On “Personal Responsibility” and “Healthy Lifestyles”

All right, I’m way late in getting to the Yale study on discrimination that everybody was talking about last week, but it’s still worth a mention.

The hook most media outlets have been using is “weight discrimination is more common than racial discrimination,” which irritates me, because it plays into the “fat is the last acceptable prejudice” fallacy. So let’s make sure we don’t have any of that here. But let’s at least talk about this:

Losing out on a job or a scholarship, being refused a bank loan, getting poorer service in a restaurant, receiving inferior medical care, and being harassed by police were among the inequities listed by overweight people responding to a national survey whose results appear in the journal Obesity.

That’s one of those things where my response is simultaneously, “No shit, Sherlock” and “Thank Maude someone outside the fatosphere is finally saying it.” I never quite know how to feel about those.

Here’s the most exciting part:

Instead [of an increase in weight explaining the increase in weight-based discrimination] the authors point to media reports and the weight-loss business. Both frame obesity as a matter of personal responsibility requiring individual solutions, they say, citing other studies.

“Attributions about personal responsibility for obesity, whether perpetuated by media coverage or by diet industry marketing, could potentially contribute to higher levels of weight bias and perceived discrimination.” they write.

The authors call for national action to reduce weight discrimination.

I’m kind of stunned that a bunch of researchers not only noticed that discrimination against fat people exists, they correctly identified a major cause of it. (Did hell freeze over while I was neglecting the blog last week?) I am so fucking sick of the phrase “personal responsibility,” which always seems to be used by people who want to justify their prejudices, so I LOVE that they identify that phrase–and the thinking behind it–as the hate-fueling horseshit it is.

And that, I might add, is why this blog continues to work toward busting the myth that all fat people eat non-stop and never exercise. Sure, some fat people do, and they deserve the same respect as any other human beings, but as long as the culture keeps insisting that fatness is a failure of “personal responsibility,” I’m going to keep screaming that there are fat people who live “healthy lifestyles,” and thin people who live “unhealthy lifestyles” (see below for more on that odious framing) and you just can’t know how much “personal responsibility” any given person is taking by looking at them. So, you know, maybe you should shut the fuck up about “personal responsibility.”

Getting people to shut up is only a band-aid, of course, since the ultimate goal is getting everyone to take “personal responsibility” for making the world a kinder, more compassionate place. But you gotta start somewhere.

Speaking of phrases I hate, please check out Debra Sapp-Yarwood–known as DebraSY over at Big Fat Blog–going after the word “lifestyle” in a column for the Kansas City Star. (She reports that her suggested headline was “Why I Hate the Word Lifestyle and You Should too”–so naturally, they replaced that with a headline that makes no sense whatsoever.) Debra’s among the tiny percentage of people who’ve maintained a substantial weight loss for over five years, yet she is smart enough to know that doesn’t automatically mean “You can, too!”

Healthy lifestyle is often code language for the opposite of “fat.” It presents a false choice: If you choose a healthy lifestyle, you won’t be fat. If you are fat you must have chosen the unhealthy, fat lifestyle. How insulting!

Amen, Debra.

And now, Shapelings, over to you. Do you hate the phrases “personal responsibility” and “healthy lifestyle” as much as I do? And have you got any others? Rant away.

120 thoughts on “On “Personal Responsibility” and “Healthy Lifestyles”

  1. Here’s what I hate about “healthy lifestyle” – no one can even tell you what it *means*. (Not consistently, at least.) I just ate a banana. Does that mean I live a “healthy lifestyle”? What if I follow it with a cookie? Or a salad? What if I eat a banana every day, but skip breakfast? And there’s more suggestions about how much/often to work out and what to do (cardio five days a week! 30 minutes of walking a day! One hour of movement three times a week!) than there are days in the year.

    I don’t have a “lifestyle.” I have a life. And it includes bananas, and cookies, and cardio, and sitting on my butt on the couch watching tv. I am large, I contain multitudes.

  2. I hate the “personal responsibility” talk. Not only in this context, but I’m also a law student and it absolutely drives me crazy how the national response to someone – anyone, no matter how badly wronged – bringing a suit to redress harm done to them is “Why is everyone so litigious? Why don’t they just take personal responsibility for their problems?”

    Yes, of course. Why not take personal responsibility for being fucked over by insurance companies or the malpractice of medical professionals or being sexually harassed by your boss? God, what a bunch of whiners, not blaming themselves for every single thing that happens to them.

    Somehow, nobody ever seems to ask why corporations shouldn’t be asked to take “personal responsibility” for the damage they do in the course of their operations. That’s just business, right? Don’t take it personally! God.

  3. It drives me positively ape shit how most times mental health is not considered part of a “healthy lifestyle.” As far as I’m concerned, if eating a box of stale Peeps keeps me from killing ppl, that’s healthy for me and everyone around me. I also believe that onion rings from Kelly’s in Revere or hot dogs from Wasses in Rockland in the summer are important traditions that bring back really happy memories for me. Keeping these traditions and memories alive are crucial to my mental health. No amount of side salad while everyone else enjoys num-num-nummy summer food can suffice.

  4. “Healthy lifestyle” sets my fucking spine on fire. At the present time, however, if one more fucking person tells me that shit that I’m going through is a “life lesson” and that I should be somehow grateful to be crying pretty much every day because I’m “learning something”…oh, punches are going to be thrown. I’m way way way over almost every cliche’ and platitude in the fucking “Well-Meaning Friend and Relative Handbook”.

  5. WHAT DID YOU SAY ABOUT MY MOTHER?

    (Oh dear god, I am such a fucking nerd. And if you got that, you are too.)

    I was percolating a post on this but I’m going to put it as a comment just in case the post can’t get itself borned: I saw a comment on an article I won’t link yesterday to the effect of “I eat tons of crap and I can’t manage to get over 170 lbs… so fat people must be eating SO INCREDIBLY MUCH CRAP.” People are so committed to the idea of the “fat lifestyle” that they’ll ignore and rationalize mountains of evidence to the effect that this “lifestyle” doesn’t necessarily actually make you fat.

  6. I love how Debra SY’s contrasts “life” with “lifestyle.”
    I would much rather have a life than a lifestyle.
    The whole “personal responsibility” concept makes me wish we had the sci-fi ability to actually put people in another’s shoes. Go ahead, try living the life of another person with their history, genes, emotions, brain chemistry, stressors and general preferences and try to exercise the same level of “personal responsibility” that you do in your very own body (with your own history, genes, emotions, brain chemistry, stressors and general preferences).
    Do the people who cry “personal responsibility” drive a car that gets 40 miles a gallon (or better yet, don’t have a car)? Are they really doing everything they can to take responsibility for their actions? I would be shocked if that were the case. They are annoyed that other people are fat at them, and I’m certainly annoyed that they are speweing their poisonous philosophy in my direction. Lose-Lose.

  7. As far as I’m concerned, if eating a box of stale Peeps keeps me from killing ppl, that’s healthy for me and everyone around me.

    Hahahaha, I actually did this last week sometime! The Peeps had gone stale because I do not like Peeps, but I was so angry about something or other that I absolutely had to destroy something vaguely creaturelike with my teeth.

  8. While we’re talking “healthy”, I hate “healthy diet” as used by the advertising industry. “It’s part of a healthy diet!” is tagged on everything. “Look for the Heart and Stroke symbol showing that we’re part of a healthy diet!” Yup, Skillet Sensations Chicken Alfredo, Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise, Chicken Tettrazini in a Mushroom Cream Sauce are all “healthy!” according to the HealthCheck program. (Although, they do sound yummy to me…)

    There’s also an overuse of “whole grain”. Lucky Charms are really “good for you”? I’m so glad! Bring it on!

    So, if everything is “good for you”, then there is no such thing as a “bad food”! Don’t feel guilty for eating anything!

    It drives me crazy – food is food. Eat what you want and enjoy it!

  9. saw a comment on an article I won’t link yesterday to the effect of “I eat tons of crap and I can’t manage to get over 170 lbs… so fat people must be eating SO INCREDIBLY MUCH CRAP.” People are so committed to the idea of the “fat lifestyle” that they’ll ignore and rationalize mountains of evidence to the effect that this “lifestyle” doesn’t necessarily actually make you fat.

    I saw the same comment and had the same thought about a post. I fucking love it.

  10. 1-2 pounds per week.

    I mean, I know that’s square in diet talk land, and most things in diet talk land are designed for causing insanity. But that phrase rode in my head as a critical backseat driver for years, and even now when I see it it makes my muscles clench.

  11. You know, I’m wondering if all this “personal responisbility” stuff coming from “them” is a way to take responsibility off of doctors, pharm companies, etc.

    “Oh, you got sick? Hmmmm probably didn’t eat right or exercise enough…no treatment for you! Now take your chart up front and pay the bill at the front desk. Yeah, that ‘s some good doctoring here”

  12. but I was so angry about something or other that I absolutely had to destroy something vaguely creaturelike with my teeth.

    I like to eat Peeps’ eyes first for that very reason. On the other hand, perhaps it’s more humane because then they can’t see the carnage on their brethren.

    “I eat tons of crap and I can’t manage to get over 170 lbs… so fat people must be eating SO INCREDIBLY MUCH CRAP.”

    What a supremely stupid rationalization. And I had *just* gotten that vein in my temple to settle down. Sigh.

  13. 1-2 pounds per week.

    I mean, I know that’s square in diet talk land, and most things in diet talk land are designed for causing insanity. But that phrase rode in my head as a critical backseat driver for years, and even now when I see it it makes my muscles clench.

    Last year, I asked, at a well respected online forum that I’ve frequented for many years and that prides itself on factual answers based on reputable cites, for hard data on fertility based on my age. I was trying to better judge whether we should start trying to get pregnant or not, and how much of a time cushion we had. The responses I got made me practically spitting with rage – even the polite ones recommended that I lose a 100 pounds or so first. When I pointed out that I had no hope of losing that much in a year or two, so could you just answer the damn question already, they actually argued that if you lose 2 pounds a week for a year then that equaled 100 pounds. Well, “congrats on the math skills people” I thought, but I couldn’t believe that all of these supposedly intellegent people actually believed that the average person was capable of sustaining that pace for that long without it eventually slowing down or never yoyoing a week.

  14. I don’t mind the term “healthy lifestyle” in and of itself and I don’t think its all that hard to nail down. In fact, I rather agree with Michael Pollan’s pithy mantra.

    But I do think that since the term “healthy lifestyle” is quite relevant, it can be interpreted in vastly different ways. For instance, when I was anorexic and contemplating suicide, I was constantly praised for my new “healthy lifestyle” assumed due to my drastic weight loss. And yet now that I eat nourishing, plant-based foods – every day, no less – and exercise not for weight loss but for health and generally enjoy good self-esteem, I am assumed by some to have an “unhealthy lifestyle” because I have gained weight.

    I think the problematic key here is the word “assume.” Since none of us know precisely the dietary habits and thousands of small choices others make every day, we cannot label or mislabel someone as having a healthy or unhealthy lifestyle.

  15. …but I was so angry about something or other that I absolutely had to destroy something vaguely creaturelike with my teeth.

    :D Heehee. I like to eat the heads first…

    AnywaysI think right up there with “Lifestyle” is the corresponding phrase “It’s not a diet. Its a whole lifestyle change!” Makes my blood boil.

    But the phrase/saying that lately just makes me want to scream is “I didn’t cheat that much today/yesterday/pick a time” O.o So wait…filling your body with the nutrients it needs to live is somehow “cheating?” What are we cheating? Is it a test? A “Who can eat the least and still not have an audible tummy rumbling” kind of test?!??

    And what is this “cheating?” If I eat an apple but I’m on the first week of South Beach; that is cheating. If I’m on Weight Watchers then eating a meal out that isn’t blandly poached and drained of all flavor is cheating. If I’ve decided I can eat nothing but lettuce until I lose that last pound and have a butter cookie *gasp the horror* at work; then that is cheating??? What if whole grains give me horrible cramps? Is it cheating to not eat them or to eat them??

    Just strikes a nerve with me. How can you consider EATING to be cheating….unless of course you mean that you’ve cheated your body of exactly what it needs to run most smoothly by denying yourself certain foods that the government or your co-workers or your family or hell, freaking Big Bird has deemed “Morally Wrong” But I don’t think the folks in my office (who are living on lettuce and binges of butter cookies at the moment and bashing themselves for every sugary crumb) are using it this way….

  16. The term “lifestyle choice” drives me right over the edge. “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle choice!”

    Well, how about this for a “lifestyle choice” – I chose to stop obsessing about food and my weight. Right, it’s not the RIGHT choice – it’s not a “healthy lifestyle” choice. Oooh, there’s that phrase again.

    Risha – I have a post on my blog about the fertility doctor who told me to lose 100 pounds before getting pregnant and my resultant search for respect from my medical providers. (It’s got a happy ending – my kid is now 6 years old. :) You can find it at http://cjporter96.blogspot.com/2007/11/on-finding-decent-doc.html

  17. Exactly, Rachel. The problem with ‘healthy lifestyle’ as a phrase is that way too many people use it as shorthand for ‘weight loss’ despite the fact that one’s weight may or may not be affected – and could go in either direction, depending on a variety of factors – when one begins to live an actual healthy life.

    Alas, the meaning has become so skewed in the public mind that I think it needs to be rejected until it can be redefined in a more rational way.

  18. I don’t mind “healthy lifestyle.” I think of it as referring to habits that would tend to make you healthier – make you feel good, lower your BP, or make you less likely to get diabetes, for example – and that are moderate and balanced. Things like doing something active a few times a week or eating vegetables every day. Sometimes I hate the way it’s used, though – as if a healthy lifestyle is perfectly reflected in how someone looks. I see having a healthy lifestyle as something you do to feel good – something fundamentally selfish, actually – not as some kind of moral imperative.

    “Personal responsibility” is another phrase that doesn’t really have anything wrong with it, per se. For example “My friend should take personal responsibility for his finances and stop expecting his parents to bail him out. He’s an adult.” It does imply a judgment. But, it’s absolutely true that there are situations where people fail to take a appropriate amount of responsibility. When it’s used to imply that people should have complete control over their health or weight, then that’s profoundly untrue and unfair. But, we do have some control over some things, and part of the art of living is figuring out what we can control and what we can’t, and what degree of control is reasonable and worthwhile.

  19. I think the phrase that gets on my pecs the most is ‘I’m being sooooo bad!’ invariably accompanied by a conspiritorial wink and a simper.

    No, you’re not being bad by deciding to have a fucking brownie. Go ahead and eat it if you want it. You can even tell me how good it tasted or that you regret it because it doesn’t feel as good inside you as it smelled outside you. Just don’t fucking make me your mommy or your enabler or whatever the hell it is you’re trying to cast me as.

    Make your choice. Act on your choice. Own your choice.

    That’s the only sort of ‘personal responsibility’ I’m longing to see you exercise.

  20. Ugh, “healthy lifestyle” is up there with “healthy weight” for me. I have a very good friend who goes to OA and she says the other OA members look askance at her because try how she might (and she eats no animal products, no wheat, and no sugar), she can’t get below a size 12. One of the OA goals is to get oneself to a “healthy weight.” Obviously anything below size 12 wouldn’t be a “healthy weight” for my friend, seeing how her body resists it. Though honestly, I’m sure she’s in the “normal” BMI category, or at most barely into “overweight.”

    Argh. Many and probably of us are at a “healthy weight” for our own particular bodies. Back in the day a healthy weight was something people had to build back up to after being sick or whatever. Thin was considered unhealthy, and probably a number of perfectly healthy people were criticized for being too thin and told to gain weight. I’m not saying one is better than the other, just that the fact that the pendulum can swing so widely shows how arbitrary our modern standards are.

  21. CJ_in_VA – That’s an interesting post (and congratulations on the kid you got out of it! :) ) I actually found a lot of useful information on Junk Food Science that made me feel better about my situation a couple of months ago, but it’s always nice to get more confirmation. It just still makes me incoherently mad when I think about that conversation (and especially the mod who told me to calm down because all he was seeing from the other people was “concern about my health”).

    It’s too bad that you’re in VA – I’m pretty sure that I’m going to need a good RE within the next couple of months, as I’m coming up on my self-imposed deadline of two years since we stopped using birth control and a year of actually trying.

  22. “Healthy lifestyle” annoys me a bit, but it’s basically marketing noise and thus easily dismissed IMHO. I envision a woman in an expensive track suit running at 6 am after eating a disgusting cereal like Special K. Whatevs, dudes!

    “Personal responsibility,” on the other hand, is a phrase that absolutely ENRAGES me, and not just because of how it’s used in a “fat” context. In fact it enrages me so much that I have to mock it by typing it in lolspeak when I blog about it, lest PURSUNALL SPAWNSUBILLTEE!! drive my blood pressure to a level not suitable for a healthy lifestyle.

    It seems like this “responsibility” is pulled out on someone whenever they’re getting stomped on by a force or group more powerful than they are. You know, that person who is $90k in debt because they were uninsured and got sick–why didn’t they have some “personal responsibility”? That kind of thing. And it’s used as a general excuse for people who are privileged in some way to be annoying, mean assholes. I hear it used a lot as an excuse for sexism against mothers, for instance. You know, if you don’t want to get discriminated against at work, you shoulda thought of that before you opened your legs! PURSUNALL SPAWNSUBILLTEE!! If you want people to not slam into your pregnant belly on the commuter train, or maybe even let you sit down because you’re short of breath and exhausted, maybe you should have thought of that before getting pregnant, whore! That kind of thing. Maybe I just hear a lot of this because I live in a town populated by altogether too many vile, nihilistic hipsters. But I hear it on a national scale too. Oh you need food stamps to feed your kid because your full time job has crap pay? Should have thought of that when you were 18 and making decisions about work, PURSUNALL SPAWNSUBILLTEE! It’s always the fault of the one who suffers.

  23. “[as part of a ] healthy lifestyle” is just marketing jargon used by food companies to sell more product. Americans love buying into ‘lifestyles’ – just watch car or even fast food commercials. And walk into just about any mall store that sells clothing + home accoutrements, and walk out with a whole new lifestyle. As many of you have already stated, i agree that the term LIFE is more fitting for every one of us. And what we make of our lives is vastly different. Same goes for health; what’s “healthy” for me can be vastly different for you. So to coin some catch all phrase is overly simplistic and forgets to take in to account human biology and nature.

  24. Oh and I had to add in one other phrase since I just heard it again and was “reminded”.

    “Oh good girl! You’re drinking water. You’re being so Gooood!”

    Fuck. What the hell is wrong with just LIKING water? Its smooth and cold and tasty to me. And I’m thirsty and don’t want soda or juice. I’m no better than anyone else for drinking lots of water. I’m not doing it to be “good” or to prevent hunger cravings or to make myself feel full so I don’t eat. I just. Like. Water. Period. End of story.

    So stop attibuting an assumptive moral judgement on it for me, okay? Cause quite frankly, no amount of water in the world is going to magically change me into a less than 200 lb Cinderellla, so stop trying to “encourage” this behavior in the hopes that it will do just that…

    /rant ^^
    *sip*

    Oh and reading the other comments; I’m right with the folks who hate on the “1-2 pounds a week” mantra. I used to do calculations based on this to see HOW thin I would be in X amount of weeks. I mean, its a straight calculation; how could it be wrong as long as I’m “good” all the time? *headdesk*

  25. “Stop offering me that [candy/cookies/etc.]!” said with mock woe, while reaching for whatever treat I bring in for a group.

    Usually I am in groups where this would never be uttered. But every season we get a new batch of people in the troupe, who are not always up on the same page with FA and HAES. We’re trying to do mandatory in-house Size Acceptance 101 trainings, but that’s tough. In the meantime, we still get occasional food-angst talk like the above.

    I’m not forcing this on you. I’m bringing in treats because I think some people might like them, and because I’m running you dancers through the mill with this current show, I am making an offering of nourishment and tastiness to show that I care and want to take care of you in some small way. I am setting the container down, announcing its contents, and opening the lid. If those pieces of sesame brittle or Chex mix or whatever are just FLYING into your mouth, then you, my friend, have a problem that I cannot help.

    (It may very well be a super-power, but you have to claim it to work it.)

  26. Here here sjc!! I love your comments about mental health. Sometimes enjoying yummy sweets or fatty foods without thinking about calorie counts makes me feel like I’m living a “healthy lifestyle” ;)

    Many are pointing out that they don’t see anything wrong with the phrase. I think often with language, phrases and labels start out fairly innocuously, without any particular meaning. Then as subcontext is added, certain labels and phrases become value laden. I think the media and medical professionals tend to use “healthy lifestyle” as a pejorative code phrase for “get thyself less damned fat!”

  27. Absolutely, psychsarah, in fact, if you can’t eat sweets or heavy foods when you’re in the mood without feeling guilty, then I’d say that’s a sign of an psychologically unhealthy lifestyle.

  28. In fact, I think that there’s value in co-opting these terms. It’s great for flipping weight loss conversations over to HAES. For example, “I think that whatever you happen to weigh when you have a healthy lifestyle is the right weight for you.” “Of course I take personal responsibility for my body. I try to take good care of the body I have, rather than trying to turn it into something it isn’t. Why do people keep dieting when it obviously doesn’t work, long term?”

  29. BigMoves – There was a letter written to Ask Amy not too long ago from a woman complaining about a fat coworker who was “sabotaging” their diets by bringing in treats. Amy, of course, empathized with the letter writer and accused the coworker of some kind of fat conspiracy plot to make others fat. Oh, and I think she also suggested the office worker bring in oh-so- yummy carrots and celery to teach the coworker some “healthy” habits.

    If someone does not want to eat such things and yet cannot refuse a well-intentioned brownie or cupcake, I suggest it is they who have the problem, not the brownie bearer.

  30. I think the phrase that gets on my pecs the most is ‘I’m being sooooo bad!’ invariably accompanied by a conspiritorial wink and a simper.

    No, you’re not being bad by deciding to have a fucking brownie. Go ahead and eat it if you want it. You can even tell me how good it tasted or that you regret it because it doesn’t feel as good inside you as it smelled outside you. Just don’t fucking make me your mommy or your enabler or whatever the hell it is you’re trying to cast me as.

    Make your choice. Act on your choice. Own your choice.

    That’s the only sort of ‘personal responsibility’ I’m longing to see you exercise.

    A-fucking-men. I work in a coffee shop where we sell food and I’ve adopted a blank look for those kinds of people. I am not involved in your food choices beyond putting it in a bag and handing it to you.

    In terms of the diet industry using these phrases – I was living a healthy lifestyle before I started WW. It was only after joining that it got unhealthy, what with the weighing and obsessing and starvation that I put myself through. Even while I was doing it I was experiencing the dissonance of “healthy” between before and after. I’ll take being fatter and actually knowing that I’m living a healthier life now, thanks.

  31. take it from a disabled person: the emphasis on “take personal responsibility for your healthy lifestyle!!!” is awful for us. it emphasizes that if something is “wrong” with you, it must be your own fault. which also feeds the “why don’t you just take this vitamin supplement/do this exercise program/blahblah ??” questions, reinforcing that we somehow have the ability to “cure” ourselves and if we don’t take them up on their ill-considered offer, we must just like being sick then.

  32. dee — beautiful. i try to emphasize that first one when i can. i had a culturally acceptable body back when i was also notably malnourished. now i treat my body well, and it’s fifty pounds more padded. and which should i be aiming for, again?

  33. i’m right there with Dee: “healthy lifestyle” is ok with me, when it refers to those sets of things you do that make you feel good about yourself. likewise “personal responsibility” is ok, when it refers to genuine things you should be able to hold down the fort on by yourself (e.g., my personal responsibility to do my dishes).

    but i get way peeved when these utterly reasonable phrases get mis-appropriated to mean “OMG STOP BEING FAT AT ME!!”

    and for the list of phrases that i hate, how about “healthy habit”? as in, “it’s not a diet, it just teaches you healthy habits.” it sounds so condescending to me every time i hear that, like i’m a little child that needs to be taught toothbrushing habits.

  34. I agree with wellroundedtype2 w/r/t context. Not only can you not tell by looking at someone how much “personal responsibility” they’re exercising–you couldn’t tell even if you followed them around all day and charted their every action! Because you don’t know the *context* out of which they’re acting! You don’t know their baggage, their pain, where they started from, what they’ve had to overcome both inwardly and outwardly. You don’t know their special circumstances and needs. You don’t know. You do. Not. Know.

    I’ve always believed that the phrase “personal responsibility” is usually uttered by people who don’t want to exercise any themselves. It’s usually a way of saying “everything I don’t like is everyone else’s fault, and they better fix it.”

  35. Fillyjonk said: WHAT DID YOU SAY ABOUT MY MOTHER?

    Obviously there’s nothing left to do but wage horrible war for centuries. Aaaand I’m a geek too.

    What I hate is when my dad says, “No soda for me, I’m being good.” Now, my dad is ACTUALLY being good quite a lot of the time. He’s being good when he volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. He’s being good when he helps my grandmother with her housework. He’s being good when he takes my little brother to a baseball game. But refusing a soda? Is not the same damn thing.

  36. The phrase “If you would just … ” followed by any brain-dead advice is what kills me dead. OMG, if I would just …. [eat less, move more, kill my TV, weigh myself everyday/not at all – insert stupidity here] all my problems would be solved!

    Dear FSM, how did I get through university and law school, much less live to the age of 37, and not know all this? If I would JUST follow all that women’s magazine advice, everything would be PERFECT!

    *head, meet desk*

  37. I work for a health insurance company and these phrases drive me crazy too.

    I case manage a university that places a lot of money into promoting healthy choices and diet. They place a great deal of belief in the obesity madness.

    Guess what? They’re spending huge amounts of money on joint replacements, eating disorder treatment, and other related problems.

    Whatev. These so-called “healthy initiatives” are probably driving up their overall costs.

  38. My most-hated phrase is “takes care of herself”. I’ve been frequenting all the online dating sites, trying to meet someone cool, and pretty much 99% of the guys profiles say they’re looking for a girl who “takes care of herself”.

    It makes me want to scream, because you know what they really mean is “thin”. They don’t care about education, religion, children, values, interests, ethnicity, age. Just “takes care of herself”.

    If you read too many profiles, you also quickly get the message that a woman who “takes care of herself” also colors her hair, waxes her bikini line, wears revealing clothing, has regular manicures and never leaves the house without 4 inch stilletos, a full face of makeup and a blow out.

    I take damn good care of myself. I get a good night’s sleep every night. I eat a varied, balanced diet. My financial situation is good, my house is comfortable and (relatively) clean. I have good relationships with my friends and family. My mental health is great. I get regular medical care and am doing a great job managing a chronic health condition, etc., etc.

    But I’m not thin. So I guess I’m not “taking care” of myself.

  39. holy crap, Tony, here’s a HUGE ditto to that whole phrase. i’d been having fun with adventures in online dating myself for the past couple of years (until i found my current beau, who likes me just the way i am, thanksmuch), and there’d definitely be days perusing the craigslist offerings that left me in such a rage i’d be a full-on man-hater for a week. everything from “takes care of herself” to “sorry, no BBWs, not to be rude, just my preference” to the least-disguised “no fatties”.

    it always perplexed and enraged me that it didn’t matter if i had a chronic drug problem, a predisposition to ending arguments with violence, or a stash of kiddie porn, since all those things weren’t mentioned. i just had to, ya know, take care of myself, and everything else was forgiven.

  40. “Healthy lifestyle” and most especially “personal responsibility” are both classist tropes, in my opinion. You spend 20 hours a week in the gym? You go out of your way to specialty stores to find those organic and rare-to-the-point-of-extinction herbs that goose your metabolism? Bully for you, having so many people in your life to delegate your “personal responsibility” to, and enough money in the bank for your healtheeee liiiifestyle to be no object. DebraSY is so right, and if all (or even most) successful dieters had as much humility as she has, we wouldn’t have to keep banning their self-righteous asses from our blogs.

  41. Oh, and the only way you’re being “bad” by eating a brownie is if you know your body can’t process it (e.g. you have celiac disease or your blood sugar always runs high or you are allergic to chocolate) and you eat it anyway. But really, only a small percentage of people actually have to avoid those things for medical reasons, and generally those people simply say, “No, I can’t, but thanks,” not, “No, I can’t, that’s BAD!”

  42. Having had a miserable experience with a new doctor yesterday who trotted those two phrases out after less than a nanosecond of acquaintanceship, they’re hitting a particularly raw nerve with me today.

  43. “It must be that time of the month”/”She’s just a teenager going through mood swings”/”You’ll grow out of it.”

    When I was eleven I was a little hellion and my parents didn’t know what to do with me. The problem, which I can easily tell you now, and which they should have been able to diagnose, was that school was way too easy and way too boring and home life didn’t offer much of a retreat. Basically – the problem was that I was bored.

    But not considering this as an option – or actually trying to ask me or develop some relationship with me – my parents took me to the doctor to see if maybe I might have some chemical or brain problem. There, at the doctor’s, with my parents in the room, the doctor poked me in the abdomen.

    Me: OW!
    Him: Did that hurt?
    Me: YES.
    Him (to my parents): That’s about where her ovaries are, and they can get tender before a period starts, so it probably just that she’s getting close to starting her period.

    Note: This wasn’t true. It was another year and half before I got my period. It hurt because he JABBED MY ABDOMEN WITH HIS FINGER.

    But that wasn’t the worst part. I was having a hard time with school and life and his suggestion wasn’t therapy, wasn’t an after school activity, wasn’t that my parents and I actually start communicating.

    His whole diagnosis was : SHE’S A GIRL! AND SHE’S ALSO A PRETEEN!

    So her emotions and thoughts and actions?

    Don’t matter.

    After all, I’m was just a young stupid girl.

    And that attitude towards me has never really changed. I wonder how many years it’ll take my parents to figure out that my feminism and my not being Mormon and my progressivism and all the things we disagree on aren’t just a phase, or the result of my hormones, or because I’m so young and don’t know any better.

    Today’s my twentieth birthday. Maybe that’ll do it. Teenagers are the ones who are supposed to have phases, right? Maybe now people can look upon my choices as not just me being controlled by some unstable chemicals in my brain – Wooooo! – but instead being, you know, ME.

    Even though I stopped growing like two years ago.

    Bah.

  44. Everyone is so dead-on with these comments that I doubt I can add anything of substance. But I agree that I hate “healthy lifestyle” and here’s why–It doesn’t mean what it probably should, which is “eat a balanced diet with lots of minimally processed whole foods, fruits, vegetables, etc. and don’t be obsessed with food or especially with calories.” What it means is, if you are thin, “the lifestyle I have that that fat person over there must not.” It’s like all that slippery stuff where anytime there is a non-fatosphere post about a fat person, it starts out “God, just eat some vegetables and take a walk once in a while,” and then if the person says they already do that either they are accused of lying or the bar shifts gradually to, well, you have to cut out ALL refined sugar and have NINE servings of non-starchy vegetables and work out an HOUR or more a day, that’s your problem! And meanwhile do you think the thin people who are lecturing are anywhere near that strict with themselves? Nope. They may have met the first criteria (eat a few veggies and take a walk once in awhile) but by the time the fatty-bashing is over with, they are still logic-defyingly defining “healthy lifestyle” as “what I do that fat people don’t” while maintaining disgust with any fatty who isn’t “perfect” healthwise. The massive cognitive dissonance does not seem to bother them in the least (see the Dan Savage threads that have been linked here in the past). That’s why I do think “healthy lifestyle” is kinda hard to pin down, at least among non-FA people.

    “Personal Responsibility” is even more odious. It allows every privileged person ever to avoid feeling any kind of guilt or even basic human sympathy or grief for someone who is going through a tough time. We all seem to have become so hard and uncaring as a society.

    Peeps massacre-ers, I have noted that the Nutrition Facts list the serving size as “6 [or however many] Peeps” for the chicks, and even better, “6 BUNNIES” for the bunnies. That should help satisfy your bloodlust even more. :)

    Sue’s comment above is beautiful and I totally agree. And Toni, AMEN on “takes care of herself.” That means “is willing to maintain herself as a blow-up doll rather than a human being.”

  45. So full disclaimer – I work for a public health department – and I hear “eat less, move more” “personal responsibility” and “healthy lifestyle” speech pretty much every day.

    And as offensive and irritating and just plain WRONG as these terms can be, what makes me even more nervous is the current trend in public health and chronic disease prevention. The focus is no longer on “personal responsibility” – it has moved to the “obesogenic environment” and the need for policies and environmental change.

    Our un-official department motto probably is “make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

    Because, clearly, people would all take personal responsibility and eat less and move more if only soda and fast food was more expensive. Public health policy makers cannot wait for gas to get more expensive – then people will have to stop driving! Then they will all magically become thin!!

    Public health has pretended to move on – to *understand* that it is “not all about” individual actions” and “personal responsibility” – but all the current programming is directed at removing choices.

    Individual choices.

    All the while explaining that it isn’t anyone’s FAULT.

  46. Oh, and Nan, is there any way you can DUMP that new doctor’s ass? I hate to think of you having to continue to listen to that shit. And Time-Machine, I am so angry that you as a young girl were so invalidated by that sexist asshole.

    Furthermore, I agree 100% with you on the “it’s just a phase” business. Yes, I may be “just angry” but THAT’S WHO I AM. I am angry about a lot of stuff THAT BEARS GETTING ANGRY ABOUT. And I am not “just getting this [e.g. any idea I might have that my mom or husband disagrees with] from those people online”–I finally found a group of people who are actually like me, and therefore a community that is actually supportive of me. Do NOT invalidate WHO I AM by making excuses to minimize my core beliefs and make yourself more comfortable with the whole situation. I am capable of coming up with ideas and strong beliefs on my own, and I do so all the time.

    Although I have once or twice accused my husband of parroting his parents’ politics, which is probably wrong on principle but what the heck, that’s what I think he does sometimes–on the whole I can’t imagine anyone believing that most of his core values aren’t his own and he is incapable of thinking for himself. Yet I feel like such assumptions are routinely made about me. Hmm.

  47. Like many ideas, “personal responsibility” is a good idea taken too far. It’s come to mean “you have to change something because I don’t like it, even if it can’t really be changed”.

    To me, it seems to reflect the inability of this society to admit that not everything is under our control. That it doesn’t matter how proactive (another silly word) or responsible we are, shit happens. That scares the bejeezus out of some people, the whole unthinkable “it could happen to me even though I’m doing everything right”. So instead of dealing with that fear, they turn it around so “well, for it to happen to them they must be doing something wrong, how irresponsible of them”, and thus we end up here.

    Which, of course, doesn’t change the fact that it could and may happen to you even if you do everything right. Yelling at other people doesn’t change that one iota.

    Which isn’t to say that I don’t believe in basic responsibility for one’s self and especially one’s actions, but like most things, it’s got limits. More is not necessarily better.

  48. “I eat tons of crap and I can’t manage to get over 170 lbs… so fat people must be eating SO INCREDIBLY MUCH CRAP.”

    That one made me laugh because I had almost exactly the same thought when I was 9 years old. I looked at this chubby boy in my class and thought, “I don’t get it. I don’t understand how anyone can get so fat. I eat so much already and I’m thin, so what in the world does HE do??” I never consciously realized how wrong I had been, but unconsciously? Must have been a long time ago, and long before I discovered FA. I don’t get how anyone over the age of 12 can seriously think that way. It just … doesn’t make any sense.

  49. Wow, that is a great idea about the stale Peeps! Yum!

    (I actually like Peeps… something about the crunchy sugar, and I love marshmallows–Hostess Sno-Balls too, which a lot of people think are gross. I am weird.)

  50. First of all, I kind of want to high-five the authors of that study. Finally, a study that makes sense!
    I remember when I was in middle school and my mom put me on a diet…only she called it an “eating plan”. She kept insisting that it wasn’t a diet, but my 11 year old mind wasn’t fooled. I hated the fact that she was denying the obvious.

  51. Linz wins the “prove you’re as big of a nerd as FJ” contest! Your prize is: dubious distinction.

    One thing I’ve noticed about a lot of committed dieters is that they’re really sold on the rhetoric of “getting control” and “personal transformation” and whatnot. This is not news to anyone, but I mean even outside of dieting — they’re people who will announce a plan to start getting up earlier in conjunction with their new go-getter attitude, instead of just, you know, getting up earlier. (Or not getting up earlier.) I think what makes the “lifestyle” trope so appealing is that it says “this isn’t just something I’m doing, this is me being a WHOLE NEW ME in a WHOLE NEW WAY, and now everything’s gonna be different!” (Cross-reference: Thin, fantasy of being.)

  52. Oh, I meant to say this too:

    The hook most media outlets have been using is “weight discrimination is more common than racial discrimination,” which irritates me, because it plays into the “fat is the last acceptable prejudice” fallacy.

    When of course, what it really means is “fat is a prejudice that it’s really, really hard to sue for.” I’m sure more people would engage in blatant racial discrimination if they didn’t think they’d get caught, too, but people rein it in on the obvious stuff like hiring because it is illegal.

  53. TropicalChrome, I’m so with you on personal responsibility being used to deny our lack of control over everything. It’s kinda like when people try to find a way to blame the victims of violent crimes; they have to find a way to be different from, and better than, the individual in question so that they don’t have to admit that they’re vulnerable to that happening to them too.

    And as for being ‘good’…I am going to throw a stale peep at the next person who makes a comment about how ‘good’ the couple of coworkers and I who go for a walk most mornings are; our area of the building is fucking cold, and we’re just trying to get a bit warmer!

  54. Time-Machine: Unfortunately, people still assume that your opinions are stupid and you have them because you’re “still so young” when you’re in your 20’s. I’m 27 and I still get that from time to time.

  55. Because, clearly, people would all take personal responsibility and eat less and move more if only soda and fast food was more expensive.

    Well, the people who say that are about to get their wish. When only rich people can afford to eat more than one shitty meal a day, I hope they’ll be really fucking happy.

  56. I agree with many of the folks here — as commonly used, both ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘healthy lifestyle’ stink of mealy-mouthed self-righteous priviledge. And I loathe them both. For that matter, I loathe the term ‘healthy’ when used as anything other than a descriptor for a physical state of being, which is the only context in which I think it’s appropriate. Otherwise, I reckon it’s just another weasel-word for ‘moral,’ and I don’t take kindly to being lectured on my morals.

    I’ve also come to loathe the term and concept of ‘exercise,’ as it now seems to primarily apply to prescribed, measureable hamster-wheel activities undertaken solely in quest of Holy Health and Fitness. Screw that.

  57. I’ve also come to loathe the term and concept of ‘exercise,’ as it now seems to primarily apply to prescribed, measureable hamster-wheel activities undertaken solely in quest of Holy Health and Fitness. Screw that.

    Oh, totally. Like when you go for an examination or something and someone asks “How frequently do you exercise?” and you respond, “Well, I work as a stagehand so about once every other week I spend 4-10 hours lifting 75 lb boxes, swinging hammers, climbing scaffolding, and other strenuous activities. My daily routine involves go to X place and doing these things, which require me to walk to walk or run about a mile every day. And I swim daily during the summer in our pool in the back yard.”

    “But how often do you exercise?”

    See, because all of those activities also served some other purpose besides just torturing the calories away, apparently they don’t count. Like stay at home parents don’t get any exercise, because chasing your kids around all day? Definitely doesn’t use your muscles or burns calories. And retail workers? All that standing and lifting and stocking? Doesn’t count.

    It drives me bonkers. Apparently physical activity only counts when you get on $2000 machine to do it.

  58. Because, clearly, people would all take personal responsibility and eat less and move more if only soda and fast food was more expensive. Public health policy makers cannot wait for gas to get more expensive – then people will have to stop driving! Then they will all magically become thin!!

    This makes me very sad, because what I’d really like to see is our lovely government doing their best to make more choices available to everyone. Like, y’know, fresh produce that doesn’t cost $3 a pound; hormone-free, organic milk that doesn’t cost $6 a gallon; safer neighborhoods so kids have the option to go outside and play instead of being accused of choosing to stay inside and watch the toob when by definition if that’s the only safe thing to do then I’ll be fucked if you can call it a choice. So, hoorah for “making the healthy choice the easy choice,” except replace “easy” with possible. And then don’t get in my shit when I still decide to not eat your fresh produce or drink your Whole Foods milk or run on the trails you’ve paved through safe, clean, easily-accessible parks. If you give me a choice and then demonize me for picking A instead of B, again, not much of a choice, is it? Gah.

    And exercise? WORD. It’s amazing the way language mutates from neutral to loaded in the course of, what, it took about five years?

  59. Yeah I’m with you guys on the “exercise” thing. I guess “going to the gym” is the only thing that counts now. Which really proves what I suspected, that the “health” crap is really about money and Puritan morals ie “sacrifice” and “no pain no gain.”

    I live in one of the lucky neighborhoods that is walkable, has sidewalks, the store and other amenities are within sight from my front door, etc. We even have a park across the street with a lovely wooded path for walking and biking. I had a neigbor who was very into “fitness” and “exercise.” She drove to the store across the street, and never set foot on the sidewalk. But she had at least $2000 worth of “exercise machines” in her living room, which was alas positioned right above mine so I got to hear her “working out” every night. Blah.

  60. The problem here is language, and it’s a big one because things that ought to have perfectly simple meanings have become cyphers and euphemisms for other things in society as a whole.

    For instance, those who claim to set great store by BMI often use the words “fat”, “overweight” and “obese” interchangeably, even though, technically and going by the system they put their unerring faith in, they don’t mean the same thing at all. “Fat” as we all know to our cost, is so bound up with an endless catalogue of ugly human failings it is universally used and interpreted as an insult. Meanwhile, one person’s definition of “fat” might be very much fatter than another’s.

    “Healthy” commonly equates to actively athletic rather than not sick. In the UK the word “fit” is used to convey sexual attractiveness. (Admittedly it could simply mean, fit to be jumped on and royally ravished by the admirer in question – but does it? In the current climate it probably means in possession of a socially acceptable and/or gym-honed body, and therefore sexually desirable). “Healthy lifestyle” generally translates to diet and/or go to the gym, while “taking personal responsibility” can mean, diet and/or go to the gym; publicly berate your body for its (real or imagined) fat more times a day than a Muslim faces Mecca; publicly berate yourself for eating “bad” foods and praise yourself for not caving into your desire for them – though I find it usually means an amalgamation of all three. Neutral descriptors and activities suddenly become fraught with moral meaning.

    I don’t really know where I’m headed with this. It’s been a long working day for me but it’s something that’s been on my mind a lot since the Monica Grenfell and Ruth Fowler pieces.

  61. It’s amazing the way language mutates from neutral to loaded in the course of, what, it took about five years?

    Too bad our posts crossed in the ether. I believe that’s exactly what I was trying to say, phledge.

  62. Sarah who works in a public health department, please email me off list! (marina at bigmoves dot org)

    I am doing research on the script for my fall 2008 musical, Hot Buffet, and actually a public health department makes a strong appearance in the play. I can’t think of anything right off the top of my head that I need consulting on, but if I do, at least I’ll know someone I can ask. That’s YOU! Please?

  63. Hmmm. I have no problem with the phrase “healthy lifestyle”–to me that indicates my current lifestyle. I work out most days of the week. I go rock climbing, I go for bike rides. I have a lifestyle that makes my (incredibly skinny) boyfriend exhausted just thinking about it, and I am in the “overweight” category and probably always will be. I am active because I enjoy the way I look and feel when I work out, I know that I’ll never be skinny. It doesn’t seem loaded to me. Most of the people around me are impressed by how much activity I get.

  64. My boyfriends’ sister recently started seeing a nutritionist/dietician and during the holidays was literally interchanging “Lifestyle change” for “diet”

    as in:
    “I’m going to start my ‘lifestyle change’ after Christmas”

    or:
    “I don’t think that this roast beef/cookie/piece of pie is part of my ‘lifestyle change'”

    Overall my boyfriend’s family is not very into dieting and body issues, his mother is naturally slim but not very vain and doesn’t really obsess about her appearance, he and his father both have a bit of a belly and don’t really care. His sister is adopted and I think the fact that her body (which shares no genes with theirs) is so different really bothers her, plus she’s in college and she’s exceptionally impressionable for her age (a sweet girl, but really kind of a sheep), so I worry about her self image, but I don’t really think there’s anything I can do, her brother (my boyfriend) is several years older than her and takes a very paternal & (IMO) patronizing tone with her so I would never want to come across as lecturing her like he does.

    ANYWAYS, that was a long way of saying “OMG HEALTHY LIFESTYLE: You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means”

  65. hmmm, that should be *boyfriend’s* sister… I am not dating a pair of brothers.

    Also please do excuse the longest run on sentence of the year. Can I have a prize?

  66. Phrases I hate?

    “I really *shouldn’t*…”
    “This doesn’t have any calories, right?”

    Both followed by nervous laughter.

  67. “OMG HEALTHY LIFESTYLE: You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    Princess Bride references, FTW. I don’t think I’ll be able to hear anyone else use the “HEALTHY LIFESTYLE” phrase without envisioning them soon thereafter croaking over full ded by iocaine poisoning. Ha!

  68. Yeah, but christina, in some ways that is exactly why I do have a problem with the term “healthy lifestyle.” I think you can be healthy without being quite as healthy as you are (like healthy enough that just thinking about your lifestyle exhausts your thin boyfriend). I’m not saying this describes you, but I think a lot of times we as fat people set the bar very high for ourselves. Most thin people would be doing pretty well if they took a half-hour walk 3 times a week; I know that is considered a rather puny “goal,” but in actual fact people are so busy that one rarely has time between job(s), kids, and home. So it is certainly not that I consider your lifestyle “unhealthy” (far from it!) but that I think others’ less demanding lifestyles could also be quite fairly described as “healthy.” So maybe my problem with it is that we all set the bar differently and the unfortunate effect is that many of us never feel “good enough” in terms of healthy lifestyle. I don’t think it has to be a loaded term, but I think these days, unfortunately, it is.

    I think this is not just feeling inadequate on my part, like it might partially be when we are talking about caloric intake (ahem) because I too have a pretty active lifestyle. I run usually 4x per week and strength train 1-3x. Of course I have the access and the leisure time and all that good stuff Meowser mentioned, so I can do those things. And it is really that fact that makes me look at my lifestyle and go, wow, this is sometimes hard enough for me to fit in now, I can see it becoming darn near impossible if I had a few kids or had to get a second job or move to a less-safe neighborhood. (I should admit that I don’t even have one job right now, actually, but I am thinking more of how I felt when I was working sort-of long hours with an hour-and-a-half total commute.)

    And the “anything other than the hamster wheel is not exercise” is total bullshit. I remember again in the Dan Savage thread that a poster (I think I remember who it was but not 100% sure so I won’t name names) remarked that her lifestyle was plenty active, she did housework, gardening, ran around after grandkids, etc. And people sneered at this poster going “THIS is why we have an OBESITY EPIDEMIC, people have no idea what REAL EXERCISE is anymore.” Well, folks, even fucking Weight Watchers allows you additional points per day if you are moderately active in your job–such as a retail worker or a HOUSEWIFE, self-righteous DS fans–so just maybe there is something to this crazy logic that activity, especially strenuous activity, in your job actually “counts” for overall strength and endurance. (I can tell you that after a full day in my previous jobs of either opening heavy manholes or wading through streams, I was utterly beat and usually didn’t even consider hitting the gym. I am satisfied that I got my “workout” on those days.)

    But then these asshats would have to consider that a fat stay-at-home mom (to say nothing of the strenuous stagehand job T-M described) might be–though I hate to put it this way, but this is how the trolls would think about it–burning a similar amount of calories through a full day of housework, kids’ activities, etc. as they are by sitting on their sanctimonious asses in front of a computer all day, then spending a joyless 30 minutes on the treadmill, and it just wouldn’t be fair if they had to consider a fat person on a moral par with themselves. So we can’t have that.

  69. I’m not so much annoyed with these phrases as I am annoyed with all the crap that’s being marketed with less sugar or less fat or less calories. I was -pissed- when I took my freaking 5 year old son shopping for his school lunch this weekend.

    We had to buy fruit snacks for his class, for his lunch and also some Capri Suns for his lunch. I asked him what flavor he wanted and he picked one and put it in our buggy. I asked him if he was sure that was what he wanted, trying to make sure he knew what flavor he was getting and he said ‘yeah, this kind has 25 less sugar in it.’

    >.<

    I asked why he wanted 25 less sugar and he said it was important because it made it better. I stopped right there, in the middle of the grocery store, and told him that just because they put less sugar in something didn’t mean it was better because that meant they had to put something unnatural in it to make it still taste good and sometimes it’s better to have things with full natural sugar than imitation crap.

  70. Peeps, like Circus Peanuts, are a dish best served stale.

    In fact, there are times when stale Peeps taste better than thin feels.

  71. T-M, happy birthday!

    To me, it seems to reflect the inability of this society to admit that not everything is under our control. That it doesn’t matter how proactive (another silly word) or responsible we are, shit happens. That scares the bejeezus out of some people, the whole unthinkable “it could happen to me even though I’m doing everything right”. So instead of dealing with that fear, they turn it around so “well, for it to happen to them they must be doing something wrong, how irresponsible of them”, and thus we end up here.

    Ding ding ding! TropicalChrome wins the Nailing It Award of the day. Prize: stale Peeps.

    Probably because of my adolescence in NC, for me the word “lifestyle” is inextricably linked to “homosexual,” as in WARNING PARENTS: YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER IS PROMOTING THE HOMOSEXUAL LIFESTYLE IN THE CLASSROOM (translation for the sane: Your child’s teacher has attended a safe space workshop). So it doubly enrages me when it’s applied to fat, because it’s from the same extreme holier-than-thou mindset, where if God made you gay/fat, well, that means you’re cursed and you should repent instead of going around FLAUNTING your LIFESTYLE. Think of the children!

  72. My personal most hated is:

    “If I can do it, anyone can!”

    And I hate it not just in reference to weight loss, but when it’s used about anything! What the hell does it infer? That if you can’t do “X”… you must be a loser of the highest magnitude. Or you’re just not trying hard enough.

    Just because I or you or the guy down the street can do something… does not mean everyone can.

  73. I suppose this is slightly OT, but the thing that’s really getting my goat at the moment is advertising that perpetuates a culture of fear: of getting fat, of kids getting fat, of not living a ‘healthy lifestyle’. Not just the diet industry ads, either; ads like those that target parents and try to scare them into thinking that their kids might not be ‘healthy’ enough, or which use ‘statistics’ to convince you to buy the ‘healthier’ alternative.
    One example that jumps to mind is a kids’ yoghurt that’s being marketed with added vitamins and minerals (omega-3s, etc) ‘so kids get the nutrients they need’. Yeah, and if kids are eating a wide variety of foods anyway, they’ll get those nutrients. Scaring parents into thinking they’re not doing a good enough job just to sell an unnecessary foodstuff – way to make the world a better place, nameless worldwide corporation.
    Okay, I’m ranting here, but I’ve just listened to a co-worker complain that there was sugar in her coffee, and ‘people who add one teaspoon of sugar to their coffee gain 5 kilos a year’. That line comes directly from an ad for an artificial sweetner, so my blood boiled. I restrained myself from punching her in the face for being gullible and simply said, ‘Coworker, they’re trying to sell you something, don’t believe everything they tell you’.
    Oh, and as for those simpering idiots who think they’re being ‘bad’ for eating cake or chocolate or whatever, I am *thisclose* to making ‘Just fuck right off’ my standard reply.
    Phew, now I feel better.

  74. Oh and BTW… when someone starts harping on anything where “lifestyle” is part of the sentence, I always reply:

    I don’t have a lifestyle… I have a life.

  75. I’m getting tired of “wellness,” which is being thrown around left and right these days. Look, just come right out and say it. Stop being so clever. Just say your “wellness policies” are code words for weight loss through low-calorie starvation dieting and strenuous exercise. You ain’t fooling this fattie.

    I’ll give you my definition of wellness. Being able to eat until I’m full and not stressing over every little thing I put in my mouth.

  76. advertising that perpetuates a culture of fear

    I’m annoyed by that advertising as well, but it’s not new. My hobby in school was reading all the 1930s-1950s “women’s magazines” in the basement of the library. Exact same copy on the food ads as today, with respect to vitamins and nutrients–if you don’t buy our product, your kid won’t get all the essential nutrients and the neighbors will know you don’t love your kid. The ones for cleaners and soaps weren’t much different–if you don’t buy our product, your child will die from germs and the neighbors will know you don’t love your kid.

    The only real difference is in the 1930s, the ads lectured about the dangers of “underweight” instead of the dangers of fat. I remember one particular oatmeal ad touting that oatmeal gave you the most “calories per dime” so the mother on a budget should choose it for their children’s breakfast instead of eggs or meats. Now, if you feed your child eggs or meats or even toast with peanut butter instead of our foul-tasting whole-grain no-sugar thing, your kid will get fat and the neighbors will know you don’t love your kid.

    Solutions, I have none. Historical perspective, out the wazoo.

  77. HeatherRadish, I know it isn’t new – gosh, I’m almost nostalgic for some of those ads.

    It’s just something that’s annoying me today. Ask me tomorrow, and it’ll be something entirely different. People whose umbrellas poke me on the train, perhaps.

  78. I am going to go with the “Good” versus “Bad” dichotomy as my most loathed phrases. You know – the ones that assign a kind of ethical value to food choice, with salad being ‘good’, and chocolate being ‘bad’, as if choosing what to fuel my body with is on par with choosing whether to kiss a puppy (good) or kick a puppy (bad).

    I fully expect that if my coworker walked into my office and I was holding a chainsaw covered in fresh human offal in one hand, and an apple with a bite out of it in the other, she would coo, “Ohhhhhhhhhhh you’re being so GOOOOOOOD” to me. Because I am eating an apple, and not candy.

  79. “The Curse.”

    That’s my red-alert phrase. My mother never talked about menstruation. Never about her period. Just “The Curse.”

    I hated that phrase. My mom had a hysterectomy, and doesn’t use the term any more. She just says “They should just go ahead and take your equipment out when you’re done with it.”

    And anyway, Kate is right about “healthy lifestyle” and “personal responsibility.” Women and people who aren’t white must be responsible for all of their behaviors. Oh, and the behavior of white men as well.

    White men are never responsible for anything but their own success. When white guys succeed, they did it all themselves.

  80. T-M, happy birthday!

    Thank you!

    And as for the rest of what you said – Amen. I associate the word “lifestyle” with homosexual as well, and have all the same complaints. That word sets of an instant warning signal in my brain.

  81. OMG, every time I hear “healthy lifestyle” or “lifestyle changes” it makes me want to puke. I don’t have TV, so I hear it on the news radio that I listen to. News radio has horrid dieting ads al the time, and all of them are now using the “healthy lifestyle” thing. Ugh. The other horrid one here in California is the Kaiser Permanente ads. *rollofeyes* (They had an ad for a woman getting bariatric surgery where she squees about going from a size 24 to a size 10! Funny enough, the ad seemed to disappear after a couple of weeks.)

  82. Doesn’t the term “personal” mean that I make the decisions about my life? In other words, “personal responsibility” means that I decide what is responsible or not – FOR ME. Therefore, anybody who spits this term out at me need to STFU.

    PERSONal – ONE PERSON!

  83. The issue of “personal responsibility” is also the birthplace of the theories of the women’s movement. While “the personal is political” is so often mis-used that I hate to even start, this is *exactly* what it DOES mean — that things that are assumed to be a personal issue (domestic labor, sexual habits, my weight) is actually part of a larger political issue (the sexual division of labor, cultural ideas about men and women’s bodies and desires, fat discrimination). That the individual level actually happens in a larger social/political/economic/cultural context. “Personal responsibility” is the rallying cry for those who don’t want you and others like you to discover that you’re being screwed.

    My little academic brain is literally crawling to get out with visions of capitalism and neo-liberalism that want to be put to analytical use on this issue, but I’m trying to put it to bed.

  84. Sarah — I also work for a public health department and it sounds eerily the same. Not that I think we work for the same public health department, but that’s the same language that’s used ’round here.

    I think that some of the things that may be done in the name of environmental change aren’t inherently bad, I just don’t think they will have an impact on how fat people are or aren’t. I’m all for more walking paths, bike lanes, farmer’s markets, making sure more people can buy fruits and vegetables and other fresh foods at affordable prices.
    What will happen though, when all of these changes are in place and there’s no corresponding reduction in weight in the population? I think it will be back to blaming the fat people and emphasizing “personal responsibility.”

  85. Absolutely right, Amandaw (way up thread). As a disabled person, I’ve encountered quite a few ostensibly well meaning people who use healthy lifestyle and/or personal responsibility as a bludgeon. For instance, I have a class with an older woman who I guess works at a wellness clinic. A couple of days ago I was minding my own business during a break when she struck up a conversation with me. Wasn’t long before she started earnestly telling me how “even people like me” (retch) can be healthy, and should try to do what exercises we can manage because being a healthy weight makes everyone happier! I’m an electric wheelchair user, with serious life long health problems. I tried politely telling her that considering the limited supply of energy I have on any given day, all of it is reserved for surviving the 5 hours a day I spend at school and if I’m lucky, personal grooming. She then started talking to me about water aerobics. Finally just told her firmly I only discuss my health with my doctors. This offended her and she said a few boring things about just wanting to help. What I don’t get is, does she really honestly think she’s the first person I’ve ever encountered who’s had the same ideas? I mean, really?
    You know, in the grand old scheme of things: being fat is way down on the list of things I would change about myself if I could, as are my physical impairments. Pointless to waste the breath explaining such a concept to someone like her.

    /end of my first long rambling comment, and hi to everyone!

  86. ‘Lifestyle and lifestyle choice’ I detest, I don’t have a lifestyle, everyone was a person, a citizen, WHO HAD A LIFE and an MO! Now, only people of a certain rank are deemed worthy of having a life, which they mark and memorialise even the most trivial aspects of, endlessly.

    But someone’s titanic struggle with their mind and body is contemptously labelled a ‘lifestyle’. Not something of humanity, that could teach us something new about what it is to be human, how we function, no only certain people and their experiences are deemed worthy of that, the rest are just bystanders waiting for these worthies to catch on, when they do, they will lecture us about it, because only when they notice it, does it exist, only they are the legitimate conduits for reality.

  87. Hi, folks. I’m the one who wrote the lifestyle piece for the KC Star. OT, what I’m seeing here that really interests me is that there seem to be a lot of theatre people. Maybe I should have known that already, but I didn’t. (I wander around this site a lot, but I consider my SA/FA home to be BFB.) I am trying to establish myself as a writer, and I am in final drafts (I hope!) of what could be described as an FA play (I would describe it as such). I need readings or workshops to hear my dialog. If you have connections in the theatre world, especially the midwest, could you email me at sappyarwood at att dot net? Thanks.

  88. 1-2 pounds per week.

    I have one friend who’s on a diet for her holiday and taking this as her benchmark, and one friend who’s now completely onboard with the concept of eating as a morally neutral act and is passing on the message to others. I was with both of them within the space of a couple of hours yesterday and the diet-crazy-talk whiplash was breathtaking.

    Also, Kate, I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but I thought you might like it: You Don’t Have to be Pretty. “Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked female'”, indeed.

  89. Karen said: “Personal responsibility” is the rallying cry for those who don’t want you and others like you to discover that you’re being screwed.

    That is one of the best capsule definitions I have ever seen.

  90. Caitlin, “You Don’t Have to be Pretty” is a total classic — completely awesome. Shapelings, if you haven’t read it yet, follow that link!

  91. “Oh, everyone ____.” (Struggles with their weight, feels a little crampy/headachey/cranky, etc.)

    I’m peeved by this one in particular because the closest thing I got to a diagnosis for twenty years was “oh, everyone feels that way sometimes.” O RLY? Hey everyone, did you know you live at a constant six on the pain scale and think of little other than why your pills aren’t working and/or whether puking on the shoes of people who offend you would be totally worth it? I didn’t.

    Oh, and I do not “struggle” with my weight. My weight and I get along just fine. I eat; my body does things. Simple.

  92. What I don’t get is, does she really honestly think she’s the first person I’ve ever encountered who’s had the same ideas? I mean, really?

    AnnE — She likely didn’t think about it at all. I’m severely arthritic, myself, and I’ve concluded that there are just some folks who cannot contain their urges to offer unsolicited and unwanted commentary and advice. There’s considerable overlap, as well, with the folks who think we should devote our lives in quest of the One True Cure, since, after all, how could we possibly have anything better to do?

    I suspect there’s also overlap with the ones who seem to think that, because we’re fat, we must have oodles of spare time — time in which we’ve presumably been laying about — in which to exercise, and by gum, if only we did, we’d be slim!

    A pox on all of them.

  93. Dani- I’ve noticed a similar thing when talking to people about depression. Yeah, everyone has days when they feel down. Totally not the same thing as having a serious mental illness.

  94. Has “self-respect” been brought up yet? As in, “I don’t date overweight women/men because they clearly have none.”

    And this is probably my own family stuff I’m dealing with, but if my mom never mentions the word “carbs” again, I’ll be so happy. Or says (to anyone, not just me), “Have some, it’s made with Splenda.”

  95. Mochi Hada: “And this is probably my own family stuff I’m dealing with, but if my mom never mentions the word “carbs” again, I’ll be so happy. Or says (to anyone, not just me), “Have some, it’s made with Splenda.””

    GAAAAAAH! I’ve been spending time with my parents lately, whom I love dearly, but whom drive me absolutely insane with the diet and weight loss talk. Hello, you’re both almost 60 and you’re both in near-perfect health! You eat balanced, mostly home-cooked diets, you exercise moderately and enjoy it, you take appropriate meds for genetic conditions (hypertension and high cholesterol). You both look at least 10 years younger than your ages. Neither of you need to lose weight. It’s fine that you don’t wear the same clothing sizes that you did when you were 30. If you lost weight, you would look gaunt, your facial skin would sag (thus causing wrinkles that you don’t currently have), and you’d probably feel crappy from the hunger headaches.

    And no, you don’t need to replace all your sugar with Splenda! Put it in your coffee if you want, but please stop baking with it because Mom, you’re a good baker, and I can’t stand Splenda so now I can’t eat your goodies. They burn the back of my throat and leave a bad aftertaste in my mouth. :(

  96. have some, its made with Splenda

    I’m right there with you. My last visit home, mom was disappointed that girl guides hadn’t acted quickly to remove trans fats from their cookies.

    “Mom, what is a trans fat?”
    .

    She doesn’t know what it is, but she’s pretty sure its BAAAAAAAAAD!

    (Which is not to say that I’m in favour of trans fats, just in favour of knowing what you’re objecting to before you get to strenuously objecting).

  97. “Just don’t fucking make me your mommy ”

    OMG Twistie – this is gonna SO be my new motto!
    jen

  98. So, hoorah for “making the healthy choice the easy choice,” except replace “easy” with possible. And then don’t get in my shit when I still decide to not eat your fresh produce or drink your Whole Foods milk or run on the trails you’ve paved through safe, clean, easily-accessible parks. If you give me a choice and then demonize me for picking A instead of B, again, not much of a choice, is it? Gah.

    What you said, phledge. Real choice is one thing, but I hate the use of the term ‘healthy choice’ when what they mean is ‘Eat this or die horribly’. And I especially hate those ‘how-to-substitute-lower-calorie-food-for-the-crap-you-eat’ articles that say ‘Instead of a donut, choose a toasted teacake’ or similar. If you’re letting a magazine article tell you what to eat (or not eat) it is by definition not your choice, so why pretend?

    As for ‘lifestyle’, I’ve hated the use of that term ever since I had it used at me by a guy from the Office of National Statistics (our government department that looks after births, marriages and deaths) explaining that the laws on marriage in the UK didn’t ‘cater for alternative lifestyles’ (meaning, in this case, our pagan religion). Most of the times I’ve heard it used have been condemnatory (of diet, sexual habits, children or lack thereof, whatever) in some way. A person’s life is important, but the ‘style’ on the end often has the effect of trivialising whatever part of it the user dislikes.

  99. In regards to the “I’m so baaaaad” phrases that seem to be tossed around quite often whenever anyone brings in snacks or the ‘ladies’ go out to lunch, I always blandly retort that “it doesn’t count on days ending in y/when you’re out with friends/some similar inane thing that happens constantly.” It might not be the best response, but it seems to stop the diet talk around me.

    There is a big Weight Watchers movement in my office, but I don’t think they had enough participants this time around, which is well and good with me. I get really tired of hearing over half of my female coworkers obsess about their points/carolies/whatever.

  100. “It doesn’t count on days that end in Y” and the like don’t work for me, because the implication is “it’s bad, but you’re immune or at least forgiven.” I like to steal one from the husband of someone on fatshionista: “It’s cake [or whatever], it can’t form moral intentions.”

    And I’ve always fantasized about responding to “that’s so bad!” with “yes, this cake is a murderer, which is why I’m going to punish it by eating it.”

  101. fillyjonk, go for it! It reminds of when I was once at an aquarium with a Japanese friend. We saw this really hideous-looking fish swimming around in the tank. Being a Japanese sashimii freak, my friend said, “We have to eliminate this ugly fish by eating it.”

  102. AnnE, Eurcitta, I think the urge some people have to tell you about things you can do for your health is the same urge felt by someone who has just discovered FA/HAES and now wants to share/proselytize. It’s entirely possible, AnnE, that the woman who spoke to you honestly DID think she was the first person to tell you that stuff. If she worked at a wellness clinic, she probably met lots of people who actually hadn’t ever heard that stuff. Plus, she was probably prone to epiphanies (what else would lead her to work at a wellness clininc?).

    Off-topic, you know who is one of the HAES ‘sister’hood? My dad! I was talking about some sort of thing related to how silly the BMI is, and related stuff, and he says “Oh, Health at Every Size!” See, he’s one of those nice doctors who keeps up on things. Plus, he works in pain management, so sees a lot of bigger people.

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  105. Bristol Myers Squibb, the big drug company, has a new slogan for a bunch of their drugs, “Your will. Our Medicine. Together we will prevail.”

    The first time I saw this was in a marketing class and it was touted as a great campaign. It made me so mad I could barely breathe. Implicit in this idea is that if you don’t prevail, it’s because your will wasn’t strong enough. Instead of the fact that the medicine barely works.

    This is a great example of making everything in the world “personal responsibility”. It’s all an enormous scam to transfer the responsibility of not harming us onto our shoulders, making us responsible for not being harmed.

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  107. Responding to Risha waaaaaaay up there. I got pregnant when I was 200+ pounds and my doctor who was the most wonderful ob/gyn in the whole world (why did he have to retire?! why?!) said “hey you’re a little big for your weeks in.” so I said “You sure it’s not the fat?” and he said “Nope. Go have an ultra-sound and we’ll have a look.”

    Couple of weeks later on my birthday my ultrasound appointment happens and sure enough there were twins in there. That made my whole pregnancy really! Why did he have to retire? Waaah.

    But the real point is, when I got pregnant barely a week passed before the little buggers attached up and I was barfing morning, noon and night.

    I lost over 40 pounds being pregnant without doing a thing different, so don’t listen to the ‘lose weight’ crew. :P

    ALSO while we’re on about pregnancy, the ultrasound doctor who was NOT nice at all was absolutely convinced I was going to be a preggo-diabetic because I was fat. I had to take that test 4 times I think near the end and never did I go over the line, so that’s a big BAH HUMBUG too. The stuff they make you drink for that test is so yucky…. Bleh.

    My girls have grown up just fine, into their teens now, and I am still a fatty (because of course once I stopped barfing I went right back to the pre-weight)! One of my daughters is rather chubby and the other is stick thin and of course the chubby one gets crap for being fat, and the thin one has people calling her anorexic although she’s not by any means a skeleton. :| You just can win either way!

  108. I hate both terms. Yep, the coded message is there, and they point towards total control over ourselves and our situations, which is seriously not the way it is.

    Oh, and things like this don’t help: http://www.theage.com.au/news/letters/obesity-an-emergency-that-must-be-tackled/2008/04/17/1208025380115.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1

    Every couple of *^&%ing days something like this comes up. It’s enough to make you weep.

    So fatties are morally responsible for the destruction of the economy and the planet. There are so many degrees of wrong in that…

    *headdesks*

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