At Least We’re Trying

Before I get started, I’m trying something new – at the bottom of each post I’ll give you the option to listen to this blog as a podcast. Let me know if you’re excited about this.

Reader Angela sent me a great picture today of a fat man running in a race and someone had commented “at least he’s trying.” I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard this – when someone fat eats a salad, or goes to the gym, or walks around the block.  The sentence is actually truncated – what the person is really saying is “at least they’re trying to lose weight.”

This is deeply problematic.  First the words “at least”.  Since we’re fat, whatever thing we’re doing that they’ve interpreted as a weight loss attempt is clearly the least we can do to get that body that matches the cultural stereotype of beauty.  It’s pejorative in a less than subtle way, and also suggests that we have some obligation to try to change our bodies.

Now, let’s talk about “trying.”  Of course since we’re fat we’re just trying – we’re not allowed to “succeed” until we’re thin.  We’re not succeeding at running a marathon, we’re failing at being thin. We’re not succeeding at eating a salad, we’re failing at being thin.  We’re not succeeding at curing cancer, we’re failing at being thin. This is reinforced by “But, But, But Syndrome.”  But at least, you know, we’re trying.  As if the only thing any fat person should ever focus on is losing weight. People want us to believe that there is no such thing as a fat person who is a success.

That’s just not true.

It’s ok for fat people not to care at all about being thin.  We can eat salads because we like salad and it’s none of anyone’s business.  We can eat a burger and fries because we like burgers and fries and that’s also none of anyone else’s business.  We can succeed at running a marathon if we don’t lose a pound.  We can succeed at any number of things in the bodies we have now without ever making those bodies any smaller. And we do.

So maybe the body bigots can retire this phrase, then we’d know that at least they’re trying.

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10 thoughts on “At Least We’re Trying

  1. This is the second cousin of the phrase, “You know she can’t help it…!”, more back-handed sympathy for the poor fatty.

  2. Yeah, that’s one of those phrases… every time I hear that sanctimonious phrase I mentally raise my middle fingers on high and invite the perpetrator to have a good, long twirl.

    The podcast is a great idea!

  3. Can we also have them retire, “But you have a pretty face…”

    And I agree with the “good for you” which I get to hear most everytime I go into the gym. Better than the mean comments but still like nails on a chalkboard.

  4. Exactly right on this phrase, along with “She has such a pretty face, but … (and the rest is, if only she’d lose some weight”. I can’t stand the “good for you” either. I’ve been surprised to not get this attitude from any trainers as I work out, especially with strength training. I also haven’t seen it from any of the men (because, let’s face it, it’s mostly men who work weights at least in the Midwest). I’m thankful that they respect me enough to realize that I use the machines properly, I have good form and I challenge myself. If I had to deal with the constant crap of this phrase, it would wear me down to finding a different gym entirely or make it very hard to stay motivated to continue, despite the wonderful physical benefits of being strong that don’t involve losing weight.

  5. When I used to run nothing would drive me more crazy than passing someone who would say “good for you!” in that patronizing voice. Why good for me? Why do you feel the need to comment on me at all? And of course telling this to someone else sounds like insanity that I don’t just appreciate the words of so called support when really I just don’t want to be treated like a child or a moron because I am fat.

  6. I think the “at least….” phrase also implies that they never think a fat person can actually do it (lose weight) anyway. They never expect it to happen/it’s impossible, but at least they try! It’s obnoxious. I guess that’s the same as never succeeding, but I thought it was a tiny bit different. I took it to mean the commentor never believes they can succeed vs. the “at least they’re trying” to get there and maybe they will if they keep *trying*.
    I think I may be thinking too much about this and confusing myself!

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