Good Fatty Bad Fatty BS

Angry FrustratedThe Good Fatty/Bad Fatty Dichotomy (originally named by the fabulous Kate Harding) happens when people try to divide fat people up into two categories, and suggest that one group deserves to be treated better than the other group. “Good Fatties” are seen as doing the “right” things by the people who think they have a right to judge – it may be what they are seen eating, how they dress, their current health/ability, whether or not they engage in movement, the type of movement they engage in etc.  “Bad Fatties” are those who are seen as doing the “wrong” things based on those same criteria.

The GFBFD creates privilege for some fat people. I am someone who is privileged by the GFBFD because I am a fat athlete. Like most privilege, I didn’t ask for it and I can’t give it away, but I can use my privilege to speak out against it and I try to do that whenever I can. The GFBFD blends multiple oppressions including sizeism, healthism, ableism, and racism among others, and it is always bullshit.  It’s also insidious and often perpetrated by people who have never really thought it through.  It’s been on my mind since I was interviewed recently for the Brave Endurance Podcast by Dr. James Kelley.

I had been recommended to him by Jon Robison (of the workplace culture firm Salveo Partners) who had been discussing the research around weight and health with James for a while. My primary goal in these types of interviews is always to tell/remind those listening that fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies without shame, stigma, bullying, or oppression, and that it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, or if we could (or even want to) become thin. That is a fact, it’s basic civil rights, and it’s non-negotiable – there’s no “agreeing to disagree” that we have the right to exist.

After that, I am happy to talk about what the research says about weight, weight loss and health, but always with the understanding that whether or not we agree about the research and regardless of a fat person’s health/ability/habits etc. fat people should be treated with respect. Being fat does not put you in a special category that requires you to meet some criteria to be treated with basic human respect.

The interview actually went pretty well. James didn’t necessarily agree with me on everything, but he asked reasonable questions and gave me the space to answer them, and considered my answers, which I appreciated. The first half of the interview is about me and my life, during the second half we transitioned to talk about Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size and my IRONMAN and that’s when the GFBFD came up.

I think a lot of people adopt this idea without thinking it through to realize that if you believe that fat people can be divided into “good” and “bad” based on some criteria (and treated “accordingly”), then you have to admit that you can divide any group of people into “good” and “bad” based on those same criteria.  There are two kinds of brunettes, two kinds of tall people, two kinds of green-eyed people etc. But we don’t hear anyone suggest that they’re only ok with tall people who “take care of themselves.”  Because, whether people realize or not, this isn’t actually about health, or anything else other than a crappy justification for engaging in sizeism (though not as crappy as the “fat people cost me tax dollars bullshit.)

There aren’t two kinds of fat people and suggesting that there are is simply sinking one’s self into a pool of stereotypes and bigotry and just soaking in it. Fat people are as varied as any group of people who share a single physical characteristic, and that is as it should be. The Good Fatty Bad Fatty Dichotomy needs to die, if you want to help kill it you can do things like not participating in it, and calling it out when you notice it.

You can check out my interview on the Brave Endurance Podcast (and leave comments please!) on iTunes, or on the Brave Endurance webpage.

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15 thoughts on “Good Fatty Bad Fatty BS

  1. Congress costs us tax dollars, too, and from what I’ve seen in my 56 years of life, gets a heck of a lot less actual work done than most fat people. Based on some of the comments of Will Rogers, Congress wasn’t too terribly efficient in his day, either, so it’s apparently nothing new. Add to that the fact that after two or three terms in Congress, and a retiring Congress member will receive their full Congressional pay for the rest of their life, we’re looking at a serious fiscal sinkhole. I’m far more concerned about that one than the supposed cost in tax dollars caused by fat people.

    My wife and I were talking about it last night, and she commented that the people complaining about fat people putting an extra burden on the healthcare system seem to be missing an important point. She said that, in her experience, a lot of fat people will avoid going to the doctor, because they are fed up with always being told to, “just lose weight, and you’ll be fine.” In too many such cases, the doctor doesn’t even listen to the actual concerns of the patient, or do enough of an exam to see it the problem has any connection to the patient’s weight. They simply assume, “fat is unhealthy, so if this person is unhealthy, it’s because they’re fat,” and prescribe accordingly. Therefore, even when the fat person DOES go to the doctor, they aren’t putting too much drain on the fiscal resources of the healthcare system, because they’re much too frequently not actually receiving any medical treatment. They’re receiving biased platitudes and generic advice that they could have received for free from a source on the internet.

    Oddly enough, while the doctors seem cavalier concerning checking the actual health concerns of fat patients, they seem almost too eager to promote weight-loss surgery to the same patients, Apparently, pushing a dubious quick-fix for an assumed problem is more important than offering options to deal with a real problem.

    1. AMEN. I always wonder how a doctor who will refuse a knee replacement for a fat patient could turn around and in good conscience recommend weight loss surgery for that patient. WLS is far more invasive and dangerous.

      1. Plus knee replacement surgery can enable movement and help create a better quality of life.

        It’s all about quality not quantity.

      2. There’s someone in one of the lipedema groups on FB, and she clearly needs the WAL lipo, but her docs won’t do it until she gets WLS. She has said no multiple times, and doesn’t want to end up in a wheelchair like her mother and grandmother, who had the same condition. WLS doesn’t cure lipedema, and like dieting, in most cases makes it worse.

      3. I went to see a different doctor than my usual, and he recommended weight loss surgery. I told him no, and I told him about how 95% human beings cannot maintain weight-loss for long term, and I even showed him the study linked here, Mann., et. al. He looked at it, and laughed.

        “These are psychologists! What do they know about the human body! I’m a doctor, and I’ve done research, and I’m telling you, that weight loss works! It’s just that most fat people are going to go back to emotional eating, until they deal with the psychological issues that drove them to overeat in the first place, and I’m not going to listen to what some psychologists have to say!”

        Ummmm…, so, you’re blaming the fat on psychology, but won’t listen to psychologists about it? Also, what difference does it make, if it’s a physiological reason or a psychological reason – if 95% of fat people CANNOT remain thin after a short-term weight loss, what difference does it make if it’s because of their brains or their bodies. The fact remains that it does. not. work. long. term.

        Also, he said that fat cells are toxic. Well, then, wouldn’t sucking out the actual fat cells, a la liposuction, be a more healthful resolution than amputating the stomach, so that all those fat cells remain, but just get smaller. Temporarily. Until I eat myself fat again, because I’m psychological?

        And why couldn’t I think of these responses in the moment?

        1. Ugh, emotional eating. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?

          And they should be offering free liposuction to make everyone magically healthy, because God/Devil/evolution couldn’t get it right after 4 BILLION years.

        2. Fat cells are toxic?!? What freakin’ medical school did he attend?

          Fat cells are a primary reason there are still humans in the world. Fat cells enabled our ancestors to survive the lean seasons, before the days of rapid transportation of foods, refrigeration, supermarkets, etc.

          Hopefully without sounding sexist, fat cells were especially important for women, who often had to go through those lean seasons either pregnant or nursing a baby, both of which draw very heavily on the body’s reserves. No fat would mean the death of mother and/or baby. In fact, a certain percentage of estrogen production occurs in fat cells, and women who are too thin will often stop having their monthly cycle and/or have a more difficult time getting pregnant. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to think of this as nature’s way of protecting a woman whose body doesn’t have sufficient reserves for the extra needs.

          Marine mammals ALL sport a significant amount of body fat for both insulation and buoyancy, as well as to help tide them over between the times when food is plentiful and when it is scarce. Those fat cells are killing them, either. Instead, they would all die quickly without the fat.

          Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of biology should know better than to think that fat cells are toxic. Fat cells are an essential part of our survival toolkit.

          1. Oops. I meant to type in the next to the last paragraph, “Those fat cells aren’t killing them, either.”

  2. It’s awfully sad when a fellow fat person engages in some shaming and “good fatty VS bad fatty” BS of their own.

    I messaged you on FB about an aunt of mine who was bewildered to find out that a non-fat person had a massive heart attack. This type of behavior from her is, in my opinion, borderline fatphobia, if not actually so.

    I won’t go into more detail because I don’t want to break your rules here.

    1. Yep. It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: Fat Hatred kills. It kills fat people, because they are denied the medical care they need, and it kills thin people, because doctors don’t even see or acknowledge the symptoms of what they assume are “fat person” conditions.

      Thin people get heart attacks, diabetes, etc., but it always seems to come as a great shock, because how could it even happen? They’re not fat!

      1. I hope Ragen (spelling?) got my message. I had the “pleasure” of listening to her complain about how she “should” be thin because she only eats this or that, how she has to be basically covered up completely when having relations, etc. There is a repulsive term for the relations aspect but I don’t know if I’m allowed to go into detail about it.

        I’m fatter than her, but love to post selfies, and will do stuff with my man with the lights on, thank you very much.

        It’s tragic when someone is so indoctrinated by society that they become sheep-like and have little critical thinking skills.

        I feel bad for her to an extent but, on the other hand, I wanted to freakin’ yell at her because I had to listen to her internalized fatphobia (we were in a car for 6-8 hours and then all had brunch together, so I couldn’t escape).

        This woman is at least 60, so I doubt she will see the light.

        I rolled my eyes internally when she expressed true surprise that a thin person had a heart attack that killed them. It irked me because she asked if the man was “overweight” first.

        I was tempted to educate her but, for one thing, no one would listen anyway — I would have gotten ganged up on and told that I’m “in denial” or something similar.

        Secondly, she would have likely gotten very, very upset, and maybe even started crying, which would have caused my mom to be very unhappy with me for upsetting her sister.

      2. I think my step-dad was implying that his grandpa’s poor diet killed him, since he claimed that the man put ketchup on everything.

        My auntie is a slave to society — and she doesn’t even know it!

  3. Oh, but there ARE two kinds of fat people in this world: Fat people I have met, and fat people I have NOT met.

    Mind you, I don’t judge their character or worthiness based upon this trait, but it is a real dichotomy.

    As for the GFBF dichotomy, well, how the heck could I tell, anyway? What, based on what I see in a particular moment, or am I supposed to actually follow all fat people around, dig into their private lives, as well as their private medical records, to see who is “good,” and who is “bad”? And what if the “good” ones are selfish jerks, and the “bad” ones spend half their time volunteering at the hospital or a nursing home, or the like? Methinks these people do not truly understand the meanings of the words “good” and “bad,” as it pertains to people.

    1. I like that. Those who volunteer and help out come in all shapes, sizes, and every other thing under the sun.

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