I’ve had another concern troll. You know the usual schtick, the whole “But you’re gonna DIE!” type. I was reading Ragen’s post over at Dances with Fat on the Vague Future Health Threat (herein referred to as VFHT) and I thought I’d talk a bit about the subject myself. I think I’ll write a letter.
Dear concern trolls, fat hating medicos, my family and friends, other people’s families and friends, colleagues and random douchebags on the street…
We are ALL going to die.
Yep, one day, we’re all going to reach the end of our lives, and we’re going to die. Maybe that will be because we got sick with diabetes, or heart disease, or hypertension, or any other of the diseases that you claim “obesity” is the root cause of. Maybe it will be an accident that takes us. Maybe we’ll just grow very old and our bodies will stop working and it will be our time to go. Or perhaps we’ll get cancer. No matter what the cause of death is, we all have that one thing in common. We are alive now, and one day, we’re going to die. Whether we’re fat, thin or somewhere in the middle.
Yes, yes, I know, you say that it’s all about preventing an EARLY death. Here’s the thing. I knew this girl. She was beautiful and took really good care of herself. She never smoked, never touched alcohol, went to church, worked hard, and did everything you’re supposed to do to be healthy and live a long life. She was slim and ate well and exercised. Then at 24 she developed a kind of cancer that is associated with smoking. Strangely enough, she never once smoked anything. She died at 26.
I also knew a man, who played sport several times per week, ate healthy, didn’t smoke and only liked a beer or wine or two with friends from time to time. He loved his family and was kind to everyone. He died at 49 of melanoma.
Oh it’s about quality of life you say? Because everyone knows fat people have bad hips and knees, huff and puff going up and down stairs and all that stuff. Some do, sure. But don’t assume all do. Besides, if you care so much about quality of life, how about not bullying people with fat shaming? How about accepting people as they are, and encouraging them to live their lives to the fullest right here and now, which in turn will enable them to do things like eat well, and be active? If you’re so fired up about quality of life, you’d be making sure that fat people were happy as well as healthy.
See when I was 12, I went to the doctor with terrible period pain. He told me that if I didn’t lose the weight before I was 13, my periods would stop and I’d never have a proper puberty. I didn’t lose the weight. My periods didn’t stop and puberty came along as it should have.
When I was 16, I went to the same doctor with more terrible period pain, as well as some other menstrual issues. He told me that if I didn’t lose the weight by the time I was 18, I’d have diabetes. I didn’t lose the weight. I’m 38 and still don’t have diabetes, or even pre-diabetes.
When I was 19, I went to a new doctor with debilitating menstrual issues (see a pattern here?) and he told me that I should go away and lose weight, find myself a boyfriend and have a baby. Good advice for someone in pain who has bled for 18 months huh?
When I was 21, I went to a doctor with a skin problem. He told me to lose weight and they’d go away. I went to another doctor, and he made them go away without me losing a pound.
When I was 25, I went to another doctor because my periods had stopped. He told me that it was because I was fat, and if I didn’t lose the weight by the time I was 30, I’d get diabetes and my knees would give away. I lost the weight, then gained it again, then lost it again, then gained it again… all I got for that was bad teeth, a whole lot of stretchmarks and the continuation of a very long term eating disorder. No diabetes or bad knees.
When I was 30, I went to a doctor with menstrual troubles again (see the pattern here?) and she told me that if I didn’t lose the weight, I’d never have babies, I’d get diabetes and have a heart attack before I was 35. She told me that my depression would go away, my periods would come back regular (and be pain free) and I wouldn’t have any more acne. She gave me lots of different types of weight loss drugs and treatments to try. I did lose the weight. A LOT of weight. What I got was more depression, my period disappeared altogether, my skin got worse and I tried to kill myself repeatedly.
I gained the weight back. I went to a doctor who came highly recommended. I was 32. She diagnosed me with PCOS. Over the past 6 years we’ve been working through my health together. We tried a lot of things, worked out what was best for me, and went with it. I am now strong and healthy and emotionally happy. We have figured out the PCOS stuff and all of that is working well for me. My weight is only a factor when it comes to dosage. I’m 38 and I still haven’t developed the diabetes (or even pre-diabetes) that has been predicted for me since I was a teenager. My vital signs are all fabulous. I am full of energy and life is good. My doctor is happy with my health. Should that change, then my doctor and I will assess things again.
The thing is, you don’t know my body. You don’t know anyone’s body except your own. You’re not really concerned about my health, because you don’t know what my health is. You just don’t like looking at fat people. But you think by camouflaging your fat loathing with concern for health, you can pass comment, or make judgement. You can’t.
You worry about your health. I’ll look after mine.
P.S. Here’s a special image for you all:
LOVE the part about quality of life – that is exactly what i was thinking.
We are ALL going to die, some sooner or later than others. And really, so what if you die before this concern troll, so what if i do? So what if THEY die first! Because it really IS about quality of life.
Of course i don’t want to die tomorrow, but if i did, i could look back & say “i’ve lived”. I know, had i died any earlier, thinner, but in the throes of an eating disorder, i would have looked back on my death bed & thought “i wish i had….”
I want to live as long a life as possible, but it i had to choose between a long life of misery, or a shorter life of happiness, i know which i would choose.
I’m glad that you too, are choosing “life” – a real life, full of health & happiness, at whatever size you might be when it comes to you.
The really sad thing is it isn’t just random concern trolls. It’s our families, our friends, colleagues and various other people we know too. It’s like they’d rather see us miserable and thin than fat and happy.
P.S. May i steal that image from you? T’is fabulous! 🙂
Go for it, I found it uncredited on Tumblr!
When I was talking to the (very thin) woman today about how she was going on a detox diet in the New Year, and how she was going to cut the second cup of coffee a day from her life, and how she only eats chips once a week because they’re bad and cause cancer (including referencing a personal case about which she knew less than me – and I don’t know much!), I was thinking about quality of life. I was thinking about how mine is slowly improving as I think of my diet as “no less than this” rather than “no more than that”, and about how mine had always been correlated much more strongly with my relationship with food than it has with my weight. And while I chatted i smiled and nodded and mumbled about studies showing that those things don’t work and hoped that maybe, just maybe, she might reconsider. Quality of life comes from living now, not from living for after I’ve lost 10, 20, 50kg.
Yup. And what if we DO die tomorrow? Would it be worth it to get to the end of our lives with the knowledge that we were good dieters? That we did everything we could to be thin, regardless of the cost?
I think not.
Here here!!! Seriously, if I got hit by a bus/eaten by a panther/random gunshot went off in my neighborhood tomorrow, I could die happily knowing that I met many of my idols, visited many countries, seen many bands, had awesome times with my friends not coming home from shows and parties until more than 24 hours after they ended, eaten awesome food, enjoyed different lovers, and served my community well.
I didn’t do a single one of those things wearing single-digit pants and being diet-obsessed…life’s for living.
“if you care so much about quality of life, how about not bullying people with fat shaming?”
This. THIS!!!!!! My quality of life as a youngster would’ve been better had I not been living in a shitty place and hadn’t been bullied by classmates and a dysfunctional family alike.
Oh and male doctors are SO fucking full of shit when it comes to period pains. They don’t have them so they don’t know how it is. My old GP said that he had several obese female patients with irregular periods…like it’s some kind of major problem.
Um, women of ALL kinds get irregular periods. Like how some women are heavier with child than others? Some women inherently have more painful or irregular periods than others. Birth control fucked mine up as did having a very high-stress job; and mine also tends to skip around in times of extreme stress. But gee, assholes like that assume fatties have all the time in the world from not having jobs or friends or anything, so why would we get stress-caused irregular periods, eh?
And the whole “concern about health” bullshit….I agree with your epilogue and that’s an awesome image!! My sister has a friend who’s been a size 4 all her life and is so shocked she has high blood pressure and cholesterol readings through the roof but seems to be in denial about these problems because she’s thin and always has been thin. An old friend of mine who I lost touch with was also very thin but didn’t take very good of herself and had a whole host of problems– including MS. My sister and I are both fat (as were both of our parents) but have better health than these people who think they’re better than us!
Bottom line is thin people get the same diseases and health problems that fat people do– and we all have the same likelihood of getting hit by a bus, mauled by an Alsatian, or what have you. And some people also can just take anything: look at Liz Taylor and Dick Cheney. Others unfortunately die sooner. Fact is we’ll all meet the end some day so instead of being concerned about living to 100, let’s live for the NOW.
I have to clarify though – I’ve had just as many female doctors pull the dismissal of period pain, heavy bleeding, and various other menstrual issues as I have had men. In fact the worst I ever experienced was a woman.
Hmm I’ve never really had mentral issues so I’ve never had it questioned, fortunately my female GYN was terrific and the only time she ever brought up my weight was when she said it was a factor that made her not recommend birth control shots and affected BCP dosage.
It’s just in my experience male doctors are often full of it regarding periods. (Like ever notice all those PMS studies trying to write off women with angry behavior are always led by men?) My former GP made this big deal about fat women having irregular periods when they can happen to thin women for the same exact reasons– stress, or just nothing at all. Some inherently skip more than others.
On a non period related note though I saw a female podiatrist who was just as bad as the male doctors by blaming my weight for my foot pain (my foot was BROKEN) and wanted to recommend some stupid diet center and Jenny Craig…? That’s what they pay $35K/semester to go to medical school for? Needless to say I never visited that practice ever again.
*menstrual issues, my keys keep sticking.
hooray for your new(ish) doctor!! i’ve been thinking a lot lately about fat folks and doctors. I recently moved and need to find a primary care physician and an OB/GYN and frankly, am scared shitless. but i’m getting armed with knowledge and resources and the wonderful stories from peeps like you!
I wonder if there are any med schools out there pushing the envelope a bit and, gasp, teaching their students HAES, how to listen actively to their patients, and treat holistically.
Have you seen the letter for medicos that Raising Boychick wrote? It’s a good one to take with you to docs and other health care providers to introduce yourself and set some boundaries. If you like I can post the link.
no, i haven’t seen it – would love a link! i read something similar on a blog somewhere out in the interwebs but i fear i’m not sure exactly where. many thanks!
Here you go!
You can either use it as is or tweak it to suit yourself.
Well there is hope i guess.. Im a first year medical student and we are being taught a LOT about listening to patients, good communication skills and treatment.. unfortunately as yet nothing about HAES.. (I cany help that feel though that medical education only solidifies peoples already-held preconceptions rather than giving them those ideas. Our tutors seem pretty weight-neutral.. the students though? sometimes.. eek. )
What advice would you give a medical student to help them be a better doctor for all thier patients? Fat shaming by doctors makes people less healthy, costs money and is generally not very productive. And if it has spurred people to lose weight or get healthier? They would have from a more holistic health before weight approach too.
Ruth that does give me hope indeed.
Personally, I think it would be amazing if doctors would remember that while their patients may not have had the same education in health as they have, they know their own bodies better than anyone else. They know when something is not right. They know when their bodies need something. They know what their bodies do and don’t do. No doctor can know their patient like that. And to treat patients with respect and dignity, no matter what their circumstances.
Gah. Concern trolls. Some day I’m going to use the line, “No, I’m immortal. See I made a deal with Death some centuries ago…” on one of these trolls. If simple facts do not make it into their oh-so-concerned brains, outright fantasy might. But you laid out the facts beautifully.
BTW, the image seems to have disappeared…
I like that inge. Perhaps we could tell them we’re Highlander, and that there can be only one… so they should prepare to die!
Great post as always. I can’t figure out why people have such a hard time to get FA.
Where can I see the (now missing) special image?
Dunno what happened to the image, maybe whoever made it claimed it (it was uncredited on Tumblr when I found it).
I made a sparkly one that says the same thing! Sparkle sparkle!
Many excellent points & arguments!
I have one suggestion, though: I think the “I’m fat but healthy” card is a bad one to play for many reasons.
I used to use that argument when I was your age. Now I do have diabetes and arthritis, and both are undeniably made worse by my being fat. Does that make what I eat or what I weigh some stranger’s business? No, it does not. That wasn’t their business when I was healthy and it isn’t their business now.
With loved ones, the situation is more complicated. They aren’t trolling; they’re genuinely concerned. For me, what works best is to show I do know the risks and am doing everything *except weight-loss dieting* to mitigate those problems. Useful responses will vary with health issues & with how reasonable loved ones are.
On a fat-acceptance diabetes mailing list, many of us spoke about how we used to be able to say we were fat & healthy, and getting diabetes made us feel we were letting down the team. But we were the first militant fat-accepting people to then get old, you know? So we learned.
Now we just spread the word: no one, fat or thin, *wants* to be ill, but no one, *NO ONE* can do *everything* to prevent it. And a lot of times doing *everything* to prevent *everything* just is not worth it. We get the health we get–and yes, that includes the health we choose, but no one else gets a vote.
“I’m healthy, and not every fat person gets ill, so butt out” can be a trap. Really, it has to be, at the most basic level, just “Butt out!”
Why should I not celebrate my health? Here and now, I’m healthy and I feel good. I shouldn’t have to downplay that in case of what “might” happen in the future. Fuck that. I’m not here to live with caution because something might happen and I might have to change my approach with experience. As I said in my post – here and now I am healthy and feel great, despite doctors telling me repeatedly in the past that I would not be, and if that changes then MY DOCTOR AND I will choose how to to approach it. You weren’t me when you were my age, you were you. Not to mention that I know my familial medical history and you don’t.
You choose how you wish to speak of your body, but don’t lecture me on what is right and wrong for ME to express myself about mine. You’re doing EXACTLY what doctors and concern trolls have done time and time again – “You’re healthy now but you might not be in the future, so you’d better modify your behaviour.”
I’m healthy right now, I’m enjoying it, it’s MY body, so just like the shitty doctors and concern trolls – butt out!
The point I was making was not about your body or your health; it was about effective and ineffective ways to argue in favor of fat acceptance.
I’m glad you’re healthy, but that really has nothing to do with your right to be fat! You have a right to be fat, healthy or not. So do I, even though it’s become “not.”
I think if you even imply that you have a right to be fat *because* you are healthy, that’ a bad approach. Anyone has a right to be fat. Period. And I think the more people say that, the better.
That was my point. I am not talking about your health, “trolling” or otherwise. I *am* concerned about any argument for fat acceptance that de facto leaves me out, as any “but it’s OK for me to be fat because I’m healthy!” argument does.
That was all I was saying.
Never once did I imply that it’s ok for me to be fat because I’m healthy or not ok for people who are unhealthy to be fat. All I said is that despite the dire warnings I have received, I am healthy. Those are not the same thing.
However, you did imply that I should not acknowledge or celebrate my health. If that’s “bad” Fat Acceptance, then you’re looking at a whole different FA than I am.
We should celebrate our bodies, our triumphs, our strengths. Nobody should expect us to minimise those because of other people’s perceptions of good vs bad fatties.
One can celebrate and acknowledge their good health without implying that those who do not have good health are somehow unworthy. One does not cancel out the other.
You’re right; because you are only telling your personal story, you aren’t making explicit points in that part of the post.
And while I’m glad you got an entry about it, I wasn’t saying you were taking a good fattie/bad fattie stance or even playing into that.
In my experience, “thin people die young too” and “I’m fat but healthy,” when they are made specifically as arguments for fat acceptance, are vulnerable to criticism and counter-argument in a way that is not true of “It’s just none of your business.” And by offering facts about one’s own health, the person actually undercuts the effectiveness of “It’s none of your business” because by sharing, she has allowed it to become that person’s business.
But we all argue for the cause in our own ways, and that’s just my advice on argument. I am not criticizing you for enjoying your health, in any way, or even saying that your enjoying your health denigrates me.
See my most recent post Bernadette. You’re doing exactly what I’m saying in that post we shouldn’t do.
So long as someone is suggesting we should silence discussion about GOOD health as well as BAD health, you’re creating a taboo around fatness and health.
So long as anyone is expected to silence their experience, that goes against everything I believe Fat Acceptance is.
This entry…the graphic at the end…it took me a good chunk of my teenage years to learn all of that.
I’m only getting it now, that I’m in my late 30’s! I wish I had got it back in my teens or 20’s.
I work with the elderly. Diseases like hypertension, type II diabetes, and heart disease affect people of all sizes equally. I have seen something of a pattern with heavier people having more incidence of arthritis in the lower extremities while the more slender have higher incidence of osteoporosis. As far as I go, I’m 45 years old and currently weigh 275 pounds. I do not have any of the so-called “fat people” diseases. While carrying around extra weight may have contributed to my knees being shot, I attribute it more to having jobs where I worked on my feet for 8 plus hours a day for most of my working life. Interestingly, when I was working in a restaurant, I weighed 180 pounds. When I went back into health care working nights, my weight climbed.
My sciatica is not due to being fat–it is from carrying trays when I was a waitress. A full tray can weigh around 50 pounds.
The fact that I huff and puff when climbing stairs? That isn’t from being fat either. I huffed and puffed when climbing stairs when I was a slim (although I thought I was fat) teenager who weighed 125 pounds. I have had mild asthma all my life.
Interestingly, I can easily accept other people of all sizes but have never been able to accept myself at any size.
That’s fairly standard for a lot of us. A big moment for me in changing my thinking was realising that I hold myself to far higher standards than I hold myself. Ridiculous really but many of us do it. We are far harsher on ourselves than we are others, particularly those we love.
It’s weird but the most severe cases of arthritis in my family are all in the thinnest members. My tall, thin brother, cousin (female) and uncle are all the ones who have had the worst arthritis. I have a little in my hands, exacerbated by my work. My fat Grandma is now 81 and has a some in her knees and hips now that she’s elderly, but it was very late developing. The same with diabetes. The few who have Type 2 in my family are all tall and thin.
This is beyond awesome really have no words to say but I couldn’t agree more with you! I think this is why I hate finding new doctors seriously once you find an amazing doctor I just never wanna give them up, because finding a new one is such a pain!
Apologies for the crap cellphone video but it was the best I could find: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wj-BXdfOck&feature=related
Kasey Chambers’ wonderful tune, “We’re All Gonna Die Someday.” A song I have been known to sing to people, right to their face. Including the very last verse. 🙂
fantastic post as always.
i am so sorry you had to go through this. Cyber hugs.
Thanks Sef. Your comment comes at just the right time – I’m having a bit of a crisis of self today. I’m not well (I think a summer cold) and the concern trolls just get into my head a bit sometimes and have me thinking “But what if they’re right?!”
Rationally I know it’s bullshit, but every now and then it just wears a gal down.