Fat as a scapegoat

I’ve noticed a certain trend in the non-trollish dissenting viewpoints on fat acceptance. We all know how trolls operate — they’re wicked boring. It’s always “YOU are lazy and ugly” this and “YOU are destroying America” that. But the commenters I want to talk about are the ones who aren’t trolls, who aren’t lashing out, but who are still baffled and sometimes affronted by the idea of fat acceptance because it causes so much cognitive dissonance. These people tend to take on an “I” approach, rather than an attacking “you” approach, and their points frequently run something like this: I feel much better now than I did when I was fatter. I felt much better when I was thinner than I do now. I am fat and I know my body isn’t functioning properly because of it. If fat isn’t unhealthy, how do you explain the way I feel?

I would never tell somebody that they’re wrong about how their body feels or how it operates. Let’s get that out of the way right now. I don’t have the right to tell someone that they feel fine, any more than they have the right to tell me I don’t. But obviously I think we should discourage the scapegoating of fat as the main reason for people’s unwell feelings. For your consideration, I have a few other possible options.

One type of comment runs thus: I put on x number of pounds, and now my joints hurt. Well, sure — you have the muscle of a person x pounds lighter than you. It occurred to me yesterday at the gym, when I was doing quad presses, that I was hardly challenging myself by setting the machine to 110 pounds — as a 225-pound person, you could say that I lift that with each leg every goddamn day. Active fat people have to be strong enough to sling around a heavier body with ease. If you’re used to being lighter, it may take you time to adjust. The answer isn’t body negativity, starvation, and self-torture. It’s strength training, either concertedly or just by maintaining your activity level with your new body. Think of it as upping your weights.

Another type of comment goes I lost weight and now I feel better. This is pretty standard HAES. Many people seek to lose weight by eating vegetables where they would have eaten starches and sugars, or whole food instead of junk food. Many people take up an exercise program. These things won’t make you lose weight permanently, but they will make you feel awesome. The reverse is also true, and I say this as someone who just stupidly (for me) ate some sugar and had to skip the gym because of work constraints and now feels headachey and sluggish: the kind of habits that supposedly make you fat will genuinely make you logy. (Incidentally, this can turn into one bitch of a vicious cycle; when I skip the gym and feel sleepy, I always want to eat sugar or drink an enormous fancy coffee drink to counteract it, neither of which I can tolerate, which makes me even more tired and disinclined to go to the gym.) If you were x pounds and feeling like a sack of pudding, and now you’re x minus y pounds and ready to take over the world… are you sure it’s a matter of adipose tissue? Because it might have something more to do with nutrients and activity. (That’s good news, since it means you can keep the feeling when the weight comes back.) Basically, is it really about how your body is, or is it about what your body does?

(As a corollary to this one: It took me forEVER to figure out why I was always falling asleep in high school and college, basically blacking out even when I desperately wanted to stay awake. Not until this year did I go “oh, I guess I was constantly either not eating or binging on sugar when I thought nobody was looking.” Guess who DIDN’T feel better when she weighed less?)

Which brings me to the reversed version: I gained weight and now I feel worse. Obviously, this can just be due to the same factors — you probably can’t eat yourself particularly far above your setpoint, but if you’ve moved to the top of your range, it might be due to the same habits that can make you feel crummy (inactivity and empty foods). There are a lot more possibilities, though. Do you feel worse because you gained weight, or did you gain weight because you feel worse? A tough-to-spot illness like lupus or fibromyalgia can make you feel too tired and achey to get enough exercise. (Again, please remember that I’m talking about people of any size moving to the top of their natural size range — fatness does NOT necessarily mean inactivity, or vice versa!) Or did you start gaining weight and feeling worse at the same time? Food allergies could contribute, and blaming it all on fat could make you ignore them — or even overlook conditions like Cushing’s Syndrome. Do you feel worse physically, or physically/mentally? The two are incredibly interlinked, and a low opinion of yourself can drain you and make you feel awful; stress or depression could also make you gain weight and feel bad simultaneously. Finally, my favorite version of this comment is “I felt so much better ten years ago, when I was thin.” Folks, it’s called being ten years older. Could that be to blame?

Does this read like rationalization to you? Obviously, none of the above explanations are one-size-fits-all. And shit, I don’t know your body; maybe you genuinely feel worse when you have more adipose tissue, regardless of your habits or your health. But you do yourself an incredible disservice when you scapegoat all your creaks, aches, and yawns onto your fat. It’s a disservice the medical profession is all too happy to do for you, so you don’t need to do it yourself. Instead, give yourself a fighting chance by playing the good skeptic, like you would if you felt bad and weren’t fat, or felt bad in a way that you didn’t think could be explained by fat. Don’t sideline physical complaints because you assume they’re due to a moral failing — you wouldn’t do it for a sore throat, and you shouldn’t do it for fatigue or joint pain. If you feel bad, check in with yourself — are you taking care of your body as best you can? Are you giving yourself enough mental self-care? Did something trigger it? Should you get some tests? Does something need to be done? All of these need to be answered before the self-flagellation can begin.

It’s so easy for us to take the “fat is unhealthy” message as a mandate that if we are fat, we MUST be unhealthy — that we have a duty to feel unhealthy because we are fat. That’s not a manifest destiny you need to embrace. You deserve to feel as good as you can regardless of your size, and while not everyone can feel as good as everyone else, fat doesn’t have to be your primary explanation — or your easiest scapegoat.

84 thoughts on “Fat as a scapegoat

  1. Nothing constructive to add but WORD. You so eloquently stated what I have been trying to say to family and friends about fat vs. health. Thank-you.

  2. It took me forEVER to figure out why I was always falling asleep in high school and college, basically blacking out even when I desperately wanted to stay awake. Not until this year did I go “oh, I guess I was constantly either not eating or binging on sugar when I thought nobody was looking.”

    …Self, is that you? :)

    And I second that “WORD.”

  3. No, YOU rule!

    I was thinner, three years ago, and I didn’t feel better. Mostly I felt exhausted because I had to exercise like buggery 8-9 times a week and eat a lot less to get there. My knees hurt all the time because of all the exercise, I was constantly tired and I kept getting viruses. In fact, I got flu that I then couldn’t shake off for three months. And I hated the fact that everyone kept commenting on my weight, esp. my family, as it just made me paranoid about a) how much they were looking at me and b) what would happen if I put it back on. Which I did.

    I guess this is my set point and as hard as I find that to accept sometimes, I feel happier and healthier than I have done in years. This is mostly due to exercise, which I now do for completely different, and infinitely more motivating reasons (ie it makes me feel good). I’ve always eaten nutritiously because anything else makes me feel like shit.

    SO yah boo sucks to them – my joints hurt LESS now… And in terms of my body functioning (warning, TMI ahead), I have for the past six months had something approaching regular periods for the first time in my life, so that would be after 20+ years, which suggests a level of hormone balance that wasn’t previously there. Must be doing something right…

  4. I think this is an excellent and important message–and I would like to extend it to the beliefs that we are taught to have about how certain foods and activities make us feel. I’m not disagreeing completely with the fact that exercise can make some people feel better–I struggle with depression, and usually feel better after mild to moderate exercise. But this is not true for everyone–my former partner had MS, for example, and even minimal exertion could leave her exhausted and with joint and muscle pain for days.

    I’m convinced that we have to question the beliefs that are bandied around about what food is “healthy” and what food is not, and about the benefits of exercise. I had an excellent conversation one day with Sandy Szwarc about this which brought a lot of things into focus for me. I think there are ethnic and class implications to the mainstream ideas about what is “healthy” and I think we have been convinced by the “health police”–who don’t like fat people at all, as you know–that we WILL feel bad if we eat certain foods and we WILL feel better if we eat others instead. I’m not saying it ISN’T true, I’m just saying, there’s an agenda there, it’s connected to the fat hatred that’s rampant in the mainstream, it consigns poor people and disabled people who maybe don’t have access to “healthy” food or regular exercise to forever feeling “bad,” etc. Just like you’re asking us to question blaming our fat for everything, I think we should take that one step further and question blaming our “habits” when we feel sluggish, sleepy, unhappy, etc. I think the common wisdom about “health” needs to be deconstructed just as much as the ideology around fat, and for the same reasons.

  5. Maybe I need to do some research in the archives of this blog. I love this site so I’m very open and curious as to your point of view on this question: How does one discover one’s fat/thin setpoint weight? The question you pose in your post above is one I’m looking to answer also: did I gain weight because I was depressed or because my setpoint was higher? If it was because I was depressed, how will I know when I get back down to my correct setpoint? I know that to some extent the answer to these questions doesn’t matter because I’m fully onboard with fat acceptance. However, I have been losing weight lately, seemingly through no effort of my own, and I’m curious as to why that is the case. (I’m healthy, no health concerns which are causing the weight loss as of 7/7/2007.) I do feel better after a year on anti-depressants, so I’m wondering if that’s part of the reason. Okay, sorry for babbling, but this site is SO valuable and it gets me thinking about something new every time you post. Thanks for feeding my brain and making me laugh.

  6. Hey I just found you guys and love ya. And then today I thought you might be talking about me! A non hater who still wants my fat off.

    But no cuz you didn’t talk about where the bulk just gets in the way. Like, I carry mine all in front and the yoga plow is a joke. Or, to go ballistic with weight training (clubbells), has what I call the “fat tax” of sending intensity through the roof because 70 pounds are coming along for the ride (it’s a whole body thing).

    Couldn’t agree with you more on on the joints and the feeling different from diet. blah blah, I do get so tired of that hooey.

    go for it, fat girl’s revenge baby!

  7. Great post!

    Amy, I think that’s a good point too. My mom and fiance have both been told at some point in their life that their depression would just go away if they just “ate better and excercised more”. Yeah… not so much. Cutting back on sugar and getting more excercise isn’t a cure for all physical and mental problems any more than losing weight is. (Not that I think FJ was saying that, but a lot of people seem to).

    Game Dame, some antidepressants can cause weight loss, could that be causing it?

  8. Holy crap; this is an awesome post. I’ve been in the same sugar – sedentary – feel like crap – want sugar cycle lately. In fact, today, I found myself packing cookies into myself when I was neither hungry nor terribly desirous of cookies (I’d just finished a large lunch). I just felt like I should eat them, because I’m fat. It’s been three hours, and the sick feeling has almost receded.

    The thought process wasn’t *that* overt, of course, but I find myself saying things like “I hate exercies” and “I love sweets ALL THE TIME”, and… they’re not true. It’s almost like, somewhere in my twisted brain, fat acceptance came to mean embodying the food-inhaling, couch-sitting fat stereotype as a method of rebellion against the paradigm. And I’ve felt like crap for the past two months as a result.

    I’m just getting to the point to where, if my body seems to indicate that it wants something that I have long considered “diet food” — broccoli, meal-sized salads, etc. — I can almost stifle the reaction of “omg, you don’t want that, you’re a fatty” and indulge, as it were.

    I can’t ignore the context that we have to live in as larger-than-”normal” women (and I can’t say that I haven’t been hurt on more than one occasion by the blatant fat hatred in our society), but sometimes I can’t help but feel that I am my worst enemy and cruelist critic.

  9. About finding where your setpoint is.

    Don’t worry; it will find you. : ) Seriously, the best advice I saw on that topic was to go to a family reunion and look around.

  10. How about this for an anti-anti-fat acceptance comment?

    I have lost 10 lbs and i feel like sh-t! I have very little muscle, I’m always tired, fact is i’m just ill and that has caused my weight loss.

    But oh! I can where a size 6 jeans, I should be happy!

    Just some more from the peanut gallery.

  11. I’ve also encountered the “baffled to affronted” reaction to the concept of HAES and I don’t understand it at all. I was at a party a couple of weeks ago talking about Gina Kolata’s book, and some guy said that I must be in denial about how badly Americans eat. I said no, I agree that most Americans eat very poorly and don’t exercise. And we should all eat for health and take care of our bodies. We just shouldn’t assume that will make us all thin. At which point he jumped down my throat! It was crazy.

    Everyone knows someone who eats enormous amounts of food and stays rail thin no matter what they do. And everyone clucks enviously about that person’s metabolism. How come people can accept the genetic component in naturally thin people, but can’t admit that the opposite might exist too?

  12. Very well written and informative fillyjonk. ^_^ :D

    I’ve been heavier in my life, and my fitness level was better in some areas than they are now. I was really fit: Like squatting three times my weight, and running 1.5 miles in 8:49 fit.

    I was the “Chubby” kid on the block, but I was also known for being the fastest kid on my street for short bursts. Not that I would die after a couple hundred yards, but my longer runs were a consistent pace that was slower. I contend that the adipose tissue may have given me great stamina. :)
    My lower body strength was much better , my upper body strength is just slightly better (Due to training: Not weight loss), and only in the last six months have I surpassed my previous stamina level.

    I’m better in some areas than I was before (Once again: Training, not weight loss :P ), but on a fitness level: I’m about the same (Though I miss my more powerful legs :( ). Overall, however I am MUCH worse in condition. Plantar fascittis, arthiritis is kicking in, my kicks are sometimes goofy due to my bad hip flexors, and more. I don’t hate myself because these things are creeping up on me, but I do hate the fact that society thinks that I shouldn’t have these things approach me because I’m zomgz 20 and thin, with a lifestyle that is balanced.

    I haven’t changed my habits much in the last eight years, and while I may be thinner and taller: My condition didn’t exactly improve. :P

    Thanks again for the insight!

  13. I get annoyed by that as well: The majority of people believe in “Skinny genes,” but they don’t believe in a propensity to adipose tissue even after it’s been proven over and over again (Even from some obesity researchers *Rolls Eyes*). It baffles me. I’m also annoyed at the fact that they’ll say this, and on both realms of weights that aren’t in the norm: OMG UR FAT STOP EATING! OMG UR THIN START EATING.

    My biggest beef is the fact that they think the person that is thin, sedentary, and eats a lot of junk is going to be ok, ‘cuz metabolism blocks clogging of the arteries or some bull s***. :P Thin is suppose to represent being innocuous apparently. Those idiots can suck on my plantar fascittis and worsening joints. :P

    I was reading my mother’s health book. It had two figures:
    The first figure was the ol’ Law of thermodynamics move, which we all know is a poor attack point.

    The second figure showed the percentages of factors that affect metabolism. It said that intake and activity combined at the MOST don’t even make up 1/2 of the whole scheme, of which at the minimum: 55% of metabolic rate is dependent on it’s natural resting rate. Yet people still contend: ZOMGZ FAT, and the book still talks about the ideal BMI range…
    (SIGH)

  14. Amy (or just Amy’s brain?), those are GREAT points. Absolutely, the things that make you feel best are going to be very individual — some people will require more exertion and some people will require more rest. And the expense of eating nourishingly is a constant issue on this blog — less processed foods are not only expensive, but require a lot of time to prepare and are often harder to store. I wish we could address that in every post, but sometimes it falls by the wayside… thanks for bringing it up.

  15. I lost twenty pounds by watching my calories better (not by exercising more or eating healthier food), and I feel much better than I did before. I’m less depressed, and my knees and ankles don’t hurt as much. Now, when I do go on walks, I can go on much longer walks without hurting. Feeling lighter is great. :)

  16. This is awesome. I’ve been fighting with my dad CONSTANTLY about my weight over the last couple of years. I went on a major diet, lost 80 pounds in 7 months, through exercise obsession and serious malnutrition. The serious trauma to my body triggered the onset my fibromyalgia. When I started aching and was exhausted all the time, I had to stop working out. I gained weight – back above where I started. Everytime I try to start an exercise program, I trigger a major flare of the FM. But my dad is still convinced that if I’d just exercise a few hours a day, and lose “175 pounds”, I’d feel great again! Thank goodness I have awesome doctors, who at the moment, forbid me from working out, until we get my sleep cycle better and my pain regulated.

  17. Hah! Great post.

    It’s funny – when I started getting VERRRRY involved in non-profit work, and started putting on weight at the same time, I blamed the weight gain for my depression, anxiety, aches and pains, fatigue, wonky periods, and everything else that came my way. It wouldn’t have occured to me at the time to blame the stressful nature of, I don’t know, working with victims of violence and poverty and then trying to lobby uncaring governments about women’s concerns….not to mention the workaholism I used as an excuse for becoming physically inactive and to eat unhealthy convenience foods all the time….

    In the last number of years, I found a nutritional system that works for me, which also doesn’t require me to obsess about food, and I also took control of my physical activity again. I didn’t really lose any weight. But I started overcoming a lot of those other symptoms. Oh yeah, and then I left that crazy job. Feel a MILLION TIMES better now! Still fat, though. :P

  18. JennyD, if we had a daily Missing the Point award (and perhaps we should), you’d win a week’s supply! If you check the comments policy I’m well within my rights to delete this comment, but in the context of the post it’s just too goddamn hilarious.

  19. JennyD, did you actually read this post? I do not believe FJ was calling for a rash of “I cut calories and lost weight and I feel faboo!” responses, were you F?

    This is rockin’ stuff. I have to say, I didn’t feel any better or any more energetic when I was considerably thinner. In fact, in many ways I felt much worse.

    As for finding your set point at a family reunion — funny idea, but the family member I most strongly physically resemble has been dead for nearly 25 years.

  20. Oh, and Game Dame: I generally say that the weight that you’re at when you’re treating your body as well as you can is the weight your body goes to when it’s healthy, and therefore a healthy weight for you. It can change over the course of your life, not only because your metabolism changes and whatnot but because the definition of “treating your body as well as you can” can change (and for a host of other reasons too). There’s no one number, or even any one range. You basically trust your body to find its level.

  21. You know, I don’t doubt for a second that when people lose weight, they feel better, if not only because they have made their bodies more socially acceptable, and therefore feel like doing more things.

    Just sayin’, when all of a sudden people are complimenting you, and you can shop at any store in the mall, you may feel better.

  22. Thanks! I mean, I’m taking that post as directly responding to my questions. I was a bit worried you would take it the “wrong way”, but you were accepting of my confusion.

    I’m not sure what HAES stands for.

    Mostly it sounds like we agree more than we disagree. Eating right, weighing a good amount for your genes and setpoint, getting moderate exercise – we agree on these. We seem to disagree about where setpoint is likely to be. I suspect you would disagree with me about CRON, the experiments with mice that live a lot longer via caloric restriction with optimal nutrition (and small amounts of exercise).

    And, I may have misunderstood, but I think we agree about fat percentage (or, that is, muscle percentage, which comes down to the same thing) mattering more than sheer numbers of pounds. For me, those two correlate enough that I conflate the two, but I agree that it’s an important distinction.

  23. HAES stands for “health at every size.”

    RG- First, how on earth would you know where somone else’s setpoint is? Second, it has not been established that calorie restriction benefits human beings in any way. Besides, it’s boring, unpleasant, and can lead to eating disorders. Spend your life counting calories and restricting your food intake if that’s what makes you happy, but don’t ask others to share your obsession.

    I’m 100% with follyjonk on the importance of being strong enough to feel comfortable at your weight. But, a focus on muscle percentage is just as counterproductive as a focus on weight. It’s just another number.

    Game Dame, your set point is what you weigh when you’re taking good care of yourself. You can find it by focusing on what makes your body feel good, and not worrying about what you weigh.

  24. Dee, right on. Thanks for giving the response I would have tried to give if I hadn’t been so thrown by the “this whole post is totally a response to me” thing.

  25. fillyjonk, this is a superior post. I have one suggestion. Keep it close by. This ever growing group will need it reprised again and again. That is the only problem with your refreshing fact finding in this age of disinformation, people have to start from square one. With new people all the time it can easily feel like starting over. I think you all do a beautiful, patient, tolerant job with this.

    I feel I am constantly working through the separation of fat and fit – weight and health. It is a frighteningly complex aspect of our lives that even the scientists can make too simplistic.

  26. Wow, thanks katecontinued! That’s pretty much the reason we have Kate’s utterly seminal “Don’t you realize fat is unhealthy” post on the tabs at the top of the blog — one hopes, though one’s hopes are often dashed, that people will read it before venturing further into the site, and will thus have an idea of the blog’s founding principles.

  27. FJ, RG asked some questions under Kate’s “out of office thread”. I’m guessing he mistook you for Kate.

  28. Thanks, FJ, and FTR I don’t think you have to address “it” in every post–but as I read this post I read a lot of accepting of mainstream assumptions about what’s “healthy”and what’s not. So what I’d like to see is as much writing as any of us can do from a place of having examined as many assumptions as we can. For example:

    These things won’t make you lose weight permanently, but they will make you feel awesome. The reverse is also true, and I say this as someone who just stupidly ate some sugar and had to skip the gym because of work constraints and now feels headachey and sluggish: the kind of habits that supposedly make you fat will genuinely make you logy.

    What if this read, instead:

    These things may not make one lose weight permanently, but they may make one feel a whole lot better. The reverse is also true, and I say this as someone for whom eating sugar and skipping the gym makes me feel headachey and sluggish: the kind of habits that supposedly make one fat can make many of us feel logy.

    It’s not so much about covering every topic in every post, but being as inclusive as we can when writing about whatever we write about. In the second example, you’re leaving room for the possibility that what makes YOU feel bad, or good, might not have the same effect on someone else (and might not have the same effect on you at a different point in your life). Does that make sense? Sorry if this seems nitpicky because I do think this is an excellent post (as are most all on this site) and I think you make really great and important points.

  29. I think this is where I win out – I *know* I’m mentally ill (chronic endogenous depression) and as a result, I know that my mental state has absolutely *zero* to do with my weight. Having that discontinuity brought home to me by being at my thinnest and at my most miserable simultaneously helped (when I was eighteen, and suffering from massive culture shock as a result of starting university – the first educational institution I’d ever been in where I wasn’t teased or bullied on a regular basis). So did starting antidepressants: the major thing I noticed when I started them is that I *didn’t* want to eat all the time.

    So, yeah, I’m aware that my happiness isn’t linked to my body size or shape, but rather to my brain’s biochemistry, and as long as I keep taking the dried frog pills, I’m going to keep on an even keel mentally. If I keep up the thyroxine as well, I’m able to do a lot more, and I don’t have to expend most of my “spoons” on things like trying to move around the place.

    Oddly enough, becoming happier (in the sense of taking antidepressants on a regular basis) has done a lot more for my physical health as well. I eat better, I eat healthier, and I don’t eat as much sugary stuff. Haven’t changed clothes size in about ten years (which suits me; I don’t have the interest or the budget for replacing my wardrobe on an annual basis) but hey, I like what I am, and that’s the important bit.

  30. RG, since you’re talking about RODENTS, perhaps we should also point out that calorie restriction in rats causes anxiety and depression (reference here), or that calorie restriction in mice can cause gorging (ref here, or that mice being starved move around less and experience a drop in metabolism as their bodies try to adapt to eating less (and therefore keep them as fat as possible) (ref here.

  31. One of the hardest things for me has been recognising that I was NOT happier when I was thin/skinny.

    I’ve believed that for as long as I can remember. *I* was the girl skipping around, making people feel bad, with my constant, “But I feel so much healthier now!” comments, and it was all a big fat lie.

    I might have FELT healthier but it was all psychological. I was anorexic, vacillating between low-level starvation/deprivation and extreme. I had month long periods of depression, followed by periods of almost manic excitement, which was of course followed by an even worse period of depression. I hated myself, everything I stood for, and my body.

    What complicates things is that, for the past few years, I’ve been quite sick mentally and psychologically due to an autoimmune disease (coeliac) becoming symptomatic. As soon as I started feeling crummy again (and just happened to be larger than my anorexia days, gee, I wonder why), I instantly fell back into that mindset of, “Wasn’t I happier when I was thin?”.

    It’s not that things are great now that I’m larger but I’m more aware of my diet. Having coeliac disease involves constant vigilance about what I eat and it also means modifying my diet so I get a healthy balance of everything, particularly fibre and iron/zinc, which coeliacs tend to be deficient in. When I exercise now, even though I can’t do as much as I did when I was a teenager, I do feel proud that my body allows it at all since I am keenly aware of all my hospital visits and weakness before we figured out what exactly was wrong with me.

    My point (‘cos I seem to be rambling here) is that I do wonder how much is predominantly psychological for a lot of people. There’s such an enormous pressure on women in particular to be thin, to go beyond their body’s natural shape or weight, to sacrifice health for the latest fad diet, and to be so *rigidly* in control of what goes into their mouth, that I wonder if a lot of that rush is like the rush I had when I skipped my second meal for the day, or got to the point where I was eating half a breakfast bar a day. That rush of, “You can control everything, not just food. You have iron will and self-control. You are THIN”.

    It seems like a happy feeling but beneath it is a bubbling cauldron of self-loathing and a fundamental desire to hurt oneself.

    [ / ramble]

  32. “Feeling lighter is great”

    I couldn’t agree with this more. When I was 20 I felt very heavy indeed, if I walked for 30 minutes I would have to sleep it off at some point, I was depressed etc.

    Then slowly for various reasons, I started to reverse all the tenents of fat hatred that I had internalized, and now years later I feel about a quarter of the weight I felt then, even though I’m not much lighter if at all. Weight is not just on your body, it’s in your head.

    Let us not overlook the actual effect on actual individuals of the attitudes contained within the ‘obesity crisis’ such as ‘I eat junk food’ well we are what we eat, so what are you saying about yourself when you say the former if you believe the latter?
    Make a list of them and ask yourself what does this mean to me, personally, not what it is supposed to mean from those that do not have to live under it 24/7.

    Then there is the physical side, ‘I’m lazy’, it feels like the truth it feels like you are being honest, but what if you’d be better off thinking of all the things you do in your day from start to finish, and then ask what makes me able to do these things?

    Why do we change what works for what obviously isn’t?

  33. I’ve forgotten how many doctors have told me that if I lost weight, my knees would be in better shape. I even got this when I was not overweight. I guess I should feel lucky that the pediatrician who put casts on my legs to straighten my knees out way back right after I was born didn’t put me on a diet instead.

  34. I suspect you would disagree with me about CRON

    Um, yeah. You suspect correctly. Everyone behind this blog disagrees with you about CRON so fundamentally, it’s not even funny.

    You can feel free to have the last laugh when you live forever and we don’t. But I don’t want to hear pro-CRON talk around here. That falls pretty clearly under Rule 6 in the comment policy. And then some.

    Amy’s Brain, regarding your nitpick… honestly, at first I just sighed, because it seems like the question of “Does promoting HAES exclude those who don’t practice it from the movement?” (no!) will just never die. BUT. Then I reread Fillyjonk’s post, specifically the part you quoted, and I actually agree, on a nitpicky level. The phrasing “I just stupidly ate some sugar” is the key, I think. It didn’t bother me at first, because I know all it means is, for Fillyjonk (who has PCOS, btw), eating too much sugar is a one-way ticket to logyville. But it’s not totally clear that she’s only talking about her, and no, it’s not that way for everyone – and it’s sure not stupid to eat sugar, as a rule.

    Even though we’re definitely not in the business of pleasing all of the people all of the time, we can be more conscientious about how we describe our individual experiences, and how much we extrapolate from them. Thanks.

  35. People often don’t believe me when I tell them that I feel better now, at around 200 pounds, than I did when I weighed 135.

    It’s not *because* of the fat that I feel better, it’s more that a bunch of other things changed at the same time as I was getting fat. I used to live in a very polluted locale and had severe asthma–I moved and now I have almost no asthma symptoms. I used to have chronic headaches and dizziness from what was probably undiagnosed anemia, resulting both from intentional dieting behaviors and from the fact that I spent most of my teen years in a picky eating phase and hating almost everything that was set in front of me. I don’t have anemia anymore, now that I eat–not necessarily the healthiest diet ever, but one that contains more variety than what I used to eat.

    The only health problem I have now that I didn’t have at 135 pounds is the nagging ache of a couple of old injuries I picked up along the way. People tell me losing weight would make my knee stop bothering me. I think going back in time and not thonking it into a hard marble step might work a bit better. ;) They haven’t yet developed the diet that will make me not clumsy…

  36. They haven’t yet developed the diet that will make me not clumsy…

    Hee! Me neither!

    Also, I don’t know about you, but my knee pain (from a similarly graceful old injury) flares up and then goes away for long periods of time, for no reason I can figure out. It seriously might be weather. I have weeks when I think yoga must be doing wonders for strengthening the muscles around my knee, so I’m all better, and then one day, I wake up and can’t do a lunge. Then it goes away again.

    There’s no weight loss or gain involved in this cycle. The knee just hurts sometimes and not others. I have to imagine the same would be true if I lost weight.

  37. I think it has a lot to do with weather. It’s worst for me when it’s getting ready to rain but not raining yet. PMS can be a factor, too, I think.

  38. Good post, Fillyjonk. I’ve been to busy to keep up on my favorite blogs as much as I’d like to these days.

    My allergies and stomach problems have improved some since I lost weight, but I attribute that a lot more to cutting out a lot of sugar, which my body responds to like a toxin. The weight loss itself only makes me feel thinner, not better. And when I was heavier I didn’t spend half the night up in the bathroom. I slept better. I miss sleeping better.

    It kind of hit me recently that I’ve been smoking heavier than usual in recent months. It’s not the kind of thing you do conciously, but it’s starting to catch up with me. I strongly suspect this is more the root of my drastic weight loss than anything else. Maybe the next time someone gives me the “OMG! How did you do it?” speil I can respond with “I doubled my cigarette intake!”

    I think the look on their faces would be precious, on the other hand, it might inspire someone to take up smoking, which I really don’t want to do!

  39. Oh, and there’s also the concrete floor factor. If I’ve been doing much of anything on a concrete floor–be that working, shopping at the mall, etc.–EVERYTHING aches like crazy.

    Right around the time I started to put on the weight, I was working on my feet on a concrete floor six days a week. I thought my aches and pains were because I’d gained, until I went on vacation in the western U.S. and hiked around on ROCKS for a week without my joints bothering me a bit. If it was really about Teh Fat, it’d have hurt to walk on the rocky trails, wouldn’t it? Except it didn’t, leading me to conclude that the floor was what was doing me in.

  40. Kate, too right… obvy not everyone knows that I can’t tolerate sugar, nor should they be expected to. I totally meant that whole sentence to stand in for “unhealthy things for ME to do,” but it wasn’t clear — I added a tiny parenthetical.

    FWIW I totally eat sugar but I have to do it right before bed. Sugar in the middle of the day makes me feel awful. So even I would not be abiding by what that sentence made me sound like I was mandating. :)

  41. When I was in my 20s, my set point was 135-140. I felt good when I took care of myself and felt like crap when I treated my body like crap. Go figure. Twenty years and a couple of kids later, I am fairly sure the set point is around 180. Dieting doesn’t change it much (and is evil, which I knew but ignored until I remembered it was evil) and eating in a reasonably healthy way doesn’t change it much. Working out regularly made me feel better (yay endorphins!), but didn’t change the weight. So thank you all for helping me to make peace with the fact that my body is no longer 23 years old.

    What I really don’t understand is why people feel free to ask me if I am on a diet, plan to go on a diet, workout, etc. Honestly, what business is it of theirs? I despise the office dieting talk. Every time someone asks me if I’m still going to the gym, it hurts – because the only reason I’m not going is that I can’t afford it. I’m a healthy middle-aged woman. Shouldn’t that be enough?

  42. I lost weight in the last two weeks because I had a terrible case of the flu. I still feel awful, partly because of the weight loss. I’m weak and withered. My muscles have gone. I look tired and pale and wan. I’ve got no milk (just had my second baby). I’m looking forward to getting back to normal eating and exercise.

    Meanwhile, all i get recently are compliments. I must be so happy to have lost some baby weight (i just had my second) while I was sick. I’m looking so good. I’m looking thinner, that’s such a good thing. I want to punch people.

    also, it’d be easier figuring out the set point at a family reunion if one’s mother didn’t use diuretics and fasting to keep at the same size she was when she was 25.

  43. So thank you all for helping me to make peace with the fact that my body is no longer 23 years old.

    You know, I think that’s one of the most important points in this post. I’ve heard from so many people, “But you’re YOUNG! You don’t know how the fat affects you when you get older!” Um, yeah, either that or you’re blaming fat for how getting older affects you.

    I may not be middle-aged yet, but I am sure not 23 anymore, and I notice that in all sorts of ways, every day. I used to be able to wear 3 1/2-inch heels all day every day, and the only foot pain I ever got came from blisters — that was true up until I was about 27, at every weight from skinny to just as fat as I am now. These days, if I walk around in a pair of high heels for an evening, I feel it all the way up to my hips for a fucking week. My body does not heal nearly as fast as it used to when I abuse it, period — and wearing shoes that wreak havoc on my alignment is indeed abusing my body. Being naturally fat when I eat and exercise moderately? Is not abuse.

    I mean, I’d love to be able to recover from hangovers (or just not get them) the way I did when I was in my early twenties, too — you suppose losing weight would help with that?

  44. Very well said, fillijonk!

    Heck, I’m one of those people who could claim with condescendence, “I lost some weight and I feel better!”, but in reality, I feel better because I’m more fit and eat less crap than before (mind you, before, I was fatter but didn’t have any particular health problems). My body just adjusted itself as it wished, instead of me forcing it to do so (like one does when going on a diet). I dunno what’s my setpoint, and I don’t care. I’ll remain fat no matter what, because I inherited my maternal grandmother’s genes and she comes from a family of fat people.

    Oh, and i used to get bad colds all the time. Was it due to my weight? Not at all. I seem to be slightly allergic to cats, as my health improved dramatically after I broke up with my ex 2 years ago (and stopped living with his cat).

    BTW, one of my closest friends is pretty slim. He smokes too and is definitely not fit. Guess who gets all tired if he walks the distance between the subway station and my house (a 25-minute walk)? Certainly not me…

  45. Kate, no kidding. One of the things I can’t really do anymore that I could do when I was 19 and had dieted myself nearly out of the plus range is eat pizza. So did getting fat somehow make me unable to eat the foods that fat people canonically eat? Or is this somehow perhaps related to all those creaky gags you hear about teenagers and their cast-iron stomachs?

  46. The heels thing! Yes! My arches are screaming for mercy after an hour or two in heels these days. In college I wore chunk heels almost every day (hey, it was the mid-nineties).

    I think a lot of people underestimate the effects of the natural aging process and of the injuries that pile up over time. And so they blame weight gain for all of their woes and don’t realize that a lot of this stuff would have happened anyway.

    I’m also thrilled to see that other people’s set point seems to have changed over time. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I hovered around 140 (plus or minus about 5 pounds) whether I was dieting, working out, both, or neither. Then I gained lots of weight in just a few years, and now I hover around 200 (again, plus or minus 5) no matter what I do. I think my metabolism just crashed and burned sometime around the age of 23-24 and I haven’t seen it since…even though i don’t eat nearly as much as I used to in college.

  47. Great post, and some really interesting comments.

    One thing I’d like to throw in is that, as much as I think people would love to believe that Science Understands The Body Perfectly…I think the reality is that so much of what goes on in our brains and bones and organs is still pretty dang mysterious. Not to mention the fact that most people are daily exposed to a trillion pollutants and chemicals and substances that we may or may not truly understand the effects of.

    Personally, I think the best way to determine my level of health is to work on understanding and trusting my perceptions about my body and what it wants and needs. I think trying to make any generalizations about health when it is an inherently individual thing is a tricksy proposition that doesn’t seem to work all that well.

  48. You know, I just made a connection. The year I was dieting, I kept getting these wicked bad colds. I had no idea why since I was getting plenty of sleep and didn’t have too much stress. Whereas in the past few years, I haven’t been getting as much sleep as I like, but have been getting sick a lot less. It honestly didn’t occur to me until this moment that the reason I kept getting sick that year was probably because I was trying to live on about 900 calories a day.

  49. Becky, it’s amazing how those connections can take so long to click.

    Oh, and can I just add caffeine/sleep to the list of things that affect me differently as I age? In my early twenties, I could drink a double espresso at 11 p.m. and sleep like a baby even if a goddamned tornado blew through my bedroom — but if I didn’t, I could still be totally perky the next day anyway. These days, I have to stop all caffeine after 4 p.m.; I wake up if I hear one of the dogs sneeze; and if I don’t get 8 hours, I am a WRECK the next day.

    Pretty sure losing weight wouldn’t help with that, either.

  50. Thanks, fillyjonk. This helped me clarify my understanding of fat acceptance, as one who has been poked over and over with the “obesity epidemic” stick.

    I am trying to get stronger and cut out the sugar (I’m pre-diabetic) and if I lose weight, I admit, I won’t cry. I’ve also got GERD and a hiatal hernia (christ, I sound like I’m falling apart!) and the extra fat on my stomach keeps my hernia pushed up and makes my GERD worse.

    However, if I don’t lose weight, I won’t cry, either. Like Reba, my set point has moved over the last 15 years (and three kids) from 125 to 185. And truthfully, I love the FEEL of my body. I love cradling my streched out, squishy tummy in my hands, I love the roundness of myself, the curves and softness. I hate that the media tells me that how I look is more important than how I feel.

    MY personal health probably will improve if I lose weight, given my individual situation, but my personal worth won’t change. I’m certainly happier now than I’ve ever been – size doesn’t enter the happiness equation.

  51. I felt good when I lost weight a couple years ago (from moving to Chicago and getting mono) mostly because everyone told me how great I looked. And now I feel like crap because I’m fat again, and no one tells me I look great, and I don’t want to be “the fat girl.”

    But neither of these things are caused by my weight, they are caused by society’s attitude towards my weight.

  52. “But neither of these things are caused by my weight, they are caused by society’s attitude towards my weight.”

    shinobi, consider me planting a virtual kiss on your cheek. brilliant observation.

  53. When I lived with my parents (until age 18), I rarely ate vegetables. My parents didn’t care what we kids ate, and they certainly didn’t make sure we had a diet with a variety of foods. So I ate lots of fat and sugar. And yet I was still thin, BUT, I would get bad colds at least twice a year.

    After I went to college, I started eating veggies and fruits every day (because they were delicious) in addition to fat and sugar (chocoholic here). I stopped getting sick so often, and when I did catch a cold, I didn’t feel as sick as I would have before.

    In fact, I think it’s been more than a year since I had a cold! I attribute this to the vitamins and minerals I’m now getting that allow my immune system to operate at full capacity. I haven’t cut down on the “bad” foods that supposedly make people fat (that cookie I had for breakfast was yum!), I’ve just added some things that are necessary for me to be healthy.

  54. javanarva – you have the same conditions as me! I do think that the weight on my stomach adds extra pressure to my hiatal hernia, but the bad part for my stomach is that as my body keeps “shedding” itself, it brings on a whole new set of issues and puts other types of strain on my system. People with our type of health problems are always going to have some stomach fragility, I fear.

    Really, the biggest difference I find when I’m thinner is that people really want to validate me and use me as some kind of “thinspiration” when I simply don’t care to be that. They may think I looked gross when I was heavier, but I didn’t, and if/when I gain it back I refuse to feel bad about myself or act like I failed.

  55. Hum. I am middle aged now (38), and I do get occasional aches and pains. But, all in all, I feel almost as good as I did when I was younger. I’m not insulin resistant, and my blood pressure is usually normal (although it’s occasionally “borderline high.”) I don’t have any real health problems, and I’m not anticipating any for a few more decades.

    I was funny hearing about some of the comments on other blogs concerning the BMI project – people saying that we’re all young and that we won’t stay healthy. Speaking for myself, I’ve been fat all my, life, and my weight doesn’t really seem to be “catching up with me.” Actually, it’s one reason why I look younger than I am. They probably assumed that we’re all young because fat people don’t wrinkle as much as thinner people. We not all young. We just look young. And, I kind of want to say “na-na-na-na-naaaaa-na.”

  56. This may be a bit off-topic, but I had to contribute this:
    I have very high blood pressure (at 25) and even though I am taking a weak diurectic at the moment as a therapy, it has still been especially high lately. My doctor has been feeding me the “if you lose weight, it will become normal” line, even though I tell her repeatedly that a) every woman in my family has high blood pressure and b) I’m a classical type A stress personality.

    Anywho, I had a 24-hour blood pressure measuring and it turns out that my blood pressure was normal most of the time…EXCEPT for the time I went to work. From the moment I arrived at work, my blood pressure skyrocketed from 130/85 to 180/95 and stayed there until I left work. My doctor just glared at me when I asked her if my blood pressure would go down if I lost a few pounds before I went to work every evening… :-))

    The thing is, I KNEW that my blood pressure was caused by stress, not my being fat. I knew this before I had proof and have started meditating/doing yoga to reduce stress.
    Have I lost weight doing more exercise? Don’t know, don’t care. All I know is that I am feeling calmer and MUCH stronger – not just physically, but also mentally.

  57. My doctor just glared at me when I asked her if my blood pressure would go down if I lost a few pounds before I went to work every evening… :-))

    Ha! Love it.

    And wow, what a great example of how factors other than fat play a HUGE role in “fat-related” conditions.

    Also, honey, have you thought about quitting your job? :)

  58. /delurk

    ‘Folks, it’s called being ten years older. Could that be to blame?’

    Ah, but isn’t 50 the new 30 these days? At least, I recall reading a headline to that effect not too long ago. Illustrated with a photograph of one of the slim, subtly wrinkled, white-haired sprites who stand in for older women in advertising these days.

    The faces of aging in media are just as deceptive as those of fat or disability. We’re not supposed to age save in the most superficial of ways, and if we do, then we must be doing something wrong. Have bad habits. Eat the wrong foods. Don’t exercise. Don’t follow doctor’s orders. Anything, anything, that might account for it, lest our acquaintance — or those who merely pass us on the street — be forced to face up to their own mortality.

    In the interests of full disclosure: I’m pushing 50, menopausal, severely arthritic (eighteen years of aggressive RA), 5’5″ and generally between 160 and 175 lbs. And I have absolutely never, no, not once, not even when I weighed 115 lbs and you could’ve played xylophone on my sternum, resembled a sprite. Or, for that matter, felt like one.

    /relurk

  59. For a while I was reading a message board where most if not all members felt they were necessarily doomed to an early death by their fat. Some of these people were smaller than I was! How is it that I could be healthy and active, and judging by the family in for a good long run of the same, while these people were on the train to an early grave? Seriously, at a BMI of 42 (admittedly I’m not that size right now) I played ice hockey a couple times a week, went on 10+ mile hikes in our bay area hills, did the Bay to Breakers. If anything was going to lead to my early demise it’d be a mountain lion or a city bus.

    So I do think activity and attitude makes all the difference. If you tell yourself you are (or you can be) a healthy person — and you get out and enjoy *being* a healthy person, whatever that means to you — you will be, maybe excepting folks with some obvious not-fat-related chronic conditions.

  60. Eucritta says:
    Ah, but isn’t 50 the new 30 these days? At least, I recall reading a headline to that effect not too long ago. Illustrated with a photograph of one of the slim, subtly wrinkled, white-haired sprites who stand in for older women in advertising these days.

    Oh, that drives me batshit! I watched “Bell, Book, and Candle” a couple years ago, and one of the most striking things to me is that Elsa Lancaster looks her age (55) in that movie (and also adorable, IMO). Do we ever see that anymore in the media? No way.

  61. If you tell yourself you are (or you can be) a healthy person — and you get out and enjoy *being* a healthy person, whatever that means to you — you will be, maybe excepting folks with some obvious not-fat-related chronic conditions.

    Kimu, I think that’s an excellent way of explaining how the mental and physical aspects support one another. I didn’t feel nearly as good as a college athlete as I do now, for instance, because even though I was getting a lot of exercise, I was down on myself and basically trashing my body otherwise (not enough food, eating lots of sugar and totally not making the connection with how bad it made me feel). I had three hours of practice four times a week but I didn’t consider myself healthy, and I didn’t treat myself as I thought a healthy person would deserve.

    As for people with chronic conditions, I don’t think they’re precluded from being healthy people. I wouldn’t hesitate to call someone with fibro or diabetes or lupus or any chronic condition “healthy” if they were giving their bodies and minds enough nutrition, activity, rest, attention, and acceptance.

  62. Fillyjonk says:
    I wouldn’t hesitate to call someone with fibro or diabetes or lupus or any chronic condition “healthy” if they were giving their bodies and minds enough nutrition, activity, rest, attention, and acceptance.
    ——

    Totally true. I think I’m just used to people of my acquaintance with those conditions self-defining as unhealthy (which may say more about the people I know than the conditions themselves).

  63. Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely up to individual people whether it helps them more to identify as healthy people with chronic conditions or as unhealthy people. I know when The Rotund once described me (in all good faith) as having “health problems,” though, I totally bristled — I don’t have health problems, I have PCOS and digestive idiosyncrasies!

  64. Kate, I already quit my job. :-) I’m used to work full-time for this particular firm but decided that I was sick and tired of putting up the BS there. So now I’m back at school to achieve my “Abitur”, which is a German university-entrance diploma. Now I work once in a while during school holidays to earn a little bit of money on the side (what can I say, the company pays well and I didn’t think that working there once in a while bothered me so much). I have NEVER regetted my decision to return to school. :-)

    Reba, today was the last time I went to her – I really am looking for a new doctor.

  65. I think it’s important to recognize that “health at every size” does not necessarily mean “flawless health at every size.” More like “fully- optimized-for-you health regardless of size.” KH talked earlier about being able to wear high heels all night and bounce back from hangovers when she was younger; I was never able to do that. I always felt somewhat fragile, that if I worked 12-hour days and stayed out partying all night I’d wind up in the emergency room, and given my chronic state of health (mental and physical) I was probably right about that. (And I was much thinner then, too.) I’m never going to have the iron constitution that some people have. But I can make it as good for me as I can make it.

  66. I always thought I felt like crap because I was fat. I felt like crap at 270+, I also felt like crap when I was only overweight, years ago. Diets only made it worse, physically and also made me feel like a failure. Doctors always told me to eat low fat and lose weight as if that ever worked before. I ate whole grains and bought the low fat version of everything for years but I didn’t feel better and I kept gaining because I was hungry, a lot. I quit smoking and gained even faster. It didn’t occur to me until recently that it wasn’t because of not smoking, it was because the doctor had to double my antidepressant to keep me from killing someone because I wasn’t smoking and still felt like crap. I thought not smoking was supposed to make me feel better.
    Eventually, I found out I had some food sensitivities, no thanks to the medical profession, and started feeling a lot better when I avoided those foods. I felt better right away, too, within days. Even though avoiding those foods has also made me lose a lot of weight over the years (still fat, though) weight loss hasn’t changed anything. When I eat those foods I start feeling like crap again, when I avoid them I feel much better, again. Now I put real cream in my coffee and eat real butter, real eggs and real cheese, I put bacon grease in my veggies, I eat my chicken with the skin on and I’m not hungry all the time. Fucking weightwatchers, low fat doctors and the USDA pyramid folks can all bite my fat, 196 pound ass.

  67. A-fucking-men. I recently had a very bad bout of sciatica which manifested in the standard sciatica symptoms combined with a “popping” in the back of ly leg at the knee joint. I was certain this was the dreaded “Your Weight Is Stressing Your Joints” syndrome.

    Well, after about a dozen chiropractor visits, the sciatica is gone, my back feels fine in the morning again.

    When we first moved here, I used to walk the 2.2 mile loop in my neighborhood, the last 1/8 mile of which is all uphill, in 40 minutes. Eleven years and 30 pounds later, it takes me 43. And no, my feet don’t hurt, neither do my knees. That hardly seems like someone who is having trouble “shlepping all that weight around”, now, does it.

  68. I think I kind of love you for this. I just found your blog, read through most of it, and I wanted to tell you that this post is absolutely brilliant.

    I’m one of those people who has a metabolism like a furnace – I’ve been skinny my whole life, to the point that, when I ran track in high school, I would actually gain weight from getting in shape. I’ve always been baffled by the assumptions some people make about the state of my health or how well I take care of myself simply because I’m thin, and especially baffled by the moral ‘arguments’ along those lines. There’s nothing ‘moral’ about my protruding hipbones; I have them because my mother had them, and my father had them, and their mothers and fathers before them…it’s not an achievement and even if it were I can’t see how it could be considered a particularly admirable one.

    I’m sorry if I’m spamming, you’re just articulating a lot of things that I’ve felt for a long time. Thank you.

  69. I’m sorry if I’m spamming, you’re just articulating a lot of things that I’ve felt for a long time.

    Not spamming at all, Aebhel!

    And Fillyjonk is the genius behind this post, but thanks for the kind words about the blog.

  70. I have a 20-lb natural weight range. Anything below or above that cannot be maintained unless I am ill. (For example, I dropped 40 pounds in two months when I started Synthroid — putting me back at the top end of my range. And my weight rebounds viciously once I get too damn sick to keep up on exercise bulimia — to somewhere in the magic range.) All of this makes the remarks of doctors particularly infuriating when they tell me I need to lose weight *despite* my explanation that “normal” BMI is underweight for me. They seem to think I am lazily rationalizing myself into a socially unacceptable pant size. I want to hit people. I want to cry. …And I still feel the impulse to preen when people “compliment” me on losing weight. I still share their mindset.

    I hate that I am still so easily influenced by lopsided societal norms. The instant I stop thinking, I instinctively revert to the hungry = pure baseline for personal judgment. I want to fulfill the expectations of culture. I had to seek out and receive a kick in the ass from Hanne Blank before I could give myself *permission* to want to be with my short fat husband, who is perfect for me, just because I’m not *supposed* to be attracted to fat. (See every billboard? See every TV show? Such an unnatural fetish!) Being told I’ve lost weight still makes me glow when I ought to be annoyed. My favorite photographs are the ones where all bulges are smoothed. So much of my head space is still defined by an unhealthy inherited culture. Reason keeps the worst of it at bay, but still… still. I don’t know how to actually be free.

  71. Libbyblue:

    All of this makes the remarks of doctors particularly infuriating when they tell me I need to lose weight *despite* my explanation that “normal” BMI is underweight for me.

    There are doctors out there who are more understanding of weight concerns and who can see past fatness. If your doctors are this demoralizing, I would suggest seeking out a new doctor who doesn’t encourage disordered behaviors. One of the reasons I rarely went to the doctor in my early twenties is because he always lectured me on my weight. After learning about my past experiences with eating disorders, my current doctor, who is very tiny and petite, never once addresses my weight.

    I know many doctors have bought into the while fat is unhealthy rhetoric, but what they can’t see is that mental health is sometimes much more important than one’s physical health. And harping on one’s weight is usually conducive neither to good physical or mental health.

  72. …but what they can’t see is that mental health is sometimes much more important than one’s physical health.

    Plus, mental health sometimes has direct consequences for physical health…

    That said, I completely agree with Rachel – although it sometimes can be very, very hard to find a doctor that is truly willing to look beyond body size (at least that is my experience).

  73. I loved this post the first time around and finally blogged about it :)

    I’m also trying to get my husband to listen to me and ask his doctor to, I don’t know, RUN SOME TESTS to see what’s going on with him instead of just repeating like a fucking robot “lose weight, lose weight, lose weight” every check up for YEARS now. Because he’s fat so obviously nothing can possibly be wrong with him that losing weight won’t cure (never mind that he’s lost and regained 100 lbs twice and smaller amounts countless times over the past 20 years – he’s obviously not one of the 5%).

    Wait, I went on a tangent there. Doctors. That’s a rant for another day.

  74. I had a coworker who, when seeking treatment for repetitive motion disorders in her wrists (she typed for a living) was told that it was caused by her fat. My response was “Does he think you do hand stands all day?” Granted this was a company doctor and it could be he was instructed to find any thing to blame this sort of thing on other than the work we did… but the fact that he could say it with a straight face speaks volumes.

  75. This is so true!

    When I first went to my doctor, he told me I “ought to” lose weight. I told him (gently but firmly) that I had no interest in doing so, and he accepted that at face value.

    Flash forward six months and I’m dealing with some bizarre digestive problem that’s making me lose weight. My doctor is a good guy and is helping me pursue the problem, but was still shocked – shocked! – that I don’t at least feel more energetic and healthy now. (Actually I feel a bit less so – one of the reasons I fought for the weight in the first place was because my energy level is so much better at that size. I don’t want to be like my skinny friend who – bless his heart! – is exhausted by kayaking across a tiny lake with me.)

    He asked me, “Don’t you feel like breaking into a run sometimes when you’re walking now?” and I said, “Yes – but less than I did at 240 pounds.” I could literally see him wrestling with the concept (I think he qualifies as “overweight” as well).

    My mother is dieting, and she swears it makes her feel better, that her knees hurt less, etc. If it works for her, great, but I suspect it’s treating her body better and finding forms of exercise that don’t stress her joints that’s doing most of the good. That or the placebo effect – they should do a study on whether the placebo effect is intensified when the patient has to do more work…

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