Cool Story Bro

Small - Things you can tell by looking at a fat personOne of the ways that fat people are oppressed is that people feel free to substitute their stereotypes and stories for our actual experiences.

Studies claim that they have found a way to prevent/cure obesity when what they actually studied were calories consumed, or protein consumption, or consumption of fat etc.  That is not the same thing as body size.

Possibly the most egregious example I have seen of this is a list called “27 People Confess to the Fattest Thing They Ever Did”  (no power on Earth will make me link to it) Basically it’s story after story of people who ate a lot one time.   That not being fat, that’s eating a lot one time. Fat is a description of body size (and sometimes composition), not of behavior.  The practice of judging other people’s eating, then associating that eating with a body size, then justifying stigmatizing people of that body size based on that platform of judgment and stereotyping is, not to put too fine a point on it, bullshit.

I was once in a discussion with a therapist who specializes in working with people who have Binge Eating Disorder (not any of the cool people we know, don’t worry) during which she told me that “In my experience, everyone your size has Binge Eating Disorder.”  I replied “Doesn’t your experience including a sign on your door that basically says ‘Come Here if You have Binge Eating Disorder’?”  I asked her how many people my size she had spoken to about their eating outside of her office, and how exactly did she broach that topic and she admitted that there weren’t any.

I asked if she would think it was reasonable for an orthopedic surgeon specializing in knee problems to say that in their experience everyone who is 5’6 has knee problems because everyone that she sees who is 5’6 has knee problems. She admitted that she wouldn’t and then said “I just don’t see how someone can be your size without binge eating.”  I mentioned a number of things that can lead to people being fat beside Binge Eating Disorder (genetics, weight cycling -aka yo yo dieting, certain health conditions etc.) and asked that she please not substitute an eating disorder diagnosis for a lack of her understanding of how body diversity works, especially since it does a disservice to people who are suffering from BED but aren’t fat and have trouble being taken seriously, as well as the mistaken belief that ending Binge Eating Disorder will result in a thin body.

I spend a lot of time doing research.  Often I explain that Matheson et. al. did a study of 11,761 people and Wei et. al did a study of 25,714 people and that the Cooper Institute Research on fitness and weight is based on the Cooper Institute Longitudinal Study which is a database that has more than 250,000 records from nearly 100,000 people totaling more than 1,800,000 person-years of observation and that this research supports the idea that, knowing the health is multi-dimensional, not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, or entirely within our control, healthy habits are a far better way to support our bodies than weight loss is.

Then I have to wade through 12 comments a day that say “I think you’re wrong because my Aunt Gertrude lost weight and got healthier” Ok? Are you sure it’s the weight loss and not the behavior change that lead to better health?  Do you really think your aunt’s experience trumps a combined sample of more than 120,000 people?

Or this one “All the people I know who have type 2 diabetes or heart disease are fat.”  Is this a frequent topic of conversation among your friends?  Do you know the T2D and heart disease status of more than 120,000 people?

How about this –  instead of tell stories to justify size-based stigmatizing, stereotyping  oppression we could fight it instead.

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32 thoughts on “Cool Story Bro

  1. The fattest things I ever did….hmmm….harness and ground drive draft horses, load 200 60-lb hay bales into a barn, fall in love and get married, get pregnant, make money selling art of fat people, have lots of friends, get a degree….

  2. The following sentence appears to be missing a preposition, which is just a horrific shame, considering how other perfectly you managed to grammarfy such a clever and complex sentiment: “The practice judging other people’s eating, then associating that eating with a body size, then justifying stigmatizing people of that body size based on that platform of judgment and stereotyping is, not to put too fine a point on it, bullshit.”

      1. Most of us suck at proofreading ourselves, because we know what we meant to say, and our minds unconsciously fill in the blanks.

        1. Hi Helena, That is super kind of you. Usually I just post them (because I post almost everyday and I’m usually writing right up to the moment that I post) and then when people notice mistakes they Facebook message or e-mail or comment and I fix it so always feel free to let me know if you see something! ~Ragen

  3. The fattest thing I ever did????????

    Dayum! That is seriously messed up.

    Even when I did fall for the party line, that one would definitely have made me sit up and notice the illogic. Even then I knew that fat wasn’t, in and of itself, a behavior. And now that I understand that behavior is only a tiny potential part of the issue I do not hesitate to say that such a list is waaaaaay beyond rotten data.

    As it happens, I know a woman who had WLS who kept off a lot of weight, had no major complications, and is still happy she did it several years down the line. I’m happy for her. I’m glad things turned out the way she wanted them to.

    But you know what? Looking at what her chances of that happy ending were, I certainly wouldn’t hold her up to people considering the surgery as a likely mirror of their potential experiences. I know all too well what odds she beat.

    Everyone knows an outlier or two. Knowing one doesn’t make it likely that someone entirely different will become one.

    1. For real.

      If we actually looked at that question with any iota of logic, I suppose everything I’ve ever done since puberty would be in contention for the “fattest thing I’ve ever done”, so how would I even?

      Regardless of whether you choose to phrase it as “I am fat” or “I have fat” or “I’m big-boned” or “I’m festively plump” (my favorite — via Eric Cartman), who in the actual hell would ever say “I’m just acting fat”?!?! That’s not even a thing.

      1. I agree. I think they’re trying to make “fat” on par with “stupid”. We can all agree on “the stupidest thing I ever did”, like painting yourself into a corner, and à la Hitchcock style there’s a skeleton in the closet. The “fattest thing” doesn’t make sense, as it’s not an adverb or a verb, just an adjective.

        The whole “fattest thing” concept doesn’t make sense.

          1. It reminds me of that, too! This is basically the equivalent of an article featuring a bunch of straight guys describing things they did that didn’t adhere to stereotypical masculinity as the “gayest” things they’d ever done. But while I think most of my peers would instantly see the problem with that article, there are several whom I would have a hard time convincing that the “fattest thing” article was problematic in any way. So frustrating.

            (Just to clarify, I’m well aware that homophobia is a very real, and very significant problem; I think the whole “fatphobia is the last acceptable prejudice” line is bullshit. But in my particular location/demographic/peer group, fatphobia is way, way more tolerated than homophobia.)

            1. I agree, the whole “fatphobia is the last acceptable prejudice” line definitely *is* bullshit. People do seem to be more aware of other forms of oppression, though, and (depending on the cultural climate in a given location) may be less willing to tolerate them (than they are to tolerate fatphobia). I didn’t mean to imply that anyone was being insensitive to the discrimination other groups face, but to support the idea that yeah, this is definitely oppression, it mirrors a way in which at least one other group is oppressed.

  4. I once had a discussion online that was similar to the one you had with that therapist. This person proclaimed that “95% of all fat people are sick”. I asked for a citation, and her “proof” was that she worked intake at a skilled care facility and all of the fat people she checked in were in terribly poor health.

    I tried to explain her logical fallacies to her (I love, and was promptly accused of “using big words”. (Vocabulary bad, apparently.)

    So then I tried another way — I asked whether, if she worked in a labor and delivery ward, would she assume that 95% of all women were in the final trimester of pregnancy? Still didn’t make a dent.


    1. Since she worked at a skilled care facility, wouldn’t the thin people she checked in be in poor health, too?

      But if your lovely pregnancy example didn’t make a dent, I’m guessing that wouldn’t have, either.

      1. I brought that up, too… but that was about the time I stopped drilling, because that well had pretty clearly gone dry for good.

  5. I still feel a bit uncomfortable when I eat more than the thinner people around me (as I did last night) but I know that is my own issue, not something any of my lovely friends contribute to, thank goodness.

    But I would never openly bash myself for eating x amount of food. Just like I don’t openly praise myself when I eat a salad.

    Our society’s attitude around food is really very weird. And, in my opinion, not very good.

    And holy crap, dinner out last night was FANTASTIC!

  6. Whenever I hear the bogus line that fat people just can’t control their eating (i.e. a nicer way of accusing them all of being disgusting gluttons), I bring up the fact that my wife eats less than I do, for many years worked a far more physically demanding and active job than I did, etc. and still puts on weight easily, while it’s taken me 50 years to finally reach 200 pounds.

    If it were all about eating habits and exercise habits, she should be the thin one and I should be fat. Whether some folks would like to admit it or not, it has more to do with genetics and metabolism.

    Of course, it’s much more ego-satisfying for those who aren’t fat, to claim that it’s because of our superior lifestyles, rather than the results of the genetic lottery that we had no control over.

    Unless we happen to think in terms of actual facts rather than self-gratifying platitudes, and/or we happen to love someone that we do not feel some sick need to try and maintain a superior facade over them.

    1. When my dad had menopausal issues due to chemotherapy and hormone treatments, he FINALLY understood why my mother couldn’t lose the weight he always wanted her to lose. He FINALLY got it, because my naturally thin but big-eating father started packing on the pounds while eating LESS food. Not the way I wanted him to understand, but ….

  7. The fattest thing I ever did?

    Let’s see, listen to a “doctor” who was also selling a now infamous MLM diet product out of his office when he told me I needed to go on an 800 calorie a day diet using his products. He shamed me into thinking that there was something abnormal about me and years of TV, magazines, internet chat rooms, etc… certainly backed up his point that there was something wrong with me.

    So under his supervision and with the help of my partner at the time I ate no more than 800 calories for over a month. In addition to having a constant throbbing headache, nausea, horrible gastro-intestinal problems, actual documented bone loss via x-ray, a tremendous rise in my cholesterol and blood pressure…I actually gained weight (thermodynamics right?–I took several physics classes in high school and college and any physicist worth their salt will tell you that the law of thermodynamics has little, if anything to do with biological processes). When I was near death, but with my partner and doctor cheering me on despite my faltering health, I decided that I was fat and I would always be fat. I had been happy being fat, I was comforted with food after my father would berate and verbally abuse me and no way was I going to give up that comfort for the rest of my life.

    I embraced the word fat, I got a new supportive nurse practitioner, I dumped my partner and decided I was happier single and I began to live again.

    The fattest thing I ever did? I became happy being the fat, funny, smart guy that I always had been and always will be.

  8. Ok, I have to admit I got curious and looked up the original post you referenced, Ragen… the 27 things. And what occurred to me is that assuming most of those contributing (and the the scores of others gleefully sharing details of their own binging episodes in the comments) are not fat, then what I take away from this is that while our culture holds a stereotypical image of fat people sitting around gorging on stacks of pizzas and burgers, etc., there are a whole lotta non-fat people mowing down epic quantities of food and seeming proud of it! Of course, if a fat person described such actions they would be castigated with great venom for being disgusting and lazy and slovenly. Double standard much?

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