They Want a War, Let’s Give Them One

Like it or not, fat people are at war.  I’m not hyperbolizing or dramatizing.  If you don’t believe me, Google “War on obesity”.  Tonight HBO premiered its new documentary series “The Weight of a Nation”.  On the premiere page it says “Obesity in America has reached a catastrophic level. Almost every aspect of our lives is threatened. The first step toward ending the damage is learning how to fight back.”

I spend a lot of my time politely asking people to please stop oppressing me.  I don’t apologize for that, nor do I begrudge it – it’s proven to be a very effective way to create change and I think that people deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt and the support they need to shift their thinking, and it’s a reasonably pleasant form of activism. I will continue to do it.

But I also have to acknowledge that there is a war being waged against me because of how I look, by people who have been given every opportunity to know better.  In concert with HBO’s documentary, I received a Tweet letting me know that Kaiser Permanente is launching the “most aggressive anti-obesity campaign in history.”

They know that there are healthy fat people and unhealthy thin people.  They know that not a shred of research shows that any method of weight loss works in the long term.  They know that research shows us that we could vastly increase health by providing access to healthy foods, safe movement options, and affordable/free evidence based health care.  Nobody is obligated to pursue health by any definition, however, we deserve to given true information – like the fact that 30 minutes of moderate movement 5 days a week often leads to major health benefits but almost never leads to weight loss?  Or that people who choose similar habits have very similar health outcomes regardless of weight.  What would people choose if they knew they could abandon the goal of weight loss completely and they could still pursue health.  America could be a successful role model for giving people access to health, but instead is  choosing to be a failed role model for thinness –  waging war on people based on their appearance for tremendous profit and actively blaming the casualties of the war for the war’s massive failures.

Let’s be clear –  they are pathologizing a body size. It doesn’t matter if they say that we need to seek solutions environmentally instead of at the individual level, or if they say that we should have “compassion” for fat people – they are still telling people that is is not ok to exist in fat bodies and that they should see fat bodies as a threat to America. There are tons of thin people who eat unhealthy foods and are sedentary (which is completely their right), but as far as the government is concerned, as long as you are thin you’re part of the “solution,” feel free to do whatever you want. They want people to look at me (and you, if you’re fat) and think “She is part of a catastrophe.  She is threatening almost every aspect of our lives. The first step toward ending the damage is eradicating her.”

I say that if they want a war, I will damn well give them one.

The government found a group of people identifiable by how we look, allowed those with a profit interest in anti-obesity to calculate our “cost” to society, decided that we should be eradicated to make things cheaper,  then brought together public and private interests and declared war on us.  That is terrifying.  And it’s happening.

It makes me think of an old-fashioned protest chant “When fat people are under attack, what do we do?  Stand up!  Fight Back!”   How do we do that?  Here’s what I plan to do:

It is no longer an acceptable excuse that those who are waging war against me have “good intentions.”  A war is a war and it has to stop, however well intentioned they may be.

When I see nasty comments, or hear anti-obesity rhetoric, I will not turn it back on myself, become sad, or question my right to exist in this body. I will place the anger where it belongs.   How dare these people think that my body is any of their business?  How dare they try to make me a casualty of an aesthetic war?

I will not cower behind the excuse that one person can’t make a difference.  One person is the only thing that can make a difference.  A protest of a million people is made up of a million individuals who woke up, got dressed, and got themselves to a protest. A boycott that cripples a company was successful because of each individual who chose not to buy from that company. Group success is always and only the result of individual action.

I will not wait for the majority of people to get it.  I don’t care if people think I’m weird, or stupid, or deranged.  The majority gets it because of the minority who lead the way.

I will follow the evidence and not the “everybody knows.”  My inspiration will be Galileo, not those who forced him to recant and put him under house arrest.

They cannot have my money to fund their war.  I will not participate in the anti-obesity diet culture. I will not buy ANY product that touts weight loss in its advertising.  Maybe they will make 60 Billion dollars again this year, but none of it will be mine.  I will take my money out of their wallets and stop funding the war against me.

I will wield my beautiful fat body like a weapon.  I will love it, I will care for it, I will move it, I will show it in public, I will viciously defend my body against anyone who seeks to classify it as anything but amazing. I’m warning everyone right now – back the fuck off.

I will speak up and speak out against anti-obesity rhetoric whenever I see it.  (If you want support doing this you can join the Rolls Not Trolls group on Facebook.)

If this war prevents fat people from getting access to the things we need and want, whether it’s healthcare or fashion, I will do everything in my power to create alternative solutions while fighting for our access to mainstream solutions.

Nobody is obligated to be an activist, but if you are fat, I urge you to consider a strategy to stand up and fight back in a way that works for you.

If you are not fat, I urge you to join in the fight for fat peoples’ right to exist without having a war waged against us. If not because it’s the right thing to do, then because once they are done with us you may be next.  Maybe they’ll say tall people cost too much because they buy bigger cars and bigger houses.  Maybe they’ll say big families cost too much because they drive their SUVs around to all of their children’s activities.  Who knows who will be next, but ask yourself if you want to live in a society where the government wages war on people because of how they look, and do nothing to stop it.

I am not afraid.  I am not ashamed.  I am at war.

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48 thoughts on “They Want a War, Let’s Give Them One

  1. You ROCK!

    The end of your post reminds me of this quote by Martin Niemoller:

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

  2. I agree with you entirely. My question is: Who is waging this war? Against whom do we fight back? Kaiser Permanente? Big Pharma? Big Diet? Big Insurance? Those in different branches of government who promulgate anti-fat propaganda? All of them? This matters to me because when I fight back, I like to know against whom I am fighting, what they are doing to fight against me, and why they are fighting. And thus I figure out how I can fight back most effectively. Perhaps part of this means taking the struggle one step further and becoming pro-active against Big Diet and Big Pharma – in other words, thinking of ways to psych them out, not only responding to what they say and do.

    1. ” Against whom do we fight back? Kaiser Permanente? Big Pharma? Big Diet? Big Insurance? Those in different branches of government who promulgate anti-fat propaganda? All of them?”


      Pick the battles you feel you need to fight, and go for it. Find someone battling something that pisses you off, and join them. Get some friends together and debate the most effective first step.

      It all needs doing, so choose a dragon and get slaying, even if that dragon is simply telling the next person who wants you to lose weight where to vacation and what anatomical impossibility to commit on the way there.

      1. I am totally saving “where to vacation and what anatomical impossibility to commit on the way there.” to my list of things I totally need to work into a conversation someday!

      2. What a wonderful comment and response, twistie! Not only does it lend direction to my (continued) fight, but it brings a smile to my face!

  3. Go Ragen!!!! I’m with you. I just did my first ninja post with support from Rolls Not Trolls.

  4. The passage beginning with “I will wield my beautiful fat body like a weapon…” nearly made me cry. Thank you. We’re not alone 8)

  5. This war against fat people has the psychology of genocide. As an occupy protester, this reminds me of the war police wage against protesters only the war against fat people is even worse.

  6. HERE HERE! I am RIGHT There with You Regan! No Holds Bard, No Apologizes…No More. I am Locked Strapped and ready to go! This Beautiful Fat Body WILL Be on Display Publicly the first weekend of June with a WHOLE Bunch of other beautiful Bodies of ALL Shapes and Sizes. And I will Continue my Dancing, and let the audiences see my beautiful body. No Tommy Covers, or fishnet (Unless it’s relevant to the Theme) I am SO Ready to fight the good Fight. because it IS Good.

    When I saw the HBO thing I was nearly Sick, (thanks for taking a look BTW, not surprised to see you were as upset as I was, I’m a HUGE True Blood Fan!)

    Anyway, I was explaining BMI to my Fiance Yesterday, he is pretty fit, has a TINY little pooch, but he would fit into the “Thin and attractive” pile..well guess what, His BMI was 40.9 Guess what, I told him that makes him Obese. He was like WTF?

    Another EASY Example that BMI is a Crock. I mean take it out on the streets. Start asking people if they want their BMI done. DO Theirs and then do yours and when they are ANYTHING above 40 (which is obese) You can let them know that “Hey you all are in the same weight class, how the hell does it feel now?!”

    WOOOOO!!! I am Ready TO fight this fight!!!

    1. Technically 40 is “morbidly” obese or type 3 obese. Anything over 30 is “regular” obese. Which just adds to the utter ridiculousness.

      1. You are correct, What makes it funnier…here is a picture of My Fiance,

        (And yes I got his permission to post his pic for this)
        as you can see…he is FAR from what anyone would consider “Obese” or even “Morbidly Obese” He would fit right in with the “Healthy and Thin” just by looks alone. He is of Nordic Descent and ya know what, he has just a denser body mass. It’s nuts to see someone who looks like him and know he weighs as much as he does. It’s just a different kind of Body, plane and simple. The even FUNNIER thing is HE is actually the one who lives a more unhealthy life style. He works on the computer so is often sedentary, he has a por diet, but again because his body is different he doesn’t really gain weight. Me on the other hand, I am a dancer, I perform, I teach, I take workshops that are between 2-3 hours long. I eat a healthy diet that has all the food groups and such. And If put next to one another everyone would assume that I was the unhealthy one. He Gladly admits that I’m the healthier one, and follows me in this fight for rights for People with different Bodies.
        When we first got togeather he was honestly concerned about me because of my weight…then he saw me in a workshop and saw me perform, that right there showed him he had NOTHING to worry about concerning my weight. And he wasn’t rude about it in the beginning, jsut trying to understand. I Honestly wish there were more people in the world like him.

        1. Nordic people have a denser body mass? Can I see the sites you read that talk about that? Not as a “cite your sources!” sort of thing but genuine curiosity since I have a lot of Nordic genes in me and I want to see where do they talk about this? This could be just what I was looking for! 😀 Since I’ve been said to be over the BMI myself but I’m 1/4th Finnish and have all the rest being Northern European and always wondered if the “adapted for the long brutal cold and periods of less food” made my genes favor a slow metabolism, holding onto fat, and being of a stockier build and all. :3 I can see a similar stocky build in your fiancé as I do in me. 😀 It makes me happy. 😀

          Oh and your fiancé sounds wonderful in his acceptance of you! You definitely have a healthy lifestyle there with all that dancing and exercise and all! Go you! :3

  7. I’ve been calling myself a foot soldier in the Headless Horde of the Adipose Apocalypse lately. I think it has a nice ring to it.

    I’ve also been wondering when the 2/3 of us who are overweight/obese get to tell the body police to STFU about it already.

    So who do we boycott? I’m in.

    1. This comment is well written and totally made me laugh, thank you! Sometimes I just want to march proudly through the streets chanting, “WE–ARE–THE 66 2/3 PERCENT!”

  8. Thank you so much for this. I was listening to NPR yesterday, and they were talking so positively about this show, and it got me so depressed. If I can’t count on NPR for rationality, it feels almost hopeless.

    1. I loved this comment! I think every one of us who have clawed our way out of the societal dug Shame Hole they throw us fat people into can definitely agree that we are all sick and tired of politely asking people to stop treating us like subhumans and while they are at it to kindly stop trying to destroy us.

  9. …I urge you to consider a strategy to stand up and fight back in a way that works for you.

    This is a small thing, but this Friday, I’m announcing on my blog a yoga DVD review and giveaway series. (Basically, I’m cleaning out my DVDs, which I do once a year, and giving away the onesI don’t use anymore.) I’ve already offed everything that used body-attacking language (you know, “banish fat!” “ab attack!” “shred!” etc.) in a previous incarnation (that did not include a giveaway), so most of what I have left are body-acceptance-friendly.

  10. YES! Again and again your words echo my thoughts.

    “I will wield my beautiful fat body like a weapon. I will love it, I will care for it, I will move it, I will show it in public, I will viciously defend my body against anyone who seeks to classify it as anything but amazing.”

    …and I will do my very best to show others how to do the same.
    Our voices will be heard, we will be seen, we will be understood.

  11. Ragen, Im with you 100%. I will be doing my part all the way. I am a doer not just a talker. And I agree, one person at a time. By the way, it has already been said that large families cost more with big cars etc. It has been claimed they pollute more…basically they take up too much of everything. It is a “slippery slope” as they say. Back when insurance companies were putting out weight charts, there was also height charts. It was said that tall people have more heart problems and such. It is true that very tall people have some different health issues due to their height. But for some reason, they dont hold them to the standard like they do fat people. They have realized they are born that way, tall that is. Thank you Ragen.

    1. I suspect because even obesipanic zealots realize that it’s impossible to even temporarily reduce one’s height. The problem is that they aren’t realizing that it’s largely impossible to reduce one’s weight *except* temporarily. And if they have noticed it doesn’t matter… they can just toss aside this week’s spokesdieter and get a new one from the collection of people convinced by her “success” to temporarily torture themselves thin.

  12. I watched a bit of this HBO Weight of the Nation series last night On Demand. I completely agree that it is a war on fat people, especially in the ads, but the two episodes I watched were somewhat more balanced.

    The first was called “Stigma: The Human Cost of Obesity” about anti-fat stigma and the suffering people endure due to weight bias.

    The second was called “The Quest to Understand the Biology of Weight Loss” and covered the research showing that it is nearly impossible for a body to maintain a weight loss over time, as the metabolism slows and the appetite increases. It focused on a woman named Nola who lost 40 lbs in a carefully controlled experiment at Columbia where she lived in a lab for many months, and showed how her metabolism had slowed.

    I haven’t seen the whole series, and I agree that the marketing campaign is CLEARLY targeted as a war against obese people, but wanted to share these two more rational episodes.

    1. Thanks for this post. I have not seen any of the show, but it is interesting to know that at least 2 episodes are more truthful than the hoopla seems to suggest.

    2. That they address stigma doesn’t earn them a cookie if their conclusion about stigma is “so you have to get thin, to avoid people heaping this cruelty on you!” rather than “so we have to stop being assholes to fat people, because we’re actively harming them!” I’ll be interested to see what their conclusions are. If they pay any mind to actual facts or realities at all beyond the propaganda, I’m betting it’ll be a few wishy-washy throw away comments, with the rest focused on SO GET THIN IMMEDIATELY EVEN THOUGH YOU PROBABLY CAN’T THIS IS AN EPIDEMIC PEOPLE.

      I’d love to be proven wrong on that. But I won’t hold my breath.

  13. I often feel like we, as fat activists and bloggers, are making real strides toward promoting equality and acceptance, but lately there’s been a flood of news that makes me feel less optimistic than usual. In essence, it’s this feeling that no matter how hard we fight, no matter how loud we get, there will always be this multi-billion dollar machine there to fight harder and shout louder. I especially felt that way when I saw the whole “Weight of the Nation” thing coming out, and, especially, when they had one of the “experts” from that film on The Colbert Report.

    But then I extend that war metaphor and try to imagine what it must have been like for any historical underdog who has faced a superior army, and come out on top. Of course, in the past 100 years, that would be the United States, which has an incredible military machine which was rendered essentially useless in Vietnam and Iraq by those who were defending their homeland, their honor, their families. Perhaps the Viet Cong weren’t as sophisticated or well-supplied as the United States, but with their limited resources, they were able to prevent a full-scale conquest of their country. What ultimately mattered wasn’t fire power or resources or a convincing moral argument for the war. What mattered was that those whom we declared war on took a stand and did not back down and were not intimidated by the size or strength of the enemy. They had to fight because there was no other option, and they adapted their relatively small armies with basic weaponry to force a stalemate until the Superpower gave up out of frustration.

    That’s what we have to do… we have to dig in and fight the long battle, knowing full well this may drag on for years, if not decades. But we know that the evidence supports our views and that history is ultimately on our side. This doesn’t make the fight any easier, but it does put it into perspective, so that I don’t feel quite as disheartened when I see things like the HBO documentary. I see it as just the latest advanced weapons system that can do spectacular damage, but I see that there are weaknesses to exploit and ways to inflict damage of our own by persevering.

    So, I’m right there with you, Ragen. We’ll be fighting this battle for years to come, but I know that some day, we’ll be able to look back and see the incredible amount of progress we made in spite of the overwhelming odds.


  14. I don’t and won’t ever get HBO; however I find it interesting that one of the experts does not believe in diets. He absolutely thinks they are rot and an unregulated scam. I’m sure they took his information/commentary etc. out of context, but frankly I thought his comments on Fresh Air was a HUGE step in the right direction. Having people like him assert that dieting has not worked, does not work and will never work. The interviewer tried to goad him into saying what the one prescription would be to “fix the problem” and he refused to answer that, saying instead that it’s the wrong question. He stated that the diet industry is the biggest unregulated industry in the US. They are designed to make money. By making unachievable claims, they will always have that money. It’s a scam he said, but then, sadly, he asserted that people shouldn’t quit trying. I was lifting weights and sort of tuned out after that, since I think he didn’t go far enough… Capitulating to the mainstream.

    It reminded me of a film I saw of a southern white guy talking about desegregation. He was really taking a firm stand against the white supremacists and felt like there was no difference between the races… but he still used the N-word. 🙂

  15. I debated on even watching this program, I still haven’t decided yet but from what I’ve seen of the commercials and website and what Reagan has said on here it reminds me of Hitler and his campaign against people who looked different from him. Kinda scary that we live in a world where there is still a real possibility that something like that could happen and in small ways is happening everyday.

  16. I need to find out more about this Kaiser anti-obesity campaign. Mr. Twistie gets his insurance through work and it’s Kaiser. They’ve already informed him he’s not allowed to come to the pharmacy to get his prescriptions anymore (that the same week as we got a cheery letter telling us that when he picks up his prescriptions from the pharmacy, he should sit down and have a nice, long chat with the helpful pharmacist about potential drug interactions!), but has to order them over the phone. He’s been having trouble getting his phone order processed, so right now he’s without most of his diabetes and all of his hypertension meds, thank you very much.

    If they’re going to start hounding him to lose weight, too (and he honestly does weigh roughly two pounds more than he did when he was in high school thirty-five years ago), I’m going to blow several gaskets.

    In the meantime, I wear my scarlet fat and my What You Can Tell About a Fat Person tee shirt constantly, refuse to engage in body shame talk with anyone, regularly tell my friends that they’re beautiful just the way they are, ignore calorie counts on menus (soooooo helpful… NOT!), and am now preparing to experiment in rendering my own lard for extra tasty pie crusts. I move my body, talk about sex, laugh out loud, dress in bright colors, and ring the rafters when I sing.

    There is no way in hell I’m going to let someone else’s prejudice and ignorance steal my entire life from me.

    No peace without justice.

  17. I think that Brownell’s tobacco industry analogy is interesting.
    But misguided.
    But what if we regulated and taxed the real source of unhealth: THE DIET INDUSTRY!? -( along with the many-armed beast that profits off of people hating their bodies.)

  18. Last night, I decided not to buy Fitness magazine because of this article. I like reading Fitness. They have good recipes. They do excellent reviews of gear and have good exercise ideas. But last night, I decided not to buy it because it is part of the problem.

  19. I guess we should be flattered that we are getting so much attention that they feel the need to scale up the war.

    This doesn’t directly affect me yet, but since UK has a tendency to pick the worst ideas from America and implement them in worse ways I’m paying attention.

    Thankfully Scotland is not as bad as England for that sort of things and my current doctor is offering more than weightloss advice for treatment, but the ideas they are starting to implement would mean that myself and several of my friends would be denied life enhancing treatment (should it become necessary) and the standard lose weight you’ll feel better crap has had a serious impact on my health because of a very minor untreated complaint (two years of feeling like crap and this doctor found a minor sinus infection which is why I don’t sleep right and wake tired)

    I have had to use every doctor in the practice to find one that will look at my symptoms and figure out the problem, not look at my ass and dismiss me as fat.

    My fight involves encouraging other people who realise that life is not a simple equation and every human deserves basic rights to speak out a little.

    I hung out with a group over the weekend and one girl was a little touchy about her small roll of fat on her tummy but thought I was great (more to love) I am almost twice as big as her but she genuinely felt I was pretty but her tummy roll was awful. I also met a really skinny girl who gets accused of having an eating disorder – watching her dance later that day I figure there is no way she’d have the energy if she wasn’t getting what her body needed. The group I was with was very acceptance heavy and they still feel the sting of the body police but only as it relates to them, none of them (I hope) would point a finger.

    Good luck with future battles Ragen and thank you for inspiring me be a better me.

  20. Government is force. It is only government that can oppress people. Private businesses and groups can only wield that power when they buy politicians. In a truly free society, nobody would have that power over anyone else. Weight Watchers is not going to come to your house and take your children away from you if they are fat. Only government does that. It has happened in Sweden.

    So, why would anyone want government run health care? When you give government power over your health, you have signed your life away. There is no such thing as “free” health care or “free” anything else. It simply means that someone else is paying the bill, and when government calls the shots, it also determines who lives and dies. I know of smokers in Canada who were left to die in ER waiting rooms because the government decided their heart conditions were their own fault. I guarantee that will happen to fat people as well. Already in th UK people who are deemed to be overweight are denied joint replacements.

    “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” ~
    George Washington

  21. It is appearing in our mainstream newspapers as well. Today’s San Jose Mercury News (a fairly well regarded paper) has an article in the Local section headlined: “Battling Obesity: 150 pounds lost, everything gained”. Subheadline: “Focus, hard work and a new surgery at Lucile Packard help teen achieve massive weight loss, healthier lifestyle”.

    It makes me sick. She’s now 18, she had the surgery a year ago and has lost 150 pounds (is that safe? healthy?) and they have her on a 1,000-1,200 calorie/day diet. So, either she is going to keep the weight off and destroy her health, or she will gain it back and feel like a failure. And, of course, she couldn’t (as a 17yo) “have a life” while she was OMG fat! And other 17yo girls out there are going to think that they have to do the same thing to have “everything”!

    This scares me. It really, really scares me.

  22. I have waged war against my own flesh for most of my life under the terror of being/staying/becoming fat. I have been scared of my body, terrified of living in a fleshier body and have almost killed myself numerous times as a result. If only I were an anomaly. You know what? Fuck that. You are so inspiring to me. You are intelligent, articulate, inspiring…so far from lazy, greedy bla bla bla whatever bollocks gets lumped with the fat body. I don’t suppose you would count me in as a fat person, but I have felt that I was a fat person all my life, that it wasn’t okay for me to exist as I am. I have sought to control my body, keep it in the lines, to stay outside of the firing lines. Being fat seemed a worse thing that being a criminal.

    I am educating myself. Surrounding myself with sound science, wise, brave people and a desire to fully live in the body I have without shame and to actively work on loving, appreciating and accepting ALL bodies.

    Once upon a time under the influence of our sick society I would have been scared to become like you. Because of your fat body and nothing else. How is that different from Hitler and his ideal aryan race? it isn’t. Not really.

    Today I think you’re fucking awesome. I would say that I’d be proud to be you – and i would – but what people like you are giving me is an appreciation for me and being me as-I-am. You inspire me to continue to denude myself of my sick prejudices that hurt me and hurt others. You help me to be free, to really try to live my life and most of all to extend to myself and others respect and care.

    HAES has changed my life and if it weren’t for intelligent and sophisticated contributions such as yours I would probably be too scared to stand up and take up the space that is mine and to help stand up for fellow humans regardless of size, shape, colour etc.

    Thank you, you beautiful, awesome, talented woman. You are a role model to me.

  23. Interesting…I looked up “The war on obesity” on Google and found an article which ends with: “As The Daily Ticker’s Henry Blodget and Aaron Task discuss in the attached clip, legislating healthy eating through various taxes can backfire. In Denmark, politicians rescinded the country’s fat foods tax because it did not change consumers’ dietary choices and hurt local business. The tax was implemented last year and applied to foods high in saturated fat. The Danish government discovered that its residents would travel to neighboring countries Sweden and Germany to buy butter and ice cream because prices were lower. Denmark has also decided to cancel plans for a sugar tax”

    The article: om/id/49810996/Has_the_039War_on_Obesity039_Gone_Too_Far

    That should be a clue to the US government…

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