The Fatty Whisperers

The jerk whispererFatty Whisperers are people who feel the need to give unsolicited advice to fat people (aka concern trolls). Recently  in the Rolls Not Trolls Facebook community Christine posted a perfect (ly horrible) example of someone being a Fatty Whisperer (reprinted here with her permission of course)

So I work at a pool as a lifeguard/swim instructor. I love it; I really do, but today one of our regular patrons came up and “encouraged” me to find exercise that I like. He introduced this by saying that he “has a bone to pick with me.” I’m just so upset and offended I could scream. What’s worse is that since I’m at work, I can’t simply tell him to “fuck off.” I just can’t deal with this today. My husband has been in the hospital all week, so I’m already at a breaking point, and I was just crying on the pool deck.

Let’s break this down into it’s absolutely awful parts (also, it’s going to be a heavy swearing day, you’ve been warned.)

Ok, admittedly these conversations can be hard to kick off. After all, it’s not easy to find a smooth opening line to a conversation that is completely inappropriate, based on stereotypes, serves to stigmatize the person who hasn’t asked to have the conversation, and is done completely in the service of the FW’s ego.  Still “I have a bone to pick with you” has got to be the blue ribbon loser opening line that I’ve ever heard to one of these conversations.

This phrase is typically used in situations where someone has done something to annoy or upset someone else.  The idea that fat people shouldn’t annoy this guy by existing is completely fucked up.  And if you’re going to try to use a conversation like this as your contribution to the “Save the Fatties” campaign then how about not starting it off in a combative way, as if the fat person has committed some egregious act against you.  This is off to a horrible start.

Next the idea that she should find exercise that she likes. This is wrong in about a hundred ways. Let’s start with the fact that other people’s prioritization and path to health are nobody else’s business.  Even if they were, it’s best not to make wild guesses about people based on how they look.  Finally if you want to say “hey, I’m a size bigot and as such I’d like you to stop being Fatty McFatterson mayor of Fatsville” then just say it, don’t do this backhanded “have you ever tried walking” bullshit.  Have you ever tried shutting the fuck up?

The Fatty Whisperer is almost always working off their stereotypes and bigotry in lieu of actual information, and in addition to not knowing anything about the fatty they’ve targeted, they also typically don’t have any information about the emotional state of their target fatty and how this will affect them, which makes this entire thing incredibly selfish.  I think that a lot of the time this is about the FW’s ego and not really about the fat person at all.

As always, each of us gets to decide how to deal with this.  If you want to believe that people who do this are well intentioned and that being well intentioned makes it ok then you are allowed to do that.  If you want to believe that it doesn’t matter why they are doing it they are going to receive a heaping helping of hatefire in return then you are allowed to do that.  If you want to take it case by case, that’s cool too.  Here are some ideas to get you started:

General Response

“WOW this is not any of your business!”

“Fuck off.”

Backhanded, ie:  “Have you thought about walking?“Answer the question completely wrong and change the subject;

“Not very much today,  I’ve mostly been thinking about getting a gerbil, they don’t walk so much but they do run on those wheels, I wonder if the wheels come in pink glitter.  I think I’m going to name the gerbil Fred.  Or Fredda if it’s a girl. Hey, do you know how to tell if a gerbil is a boy or a girl?”

Straight forward ie:”I think that you should lose weight”
Set a boundary and a consequence that you can follow through with.

“You can think whatever you want but I’m not interested in your opinion and you’ll need to keep it to yourself or we aren’t going to be able to talk anymore. ”

“I can’t imagine what would make you think this conversation is appropriate, I’m embarrassed for you.  How about you walk away, never do this again  and we’ll pretend this never happened.”

“I’m not accepting unsolicited opinions about my body so you can either change the conversation to an appropriate subject, or I’m going to go somewhere else.”

Fatty Whisperer who thinks they are a doctor ie “Don’t you know that  blah blah blah blah if you were thinner”

“Really, how do you justify that based on the findings of Matheson et. al., Wei et. al, and the Cooper Institute Longitudinal Studies?”

“I’m happy with my healthcare team and I’m not adding new members.”

Southern Style

If you are in a situation like Christine’s where the use of “fuck off” isn’t appropriate, ” may I suggest a Southern substitution.  You just say “bless your heart” whenever you want to say “fuck you”  – as in “Bless your heart, nobody ever taught you any manners.” Or  “You don’t know what is and isn’t your business, bless your heart,” or just “bless your heart”  accompanied by a pitying smile and maybe pat on the head and walk away.

Regardless, know that this behavior is just as wrong as if  a stranger came up to you and gave you sex advice.  You are fine, they are screwed up.  So whatever you say, may I suggest an inner monologue of “Fuck the Fatty Whisperers!”

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71 thoughts on “The Fatty Whisperers

  1. If this ever happens to me, I plan to say, “Well, I run 5K’s, so when the zombie apocalypse happens, I’m fairly certain they will get you first. So do fuck off.”

    1. Or the ghoulish variant: “I run 5K’s, so when the zombie apocalypse happens and I am a zombie, I’m fairly certain I will catch up to you unless you start working on that headstart now.”

      1. Mostly because when my friends start talking about how they plan to survive the zombie apocalypse, I always chime in, “I DON’T plan to! I can’t wait to be a zombie! :D” Gets me some funny looks.

        (Sadly, fair disclosure, I haven’t done a 5K yet. I’m just runnin’ around the neighborhood right now.)

  2. I like the Southern Style reply. I’ll go with – “Well, bless your pea-picking heart. Your momma didn’t teach you proper etiquette growing up.” (Said with a hint of a Southern drawl.)

    1. A good friend of mine does the ‘bless your little cotton socks’ variation. It always makes me giggle, and I’ve added it to my personal arsenal, despite the lack of Southern accent. Then again, while my friend always talks about being Southern, it’s more ethnically than geographically since she was mostly raised in Europe and she doesn’t have her Virginia accent, anymore.

  3. I’m going on the offensive…next time I’m going to “confide” that I’m trying to put on a few hundred more pounds…wish me luck!

    1. That’s exactly what I was thinking. She’s a lifeguard. “Yep I’m standing here by this pool, in this T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Life Guard” on my back because I figure standing by a pool as someone who can actually haul a full-grown panicked and drowning adult from the water and save his ass would solicit input on my confusion regarding exercise choice. Bless your heart for sensing my inner conflict.”

  4. Since this happened while on duty as a lifeguard, I’d offer a harassment suit to the kind gentleman. If you had said that to any of the patrons, rather than having them say it to you, you would have been reprimanded and/or fired on the spot. There is a level of decorum that I expect while attending certain locations (such as a public pool) where there are no comments about the body – except a nip-slip on a friend 🙂

  5. I have a few others I could add.

    “What makes you think I’m interested in having this conversation with you?”

    “How about you worry about controlling your own life and I’ll worry about mine.”

    “I have generally found that only those who have little control over their own lives are interested in trying to control someone else’s. Maybe you should focus on yourself first.”

    “Get thee behind me, Satan.”

  6. How about “You better hope I enjoy swimming enough to save you if you start to drown. My job is BASED on a high level of proficiency in a physical activity, buddy” And/or “Bless your heart,” because awesome.

    Btw, Thank you, Ragen, for your blog. It helps me that you do the research and reporting and venting and I do the reading. :~)

    1. And there is my thought, exactly! Someone who makes their living as a swim instructor/lifeguard is definitely ALREADY EXERCISING!

      1. That was my first thought, too. Why is it the dudebros always seem to target the fat people who are in the middle of exercising for their “you need to start exercising!” rants? Are they being that oblivious on purpose?

      2. my first thought also – often people make wild guesses based only on size, but here the situation is different – the “regular patron” HAS information that the swim instructor doesn’t sit on the couch all day, but seemingly he just doesn’t want to know. Sometimes it’s really difficult to get even a little information into the head of people *sigh* …
        I love the “bless your heart” approach – a pity nothing like that in my native language comes to my mind

  7. Of course at work by the pool, one could always say: Sir, excuse me, I’m working. I need to keep an eye on the pool in case I need to dive in and save someone from drowning.

    1. This is my fave for this particular situation. But I also like pulling out the names of particular studies, especially as they combat the “truthiness” of the Fat Whisperer.

  8. I sympathize with Christine, though mine yesterday wasn’t AS bad, it shocked and hurt nonetheless. I received a paragraph-long comment on a photo from a male friend along the lines of “I know you’re insecure, but I don’t consider you fat, and the people who know you know you’re beautiful. Blah blah blah patronizing validation blah blah.”

    I responded with:
    “Alternatively, you could ask me what the Fit Fatty thing is about instead of projecting assumptions onto me. It’s the name of forums and a Facebook group that are weight-neutral places to discuss fitness from a Health at Every Size perspective and are hosting a virtual decathlon event this year, which is why I’m posting the pictures.
    It’s exceptionally rare to find communities where we can discuss fitness free from weight loss and diet talk.”

    He offered a questionable not-pology and deleted his comments before anyone else saw them. I didn’t know I was insecure until someone else decided I was based on a photo with text exclaiming I’d set a swim PR; I guess that goes to show what little I really know about my lived experience.

    1. Wow… just… wow.

      At least people who know me now know not to ‘correct’ me when I say I’m fat. They have at long last had it beaten (metaphorically, I hasten to add) into their brains that my self-description as fat comes from a place of security rather than insecurity.

      Also go you! with your swim PR! That’s awesome!

      1. I get fed up with people correcting my description of myself as “fat”. I am 220lbs and 5’4″, which means in the UK, I fall into the “morbidly obese” scale used by the medical profession. “Oh, you’re not fat!” they say. I tell them about the scale and they go, “I simply don’t believe that – you must be mistaken/the scale must be wrong!” in a patronising voice. I usually give up at that stage, because it seems pointless, and I never know what to say next, given that they THINK they are being nice, and after all, these are my friends who say this.

        Anyone got any ideas for a clever riposte?

        1. I ask them why they have a problem with the word “fat” because I don’t. I tell them it’s just a descriptor like “blonde,” or “tall.” Any connotations of “bad” or “good” are in their mind. Simple and to the point.

  9. This sort of thing happened to me all the time when I was a kid, but I internalized it.

    It hasn’t happened since I got to college, but if it does, I’d probably just say, “You’re making an assumption about someone you do not know based on zero information. That is your problem, and you do not get to make it mine. Good day.” *walk away*

  10. So far in my life, only family has made unsolicited comments about my weight and that hasn’t happened in years. I think if a stranger said something to me out of the blue, I would just look astounded and say something like, “Wow! That actually just came out of your mouth.” and walk away shaking my head. I might even laugh right in their face first too.

    This reminds me a little of the time I worked in retail. On my last day, I was totally prepared to tell off any shitty customers but none crossed my path that day. The more I read your blog and other fat people’s life experiences, the more prepared I am to tell off someone who thinks they have the right to say anything stupid to me or anyone else in my presence. I dare someone to try this crap on me now.

    My favorite retort is “Great constructive criticism. Fuck you very much!” (said with a big old smile)

    1. Marie, I also have only ever received ooga booga death fat comments from family (though I’ve only been this size of awesomeness for 6 1/2 years). If I get comments, my plan is to ask whomever to repeat his/her comments to me over and over, as if I just don’t understand what they’re saying. And now add, “Bless your heart,” of course.

  11. I LOVE the gerbil monologue. That’s exactly how I’d handle it.

    My standard responses are usually one of the following (although admittedly it has been a LONG time since someone flat-out commented on my weight):

    “I will give your opinion all the consideration it is due, thanks.”

    “I’m interested in your philosophy and wish to subscribe to your newsletter” (stolen from The Simpsons) followed by a blank-eyed stare and a giant smile.

    “I hear ya. And whilst we’re on the topic, do you prefer anal with or without lube? What’s that? Oh my goodness, I’m sorry…I thought we were talking about things that were NOBODY’S FUCKING BUSINESS.”

    Or you could just start sneezing repeatedly and claim you’re allergic to bullshit.

    Or put a hand over your ear like you’ve got one of those secret service wires and say into your wrist, “Right…yes, sir, will do…”. Then look at the offender and say, “I do apologise, Sir, but I’m not allowed to speak to people like you. My overlord is displeased. Please pardon me. Good day.”

    Or just carry around a few corks and offer one to the offender saying, “Here, this is for you. You seem to be talking out of your arse. This may help.”

    Or even, “These words. I do not think they mean what you think they mean.”

  12. I just don’t understand people that do this.. do they think that they have brought up some brilliant piece of information which will then change this persons life and they will shower them with gratitude? If we could just spend more time taking care of ourselves and better our own lives we wouldn’t have time to tell someone else how to live theirs.

  13. I’ve decided I’m going to give unsolicited sex advice to anyone who tries to give me unsolicited advice about exercise or weight. 😀

  14. Love your responses. I had a concern troll family member give me a diet book for Christmas (I put it in the recylcing bin). My response? I’m not going to encourage her son to phone her, nor will I ever book travel to see her again.

    And knowing her son (my husband), that means zero contact. Yay!

    1. Ha! This sounds so much like something my paternal grandmother would do. And now she is old and sick and she can’t understand why NONE of her grandchildren will have anything to do with her. Gee why could that be?????

    2. Emma, you’ve reminded me that when my husband was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, multiple family members sent us diet books. I think they had wanted to confront him about being diabetic and a big man (note, he is adopted and a completely different body size and height than they are, but “diets fix everybody, don’t ya know”) and used the cancer excuse instead. One even asked, “Was it something you ate?” Given a choice, I would have burned the books and cut off the family, but he is much nicer than I.

  15. “But sir, I do exercise. My form of exercise is exercising restraint from smacking the s**t out of morons like YOU!!”

    That would be my reply.

      1. Sorry, I wasn’t aware that it was once an actual technical psychological definition. I’ve only ever seen it used as a person who lacks good judgement.

    1. “The power of logic compels you! The power of reason compels you! The power of minding your own beeswax compels you!”

  16. What a horrible experience to have, and in your work place no less. Depending on your employer, you’re really limited in what you can say back, which adds another layer of awfulness.

    I like “Totally inappropriate. Have a nice day.” Lets them know their comment is unwelcome, and shuts in down from further debate (or should.) Unfortunately, that’s such a triggering situation, I think embarrassed horror and silence would probably be my response.

  17. My response to this sort of thing when I’m working (and it does happen from time to time) is horrified silence, which does no one any good.
    Thank you for a selection of scripts; I’m going to spend some time with them, and practice, and be ARMED and DANGEROUS the next time I get Fat Whispered!

  18. I once sat next to a man during award ceremonies after a 5k I had just run. He helpfully pointed out to me during the ceremony that what all the medal winners had in common is that they were all thin. Imagine his surprise when my name was called for first place in my age group. I waved that medal right in his face. Take that, fatty whisperer.

  19. As an obese woman, it happens to me often. I say .. ‘Have you been certified” Well when you are only then can you give advice on something so personal.. only to your clients/patients. Til then I suggest you keep your unsolicited advice to yourself.” Then I walk away

    1. Nice! And, of course, professional healthcare advice should be given in a private setting. I imagine the lifeguard stand of a public pool is not super conducive to confidentiality!

  20. I was concern- trolled by my sister-in-law re my weight two hours after learning my father died. Took me three years to forgive her and she was never sorry. After all, she was just “worried” and I was told she “meant well.” Still makes me a little mad today.

    However, just because I forgave, doesn’t mean I forgot. I still list that on the top ten of Most Horrible. No one has the right to comment anyway but under those circumstances, it is just plain evil.

  21. I related this to my hubby, who said one response might be, “One exercise I enjoy is punching assholes in the throat.” Now, as a person of the cloth, of course I can’t advocate violence, but I have to admit that I did add, “and THEN push him in the pool!” to his suggestion. I believe this MIGHT have followed the suggestion to push him into the pool and hold him down until the bubbles stop… Bless his heart!

  22. Late to the party but i’ll leave my own versions:

    Southern style:

    “…That’s nice.” that was always my grandmother’s response to things she didn’t really like or didn’t understand.

    Straight forward ie:”I think that you should lose weight”:

    “Well if i ever need the opinion of an asshole I’ll just fart. If i want a second opinion i’ll ask you.”

    Backhanded, ie: “Have you thought about walking?“

    “No, i have never, ever, in my life, considered walking. I was born in this very spot, raised in this spot, married in this spot, and i thought i would die in this spot because i never once considered this waaa…alk….ing. Please teach me how to waaalllk, you’re my only hope.” – drown them in sarcasm

  23. These comments! OMG! I’m crying I’m laughing so hard! You guys are awesome!!! I almost can’t wait for someone to try this on me! (Although, I’m pretty fortunate, I don’t get it too often.)

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