All the Fat People I Know

Dear gods in heaven do I get sick of hearing this. I’m feeling a little ranty today so you’ve been warned.  Here’s why:

I spend a lot of time doing research.  On this blog I talk about research, I explain that Matheson et. al. did a study of 11,761 people and Wei et. al did a study of 25,714 people and that the Cooper Institute Research on fitness and weight is based on the Cooper Institute Longitudinal Study which is a database that has more than 250,000 records from nearly 100,000 people totaling more than 1,800,000 person-years of observation and that this research supports the idea that healthy habits lead to healthier bodies regardless of size.

Then I have to wade through 12 comments a day that say “I think you’re wrong because my aunt Gertrude was fat and she died of a heart attack.” Seriously?  I’m truly sorry that you lost your aunt but why would you think that your aunt’s experience trumps a combined sample of more than 120,000 people?

Or this one “All the people I know who have type 2 diabetes or heart disease are fat.”  Is this a frequent topic of conversation for you?  Do you know more than 120,000 people?  Also, fat people are tested early and often for these things and thin people are rarely tested.  If I test group A early and often for a disease, and I rarely ever test group B for a disease, it’s not really a big shocker that there is a higher disease incidence in group A.

“All the fat people I know eats super sized fast food meals all the time.”  Really?  Really really?  Even if this is true, why are you monitoring your friend’s food choices and why do you think that your friends are a statistically significant sample?

Also, it’s important to note that we are all subject to confirmation bias.  That means that we tend to favor evidence that supports our beliefs. We’re also subject to Status Quo bias which leads us to prefer that things remain the same, or change as little as possible, if they absolutely have to change. For some people who are enjoying their thin privilege and all the things it buys for them, their perceptions may be clouded due to loss aversion. That’s why I’m interested in the evidence when it comes to Health at Every Size.  (To be clear, Size Acceptance needs no evidence as it’s a civil rights issue – the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not size-dependent and should never be up for a vote.)

If you still think that you should extrapolate to the entire population based on your friends or your aunt or whatever consider that all of my fat friends have left the weight cycling lifestyle and chosen a Health at Every Size path.

Time is running out to pre-order my book and get an autographed copy and free shipping!

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann, is now available for pre-order.   This is a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

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22 thoughts on “All the Fat People I Know

  1. I was never tested for type 2 diabetes, despite having high fasting glucose, until the dr deemed me overweight. Now that I know the symptoms inside and out of high and low blood sugar, I can remember those very same symptoms when I was very thin and begging my dr to make me feel better. I won’t rant but I have before and likely will again about this one.

  2. I’ve said it before and I will say it again…one out of every two people alive right now will die from cardiovascular disease. It is still the leading cause of death in this country. It only stands to reason that some of them will be fat, yes, but also, many will be thin. It galls me when I hear people say that as long they’re thin, they won’t get heart disease. That’s what they think.

    1. Also, some of the people who die from cardiovascular disease will have additional factors to consider. For instance, yes, my grandpa died from a heart attack. Yes, he was fat. But he was also 90 freaking years old.

    2. Gee whiz, my grandfather died from his second heart attack in his early fifties. He was rail thin his whole life. There goes that theory. *sigh*

  3. Can I just, like, bow at your feet, or something? Your words are remarkable. And your words have been the catalyst for the change I’m making in how I feel about myself. I have been fat my whole life. I ran a half marathon in 2003 at 220 pounds. And yet, I was still not happy because my body did not look like all of America was telling me it should look.

    I’m 44 now and I have MS and an 8 year old and I’m not where I was in 2003, but I SWEAR that I am changing the way I frame myself in my own inner mirror. I’m changing what I believe about ME. You are a very important factor in that change. Thank you.

    1. Hi Angela,

      You are sweet to give me credit, but the credit belongs entirely to you – I think your choice to reframe the way that you see yourself is incredibly inspiring and I’m honored to have a chance to support you.

      Rock on!

      ~Ragen

  4. I get this all the time – “I’m surprised you don’t have diabetes” or “Are you sure you don’t have heart disease?” I’ve been tested for both and I’m fine, thankyouverymuch. Just because I’m fat doesn’t automatically mean I am ill, nor does it automatically mean you have the right to assume I am ill. Or eat fast food. Or do whatever other things people assume “all fat people” do. My excess weight is due to hormonal imbalances, not too much food – I always say that I challenge anyone to follow me around for a day and observe what I eat, and then dare to tell me the reason I’m overweight is because of my diet.

  5. At what point do fat people die from things that aren’t fat? My grandmother was 98 years old. She had a stroke and died. Was it because she was fat? or because she was … let’s see… 98 years old? I bet they chalked it into the “obesity” category.

  6. Pet peeve: People ranting about fat people dying of numerous common diseases. My response is to ask what things thin people die of.

    I had a student whose behavior was really puzzling to me. She said she had had a career working with young people and when she was diagnosed with diabetes she came back to school in pursuit of a new career as diabetes educator. She was maybe 30 or 35? – 15 or so years younger than me – and thinnish. Over the course of the semester I noticed her strange strange attitude toward me and wondered at different times what it was about. I finally figured out that she was pissed at me for being so fat and daring to not have diabetes.

  7. I could hear it in your writing!!! Frustration. I will tell you all what is the most unhealthy thing that has happened to me. Old age. Holy hell. I was so ‘healthy’ until I got into my late 50’s. Never diabetic, fat, yes, never high blood pressure, fat, yes….but this growing old stuff really got me.
    And some day my heart will stop and I will die. Is that considered a ‘fat person died from a failed heart’?

  8. “I’m feeling a little ranty today…” This is not a warning, this is a reminder to fill my drink and go get some popcorn ’cause this is gonna be GOOD. And it is. 🙂

  9. Actually, I had an aunt who was all into research and factual scientific discussions…and she was killed in a car crash. So, watch out, there could be a connection! 🙂

    I kid…but not really. It’s frustrating when thoughtful research and careful consideration are trumped in some peoples’ minds by their great aunt Hilda’s experience or some show they saw on TV.

    Only thing to do is keep banging the drum, I guess. Keep up the good work.

  10. Some thoughts:

    So what if my fat friends eat more than I do? They have more body mass to haul around, that’s dang hard work. I do not want to have people around me go hungry.

    So what if people who become sick gain weight and lose fitness? Hard to keep up a very active lifestyle when one is sick, and illness and strenous exercise to not go well together. And let’s not go into side effects of medications…

    Some correlations might actually be causations — but not the casuations commonly assumed.

  11. I know some fat people, and they are all awesome, wonderful, beautiful, really cool people! I have no idea what their eating habits are like, because I have more important things to worry about.

    Seriously, I read a comment about how every time the poster went to McDonald’s, there were all these fat people there! And I asked him, “Well, what the hell were YOU doing at McDonald’s??” I don’t know, maybe it was just his favorite place to go judging,

    1. Funny, being fat is also correlated with being poor, and Mickey D’s is cheap.

      One thing I do on occasion to work on retraining my brain about weight stereotypes is to take a quick note of the body types of the people around me in a given restaurant. There is, pretty much invariably, a wide sampling from thin to fat, whether I’m eating at Panera, Subway, Burger King, or wherever.

  12. my parents neighbour who was built like a beanpole died of a heart attack aged 53 – ergo….. Oh, and she was constantly on at my mum to lose weight – Mum is now 83!

  13. While I understand your frustration, you may also want to consider that this type of thinking is common. People tend to rely on mental shortcuts like the availability heuristic (more info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Availability_heuristic) when trying to make sense of the world, which can lead to these types of erroneous arguments. I’m not saying it makes their behavior excusable, but it might be beneficial to remember the next time this type of argument occurs.

    Thus, instead of saying, “How can this person be so STUPID to ignore the obvious evidence?” (I’m not saying YOU say this, but others may), it might be more productive to first remind yourself that the use of the availability heuristic is incredibly common (e.g., I would assume many of us have backed up an argument with, “I don’t do/buy/trust x because I know a guy who…”). Then, it may be helpful to inform the individual that this type of heuristic is what they might be engaging in. Once the person is aware of their automatic use of this type of mental shortcut, they might be better equipped to step back and analyze (all of) the available evidence in a more objective manner.

    Just a thought!

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