I was talking to a friend of mine who had asked permission to ask me a question that would “probably piss me off”. This is always a good time. I actually don’t mind at all, I’d rather people ask me their fat people questions than just wonder.
Sure, what’s on your mind…
“I eat ok but I have dessert and french fries. And I exercise sometimes but not a lot. I’ve never dieted but I stay within the recommended BMI, so it seems like most fat people would just have to eat a little better and exercise a little more and they would be thin.”
There are about a hundred things wrong with this and I’ll break it down in a second but I think that it’s indicative of the way that some naturally thin people feel about fat people.
There’s a saying “Born on third, thinks he hit a triple”. It refers to someone who has made the mistake of thinking that their behaviors are completely responsible for where they are in life, especially if it’s obvious that person had distinct advantages. I think that this is what happens with a lot of naturally thin people. Often they don’t mean it intentionally – they don’t even realize that they are doing it, but they make the assumption that what keeps them thin would keep everyone thin. And that brings us to our quote breakdown:
“I eat ok but I have dessert and french fries sometimes. And I exercise sometimes but not a lot. I’ve never dieted and I stay within the recommended BMI, so it seems like most fat people would just have to eat a little better and exercise a little more and they would be thin.”
First, she is assuming that all bodies react to foods the same, and that anyone bigger than she is must be eating more and exercising less than she does. It’s just not true. Two people can have the same diet and very different body sizes. Two other people can have vastly different diets and the same body size.
Second, even if it was true that all people bigger than her are eating more and exercising less, it assumes that eating less and exercising more will result in long-term weight loss. Based on all the available science, intentional weight loss based on caloric restriction and increased activity has an abysmal long-term success rate.
This kind of attitude also assumes that fat people haven’t tried these things already. That always kills me – people who suggest that I add exercise as if there’s no way I could have heard of it before. Most of the fat people I know have spent a huge portion of their lives dieting. Which brings me to my final point: I think that the key sentence here is “I’ve never dieted”. We know that food deprivation (aka dieting) changes people psychologically and physically. And it appears that the earlier it starts, the more it affects us. Since this woman’s parents didn’t put her on diets at 8, she probably had a better chance at being whatever size her body is meant to be naturally – in her case thin.
If being thin comes easily to you you might want to consider that you were born on third, not that the rest of us haven’t swung that bat. Regardless, it doesn’t matter what behaviors someone credits with their body size – that doesn’t obligate anyone else to do the same thing. Personal responsibility doesn’t mean that I’m personally responsible to do what someone else thinks I should do or to look like someone else thinks I should look.
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