The Size We’re Supposed to Be

I get a lot of questions about set point theory – the idea that each person’s body has a genetically determined set point. I think it’s an interesting theory and not implausible – I do think that bodies come in varied sizes just like everything else in nature.

I think the evidence also pretty clearly shows that dieting messes with our bodies, since at least a year after dieting studies have shown that the mechanisms the body has for the express purpose or regaining and maintaining weight are still different than in someone who didn’t diet, and the majority of diets end in weight gain.

While I think this is interesting to think about, I also think that when it comes to size diversity and acceptance it’s important that we keep our eye on the ball.  We have to be careful that we’re not making it sound like we have to prove that our fat is “not our fault” in order to deserve to be treated well.

It doesn’t matter what size someone is or why they are that size, it’s absolutely none of anybody else’s business, and everybody deserves to be treated with basic human respect.  (Those wishing to make a “won’t somebody think of my tax dollars fatties are so expensive blah blah blah” argument can head to this post. )

Too often I see people respond to fat shaming, not by insisting that we should treat every body with respect,  but instead suggesting that we should do a “better” job figuring out who deserves abuse, stigma, and shame from society.  (See also:  “It’s ok to be fat as long as you’re healthy” ) Let me help out: NOBODY.  Nobody deserves to be treated the way that fat people are treated in this society and it doesn’t matter how fat we are, why we are that fat, or what being that fat means.

The idea that this is about behavior or personal responsibility is utterly laughable – there are plenty of sedentary thin people whose diet is based in fast food (which is fine and also nobody’s business) but people don’t scream epithets at them from their cars or argue that they should lose their civil rights until they exercise or try to calculate their “cost” to society.  Nope – this is about bullying a group of people because of how they look.

Imagine if we were honest about the fact that whatever size we are, and regardless of why we are that size, the truth is that we are unlikely to ever be significantly smaller in the long term and that it’s completely ok to be fat.  Maybe then we could stop talking about if our fat is our fault,  and start talking about the life we want to live in the bodies we have now.

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13 thoughts on “The Size We’re Supposed to Be

  1. I came along statements like “It’s ok to be fat as long as you’re healthy” and I responded with something like “Well, I think it’s ok to be thin as long as you’re healthy” This shows the absurdity of the first statement, leads to confusion on the other side and then gives an awesome opportunity to talk about basic human rights 😉

    1. I love this!

      It’s so healthist, too. Sure, there are plenty of health issues that may be a person’s “fault,” because they drank 25 sodas every day for a decade, but the vast, VAST majority of health issues are not so cut-and-dry “deserved.”

      People get sick all the time, due to genetics, environmental issues, food issues, selfish co-workers who come to sick while they’re contagious and don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom, unethical scientists who think it’s just hunky-dory to experiment on people without their knowledge or consent (including children, in the name of the fighting OMGDEATHFATZ!), and just plain bad luck. There are really very few people in the would who have no health issues at all.

      Do we really want to say that people are only “OK” to exist if they are one of the fortunate few who have no health issues at all? SERIOUSLY? Because that’s what that “It’s OK to be X, as long as you’re healthy” statement really means. And that sucks beach balls!

      1. When I go to work when sick it’s not because I am being selfish. Far from it. I feel like I HAVE to go to work, as there is no one to replace me if I stay home. Everyone I work with feels the same way and does the same. We are entitled to paid sick days. But we know that if we stay home our coworkers will suffer for it, trying to cope in a busy retail environment where we are staffed beyond bare bones already due to the greed and short sightedness of those running things at corporate headquarters. We only stay home if we have a puke bug or a kid is sick and we absolutely can’t find someone else to care for our child. I do at least wash my hands after using the bathroom however. 🙂 😉

        1. When I was retail, most places didn’t care if you were sick, they wanted you there. What a great way to spread it around to thousands of new people.

        2. Yeah, sometimes the people in charge put you in an untenable situation, and you’re stuck going.

          However, I HAVE been in offices where staying home when you’re sick was actively encouraged by the boss (who didn’t want to get other people’s germs), and people would still come in when they were sick, and when the next week, five other people in the same team were out sick, the first sick person, who had coughed and sneezed all over their teammates, would get on their high-horse, and “holier than thou,” about how THEY put work first, and THEY put forth the effort, and THEY worked even when they felt lousy, and the rest of us were just all wimps, who put their rightful share of the work on other people’s shoulders.

          And, yeah, I’ve seen some co-workers flat-out refuse to wash their hands coming out of the bathroom because, “I have hand-sanitizer at my desk.” Yeah, and how much do you touch between here and your desk? Oh, well, the DOOR for one thing!


          If you’re stuck, I’m very sorry for you and your situation. That stinks. And it’s the fault of the people in authority over you, and they are responsible for the spread of all those germs, and I hate them with the burning fury of a thousand suns.

          Except I don’t have the energy for that, so, make it a few candles. But still!

          If you’re not stuck, please don’t give everyone else your germs. Some of us have lousy immune systems, and what is a 36-hour bug for some people may put us on short-term disability, off work for weeks at a time.

          And blaming unhealthy people with lousy immune systems for their health problems, and saying they’re not OK, because they’re not healthy, regardless of their size, also stinks. Add fat to the mix (It’s OK to be fat, as long as you’re healthy. But you, Michelle, are not healthy, so you’re not not OK), nope! NOPE! I hate that stuff.

  2. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. You can be attracted to whatever body type you want (though people need to realize that your concept of what’s attractive wasn’t formed in a vacuum, but is a huge social and cultural construct that you’ve been immersed in since the day you were born); however, that doesn’t give you the right to treat people you’re not attracted to with disrespect.

    1. If you only like blonds, and they have to be real, genetic blonds, for the babies you might have, so hair dye is right out, you’re allowed to only like blonds.

      The way to say it, though, is not some long “diplomatic” letter. You just shrug, and say, “Sorry, not really feeling it here.” It’s as simple as that.

      No chemistry? No problem.

  3. firm believer in a bodies set point for weight because I apparently have a very strong one. gain a few pound and I CRAVE SALAD fresh fruit candy is revolting……. loose some below by usual and CAAAAKE< CANDY Mac & cheese- can't get enough

  4. So, in other words… You don’t give a hoot about set point?


    I noticed that my body has stabilized since I stopped dieting. I don’t know if it’s “set point,” or just all the various factors that affect body size working together to wind up at X weight. I mean, really, there are a LOT of factors that affect body size, and they are ALL at play, ALL the time, AND they can change at any time, due to a whole bunch of other factors, including (but not limited to), diet, allergies, disease, environment, mental health, etc.

    So, the idea of a “set point” may be nice, but I doubt it’s nearly as simple as that.

    Also, I don’t like the idea of “set point,” because it almost always seems to be coupled with advice on how to CHANGE your “set point,” which, once again, is subject to ALL THOSE FACTORS, and there’s a limit to just how much one person can control.

    This is the body I have today. Yesterday, it was different. Tomorrow, it will be different. In seven years, every single cell in it will have been replaced, and it will literally be COMPLETELY different. So, even if “set point” is real, it’s irrelevant to my life, anyway.

    What IS relevant is if I notice any unexplained, or sudden, change in my current weight. That is almost always a symptom of something going wrong.

  5. Been my experience with the most virulent of the OMGDEATHFATZ crusaders that no matter what size you are it is never small enough and you always can and need to be a smaller size(s) than you currently are to be dubbed acceptable and “healthy” by their “standards”. One would hope that they would lead not apply this to those who are in fact anorexic, but I seriously doubt it. Or if they do said anorexic is then condemned for being so instead.

    1. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the old canard, “We can ALL stand to lose a little weight.”

      Ummmm, no. No, quite a few people literally cannot stand to lose a little weight. Some people will literally die if they lose any more weight.

      Like you said, it’s never small enough. Bullies will never be satisfied, because then they’d have to stop bullying, or find something else to bully about.

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