First of all, you may have noticed that I skipped a few posts last week. Thank you to the readers who have sent e-mails and Facebook messages to check on me. I am fine, my partner however is not. She injured her knee and the healthcare debacle that has followed has been nothing short of shameful. I will probably blog about it eventually but for now greatly appreciate happy thoughts directed at her knee and our journey through the healthcare system. Thanks also to my friends in LA who have been so generous with support, rides, food (T, I’m looking at you) Seriously, thanks. Onward to the blog:
You may remember a while ago I was part of a panel on childhood obesity that included a bunch of self-identified childhood obesity experts who claimed that they didn’t need any evidence that their interventions work because they have common sense. Oh let’s entrust as many children’s lives as possible with these people – don’t you think?
Another concept was brought up after the cameras were off that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while. One of the panelists claimed that calling ourselves fat was a source of the problem. He explained that if you call yourself fat then that’s what you become – much better, he claimed, to say that you “have fat.” I was barely able to control my eye-roll reflex when another panelists explained that in her book (which I will never, never name or link to) she explained that it’s not that people are physical fat, it’s that they are mentally fat. Uh huh.
These are both highly problematic in different ways. Let’s start with the idea of being “mentally fat”. I hate to spoil the ending, but she is just regurgitating the same tired stereotypes that fat people don’t plan, prepare, and portion their food correctly and don’t move their bodies enough while thin people do these things, despite the fact that the evidence shows that this isn’t the case. I imagine that it’s only her insistence that evidence isn’t necessary if she thinks something is common sense that allows her to sleep at night after taking money for this book.
Fat is not a “state of mind.” Fat is not a specific set of behaviors. Fat is a body with lots When it comes to diversity of habits and choices, fat people are just like thin people – only bigger. There are people who eat the exact same things and move the exact same amount and have various different body sizes. There are people who eat vastly different diets and move in drastically different amounts but have the same size bodies. Our society accepts the fact that there are very thin people who eat very poorly and never exercise but remain thin, yet insists that it is impossible for someone to be fat unless they eat their body weight in big macs everyday.
To be clear people get to make choices about what they eat and if someone wants to eat their body weight in big macs everyday they get to do that and it’s nobody else’s business. My point is that the persistent myth that fat people just need to learn portion control and go for a walk and then they’ll be thin (both physically and, apparently, mentally) is dangerously misleading, is insulting – at least to this fat person, and keeps people who are interested in health from pursuing evidence-based methods for improving health that don’t involve some “eat less move more” platitude that has been shown to be an utter failure in over 50 years of studies.
Which brings us to the idea that people shouldn’t identify as fat, but should consider themselves to be a thin person covered in (ostensibly undesirable) fat. Here’s why I think that’s bullshit. First of all, I am with my body 100% of the time and this suggests that I should look at my body as flawed and needing to be changed in order to be worthy, I don’t believe that is the case. Since all the studies suggest that most fat people will always be fat, this suggestion means that we spend our whole lives unsatisfied with our bodies. I spent a lot of years hating my body and it was awful and exhausting and it made me tired and sad and miserable but it did not make me thin. I have come to believe that fat people are no more thin people with extra fat than tall people are short people with extra leg. People come in lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and none of us owe anybody an explanation for our size, and none of us should be expected to hate our bodies because they don’t look like somebody else’s body.
Finally, it ads another layer to the stigma and shame that fat people experience. Now it’s not just our bodies that are wrong, it’s also our minds. My fat is not a state of mind, I am not a thin woman covered in fat. I am a fat woman, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Don’t forget that the Lose the Diet Gain Yourself Telesummit starts today (January 21, 2013) I’m speaking at 2:30 Pacific Time – Truth, Lies, and Measuring Tape – What the Evidence Really Says About Weight and Health. You can listen live and ask questions or listen to the recordings at your convenience. Register here for free.
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41 thoughts on “I’m In a New Fat State of Mind”
This post was wonderful and so true! I LOVED THIS QUOTE: “I spent a lot of years hating my body and it was awful and exhausting and it made me tired and sad and miserable but it did not make me thin.” Thank you so much! I enjoy reading your blog!
“I have come to believe that fat people are no more thin people with extra fat than tall people are short people with extra leg.”
THIS. As always, articulate and to the point. Keep fighting the good fight, darling, and I hope your partner’s knee gets better soon.
Very timely for me. I don’t know why people can clearly accept one side of that equation (thin people who eat a lot) but not consider that the other might also be true.
Also, We love you Just The Way You Are 🙂 Love to J and her knee.
Oh, finally, at last, someone has explained it to me! I don’t have bipolar disorder or OCD or any of that, I just have a fat brain!
The eyes have rolled so far back that I am now looking right at my fat brain.
I’m sorry to hear about your partner. If you need one, I know a So Cal knee surgeon. He repaired my knee after a fall. He didn’t blink an eye about my (at the time) 350 pounds.
I wonder sometimes if I should just choose to be flattered that there are people out there who spend so much time thinking about my “health” that they have burned out their ability to think critically.
Poor them *rolls eyes*.
The fact that such ridiculousness can actually garner someone a Book Deal!!! just makes me angry though.
I also hope you and your partner get what you need out of the medical system without too much more fighting. Sending happy thoughts and hope you way.
Actually, everone is fat mentally. Our brains are made mostly of fat. So there! Wonder what that “expert” would think of that little fact 🙂
Hey! I was gonna say that! I guess great fat minds think alike.
Dear God. Does she realize that “feeling” fat is a straight up eating disordered mentality? I’m amazed she wasn’t wearing a “nothing tastes as good as thin feels” shirt.
Once again, Ragen, hammer, meet nail.
I spent a lot of years wasting brain power and space on thinking up ways not to call anyone – myself included – fat for fear of offending. But you know what? I’m fat. It’s a fact. You know, sort of like how I’m also short, left-handed, blue-eyed, and snub-nosed. Not one of these things makes me better or worse than anyone else on the planet. Some of them make a bigger difference in how I live than others (left-handedness vs blue eyes, for instance), but they are all simple descriptors of me as an individual.
What people are saying when they say it’s bad of us to call ourselves fat is really ‘stop making my perfectly good insult/shame bomb into a simple descriptor because then I can’t use it as a stick to control you anymore.’
I hope and pray that one day people will look back on the garbage heap of quack theories about fatness and what to do about it with the level of disbelief and horror that they absolutely deserve.
(see your illustration and apply directly to me)
I forgot to wish your partner a speedy recovery. Take care of yourselves.
This reminds me of an episode of Dr. Phil, many, many years ago. I just remember him telling a woman that being fat was in her head. We do things when we get something out of it. So, somehow she is getting something out of being fat and that is why she can’t get thin; because subconsciously she doesn’t want to. He listed reasons why a person might “hide” behind their fat–traumas, abuse, etc. Before I had accepted myself as I am, and was struggling with disordered eating, etc. I would often sit and wonder what had happened in my past that made me fat. What was I hiding from? What trauma had happened that would cause me to subconsciously pack on the pounds and then keep them. It used to drive me crazy. I’ve been through some crap but so has everyone and I know plenty of THIN people who have been through some terrible times and didn’t gain weight as a coping mechanism. Overall, I’m a very happy person so it made me nuts thinking that I had this extra weight as a result of some personal trauma I couldn’t get past. I also kept trying to figure out what I was getting out of being fat. From what I could tell I was only getting grief at every turn. Why would i want to subconsciously remain fat when I had to deal with discrimination? It made me question if I was even really happy!! Because according to Dr. Phil, I couldn’t possibly truly be happy because I was hiding behind my fat.
But then I grew older and wiser and realized Dr. Phil is an asshat. So, there ya go.
I remember that episode. It was a rerun the other day. My parents were watching it and my dumbass father was agreeing with everything that shit-for-brains Dr. Crappy Phil was saying, I tried very hard toto throw something at the tv or the tv it’s self.
This is quite a common theory actually. I used to get the “you have such a pretty face” thing (too old for it now!) and that was often accompanied by amateur psychological theories about how I must be fat because I am afraid of men and/or sex.
What a load of shit. It makes me angry.
I know everyone’s experience is different, and I don’t want to tell anyone that feels this is the reason for their fat that they’re wrong…but I kind of think they are.
In fact, a relative of mine used to give this reason as an explanation of her fat body…not the endless diets her parents put her on (up to and including obtaining illegal amphetamines for when she was a teenager so she could lose weight)…not her chubby family’s DNA, not two pregnancies…and so on.
I got that idiotic babble about how I am fat because I am afraid of men/sex once. I really couldn’t stop myself from looking at them oddly and saying “How am I afraid of men/sex when I just had more sex with the most amazing man in eleven days then you will have in your entire lifetime?” we had flapping fish mouth (for those wondering flapping fish mouth is when the mouth moves but no words come out)
Cause you know having a parent who’s family is all fat had nothing to with being fat at all!
Wow – I spent a long time with that theory too – thanks to a therapist. I really believed it. For quite a few of my younger years, I felt like I was just incapable of “getting in touch with my subconscious.” What a load of crap! That’s why I try to share some of my experiences with younger people going through this issue. It’s so difficult to realize and accept that you will never have that swimsuit model body, especially when you’re young. Thank God for blogs like this one!
P.S. And, if I remember correctly, Oprah went through that whole phase too. She’s had a huge negative impact on people like me. Now that I’m at this point in my life, I feel bad for people like Oprah. She’s had ginormous success in her life and she still focuses on being fat and it prevents her from feeling good about her accomplishments. How sad is that?
I keep thinking about Oprah as I try to adjust my thinking to accept that I can’t get thin through diet and exercise. If anybody had the resources to do it, it would be her. If she can’t, then it isn’t very realistic.
I do think eating because of issues happens, I’m pretty sure it affects me from time to time. However, fixing the issues doesn’t automatically make you get thinner.
And the advertising she has on her network fits in with that scope of thinking too, at least during the show I watched the other evening. I don’t typically watch her network so I can’t say overall what advertising campaigns are more common but during the one show I was watching they had the same 2 WL commercials come on about 4-6 times each in an hour. It was pathetic. I just got up to do something else until the show came back on.
“Our society accepts the fact that there are very thin people who eat very poorly and never exercise but remain thin, yet insists that it is impossible for someone to be fat unless they eat their body weight in big macs everyday.”
Now if only people who thought this way would STOP becoming doctors… *facepalm* Seriously, what ever happened to “first do no harm”?
Apparently, that only applies to thin people – we are considered subhuman!
Also, we must be lying.
Oh, that’s right! We can under no circumstances be trusted to be reliable witnesses to our experience. Thank goodness there are all these thin people to tell us how awful it is to be fat!
I’ve been told by ssoooo many doctors that I’m either lying or I’m mistaken. Ya know, because it is so hard to tell time in order to be accurate on how much I exercise. And apparently it is impossible for me to accurately log what I feed myself every day.
Having a certain amount of fat must trigger some sort of automatic lying mechanism.
Freedom from anxiety about my body finally came when I gave up the ridiculous notion that I was a thin person trapped in a fat person’s body. I am fat, healthy and just fine the way that I am.
*HEALING MOJO* to your partner.
I was very heartbroken the other night to discover that my friend who is very fat seriously hates it to the point where she feels she must apologize to anyone who touches her bare fat flesh. She understands the concept of liking yourself the way you are, she just can’t do it.
I hope she gets past that because she is a very cool person.
This breaks my heart. I’ve been there and it’s awful. I found my way out and I hope your friend does, too.
I hope so too. At least she looks at the fat positive stuff I post on Facebook. Maybe it will sink in. I know she is battling depression too, which can’t help either.
I feel for your friend. And I frequently feel that way myself.
My grandmother once told me that people only want to hug me because I’m fat and people like hugging fat people, so for years, I wouldn’t let anyone touch me for fear that maybe she’s right.
What a horrible thought! Though I confess when I hug one of my skinny friends I tend to think “She feels so bony!” 🙂 Not that I think any of my friends need to change in any way, unless it makes them happier.
Sending your boo lots of healing mojo, and sending you lots of good juju, too.
Gads, will they never stop with that “inner thin person” crap? I frequently respond with one of 2 old jokes: yes, there’s a thin person inside me. I ate her.
Or: there’s a thin person inside me but i can shut her up with chocolate.
Or being blunt: Nope, sorry, I don’t have multiple personality disorder – it’s all me in here.
Prayers for your partner’s knee!
Not to mention, every human being *must* “have (some) fat”, or they will die. Body fat being necessary for human life, and all.
As someone who’s also involved in the autism acceptance movement, this is such a familiar issue, and I totally support your thinking. When you use “person-first language” (“person with X” instead of “X-ish person”), it implies that the X is something external to who you really are, and that if you somehow lost X, you would still be yourself (except, in most people’s warped thinking, somehow better, because the X is somehow a negative). Instead, putting X first as a descriptor implies that X is part of your identity.
A helpful link is here: http://www.autistichoya.com/2011/08/significance-of-semantics-person-first.html
Hope your partner heals soon. Knees are tricky for many people. She might want to try some accupuncture. In addition to working for many afflictions, most Oriental medicine practitioners don’t do any bodysnarking. I think that’s because the philosphy is to treat the whole body. (In other words, treat the whole body, not just the fat).
De-lurking to say: I have multiple chronic illnesses and am in the fight of (for) my life with (AGAINST?) my doctors. My Ob-GYN has refused me access to my birth control method of choice, siting my multiple “co-morbidities” which are Type 1 Diabetes, 40 and yes, FAT. It’s been 3 months since she first decided against refilling my prescription for “many reasons, not least of which is protecting my license.” Yes, she said it out loud. She has not made a reasonable or alternative suggestion for birth control. She recommends I contact my Endocrinologist who basically told me, Speak to your Ob/GYN. We are currently locked in this NOT IT, NOT IT, NOT IT charade and I see no end in sight. My endocrinologist also told me, Maybe you should start counting calories and see if that would “qualify” you for birth control.
Needless to say, I put her on blast for being so ignorant for a start and ridiculously, relentlessly sizist for a finish.
I’m applying for arbitration but don’t hold out much hope. I feel like an undesirable human pinball.
I am so sorry that this is happening to you. If there is anything that I can do to support you please just let me know.
This is awful. Can you go to a different doctor? Like Ragen, I’m happy to support you if I can.
The idea of “don’t think of yourself as fat!” is such classic Secret BS. It pre-supposes that you want to be other than what you are, and that you can get that other thing by simply thinking it away.
Now don’t get me wrong, if you want to make any kind of change in your life, you should be able to have some idea of the kind of change you want. But ignoring current reality will lead you on a wild goose chase. Oh! Wait! That’s sort of what the diet industry wants you to do….My bad.