Genuine Concern vs Concern Trolling

Published January 4, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

Quick housekeeping – I’ve started a Tumblr for all of the troll comments I get here on Fat Heffalump.  Behold – Trollapalooza.  Be warned though, you may find it triggering, as there is an awful lot of fat hatred, threats of violence, healthist bullshit and general nastiness that comes my way.

Now, on to today’s post!

I think it’s time to talk about concern.  I’ve noticed a phenomenon, one where people don’t seem to recognise what is legitimate concern for someone’s wellbeing, and what is concern trolling for the sake of sticking your nose up in someone’s business, or using it as an excuse to shame them or make oneself feel superior.

So let’s talk about it, and learn to recognise what is genuine concern, and what is concern trolling.

Genuine concern is ok.  In fact, it’s part of what bonds us as social beings.  When someone we care about, a family member or friend, or even a colleague, is not their usual selves, when something just doesn’t seem right, or when we actually know they are unwell, and we are worried about them, we are genuinely concerned about them.  That friend who seems to have lost their energy, the colleague who has gone from calm and productive to stressed and struggling, the family member who just isn’t their usual self.  Or someone you know who is actually suffering illness (because they’ve told you they are).  It’s perfectly acceptable to ask after their wellbeing.  Things like:

  • Are you ok?
  • You don’t seem like your usual self, is everything alright?
  • Can I help with anything?
  • If you want to talk, you know I’m available for you ok?
  • How are you coping with [insert illness or injury they have told you about here]?

Do know, that you shouldn’t do it because you’re curious, but because you genuinely want to help.  And also know, that if someone says they’re fine, the answer is not to nag them about it, but to say “Please know that I’m here to listen/help if you need it ok?”  Sure, sometimes “I’m fine.” is a way to fob you off when someone doesn’t want to bother you, or because they’re ashamed/embarrassed about needing help, but sometimes it’s also just “I’m fine.”

However, it is not ok to suggest someone has an illness, or that they might get an illness due to their behaviour or body.  It’s not ok to say to that friend eating a donut “Be careful, you’ll get diabetes.” or any other illness or injury.  Even if you know someone has an illness or injury, unless they have spoken directly about it in your presence, it’s not ok to question them on it.  For example, I can’t tell you the number of people who have actually asked me what my blood sugar readings are like since they found out I am diabetic.  NONE OF YOUR FUCKIN’ BUSINESS PAL!

Now, on to what constitutes concern trolling – a little 101 on how to prove yourself nothing but a trolling douchebag who doesn’t give a shit about anyone’s health but wants to shame people for their weight:

  • Stating that someone being fat is unhealthy – and then suggesting they kill themselves to save us all money.
  • Stating that someone being fat is unhealthy – and then bitching about how much it costs the taxpayer money.
  • Stating that someone being fat is unhealthy – and then diagnosing by looking at them (or a photograph of them) that they are going to explode from hernias, high blood pressure, heart attacks, arthritis and any other number of illnesses often correlated (but never causally linked to) fat.
  • Shaming someone for suffering any injury or illness by pointing out that they “caused” it because they are fat.
  • Stating “I’m concerned about your health!” without knowing ANYTHING about that person other than they have a fat body.
  • Attributing laziness or gluttony to someone just because they have a fat body.
  • Accusing someone of being irresponsible about their health because they have a fat body.
  • Demanding people prove their health, or give you information about their health and wellbeing.
  • Claiming people are “in denial” about their health, or their future health.
  • Insisting that you know about their health better than they do.

If you do any of the things that I’ve just listed above, you are nothing more than a bully and a troll.  There, I’m saying it out loud and clear.  I’ll say it again:

If you engage in any of the behaviours in the list above, you are a bully and a troll and you need to stop that shit right now.

I know I sound like a broken record, but I have to keep saying it over and over and over again – If it’s not your body, it’s not your business.

It’s not a difficult concept.

Next time you feel like commenting on or judging someone’s health or wellbeing, ask yourself “Is it my body?”  If the answer is no, then shut the fuck up and mind your own business.

Fatties – the next time someone tries to concern troll you, just ask them – “Is it your body?” Again, if the answer is no, tell them to shut the fuck up and mind their own business.

You don’t have to be nice, be polite, be pleasing, to anyone who concern trolls you.  You don’t have to tolerate their behaviour.  You don’t have to “respect their opinion”.  You don’t have to “not rock the boat”, or “don’t take it seriously”.  If someone is up in your business telling you what to do with your body and your health, rock the damn boat all you like, and take it as seriously as you feel you need to.  It’s YOUR body, YOUR health and YOUR life.  You get to choose what you do with it, and who you allow to have any interaction with it.

Take no fucking prisoners!

40 comments on “Genuine Concern vs Concern Trolling

  • once again, true words of inspiration. i’m gonna implement this into my life from now on. my body = my business (that would be a cool idea for a t-shirt, right?!). you freaking rock! 😀 spreading this around.

  • I liked the one (on your troll tumblr) who told you that fat-haters were all in your head, and then told you to hang yourself. Buddy, your gaslighting is too obvious to be effective! Lulz!

    But seriously, I am always disappointed that people are such assholes. Thank you for continuing blogging in spite of them.

  • I am falling behind on internet trends like tumbler and twitter – yes, I know they aren’t even new. So I will just say here (with a small giggle) that THIS fattie has been a vegetarian most of her life, and currently doesn’t even eat red meat.
    So much my personal decimation of the livestock.

    I have to show my upper arms! That’s where my tattoos are!

    but in all seriousness, I don’t know how to deal with it in real life. I try to counter it by angrily shouting back my personal stats at them, which, while none of their business, usually shut them up, since I in fact happen to have normal blood pressure, low blood sugar, normal blood cholesterol, etc. If I didn’t, I would probably cave in and mumble something sullen. I don’t deal well with bullies.

    • JR you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. You don’t have to justify your existence.

      There are several things you can choose to do that will probably make you feel a whole lot more empowered. It is hard, I won’t pretend it’s not. But try things like laughing at them, or simply saying quietly “I feel sorry for you.” I usually ask “Are you finished?” which usually disarms them pretty quickly, then when they take a breath, I just say “Try not being an arsehole.” and walk away. If you can’t walk away, turn your back on them. They are not worth your time and energy.

  • Terrific and important post — thank you.

    I’m wondering how this plays in the opposite direction. Example — I recently learned someone I know casually is scheduled for WLS the end of this month, believing it to be a cure for diabetes. She’s not very fat — maybe a size 12 or 14 or so.

    We briefly discussed WLS a couple years ago, and I shared then all the reasons I knew not to do it. When I saw her last week, she avoided eye (or any) contact.

    Is it my stomach she’s mutilating? No. Is it my health she’s destroying? No. So do I just stay quiet, and not try to counter the brainwashing she’s received at her pre-surgery “classes”?

    If I say nothing, and she dies or fucks up her life, do I have to live with the guilt of not trying to stop her?

    Or, if it’s not my body, is it not my business?

    Am I a troll for caring?

    • This is legitimate concern based on facual evidence and ongoing patterns of behavior. I would not put that in the same category as constantly asking somone what their blood sugar levels are, what they ate for lunch, etc. So no, you’re not a troll for caring in that sense.

    • AmpleCoach we have to remember that everybody, EVERYBODY has the right to autonomy. If someone wants to get WLS, then it’s their body and it’s their right. I care too, but it’s honestly not my business to tell them what to do with their bodies. If you love someone, you have to accept their choices, even if you disagree with them.

      I’ve lived through the situation several times, and in one case, that person has died due to complications from her WLS. I wish I could have prevented her from having the WLS, but I did not have the right to do so.

      However, I do speak simple truths. I tell them the truth that they can have their lives happy and full without mutilating their bodies. I tell them that I care about them, love them exactly as they are and will always care for and love them, even if they decide to do something I’m personally against. And I live my life as an example, and saturate my world with the information that they are not being presented by the mainstream.

      It’s all you can do.

      • Thank you Kath and JoannaDW, for your somewhat contradictory replies — illustrating the gnarliness of this question.

        At this point, I feel clear that confronting her (directly or via her work partner, who shares my concern) to try to stop her is beyond what feels right to me, as is judging her, even as my heart aches in fear for her.

        I am very angry at the greedy docs/hospitals & pharm companies & pseudoscientists that promote this bullshit. But I’m not angry at her — just sad for her.

        One response I received elsewhere to this question was to write her a letter, sharing the information behind my concern, but also letting her know I respect her right to make this decision, that I’ll care for her no matter the outcome, that I won’t mention the whole question again unless she brings it up, and that there’s no need, no matter what, for her to avoid me. She could choose to read the letter or toss it, reply or not. I’m mulling that over.

        • AmpleCoach it is a really fine line, and I admit it’s a tough one to follow. I feel the same anger that you do, and I think by changing cultural attitudes towards fat, that is the best way to fight them.

          Maybe a letter is the right answer. It all depends on your relationship with your friend and you personally. It’s so difficult, but as I said to JR, remember that when we fight for our right to body autonomy, we are also fighting for people like her as well.

          We will beat this eventually. I just hate that so many people have to suffer in the meantime.

    • That’s really hard. One of my friends has had two WLS’ in the last few years. His doctors told him he would “certainly” die of a heart attack if he didn’t. Now not a week goes by without him getting sick and as we speak he is in the hospital again with another life threatening illness.

      Yet everyone constantly tells him how good he looks, what a great and impressive guy he is for being so “strong” and sticking with it, and how “healthy” he is looking these days.

      People have no trouble being the voice of encouragement here, but if you are the lone naysayer, you are being “negative” and they will cut you off. I don’t feel there is anything I could have said that would have been heard. And after the fact I feel anything I say will just be like pouring salt on a wound. In spite of it all he is supremely happy to be thin. This seems sadly like it might turn into the “leave a beautiful corpse” story. I really hope not but I’m horrified watching it. And there is almost no cultural narrative to combat it. People will cheer even moderately fat people on into deadly surgery and praise their newly thin bodies all the way to the grave.

      • JR I have been there several times over. So many friends have had WLS. None of them are thin now, and all of them are sick in some form or another, and one has died. It’s so hard to stand by and watch them do that to themselves, but it’s their body and if we’re going to fight for our right to body autonomy, that means they get theirs too.

        You’re absolutely right about people cheering newly thin bodies all the way to the grave. I’ve seen that in both WLS and other illnesses that cause weight loss.

        It’s heartbreaking.

  • If anyone was to express concern about you Kathy, it would be about the fact that you have your head in the mouth of a T Rex! That has to be really bad for your health!
    Thanks for this post, it is wonderful!

  • HI (: I just found your blog, and i love it! I wish i could accept my body lke you do yours. I’m afraid to say I hate on skinny people, but I think that all that hate is actually directed at me, for being so horribly disgusting. I don’t even know why I’m telling you this. Maybe I need to get it out. My family don’t understand because they think that I’m still “skinny”. But I dont feel that way! I feel fat and gross. I’m sorry this has been such a depressing comment. You can choose not to allow it here, I won’t be offended or anything..

    • Colere, keep reading my blog, and as many as you can find that are fat positive. I have some in my sidebar – I’ll add more soon. Get on Tumblr and follow fat positive blogs there. Read Linda Bacon, Lesley Kinzel, Marianne Kirby and Kate Harding, Marilyn Wann… so many others.

      Immerse yourself in this community and you will start to see a change in your thinking, and a shift away from all that self loathing.

      I used to hate my body and resent skinny people too, and never believed I would feel different… but I do. Fat activism has brought me that.

  • Brava! One of the things that most drives me nuts is when I do lose weight or tone up, people get all incredibly supportive. “You’re looking so much better!” Gee, thanks. Not. The other most agravating thing is people telling me good eating tips. I’ve now defaulted to answering (if it’s someone I like), “I am a highly intelligent fat person. As a rule, this means that I know more about food, nutrition, and metabolism than just about anybody other than a professional nutritionist. By the way, that cereal/salad/”skinny” chicken sandwich with avocado has low nutritional value and high fat/sugar/overprocessed carbs.”

  • A to the men.:)

    I hate telling people about my health problems because I get all sorts of bullshit, and unsolicited, health advice. I tell them I have migraines and they ride my ass when I drink a Pepsi. OMG TEH CAFEEEEINE! Of course, caffeine *treats* my migraines personally, but don’t let the healthists know that.

    Anyway, once you become fat, everyone gets to ride your ass. Thin people get it too, but people assume that they can splurge because, by virtue of their thinness, they have proven they can control themselves. Fuck that.

    • Oh god, that’s the worse. I had untreated migraines for years, which eventually became so unbearable I could barely get out of bed or leave the house. I was told any number of unhelpful, insensitive, rude things (including, of course, to lose weight) by “friends”. Eventually they went away because I was – surprise! – prescribed the proper medication to address the underlying issue.
      I don’t know that I will ever be able to forgive the people who said all those things to me, though.

  • I had to tell a concern troll on Facebook this morning that my body was none of her damn business. The reason? I had the gall to criticize Jamie Oliver for trying to police the diets of America. So she saw my profile picture and said that I should have taken some of his advice. Sorry Brenda, but like Mr. Oliver, you don’t get to dictate what fat strangers should do with their bodies.

    Oh, and if you would like to tell her yourself and you’re on Facebook, go to the BBC America Page, like it, and comment under the post about Jamie Oliver’s new road trip show.

    • Wow, that was rude. I hope it was a random jerk who can be ignored and not an actual Facebook “friend.”

    • Bloody Jamie Oliver. I don’t know when he drank from the douchebag well, but he has become so fat-loathing that I can’t tolerate him at all. Good on you for speaking up.

  • Love your blog. I hate how people presume to equate fatness with being unhealthy. Just because you weigh more than what society deems is appropriate does not make you unhealthy. And those people that say that being fat will cause you to have a heart attack or diabetes are full of crap. As if being fat is the only reason why. You go girl! Keep the fat revolution going.

    • Some fat people are diabetic – I am one of them. I owe nobody an explanation of my body or my health, and I don’t have to “prove” I’m healthy to anyone. It concerns me that we spend so much time protesting that fat people can be healthy – when really it’s nobody’s business.

      All part of the revolution, thanks!

      • the thing is, some fat people are diabetic and some thin people are diabetic! neither the fat nor the thin diabetic should be required to justify their existence or their illness, and no one would DREAM of questioning a thin diabetic’s food choices or how they became diabetic.

  • I’ve been so happily surprised at the woman who owns the dance studio where I dance these days. She’s become a close friend, and she knows that part of why I’m there is to lose fat and regain muscle (though it’s mostly because I have a passion for dance). Often when I post a picture or video from the studio, some of my friends will comment that it looks like I’ve lost weight – because they know I want to, and frankly, I have. I haven’t lost much in the way of numbers, but I have lost some fat (and regained muscle, so the actual weight isn’t fluctuating much) and regained some of my previous shape (and coming from close friends, who know where I stand with such things and actually mean it, I do appreciate such comments). Yet Diana almost never comments on that – and pretty much only ever when I bring it up in a conversation with her. She finally told me one day that she considers it absolutely none of her business and thinks it’s downright rude to comment on someone else’s body, in any way at all.

    See why I love her so much? She *totally* gets stuff. 🙂

  • Newsflash for trolls: stigmatizing a group worsens their health in general. So the more you stigmatize, the higher your health care costs will be. Push away from the tv and take some responsibility for your attitudes and behavior.
    Or you could continue the way you are and enjoy your rising health care costs.
    – – – – – – – – –
    Concern trolling is a more difficult matter if the concern troller is, say, a boss, or your mother. Now it would be nice if you could just tell them to shut the fuck up, but the repercussions might not justify the momentary satisfaction. What then?

    • I’m actually inclined to tell them to STFU too Mulberry, but I’m in the position where I can.

      I won’t stand concern trolling from anyone. Sometimes I have to choose my words a little more carefully, say “My health is none of your business, thank you.” instead of STFU, but the same message goes.

  • I’d don’t get “concern trolls” often, but I’d like to add a somewhat related issue: if someone has any kind of life problem, blaming it on their weight is not helpful. This happens to me more in real life than any of the other things you’ve stated. If my job is getting me down, or I’m frustrated about my dating situation, or I’m tired, my family likes to tell me all my problems will be fixed if I’d just lose weight. It’s offensive and dismissive at the same time, and is really unnecessary.

  • Please delete this comment if you think it may be triggering, but I honestly cannot understand the mentality of people who suggest that you harm yourself or take your own life. The person who posted as James Bellamy suggested you hang yourself. What kind of person sends an email telling another person to commit suicide? This is beyond horrible: what twisted, sick sense of entitlement do some people think they have?

  • My very favorite idiot comment was “We’re eating so much that we’re denying food to others”.

    Are these people really that stupid?

    Oh never mind…they really are. haha

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