VFHT: The Vague Future Health Threat

This happens to me all the time:  I’m in a conversation with someone who thought it was appropriate to make random guesses about my health based only on my size.  I’ve quelled my rage, given them the benefit of the doubt, and asked permission to suggest another point of view – to which they’ve agreed. I’ve explained that there are other beliefs out there, I’ve explained about the science.  I’ve explained  Health at Every Size.  I’ve explained that there are plenty of people with the same food and lifestyle choices who have vastly different body sizes – both healthy and unhealthy.  I’ve explained that health is not entirely within our control, that it is neither an obligation nor a barometer of worthiness.  I say that I’m happy with the prioritization of my health and the path I’ve chosen to support my health.

Then it happens.  The VFHT:  The Vague Future Health Threat.

It sounds like this “Well, you may be healthy now, but it will catch up to you someday”.  They look triumphant because the VFHT is indefensible.

Now instead of completely quelling my rage and giving them the benefit of the doubt, I’m just fighting the urge to set this person on fire. It’s not just the person I’m talking to –  it’s also that this is the the 10 zillionth time I’ve heard this over the past 13years. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll be 102 years old and still pressured to diet so that it doesn’t “catch up to me”.

I find this to be paternalist, ignorant, unsupported, and annoying for the following reasons:

1. Typically this person has already inaccurately assessed my current health (ie “Nobody can be healthy at your weight”) but now they want me to believe that they can accurately predict my future health.

2.  Everyone is going to die. There is a 100% chance.  I just happen to live in a culture where it almost doesn’t matter why I die – someone will blame it on my fat.  That doesn’t make it true.  This “it will catch up to you” claim is just not supported by the available science, and of all the people who’ve VFHT’d me in my life, NOT ONE has accepted my invitation to cite his/her research (including doctors).

3.  What if I changed the rules of the lottery so that if  you lost, you had to pay the lottery money as a penalty?  Now not only is your chance of winning infintesimmaly small,  but there is a near 100% chance that you’ll end up with LESS money than you had after you bought the ticket.  Would you play?  Now imagine that this isn’t your money we’re talking about – it’s your long term health.  There is not a single study that proves that any weight loss method is effective long term, but many studies indicate that weight cycling (yo-yo dieting) is less healthy than being obese.  Since diets have such an abysmal failure rate over statistically significant sample sizes, if I go on just 2 diets where I lose weight and gain it back (and I have a very high chance of doing just that both times), then I’ve likely damaged my current good health and endangered my future health on a roll of the dice that was obviously a losing bet from the beginning.  The person VFHTing me is asking that I do something they can’t prove is possible, for a reason they can’t prove is valid, with a very high percentage that I’ll end up less healthy at the end.  I’ll pass.

So what do you say to the VFHT?

Here are some possible responses broken down by category.  (As always, I never try to change someone else’s behavior. I ask for qualification and/or I set my boundaries and consequences. )

Quick and simple:

  • It’s not your place to make guesses about my future health.
  • My health is not your business.   (If, at this point, they bring up tax payer dollars or health care costs, I ask them for an itemized list of things for which their local, state, and federal taxes pay, or health problems that people develop for which causation cannot be proven;  broken down into categories of things they are happy to pay for, and things they don’t want to pay for. If they don’t happen to have that list on hand, I let them know that I’ll be happy to discuss it once they do.)

More detailed/scientific

  • I don’t know of a single statistically significant, properly controlled scientific study that supports that statement.  So, either cite your research or I’m going to assume that I know more about this than you do and you are just talking without actually knowing what you’re talking about.  (Or “talking out of your ass”, depending on my mood).
  • You have no way to know that.  Cite your research or I will assume that you are putting my health at risk by talking about things for which you have no actual knowledge or qualifications.  That is completely unacceptable to me.

The pointed response (feel free to mix and match questions/responses with boundary statements)

  • How dare you make assumptions about my health?  it’s not your place to discuss my health with me.
  • I find you completely unqualified to make that statement. Please keep your opinions about my health to yourself.
  • My health is not your business and you are not allowed to comment on it.
  • You will immediately stop making guesses and assumptions about my future health or this conversation is over.
  • I appreciate what I assume are good intentions, but I’m simply not interested in your opinions about my health.

The snarky responses (I don’t actually recommend these because I prefer some kind of productive conversation if possible, but it’s fun to think about)

  • I had no idea you could predict the future!   Would you mind giving me tomorrow’s lottery numbers?
  • Actually the fat doesn’t have to catch up with me – I keep it right here…unless you saw some back there that I lost?
  • I totally forgot that being thin makes me immortal – thank god you told me or I might have died some day.
  • I meant to tell you that I’m actually worried about you.  I read on a website that we are about to experience another ice age and without fat stores to keep you alive and warm, you’re absolutely going to freeze to death.  I know it sounds weird but it was on the internet so you know it must be true and I think you should immediately go and tell everyone.

Remember that in many cases you get to choose how people treat you.  If you decide that they don’t get to VFHT you, then you just need to put that plan into action, set boundaries and consequences and get after it.

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24 thoughts on “VFHT: The Vague Future Health Threat

  1. Another amazing blog as usual. I was driving myself batshit crazy(a short drive for moi) on the Marie Claire controversy and would love to reference you (hence my mention of you on POS page the other day) about the wisdom of your words and how physically fit you are,as well as a good role model, trying to show my admiration, not a stalker…
    The problem is, and you already know this, is we are predisposed from the time we are fetuses, to find adipose is not being attractive,if not downright repulsive, in addition to being unhealthy. That’s probably the #1 reason why people can’t get past the fact that people in the long run are doing more harm then good with the VFHT because they are fighting their bodies natural set points but also concious and unconciously we have been told from the time we are young that being fat is unhealthy, when really people are conciously or subconciously worried about aesthesics.The medical community is making it worse because some “medical experts” are fat phobes and are insisting it’s impossible to be of weight and be healthy.
    As an anti-wls,size acceptance and fat activist, what’s killing me coming from the whole Marie Claire controversy is that I have FB buds, who are wls cheerleaders, not many of them,cause couldn’t handle it, but some. A lot of the bloggers in the arena are double talking out of their asses, they hate being fat so much they resort to surgically altering their digestive systems, they promote somehow intentionally or unintentionally that they had no lives prior to wls (kind f along the lines of what you wrote when you did the “Jennifer Hudson, Can’t” blog, then they decry an anorexic blogger who has an fucking idiot of an editor, when a blog comes out that a lot of people buy into or selling themselves, of how unhealthy and unsightly being fat is…
    I am glad you are as wise as you are this young not to torture yourself this way. Write about it if you must to educate, but don’t let it get you down. I never thought it was ok to hate others for being fat, but I hated myself for being fat(longer ass story their) But between being miserable about being fat, and being so hell bent on getting skinny, being on lifelong diets, bulemia and wls, I am totally disabled now. But at least I get it, you already do, fuck those who don’t…

  2. oops, when I write fast, because I am so physically impaired and intellectually disabled, I know the difference between their,they’re and there, but my English usage overall,sentence structure is abysmal, I used to be a really intelligent, productive individual.Not so much now a days, actually for a long time.. Where were you 40 years ago, could have used role models like you a long time ago…:(

  3. I met an awesome woman at a party a few years ago who happened to have grown up in German. She told me that when someone feels the need to share the intimate details of his/her life/opinions when not contextually appropriate to the relationship, there is an expression in German that approximately translates to, “What, did we raise goats together as children?” I have used that a number of times and it usually shuts people up in a hurry. Though I am unclear if the subsequent silence is from the explicit notation of their social impropriety or just plain confusion. But feel free to add it to your list of effective, snarky comebacks.

    1. May I please steal this line? I literally cracked up laughing when I read it. Obviously it won’t work as well with the parental units as they saw me as a child, but anyone else who would like to VFHT me might take a slight double-take if I were to say this.

  4. There’s a similar expression in French that translates to “did I ask if your grandmother rides a bicycle?”

    My favorite of all the helpful responses you list is “I totally forgot that being thin makes me immortal”!

  5. Wow, I can’t believe people actually cite their tax dollars to you to your face . . . I mean, I believe you saying it, I just find it hard to believe people are willing to walk around all day and be so horrible. Good for you, Ragen, for fighting the good fight in person and online.

  6. When people use that VFHT on me, I tell them that since I’ve been DEATHFATZ for over 30 years, and had normal blood sugar/blood pressure/cholesterol numbers for that whole time, I really don’t think that my fat is going to kill me at any time in the vague future. And if I had a dollar for every time a doctor told me I’d be dead in 5 years if I didn’t lose 200 lbs immediately, I’d be rich – that usually shuts them up. After all, 30 years is a long time to be DEATHFATZ, and I’m almost 57, and not even close to keeling over yet (I come from a long line of DEATHFATZ women who all lived until their mid- to late-80s).

  7. Oh man I can’t tell you how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! Seriously I hate when people use the health line for justifying their hatred towards me being fat. It gets old and it gets tiring and its just plain rude!

    My mom still doesn’t believe that I can be healthy at this weight. She makes me get my blood tested and my thyroid tested and all sorts of tests! Even when they all come back perfectly fine she still tells me that i need to lose weight or else.

    I have finally come to the point in my life where I just refuse to listen and believe what people say without them giving me research and facts that have been proven. I am a chemistry major and I believe in hard cold facts to believe in something! I wouldn’t cut off my leg simply because someone tells me to without facts and research to prove why I should. And I won’t listen to people that tell me I should lose weight simply because they tell me to. Show me the facts and the research!

    Its so frustrating and sad that people so blindly believe that weight=health even when given facts about my health like blood tests!

    Seriously this is an awesome blog I am glad that you write this blog and that I get the chance to read it!

  8. I just discovered your blog and are reading around now. It’s awesome!

    Another snarky remark, applicable only after the other person has already done a double-whammy on VFHT *and* tax money: “So just imagine how much money you’ll save if the fat kills me.”

    Or, “Yeah, I like living dangerously. I also play soccer, go skiing and fix things around the house.”

  9. Hilariously, the last person I got a VFHT from was my doctor– right after she got done reading me my perfectly excellent bloodwork numbers! “Your cholesterol is great, your blood sugar is great. Lose the weight now, it’ll all catch up to you.”

  10. This is a great site! Thank you so much for writing this. I am also infuriated when doctors give me the vague future health threat. It’s why I hate going to the doctor. When I point out that all my vitals are perfect and that I eat well (I could afford to be more active, I admit) and they answer with “Well, if you you would just lose 10% of your weight, it would help…for the future” I just want to scream. I’ve been up and down 20lbs in the past, and I don’t feel any healthier when I’m lighter. In fact, it’s usually from outrageous stress!

    Anyway, keep it up! I love it!

  11. I like this post very much! I work in a gym and the constant fat-hatred gets me down. It’s so great to have posts like this to read! I don’t know any actual humans in person who can press 1000 pounds with their legs, so I’m very impressed indeed!!!!! I’m working on nailing a 400 pound deadlift before the year is out.

  12. Ragen, I’m new to your blog and I’d just like to say that WordPress needs to figure out a way for me to “like” every post you make automagically because I find myself doing that. 🙂

    I’m someone who was deathly skinny for a lot of years and very ill with Type 2 Diabetes (undiagnosed because I was skinny and they never bothered to take my blood sugar until I got pregnant) and celiac disease. With celiac undiagnosed I was hungry 24 -7, in a bad Oh-my-god-I-cant-stop-eating kind of way, so eventually I gained weight, *then* lo and behold my A1C got taken because I was “fat” (not really IMO) and they “discovered” that I had diabetes. Except, as I remind my GP every once in a while, I’d had the same symptoms since I was a teen and skinny. Go figure. 😐

    So now I’m overweight by the BMI chart and my GP continually *promises* that if I’d lose 50 lbs my diabetes would be “cured”. And then I remind him that I was skinny with the same symptoms and that he can’t really say that, now can he. I have to say he’s intelligent enough to stop right there since he wasn’t my doctor when I was skinny and knows I’m a computer engineer with which he wouldn’t want to play the numbers game.

    I’m healthier now than I ever have been and I’m 40 and obese by the insurance companies estimation. I, too, think “healthy weight” is a myth that needs to stop being used as a reason for drs to push their agenda.

    1. Hi Tree,

      Welcome to the blog and thank you for all of your awesome comments! Also thank you for telling your story – I think that it’s a story that a lot of people can relate to. I’m really happy that you have found a path to health that is working for you, and I’m glad that you stumbled onto the blog, I’ll look forward to “seeing” you around here more.


      1. I also have the experience of gaining weight and improving my health at the same time. I’m a former vegetarian who ate no dairy for 3 years, I also have diabetes (type 1), and after a while I found I had testosterone depletion. I started eating a whole bunch of cream and butter, the foods I had been led to believe were bad for me, I gained ten kilograms, and I corrected the testosterone deficiency. Kinda does my head in a bit when I think about it. I corrected (an aspect of) my metabolic dysfunction, and became fatter in the process, which is the exact opposite of what we’re told will happen when we correct metabolic dysfunction. Also, I have excellent insulin sensitivity. And according to the BMI, I’m obese. Never been healthier. I’m one of the ‘a lot of people’ who can relate to your story!

  13. I admire you more and more, lady!I love brave people like you, who arent afraid to stand their ground.You are my superstar!

  14. I am so glad I found your blog. Your research is great. I have been working on adjusting my self perception and body image. I have also worked on trusting my body’s hunger cues and signals.

    I just want to share that I just had my fifth baby. I had a new obgyn with this one. He got a little concerned about my weight gain but I was able to tell him what happened with my fourth baby. I woke up three days after he was born and peed for so long I should have had a stopwatch to time it. It happened a few times that night. The next morning my weight had dropped 15 pounds and I could see my ankles again. By the end of the week I was down to my prepregnancy weight. I was shocked and relieved. So I told my doctor that I was aware of my weight gain but I had faith in my body. I had also bought cute clothes that fit after my fourth baby (because I was accepting my body at that size and being patient with a program of eating when I am hungry and stopping when I am full) and so when I delivered my fifth baby everyone at church was amazed because I was back in those same clothes again. Sure I still have a flabby tummy and when I try to walk or run my body reminds me that it is still recovering from having baby number five 3 months ago but I look fabulous because I am loving myself at the size I am now and I can wear the beautiful clothes that fit me right now. Your blog is a good reminder that I am a beautiful woman right now as I am and that is enough.

    1. I teach and use a program called Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). There’s a part where we discuss not allowing people, doctors included, to make dire predictions about our future. I love this article and I will use the suggestions. I absolutely believe that we do teach people how to treat us. I notice the more I speak my truth while staying as emotionally nuetral as possible the more effective my message is. I used to get so angry, but now I don’t give my power away so easily.

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