You Cannot Help Those You Loathe

Published January 3, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

I just had one of those lightbulb moments.  I was reading this excellent piece on domestic violence on Big Blue Dot Y’all and while talking about leaving counselling, the author used this sentence:

“You cannot help those you loathe.”

And something went “click” in my head.  All those weight loss surgeons, those “obesity” experts, the weight loss industry, bullying personal trainers, all those people who claim they want to “help” fat people… they loathe us.  If it’s not us they loathe, it’s our fat.  And by hating fat, and failing to see that our fatness is part of who we are – not a growth or some kind of removable shell, they are therefore by default loathing us.

And you cannot help those you loathe.

You cannot help those you loathe.

Think of the language they use around supposedly “helping” us.   It’s all violent, aggressive and full of hate.

  • Fighting fat
  • War on obesity
  • Fat busters/blasters
  • Eradicate fat
  • Fat is “killing” you
  • Obesity epidemic

These are just a few of the terms they use in the rhetoric of weight loss and anti-“obesity” campaigns.  Everything is framed around sickness and disease, war, violence, anger.  This is not the language of helping fat people, it’s the language of waging battle on them.  And as Marilyn Wann says – you cannot have a war on fat without having a war on fat people.  The two are not separate entities – our fat is part of us, part of our bodies, part of who we are.  Bodies are not disposable shells made for modification , they are an integral part of the human being.

This is why so much damage is being done to fat people.  Because of this loathing of fat.  Instead of working with us to make our lives as full and as rich as they should be, society wages war on our bodies and therefore ourselves.   In fact, more often than not, we are enlisted as soldiers in that war, in a kind of twisted friendly fire.  It’s as though in the “war on obesity”, the people who are fat are considered “collateral damage”.  Some of us will die, many of us will be physically scarred forever, almost all of us will have emotional and psychological trauma that we will never lose in the vain hope that they win the war.  What it does to those who are on the front lines matters not to those waging war.  We’re the cannon fodder.  Those in power are safe back in the war room, viewing it as a series of strategical moves and sending forth more and more troops to get bloody on the ground.

Anyone who truly cares about the wellbeing of fat people cannot possibly feel the need to wage war on fat.  That level of aggression and loathing negates any care that may have once been there.  There is never any care or compassion from someone who enacts violence on another.  It is no different in its effect on us than the open hate and bigotry we receive from the likes of bullies and trolls.  It is all trauma enacted on us.

Look at what happens to fat people when they are given compassion, care and support by those who truly want to help in our wellbeing.  When we are taught to value our bodies, and treat them with kindness and compassion, suddenly our quality of life gets vastly better.  When we find supportive doctors, our health gets better.  If we need help with eating and nutrition, those in the field who genuinely care help us heal the damage done by diet culture and fat loathing.  When we find an environment that we can enjoy physical activity without shaming or stigma, we learn to enjoy things like dancing, swimming and other activities.  When our families and friends love us and support us as we are – we are able to heal from the trauma of shame and stigma.

When we are treated with respect and dignity, our wellbeing and quality of life improves.  Regardless of what weight we happen to be.

Because hate does not help.  Hate does not heal.


39 comments on “You Cannot Help Those You Loathe

  • That’s quite a lightbulb moment…and I wonder why these people loathe fat, and therefore fat people so much? Could it be rooted in fear? specifically the fear of becoming fat themselves? Which kind of adds to the burden carried by fat people ….

    • I think it’s an institutionalised hatred. It started with marketing (selling women products by making them hate themselves) and grew into a societal hatred. It’s ubiquitous.

  • Wow, just wow! These words are powerful and just what I needed to hear right now. I work for a non-profit healthcare organization, and you can just imagine the crap that gets pushed on us. BMI bullshit, work-sponsored biggest loser competitions, anti-fat rhetoric disguised as fitness encouragement, etc. And all around me I hear people talking about being good, sticking to their New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, what’s good food vs. what’s bad food. Then there are the people who are having WLS and going to other extremes to battle their fat. All of this on top of the annual noise pushed by the diet industry. So, seeing these words, reading them, and feeling them resonate within me, was exactly what my doctor (as in my therapist) ordered. Thank you, Kathy, for this post!!! ♥♥♥

    • You are most welcome lusciouswords. I simply cannot see how all of that behaviour and rhetoric is any good for anyone’s wellbeing. It just isn’t.

      An aside – I’m just “Kath” – not Kathy, I hate being called Kathy!

  • This resonated with me on several levels. I never thought about it in these words before, but echos of this sentiment have crossed my mind in the question “Why would you work with _____ people if you have a problem with them?”
    This post reminds me of all those individuals that proudly proclaim, “I used to be fat!” and use that fact as the shield they hide behind as they toss fat hate around.

    • I really believe that it is the ultimate of unprofessional to work in a job that has you supposedly caring for people you hate. How can you CARE for someone you HATE?

  • *Blah blah blah a load of fat hating bullshit that labels fat people “diseased/defective” that proves the point of the piece perfectly.

    Then goes on to tell the blog author how she feels because clearly a complete stranger on the internet who has nothing better to do than hate on fat people they don’t even know on the internet knows how a fat person feels and thinks better than they do themselves.

    Follows up with a load of bullshit assumptions about what fat people can and can’t do, completely backed up with… nothing! No facts, no evidence, no data at all.

    Because like all trolls, Constance J Beecher is ignorant and generally just a really horrible person.*

  • What an excellent point. I’ve always thought of the ‘war on poverty’ as a war against poor people, but for some reason never made the same connection for the ‘war on obesity’. We’ve seen endless concern over bullying in schools, except when it comes to fat, then whatever it takes to get skinny becomes the thing to do, with no consideration of how it affect the kids or adults.

    Hell, if we got rid of the negative attitude about fat who knows how much positive stuff would come out of it.

    Some days the human population irritates the daylights out of me.

  • A deathfat health-practitioner myself, I have long considered this loathing. I observe that it is present in the lowly first-year medical student. I wonder if it is passed down through medical families like a reliable Volvo.

    Our healthcare system de-prioritised both psychological therapies and consideration of more holistic health parameters (nutrition, daily activity).

    I think the majority of my colleagues (working in mental health) accept that to care for a fat person is typically to care for someone who has had traumatic healthcare experiences. Even when resources and the therapeutic relationship allowed for this to be explored, the offer is infrequently taken up. It seems much easier to talk about quite horrible things (abuse, neglect) than the experience of fat. I am frequently reminded that to talk about food as a doctor can itself be triggering (and yet nourishment and self-care are central to recovery and belong in these discussions where possible).

    For interest, the best teacher I’ve ever had regarding caring for a physically diverse population (including very large people) was a weigh loss surgeon. Some years later and appreciating the typical experience of fat people accessing the healthcare system, the relative calm and “accomodating” nature of his practice would make his procedures seem all the more appealing. How kind we can be when there’s money to be made.

    Kath, I found your post challenging and thought-provoking as usual. Thank you.

    • The thing is, most of us fat people can see through faux-kindness. Those that can’t are very vulnerable to the lies of these butchers who are making money from our misery.

  • Thanks for this, and a matter of fact for all your posts. It’s so good to hear I’m not a lone voice trying to get this message across – or even just not alone in thinking these things!

  • *I’m an idiot who compares fat to cancer, as though fat is a disease or a “growth” on a human body. I didn’t even understand this post that says CLEARLY that fat is not a separate entity to a human being, it is part of who they are.

    I don’t undertand the basic premise of science or medicine but I’m going to come here and jabber on as though I’m some kind of expert on both. I continue to state that fat should be “eliminated” – therefore doing EXACTLY what this post says is a horrible thing to do. I’m not very bright, am I?

    Again, I’m just a troll who has nothing better to do than sit in my Mommy’s basement leaving anonymous hate on blogs of complete strangers. Perhaps I should learn to be a decent human being and then I might make some friends and get a life. I’m so full of self hate that I have to project it on to others to make myself feel better.

    Pathetic, aren’t I?*

  • “Bodies are not disposable shells made for modification , they are an integral part of the human being.”

    Brilliant. I am so glad you write. It is so important people speak up.
    Why is my body treated like toxic waste every day? It is my f* BODY. Why do people honestly think my problem is lack of intelligence and laziness? I am a member of Mensa and did things a lazy person couldn’t do. Why are these lies everywhere?
    I am often annoyed at that “Eating Disorder” spo of “it is /only/ your body”. No. It is not “only” my body. It is my body and it is me. And it is good the way it is. If you cannot love your body the way it is you can love it at no weight, because it is you.
    I wish I knew how to tell others these things as clearly as you say them. Or at least that I wouldn’t be so burdened by what they say and think is okay doing.

    • That’s probably the biggest hurdle we have to leap An. Bodies are part of who we are, a segment of the complete. They are not outer shells, they are not removable parts, they are not customisable kits. Adjust the body, and you adjust the whole person. It’s traumatic enough when adjustments are needed to save a life or are our own free choice – but start messing around with that because society says some bodies are unaccdeptable… and you’re in very dangerous territory.

  • This is beautiful, Kath, and so very true. When I worked in a hospital, I always kept a sign of Marilyn Wann’s quote “You can’t hate people for their own good” on the wall above my desk. It kept me focussed.

    Deborah Lupton says in a lot of her work that we are “embodied selves” which I think is a beautiful way of getting away from the Cartesian, mind/body dichotomy that is so prevalent in our language and culture. As I was reading this, I was thinking of how people commonly define certain parts of themselves (like a tumour, an eating disorder, or depression) as “other” as a way of isolating those things for treatment or removal…but how I think the attempt to do that “othering” to adipose tissue has resulted in so much damage and far more harm than good.

    I think it is worth questioning the use of this self/other approach for any physical condition, actually, but especially when it comes to fatness, since it has done so much obvious harm in creating and perpetuating stigma, and is not even “effective” at getting people to lose fat/weight on the whole. The parts of ourselves we are eager to define as “other” tell us a lot about the value we attach to them, and then the meanings that we fear will transfer onto ourselves. Because we attach such horrific symbolic meaning to fat tissue in this culture, it is understandable, though destructive and regrettable, how eager people are to separate that part of themselves into “other,” and then do violence to it, as a way of attempting to protect their own worth.

    Anyway, too much caffeine obviously, but this was beautiful to read and think about.

    • Thank you Michelle! If this is what too much caffeine does to you, here, have another coffee!

      You’ve given me a lot to think about re bodies and embodiment and othering, but I haven’t had enough caffeine so I’m not sure I can put it into words right now. I think I might go cogitate over that a little and see what comes out.

  • You use the phrase: Some of us will die.

    That is a lightbulb moment for me. Yeah, people die. For many different reasons. Guns, homicide, accidents, freak natural events, genetic determination and defects, poor life choices (other than eating) and all the rest. Thin people die from the above listed reasons, too.

    • Yup A Brady – we all die.

      What I was referring to though is that in the “treatment” of fat, some of us are killed. We are mutilated and slaughtered and harassed into taking our own lives in the name of “curing” us. When there is nothing wrong with us. We are simply fat.

  • *I’m a douchebag who thinks that I’m so clever for posting a thinspo blog in the comments on a fat liberation blog. I’m in no way original or even entertaining. But clearly I don’t have much of a life, so it’s not surprising I don’t get that.*

  • *I’ve turned up anonymously to cowardly tell you that you don’t know your own experiences. I’m a complete stranger, so clearly I know your experiences better than you do. I think you should be “polite” to people who hate you, because I think that I have the right to tone police others and tell them how they should respond to discrimination and hatred.

    Again, like many other trolls that come here, I think I’m being original with my cowardly comment. I’m not perceptive enough to realise that I’m the same old boring as batshit troll as many more who came before me.*

  • Love your choice of words! I’ve always been a large girl, not as large as some, [redacted] and when people look at me, they just see the big girl with the round face, the tyre for a tummy, the broad shoulders and the swollen ankles and feet. [redacted] i am more than just fat.

    • This comment has been edited to remove healthism and fat hate. While I appreciate that you’re trying to be positive thatnavaword, you are engaging in rhetoric that is not only offensive, but harmful to both yourself and others who read your comment.

      You ARE more than just fat, as are we all. But that doesn’t mean I am going to allow you to engage in healthism and anti-fat sentiment here on MY blog, a space that I have made very clear time and time again that negative talk about fatness and health are not acceptable.

      • I wasn’t even aware that i was ‘engaging’ in healthism and anti-fat sentiment. im a large girl and i certainly do not hate myself for it, nor do i other larger people. i simply voiced my MY words on YOUR blog, but i guess this is your space (though public), so you can do what you want. I wasn’t bashing anyone.. but this is public forum and you allow ppl to reply to said public forum. I guess i should refrain from saying anything to you in case it may be miscontrued as hate or fat hate or healthism or any other new age word.

        • Perhaps you shouldn’t comment on something you clearly don’t understand, and save making a fool of yourself. Instead of getting pouty and denouncing terms you don’t understand as “new age” (what a load of bullshit) you could actually take the time to learn something about them.

          Nobody said you were “bashing” anyone (a very childish term), instead I removed some harmful rhetoric from your comment and warned you that those kinds of statements are not welcome here. That is not unreasonable and I make my commenting rules very clear.

          Just because you CAN make a comment on someone else’s blog, doesn’t always mean you SHOULD. Sometimes it’s best to quietly listen and learn or go and do some further research. I’ve explained all of these concepts (healthism, fat hate) many times over on this blog and it is all there for you to read. And there are plenty of other links provided for you. Don’t be lazy, you have internet access, use it to educate yourself.

          And one last thing – here we use the word FAT. Not silly twee euphemisms like “large” or “big”.

            • The only person here who has a small world (and smaller mind) is the one full of self loathing that she cannot perceive the idea that a fat body is not bad. “There are no two ways about it” is the most narrow minded, ignorant statement.

              It’s really sad that you cannot appreciate that you are a worthy person no matter what your body shape and size and that you have to come to a blog that celebrates bodies of ALL shapes and sizes to try to spread your loathing.

              You have my pity.

              But any further comments are wasting my time and that of my real readers. So from this point on you will be sent to spam if you attempt to waste our time any further.

            • This person STILL keeps trying to respond, desperate to get the last word in. Even told me “F U”. What a horrible little cretin. And she claims she isn’t hateful. Keep trying lady, you’re only wasting everyone’s time.

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