“Oh But I’m So Concerned…”

Published April 28, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I’ve been doing a little bit of thinking lately about the whole “But what about your health?” argument against fat acceptance.  I’m sure you’ve all heard it, it’s a fairly common one.  The idea is that being a Fatty McFattersons (oh how I love that term, it makes me smile every time I hear or use it) is a terrible compromise on your health and that you really just need someone to come along and show their concern for your health and that will miraculously have  you seeing reason, so you’ll put down the cheeseburger and get off your fat arse, and lose the weight.

Because, you know, if you’re a Fatty McFattersons you just must be eating cheeseburgers by the metric tonne and you know, washing yourself with a rag on a stick and all, because you’re so fat you’re immobile.

The thing is, do you really think they’re doing this because they’re genuinely concerned for your health?  How much do they really care about your health?

Do they care about your emotional health?  Are they concerned that by making you feel ashamed about your body, they’re harming your self esteem and confidence?  Do they care about the damage that the yo-yo dieting and exercise bingeing that many of us punish ourselves with to try to “not be fat” does to us in the long run?

Are they really that genuinely concerned about those of us who are fat and our health, or do we simply offend them with our fatness?

I am pretty sure in a lot of cases, it’s the latter.

Personally, I have two major issues with this:

Firstly, you can’t tell much at all about someone’s health just by their body size and shape.  So how does that person have any idea how healthy or unhealthy a fat person is?  Their body size doesn’t actually tell you what they eat, their genetic makeup, their medical history, how much activity they have in their life, what stress they are under, their allergies or any other valid information about their health.

And secondly, what business is it of any other person but you how healthy you are?  It’s your body!  You are under no moral obligation to be healthy.  I know, shocking isn’t it?  There is no law, no rule, no ethic or moral that says that you have to be a healthy person.  Even if you DID eat two whole cakes for breakfast, and wash yourself with a rag on a stick while you change the television channel with a broom, that is your choice and it harms nobody but yourself (and that’s debatable anyway).

The people who are genuinely concerned for you are going to find out more about you than just what size clothes you wear or how fat you look.  More than anything, they’re going to want to know how you feel, which is a better indicator of your wellbeing than anything else.

Don’t let folks shame you with false concern.

29 comments on ““Oh But I’m So Concerned…”

  • Great post. As I like to say often, ‘health’ is often a convenient vehicle for fat bigotry. You’ll notice that the comments threads on non-FA site re: anything fat usually devolve into “I can hate you gross fatties because you’re unhealthy.”

  • I think the biggest argument against this being genuine concern is how often the “but what about your health?!” card is pulled by people over the internet. Really? You’re that concerned about the health of somebody you’ve never met in your life?

    Honestly, the ONLY time I’ve ever had anybody “concern troll” me about my health has been online. I’m a smaller fat person (I waver right on the overweight/obese border), and I’ve never had a doctor, close friend, or family member express concern for my health based on my weight. Even when I was having blood pressure issues about a month ago (a week after I gave birth, my bp spiked to 160/100), my weight wasn’t mentioned once by anybody who examined me. It was attributed to being postpartum, and I was told to take it easy, try to get more sleep, and drink more water. I’ve never had a doctor or other health professional tell me either to lose weight or that my weight is negatively impacting my health. And, I’ve seen a number of different doctors, since we’ve moved a few times.

    And yet, despite the fact that my health care providers have never given me a “What about your health?!” lecture, and nobody who actually cares about me (family members and friends) have ever expressed concern about the impact my weight or eating/activity habits might have on my health, strangers over the internet–who know nothing about me other than that my BMI is usually in the 29-31 range–have lectured me about my health, warned me that I’m going to get diabetes and heart disease before I’m 40, and basically told me that if I don’t lose weight I won’t, as they love to scare women, live to see my kids grow up. It’s absurd. 1) These people know nothing about my health, and 2) they don’t really care.

    I think it’s mostly just used as an argumentation strategy, not as a show of genuine concern.

    • I have to say that I have had people “in real life” concern troll me though. But I am a Super Fatty, up in the morbidly obese range on the BMI malarkey, so I guess I have that disadvantage.

      But yes, people who don’t know you, on the internet who haven’t even met you… yeah right, concern my arse!

  • The thing is, do you really think they’re doing this because they’re genuinely concerned for your health?

    The only way most people “care” about our health and/or well being is to police it into as lowly a state as possible, to fit in with their real concern, propping up their theories on weight control as trojan horse for a new moral framework.

    As bigliberty herself says, this is about moral panic, that is about fears about the moral health of nations and how to control them effectively.

    It uses fat people it is not interested in them further than penning them into the dictates of their rhetoric. If that means wreaking destruction on us, that’s not the primary aim, but so be it, we’ve already been set up for being ‘unhealthy’.

    What else are they going to use, religion? No, the time for that is passed, so they use something that has greater currency “health”.

    It is re-acquirng a morality and they are using the obesity crisis-amongst other things-to deepen and disseminate the re-emergence of it as a moral framework.

    • I’d take that a step further and say that, it’s not only that it’s an attempt to reassert some kind of morality, but that as an increasingly secular society, we haven’t figured out how to come to terms with death (and mortality in general, including aging and illness), and so we now hope that we can achieve eternal life not through religious belief or ritual but through the right lifestyle. I honestly think that, on some level, many people really do believe that, if they just eat right, exercise enough, and maintain the perfect BMI, they will be able to avoid aging, illness, and death–all the stuff that comes along with having a mortal body that we’d rather not think about. Perhaps at some level fat hatred is so prevalent because fat people remind others that we are in fallible, mortal bodies that we don’t and never will have any real control over.

      • You know, that’s really good food for thought. You are on to something there. Maybe that was one of the things that helped me reach a place of acceptance, was my faith? I don’t know, I might have to think about that one for a bit.

    • Wriggles don’t get me started on the whole morality thing… I honestly believe it’s false morals through and through!

  • People who don’t know me personally are not concerned about my health. Period. My doctors are concerned about my health; that’s their job. My parents are concerned about my health; they don’t want to have to bury me. Same with my partner and my friends. But all of those people look at the entire picture, which includes mental health. It has to. Or you don’t give a shit about my welfare at all, on any level.

  • As Marianne Kirby put it in one of her recent posts, “No one is screaming at unhealthy thin people.”

    Yeah, because I was SO much healthier when I yo-yo dieted and took Stackers in attempts to get smaller and only gained even more weight when I stopped doing those things because I realized I could get liver damage and saw how miserable I was making myself and everybody around me.

    I eat healthy foods because I like those things, not because I feel I have to. I exercise because it makes me feel good and stronger with more energy, not because I have some so-called duty to lose X amount of pounds by Y date.

    And I don’t think my choices make me morally superior to anyone else.

    Accepting my body for what it is actually made it less stressful and easier for me to embrace those choices; because in my pre-FA mindset I didn’t see the point because if I hadn’t lost weight then it meant I was failing. But I’ve embraced them as I’ve matured and seen just how many other women have stories like mine. And in the end the only person who cares about my own health is me.

    Sorry about the rant but I wanted to share my experience because I can’t tell you HOW many times I’ve gotten the “But you haven’t lost the weight! Do it for your health” bullfuck in spite of taking better care of myself than the people saying it to me.

    • Rant away Rachel, I love a good ranty-poo.

      Do you know what I find really funny? A while back there was a kerfuffle between myself and author John Birmingham (I did a post on it, it’s called “Not Beaten by the Blunt Instrument”) where he was all “But you’re killing yourself by being so unhealthy!” Well I watch his Twitter account, and I have taken notice of his tweets about food and alcohol and how he likes to find “lazy” shortcuts… and I realised – he’s only concerned about my fat, not my health, and not even his own health. He has a “fitness blog” which he goes on and on about supporting people to get fit – yet he’s not interested in anyone’s health, he’s interested in reducing their fat. He’s quite happy for people to live unhealthy lives so long as they are thin and unhealthy. If they’re fat, regardless of their health level, out comes the “fitness support”.

      The double standard is what really gets to me. I live a more active life than 60% of the population, and eat better… yet I’m the unhealthy one simply because my body is fat.

      • Exactly! For crying out loud, I eat better than all my thinner friends. I box and do strength training 3-4 times a week. Yet people make assumptions about my fucking eating habits and that because I’m classed as “morbidly obese” (because BMI is a fucking crock! That wasn’t even created by the medical community!) that I must never leave the couch; and it just annoys me to no end.

        Don’t these morons just get that some people are just naturally fat? Or even if some fat people did get that way from unhealthy lifestyles, that for some it just becomes impossible to lose after living that way so long?

        People of all shapes and sizes do things every day that are unhealthy. That’s freakin life. People make healthy choices too, but not everyone who does has an image like the cover of a fitness magazine to show for it. They shouldn’t be demonized. Yes, it’s a double standard. But fuck all that self-hate; I feel good for what I do.

        I’m soooo sick of the media brainwashing everyone with how all that matters is making you smaller (opposed to stronger and more flexible), and that exercise is only for losing weight not feeling good.

  • I’m sorry, but your comment about washing yourself with a rag on a stick made me laugh out loud. It is sad though that so many people think our fat prevents us from taking a bath or shower and keeping clean on a consistent basis.

    And no, I don’t think strangers who tell us on the Internet they’re concerned for our health are concerned at all. They’re simply offended, both mentally and visually, that they have to share space with fat. I have some advice for them, as seen on a woman’s shirt in the Wal-Mart parking lot: build a bridge and get over it.

    • I had hoped someone might like that one. I have to credit it though, it comes from an episode of The Simpsons. Bart is imagining himself as the world’s fattest man and he says in a really hokey accent “I wash myself with a rag on a stick.” and holds up this gross drippy wet thing.

  • I think some people really just don’t understand that being overweight doesn’t automatically mean that your overall healthy is in jeopardy. So when they see someone who is fat and happy with it, they are kind of just like, “Whaat?” which could maybe prompt them to want to ask questions. I’m not saying it’s right though because you are right that one’s body and their health (or lack thereof) is no one’s business but their own.

    • Add to that the fact that the media and diet/fitness/beauty industry bombard everyone with the message that fat = miserable, dirty, unhealthy, unhappy. Even if they’re fat and happy themselves, they’re converted to unhappiness because the media and marketing tell them they should be.

  • My concern (that you don’t believe in) is based on my experience – most specifically, with my mother, who is now dependent on a walker and can’t go very far wtih that. Her weight, and general “out of shape-ness” has contributed mightily to her present condition. I am not heavy but still have knee problems (tall people are apparently more prone to them than shorties) – and my orthopod tells me that putting on extra weight would be the worst thing I could do – at least if I care about being mobile as I age. And since I’m nearly 55 now, this is not a theoretical concern. I thinkg alot of the FA people are not realistic about how the weight will impact them as they get older. You can certainly ignore me – you don’t know me – but don’t be so quick to think that a friend or family member who would like to exercise with you, or otherwise help you to lead a healthy life is not really concerned about you. They probably are – and guess what? They have reason to be.

    • The problem isn’t with exercise and a healthy lifestyle. It’s the double standard that some people just happen to be fat while living the said healthy lifestyle but get yelled at because they haven’t lost weight while doing so. I’m stronger and more active than my thin counterparts who get deluded into thinking they’re healthier than me just because they have a smaller jeans size to show for it.

      And it’s not family or friends with the so-called concern, it’s the diet industry and random strangers who have no place to be “concerned”.

      An active fat person who eats a balanced diet is still healthier than a sedentary thin person who eats crap. People just seem to think that the issue is with the former, not the latter.

    • Why are you concerned about anyone that you don’t know? Ok, be concerned for your own body and your mother’s, fair enough. But you don’t know my body. You don’t know what it’s capable of, how I feel in it, whether or not I have any pain or mobility issues, you don’t know anything about me.

      But you may see a photograph of a fat person and what do you think? That that is unhealthy by default. Say you see a photo of me and what do you see? A very fat woman. And instantly you assume that it means that I’m unhealthy, that I am sedentry or eat poorly, that I don’t feel good. How do you know that from looking at me? How do you know what my health readings (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, heart rate, and all other vital readings) are like, just by looking at me? How can you be concerned about my health as a fat person when you literally know nothing about me but what I look like?

      But then it goes further. I assure you that I am active (as my doctor says, more active than 60% of the population, regardless of their body size), that I have healthy eating habits and that I feel fantastic. I don’t have any mobility issues or health issues other than PCOS and a few allergies. What is your assessment of me then?

      It seems your assessment is that either I am lying about my state of health and activity/diet, or that I’m too stupid or in denial about it that I am not “realistic” about my health. How do you know that from what you see or what you read? Do you live my life? Are you standing right here beside me assessing me? Have you talked to my doctors?

      It’s offensively presumptuous of you to assume that because you, or your mother have poor health that so must I, just because we have the commonality of being fat.

      Besides, as I said in my blog post, I am under no moral obligation to you or anyone else to be healthy anyway. What does it matter to you if I was to be unhealthy? What business is it of yours? Are you my doctor? Are you my mother? (Ironically, my mother knows about as much about my health as you do, you complete stranger on the internet). Do I take food out of your mouth? Do you have to pay my doctors bills?

      Here’s what it all boils down to:

      Mind your own fucking business lady.

  • I don’t have anything to add except to say that I agree. “What about your health” is a legitimating cover for fat hate, and it has very little to do with actual health.

  • Was never and is not about our health. What it is about is Superiority, fear, and the isolation of the ‘Other’. The superiority angle is obvious. Fear we get from, as lori mentioned, the death and the Ponce de Leone syndrome (People obsessing over foods / food combos reported to confer ‘immortality’). Fear also comes in with the almost natural tendency to ‘Other’ those outside the norm. In the case of fat, that would be the fear of possibly becoming like those you despise. Ridiculously easy to do since the socially accepted definition of what is / isn’t obese changes almost daily and can differ from one person to the next.

    Fear and Superiority. You can almost hear it in the panicked urgency every time we’re confronted with ‘Don’t you know being fat is UNHEALTHY!!11!!??’. Followed immediately by explanations and ad infinitum repetitions of the same old ‘common knowledge’ folk lore as one might use while warning small children not to eat too much candy. It’s covert, almost passive aggressive, and it plays so well against the facade of ‘doing something about THE PROBLEM’. Besides. . . Their fat. They MIGHT not hate us and some might even subscribe to the idea that fat people AREN’T disgusting (Just defective, ignorant, or afflicted), but they DO believe they know what’s good for us. Since we obviously don’t. And so we are subjected to their ‘Concern’. Whether we want it or not.

  • I wouldn’t say it’s almost passive aggressive… I would say it’s TOTALLY passive aggressive.

  • Well, I didn’t want to use too strong of a term. Yah know, just concerned that some Concern Troll might think I wasn’t concerned about their well being, so i figured I’d try toning it down a little. For their own good, of course.

  • Although, it is true that obesity-related health problems are costing the government (in Australia at least) more and more each year… and putting greater pressure on our already strained nurses, doctors and hospitals… which in turn does indirectly affect about everyone in the country, be they someone in the waiting line for a hospital bed, the nurses and doctors themselves, or the taxpayers.

    • I will let your comment through this once, but if you continue down this road you will be removed. The link to my commenting policy can be found under the logo picture on any page of this blog. Read it and stick to it.

      It is not true. There is no conclusive proof of causation and ill health for fat people, only correlation. The information you are referring to is based on outdated studies, some of which were funded by both Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. Fat people cost no more to the health system than thin people.

      And MY taxes and MY wages pay MY health care and health insurance, so you have nothing to suggest that fat people are a drain on any system. Fat people work, pay taxes and purchase health insurance just like everyone else in this country, so we have every right to reap that back in good health care.

      The only way that fat people affect you is in your own head and your own narrow-minded discrimination.

  • “And MY taxes and MY wages pay MY health care and health insurance, so you have nothing to suggest that fat people are a drain on any system. Fat people work, pay taxes and purchase health insurance just like everyone else in this country, so we have every right to reap that back in good health care. ”

    EXACTLY! That stupid assumption has been pissing me off for sooo long. The people who make those statements have clearly never been poor or known about people who REALLY “drain the system” as a result.

    I have never been on public assistance and have been paying for my own health insurance for two years (had it through a family policy prior to that.) The whole bullshit with “obesity costing the government” is propaganda from diet companies ,biased doctors, and all those disgusting murdering health insurance companies who want a convenient scapegoat for denying people coverage which is what makes YOUR rates go up.

  • Exactly!

    The amount of money spent on my health care outside of my own and the contributions I make to my private health insurance is a tiny, tiny portion of the national average.

    Wanna look for places our tax dollars are wasted? Forget health care for fatties or anyone else, look at politicians wages, look at travel junkets and events, look at the money wasted on propaganda advertising produced for the government, look at the handouts big businesses get to keep them happy and behind any particular government.

    Health care for anyone is but a small drop in the ocean compared to these things.

  • Actually, I’m very concerned for Aztec, and if he wishes to return the favor, he can help us fight discrimination and second-class treatment in health care and other areas of life. If
    1) you are contributing money towards our health care, and
    2) we receive poorer health care just by virtue of being fat, then
    Conclusion) It is clear that you are not getting what you pay for.

    SO, help us fight the good fight, and you’ll see happier and healthier fat people. Same deal for others worried about fat people and health care.

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