average MD.

            Here’s the problem, though: In most any public health issue, you’re only going to get “associations” and “correlations” but those are often the best knowledge we will ever gain about etiology (the cause.) Why? Because it’s unethical to do randomized control trials for certain issues. Did you know smoking has not been “proven” to “cause” cancer? There’s simply a huge, HUGE association with smoking and lung cancer (like a p value of 10, which means a 10 fold increase.) Just like we have a huge association between obesity and diabetes and heart failure, etc. And yes, being underweight is associated with severe health failures too. But we can’t “prove” a “cause” because we can’t randomly assign people to smoke or randomly assign them to have diabetes. That doesn’t mean we don’t know anything about causation though.

            And yes, obesity is a cancer when it’s causing diabetes and heart failure and apnea, and other body deterioration. People can be healthy at any size, that’s true. I just hope I cleared up any confusion.

          • I started to write a different comment, but I realized that something is happening here. You (and other commenters) are talking AGAIN, over and over again about health this and health that and I am TELLING you in this post that this direction of conversation is harmful to fat people. See: 7, 8, 11 (using science instead of a relative), 16, 17, and maybe 21, 12, 10. If fat people want to read about how the whole world thinks our bodies are an epidemic comparable to cancer we can get that ANYWHERE ELSE. Fatness is not a behavior. You cannot compare it to smoking. Doing so is offensive. Fatness is not a disease. It doesn’t cause diseases. Saying so is offensive. Any more paragraphs that elaborate on the popular opinion of how unhealthy it is to be fat are offensive.

          • I just want to double up and confirm what Issa is saying. You are missing the point and it seems to be almost willfully at this juncture. You are not coming to this blog to “save” anyone. There is no benefit to harping on about health. If you really care about a fat persons health then why don’t you drive them to their doctors appointment, or help them pay their deductible. Otherwise. STFU.

          • I see people with heart disease at work every day. Any given month over 100 people with heart disease. Yet, only 10 to 15 of them will be obese. Yet weight is considered such a factor. Yes, there are many ill overweight people, but there are many more ill average weight people with the same illnesses. Yet the illnesses in the overweight will be used to “prove” that they have those illnesses because they are overweight. There is a fat bias in healthcare. It is now begining to effect our children. Fat children are being victimized by adults, in schools, doctors offices and on playgrounds. Fat children have been forced to exercise beyond pain, some until the fall down dead trying to meet the demands of an adult determined to get them healthy. Criminals are protectes from cruel actions but our children are not, all in the name of health because “society” has decided to fit us all into a unibody. Healthy or not healthy fat people do not deserve to be humiliated, forcibly exercized, fired or demoted because of their size

          • This is a really interesting post and brings up a lot of questions for me.

            First of all, I agree that fatness is not a behaviour. I notice genetics isn’t something on your list we should speak about in relation to fatness without being branded as ‘hating’ fatness, and I am glad because I do believe genetics to be a major contributing factor for ALL body types.

            While I agree with the general underlying acceptance and love guiding your article, I do not personally agree with the list of things we ‘aren’t allowed’ to talk about in relation to fatness because – to my way of understanding your argument – these things make us hateful.

            Again, fatness is not a behaviour, but to say that certain behaviours do not influence fatness and weight in general would be wrong. My short hair is not a behaviour. Cutting it short is a behaviour that affects its shortness. Of course, I mentioned genetics because the same behaviour is going to affect different body types differently and not everyone’s fatness is necessarily behaviourally driven. But sometimes it is.

            I am studying naturopathy and nutrition and do not want to work in weight loss at all for a number of reasons you have mentioned. Basically, I think health should be the priority over a pointless (in my opinion) obsession over a ‘goal weight’. However, for many people, reaching their HEALTH goals will automatically mean changing their weight (by gaining or losing), so how is the subject of health taboo when talking about fatness or lack thereof? There is a correlation between certain health conditions and fatness (and thinness). Stating that shouldn’t be seen as vilifying fat people.

            I study what I do because I want to help people become healthy. For some people, that journey will include weight loss, for some weight gain, and for some weight will not be part of the overall health picture at all. Clinically, every person should be treated as an individual and – like it or not – fatness or lack thereof can be symptomatic of certain disorders. Not always, but it CAN be. Denying practitioners the right to even notice fatness as a *potential* symptom in a health context because ‘they are two different things’ as you say in your article could lead to us missing very important signs of a deeper health issue and ultimately not do right by our patients. Note I am not saying fatness itself with no other health issues should be seen as a health issue. Not at all.

            I’ll try to sum this up with an analogy – PCOS is a fairly common syndrome affecting about one in eight women with many presenting factors. These include weight gain, cystic acne, dysmenorrhoea, hirsuitism, etc. It would be wrong to apply a moral judgement to someone with cystic acne, or to say it is “bad”. But it would also be wrong not to see that cystic acne in the context of this particular syndrome as an expression of hormonal imbalance and try to treat it. Weight gain or fatness with no other health issues tied to it does not (in my opinion) need to be treated, and in my clinic I simply wouldn’t do it. BUT as part of a clinical picture with abnormal weight gain (for that individual patient) it is worth taking notice of. Simply not speaking about it in the context of health or ignoring it for fears of being politically incorrect or being branded as hateful could be harmful in the long term.

            I am not saying the PCOS patient must be branded as fat, or that fat loss must be the top priority, but abnormal weight gain resulting in fatness should be noticed as the different presentation of symptoms can indicate different hormonal involvement. Everything must be meticulously noted and, like it or not, that can and should include fatness – particularly if it began with the other symptoms.

            Again, I’ll reiterate that I really enjoyed the sentiment of acceptance and love which (I believe) is driving this post. I do however think the line of ways we are ‘allowed’ to think about fatness before we are branded as hateful is drawn too harshly though.

            Thanks for giving me something to think about 🙂

          • Weight can definitely be a symptom of something, especially rapid gain or loss. But your doctor saying, “Hmm, you’ve gained this weight, and you have some hair loss, and you’re having trouble sleeping, let’s talk about the possible things this might indicate” is a far cry from the more prominent ways weight gets bound up with health.

            You said, “For many people, reaching their HEALTH goals will automatically mean changing their weight (by gaining or losing), so how is the subject of health taboo when talking about fatness or lack thereof?” What I want to know is if this weight gain/loss will be AUTOMATIC by reaching health goals, why talk about weight at all? Why not talk about health goals? See, there’s that mixing them up again.

            The person who inspired #16 about going on and on and on (I call it “holding forth” was also a naturopath. I am amused by this correlation.

          • “What I want to know is if this weight gain/loss will be AUTOMATIC by reaching health goals, why talk about weight at all? Why not talk about health goals? See, there’s that mixing them up again.”

            I don’t think it is mixing them up, it is simply not ignoring weight as one factor in a set of symptoms for some individuals. As I said, I would never ‘treat’ someone’s weight if they were otherwise healthy – I would probably suggest that they see a counsellor instead if they are open to it to work on accepting and loving themselves as they are.

            If someone comes to me and says they have had sudden weight gain (or loss) without changing their diet or any other habits, I am going to take that very seriously and investigate further as it could be indicative of quite a serious condition. If I were too politically correct to even engage thinking about fatness in the context of health, I would not be listening to that patient’s concerns and that could be pretty negligent.

            I think it comes down to biochemical individuality at the end of the day. I know what is a healthy weight for my body when everything is functioning optimally would be ‘overweight’ for another individual, and ‘underweight’ for yet another again. Bottom line is we need to listen to everything our patient says and not immediately dismiss clinical discussions of fatness as ‘unrelated to health’.

            What is the correlation you are amused by? That I am a naturopath too and also have opinions? I was very respectful about how I gave them and this is a blog post that invites discussion.

          • There’s a big difference between noticing rapid weight change in either direction as a possible symptom of a health problem, and considering fatness inherently diseased. The former makes sense. The latter is fucked-up.

          • I think the other thing to bear in mind here is the context. If I go to the doctor complaining about my knees giving me bother, I would expect the doctor to observe that I’m carrying a lot of weight on them – that’s totally cool. I do, and if my knee hurts I have no doubt it would hurt less if I was less heavy.

            I don’t expect said doctor to _ignore_ the fact I’m heavy. But given that my knee gives me bother not because I’m heavy but because I have an anterior tear compensation injury from a (now long-healed) fluid disruption under the _other_ knee which was caused by a fall while running into the sea, and said tear only plays up when I’ve been playing a lot of badminton or doing a lot of dancing, a doctor who saw my 17-odd stone and immediately blamed that for my knee trouble would be missing an awful lot of the story!

            Another example: I have mild sleep apnea. One might look at me and immediately leap to the conclusion that I get sleep apnea because I’m heavy. I don’t. I’ve had it since I was a (skinny) child, and it’s caused by massive amounts of scar tissue around my permanently enlarged tonsils.

            Just two minor examples from, let me be clear here, a _very healthy_ fat person. I’m far from in peak fitness, but I’m never ill, have no joint, lung or heart problems, and I can run up and down stairs and play sports (badly) just like any moderately inactive person of ‘normal’ weight.

            Now, don’t get me wrong, I have been _seriously_ hating on my weight of late. I ruptured my achilles tendon (dancing!) and was in a non-weight-bearing cast for six weeks, and I cursed my weight _every single moment_ of every single day. I have never hated being heavy as much as I did those six weeks (although I do now have traps of steel). But let’s be clear, that was the first time in _30 years_ I’ve ever felt ill effects directly and solely related to my fatness.

            Anyway anyway, this comment is getting away from me because I’m insufferably self-absorbed, back to the point. My point was that this isn’t about what you as a doctor or health professional should say to a fat person anyway. It’s about what you as a human being should say to or about another human being. It’s about the assumptions you make when you see a fat person. If that fat person comes to you and says “I get really out of breath climbing stairs and I don’t know why!” feel free to gently broach the topic of exercise with them. But fat people have to put up with their bodies being topics for general conversation, being statistics, being a box in a chart of weight against height or waistline against hip circumference or whatever-the-hell every single day. They have to put up with being described as part of an ‘epidemic’, a ‘cultural disease’. This post isn’t saying you should pretend that a person’s weight or fatness has no contributory factor to any illness they ever have. It’s saying: if you don’t hate them, cut them a break by removing this language of stigma and gross (heh) generalisation from your lexicon.

            This is sort of at the front of my mind now as, since I have to give up high-impact sports for a while (the only kind I like!) I’m going to have to take up boring-ass sports like swimming (snore), and to keep myself at it, I’m probably going to join Fitocracy. Weight loss is NOT a priority for me – it may happen as a side effect of training but I won’t be charting it and I don’t plan to buy a set of scales. I am not looking forward to trying to keep a ‘health at any size’ mindset in a culture that I know very well will, with the best of intentions, be heavy on the charting of weight and size. This is the crap I have to put up with as a fat person, just trying to do my thing.

          • I think your earlier comparison with skin color and cancer risk is quite appropriate here. Tanning increases risk of skin cancer, right? So… one COULD say “dark skin causes skin cancer” or “skin lightening reduces risk of skin cancer” but such statements would be 1) inaccurate and 2) harmful to an already marginalized population. We don’t generally see public health professionals doing that.* They instead talk about the behaviors. “Tanning causes skin cancer.” And when they talk about reducing the risk, they don’t follow “avoiding tanning reduces your risk” with an automatic “and will, for many people, lead to paler skin.” Every story about somebody giving up tanning to reduce their risk of cancer doesn’t HAVE TO include a huge focus on how they magically became pale and beautiful, headless “before” pictures of darker skin, etc. No, we know we can write such pieces with the skin color set aside, and the behavior and potential health outcomes being the focus. Thus it should be for fatness. If we want to talk about nutrition or exercise and health outcomes, go for it! For some people, changes in those behaviors may also result in a weight change, but who cares? It should be no more an expected part of the conversation than changes in skin color when talking about sun exposure and skin cancer outcomes.

            *Note: I actually do know of some anti-skin-cancer public health campaigns that have promoted racism and ageism. I don’t mean to suggest they don’t exist. But public health folks seem to understand that we CAN do effective campaigns without sending the message that light skin or young skin is better. When it comes to fat, they look perplexed, not knowing how or why one would promote nutrition and physical activity without talking about weight change.

          • I think that there is a difference between discussing weight loss specifically in the context of a consultation regarding one’s health, and the link between weight loss and health being tossed willy-nilly into conversation at every opportunity. For an example of the latter, see this very blog post, where almost every commenter has focused on the link between fatness and health, and almost no one has had anything to say about any of the other twenty points.

            If you are going to be a doctor, or a naturopath, or a personal trainer, people are specifically going to come to you for your expertise and knowledge, and commenting on their weight will be a part of that. That probably isn’t fat hate, although I have heard many stories from fat people who couldn’t get treatment for ailments because doctors refused to treat them until they lost weight, because their weight was OBVIOUSLY causing the ailment. So there’s the exception that proves the rule. Yes, doctors can be expressing fat-hate if they talk about weight and health. But they aren’t always.

            Here’s an analogy for you. If I was an interior decorator, and you hired me to redo your living room, and I walked in and said, “Ugh. This is awful. We can do so much better,” you might thank me. But if you invited me over for dinner and I said the same thing, it would be terribly rude. And if I did it every time I walked into any room or office, and so did everyone else in the entire country, that would be an analogy for fat-hate.

          • You’re right Joshua, I did look at this and immediately ask questions about health. Probably because I am studying and working in this area and it is a huge passion of mine – it’s always top of mind for me, no matter what it is in relation to.

            I am not advocating judging people by their weight – so, so far from it. All I am advocating is not being so guided by political correctness that we miss the fact that the ‘ideal’ weight is extremely individual and if someone is telling you that they have gained or lost a lot of weight in association with other symptoms, you must take them seriously and endeavour help them. Discarding weight as ‘irrelevant’ data when it comes to health is not helpful for patients. I would say it is as unhelpful as deciding for them that they are unhealthy simply because they are fat or skinny without listening to their explanations to the contrary.

            I agree 100% that offering individuals unsolicited advice about their weight (or anything, really) is obnoxious and, well, mean. But ignoring their own observations and concerns about their body simply because it involves fatness is a problem too.

          • Discarding weight as ‘irrelevant’ data when it comes to health is not helpful for patients.

            I’m not sure where you think Issa has advised that doctors do this. I searched for “irrelevant” on this page and didn’t find any reference other than yours. Can you be more specific? I think possibly you are referring to #10, but #10 doesn’t say that doctors should not mention weight at all. It says not to recommend weight loss as a treatment for a condition.

          • I have pcos and everytime I go to the doctor they bring up my weight. (Every nurse looks concerned) over and over with each healthcare worker that comes in the room. They always (I mean always) have me explain all of the lifestyle treatments and changes that I go through to try to balance my hormones. Then they point out that my weight hasn’t changed in the last decade as if I am lying. It is one of the worst experiences I go through every year. Now contrast this with my alternative health care provider, who never makes me weigh in, never uses the word overweight, and never mentions anything but how I feel and function. I am eager to go see him and be empowered and healed. I know from experience that there are healthcare workers who adhere to the list above and it is amazing how human I feel with them. Before you dismiss this list, just try to talk with your patience without equating thinness with health.

          • I am arriving at this conversation 3 years late, but want to add what hopefully will clarify matters for other health care practitioners contemplating Eliza’s post. Btw, I think Eliza has a great attitude in general, recognizing that weight is not a behavior, and only referring a client to a counselor to help those who are having difficulty accepting their size (what a breath of fresh air to read that from a healthcare provider! I was so certain the sentence was going to conclude with “…to help the client lose weight.”! So thank you for the consciousness raising work you’ve done, Eliza, as well as to Issa for all the consciousness raising work *you’ve* done, and writing this invaluable article! I’m a HAES activist who has just learned a lot from you!)

            Here’s where I think Issa got a little off course (or so it appeared to me) and what I believe might right it:

            From Eliza’s original post:

            “However, for many people, reaching their HEALTH goals will automatically mean changing their weight (by gaining or losing), ***so how is the subject of health taboo when talking about fatness or lack thereof***?” (Emphasis added.)

            First, the problem, of course, isn’t that a healthcare provider is talking about health. And there is no problem asking if–or discussing a client’s statement that–there has been a significant or rapid weight change, in the course of trying to diagnose a problem.

            The problem would be in having a discussion about weight for it’s own sake (as it sounds like, in Issa’s sentence I quoted “…so how is the topic of health taboo when talking about fatness or the lack thereof,” and then linking it somehow to health, as is implied, (though this may just be a semantic issue of how Issa’s sentence was structured.)

            The appropriate discussion would be, first, about health, in which, second, the topic of a client’s already-changed weight might come up.

            Then, third, the problem is diagnosed, which may (or may not) be one for which weight gain is a symptom.

            Fourth, the diagnosed condition would then be treated, for which the symptom of gained weight may or may not go away. The weight itself would not be treated, because there are no proven effective treatments, generally, for losing weight. The treatment for the underlying condition would be embarked upon, while allowing the client’s weight to fall where it may, rather than trying to interfere with or treat the weight itself.

            The treatment is for the underlying condition for which weight gain is a symptom, not for the weight gain itself.

            The other possible situation would be in which a client cannot figure out why they are continuing to gain weight, a situation that Eliza points out should not be ignored, in case it is a *symptom* of a condition that can and should be treated. The provider might explore possible reasons for the weight gain with the client, and run tests, until the unidentified reason for the weight gain has been identified. If that reason for the weight gain turns out to be a treatable medical condition, for which weight gain is a symptom, such as with low thyroid, the low thyroid would be treated, and the cessation of inexplicable weight gain might be monitored as an indicator that the low-thyroid was the source of the problem, and the low-thyroid has been effectively treated. If weight gain does not end with the low-thyroid treatment, then again, the continued weight gain would trigger further investigation into what is causing the unexplained weight gain, and the next possible underlying cause would be treated.

            The focus is always on identifying and treating the condition, not on trying to get the client to lose weight for it’s own sake.

            I hope this is clarifying, in case any clarification was needed 🙂

          • Upthread, FeministBreeder stated: And yes, obesity is a cancer when it’s causing diabetes and heart failure and apnea, and other body deterioration.

            *cough* Just want to share a bit of medical knowledge here – obesity is not a cancer, my sweet pea.

            Cancer is totally different? Because cancer is a disease? Usually caused by the uncontrolled division of cells, usually abnormal cells, which do not go through normal apoptosis but may or may not form a tumor? do you actually know anything, I mean anything at all, about biology or medicine I am sure that you were not taught this in school, but it will be easy enough to look it up. The definition of “cancer” should be on, you know, the first page of Google.

            Fat people are fat. They possess adipose tissue. Because of evolution. They are not cancer. They are people. Cancer is a disease: abnormally dividing cells that can kill people. I can repeat this ad infinitum if you like.

            And if you intend to use the phrase as a strung-out metaphor, as in “Urrgh, humans are such a cancer on the earth!” or “Ew, McDonalds is the cancer of food!” … well, it would behoove a public health professional not to equate people with disease. Fat people are not cancer. (Unless you’re deliberately equating fat people to abnormal people who are breeding too much and killing everybody, which is… a little frightening.)

            Might be some points to consider in the future when evaluating public health risks. <3

          • I believe she was referring to the current wave of actual problems in the United States as a cancerous social problem and not literally as cancer the disease that an individual might get. Context clues!

          • I imagine we all understood that she was using “cancer” in two different senses. This tactic in bad arguments is called equivocation, and I’d say that’s what the original poster was hoping to get away with. Let’s face it, “cancer” sounds scarier than “societal issue.”

          • Also, these comments are making my blood pressure go through the roof. (Probably not literally, but they’re really pissing me off.) Have people never noticed that the same illnesses correlated with obesity are also correlated with stress? Like, the stress of constantly being told your body is wrong and diseased and should be cut in half? *giant squid of anger*

          • Very good point for sure!

            I hadn’t thought in those terms before, and yes, I think stress is often the major factor adversely affecting health. rather than what a person weighs/their body fat %.

            I’ve really enjoyed reading this article, and especially the comments which helped clear up a few things and add context to some stuff I hadn’t been able to totally grasp in the article.

            thanks for posting 🙂

          • Also, I work or have worked with dozens of people who have bad knees, bad backs, tendonitis, enflamation in joints and wrists and other physical conditions that are usually thought of as weight-related. All of them are skinny or of average weight. The reason they have these conditions is that they play a lot of sports, work out a lot, go on lots of hikes, essentially do the very things I’m always told I should be doing.

            The funny thing is…I have minor back problems that many my age also have and at one point had Plantar’s Faciiatus which appears to have gone away…and that’s it. I also suffer from ZERO heart issues, my blood pressure is normal, I don’t get any more headaches than the average person, I can climb stairs, run, etc., without getting winded, my wife tells me that I don’t snore or toss and turn in my sleep (I know I used to, but back then I was under a good deal of stress that I’m no longer under) or any other condition one usually would assume someone of my weight must have. Doctors have told me repeatedly that I’m in excellent health…other than my weight. I challenged a doctor on it once, asking him what specifically was the problem. “You need to lose weight.” Okay, but in what way is my weight negatively affecting me? “You’re overweight.” We’ve established that, but in what way is my being overweight making me unhealthy? “You need to lose weight.” You’re begging the question, Doc. Okay, again, do I have high blood pressure? “No.” Do I have enflamed tendons, joints or any other muscle or joint issues? “None that are abnormal for your age.” Is my heart under too much strain and do I suffer from any heart ailments? “No, your heart is very strong.” So what’s the problem with my weight? “You need to lose it.”

          • This! This! This! “…the stress of constantly being told your body is wrong and diseased and should be cut in half…”

            What I’ve been saying for years!

            ~heads off to update website to scrub for weight-loss comments she might have unwittingly included~

            FA! I am loving this so much! I weep with gratitude!

          • It’s such a simple point. Whatever you think about the prognosis of fat people, framing people as disease is simply UNACCEPTABLE. It should be obvious to anyone who can think worth a damn.

          • (like a p value of 10, which means a 10 fold increase.)

            That is not what a p-value means.

            A p-value of 10 is meaningless, statistically speaking. It would indicate there is no evidence to reject the null hypothesis that there is no difference between groups.

          • (like a p value of 10, which means a 10 fold increase.)

            That is not what a p-value means.

            A p-value of 10 is meaningless, statistically speaking. It would indicate there is no evidence to reject the null hypothesis that there is no difference between groups.”

            Now we know why TFB failed her midterms. This is a ridiculously basic stats definition. 100-level nonmajors bio students know this!

          • I’m sorry I misspoke, I was really in too much of a rush to leave a well-thought-out comment so I probably should have just walked away. I’m sick as hell and not focusing on anything right now.

            But since you brought it up, that’s NOT the midterm I failed. I got a very high score on my biostats midterm, thanks.. I think what I meant, what I was thinking, was about risk ratio, and with smoking at lung cancer the risk is 10 times greater in exposed versus unexposed. I can see that any attempt at a dialogue is going to get me accused of “hating” fat people but I’ve been very vocal about size-ism and coming out against it. I still, however, cannot ignore epidemics. How does anyone explain how much obesity has increased in the last 50 years alone? How does anyone explain that Mexico has recently become the most obese population in the world? Body types are changing, and rapidly. If suddenly most of the world became dramatically underweight and we saw an increased risk of health deterioration related to it, we’d have to pay attention to it. That’s not evil. Our hearts are in the right place, and I don’t shame anyone for anything.

          • I still, however, cannot ignore epidemics.

            One more time. “Obesity” can’t be an epidemic, because it’s not a disease. It’s a weight-to-height ratio.

            How does anyone explain how much obesity has increased in the last 50 years alone?

            Aging populations? Increased use of SSRIs and other medications that have weight gain as a side effect? Increased dieting, which tends to cause weight gain? Not to mention the BMI change of 1998, when the US government redefined BMI categories and 25 million Americans became “overweight” overnight.

          • Issues of class and culture, decreased food quality for people on low income. Rampant global capitalism filling food full of junk and chemicals. I could go on and on. Also more access to better food. Many People actually get to eat a decent amount of of good quality food in the global “West”, which isn’t really a bad thing (for them at least). People are more likely to reach their individual healthy weight (whatever that is) when they aren’t being rationed or living in a great depression.

            If anything I’d say the rush to be very thin is of more concern.

            The only time Fat and Health need to come together is when discussing the health of an individual.

            If we do talk about public health and food/diet what we need to focus on isn’t how much research participants weigh, it’s the health issues connected, with poor diet and low quality/over-chemicalised foods, (e.g. nutrient difficiencies, sleep problems, heart problems, diabetes etc etc) people with these problems can weigh anything, the key would be to find out what sort of impact low quality food has on people’s internal workings not what effect their external size or shape has on their health.

            To be a public health professional means taking on board both the bio-medical AND socio-medical models of health.
            You only seem to be working with bio, either that or you need to gain more understanding of the social factors and some of the medical factors for that matter which really matter when we talk about public health and diet. The point is, weight is no guaranteed marker of how healthy a person may or may not be, let’s stop thinking of it that way TFB.

          • Clarification: “The only time Fat and Health need to come together is when discussing the health of an individual”

            Examples such as a person who can lo longer stand up because of their weight, or because their asthma has been made harder to cope with by rapid weight gain etc.

            What I don’t mean is a Doctor associating every medical problem of their patient to their weight just because they are fat, and because “fat” is seen as a disease.

          • Well as another public health student, I’d like to point something out.

            Many things can be epidemics that are not communicable diseases. For example, one can have an epidemic of birth defects, which can be totally not communicable and not caused by disease. It is not false rhetoric to call obesity an epidemic. Is it hyperbolic? Sure. But it isn’t an innately incorrect statement either.

          • How does anyone explain how much obesity has increased in the last 50 years alone?

            Easy – super-sized portions and high fructose corn syrup. As a nation, we’ve forgotten what “portion size” really means, and we’ve allowed companies to put HFCS in everything we consume.

          • Multiple studies have shown that fat people don’t eat more than thin people, so I doubt portion size is what causes fatness. As for HFCS, maybe it has an effect…but thin people eat food containing HFCS too. I agree that putting HFCS in everything isn’t great (insert rant about farm subsidies here), but I’m not sure it’s related to weight gain across a population–or if it is, it’s probably one of many factors.

          • Kala,
            Birth defects are an epidemic because they are a medical problem. Being obese is not a medical problem. And obese people don’t necessarily have any medical problems, either. Therefore it cannot be an epidemic.

          • What they said, plus the advent of nutritionism undoubtedly plays a role. Read Perfection Salad, forget the author, about the advent of home economics, prescriptive diets, and nutrition.

            I’m amazed that TFB is ostensibly unaware that obesity is protective against death and that Type 2 Diabetes is prevalent among thin people as well.

          • Please stop referring to me and my body as an epidemic. Your intentions may be good, but the people here are telling you that good intentions are not good enough. Language is a powerful tool, and using negative language to describe a population is indeed, a form of hate.

          • Hi TFB, this comment is 3 years after your comments were posted.

            I appreciate that you speak out against sizism, and hopefully you have gone on to read all the research posted on the ASDAH web site, and learned all you can about Health At Every Size ™. So hopefully my comment here will be moot, except to other readers of this article and comments section.

            You asked, “How does anyone explain how much obesity has increased in the last 50 years alone?”

            My answer is, the dramatic increase in dieting over the past 100 years, and especially the last 50, either prescribed by healthcare professionals, promoted in the media/advertisers, or promoted by the public health profession (1600 kcal-average “My Plate,” and “portion control” are both under-eating weight-loss diets that are dishonestly referred to as “not a diet, but a lifestyle change!,” e.g. a permanent under-eating diet!)

            As of ~20 years ago, ~half of all US women, and 1/4 of US men were dieting on any given day. (See Francie Berg, “Women Afraid to Eat.”) Those figures have since risen. The US has exported our weight and dieting obsessions both through international public health policy, and the media pressures to be thin and to diet.

            Under-eating of any kind is biologically unsustainable, so the body will fight back with a vengeance, which is why it should never be prescribed, recommended, or practiced. The body responds to under-eating by eventually over-eating, to make up for all kcalories under-eaten (and oftentimes, then some: an evolutionary survival mechanism to store more energy on the body in the form of fat, hypothesized as a mechanism to protect against future famines.) It only takes over-eating a tiny number of calories per day (such as 5-10 calories–too few to accurately account for) to cause major weight gain over time. See Tomiyama and Mann’s 2009 Medicare study finding 1/3 – 2/3 of dieters gain back more than they lose.

            Many think, if people are dieting, that must mean they have already gained weight, so dieting couldn’t be the cause of weight gain, it’s a *response* to weight already gained.

            However, it’s not that simple.

            A study has shown that most people begin their dieting careers when they are within their so-called “normal BMI due to weight stigma and social pressure to be very thin. (Sorry I don’t have the study name: again, it’s in “Women Afraid to Eat”). Indeed, I was put on my first weight-loss diet while very slim and active, in the middle of the “normal BMI range” at age 14, *by my doctor* because he ignored even the reference chart and mistook my normal, healthy, one-time necessary puberty weight gain of 10 lbs, warning that if I “didn’t stop eating this way,” I’d be a “blimp” by the time I was thirty, terrifying me into going on his extreme (“sensible”) diet. I began dutifully under-eating the next day, was starved, and over-ate late into the night for the first time ever that night, to my mortification. So I restricted more severely the next day, to meet his weekly weigh-in 1-lb. weight loss goal for me, followed by bingeing again that 2nd night. 38 years later, I still can’t break the cycle his diet started me on. Over time, this has dramatically increased my weight. This is how doctor-prescribed “sensible dieting” causes “obesity.”

            To get a sense of how the anti-“obesity” campaigns are affecting peoples’ eating behaviors, and to get an insight into the real minds of kids on this topic, go to Yahoo Answers, an online question/answer game, and navigate to the Health>>Diet and Fitness section.

            There, you will read dozens of children’s questions, such as, “I’m a 9-year-old girl. I’m terrified of dying younger than my parents. Here’s my photo. Am I fat? I have only been eating fruits and vegetables for 3 weeks, because I know everything else is unhealthy. But last night I binged for the first time and ate ice cream. I’m so scared. Help. I don’t want to be obese and die young. What should I do?”

            Other kids will reply with their opinions, giving her even more-dangerous, crazy weight-loss advice. And the questions there just keep pouring in, every minute or two. It’s terrifying to watch.

            Doctors and public health officials are creating a nation of eating disorders and bingers.

            Up until ~ the 1950s, the public health focus was on ensuring everyone ate enough to be healthy, and have a reasonably “balanced” diet, communicated through public health posters, the early predecessors of the Food Pyramid and MyPlate.

            But by the 1970s, the public health message had changed to promote *limiting* eating for weight control or loss. After increasing levels of dieting in the 1950s and 60s.

            I completely disagree with anyone saying the ever-rising growth of fast-food buying, or increased screen time, have anything to do with rising BMIs.

            It’s doctors. (And the public health profession.)

            High-calorie, less-healthy foods have been in ample supply in the American diet for a century or more, for anyone to eat to excess if they wanted to, unless they were very poor. 100 years ago, there was no shortage of sugar and lard in peoples’ diets. My mothers’ 1950s Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook is filled with sugary, high-fat menus of homemade coffee cake, bacon, and coffee with cream and sugar for breakfast, and similar for lunch and dinner, with pie and a cookie jar available all day. Yet Americans in the 1950s were far more often slim than we are today. That’s because very few people were told to diet. The central message was to be sure to eat enough all day. So people ate what they needed at 3 regular meals, until they were full. No deprivation, unless they were poor. Kids watched TV, listened to the radio, and didn’t run around or go to sports practice all day. Far fewer youth were in organized sports. Plenty of slim teens hung out at malt shops, eating burgers, fries, and shakes, not using stair-climbers. Few adults were jogging or hitting the gym daily back then.

            Today, many people routinely under-eat or skip breakfast, figuring they “don’t need the calories anyway”: statistically, plus-size people more than others. And many try to eat salad for lunch. Under-eating causes increased cravings for sugar and fat, to provide quick, ample calories for the calorie-deficit emergency that dieting creates. So people skip or under-eat breakfast, and are craving McDonald’s by lunch or dinner: sugar and fat from soda, burgers, and fries. Dieting nation is causing fast-food nation. (The one big exception is that most women working outside the home now has increased demand for convenience/fast foods.) People who under-eat also don’t have the energy to exercise as much. As more parents go on diets, more children end up under-eating as their parents do, with dieting foods and fat-shaming attitudes in the house. Many kids end up restricting or being restricted as their parents do, and don’t feel like being as physically active as a result. Many kids end up on the under-eating/over-eating cycle the way their folks do, typically under-eating at breakfast and perhaps lunch, then over-eating in the afternoon and evening. The public health messages to restrict, restrict, restrict, and good foods/bad foods, clean eating/dirty eating judgments just make tons of people diet then cave-in. As a nation, we swing back and forth between low-carb vs. low-fat diets, every decade or so.

            Dieting recommended and approved by doctors and public health professionals is causing the rise in American’s weights. I don’t even think the media are to blame. Magazine and infomercial diets would not be socially acceptable if doctors weren’t endorsing dieting (under-eating and exercising more for weight loss.)

          • “How does anyone explain how much obesity has increased in the last 50 years alone?”

            Okay, here’s some suggestions:

            1) Drastic alterations in the ways people live, starting with the composition of families and the lived environment. Prior to the 1950s, living as “nuclear families” in detached houses in the suburbs was not the majority lifestyle. Yet, since the 1950s, this particular way of living has been sold, world-wide, as THE way to be aspiring to. So large numbers of people went from living in condominium and apartment style homes, with multiple generations of the same family living under the same roof, to living in small, “nuclear” units, separated from their kin, and physically detached from their neighbours. Nobody’s ever actually done the studies to determine one way or t’other whether this is either helpful or harmful to humans. So it could be a factor.
            2) Drastic alterations in the way food is produced and consumed, compared with earlier eras. Let’s see, there’s the growth and booming of the fast food industry, the development and spread of the “TV Dinner”, the chemical and hormonal adulteration of livestock feed, the use of pesticides and herbicides in agriculture, the vast amount of manufactured foodstuffs which are available (often at a lower cost to the consumer in time and money than purchasing the raw ingredients for same would be), and that’s just things I can think of off the top of my head. Again, the studies haven’t actually been done to determine whether any one of these factors would be crucial, and they certainly haven’t been done to research the effects of them in either combination or permutation.
            3) The growth of automobile usage as the major form of transportation.
            4) Changes in working hours and work patterns – work hours these days tend to vary either between unemployment, under-employment, and over-employment (someone who is unemployed doesn’t have any form of paid employment; someone who is under-employed has some paid employment, but not as much as they’d prefer; someone who is over-employed is working more than 40 hours per week at their paid employment). Also the majority of jobs these days aren’t manual labour – they tend more toward administrative and desk jobs, which previously used to be in the minority. Another fertile field for public health study.

            Now, those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head which would fit the above question. The point is, so much has changed in the fifty year span you’re talking about – culturally, socially, agriculturally, economically – that the more surprising manifestation would be if NOTHING physical about the humans affected by those changes altered.

            I’d also ask whether you’re aware of what the baseline you’re unconsciously referring to (i.e. the rate of obesity 50 years ago) is based on – who was measured to provide it, when were they measured, by whom, and what were the people doing the measuring expecting to find? How were the measurements collected? Who checked the data? Has the instrument of measurement altered in the intervening 50 years, and if so, why did it alter, and from what to what? Was the instrument being used actually the correct one? Let’s be certain we’re comparing apples with apples, rather than cabbages with the reciprocal of pi.

            Oh, and one very simple explanation for why body sizes and weights would appear to have altered so in the past fifty years: fifty years ago, the world in general, and the USA, UK and Europe in particular, were coming out of a prolonged economic downturn (The Great Depression) and a globe-spanning war effort (World War 2). There had been prolonged shortages of food and money, and prolonged rationing of both food and materials. So it’s hardly surprising the majority of people might have been a bit on the deprived side of things as a result.

            (One last bonus one: the rate of tobacco smoking has decreased drastically from fifty years ago. One of the physical and psychological side effects of smoking tobacco is a decline in appetite. Up until the mid-1970s, smoking tobacco was heavily pushed as a “health” practice – nine out of ten doctors, according to the advertisements, recommended it as a cure for everything that ailed you, and fifty years ago the generation which grew up smoking from the 1900s onward was only just beginning to die off from the variety of cancers that also resulted from smoking tobacco.)

          • You presented a well formed argument that most people wouldn’t consider. How we live our day to day lives determines our health and weight so if that has been changing the last 50-100 years then so will our health and weight. Also, a lot of people literally can’t afford to eat healthy and lack the skills/time to produce their own food. Food deserts are a real thing and as long as workers have to fight for adequate wages they won’t have enough money to eat healthy. But going back to the argument at hand being fat doesn’t make you any less of a hard worker or person.

          • Obesity doesn’t cause diabetes. Otherwise there would be no thin people with type 2 diabetes, which there are. What caused the thin peoples’ diabetes?

            Academia (Medical and Public Health) teaches its students that obesity is a disease. It is the rare student who questions what she learns in the classroom. Most just accept what their professors say, and with good reason. Students usually know less than their professors about a field. There is a certain amount of trust in academic learning.

            However, when presented with arguments and evidence contrary to what is learned in the classroom, the wise student will apply reason to the problem.

          • Em, fat could cause diabetes in fat people and something else could cause diabetes in thin people. Disease causes aren’t cut and dried. For example, some people who get lung cancer are smokers. But some people who get lung cancer are non-smokers who work in coal mines.

          • Here’s the ultimate point: Even if, say, we had solid evidence that being overweight will lead an earlier death (even though, ironically, we have evidence that shows larger people are more likely to weather certain health conditions longer than their thinner counterparts), the health of people who do not come to you seeking advice is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. NONE. You don’t get to walk up to strangers on the street (or the internet, for that matter) and give them unsolicited advice about their body size (which, let’s face it, they’ve probably already be lectured at about today). Do you walk up to smokers and lecture them on their poor health choice? The keyword here, CHOICE, means if you want people to respect your choices, you respect the choices of others. And if their choice is to not worry about health or to exercise and not worry about weight or any number of other things you DON’T KNOW ABOUT THEM, you have to respect it. Unless you want people coming up to do you and doing the same.

            And frankly, it’s crap like this that hardens my resolve. I exercise regularly, I eat well and I’m still fat. I have no intention of attempting to lose weight and when I see ignorant, bigoted comments, especially from people who mean well, it makes me all the more determined to remain a HAPPY, ACTIVE FATTIE so as to make clear to y’all that my life choices are based on ME and MY DESIRES, not YOU and YOUR DISCOMFORT.

          • Gina, how are you claiming to be a “public health professional” or a “public health scholar”? You have only just begun your MPH with no previous coursework in the area, and you have in fact failed one midterm and have to withdraw from a class. You are writing here as though you are an authority when in fact you are not, you are just beginning your training.

          • I couldn’t agree with you more. I am an obese female with no health problems. SHOCKER! I have low blood pressure, no sign of diabetes, and I exercise regularly. I come from a Norwegian family, where everyone is HUGE. Yes, some of us are fat, but we are just large people. I was a very tiny child, but when I reached puberty, I became a bigger person. Size 14 is my skinny size. For me to get to a size 12-14, it takes 6-8 hours per day of constant exercise. If I starve myself, and just live on protein with spinach and carrots, I’ll get down to a size 10, but there is just no way that I can maintain that. Also, I have a HUGE butt. People avoid me simply because of the way that I’m shaped. Men and women, even just to speak to me. It’s like they’re afraid that just by interacting with me, they will become fat. I see women who are my size (18-20) but who are large on the tops of their bodies, who are treated just like everyone else, even admired for their buxom bodies, but for people who are large on the bottom, we’re not even viewed as human. Or so it would seem.

        • I appreciate you pointing out the difference between a medical professional and a public health professional. The distinction wasn’t clear to me when I read your comment. I am still skeptical that the knowledge-base from which you draw is sufficiently divorced from the medical community to make that distinction meaningful in the context of this conversation.

          No, I would not say that getting to the root of problems is shaming. At the same time, there’s no question that there is a lot of stigma around being fat, and health claims about fatness are a part of that stigma. Whether the health claims are actually true or not is often secondary. If yours is a lone voice of sanity on the topic of health issues related to fatness, you will have a hard row to hoe.

        • I have an MPH (specialized in Nutritional Epidemiology and International Health) and worked in Public Health for 6 years. I left that work to get a PhD in Medical Anthropology (which I know already shows my bias), but I can say for sure that most public health programs work to bring people back to the moral norm (and I totally agree with Issa that science has a bunch of popular morality mixed up in its “scientific findings”) and use a whole lot of blame the victim and shaming techniques to do so. I really had no idea the extent to which this was happening when I was in public health (maybe because I just trusted the ‘objectivity of science’ so much?). I thought I was just “doing what is right.” I don’t think that pointing to the chemicals in our food (as you mention) or other food system problems is at all fat blaming, however, and I think that these issues – in addition to other structural ones depending on the particular context, are the one public health people should be focusing on to make the public healthier.

          • I agree, there’s a lot of morality policing in public health, and sometimes public health agendas get pushed through that are NOT evidenced based. It’s not a perfect field. I’m at odds with most of the PH community over cosleeping – something done safely in most other cultures, but something that’s seen as nearly crimincal in our culture. PH officials preach “abstinence only” on this subject, but that’s just plain NOT evidence-based or healthy. I try to be aware of this and operate accordingly. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, nobody on this thread is perfect, but we’re probably all coming from a good place. It would be nice if folks could tone down the anger and accusations and recognize that. I do believe, in my heart, that enough evidence exists to link industry irresponsibility with increased weight gain and accompanying health problems. I don’t hate fat people. I do hate industries that cause harm to our bodies, and I think obesity is leading to other diseases that harm people. I’m sorry, that’s what I believe. Maybe one day I’ll see evidence to change my mind, but so far, this is where I’m at.

          • Are you SEEKING that information? Because it is out there. I actively sought to learn about my own biases with regard to “obesity” when in my MPH program, and in the end, I rewrote my entire thesis introduction because I was convicted by what I was learning. If you REALLY are open to other evidence, I hope you’re actively reading up on the work of those in Association for Size Diversity and Health, the Binge Eating Disorder Association, and all the other professionals out there who have actual clinical research data to show how wrong you are in your assumptions. If you haven’t already been educating yourself about Health At Every Size, weight-bias in public health research, etc, I would be happy to give you a reading list to get you started. That is, if you are truly open to the possibility that you could be wrong.

          • Why do you have to immediately go on the attack? Why not just offer me information without accusing me of not being interested in it? Why assume that I’m just out to get you? Is that advocacy? I’m not going into public health so I can police anyone’s morals. Why would I waste my time? I’m an atheist. I don’t give a rats what people do or believe. I only care that people are given enough information to make their own informed choices. I came to this after being treated terribly by medical professionals during my pregnancy. I wanted people to be treated better. That’s why I do what I do. I don’t do it to punish anyone. Perhaps if you could have just offered me information without accusing me of something, I would trust what you have to offer.

          • You might want to google search “the tone argument”. Your interpretation of comments responding to you as too harsh doesn’t negate their validity.

          • Ditto for googling tone argument.

            Also, TFB, since you were the first commenter, I was pretty willing to go into the health discussion. But, 400 comments later, it gets pretty old. You think you have good intentions or good info, but it just adds to the same old chorus. Most of us are already 400 comments in in our own lives, and our patience runs pretty thin. Here’s the thing: YOU started the attack, by reading this post which explicitly stated that using medical terms and insisting on talking about health on this topic is damaging to fat people. Yet, you chose to go there. The people you are harming have every right to fight back.

          • I think that we are mostly on the same page here and I didn’t mean to come across as sounding angry. We both agree that irresponsible industry and non-ideal food systems contribute to making people unhealthy. And there is evidence that “obesity” is correlated to being exposed to irresponsible industry and non-ideal food systems. I think it is probably true, however, that not all people exposed to these non ideal systems are fat or that those who have been able to avoid them are all thin just as it is pretty clear that not all fat people are unhealthy and that not all thin people are healthy. However, because of the high correlation, public health people use obesity as an indicator of an unhealthful system and I think that this has been conflated with the causes of bad health. (I saw a similar problem happening at a social service agency who decided that since there was a correlation between high divorce rates and low graduation, they should force people to stay married rather than address the stresses that were actually underlying both issues.)

            I think that the problem arises when we talk about the “problem of obesity.” Even if public health people don’t mean to place the problem on individuals, using this language makes obesity sound causal and therefore available for the public to freely use in making moral claims against those they perceive as being fat. Especially when so many public health campaigns focus on getting individuals to make “healthier food choices” and “exercise more” (which I know, because I’ve been there, seems like the much more reasonable action than trying to get industry to change – we normally just don’t have that kind of political power and still want to be able to do something) it starts to seems as if people are making the “choice to be fat” when they don’t or can’t choose “healthier options.” I’m pretty sure most public health people would disagree with this statement, but even they, having conflated an indicator with the cause, may begin to believe it is the fault of the individual that they are fat and that they could do something to change it if they just wanted it badly enough. This conflation, then framed in terms of “value free science” gives the public a pass to make moral claims against people for “their choices.” They begin to believe that shaming fat people is an okay thing to do in the name of health.

            All of this is besides the point that I believe public health really does try to make people “healthy” in a morally standard way (the definition of disease then being any kind of deviation from this moral standard) and then uses science as a “value free” measurement system to back up these claims as truth. I’m not trying to convince you of that (post-modern thought has never been useful to public health and has more than likely ruined me from working in that field again.) Nor am I trying to change your mind about what causes ill-health. But maybe I would like to get the public health community to better understand their power when it comes to morality making and how important it is to be precises when conveying things to the public, especially when indicators and causation can be so easily mixed up and irresponsibly used to hurt people.

          • Indeed, that is what I found in earning my MPH as well. The field of “public health” is more about promoting whatever is seen as the beautiful moral good of the day than about anything objectively “healthy” (whatever that would be). I found it nauseating when, in my classes, people would suggest that we should make fat kids thin (as if we have any way of doing so) because fat kids get bullied. Um… what?! No critical thinking promoted in that field. I had to give up on it. My colleagues were far too concerned with maintaining their grants than with challenging the injustices staring them in the face, especially if that might mean admitting that their careers had contributed to misinformation about and mistreatment of marginalized groups.

            It really really bothers me that the field has been used in such a way, to send out moral crusaders to bring everybody in line. I ended up doing most of my research on the biases of the field and how it has been used to promote social control, not health. So few people in public health are taught how to critically read research articles and identify the trending biases in them.

            “Biostats” classes are a joke. I have found most people whose stats background is limited to a public health “biostats” class don’t understand the first thing about making robust causal inference, navigating the framing effects of conveying risk ratios, communicating “significance” to the public, etc.

          • Lori and G, I’m really really interested in your discussions of your discomfort with the public health field, moral norms, and post modern thought (I’ve even been thinking a lot about trying to get into medical anthro as a solution to my inability to feel ok about working in public health). I was incredibly put off throughout my MPH experience, and I’ve literally never had a single conversation with anyone ever about it. Other students just could not relate. I had the impression several professors of mine were disturbed by the moral imperatives driving much of the agenda (especially regarding obesity), but in a situation where the student is paying about a million bazillion dollars for an MPH professors won’t really engage a student in such a deeply critical way (at least that was my reading – we needed to stay happy customers of our university and get to work asap at a local health department or consulting company paying off our loans). My friends interested in post modern theory etc can’t really relate it to the contemporary endeavor of public health. Could anyone direct me to sources that are critiquing public health on these grounds – articles, journals, online communities? I would really appreciate anything you could recommend!

          • I actually was really disappointed to come into my program (which I was hoping would help me do public health better) to find that anthropology and public health are very antagonistic and at this point in time, don’t really want to find common ground. In other words, medical anthropology will NOT make you feel ok about working in public health. That said, I wouldn’t recommend against doing that. I hope it will make me more creative and actually useful to the failing programs I was a part of before coming here.

            I could possibly point you to some stuff, but it would be helpful if you could be as specific as possible about what you are interested in. It’s hard pin point something that would be a good general discussion of the post modernist or critical anthropological critique of public health, although nearly any contemporary ethnography (usually by specific disease or site – I’ve even read an ethnography on sonograms as a “multi-site”) on public health will incorporate “moral economy” into it’s analysis. Anything by Paul Farmer is usually how people who aren’t familiar with critical anthropology get introduced to the concepts (he works mostly on AIDS in Haiti). Otherwise, just typing the key words “moral economy” “political economy” “moral panic” “feminist critique” or just “anthropology” along with your topic of interest into Google Scholar will probably give you a good start.

          • What the hell does the “moral norm” have to do with anything when it comes to health? Morality has nothing to do with weight. It has to do with what’s right and wrong when it comes to relationships with other people. WTF?

          • mo·ral·i·ty   [muh-ral-i-tee, maw-] Show IPA
            noun, plural mo·ral·i·ties for 4–6.
            conformity to the rules of right conduct; moral or virtuous conduct.
            moral quality or character.
            virtue in sexual matters; chastity.
            a doctrine or system of morals.
            moral instruction; a moral lesson, precept, discourse, or utterance.


          • I don’t do a lot of blog commenting and am not really accustomed to dealing with people who react to an unfamiliar idea with anger and insults. This of course only sets me up to want to defend myself rather than share with you the information I. Have gathered over many years of study and teaching. So that’s what I’ll do since there are so many other good arguments about the links betwwen morality and health on this thread and a simple google search on health and morality would give you all the literature you’d need if you could be bothered to read it. I have an MPH and worked at the CDC for six years so I am familiar with health. I am currently teaching a course on morality for the fourth time at UNC and am writing my dissertation on moral formation so I”d say I’ve got that dictionary definition down thank you. I can say yes you are exactly right – that morality is a way humans interact with each other. I can’t help you if you’d prefer not to use your critical thinking skills to see how that might be relevant to medical discourse. (Typed on phone so yes mistakes)

          • Morality relates to weight by the first dictionary listing: “conformity to the rules of right conduct”. If you go to any doctor’s office, hospital, or county or state public health office, they’re plastered all over the walls, including rules about what weight you “should” be for your height. (BMI anyone?)

            Beyond that, all moral/religious systems throughout human societies and history have been obsessed with dietary norms: kosher for Jews, halal for Muslims, just to name a few. And in Christianity, the human body is called a temple. While interactions between people is certainly a major concern of morality, moral discourse is deeply involved in how we view how others present themselves to the world: “That dress is so slutty.”; “He must be compensating for some inadequacy.”; “Wow! Save some for the rest of us.”

            More importantly, it would be impossible to tell me what weight I “should” be without using moral language. But I think what you’re trying to say is that morality should be left out of discussions about weight altogether. The problem, as Lori and others have identified, is that it’s impossible to talk about “health”, or medicine in general, without involving moral language and moral norms.

            Take your example of birth defects. Why does anyone care about them? It’s impossible to talk about them as being “unhealthy” or a “medical problem” without implying specific (unspoken) values. Even the term “defect” implies failure to conform to some norm. Why choose that norm over any other?

            My point is that rather than try to pretend that medicine and “health” are free of “moral norms”, we should work harder to identify the hidden ones that already exist and see if they are consistent with our other values. If an aversion to “being fat” is inconsistent with my other values, then that’s a reason to reevaluate it. But if it is consistent with my general health values, then I should be free to be concerned about my own weight without it being seen as being concerned about the weights of others.

          • The poster you were responding to wasn’t claiming that weight is a behavior. They were pointing out how society connects moral concepts to weight so that those connections can be challenged. 🙂

          • Isaac,
            Here’s what Rick wrote: “Morality relates to weight by the first dictionary listing: “conformity to the rules of right conduct”.”
            This means my statement is correct. Weight is not a behavior, ergo weight is neither moral or immoral. It just is.

          • “Weight is not a behavior, ergo weight is neither moral or immoral. It just is.”
            So behavior has no influence on weight? What about liposuction? What about anorexia? Those are both behaviors that have an influence on weight. Perhaps there are other behaviors that make weight not simply something that “just is”. Are we forever barred from making moral comments about those behaviors?

            An attribute doesn’t have to be a behavior in order to fall under moral consideration if it can be influenced by behavior. And my primary point was that the vast majority of people would agree with me rather than you since humans naturally moralize about attributes and not just behaviors.

            Take clothing as another example: If you saw someone wearing a t-shirt with one of the offensive sayings Issa listed above on it, would you just think it was an “attribute” of the person and assume it had no moral significance whatsoever? Even if it was on a little kid and it was clear one of his parents put it on him and he didn’t know what it meant, would that mean it wasn’t a moral issue?

            By comparison, if a parent’s behavior has an effect on the weight of his or her infant child, shouldn’t the effect on the child be a matter or moral concern? Or are we not allowed to say anything because the child’s weight is just an attribute? Or maybe you’d maintain that nothing the parent does can affect the child’s weight?

            By the way, first, it’s “rick” not “Rick”. I’m a different person from the other “Rick” who commented on here.
            Second, I put a lot of thought into my previous comment, but your response was merely dismissive and hinged on a technicality while ignoring the larger point I made that “IsaacsLaughing” pointed out to you. Dismissive responses do not contribute to civil discord. If that’s all you’ve got, I’m going to abandon your thread and assume you’re not serious about discussing these issues.

          • I didn’t say weight was moral. I said the language of public health makes weight a moral issue divorced from its medical relevance.

          • rick,
            The BEHAVIOR is/can be moral or immoral. A person’s WEIGHT is neither moral nor immoral. Behavior *may* affect weight but does not always affect weight. Take people with thyroid problems, cancer, or other medical problems that caused them to gain or lose weight without their behavior affecting it whatsoever. Therefore, the weight itself is not immoral as the language would suppose. People placing moral judgments on someone’s weight is an incorrect usage of the term “moral” and the spirit of the word moral, which I’ve said before is a sense of right and wrong as it applies to interactions with others.
            If I saw an offensive T-shirt on someone, I would not attribute the shirt to the person at all. I would attribute their choice of wearing that T-shirt to them. The T-shirt itself has no behavior and therefore cannot be moral or immoral. The point I’m trying to make is that people are incorrectly attributing a human characteristic to a basically “inanimate object”. An object cannot be moral or immoral. The person’s behavior as it connects to that object can be moral or immoral. See the difference? Language needs to be specific in order to have the desired meaning.

    • I’m glad you commented. Conversations I’ve had with other public health people about fatness are pretty interesting. We seem to share a lot of values and can agree on a lot of points, but we eventually come around to different conclusions.

      I think the case for calling fatness a disease is pretty slim. It is a body type that is correlated with some diseases, but it not a disease itself. When you compare it to things like cancer, it just doesn’t make sense to me. 50% of fat people are healthy by all currently accepted measures of medical health. Some thin people also get the diseases that are correlated with fatness. If 50% of the people who had cancer didn’t have cancer, and there were lots of people who had cancer but we said they didn’t have cancer, that would be pretty confusing.

      It seems to me that fatness is more like (for instance) a family history of heart disease. It’s something that you “have” or “are” that relates to your medical health and correlates with specific conditions. But it isn’t a disease itself.

      Another thing that stands out to me in your comment is that you talk about obesity in nearly every class. Why do you do that? The #1 cause of death in the US is heart disease (for which obesity is NOT a risk factor). #2 is cancer. 3 (respiratory), 4 (stroke), 5 (accidents), and 6 (Alzheimer’s) also don’t relate to obesity. Do you talk about those in every class? I submit that the reason you talk about obesity and how to prevent it is because that’s a fashionable topic.

      I believe you when you say you want to help people. But I don’t believe that the things you’re studying are helping.

      • I’m not a public health professional (for a few more months yet) but in my classes, the go-to topics we use as examples are usually obesity, nutrition, physical activity, and smoking (so, let’s call that cancer).

        The things I am studying could be used to help people, but only if my peers, colleagues, and I are given correct and relevant information. Among my classmates, there’s a quieter, growing discussion about obesity and why there are conflicting studies about body fat and negative outcomes we’ve assumed were correlational, but conventional wisdom and professors haven’t pointed most of us in that direction.

        • That’s similar to the list on that Sci Am interactive graph I linked to. Nutrition, physical activity, and smoking are behaviors. Obesity is a body type. (Actually, now that I think about it, nutrition is kind of shaky as a behavior, too, since it relates so much to class and culture.) In any case, I definitely think body types and trends in body types are worth studying, but we’ve shown an abysmal ability to do so without prejudice so far.

          • It does describe a body type, but it is as it stands an outdated concept for sure.

            Language changes and science marches forward. While I’m under the impression that BMI is a very misguided piece of science, I also believe that it must have had some kind of reason for its origin. Since as a society our current views on what is un/healthy seem to be changing towards looking at people as more diverse, the way we use BMI is going to change as it is already changing.

            While I know that I am not -technically- accurate according to current standards, my anecdote is that this doesn’t put me terribly out of line with what the standards appear to be becoming.

            So IMO, using phrases involving weight is probably more accurate for discussion than the currently-flawed term “obese”. We already know that natural weight is a spectrum instead of some kind of homogenous set thing so why not talk about what is in someone’s range in a different way?

          • While I’m under the impression that BMI is a very misguided piece of science, I also believe that it must have had some kind of reason for its origin.

            Insurance tables, actually. It was developed for populations, never intended to be used for individuals.

            As for the rest of your comment, I’m honestly not sure what you’re arguing. Can you clarify?

          • The argument can be made because many different body types could potentially fall into a given height:mass ratio. One common example is comparing a body builder at 6′ tall who masses 275 lbs to someone with the same height and mass who does not have a low body fat percentage.

            I would challenge anyone to say they are the same body type.

          • I technically fall into the obese range based on my BMI, because I am tall with a wider build and adipose. But I don’t represent the stereotypical obese body type, by any means.

      • Stump, you replied to TheFeministBreeder’s first comment. Is that what you meant to do? Do you think her comment was disrespectful? If so, I’d like to hear more about why you think so.

        Edit: Ah, I see above where you have elaborated.

    • about “a war on their disease”: I’m a fat person and I am obese. When I was a young child and my father was stopped from to putting his penis in my mouth, he moved his power plays over to making me eat. When encouragement and cajoling didn’t work, he held me down on the ground, plugged my nose and got the food into my mouth. I was three years old. I have no memory of understanding the relationships between hunger, fullness and eating. I eat for all kinds of reasons. I’m now 56 years old. it isn’t my disease

    • Sorry, being a person is not a disease and I’m afraid you are not a feminist in any worthwhile or meaningful way if you can accept the dehumanization of people.

      Many of whom are women.

      The construct of ‘obesity’ trades on the way women are not considered fully human and is a product of patriarchal science which needs to be checked.

      People like yourself, refuse to check in. Not for your self and your own kind, race and class obviously, for those you consider lesser.

      The way we are seen as the property of the community and some kind of reflection of its physical and mental health.

      The way “feminists” have allowed women’s liberation to break because of fatness, is so pitiful, I refuse to bracket myself with people like you, because it is too demeaning and depressing.

      I would NEVER sign on to define slim people as disease. Full stop.

    • You know, “Feminist” Breeder, I’m sure you (think you) mean well and I’m also sure you (think you) have much to contribute to the lives of fat people, but you’ve just beautifully illustrated how difficult it is for fat people and those who love them to have a conversation about the social issues surrounding fatness. I have no doubt that your studies and your profession are both valuable, but try a little humanity, too. In extremely simple terms: ALL fat people (and those who love them) have HEARD IT BEFORE. Okay? People like you need to allow others to have just the occasional forum where they don’t have to defend themselves, but can just talk about how much it sucks to have one’s body made a public issue.

      When the subject actually IS health, folks like you have a lot of good information and good things to say. But to force the topic onto health simply shows that the respect you (say you) have for people’s experiences is not quite as high as you’d have us all believe.

    • You’re a Public Health *scholar*, Gina? After completing half of a single semester of an MPH degree? What about that Epidemiology class you’re dropping because you are doing terrible in it?

      Don’t make an appeal to your own authority on a subject, when you don’t actually have any authority. Especially when you broadcast your entire life on the internet, making your expertise in an area easily verifiable. Also, being a Doula doesn’t give you any kind of authority to speak on obesity either, not even where obesity intersects with birth and pregnancy.

      I can’t pretend that I like you in the slightest, but my advice is serious. You make yourself look like a fool with this kind of thing, so humble yourself about Public Health until you actually finish some coursework.

    • No, but you just did exactly what the piece says NOT TO DO.

      …is it really that goddamn hard to keep your opinion to yourself or do you really feel the need to bloat your head at every turn?

    • Obesity is not considered a disease any more than “tall” is. There are pathologies associated with the extreme end of height and weight, but the height/weight are considered symptomatic rather than diseases by themselves.

      The most damning thing you can say is that obesity has been correlated with higher rates of specific diseases, but that has very little practical meaning.

    • If you are any kind of public health professional interested in social justice, you should know that the single most robust predictor of negative health outcomes is not weight/BMI, age, gender, or any of the other things people like to blame for poor health, but rather SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS. Where you live also has a lot to do with it; negative health outcomes are far more common in the USA than they are in Europe or most of Asia, and far more common in Appalachia and the South than in say, California or New York.

      For what it’s worth, people of low socioeconomic status, particularly if they live in areas with poor health care and poor health care distribution, do tend to be fatter. But there is a sizable amount of research piling up which implies that STRESS makes people fatter. The more circulating cortisol is in your bloodstream, the less sensitive you are to satiety signalling and the more likely you are to store fat in your belly rather than more evenly across your body, which is the ONLY way in which being fat correlates with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is also related to stress and inflammation, and people of lower socioeconomic status lead more stressful lives due to factors that you are well aware are beyond their control.

      Knowing all this–that stress makes people fatter and sicker than they would otherwise naturally be, and that as you yourself admit, economic and political problems in the USA create conditions that make it punishingly difficult for poor people to eat well and not be too exhausted and overscheduled to get good exercise out of their leisure activities, WHY ON EARTH would you be posting HERE, of all places, about “obesity” and health? You of all people should be well aware that what a person has the potential to weigh is largely determined by genetics and that whether they get fatter than they otherwise would is influenced by many, many factors that are completely out of their control, particularly under the political and economic system of the USA? So why are you focusing on fat people and how you think WE should change instead of spreading the word about stress and poverty and overwork (Americans now work longer hours than the Japanese) and how those things influence both overall health outcomes? There is no excuse for you to not realise that fat-shaming only increases a fat person’s stress load and in no way helps them lose weight or improve any other aspect of their life.

      Give it up. I’ve worked (as an admin, granted, but I edit manuscripts for peer-reviewed journals and spend a load of time on PubMed) in medicine and medical research most of my adult life, and I currently work in an inner-city county hospital where we see all the people who are likeliest to have all these problems. They have them whether or not they are fat, and while they are more likely to be fat, we both know that’s not something they choose or something that willpower and bootstraps can fix.

      In other words, you’re full of it. If “obesity” has any real relation to public health problems at all, it’s a SYMPTOM at worst, and there is nothing shaming people about their “unhealthy” habits can do to fix it because people don’t really control what they weigh, how hard and how long they have to work, where they can shop, whether they have the energy to even think about working out or playing a sport when they’re done doing what has to be done so they can feed their families, and so on.

      • Thank you for this intelligently written post. I appreciate this standpoint. I am not at all saying that it is not partially my fault that I am fat, however…my socioeconomic status does not allow for me to work out, or buy healthy food, I am working 50-60 hour weeks, hardly ever get a lunch break and by the time all my bills are paid, i have hardly any money left over to feed my family…which makes the low-nutrition crappy food more accessible than the healthier fruits and vegetables which unfortunately cost more.

        • 🙂 I had another point there, though, which I really want you to get, and that is that you are stressed. This means there are high levels of cortisol floating around your bloodstream, and you could be living on a pure whole-food plant-based diet and you would still be more likely to accumulate fat in your abdomen than someone who has comparatively little to worry about. This is not your fault, and being shamed about it only increases your stress load, which creates more cortisol.

    • Well, look at you jumping in with concern trolling as the VERY FIRST comment. Who could have seen that coming? Except everyone. Ever.

  2. I found myself realizing, while reading this post, that I JUST POSTED something that could be construed as “fat hate” or “self hate” on my own blog. I was writing a post about PCOS, and how it has manifested into physical symptoms for me, which include weight gain. I commented on how I used to be thin without even trying (this was my natural body type). Now, with PCOS, I’ve gained weight, and am adjusting (or trying) to my new body. It’s been hard. I would argue that part of it is because it’s not a form of ME that I’m used to, but part of it is certainly me not wanting to be larger than I was. So, reading this today was quite thought provoking. Thanks!

    • You’re not alone in experiencing discomfort and confusion at your changing body. I had a dramatic weight gain at the start of my 20s that was probably the result of PCOS. And then just recently I got a whole new belly following Dylan’s birth. Apparently I was carrying around some judgement of different belly shapes, and it’s been tricky to get over that! Fighting back against our terrible culture of body hate can be a long process.

  3. This is a fantastic list!
    However, you just can’t dispute the scientific evidence that contradicts number 10. In the sense of the word ‘healthy’, as in happiness, wellbeing, etc., being fat is perfectly healthy. But obesity has been scientifically proven again and again to be a health problem and to lead to heart disease etc.

    • Congratulations! You just committed #7. Your comment amounts to, “This is a fantastic list, but also OMG!HEALTH!!” It’s not helpful.

      Fatness has been CORRELATED with (or is a RISK FACTOR for) many diseases (although heart disease isn’t one of them). So what? Poverty is associated with most of the same diseases. Do you compulsively bring up health every time someone talks about being poor or the ways you can assist them as a poor person?

      Also, read #10 again. It says, “Since permanent, significant weight loss is not possible for most people, and since intentional weight loss itself may have negative health effects, recommending weight loss is cruel and unethical.”

      There is literally NO EVIDENCE whatsoever to contradict this statement. There has been study after study after study in the pursuit of effective “treatments” for fatness. None has been found.

    • Actually, in studies that look at factors such as nutrition and fitness, simply being fat or “obese” isn’t a risk factor for almost anything.

      Which is the whole crux of the “obesity equals unhealthy” argument. #14. There are a lot of behaviors that have been proven to be unhealthy,yet rather than focus on the behaviors, we look at someone’s weight to decide if they are “healthy” or “unhealthy.”

      (not to mention that intentional weight loss has a lot of risk factors in it as well. Or that “eating well and exercising” doesn’t prevent deaths. In a recent study, “overweight and obese” people with Tyoe 2 diabetes were assigned to a low calorie, high exercise plan. After 11 years, even with losing 5% body weight, thre was NO DIFFERENCE in deaths. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/20/health/in-study-weight-loss-did-not-prevent-heart-attacks-in-diabetics.html?_r=1&amp;. “The group assigned to diet and exercise ended up with about the same levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar as those in the control group”.

      (Sorry for breaking #6)

      • Shamefully, it seems a lot of public health people have completely forgotten the rigors of experimental design.

        No one can afford to measure the triglycerides, metabolic rates, and so on (also known as the actual indicators or predictors of health conditions like heart attacks), for 1700 subjects. But BMI is easy and cheap to measure, so it got loosely correlated with things like triglycerides, and then used as a proxy for health risks. But when people get together to discuss these studies, and to make public health initiatives, they need to spend time discussing the limitations of a study, and limitations of a metric. We’ve lost that part in the public health discussion of weight.

        Also, the cultural/class bias of the studies which originally correlated BMI to things like elevated triglycerides affects their applicability. I.E. They sampled a ton of white, middle-class folks who eat a diet heavy in red meat. Oh, word? Eating food high in triglycerides might drive up your triglyceride count? Crazy.

        I got a bit long-winded, but basically, Issa below mentions the apparent lack of considering confounding variables in many of these studies. I’m saying in many cases, the problem is more fundamental. The science just isn’t that good.

        Issa – about 3 years ago or so, I committed some faux pas because I was stuck up in my own privilege. It was a great watershed moment for me, and ever since I’ve been a whirl-wind trip of learning to listen. This post was a great privilege-check and a great check on my word choice. I always appreciate when people take time to help me be less of an ass-hat, even if indirectly. Thanks.

        • Thanks, Joe. I’ve had plenty of privilege-checks in my day, too. Hell, I used to BE a fat person who made fun of fat people. I have appreciated many other people who have come before me to help me out, and I’m glad to add to the positive voices now.

  4. Interesting perspective. I think that something that a lot of people miss is that while on occasion, medical obesity and health concerns are CORRELATED, that doesn’t mean that it is the obesity that is causing the health concerns. For example, for SOME people, they have the same root cause. A person who doesn’t exercise at all is more likely to be overweight (note I didn’t say the other way around), as well as more likely to have bad cardiovascular fitness. That doesn’t mean that being overweight caused the bad fitness, just that their lack of exercise did.

    But in the end, someone else’s health is none of your business.

    • Absolutely! You touch on some great things here, like that fatness and the associated negative health effects might have the same 3rd thing causing them, and that lack of exercise (as well as poor diet) will negatively affect fitness regardless of weight. And of course I love your conclusion! 🙂

    • There are also people, such as myself, who have cardiovascular fitness that is abnormally poor for their level of exercise. For me, walking is aerobic exercise. I cannot move faster than a medium-paced walk and still readily carry on a conversation. I have been like this since childhood. Doctors blamed it on asthma then, but more recent testing has proven that whether or not I had asthma in childhood, I don’t now.

      It’s only recently that I’ve tried to find a medical explanation for this problem. For years, I believed that it must be my fault I couldn’t exercise like other people–that it must be because I don’t try to exercise enough. As I’ve learned more about ableism and victim-blaming, I’ve come to realize that normal people don’t have this much trouble exercising, even if they’re completely sedentary, and I’ve stopped accepting blame for my lack of cardiovascular fitness.

      If anyone’s wondering, I’ve never weighed over 136 pounds. There are people twice my weight whose fitness puts mine to shame, but my fitness isn’t something I can control.

      Obviously, I take exception to the idea that physical activity and physical fitness are personal choices. Because I cannot get significant amounts of exercise without getting out of breath and exhausted, I do not have the option of doing regular cardiovascular exercise. If I haul groceries home for a 20-minute walk from the store, I don’t have the energy to do laundry that day.

      I also have developmental coordination disorder, which means that I am not physically coordinated enough to ride a bicycle (on most surfaces) or drive, let alone play sports. When I was a child, I was abused by my peers for my lack of physical ability, to the point where I have PTSD-like reactions to any sort of exercise class or any sort of frustration regarding exercise now. I was also continually gaslit by well-meaning phys ed teachers who told me I was doing fine in order to make me feel better, even though I and everyone else around me knew I wasn’t. My parents insisted that I’d do fine in phys ed if I practiced the skills more. Needless to say, practice didn’t help. “You need to try harder” is just my parents’ go-to response to any situation where I can’t do what other people can and my parents don’t understand why.

      (Note: This is directed to people in general, not any one person:) So, DO NOT FUCKING TELL ME EXERCISE AND FITNESS ARE CHOICES. FOR ME THEY ARE NOT AN OPTION. I do strength-building exercises, which have helped tone my body. But cardio fitness? No way. I can’t be “physically fit”, and IT’S NOT MY FAULT.

      • Hi kisekilea,

        I’m really sorry that this happened to you. I (and probably everyone else) find it very difficult to cope in a situation where you are sincerely trying your best (in your case, cardio-vascular exercise) and people simply do not believe that there is a reason that they can do something (to any extent) and you cannot.

        I feel this is also a big factor in the general negative attitude I perceive in society towards fatness. If a fat person says they did try to reduce their weight (for whatever reason) and that it did not work or that they are physically incapable of achieving weight loss (similar to you not being able to exceed a certain level of cardio-vascular fitness), it is immediately called an excuse. If they say that regardless of their physical capacity to achieve a certain level of thinness, they do not feel the urge to because they don’t want to be thin or that being thin really isn’t a priority in their life because they are happy, it is not just called out as a lie to the listener/reader, but they are accused of “lying to themselves”. This has happened in my immediate surroundings a lot.

        It makes me very, very angry because it smacks of incredible arrogance. The person calling someone self-delusional is stating that they themselves know the truth about the situation. Most of the time, they do not, and they aren’t even close to it.

        They often attribute it to “you’re just not trying hard enough”, which is terribly frustrating. Being ostracized like that is very painful and, as you described, affects people (including myself) years later, sometimes for the rest of their lives. I personally found a way out of the (as you called it) PTSD-like reactions by researching a concept called self-compassion. I don’t want to advertise any specific website here, but just googling it will give you resources to work with, if you’d like.

        I found it very liberating and I have found comfort and relief from the harrowing concept of never feeling “good enough”. It has brought me more peace and happiness with my body and my life than I anticipated, and I truly hope it helps you in coping with the trauma inflicted upon you as a child. Once again, I am so sorry this happened to you.

  5. Hi, I really enjoyed the post. I do just want to comment on one particular issue I had in point #3. I agree that you are not a bad person for eating. But I do think there are good foods out there and bad foods. Some foods are made with chemicals and MSGs and other terrible ingredients that we dont even know about. Some foods are made at the expense of animal cruelty. Some foods are just plain not good for us. And frankly we all eat it. That doesn’t mean we are bad people for eating it but I feel that some foods are better for us then others. I hope this is not hurtful are shameful, because I dont mean it to be.

    • But the difference here is the shaming culture that surrounds “good” food and “bad” food. I think it’s more useful to talk about ethical food rather than “good” food. It’s unethical to eat food that’s made off of slave labour, or from excessively cruel factory farming. But food is a neutral thing in and of itself, and to turn food into a moral item in and of itself is a bad stance to take, because it does lead to this food shaming.

      For example, I lived with a hyper-controlling roommate for a while with problems with eating disorders. She forever called foods “naughty” or “bad.” I couldn’t eat peanut butter in our shared flat because it was “fatty and naughty” and to eat it meant that I was “a naughty little piggy.” Months and months of this over all kinds of food — eggs, cheese, milk, bananas, you name it — and I was sick as a dog trying to live off of the foods that didn’t get me shamed. Which was, if I recall correctly, mostly lettuce, white beans, balsamic vinegar, toast, whole wheat pasta, and black coffee. Unsurprisingly, upon discovering I had a gluten allergy, I realised why her food shaming had made me so ill. But instead of letting up on the shaming, it was all about how getting so sick after eating bread would make me skinny.

      Good food versus bad food puts fat people in particular, and I think women especially, in a combative, shaming relationship with food. Instead of thinking about what’s ethically produced, what’s healthy and nourishing for us physically and spiritually, what’s delicious and roots us in our place and our culture and our people, we think about food as “bad.” It’s the enemy. Which is why transferring the good and bad language to ethical and unethical food doesn’t help — because we’ve taught ourselves to “be naughty” because there is no “being good.”

      If you want to make the cause to have ethical, sane food made without GMOs and slavery and cruelty, I’m right there with you. But that doesn’t make processed stuff bad food. It makes it a social and financial problem to be solved culturally and socially. And labelling food as the enemy doesn’t do anything to illuminate the reasons why it is an ethical concern — it just puts GMOs in the same category as double chocolate cake.

    • Some foods are better for individual people than others, but which foods those are vary from person to person. For example, the Fat Nutritionist has talked about working with cancer patients who were encouraged to eat hamburgers and milkshakes in order to get enough calories. For another example, a commenter talked about how she was undernourished as a child because she didn’t like food, and eating junk food jump-started her hunger drive and led to increased health. There’s such thing as a universally healthy or unhealthy food.

      Animal cruelty is a different issue. I do agree that it, as well as the working conditions under which food is produced/grown, and the harmful practices of Big Agra companies like Monsanto, are major ethical issues. But looking into the way food is made, and changing how you eat based on that, is different from the kind of moralizing that Issa is talking about.

    • Dana –

      Perhaps you might find this article interesting:


      There are no such thing as “good” or “bad” foods. Food does not have morality. Some foods are good for some people while some are less desirable for others. Out of 7 billion people in the world, there is no possible way to create a list or even general guideline for foods as “good” or “bad”.

      Unless it is poison or is actually poisonous to you (think peanut allergy) then it is just food. Plain and simple. Aspartame and MSG are not food – they are chemicals. That brings up a whole separate issue. But the basic reality is – – food is food.

      • Well, technically all food is made of chemicals–it’s just that some are naturally made, and others are artificially made. But otherwise, yes to all of this! And the Fat Nutritionist is the best. Sometimes I wish I could walk around with her URL written on my forehead.

  6. You say that obesity is not a disease itself, but it is something that is known to cause diseases. Not everyone who smokes a cigarette will get cancer, but that doesn’t mean that cigarettes aren’t related to cancer in any way. I would still advocate people stop smoking.

    And just as smoking can have a second-hand effect that can harm others who don’t smoke, obesity can do the same. Our society is geared toward a life that makes one fatter. Restaurants give us too much food, goods are sold to make life easier (ie less active.)

    Now, I agree that not everyone who is fat is unhealthy. I’m fat myself, but I’m in great physical shape. I exercise and I eat right (mostly) and I do what I can to get into shape. And yes, it does hurt my feelings when someone assumes that I eat burgers and sit on my ass all day. We must find a balance. We don’t want any diseases caused by poor diet and exercise to get out of hand, but at the same time we don’t want to shame those who are fat.

    • Cuponoodles:

      “You say that obesity is not a disease itself, but it is something that is known to cause diseases”

      Nope. Lemme stop you right there. There is NO DISEASE THAT IS STRICTLY LIMITED TO FAT PEOPLE. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. There is a correlation between fat and disease. However, there is also a correlation between being alive and disease.

        • Very well, then I would like to see cuponoodless substantiate his/her argument that being obese is known to cause some diseases by providing documentation and actual evidence to support that argument. In other words, citations are needed.

    • Dr. Steven Blair, an American exercise physiologist, has done extensive researcher showing that those who are fat and fit are “healthier” (according to various measures) than those who are slim and unfit.

      I am so supremely fed up with the assumption that one’s weight is the ultimate sign of one’s healthy or unhealthy state.

      And even if being fat *is* linked to an unhealthy state (and, as many commenters before have said, science is very far from proving that this is true, not to mention the fact that there are absolutely no diseases that only fat people get) THERE IS NO F*CKING WAY FOR 95% OF FAT PEOPLE TO LOSE AND KEEP THE WEIGHT OFF. Sorry, for the shouting, but it would seem that nobody is the mainstream is listening.

      So why aren’t we doing what we *know* contributes to good health: Why aren’t we being more active? Eating mindfully and intuitively? Trying to get our stress levels down? (And here, let me state that I am totally against the health police–do what you want and can do for yourself–and don’t get me started on the socio-economics of health, which is best left to an entirely different thread).

      I am just as guilty as the next person of wanting to change my size. I have grown up, as have we all, in a society that totally refuses to accept body diversity. It’s as if all trees had to be the same height, or only poodles were considered to have the right “doggly” shape. Just as throughout nature, we are born to each be unique: short, tall, broad-shouldered, thin-lipped, etc. But because of societal pressure to be slim, despite one’s genetic baggage, so many of us are trying to turn ourselves into something that we were not born to be. And in so doing, we are often turning ourselves into a much fatter version of who we were actually born to be. Yes, while sustained weight loss doesn’t work for at least 95% of the population, we do see vast numbers of people dieting their weight UP the scale. It makes sense from an evolutionary point of view, after all. The more weight you carry, the better equipped you are to make it through times of famine.

      So, in a nutshell, cuponoodless, you’re probably much healthier than most Westerners, of any size.

  7. Issa, I forgot to change my RSS feed, so I haven’t been getting your latest updates, but just linked here from THE FAT NUTRITIONIST’S FB!! Woo hoo!!! Love you both. LOL

  8. Hi, I have a question. Number 21 says that it’s wrong to say, “I’m happy with my body the way it is, but I wouldn’t want to get any bigger.” I’m wondering why that is. For me, it’s the truth. I like my size and my shape, and I don’t want to gain any weight. On the flip side, I don’t want to lose weight either. I’m not sure that making a statement about liking your own body is wrong if you’re not trying to use it to put someone else down. Thoughts?

    • I think it’s possible to make a statement like that devoid of any judgement. I think it’s more likely to be about something troubling. It’s normal to gain weight as we age. It’s normal for weight to fluctuate in relation to illness. It’s normal for weight to fluctuate in response to stress. Imagine, for example, that we were talking about getting gray hairs. A 30 year old woman says, “I’m happy with my hair color and I don’t want to get gray hairs.” This isn’t just a statement of fact about liking one’s body. It carries cultural judgments about aging, about sexiness, about women. Likewise when a preteen says, “I don’t want to get boobs,” this carries more meaning than just “I’m happy with my current shape.” Not wanting to get fatter is the same. Fatness is tied up with all sorts of negative things that are hard to separate out.

      • Why didn’t you quality that it is possible to be nonjudgemental under certain circumstances in your article? I felt that it hurt your (very positive) overall argument by making some very wide, blanket statements in part of your post. After reading the rest of it up until that point, I began to get very disappointed in that.

        I very strongly feel that if a person wants to be a certain way and is free of any kind of painful compulsion over it, then they should be able to be free to be that way outside of any judgement. A person with a higher natural weight who has some healthy (by which I mean non-extreme and healthy for their body type) gain or loss goals, and a person with a lower natural weight having healthy gain or loss goals.

        I am scrawny, and after you get through any layers of stigma, negativity on my part and on others, etc…I’m still unhappy with it and want to improve back to what made me feel intrinsically good both as far as my overall energy and my mood. Back when I was 137-140 pounds I not only looked better because my weight fit my frame but because I was healthy (again, this statement is meant to not be a value judgement but to indicate that my body was working the way it is naturally supposed to. I am now 110-115, and I am sickly and feel terrible almost every day. I am outside of the range that I am supposed to be in.

        Your statement about how its part of fat-hate (with the implication that it is also self-hate) to me is tantamount to saying that I would have been wrong for saying that back when I was 140 pounds I wouldn’t want to go back to where I am now, which I didn’t. I understand the stress of living with a body that I’m unhappy with almost every day, but this is from outside factors that have made it incredibly difficult for me to keep on the pounds. Likewise, I think there are plenty of people in various permutations of my own situation who want to go up or down and feel lousy until they do. Shaming a person could produce a “synthetic” feeling of what is acceptable, but there are honestly people without shame who have goals for themselves. What is wrong with that?

        • When the goal is weight loss, I have a hard time believing that the goal is completely free of moralistic judgments. We are SO hung up on weight. Even in your example of yourself, I have a hard time believing that it’s so important to focus on weight. If you felt so much better at one point in time, there were likely things you were doing other than possessing the physical characteristic of weighing 140 pounds. Now that you feel sickly, there are likely other things going on that just weighing 115. What is the difference, and why don’t you focus on those things instead of focusing on weight. For many people, when they make behavioral changes, their weight will also change at first but then will resettle back to their previous weight. When we focus purely on the pounds, those people get discouraged and quit doing the other things that feel good. But if you will keep doing those things, you will keep feeling better, regardless of what your weight does. That’s what’s “wrong with that”. Weight is largely out of our control so wanting to be a certain weight is often futile. Focusing on that weight is harmful.

        • Dude, what is your obsession with repeatedly demanding that people EXPLAIN THEMSELVES to you IMMEDIATELY?! All this “[citation needed]” stuff, and now this? Not cool!

      • Issa, I’m a little confused here. You’re saying it’s wrong for me (or Sarahabove) to want to maintain a current weight? If not wanting to get fatter is wrong, the only logical right thing to do is perpetually gain weight. I personally don’t think I want to follow your definition of what is ‘right’ in this case.

        Good original article though. Certainly sheds light on the issue of fat oppression and fat rights. Your approach might be a touch aggressive, and can have unintended consequences of making people of other body types (ie. thin, muscular, not quite fat enough to fit in with the ‘fat’ rights movement) feel guilty about their bodies.

        • You know, you could also not care about your weight and simply love your body, no matter how it changes. You could care about your health without focusing on the size of your body.

    • The reason this is links back to #1. By saying I’m happy with my body the way it is but I don’t want to get bigger, there is an implied judgement that bigger is bad or wrong. You may not have the intention of putting someone else down, but anytime you are making comments about your body – you are also making comments on other people’s bodies by the very nature that they can here you.

      For example, I use to work with a woman who would go on about how at 130 lbs she felt disgusting and wanted to be back to her old weight of 120lbs. Mind you, my body is equal to roughly 3 of her bodies. She was not intending to talk to me or about me. But the fact that she was making a value judgement on the size of her body – conveyed a value judgement on the size of my body as well. I hope that helps give a little perspective 🙂 You phrased your question in a really positive and open way. thank you for approaching this respectfully.

      • I see how you guys think that each person’s general remarks about their bodies could imply that there is judgement on all others and their body types or physical traits. My roommate keeps talking about how she’s happy at 130 lbs and doesn’t care if it’s a “heavy weight” while I’m three inches shorter and approximately the same weight.

        But I’m not going to tell her to stop saying those things because her relationship with her body has NOTHING to do with me. And I think that’s something a lot of people forget. What someone is comfortable with in their own body doesn’t mean that they’re going to judge you for not having those same feelings about your body.

        I’ve had a few conversations with people online about how an individual’s relationship with their body is typically a very personal thing and honestly has nothing to do with anyone else around them. I have an eating disorder and personally have problems with my own body that I’m trying to work through. But that doesn’t mean that I think that anyone else at any different size is “wrong” or “naughty” or “bad”. These are internalized things that I need to work out with myself.

        So number 21 is basically saying that if you do think that you wouldn’t want to gain weight, you’re wrong. And you’re double-wrong for verbalizing it around someone bigger than you because that’s incredibly insensitive!

        A friend of mine in high school who was larger than me used to constantly say “if you think you’re fat than what am I, a whale?” and I just wanted to shake her and say “I DON’T THINK ANYTHING OF YOUR BODY TYPE”And I almost never called myself fat out loud around other people.

        But I guess this just means that if you’re not fat, you’re not allowed to talk about your relationship with your body, no matter how positive or negative.

        • “her relationship with her body has NOTHING to do with me” Funny how she keeps talking about it in front of you then, huh?

          You can talk about your relationship with your body in 800 gabazillion places, online and off. Does it have to be NOW? Does it have to be HERE? Does it have to be to EVERYONE?

          • You’re right, Issa, It’s out of place for me to bring in a mention of my own body issues to a site that’s supposed to help girls battle their body issues.
            I guess “skinny” girls can only talk about their bodies around other “skinny” girls and must thoughtfully censor their thoughts around anyone that isn’t “skinny”.

            My point is more just that everyone, despite their actual body type or weight struggles with body acceptance. But when only a certain group of those people are allowed to express that, while others are not and must keep it to themselves. You see?

          • “a site that’s supposed to help girls battle their body issues”

            I’m not sure where you think you are. I’m interested in helping people battle their body issues, sure. But mostly fat people, because I’m a fat person. And this is my blog, not some kind of support group.

            You can talk about your body issues nearly anywhere you want to. But when you’re here, in a space SPECIFICALLY for talking about speech that’s damaging to fat people, I don’t know how you can write things like this and then be confused at the response:

            “A friend of mine in high school who was larger than me used to constantly say “if you think you’re fat than what am I, a whale?” and I just wanted to shake her and say “I DON’T THINK ANYTHING OF YOUR BODY TYPE”And I almost never called myself fat out loud around other people.”

            Why did your friend “constantly” wonder why you were thinking you were fat? Because you were constantly talking about how you were fat. And you weren’t saying, “It’s so awesome that I’m fat,” you were saying, “It sucks so much that I’m fat.” You know what? That means you think fat sucks, and to verbalize that out loud makes you kinda shitty. Did you come by it honestly from a shitty culture? Yes. But if you DON’T THINK ANYTHING OF MY BODY TYPE, then why are you using it as a CODEWORD for “I don’t like myself,” or “My body sucks,” or whatever you want to express. If you want to leave me out of it, THEN LEAVE ME THE FUCK OUT OF IT. And for fuck’s sake, stop trying to make it all about you. Go share your feelings somewhere else.

          • In your previous comment, you said “funny how she keeps talking about it in front of you then, huh?” As if I really should take her vocalization of her internalized thoughts personally. But I shouldn’t. I’m her roommate. She’s not re-assuring herself that she’s glad not to be my size every time and that’s why she says those things!

            But that’s delayed.

            There are a few things from my situation you don’t know that I understand make you more upset.
            1) I almost never called myself fat around my high school friend. See one of my comments below to closetpuritan. When my friend said the whale bit, it was actually rarely directed at me, more often it was at other people and I was just there witnessing the event. But it struck a chord with me. Whenever I actually did feel down about my body, I didn’t say anything about it, ESPECIALLY if anyone around was larger than me.
            2) I actually did not think my high school friend was fat. I never called her fat, I never looked at her and thought “she’s fat”. I didn’t consider fat to be her body type. I honestly just saw her as a friend, not a body to judge.

            But really I just wanted to say I’m sorry for upsetting you and frustrating you further when you’re obviously already irritated with so many other people who comment and disagree with you. I shouldn’t have breached your site and taken your post out of the fat context and trying-and failing- to apply it to my own life.
            Dont’ read those sentences as sarcastic, because I’m being completely sincere.
            I’m sorry to bother you, goodbye and happy Halloween.

        • Rosebud, I see a couple problems with your comment.

          One is that your friend from high school repeatedly told you, albeit indirectly, that your fat talk about your own body hurt her and she would like you to stop. Your response, instead of changing your behavior, was and is, “Your feelings are wrong, stop having them.” (That’s not just a geek social fallacy about sex: http://geekfeminism.org/2012/02/09/the-geek-social-fallacies-of-sex/)

          Well, yeah. It IS insensitive.

          The other thing wrong with your comment is this:

          No, it means that you can’t expect to say anything that pops into your head, without thinking about other people’s feelings, and be immune to the consequences, which are that people will think you’re being inconsiderate or insensitive. Because that’s what you’re doing. Because not thinking/caring about other people’s feelings is pretty much much the definition of inconsiderate and insensitive. And “What about the thinz?” is a derail just like “What about the menz?”

          Also, as you can see from the link just below from Laura (dusty_rose), talking about struggling with feelings of not wanting to be fatter is allowed ON A FAT ACCEPTANCE BLOG if it’s not serving the purpose of #21, i.e. “imply[ing] that it’s not okay to be fat, that people shouldn’t get fat, or that people should try to weigh less.”

          • You’re right and I can see why you’re right, closetpuritan. But the thing is, I almost NEVER called myself fat in front of my high school friend. Or in front of anyone, really. Maybe I did it once, then after that comment, I stopped. But some other girls did not. I didn’t mean to make it sound like that was her response to every time I talked down on myself because I rarely did.
            But when she said those things about how in comparison to her, I was not fat, it made me feel like she was telling me “your feelings are wrong. Stop having them.”
            And in fact, that made me shut up about my body image issues so I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about them when my best friend wouldn’t even listen.
            I guess what I’m saying is that I feel that in some of these cases, fat people make everyone else feel invalid with their insecurities. Which is fat-shaming in itself because of the attitude “Hey, you might not like yourself but at least you’re not FAT like me so don’t complain”.
            Does that make sense?

          • (Heh, I guess my comment was sort of understandable despite the HTML fail.)

            That mostly makes sense. I think that saying “this is also fat-shaming” is a stretch. I think it’s more work for fatter people to accept their bodies, and the BS our culture churns out (in the form of both media and individual interactions) is the ultimate cause of that. I don’t think that recognizing that is fat-shaming; I think it’s just being realistic.

            And I can see how you get the feeling of “your feelings are wrong”, as well, but I think that there are two things to keep in mind.

            1) I’m not saying it’s easy, especially in real time rather than in writing, but–there are ways to express the sentiment “I feel like I’d be unhappy with my body if I were any bigger” that carry an implicit criticism of our culture, and ways that carry an implicit criticism of fat bodies. And there are ways that could be interpreted either way. Unless someone knows where you’re coming from, because we’re in the context of a fatphobic culture, if there’s ambiguity people will tend to read in a criticism of fat bodies.
            2) If you can’t find a way to express insecurities about your body without hurting someone else, especially if that person has to deal with more BS about their body than you, it is your responsibility not to hurt them. Not hurting them might take the form of disqualifiers and careful phrasing, or it might take the form of venting to someone else. Based on the fact that you stopped trying to vent to your high school friend, I think you mostly get this already.

          • Thank you, for explaining your views to me without telling me that I had no place here to express my thoughts or experience. I know my situation is particular and obviously doesn’t apply to all or any other relationships of girls like me and my high school friend.
            I mean, I don’t think it’s anyones responsibility, per say, to not to hurt fat people, but I do think that it is a part of common decency to be sensitive to other people’s situations in general. Kind of like remembering that a person with a mental disorder really is sick and that invalidating their feelings is also unkind.

            And you’re right, when no one knows the context of why someone like me would say “I’m unhappy with my size”, anyone would assume it’s fatshaming. Because it comes off that way. That’s why I don’t talk about my body image. I don’t want people to take my illness personally.

            I guess my original intent was just to share that when people say “I don’t want to get any bigger” they don’t really mean to fatshame. It’s internalized. And I do my best not to say those things above, I really do. I avoid negative conversation about other people’s bodies and my own. I just figured I could give a little blarb about my personal experience or rather observation, about one particular rule that had a big impact on me.

      • Aaaaahh! Thank you!!! I thought I had read something like that at one time, but I couldn’t come up with it. Yes. THIS FAR AND NO FARTHER. It’s such insidious thinking. I have had thoughts like that myself, and they really took me by surprise. Thank you so much for that link!

      • Thank you for this link and for this list in general!

        I have PCOS and have been to so SO many incredibly judgmental doctors and specialists. But the “this far and no farther” idea just reminded me of something:

        For a long time I batted around in the margins between anorexia and bulimia and eating disorders unspecified. One sort of “would-you-rather” game I always played with myself was basically: a) eat whatever you want forever and stay at the same weight or b) keep going as you have been while maintaining the hope that you will ONE DAY reach a nonspecified “goal” weight. I always chose b even though living that way was absolute torture for years. (I grew up in the farthest thing from a fat-accepting household imaginable – eating disorders all around including a mother who called everything objectionable under the sun—bad drivers, ugly houses, disliked thin people—FAT… perhaps the 22nd thing to stop saying unless you hate fat people?)

        The good thing is that now when I ask this question of myself I’ve stopped saying b. I would like to stop asking the question completely.

  9. Obesity does not CAUSE type II diabetes. Obesity can be (but not necessarily be) a SYMPTOM of metabolic syndrome that can become type II diabetes. Cause and effect is confused in the name of health but is actually fat hating.

    There is NO information proving that fatness causes higher health care costs.

  10. Thank you, thank you for posting #10. A couple years back I was struggling with weight gain and did some research and thought I had it narrowed down to thyroid or PCOS. The frustrating thing was I had to do the research, and I all but had to beg my medical care professionals to do the blood tests, even if just to rule them out (also, my OB had commented on my weight gain, so I asked about PCOS, and she said it was unlikely, but I pressed the issue). When I came back positive for PCOS, my OB was actually shocked.

    Cut to the present. I just had a visit and asked about my fertility and such, since my fiance and I want to have a family. She said (knowing I have PCOS) that I should go off the pill and wait for a normal period, and that I should lose some weight, as if it were the simplest thing in the world… even after seeing me struggle with it for years. I feel like “lose some weight” is replacing “take two aspirin and call me in the morning”.

      • I just started reading the PCOS series over at Well Rounded, thanks to your link above, and have already found it to be one of the most comprehensive explanations of PCOS, its symptoms, and its ramifications. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  11. So I think that it should be more about respecting people period and less about restricting vocabulary. I feel like saying that I can’t use the terms overweight, obese, morbidly obese is almost equivalent in saying I can’t use the term african american as that’s racist. All of these are describing words.

    Do you have a more PC term that you would rather be used? Writing anything that identifies a problem should also come with a potential solution, or at least start the ball rolling on a potential solution.

    • I think a better analogy would be if Issa said you shouldn’t use the term “over-dark American,” which would be pathologizing darker skin the way “overweight” and “morbidly obese” pathologize fat.

      Personally, “fat” is the word I prefer, as a neutral descriptor for people with an above-average amount of adipose tissue. But it still has negative connotations for a lot of people. I doubt there’s one “PC” term that will never offend anyone, but “fat” is at least non-pathologizing.

      • “Over-dark American”…or “morbidly black.” (Which could be rationalized by saying that black people die younger than white people on average.)

        Do you see the difference between that and African-American? Do you see why that kind of phrasing is problematic?

    • By “PC” do you mean, “What words would I like to be called?” You can easily figure it out from this post, since I used the word fat 92 times.

      Who is restricting your vocabulary? Who is saying you can’t use terms? I am telling you the things you might be saying that make my life harder. Why are you more concerned that your vocabulary might get a little smaller than with these very real things that affect the quality of my life?

    • African-American is racist because not all black people are from Africa.

      Language is usually less important to people not affected by its negative consequences.
      When people are told constantly that their differences are a burden, are “over” or “under” acceptabel, it takes it’s toll. Tell a child often enough that they are over-dramatic, under-achieving, hyperactive, or otherwise deviant from the conceived average and you will have negative results. SO “PC” is in itself a shitty word used by privileged people to dismiss respectful language that they already have access to.

  12. <3<3 <3
    All of these things. I'm so guilty of many of them. I grew up around a lot of self-loathing, and I picked up so many bad habits. But I'm working on it!

  13. Basically everything on this is awesome except this one:

    “10. Recommending weight loss as a treatment or solution to anything, even if you are a doctor.”

    If you’re not someone’s doctor, it’s none of your business… but really? You’re going to pull this on people?

    You can’t ignore medicine just because your feelings get hurt.

    • Can we acknowledge that there is no reliable way for the vast majority of people to lose weight and keep it off? Seems pretty uncontroversial, given how many fat people there are, who would desperately like to be thin, and who are still fat. If such a panacea existed, there would be far fewer fat people.

      Okay, given that we acknowledge that there is no reliable way for the vast majority of people to lose weight and keep it off, how does it make any sense at all for a doctor to recommend weight loss to a patient as a treatment for a medical condition?

      This is not about “hurt feelings”; it’s about basic science and medical procedure. If a doctor was recommending to cancer patients that they drink grapefruit juice and forego chemo, it would be considered malpractice. “Eat less and exercise,” or whatever flavor of weight-loss program you like, has made as many fat people thin, as grapefruit juice as cured cancer patients, and yet you still are arguing that weight loss should be prescribed to patients as a treatment for their conditions. How does that make any sense?

      • I’ll second that. Excellent comment Joshua. It has always been my view that it is perfectly possible to adjust people’s weight up or down.

        Just not via calorie manipulation which is the only one we have been given.

        No one is actually stopping scientists from understanding more about human metabolism and finding a genuinely feasible way.

        • Wriggles,

          It is definitely possible to adjust people’s weight under some circumstances. For example, see what Christian Bale did to himself to play his role in The Machinist. The point is that what it takes to accomplish significant weigh change is simply not sustainable for most people. Maybe it’s time to understand why the body fights so hard to maintain the weight that it “wants” to be.

          • You’re right in that I should have said was; you are not likely to permanently alter or maintain an altered physique via the path of calorie restriction and/or increased energy output (i.e. dieting and exercise.)

            I’m also not sure you got my underlying point. Human metabolism is a multi-system/organ process mainly co-ordinated through the nervous system (including the brain obviously).

            There is no way, calorie restriction can be the only route into changing the functioning of that system. What I said was, it has been defined as the only possible way and it simply cannot be.

            Clearly through its desultory results, we can see this is simply not a feasible route.

            The body fights to return to its starting weight not so much due to destiny as our physiological design. IOW, it’s not b/c you start there that you tend to finish there, it’s due to your body being designed to replace the energy deficit caused calorie restriction.

            CR, disrupts the body’s homeostasis, or self regulation, which is an attack on our survival -food after all, is a necessity.

            The very thing that controls and regulates the process of metabolism-the nervous system, has numerous defences to maintain that equilibrium as much as it can regardless of the source of threat to it.

            The extent to which we lose weight and maintain that loss, is dependent on the amount by which the body cannot cover the energy deficit.

            It’s a bit like trying to stop the immune system from attacking germs in the body. Our IS is design to attack them, to defend our bodies and ensure our survival.

            It’s taking on the body at its most powerfully defensive to stop it defending it’s/our life.

            All this has been known for yonks. For some reason, research keeps entering cycles of delusion about this and this is just the latest round.

            The cult of fat hate has actually shielded this derangement from even the barest of scrutiny. People love to have someone to hate and look down on.

            It is the “obesity crusade” not fat acceptance which has prevented any progress in this area and will continue to.

            If the failure of dieting as intrinsic to dieting is not accepted and instead blamed on the dieter, this could go on indefinitely.

            If this sounds to you like it beggars belief, that’s because it does.

    • In addition to Joshua’s comment which was awesome and spot on, I would just like to add something onto that. What many people who have never experienced living while fat is how many times you are given the prescription of weight loss for things that have nothing at all to do with weight. I have heard so many stories from fellow fatties as well as experienced that myself. For instance the time I had gone into the doctor with a raging case of strep throat to the point I couldn’t swallow without crying and the doctor refused to take a throat culture at all but instead spent the next half an hour lecturing me about my weight and then sent me home. I had to go to a different clinic and demand a throat culture where they found that I did indeed have strep throat and needed a drastic dose of meds to take care of it. That had not a thing to do with my weight at all and yet that is all that the doctor would focus on. You also get that from so many other people as well, and that is completely irresponsible and it is scary that there are so many of those kinds of stories. The fact is not that we are ignoring medicine because our feelings get hurt, it is that weight loss is not a medication or cure all, and so it puts our lives in danger and doesn’t show any kind of respect or care for us as a person.

      • So? You had a bad doctor. Doctors are human beings and can be total douchebags. I had one tell me I wasn’t having a seizure because he “knows what seizures look like” in the middle of the ER while giving me (what would turn out to be) a recreational drug test all the while my neurological medication was IN THEIR SYSTEM AND IN MY POCKET.

        What if a doctor who wasn’t passing judgment on you (and wasn’t a total moron) had a dispassionate argument to make?

      • I am so glad this was brought up. I love that thin people will just say things like “well, then you just had a bad doctor!”. Uh, no. Blaming things on fat when a patient comes to you with a problem is pretty common. I have talked to so many other fat people who loathe going to the doctor because of this. Personally, I dread going to the doctor because of this. There are several problems I’ve been having that I would like to get sorted out somehow, but the last time I went to the doctor, I was lectured about my weight. When I said that I had tried since I was very young to lose weight and keep it off (unsuccessfully), I was just told to try harder. I’m kind of in a mindspace of “fuck doctors” at this point. Fat haters, how fucking HEALTHY is it to avoid going to the damn doctor when you have a problem? This is what fat hate contributes to.

  14. I do not think “fatness” is as much of a natural occurrence as you imply.

    It is very plain to see that the US has a much higher incidence of “fatness” than many other countries and that this incidence has gone up over the past several decades.

    This incidence is primarily the result of the introduction of extremely sugary and fatty foods coupled with a sedentary lifestyle.

    The concern arises because “fatness” isn’t a natural state for the majority of the population. While some people have a “fat” body type, this is just not true for everyone.

    While “fatness” itself may not be linked to disease as you claim, the consumption of certain foods containing substances such as high fructose corn syrup and foods high in cholesterol is harmful.

    It’s your business how you wish to treat your body, but there are things are going to be beneficial and things that are at best neutral.

    So maybe we cannot “recommend weight loss.” But perhaps we should try to lower the incidence in the first place by raising awareness about which foods do what to your body so that people can make educated decisions about how they wish to conduct themselves. When I think about childhood “fatness”, I don’t think those children CHOSE to be that way. What happens to them seems a bit like uninformed consent. If I choose to eat junk food, I know what its effects are. Children don’t.

    I would like to see some these studies that show there is no link between “fatness” and disease.

    • I did not say that there’s no link between fatness and disease. I said that the link is correlational.

      You said, “This incidence is primarily the result of the introduction of extremely sugary and fatty foods coupled with a sedentary lifestyle.”

      FAIL! Do you think we fatties have never thought of cutting out sodas and exercising every day before? SERIOUSLY? What makes you think you can come in here, declare our bodies a problem, and then “solve” that problem for us in a few sentences. Congratulations. You hate fat people, and your hate isn’t welcome here.

    • Dude. No one “chooses” to be fat. Because being fat is not a behavior. Eating sugary/fatty food =/ being fat.

      There are thin people who live off of McDonald’s and never exercise. There are fat people who eat shit-tons of veggies and run races. And all sorts of people in between. What part of weight =/ behavior don’t you understand?

      • My weight equals my behaviour? I cannot have the weight that I’d like to anymore because I can no longer afford to have a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately for the purposes of discussion in this post I need to qualify that healthy actually means the natural state of my body, and not some matter of dogma.

        In addition (and I understand this is anecdotal), I used to have to eat dinner at a friend’s house for a prolonged period of time. I cannot eat pork, so her family cut pork out of their dinners for the better part of a year. Nearly everyone in the house lost +/- 10 pounds, excepting two people who instead lost maybe 4 pounds. Their weights began to normalize.

        Natural weight is not a behaviour, but you can add or subtract to that with your behaviour.

        Their weights shot up again after they started returning to pork for dinner. Keep in mind, this was only from cutting it out for the days they did have it.

        Before anyway says anything about my statement being similar to the soda one, nutrition is never that simple and clearly something was going on there that merits more than any blanket statements on my or anyone else’s part.

    • Antibiotics and obesity are also correlated. See mouse studies involving ghrelin and leptin, referenced in a recent issue of the New Yorker.

  15. Thank you so much for #10. In the beginning of this year, I had some health issues for a while (nausea, exhaustion, stomach troubles and so on), and I was sent to a neurologist to check for possible neurological issues. First thing he did: Ask for height and weight, and when I stated I didn’t exactly know my weight, he made me stand on the scales (fully clothed) and then concluded I was overweight. All I would have to do, he stated, is lose weight, and my issues would disappear.

    I came home totally distraught. I had hardly eaten for months (because of said stomach problems), and I had neither lost weight nor did I feel any better. In the end it came out that everything was due to generalized anxiety disorder and depression. Now that those things are being treated, my health is improving, and so is (slowly) my self esteem.

    I’m sorry if I made any mistakes, English is not my first language… I just needed to get this off my chest.

  16. I have a few more thoughts on the “morality” of food, and self-hatred.

    This morality of food was something I covered a few years back in recovery from an eating disorder. My nutritionist specifically told me that (disregarding poisons, etc, obviously) there are no such things as “good” foods and “bad” foods. She emphasized that it was okay to eat cake, or oreos for example, because there is nothing bad about cake and oreos unless they are a replacement for more nutritious items. Thinking in terms of “good foods” and “bad foods” is an extremely harmful mentality. That doesn’t mean I’m promoting ditching all vegetables and only eating pie- just that in terms of health, she really wanted to drive the point home that it was okay to eat whatever you want as long as you get enough of the nutritious stuff.

    As for self-criticism of weight, it’s not like I do it in front of people, and I like to think I’m not “hating” on people. I never judge other people for their weight. However, I know that I personally feel more comfortable at some weights than others- not because of appearance, but just my own physical comfort. Is it wrong to want to lose weight just to be more comfortable with myself, or would this be considered “fat hatred”?

    • I can’t tell you about your experience of your body. I wonder what “feeling more comfortable” means. I wonder about what stresses you out at the higher weight and whether it’s really the pounds. I worry that people who want to lose weight are fighting a losing battle. BUT, it IS your battle to wage if you want, and it is entirely up to YOU to manage your own body.

      • I mentioned this above, but I can certainly relate to weight and physical comfort of late. I’ve always had a reasonably positive relationship with my body – I would say ‘for a fat girl’ but to be honest I think I’ve got a pretty good self image just ‘for a girl’ of any description.

        But after rupturing my achilles tendon a couple of months back, I spent six weeks on crutches with a non-weight-bearing cast on my leg, and it was a special kind of hell for me, not just because I am usually a very healthy human being and therefore a terrible, terrible invalid, but because crutches put me through a _lot_ of pain. I know it’s not easy for anyone, but I _know_ that being ~240lb rather than 150 made a difficult time much, much harder. And I started out as a woman with naturally good upper body strength just by luck of genetics so it was probably easier for me than it would’ve been for many other women (men tending to be naturally stronger in the arms to start with) my size. I have never before hated my weight. I’ve never felt so heavy and so impaired by being fat. It was a strange, horrible window into what a lot of fat folk must go through every day in allowing themselves to be shamed by the constant value judgements of those around them. I very much wished to be lighter not to conform to society’s ideas about what size I should be but just to be in less physical pain from trying to get around the place.

        I don’t think folk should go out of their way to lose weight – I think everyone who can should eat well and exercise (not that I’m going to go around lecturing anyone about it), and I do both of those things as much as my life (and willpower! and attention to my own happiness! and can-be-arsed-ness!) will allow but I’m with you that generally speaking aiming to make these positive changes to one’s lifestyle with _any_ expectation that it will significantly change one’s weight or body shape/mass is setting oneself up for disappointment. Health and fitness needs to be its own reward.

        But I think we start to wade a little into a disingenuous arena if we ignore the idea that certain (lower or higher) weights might be more ‘physically comfortable’ than others. I would have been much more comfortable carrying about 6 stone less around with me those six weeks, no question. Some physical discomforts (plane seats, the shitty, inflexible sizing of L/XL clothes) might be inflicted on us fat folk by society, but some of them are inflicted on us simply by our weight. Now for me, maintaining a lower weight would probably _also_ be uncomfortable – I’ve been about this weight for the past ten years while maintaining lots of different lifestyles and activity levels, so I can reasonably assume this is more or less my ‘default’, but that may not be true for everyone.

        So I mean, I’m not saying don’t question what someone means when they say they are ‘more comfortable’ at a certain weight. But I hope you’re receptive to the idea that physical comfort may genuinely be a factor for folk.

  17. “Here’s the bottom line: we don’t know exactly what makes kids fat or whether it’s a problem that they are and we definitely don’t have any idea whatsoever how to make a fat kid into a thin kid.”

    Who says we don’t know what is increasing the rate of childhood obesity? Just look to the change in diet to more processed foods and less active lifestyles. The CDC doesn’t have a problem talking about what causes childhood obesity: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/problem.html

    Also I object to you saying that foods aren’t bad and good. Of course there are bad foods that will do your body harm: drinking too much sugary drinks, eating overly processed packaged foods, even just foods high in salt.

    If you’re not teaching your children that there are good and bad foods, that some things shouldn’t be eaten in large amounts, then of course they’re going to develop unhealthy eating habits, and when I say this, their size/weight is irrelevant, because, as you rightly stated, you can be thin with an unhealthy diet, or fat with a healthy diet.

    • Kate, FAIL. Your whole comment is hateful and harmful to fat people. You trot out childhood obesity, you want to blame food and exercise as if fat people have never thought of these things before and as if there’s a SINGLE study ANYWHERE that shows these as reliable ways to lose weight. You moralize about food, you blame parents for their kids’ body types, and then you toss out a condescending conclusion. Fuck you.

      • There are foods that are more or less nutritious than others, and it is important that we teach kids about nutrition without teaching calorie counting or restriction. Our bodies are amazing and largely self-regulating machines. Unfortunately as a society, we have ceased to listen to them. Of course it is unhealthy to obtain most of your calories (energy) from sugary beverages. Sugar is not the most efficient source of energy. It’s burned relatively quickly. Sugar, in an of itself, is neither “bad” nor good. It is one means of getting energy.

        What infuriates me about many of the dominant conversations surrounding nutrition in the United States is the lack of intersectioality of discourse. We criticize unhealthy diets, while failing to address their causes–unemployment, lack of wages, lack of access to diverse grocers and markets, and a dearth of subsidies to small farmers producing sustainable and nutritious food among them. We do not need to address the “obesity epidemic” or the “ever expanding American waistline.” (gag.) Rather, we need to examine societal attitudes toward food and the question of access to food.

        I can tell you how to get kids to lose weight. Tell them that some foods are good and some foods are bad. Tell them that they should only have a certain number of calories every day. Teach them to ignore their bodies natural hunger cues. Go ahead. They’ll lose weight that they will eventually gain back when they permanently alter their bodies’ natural metabolisms. Then, they can spend a decade or so unlearning everything you’ve taught them while you shame them for gaining weight as they reclaim their health.

        It is depressing how our culture claims to value health–while measuring health by aesthetics. Seriously. Gross.

        I know this comment is disorganized, but the health trolling on this post is ABSURD.

      • I never said anything about kids needing to consume less calories/eat less. It’s about what kind of calories they consume, not necessarily how much.

        You Americans have serious issues if you can’t see that there are foods that are good for your body and foods that are bad for your body. But if all I’m going to get back is anger for criticising your article Issa, then I’m sorry I wrote it.

        • In this case, since my article is about statements that are harmful to fat people, “criticizing” it does tend to just be DOING the things that are harmful. You’re going to get some push back on that.

          The CDC link you provided opens with the sentence, “Childhood obesity is the result of eating too many calories and not getting enough physical activity.” For rebuttal information, see:




          I have even read some data that fatter kids tend to be eating FEWER calories than thinner kids.

          You’re getting anger because you’re saying the party line, and the party line is harmful and hateful. I got a comment that I did not approve that defended you and called you a would-be ally. If that is true, I recommend that you spend a great deal of time reading The Fat Nutritionist (for help getting rid of moralistic thinking about food) and Junkfood Science as a starting place for counter medical data. If you simply want to repeat the information you already have – information that is damaging to me – you cannot by my ally.

    • Kate, several studies have shown that high percentages of children in the weight ranges defined as “obese” actually consume too few calories (according to guidelines) daily, not too many. See Trevino et al. 2008, as summarized here, for example. There were other studies in the US and Canada (Nova Scotia, IIRC) that showed similar results.

      All of the “fight childhood obesity” initiatives I see are targeted primarily at getting children to eat less. That’s not going to do this large percentage of undernourished children with higher body weights any good—in fact, it’s lightly to be an enormously counterproductive strategy.

      Since we know that weight-loss dieting is the single highest predictor of weight gain (as study after study shows), this line of public policy makes no sense at all.

  18. I am with the FeministBreeder on this issue. Yes, there are some people who actively hate others because of their size. That’s not where I come from, but as a public health professional, the “fat acceptance movement” really concerns me, because in general it’s about accepting people being in a poor (and costly) state of health. Reality is that obesity costs our health care system money. Obesity is strongly correlated with many health conditions. Now, we have to be careful here because this does not mean that obesity is the absolute CAUSE of all these health conditions – about 1/3 of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the form often associated with obesity, are not overweight. Thin people have heart attacks and strokes. Genetics plays a huge factor in the development of many conditions. BUT, we’ve become complacent as a society and we too readily accept people eating junk food and being inactive. This is NOT OK.

    What we need is a healthy movement, one that is NOT focused on body weight or size (because what is a healthy weight for one person may not be a healthy weight for another), but IS focused on eating healthy and exercising. We need to eat more fruits and veggies, and stop eating so much processed food. We need to MOVE – walking, riding a bike, jogging, playing a pick-up game of soccer. We need to see movement and healthy food as our friends. Yes, there are some people who can do these things and still be 20 or 30 pounds over what medical professionals consider “ideal” and that’s ok. What matters is that your cardiovascular system is being exercised and healthy, non-processed foods are going in your body. This is not about size or weight, but about HEALTH.

    • BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH HEALTHHEALTHEHEALTHHEALTH. Did you read the fucking post? If it’s all about HEALTH for you, why are you even commenting on a post that is all about FAT? You are part of the problem.

    • What we need is a healthy movement, one that is NOT focused on body weight or size (because what is a healthy weight for one person may not be a healthy weight for another), but IS focused on eating healthy and exercising.

      Uh….have you heard of Health At Every Size?

      Also, how exactly do you determine that someone can eat healthfully, exercise regularly, and be up to 20 or 30 pounds over “ideal”? How would you account for a 284-pound professional dancer (who can do splits! Splits! I weight about 50 pounds less than her but I’m not half that flexible), or a 400-pound marathon runner? What exactly qualifies you to make up a weight limit beyond which people can’t be healthy or fit (which, by the way, are NOT the same thing…especially considering how often athletes injure themselves!).

  19. I’m not sure why fat people are being singled out here. Anyone who looks different to the “norm” for whatever reason is a target for discrimination. For most of my life I have been statistically “underweight” (I agree that such terms are ridiculous because this is my genetically natural weight and I am perfectly healthy).

    I don’t doubt that fat people experience discrimation, from being passed over for promotion to being yelled at in the street to being accused of being lazy. But guess what? I experience the same things for being small and thin and looking young – people won’t employ me because I don’t look qualified enough, I can’t drink alcohol in public without being ridiculed, and people equate my young looks with being immature or “underdeveloped”. As for having a sex life, that’s a joke.

    So could those who complain about fat hate start realising that it’s not just them being targeted? A fat woman is at least treated like a real adult woman, which is more than can be said for people who look like me.

    • I’m not sure why fat people are being singled out here.

      Because fat people have to deal with a society that keeps trying to eliminate them. I don’t doubt that you’ve been poorly treated because of your size, and that sucks, but no one is trying to get rid of thin people. There isn’t a multimillion dollar industry devoted to making thin people feel bad about themselves. It’s just not comparable.

      • Also, the First Lady isn’t spearheading a campaign to eliminate child skinniness.

        It pisses me off SO MUCH that Michelle Obama talks out of one side of her mouth about ending bullying, and out of the other side about eliminating fat kids.

        • Michelle Obama’s war on fat kids pisses me off, too. The focus on food availability and fun physical activities for kids is awesome. Wrapping it up as an “obesity” issue is so damaging.

    • This is a post about fat. The subject is fat. The subject is not generally looking different and being bullied. You could write a post about that someplace, but here the subject is fat. I don’t understand the confusion.

      If you wrote a post about how much looking young hurts you or gets in your way, and someone replied with “well, boo-hoo, I fat, so your argument is invalid” would that be ok.

  20. Although the majority of replies I have posted here have been a bit different than this one, for the purposes of discussion: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17 [Citation Needed].

    On the whole, this has been a very good article…except for the fact that there are only “examples” given of negative speech, few examples given of positive speech, and no citations. I’m not here to trot out every anecdote I can in response to citations, I would genuinely just like to see them.

    You see, I have an open mind but very strong views that are related to my experiences and what I have read for myself, and if you would like to change those (and if I am wrong, I would like to have them changed) you’re going to need some citations to get me started.

    • Interestingly, when I try to give citations, I get pretty much all the same comments. It doesn’t really matter. If you 100% truly, honestly want to learn about this topic, I AM open to discussing it, but I DO get really exasperated really easily. Today, I am completely busy with this post & comment mod and there’s no way I can respond in a way you would find satisfactory. Here’s my short answer: For #8 & #9, the Junkfood Science blog is a great place to look at the medical inconsistencies surrounding fat and health. For #10, google the UCLA study Mann, et al. #11 doesn’t need a citation. It boils down to “Your stories are boring and insulting”. #12 doesn’t need a citation. Are you saying you don’t think these are medical terms? #14 already HAS two links. What else do you want? #17 is a complex topic. Maybe try Dances With Fat or the HAES Blog for more analysis?

    • Issa’s response to this is very patient and civil, but I’d kinda like to add:

      …or you could quit asking intelligent women to EXPLAIN THEMSELVES to your condescending ass every two minutes — your IQ is showing. Sorry this post upsets you so much, but if you looked around at the behaviors of pretty much everyone around you, you’d be bowled over by the amount of evidence there is to support everything Issa says. If the only way you can find to argue with her points is by suggesting she IMPRESS YOU MORE, then frankly, you really ought to put your splaining talents to better use elsewhere.

  21. I consider myself a thin person, and I still have a lot of body issues. As a child, my father called me fat (although if I showed you pictures of me as a child, you would think him blind), so even though I’ve lost weight as a completely un-thought-of side-effect of cutting out dairy products from my regular diet, there are so many days where I look at myself and think that I’m fat and how “bad” that is. Learning to love myself is something I started a long time ago and still work at on a daily basis. I originally read this post and thought “well that’s a bit much,” but reading the comments made me realise how hurtful it is to people and to myself to still think thin=good. I am guilty of saying so many things on your list, which I know see is hateful not just to fat people (who I’ve always thought I was accepting of), but also to the fat I carry around my belly (which I try not to think of as “wrong” and “ugly”). Thank you, thank you, thank you, for making me aware of how negative I was being by using the phrases above. As accepting of myself and others as I try to be, it’s posts like this that help me see how inescapable the cultural norms are that make quiet assumptions and dig their way into our brains without us realising.
    Perfect is an idea, and we need to make it my own, not anybody else’s. Thank you for helping me on my way.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Rosa. Accepting ourselves and others is a HUGE task where we have to constantly push back against our culture. I laughed at your “that’s a bit much” comment. You should see me when I REALLY get worked up! 🙂

  22. I like this post, although I don’t agree with some of the terms describing food. I think it’s OK and hardly an insult to fat people to call some foods “healthy” or “good” and others “unhealthy” and “bad” – broccoli is always going to be more nutritious than a Dorito, no matter who’s eating it. Therefore describing broccoli as “good” has nothing to do with shaming anybody who’s fat. If that inspires a moral dimension to eating, and it does, then I think that’s an acceptable side effect of creating an accurate sense among people that broccoli is a more positive thing to eat than Doritos.

    Not viewing all food through a fatness lens goes both ways.

    • broccoli is always going to be more nutritious than a Dorito, no matter who’s eating it.

      Nope. Not true. Broccoli does contain more nutrients. But it’s not healthier than Doritos for someone who is allergic to broccoli, or for a cancer patient who needs to eat large amounts of calories, or for someone with a health condition that requires eating a low-fiber diet. Or for someone who just doesn’t like broccoli. Or someone who gets cramps if they don’t eat enough salt, and needs to eat something salty now.

      Some foods have more nutrients than others, but that doesn’t make them universally “good,” or other foods universally “bad.”

      • Not exactly true. Doritos contain preservatives and chemicals that are good for no one. There are plenty of high-calorie foods that are not processed that would be good for someone who needs more calories (avacados, nuts, coconut, etc). There are foods that are universally bad – trans fats, chemicals, processed foods, etc. No one NEEDS these foods to survive. Also, we are just beginning to understand the role that preservatives in these foods play with weight gain (namely, they alter our metabolisms and insulin production in a way that CAUSE us to gain weight). The science here is often toned down by the manufacturers of these products who have billions of dollars at their disposal to lobby and sue without limitations.

        • Did you not read the reply at all.

          Pat S. said : Broccoli is always going to be more nutritious than a Dorito, no matter who’s eating it.

          Laura then gave a big list of why Doritos might be better. It was a good an valid list. The list did not mention avocados, nuts, coconut or any of the other things you say (pricey foods, btw).

          The premise is, all others things aside is there ever a time when it is better to eat Dorito than broccoli. And the answer is yes. Sometimes Dorito are the right food. Sure your choices might be better, in fact they are the ones I eat. But they were not part of the original question.

    • Broccoli is not better than Doritos through the lens of deliciousness and satisfaction. For most people. The idea that there is only one axis on which to judge the “goodness” of food, and that is the axis of pure nutritional value, is part of the problem. Food has many purposes. Providing nutrients to make our bodies strong, healthy, and whole is one of them. Being delicious and making us feel good is another. Providing a social focal point is another. There are more.

      Which foods are “good” or “bad” in a given moment, to a given person, depend on the intersection of the axes. If I have had a shitty day at work and feel like crap, a pint of ice cream may be better for my overall well being than a bowl of steamed broccoli. If I am at Thanksgiving dinner with my family, stuffing myself to the gills with turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, stuffing, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and ice cream may be the best thing for my overall well being. And if I am about to run a race the next day, loading up on spaghetti may be the right choice. (Note: I do not actually know the science of carb-loading. Race runners please forgive me if I got it wrong.)

      Why is it absolutely unacceptable to mention that deliciousness, satisfaction, or social bonding are also ways in which food can be useful? Why are we constantly encouraged to participate in the charade that food must be judged exclusively on its nutritional merits, as if the only way we choose what to eat is through some hyper-rational calculus? This, itself, is a manifestation of fat-hate. Because only weak-willed fatties care that food tastes good. The rest of us puritannical thinnies only eat because it sustains our mortal husk.

      You can fucking keep it.


    • Hah, try saying, “Broccoli is always healthier than Doritos!” in a hypothyroid support community. Broccoli and the brassica family have chemical components refered to as “goitrogens” that (probably) interfere with thyroid function and many hypothyroid patients therefore avoide the brassica family.

      • One alternative I’ve found to get the benefits of the brassica family without the bad effects on the thyroid or interference with thyroid drugs/supplements is something called “DIM.” One bonus to DIM is also that it is being heralded as something that may prevent many cancers.

  23. Hi, I’ve included some comments I’ve posted early when someone shared this link. I hope you will answer my questions. According to you I a bigot, and this is not something I would like to remain as. I would appreciate it if you can answer some of my misgivings with regards to your view point.

    “Okay this is something I have no clue about, that’s why I ask, and I don’t bring it up in a conversation, but isn’t the link between health and body fat, like, non-insignificant? It says: “Fatness is a body type. It’s a shape or a size. That’s IT.” Is that actually true? Is the vast majority of obesity not caused by/not related to unhealthy diets/lifestyles, and is it actually not unhealthy?

    And in cases where it is the case of an unhealthy lifestyle, am I wrong to have an opinion about such a person, the same way I might have negative opinions on a people who drink too much alcohol or smoke/do drugs, or just generally bad life decisions that harm them and the people around them substantially?

    In no way am I saying one should make assumptions about a person’s lifestyle/diet simply due to their body, obviously, and certainly I generally would not form strong opinions about people I do not know much about; certainly would not openly say things using assumptions that could be rude, insulting, and just plain wrong. That’s not what I am questioning.”

    “I mean, I’m fairly clueless about this, but the tone of the article seems to imply as given that health and obesity are largely separate entities, which, if true, would blow my mind. It’s not that I’m not open to the possibility that I could be wrong and completely taken in by social perception, but it does seem a bit far-fetched, and strains my understanding of biology and health as well. Now I’m not talking about people who are more fat than what society considers “normal”, but people whose obesity SEEMS to me to clearly affect their lives negatively (not how they are viewed, but things like health, movement, etc). If the article makes the distinction between fatness that is healthy and not an issue, and fatness that is problematic, I would understand, but the article says very early that there should be NO LINE set on how much fatness is acceptable, no matter whether it is exceedingly cumbersome and potentially dangerous, or just normal “above average”, and imply that to make such a distinction would be, well, narrow-minded bigotry. I don’t really want to be a bigot.

    In essence, this article seems to take the tone that obesity, even morbid obesity, should be taken off the list as a potentially health risk, the same way LGBT advocates would remove transgenderism from the list of mental disorders. Now the latter I completely agree with. The former, I still do not fully grasp. I understand that homosexuality/transgenderism is not a mental problem because it’s, well, not bad, to put it simply, but when certain kinds of obesity IS bad, surely it can be classified as such?

    So it goes back to me concluding that advocates of this viewpoint must have fairly convincing evidence that the link between obesity and health is indeed mostly fictional and socially constructed. If that’s the case I would love to be enlightened, because that goes against everything I thought I knew about obesity. I will look it up myself, but I imagine most statistics/data would be biased against it, even if it were true.”

    Thank you.

    • Here are two relatively recent and broad articles answering some of your questions. If you truly would love to be enlightened, I hope you’ll read them. They are just a starting place.

      The epidemiology of overweight and obesity: public health crisis or moral panic? http://bit.ly/WHhfWP

      Weight science: evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift http://bit.ly/gZ4ZwL

    • The problem is, your conceptual framework and terms don’t allow any other explanation than your own beliefs. If one disagrees with those beliefs, one cannot explain why properly in your terms, which are the only common ones.

      Most of what you’ve said to me, doesn’t enable me to easily make sense, nor can explain how I feel. Nor will you be able to understand, perceive or grasp what I have to say, probably.

      This is what happens when everything about fat people is imposed on them from the outside. People like you should have noticed that. Didn’t you ever ask yourself, “How can everyone else know everything about fat people and they know nothing?”

      What do they know and think?

      That is why it is hard to be patient with you, when it is your own fault. It is you that has to recognize the extent of work you have to do to make up for what you should have been wanting to know before to have a balanced view on things.

      Sadly, no one can do that for you.

  24. Just curious, when is the last time you cared about the hate against underweight people? Last time I checked, this kind of discrimination is NEVER talked about. We get targeted too, and it hurts just as bad. I hated my life for years because of the backhanded comments about my weight. Overweight people are not the only ones being targeted and maybe you should also consider the OTHER side of the spectrum, considering being overly thin has been glamorized and NO ONE gives us any sympathy, even though it is a large problem in the lives of many.

    • So you didn’t read the article, did you?
      “15. Refocusing a fat-related conversation on thin people.

      Example: Recently I posted to my Google+ an incredibly poignant story about a fat trans man coming to terms with his fat body and the body of his fat father. Among other obnoxious things, one of my commenters tried to turn the conversation towards stigma against thin people at another time in history. That might be an interesting conversation to have but not when it’s butting into meaningful conversations about the lives of currently living fat people.

      Almost no conversations are pro-fat. Almost no conversations support fat people and their concerns. If one of those conversations is occurring and you bring up thin people, what you’ve done is called “derailing”. It sends a huge message that you don’t think fat people are important, and you don’t want to listen to what they have to say.”

    • Megan, I don’t think she is saying that she cannot empathize with how you might feel when criticized for your body shape, but this is HER blog, and SHE’S fat! She’s not here to discuss the plight of the underweight. She’s here to discuss how society, as a whole, attacks fat people. Are you honestly suggesting that underweight folks are targeted as much as overweight folks? I am sad that you have been hurt because of comments about your weight, but this is NOT the forum to discuss that. See #15.

      • I’m replying to my own comment because, in retrospect, I wish I had used the terms “thin” and “fat” instead of “underweight” and “overweight”, as those terms imply that there is a “right” weight, and anything below or above is “under” or “over”. Reprimanding myself!

    • I would actually disagree that people who are “underweight” are never given sympathy. The way that being “underweight” and being fat in society are framed in completely different ways. Most people frame being “underweight” as something that is happening to a person separate from who they are. Being fat on the other hand is treated as the cause of individual choices. Almost ALL body positive movements are gear toward thin people, most are just as fat phobic as the general population so the idea that “underweight” people are not sympathized with is bull.

    • Okay. Seriously? THIS particular article is about FAT discrimination. Not THIN discrimination. PLEASE write an article about being underweight and how people treat you because of it, but don’t rant about it here. Thanks.

    • Quite frankly I think you could fill 100 blogs with all the comments on fat positive sites that say something along the lines of “what about the THIN people?!”

  25. I think that if you are healthy and feel good about your self then it doesn’t matter what size you are. I am a big girl and eat healthily and and healthy. For me when I get past a certain weight I do notice certain health issues, so I keep below that weight. I also have a host of food allergies and sensitivities so because of that I do have to eat “healthy” foods as my allergies include gluten, cane sugar and corn in any form.
    Someone said something about “bad” foods and “good” foods. For me I think that bad foods are empty calories and GM foods. But I also can’t eat them so for ME they are bad. I would love to be able to know if the foods I eat are GM or not before I get sick.

  26. I agree absolutely with almost all of these. But speaking as a fat girl, I take issue with #29. I *want* to look nice in my clothes, for values of nice that mean “I look like my clothes fit, and they highlight the body parts I consider assets, and they look like I am comfortable and put thought into what I was wearing. I look like I am together and professional and can match something besides jeans and t-shirts and Converse.”

    Some of the examples mentioned (“She shouldn’t wear THAT!”) are clearly judgmental and shaming, but if we are shopping and my friend of any size says, “What about this skirt?” I will tell her if it cuts awkwardly at the knees, bulges in a way that’s going to draw focus away from where she’d like it to be, looks tight or confining in a non-intentional way, or just generally makes her look less tailored and complete. Likewise, “These glasses are best for the shape of your face,” is a reasonable thing for a friend to tell me and I want to know it.

    So, the examples of “I don’t think that’s the right style dress for you. Here, this cut would be more flattering to your shape,” or “This shape of glasses will work best with your round face,” seem pretty reasonable to me (though I would say ‘the shape of your face’), as long as it’s not unsolicited advice hurled at a passing fat person who doesn’t care what you think.

    I think this trips my buttons because it takes “Fat people shouldn’t try to conform and camouflage their size,” (which is good and reasonable) one step too far and starts down the road of “Fat people should not care about or expect to be considered as attractive sexual beings.” I don’t NEED to conform to standards of sexual beauty, but I shouldn’t feel as if my size automatically exempts me from them.

    So, if KNOW THAT you or your fat friend is open to the suggestion, and you approach those clothing judgments by considering what you or your friend *wants* to look like, then there’s nothing wrong with pointing out, “Hey, honey, I know you like to show off your ass, and those pants just do not do it,” or “A more defined style of glasses will frame your eyes and draw attention to your cheekbones.”

    • ““Hey, honey, I know you like to show off your ass, and those pants just do not do it,” or “A more defined style of glasses will frame your eyes and draw attention to your cheekbones.””

      i actually can not fathom at any point where i would want to hear those things from any one in my life, no matter how well intentioned. nor do i think that my lack of desire for others to inform me of what is “ill fitted” or otherwise unattractive in the eye of the beholder should be hinged on my sexuality, or being viewed as a sexual person. i am perhaps coming at this with a personal preference for style that is highly influenced by a queer sensibility, and a sense of fashion that tends to transcend what a women’s magazine has determined is “flattering” to my body type. long story short– high fashion is NOT necessarily flattering on anyone. what i consider “flattering” on myself may not reflect the style choices you would make for yourself based on what you feel is flattering on YOURself. flattering is an outfit that makes me smile and feel like a million bucks walking down the road– some people can do this in jeans and chucks, some in next to nothin or wearing an outfit showing off some bangin’ ass rolls that one might otherwise label “ill fitted” this also starts in on a slippery slope of discussing shape privilege, the way that some of us have gotten away with being fat because it was distributed in more traditionally acceptable ways, the whole apple vs pear vs whatever type of argument…

      then, you continue to say that by saying it is no one’s right to police fat folks fashion choices is saying ““Fat people should not care about or expect to be considered as attractive sexual beings.”” and i just don’t think that is what is at the root of #29 (which for clarity is actually 19 on the list, but obviously misnumbered)

      i think the problematic nature of this sentiment is sort of covered in #18. inherently, this has more to do with looking attractive for others, presumably potential sexual partners. and thus i am nothing more than this thing that exists to look good enough for someone to want to fuck, and my body image and self worth as a whole mean SO MUCH MORE.

      … i can’t put my finger on exactly why it keeps coming to mind, but i can’t shake the correlation in my head between this sentiment and the fact that the only time fat women are not being desexualized and devalued are when they are being fetishized– and thusly, devalued. 🙁

      • You apparently missed the part at the beginning where I talked about how ‘looking right’ for me involves things like ‘looking like my clothing fits and is comfortable and is professional and matches.’ I’m not talking about ‘high fashion’, which I’ve never understood. I’m talking about “If I buy my pants to fit my ass and that leaves a five-inch gap at the waist displaying my underwear every time I lean forward, I WANT TO KNOW THAT.”

        You also seem to have missed the whole sentence at the end. I’ll restate the important bit of it for you:

        “So, if KNOW THAT you or your fat friend is open to the suggestion, and you approach those clothing judgments by considering what you or your friend *wants* to look like, then there’s nothing wrong…”

        If you were my friend, I wouldn’t offer opinions on your clothes because you clearly do not want them. I don’t offer opinions on clothes to people who aren’t my friends because I don’t know whether they want them. Most of my friends want them, and we have few enough people in our lives who will tell us something looks odd or unflattering WITHOUT being nasty or shaming about it. Those who take the time to say, “Hey, that dress is a great cut for you, but something’s not right with the color,” or “those pants bag oddly across your hips because they were cut for someone differently shaped,” are being good friends because they’re honoring our expressed desire to wear what fits and flatters us. Someone hamstrung by this article’s insistence that one must never criticise a fat person’s clothing choices couldn’t be a good friend to me, which is to say that the author’s fat experience is not universal and ought not to be taken as such.

        And I do find that there’s a camp that tells me that ‘general attractiveness’ isn’t something I really should strive for. They tell me that I should not work to seek out flattering lines in my clothes, that I shouldn’t care about buying things in the correct size and fit for my actual shape, that because I’m *only* sexualized as a fetish object, it doesn’t matter if I wear a three-piece suit or sweats and a tank top. It’s not, to them, about whether I look nice in a non-sexual context, whether I feel powerful and confident in what I wear. It’s that I can never be ‘pretty’, so it’s ridiculous for me to try.

        What they’re telling me, when they tell me that ‘normal’ beauty standards don’t apply to me, is that the things others find appealing in how ‘normal women’ dress are irrelevant to me, because no amount of what I wear can make me a ‘normal woman’. Never mind if I don’t care about whether I’m *sexy* so much as I care about whether I look *professional*. Hell, even when I do care about *sexy*, they tell me there’s no point in trying too hard. If I’m only going to attract the chubby chasers, they say, then thinking about whether my skirt shows off my legs to advantage is just lipstick on a pig.

        • I’m gonna gently suggest that you guys are slightly at cross-purposes here. I don’t think Issa’s post is talking about actively solicited advice, Rowan, or an environment where commentary is expected or welcomed. Furthermore, I feel you on the “I want to look the way I want to look” thing, really I do, but this is about an implicit expectation on the part of (say) opticians and shop assistants that you want to flatter and/or hide your curves in a specific, expected, society-approved way. I only have to walk _past_ a plus size store to know that their idea of what looks good on fat people isn’t my idea of what looks good on fat people, but by the same token, my idea quite possibly doesn’t match yours and it probably doesn’t match Shannon’s either. The thing you have to realise is that Shannon might _want_ to show off her underwear above her jeans and might totally dig her muffin top while I might hate mine (just mine, not yours) and like to wear high-waisted 40s style wide-legs that sit on my natural waistline. When you say to a person ‘that doesn’t flatter you’ you make an assumption based on your own perceptions of what constitutes ‘flattering’ or otherwise that might be totally wrong for them. Shannon comes from a particular angle on this that I as a fellow queer chick can identify with because this isn’t just mixed up in ‘fat’; it’s also mixed up in sexual and gender identity. When someone tells me something isn’t flattering to me, they may well mean that it’s masculine, and that might be _exactly_ what I’m going for. When someone tells me ‘that doesn’t work for your shape’ they assume that I want to look more ‘feminine’ (warning, loaded term) – what if I want to look more up-and-down? (I don’t, but that’s beside the point.) When the optician says ‘those frames don’t flatter your face shape’ they mean ‘those frames make your face look fatter’. They _assume_ that you want your face to look thinner. That may be true for you personally, but we as a society need to get away from those assumptions.

  27. This concept of ideal weight is so arbitrary. When I joined the Air Force I was put on the “Fat Girl Program” because at 5’2″ I weighed a (ready for it?) whopping 135lbs. After six weeks of eating nothing but baked chicken, steamed broccoli and plain rice. I felt like shit.

    12 years later, I am hovering around 200lbs and have never felt better. I confuse the hell out of every doctor I see because “Well if I wasn’t looking at you I wouldn’t know you were overweight” What the hell does that even mean??

    And then I have to listen to my younger sister complain that she isn’t a size 0 anymore, she has to wear a 2 and omg look at her “fat rolls”. AHHHHHHH

  28. After reading this, I am both pleased and horrified–pleased because I don’t fit into many of these categories, but horrified because occasionally I do (however unintentional). Thanks for this. I think you’ve posted something fantastic.

    One thing I would like an honest point of view on is from your first point, that trying to create a divide makes you part of the problem. I’ve always espoused that I feel people can look any way they want, but that I do think they should be healthy. I don’t think that denotes a specific size, and I would never lecture someone on that, but now I can’t tell if I need to reprogram this thought process. If you see this, and have the time to reply, I’d actually really be interested in your thoughts.

    As a larger woman, I think the thing that drives me craziest are the people that think either you should dress a certain way to compliment your size (that screwed me up for a long time!), or would throw out the “but you look so good!” comments.

    Again, fantastic post. I will definitely be sharing this. <3

    • Go back to the quote from Ragen at Dances With Fat:

      “Even if you could prove that being fat makes me unhealthy (which you can’t). And even if you had a method that was scientifically proven to lead to successful long term weight loss (which you don’t). And even if there was proof that losing weight would make me healthier (which there isn’t). And even if you were going to go around yelling at smokers, drinkers, jay walkers, and thin people who don’t exercise (which you aren’t) this slope is still too slippery.”

      Let me reword it… We don’t know that fat is unhealthy. We don’t know how to make people thinner. We don’t know that making them thinner would make them healthier anyway. And people are unhealthy in lots of ways (get sports injuries, stay out in the sun too much, drink fewer than two glasses of wine a day, etc) and we don’t care so much about them. So why, when you think of fat people, does your mind go to health? It’s best just to leave other people’s health up to them.

      • An aside that your comment reminded me of – one of the thousand little ways in which it should be blatantly clear there is no such thing as a “good” food or a “bad” food.

        Red wine.

        We’re told red wine is “good”, that a glass or 2 a day is “good” for our heart and our health.

        But it isn’t for my mum. Who can drink vodka, beer, rum, tequila or any alcohol you name and be absolutely fine, but if she has even a single glass of wine within an hour she’s irrational, paranoid, having mood swings and acting psychotically towards my dad.

        For her, red wine is very definitely bad for her. Because the potential physical benefit to her heart (which may or may not be true – look at how many times the medical community has flip-flopped on eggs just in the last decade) is entirely outweighed by the severely negative psychological response she has to it.

        Just wanted to chime in on that one, because while I know the plural of anecdote is not data, it feels instructive in this case.

      • “So why, when you think of fat people, does your mind go to health?”

        To try to answer that question seriously: Probably because (1) it is a clearly visible trait (unlike your drinking habits) that is (2) associated with negative concepts while not also with positive concepts (like, say, being tanned is associated with attractiveness). There seems to be no *benefit* from being fat that can counterweight the costs (real or imagined)*, and so being fat ends up a purely negative (or neutral-negative) trait. Furthermore, (3) it is a trait that can be changed** (unlike, say, having lost a leg or having diabetes).

        When (2) and (3) is combined in a trait, behaviour or whatever, it tends to be viewed as bad (in a moral sense), and when you have (1) as well, the world can see your wickedness. Smokers experience a lot of the same condemnation, though they of course can hide the fact that they smoke.

        *in the public mind, that is. I am aware that for some diseases, being fat is beneficial, though I can’t think of any more general benefits.

        **At least, that is the perception. I do prescribe to this perception myself, but also acknowledge that permanently losing weight is exceedingly difficult.

  29. all of these comments are irritating, whether or not i agree with them. it’s okay to be fat. it’s okay to not be fat.

    just because certain things are factors and not causes does not make it an issue that does not matter, whether someone is over or under weight.

    it doesn’t matter. can we just all get along?

  30. This is an interesting list…I came here by accident, directed from another site.
    I am technically overweight per the BMI scale but not obese and have never been obese, so I guess what I mean to say is that while I certainly feel fat, I’m not large enough to have taken any sort of abuse for it, quite the opposite, I’m often told that I’m not nearly as big as I think I am.
    At any rate, my question is as follows: I am a chronic asthmatic and have been since I was a very thin, athletic child. If there were a “War on Asthma” I would not take it as a war against me, my body, my lungs, etc, in fact, I’d be thrilled that asthma is being taken seriously enough to eradicate so that I may finally wean myself off of inhalers.
    So…why do you view the “war on obesity” as a personal war against yourselves or your bodies?
    Just curious as I could never figure this one out.

    • So…why do you view the “war on obesity” as a personal war against yourselves or your bodies?

      Because “obesity,” unlike asthma, isn’t an illness or condition. It means, literally, having a weight-to-height ratio above a certain number. Which says nothing about an individual’s actual health.

    • Because a war on obesity is always going to become a war on obese people. Unlike the war on drugs or the war or terrorism (both super problematic in their own way, but that’s a discussion for another day), obesity is not a behaviour. I can’t quit my body. And I genuinely can’t see a way of removing myself from the war (ie. becoming an ‘ideal’ weight) short of cutting off a couple of my limbs.

    • Because the “war on asthma” isn’t a “war on people with asthma.”. People with asthma are not told “just stop wheezing, you can do it if you try hard enough” or “oh, you wouldn’t need to use your medication if you would just lose a part of your lung.”.

      It is great when people say “hey, let’s clean the air to make it better for people with asthma” because there is no moral judgement that having asthma makes you a bad person. A “hey, fat people should exercise and eat less” campaign suggests that it is wrong to be fat, and it is the fat persons individual fault, and something that can be changed by the person (with the underlying assumption that the person is bad because they are fat, and if they weren’t bad, they wouldn’t be fat.)

      • Not at all to argue that asthmatics have it bad or that a war on asthma is at all related to the “war on obesity”. That being said, our culture is apparently so obsessed with “health” in the narrowest definition that I have heard both “just stop wheezing, you can do it if you try hard enough” and “oh, you wouldn’t need to use your medication if you practiced more.” Yep, people believe that my asthma, aggravated by exercise would go away if I just exercised more. I think this is related to the whole fat-hatred issue in some ways – the idea that if one just works hard enough, one can stop being something. It’s sick and wrong in both cases.

  31. I have two fat step sisters. They are both beautiful. One goes to yoga every day, hikes with her dog, has more energy than me, never watches tv, is an incredible cook and is super into fresh juice. She lives in a very supportive small town where people are awesome and conscious.

    The other is stressed, has body image issues, and smokes. If anything is affecting her health it is the high level of stress she experiences trying to “fit in”. She lives in a major metropolitan city where people are jerks.

    It is easier to do healthy things as a fat person if you dont have the world telling you that your body is wrong, that you stand out, etc… THAT is the fucking point. My happy step-sister has stayed at the same weight forever and ever. That is her natural healthy weight, and I fucking dare you to challenge that. However by medical standards, etc… She is ‘morbidly obese’. Nothing morbid about that woman. The women in her family all live long, fat, happy lives. They are built that way.

    I hope that my other step sister can start to love herself enough to do things that keep her body healthy (move it around, stop smoking). I have a feeling that wont happen until you fat hating punks STFU.

    Get it through your heads.
    Thanks, Pants.

  32. whoa. 26 words including the classic ‘i am This so anything i say cannot possibly be That’ (cf racism, sexism et al) and then straight to the big BUT lever and the hijack is on ;->

    i stopped reading after watching for a while- and i saw other things scroll by on my way here. Just wanna wish you well.

    A new take for me is that the BUT syndrome is – like any hate-based oppression with its fingers crammed in its righteous ears – fear-based. Fat is terrifying – for some it is clearly worse than death, illness or mental health. The reflex I observe again and again is to glibly nod at the horror show of BEING fat and go directly to discussions of Anything and Everything ELSE.

    Here’s the thing about oppression – who it happens TO is diverse: being black is not the same as being queer, being a woman is not the same as being fat, etc. The unifying marker of oppression is not that all who are hated are the same, but that all who hate behave the same way. From the violence to the rationalizations, it is the lack of identification due to whatever makes the Other a picture of what we fear that is consistent.

    And there is no exceptional hatred – there is no refusal to see a human being first and witness their experience that is justifiable for certain populations. cases.

    Fat hatred is safe and easy in every economic, educational and social demographic. If you do not understand what you have read or cannot accept the parameters of this blog and this list, find another place to discuss the things that are more important to you.

  33. As someone who is at the very least “Obese” according to my doctor, I have been told that just about everything that has ever been wrong with me is because I am fat. Body acne — lose weight (even though it started when I was 12 and not overweight.)Plantar fasciitis — take Advil, lose weight.
    So on and so on.

    People amazed that I can hike for hours, that I work hard and am very strong. Comments from friends “I just love how comfortable you are with your body. I wish I could be like that.”

    Yeah, I wish you could be comfortable with my body, too.
    Someday you’ll get over it. Or not.

  34. Couple of things about the numerous comments. I disagree that discussions of fatness by health professionals are benign – or simply part of their professional privy. Growing up as a fat kid, everytime i went to the doctor – whether it was for a cold, a dislocated arm, a pap-smear – they would invariably mention me being fat. Me needing to “Lose some weight.” Never related to anything of health or value, just stated as a common fact – that all my problems were related to being fat. And i whole heartedly believed them. It took a long time, much reading, much fat positive community to realize that many of my problems (depression, anxiety, health problems related to dieting, etc) were related to fat hatred not my fat. I believe that health professionals do way more harm than good when they discuss weight loss and fat with their clients. Also, while we are on the topic of professionals, i also notice that there is not a large body of literature or discussions of how the public health community deals with the true issues facing poor people and people of color. The focus seems to consistently be tied to “health” through the examining the so-called behaviors of eating habits, etc. Endless discussions of how to end “childhood obesity”, countless education programs about “5 A Day!” and how your child’s obesity is YOUR FAULT. Constantly verifying that fat is not only undesirable, but dangerous and will ruin your life and the life of your children. Nary a word on what is truly damaging people’s lives: racism, classism, misogyny, and access to healthcare as the true roots of disease in these communities. What does health look like when one is a poor single mother? What does weight, exercise and diet look like when you are an undocumented migrant worker? What would the world look like if Public Health professionals focused on dismantling the racist systems that make it so poor folks have no equal access to the basics of quality food, housing, and healthcare. I understand that PHP’s are not evil people trying to put froth some grand fat-hating agenda and are generally over-worked, underpaid folks just trying to make some change. BUT lets not fool ourselves into believing that the it doesn’t propagate a negative message.

  35. I think everyone should focus on themselves and how they feel in their bodies. Health and wellness are relative terms, and the human population functions on free-will at the basis of all our actions. Therefore, the most important thing any of us can do is to listen to what our own bodies are asking of us and doing what feels right for us as individuals, at any size and weight. This seems pretty simple to me, and I can’t really understand why anyone would feel it necessary to argue against another person’s comfort level. Forgive me if I am over simplifying, I’m not one to debate these sorts of things.

  36. I continue to learn more and more from you, Issa, and I’m thankful that you’re so passionate about fat acceptance. You’ve helped me become a much more accepting person. Thank you!

  37. I’m curious…does this rhetoric apply to other groups of people, say, cigarette smokers? Smoking is a documented health hazard, but has not been “proven” to be a detriment in the true sense of the word “prove.” There are strong genetic and family ties to tobacco use, and very few people successfully quit. Are we to say that smokers are entitled to such acceptance as fat folks?

    • Smoking is an act that puts toxic chemicals into a persons body. Being Fat is a body shape/type that may or may NOT have anything to do with health problems.


    • First, yes, all people are entitled to basic dignity and respect. Second, smoking is a behavior. Fatness is not a behavior. Poor eating habits are a behavior. Sedentary living is a behavior. But fatness is not a behavior. Get it?

    • I agree that there’s lots of unwarranted shame thrown on smokers, but I don’t think one can equate smoker-hate to fat-hate. Two completely different things. The level of shame thrown on fat people is far, far greater than that of smokers.

    • People are required to eat in order to stay alive. People are not required to smoke in order to stay alive. Therefore, even if you think that fatness is directly the result of what people eat, the effects of eating (fatness) cannot be equated to the effects of smoking.

      Because eating is required in order to stay alive, humans (and other animals) have evolved highly sophisticated biological systems to help them determine what type, and how much food to eat. Attempting to circumvent such systems by eating less, or only eating certain types of food is extremely difficult or impossible for most people. Such systems do not exist for consumption of nicotine, especially because, since nicotine is not required to live, one can simply go “cold turkey”.

      All of that being said, I do think that smokers deserve far more compassion than they have gotten, and that the moral panic around fatness has parallels to the moral panic around smoking.

    • First, smokers are entitled to the same human rights as everyone else.

      Second, smoking around someone else can harms: 1) the smoker and 2) the person close to their smoke.

      Being fat around someone harms: no one.

  38. I am a thin person. I have never had anyone do any of these things to me. Which is why, whatever my opinion about the relationship between health and fatness, I keep it to myself when fat people are trying to create space to speak back to a culture that is constantly maligning them!

    I love how many commenters go RIGHT TO the ONE thing they want to pick on (which usually challenges some part of their deeply invested world-view) instead of taking a back seat for ONE SECOND to think about what the writer is saying.

    For the public health professionals, why wouldn’t you see this article as an opportunity to inform your practice? If you actually care about the health of fat people, it seems like EVEN IF you can’t get over this “correlation” business, LISTENING to the concerns of fat people should be #1 on your list. Just a thought.

    • For the public health professionals, why wouldn’t you see this article as an opportunity to inform your practice? If you actually care about the health of fat people, it seems like EVEN IF you can’t get over this “correlation” business, LISTENING to the concerns of fat people should be #1 on your list.

      I do! Public health professionals have a responsibility to remember that the numbers they see represent actual people; it’s hard for a lot of folks to translate those numbers into breathing, living individuals, instead of a quantification of a problem.

      • I agree. I find this discussion fascinating because some (politicians in particular) make the argument way too linear (if you’re fat, X will happen). But it is NOT that linear. We don’t know why some people can smoke for years and never develop lung cancer, or why some people can eat calorie-dense foods and not gain weight. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t know exactly what causes type 2 diabetes, but know that it is likely a combination of things (genetics, environment, etc). But, we do know that people who are overweight are more likely to present with certain issues. In a clinic I once worked, overweight patients disproportionately came in with joint issues (hips, knees, and ankles, which bear more weight). We know that these joints were not designed in most people to bear large amounts of weight. We disproportionately see type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other key issues in people who are obese. Are these things seen in people of “normal” weight? Absolutely. BUT, study after study indicates that they are seen disproportionately in individuals who are obese. And when those obese people lose weight, these issues can resolve or lessen and risks can be mitigated. Lifespans and quality of life can be increased.

        I agree that the medical and public health profession needs a good makeover in this area. Blaming and shaming people DOES NOT work. Medical professionals should not lecture patients about their weight because such an approach is paternalistic and we know does little to solve the problem. More research is needed and medical professionals and public health officials alike need to recognize what we know currently and the limitations within that knowledge.

  39. Thanks for the interesting and educational post. A friend’s post referred me to yours, and I’m grateful for the insight. I’m also so sorry for the pain people have been caused by a culture that holds up one or two body images as the only ideals of health of beauty. That is terribly wrong. As a clergyperson, I believe that all people are beautiful, worthy and deserving of affirmation!

    I do want to let you know that, as someone who has only recently started to explore many of the issues you raise, your post also made me TERRIFIED to ask many of the questions that might help me really understand your points. I want to hear this (new to me) perspective; I’ve long been taught that obesity can influence health, and I’d never questioned it until recent articles and news coverage did. I’m interested in the discussion and want to learn more. But I feel like, based on some of the #s above, I can’t comment or question any of your assertions without making people feel hated — and I would never want to be hateful or cause pain. To really internalize this, I and many others will need to critically and dialogically digest it, not just superficially receive it. I feel shamed by many of the comments, particularly, made by other commenters toward people who seem to be trying to explore your assertions critically. And in the end, shaming people who are genuinely confused or miseducated won’t help this cause.

    That said, this is your safe space to vent and share your opinions. You don’t have to consider people like me if it’s hurtful to your needs here! I wouldn’t expect that. If your goal is to really influence people who don’t understand or who’ve been miseducated, though — a little more grace for the confused and questioning could be helpful.

    • There’s a difference between comments that ask questions and ask for help exploring a difference of opinion and comments that come here to “tell you like it is”. See #16. Also, it doesn’t actually seem to matter much how graceful oppressed people are. The people who want to cling to their ability to oppress people will cling, no matter how gently they’ve been told they’re wrong.

      That being said, I understand your fear of commenting. Two years ago I started reading feminist blogs, and I was TERRIFIED of going into the comments. I was sure I would say they wrong word or make some stupid argument and be tackled by the throng of angry commenters. The first antidote to that is to just. keep. reading. There actually isn’t any particular reason why you have to ask questions at first. There’s so much available to read, reading it is a good start. Sometimes we just get angry because we have to type out the same stuff so many times in a row. Why don’t people just read what’s already written. I recommend Shapely Prose, Junkfood Science, Dances With Fat, and the Health At Every Size (HAES) blog as excellent starting places where nearly every word is worth reading.

      Next up, ask questions, but don’t expect all the responses to please you. Sometimes you’re going to ask a dumb question. Sometimes the replies will be rude. It isn’t easy to be an oppressed person. You’ll live if it isn’t easy to learn a whole new topic about oppression. Say you’re sorry if that makes sense, just shut up for awhile if that makes sense, do some more reading, and come back to the table. If you mean it, it will work out.

      Your comment sounded respectful to me. I’m open to hearing a question or two from you if you want to be pointed in the direction of some specific info. This isn’t the ideal space for a huge dialog.

  40. Thank you. I’m forwarding this to my doctor (who suggested that I do an extreme diet), and another professional (who equates his own father’s death from uncontrolled diabetes with the right to tell people (from a position of authority) that they “might die sooner if they don’t lose weight.”) Ignore the haters. You are SPOT ON and I applaud you.

  41. WOW, I think there’s a comment for just about every point on this list saying exactly the opposite of what you just said. The level of Not Getting It is just absolutely stunning, almost funny if it weren’t for the fact that these things are harming those of us with fat bodies on a daily basis.

    Also a personal Fuck You to all the food shaming and moralizing. As someone who is recovered from bulimia, an important step in that was eating in moderation those so-called “bad” ~processed, chemical filled~ foods. I can say that’s a lot healthier for me than what I was doing before, sorry we aren’t all perfect health purists living off of nothing but organic veg. And it still triggers me to do this day when people feel the need to judge my food choices and try to make me feel bad when I am doing what’s best for MY body.

  42. So would you oppose a public health campaign that encourages exercise and eating more fresh foods and less processed foods, even if it never mentions weight or obesity?

    I agree with most of this list but find it difficult to stomach the attacks made on the public health professionals in the comments. They are trying to encourage just the things that I mentioned, with a particular eye to how class inequality can reduce access to good things like fresh food and exercise. I feel like because such things are often cited in context with obesity, the folks here are disregarding such efforts immediately.

    It seems like strict adherence to this list precludes important conversations about health. Hey look, I said “health,” and now I shall be shut down for not paying attention to #7. Engage in the conversation. Do not just say “you can’t say that.” Health matters. It may or may not be related to obesity, obviously everyone here has strong opinions about that. Just because many people do link the two does NOT mean you should label all health campaigns as fat-hate immediately.

    • I would LOVE that. I understand that public health professionals have a job to do, and one of those is public health campaigns. However, I cannot think of a single Australian health campaign that did not mention weight. In these campaigns, healthy behaviours and weight are always inextricably linked. So every health campaign I have seen has been fat hating.

      I am fine with public health professionals wanting to track obesity and childhood obesity. However, when these professionals come to places like this and say things like “obesity is a cancer”?! They should and will rightly be pulled up on that shit.

    • Becca,

      I’m also another future public health professional (in my first semester of public health school, concentrating in Health Behavior). Public health campaigns focused on behaviors–on motivating people to increase positive behaviors and reduce negative ones, with a clear scientific rationale in the proposal–are assuredly helpful and welcome. You can frame campaigns around healthful eating and promoting exercise without demonizing or attacking “obesity” as a notion, or fat people in specific.

      I’m from Atlanta, and last year Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta started running TV spots and print/billboard ads to try to “scare” parents into doing something to prevent their children from becoming obese. The taglines were things like this:
      “My fat may be funny to you, but it’s killing me.”
      “It’s hard to be a little girl when you’re not.”
      “Fat prevention begins at home. And at the buffet line.”

      These are not targeting health behaviors, choices, or even the structures within which those choices are made (homes are within *communities*, after all, not isolated little bubbles). They did not come along with a corresponding effort to increase access to fresh, healthful food and facilitating exercise for at-risk populations in the city of Atlanta. They were based on fear, and shame. Believe it or not, those are not actually that powerfully motivating. (See the usual response that if we could shame fat people into being thin, nobody would be fat.)

      There are ways to target both the structural factors affecting our health behaviors and the behaviors themselves without targeting and reducing human beings to a punchline, a scare tactic, or a picture of a headless fatty. Structural and community factors probably play the biggest role, but you don’t see quite as many public health campaigns out there to get gym owners to donate free memberships, to get employers to convert to flexible hours, and to induce grocery stores to set up shop in places that they consider unprofitable. There are so many concerns in play here, beyond attacking “obesity” as the problem.

      • Emily, I think I heard about that ad campaign, or something similar. Also did you ever hear of this show called “You’re Killing Your Children”?!?! I can’t find it on Google but I remember this show where they show parents those projected images of their children and how bad they’ll look when they grow up, and then then the hosts say “You are KILLING your children!” It was soooo messed up, maybe that wasn’t the title of it, but yeah…. obviously I don’t support crap like that!!

        However I also compare that to something like Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. The website does mention obesity and it is specifically related to childhood obesity, so I get why that is not good by the standards of most of the people here. But I think (and I can be corrected if I’m wrong) the messages that are actually presented to kids themselves are more positive and about lifestyle than about obesity. Obesity is the subtext, the justification on paper, but not the campaign itself. I guess I’m still turning it over in my head if it is even possible to do a health campaign absent of the obesity context, even if it is not the main message but the underlying reason/justification. (I mean “possible” as in “in the current social/political climate,” not physically possible.)

    • Your campaign description sounds great, especially since you mention class as a relevant component.

      There have been NO “attacks made on the public health professionals”. There have been attacks on public health professionals/students who came to the comments to lecture about health in a post about fat. Don’t you see the difference? No one is shutting down “important conversations about health”. But when we’re talking about fat people, the conversation isn’t about health, no matter how many times you use the word “health”. The conversation is about how to oppress and vilify fat people.

      Almost all public health campaigns ARE fat-hate, since they all pivot on eradicating fat people. Show me one that isn’t.

      • Well, the post specifically mentioned how people talk about relating health to fat, so it’s not like the comments came out of nowhere.

        I suppose the main point of difference (this is in the general conversation, not specific to the comment to which I am replying) is how we use what data is available to us. I agree with many people that the evidence we have now indicates that “health” in terms of physical activity and nutrition is more important than weight itself. However, lack of physical activity often manifests itself in weight gain. I KNOW, and public health professionals know, that such a statement is not true for everyone. Some “overweight” people could run a marathon and bench press me at every mile. Some “normal” or “underweight” people don’t do anything for their cardiovascular health and therefore are putting themselves at risk. But for MOST PEOPLE, decreasing their activity leads to weight gain and increasing their activity leads to weight loss (until you reach some equilibrium). You are burying your head in the sand if you deny that fact. Even the article linked above, that said that obesity was not an epidemic, stated that weight is often the symptom/indicator of physical activity.

        I get that. But we have to use what data is available to us. We speak in statistics because it’s the only information we have. We’re not at the point where we can say “Your exercise routine indicates that you will live until you are 83, at which point you will die of this specific thing” or whatever, just like we cannot know how every individual will react to every drug or medical treatment, but we still prescribe those we know to be successful for most people.

        Therefore, it is wrong (and indicates a poor understanding of statistics) to say to someone “Your ailment is caused by your weight. Lose some.” However, it is not wrong to say that many people found relief from their ailment by increasing their activity level and that resulted in weight loss.

        So while I agree that “eradicating fat people” is obviously not a good goal, there IS a legitimate reason why health and weight are talked about together. They are linked together scientifically. We ought to be conscious about the WAY in which we talk about it, but it must be talked about together. I’m not going to defend rude people or people that don’t understand statistics, but that’s just not the whole story.

        • For most purple, giving up tanning beds will lead to paler skin. Should anti skin cancer campaigns always and everywhere present dark skin as unhealthy? Mention skin lightening? Show before and after pictures suggesting dark skin is less desirable? Are those who would complain that you coming into a thread about the over valuing of light skin in our culture and the problem of racism to go on and on and on about the health benefits of light skin or the likelihood of skin paling when one gives up tanning “sticking their heads in the sand”? Or might they legitimately be calling you out on something you are doing that is prejudicial and harmful?

  43. Wow, so all of you who have come into this post and said that fat = unhealthy in spite of reading the post do not see how you are the problem and not the solution? Unbelievable. You know there are also studies that show that the better people feel about themselves the more likely they are to pick up healthier habits. Shoving your concerns for health down someone’s throat does not help with their self esteem and therefore helps contribute to the problem.

  44. My favorites are the ones who are posting here about “But scientific articles say this! I went to med school and learned this!” etc. Because clearly science and especially medical science are factual and objective — since they exist in a social vacuum devoid of the same cultural biases drilled into everyone and everything else (as do the people who attend med school, perform experiments, etc.) That’s why there aren’t any conditions (like homosexuality) that were once considered diseases but aren’t now, and why women were never diagnosed with “hysteria” that made them emotional and irrational because their wombs were floating around all over the place, and why science has never been used to explain why white people are evolutionarily superior to other races, etc. etc. As uncomfortable as the implications are for most of us, medical science (being more “personal” than, say, physics or chemistry) follows, and changes with, social norms (even as it’s used to justify them.) You can decide on your own what is valid, what is useful, and what isn’t, and take your chances accordingly, but in a discussion about an oppressed social group, merely “because science” is not an argument anyone armed with critical thinking skills and a basic knowledge of history takes seriously.

    • AJ I can see your frustration with things in the past that were passed off as science. Note that I say they were “passed off” as science because they fail rigorous scientific tests. Social norms definitely matter because they largely define WHAT is studied, WHY it is studied, and the interpretation that follows.

      However, I disagree with your statement “You can decide on your own what is valid.” No, you cannot. We can use the data that is available and understand its limitations, but you can’t make stuff up. That sentiment is why we have people denying global climate change or refusing to vaccinate their children (not arguments I intend to get into here because it’s off topic, so please, don’t take that bait if you disagree, post somewhere else).

      “Because science” IS a valid argument for anyone with critical thinking skills and knowledge of history. Science IS the use of critical thinking skills. The amount of information that we have available to us changes. We continue to critically think and re-analyze. There was no sound science that backed up the bad things you mentioned that were claiming to be science. (For one example you mentioned, see a very interesting This American Life about how homosexuality got listed as a disease. All social, not science.)

      It is wrong to use opinions and masquerade them as science to advance a social agenda. That has been done in the past, you are right. But let’s look at the science regarding health and critically analyze it. It is equally wrong to throw your hands in the air and say “It may be wrong, therefore I will make up my own opinions!” That’s not our science, and the many many advancements that have saved lives with modern medicine, works.

      • I appreciate what you’re saying, but while it’s easy to judge in hindsight the science that led to those conclusions as faulty, they were certainly regarded as legitimate by the prevailing scientific community at the time (as anti-fat stuff is today.) Science certainly has its uses, but to treat it as an objective way of looking at the world is naive and dangerous. There is no purely objective science, because it’s always coming through the unavoidably subjective filter of a human mind — at the very least, your own, and usually many more than that. You’ve obviously managed to criticize or disregard those using science to say that fat is unhealthy, global warming isn’t happening or isn’t anthropogenic, evolution is a myth, etc. — using your own judgment, which, like it or not, is a subjective thing, even if it leads you to more a more accurate view of the world than someone else’s.

  45. Love all of this. I feel so strongly about body-positivism and talk about this so much. Really, even some of the coolest people I know will sometimes say horrible things without realizing it – along the meaner lines, like “This girl dumped me in high school and now I found her on facebook and she’s super fat, she deserves it” but also in very subtle ways.

    For me, the “Oh, did you lose weight? You look great, so healthy!” and “That looks great on you..really flattering, it makes you look much slimmer” have been big issues. When compliments only ever address weighing less than before or looking less fat than I am, it’s just as damaging as negative statements. It still implies that there is something wrong, was something wrong, or would be something wrong if I was any bigger.

    I moved to the US from Europe (where in my perception people are skinnier on average, as well as much more fatphobic and shameless about policing each other’s eating habits and body shape) and it’s very hard to go back there and listen to people’s US-phobia-mixed-with-fat-phobia. You can’t get it right, either – you come back to Europe fat, you get unsolicited advice about eating raw veggies all day. You lose weight, people take it as an invitation to slam the “American diet” like there is such a thing.

    I’m frustrated, especially when I go back there, and I’m constantly confronting people about their deeply internalized fatphobia and inviting them to rethink their assumptions.

    Still, there were a couple of things I took from that list. Like #3 about speaking of food in moralistic terms – ‘deserving’ that ice cream, for example – that are useful reminders for me. Thanks for posting this!

  46. OK, I’ve read all the comments here and I would think that someone with the handle of ‘Feminist Breeder’ says everything you need to know about that person. I mean, really.

    I was not overweight as a child or young adult. My best friend and business partner always had a problem with weight. I have noticed that young women are the targets of a lot more hate speech than those of us who have reached middle-age and now fully understand the meaning of middle-aged spread. Because they are potential sexual objects? No idea, but I have noticed the hate speech comes from both sexes, so perhaps not. Because the young are supposed to be beautiful? Sandra was beautiful.

    Regarding health professionals and their hatred of obesity — in January of this year, after losing a considerable amount of weight last year so she fit into her college-sized clothes, Sandra started to gain massive amounts of weight. It took six months to figure out what was causing it. Her doctor’s suggestion? “You should become a Vegan…you’ll live much longer and be much healthier”. The reality? Sandra was born with a congenital heart defect (yes, Kaiser knew this) and the right side of her heart had completely stopped pumping. She died on August 31st at the age of 50. But hey, if she’d become a Vegan she would’ve lived years longer, right???

    • This is a perfect example of how the stigma associated with fatness directly results in decreased quality of care for fat people. As Eliza pointed out in comments above, fatness absolutely can be a symptom of an underlying disorder. But as long as the myth of fatness as a moral defect survives, doctors will continue to fail to correctly diagnose illnesses that present with weight gain. The doctor sees weight gain AS the illness, not as a symptom of the illness, and so prescribes things to treat the weight gain. The underlying illness goes un-treated. Sometimes people die.

    • I’m sorry for your loss. Fat stigma also killed my grandmother. When she went into the doctor, an obese sixty-something-year-old woman suffering from severe shortness of breath, they assumed (with minimal diagnostic effort) that the problem was that she was fat and out-of-shape and needed to start exercising more. They were marching her up and down the hall (forcibly, against her protests), in fact, when the aortic aneurysm that was actually causing her problems ruptured and killed her, likely from the exertion. And obviously it isn’t as tragic, but I myself have narcolepsy and was living with its symptoms every day for five or six years before it was properly diagnosed — you can guess what every doctor said when I, being fat, told them I felt like sleeping all the time.

  47. Kudos to you for having this blog and the patience to moderate the comments (I wouldn’t). I read some of your other stuff too, it was very enjoyable and your baby is adorbs. You look alot like my aunt who runs a dairy farm with her husband and four kids, just thought that was a interesting coincidence.

  48. This is an excellent post. It was not easy to read because it brought up very many emotions for me. I notice every day how much social approval people get for saying fat-hating things. I’ve tried for many years to speak against fat hatred and to limit my exposure to hateful comments, but it’s insidious and hard to ignore. It’s so hard to not fall into the trap of self-hatred and shame. There are most definitely times I have said some of these things in an attempt to fit in and be a “good fat person,” i.e., one who is appropriately (ugh) ashamed of being fat and trying to not be fat.

    One of the things that I find most difficult to deal with is the constant policing. I don’t want my body policed or the food I eat policed. I am angry that people feel entitled to comment on my appearance and my clothing, to dictate what is “flattering” for my size/shape. Approval for eating healthful foods or looking less fat is part of this policing. People don’t understand why I am upset when they say “You look great. Have you lost weight?” I try to teach them to stop with “You look great,” and refrain from adding weight/size/fat-related comments. It pisses me off when people assume I’m dieting if I order a salad in a restaurant (I like salads, along with many other foods) or praise me for having the will power to skip dessert (hello? Probably I am full, or don’t like or am allergic to the items on the dessert menu!) I do not wish to explain, justify or discuss the natural fluctuations my weight and shape takes over the years.

    Another thing I find very hard to deal with is the equation of fat with poor health. This belief has a very dangerous effect. There is a direct link between the belief that fat = unhealthy and the fact that fat people are likely to receive inadequate health care. I have had a number of incidents where I’ve had health concerns chalked up to my weight, only to later discover that there was a serious (non-weight related) illness or injury that was left untreated for too long. I have also had doctors show disgust and refuse to examine me. It frightens me to think of all the people who are receiving terrible health care.

    Thank you for writing this and speaking up for all of us. The world needs space for this point of view.

  49. Nicely done! I don’t read comments on fat-related posts anymore, but some of the ones I skimmed past probably made you want to tear your hair out. Just wanted to say thanks for a clear and thorough post!

  50. You know what I’d like? I’d like people to stop telling me how much weight I’ve lost like that matters.

    I started going to the gym a few months ago. I did it to be healthier and feel better and combat my crippling depression. As a side effect, I have also apparently dropped some weight. (Couldn’t say how much, don’t own a scale.) Not one person has told me how much happier I seem or how much more energy I have. It’s all about the goddamn weight.

    The skinny people want to talk about how much better it is that I’m smaller. The “fat acceptance” people want to bitch about how I must not accept myself. Where is the place where I can Do What Feels Good and NOT have it be about my weight?

    • I don’t know any fat acceptance people who would bitch about you going to the gym to be healthier, feel better, and battle depression. I’m sorry you have run into those people! As another person with depression, let me say how awesome it is that you have found something that helps you be happier and have more energy. That is SO valuable, and I am glad for you.

    • Oh, hell to the yeah, Susie. I ran into a friend of mine who started exercising for reasons similar to yours and changed her food choices to accomodate some food allergies. She looked radiant–her eyes were clear and sparkling, her skin glowed, her hair shone, and she carried herself with a confidence I’d never seen before. I told her how wonderful she looked. Afterwards, the person I was with was all like, “I know, right? She lost so much weight.” GAH!!!

  51. I HATE the term obese- I hate it because according to medical professionals, body mass calculators and other mass produced, arbitrary idiocy, it is a word that applies to me. I am as I am, and my weight in proportion to my height and girth have absolutely NOTHING to do with who I am or how I live my life. I smoke- smoking puts me at risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer and the number of miles I walk or salads I eat will do nothing to counter that risk. Life is full of risks- people in “peak physical condition” drop dead of heart attacks in the 20’s and 30’s. Maybe that condition isn’t so peak? Maybe people who eat restricted calorie diets live a little longer. Whatever- I don’t want to live long if I can’t live well.

    If I hear one more person ask me if I ‘really need that’ ice cream sandwich, I will scream!!!! Who cares?!?! Its my life.

    Loved this! Thank you!

  52. Asking people not to equate fatness with either health (or lack thereof) or with activity level seems useful and appropriate (as do most of the other things in the list) because they deal with judging others. Asking people to change their own relationship to food troubles me. Talking about food in moralistic terms for myself seems like none of anyone else’s business. If I feel like running earns me a cupcake, let me do my run and eat my cupcake and feel ok about it –even moral– just like you eat your cupcake (or don’t) and feel ok about it (or don’t).

  53. I really needed to hear this right now. I’m vegetarian, and I am not “skinny”. I have been reading so many posts this week from my vegan friends about how if everyone would just be vegan and exercise, they would be thin and beautiful, and that fat is disgusting because cheeseburgers. Or something. Uhm, hellooooo, look at me? I haven’t eaten meat in 8 years. I work out five days a week. I have been “fat” since I was 7 or 8 years old. Does that mean I am not allowed to advocate for animal rights? Because I am not skinny enough to be a poster child? I just feel so betrayed by my own community. It is no wonder so many people find vegans off-putting. In the last week alone I have felt personally attacked on five different occasions, by people who were supposed to be my FRIENDS. People who are otherwise accepting and would never say such rude/hurtful things to people who were a different race/orientation/religion/etc.

    anyway, my rant is over but thank you so much for writing this.

    • It seems like no one can make a case for anything these days without blaming fast food, “processed” food, and picking on fat people. Lots of the food factions (vegan, local, organic, etc) are especially demeaning about this. I’m sorry you’re feeling alienated by your community. That’s a really hard situation.

      • I love animals, but I have to rely on animal products for virtually all my protein because I’m allergic to all nuts and all legumes. I also have sensory processing issues that prevent me from eating raw fruits and veggies, and limit the extent to which I can eat cooked ones, so my diet is heavily reliant on carbs and animal products. I HATE when vegetarians and vegans shame people for not being vegetarian, or insist that everyone should be vegetarian. I don’t have a CHOICE, damn it.

    • I have fat vegan friends who get shammed by the vegan community for ‘making them look bad.’ Apparently being thin is supposed to be an automatic result of veganism. If there are fat vegans walking about (horror!) then all the non-vegans will never be convinced to join the higher cause. So they try to get my friends to stop talking about how they are vegan, or try to get them to lose weight, or tell them to leave the community. It’s really really disturbing.

      • My meat-eating friends never say rude things to me about my diet and my size. Sometimes they inquire about my diet, of of curiosity, about where I get my protein, do I eat dairy? why am I vegetarian, for how long?, etc. Questions I do not mind answering, normal questions a person would ask a vegetarian.

        my vegetarian/vegan associates are a different matter. They never believe that I don’t “cheat” on my diet (I really have not eaten meat in 8 years. Like, not even once). Or they scrutinize and analyze my food intake in a way that is really triggering for me.

        When did veganism become about losing weight? I care about animals. I know I do not need to eat meat in order to sustain myself. I wish more people would cut back on the amount of meat that they consume, even if cutting it out of their diet altogether is not an option. it upsets me to see vegans being so selfish about their veganism, shaming fat vegans and trying to convince people to join their lifestyle so that they can lose weight. It just seems like vegans with that mindset care more about themselves and being morally superior, than they care about animals.

        • To be fair to the vegan community, it’s not even a majority who shame my friends. But the shaming exists and that’s not OK.

          I think it comes from an ‘ends justify the means’ mode of thought. The shamers think that the important thing is to get as many people to be vegan as possible in order to save animals. If that means catering to bigotries and hurting real individual people by pandering to social stigmas, then so be it.

          Again, this is not a majority of the vegan community who do this to my buds. It’s just an element within the larger group.

  54. This is, I have to say, one of the only places I have seen that made me feel a little bit alright with my size and shape.
    I have lived most of my life knowing that a lot of people judge me for what I look like. Doctors constantly use offensive terms and say nasty things in relation to my weight. That doesn’t make me feel good about myself…
    Yes, I am a plus sized girl. It doesn’t make me different or unhealthy.
    What if I eat a few things that aren’t good for the body? So does everyone else.
    I still exercise like most people.
    I dance. I play sports. I love food and sex and love.
    I’m just a normal person with a different body shape.

    This whole post just makes me happy. It made me smile.
    Thank you!

    • Yes! Your comment makes me smile, too. “I’m just a normal person with a different body shape” is a great line. If you haven’t already, I really recommend finding some fat positive spaces online to hang out. The rest of the world isn’t going to change overnight, but we can support each other in the meantime. If you want suggestions for other places to look, let me know!

  55. I just want to say thank you, for being an advocate, for taking a stance, for being one voice in a sea of voices that says no matter who you are or what you look like you deserve to be valued. I think hatred and devaluing statements get subjugated into our daily speech, you used so many good examples of how this happens and the bottom line is, no matter what your intention is in saying something hurtful at the end of the day it still hurts like hell. If no one points out these simple ways that people destroy eachother every day nothing is ever going to change, and maybe it still won’t but you’ve at least created an opportunity. My best best friend in the world has always struggled with her weight and with her “friends” and “family” trying to “help” her change into the kind of person they expect her to be. She is extraordinary and because people have treated her fat before they treat her any other way she can’t see it about herself. I’ve shared this with her, and I hope it helps her find some peace, so thank you for being brave and telling it like it is…much love to you

  56. I don’t give a shit about weight, but you guys are straight wrong about GMOs. I doubt you even *eat* any GMOs. Making up or repeating internet “facts” doesn’t help your authoritativeness.

    • I don’t have an informed opinion about whether GMOs are safe or not, but wouldn’t Roundup Ready corn count? I assume that all Americans are consuming GMO corn, or products derived from it.

      • 1) Yes, Roundup Ready crops are GMOs.

        2) Well, nearly all Americans do. The ones who don’t are a rare breed, indeed. They’d have to be eating the product of their own farms and gardens in the few arable regions left where no GMOs are grown, so that no contamination occurs.

        The penetration of GMOs into the food industry is such that no grocery store in the U.S. is completely GMO-free, certainly. The majority of large-scale corn products are GMO: starch, oil, dextrose, maltrose, high fructose corn syrup, etc. Also, more and more of the whole crops sent to chain markets are GMOs. Industrial farms favor them, the organisms are specifically designed for industrial conditions, and large chains need those huge sources in order to maintain their stock.

        Sorry, skeptics. You’ve probably eaten far more GMOs than you think.

  57. Wow, does this ever hit close to home for me. Going along with #18, I remember when I was approaching 19 or 20 years old, and a lot of my friends were experiencing some sexual awakenings in college, getting to know people on dates. I wanted to get out and have similar experiences, but people kept telling me that I should date men who were 15-20 years my senior because they’d be more likely to date me. Or, even more offensively, they make a barrage of racist comments about what kind of person would be likely to date me, based on my size and their stereotypes about people from different ethnic backgrounds. I just thought it was such a gross way to look at my body, and it was a gross way to look at dating. It took a long time for me to start to accept my natural curves and celebrate them, but even 9 years later those comments still upset me.

  58. I would add another item to the list: Thin people who ask other thin people, “Does this photo make me look fat?”

    Get over yourself already!

    • Interestingly, for me, it was photos of myself that first started my path to being fat accepting. I would see photos of myself and think that I “looked fat”. But, they are photos! However fat I looked, that must be how fat I am! Bringing my mental image of myself in line with the reality of my body was my first step towards accepting myself. I like to joke, “Does this photo/these pants make me look fat? No, my fat makes me look fat!”

  59. I have two beautiful daughters, aged 11 and 7. They are provided the same food every day, three meals plus snacks, that is healthy and nutritious and sometimes decadent. We all go on hikes or bike rides or swimming at least three times a week, plus they both play outside for a few hours a day with their friends.

    My older daughter has always been above the 95th percentile on height/weight charts. She’s also 5’4″ and towers above other kids her age. She’s strong and healthy and brilliant.

    My younger daughter has always been right at the 50th percentile on the height/weight charts, and she’s 4’4″ — roughly equal to kids her age. Like her sister, she’s strong and healthy and brilliant.

    I can’t stop people from being cruel to my older kid, but we’re working on letting her know how lovely she is, inside and out, every day. I don’t know why she’s got a different body type than her sister, and neither does anyone else. I wish people gave less a shit about how she looks and more of a shit about being decent to other human beings, but it sure feels like a losing battle.

  60. I’ve read this post every day for the last three days. And mostly I cry. I do that a lot lately. But I don’t get out much because I’m so afraid of most of this list I don’t want to put myself or my friends through experiencing them. But I don’t see my friends much anymore for that reason, too. There’s one who’s pretty strong, she did almost get into an altercation with a woman who verbalized that my friend shouldn’t have chosen to meet me in a coffee shop which served pastries. But she doesn’t deserve that, she’s got her own stuff.

    I don’t call them either because no matter how much I steer the conversation to them, they want to talk about me and keeping a lid on how far my life has spiraled down leaves very little to talk about. I finally found a doctor who works with me instead of against me. She’s #5 though – the rest were so horrible I still want to punch one in the face and report another for ethical violations.

    To the public health professionals and about to be professionals, please talk to people like me. You can’t help us if you don’t know us and lots of your posts make me think you’ve never sat down and really talked to a person like me. I share some similarities with the beautiful Leslie who posted above, so I’ve started to address some of my triggers. I hope to get to a point of fat acceptance some day because when I am able to visualize my future, I do have a realistic goal in mind – size 18/20.

    But I do lose sight sometimes because working this hard to make people think I’m somewhere between peaches and cream and a complete and utter train wreck is exhausting.

    • Kerri, I’m sorry to hear how tough it is for you. People can really suck, and it can be so hard to navigate the world sometimes. I really recommend online fat acceptance communities if you’re not already involved. I hope that you find the acceptance you’re looking for, wherever you can, and at whatever size you are.

  61. Your post is clear, level-headed and convincing. But reading these comments has been a TRUE education. The many comments claiming professional health credentials as an introduction for damaging words; the “You Americans” comment; the “poor skinny me” derailer; the callous attitude toward children (dear God please keep these commenters away from fat kids); I mean, did you PAY these people??? They have made all your points in no uncertain terms.

  62. How come old movies old photographs and vintage clothes sizes all indicate that as Americans we used to be a much less fat culture? How can it be genetic or body type when two generations ago people did not look like we look today in America? Couldn’t our high fructose corn syrup diets (it’s in everything) be making us fat? -and not genetics or “body type”? Isn’t diet something we can control?

    • Weight is about BOTH genetics AND environment. Maybe your exact genetics would have expressed themselves as 150 pounds in the 1800s and 200 pounds in the 2000s. But, it’s dangerous to just pick some popular thing, like HFCS, and blame it on that, especially if it’s going to come with individual blame (“just stop eating HFCS”). Try making a list of things that have changed over the last couple of generations: climate? urban density? ubiquity of anti-bacterial soap? income disparity? racial makeup of the US? access to antibiotics? percentage of children in daycare? number of electronics in the home? existence of a diet industry? frequency of leisure travel? I’m just making stuff up here. Who knows what kinds of complicated effects various changes have on our bodies. Why go straight for HFCS? Here’s an article about weight and heritability: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/87/2/275.full.pdf

      • Exactly. And maybe straight size clothing was produced in much larger amounts than plus size clothing, just like today.

        Also, fatness is currently correlated with poverty. If this was true in the past as well, then fat people probably couldn’t afford to be photographed, as cameras used to be much more expensive than they are now.

    • I thought about this comment some more: I see fat people in old photographs all the time. That’s because I’m looking for them, and I’m happy to see them. You can’t see what you’re not looking for. And on vintage clothes: I buy a lot of thrifted clothes. But TODAY, in the middle of the supposed “epidemic”, plus size clothes are a tiny fraction of what’s available. Vintage clothes have the extra hurdle of having to survive decades. No surprise that there’s not a lot available for fat people.

    • I’ve got to toss in on this one and share a personal story (I hope it’s OK) – I’m proud to say that I KNOW where my large and in charge attitude and body shape/frame comes from: When I was an early teen I found early photographs of my great-great grandmother and her three sisters (from the family name Short, which I thought was funny/ironic) in my grandmother’s attic. All of the “girls” were well over 6′ and my g-g-gran was 6’6″. They all weighed at least 300 lbs with one of them at almost 400. Each of these women lived well into their 80s+, had large families, worked large farms, ate meat, eggs, butter every day, smoked, drank and swore. My genetic apple didn’t fall far from their tree. I’m proud to know that the beautiful body that I live in comes from these AMAZING and really strong women. (I’m not just using hyperbole on this one – they were STRONG women – from the stories I hear about arm wrestling the hired men, breaking up and possibly starting bar-room brawls and the sheriff’s broken nose after telling one of the sisters that she was unladylike.) My genetics say that I will NEVER be a petite prairie flower and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  63. we don’t know exactly what makes kids fat or whether it’s a problem that they are and we definitely don’t have any idea whatsoever how to make a fat kid into a thin kid.

    I’m a butcher. And the amount of grain in the diet of a cow is directly related to the amount of fat in that cow’s muscles when it’s slaughtered. I agree with you that shame doesn’t help anyone, and condescending assholes need to go die. I agree with you that being fat is not anyone’s fault. America’s food system is really screwed up and most of us are eating things that will make us fat and sick, like corn syrup and refined carbohydrates, crops that have been bred and processed to deliver lots of calories with few vitamins/minerals/other nutrients/fiber. Even many of our green vegetables are nutrient-poor compared with their ancestors. But the solution is not simply to embrace the status quo. The solution is to work for change in the way our food is bred, grown and processed. The solution is to find foods you love to eat that are also nourishing and healthy. Go make the biggest, tastiest, most creative salad or vegetable stirfry you’ve ever had; go get the leanest and yummiest protein you can find and gorge yourself. If you’re stuck for tasty healthy ideas, find a cookbook. This doesn’t have to be difficult. Food can be delicious and nourishing.

    • Your championing of how supposedly easy it is to eat healthy is ableist, classist, oversimplified, and unhelpful. People have heard of salads, stirfry, and cookbooks.

      But let’s talk about this instead:

      I’m a butcher. And the amount of grain in the diet of a cow is directly related to the amount of fat in that cow’s muscles when it’s slaughtered.

      I raise pigs, which, interestingly, except for some specific exceptions, have a physiology remarkably similar to humans. Your grain=fat is terribly simplistic and doesn’t hold up. You might say, “Well, pigs aren’t grass-eaters like cows,” but of course, humans aren’t either. Here’s what I know: putting pounds on pigs ought to be a simple equation since they are in a confinement situation with jailers who control their food (which humans are not). But EVEN THEN, it’s still not as simple as calories=growth. Things like whether the animals has enough water, is under stress, is getting the right amount of certain nutrients, was exposed to certain bacteria early in life, etc all relate to how fast an animal puts on weight. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, it’s a complicated equation for humans, too?

      In the prison overfeeding experiment prisoners were eating as much as 10,000 calories a day and some of them STILL could not gain the required weight. The ones that did dropped the pounds as soon as the experiment was over. If you’d butchered them at the peak of the experiment, when they had rapidly added weight over the last few weeks, you might make some claim about the effect of feed on fat. Your conclusion wouldn’t be relevant, though.

    • ’m a butcher. And the amount of grain in the diet of a cow is directly related to the amount of fat in that cow’s muscles when it’s slaughtered.

      Humans are not cows. Cows are ruminants. They are biologically designed to eat grass. When they are fed excessive amounts of grain, as they are in a feed lot, all sorts of things go wrong in their digestive system. Drawing conclusions about human diet based on what happens to a cow is ridiculous. By your logic, we should all eat grass–except that we wouldn’t be able to derive nutrients from it, because we don’t have rumens, and we would all starve.

      The more grain a cow eats, the more fat is in it’s meat? Maybe there’s nothing more sinister there than the INCREDIBLE difference in caloric density of grain and grass. By one source, feed corn has about 1500 calories per pound. Green pasture has about 250 calories per pound.

      This doesn’t have to be difficult. Food can be delicious and nourishing.

      Yes. And people can be fat too.

    • In addition to Issa and Joshua’s points, there’s the fact that cows are bred to put on as much weight as possible per amount of feed. Within a given breed, at least, we’ve removed a lot of the genetic variation in how the cows respond to food. I think that the evidence points to humans being more genetically diverse in their response to food.

      Also, I would think that how much weight the cows put on, and whether they tend to put on more fat or more muscle, differs somewhat by breed? This isn’t my area of expertise, but I would think there’s a reason why you have different breeds for milk vs. meat production.

  64. #21 bothered me a little bit when it brought up not saying things about yourself, I get what you’re saying and the point you’re trying to make, but it also felt to me like that part was also implicitly saying “shut up about how you feel about yourself and just accept yourself” which isn’t all that helpful even if it would be really nice to just be able to flip that switch. I dunno, I might be being overly sensitive but reading that one gave me a bit of a gut shot of self shamey feelings so….yeah. Obviously statements like that affect more people than just ourselves but surely we need to also be able to talk about our fat bodies and how we feel about them even if it’s not positive? :\

  65. Mostly, yes to all those things. But food CAN be morally good or bad. Ecologically sound food choices are good. They have a morally relevant effect on the health of humans and the earth. They are morally related to community and opportunity, as well. Industrial foods can be described in the same way. The damage they do to ecosystems, human health and economy are also moral issues.

    There is a difference between weight and health and I know that pretty well. I’m really heavy myself and had to learn not to put myself down because of it. I’ve gotten to a point where I can enjoy the way I look, even though I still don’t feel like it matches my gender, a whole other set of issues I and many people have struggled with.

    We can promote health without shaming fat people. And it has everything to do with the way we relate to the sources of our food.

    • As someone who raises and grows my own food, we probably have some feelings in common on the topic of ethical and ecologically sound food systems. But to push the morality of those systems down to blaming individuals is irresponsible and damaging to people (and not at all damaging to the systems). I am not a bad person if I go out for pizza. I am not a bad person if I try to grocery shop within a budget. I am not a bad person if I grab a snack from a gas station. To be more blunt, I am not a bad person if I prioritize something (price, flavor, convenience) over ecology. In a magical world where we all had a bounty of food choices and we had to try really hard to make the “wrong” choice, maybe. But we don’t. The industrial food system is, for the most part, for most people, simply “the food system”.

  66. Awesome, awesome list. I’m definitely guilty of many of these things, namely the health one, and I’ll do my damnedest to watch how I frame fatness in future rhetoric.

    I realize you just wrote a whole set of bullet points, so feel free to tell me I’m being dense in asking this question, but if one were to enter the conversation of the *why*’s behind people becoming/being fat, how can you do that without stepping on your 21 points? It seems like discussions about contributing factors slide quickly into a question of prevention, which implies that being fat is something to be avoided, which is counterproductive to the goal of body acceptance. Is it critical to be able to have a conversation inquiring about fatness and what causes it without it being immediately derogatory? Or is my framing of the question itself problematic?

    Can you point to examples of posts/studies/whatever that, to you, exemplify responsible and considerate rhetoric in discussing what causes people to have such a diversity of body types?

    • It’s my understanding that more people are more fat these days (although that number is not still increasing – it leveled off about a decade ago). I certainly think asking why is an interesting question. Science/curiosity is good! I don’t think there’s any reason to bring prevention into the question. Forget body acceptance – jumping to prevention before determining the why, the how, (or even whether it’s a bad thing!) is shoddy science.

      Linda Bacon (HAES) is a researcher who is doing interesting work on obesity, although I don’t know if she’s talked about the “why” much.

      It’s interesting that I have an entire mindmap full of links to studies about fat, and I can’t come up with any to point you to why. I can come up with some that refute the common theories. Like, no, fat people don’t eat “too much”. Next! And I’ve certainly heard some alternate theories. But, it’s just not a serious question it seems. The only question is OMG PANIC how can we get rid of all these fat people?

  67. Just two things

    -#19 is labelled as “29”.

    -Plus, the first example given in number 19, if somebody says something is appropriate for your shape, maybe they actually mean your body shape. Fat people have different body shapes between each other, too. I see thin people with round faces.

    But hey, if they’re saying it in that winking manner (i.e. “In other words, I mean you’re fat”), then that’s bad, of course. That distinction, though, is sometimes hard to establish.

    //Otherwise I largely agree that it is important to divorce one’s fat attribute from all their other attributes. One of my friends in college had gained weight a fair amount of weight quickly.

    I never thought that somehow he was choosing to be fat or trying to be lazy, but instead was actually just depressed and had lost interest in maintaining any concept of health. So the root problem was never to me his weight gain, but that it was caused instead by a mental health issue.

    • (I fixed the numbering.)

      What does “appropriate for your shape” mean? So often it means “helps make you look less fat”. Nothing will make me look less fat. And even if it did, why would I want to do that?

      I ran into something really funny (not) when I was looking to get a short haircut for the first time in my life. Apparently, fat women aren’t supposed to get short hair cuts, because it will make us look fatter. But, as I kept reading hair advice, it turns out we’re not supposed to have long hair because it will make us look shorter and therefore fatter. We’re not supposed to have shoulder-length hair because it will make us look dumpy and therefore fatter. We’re not supposed to do chin-length because it will make our faces look rounder and therefore fatter. What all of this advice amounts to is that I’m just not supposed to exist or if I do, not supposed to go out in public where people can see my fatness. Fuck that.

      When choosing clothes or accessories, you’re going to have preferences. That’s fine! When I chose glasses, I liked some of the styles better on my face than others. But there’s no such thing as a style that “works better” with the shape of my face. There are simply fashion preferences, and those preferences are all too often the result of fat hate.

      • I was thinking about commenting about the frames for glasses thing. At first I saw it as a comment that implied there are no fat people who care about how they look. However, the reply about how fashion preferences are usually the result of fat hate really cleared that up for me. Now I see that rejecting advice about which style is best for a fat body is more about rejecting the idea that the best style for a fat body is one that hides the body’s fatness.

    • ‘obesity’ is a stupid non-word for being a fat person. Being a person is not a disease and anyone who’s critical faculties are dead enough not to catch that, is both a fool and a hateful bigot.

      Being a person is directly related to disease, in the same way that it is directly linked to death. We will all die in the end.

      And slim people get the same illnesses, conditions and diseases and die, just as fat people do.

      “Lifestyle” is a bullshit self regarding weasel word certain types throw at others to try and delegitimize their existence. Being gay, is called a “lifestyle.”

      We have lives. Give people the dignity of that.

      Being a bigoted arsehole and pretending that is a right or worthy way to achieve any thing you deem a problem is your personal self indulgence, it is your personal responsibility. Nobody made you.

      And if you will not stop, do not expect to be listened to or respected in any way shape or form.

      • Hi Wriggles,
        Thanks for helping to trash the myths I list in my post. The stupid myths about fatness (that it should be called obesity, that it is a disease, that it leads to illness, etc.) should disappear and I hope my article will help to do just that.

      • You’re right, but did you click on the link? Or even read the bit of this post before the number 1? Gen wasn’t stating those things as facts; ze was marking them as pillars of the prevailing discourse on the matter (the linked document deconstructs and refutes each at length.)

  68. I don’t think I’ve ever read and been so engaged in so much of a comment thread.

    A lot of the dialogue here is centered around health. Some studies link fatness with disease, others don’t. The bottom line is that whether or not someone’s fatness is contributing to health issues, it is not cool to offer them unsolicited advice or make their weight a topic of conversation. Often people feign concern for someone’s health, when really they are just feeling contempt for fat people.

    If healthcare practitioners need to bring body fat up, they should be doing so in a sensitive and non-judgemental manor, and not just look someone over and prescribe “weight loss” as if someone can just turn a switch on.

    I have a hard time believing that the increase in fatness is unrelated to north american diet, but it is not as simple as that. as many people have pointed out, there are slender people who live on a diet of processed, refined foods as well as larger people who eat diets consisting primarily of whole foods. the difference is, fat people are the only ones who are put under the microscope for eating a cheeseburger.

    • Bebop, I’m intrigued by your statement “Often people feign concern for someone’s health, when really they are just feeling contempt for fat people.”

      I think my personal problem with some of the stuff on this thread relates to this statement. I feel like words are being put into people’s mouths. I say this because there are people in my life that I love and care about and they do not have healthy lifestyles. I do not want them to die prematurely, and I want them to feel happy with their life. I feel that if they had more physical activity and ate more nutritious foods, they would be closer to those goals, due to increased cardiovascular health, muscle strength, ability to repair the body with nutrients, the endorphins that are released by a nice walk in the fresh air, etc.

      Now the problem comes in because these friends and family are also overweight. I have seen them gain and lose weight. I feel like now there is this compounding factor, because if they do increase their activity I think they would lose weight. But my hope for them is not to lose weight, it’s to live a long life and enjoy it.

      So I feel like I would be someone you’d look at and say that I’m feigning concern for their health but really just feeling contempt. But, I’m not! In my heart it is concern for health! I feel like this thread would attack me for “fat hate” when it’s not my goal, and even if I state that it’s not my goal, I am being accused of “feigning concern.”

      How does one prove it’s not an act? This is a sincere question I am asking. I am trying to reconcile the things said here with my sentiment.

      • “I do not want them to die prematurely, and I want them to feel happy with their life”

        I think most people feel that way about their loved ones. But surely your friends and family can decide for themselves how they want to acchieve those goals, or even if their goals are the same as yours? If you’ve seen your friends lose weight and feel happier when they exercise more, they’ve probably noticed it to. People do tend to notice when their pants don’t fit anymore. And they will either exercise more or not, for a huge variety of reasons.

        If someone says, “hey, I feel better when I exercise, but I have trouble sticking to a routine; would you be my jogging buddy?” or “do you have any advice for quick healthy meals?” that’s an entirely different story. But if you’re not being solicited for advice, back off.

      • Every time in my life that I have wanted to modify someone else’s behavior out of a sincere desire to improve their life, I have later come to the conclusion that it was an attempt to express possession over them; to make them into something that was less “other” than me. Issa used to smoke, and I used to bug the hell out of her about it at the most inopportune times. “I’m just concerned about your HEALTH!” But what was actually happening was that she chose to smoke and enjoyed it, and I couldn’t understand how someone’s priorities could be so different from mine–especially someone who I felt so close to, and so they must ultimately be exactly like me! So I focused on the most significant way in which she was not like me and tried to change it.

        The exact dynamic that I describe here may not play out in all examples of a person trying to “help” another person by changing their behavior, but the bottom line is that if you are trying to change me “for my own good,” then you are trying to dominate me. You are trying to subvert my free will to your own. You are trying to replace my priorities with your own priorities for me. And that is fundamentally immoral.

        This is the part of the conversation where a person brings up drug addiction. This is the part of the conversation where a person brings up legitimate eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia. Is there a time when a person is so ill that they cannot any longer make decisions for themselves, and some steward must step in to make their decisions for them? Absolutely. But THE FOOD THAT I EAT AND THE EXERCISE THAT I DO OR DO NOT PARTAKE IN WILL NEVER FIT INTO THAT CATEGORY. You are not talking about seriously ill people when you say that you want your relatives to live longer, healthier lives, and so you want to make them exercise. You are just being a meddling busy-body. A meddling busy-body with the best of intentions, for which I will grant you one Internet Cookie, but a meddling busy-body nonetheless.

        Do you know who knows best what will make me have a happy, satisfying life? Guess.

      • Becca,
        I can definitely understand you wanting your loved ones to be as healthy as possible and I’m not trying to suggest that every time someone expresses concern it is not genuine. I just find it interesting that a fat person is more likely to have someone express “concern” about the bag of chips they are eating than a thin person (when that bag of chips is not particularly good for either of them, regardless of how it shows up on their bodies)
        Also, more often than not, the advice we have to offer others is nothing that they haven’t heard before, so even with the best of intentions it can be irritating for for someone who knows they “should” quit smoking but isn’t ready to or “shouldn’t” eat fast food but likes the taste to be reminded of that again. There is a time and a place for offering advice or concern, but it is important to consider if what is being offered is actually new information and how it will be received.

  69. Loved the article, love all your intelligent comments, just wanted to throw in: what i hate most, because I am 56 years old and have been fat for… well I guess since puberty, is when people say, ‘have you ever tried… (whatever diet)?’

    Oh, geez, no. Why didn’t I think of that. You mean I could actually lose weight? What an idiot I am.

    Okay, I know, it’s off-topic, but between that and every doctor of every specialty I’ve ever seen telling me that no matter what is wrong with me it would be better if I lost weight.

    Really? Makes me wonder how I healed all those times.

    • I know, right?! Yes, whatever you’re about to recommend, I have heard of it! I think non-fat people don’t realize HOW HARD most of us have tried not to be fat. There’s so much more at stake for us than for them – we have heard it all and tried half of it!

  70. So, I didn’t read all the comments, but I read some of them. There is an awful lot of hate going on–in both directions. I want to ask a particular question. I’m a petite woman. I worry constantly about my weight, and while I respect the size, shape, and choices of others, I feel better about myself, my health, my life, my body, when I head to the gym, when I turn down the sugars, etc.

    How should I reconcile these personal feelings with the kinds of claims this post is making–many of which I agree with? I don’t think my own attitudes towards my life are “bad” or “demoralizing.” But I would never, ever want my own choices “No, thanks. I’ll skip the cookies. I have to be at the gym in the morning” to be equated with a hate of fat people.

    So…what do you think? I don’t want to change my own life choices. But I read the post and totally understand it. What are your suggestions?

    • Your exercise and food choices are separate from weight. Your exercise/food might have a minor effect on your weight, but if you’re not a fat person, studies show you probably can’t be one no matter what you do. Some fat people hit the gym every day and don’t eat sugary foods. Some thin people are fast food junkies. See #8 and #9.

      Exercise and nutrition DO have a big effect on health, no matter what size you are. Exercise and healthy eating are awesome, especially if you know they feel good to you!

      Maybe what you’re asking about is #7? But the “in the context of fatness” part is really important. If a friend says to you, “I’m really concerned about my recent weight gain,” and you say, “Well, I really like hitting the gym every day,” that’s a problem. If you go onto a fat fashion board and suggest that everyone would have less trouble finding clothes if they’d just try your 5 point No Sugar plan, that’s a problem. If someone offers you a cookie and you say, “No thanks, I’m watching my weight,” that’s a problem.

      But if someone offers you a cookie, and you say, “No thanks, I’m not much of a sugar person,” or “No thanks, I feel better when I steer clear of sweets,” that’s just you talking about your preferences.

      Does that make sense?

  71. 20. Referring to fatness as a thing that deservedly happens to bad people.

    Example: Pointing out your evil exboyfriend in the crowd and cooing gleefully, “Hahaha, he’s gotten so fat!”

    Oh man. Oh man. So, last year, I said something like this. In fact, I said EXACTLY this about someone. It has been echoing in my head ever since. I have winced, cringed, and woken up at 3 am with it on my mind. I have had imaginary conversations with the person I spoke about where I apologize for making this comment, even though the person (probably) didn’t hear it. I have wrestled with the idea of sending a brief “I’m sorry” to the person – which he would probably be very confused by – just to relieve the guilt. But then again, shouldn’t I continue to wrestle with it so that I am more mindful in the future? In other words, saying this was not a shining moment in my life. I regret it.

    Strong post. I struggle with some of these concepts and others ring true. This is a post that caused me to think – the best kind. 🙂

    • Don’t beat yourself up. I used to BE a fat person who said nasty things about other fat people. I remember openly mocking people with who claimed to have thyroid problems. A decade later when I started taking a thyroid medication, I felt pretty stupid. We’ve all got our non-shining moments.

  72. So, let me first start by saying I am a straight, white, 5’10 & 150 lb male. So I am speaking from a place of privilege. I may be overlooking really obvious things. So, if I am, I apologize. However I want to start by saying that being fat is not bad or wrong, nor is it good. It is just a different way of being, and if one is fat, then that is their way of being. I know that people say “just eat less, just work out.” and it really is not that simple. However my question is why must we ignore medical realities because they may be harder to bear? I get that being fat is not a disease (nor being too thin). But it can lead to things that are not ‘good’ in my worldview (heart complications, high blood pressure etc.) I don’t have sources for these claims, so I am open to the idea that they *may* be wrong. Now, thin people can have the same complications I am sure, but rarely is anything in biology a true one to one ratio. I think that being fat could lead to these problems, and that it often (but not always) does. Are there social reasons for things, yes. Beyond reasonable doubt. So, that is my longwinded post. Thanks.

    • The answer to your question is NO, we don’t have to ignore medical realities. We shouldn’t make them up, either, and we shouldn’t jump to conclusions, and we shouldn’t pretend like we know things we don’t, and we shouldn’t mistake correlation for causation. So… it’s not so cut and dried. Fat people have higher incidences of some medical conditions. This doesn’t tell us whether being fat caused the medical condition, whether the medical condition caused the fatness (which may be the case for things like PCOS and diabetes), whether some 3rd thing is at fault, etc. We also have NO way to make fat people into thinner people, so it’s kind of stupid to recommend weight-loss. Someone of a certain ethnic makeup might be more susceptible to some conditions, but we shouldn’t recommend that they try to change their skin color. Do you see?

    • But it can lead to things that are not ‘good’ in my worldview (heart complications, high blood pressure etc.)

      [citation needed]

      Seriously, no causative link has been shown. We keep being told that being fat causes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, all kinds of things, but no one has actually be able to show that that’s true. As Issa says, a correlative relationship might mean that those things cause fatness, or that some third thing (or a number of things) causes or contributes to both.

      And guess what? Fat people survive many of the problems that are linked to being fat longer: diabetes type 2, dialysis, heart attack, stroke… Fat people have a better survival rate. Hey, look at that. Being fat is correlated with GOOD things, too. Are you now going to tell people they should go out and get fat so if they have a heart attack, they’ll survive it?

  73. I found your list very enlightening. I never thought about some of the things on the list. But I have a question. I used to be fat and over the last 2 years lost a lot of weight. I consider it a turning point in my life–I feel proud of all the hard work I did to lose weight. Whether or not it makes sense, part of my decision making process was health-related. My mom was diagnosed pre-diabetic and I’d been fat my whole life. I didn’t want to have to deal with type 2 diabetes. I know losing weight is monumentally difficult at the least or impossible at the worst for many people. Is there a way I can talk about my story without making fat people feel bad about themselves? I wasn’t keyed in to the fat acceptance movement before I lost weight so even though I was fat, I was never comfortable with my body type. It’s odd how losing weight helped me accept other things about my body that I’d always found difficult.

    I hope this hasn’t been offensive, I truly want to be accepting and not cause anyone harm. Anyway, thanks for this list; I’ll be thinking about it more.

    • Telling a personal story involves choosing the details and framing things a certain way. Start with WHO do you want to tell your story to and WHY? Maybe you don’t need to tell it as often or to as many people. Then it might be worth considering what you leave out of your story. Have you made behavioral changes in your life? You could focus on those instead. For example, “I’ve been running every day for a year! I feel so accomplished!” is a different story than “I’ve lost 50 pounds! I feel so accomplished!” For a lot of people who start exercising, even if they initially lose a lot of weight, they will regain that weight, even if they keep exercising. BUT, there are lots of reasons to KEEP exercising. Maybe it’s fun, you feel better, you sleep sounder, your skin is clearer, etc. Focusing on weight may actually DETRACT from the useful and meaningful story you have to tell. Is weight really the star of the show?