I’m Way Too Up to Back Down

I received the following comment on my post “The Truth About Diabesity“:

Today my mom emailed me the link to that abc article because omgdeathfat is upon me (or some such nonsense) and in-turn I emailed her the link to this blog post. She responded with “well obviously this girl read the ada site wrong and is just tired of being picked on for being fat. If she would just try harder she wouldn’t have that problem.” My head met my desk briefly then I told her to read your “about” section which was met with the usual VFHT and the “fact” that all overweight people are unhealthy. How do you explain to someone so obviously thick-headded that they are wrong?!

It’s a really good question, and one I get asked a lot.

First let me clarify some stuff:

ADA quote:  the quote that she is referring to is from the American Diabetes Association,  “Myth:  If you are overweight or obese, you will eventually develop type 2 diabetes…  Most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.”  It’s directly from their website, you can find it here. You have to appreciate the dedication that would lead someone to suggest that I misread that.  That’s a special kind of stubborn.

VFHT:  Vague Future Health Threat.  This is what happens when you say you are fat and healthy and people come back with some form of “you’re healthy now, but it will catch up with you”.  It’s the idea that no amount of being fat and healthy is proof that you can be fat and healthy – because someday you will not be healthy and it will be because of your fat.  I blogged about this one here.

Back to the question at hand “How do you explain to someone so obviously thick-headded that they are wrong?!”

The short answer for me is that you probably don’t. It can be extremely frustrating when other people don’t respect our decisions about our personal health.

Other people have a right to their opinions just as we have a right to ours. I like dialog, but it’s very difficult to have a discussion with someone who has stuck their fingers in their ears and is yelling LA LA LA LA LA. So I think that it comes down to our right to decide how people treat us.  Choosing to opt out of the diet culture can illicit a strong reaction for one of several reasons:

Good Cop:  People are genuinely concerned

We are exposed to thousands and thousands of thin=healthy messages everyday.  Many of us, upon a thorough review of the evidence, have concluded that this information is erroneous.  Other people haven’t done the research, or they looked at the evidence and drew a different conclusion.They are genuinely worried about our health.

Bad Cop:  Jealousy/Envy/Threat/Immaturity

Unfortunately for some people, their bodies made it out of Junior High School but their brains were left behind. Some have bought into the diet culture wholesale, and the fact that you don’t bothers them.  Some people need to convince other people that they are right in order to feel good about their own decisions.  Some people feel the need to feel superior.  Some people can only feel good about themselves when they are putting someone else down.

Regardless of why they are acting like this, you can choose how you are treated.  I heard the lyric “I’m way too up to back down” in a song and it captured exactly how I feel.  When I was dieting, trying desperately to be thin so that I could be healthy, I ended up being anything but healthy – physically or mentally.  Now I enjoy good mental and physical health without obsessing about food and exercise. I’m way too up to back down on this issue. Unless someone has some serious evidence to present then I’m not interested.  So what do you say to people who are giving you an “everybody knows…” answer:

Discussion

If the person is important to you, then consider a conversation.  Decide ahead of time what you want.  Are you open to a discussion?  If so what are the ground rules?  You get to decide.  Maybe this is something that you and this person just don’t talk about.  If they’re unwilling to comply with your wishes, you need to know what you’re going to do.  Are you prepared to walk away?  Listen to these things in the future and take what they have with a grain of salt?

You might use this time to mention other things that “every body (including doctors) knows” – scientific “facts” like the sun revolves around the Earth, heroin is a great cough suppressant, thalidomide is the perfect choice for morning sickness, and blood letting will clear your asthma right up.

Disconnection

Typically I’m a fan of dialog but I’ve come to realize that sometimes the person in question just isn’t worth it.  If that’s the case, then you might want to consider disconnecting from them and moving on.  You can still be pleasant, just pull away quietly. Do it with class but consider the idea that you have a finite amount of time and attention to give, you get to choose who you give it to, and some people do not deserve your time and energy.

Confrontation

You can certainly go with the yelling, screaming approach.  In my experience – and I don’t think this is fair, it’s just been my experience – becoming emotional often makes the argument seem weak and makes me feel powerless in the situation.  Your mileage may vary so if it feels good to get it out, then by all means do what you want.

Regardless of what you do, I highly recommend building a network of people who will support you.  If you can’t do it in person, then start looking online but finding a group who you can trust and being there for each other is incredibly helpful.

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book.  The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!

I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact  so it  is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price

Become a Member, Support The Work!

Member support is crucial to the work that I do.  Last month’s member support allowed me to answer 5421 e-mails from people who had questions about Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size. Some of them had simple questions, some of them were in the middle of a life crisis – member support allowed me to support them all, thank you!

Members also get cool discounts from fat friendly merchants.  This month’s member deals come from  More of Me to Love, Jodee Rose, Jeanette Depatie, The Fatimas, Dr. Deah, www.biggirlbeachwear.com, Dr. Cheryl Fuller, www.favewear.com, and of course me! If you are a member and haven’t received the e-mail with details and passwords just let me know!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can  become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or you can support my work with a  one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

21 thoughts on “I’m Way Too Up to Back Down

  1. And most people seem to have missed more recent reports on studies, studies published & discussed & reported in the fat-hating mainstream media, which show that fat people do not die any sooner than thin people & that, in the case of diabetics, fat diabetics live longer than thin diabetics. And I believe that the actual numbers which I have found show that about 90% of the fat people in this country are not diabetic now & that approximately 75% never will be. I am also surrounded by stubborn, very thick-headed people who will believe any errant BS they see on tv or, in some cases, read written by some self-important, self-appointed ‘expert’ on the Net, & generally there is no getting through to them, so I end up, having spent years trying to do some educating, shutting up if they are important to me & I have to spend a fair amount of time around them, or else distancing myself from them. Many people cannot & will not be enlightened.

  2. A few days after I read your book, I had (what I thought at the time) a great discussion with one of my oldest and dearest friends. We talked about healthy eating and exercise. We talked about HAES and I told her about this blog and how excited I was to finally have found other people who get it. Last week I got a gift from her in the mail. It was “Skinny Bitch.” Are any of you familiar with this book? The first line in the introduction is “Are you sick and tired of being fat?” Oh boy! After I ranted and raved for a few days, I was able to calmly write an email asking her what her message was in sending me this horrible book. I have not heard back as of yet. Sometimes talking to people is like banging my head against a wall. People don’t hear what they don’t want to hear.

    Thanks for being such a great voice, Ragen!

    1. Good for you for being brave and having that conversation with your friend, I’m sorry that she chose to respond the way that she did. I do know about the book and I blogged about it a while ago (here if it helps: https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/jillian-michaels-skinny-bitch-and-my-own-good/) You are such an inspiration for finding the path that works for you and then “coming out” to your friend about it, keep the faith, she may come around. Also, don’t forget that you have the right to set boundaries that keep you safe if she doesn’t.

      Big Fat Hugs,

      ~Ragen

      ________________________________

  3. There are people in my life with whom I will do my best to have a constructive conversation about HAES/FA… and then there are the ones who Will Just Never Get It. You know, the ones I’ll change the subject pointedly with. They’re the ones who know to shut up and move on to another subject when I loudly say: ‘So, how about that local sports franchise?’

    After all, even the most oblivious of them do know the only time I ever concern myself with sports is the Olympics.

    There are people who are willing to hear and there are those more invested in not being wrong. Sometimes there are things you can’t discuss with your own mother, even if you love one another deeply. At that point, you have to decide how hard to hit your head against that brick wall, or whether you’re tired of having so much brick dust in your hair.

    The message is beginning to turn around…. extremely slowly. It could take years before we begin to see significant chinks in the armor of ‘everyone knows fat kills’ because it’s taken decades to get as bad as it is now and pendulums swing slowly. But the studies keep coming out. Even the mainstream media can’t consider every single result a paradox forever.

    In the meantime, we each need to find a way to negotiate a fat hating world in our bodies while loving ourselves. And that means we need to learn when to protect ourselves as well as when to pick up the banners and march.

  4. So I came out to my dad as fat the other day.

    My parents have always said pretty terrible things to me and my sister about weight. We both had eating disorders through high school and college. Only as an adult, in the last couple of years, have I managed to break that. Gaining the weight was distressing but this blog has helped me tremendously on my journey to self acceptance and happiness. When my parents saw me they were OMGSOCONCERNED. How had I put on so much weight? Was I getting ANY exercise? How much fast food was I eating? I did not go back to visit them again for some time.

    So I told my dad I was going to visit, but there would be no discussion about my weight, dieting and that while they saw it as “concern” it was really just damaging. I told him about the eating disorders and he had no idea. His mind was blown. He said he would talk to my mom for me and let her know diet/weight talk was not acceptable.

    I joked to my friends about needing to have a conversation with my parents where I “come out” as fat. It felt good to tell them, “No, this is what I really look like. This is who I am. I really would like to live past the age of 35, thanks.”

    1. Just a week ago, I was at my parents’ house. They are in the midst of a “diet” and so I was subject to the every morning announcement of their 2/10ths gain/loss and discussions of “gaining weight” when they eat something too salty.

      I this headspace, my dad wanted to engage me about his admiration for and extreme weight loss show, and how they help the people by removing some of their fat cells so they won’t get big againg (isn’t that just liposuction – which hasn’t been proved to be effective?). What compounds this is my dad and I tend to devolve into a nasty pattern when we are discussing our differing views on a subject.

      So in the interest of familial peace, I tried to disengage which then led to the “we worry about you” line (really? the royal we?). And I just finally had to walk away. It gets so frustrating when this comes from our parents – especially when they are fat, themselves. (Although when dieting, I’ve noticed, people tend to become somewhat more evangelistic about the weightloss cause.)

  5. My husband is very set in his ideas. He doesn’t actually listen; he just shoots back with cliches. He is, fortunately, a believer in the underpants rule, and if somebody says, “It’s really none of your business.” he’ll grumble but drop it.

    We’re both fat; he calls himself a fatass and says he needs to lose weight, but then eats what he wants and challenges anyone to tell him he shouldn’t. He outweighs me by 50 lbs and has about 8 inches on me; if you do the math there you’ll find I’m “fatter” than he is, but he insists I’m not fat.

    Still, I have a lot of time to work on him. I just have to be careful. The other day we were watching the TV. Someone suggested that it would be cool to have fat people dancing. My husband said they wouldn’t be fat for long if they danced; I said that wasn’t necessarily true, and there was a huge argument. I overheard him saying to his friend on chat that I’d told him there was no point to exercising, no hope for anyone who wanted to look better. I had to get on at that point and restate my point: That being thin was not better than being fat, that thin people are not better looking than fat people; that exercise is good for you even if weight loss is unlikely.

    I should have just said something like, “Maybe they’ll lose weight, but they’ll definitely get fit.” Instead of telling him he was OMGWRONGO!

    We’ve had discussions that have gone better. He talked about the obesity epidemic, and I suggested that what we really have is more of a sedentary epidemic and actually the best thing we could do to encourage health is focus on joyful movement rather than dieting, and he agreed with me. But then, he might have been thinking if we all got moving, we’d all lose weight!

    I guess it’s about evaluating your relationship with the person and deciding how much you want to get into it.

    1. I can relate. It feels like I have the same conversations with my boyfriend over and over. (He is skinny; I am fat). I’ve emailed him all the studies Ragen links to and occasionally he will concede my point by the end of one of these discussions. But the next time it comes up it’s like the last conversation never happened! Suddenly he again “knows” that eating sugar causes diabetes, most fat people are destined to get diabetes, etc. etc.

    2. I had a similar set of arguments with my ex. We were both fat and we were both about the same height. He was convinced that if he worked out and ate a very restrictive diet not only could he lose weight but he could change the form and shape of his body. We fought a lot about that because he was also convinced that if I lost weight I would be able to look like a supermodel and I completely disagreed. I’ve been lots of different weights but one thing has always been consistent, I’m not built like supermodels. My body is just different and I like that it’s different. He could never understand how I could accept that I was just built on a bigger frame and it caused a lot of fights.

      1. When I was in the Marine Corps, a Navy Doctor – a big lady herself – took me into her office and told me to stop exercising myself so hard…that I would never get out of double-digit sizes. My hips were just too big.
        At 5’6″ and 139 out of boot camp, I was a mess. I was iron deficient, had stopped menstruating, and felt like crap, because I still had a “pooch.” I was within “normal” weight range…and I had stopped menstruating. That’s a clue.
        Unfortunately, those big hips gave me knee problems – and they got worse after ignorant non-commissioned officers (my immediate superiors) thought it was a terrific idea to force me to run…and run…and run. Now, I’m around 250. I have my bad body image days, but now the good ones outnumber them.
        It was a hard lesson for me to learn: even if I starved myself near to death and exercised incessantly, I would never get into a size 9. I would never be a supermodel. Ever. Not even CLOSE.
        I mean…that I thought at one time that I could do it made me angry – angry at a culture and a media that tells me that everyone can be thin if they just “try hard enough.” Both my mom’s and dad’s families are farm people from southern IL. What the heck did I expect?! My mom has to work out constantly to maintain her figure – otherwise, she would look like she did in the ’80’s…a lot like me, actually.
        But I have better things to do with my time than exercise like a madwoman with the intent of losing weight. I would much rather be fat and happy than thin and miserable.

        1. My body seems to settle comfortably somewhere between 190 and 215, I’m also 5’6”. I’ve been heavier than that and lighter than that but where my body seems most comfortable and where I feel the healthiest is around 200. It took me a loooooong time to stop caring what the number on the label said and to stop tying that number to my self worth. I work out and I’m active but I do things I like to do, not things everyone tells me I should do to maximize my weight loss.

          I totally understand that anger you talked about. My cousin is a size 4 naturally, she’s got that type of body that the media says is what all of us should have. I was also told I should aspire to be just like her and so much of my adolescence was spent trying to fit into her clothes. It wasn’t until years later that I realized my body is just different and my small and her small are two entirely different things. Once I realized that I was so much happier.

  6. I’ve been talking about fat more than usual on the internets lately–mainly because some 3rd party advertiser has been hyping some horrible diet product on my page as if it’s me.

    I’ve concluded that plenty of people cling tightly to their ignorance. As much as I’d like to, I have no control over that. I do, however, have control over how I am spoken to, and what I will not tolerate. Even if I began my day with a bacon and butter sandwich and 10 hours of TV, that wouldn’t give anyone the right to disrespect me.

    I’ve had some success with variations of “Grandma, I appreciate how concerned you are about me. But putting me down is actually very stressful for me, which is not healthy.
    I feel great and am under the care of a wonderful doctor who I discuss all my health concerns with. I feel badly when you imply that I’m not able to manage my own life and diet. If you aren’t able to respect my choices, I won’t be able to speak with you as often.”

  7. In he “good cop” type of situation, but with people who don’t subscribe to the “underpants rule,” I wonder if referring people to obesity researchers such as Dr Arya Sharma, who write about the problem of anti-fat bias in medicine, the fact that we don’t know how to make fat people permanently skinny, and the fact some fat people are perfectly healthy and doctors should leave them alone, might be helpful. I know this doesn’t necessarily get them out of your business, but in terms of an incremental step, and some “science” mythbusing, might be an approach that speaks the language some “good cops” can hear? I’d be interested in your thoughts on this approach, Ragan.

    1. Greyson,

      I think that can be an excellent approach. It really depends on the person – some react to science and evidence, some react to personal stories, some have to have something happen to them. It’s worth trying all approaches.

      ~Ragen

  8. Very interesting post, Ragen. I struggle a lot with whether or not to have discussion or just a disconnection with people in my own life. I feel like therapists and online people encourage me speak up when a family member/friend has said something that has hurt me or that is untrue, while other family/friends usually say “oh, they didn’t mean anything by it. I wouldn’t say anything.” And then in truth, sometimes when I HAVE said something, the reaction was so poor it wasn’t worth it. And so the do I or don’t I speak my truth about an ignorant or hurtful comment is always up for debate…

  9. The belief that fat=unhealthy is so overwhelmingly prevalent in our culture, that arguing against that belief is seen as equivalent to claiming the earth is flat. For instance, in last week’s NYTimes Science section, which is only 8 pages long, there were articles about:

    1) how to make low-fat cheese, for the sake of reducing “saturated fats in American diets – especially those of children”;

    2) in Jane Brody’s article on treating sexual pain, a quote from a gynecologist that “Ironically… women who are fit and lean tend to suffer more from a loss of ovarian function because women with a lot of fat cells make more estrogen in their body fat” (never mind the conflation of fit and lean, but note the dismay that someone who is fat could actually – “ironically!” – have better health); and, my favorite,

    3) restricting fat people from being living organ donors. I’m not arguing against valid scientific reasons for very fat people not to donate a kidney, as I’m not a physician or medical researcher and can’t properly evaluate the evidence. BUT I’m sickened by the cheerleading of encouraging fat people to lose weight in order to donate while simultaneously acknowledging there’s no way to know (because no long-term follow-up is typically done) whether these people will keep the weight off or what the metabolic or other health consequences might be of causing weight cycling. And of course the usual idea that weight loss is the best thing that could happen to anyone. A physician is quoted as saying, “It’s really a delight for a physician involved to see a health benefit in the donor or the recipient.” Imagine, if we just kept fat people from being either donors or recipients, think how we could improve the level of health (i.e. decrease the number of fat people) in this country!

    And all this in the science section of one of the nation’s leading newspapers. How can even educated people be convinced of anything to the contrary, when these sorts of half-truths and untruths surround us all the time?

  10. Thanks sooo much for sharing this! I’m about to go to a family reunion with people I’ve not seen in a very.long.time and am afraid this conversation is going to come up. Right now I feel empowered! 🙂

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