Different Flavors of Outrage

Remember that fatphobic asswipe Jaime O’Neill, whose clever solution to Americans engaging in gross overconsumption of natural resources was: fat people should diet? So then, uh, we won’t have to be reminded of how oil-dependent we are or something?

Yeah, he’s my new best friend, compared to journalist and personal trainer Robert Haddocks. This article is unbelievable.

There’s a guy in my gym who tickles me. Every day he walks in with his short shorts that we wore 20 years ago and a tank top. This guy spends at least 30 minutes doing crunches, sit-ups, hanging leg raises —- and for that he should be commended.

But the guy probably has a 40-inch belly protruding over his mini-shorts. I don’t get it. He tries hard but unfortunately, he’s a bit misguided. He can keep doing all that ab work, but what he needs to do is kick up the cardio and cut down on the calories and fat.

Gee, how nice that that tickles you. Nothing funnier than a fat guy exercising in outdated clothes! (Except, of course, a fat woman!) And oh, what a knee-slapper it is that he’s doing the wrong kind of exercise if he wants to lose weight! Which of course he must, because, you know, he’s fat. And the only possible reason why anyone would do crunches and sit-ups and hanging leg raises is because he wants to lose weight and just doesn’t know how. There’s no chance that he simply enjoys that kind of exercise, or is doing it because his priority is actually strengthening his muscles, to make other forms of exercise easier or rehabilitate a back problem or simply get the myriad general benefits of core strength. There’s also no chance whatsoever that he walks, runs, cycles or plays soccer outside the gym, where you don’t get to monitor his exercise routine. If he did that, there’s no way on earth he could still be fat. No, clearly, he’s just clueless.

Then Haddocks tells us about the eating habits that “work for him” — and his dad — followed by, “We’re fortunate in that we don’t have a tendency to pack on pounds.” Ya think? And you think maybe people who aren’t so “fortunate” won’t get much out of your astonishingly simplistic advice?

Oh, wait, of course we will!

Those who do might need to keep a closer watch on their caloric count and follow a stricter diet. You know yourself and your body better than anybody. So eating, like a lot of things, comes down to common sense…. I firmly believe that most people are overweight by choice.

Hmm, I’m confused. According to you, I know myself and my body better than anybody. So, evidently, does the guy doing crunches in his short-shorts. And yet, we have somehow failed to miss that the key to not being fat is following “a stricter diet” and doing cardio. ‘Cause if we did that, we wouldn’t be fat, duh. We would be choosing not to be fat. Choosing not to be fat, even if you have fat genes, “just requires a bit more determination and dedication and making smart choices.”

For real, y’all. We’re fat because we’re dumb.

It gets better.

And mothers, those babies you had —- oh, six and eight years ago —- sorry, you can’t use them as an excuse anymore. You’ve exceeded the exercise statute of limitations! I see plenty of women in the gym with two or three kids that look great.

There is really no reasonable response to a statement like that other than, FUCK YOU, JACK. And I don’t even have kids.

And oh wait, it’s not over yet.

Despite my commentary on smoking and lighthearted gym observation, my intent in this column is one of positivity and to motivate folks to be active and live healthier lives.

His LIGHTHEARTED gym observation. Was that the one about the deluded, unfashionable fatass doing crunches, or the one about the mothers with young kids who’ve “exceeded the statute of limitations” on not looking great? Or the one about fat people choosing to be fat, because they don’t want to exercise?

Bob, do you think it’s just possible that you don’t see more fat people at your gym because IT’S FULL OF JUDGMENTAL ASSHOLES WHO LAUGH AT THEIR CLOTHES AND THEIR EXERCISE DECISIONS?

Way to motivate people in a positive way, dude. Keep up the good work!

Moving right along, you must check out Louise Burke’s “My size zero diet nightmare.” This time, the article is terrific, though the outrage it provokes is no less fiery.

Burke was a perfectly healthy, thin woman with a good body image, who decided to participate in an extreme diet (for a reality show, natch), just for the journalistic experience. She lasted 5 weeks. Here’s the short version of what happened:

Before: 9st 3lb Body mass index, 22.3 l percentage of body fat, 27.7 l shiny, strong hair l energetic l healthy sex life l good body image l cheerful, even-tempered l clear skin l mentally alert l highly motivated l balanced attitude to food and diet l good fitness level

After: 8st 3lb Body mass index, 19.9 l percentage of body fat, 18.5 l limp hair l weak l no energy l low sex drive l bad breath l depression/mood swings l skin rash l unable to concentrate l demotivated l obsessed with food and calories l bad posture l pallid face

The long version of what happened is well worth a read. I can hardly pick out just a few choice quotes, because the whole thing is a choice quote. But here are a few anyway.

My body was in shock from the sudden drop in calories (from roughly 2,500 calories a day to 1,600). Lunch and dinner were restricted to a palm-size portion of protein and twice that in vegetables or salad.

I was so hungry that I’d eat very slowly, savouring every mouthful. Food never tasted so good – even lettuce and tinned tuna (a meal I’d usually turn my nose up at).

It got worse.

Did you notice that 1600 calories counts as a the beginning of an “extreme” diet? Or that, when she was perfectly healthy and thin, with a BMI of 22.3, she was eating about 2500 calories? (And not exercising much, evidently, since she says the gym habit is the only good thing she took away from the nightmare diet?) Isn’t it supposed to be only fat people and athletes who eat that much?

Burke restricts her calories even more after that — and remember, such extra restriction is exactly what Robert Haddocks and others like him believe fatties must choose to do if we can’t lose weight by eating and exercising like “normal” people — and this is what happens:

At work I was putting in minimal effort.

My writing was not up to scratch, but I didn’t have the energy to think and make it better.

If there was a minor problem, I couldn’t cope.

People said I was constantly frowning, as if something was wrong. They were right. Something was very wrong – I wasn’t eating.

I fantasised about cheeseburgers all day long.

I couldn’t cope with even normal day-to-day activity.

Climbing escalators in the Underground was a no-no, and I had to persuade a colleague to take a detour home so she could help me carry my bags of salad – hardly the heaviest of shopping.

My editor commented that she’d never employ someone in my state because she couldn’t depend on me to carry out tasks independently.

But hey, she’s losing weight! THAT’S THE IMPORTANT THING.

And then there’s this observation, which I could kiss her for:

The only thing I did talk about was food. I was a useless bore.

Also, this one, about going off the diet:

I didn’t return to normal eating patterns straight away as I had expected.

I binged for at least the first two weeks, which was pretty disgusting, although it took me a while to realise that.

As I gradually got back to a healthy eating plan, I was able to start thinking about things other than food and reclaim my passion for life (and my boyfriend!).

I don’t think there are any long-lasting side effects, but ask me again in ten years.

A-fucking-men. And here’s the thing: the only difference between Louise Burke and a fat person who diets and exercises like that? Is that the fat person will still end up fat.

But, you know, it’s a choice. You just have to stop making excuses.

Either that or you have to stop listening to people like Robert Haddocks and reread the famous Campos quote:

Remember that particularly clueless right-wing acquaintance of yours? The one who believes that anybody in America can become rich, because he thinks about poverty in a completely unscientific, anecdotal way, which allows him to treat the exceptional case as typical? The one who can’t seem to understand the simplest structural arguments about the nature of social inequality?

The next time you see some fat people and get disgusted by their failure to “take care of themselves,” think about your clueless friend.

39 thoughts on “Different Flavors of Outrage

  1. *Agrees again*
    I find it incredibly odd that with deductive knowledge, people that think fat people will instantly drop pounds from exercise have people on their lines that are dumb enough to sit there and berate them as they exercise for whatever reason. That’s counterintuitive and counterproductive!

  2. Some magazine had an interview with people who had been on “The Biggest Loser”. They all said that it showed them eating and exercising a certain way, but that in the finals they were A) crash dieting B) over-exercising and C) dehydrating themselves in order to win the prize.

    Screw your HEALTH, just win the prize. Every one of them gained at least 20 lbs back right away, just by drinking water and having food in their colon again.

    I used to be able to crash diet weight off pre-child. It won’t work now because I can’t be a good mom (or even a NICE mom) when I’m starving. I also have a little girl who wants nothing more than to be like me. I once wanted to skip dinner and said I wasn’t hungry. DD put down her fork and said, “I’m not hungry”. I had to go and get myself something to eat in order to convince her to eat dinner. I won’t make a mistake like this again. I take on anybody else who gives her harmful messages about food. How can I expect her to trust my guidance if I do stupid things?

    So now I am interested in FA because it just seems like it’s way healthier than so much else that is out there. I did lose some of my postpartum weight but not all of it. I participated in the challenge to eat what you want but was less successful this weekend in being less critical of my shape. Baby steps. I did, however, buy a really lovely skirt that I craved even though it’s probably not something you would wear if you wanted to fade into the background. I’d like to think Joy Nash would be proud! I found THE perfect sweater to go with it and need some shoes, but won’t rule out a pair of boots. I mean, why NOT? My life is right now, not 30 lbs. from now.

  3. I love you, Kate.

    I don’t have the energy to write much else right now because I have not eaten today. :) (Or mostly because I’m sick. Common cause.)

    But I do want to say: I’ve noticed that the people who don’t believe that you can be genetically predisposed to be fat? DO believe that you can be genetically predisposed to be thin. I do wonder how the reconcile that.

  4. As time goes on, i’m sure i’ll find more that i need/want to respond to in this post, but for now, this’ll do.

    Despite my commentary on smoking and lighthearted gym observation, my intent in this column is one of positivity and to motivate folks to be active and live healthier lives.

    …..

    What, so we can be fucking CANNON FODDER?! FUCK YOU, you pompous windbag! You want us to maintain active lives for your amusement? For the tickling of your fucking funny bone? EAT ME, asshole. Or is it just “lead active lives, but only where i don’t have to see you”? Either way, suck a rope, numbnuts.

    I hate people, sometimes. :(

  5. I’ve noticed that the people who don’t believe that you can be genetically predisposed to be fat? DO believe that you can be genetically predisposed to be thin. I do wonder how the reconcile that.

    I’ve noticed that, too, although Haddocks takes a different angle. He acknowledges that there’s a genetic component to fat, but likens it to having ALCOHOLISM genes. If you know you might become an alcoholic, you should just never take the first drink. And if you know you might become fat, you should just never take the first…

    Yeah.

  6. My experience has taught me that the vast amount of male gym trainers are douchebag meatheads with tribal armbands, and i’m SO not surprised that these statements came from such a person.

    A few years back when i worked out at Crunch on Lafayette, a trainer used that tired old line on me “you have such a pretty face….you just need to… ” you know the rest. I’m happy to say that my complaints not only to the local manager, but also to Crunch corporate resulted in the firing of this fucker. He had a few other black marks on his record, and I was apparently not the first woman to experience his charming sales tactics.

  7. Celeste – just wanted to say I have kids and often think of my daughter in regards to all this. How nice would it be to raise our kids to love themselves intead of teaching them that their bodies are wrong and need to be fixed. My mom recently made a comment to me about my 8 year old daughter eating “too much”. I knew where she was going with this and headed her off by telling her that the kid is going to be fat (at least by society’s standards). She has two fat parents, she has/had 4 fat grandparents, she has fat aunts (she looks nothing like me and takes after her dad’s sisters – both of whom are not as fat as me, but still fat). She’s already stockier than her friends. How about raising her to know that how much fat her body has on it doesn’t make a difference? How about giving the girl the good example of a mom who loves her own body, is good to herself and does what she wants instead of waiting til she’s “lost the weight”? Instead, at 8, I’m supposed to do what – put her on a diet? Monitor her weight? Not let her have birthday cake maybe?

  8. He acknowledges that there’s a genetic component to fat, but likens it to having ALCOHOLISM genes. If you know you might become an alcoholic, you should just never take the first drink. And if you know you might become fat, you should just never take the first…

    Zoloft?

  9. You know what’s upsetting to me about the size 0 article? That the woman in the after picture doesn’ t look that thin to me. She’s a malnourished size 00 and to me she looks normal. That’s how warped my sense of body image is. No wonder my size 6 sister and her size 8 best friend think they’re hugely, horrifically fat. Compared to what’s presented to us as normal and attractive, they are.

  10. And if you know you might become fat, you should just never take the first…

    Zoloft?

    Bwah!

    Also, Madge, rock ON for getting that prick fired!

    And Becky, outstanding point! You’re right — she doesn’t look malnourished and miserable to my eye, either. She doesn’t even look “scary thin” to my eye.

    Of course, I’m sure it’s totally possible for someone to be the same height/weight and perfectly healthy, because that’s their NATURAL height/weight. But it’s verrrry interesting that a loss of only 14 lbs. turned this woman into a starving wreck. Maybe that’s because she started out so thin… or maybe that’s because restricting calories to get under your natural weight plays havoc with your body.

  11. She doesn’t look scary thin to me either. In fact, I don’t see all that much difference between the before and after pics, aside from the melancholy look on her slightly thinner face, and a sexier midsection in the before shot. I find it interesting that they shot her more close-up in the before (making her look bigger) and from a distance in the after. But I do find it amazing how much the reduction of 15 lbs. had on her general outlook and demeanor. When i used to diet, and would embark upon the newest trend, my sister would always roll her eyes and tell me to call her as soon as i quit the diet because i was insufferable while on it. And she was right. I remember freaking out on a waitress at ChiChis or some mexican joint because they didn’t put my dressing on the side. I SAID ON THE SIDE, GODDAMNIT and i then burst into tears. Because 5 lbs is so worth THAT. *sarcasm*

  12. I firmly believe that most people are overweight by choice.

    And I firmly believe that SOME people are plain ignorant by choice

    Bingo, Rachel. I loved Fillyjonk’s recent description of someone as a “champion of his own ignorance.” We might have to start a Shapely Prose Champion of Your own Ignorance Award.

    Haddocks is nominated for sure.

  13. The only thing that confuses me about the article is the conversion from Gap size 2 to US 00. Gap use American sizes anyway! So the reason she doesn’t quite look scary thin is she actually made it to a size 2 not a size 00.

    But you have to remember that 15lbs is a hell of a lot bigger proportion of your size when you’re starting out at a UK 8 (US 4-6). I could lose 15 lbs and barely even notice. My UK 22s would be a bit less tight is all.

    It’s interesting to see this article to me most for the 7 months on perspective. I’ll be interested to see what she thinks in another year or two too.

  14. Did anybody catch this line in the size zero article?

    If I should ever become overweight, I would consider following a balanced low-calorie diet and would exercise frequently.

    1) RESTRICTING FOOD IS MISERABLE AND UNHEALTHY. 2) FATTIES SHOULD EAT LESS. QED.

  15. Why I Only Work Out At Home, Exhibit A: this post. I won’t even go to a fucking yoga class, I’d rather do it at home, alone, where no one gives a shit about my fat rolls.

    Whenever we see some more evidence that fat people may just be different, it’s always accompanied by a coda that “It doesn’t mean you don’t have to diet, you just have to work harder at being thin than those blessed with fast metabolism have.

    In other words, you can’t go out for a meal with friends, you can’t have a dessert if you want to, you can’t live a normal life. You can’t hold down a full-time job, because then you can’t spend 4 hours a day working out. But being poor is a small sacrifice to make to be thin.

    Fuck that. I am not going to spend my precious hours of leisure time staring off into space running on a treadmill like a fucking hamster. Certainly not so assholes like this guy can feel superior.

  16. “It doesn’t mean you don’t have to diet, you just have to work harder at being thin than those blessed with fast metabolism have.”

    And add to this, you have to do it every f*cking day of your miserable life, or back come the pounds. Next time some thin person spouts at me about my weight, I’m going to say, “Tell me about the time you lost 75 lbs.”. I know they will have to say they have never been overweight and gone on a diet. I’ve definitely got a chip on my shoulder about bad advice!

  17. Once upon a time I moved to Chicago, and then promptly got Mono. As a result of the move and the mono I lost 30 pounds without even trying. (I was still, obese since I was starting at about 330lbs, but I was LESS obese.)

    My fat obsessed father offered almost immediately to pay for a gym membership and a personal trainer. Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth I agreed. This, however was the ONLY WAY that anyone would EVER have gotten me to go to a gym. Fortunately it was a very Posh gym, and my trainer was Super Nice (and super cute.) No one was ever rude to me the remembered my name and always say hi (still now if I see them on the street.) (Equinox in the loop if anyone is interested in a nice gym.)

    However I still hated going, the mirrors, all the people who were way skinnier than me. They were so nice, but I could FEEL them judging me. I comforted myself with the following statement “Better to be the fat girl at the gym than the fat girl at the ice cream shop.”

    But now I realize that I’m way happier at the ice cream shop, everyone else can just bite me.

  18. Did anybody catch this line in the size zero article?

    If I should ever become overweight, I would consider following a balanced low-calorie diet and would exercise frequently.

    1) RESTRICTING FOOD IS MISERABLE AND UNHEALTHY. 2) FATTIES SHOULD EAT LESS. QED.

    Good eye, Fillyjonk. I did notice that, actually, just forgot to say anything about it in the post. It’s like people think they MUST include a line like that for “balance,” even when their entire fucking point is that dieting makes you sick.

  19. I first signed up for a gym membership when I weighed 300 pounds. The gym I attended was more a family style gym, and didn’t have so many gym bunnies or the guys who wear funny pants and lift weights. They were there, sure, but along with some seniors, families and other fat women. Luckily, I never had any negative comment made or felt overtly uncomfortable outside of being a fat girl huffing on the stair climber next to the toned, tight 20-year-olds jiggling in their sports bras.

    The gym had one guy do most of the new orientation and paperwork. He’d always pull out a framed picture of himself at his former and current weights with a “If I can do it, you can do” kind of story. It was like conscious reinforcement for the fat people who were still teetering on the decision to join or not.

    After some months of religious gym going and after I had lost a considerable amount of weight, the gym asked me if I would be their “member of the month,” along with a woman who had had WLS. I agreed, only because I was laid off work at the time and they promised a free month. So, my picture and stats hung on the wall and I got bombarded by people all asking for my “secret.”

    I find it highly ironic that the gym would feature, as paradigms of “good health,”
    A. A woman who risked severe physical harm and potential death in a controversial weight loss surgery
    B. And me, who lost the weight due to over-exercising and a combination of anorexia and bulimia.

    But according to my old gym, as well as people like Haddocks, we were the very symbols of “good health” simply because we were skinny.

  20. I used to have this really effin’ awesome doctor when I was in high school. One day I go in for a sort of general malaise – I’m exhausted, wan, snappish (well, more than usual), and completely unable to concentrate. Finally, after asking me the usual questions, he says “and what are you eating?”

    Now this was while my dad was on his “let’s shame Alix for being a fatass” kick, and so I was eating one pack of ramen and two sodas a day. My doctor looked me dead in the eye and said “Not only do you need to eat better, you need to eat MORE, especially since you walk over a mile to and from school each day”.

    My parents didn’t believe me when I said he’d said that until the doctor came out to confirm it. After all, the last thing a 5’4″, 200lb. teen needed was to EAT MORE.

    (Man, that doctor was great. Too bad I’m too old to see him now. Once, when I mentioned being fat to him, he said “Ever heard the phrase ‘big-boned’?” I totally credit him with helping me deal with my parents’ issues about my body.)

  21. Kate, it read to me as the author not getting her own point. She knows from experience that dieting is bad for every system in your body, so being able to then say “I’d diet if I were fat” smacks of magical thinking and inability to shake off conventional wisdom. “Dieting is bad for you, which I know from visceral personal experience… until you get to a certain magic BMI, and then it becomes good for you again, because everyone says so.”

  22. It’s funny; just before the “it’s okay for fatties” line, the author writes “I would absolutely never diet to the extreme again” (my emphasis). It seems like there is some magical thinking going on, or at least non-systematic thinking: well, it’s only bad if you cut down to 600 calories, but okay if you cut down to 1200 (or what have you).

  23. Also, this line confused the hell out of me for a sec: I couldn’t decide whether I should raid the sweet machine to make up for depriving myself for the last seven days, or starve myself in order to shift a few extra pounds. ;-)

  24. Also, this line confused the hell out of me for a sec: I couldn’t decide whether I should raid the sweet machine to make up for depriving myself for the last seven days, or starve myself in order to shift a few extra pounds. ;-)

    Hee! I never even thought of that meaning for your blogonym!

    Probably because I’m not British. But still.

  25. Oy, I can finally post.

    And here’s the thing: the only difference between Louise Burke and a fat person who diets and exercises like that? Is that the fat person will still end up fat.

    Nah, there are several other differences. Like if a fat person did it they’d gain back more than they lost. And 1600 calories wouldn’t be enough to cause any meaningful weight loss; I’ve done as low as 800.

  26. This dude, Jaime O’Neill, reminds me SOOO much of my brother. He was thin all of our childhood and through his twenties, ate whatever he wanted, while I (the girl) was put on the endless cycle of forced dieting, starting at age 6, and became the fat one. When he reached his thirties, he started going to the gym and ragging on me about my health, and the choices I made. (A time when I was quietly trying to recover from bulimia without telling my family anything about it.) Then HE started putting on weight and getting fat like me. He just turned 42, and he has spent years on an endless cycle of getting fat, and getting thin from then spending hours every day at the gym while eating very little. Each time he puts on weight again, he gets fatter. When he is in fat mode, he feels so much self-loathing, I can tell. (I would know!) When he is in gym mode, he becomes a self-righteous prick.

    Some people, like my brother, think everything in life comes down to the choices we make. My brother is convinced that addiction is a choice. Ditto poverty. And fat? That’s all about discipline. Yet, now that I’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, rather than expressing understanding of the aspects of weight gain associated with PCOS or discussing the “choice” issue further, he focuses only on the fact that the medication I’m on is causing me to lose weight, and how wonderful that is. According to him. (Guess what? He’s in gym mode right now.)

    God, I’m foaming at the mouth just thinking about how annoying my brother is. I have compassion – I want him to feel as much self-acceptance and love as I feel, but there seems to be no way of getting around his self-hate. It’s like a wall that no one can breach as long as he thinks it’s all about choices. And guys like Jaime O’Neill just fuel that.

  27. I think fat short shorts man is funny because he tries so hard, but he’s only doing bulking exercises. He’s unlikely to shrink in size, since he’s just building.

  28. “Good eye, Fillyjonk. I did notice that, actually, just forgot to say anything about it in the post. It’s like people think they MUST include a line like that for ‘balance,’ even when their entire fucking point is that dieting makes you sick.”

    I raced to the comments (back on bottom again…yay ;)) to see if anyone said anything about that. Like, only *extreme* dieting makes you sick. “Normal” dieting is still an acceptable Rx for fat people. ::eyeroll::

  29. Sennet – I think you missed the point.

    We get why Haddocks thinks its funny. Kate’s point was how the hell does Haddocks know the guy wants to lose weight? He may well just be building muscle or *shock horror* just like that kind of exercise.

    Just because the warped society we live in perceives someone as fat doesn’t mean that person must automatically be on a weight loss program.

    Finding the “fat person” at the gym funny isn’t funny. It’s how society got this warped in the first place.

  30. > “I didn’t recognise myself any more. Those close to
    > me had been begging me to finish for weeks.
    > They could see how I’d altered physically and
    > mentally. No one at any time during the experiment
    > said I looked good.

    But if she’d been in America, ~everyone~ would have told her how ~great~ she looked. Health? *pshh*… it’s all about Teh Skinny here.

  31. The article about Louise Burke’s dieting experiment was quite interesting; however, my thought through it all was, “She’s still eating 1600 calories. My doctor doesn’t even consider that a diet!” 1600 calories is my normal daily intake when I’m NOT dieting, and I weigh 360 lbs.

  32. “Success stories” like Kathy, 50, in Haddocks’ article make me sick. If one person can do it, surely everybody can. She’s not an exception or just, you know, an individual with an individual life story; she is the epitome of all 50-year-old women, and if she can succeed, no one can have any excuses.

    Some people say that the dark side of the American dream is overconsumption (also of food). I think the real dark side is the belief that anything that happens to us comes from our own hard work, and that the same results are available for everyone who’s willing to work hard enough. And if you should be less privileged in your genetic makeup? You have to make up for that by working harder to get the same results.

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