An anthropologist on Mars

Yesterday at lunch, the subject of the “obesity epidemic” panic came up briefly. I scoffed a little, and a coworker said “you know, it’s funny. On the one hand, medically, we have all these doctors talking about health. On the other hand, socially, people are telling you to love yourself. Surely there’s a happy medium.”

I said “it’s called Health At Every Size,” and launched into a little backstory about the physical and psychological harm of dieting to make the point that hysteria, even from doctors, doesn’t necessarily constitute sound medical advice. But what I should have said was this: “That’s only weird if you think that loving yourself and taking care of yourself are mutually exclusive.” It’s only in the context of a diet-obsessed, Puritan culture that self-love seems antithetical to public and personal health.

Anyone who’s read fatosphere blogs for any length of time will tell you that we are huge proponents of nutritious eating and regular movement, though for their own sake rather than for weight loss. Even the people who aren’t all-HAES-all-the-time are interested in encouraging people to normalize their relationship with food — to stop seeing it as a source of sin or fear or love or comfort, not to turn around and make gluttony the main focus of our lives. But we’re constantly being reviled — or at least treated with suspicion — for pimping overindulgence and inactivity. Why? Because we advocate treating yourself well, and that gets people’s Puritan hackles up. Treating yourself well — doesn’t that mean engaging in constant sinnery? Things that are good for you are supposed to feel like constant punishment, so if you’re not punishing yourself, how can you ever do yourself good?

Since I’m steeped in the size-positive movement most of the time, looking outside it sometimes makes me feel, as Temple Grandin put it, like an anthropologist on Mars. I see twists of logic like this one and think “who are these people, who think that health is a reward you get for punishing yourself sufficiently? Who are these people, who can’t see how you could possibly treat your body well if you liked yourself?” When I hear someone complimented for weight loss: “Who are these people, who think that the most valuable thing your body can be is smaller?” When children’s wellness campaigns focus on weight loss and invoke the specter of childhood obesity: “Who are these people, who can’t see the good in having active, nourished children if those children aren’t also thin?” I’m not even talking about trolls, people who think that if they don’t want to fuck you, you must be a morally reprehensible subhuman. I’m talking about regular people who read the latest medical news uncritically, and form their opinions accordingly, with thinness at the tippy-top of the pile of public goods. Who ARE these people?

Well, they’re our friends and coworkers and parents, and sometimes us, so it behooves us to remember that these attitudes don’t come out of a vacuum. As with other issues that I consider no-brainers, like comprehensive sex ed, we’re struggling here against decades or more of cultural fixations and prejudices, many of them carrying the kind of religious undertones that absolutely decimate logic. It ties in with fear of sex: enjoyment is sinful, and anything that gives pleasure (including food and activity) must be suspect if undertaken for its own sake. It ties in with racism and classism: the poor and the non-white must be willfully ignorant and willfully unhealthy. It ties in with ablism: illness and disability must be somehow deserved, or we’d have to face up to the frightening fact that they can happen to anyone. It ties in with misogyny: a woman’s highest goal is to disappear. It’s fear of the other, upon whom we project all our insecurities and insularities. And it’s a cornerstone of our current society.

If we’re hoping to — slowly, painstakingly — help birth a more enlightened society, we have to realize how deeply these attitudes run in our current one. Fatphobia is something of a fad right now, but only because it’s the latest in a long line of scapegoats; it may be trendy, but it comes from a deep-seated place. And as we try to tease it out, we have to recognize that its roots — xenophobia, parochialism, moralism, fear of the unknown — will try to anchor it. That’s why fat activism has to consciously undertake intersectionality. We’re not going to get anywhere just chipping away at fatphobia from above, when all the real action is under the surface. When you encounter anti-fat attitudes, think not only about how they manifest, but where they come from. We need to be ready to get at them from the root.

And take care of yourself because you love yourself. In case we haven’t made that clear.

87 thoughts on “An anthropologist on Mars

  1. “who are these people, who think that health is a reward you get for punishing yourself sufficiently?

    The entire post is beautifully written, thought-out and over-all very good to read. This line, though, is for me the best to sum it all up. Who indeed? When everything around you and (after enough time IN you) screams for punishing yourself in all sorts of ways in order to exist; let alone ENJOY living, these are the kinds of people we all become.

    Well you’ve certainly worded it all better than I can for now but in short, thank you! You’ve given me some interesting other bits and angles to add into my growing fat awareness. :)

  2. It’s only in the context of a diet-obsessed, Puritan culture that self-love seems antithetical to public and personal health.

    Dude, yes.

    This post is so perfect, I have nothing else to add.

  3. Yeah. To all of it. It explains a lot, doesn’t it, why so many people (of ALL sizes) resent fatties who eat what they want and exercise or not for the joy of it, and aren’t keeping a round-the-clock running tally of the whole thing at all times in order to become smaller and smaller and smaller? How DARE we simply enjoy ourselves and not worry ourselves to death about it all? And how do these so-called “liberal progressive” types NOT see the connection with how right-wingers view sex?

  4. This reminds me of one of my aunts telling me that it didn’t count when my brother and I regularly walked the mile and a half to campus (and the same back) because we weren’t doing it on purpose. Because we weren’t doing it for fitness (in my thin brother’s case) or weight loss (in mine). It didn’t count as exercise because we enjoyed it, or because we did it because we don’t drive. Or something. I still don’t understand it, really.

  5. So, FJ, in the face of this awesomeness –

    We’re not going to get anywhere just chipping away at fatphobia from above, when all the real action is under the surface. When you encounter anti-fat attitudes, think not only about how they manifest, but where they come from. We need to be ready to get at them from the root.

    – what made you decide not to say this –

    “That’s only weird if you think that loving yourself and taking care of yourself are mutually exclusive.” It’s only in the context of a diet-obsessed, Puritan culture that self-love seems antithetical to public and personal health.”

    and just wait for a response?

    ‘Cause that seems so nail-hammer-bang to me.

  6. Mercy, I’ve also heard that exercise that is incorporated in work like being a baggage handler or something is also not counted in a lot of studies. So the baggage handler that moves 10,000 pounds a day and goes home to sit and rest would be checked off as “inactive”!

  7. Fillyjonk, this is perfect. Great job.

    And I very much hear what you’re saying about the anthropologist on Mars. I’m so used to being around (because I’ve conciously sought out) people who’re queer-friendly and size-positive and feminist and fannish that when someone says something that flies in the face of all of that and is just obviously wrong (“I don’t think gays should be allowed to adopt children”/ “Obesity is so digusting”/ “Feminism’s over now — we’re equal already”/ “I don’t understand these weirdos who sit around talking about tv shows on the internet. It’s so sad.”) I just…don’t know what to make of that. Or even where to start. It’s a very ::headtilt:: situation.

    Which does leave me somewhat unarmed for day to day life/combat, but also makes me a much happier person, because I don’t have to deal that hatred/ignorance most of the time. And given a few minutes I can usually work up enough rage to have a good go at it. ;)

  8. Very well said Fillyjonk, I might email this to my well-meaning but not very well-informed friend who occaisionally says bogglers like “Well we should all eat less and move more” *sigh*

  9. Mostly, I think, related: I’m currently having to read a book for a class, in which the author is all “Conquer your fear!” and keeps bringing up chronic and terminal illnesses as personal failures — because if you get cancer, it’s because you’ve let yourself go, dontcha know.

    She also talks about taking any negative event in one’s life as an opportunity for learning, and that framing of illness makes sense to me, but the whole “You’re obviously choosing to get cancer if you don’t eat right” (where “right” is, of course, never really defined) is making me want to throw the book across the room.

  10. I should have finished my thought — this post reminded me of the book I’m reading just because I’m having that same, “Wait, WHAT?” reaction every few pages.

  11. Dammit, that was supposed to start with a

    ::standing ovation::

    but I put it in triangle brackets and disappeared it.

  12. who occaisionally says bogglers like “Well we should all eat less and move more”

    Now that’s just mathematically absurd. It’s like the whole “losing 10% of your body weight lowers your risk of blah blah!” nonsense. Okay… and then I’m still fat, so do I have to lose another 10%? And another 10%? Do I get to stop when I’m “normal” or will I still be better off if I lose 10%? And so on.

    We can’t ALL eat less and move more, even if it were true that we should. Maybe we should all eat WELL and move WELL, hm (for whatever value of “well”)? Maybe it’s not really about deprivation and punishment?

  13. The problem is, body size and health have become a moral issue, and it shouldn’t! You’re not only supposed to be slender and healthy for yourself, but for the whole world. If you’re not, you’re a public failure.

    Sorry, I won’t view myself that way and if people don’t like it, THEY have the problem, not me.

  14. Maybe it’s not really about deprivation and punishment?

    STOP WITH THE CRAZY TALK. YOU’RE SCARING THE CHILDREN.

  15. I know when she said I was like “Really? ALL? You’re making that statement about 100% of the population? Because that’s freaking absurd” But I said it with a smile so I’m not sure if she took me seriously.

  16. *applause*

    This post freakin’ RAWKS. If it were a cake, it would be my favourite cake ever. And I would totally eat a big delicious slice (and then share it with my friends).

  17. Oh, this is so, so good. Thank you, FJ.

    I’ve also heard that exercise that is incorporated in work like being a baggage handler or something is also not counted in a lot of studies.

    Which is where the class issues come in! If you don’t exercise in your free time (what free time?) it doesn’t count. Because that totally makes sense.

  18. Mercy, I had a similar thing happen to me a few years ago from “well-meaning ‘friends'”. I’d recently moved to the UK and was walking 6 miles a day just getting my kids to and from school (I went there and back [1 mile each way] 3 times a day because my youngest was in nursery and would get out at lunch time). I logged onto the weight-loss “support” group that I thought was my lifeline at the time (hoo boy was I deluded!) and lamented the fact that even walking 30+ miles a week wasn’t losing me any weight. They told me I had to do MORE, that 6 miles a day “obviously wasn’t good enough.” WTF? Fuck that shit… I had more important things to do (like cleaning the house, taking care of the children, doing the laundry, cooking) than to spend my ENTIRE DAY doing nothing but exercise, just in the quest to become thin.

    FJ, this is an amazing post. Absolutely fucking amazing. I think I’m going to put this on my Affirmations page. You said everything I could possibly come up with on the subject, only you said it way more eloquently than I could ever possibly do. I bow down to the awesomeness that is you. ;-)

  19. I posted something similar to this on my LJ a few months back. I was thinking back to my childhood, steeped in conservative religion, and how everything that was pleasurable was automatically deemed sinful. Suffering is the only way to heaven, and apparently, the more one suffers, the bigger the celestial retirement mansion.

    We are a nation with a Madonna/Whore complex not only about sex, but about food, leisure, money and every other thing that might well be comforting or pleasurable to someone. We overindulge (sin) and then deprive ourselves (penance) in a never-ending cycle of trying to be saintly, but failing in our inherent humanity.

    When our actions have a clear cause-and-effect relationship with someone else’s pain, of course we have a moral obligation to modify our actions. But where do we draw the line? How are we REALLY affecting others with what we do to give ourselves pleasure?

    One of the things bugging me the most about the OMGFAT frenzy these days is how much of it is being couched in environmental terms. I guess they think that pitching diets to us with the Men Won’t Like You or God Won’t Like You rhetoric has failed, so now the newest tack is You’re Killing the Planet. So now, the fact that I enjoy eating, say, artisan cheese means I’m a planet-destroying evil capitalist pig. And the fact that I can’t easily fit in an airplane seat means I shouldn’t fly because my weight is burning extra jet fuel.

    Thin people, of course, are apparently absolved of any environmental responsibility in these scenarios. Those “active lifestyle” folks aren’t criticized for the chemicals that go into making their safety and sports equipment. They’re not criticized for the damage they do to the countryside when they go hiking or biking through it. And they’re certainly not expected to not drive when they need to, even if they must have an SUV with a roof rack to carry all their gear up a mountain.

    Even though they’re getting pleasure from what they do, they’re not criticized for it because the pleasure one gets from, say, windsurfing isn’t the same pleasure one gets from eating a bowl of full-fat ice cream while playing a video game.

    Why are my pleasures sinful while others’ are not?

  20. This is a new favorite post for me, seriously….but I gotta say I was laughing halfway through at “constant sinnery….

    Because all I could think of was:

    GET THEE TO A SINNERY!!!!

  21. I would like to respectfully submit this post for the FA101 file, whatever its up to these days. It’s up there with the Fantasy of Being Thin for its getting to the pointness.
    <3

  22. They told me I had to do MORE, that 6 miles a day “obviously wasn’t good enough.” WTF?

    That’s because it’s NEVER good enough. You’re NEVER exercising enough or depriving yourself enough or thin enough or pretty enough. It’s a moving target, and it’s always moving away.

    Tal, these days it sounds like they’re grasping at *anything* that will keep people on the diet/deprivation/you’re so awful and you always will be unless you give us all your money treadmill (no offense to regular treadmills which I kind of like) because as far as I can tell, lots of people are getting really sick and tired of it. Especially because their miracles cures don’t work.

  23. If it were a cake, it would be my favourite cake ever.

    This may be my favorite ever compliment. Although this:

    It’s up there with the Fantasy of Being Thin for its getting to the pointness.

    comes damn close. You guys rock.

    And check it out — I don’t think I cussed in this post at all! Apparently it CAN be done! Don’t worry, I won’t make a habit of it.

  24. I was pretty young, maybe 14 or 15, when I started to formulate the idea that the problems some people have with fat have Puritan roots. Being fat was a visible indicator that you had “sinned” by “eating too much”. Of course, like almost everyone else, I absorbed this idea; internalized it. Even when I began to realize that I was not any kind of glutton, I still berated myself for eating for pleasure, and for eating “more than I needed”, because obviously that’s why I was fat. Which led to ideas like: I probably eat too much (more than I need!) because I have emotional issues! Maybe because I’m sensitive and I need fat as a buffer against the world! Maybe because I’m afraid of men and unconciously make myself fat to be unattractive to them! Always, always, always, the message was: there’s something wrong with me. Thank you very much, diet books, for fucking up my head all those years! But at the root of it all is fat=eating=pleasure=sin.

    To which I say: Fuck That!

  25. The bias shows itself in the attitudes towards women with eating disorders too. Many people show a subtle (or blatant) awe of anorexic girls who are able to deny themselves food but express unmitigated disgust towards bulimics (of any size) who are not able to restrain their hunger/appetite

  26. And incidentally, if I can keep my theologian hat on for a moment: the kind of batshite theological imagination that gives rise to these disordered understandings of bodies, pleasure, food, sex, creation, etc. … It’s really not got a basis in Christian scripture. I mean, it’s not got a basis in a LOT of things, obviously. But personally, Christian scripture and theology are what I do, and my teaspoon is my theological education, so for what it’s worth — and it may not be worth anything to anyone here, which is fine — this kind of “PLEASURE BAD BAD BAD BODIES BAD!” attitude is not very Christian. Certainly not anywhere close to what we’re given in Christian scripture.

    Come to think of it (since I’ve just been reading about this) even the desert fathers and mothers — the fourth century ascetics who lived in caves and prayed all day and fasted — actually had much more reasonable and even beautiful things to say about food, bodies, and appetites than most contemporary sources of diet advice. One of them – I think Evagrius, but I’m not sure – has this lovely passage where he says something to the effect that, “We all know some people have bigger bodies and some people have smaller bodies, and some people have bigger appetites and some people have smaller appetites.” And in another part he says something like, “There are three points at which it’s fine to stop eating. You can stop when you’re still just a little hungry, or you can stop when you’re not hungry anymore, or you can stop when you’re fully satisfied. You shouldn’t stuff yourself, though, because it can interfere with prayer. Different people will require different amounts of food to be satisfied. However, if you’re doing a hardcore ascetic fast, try not to eat more than a pound of bread and a jug of wine a day.” (EEP! CARBS! Heh.)

    I mean, obviously it’s not all proto–HAES, and it’s certainly not any of it feminist, but it’s still an interesting comparison.

  27. ^^^^

    Yes, I’m having a probably-thread-killing conversation with myself here. I just wanted to add that I realize that Christians have been among the very WORST in terms of promoting this BODIES BAD BAD BAD PLEASURE BAD PUNISHMENT GOOD Martian logic. I just don’t understand what scripture they’re reading.

    I’ll be quiet now. :)

  28. Nerd moment: gluttony is popularly and commonly thought of as the sin of eating too much. As actually defined, though, it’s the sin of putting food before God, or secularly, making it the center of one’s existence, allowing it to be a priority out of proportion to its importance.

    One can be a glutton, therefore, while being thin. nerdgasm!

  29. FJ: Yes yes yes yes. Awesome post. I can’t get over the concept of caring for my body because I like it instead of from a place of self-loathing. It’s like my revelation of the year. I’ve really come to the FA movement in the last six months or so, and it’s astonishing every day to approach the world with a concept of “I’m just fine the way I am,” and see how much the world does not like this conclusion. I thought I knew, from feminism, from GLBTQ activism, from other anti-oppression movements, but the depth of the self-loathing I’m supposed to have stuns me daily.

    In response to Lexy’s friend who says “We should all eat less and move more,” it’s occurred to me that, culturally, “eat less” means “eat a balanced diet.” It comes from some assumption of pre-existing gluttony (similarly, “move more” comes from an assumption of pre-existing inactivity). This is a kind of weird assumption, the more I think about it… where we assume a basic unhealthiness of everyone around us. I’ve seen articles suggesting the same lots of time — “We all need to eat less [fill in the blank “evil” food]!” — assuming that we’re all (not just fat people, but all people) out stuffing our faces with [evil food].

    Also, in response to the theology stuff: Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Seriously. If you want be academically nerdy about this, it’s a must-read.

  30. As actually defined, though, it’s the sin of putting food before God, or secularly, making it the center of one’s existence, allowing it to be a priority out of proportion to its importance.

    Soooo…everyone who derails their otherwise normal social conversations with OMGFAAAAAT discussions is being a glutton? I love it.

  31. Everybody but me has better sense than to care, but I think the monk I was talking about was actually Palamas.

    Cala, YES, awesome, brava!!

  32. Ah, yes.

    In my better moments, when I am engaged in conversation with someone who is worth the time and effort, and something fatphobic comes up, I try to listen to what’s underneath it. Is it that “disappearing woman” thing? Is it fear about being sick or death? Is it distancing from the ostracized other?

    And I am completely on board with calling the focus on weight and dieting idolatry. That focus leads to an unquiet mind that makes it hard to have gratitude. So does self-hatered.
    I love the theological implications!

  33. This post is amazing. Just, 100% love.

    Sometimes I wanna be like, people, life sucks a lot of the time. There are wars, there are natural disasters, there is annoying personal stuff, there is truly horrific personal stuff, there is so much hate. Why would you want to add to the hate? Why would you want to make life harder for yourself like this? Who wins, in the end? Why not spend that time learning to crochet, or taking a sculpture class, or watercoloring without taking a class, or spending time with your loved ones, or seeing a movie, or watching The Daily Show, or playing an instrument, or reading a comic book–doing something out of love?

    Not to say things like eating healthy and exercising can’t be done out of love–in part thanks to this blog I think I’m at a point in my life where for the first time I CAN take up jogging out of a place of love, as a way of giving myself me-time, time to clear my head, time to listen to music, time to enjoy the air, and giving myself a way to enjoy my body for what it does, not what it looks like (this is also in part due to the fact that my job for the past nine months is one of those walking-intensive ones–especially up and down stairs!!–and I personally do find something gratifying in realizing, hey, these stairs used to make me wanna die, and now they just make my heart race a bit and wake me up! cool! I wonder what else I can do?) (unfortunately, my job is also one of those ones that can sort of eat your life, and I do also wanna do things like, see friends, so time is a bit of an issue for me now. ah well).

  34. thanks to this blog I think I’m at a point in my life where for the first time I CAN take up jogging out of a place of love

    This is the thing that always cracks me up. I”d be willing to bet that, percentagewise, the fatosphere has made a lot more lifelong exercise converts than shaming ever did.

  35. Everybody but me has better sense than to care, but I think the monk I was talking about was actually Palamas.

    I love you a little bit for that.

    I”d be willing to bet that, percentagewise, the fatosphere has made a lot more lifelong exercise converts than shaming ever did.

    No kidding! Where’s the study on the long term health effects of body acceptance v. body shame?

  36. you are truly a star, fillyjonk. i’m bookmarking this on my folder called “fat”. only very special things go in there. and this is so very special. :)

  37. This is the thing that always cracks me up. I”d be willing to bet that, percentagewise, the fatosphere has made a lot more lifelong exercise converts than shaming ever did.

    I took up yoga because of this site… I always was interested in it, but I never thought a fatty was allowed to do something so bendy. I joined up with Sally Pugh’s yoga for large women’s class in Berkeley and so far even though I’m a total newb with bad knees and difficulty getting up off the floor not to mention being about as graceful as a brick, it has been genuinely FUN.

    And the challenge of getting up off the floor has been fun too. I want to be able to do that, bad knees or no bad knees.

    So you do make a difference and seeing people doing instead of some shrill thin woman shrieking at you that you are EVIL! OUTCAST! UNCLEAN! Is definitely a lot more encouraging.

  38. Now THAT was an excellent post! Extremely enjoyable and very tasty, wait. . . IT MUST BE A SIN!!

    Seriously though, this Roks

    “Fatphobia is something of a fad right now, but only because it’s the latest in a long line of scapegoats;”

    And this SLAMS-

    “That’s why fat activism has to consciously undertake intersectionality. We’re not going to get anywhere just chipping away at fatphobia from above, when all the real action is under the surface”

    *Thowing roses onto FJ’s stage*

  39. As actually defined, though, it’s the sin of putting food before God, or secularly, making it the center of one’s existence, allowing it to be a priority out of proportion to its importance.

    Like dieting?

    Heeeeeeeeeeeeee!

  40. Where’s the study on the long term health effects of body acceptance v. body shame?

    Oh no… they wouldn’t do something like that. Where’s the money for the “health care system” or diet industry in that?!

    I’d be all for funding our own study. I bet we’d find out some things that would shock the rest of the world. (Not us, so much, but the shock value of saying “SEE!! IT WORKS!!!” would be SOO worth it!)

  41. I”d be willing to bet that, percentagewise, the fatosphere has made a lot more lifelong exercise converts than shaming ever did.

    No kidding. Going for a nice long walk is still something I have trouble with, precisely because it feels so good and I don’t think I deserve to spend that much time on myself. It’s always the first thing to go when I get busy, not because I hate doing it, but because it’s that nice little extra just for me and who am I to do something nice for myself? It’s been forcing myself to think that I am a person of worth (Thanks, therapy! And thanks, FA!) that’s helped me slowly to say yes, I deserve to do things like that for me.

  42. So I’m about to dash out the door to catch a train, but I just had to say that I was reading an article in the New Yorker about hangover cures, and it turns out to be hard to get funding for studies. One reason? PEOPLE THINK DRINKERS SHOULD SUFFER.

    But the Puritan mindset doesn’t affect rational scientific minds, no sirree.

  43. I read that article and couldn’t believe it! I did like how the author pointed out that hangovers seem to be less shameful in Britain than in the US, because Brits think it’s normal to get drunk sometimes, whereas we’re stuck in some kind of 80-years-post-Prohibition mindset.

    I want to be able to do that, bad knees or no bad knees.

    I initially read this as “bad knees or no knees” and I was confused that those were your options!

  44. This is exactly why I have found lifting heavy weights to be so gratifying. You get instant rewards–such as feeling stronger–but there is a healthy attitude towards bodies. Larger bodies tend to lift heavier weights, and you can lift more if you eat better and enough calories to be healthy. It’s the complete opposite of everything in our culture that tells us to be thin–whether that’s overexercising or just not eating.

    I know that focusing on what my body can do–physically and non-physically has really turned around my concept of my body. What does it matter the size or shape of your body if you can achieve what you want to achieve (if that is physical or non-physical, it makes no difference).

  45. I”d be willing to bet that, percentagewise, the fatosphere has made a lot more lifelong exercise converts than shaming ever did. (Hope the tag works)

    In a slight twist on this I invented a philosophy called “walking anyway” a few years ago. I’d finally gotten myself to a place where I could walk and be alone with my thoughts and not be more depressed than ever. My husband’s reaction was, “Oh, good for you. I’m so proud of you.”

    I’m sure that many people won’t see what’s wrong with his reaction but it sounded so very condescending to me and just like saying, “There’s a good girl!” that it made me instantly want to sit down and pick up a good mystery. But I decided to walk anyway.

    “Walking anyway” is taking back the long walk from the exercise theists and giving it to those of us who just need to be outside. I’ve never tried to explain this to anyone but my BFF so I hope I’ve been clear.

  46. hangovers seem to be less shameful in Britain than in the US

    Hangovers are meant to be shameful? ::boggle:: The morning-after collective-recovery period is the best part of a night out! You all get together to recount the highlights and wish you were dead. It’s beautiful. (Especially if there’s bacon. Mmmm, bacon.) A channel called Living used to run their “hangover tv” programming til 6pm on Saturdays. That’s my kind of thinking.

    The only reason I can think of where it would be a problem is if you went into work hungover, but even then, if it was a friend’s birthday or something and you only do it very ocassionally you’ll get a lot more sympathy than disapproval (in my experience). Everybody’s been there.

    Also, I am loving the actual definition of gluttony. I was thinking about that last night after reading this thread — about all the peopel I know who are Christian, and spend 1hr+ per day exercising and obsess about food and their diets all the time. I’m just guessing, but I’m reasonably sure Jesus would see those as a distraction from, you know, doing his work.

  47. Okay, and I’m rereading and it sounds like I’m criticising people for exercising every day. I didn’t mean that! I meant people who think about food/exercise/weight loss constantly and have made weight loss/maintenance, as Cala said, pretty much the center of their lives. I’m reasonably sure Jesus would not be loving that their focus is on that at the expense of e.g. following him.

  48. “Puritanism – the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy”

    Fatism- the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be full.

    Awesome post FJ.

  49. This post is made of win and awesome. :) I guess now’s as good a time as any to point out that reading about FA and deconstructing the “thin=good, fat=bad” paradigm has really made an incredible difference in my life in terms of being able to talk back to fatphobia, both the outward and the internalized kind.

    Anyway, re: puritanism/christianity/fear of fat: there are christianity-inspired diet books out there, right? Like ‘More of Jesus, less of me’? Is their premise that fatness is (the result of) a sin?

  50. I grew up in a conservative, mainline Protestant faith.

    Now, as an adult Unitarian, the veil is off.

    Anxiety is very important in organized religion. Anxiety and guilt are seen as forms of Christian pain, and very reliable motivation for change. Most clergymen and women I have been friends with have been candid that shame, guilt and anxiety are impediments to change, but the system often thrives on it.

    I think FJ’s ost is deeply insightful about how our cultural quirks and kinks influence something as pedestrian as eating, which should be intuitive.

    But if you live in a system that insist the human soul is fundamentally flawed and fallen, you really ought not to trust your intuition, no?

  51. A thought: If it’s so damn important for teh ZOMG FATTIES to exercise and lose weight and “get healthy,” how come there’s very little exercise clothing that fits us?

    Thanks for this perfectly written post and for all the thoughtful comments from my compatriots on this journey.

  52. But what I should have said was this: “That’s only weird if you think that loving yourself and taking care of yourself are mutually exclusive.” It’s only in the context of a diet-obsessed, Puritan culture that self-love seems antithetical to public and personal health.

    THIS. THIS. THIIIIIISSSSS.

    Yet every time I try to explain to people that “you START by showing your body you love it, even if you don’t, by encouraging it to be the best body it can possibly be,” I get looked at like…well, I came from Mars.

    Maybe I ought to start espousing the Car Theory of Self-Care:

    1. Pretend your body is a car you really, REALLY love.
    2. Wash and detail your car. Dress it fabulously. Paint its nails. Get its hair cut.
    3. Put the best fuel you can find in it – fuel that both tastes good and provides energy.
    4. Take it for a spin. Feel like a million bucks because YOU HAVE AN AWESOME CAR. Occasionally, wind it out to its limit just to see what it can do.
    5. Wake up one morning and go “holy shit, I really DO have an awesome car!” By which I mean “body.”

  53. Phledge: “Soooo…everyone who derails their otherwise normal social conversations with OMGFAAAAAT discussions is being a glutton? I love it.”

    So that means that the women across the aisle from my husband and me at the restaurant last night were also gluttons. They were there when we got there, still there when we left, and they spent the entire time talking about dieting. No kidding: I don’t generally eavesdrop but they were loud, and every few minutes I would catch snippets of their conversation (“carbs bad!” “My father still puts sugar in his coffee!” “The bile duct contains your liver!”). After the third snippet catch, I alerted my husband and we both got to hear that “saliva is important because if your food isn’t properly digested when it hits your stomach, your stomach can’t absorb the nutrients”. *headdesk* I told him to wait five minutes, check back, and see if they weren’t still talking about diets. Five minutes later: yep, they were on to portion control. We about lost it right there at the table. One of them was on to eating healthier foods as we walked off to pay the check.

    I feel bad making fun of them, but good lord it was an atrocious conversation. I’m so glad I didn’t have to sit at the table and act interested.

  54. this is great. i’ve been learning, since i started trying to champion HAES and self-love among my family members (because i’m some sort of masochist) that sometimes boiling all the studies and data down to “i’m opposed to dieting because i’m opposed to people investing energy into actively hating and punishing themselves” is one of the most effective ways to loosen the self-hate strangehold.

    i think that we all–consciously and unconsciously–look for permission from others for how we “should feel” and react most in social situations and actually saying something like “what’s so objectionable about my saying i don’t think you should hate yourself?” is jarring because it’s sensible and most of our culture/the beauty myth rests on redonculousity.

  55. Re: the hangover/shame thing. I have a friend who’s a grad student in physiology and pharmacology, and she can’t get funding to save her life, because she studies the neurochemistry of addiction. AKA — sometimes, addiction is controlled by brain chemistry, and not a moral failing, and if we understood it better, we might be able to better help addicts. No one in the world is interested in funding her research, never mind that it might help lots of people, because addicts (apparently) deserve to suffer in shame for their sin of being addicts.

    *headdesk*

  56. Well, when we nicknamed our dorm floor the Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Indulgence, our vows were poverty, chastity, and disobedience. Would that be a good start?

  57. If San Francisco doesn’t stop being so awesome for five minutes I’m going to have to mount some sort of protest.

  58. ok haven’t read all the comments yet but regarding “Where’s the study on the long term health effects of body acceptance v. body shame?” that kate asked –
    they DID a study like that. it was in paul campos’ book. actually it was HAES versus the traditional dieting & exercise … and i think it was with people who had certain problems, like diabetes.
    (i don’t remember the details and dont have the book here.)

    and of COURSE the HAES approach fared better. as i recall, people’s health improved and they maintained it for years afterward, tho they did not lose significant amounts of weight and on average those few pounds they did lose mostly came back. but it didnt MATTER cuz their health was better in obvious, measurable ways.

    and i think a lot of the people from the other group kinda dropped out after a couple of years, and usually that means they gained weight and therefore feel ashamed and don’t even participate in whatever tests are done several years in. i think that happens with a lot of “diet studies” too – some of the people who gain all the weight back and then some arent available to report their results a few years in, which probably skews the studies to make it seem like diets work better than they do, and even THEN it shows they dont work. but i digress…

  59. Both the post and the comments have tied into a lot of thinking I’ve been doing recently about how so much of the good, loving things humans try to communicate get culturally spun and twisted by our own self-loathing, our fear, our projected shame. (( I was looking at the intersection between religious ideas and psychological ones for dealing with our fear of ourselves, A Sarah, so your comment was really timely and helpful. ))

    We do the worst damage, it seems, with the greatest blessings – in this sphere, going from loving ourselves and celebrating our unprecedented health to hysteria and fatphobia regarding food. It’s a fun-house reflection of the joy of life.

    So I completely agree, FJ. This is just one expression of an issue that is everywhere with us.

  60. *stands*
    **applauds**

    fillyjonk is made entirely out of awesome.

    the interconnectedness of Total Bullshit manages to astound me daily, now. i’m so glad you brought that up, because it’s funny to realize that the revolution i’m waiting for can be had for the price of telling the truth; it’s just that so few want to hear it.

    hey – my sister told me recently (and her husband agreed) that kids *absolutely have to be explicitly taught* – meaning told, verbally – what nutrition is and can’t get there by listening to their bodies.

    really? when did you try that? was i not there that day?

    honestly, people, so fucking few people either eat intuitively or allow their kids to eat intuitively that i have no idea how anyone i know would know this. even i don’t know it. but i have to say that *as a theory*, it makes a fuck of a lot more sense that we might be able to figure out what our bodies need by listening to them than by whatever horseshit theory the diet industry is braying at us this week. seriously? you mean, we are wired to eat only absolute rubbish and never anything that might actually make us healthy? that it would be purely an accident if we grew up healthy without being told what to eat every minute? the human race is screwed, blued and tatooed then, huh?

    honestly. i don’t even know where to start, then.

  61. Nucking futz said “I’d be all for funding our own study. I bet we’d find out some things that would shock the rest of the world.”

    I think this is a brilliant idea.
    There’s also the concept of “community-based participatory research” (wiki it if you are interested in more info) where the community being investigated is directly involved in the research being conducted, with professional researchers involved in the research design and analyses, and much of the labor can be done by the community members themselves, which cuts down on costs.
    I doubt that many of us are interested in being randomly assigned to a dieting vs. HAES protocol, but I’m sure there are researchers out there who could think of a design that would work. I would certainly volunteer to be part of a study. I would think that with the interwebz and all, one could self-report all manner of information in a secure manner and could track it over long periods of time.
    Or maybe something that would be the opposite of the National Weight Control Registry, and instead, be a national HAES registry. Just some thoughts that others have probably proposed before (I’m pretty sure I heard ideas about research at the BFB think tank transcripts.)

  62. my sister told me recently (and her husband agreed) that kids *absolutely have to be explicitly taught* – meaning told, verbally – what nutrition is and can’t get there by listening to their bodies.

    They probably think that because they don’t realize how many people are explicitly telling their children harmful bullshit.

    Teachers and anti-childhood-obesity initiative TV ads tell them they should eat very little and mostly fruit or they’ll get The Fat. Meanwhile, everything else on TV tells them they should eat nonstop sugar and chemicals or they’ll be Uncool and No Fun.

    In other words, kids, like all of the rest of us, are so turned around by cultural messages that they can’t hear physical cues anymore. If you stop telling a kid what to eat, yeah, a lot of those kids will eat a bunch of junk, because that’s what they’ve been told they like. But that’s not showing them how to listen to their bodies — that’s just taking away what little guidance they have in navigating those mixed messages.

  63. cggirl, we’ve got that one!

    And I love that study. But I wasn’t even talking about HAES v. dieting, exactly. I’m talking about a study that compares repeatedly telling one group their bodies are just fine the way they are and repeatedly telling the other they need to lose weight, then seeing who comes out healthier at the end of it. What is the effect of encouraging self-acceptance alone, not even HAES? (One of my pet theories is that a whole lot of ailments ostensibly caused by teh fatz are actually caused by stress. Which is at least partially borne out by that study that showed people who feel too fat can be worse off, mentally and physically, than people with higher BMIs.)

  64. One of my pet theories is that a whole lot of ailments ostensibly caused by teh fatz are actually caused by stress.
    I totally agree with you there, Kate.

  65. “In other words, kids, like all of the rest of us, are so turned around by cultural messages that they can’t hear physical cues anymore. If you stop telling a kid what to eat, yeah, a lot of those kids will eat a bunch of junk, because that’s what they’ve been told they like. But that’s not showing them how to listen to their bodies — that’s just taking away what little guidance they have in navigating those mixed messages.”

    oh, this is so true. i think parents underestimate how much influence they can have, though. because they are live and in person, what they do say (even if it’s very little) can carry a lot more weight. personally, i render specific, independent judgment on things i eat or like or don’t like, giving details: ‘hmm … this [boxed] mac and cheese isn’t *bad*, but i really prefer the stuff i make with actual cheese, so i can get the crispy baked cheese edges and add tomato. it just tastes better; i live for the almost-burned cheese edges. and tomato and cheese are so awesome together. also cheese and butter-sauted mushrooms. MMMMM. mushrooms. i am totally making cheese and mushroom quesadillas for dinner. with salsa.”

    and when i taste artificial fakey-flavors and chemical crap, i call that out, too. or corn syrup. “mm! tastes like corn syrup. … no really, you go ahead, i don’t care for it.” they can have it if they want it, i just want them to know why *i* don’t want it. it’s not because i’m being all generous – it’s because i know what i like and (maybe more importantly) *why* i like it. it’s when you dig into the ‘why’ question that you realize things like: ‘i wanted this only because my mom never let me have it’ or ‘i want this because the packaging makes it look better than it is’ or something other than actual, physical desire for the content.

    and the kids i know who are allowed to choose (or vote on) what goes into the grocery cart pick about the same variety that i would, though heavier on treats. of course, they’re growing and they also spend 7/8ths of the day in constant motion, so they obviously need more calories than i do to sit and write.

    lots of influences play in to our choices, i just see that live people you associate with have the most impact. it’s definitely something to think about.

  66. kate, the sad thing is, you mention your hypothetical study, and the first thing I thought of was that no one could ever perform a study like that, because it would be irredeemably cruel.

    Sigh.

  67. I’m talking about a study that compares repeatedly telling one group their bodies are just fine the way they are and repeatedly telling the other they need to lose weight, then seeing who comes out healthier at the end of it. What is the effect of encouraging self-acceptance alone, not even HAES?

    Hmmm, I certainly like the idea of such a study. My PhD is in Technical Communication and Rhetoric and that falls under the rhetoric category. I have already chosen my dissertation project, but I would love to do such a study later: the power of rhetoric alone on health. If no other scholar has done this by the time I’m finished with my diss (Spring 2010) — and with your permission for using your idea — I’ll take it on, Kate. It would work best if I can find a medical professional to partner me. What a great idea and right up my ally!!

  68. the interconnectedness of Total Bullshit manages to astound me daily

    Oh, hallie, me too. I cannot believe that the entire world has bought into this theory that we need to be told how to look and how to eat. What could be more fundamental than knowing how to eat? Right now our problem is finding a way to undo the damage that’s already BEEN caused by DECADES of telling us how to look and how to eat. This is a problem caused by the medical, beauty and diet industry. They don’t get to ride in on a white horse and keep us miserable all our lives and tell us they’re doing it to save us from ourselves.

    Lonie Mc: !!! That would be amazing!

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