As Long As You’re Healthy

Bad DoctorI see a lot of people say some version of “I think it’s fine for people to be any size as long as they’re healthy”.  I think they usually think that they are being supportive, and are well intentioned but that doesn’t make this any less problematic.

First, the idea that other people should dictate to us what health means, how highly we should prioritize it, and what path we should choose to get there is deeply problematic  seriously messed up in no small part because it quickly becomes a slippery slope.  I find that, for example, omnivores who want to police my health choices are typically much less excited to have their health choices questions by someone who believes that a vegan diet is the best for health.

Health is not an obligation or a barometer of worthiness. Nobody owes anybody else health regardless of our size.  Health is also never guaranteed and never entirely within our control.  In addition to genetics and the effects of past behaviors (like repeated dieting attempts!) can affect our health.  Access plays a major part – that includes many things including the ability to afford what we want in terms of our healthcare, to availability in our community, to  the ability to find competent healthcare practitioners.

Second, whether intended or not, this often has the feel of someone who sees themselves as superior and thereby empowered to dole out approval of my size and health plan.  Nooooooo. Nobody has authority over my body and health – I have trusted advisors but I am the ultimate boss of my underpants.

Third, it makes it sound like they believe that I can be fat if I’m healthy (by whatever definition of healthy they are using) but if I start to have health problems then it’s time to get thin.  That is a trifecta of putting the ass in assumption, including:   1. fat is causing the problem 2.  becoming thin would solve the problem  3.  becoming thin is possible (despite the fact that there’s no proof that most fat people can maintain long-term weight loss, it doesn’t matter what becoming thin might do because we don’t know how to get it done).

So what do we do about this?  You all know that I don’t like to criticize without giving some suggestions so here are some options that I’ve personally used, just in case  it helps you.  As always it’s up to you and your mileage may vary:

You can try something like “I think that judging people based on their  size or their health is really inappropriate.”

You can say something like “Maybe they practice Health at Every Size – that’s what I do.  I think that healthy habits – not manipulating my body size – give me my best odds for health.”

You can choose to disengage with an explanation “Actually, I’m not really comfortable with conversations that include body policing or healthism.  I’m happy to change the subject or to call it a night”

Or you can just go with short and sweet “You know, I don’t think someone else’s health or size is up for my approval or, really, any of my business”.

Of course you are not obligated to open a dialog at all and despite your best efforts people may not choose to question their actions so, as usual, your mileage may vary. I think the most important thing to do is to put the problem where it belongs, and that’s not on our bodies.

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15 thoughts on “As Long As You’re Healthy

  1. This is exactly what I was talking about the other day when I posted a response to your blog. As you say: “Health is not an obligation or a barometer of worthiness.”

    I do not believe that a person has to live by the Healthy at any size concept. If a person wants to be fat and unhealthy it is their prerogative and no one else has to make any assumptions or comments about it.

  2. And of course there’s always the icy stare. Done properly, it can make strong men quail.

    Miss Manners would never object if you remind them such matters are entirely personal and you do not care to discuss it with them.

  3. ^ Iva, among my friends that would result in a detailed discussion involving descriptions of consistency, reference to the Bristol Stool Chart, and score out of 10 according to how pleasurable an experience it was. Then of course there is the Mexican Poo, which is a bit like a Mexican wave or crowd wave, only with adjacent toilet cubicles…

    Wait, what? Change the subject, you say?

  4. Very true. I hate this “as long as you’re healthy”. As someone with many health issues, the way health is treated as some moral imperative is very exclusionary. Being fat and healthy isn’t an option for me, and neither is being thin and healthy- because even if I could lose the weight and be thin, my health problems aren’t going to magically disappear. So they message seems to be that only thin folks are allowed to have health problems. Not only are people who say this making an assumption that my health problems are caused by me being fat, they are basically saying that as long as I’m thin, having health issues is ok in their book. And why the hell should they get to decide who is “allowed” to have poor health?

    I also hate that this makes me feel like I have to defend myself by going into detail about what my health problems are to demonstrate that that isn’t true- when really, it’s none of anyone’s business regardless. Whether my health problems are not any that are associated with obesity or whether they are the dreaded so-called “obesity related” disorders, it’s no one’s damn business! The only people entitled to that information are myself and those involved in my medical treatment.

    1. Thank you for your comment. It’s like if you’re fat and you have health problems, then it’s only because you’re fat that you have health problems. If you’re thin and you have health problems, then there must really be something wrong with you.

      But in the end, it is no one else’s business but yours.

      1. Oh, how I hate being told that if I lose the weight, my health problems will go away. “REALLY? You mean, if I lose weight, a TARDIS will appear, and take me back in time to stop me from getting hit by a freaking truck?! Or even take me back in time to heal that mystery illness I had as a baby? WOW! Fat is magic!”

        Wait. IF the TARDIS did take me back in time, and stop my life-long health issues, even from before I got fat, wouldn’t those flying dragon-ish monsters come and eat up the world? Hmmmm, I’d better stay fat, thanks.

  5. I’m not what some people would call a “healthy person”. I like my junk food and I refuse to stop eating it because why should I? My body, my rules. If I ever do have a major health crisis and part of the proven treatment is changing my habits then of course I will. But until that time I’m going to enjoy my chocolate and my instant pasta without guilt, seeking nobody’s approval but my own.
    I thoroughly believe in body autonomy. You can do whatever you want with yours, including dying your skin green if that’s what you like, and I can do whatever I want with mine. It’s nobody’s place to judge worth based on what we look like or what we eat, and especially not by how (arbitrarily) healthy we are. (I will say though that dying your body green may result in some employment issues, but so can being fat.)

    1. I was hit by a truck, and came inches from being killed. My aunt WAS killed in a car crash. My uncle, aunt, and cousin were killed in a plane crash, and my cousin was one of the fittest, healthiest people I ever met. His good health didn’t save him. Grandma was thin, thanks to an eating disorder, and that didn’t stop her from dying of cancer. In fact, it made her die even faster. Grampa just dropped dead, and my own dad died from complications from a fall (he hit his head).

      Sure, you MIGHT live longer, if you obey all the “rules,” but then again, you have absolutely no guarantee. I used to try to earn a long-life by being “good,” but now, I just try to live a good life, and enjoy what I have, while I have it. Not so much “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” but more of a “don’t fret the small stuff, for there is so much MORE to life,” idea.

      I mean, when you think of all there is to DO in the world, why waste all your energy fretting about counting calories? Rather, count how many productive things you did today, even if it was just taking your dishes to the sink, and picking up your sibling’s plate along the way, or watering the flowers, or putting away your clean underwear. Even if it’s small, it’s still more important than trying to lose weight.

      Today, I exercised because I jolly well wanted to. I want to improve my quality of life through pain management, and my therapist told me that these exercises would help with that. So I did it. I don’t give a hoot if I burned off calories. But I DO give a hoot about improving those muscles, so I don’t hurt as much. Because “No pain, no gain,” is a crock. My motto is “No pain, SCORE!!!!”

      When I have my pain under control, I will be MORE able to exercise, just for the joy of moving my body. Dancing is my favorite, but I enjoy long rambles, too. Walking for recreation is something I learned as a child. Stopping to smell the roses, and enjoy the scenery, talking with a companion, or just losing myself in my day-dreams as I moseyed along… This was pure pleasure, and I could go for miles and miles. I truly miss that. Power-walking? UGH.

      And yes, I too, would like to have appropriate clothing to wear for these “healthy” activities, but apparently, you have to BE “healthy,” in order to deserve to LOOK “healthy,” and wear “health-promoting” clothes. Why is sit so hard to find activewear for the people who are CONSTANTLY told to get off their a*#es and get active? What are we supposed to do? Swim in sweatpants, because “nobody wants to see that, you lazy @*&#^%”?

      Sorry, my crankiness is showing.

  6. No doubt there are the pseudo supportive who make the ‘as long as you’re healthy’ comment however when in a group where one hears ignorant and biased observations towards a person’s inalienable right to be just how and who they want to be you feel the need to defend that right. It is a minefield though. In countering the views of the body police I’ve found myself also battling with the target of their prejudice who suspects my motives for defending them. I agree that keeping quiet and just showing by deed and respect for the individual can be the best course of action. We are all free to choose but not free from the consequences of that choice.

  7. Another great blog! I love the phrase “I’m the boss of my own underpants!” I have always believed in personal autonomy and this blog is the perfect example of it!

  8. As someone who has had health problems literally my entire life, starting with a mystery illness as a baby, and continuing from there, I find the “as long as you’re healthy” thing to be a load of excrement.

    I mean, what about the poor, unhealthy THIN people, or the poor unhealthy people who got fat BECAUSE of their poor health? What, they don’t deserve common decency? What ableism!

    “As long as you’re healthy…” Well, gee, thanks for just de-humanizing my niece, who was born with a birth defect. Oh, wait, she died in infancy, before she could be hit with the fat-hatred, so I guess that’s fine, right?


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