Busting Myths About Fat Bodies

Published September 17, 2012 by sleepydumpling

I’ve been thinking a lot about the assumptions people make about living in a fat body.  It’s important to say living IN a fat body and not living WITH a fat body, because we don’t cohabit with our fat bodies, we inhabit them.  These thoughts have been spurred on by repeated statements I’ve read from people decrying how we must be so miserable, uncomfortable and in pain simply because we have fat bodies, that we are so unhealthy simply by having fat bodies, that our quality of life must be just terrible.

I want to break some of those erroneous assumptions about living in a fat body down.  I want to talk about how it feels to live in a fat body.  Of course, there will always be a certain subset of the population who will tell us that we are in denial, that we are lying or that we have no idea what it feels like to live in our own bodies.  They’re dickheads, and I don’t care what they think.  But I want to talk to you, fellow fats, about thinking about how you feel in your fat body,

Now I can only talk about how it feels in MY fat body, because this is the only body I have lived in.  How I feel in my fat body is influenced by my being a woman, by my whiteness, my cis-genderedness, my able-bodiedness, my heterosexualness and so on.  I don’t speak for anyone else’s body, but if I talk about how I feel in mine, I’m sure it will ring true for many other fatties and then you are all welcome to share your own perspectives in the comments (remembering the golden rules of this blog – no promoting weight loss, no general negativities about fat bodies and check your privilege).

So, what are a few of the commonly held assumptions about living in a fat body?  I’ll come up with the ones I can think of, and you’re welcome to add more in the comments for me to touch on in another post.  So here we go:

  1. In every fat body, there is a thin person trying to get out.

    No, no there’s not.  In every fat body there is a human being trying to live their life in dignity and peace, with general respect as a human being.  Many fat people will confuse this with a thin person, because thin people are usually awarded the privilege to live their life in dignity and peace, with general respect as a human being.  So they try to become thin to get that respect, dignity and peace, rather than demanding something that is already theirs as a human right.  Mostly because we’re led to believe that thinness is something that can be achieved, that it’s something within our control.  Attempting to become thin won’t solve the problem of fat stigma, but ending fat stigma certainly will.

  2. Having a fat body is like carrying around a 2o/50/100/whatever lb/kg sack of potatoes/dirt/lard whatever.

    Wait, the average adult skeletal structure weighs about 20lbs right?  So is having a skeleton like carrying around a 2olb weight?  No it’s not.  Fat bodies are not attached to us, like some kind of extra luggage – they ARE us.  Our whole bodies hold ourselves up – bones, muscle, organs, skin, fat, everything – it’s all part of a complex machine that propels us around our lives.  If you hand me 50lbs, I’m going to feel it’s weight, because it is not part of me.  But 50lbs of my own body weight (or whatever number you choose) is part of me, and it has it’s own function in my body.  The only time I’ve felt like I’m carrying a burden is when I believed I was worthless because I was fat.  That wasn’t the physical weight of my body, it was the weight of stigma.

  3. Fat bodies feel sloppy and gross.

    My fat body is soft and warm, thick and both firm and pliant.  There is a full firmness to my body, but at the same time, it gives and moves as I move and people or objects move against me.  To hug my body is to receive a hug of substance, or as a friend of mine’s toddler calls it, snugglehugs.  My ex used to refer to cuddling me as being “bosomy”.   My body is pleasant and anything but “gross”.

  4. Fat bodies are “weighed down” by gravity and it makes them unable to move properly.

    If this were true, none of us would be able to stand upright or move.  If there was some kind of pound by pound ratio to how gravity pulls a creature down… how do you explain elephants being able to walk and run?  Or something heavy but thin, like… a giraffe!  Giraffes weigh over 3000lbs.   Maybe it IS true and fat people have super-human strength.  I can jump, ride a bike, climb a ladder… I must be Super Fatty.

  5. Fat bodies are always in pain from carrying around extra weight.

    No.  I am very fat and I feel no pain except when I do something stupid, like lifting stuff at work with my back and not my legs, or kicking at a ball of paper and missing, giving myself that awful over-extended kneecap pain thing. (Yeah I know, I’ll cop to being fairly unco-ordinated!)  I don’t suffer back pain, but I have a friend who is half my weight and he has suffered back pain since his mid-20’s.  Fat people who are in pain usually suffer pain because they have an illness or an injury, just like thin people who suffer pain.  Nobody bats an eye at some thin guy with a bad back, he’s just unfortunate, but if a fatty complains of any type of ache, oh it’s because you’re a big fat lardy arse.  All of us will suffer illness or injury at some point in our lives, it’s part of living, and part of getting older.  People of all sizes deal with back pain, sore hips, knees and ankles.  (Another friend of mine is TINY and has the dodgiest hips I’ve ever encountered – she’s always sore.)  As I get older, I am less flexible and take a bit longer to heal an injury than I did in my youth, but who doesn’t?

  6. Fat people just sit around eating all the time.

    God I wish!  I’d love to be able to stop still a bit more.  But between work, socialising, my activism, and generally just living my life, I’m on the go most of the time.  I’d love more time to sit and read, or catch up on the growing mountain of DVD’s beside my computer, or just snooze on my balcony.  I have lived in my new home for over 4 months and I’m yet to have spent time sitting on my balcony reading, something I LONG to do.  Most fatties I know (and I know a lot of fatties these days) are equally busy.  After all, try organising a get together for fatties – I can never get us all in the one place at the same time.  As for the eating all the time – it has been proven that fat people eat no more than thin people.  We are not just stomachs with mouths – despite the mass media portraying us that way.

  7. Fat must be burnt off the body.

    This one bothers me the most.  My fat flesh is not something to be burned or cut off of my body, as though it is a parasite or an infection.  It IS my body.  It is part of who I am.  It is as much part of me as my brain, my heart, my bones, my eyes.  It is not excess.  There is exactly as much of me as there needs to be.

These are just a few of the assumptions about fat people that I’ve been thinking about lately.  So what myth about fatness bothers you?  What myth are you carrying around that you could let go of?

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76 comments on “Busting Myths About Fat Bodies

  • Thank you so much for this! I really needed to read this today, I’ve been letting society and the media get to me a lot lately and I really needed to hear you. Your writing holds such care and passion for the person inside. I was feeling really low until this dropped into my inbox, wow I’m going to take the day by its horns and kick the negativity out :) x

  • Thank you for the term “snugglehug”. This is exactly how it feels :-). Snugglehugs from my partner are happy-making.
    Also: the rest of this is spot on (as far as I can tell from my own experience of living in a fat body).

  • I’m fat, white, straight, well off (supported currently by my parents), studying at uni etc. I’m active, I exercise, I work part time and study hard. I have fun. I go to the beach. When I have money to spend I go shopping. When I can afford it I drink with friends. I’m fat. People still have a problem with it. My family still want me to lose weight. But the thing is that I’m fat. I do things. I live with my fat. It’s part of me. It has contributed to part of who I am. It’s made me stop to think about why some things are considered okay and others aren’t. Fat people are just people. Who are fat. I’m so sick of people getting treated like crap just because they are fat (same thing goes for people who differ from the ‘norm’)… Everyone deserves respect.

    • Isn’t it funny kateonthenet how people assume that we don’t have lives, that we don’t work or study or care for families or volunteer or create or anything. We’re so dehumanised that we’re just seen as our fat, not as people with lives.

  • 1. That I must be non-sexual or can’t have a satisfying sex life because I am fat.
    2 That I must be easy or desperate and willing to sleep with any person who makes a move just because I am fat

  • Great stuff Kath – I keep having to remind myself of these principles as I face the hatred of the world towards fat people every day. The deep sighs when I dare to sit next to someone on the train, the sideways looks and not-so-subtle whispered comments. Thank you for fighting the good fight.

    Incidentally, I would be very interested in attending a meet-up of fat activists if you were ever thinking of planning something like that. I think it would be amazing to hang out with some of the awesome women (and men) I’ve encountered in the fat activism world.

    • VickiR, I know those micro-aggressions so well. The dirty looks from other passengers on the train because I dare to sit down while being fat. The people who get up and move if I sit next to them. The stares and nudge-and-whisper behaviour. The snarky comments (I had one this morning when a hipster chick behind the counter at a coffee shop remarked snottily “I noticed you’re drawn straight to the cake display.” when I was looking to order a muffin for breakfast.) Those micro-aggressions wear at us over and over and over and over until we are exhausted.

      We have had a few events here in Brisbane if you’re also here BTW. I’d like to organise another clothing swap for the new year if I can get some help to do so. Best way to find out what is happening is to follow Chub Republic Brisbane on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr.

      And if you’re not in Brisbane – put the word out and organise something in your local area!

  • One of my personal faves is the idea that fat people cannot have nice things available because we obviously won’t take good care of them. After all, look what we have ‘allowed’ our bodies to become!

    I deny this categorically, and not because I am not a slob. Frankly, I am. My house constantly suffers from a lack of clear surfaces to put things on and there are entire weeks where the sofa is somewhere beneath that mound of random things put on it ‘just for a minute’ and left for ever.

    The thing is, I was every bit as much of a slob when I was a quite thin twenty year old. If anything, I was a bigger slob then because I had mommy and daddy to pick up after me, even though they rarely did. If they didn’t do it when I was living in their home, I sincerely doubt they’re coming back from the grave to a house they never visited to do it for me now!

    But is my wanton slobbiness a function of my fat? No. It definitely isn’t. It’s part and parcel of who I am. I was a thin slob and now I’m a fat one.

    • That’s such a ridiculous one Twistie! I mean, look at how long fatties keep their clothes, simply because they often can’t find replacement ones. I still have clothes from the 80’s! I have to really train myself to let go of things – a life of poverty, a fear of abandonment and not being able to replace clothes has meant that I treat even the cheapest stuff like it’s a precious asset!

  • This is an interesting post to read today as I am usually quite happy in my body, but hurt my knee on the weekend (pulled something through walking too much in crap shoes). As I was hobbling along walking the dogs (I thought I could walk off the strain – didn’t work) I was struck how much I didn’t want people to think that I had some fat related injury. I was worried that people would think my knee had given out because of my weight, and I was very aware that if I was thin then people would probably think it was a sports injury. Luckily playing rough and tumble with my toddler and being her horsey actually fixed my knee!

    The other fat myth I have really internalised is that I am fat therefore I am lazy, and I always seem to think that other people must do or achieve more than I do on and day to day basis, simply because I’m fat and therefore must have less energy. Of course, time and time again I’m found out that it’s complete bullsh*t, but it’s still a very unconscious, internalised belief I have gained from my mother.

    • Oh yes Eclectica, I have so been there. As I mentioned above, I did an “air-kick” a few weeks ago being silly and over-extended my knee. It was SO sore for about a fortnight afterwards and I really felt subconscious about having a knee injury. I felt like I had to justify my knee injury all the time, every time it was apparent that I was sore. It had nothing to do with my weight and everything to do with my foolish behaviour. But it shouldn’t MATTER whether it had anything to do with our weight anyway! Even if we did “choose” to be “unhealthy”, that doesn’t negate our right to a life of dignity and respect. But it’s so hard to change the world’s thinking about that.

      And I totally hear you on the laziness myth too!

      • I had a leg ulcer last year that made me feel anxious about what assumptions people were going to make about my health relative to my weight too. It’s just ridiculous, really – doctors don’t actually *know* why I got an ulcer, but if it was to do with my size why should that matter, or be anyone’s business but my own? I was frustrated to feel awkward about asking for a seat on the train even though standing for long periods was painful and proscribed by my doctor, but I was worried people would look at me and see not a person with an injury who needed to sit down but a lazy fat person who didn’t deserve a seat.

  • I think the biggest thing that resonates with me is just the good old phrase fat does not equal unhealthy and you can’t tell somebody’s health by just looking at them.

    At my thinnest I was 5’5 and 130 pounds for four years. I was applauded by my doctors, parents, friends, and former tormentors for finally “becoming healthy.” In actuality I was starving – only allowing myself food every other day and quitting college because I couldn’t focus on the work or in class due to the lack of food. I’ve never been so miserable, sad, and sickish. However to this day I get people who wonder why I don’t try to get back down to that weight because “Didn’t you feel so much better then?” Uh…no actually! Next question!

    Awesome post!

    • Clara, I had my mother-in-law put a “thin” picture of me on her refrigerator. It was a good 20 years old. She pointed to it and said…”what ever happened to her?” I had to tell her that she was going to have to get used to the way that I am now. I’m not going to change. She hasn’t made any other comments. I notice the picture is gone. I get so tired of talking about weight and food all the time. My parents came to visit yesterday – I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. So, I pulled out my box of cereal and my almond milk. My father promptly grabs the cereal box and says “didn’t you read this label?” He felt like it had too many grams of sugar and carbs. I said… “yes I did – it said…buy one, get one free!” It wasn’t a sugary kids cereal either – it was one of the grainy ones. It’s like everyone in the world is watching you like a hawk. Gets REALLY old!!!!

      • Do people not have lives of their own? I’m too busy to be watching what other people eat all the time, and judging them on their food or weight or whatever. It’s just sad that people are so invested in other people’s bodies!

        • There’s one time and one time only when I care about what other people are eating, and that’s when I’m watching for their reactions to the delicious food I’ve cooked for them. I love to see the smiles and happy sighs.

          But if it isn’t my cooking, and it’s not going in my mouth, and I do not have unquestionable proof that it’s poisoned, I consider it very firmly None of My Business. If someone wants to tell me about the flavor or quality of the food they’re eating or discuss a restaurant or recipe I might enjoy, then I’m all ears. If they don’t want to share thoughts on the subject, I have no intention of intruding.

          Frankly, I cannot imagine spending a lot of time worrying about what someone else is putting in their mouth. That’s up to them.

    • “Didn’t you feel so much better then?” Uh…no actually! Next question!

      I can just imagine the look of confusion…

      I haven’t been thin since before puberty, but there’s been about a 25 lb range between my lowest and highest adult weights. My body doesn’t feel worse at higher weights. Whether I’m getting regular exercise definitely makes a difference… I wonder how many people start exercising at the same time they diet and stop exercising when the weight starts coming back, and attribute the difference to their weight.

      Some body-weight-dependent activities like squats or climbing stairs/hills are a little more effort at higher weights, but that doesn’t mean I can’t, say, climb up a mountain, for example, this one..

      • See I’ve never found climbing stairs or hills any more or less difficult at any different weight. I don’t believe it’s more effort either way – it’s still my body that is doing the work, whether it’s at it’s heaviest or it’s lightest or somewhere in between – what affects my ability to do things is my wellbeing, not my weight. If I’m making myself sick with starvation and reckless attempts to lose weight, then my wellbeing suffers, which then in turn impacts my physical abilities.

      • Just to be clear–I was only talking about my own experience in that last paragraph. Whether things it feels like more, less, or the same effort at different weights probably depends on a multitude of factors, especially since we’re talking about something as subjective as “feels like more effort”.

    • I feel this. I lost a big chunk of weight, twice, only to end up exactly the same weight again afterwards. It’s like my body naturally wants to be that weight or something :) But people ask about why I gained the weight back, and I said because I didn’t like being hungry all the time. I can’t believe that’s an insufficient answer for some people, but it is.

      I’m glad neither of us is starving anymore.

      • tiffanized – most people’s bodies do want to be a certain weight. It’s called a “set point” and you can find more information about it in Dr Linda Bacon’s book “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight”. I can’t recommend Linda’s book enough, it really is the doorway to a whole new way of thinking.

        Not wanting to be hungry all the time is a perfectly suitable answer for that question! An even better answer is “None of your business!”

    • Absolutely Clara – I was definitely at my most unhealthy when I was at my thinnest – mostly because I had a raging eating disorder and was abusing diet pills to get there!

      But that said, we need to keep repeating the mantra that being “healthy” is not mandatory. Nobody is morally obliged to be healthy and if people want to eat lots and sit on the sofa all day, it is their body and their choice.

  • This is a fantastic article – I know there is a huge subset of people who aren’t going to believe it, but that’s their problem.

    I wanted to throw in my two cents’ worth about point #2: it’s not at all like carrying around a 20 lb sack of whatever. As mentioned above, weight is distributed throughout the body, so it’s not just in one place, affecting balance. It also isn’t one minute you’re at the size you are now, then the next someone hands you that 20 lb sack – over time, bodies generally develop the muscle, nerves, and what have you at the same time to support it all. It’s a horrible analogy and I wish it would go away.

    I’ve been up and down the scale, and frankly, moving my body felt remarkably the same at all points. The only times I’ve felt “lighter” were when I made a concerted effort to develop more muscle – which actually made my weight higher because of its density. Go figure.

    • It’s a really redundant argument, that one about “carrying weight”, isn’t it? As you say, our bodies have their weight distributed over them, and it’s not something that just appears like picking up a box or being handed a bag.

  • I <3 this post, Kath– thank you!

    To add to what you and Tropicalchrome have both said about point #2, it's precisely because one develops the infrastructure to support one's body as it is that fat people tend to have a generally greater bone density– and lower risk of osteoporosis– than their thin counterparts.

  • This is a small, petty thing, but it really irritates me that people assume that if I drink a diet Coke, I must be on a diet. Not so. Remember the slogan from the 80’s commercials? “Just for the taste of it — Diet Coke!” That’s why I drink diet Coke. I prefer the taste of it. So the world can please stop sniggering whenever I order a double burger, large fries, and a diet coke. I’m hungry, and I like things that taste good to me.

    • I hate that, too! I tend to see this more when I decline to eat something. I’m not a fan of doughnuts, and so many places I’ve worked at in the past have a ‘Doughnut day’. People assume that I’m on a diet because I’m not eating them, not considering that maybe it’s because I simply don’t like them. Why do they assume that we’re always dieting or ‘failing’ our diets based on food choices? Maybe some of us just want to eat or drink foods we enjoy. :)

      • I get the same thing with chocolate. I do like a bit of chocolate now and again, but people assume that I’m this mega-chocoholic just because I’m fat, and when I say “No thank you” they behave all surprised, or ask me if I’m on a diet, then if I say “No, I just don’t feel like chocolate just now.” they act as if I am hiding that I’m on a diet!

      • OMG I was going to say exactly the same thing about donuts. Why can fat people just not like certain (high calorie) foods? I get annoyed at myself too because I feel the need to justify not liking donuts to people when they comment on it.

        Btw briliant post.

  • I think a common misconception about fat people is that they’re nutritionally uneducated – that they don’t know how to properly feed their own body and must be told by SOMEONE else what their fat body needs. This bothers me because often, fat people have experienced a lifetime of imposed dieting and probably know MORE about nutrition than many thin people. By nutrition I mean knowing omega-3 fats, protein, iron, calcium etc are all valuable additions to one’s food intake.

    Also just because a thin person observes a fat person eating something that our heavily diet based culture deems as “bad”, does NOT mean that the fat person eats said “bad” food all the time. Plus – don’t thin people also eat hamburgers, cake, donuts etc? Not to mention, how is it anyone else’s business to decide what another person eats? My sister is heavy and it aggravates us to no end when our mother throws out comments like – “You shouldn’t be drinking that frappaccino, do you know how many calories are in that? Iced coffee with nonfat milk is a better choice.” The judgment in those statements is heinous – assuming my sister does not know the caloric content (even if she didnt, bfd) and offering a “better” drink choice as defined strictly by how little calories are in it…. and then expecting a Thank You from said fatty for this schoolin’ in how to do something as basic as EAT.

    • Yes Lynn, YES! It’s so ridiculous how often people assume that we have no idea of the calories in something or what foods are high in what nutrients. We know it better than anyone else! You’ve reminded me of a time years ago when my then boyfriend and I were in a supermarket and he started reeling calories off for some item or another, and I just turned to him and said “You realise that after 25 years of dieting, I know calories better than you ever will? I already calculate everything in my head at all times.” He was ABSOLUTELY astonished. Even after years of fat activism I still subconsciously calculate calories in my head, if I don’t really pull myself up.

      And I’m so sorry about your mother policing you and your sister. My advice is to repeat the mantra “It’s none of your business.” to her. It sounds harsh, but really, if they’re not picking up from subtle queues, you just have to keep stating it bluntly over and over.

      • I don’t know why that surprises people, honestly!! Do they really think most fat people haven’t fallen victim to the constant hate-yourself-thin messages and tried to diet (aka restrict) at some point? It always makes me shake my head. Or in the case of my mother, to say loudly “Good thing it’s not YOU drinking the frappaccino then.” Aargh.

  • One myth that has been mentioned a bit above is the idea that when you are at you thinnest you were the most healthy. Completely untrue! Starving yourself is completely unhealthy.
    I also liked the mention of all those sex myths, man there are plenty.
    Another myth is that I can’t dress myself or it is fine to criticize what I wear. As you have mentioned before we shouldn’t have to hide in black, or wear something that is considered ‘flattering’. No one should have minimize themselves. Also, some parts of me are big, wearing black, something long, etc. isn’t going to change that. And when people tell me that I ‘can’t wear’ certain clothes. I say “Well I’m wearing it, and the sun hasn’t ceased to shine, so I guess it isn’t as big of a problem then.”

    • Beth isn’t that whole thing of judging how we dress such crap? It seems that our fat bodies invite people to tell us what garments are “flattering” or how we should minimise/disguise our bodies. For example I was showing off some clothes I bought the other day and had put a red lace top and floral pants together. A friend of mine piped up “No, you can’t wear that, it’s too busy, it will draw too much attention to you.” I started out by just laughingly responding “Oh well that’s what I want!” But she kept pushing “No, no, you can’t wear that. It’s not flattering.” Eventually I snapped back “It’s my body and my clothes, I’ll wear what I want thank you.” She got really offended at me and went on about how she was “Entitled to her taste.” Umm… not when it’s on my body you’re not.

      Astonishing!

  • Eeeeeeexcellent. Hadn’t even heard number 4 before! Hilarious.

    Sincerely, the fatty with the herniated disc in her lower back. Actually I think it’s a fucking miracle that no-one has (vocally) tried to assign that to my weight. None of the doctors, even my mother had to mildly admit to “it [losing weight] couldn’t hurt” arguments when even the fatphobic western medicine didn’t support her causalities.

  • A major one that’s been going around for years is that fat people raise the costs of healthcare and we are the only reason why insurance rates go up. Never mind that we are living longer, never mind that insurance companies are scared of malpractice suits, never mind that we have a population of uninsured people that rely on ER’s and urgent care centers for their medical needs, never mind that failed weight loss surgeries and yo-yo dieting can lead to more medical issues, never mind all the sports injuries. Nope, if only those fat people wouldn’t eat so much and get off the couch once in a while, then healthcare wouldn’t be so expensive.

    I would like to think it’s more fat people that is actually costing LESS, due to fears of doctors only pursuing weight-based treatment when it’s not warranted so they don’t visit an office, and many health insurance companies refusing to cover those who aren’t insured by their employer or don’t qualify for Medicare or state-sponsored coverage simply due to weight.

    • lifeonfats the one that bothers me about the “driving health care costs up” bullcrap is that I pay my own damn health care costs! I pay a motza for both private health cover, and in taxes for my public health cover. It totally ignores how much we contribute to health care costs. And why shouldn’t we reap back some of what we sow?

  • I’m still trying to get comfortable with human touch (sometimes I still tense up when a friend gives me a hug), none-the less I do like hugs and they just are nicer coming from fatties. We also keep folks warm, and here in WI that’s important when it’s below zero.

  • Related to #2, I also loathe the myth that “fat” is somehow the antithesis of “fit” — which then translates into people using “fat” as acceptable shorthand to mean “physically unfit,” whether in terms of strength or cardiovascular conditioning.

    Like, I run. For longish distances, when time and weather permit it. I think it’s big fun. I also tend to talk about running with a fair amount of acquaintances (who also run and who, especially, may know about good running paths near me). When I talk about running in this way, said acquaintances are often surprised and/or disbelieving (the better ones are just surprised) to discover that I can actually run this far without completely winding myself and collapsing in exhaustion.

    Some of them go so far as to explain their surprise with, “You don’t look like a runner,” which of course contains the silent caveat, “because you’re fat.” (I mean, otherwise — Who does and does not look like a runner?)

    It’s sort of like — Even when people accept that I work out on a regular basis, they — I don’t know — have this image of me, because of my size, wheezing and gasping through a few steps on a treadmill or something.

    And certainly, I’m not suggesting that anyone else has the obligation to pursue fitness goals like I have. This is a personal hobby of mine; other people like different things, and that is cool. What is not cool is when people look at body sizes as a basis for judgments that are separate from body size.

  • Hi Kath,

    Thank you for this post. What particularly resonates with me is the false notion that the reason i have severe spinal issues is because im fat. Before i was diagnosed with herniated discs, disc degeneration disease etc, i was told by people ie work colleagues that i shouldnt bother going to see a neuro specialist because he would just tell me that i needed to lose weight. It annoyed me that i felt the need to say to people that in fact my very slim grandma had the same back pain, as did my slim mother at my age, as does my very skinny cousin!
    I also felt like i needed to explain that before my hereditary back pain kicked in, i walked for miles every day with no problem at all.
    My neuro surgeon does not believe that my back pain is due to my weight, and i prefer to stick with his 20 year medical knowledge than that of my ignorant work colleagues. It just upsets me that people take one look at me and blame me for my back pain, when they never would with thinner people,

  • I read the piece in the Sun Mail, I was astonished there were other fat gals just like me with the same issues. Devoted Fan now! Margot

  • In terms of doctors telling you to lose weight. I dislocated and broke my knee on Xmas eve last year. Required months of rehab and eventual surgery. In my groggy, after painkillers and anethesia (spelling probably wrong) the surgeon went on to tell me to lose weight to prevent my knees getting worse. He did this without reviewing my chart or asking me lifestyle questions (which I wouldn’t answered – he wouldn’t have told a thin person to lose weight after a dislocation caused by tripping on my maxi dress).
    This to a person who has been on every diet under the sun (since about 8 yrs old), been a member of multiple gyms, started cycling (on a road bike) intensively prior to the accident, and has Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and was actually at my thinnest weight for over year when I had the surgery. I’ve stopped ‘dieting’. I exercise when I want to. Not when people tell me to. I eat what I feel like. I feel better now than I did on any diet. Doctors (for the most part) assume so much about you when you’re fat.

      • Thanks – it’s very hard especially as a young person in the hospital system. It’s a very disempowering process. I’ve dealt with many doctors and have actually made official complaints (with my mother – as I was under 18) to the hospital and received one written apology (one doctor was just being blunt the letter said he was just calling a ‘spade a spade’ so basically I’m fat and need to get over it when they a discriminatory towards me. I have chronic knee and joint problems (my whole family fat and thin does) he just said it was because I was overweight and needed to exercise more. I lived on a farm. I rode horses. I built fences. I herded cattle and walked 4km every day to the bus/home etc. The second was rude in hospital and phoned me an apology saying he didn’t mean to cause offence, but he was just concerned about my health.

        They really make you mad. I never thought doctors were like this until I had these experiences. But mostly younger male doctors will be rude.

        I was chastised by ER staff (dislocated knee) for requiring additional pain meds because I didn’t want to feel pain when they put it back in. It was also broken upon later examination and testing. But they talked about me when my family left and whinged to the nurses that I cried. I was in severe pain and requested additional morphine or to be put under (which is done for some severe dislocations – mine took several doctors and an orthopaedic surgeon to put back in while I was awake on gas hallucinating. They don’t treat you like you’re a person. Just because I’m fat and hurt myself apparently you deserve it. It’s like your pain is less important than that of someone thinner or more aesthitcally pleasing (I consider myself to be beautiful and fine as I am).

  • I have a difficult time with being told that my life will be shorter. Shorter than what? My life will be exactly as long or as short as it will be thanks very much. The doctors can’t understand why my blood pressure is always normal and I have no complaints…other than anxiety…which is caused in great part by childhood trauma around being chubby. Which is what I am now and always will be. Chubby me…who I love dearly. Excellent post~

    • Yeah, my Grandma has been told since her 20’s that she is shortening her life… she’s now 83 and just had a knee replaced and is gearing up to get the other one done, so that she can be back scootling around again!

  • This post was very interesting and it came to mind last night when I was at a meeting. There were four of us gathered for the meeting, three thin ladies and myself (very much un-thin & unashamed). The head of the committee was relating a story about a family she knows with a young child. The child apparently has several fillings in his teeth. She said “They’re big fat people (said with grimace & shudder) and they can never have brushed his teeth! It’s gross!” The message I got from this statement was that fat people mustn’t have good dental hygiene. The others laughed and chipped in with their two cents worth. Being the only fattie, I was taken aback by this statement and immediately uncomfortable. I wondered if they shudder at the thought of me and think I don’t brush my teeth or my children’s teeth? I thought the whole shudder and grimace at the thought of big fat people a bit over the top. After all, we can’t all weigh 59kg and be perfect. This woman is studying to be a lawyer and is passionate about refugees’ rights. What about fat people’s right to be treated as human and not some imperfect sub species that inspire shudders at the very thought of us? Think about how you affect the person beside you before you start fighting for human rights.

    • Were you able to speak up Cas? Sometimes as Marilyn Wann says, these are “teachable moments”, where you can speak up and teach someone that they are a) out of line and b) making false assumptions.

      • I really wish I had spoken up. I felt kind of out numbered and I don’t know these people very well. Confidence doesn’t come easily to me. I’m also new to the fat acceptance concept (self esteem issues abound). I am working hard to educate myself to this new way of thinking so that I can be confident in speaking up and start teaching others to be more accepting. Thanks for your hard work Kath!

  • 1. That I caused my hip pain by getting fat. Never mind the congenital hip dysplasia, which surgery didn’t quite fix. The joint would never have become arthritic had I just stayed thin, and it will stop hurting and assume a normal shape if I just lose 50 or 100 pounds..

    2. That I must be unhealthy and take a lot of sick days. I teach English in Korea. Two years ago, the guy at the city education office who was in charge of guest English teachers asked to see the results of my annual work visa health check early. He said in the email that because I was fat, he worried that I was unhealthy. Guess how many sick days I had taken in two years of teaching in this city: zero. When presented with the health check (passed) and attendance record, he backed off, but I have been afraid to take time off ever since. (Fortunately, my students and immediate supervisors treat me with respect, and the fat-phobic administrator retired.)

  • Another myth I hate: That our fat bodies are either the symptom or the cause of some kind of mental health issue. I.e. either the assumption that our fatness is shielding us from the world, from unwanted sexual attention or whatever, or that it’s being fat that’s making us miserable and that if we lose weight, the depression will miraculously vanish. (That’s before you get to the effect that stigmatization alone can have on mental health. Or the weight gain some people experience with psychiatric meds.)

    Also, re point #2, something that’s always puzzled me: How come having a heavier body is supposed to be so awful for your health, but working out at the gym with weights is laudable? Why isn’t being heavier seen as the equivalent of a 24/7 workout? Which it is, if you think about it – re what Whollyword said about bone density.

  • I didn’t think anyone said the “fat people are pulled harder by gravity” thing with a serious face. I want to be angry at that one but all I can do is laugh. It’s one of the myths that makes so little sense, that it sucks logic and coherence away from any arguments around it, because if my body is pulled down by gravity, then a thinner person, whose body is not as affected by gravity, would float away. Since the skies outside are not full of levitating thin people, I can consider the Gravity Myth thoroughly busted, along with the “X amount of extra weight on the body is like carrying that amount in a backpack”, because body fat does not work like adding books to a backpack.

    I wanted to rant about my Most Favorite Myths Ever (and by “most” I mean “I wish they would die already), the “fat people don’t know how much they really eat”/”Fat people don’t know they’re fat” myths, but I have few words that aren’t of the kind that can’t be said on television, but I’ll try to restrain myself from profane language. Even ignoring the subtext of “Fat People people are too dumb to ‘take care of themselves’ (read: lose weight) and need to be abused into it/shamed into it/guilted into it”. I only speak for myself here, but even being a smaller fat, I’m well aware that I’m fat, and aware of what I’m eating, because people so kindly want to point these things out to me as if I walk around clueless about what I ordered or what’s on my plate, and the state of my body. Which is pretty hard to do when people with all kinds of motivations from being well-meaning and wrong, to being self-righteous jerks, and also wrong, feel the need to point these things out to me.

    • Actually Rubyfruit, they do say that all the time. It’s a frequent response from the “what about your health” brigade on articles about fatness, thin privilege blogs and other fat activism sites. People really do believe that. It doesn’t make sense, but nor does a whole lot of other tropes that are spewed at fat people as if they are fact.

      • All it makes me wonder is if they’ve run out of arguments that put on the appearance of making sense, and have instead come up with nonsense that sounds Sciencey enough that the average layperson wouldn’t try to disprove.

  • Hi Kath, thank you so much for this. I’ve got another two
    * No wonder – a popular comment I always hear people muttering just because I’m having an ice cream cone. Just because I’m fat I’m not allowed to enjoy an ice cream now and then
    * There’s also this myth that fat people look much older than their age. Really?!? I’m 41, yes I don’t look my age, I look younger. It really annoys me when people try and comfort me because ‘I’ve adopted 41′ as my age even though ‘I’m younger’ because I realize that I look older than my supposed age – early thirties. My only retort now is to just say thank you because my own casual observations tell me, us fatties, we don’t get wrinkles as early as the thin crowd
    Keep up the great work, wish there was a similar network of support here in South Africa

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