Yes, It’s the Underpants Rule

I'm ok you're okSometimes something just needs to be re-posted.  Based on a number of my interactions in the past few days, I think that this is one of those times  So I offer you, to read or read again, 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, logic 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- based 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 quote research as to 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 need to become larger to be attractive.  Besides the fact that I don’t believe it, those are not my underpants. (Not to mention that the path to high self-esteem is probably not paved with hypocrisy so doing to someone else exactly what you don’t want done to you may be ill-advised.)

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 motivations) 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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25 thoughts on “Yes, It’s the Underpants Rule

  1. I will now adopt the Underpants Rule today and always. Will the use of “underpants” in the comments add to the Guiness record chances for this post? If so, underpants, underpants, underpants. 😉

  2. I have a tendency to say things like, “People need to shut the fuck up and stay the fuck out of other people’s business.” Buuuuuuuut, that’s kind of a cussier way of stating the Underpants Rule. Right? I always go for the cussiest option.

  3. Hi Ragen! I’m a huge fan of your blog. I think what you say about HAES is wonderful. I love the Underpants Rule. But… I think you seriously violated that rule in some of your recent posts. You actually said that Al Roker was the boss of his own underpants, then spent the next two posts blasting his choice. HIS CHOICE, made for whatever reason. You actually angered me with those two posts, it almost seemed like you were making fun of and bullying him for that. I didn’t like it.

    Just my two cents thrown in there.

    I really do enjoy your blog. I want to thank you for being a voice for people. I just don’t enjoy the tone you have taken lately.

    1. Hi Ballewal,

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I looked back at both blogs and could not find anything that I identified as either bullying or making fun of Al Roker. While you are of course under no obligation to do so, if you have examples of what bothered you I’m absolutely open to talking more about it. I certainly can make mistakes and what I write is open to interpretation. From my perspective, he chose to go on public record talking about his experience and I used that to frame a greater discussion. While I think that he, and everyone else, has every right to get stomach amputation and I respect that right, I do not believe that negates my right to have an opinion about the practice as it pertains to me, or an opinion about whether or not it is truly a medically sound option based on the research and evidence, or how the option and decision to have such a procedure might be affected by our culture. I truly appreciate your kind words about the blog and respect the fact that there may be certain posts that are upsetting to you or that you don’t like, and I’m always willing to talk about it.



    1. It’s especially hard when people ask me for advice. I tend to give it, even when I know they won’t follow it and I’ll just get irritated later.

  4. What about saying “everyone should obey traffic laws” or “everyone should pay their fair share of taxes”?

    1. I apologize, sometimes things that seem obvious to me aren’t obvious to everyone – it’s one of the challenges of writing a blog! The Underpants Rule is a rule for personal interaction, not a statement about following laws. Of course, each person is the boss of their underpants when it comes to obeying laws and they may deal with consequences based on those decisions. The underpants rule does apply since, unless it’s part of our actual employment (law enforcement etc.), it’s not our job to tell other people what they should do when it comes to obeying laws.


  5. I think “Cussiest” should be in the dictionary…

    I invoke the Underpants Rule as much as possible. I fail a lot, but I keep trying…

  6. The Underpants Rule (because Underpants rule)

    Never- ever -presume to dance
    In someone else’s underpants
    For the undies of others…any size
    Aren’t ours to wear or criticize…
    Our Undies are a right of birth
    Untouched by time and space and girth…
    Boss with abandon the skivvies you own —
    But the panties of others? — just leave them alone!

    (The Underpants Rule deserves nothing less than a sonnet or Greek Chorus – but this is what the Muse has offered up in the moment)
    Blessings all

  7. I use the phrase “you are the boss of your underpants” all the time, especially when I’m about to tell someone what they should do because it stops me in my tracks from telling them what I think they should do and it has made me a better person and improved the relationships I care about the most a considerable amount.

  8. There’s a story about a 400 pound woman being subjected to ridicule for from Rupert Murdoch can that be the next topic? The comments he made makes me realize how people’s views about the overweight will never change.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I did see the comments he made. I strongly disagree that the comments show that people’s views will never change but I do plan to talk about it in the blog.



  9. Just made reference to this rule, and you, Ragen, in the Guardian’s discussion on the ‘fasting diet’ (some people there appear to have a somewhat dim view of what HAES actually is). Thanks for the reminder!

  10. Oh underpants rule I had to use you like twice this week, once when tonight when I saw a friend post a biggest loser type pic of her beautiful self to track weight loss , and another time when my dad was talking about a co worker of mine and her friends . Everyone is the boss of their own underpants so yay 🙂

  11. “Underpants Overlord”, aka The King of Underpanteron. He wears underpants on his head, obviously, and sits on an underpant throne… his own or other people’s I have no idea.

  12. I love this rule. I openly admit that I didn’t use it much in the past and when I started my journey of change I didn’t have a name for what I was trying to achieve. I do now – living by the underpants rule! May my successes be many and my mistakes be few.

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