The Fat NIMBY Argument

I’ve stated before that I believe it’s theoretically possible for a dieter to be pro-fat rights. People accept all sorts of contradictions in their lives with seeming ease; one can be a proponent for the rights of a group without wanting to be a member of that group, sure.

However, there’s a bigger picture that I’m beginning to realize with this whole “I’m for fat rights but personally want to lose X lbs.” The Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) argument.

Most people are familiar with NIMBY arguments: one realistic model is pro-alternative energy activists not wanting the view from their summer beachhouse marred by off-shore windmills.

When a dieter says, “I’m for fat rights but personally want to lose X lbs,” it’s a variation of the NIMBY argument. They’re for fat rights, sure, but they’re going to impose a restrictive lifestyle on themselves and possibly their family because, personally, they don’t want to be fat(ter). Rationalize it any way you want — “Even though I want to lose X lbs I’ll still be considered fat by society’s current standards,” or “I don’t want to be thin, I just want to be a size healthier!” or what have you, it’s simply a Not-In-My-Backyard argument.

And many, many other civil rights activists more experienced and eloquent than I can tell you why the NIMBY argument is a fallacy and will only ultimately hobble any civil rights movement.

For those who aren’t quite clear on it, the prevailing science is this: fat fit people are as healthy as normal-weight fit people, on average; by far the greatest risk factor for heart disease/tII diabetes is genetics; it is a rare anti-obesity study that is *not* backed by a self-interested Pharma company, or power-player orgs like the RWJF; starving a fat child thin will *not* make him eternally healthful and youthful and will in fact likely make him shorter and stupider as well as thinner; the causal relationship between human adipose tissue and any of its so-called comorbities has not been established over nearly 100 years of obesity studies; significant weight loss is impossible to maintain for virtually all people; the correlation between weight loss and increasing health has not been extricated from the correlation between greater fitness and increasing health, or the temporary effects of weight loss itself; every since the creation of the childhood obesity epidemic, the prevalence of childhood eating disorders has soared, and keeps rising even as average weight gain is plateauing; a certain amount of fat is needed for proper brain/gallbladder functioning, and low-fat diets put these organs in danger; there’s a strong correlation between crash dieting/WLS and gallbladder problems, anemia, nutritional deficiences, as well as a whole other host of serious health issues which pale in comparison to most fat-related comorbities, including ED/WLS-related death; WLS and other similar stomach-reshaping/mutilating procedures are for many just forced bulimia; diet foods themselves are not necessarily “healthy,” and the idea of a human being living on no-fat veggies and empty fiber is nutritionally absurd (vegetarian/vegans/raw foodists need fats and proteins in their diets from “bad” foods like bean-types and nuts, and do not live on leafy greens and wheat germ alone), though these are food which are categorized as “healthy” to children, all other foods being lumped into the “bad” category upon which are imposed various levels of “moderation” and restriction; …. ad nauseam. REFERENCES: Search the Junkfood Science website for links to the proper articles, they’re all there.

Considering what we know about the science, the deep hypocrisy of the Fat NIMBY Argument becomes painfully apparent. Dieting for long-term weight loss is virtually impossible and can lead to serious physical and mental health problems: so the “I need to be a size healthier, though I won’t discriminate against you because you’re fat” means you do not accept that fat is not a choice for virtually all people, and you feed into the corrupt diet industry’s mantras and likely also feed their bloated coffers. And that is not fat acceptance, nor is it, in the long-term, good for the fat rights movement as a whole.

EDIT: I’ve included my comment on Attrice’s “Question about dieting and fat activism” post here:

I started writing a response about how dieting and being pro-fat rights can be paralleled to a “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) point of view, but it went very long and so I just made a post about it on my blog:

Summary: The “I support fat rights but personally want to lose X lbs” is similar to alternative energy activists petitioning to not have windmills mar the view from their summer beachhouses. Perhaps they are great alternative energy activists, and do wonderful things for their community, donate money to great charitable causes promoting alternative energy, go to marches and protests &etc.

But certainly one can see how the NIMBY argument is ultimately hypocrisy and thus ultimately harmful to the alternative energy movement as a whole. Those windmills have to go somewhere. Similarly, to state in one breath that for virtually all people fat is not a choice, therefore they should not be treated as moral outcasts and share equal rights with thinner individuals, and in the next breath engage in diet-talk, is ultimately hypocrisy and does *not* ultimately help the FA/FR movement.

Those fat people have to go somewhere. They’re not getting anywhere on good intentions; your dollars further bloating the coffers of the diet industry, your support of anti-obesity initiatives in what has been turned into the experimental laboratory of public school, your desire to shed fat from your own body for  whatever reason, are all silent judgments as fat(ter) people as disgusting/unhealthy/morally inferior to thin(ner) people.

That’s why diet talk is incompatible with FA/FR, and why dieters cannot ultimately help further the fat rights movement. Quite simply, one cannot allow that kind of hypocrisy in a movement and expect it to survive.

That’s not to say that dieters shouldn’t read FA blogs, or comment, as long as they understand the purpose of the blogs and each blog’s individual rules. In fact, I wish every dieter that exists read FA blogs. But a dieter cannot be a fat rights activist, in the true sense, and though well-intentioned they have the potential to harm the movement to a far greater degree than whatever they’re doing to ostensibly further it.

3 comments on “The Fat NIMBY Argument

  1. anniemcphee says:

    Ah NIMBYs. Sometimes accompanied by the phrase “Limousine Liberals” heh. Oddly, if they were to build a nuclear power plant nearby to me, so long as it was done well, built well, and hopefully in some private capacity – I wouldn’t complain. I’ve learned after 3 Mile Island that those giant cement towers aren’t big scary monsters, but rather an excellent line of defense that is the final and essential barrier to keeping people safe. Granted, we were within seconds of another Chernobyl, and to be sure it was a lousy post-it-note (or some yellow note) that was covering the essential light that would have told them something was wrong, and could have been dealt with much more quickly…but I think we’ve learned from the mistakes and just might be able to do it right this time. Other countries have. Then maybe we could stop diverting 1/3 of our FOOD crops for useless and worse-for-the-environment ethanol (the production, not the fuel itself) and maybe we could still all enjoy our high-priced and ineffective “organic” produce, which seems to cause more ecological damage than regular farming.

    Not a huge fan of the windmills that kill all the poor birds. But that’s just me. Maybe we could even build some refineries, do some rather unobtrusive drilling (sorry, but the tiny bit of ANWR – as though Alaska wasn’t bought in part because of its rich resources – wasn’t going to hurt anything) and overall reduce our dependence on foreign sources. We could stop buying gas fully refined from overseas, etc.

    Ah well, NIMBY as it pertains to fat – yes. I hear you.

    The odd thing is I totally believe someone can be dieting, have WLS, be thin, EVEN be fat-hating and totally believe in full civil rights for the fat. There are plenty of people who object to homosexuality on moral grounds that believe 100% in civil rights for gay people. You can be a devout Christian and believe (and fight for) completely equal civil rights for those of religions you find to be completely wrong – you can believe that Buddhists, atheists, Mormons, and anyone else must have their civil rights respected, and fight towards that end. They are called libertarians, and they believe that *anyone* who is not directly harming someone else or interfering with that person’s rights ought to have the right to live exactly as they please, period.

    So I don’t think it’s a real disconnect to believe 100% in genuine civil rights for ALL people, even those whom you can not possibly relate to ideologically. I certainly do.

    Now that’s fat rights, and fat liberation. In the broader terms of fat acceptance, well; we’re asking for internal change there; and many people will never do that. The person who cares for you and will fight tooth and nail for your genuine civil rights may never accept your lifestyle as being “right” or “good.” Which is fine. So long as they accept your just desert to be treated completely equally under the law in every way. Immutability is NOT the issue when it comes to rights, other oppressions are not the issue when it comes to rights – rights are the issue, and all need them.

    I can sum up the commonlaw understanding of rights in two simple statements – “Do all you have agreed to do” (the basis of contract law) and “Do not encroach upon other persons or their property” (the basis of tort law.) Upon these all else depends. In the course of understanding and fighting for your rights as such, many people will come to understand your personhood and may in turn stop being fat-hating, learn to accept themselves as well, and many other good things. But so long as they recognize those, we’re off to a good start. You can’t, and probably shouldn’t try, to legislate away personal prejudice – that only causes hard feelings and rebellion. They may well come to an understanding of fat *acceptance* by knowing simply that you are an equal human being and must be treated as such under the law. Even if inside they think “Well but they probably could do something about it – but that really doesn’t matter as concerns their rights.”

    And when people are treated equally under the law, are given equal RECOURSE under the law where their rights are violated, the social prejudices often start to turn, and people gain tolerance. What choice do they have?

    Gay people have fought for their rights tooth and nail, and they’ve fought the “but it’s UNHEALTHY” meme, and they’ve fought the “but it’s MUTIBLE” zeitgeist, and have come out with a hell of a lot of acceptance/tolerance that wasn’t there when I was a kid in the 70s.

    I’d like to see FA fight first for the genuine impingement upon actual rights that is going on right now – such as taking away children, becoming part of medical experimentation (NIH’s Final Solution), and so forth, while simultaneously proving again and again that the “health” concern is nonsense (even if it has nothing to do with rights), that the causes of fat are NOT lack of self-control or laziness (again, same argument about gay people) that people CAN NOT just switch from one to the other with a little willpower (there are some ex-gays and there are more who say trying “ex-gay” just messed them up and didn’t work) etc. Once we’ve fought for the genuine impingement upon actual rights and fought through the false stereotypes, there ought to be a lessening of the hatred.

    Right now people are brainwashed by the idea that fat people are costing them and their governments extra money, and that ridiculous meme has to lose its credibility. The rest will fall in line if we do it right.

  2. BigLiberty says:

    Wow, what a great, great comment. You’re right, of course — a person who is pro-fat rights does not necessarily have to accept fat, and can fight for fat people to be treated equally under the law.

    I suppose my fear was that if they themselves believed fat was unhealthy, how likely would they be to fight tooth and nail against good/bad food distinctions in public school? And so forth. Sorry this can’t be longer…but I do understand the concept of someone fighting for civil rights for a particular group while not being a member of that group themselves (libertarians, as you said, are a great example).

    But I have to run! I’ll write more later. 🙂

  3. anniemcphee says:

    Well, I’ve only seen one dieter in real life who really supports fat rights, so who knows lol. Most of the time they get smug and fat-hating and don’t even know why they’re seen as such asshats. So we’ll see, right? 😀

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