Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Published June 1, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Ok lovely fatties…

Ever kept a food diary for a doctor?  What about an exercise journal?  Been asked by a health care professional of some kind about your eating habits and exercise routines?  What about at a gym, or by a personal trainer?  Have you ever been questioned by one of those about your diet and exercise?  Have you ever been to a dietician?  Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Tony Ferguson or any other diet company?

Pretty much most of you right?

Now, how many of you have been called a liar by any of the above?

I know I have.  I’ve handed over food diaries and been asked if that was all of it, like a naughty school child being asked to hand over all of the cookies they stole.  I’ve had “Did you add your snacks to this?”  and “Now are you being totally honest Kath?”  I’ve been asked “What did you have for dessert?” when I had written nothing because I had not had anything.

Then there are the lectures.  Regardless of what you put in your food or exercise diary, you still get the lecture about calories in vs calories out, not “cheating”, grilled about how much exercise you are doing and told that “you have to put more effort into this.”

The only time I ever lied to a doctor about what I was eating and how much exercise I was doing was to ADD food to the diary because I was living off grapefruit juice and broccoli in vinegar, and to REDUCE the amount of exercise I wrote because I was spending 4 – 6 hours exercising, and I knew they wouldn’t believe me if I wrote the truth.  I did however lie regularly about making myself vomit whatever I ate.

I never once lied about eating more food than I put in the diary, nor did I lie about doing exercise that I hadn’t done.

What I ask, is why is it so common for health care professionals, the diet and exercise industry and the like to not believe fat people when they give information about their diet and exercise?  Why is it immediately assumed that a fat person MUST be lying if their food intake is normal/moderate/low and their activity levels are normal/moderate/high?

I don’t know about you, but when I think back on the number of times I was either outright accused of lying about my diet and activity, or lectured like a naughty schoolchild, I get really angry.

Recently I heard of a GP commenting on fat people with:

“They’re like men who beat their wives, or alcoholics, in denial.”

I don’t have any words for attitudes like this.  I always believed that doctors are meant to have compassion for their patients, that they have a duty of care to treat people with respect and without prejudice.  Many of you may have seen or heard about studies of doctors and their attitudes towards obesity (another) and it’s not looking good.  More than 50% of physicians viewed obese patients as awkward, unattractive, ugly, and noncompliant.  And this is without any factor towards our levels of health, our medical history, or the information we may give them about our diet and activity.

One of the reasons I’m really thrilled to be able to present at the Australian Fat Studies: A Critical Dialogue Conference is that for the first time in my knowledge, fat people are being asked to give their perspective on “the obesity epidemic” to academia.  Instead of being headless fatties, statistics or “awkward, unattractive, ugly or non-compliant” patients, we’re given names, faces and voices.

If you can go, please do so.  The more allies we have there to be heard, the louder the message will get across.


30 comments on “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

  • Wonderful post.

    For some reason, it reminded me of when I went to the movies, yesterday. My brother and I share a soda and I went down to the snack stand to get it re-filled. I handed the girl (who was about my age, 21) the cup and said “Coke, please.” She took it and said “Diet coke?” I’m sure I looked at her like I thought she had rocks for brains, all the while my mind going “If I wanted diet coke, I would have said diet coke, now wouldn’t I? You didn’t ask the guy in front of me if he wanted diet coke when he said he wanted coke.” But all that came out of my mouth was “No. Coke.”

    Maybe, just maybe, I’m over-reacting, but when you’ve been through it so much, it’s hard not to jump to the default, especially when other customers weren’t questioned and I’m not a soft-spoken person. Diet coke… please.

    • One response might be to ask: “No, I said ‘coke.’ Do you have some reason to think I *should* get a diet coke?”

  • I’ve had that one happen too LexieDi. Or the other way – when I ask for something that is considered “diet” or whatever, it’s assumed I’m going to order two whole cakes to go with it.

    • I’ve had that happen too. Sometimes, I’ll go and get food for my family and just run through a drive-thru somewhere. Once, as the guy handed me the bags and sodas, he said something like “You must be hungry!” I got the exact same look on my face as I did with the lady re-filling my soda and stared at him before driving off. If I had thought about it, I would have said something like “Yes, of COURSE it’s all for me, I’m a fatty fat fat fat-butt.”

      Again, maybe over-reacting… he may have just been teasing or flirting or being silly. But, to be honest, I don’t care… I’ve gotten hell so much from people because of my body, that, at this point, I’m going to give you the rocks-for-brains look even if you’re just playing.

  • You can’t even compare domestic violence and alcoholism to diet and exercise. HOW the fuck…? There is so much I could add to that, but it just makes my brain explode and hate the pompous medical industry even more.

    That doctor is an asshole who has clearly never dealt with EITHER, or had anyone they loved suffer with an alcoholic friend/spouse/family member.

  • The “doctor” who compared being fat to domestic abuse and alcoholism is a complete idiot.

    I don’t eat a lot, so when I go out to eat with people I never finish my meal. I see the doubting looks on people’s faces when I tell them that I am no longer hungry. I know they were expecting me to inhale my meal and ask for seconds. Only my closest friends and family actually believe that I am not hungry.

    • I’ve had that one too. A friend pointed out not so long ago “You never finish your burger.” and she was the first to just out with it like a statement, it was refreshing.

      Usually it’s sideways looks and questions about whether there was something wrong with it that I didn’t eat it all.

    • I remember the first meal I ate with a (then, but not longer) boyfriend. I put down my chopsticks (as we were at a Chinese food buffet) and smiled at him. He stared at me and waited for a minute before saying “You’re done?”

      I said yes, I was full.

      “You eat like a bird,” he said with clear disbelief on his face. He said the same thing every time we had a meal together.

      Also, I spent a few days in a hotel with my friend, Shika, (who is a size 5, I’m a size 22-24) during an expo that we both went to. We packed up on food and stashed it in the hotel so we wouldn’t have to spend our little bit of money on eating out. The first night, I we each ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a soda. After that, I cleaned up and was taking out my clothes for a shower as she gathered chips and dip. She asked if I wanted some and I said no, that I was going to take a shower and watch some TV.

      “You’re full?”


      She stared at me for a minute. “It’s really messed up that people just think that bigger people eat all the time.”

      When I have moments like these two, and I see the realization spread across people’s face that I’m no longer hungry and I’m not going to put the buffet out of business for the day because I’m a fatty, a little party goes off in my brain. One down, a bazillion more people to convince.

    • Yeah, I’ve had that, I remember once, after I’d finished, a guy dumped some food with a determined look on his face, as if to say,’ you don’t have to pretend, when you’re amongst people who understand’. (IOW, they think you’re a compulsive eater putting on a show).

      I get that he wasn’t trying to be mean, but I was visibly open mouthed.

      I also have to give a shout out to when you fail to play your role of enabler of others eating “bad” food.

      Example: At work once someone asked me breezily if I wanted something-I can’t for the life of me even remember what it was, but it was something, verboten.

      I just as breezily said nah.

      Pause while the earth monetarily stops spinning.

      She asked me again, and again, and again(seriously). It’s not just that she couldn’t believe a fattie could possibly say no, it’s that she intended to enjoy it with me. That’s why she’d asked. She could not bring herself to eat, in front of a fattie who said no, presumably, some kind of extry humiliation for her.

      The look of rage she gave me, as if I was denying her out of spite-I’m must be desperately saliavating, inside-still amuses.

      • Hee, the “why doesn’t the fatty want cake?!” reaction! I’m always amused by that one. If they’re passing around cake at work, I’ll usually say no because… gasp… I don’t LIKE cake. And it’s BLASPHEMY to not like cake, apparently!

        I suspect that some of the folk I’ve worked with want to vicariously experience the cake through me, or something. THEY can’t have it because they’re VIRTUOUS PEOPLE. They want that cake SO BAD. My cake-refusal crashes right up against their unfulfilled cake-lust. Hee.

      • I had that happen at work not too long ago. Someone had made microwave popcorn, and walked past me while I was standing at the copier. I said, “Ooh, that smells good!” and was offered some. I took two or three kernels and said thanks. She said, “You don’t want more?” I said, “No thanks, that’s all I wanted.” “Are you sure? You can have some more!” “No thanks, really.” “Come on, have some more!”

        Sheesh. It smelled good. I was offered some. I took all I wanted, had my fix, that’s all I wanted, thanks, done, bye now. Why is that so hard to believe? It’s things like that that make me not want to eat in public at all, ever.

      • Wriggles: That “permission to eat” stuff is astonishing to me–I don’t really hang out with people who deny themselves food they want–but instantly credible. Sadly.

        Fantine:: Practically speaking, many fat people might want more but be embarrassed and be grateful for the encouragement. Sadly enough. One response would be a very firm no, thanks, and maybe something like, ” I don’t want more now, and since I’m not on a diet, I can always have more later.” Or something like, “Why? Is there some reason I *should* eat more?” Only if I’m really pissed would the comment be a direct, though sometimes deliberately pleasant, “Do you assume I want more because I’m fat?”

  • Of course doctors pushing diets and diet professionals don’t believe us when we tell them what our lives are like. After all, if we had just heard of calories in vs calories out or if we weren’t lying liars who lie we would be thin, just like them!

    Why listen when you can assume the worst of people? Why question inherited ‘wisdom’ when ‘everybody knows’ that’s how the world works?

    This post makes me wonder how often fat patients keeping food diaries actually fudge the data to show they eat more and exercise less than they do for the sole purpose of not being called a liar.

    Obviously in your case you were trying to hide a pretty serious eating disorder, as well, but I do have to wonder how many people get accused of lying and finally add a phantom Ho-Ho or a couple slices of imaginary pie just to get to the normal ‘you’ll never get thin if you cheat, blah, blah’ part of the lecture that’s a little easier to tune out.

    ‘Food’ for thought.

    • I never thought of it that way. How many out there just fudge it (oh God another food reference, lol!) to either avoid the lectures, or because it’s expected of them?

  • I have lied on food diaries, both to increase and decrease the amount of food and increase or decrease the amount of exercise to be compliant. However, there were also a lot of times I didn’t lie and was still called a liar, I was getting convicted regardless of whether or not I committed the crime. And my weight didn’t really change regardless of what I ate or what I did, so what was the point of compliance.

  • Most of us are called liars about our eating & exercise habits, not only by healthcare professionals but by family & friends. I have also had wonder expressed to me by people who have SEEN me around my neighborhood, in stores, repeatedly, day after day, over weeks, months, years, walking everywhere, not only that I walk so much with arthritis & cerebral palsy, but that I have been as active as I have been my whole life & I am fat. I have in the past (I verys seldom go near a doctor & that has been the case for years, only in an emergency pretty much) had the ‘calories in/calories out’ & ‘exercise more’ lecture from thin doctors, but also from doctors who were fatter than I who sometimes commented (trying to ‘bond’ with me over our ‘fat’ & our ‘bad’ behavior, I think) that they just KNEW that they could ‘lose that gut’ if they ever did what they told their patients to do. I have also faced nasty attitudes from an ignorant, uneducated husband & Mother-in-law, both of whom always believed everything they saw & heard on TV, & just KNEW that I was a lazy glutton (even though the husband in question in particular & pretty much his mother as well KNEW I exercised a lot) & was talking about fat liberation to make excuses for my unwillingness to practice self-discipline. I have also faced a loving acceptance of me by my naturally lean, athletic lover which was tempered with a doubt that some people are naturally fat or that fat people can be healthy or that losing weight is that hard, since if he gains 5 or 10 pounds, all he has to do is cut out a slice or two of bread & maybe a couple of beers daily & it disappears. So, yes, in answer to your question, I have been called a liar plenty (of course I had abusive alcoholic parents, so that happened from the time I learned to talk…about EVERYTHING) & have been told many times, by professionals & lay people alike, that it is not possible that fat people eat no more or differently than thin people, or that we can eat normally & exercise as much as thin people…much more in many cases…but still be fat. I don’t know that the lies we are fed by the medical community, the diet industry, & media can EVER be completely disproven by us. That is why I have given up TRYING to justify myself or prove what a ‘good’ fatty I am & why I now believe fervently in fat liberation as a human rights issue, as a need for equality, rights, access, human dignity for ALL of us…ALL sizes, shapes, ages, abilities or disabilities, lifestyles, races, genders, etc. Thin people are not expected to account for every move they make or mouthful they eat. They do not have to justify their existence. Well, neither do we.

    • Speak it Patsy! I’m totally with you there.

      I used to try to prove I was a good fatty too. Now all I do is live my life and bugger everyone else and their attitudes.

      This week I might be a bad fatty, next week a good one. But that’s my business, nobody else’s.

  • This is a really interesting post. As a physician, I know I doubted when patients told me they only ate broiled chicken and veggies…Sorry, and I know better now. I was trained in a very biased and one-sided system that still clings to Calories in, Calories out. What a mess. I recently lectured to medical students and residents who had never heard of intuitive eating, or eating based on internal cues, or the division of responsibility in feeding. (These were peds folks.) I said, “We are born knowing how much we need to eat, if we do a good job with feeding children, we can nurture and sustain that ability, rather than our current model which sabotages and extinguishes internal regulation.” A resident came up after and said, he always thought that humans CAN’T regulate. I offered studies, books, and pushed him to tell me which studies he was referring to. He finally admitted he read it in Newsweek! I think it’s intellectual laziness where naturally slim people adopt the cultural beliefs that everyone could be thin if they tried hard enough, and they don’t question, seek out or even get exposed to the quantity of data that presents a more balanced picture. I do give him credit for at least asking, and listening to what I said… Baby steps…

    • Katja it’s good to hear from one of the physicians who is opening their minds.

      I do have to state that my doc is GORGEOUS and is steadily morphing into a HAES practitioner.

      I saw her today for asthma and allergies (a very wet year, driving me nuts and affecting my sleep) and she asked to weigh me before putting me on a spirometer test. She prefaced it with “Weight has nothing to do with allergies but the machine wants it!” Even when she saw that I’m still in the deathfatz range, she said “No yo-yoing there, that’s good.” She knows my history of eating disorders and crazy weight cycling. She also knows what is “healthy” for me, and where my base line sits with everything.

      That is of far more value to me than just focusing on my weight.

    • You go!

      Years ago, a few years after giving up yo-yo dieting, I had a dream in which I lectured my childhood physician about all the new science that invalidated his advice to me about weight. I shoved him into a chair, but then said I knew he didn’t know this stuff, but here was what science thought now– The whole dream was just me lecturing him. It was very satisfying.

  • I’m still boggling at four to six hours A DAY of exercise, for anyone who’s not a professional, collegiate, or Olympic-level athlete (heck, that might be pushing it even for them). And starving yourself and throwing up on top of that? That must have been torture. I’m so sorry you had to experience that, and screw all these boneheads who deny our reality. I sometimes wish I could do a temporary brain/body switch with some of them, so they can find out for themselves.

  • You so rock, but the term “OOGA-BOOGA obesity crisis” is, at the very least, unfortunate. The term “ooga booga”– I can only think it comes from pseudo-chants by African “witchdoctors” in old movies. I’m pretty sure you didn’t mean it that way, but especially when we are complaining (rightly and righteously!) about anti-fat prejudice, we should not contribute (however unintentionally) to language offensive to others. Also, actually, it may take the arrogance of European-based science to assume that if the facts and theory don’t fit, the facts must be wrong. Could you find a different word for “nonsense” here?

    • That’s the whole point of it Beradette. No more dancing around language – the same as referring to fat as fat, rather than couching it in false language like “curvy” or “big” or any of the other ridiculous terms used to describe fat with false politeness.

      Plus, do a little reading around fat acceptance and you’ll realise that “OOGA-BOOGA obesity crisis” and variants there of were not created by me, they’ve been around the fatosphere long before I came along.

      • I know you don’t know me, but in my over 25 years in fat-acceptance I have done more than a little reading. In fact, I’ve done at least some writing for books and zines, including a small bit used in *Women En Large* (for which I also posed) and an essay in *Fat Women Speak: Journeys to Self-Acceptance*. Still, you’re right in that I’m not as up on blogs as I should be, and I’m trying to remedy that.

        I have never run into that term used that way before. If the term is common, I wish everyone would switch to something else. I’ll probably write other blogs as I encounter the term in them.

        I’m white, and the term “ooga booga” offends *me*. It’s not telling it like it is; it’s based on a stupid stereotype of Africa in movies. It’s not like calling someone queer, but like calling someone a pansy or sissy-boy. It is a term of derision that has *not* been reclaimed by the people it concerns.

        I’m not sure what the equivalent for fat would be, but not “fat.” I’m sure we can all fill in our terms based on bad stereotypes–like “morbid obesity” itself! (I do like “deathfat,” which, again, we ourselves are choosing, unlike “ooga booga.”)

        The fatosphere since its beginning has been pretty darned white, when actually issues of race and fat intersect a lot (as Paul Campos and others have written about so well), so you’d think we’d have more people of color than the general population.

        We fatties have nothing to lose by being considerate about what might seem stereotypical and bother people of color–nothing to lose & everything to gain, like more and more active voices joining ours and a broader base of support.

        I’m sorry to go on so long, but I think this is important. It is something that needs fixing and can be fixed relatively easily. By everyone, I guess–but this is a start.

  • Look, I am frankly over the seagull commenters. If your first set of posts to my blog are “I like your blog, but” and then a lecture or to chastise me, then I’m going to shut you down very quickly. Not only is it trouble stirring, but it’s really rude to the rest of the people who have to read this crap too.

    If you want to raise issues with the fatosphere language, blog about it in your own space. But coming over to mine to lecture me is annoying and I’m not going to subject people to debate that they didn’t come here for, and waste my time on it any further.

    Any more of this behaviour will be blocked from commenting ever again.

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