Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all my readers! It’s been quite a year.

I’m not as against resolutions as some, though I believe the patented New Year’s Resolution [TM] is a gigantic marketing scheme, meant to frighten or shame you in order to  sell various methods to achieve eternal Youth, Beauty, and Goodness.

The Annual Drumbeat of Shame has begun on all the networks, with peppy now-thinner success stories and drippy, guilty stories of “failure until I tried…” January is the Self-Abuse month, and as a former (well, and sometimes current) self-abuser, it can be very difficult for me to literally stomach the month. Especially since my fiance is utterly clueless when it comes to my January anxiety.

Last year I coped with it by starting this blog. This year I’ll cope with it by blogging more during the month of January. Cheers!

Suspected suicide’s weight loss chronicled in articles

I guess there’s no situation left too sacred for trumpeting a before-and-after weight loss success story.

Not even when reporting on a suspected suicide.

The first few lines from HeraldTribune.com:

The family of a Winter Haven woman who apparently fell from a cruise ship issued a statement Monday saying they fear she took her own life.

And the last paragraph:

Raymond Seitz searched for his wife, the statement said, but could not locate her, so he and his mother-in-law notified ship security about 3:30 a.m. that she was missing.

The couple met in a weight-loss support group. Both had undergone bariatric surgery. She chronicled her weight loss journey for an Orlando TV station and for some time kept an online journal of her battle to lose weight and keep it off.

At one undated point in the journal, she said she was down to a size 10 from a size 28.

At the Garden Grove Oaks, Seitz’s neighbors in the well-kept mobile home park were hopeful she is alive.

The weight loss success story is tacked on the end, going into strange detail for a story about a suspected suicide. It’s at best an attempt to grope for a motive, and at worst a suggestion that her great life success had been getting “down to a size 10 from a size 28.” Wouldn’t that be something to have on your tombstone, eh? At any rate, it’s an illustration of how weight- and size-obsessed the mainstream media, and by extension, our culture, is.

Many of the stories I’ve read about this mentions her weight loss in some way. And the sadly ironic part of the story? Even if her self-hatred is what killed her, it’s the very mainstream media reporting her suicide that promotes the thin and fit ideology that makes someone of a larger size automatically a lesser kind of person.

From WESH Florida 2 News:

On the Web site obesityhelp.com, Seitz had dozens of entries.

One reads: “Had a minor breakdown this afternoon after taking a shower and realizing how scarred and gross my body looks right now.

From the Associated Press:

The couple met in a weight loss support group; both had undergone bariatric surgery. She chronicled her weight loss journey for an Orlando TV station.

She was also a freelance writer, having written articles for The Tampa Tribune, The Ledger in Lakeland, and an online article titled, “Battling the Bulge Onboard,” about how not to gain weight while aboard a ship.

There are many, many more.

What I eat, and how much I exercise

I’m sure many of you wonder how much (and what) I eat, and how much I exercise. For someone who myth-busts the health-claims made in support of losing weight, and so forth, I should be interested in some way of being healthy and living the longest and happiest I can, correct?

That is, in fact, correct. I am. Does eating and exercise have something to do with it? Why, yes.

As for how much (and what) I eat, and how much (and how) I exercise?


I know some people catalogue their activity, as if to say, “See, I’m buying into Healthist attitudes, yet I’m still fat! Aren’t I morally upstanding, and aren’t your expectations of how one looks when they follow Healthist doctrine so very wrong?”

The problem with the above attitude is that it never calls into question whether or not tying particularly popular ideas of how to be “healthy” to moral rectitude is a good thing. It also implies that accepting a fat person is somehow conditional on whether or not they buy into Healthist propaganda.

This is not acceptance, in any way, shape or form. HAES is not fat acceptance. It’s another expression of Healthism, of Health as “goodness.” Why do I say HAES is not fat acceptance? Suppose no fat people adopted HAES-approved approaches. Then HAES wouldn’t be about fat people, it would be about how some fat (and thinner) people *could* be healthier, if only they did X and Y.

See the difference? It’s not about accepting fat. It’s another version of Healthism, of the “should” inherit in Healthist attitudes, as opposed to people who just want to do what’s best for themselves and cross their fingers that others just sod the fuck off with their misplaced concern or outright sanctimony.

There’s only one difference between a person who doesn’t believe in FA outright, and one who claims to believe in FA with an HAES-only perspective or focus: one person who promotes popular ideas of how to be “healthy” thinks those ideas will always make someone thinner, and the other person promoting a “healthy” lifestyle thinks that it won’t necessary lead to weight loss.

For those that want to defend HAES, I need to include the disclaimer that I don’t think all the ideas of HAES are phooey in my own day-to-day life. However, that’s also true for more mainstream varieties of “health.” But what I do to make myself feel better/live longer contains no inherent “should” for someone else. I don’t think it is imperative that others are active (even if we qualify activity with the words “fun” and “interesting”), and I don’t think it is imperative that others pick their brains to intuit what it is they should eat at the moment (even if there is “wiggle room” in the determination).

It’s just another group of myths and semi-truths. Does it make some people feel good to do it? Sure. But does it make them better people? No. Are people who don’t engage in it morally reprehensible, or even worse off from an *objective* health standpoint? No, and impossible to determine generally. Finally, is it fat acceptance? No, it is not. It’s just another group of people hawking yet another “healthy lifestyle.” Only this time, there are some fat people in the bunch!

Why is HAES so attractive to some people in FA? I think it gives one a weapon, a “comeback” as it were, to a troll who wants to say “Well, you can’t be fat and healthy!” The comeback: “Studies of HAES have shown to be healthier blah di blah…”

Why is the need to be seen as healthy so imperative? I think it’s less rewarding, but much more honest (and more helpful for promoting *actual* fucking fat acceptance) to tell the troll to MYOB.

It’s not easy. But fighting the moral imperative to be healthy with another form of a moral imperative to be healthy isn’t going to get fat people anywhere. The problem is with Healthism. The problem is with how Healthist attitudes are cordoning off certain subgroups of individuals and treating them like second-class citizens. And it’s *not just about fat people*, though fat is the most popular excuse used these days. It’s about smokers, and people who belong to demographics which have a greater genetic tendency to certain diseases or body characteristics.

Reject Healthism, and tell concern trolls to MYOB. Don’t apologize. Don’t detail your behavior. Tell them to get the fuck out of your clothing, and that your body is YOUR business. This goes for spouses too, certain readers of mine. No relationship, I repeat, *NO* relationship merits this kind of terrorism in the name of the Holy Grail of Health.

A Healthist Holiday Carol

A Healthist Holiday Carol

by BigLiberty at bigliberty.wordpress.com

I don’t drink, I don’t smoke,

I gulp naught but Diet Coke.

I run marathons with glee

(and I’m on my seventh knee).

Who needs love? Who needs art?

Or diplomas? A la carte?

There’s no time to get those things,

when I’m running, running rings!

On a hamster wheel I sweat,

hoping hard abs I will get.

Minutes, days, weeks slip away,

Sweating two hours a day.

Take a class? Volunteer?

How then — gasp! — shall I appear?

Fat and lazy, always sitting,

I might take up — crafts, or knitting!

I might paint, or sew, or write;

perhaps learn to cook, I might

volunteer to help children.

How would I look, then, to the men?

They wouldn’t see me sweat and bounce,

or weigh my food, ounce by ounce —

my scale would cover up with dust.

No, skinny jeans, to wear, I must!

If (or what) I think can’t matter,

I must fear all dough and batter.

Poetry, art, love, must wait,

until I’ve zipped up that size eight.

Another language I won’t learn,

another of life’s leaves won’t turn,

a new job, talent, skill, or thought,

will waste until my body’s “hot.”

Obama’s focus on “health”

Here’s a quote from a recent story about Obama’s fitness regime, in the Washington Post:

For the small group of reporters tasked with following Obama’s every move, his fitness has become a running joke repeated in the stories they file. They sit at McDonald’s while he exercises in Hawaii. They eat calorie-rich scones while he sweats at Regents Park. One reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, filing his report about one of the president-elect’s gym trips last month, noted: “While Mr. Obama worked at maintaining his lithe look, your pear-shaped pooler spent quality time at a local coffee shop.”

Cool. Glad that’s something apparently enjoyable and important for him.

I just hope that he doesn’t extend his interest in maintaining his exercise and calorie restriction to the rest of us. You know, by subsidizing behavior or food choices, which of course places an automatic hidden tax on the people/industries that don’t participate in those behaviors or buy/sell/grow those foods. Or just outright tax whatever he decides are “bad” foods. Or force everyone (or even just public school students) to work out 90 minutes a day, like him.

Although, he does mention establishing a civilian Health Corps (which could do no harm as simple aides to healthcare workers, or could do a good deal of harm as Food, BMI, or Waist Circumference monitors).

And there are, of course, these official gems, from the barackobama.com official Healthcare pdf:

Underinvestment in prevention and public health.  Too many Americans go without high-value preventive services, such as cancer screening and immunizations to protect against flu or pneumonia.  The nation faces  epidemics of obesity and chronic diseases as well as new threats of pandemic flu and bioterrorism. Yet despite  all of this less than 4 cents of every health care dollar is spent on prevention and public health.8 Our health care  system has become a disease care system, and the time for change is well overdue. [emphasis mine]

So we need to have the government bureaucrat dictate to health care providers which kind of care they ‘should’ be providing, and part of that ‘should’ is preventative care, which obviously includes weight loss programs since obesity is an “epidemic?”

What happens when a provider believes a program will do more harm than good, and don’t follow through? How many more resources are going to be poured down the throats of the already-bloated, useless, stinking corpse of the diet industry? Not only that but shared, federal resources? Am I going to be paying for someone else’s weight loss surgery, or 1200 cal/day semi-liquid no-carb ephedrine diet? And, most importantly, is there someone out there that thinks this is actually going to make people permanently thin?

The Obama-Biden plan  will improve efficiency and lower costs in the health care system by: (1) adopting state-of-the-art health information technology systems; (2) ensuring that patients receive and providers deliver the best possible care,  including prevention and chronic disease management services; [emphasis mine]

How will they “ensure,” exactly? Tax? Subsidize? Fine? Take into custody? Institutionalize? Run out of business? Who — healthcare providers? Patients? Children? Doctors? Nurses?

The next quote speaks to my fears with this administration. I’ll bold the really problematic bit, and then leave you with this obvious : “We can? Really?”

This nation is facing a true epidemic of chronic disease.  An increasing number of Americans are suffering and dying needlessly from diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and HIV/AIDS, all of which can be delayed in onset if not prevented entirely.

On paralleling breast reduction and weight loss

Bri recently wrote a very thought-provoking post on the different perceptions at Shapely Prose between breast reduction and weight loss, in general. She argues that if it is acceptable to get a breast reduction in order to ease discomfort, why isn’t it acceptable to lose weight for the same reason?

I agree with what many of the commenters said, so make sure to read their comments if you haven’t already. But I’d like to offer my own analysis of the parallel, which really gets to the core of my particular brand of FA activism.

I tend to think of my place as an FA activist more aligned with trying to debunk what I see is a moral panic/crusade against fat and fat people, rather than promoting Health At Every Size or Intuitive Eating, as some other FA blogs do. That makes my take on this issue, I think, somewhat different than that of some other FA bloggers.

To begin, I think that weight loss in order to be thinner is a significantly more morally-charged issue than breast reduction (which leads naturally to weight loss). Regardless of how one gets there, thinner people are currently viewed on average as less lazy, smarter, more stable, more beautiful, and morally ‘better’ than fatter people.

I don’t think you get the same moral value judgment being made about women who get breast reductions. Sure, there is the issue of what is considered attractive or not, and some of the decision for getting a breast reduction might have to do with aesthetics, but it is nowhere near as morally charged an issue as losing weight in order to become, overall, thinner.

There’s also the difference in health outcomes and sustainability. No diet has been shown to be largely long-term (>5 years) effective, and weight loss surgery is significantly more dangerous than breast reduction surgery, both immediately, but especially in the long term.

But even if there were a procedure to safely, permanently, and with the same risks as breast reduction surgery make someone who is fat not so fat anymore (I’m not talking about 10 lbs of liposuction here and there, obviously), there’s still the question of the moral imperative to conform to what the culture currently considers aesthetically pleasing. Should that be a thing which an FA activist such as myself promotes?

If I’m trying to bust the moral judgments based on fat, then the answer would be a resounding, “no.”

So here’s my analysis: if there were a procedure as safe and permanent as breast reduction surgery that could make a fatter person more comfortable, and they want to get it, I have no philosophical problem with that. But there isn’t. If there were, and many used it as a tool to conform to thin aesthetics rather than for comfort, I would have a philosophical problem with that, because it comes with the natural conclusion that thinner people are somehow “better” in general than fatter people.

The parallel between that and breast reduction is, in general, people don’t consider someone with breasts big enough to cause discomfort “better” than a person with breasts reduced so as not to cause discomfort. Sure, there’s a pocket of the populace that’s obsessed with large breasts, but I don’t believe even they place moral value on bigger over smaller breasts.

In conclusion, the drive to be thinner, even if there were a safe and permanent way to do so, is morally charged and thus morally divisive, while the desire to get a breast reduction is not. Also there is, unfortunately, no way to safely and permanently ease the discomfort of fat people, so it isn’t intellectually rigorous to make the parallel with breast reduction.

For instance, here’s a bit of anecdata – as an obese person, I’m not uncomfortable at all. Therefore, in the existence of a safe and permanent method of weight loss, the question would be purely moral/aesthetic. I would not do it. Not to conform, and not to appear a ‘better’ person than the fatter me. The desire to lose weight in order to conform and be ‘better’ is precisely the kind of attitude I’m trying to fight. First I refused to be an enabler by buying into the fat/thin moral value system. Secondly, I decided to become an activist in order to spread the word that this moral value system exists, is wrong, and should be obliterated else the already-suffering victims of this moral panic/crusade will suffer much, much more.

What do you think?

Obesity Tax proposed in New York

Governor Paterson proposes ‘Obesity Tax,’ a tax on non-diet sodas

Continuing in the theme of creating a deviant class out of fat people, Governor Paterson of New York will now punish a fat person’s perceived deviance by taxing that fat person’s apparently precious full-sugar sodas.

Gov. Paterson, as part of a $121 billion budget to be unveiled Tuesday, will propose an “obesity tax” of about 15% on nondiet drinks.

Guess the revenue from the cigarette taxes has begun to dry up, eh?

The so-called obesity tax would generate an estimated $404 million a year. Milk, juice, diet soda and bottled water would be exempt from the tax.

There are, of course, many problems with this proposition.

Phrasing it as an ‘Obesity tax’ is problematic on its face, because although it does take advantage of the popular act of getting a good jab at a deviant class, not all people who drink soda regularly are fat.

This is in contrast to the cigarette tax, which was meant to take a jab at the deviant class of smokers. Regular smokers are most certainly addicted to nicotine. Regular soda drinkers are fat, thin, and in-between. Not to mention that there hasn’t been any convincing, rigorous proof that sugar is addictive like nicotine. The only evidence that could possibly be put forward is that people who eat sugar are likely to do so again at some point, since it can stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain (as many enjoyable activities, including the ‘runner’s high,’ do).

This leads to another glaring problem with this proposed tax: while the cigarette tax banked on the addiction to nicotine to ensure a steady revenue stream, true sugar addicts are rare. This means this tax is going to generate little or no additional revenue, and might even cause a deficit, as the tax has to be enforced administratively.

“I’ll just buy less,” said Victor Lopez, 55, of Manhattan, as he drank a Coke at a midtown Subway store.

“I don’t like to buy Diet Coke,” said Amaury Garcia, 16, who works at a flower shop in Penn Station. “I’ll just not buy any sodas if it goes up.”

Good for you, Victor and Amaury. Let’s hope your state doesn’t go ahead with this fascist measure, so you can drink whatever the hell you want without the elitist judgmentalism of the State picking your pockets in an attempt to control your behavior.

Public health advocates welcomed news of the tax, saying it would help the fight against childhood obesity.

“Raising the price of this liquid candy will put children and teens on a path to a healthier diet,” said Elie Ward of the American Academy of Pediatrics of New York State.

Good thing I don’t believe in ‘public health.’ Get your goddamned nannying out of my refrigerator.

Albany Soda Party, anyone?

We are, indeed, in a new age of Intolerable Acts.

I call on all people who believe in liberty, freedom, and the right to do whatever the damned hell you want for or against your body without intrusion by the State. The ultimate weapon of the government against the right to govern your own body is the belief in so-called ‘public health.’

Once the idea of personal health is tied into the fate of one’s neighbors, you lose your body autonomy, your most fundamental individual right.

Speak out against the ‘Obesity Tax,’ and its inevitable sons and daughters. Nip that idea in the bud now, before you wake up one day and discover that you’ve sacrificed your body autonomy on the alter of ‘public health.’

To Write To The Governor:
David A. Paterson
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224


To Email The Governor:
Click here to email the Governor.

Responses may be sent via the U.S. Mail.

For Information on Legislation:
Please access the New York State Legislative
Session Information page at

Creating a deviant class: “There’s something wrong with you”

What are the ingredients of a deviant class?

First of all, there has to be an easy marker of deviance. You need to be able to look at someone, or know minimal information about them (like where they live, or who their parents were, etc) and then deduce an inherent ‘wrongness.’

Since we live in the age of Healthism, I’ll call this pathologizing.

There is a good amount of agreement out there on the subject of Health – if you do not strive to be Healthy, then you’re not as good as those who do. If you are perceived to be actively damaging your Health, or passively not fixing what others perceive is fixable, there is something ‘wrong’ with you.

Even the sympathetic, nurturing professions of the world will agree with this.

Talk to a doctor – if you don’t follow their regimen and ‘correct’ the perceived flaw permanently, there is nothing wrong with the regimen, or their perception. No, you’re ‘noncompliant.’

Talk to a therapist – you must be ‘addicted,’ or ’emotionally unstable,’ or ‘have daddy issues’ if you’re exhibiting the perceived flaw. You engage in apparent unhealthy activities as a coping mechanism. You look unhealthy because you must be engaging in unhealthy activities, which means you must be fixed. If the flaw does not get corrected via therapy, you are ‘noncompliant,’ or ‘resistant.’

The main ingredient of a deviant class the perceived unwillingness to conform to the non-deviant class. ‘Resistant,’ ‘noncompliant’ — that’s the sort of language used to condemn and point out the ‘wrongness’ of the deviant individual.

The final ingredient of a deviant class is the perception that if members of the class are allowed to remain deviant (i.e., not forced to conform) they will be an imminent threat to, or at the very least a pox on, the members of the non-deviant class.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Fat and pregnancy: resources for debunking risk factor myths

This blog does not set out to directly debunk the myths surrounding the dangers between fat and health. There are other sites that focus on this, though, as a mathematician, I will from time to time step in and have a few choice words about research-based statistical analyses (which are 80% of the conclusions made by most authors). I’d argue, in fact, a mathematician is the best interpreter of the real results of these studies, and not medical professionals. But that’s neither here nor there.

I did, however, want to compile a list of resources which will help fat pregnant women (or fat women who want to become pregnant) debunk the junk science correlations between fat and reproductive disorders and pregnancy complications. Often such studies are done on fat infertile women, or fat women with PCOS, and applied in blanket, press-release fashion to all fat women. Other studies can’t even find the correlations they’re looking for, unless they chop their study group down to a statistically meaningless size, or don’t correct for comorbidities (like PCOS or family history) when making conclusions about correlations.

Here is the list so far. I will be editing this from time to time, and will keep this post linked on the sidebar for easy access.

If you want to search on your own, I recommend this particular search of Junkfood Science’s archives.

Another blank missile fired at fat pregnant women

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was led by Susan Y. Chu, Ph.D, and colleagues at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC and Kaiser Permanente*. The primary objective of this study “was to estimate the maternal healthcare services associated with obesity during pregnancy.” More precisely, they were looking for correlations between pre-pregnancy BMIs and length of hospital stays when the women had their babies.

After they adjusted for age, multi-parity (number of pregnancies), race, delivery and other conditions, the total hospitals stays averaged 4.4 days for the “normal” weight and “overweight” women … and 4.5 days for all of the “obese” women, regardless of how fat they were.

Fat women of child-bearing age targeted again:

The 2001 study cited, was a retrospective analysis of a maternity database, which had recorded women’s BMIs when they were booked at maternity units in London. The authors from the Imperial College School of Medicine at St. Mary’s Hospital used computer modeling to look for correlations to pregnancy outcomes. Interestingly, they redefined ‘obesity’. Women with BMIs 25-29.9 (labeled worldwide as “overweight”) were defined as being “moderately obese,” leading to a larger group of “obese” women which would overstate any correlations with ‘obesity.’ The risks associated with “obesity” were also reported as odds ratios — a way to compare two groups based, not on actual incidences of stillbirths, but by comparing odds and can greatly exaggerate correlations that aren’t actually significant.

Even so, this study still found no tenable correlations between high BMIs and intrauterine deaths (odds ratio 1.10-1.40), nothing beyond random chance and happenstance.

Another study cited in the review, as supporting risks for stillbirths four times greater among ‘obese’ women compared to ‘normal’ weight women, had been published in the American Journal of Public Health. … Here again, the authors reported correlations as odds ratios. Despite all of this, however, the researchers were unable to find any correlations with adverse pregnancy health outcomes that were tenable and beyond what might appear by chance. And concerning stillbirths? As the authors said: “We were unable to include fetal death as an outcome because the birth certificate database includes only live births… we were unable to assess the risk of fetal death in relation to maternal BMI.” So, this study cited in the Australian review didn’t support its assertion of a higher risk for stillbirths.

The final study cited in this review paper as evidence of higher stillbirths associated with obesity was an observational study using data from computer-assisted telephone interviews of women in Denmark. … They also reported the correlations using odds (hazard) ratios. Overall, the Danish study found no tenable association between BMI and fetal deaths from 13 weeks gestation to >40 weeks. There was also no correlation between pregnancy weight gain and stillbirths, nor were risks for stillbirths associated with “obesity-related” diseases in pregnancy.

Pre-eclampsia: a disease of malnutrition

But perhaps the single biggest factor which has been linked to pre-eclampsia is poor diet: if a woman is malnourished and living in a stressful environment, the risk is even greater. Unfortunately, many practitioners are ignorant of what constitutes a proper diet for pregnancy. When nutrition is studied, the research shows an obsessive focus on single nutrients, like magnesium, given in isolation, instead of a holistic dietary approach.

In the meantime, the published evidence on diet is very clear. The only clinicians who have managed to completely eradicate pre-eclampsia are those who have taken steps to ensure women are fed properly. This means receiving daily high protein in the form of milk, eggs and meat, as well as daily servings of leafy green vegetables and fruit. The daily calorie intake should be around 2,800 and should include 80-100 g of protein.

Common sense, some would say, yet so many doctors still recommend calorie and weight restriction during pregnancy, forgetting that a diet for pregnancy is not necessarily a diet for life. This tunnel vision may only worsen with a recent study which concluded that the “liberal” weight gain now recommended (25-35 pounds) during pregnancy is not necessary (Lancet, 1998; 351: 1054-5).

Science by press release

Today’s media has been filled with stories of a new study by Dr. Artal and colleagues at St. Louis University School of Medicine, purportedly showing that fat pregnant women should lose weight to avoid pregnancy complications and avoid having a fat baby. “Obese women don’t have to gain any weight during their pregnancy,” he said in the press release. “Pregnancy is a big factor in this [obesity] epidemic.” … “The findings are significant in addressing a major public health crisis …. This study confirms what we’ve suspected all along — that obese women don’t have to gain any weight during their pregnancy,” Dr. Artal said.

But it didn’t.

This was not an interventional trial to examine if controlling weight gain improved pregnancy outcomes, it was an observational study looking for correlations among a database of ‘obese’ pregnant women in Missouri who delivered term babies (37 or more weeks gestation) from 1990 to 2001.

The women who were heaviest, for instance, were also more likely to be poorer, minority women and most likely to delay seeking prenatal care. As the March of Dimes explains, for instance, pregnant women facing very stressful situations, such as low socioeconomic status, long working hours, strenuous or stressful work, long commutes to work or unemployment, have higher rates of preeclampsia. So, not surprisingly, slightly higher preeclampsia rates were also correlated with the heavier women in this cohort. Another important note is that the heaviest women in this study population were also older and higher maternal age is also associated with higher rates of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Good prenatal care can effectively care for these conditions to ensure safe pregnancies and healthy babies.

More resources will be added later.

Have resources/articles debunking fat as a risk factor for pregnancy and reproductive complications? Please post them using the comment field below.

Bad Fatty Revolutionary

Good fatties, bad fatties. For a long time there have existed the stereotypes of two groups which exist within the fat acceptance movement. I think the good fatty/bad fatty debate is an important part of outlining how FA can become a more effective movement, by taking a hard look at what kind of discrimination against fat people in which our own members engage.

The worst thing for a movement is to have some members who are engaging in hypocrisy, with that hypocrisy not being condemned by the more vocal members of the movement. It creates a weak spot at which our opponents can readily plunge a rhetorical knife. I think the hypocrisy in which some of our members engage, and a hypocrisy which threatens to kill the movement or at the least make it a joke, is Healthism.

Healthism, as I define it, is the act of making health a moral imperative. That is, to be a worthwhile, contributing member of society, you should attempt to be at the best health possible. If you do not, then your worth as an individual goes down. Healthism dictates that the unhealthy are harmful, unattractive, a drain on society, stupid, and otherwise deviant.

There seems to be a dichotomy within FA, in which some members engage in and support Healthism in one way or another, and others do not. Sometimes this is political – a fundamental belief in the importance of public health at times can breed a Healthist attitude – and sometimes it is personal.

It’s my opinion that the Healthist members of FA are the ones who are stereotyped as “good fatties.” Here is my list of the most common stereotypical behaviors associated with being a “good fatty:”

  • Outlining, in detail, their exercise regime.
  • Outlining, in detail, what they eat, or saying simply, “But I eat healthy, I’m a [INSERT HEALTHIST DIETARY GROUP HERE].”
  • Being Healthist in general – that is, claiming that being healthy is an important social goal and good and should be an individual goal for everyone – but decrying fat discrimination in the next breath.
  • Hinting that if there were a safe, proven way to become thin, they would abandon their fat bodies.
  • Being personally opposed to the same deviant behavior fat-haters blame on all fat people: laziness, lack of willpower, stupidity, bad hygiene – and breathlessly reiterating over and over again that they are not one of “those” fat people (sometimes by claiming those fat people don’t exist!).
  • Being so obsessed with mythbusting they don’t realize they’re creating a sub-deviant class within the group of fat people, which isn’t protected by their brand of fat acceptance – “bad fatties.”

And here are the possibly well-known stereotypes of being a “bad fatty”:

  • Not caring about health.
  • Eating fast food more than once a month.
  • Eating convenience store snacks more than once a week.
  • Sometimes eating when they’re not hungry, or not eating when they are hungry.
  • Not paying attention to what food they are eating, and whether or not it is “healthy” by some standard or definition, or whether or not it satisfies a particular craving or it just happens to taste good at the moment.
  • Not exercising regularly, and worse, not acknowledging the importance of regular exercise as a health imperative.
  • Believing it isn’t anyone’s business what they are eating, how much they are exercising, and what constitutes their family dinners. Not recognizing a social moral imperative attached to health.
  • Not believing in public health.

Again, these are stereotypes, listed to make a point and to paint a vivid picture. Most people don’t fall neatly into these kinds of categories, adopting some or the other behaviors and viewpoints.

However, according to these lists, I’m very staunchly in the “bad fatty” category.

Why I believe the FA movement needs more vocal “bad fatty revolutionaries”:

Simply put, because the Healthist arguments subdivide fat people into “less deviant” and “more deviant” subclasses. When engaging in Healthist behaviors or making Healthist arguments, you must understand that you’re playing the fat-loathers’ game. You’re buying into their rhetoric, and agreeing with them that wanting to be healthy is indeed a moral imperative, makes a person more or less fuckable, makes an individual more or less intelligent, and so forth.

That means every myth-busting argument you put forth — “But don’t you understand that fat isn’t necessarily unhealthy?” — is played out on their turf. And you know what they can do, what they often do, that takes the wind out of our sails and stops us dead in our tracks?

Say, “You’re lying,” to whatever facts we present. “I’ve got more evidence to back up my claims,” they say, thrusting forward mountains of epidemiological studies that we’ve already debunked, convinced of our bias. “Any doctor you ask will tell you that being fat is unhealthy,” they continue, appealing to authority. “You’re just looking for an excuse to be fat,” they conclude, convinced of our bias, inexpertise, and emotional instability.

My question to all FAers out there: Why are we playing their game in the first place?

We need to change the conversation away from health. Sure, we know we can myth-bust until we’re blue in the face, and the more rigorous, less publicized evidence is overwhelmingly in support of our claims. It doesn’t matter. This is the age of science-by-press-release. Facts and hard evidence don’t have a prayer.

We need to become bad fatty revolutionaries. Instead of apologizing for behaviors that are acceptable amongst thinner people but not fatter people, instead of playing into the stereotypes and showing them that you’re an active member of their world and still fat, reject their world. Reject the moral imperative of Healthism.

Healthism is nothing more than a system of status-determination based on appearance. “You can tell whether or not someone is high or low status (read: healthy) based on how fat or thin (read: unhealthy) they are.” It’s easy. You don’t even have to know someone to know what your and his/her respective statuses are, whether or not you’re “better” than him/her. All you have to do is look.

Healthist FAers — “good fatties” — play into that game, though they slightly change the definitions. You can’t tell by just looking, they claim. You need to ask them about their exercise and nutritional regimes, perhaps their BP and blood sugar numbers, first. Perhaps also their family history of disease. Then you can make that determination. But still, status and superiority are determined — by health!

The hard truth is that Healthism hasn’t done a damned thing for the movement. Since we are in the age of science by press release, it makes us look like a bunch of crazy hypocrites. We look like we’re espousing health at the same time we are, ourselves, espousing unhealth (by accepting fat). No wonder we’re not taken seriously.

It’s time we make them play on our turf, and reject the moral imperative of health. Here are the points I suggest should be stressed:

  • Our bodies, our business.
  • Our health is between us and our doctor.
  • The concern of family members and friends for our perceived health does more harm than good.
  • We’re adults. Stop treating us as if we have the emotional and mental capacity of five year-olds. We reject your disgusting condescension.
  • Our bodies, our business. You have no right to tell me what should or should not go in my mouth. You have no right to demand that I exercise.
  • Beauty standards change. What’s fuckable today might not be fuckable tomorrow. Using body size in leiu of “health” as an excuse to determine fuckability is as capricious as using skin color, hair color, height, country of origin, religion, favorite book, etc. It’s not hard-wired, it’s a cultural creation.
  • Discrimination against fat people is always hate. Any excuse to find a fat person inferior in any way due to their fatness is bigotry. And yes, this extends to attractiveness. It might not be your fault that you’re a bigot, but you still are.
  • Grow up. What we eat and how much we exercise does not make us a more or less worthwhile person. It is not a determinant of willpower, control, sexiness, intelligence, hygeine, parental fortitude, femininity, masculinity, bravery, and so forth.
  • Our bodies, our business. Our health is between us and our doctors and yes, sometimes doctors are wrong, too. We must always be vigiliant that their techniques do more good than harm, because doctors are people, too. They can be bigots. They can make mistakes. Being informed patients is never, ever a bad thing. If we are wrong, they are free to explain to us why, or to refer us to sources so that we better understand why. Our bodies, our business. Our health, our and our doctor’s business.
  • The Obesity Epidemic is a moral panic, and the War on Obesity is a moral crusade. The torch-carriers are Healthists. Their weapons are science by press release, and the belief in the moral imperative of health.

Change the dialogue. Give up on Healthist rhetoric – it does the movement more harm than good. Make health a private matter. Don’t apologize for being fat, or qualify your status by explaining how you’re still a “good person” because you buy into the edicts of Healthism.

Our bodies, our business.

Our health, between us and our doctor, and we have a duty to be informed patients and challenge our doctors who are themselves people and therefore fallible.

Science by press release has taken facts out of the public dialogue, which ultimately dooms fat-accepting Healthist arguments.

Our bodies, our business.

We’re adults. I reject your condescension, your attempts to infantilize me which are directly connected to your desire to gain as much status over me as possible.

Healthism is a class system. It creates deviant classes which the superior classes are free to treat as subhuman and worthless. Reject Healthism. It is ultimately incompatible with fat acceptance, since it forces Healthist fat people to reject un-Healthist fat people, which is no acceptance at all.