You and the Underpants Rule

Here on DancesWithFat we have some posts that are annual traditions, one of them is this post about The Underpants Rule.

The Underpants Rule is simple: everyone is the boss of their own underpants so, when it comes to personal choices, you get to choose for you and other people get to choose from them and it’s not your job to tell other people what to do and it’s not their job to tell you what to do. To illustrate, if someone is considering saying something that starts with

  • People should
  • Everyone ought to
  • What people need to do
  • We should all
  • Nobody should
  • You shouldn’t
  • blah blah things that have to do with underpants that aren’t yours blah blah

then there is a 99.9% chance that they are about to break The Underpants Rule. Of course telling you that you should follow the Underpants Rule is, in fact, breaking the Underpants Rule which is pesky, so let me instead make a case for the Underpants Rule and then you can make your own choice.

I chose a Health at Every Size practice (knowing that health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, or entirely within our control)  because I am a fan of research, logic and math.  I think that the research clearly shows that a HAES practice gives me a much better shot at supporting my health with way less downside risk than a weight loss- based health practice.

There are people who think the exact opposite of that.  I know that because they come here and tell me so – they say that I should make a different choice.  This blog is my little corner of the internet.  It exists only because I created it and I am thrilled to pieces that people enjoy reading it, that people get inspired by it, that it gives people information to make choices etc. I try very hard to make sure that I always follow the Underpants Rule and never tell anyone else how they have to live when it comes to their personal choices, and yet people come here and try to tell me how to live when it comes to my personal choices.  That’s annoying.

For this reason, I would never go onto someone’s weight loss blog and tell them all about Health at Every Size and quote research as to why I think it’s a better choice.  Those are not my underpants.

I do not enjoy (or believe them) when people tell me that I need to become smaller to be attractive.  Therefore I would never say that thin women need to become larger to be attractive.  Besides the fact that I don’t believe it, those are not my underpants. (Not to mention that the path to high self-esteem is probably not paved with hypocrisy so doing to someone else exactly what I don’t want done to me seems ill-advised.)

The war on obesity is an underpants rule breakdown on a massive scale. A group of government, public and private interests (with various profit and political motivations) has chosen a group of people who are identifiable by sight and is now trying to tell us everything from how we have to prioritize health, to the path we have to take to become healthy, to how our bodies have to look.  Who died and made them Underpants Overlord?  Nobody. (Another year has gone by and I’ve still not received my official fat person pony.)

My metaphorical underpants and my actual underpants have something in common:  if I want somebody else in them, that person will be among the very first to know.  I have definitely not invited the executives at HBO, Kaiser Permanente, the government, or the diet industry into my underpants.

Over the years, there have been some misunderstandings about the Underpants Rule – mostly confusion about what is and is not covered, I wrote about the limitations of the UR here.

Now, I’m not telling what to do (cause, you know, Underpants Rule) but I’m suggesting that if you don’t like it when people attempt to be the boss of your underpants, then maybe take a pass on trying to be the boss of someone else’s.  I’m fairly certain that “Do unto others exactly what you don’t want them to do to you” is the lead rule or the brick rule or something – at any rate a LOT of steps down from platinum and gold.

Remember, you are forever the boss of your underpants – occupy your underpants (with a nod to reader Duckie for that phrase)! I’m going off to see if there is a Guinness World Record for number of times the word underpants is used in a blog.

Underpants. Underpants. Underpants.


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6 thoughts on “You and the Underpants Rule

  1. I applied the UR recently when I quit following a friend who posted an article on their blog titled, “Fat is Failure.” Their premise, as mentioned in their link to the post on Facebook, was that men who were fat were not as able to protect, provide for, or lead their families, as a man who was “fit.” They equated fat to gluttony and laziness, and when I called them on this error, rather than entertaining the idea that just maybe they were wrong, they “doubled-down” (in their own words) and pushed the point even more. I didn’t need to go read the blog post. Their “teaser” and their dogmatic defense of their points were enough to know it would only provide aggravation.

    I may not be able to stop someone else from serving up crap on their blog, but just because they serve it doesn’t mean I have to swallow it.

    1. I pretty much did this with my cousin’s wife. She and my cousin decided to go on a 90 day weight loss challenge and they challenged each other. For the next two months all I kept getting on my FB wall was them (not so much my cousin but his wife) discussing their weight loss, putting “bad food” in areas to “tempt” each other and so on and so forth. I just unfollowed the wife because she was the one putting the bulk of that stuff up. It came to the point that it became too triggering for me but I didn’t say anything to her about how it bothers me as I know that they would have just laughed at me as they have done before when I protested against a viral video involving a fat woman dancing a few years ago.

  2. This reminds me of a conversation I have often around religion. My partner and I are polytheistic Pagans. His family in particular, but also most other people in this country, practice various forms of monotheism. The thing is, polytheism leaves a lot of space for being inclusive of other beliefs. You have a thing with Jehovah? Cool; I’ll be over here with Freyja. But monotheists literally cannot see other beliefs. If you don’t hang in the Jehovah circle, you’re going to hell because there are no other options.

    The underpants rule functions a lot like polytheism: you do you; I’ll do me. But social attitudes toward fat are more like monotheism. (In fact, IMO the whole panic over body size/shape is less science & health than it is religion & morals, but that’s an entire blog.) People who show up to tell fat folks how to live can’t see another way anymore than conservative Christians can see another god. They believe sincerely that they are doing us a favor by trying to save our souls.

    What’s the upshot? My experience is any kind of religious epiphany is individual. We can keep doing us, countering bad information, modeling a different way. Be there for people when they figure out maybe the diet religion isn’t working for them. And meantime, keep uninvited people out of our underpants even when they believe they have every right–in fact, every obligation–to be there.


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