Underpants Rule

Underpants RuleThis is one of those annual tradition posts – it’s the Underpants Rule and it is pretty simple: when it comes to personal choices, 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 about personal choices 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. (And 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 brick rule or the pile of crap 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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11 thoughts on “Underpants Rule

  1. Does the underpants rule mean people are free to find fat people revolting and to say as much? Or can direction be suggested in their case?

    1. Emma,

      Sadly people are allowed to be bigots – by which I mean that they can think whatever they want about other groups of people, however ignorant it may be. However, when they open their mouths (or keyboards) and share their bigotry it becomes oppression – they are actively hurting other people which means it’s no longer about just a personal choice and so direction is absolutely appropriate.

      1. Like the old saying, “It’s all fun and games, until someone gets hurt.” That applies to SO MUCH in our lives.

        Yeah, you can think whatever you like, and it’s all fun and games, but when you start hurting other people by acting on those thoughts (and surprise! Speech is an action!), then it’s no longer fun and games.

        Our right to free speech does not mean that we can say whatever, without consequences. It simply means that the government will not come an arrest us for saying something they don’t like. But even that has limits. No inciting to riot, or yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater, because such speech actually causes physical harm to others.

  2. I’m not sure humans are ready to embrace the Underpants Rule. But I think we need it now more than ever! I would guesstimate we spend about %80 of our time being much, much too concerned with everyone elses unmentionables. The loss of whole portions of our own existence-time-allotted must be ginormous indeed. I know I myself have spent way too much time being overly invested in other peoples underwear.
    I think the Mindfullness group I joined has pointed out a great deal about this issue truly. Is it O.K. if I run this off and bring it in for people to see? I am the only fat person, in a group of 14 people, for whom issues like alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic partner violence seem to play third chair to the issue of: “at least I don’t look like her.” And no, I can’t prove this, but when half of the examples from the books that the groups’ facilitators use have to be examples of how “not to eat too much”, “because that is a short time reward vs a long time goal” (ie a cookie vs weight loss), I get sort of…paranoid. Like one can BE paranoid about an issue that seems to run 24 7 in every element, aspect and goal of modern American Society.
    Seriously, have they NO other examples?
    Excellent post!

    1. I foolishly clicked on one of those “never eat this food, it is poisonous” links, and was sure I would be given information about some actually harmful foodstuffs.

      What I got was “this will hinder your weight loss goals.” Uhhhhh. Why didn’t you say that in the title? Or at least in the first five minutes of the video?! Five minutes of fear-mongering about poisons, literally using the word poison, and it’s all about not hindering your weight loss goals?

      As if EVERYONE is only concerned with weight loss, and no one is concerned about breaking out in hives, or anaphylactic shock, or vomiting, or diarrhea, or or or… It just makes me so angry.

      “Seriously, have they NO other examples?,” indeed.

    2. Hi Jen,

      I’m really glad that you liked the post! I’m very sorry that you are dealing with this in your mindfulness group, please feel free to use this piece in any way that you find helpful.

      A related request – this is a common situation and it’s something that I’d like to blog about – is it ok if I use this comment as a jumping off point?



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