Once Upon a Fat Time…

Once Upon a TimWe talked a couple days ago about The Biggest Loser’s ridiculous claim that they are starting the dialog on childhood obesity.  That claim had already been made under pretty questionable circumstances by Michelle Obama and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.   Reader Malinda pointed out a headline that said “Most Americans Don’t Know the Dangers of Obesity.”  I’ve seen articles about how doctors don’t talk to their fat patients enough about weight loss, how fat people don’t know they are fat, that nobody is brave enough to talk about obesity.

What the hell are they talking about?  Are these surveys based on 9 out of 10 people who live under a rock?  All of those sentences should start with “Once upon a time” because they are fairy tales.

Magazines at the grocery store can’t stop talking about weight loss.  I, and the readers who e-mail me have literally never been to the doctor and not had my weight brought up and that includes, in my case, three occasions when doctors suggested that I should lose weight to cure my strep throat, separated shoulder, and broken toe. The media likes to interject this idea into their stories so that people don’t call them out for reporting the same “everybody knows”  crap in multiple stories day in and day out without checking the evidence or, you know, asking questions as journalists might be expected to do.

The big problem happens when people believe this story and think that fat people are wandering the world oblivious to the fact that everyone from the media, to healthcare professionals, to them wants to stereotype us based on how we look, or that god forbid we don’t hate ourselves and spend all of our free brainspace, time, and money trying to be thin –  and they think it’s somehow up to them to disabuse us of these notions, or remind us that if we’re not giving all of our efforts to self-hatred then we’re just not trying hard enough.

The fairy tale is based on another fairytale:  Once upon a time, we got the idea that other people’s bodies were our business.  And we all lived miserably ever after.

Until we called bullshit on these fairy tales, made public health about providing health options to the public instead of about making people’s health the public’s business, and chose to respect and appreciate people of all shapes and sizes.  Maybe it’s not happily ever after, but it’s a damn good start.

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50 thoughts on “Once Upon a Fat Time…

  1. Ugh! Since the New Year, “Resolution Time” is in full swing–I can’t watch TV “real time” (DVR, baby!). If I watch “real time” or am not quick on the fast forward button during those shows that are recorded I am simply bombarded with messages about how I must try this food/ supplement/ workout program/ weight loss program so that I may lose all those icky pounds. There are quite a few that are terribly triggering to me.

    It is absolutely freaking ridiculous to say that we are oblivious to these messages and need to be bombarded by more of this talk.

    1. Then tack on the all “stay young, look young, feel young, take away grey, hide grey, lustrous shine, blah, blah, blah” adverts and it’s absolutely outrageous. I tend to find for the times when I can’t FF and get caught up in the gobbledy gook (if I’m not channel changing as my out for the moment) is that sometimes I start making up little adverts back at the ones on tv. Silly, dorky little rebuttals or really sarcastic ones. Something that usually makes me laugh and keep things in perspective. Or periodically amuses my daughter if she catches me in the act.

      1. 🙂 I find myself hitting pause and finding something to entertain myself if I run out of FF room! Or going “BLAH BLAH BLAH!” if I’m not in a situation to hit the FF button (like if I’m in various stages of prepping dinner…)
        Happy you can amuse your daughter, my hubby is generally as annoyed as me and tends to get grumbly. Next time I’m in FF purgatory I’ll try talking back to the TV and see if I get some laughs.

      2. I started going gray at 27. Initially I did everything in my power to hide it. My hair turned dry and brittle from bleaching,because the hair color wouldn’t permeate the stubborn gray, so I had to resort to stronger methods. Finally I said “hell with it, I’d rather have healthy gray hair.”
        Just like being a larger person, having gray hair tends to get the most superficial douchebags out of my way immediately. Surely they don’t want to hit on an “old fat chick.”

    2. I know what you mean. I don’t have a DVR and I get so tired of the ads, I am tired of the ‘Life care Canada, weight loss and health clinc’ ones. For the love of sanity everyone eats differently when alone!

      But what I hate most about the whole New Years ‘resolutions’ is everyone you know will ask you what yours is and when you say you have none they go “OMG! I thought you would want to lose weight and become healthier this year!!” and look and you so stunned like ‘How can you not do nothing about your horrible fat!’

      (background to the last part. see bottom with * for more details)
      I was out with a bunch of my girls for a girl’s night and they all started talking about their ‘resolutions’ and they finally came round to me. I said that I had none because I see no use to them. All of them looked at me shocked and said “I thought you would want to lose weight and become healthier this year!!”

      When I explained to them that I practice HAES and what it is they all gave me the puppy dog head cock look and after about a minute one finally said “We are only worried about your health.” in which I explained there was no need because I am healthy due to HAES and have passed every yearly physical/check up*. Which is when they go into the “everybody knows” lecture, and one even went on the whole ‘Well doctor’s don’t recommend weight loss for nothing” and another one went on a “You should really think of WLS”

      Now at this point I am really trying to keep my temper in check because this is really starting to wear on me, as I explained doctor’s recommend this crap because they get a throw back* and that here is no evidience that weight loss works long term, then I explained that I would not ever have that barbaric* surgery in my life and explained why. I actually had them hush up and drop the subject after I told them about Al and his pants pooping as well as a whole list of other side effects and death rates. I am pretty sure they will never bring it up again, they do I am pretty sure I will lose my temper.

      Yearly physical/check up* physical is sexual health, and the check up, is blood pressure, heart rate, blood tests, hormone and everything else checks.

      Throw back* a term used for when doctors get money from Company X or Y or the goverment for testing or sending someone to a weight loss/obesity clinc or suggesting/prescribe weight loss drug or plan. (This was explained by my doctor whom is retiring. My doctor practices HAES)

      Barbaric* what I call WLS since it does so much damage to the body.

      1. Once I told them that I didn’t want their concern, had they not dropped it, I would have gotten my food in a to-go box, then gotten up and left. Seriously. I will not tolerate this anymore.

        1. I really do think they needed to hear what I said because normally I tell them it is a no-no subject which makes me seem sensitive about my weight, when truthfully I’m tired of hearing about it, and have explained it many times, which again they take as I’m sensitive about my weight. I have gotten a few apologies on Facebook today.

          1. It’s infuriating, isn’t it? I think my husband is still in the stage of “oh, she just gained because of her injuries, she’ll rebound after they clear up.” He gets upset at times when I bake (look down to twistie’s post, I’ve returned to my roots of baking and enjoying cooking!). He hasn’t quite come over completely to my thinking. And I don’t know if he really understands that my injuries will be with me the rest of my life–I will probably be in some form of PT for good.
            Sure, I may lose some weight now that my recovery stage is thus that I’m moving more… but I’m no longer making weight loss a priority. I really want to move in the HAES direction.

            1. I know that denial too Tara. Family is so much fun for that one (/heavy sarcasm)

              I love cooking and baking, I just wish I had more time to do it. I normally will make things and freeze them on the weekend so I am all ready to go for the week, but I do miss being able to come home and cook a meal and have the fun of dancing around my kitchen while doing it..

              As for baking, I don’t remember the last time I did. But I know the last time I did, I made my grandma’s Danishes and got yapped at by my father because of how “unhealthy” they are. I felt like saying “Uh didn’t make these for you dumbass, I made them for mom’s birthday since she was saying how she missed her mom and grandma’s baking!” what actually came out was “They are for mom’s birthday.”

              I love cooking and baking old family recipes!

  2. I wish we really could have Fat Acceptance/Liberation TV and our own ads that counter and talk back to the mainstream “oh the deathfatz “have to lose weight.”

  3. (Warning, ranty McRantypants on parade below)

    But… but… but… I certainly never figured out I was fat from the fact that I couldn’t find clothes anywhere but the plus size store! I never figured out I was fat from the fact that complete strangers started yelling insulting things and mooing at me from across the street. I never figured out I was fat from the fact that my own brother kept informing me every time we met – informing, not asking, mind – that I clearly had hypertension, diabetes, and the heartbreak of psoriasis because of my weight. I never figured out that being fat might be considered a negative for my health and my social opportunities from watching a minimum of three ads per commercial break for weight loss methods, from the way that it seems to be a law that every magazine aimed at women must include at least one weight-loss story on the cover per issue, from the endless fat jokes in TV shows and movies, from the fact that interviews with celebrities from sports heroes to actors to singers to political figures includes questions about weight and weight loss so consistently that most people don’t even think about the fact that it’s done any more than they think about how the electricity gets to the lightswitch. I never figured out fat might not be considered positive from the existence of shows like The Biggest Loser, from the fact that the memoir of a famous pastry chef includes the careful doublethink that she can’t possibly be a part of the Obesity Epidemic since her customers aren’t fat, therefore it’s okay for her to continue in her profession, or from the fact that people keep telling me to just put down the Twinkies… something I’ve eaten perhaps twice in my life, and the second time just to make sure I hated them as much as I thought I did.

    I don’t see billboards for half a dozen diet programs, gyms promising I’ll get thin if I just join them, and weight loss surgery every time my husband and I drive to another town. I don’t open up my Yahoo mail account every day to ads for Weight Watchers and Sensa. I’ve never seen a contestant on Project Runway freak out and behave abominably at the thought of being forced to dress a woman over a size four. I don’t check out the headlines on Yahoo, Huffpo, and other major news sources only to find at least three stories on how I’m doomed to die young and loveless and broke because of my stubborn refusal to be thin. Nor do I ever see an article blaming fat people for spiraling health care costs, global warming, the national debt, and the artistic fall of M. Night Shyamalan.

    Yeah, it’s too damn bad nobody’s talking about the horrors of obesity.

    Guess some brave soul had better open a dialogue.

    1. You’re an awesome McRantyPants!

      I have not always been fat, and I’m only in the size 18 range (at my most skinny a size 8 and that was after an illness). Thus far I’ve not had to endure TOO many of the random-stranger-telling-me-to-put-down-*insert “evil” non-diet food here. But there have been a few “eat less fast food comments.”

      I almost never eat fast food, and generally only when I’m absolutely starving and it’s the most convenient thing to do. I’d much rather eat at a sit down restaurant or home setting, thank you. But I would not begrudge the fast food enthusiast–I do not rule their underpants. I don’t actually remember ever eating a twinkie, but I’ve eaten a Hostess cupcake and was not impressed. But if you are one of those who bought out a Hostess store of their twinkies, I could see doing the same thing for an item I love! I only recently returned to baking sweets and breads after years of avoiding them. And wish to smack myself for depriving myself of my Grandfather’s butter cookies all these years. Sandbakkels, how I love thee!

      *eye-roll* Oh, yes, it’s the twinkies that made me fat. Gimme a break.

    2. *applauds wildly* I love everything you write, Twistie. 🙂

      Here’s an excerpt from my own snarky comment to a Jez troll this week. I’m keeping it for future use. He was on the calories in/calories out- it’s-not-rocket-science bandwagon.

      “WOW! No fat person has EVER heard this explained so succinctly and so brilliantly before. *sniff* Oh, my. THANK you for saving my life!!

      “….said NO FAT PERSON EVER.

      “Seriously? Have you lived under a rock for 25 years? Maybe 50? Puh. Leez. We have been having variations of this argument shoved in our faces by the media and The Society of People Who Think They Know Everything for over half a century. Here’s the kicker – no science supports this.”

  4. I tend to think that the claim that “most Americans don’t know the dangers of obesity” is a misconstrued way of saying that on some poorly conducted survey, they asked “Do you believe that your weight is responsible for your health problems?” and most people were wise enough to say “no.” I think claims like that are based on really bad assumptions to begin with.

  5. Once upon a time, we got the idea that other people’s bodies were our business. And we all lived miserably ever after.

    Sums it up quite well.

  6. Oh, yes , NO ONE KNOWS THE DANGERS OF FAT!!! Reminds me of a favorite line from one of the “Tales of the City” books (if you haven’t read them, make THAT a New Year’s resolution). One of the characters is nattering about how no one in San Francisco can stop talking about gayness, and he says:” San Francisco: the place where the love that dare not speak its name never shuts up!”

  7. I agree with just about everything you say here, and especially (*especially*) about treating everyone with respect. One thing that struck me, though, was this:

    “Until we called bullshit on these fairy tales, made public health about providing health options to the public instead of about making people’s health the public’s business, and chose to respect and appreciate people of all shapes and sizes.”

    At first I was nodding right along (and totally agree with that last part), but thinking about it, public health is a lot more complicated than providing health options. And I write this not because it negates what you’ve written, but because it’s a strange and interesting phenomenon that I think is important for anyone interested in public health to keep in mind.

    For a variety of complicated reasons, providing health options–even cheap and convenient health options–is often not enough to get people to use those health options. For example, one study conducted found that telling seniors at a college that they should go get a free flu shot at the student clinic did not result in very many of them getting one, but changing the way the information was presented did. Notably, scare tactics did *not* work–telling them all about the dangers of the flu, the likelihood of serious illness or death, and the dangers of passing it on to the immunocompromised did not significantly raise the rates; I am not advocating shame or scare tactics, and probably would not be even if they had worked. But putting a map of the campus with the clinic circled raised compliance dramatically–even though these were seniors who all knew their way around campus, and even though in follow up most of them already had known where it was. It was not the actual information that made the clinic suddenly accessible to them, but something about including it drastically raised the rate at which they chose to access health care. In addition to obvious barriers, strange and not always obvious factors affect the rates at which people will access healthcare.

    Medicine is like this in a lot of respects–not just in terms of getting people to turn out for flu shots or physicals (and I do realize that barriers there also include physicians who treat fat patients poorly), but also in terms of getting people to fill their prescriptions, or getting people who have already filled their prescriptions to take their medication once they have it. (It also includes things like the wildly successful public health effort of getting most people to start washing their hands.) While there are a lot of reasons why people do not have healthcare options or cannot access the options they have on paper, there are a variety of situations in which people simply do not access them, even though in many cases they say they both can and want to (obviously people who have personal reasons for being intentionally noncompliant, such as judging side effects not worth the benefits, are a different case).

    I absolutely agree with you that health care is not about forcing a one-size-fits-all plan down everyone’s throat, about doctors overriding patients’ wishes “for their own good”, or about shaming or scaring people into going to doctors who treat them poorly, or anything like that. But when public health efforts are successful, it’s usually because they do go above and beyond providing options.

  8. Well, I had a horrible appointment with an opthomologist yesterday who was trying to bully me into WLS, it was horrible. I even pushed back and did my best to stand up for myself.

    And even though I’ve been reading FA blogs and books, etc for a while now, I know I’m still so upset about it that there’s probably a month of pain still in front of me about it.

    1. It’s appalling that a freaking opthomologist, for gods sake, has the nerve to even bring up a patient’s weight. That has NOTHING to do with eye health. I would write a letter of complaint to the state medical board. Very unprofessional behavior. I’d also find a new doctor, stat.

      1. Mary, thank you for your support, I wrote a very long reply to explain my medical situation to Sandra’s comment, in case you’re interested, but I wanted to thank you for your support.

        I hate finding new doctors.

    2. Really?? An opthomologist? I don’t understand- Are they blaming nearsightedness on being fat now?
      I’m so sorry that happened to you, kprofou. Good on you for standing up for yourself.

      1. It’s not nearsightedness, I have headaches that she is blaming on me being fat. My neurologist has never blamed my weight, even though one of my potential diagnoses is called idiopathic intracranial hypertension which can be attributed to being fat. But my symptoms don’t quite match. IIH can put pressure on the optic nerve.

        My neurologist kind of rocks. My weight has never come up, except in regards to me talking about not wanting to take anti depressants because of every single anti depressant I’ve ever taken has caused significant weight gain and significantly worsening depression. He was saying that one of the treatment plans we could try would require multiple antidepressants and we could go for a world record of weight gain, but he said it in a way meant he understood or at least empathized with what I’ve been through with doctors and medicine that has just piled weight on.

        He’s put me on two different medicines that can cause weight loss (topamax and diamox) and neither time did he say maybe I’ll get a side benefit of weight loss. (I couldn’t tolerate diamox at all, so I’m back on my second try of topamax). My doctor isn’t a big guy either, so it’s not some sort of fat person empathy, I think it’s just natural empathy.

        Anyway, the ophthalmologist is going to send him a letter suggesting I get wls, so we’ll see what happens, maybe he’ll realize I’m a fat load and get on board or maybe he’ll just ignore her. As it was, she said there was no damage to my optic nerve, so there’s still no proof I have IIH. Wow, sorry that was so long. My apology.

        1. I am sorry you had to go through that with an eye doctor no less. Also, I know you did not ask for advice but if I may I would like to share the following.

          Have you and your doctors looked into TMJ as a possible cause of your headache pain? From the time I was a young girl until I was 10yrs old I had debilitating migraines. It hurt to breath and no doctor could find what was wrong. Some doctors told my mom it was because I was fat, looking for attention and just plain lying. Until we found a doctor who in two seconds diagnosed me has having TMJ, which is a misalignment of the jaw. I had a bad fall when I was very young and slowly the jaw shifted out of place and THAT was the cause of all my years of agonizing pain. I went to a specialist and for about six months wore a small piece in my mouth that slowly realigned my jaw. I have never had a migraine again.

          It is contemptible that everything in a fat person’s life is blamed on their being fat, except if it is something good—then it is in spite of their being fat. A no win situation.

        2. Ugh!!! I know how awful it is to find another doctor but do! You should NOT be in pain!! I have glaucoma (which I assume she checked you for!) and dealt with monstrous headaches for over a year before they believed me. They (I went to multiple opthalmologists) kept telling me the headaches could not possibly be a result from the glaucoma, etc, etc… In my case my pressure was sky high, but they simply refused to address the pain. And then just to tell you to have WLS…she’s being lazy and doesn’t want to get to the root of your problem.

          I truly hope the topamax helps the pain. I was on diamox for a few days after I finally had eye surgery back in Oct…couldn’t tolerate it at all.

    3. At two different stages in my life have I had my weight linked with eye/vision issues. I was diagnosed with intercranial hypertension in 1996 and told the danger was damage to the optic nerve if untreated. i was also told they didn’t know what caused it, but a) women have it more than men b) women who are overweight have it more than those who aren’t, and c) women with menstrual irregularities (my periods have never been regular) have it more than other women. there wasn’t a lot of talk about my weight at the time, but it did come up.

      Then last year, my optometrist told me i have small fatty deposits at the back of my eye (can’t recall right now what they’re called) and if they get too serious, they can affect vision. Her advice was “diet and exercise.” When I pressed her to confirm that she was saying losing weight would help the condition, she said really it was eating high-fat foods that make it worse. She told me her father, who is thin, has the same condition and likes to eat a lot of fatty foods, but has cut down.

      Ah, so you’re not saying I should lose weight, you’re saying I shouldn’t eat fatty food. Thank you for clarifying, because that’s not the same thing!


      1. Huh, I hadn’t heard the IIH was tied to irregular menstrual cycles because since my thyroid has been worked out, you can set your calendar to my cycle.

    4. Huh. Last time I checked, ophthalmologists dealt with eye issues. Silly me, I didn’t realize they were now bariatric specialists as well.

  9. The posts on FB are getting to me as resolutions go into full swing. Today a friend posted a pic of a sign outside a health club that says: “What you eat in private, you wear in public.” OMG!! I still don’t know if I should call him out on it or just let it go. I want to say something but I don’t want to get into it with this guy and all his friends who have “liked” the photo. There are just so many things wrong with that statement. I’m fuming at the moment.

    1. You might ask why what other people wear in public, whether that be fat, bell bottoms, or a bathrobe is any of his business. Do other people’s appearance harm him in any way? Since the answer is clearly no, he’s just being a self righteous jerk.

    2. Personally I would send him a private message explaining how wrong that statement is. It isn’t like I haven’t done that before.

    3. “What you eat in private, you wear in public.”

      Well, damn, Guess I’m going to have to figure out how to wear a skirt made of soup. BRB and stuff.

      1. Tori, I intend to wait until I can find a way to wear a unitard made of cream puffs.

        Mmmm… home made cream puffs. I love ’em, but I don’t do them often. They don’t last well, so I have to have plenty of people on hand to eat them right up, and roughly three-quarters of the people I know are avoiding sugar at any given moment for reasons ranging from diabetes to weight management to general disapproval of refined foods. I can’t stand to waste good choux paste and I can’t eat a whole batch of cream puffs by myself, even if I am deathfatz.

        Anybody know of a really small batch recipe for choux paste? I’d give my right arm for one, except that it’s really helpful having that second arm when it comes to stirring the dough.

        1. I was just going with the food I’d most recently eaten in “private” (at home for dinner rather than a restaurant or workplace lunchroom). Strangely, it seems that the first food up is also one of the more difficult foods from which to make clothing. I mean, I could see a necklace, scarf, or belt made of stew meat and vegetables, but that’s not really the same thing as “wearing soup.” 😛

          As for a choux paste recipe, I’m afraid I can’t help you. My cooking tastes run more toward savory foods rather than anything particularly sweet. As such, the most complicated thing I bake is chocolate chip cookies — and I haven’t even made those in something like 3 years.

          1. Hee! No problem, Tori. I was more putting the concept out into the universe to see if anything came back. If it does, great. If not, well, maybe then it’s time to start working on a recipe myself. I’m a baker at heart, and love to play with flour.

            As far as soup for clothing, I have a feeling that clam chowder (one of my favorite soups, incidentally) might have some graphic possibilities. All those potatoes and onions would add interesting texture, and there’s something kind of gloriously perverse around the idea of wearing something white that’s composed of or made to look just like food.

            If only Schiaparelli was still around to create it! Salvadore Dali designed some really cool trompe l’oile fabrics for her. And she did design a rather delicious pork chop hat back in the thirties. Yes, it looked just like wearing a pork chop on your head. I want one now. Of course I wouldn’t throw a salad bowl hat out of bed, either. All those lovely colors! And so delicious!

        2. I think you can freeze un-baked choux pastries. Which would have the bonus of having them on hand whenever you fancied one.

        1. Sorry, the above comment was for Tori, who was pondering a soup skirt- it just didn’t attach to her post.

    4. Well, if you spill food on yourself you’ll be wearing it, but that’s usually more a problem with food you eat in public, away from your house and a change of clothes. I keep thinking of “Eat it or wear it!” [Context: in a Judy Blume book, the parents say “Eat it or wear it!” when their kids resist eating something. Eventually this backfires when one of the kids decides to dump food on himself in a restaurant, IIRC.]

  10. I have a wonderful doctor, who does not talk to me about weight loss. He does take my weight each visit, and when it went up sharply in a three-month period, with no change in my diet or exercise, the discussed what might have changed, and determined it was my new medication that wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do, and needed to be changed, anyway. “But, yeah, that probably explains the weight gain. It’s a known side effect. Now, let’s see what other option we can explore to change this OTHER number.” I love that he had prescribed a medication that was supposed to do something good for me (it works for a lot of people, just not me, apparently), and didn’t let a known side-effect of weight gain keep him from giving it to me. A lot of doctors would have immediately screened it out because of possible weight gain, no matter how vital it might be. Some doctors are fat-hating scum.

    We track the weight ONLY because unexplained weight changes, up or down, are cause for concern, and can be symptoms of serious issues, such as heart disease (which does run in my family). So we track it to make sure there is no UNEXPLAINED weight change. And we both know that I’m not actively trying to lose weight, so any weight-loss falls into the “unexplained” category, and needs to be examined as a potential symptom of a very bad thing. Gradual weight loss, coupled with improved numbers in other health markers is examined as a side-effect of improved numbers in other health markers, so long as it is gradual. Sharp weight loss would be met with a “what the heck is going on?” conversation, not a “Good for you!” one.

    My sister, on the other hand, has a heart condition, and has to monitor her weight daily, because sharp changes could mean a trip to the emergency room. That’s up OR down. “You lost three pounds in a week? OH NO!”

    I love that, for us, weight is simply another data point on the chart of things to check to verify health issues, and not a health issue, itself. I love that we have blood pressure cuffs that fit. I love that there are a variety of seating options in the waiting room, and staff come in a variety of sizes, too!

    I love my doctor! I think I found an actual unicorn.

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