The (Not So) Tell-Tale (Fat) Heart

This picture and caption combo has gone viral on multiple media platforms:

Fat Heart
A picture of a human heart held by two latex-gloved hands with the caption “The is the heart of an obese person.. Remember folks, this is what happens when you get fat.  Fat tissue builds up around the heart and clots/chockes it. Fat is not beautiful, it is not be be glorified.

BOOM, SCIENCE!  I guess that’s the end of the Fat Acceptance movement then. Bonus points for enacting the “glorifying obesity” thing in which it’s suggested that fat people who choose not to live our lives in a state of perpetual self-loathing are “glorifying obesity.”  As I’ve pursued the life I want in a fat body, I’ve often been accused of “glorifying obesity,” oddly, I am also short and yet I have never once been accused of glorifying shortness. That’s because this is about fatphobia and has nothing to do with health.

But wait – it turns out that, just like “glorifying obesity” is a myth, so is this meme.  This picture is actually a healthy heart that is about to be transplanted into a patient at Cedars-Sinai

Fat Heart Truth
The same pictures of a human heart as above, this time with the original and correct text: “Christine Moore’s new heart, shown covered in its thin layer of epicardial fat, will represent the hospital’s 40th transplant of 2012. In eight to nine days, Moore should be abler to leave the hospital, full recovery will take about two months.

I’ll bet Ms. Moore thinks that is some beautiful, glorious fat. Discussions about health are complicated and aren’t helped by ignorant fatphobes creating misleading internet memes. In a world where weight stigma runs so rampant that someone who knows nothing about human hearts can see a picture of one, decide that it has something to do with fat people and start a completely bullshit meme that goes viral, any negative message about fat people is always reader beware because, trust me, these people will say anything.

You may remember when Dr. Oz made a similar mistake, claiming that fat people have bad hearts because every fat person he had performed heart surgery on had a bad heart, as if he was cracking the chests of thin people just to say “Yup, another healthy thin-person heart!” and then sewing them back up.

Even if that was a fat person’s heart, and even if it was indicative of health issues, it has absolutely nothing to do with beauty. If you think people who are “unhealthy” (by whatever definition you are using) can’t be beautiful, then you are a healthist, a Grade A asshole, and just plain wrong. Health is not an obligation,  it’s not entirely within our control, it’s not a barometer of worthiness or beauty, and it’s not anyone else’s business.

There’s a time and place for discussions about health, but those discussions don’t have anything to do with the right of fat people to exist in fat bodies without shame, stigma, bullying and harassment and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, if we’re “glorifying obesity,” or if we could become thin.

As far as I’m concerned, all bodies of all sizes should be glorified. Weight stigma and completely inaccurate internet memes on the other hand, not so much.

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17 thoughts on “The (Not So) Tell-Tale (Fat) Heart

  1. my late husband would have loved to have that heart.
    he died in 2012, waiting for a heart transplant that would never come. he died from congestive heart failure, age 44, thin as a reed. too thin. he was always despairing about being he was so thin.
    he was a musician, he lived a musician’s life, and died a musician’s death. there are so many lost, we all know that now. had the ACA arrived before he died, perhaps he would have lived longer. had he stopped smoking everything he could get his hands on, he might have lived longer still. but he was strong as a good half of a cornucopia of oxen. from the time he was diagnosed, he was supposed to have lived about five years. he lived almost eight.

    heart disease is not an issue of weight. like any major illness it’s an issue partially of money, as are all our public health issues, an issue of education, and particularly an issue of genetics, something not easily changed. with, dare i say, most musicians, it’s also an issue of substance intake. that can be ameliorated only by medical decriminalization, a solution we desperately need. i fear this will not happen in my lifetime, and this saddens me tremendously.

    because all our issues of people’s private lives have no meaning outside of moral panic. it makes a person feel good to feel better than the next person. since most people are very similar, including the people who seem extraordinary, those of us most prone to insecurity and envy have to find something with which to torment others. they MUST build their own egos at the price of— well, it doesnt matter who. anyone. they don’t care who they damage. the more damage, particularly anonymous damage, the more gain for them.

    the only way to change this would be to change the culture to one based on compassion instead of competition. people all need to feel like they have some value, and the way our society is set up, one’s value is dependent upon one’s rung on the ladder. you must be above me. i must be above you. it’s all stupid. we need to exchange that ladder for a level playing field. for everyone. no more grading people on arbitrary attributes, no more grading people at all. i know how much we are supposed to hate the 60s values—but they were better. it does take all kinds to make a world. it doesn’t matter what those ‘kinds’ are, just as long as we work together. why can’t we do this? why, instead, do we have to come up with little inaccurate stolen cruelties in order to hurt people who have done us no harm, and that we will never ever know?

    i don’t know the answer.

    i can say that, from my own observation, the one commonality that’s killed the most people i know has been not fat at all, but cigarettes. dope, but cigarettes even more. i could give too many examples but i’ve already written too much. so i am done now, & hope something i said helped someone.

    1. I’m so sorry for the loss of your husband. Thank you for writing about your experiences and your story. Your insight into the way we, as a society, tend to view others was a bit eye opening for me and makes a lot of sense. I’ve always viewed people differently, I suppose, and it’s been a bit hard for me to understand why people say and do what they do to others they don’t even know. But it makes sense the way you put it. It’s a sad way to exist if you’re constantly comparing yourself to others or trying to put others down to make yourself feel better/superior in some way.

      Living that way is so foreign to me that I guess I forget that that’s the motivation behind so much of the way some people treat others. I guess deep down those who act like that are just insecure. I think if I try to remember that I’ll have a bit more compassion and understanding towards people like that rather than just feeling really confused and angry at their behavior. Don’t get me wrong, that kind of behavior isn’t excusable and anger is justified in that case – but remembering that often times that sort of thing comes from insecurity can go a long way when dealing with people like that.

      Thanks again for your words, for writing about your experiences. You give a lot of “food for thought”.

    2. Thank you so much for your beautiful post. You said everything much better than I could. I’m sorry for your loss but happy your love lasted through it all.

  2. Such a neat picture! How dare someone take away the very positive message behind this to send a hateful one.

    1. I know! They willfully LIED to advance fat-hatred, taking a picture of a healthy heart (since no doctor worth his salt would implant an unhealthy heart, and he certainly wouldn’t post a picture of it!) and calling it an unhealthy heart.

      It’s one thing to be confused and mistaken, but quite another to outright, willfully, and knowingly LIE, just to hurt other people. Especially when you consider that, according to the BMI charts (wrong), about half of the American population are the targets, here. Not to mention the thin people who suffer from the fear of becoming fat, and thus targeted.

  3. Oh my gosh thank you for finding the original source for this! My sister shared that meme along with some “stop glorifying obesity” post and I didn’t know what to say. Now I do.

  4. Where would the world be without people like you? Informed, articulate and ready to stand for what you believe. Of course people don’t want the truth, it means having to do something and not sit and be fed media garbage. If I could be a fraction of the type of person you are I’d be happy.

  5. Also, fat does not build up around the outside of the heart and clog it. Heart disease typically means that the arteries and veins INSIDE the heart are clogged. My dad had blockage in his left anterior descending artery, so bad that he was thisclose to dying. The doctor did not put stents on the outside of his heart. It’s called “open heart surgery” because the heart is OPEN – aka the insides are being treated. Maybe the person who put this lie together should have done a basic Internet search on heart disease before running his/her mouth off.

  6. Fat is used by the body to cushion and protect internal organs. It’s ridiculous to try to stir up fatphobia against a necessary, healthy, non-pathological condition! And harmful, as fatphobia always is.

  7. Ummm, if health = beauty, then why did so many women take poisons (arsenic, belladonna) for so long, as “beauty aids”? And why do people now inject botulism poison into their faces, in a search for “youth” and “beauty,” when what they really get is a case of paralysis, which is not healthy?

    Something wrong with that argument.

    Also, the pedant in me really wants to change that last comma in the horrible meme to a semi-colon. Not that it will make it any better.

  8. Something I’ve often wondered: if fat is so bad, why don’t surgeons regularly remove it from transplant organs, or when you have surgery for another reason, why do they leave it? Perhaps they know something that “everyone knows” doesn’t, and more than your doctor.

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