The Underpants Rule and You

I have found  there are rules that, if I follow them, usually steer me in the right direction. There’s the Golden Rule (treat others as you would like to be treated) though I prefer the platinum rule (treat others as THEY would like to be treated).  But my most favorite life rule is The Underpants Rule and not just because I named it, and not just because its widespread implementation would end about 90% of the jackassery and fuckwittery that happens on the internet, and maybe 50% that happens in the real world.

The Underpants Rule is simple: everyone is the boss of their own underpants so you get to choose for you and other people get to choose from them and it’s not your job to tell other people what to do. To illustrate, if you’re considering saying something that starts with

  • People should
  • Everyone ought to
  • What people need to do
  • We should all
  • Nobody should
  • You shouldn’t
  • blah blah things that have to do with underpants that aren’t yours blah blah

then there is a 99.9% chance that you are about to break The Underpants Rule. The only “exception” to this for me is about Civil Rights because they are not to be voted on or conferred, they just are, therefore everybody needs to respect everybody else’s civil rights.

Of course telling you that you should follow the Underpants Rule is, in fact, breaking the Underpants Rule which is pesky, so let me instead make a case for the Underpants Rule and then you can make your own choice.

I chose a Health at Every Size practice because I am a fan of research and math.  I think that the research clearly shows that a HAES practice give me a much better shot at health with way less downside risk than a weight loss health practice.

There are people who think the exact opposite of that.  I know that because they come here and tell me so – they say that I’m making a “dangerous choice”, they quote research and tell me that I should make a different choice.  This blog is my little corner of the internet.  It exists only because I created it and I am thrilled to pieces that people enjoy reading it, that people get inspired by it, that it gives people information to make choices etc. I try very hard to make sure that I always follow the Underpants Rule and never tell anyone else how they have to live and yet people come here and try to tell me how to live.  That’s annoying.

For this reason, I would never go onto someone’s weight loss blog and tell them all about Health at Every Size and why I think it’s a better choice.  Those are not my underpants.

I do not enjoy (or believe) it when people tell me that I need to become smaller to be attractive.  Therefore I would never say that thin women needs to become larger to be attractive.  Those are not my underpants.

The war on obesity is an underpants rule breakdown on a massive scale. A group of government, public and private interests (with various profit and political interests in the issue) has chosen a group of people who are identifiable by sight and is now trying to tell us everything from how we have to prioritize health, to the path we have to take to become healthy, to how our bodies have to look.  Who died and made them Underpants Overlord?  Nobody.

My metaphorical underpants and my actual underpants have something in common:  if I want somebody else in them, that person will be among the very first to know.  I have definitely not invited the executives at HBO, Kaiser Permanente, the government or the diet industry into my underpants.

Now, I’m not telling what to do (cause, you know, Underpants Rule) but I’m suggesting that if you don’t like it when people attempt to be the boss of your underpants, then trying to be the boss of someone else’s is pretty hypocritical .  I’m fairly certain that “Do unto others exactly what you don’t want them to do to you” is the lead rule or the brick rule or something – at any rate a LOT of steps down from platinum and gold.

Remember, you are forever the boss of your underpants – occupy your underpants (with a nod to reader Duckie for that phrase)! I’m going off to see if there is a Guinness World Record for number of times the word underpants is used in a blog.


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40 thoughts on “The Underpants Rule and You

  1. YES! I have a rule that as long as it’s not “strangling kittens” then people can do what they want. In other words, if no-one else is getting hurt then there’s no problem. I see a guy in my local supermarket who has a full beard and wears womens clothing. He’s not hurting a soul. I’m a fat person who doesn’t diet. I’m not hurting a soul. My pants, my rules 🙂

    1. In my household it’s called ‘who’s milking the frog?’

      If it is not my frog, I get no say in what fool thing is done. If it is my frog, I got to do whatever ridiculous thing I please with it.

      And yes, strangling kittens is an excellent place to draw the line.

    2. F*cktheDiets!, do you live in the San Francisco Bay Area? If so, I think I know that guy! He used to be my neighbor. He calls himself “Dress” and he’s straight!

  2. I admit that I do tell people about Health at Every Size. Not necessarily suggesting that they practice it, but so they can know about it and do their own research. I wish someone had told me 60 lbs ago that dieting doesn’t work and that there is an alternative way to live. I try to phrase it as “This is what I’m doing” rather than “You should do this.” though.

    1. I’ve been size-miserably-aware and longing to be smaller for many years now – since I was 13 – at 59 it’s an interesting feeling to no longer put myself through that emotional wringer. I’ve seen it cause immense mental damage and depression to too many lovely people. Funny thing… since I stopped hating my size and trying to lose half of it, I’ve started feeling a lot stronger physically, and more limber. A lot of the aches and creaks have gone. Perhaps my body appreciates being accepted?

    1. That’s genius! Then if someone breaks the underpants rule you can hand them a pair and say “It sounds like you need some underpants to be the boss of. You can’t be the boss of mine, but you can be the boss of these.”

      I now desperately want to do this.


      1. Oh ye Gods what a brilliant idea. Going to pick up a 6-pack of pretty frillies – in a generous size, of course – today!

  3. I have plenty of difficulty in keeping my own underpants occupied, and helping my 2 year old grandson with his underpants (yay potty training) … I am thus too busy to bother minding anyone elses 🙂 I adore you, Ms. Chastain LOL

  4. Looks like you’ve used up the underpants allotment for the year, that leaves you pantsless going forward!

  5. Hmmm….I think we need to update Ann Landers’ classic MYOB acronym to MYOU (Mind Your Own Underpants) I’ve got underpants on the brain today b/c I just bought some really cute lace-trimmed ones and I don’t need other people getting all up in them before I get a chance to wear them. 🙂

  6. “I’m fairly certain that “Do unto others exactly what you don’t want them to do to you” is the lead rule or the brick rule or something”

    It may just be my own diseased brain, but when I read that I heard Baldrick calling it ‘the heavy pointy thing rule.’

    And then Edmund Blackadder smacked him upside the head.

  7. Yeah, I’m just so happy that the term Underpants Overlord is in my vocabulary (with proper citation of course.) Thanks for that! Other things too, naturally, but especially that.

  8. I have just discovered the FA peeps and HAES philosophy and have been up late the last few weeks greedily hoovering it all up. I can feel myself oh so slowly start to unshackle myself from the tight grip of dysfunctional thinking around food and the loathing of my body that began at age 8 when my skinny cousins told me I was fat. Because up until that moment, I had thought I was perfect. And the saddest thing is, is that I fucken was. Now I want to start feeling that for real. Its going to take awhile to untangle and peel away all this shit I have consumed about what constitutes beauty. But Im so damn tired of feeling Im not Ok, or I cant really start living until Im thisxweight, or that weight. I live in New Zealand and am leaving to go to The States this July. From our winter to their (your?) summer, and I am trying to ignore the familiar feeling of dread at the prospect of feeling judged and found wanting by my husbands thin family. Which is why reading your go-fuck-yourself-you-sanctimonious-asshole blog is helping me shed the weight of 30 odd years of feeling desperate and less-than. Thank you so much for your courage, because that is what you are doing here. And in doing that, you are giving me courage too.

    1. I hope the trip was a wonderful, fun-filled triumph! We need this mental armour constantly, to defend against the glances, the curled lips, the constant pressure to be smaller… I’m hoovering up this blog too!
      The only weight we really need to shed to be healthy is the weight of self-hatred.

  9. The *only* exception is civil rights, really? Not domestic abuse, rape, or child abuse? I came to your blog via a rape survivor blog and I think that’s pretty terrible advice. No one should be doing anything with their “underpants area” unless it’s with the full consent of everyone else it directly involves.

    1. Juliet, I’m truly sorry for what you’ve been through. I wish you all the best in your recovery and in your future.

      And obviously I’m not Regan. I can’t speak for her directly. On the other hand, I can say for myself that I would consider domestic abuse, child abuse, and rape very much civil rights violations. These acts of violence and terror are used to control groups of people or individuals against their own best interests, and that’s about as much of a civil rights violation as I can imagine.

      My guess is that most of the people reading this blog on a regular basis would agree with me on that.

      I hope you’ll stick around for more of the conversation, Juliet. We sometimes express ourselves giddily, but we take the right to personal safety very, very seriously.

  10. A gracious reply Twistie and you make a good point regarding civil rights incorporating all peoples right to respect and safety to our *tinana (bodies) and * wairua (spirit) as both can be broken.

    *Te Reo Maori – The indigenous language of Aotearoa (New Zealand)

  11. So elegant, and yet slightly crass. Just my style. I am a therapist and teach people about the value-what-I-value thinking error every day. I usually use a metaphor about how I fold towels or how I think stop signs are the most important traffic control device. But yours is so much more fun, I intend to pirate it. And to tell people where I found it!

  12. I have problems with this myself but the reverse of what most would think. Since I have discovered the HAES community I find that when my friends bring up dieting (there is one in particular that it drives me nuts b/c his mom is always “suggesting” and researching lap band for him and he is constantly talking about when he gets insurance then he is going to have the surgery done. His mom in fact had gastric bypass done several years ago and she has kept the weight off but the reasoning for both of them was not to gain health as much as it was vanity – after all her motto is if it ain’t broke fix it before it is, but I digress) I hop on my bandwagon and start preaching about HAES which I know doesn’t necessarily give me much credibility but still. I want him (in particular) to know that it is not about the appearance and that just b/c you lose the weight doesn’t guarantee happiness and it kills me when he tells me about his mom and how he feels about the way he looks.
    I realize that I am breaking the underpants rule there but its frustrating to say the least when I see how wonderful he is as he already is but society (and his mother) are telling him otherwise!

  13. Have you tried Nia? I am not saying that you should…I love the underpants rule…but I was just thinking that you might love it. Nia is about dancing and accepting yourself and others…enjoying your body and respecting it however it might be or not be shaped. Without should’s or must’s…your way…as your body allows it… I discovered it a few years back and I love it… Pure application of the underpants rule to movement… 🙂 Respect without judgement. Love and acceptance.

    1. Hi Crina,

      Thank you for the comment, for being respectful and for using the underpants rule!! I have done NIA, a really good friend of mine is a teacher. I really enjoyed doing it – it’s definitely the opposite of the rigid and structured way that I’m used to approaching dance and that’s really cool and I loved the focus on movement and the respect of bodies – super cool. Thanks for the suggestion!!


  14. Okay so I was trying to find this page on the underpants rule, so I ended up googling “what’s the underpants rule” and this page was the 5th hit, after “teach your children the underwear rule” – ie. warning kids about abuse and their autonomy,

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