I’m Ok, You’re Ok – The Comment Quiz

Reality and PerceptionGreetings from York College in York, Pennsylvania!  I am loving the weather here and excited about my guest lecture tomorrow morning and talk tomorrow night!

In the meantime, one thing that frustrates me about a lot of the discourse on the internet is many people’s assertion that their experience is (or should be, or will be) everyone’s experience, and that others should feel obligated to make major health decisions based on their experience/opinions.

I hopped on this train of thought because of a comment I received It may be triggering for some, you can skip it and still understand the blog:

“I am overweight myself. But I understand this and accept the fact that it was my own overindulgence that created the situation. I have gone from 280 in 1990 to 150 in 2000 back to 280 in 2010. It was all of my own doing, and I know it was wrong. I would never make excuses about it. Facts are facts. You cannot deny it any longer.”

My issue is this: I feel like I am very clear on this blog that I am for a world where people are not shamed, stigmatized, bullied or oppressed for their size and, as far as personal choices go, I am not trying to tell anyone how to live – my goal is simply to demonstrate an inform about an option that people can choose if it makes sense to them.

Still, some people seem to respond to this vehemently – almost as if my choosing something different than they chose  is somehow threatening to them.  My best guess is that their self-esteem is based on what other people think.  Society values thinness over fatness, they are thin, therefore they are more valuable.  I, and everyone who agrees with me and does not value thinness over fatness, is therefore diminishing their value and a threat to their self-esteem.  That just my guess, who the hell knows?

You’ll notice that the commenter starts off talking about his/her experience but then veers at the end to tell me what I can and can’t do.  Since we’re not sharing a body, it seems like the only appropriate thing to say here is “I don’t agree with you and therefore don’t choose that path to health”.  That’s a perfectly valid life choice.  Saying:  “I don’t agree with you and therefore you must choose my path to health” is not okay, as you are not the boss of my underpants.

If you want to post comments on my blog telling me that you disagree with me that’s fine. If you want there to be a chance that I will approve your comment (though it’s never guaranteed), I suggest that you complete this quick exercise.

First, just read through a couple of examples to get the hang of it:

  • I think that the research shows that dieting doesn’t work so I don’t diet.
  • You think that research shows that dieting is the path to health so you do diet.

I’m ok.  You’re ok.

  • I think that weight loss surgery has a low success rate, lots of dangerous side effects and a low chance of any health benefits so I don’t have weight loss surgery, and I fight against institutions that provide it, but not against those who make it a personal choice.
  • You think that being thin means being healthy and that weight loss surgery will make me thin, so you pressure me to have weight loss surgery.

I’m ok.  You’re NOT ok.

  • I choose to concentrate on healthy behaviors to the exclusion of concentrating on my weight because I believe that it is my best option for supporting my health (understand that health isn’t a obligation, barometer or worthiness, completely within my control or guaranteed)
  • You choose to concentrate on being thin because you believe that it is your best option for being healthy.

I’m ok.  You’re ok.

Now that you’ve got the hang of it, you try one:

  • I find that a Health at Every size approach works great for me so I share my experiences on my blog.  If you disagree, I support your right to choose your own path to health.
  • You doubt the efficacy of the Health at Every Size approach, so you come on my blog and say that everything that I say is bullshit and that I need to think and act like you want me to.

If you guessed “I’m ok. You’re not ok.” then congratulations you are ready to comment!   If you got it wrong, go back to the beginning and try the exercise again, or feel free to peruse someone else’s blog – you never know who might be looking for health advice and body shaming from random people on the internet!

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22 thoughts on “I’m Ok, You’re Ok – The Comment Quiz

  1. Thank you for taking the time to remind all your readers what your blog is really about. No bullying allowed! I love the fact there is a blog that promotes health at any size, and works toward ridding the world of judging and shaming people for their size and choices. Thank you for all you are doing!

  2. But… but I came here especially to tell you all about the latest new Miracle Weight Loss Method that Really, Really Works, Cross My Heart and Hope to Shame You Into Trying It!

    Nah, not really, but I couldn’t resist the opening. ; p

  3. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking folks are the same as you, but it is important to remember that it isn’t true.

    For example, when I went to Canada and got money out of the ATM, I was initially surprised it wasn’t green. Then I remembered i was no longer in the US.

    By the way, if your cats are sleeping on your underpants (or any other laundry) aren’t they the boss of said underpants?

  4. Ugh, that comment reminds me of one I saw recently elsewhere on the internet. Someone posted stating they are fat and just were diagnosed with a health condition they were told was caused by being fat, and then used this personal experience to insist that all fat people are
    unhealthy and will develop this condition (and other “obesity related illnesses”), and thus fat people should be ashamed of our bodies or else we might end up promoting obesity and making it look like a good thing!
    That diagnosis sucks, and I’m sorry it’s scary for you (person leaving this comment on another site), but I don’t have that condition nor any other so called “obesity related illness”, and my size and your diagnosis do not guarantee that I will eventually either.
    As for the whole encouraging obesity thing… well, that’s one hell of a compliment to fat women! Seriously. You think we look so good and sexy that should we do anything other than hide our bodies away in shame everyone else is going to want to try to look just like us? Wow. I like my body. And I know a good number of people who find me quite sexy. That said, not so sure I’m really THAT sexy that my scantily clad photos on the internet are going to make thin folks want to run out and try their best to gain weight so they can look more like me.

    I have no issues with other people deciding they think they would be healthier at a smaller size and trying to lose weight. I hope it goes well for them.
    Like you say, it becomes a problem when other people take their own dislikes about their body, their own fears about their health, and their own beliefs about their health and insist everyone else live according to them. Sorry (not sorry) but no.

    My body, my rules, my decisions.

    1. My body, my rules, my decisions. You summed it up beautifully in those six words. If everyone started living by those six words, instead of thinking they have the right to coerce, bully, or otherwise interfere in the health of others, the world would be a much better place.

  5. That’s a very interesting thought and could be transferred to other forms of discrimination also. I always thought that bullying and shaming had something to do with low self-esteem, but your guess adds a whole new twist which could explain why some people get so aggressive and defensive just because someone demands equal rights. This will certainly add to my argumentation if someone in my family comes around with sizeism or rascism again… thank you!

  6. I really need to come up with a memorized statement to trot out when conversations veer in directions that make me uncomfortable (diet talk, “obesity epidemic” talk, etc. “Could we talk about something else?” seems to elicit either confusion, defensiveness, or a desire for a detailed explanation WHY I want to talk about something else, so clearly I need to add something; I’m just not sure what. Does anyone have any suggestions?

    1. Yeah, seems like some folks just want to go over the same ground again and again in regards to diet, my size/eating habits/clothes, etc. Like if they say the magic word (diet) enough times, I’ll become a size 2.

      What I say when asked why I want to change the topic: “well, pardon me all to Hell, but there are way more interesting topics we can talk about here.”

      (yeah, this snippy; but then I want folks to get that I’m annoyed at them)

      Then I suggest a few.

  7. I think there’s a really simple explanation for the type of comment you quoted. Every single fat person in this culture is bombarded constantly with messages that we are wrong, lazy, gluttonous, a drain on the healthcare system, have no self-control, etc etc. We are discriminated against in job applications, in promotions, in pay. We are treated with disrespect by physicians and nurses and hospitals. The allure of being thin and escaping all of that abuse is VERY strong.

    You and your amazing blog and all of the folks in fat lib community are a threat to that dream of being thin. You talk openly about the science, you demonstrate that giving up that dream of escaping life in a fat body is a GOOD thing.

    In order to not feel threatened by you, the person would have to accept that s/he is making a choice to continue to reach for the thin prize. And then s/he would have to look seriously at the possibility that they will never get it. And that involves a lot of grieving, for that lost dream of living thin.

    It’s the same dynamic in virtually every oppressed group — there are people who continue to believe that it is possible to contort themselves sufficiently to please the oppressors enough to be treated as a human being. And those people constantly beat up on the “bad” members of their group, as if their “bad” behavior, and not the systemic oppression, is the problem. The privileged are only too happy to reinforce this dynamic.

    But the bottom line for that kind of comment is, I think, fear of having to grieve the loss of their dream of being thin.

  8. I have a bad tendency to try to explain to people the absolute lack of logic inherent in telling people they need to do what you did because it helped them or their third cousin or whomever. But you make an excellent point in this post — there’s no need to explain logical fallacies to bullies. It’s okay to default to just “no, mind your own business”.

  9. Congratulations on your talk tonight Ragen! I really want to come see you speak in person one of these days!

    Why is that as fat people we are supposed to be open to whatever comment crosses peoples mind? And I mean EVERYONE, from kids to strangers to our parents to our friends…EVERYONE. And we are supposed to just sit back and accept it? In our safe spaces? NO.

    I had a very ugly run in yesterday at a restaurant (I don’t want to say which one because I am very seriously considering a lawsuit before I go public) with a very rude young mother (but “pretty”–so she gets a pass in this society), two members of the military (who came to the aid of the :damsel in distress” against the “evil fat gay monster”), and the manager of said restaurant. Despite me being very reasonable in my request, it took no time at all for all of the other parties to resort to fat shaming, shaming my appearance, making fun of my mobility device and my sexuality. No doubt the situation was escalated because of the absolute conditioned hatred of fat people that most people carry around.

    Although I definitely took the high ground in my encounter yesterday, my response was not perfect. Thank you giving us some food for thought whether we encounter the bullies online, in the doctors office, in our relatives homes…or at a restaurant.

  10. (trigger warning on diet/eating stuff)

    In the comment you were responding to, the commenter said, “I know it was wrong.” But, why? Wrong how? In context, it seems like the kind of wrong that is morally wrong or irresponsible, Why? Even assuming her premise of “overindulgence,” why was it morally wrong of her to eat extra food?

    People seem to think we owe …someone…an obligation to be thin/attractive as the commenter defines it/healthy. But isn’t that between us and Someone? If Someone isn’t making that demand of us, why is it random third person’s business? I keep wanting to ask these people “why” after every sentence like a 3 year old and then watch their heads explode when they default to some sort of “it’s just obvious!” argument.

    1. As I understand the “logic” (term used excessively loosely), to those people, being fat is some sort of moral failing. Lack of self-control, gluttony, something like that. They never can seem to explain why, beyond “everybody knows”.

      Based on the one person I’ve known who believed that more passionately even than the average, my personal opinion is that they truly need it to be a moral failing. Because if it’s not, their thinness might not make them morally superior to you after all. And it that’s the case — gasp! — they have to have a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I moment.

      Essentially, it’s the kind of person who must absolutely make everything about themselves to some extent — even your fat.

      1. Of course, I was talking about the people who place the expectation. The commenter in question clearly heard it enough that he or she bought into it wholesale, and I feel sorry for them for having internalized others’ expectations to such a damaging extent.

    2. My own belief is that we as a culture have conflated health, perceived “healthy behavior,” and morality to a ridiculous extreme. Health problems are seen as punishment for “bad” behavior, and the “virtuous” comment smugly upon it. I often hear comments like, “She smoked/ was overweight/ate meat/ate cooked food/whatever, didn’t she? Well, she was asking for it!”

      Or, conversely, “He has so many health problems, but he runs eight miles a day!” as if this ought to exempt him from, say, degenerative disc disease. It makes the “virtuous” feel safe.

      Ragen often rightly reminds us that health is not entirely within our control; a lot of people literally reject this idea, silly as it sounds, and firmly believe they will be rewarded with good health forever if they “stay good.” It’s scary to have proof it doesn’t work that way.

      I work in a health food store, where conversations about a “pure” diet abound. This can be a low-carb, vegan, alkaline, etc. diet. People say “I’m trying to be good” when talking about eating “sinful” food. Pure is thin. Fat people are visible sinners, and if we are unrepentant people will double-down on shaming in an attempt to get the fat sinner to uphold the shamer’s world view.

      It honestly reminds me of the conversations I had as an atheistic kid with the religious kids I went to school with, which ran along the lines of “you better believe in God, or else you’ll go to Hell!” It was upsetting to these kids to discover that I wasn’t participating. They had probably always had their world view reinforced, and the idea that not everyone believed the same thing made it scarily possible that it might not be real.

      If I’m thin and you’re fat, then I’m good and you’re bad, right? Right? What do you mean, no?!

  11. In a similar vein, I was horrified to find out today that there exists a beauty product called “The Right to Bare Legs”.

    Because, apparently, if your legs are too “unsightly” because of “imperfections”, you have no right to let said legs be seen in public until you’ve met other people’s expectations about how they should look.

    **headdesk** **headdesk** **headdesk**

  12. One of my favorite things about your blog is your comment policy. So many great blogs and their comment sections are ruined because the moderators feel that trolls have a right to free speech on their blogs. I’ve never understood this. A blog isn’t America. It’s a private endeavor, and in that private place, it’s okay to say, “I’ll allow this and not this.” I really appreciate that you enforce your own rules on your own blog, and your comment sections are, because of that, one of the few I really enjoy reading (and don’t feel like I lose my faith in humanity when finished). Thank you for this.

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