You’re Not The First to Tell a Fat Person…

Published June 25, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

Look, I know I have a lot of new readers.  I understand that many of you are totally new to the concept of fat activism and fat liberation.  I know that when you turn on the telly or open a newspaper, you are told, over and over again, fat = unhealthy and unhealthy = bad therefore fat = bad.  So what I’m saying here on this blog is a radical concept to a lot of you.  The idea that someone might refuse to believe that dominant rhetoric of fat = bad and actually be happy in their fat body is possibly confronting and confusing for many of you.  But it’s not a new concept.  Go back to my first post… July 2009.  I’ve been banging on about this for four years.  In fact, I just noticed that this is my 400th post.  So for four years, and with an average of 100 posts per year, I’ve been talking about this stuff for a long time now.  And believe it or not, a lot of people have been talking about it for a lot longer than me.  In fact, fat activism has its roots in the SIXTIES.  Yes, this stuff has been around for 50 years.  It’s not new.

So we need to talk about the sudden influx of you leaving comments on this blog that are never going to see the light of day.  Because yes, I know for you these things are radical and new… but to we fatties in the fatosphere, we’ve heard the same old same old our whole lives.  So not only do they not need to be published here to beat us over the head again and again with the same stuff that we’ve debunked time and time again, but you really don’t need to say them in the first place.  WE’VE HEARD IT ALL BEFORE!  SERIOUSLY, YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST PERSON TO TELL US THE THINGS BELOW!

Today I’m going to address a few of the most commonly deleted/spammed comments (other than the usual troll bullshit) that I just refuse to allow space on this blog any more, because I do know there are a lot of you newbies out there who have just started reading my blog recently and perhaps think you’re presenting some new idea to myself and other fatties in your comments.  This is for you, so that you don’t make a dick of yourself any more in comment threads on fat activist blogs and other sites saying things that every fat person has heard a bajillion times already.

But fat is unhealthy!?

There is a plethora of evidence out there that debunks this myth, I’m not going to go into that here and now.  It’s not my job to educate you – I’ve given you lists of resources, off you go to educate yourself.  What I am going to say are the following things:

  • health is not a moral obligation.
  • Health is not a measure of human worth.
  • Health is arbitrary – what is “healthy” for one person, is not necessarily the same for the next.
  • Thin people suffer health issues too
  • People with illness/injury/disability are just as deserving of dignity and respect as anyone else, no matter what that illness/injury/disability may be or how it is “caused”.

But you’re driving up taxes/health insurance!!

So are people who drive cars, drink alcohol, play sport, have unprotected sex, get pregnant or get old.  Among many other things.  Fat people pay taxes and for health insurance too, and their taxes and health insurance dollars go into the same pool that yours do.  Fat costs on public health are a false cost – if you medicalise something, then it is going to “cost” to “treat” it.  If the medical profession focused on treating actual health issues and not trying to make fat people thin, those costs would all but disappear.

Well I’m all for loving your body, but within limits/not for super-obese people!

Firstly, I’m actually not interested in “body love”.  Sure, it’s probably good for us to reach a place of love and acceptance of our bodies.  But in the face of a world that sends us constant messages that our bodies should be something completely unattainable, I reckon if we can just get to a point where we respect our bodies as remarkable and complex systems that propel us through life, we’re doing well.  If someone does love their body, then that’s a bonus and I believe that anyone is allowed to love their body, be they thin, fat or in between.

As for the “limits” to which people are included in fat activism/liberation, it has to be all of us.  Not some, not to a certain point, not just the “healthy” ones, not just the ones who are cute/attractive, not just the young, white, straight, able-bodied ones.  Every single one of us deserves to live our lives in dignity and peace, without fear of discrimination or vilification based on our weight and size.  Every single fat person deserves positive representation.  EVERY. SINGLE. FAT. PERSON.

But I’m just concerned about your health/ wellbeing!

No you’re not.  If you were, you would be standing beside me fighting fat stigma and advocating for equitable health treatment for all.  You don’t give a damn about the health and wellbeing of fat people.  You don’t care that fat people can’t get treatment for everything from the common cold through to cancer because they are all blamed on their fatness and they’re just given a diet, not actual treatment.  You don’t care that the public vilification of fat people causes depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.  You don’t care that fat people are dying because they are so shamed by the medical profession that they can’t bring themselves to go back to the doctor when they are ill.  Claiming you care about our wellbeing is a lie.

But you need help!  Making  “obesity” a disease will get you help and cheap treatment!

We do not need “help” that is against our will or counter-productive to our actual health.  We don’t need “treatments” that fail and make us gain even more weight in the long term (diets and other weight loss methods), that butcher our bodies (gastric mutilation surgeries) or deplete our quality of life (weight loss medications that give us heart conditions, make us sick, give us “oily anal discharge” or a plethora of other side effects that are far worse than simply being fat).   Many of us don’t need help or treatment at all.  Many of us are happy just as we are and are doing fine.  What we need is to be treated as human beings, and to have agency over our lives.

But don’t you want to live longer?

Since when has anyone been able to control when they die?  We don’t know how long we’ll be here for.  We only get one shot at it.  So we best fill our lives as best we can, and not put them on hold because we don’t meet some kind of cultural measure of acceptable appearance.

You just want everyone to be fat like you!

Unlike the anti-fat camp, I believe that human bodies are naturally diverse and that some of us are meant to be fat, some are meant to be thin, and the rest are meant to range in between.  I don’t want to make other people fat any more than I want to make myself thin.  Unlike the anti-fat camp, I believe that all human beings are valid and equal regardless of their size or weight.  I like diversity, it keeps things from getting boring.

But… everyone KNOWS [insert anti-fat trope here]

Everyone used to know the earth was flat.  Everyone used to know that the sun revolved around the earth.  Everyone used to know that smoking tobacco was good for you.  We as human beings don’t know everything, and sometimes when we think we know things we’re wrong.  Emergent science is showing us already that our pre-conceived notions of fatness have been wrong on many counts (again, off you go to do your own research, you’ve got access to all the same online tools I’ve got access to, I’m not here to do it for you), I’ve spent the past four years learning, reading expanding my world view with these facts, I’m not just making this shit up myself.  Don’t make a fool of yourself by hanging on to ignorance.

You’re just making excuses to sit around on your fat ass all day and eat donuts!

If I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t need an excuse to do so.  I’d just do it.  I’m a grown adult and my life is mine to choose how I spend it.  That said, I actually wish I had a little more time to relax and wasn’t so busy all the time.  If I COULD find a way to do that, I WOULD take more time to relax, you’d better believe it!

It’s just calories in, calories out, you just need to put down the fork and move your fat ass!

Humans are not bomb calorimeters.  Nor are we lawnmowers.  Incidentally, do you think that no fat person ever has thought to try diet and exercise to get thin?  That at almost 41 years of age it never occurred to me to try “calories in/calories out”?  Do you REALLY think you’re the first person to make that suggestion to a fat person?  I can guarantee you, it’s highly unlikely you’re even the first person TODAY to make that suggestion to me.

You just lack willpower!

Oh really?  I engaged in a full blown restriction and purging eating disorder for twenty years, don’t talk to me about willpower.   If willpower actually amounted to anything, I would be thin, ridiculously wealthy and married to Hugh Jackman by now.  And put it this way, if you think I don’t have willpower, consider the fact that I haven’t smacked one of the dozens of fat hating douchecanoes I deal with every day in the mouth yet.  THAT takes willpower!

But I’ve lost weight and kept it off – you can too!

Define “kept it off”.  Have you passed the 5 year mark yet?  No?  Well since SCIENCE says that 95% of people who lose weight through dieting will regain it and more within 5 years, you need to go away and come back once you’ve kept it off for 5 years.  And that’s 5 years solid, not regained it after a year or so, lost it again, regained it again, lost it again, regained, lost (which most of us can do and have done).  If you have kept it off for 5 years or more, congratulations for being one of the 5% statistical anomalies.  Hopefully you can understand basic percentages and realise that most of us are likely to fall into the 95% bracket.

Not to mention that what you choose to do with your body has no bearing on what I choose to do with mine.  You focus on your body and life, I’ll focus on mine.

So there you have it.  I’ve taken the time to address the common tropes I find in comments about, and this should save us all a lot of time.  Hopefully those of you who want to tell/ask me (or any other fat people) any of the above things can save your breath and not embarrass yourselves publicly, and I shouldn’t have to deal with the same old same old in my inbox every day.


61 comments on “You’re Not The First to Tell a Fat Person…

  • I’m not sure if you’ve seen the bit of medicine that shows that people with no fat (as in medically unable to produce fat cells, not just slim people) have the whole compliment of ‘obesity-related’ diseases – including heart problems and diabetes. Fat cells function to take up and store triglycerides that would otherwise be floating around in the blood, potentially causing harm (in same sort of the way that the pancreas regulates blood sugar – essential for the brain, but can cause massive amounts of damage if left at high levels in the blood).

    It wouldn’t surprise me if we found that a lot of ‘obesity-related’ diseases were caused by adipose tissue being unhealthy or misregulating – but we’re unlikely to make much of an advance on this until we stop thinking fat=bad and think more about what we can do to keep our fat tissue healthy.

    I’ll see if I can find open access references when I have time.

    • You know Christine, I actually don’t care how “obesity-related diseases” are caused. I care about how fat people are treated, whether they meet some arbitrary level of “health” or not. I care that fat people can live their lives without being lectured by friends, family, colleagues and complete strangers like we are stupid or children. I think we need to spend less time worrying about “obese people’s health” and start worrying about fat people’s civil rights.

    • Do you mean like, the fat isn’t doing its job of mopping up triglycerides so the body makes more fat, which still isn’t doing its job, so still more fat is made?

      From this fat person’s perspective the main issue would be how to help the body deal with the excess triglycerides, since protective fat generation isn’t working. Buuuuut of course the “real” issue is ZOMG MAKETHEMTHIN. :massive eyeroll

    • It isn’t necessarily the fault of fat that there are extra triglycerides in the body. The pancreas pumping out more insulin is not always because the pancreas is malfunctioning.

      If extra fat is the result of my body producing too much cholesterol/tryglycerides, I’m okay with that.

  • Christ. I seriously peed myself after reading the ‘douchecanoes’ comment. Still laughing… On 5% who make five years, very interesting to talk to them about their lives, loves and regrets (one of my research areas). Nothing like talking to real people to debunk the thin = happy mantra.

    Love your work 🙂

  • I love you! Want to let you know you are making my life better blog by blog. Thank you so much for articulating the things that have been muffled in my head for so long. You are awesome x

  • I know that every day you deal with people who are mean, hateful, disrespectful, and difficult, and I can only imagine how hard it is to keep putting yourself out there in this war knowing that tomorrow will bring the same stupidity into your life.

    But i just wanted to let you know that today, this morning, a continent away in the middle of America you made my life better. You made my day more tolerable. You made me feel a bit better about myself. You made me more confident. You gave me a bit more courage.

    And for that I can’t thank you enough.

  • THANK YOU for this. I feel like you just gave me permission to be a person. A silly notion, but most of the time, I forget. Then I read something like this and have an “oh, yeah…” moment.

    • Sometimes we need a reminder Stacy, I understand that. In the face of a world that denies us so much, it can be so radical to hear that we are deserving human beings who have rights.

  • Awesome post, as usual. Thank you for bringing up the “help” we get from those who have “beat their fat”. Nothing is better than a sanctimonious person who has lost weight (or who goes on about anything to try to transform anyone else’s life, actually).

  • I love that “but don’t you want to live longer” one. Which assumes they know when you’re going to die. Because of course they’re psychic. Actually, most of those statements require some level of psychic powers and magical awareness of other people’s habits/current health. And also a sense of entitlement, because it’s basically butting into someone else’s life and assuming that you have the right to tell them that you know best.

    So, yeah. Basically another awesome post, Kath. 🙂

    • Also because sometimes, the answer is “no,” or “at what cost?” I mean, I’m pretty comfortable with how I’ve chosen to prioritize and manage various aspects of my physical, mental, emotional, and social health. If, however, it turns out that my choices mean I’m going to die, say, 10 years sooner than I would if I made different choices? I might still choose to continue the same habits and choices I’m making now. Because they’re contributing to a particular chosen quality of life that, for me, is not easily replaced by simply (hypothetically) adding more quantity.

      • Exactly Tori. WE choose what WE do with our bodies and our lives. It’s not for someone else to determine what the balance between “quality” and “quantity” is for us. But something tells me they actually don’t care about the quality of our lives either.

  • THANK YOU. I get so sick of everybody thinking they know my body, my health, and my life better than I do.

    And your opening made me think of that quote from Men In Black – “Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”

  • Wasn’t there a study that showed fat people tended to live longer? I can’t remember now. Also, as someone with gluten intolerance AND lactose intolerance I WISH I could eat donuts all day. 😦


    I think this is the study you’re referring to?

    “The bottom line from this study was that being obese (all categories combined) increased the chance of dying compared to those with a normal BMI, although this was not the case for overweight individuals (BMI of between 25 and 29) or the lowest category of obesity (grade 1) on its own.

    The researchers concluded that, relative to normal weight: “both obesity (all grades) and grades 2 and 3 obesity were associated with significantly higher all-cause mortality. Grade 1 obesity overall was not associated with higher mortality, and overweight was associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality”.

    The finding that overweight individuals were at slightly less risk of dying than their normal-weight counterparts had been reported in research before (this is often referred to as the obesity paradox). ”

    The primary research:
    Flegal KM, Kit BK, Orpana H, Graubard BI. Association of All-Cause Mortality With Overweight and Obesity Using Standard Body Mass Index Categories: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. The Journal of the American Medical Association. Published online January 2 2013

    • Yes, Christine, that looks right. It doesn’t look like the study factored in the effects of yo-yo dieting or the stress from being fat-shamed though.

      I’m somewhere on the edge of grade 1/2 but have been told I was overweight since I hit puberty (mostly by my mother) so I’ve paid more attention to the weight-loss crap than I probably would have otherwise. I’ve also been told how diabetes runs in my family and I should watch out for it.

      It’s been reassuring to me to find out that a) my weight probably didn’t trigger my diabetes and b) it is not automatically going to shorten/ruin my life.

      Of course, people ignore me when I mention studies like this in reply to concern trolling, but it helps me.

  • This is so awesome!!! Hearing these things in some way shape or form everyday since I was 11 (i’m 45 now) and having a similar response, it’s nice to see someone else just let the non-fat community in on the secret that they are not the first one who’ve tried to save my “fat ass”. It’s too bad that whoever says it to me tomorrow won’t be the last!!!

  • One of my ex-coworkers lost a lot of weight a few years ago and she is one of the biggest fat-haters I know. Also, although she’s in the 5% who’s kept the weight off for more than 5 years, she’s constantly obsessing about it and starving herself in order to stay thin. Sad, really.

  • Kath, as a counter balance to those who spew hate and stupidity, let me express my thanks and love for what you do. I can’t put into words how much I appreciate you, this blog, and this post. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This post made my day, gave me food for thought, and provided me with encouragement to keep doing what I’m doing. 🙂

  • Kath – thanx for taking on the fat-hating trolls and putting them in their place. They’re the worst people on the planet! Acting all smug and better-than-thou, thinking they know everything about you and have all the answers: ‘If you just stopped stuffing your face and got off yer fat ass, you’d be thin like me!’ Makes me want to say ‘All the more reason NOT to do it, cuz if I ended up a troll like you, I’d REALLY hate myself!’ Thanx again for putting those idiots in their place!

  • Thank you Very Much for your blog. I have been preaching this to my 15 year old daughter that is just a little Chubby. With the schools pushing the political agenda on over weight kids the pressure is not only coming from the kids but from the teachers and staff now. Meanwhile my children who have learning disabilities can’t get the extra help they need.

    Glad to see that there are others out there that believe like me, do the best that you can with your life and that’s all you need to do. You are who you are!

  • I’ve been part of the body acceptance community for a while now, however, I was mostly just taking it all in and not making any real effort to share this knowledge. Recently, 2 of my coworkers were thrash-talking the bikini bodies in a celebrity magazine and I started to speak out about what they were doing. I went into a big speech about how doing that just perpetuated the problem. I tried to explain that the ‘it’s not healthy’ defense that people use when talking about ‘fat and beautiful’ discourse is a cop out. Kind of like health-trolling, I think. Anyhow, after regurgitating all my knowledge about body acceptance, my co-workers huffed and walked away. It was like I officially got cut out of the cool club. I was really careful about my words, trying to make sure I didn’t come across as bossy, obnoxious or righteous, however, I get the feeling I’ve been dumped. I just wanted to share this because I realize that being a ‘voice’ for body respect/acceptance is not easy. I want to contribute to the body acceptance movement and help redefine our society’s view of body respect and beauty, however, I think there needs to be a class on how to achieve this. Your blog, as well as many other great ones out there (hello Militant Baker and Nearsighted Owl), are great but I have to find a way to take this info and apply it in everyday life.

    • *HUGS* That was very brave of you. I haven’t spoken much in public, because it hasn’t come up much. I post stuff on facebook, though.

      I’ve never been part of the ‘cool’ club, but the uncool people are a lot of fun. We also have better food.

  • Kath– again, your thought-provoking written words are a comfort to me. At 60 yrs old, I find my willpower to ignore or pass when people (including my family) make fat-shaming comments, has come to an end. In the US, during the racial-shaming that has taken place against Paula Deen is most often met with fat-shaming remarks by commenters about her.
    I call ’em on it.

  • If the ‘cool club’ gets that way by putting others down, they’re not really that cool. My husband and I were just talking about that. It’s almost as if these ppl are desperately trying to deny the fact that they probably are unsure about themselves and try to prove that they’re cool, they belong with the same ppl who would turn on them in a heartbeat, rather than the ‘uncool kids’ who would happily accept them for who they really were. It’s like middle or high school all over again.

  • I had a moment like that with 2 new “cool kids” in my regular yoga class. We’d done a pose that was kind of tricky and as I often do, I laughed out loud at the feat of coordination and stretching my body was trying to do. One of the “cool kid” new girls assumed I was laughing at her. The teacher assured her that I wasn’t. I think it is the people most uptight about their appearances who are also often low on self-confidence. Great blog today, as usual. I really enjoy this blog. Thanks.

  • Amen. I’ve heard all those before, and they’re all infuriating, especially when they come from people who have no clue about the underlying mechanisms. The holier-than-thou attitudes from people with “normal” BMIs are disgusting. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me to just eat less and exercise more, or to go to a fat farm, I’d be rich.

  • Just got an evil idea from Madame Weebles’s post. Maybe we should start charging everyone a dollar who makes some stupid fat-hating comment. (Maybe more if they use any from the list above). In a few short years, we could all comfortably retire. Might as well get something good out of all this rampant stupidity!

  • I’m within the “healthy” range on BMI, but because I’m at the higher end, I get a lot of “But, you could still go lower!” comments. There is this disturbing trend amongst women, where you are expected to at least try to get down to the lowest weight possible in the “healthy range” (for me, that would be about 104 lbs.). Then the flip-flop comes; these very same people will jump on the “BMI isn’t an accurate measure of health” bandwagon when it serves their purpose (eg. excusing their own “unhealthy underweight” status). They need to pick a side and stick with it; the BMI is either an accurate measure of health, or it’s a load of bunk. They can’t have it both ways. A little consistency, please.

  • Oh, and I would like to add that, if I see just one more dude on the internet claiming that men are “hardwired” to find only certain shapes of women attractive, I’m going to barf. It’s such an obvious lie. Men will publicly claim to be attracted to whatever shape is trendy at the moment. In reality (and behind closed doors), it’s a very different story. Dirty little hypocrites.

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