I Can’t Believe I’m Not Butter!

I was on a panel for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. At one point the dietician decided to remind us all that a pound of fat is the same as four sticks of butter and then went on to talk about how losing a half pound is “losing two sticks of butter” (said with disgust and grabbing and shaking her upper arm for emphasis.)

I pointed out that it might not be the wisest thing to suggest that people think of their bodies as sticks of butter to lose (especially not, you know, on an EATING DISORDER AWARENESS panel!).  This is one of the side effects of focusing on weight instead of health that I think is both really dangerous and overlooked.

When the focus is on weight, then people are often encouraged to like part of their body and hate part of their body, the idea being that the part of them that is fat is “the enemy” to be fought.  The problem with that is that people walk around with their bodies 100% of the time and hating part of themselves is not necessarily the best thing for people’s mental health.

One of the things I like about a Health at Every Size Perspective is that the focus is on habits and choices and nobody is encouraged to hate any part of themselves.

I think that as a society we have a dangerous tendency to completely overlook the mental aspects of health when it comes to people of size, often ignoring the toll it takes on people when they are told that until they get thin their bodies are proof that they are unhealthy, lazy, lacking in willpower, less intelligent, less productive, etc.), or that they should think of their bodies as gross, or thinking that if there is any chance that constant shame, stigma and humiliation will make them thin then it’s worth it and I don’t believe that’s the case at all.

When we take the attention off weight then we get to focus on health with none of the hate, which seems to me like the best of both worlds.

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31 thoughts on “I Can’t Believe I’m Not Butter!

    1. I am not really surprised. A ton of women with eating issues end up with an RD at the end of their name, and end up counseling eating disorder patients on what to do.

      It is common in accounts I have read of receiving professional eating disorder treatment. Many women have said that they have noticed staff being envious or creepily obsessive about patients with severe eating disorders. Books on recovering from eating disorders mention this too.

  1. What was the response to pointing out that being disgusted about part of the body is kinda contradictory for an eating disorders panel?

    Though I think she should also lose marks for lack of imagination. A pound of fat being like sticks of butter? Why not say, a pound of fat is like… a big bag of sequins. Or a small bolt of velvet. Or a charming antique bottle. ‘Cos all of those things weigh a pound and make just as much sense (i.e. none) as the butter comparison.

  2. Wow. What a moronic statement. A pound is a pound. A pound of fat is also like a pound of feathers *flaps arms wildly*. And funny, I remember my mom putting a pound of butter in my hands once and telling me how proud she was, that I had lost that much weight. I was 10 and we were on vacation.

    1. Amen. A pound of feathers weights the exact same amount as a pound of lead. Every time I hear the phrase “muscle weighs more than fat,” I want to scream. Muscle ‘might’ be more dense than fat, but it does not weigh less. Sorry, rant over.

    2. And you know, even if you do lose a pound, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost a pound of “butter”. You may have lost fluid or lean muscle mass. So the analogy isn’t even accurate.

  3. Personally, I am insulted both by the vilification of the marvelous, complex, beautiful human body *and* by the vilification of butter. I love butter. Why would I want to lose it? I won’t stand for any bad-talking about bodies *or* butter!

    1. Personally, I am insulted both by the vilification of the marvelous, complex, beautiful human body


      the idea being that the part of them that is fat is “the enemy” to be fought. The problem with that is that people walk around with their bodies 100% of the time and hating part of themselves is not necessarily the best thing for people’s mental health.

      This clearly describes a route to mental distress and illness in the susceptable, yet this “nutritionist” failed to spot it. That’s what happens when you’ve so disconnected from certain people, that you’ve lost all sense of anything but them as objects. As things.

      What this example hints at is the way that way too many of these “nutritionists” who’ve helped to advance this deranged hatred model of ‘obesity’ are not only profoundly misanthropic, but hate and fear food too. And they want everyone else to see the things that way too.

      Which is why their credo has mugged the mainstream which reflects that unbalanced view normalizing and advancing the growth of eating disorders. I know this is not too popular an opinion because of the fat nutritionist. But sorry, one swallow does not make a summer.

      I’m sure there are lovely honest clever estate agents too.

  4. That is a really hilarious image of this woman shaking her arm and talking about people’s fat as being like butter. For what reason was this woman allowed to participate in an eating disorders discussion? The funny image in my head is of you somewhat sardonically suggesting that she not encourage people to think about their bodies as sticks of butter. It’s like that breakfast commercial that depicted a woman’s butt as cinnamon rolls not fitting through a subway turnstile. Are these images helping people eat healthfully? I think not. I think they just terrify people of their own bodies.

  5. I have a friend who is in the middle of a weight loss effort. He often talks about “the battle” and “winning the fight”. I want to point out that it’s unlikely he can sustain his current twice-a-day gym habit, but this is his choice and his life. But it’s obvious he considers it a great struggle against himself.

  6. Butter safe than sorry! (ouch) Your retort was perfect Ragen. I can just picture your face when you were telling the person how off the mark they were. NO one says it butter. OOOOOOHHHHH

  7. How is it that all these supposed experts, with all their education, and all the science at their disposal, forget that FAT IS NOT AN ENEMY? If it were not for fat, the human race would not have survived this long. We have the luxury of efficient transporation systems and long-term food storage, but this has not been the case through most of human history. Without the stores of fat in our bodies, we would not have made it through the lean seasons. Our bodies are genetically programmed to store up excess during times of plenty, to carry us over in times of want.

    This is seen in the connection between body fat and estrogen production. Women who are too lean will often have more trouble getting pregnant, and this isn’t an accidental side-effect. It’s like a resource-check, where the woman’s body makes sure she has sufficient stores to sustain the additional demands of pregnancy and nursing. It’s counter-productive to reproduce, if the end result is going to be mother and/or child starving in the process.

    Isn’t it rather odd that a factory worker with a High School diploma and just a bit of college, knows this, while all these “experts” with their degrees and specialized studies somehow have forgotten it? These self-appointed guardians of our “health” need to remember that fat is not a cancer. It’s an important component of a healthy body, included in our biology for a reason.


  8. I am so incredibly glad I know people like you who aren’t scaredy chickens like me and will call people out to their faces when they do stupid stuff like this. This sort of stuff is dumb on a good “normal” day, but to do it at an ED talk…that just takes a special kind ignorance.

  9. Wow.

    She really said that on a panel about eating disorders. Head, meet desk.

    Also, I think the illustration and title of today’s article need to be melded into a tee shirt. I would totally wear it until it fell to rags.

    Oh, and I’m baking a cake this week. After ten years of utter misery and mild emotional abuse, she finally kicked her husband to the curb and the divorce becomes final this week.

    If that isn’t cause for buttery celebration, I don’t know what is! And we won’t send a slice to Princess Butter Arms, so there.

    1. I know this is wrong, but I have a mental image of Princess Butter Arms as the villan in the new Disney HAES ride…

  10. As a registered dietitian who is also fat and who is also recovering from an eating disorder, I am embarrassed by the dietitian who sat on that panel. Referring to any part of the body as “butter” with a look of disgust whilst shaking the “offensive” part of her body is despicable. Why the hell didn’t she just get out a can of crisco and plop huge spoonfuls on the table in front of her to show everyone just how “disgusting” fat is whether its on one’s arms, butt, thighs, hips, belly, back, or chest.

    Clearly this woman has never suffered from an eating disorder or been subject to hurtful comments based on her weight or she’d know what she did was not only thoughtless but also hurtful and, for people currently struggling with an eating disorder, adds more fuel to the fire of self hatred.

    I’ve gotten past my anger at my peers, colleagues and strangers in the world who choose to make assumptions about me based on my appearance. Could I haul around copies of my lipid panel, most recent blood pressure and blood sugar test results to show them that, YES, I am *gasp* healthy at my size? Sure, but what’s the point?

    I’ve learned that talking about Health At Every Size is like talking about politics or religion, people will not believe you or hear you until they are ready to change their own beliefs. Nowadays, I mostly feel compassion and sympathy for people still locked into the narrow definition of health and beauty as being thin.

    Bravo to you Ragen for being such a public voice of dissent in this world where fat equals bad, unhealthy, lazy, immoral, etc. You are an inspiration to me!

    btw, I like to think of my fat as fluffy, pink cotton candy!

    1. “Clearly this woman has never suffered from an eating disorder or been subject to hurtful comments based on her weight or she’d know what she did was not only thoughtless but also hurtful and, for people currently struggling with an eating disorder, adds more fuel to the fire of self hatred.”

      **** TRIGGER WARNING: ****

      Or she’s suffering from an ED right now, and is in a stage where she feels righteous and powerful, because she is in control of her body, unlike all those other disgusting people she sees. Because all the hurtful things people said about her before were true, but now she has fixed her body and redeemed herself!

      (That’s how I felt in the earlier stages of my ED, anyway.)

      1. I’m really worried that this describes a friend of mine…who some day wants to have a program for girls and teens to teach healthy choices and educate them that there’s a better, more holistic way to be “healthy” than starving yourself. But…”healthy” is “fit.” And “fit” is necessarily without “excess” fat. Because muscle burns fat and there’s no way to be TRULY healthy without being at your own, personal “ideal weight.” And “ideal weight” is pretty darn slender in her opinion.

  11. I just wanted to say thank you for doing this blog. I’ve been in a bit of a self esteem funk lately, and having this blog to read is so great for me. You’ve made a real difference in my life. Thank you.

  12. Wow…I really can’t believe she said that at an eating disorders panel. How was that supposed to be helpful in any way shape or form?!

    Not to mention her statement is so simplistic from a biological standpoint anyway – weight loss and gain being hardly a matter of pure fat in the first place. If it were really comparable to sticks off butter then people’s clothes would fit drastically different at the end of the day (when they likely weigh a pound or two more from eating/hydration) then in the morning.

  13. Besides the fact that body fat is not an inanimate substance, I think it’s HIGHLY inappropriate for a dietician to use good-foods/bad-foods language on an eating disorder panel.

    (Not that it’s ever appropriate, but especially in this context.)

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