Try this on for size

At a recent meeting I sat behind a woman who I thought might be my former dance TA. They had the same hair and were both extremely thin, the kind of thin that I’ve seen many people confidently ascribe to an eating disorder right before they come smack up against our “no assumptions about others’ bodies, ever” policy. Of course I realized immediately that it probably wasn’t her (it was a health policy-related meeting and she’s in human rights law, for starters), but the fact that I thought it was just based on hair and frame, when I would not think that about anyone with a less end-of-the-bell-curve body type, got me thinking. This is what I thought:

  • Half of all people are thinner than average, by definition. (ETA: As volcanista pointed out, ROUGHLY half. I forgot my seventh-grade math — average is not median.) Of those, many are what you’d describe as “thin,” “quite thin,” etc.
  • Some of these people eat less than average, for various reasons. Many eat an average or more than an average amount. Some eat a lot.
  • Some of these people are healthy. Some are ill or disabled or have weak constitutions or fall at any other spot on the continuum of human health.
  • Of these thin people, only a tiny number are what you might describe as “skinny” (or some more judgmental term), falling in the “underweight” category which is also associated with higher mortality rates (at least in part because some illnesses cause drastic weight loss, not the other way around).
  • Some of these people are, in fact, in ill health. Some are just small. They, too, exist at all points on the spectrum of human health.
  • Of these, a tiny tiny number have eating disorders. (Incidence of officially diagnosed anorexia nervosa, which includes very low body weight, is only a fraction of a percent.) But certainly not all. Many eat an average or larger amount just like less-thin thin people. And not everyone with eating disorders falls into this category.

All copacetic so far, right? Of course I know perfectly well from comment-wrangling that there are plenty of people who see a thin woman and immediately sneer that she must be anorexic. But I can’t imagine a reasonable person seriously disagreeing with the thought process above. It might not mesh with their snap judgments, but once it’s laid out it starts looking like common sense. (Especially since the knee-jerk anorexia assumption is often less about truly believing someone is sick, and more about backlashy defensiveness.) I certainly can’t imagine someone claiming that this line of thinking was delusional, or that anyone espousing it must be making excuses for the thin or eating disordered or promoting anorexic behaviors. I can’t imagine anyone reading those bullet points and wishing the person who wrote them would experience violence or death.

But how many people do you know who would be nodding through all of the above, but then balk or even become enraged at the idea that natural human variation might continue on up the scale? Some people are fatter than average, some are quite fat, and a very tiny number are what people think of as “morbidly obese” (which is significantly fatter than what actually qualifies). Some of these people eat a lot, some have problems with binge eating, some are in ill health, but many are not — the variations in food intake and health and disordered eating are mainly due to the fact that different people are different people (not to mention the fact that some illnesses cause or have common cause with fat). And not everyone ill is fat, nor is every big eater or even every binge eater.

Why can the general public accept (and even argue strenuously) that a very thin woman might not be anorexic, but the idea that a fat person might not be a binge eater is considered not only absurd but offensive?

92 thoughts on “Try this on for size

  1. NB, that last question is for rhetorical purposes. I do have an idea of some possible answers, given that that is a lot of what this blog is about. :)

  2. I’m going to attempt (badly since I don’t have the book in front of me) to quote Naomi Woolf here. Her take on why people don’t find very skinny women alarming even if they actually are anorexic is basically that they’re just doing what all women are expected to do, a little too well. So there’s your answer. Also see the saying “you can never be too rich or too thin”.

    Honestly I think there’s some magical thinking in there, too. People want to believe that the only way anyone could become very fat is by overeating because then they can delude themselves that if they just don’t overeat they’ll always be thin.

  3. Dichotomies are rarely equally connoted on both sides. Like, say:

    -Fat v. Thin
    -Rich v. Poor
    -Tall v. Short
    -Empty v. Full
    -Hairy v. Hairless

    People are just used to this state of affairs and rarely think about it. That’s why we keep having to remind people that such inequities are a construction, not an unshakable reality.

  4. Long time reader, first time commenter!

    This is one (of many) reasons why I hate shows like The Biggest Loser. (Not that I watch it–it’s my personal boycott!) I really loathe the bit where they “tempt” the contestants who have won some stage of the competition with piles of cakes and chocolates and I don’t know what else–like I said, I don’t actually watch it. I just hate hate hate the assumption that everyone who is fat is a binge eater, cannot control themselves when in the presence of “bad” food, is an over-eater and always eats junk.

    I eat well and not excessively–people at work are always commenting on my “healthy lunch” (usually rye toast and tuna and veges where most people just heat up leftover curries and pasta). I walk nearly every day for about 40 minutes, I have recently given up alcohol more or less completely (that hurt!), I rarely eat cake or chocolate etc not because I’m “good” but because I don’t particularly care for sweet food. And yet I’m still what most people (and “charts”) consider overweight.

    Similarly, I have friends who are naturally skinny, who eat heartily and can no more put weight on than I can, apparently, lose it! And they are as offended and frustrated by comments on how “lucky” they are as I am by the casual remarks people around me make about fat people.

    Thanks for this blog. It’s a great support for many people!

  5. Because people are superstitious about fat, FJ. (Stevie Wonder earworm coming right up.) People don’t think clearly in the face of superstition. They used to believe it about black cats and walking under ladders and the number 13 and cracks in the sidewalk; now it’s lipid tissue. They’re convinced fat must be the result of psychopathology because…well, just because. Even a lot of atheists who pride themselves on perfectly rational thought in all things (heehee) cannot bear to take all facts into account about fat before picking up Occam’s razor. They do have a god…it’s called thinness.

  6. I wish a link to this entry could be posted under every single Expert Opinion saying (judiciously, authoritatively, even kindly) that Beth Ditto just shouldn’t be allowed out in public, because she’s *promoting fatness* and FAT HURTS EVERYONE. (Especially the childrens).

    Just an example, but I read something like that this morning…

    I’m having a hard week with FA. It’s only been, like, a month since I realized my fat body *had* any allies, and at first it was dizzying and liberating. I realized I had been disrespecting myself and others – thin women, for example – with my own ideas about bodies.

    But since I’ve never, that I can recall, been shouted at by people in passing cars, or openly mocked (not since Jr. High, anyway), I also hadn’t realized just how much fat hatred is out there. The more I learn, the more I feel scared and angry. It’s more than just knowing that not every boy might want to take you to the dance, it’s wondering whether potential employers will look at me with more than merely subconscious prejudice and feel justified in denying me a job because I ‘don’t take care of myself.’ It’s wondering whether my students, who have to look at my unapologetically fat ass, at least when I am writing on the blackboard, haha, assume I’m a binge eater. Or a slug.

    I can’t afford to be paranoid. I love my body, and I try to say so with the way I dress and move and enjoy the life I have. But stuff like your extremely clear and potent line of reasoning here, FJ, makes me feel empowered and scared at the same time.

    Sorry, I know that everybody has been through this already a gabillion times, by now!

  7. Half of all people are thinner than average, by definition.

    Funny how some people have trouble with that.

    Some people are fatter than average, some are quite fat, and a very tiny number are what people think of as “morbidly obese” (which is significantly fatter than what actually qualifies).

    Oh hell yes. I Am Not Typical.

  8. By way of an edit: I know that being a binge eater and being lazy aren’t comparable examples – just two possible assumptions a student might make. Binge eating is a serious condition; but the fact that it would not be appropriate for the condition to engender shame, if I had it, does not give someone the right to assume I do, just because I am fat.

    And I am kind of lazy. But not a slug.

  9. I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to understand.

    I am grateful for the FA movement. Now I can turn comments (which range from insults to backhanded compliments to envy and requests for ‘tips’ that I find very disturbing – I often feel guilty about my size because I wonder if I am triggering women with eating disorders, body dysmorphia, or just a typical desire for thinness) about my underweight body into thoughtful discussions about the fact that you can’t make any judgments about someone’s health, habits, appetite, morals, etc based on their weight, that there is a huge amount of human variety (so much of it beautiful), and much of it seems to be genetic, and that we should all accept our bodies and treat them with love. And we should all be able to eat without feeling guilty.

  10. Word. This post should totally have a 101 tag. Though to be an annoying pedant, this:

    Half of all people are thinner than average, by definition. Of those, many are what you’d describe as “thin,” “quite thin,” etc.

    technically is only true if you mean the median. I’m pretty sure the mean is slightly bigger than the median, because the peak is slightly asymmetrical with a bigger tail on the fat side of things. Fwiw.

    ANYWAY. I think this kind of magical thinking is a big contributor to the lack of acknowledgment of fat people with anorexia nervosa or bulimia and thin people with BED. I was briefly a skinny little kid with BED, and it didn’t make me any bigger (which was, of course, the reason I started doing it. Luckily I got scared out of it before I really lost control).

  11. Meowser: Earworm, indeed, except for me it’s the parody by Jeff and Maya Bohnhoff “Infomercials.”

    “When your orrrder things on a paaaayment plan, then you suffer!”

  12. Oh also, I can’t remember what comment thread I said this on, but it’s as though people think that weight is completely controlled by consumption, EXCEPT in the case of the “naturally extremely thin” people, because they are just magical fairies.

  13. Her take on why people don’t find very skinny women alarming even if they actually are anorexic is basically that they’re just doing what all women are expected to do, a little too well.

    CassandraSays, that was my exact first thought, too, but then, like FJ says, people will actually accept that some thin people can eat a lot and not exercise and still be thin, that some thin people do exactly what they believe fat people do. Those particular thin folks are not doing what women are supposed to do, and yet, they’re not hated for it. I don’t get that.

  14. Meg, i actually think it’s the cognitive dissonance. They might accept that us thin folk are “lucky” and can just “eat whatever we want,” in their thinking brain parts, but there’s still this gut reaction that thin=denial/goodness.

  15. Meowser, I think you’ve got it. It is superstition. If fat people haven’t done anything bad to get fat – if their fat isn’t an outward expression of their inner sin – then anyone could get fat, and to a lot of people that’s incredibly threatening.

    It’s almost as if for some people, admitting the possibility that some people are fatter than others because, you know, people come in different sizes, actually makes you more likely to get fat.

    I think that accepting that thin people aren’t necessarily anorexic is much easier because it doesn’t challenge the fat = sinful/being “unhealthy” = sinful dictum. They’re thin, but they’re healthy – what’s not to like?!

    The inability of seemingly most people to realise that people are just different from each always amazes me. You walk through any busy station/street/whatever and you’ll see people of hugely different heights, different colourings, different builds, but we’re all supposed to have the same basic height/weight ratio? Clearly nuts.

    Sorry for the general incoherence of the above – it’s quite late over here in Brit-land and I don’t think the wine I’m drinking as I write this is helping. Been reading the blog for a while, de-lurking today!

  16. Meg – Well, what that tells me is that “healthy behavior” was never actually the goal. The goal was for women to be thin. The whole “health” argument is a smokescreen.

    Ie., what I think Woolf was really getting at was that what women are supposed to do it be thin. No one really cares how they get there, as long as they do get there.

    (Of course some people do care, especially if the woman is someone they’re close to, but society as a whole doesn’t care a bit whether women are healthy or not as long as they’re deemed suitably decorative.)

    Also what Volcanista said. I have a friend who’s 3-4 sizes bigger than me and eats maybe a third of what I do, tops. I don’t honestly think either of us believed that that was the case until we spent some time together irl (we met online). I think most people kind of assume that the way their particular body/metabolism works is the same way everyone else’s does.

  17. Also to add to Volcanista’s point…so I have this dude friend who’s a classic ectomorph – tall, thin, generally long and lanky. He eats a LOT. And I’ve seen people actually watch him eat and mumble things like “well obviously he doesn’t eat like that all the time, he’s just splurging today”. Um, no, he isn’t, he really does eat like he’s preparing for the Tour De France all the time. And yet he never gains an ounce.

    I just recently (part time rock journalist) interviewed a guy who people often assume is anorexic. He isn’t, he’s just really incredibly thin. Actually he seems to live on fast food and candy because he’s too lazy to cook and hates vegetables, and to have no emotional issues with food at all, but still, skinny enough to get raised eyebrows and armchair diagnoses from just about everyone. And at the same time people show no concern about the blatantly eating disordered behavior and comments of his bandmate because hey, it’s not like he’s all THAT thin comparatively, so clearly he couldn’t have an eating disorder.

    (Actually it’s been incredibly illuminating for me to see how very differently people respond to very thin men compared to very thin women. Anyone who doesn’t think fat is a feminist issue, I have a bridge I can sell you.)

  18. Well, what that tells me is that “healthy behavior” was never actually the goal. The goal was for women to be thin. The whole “health” argument is a smokescreen.

    Dingdingdingdingding! :)

  19. … and then there are the scads of women who have raging eating disorders under everyone’s noses because their weight is of “ideal” BMI range. I was one of them. Because of my stocky heritage, most of the time I was rockin’ the anorexia and bulimia– to the point of being useless in everyday life– I just looked “healthy and normal.”

    It is SO not about looks.

  20. I agree with you on the point.

    (And, by the way, I am a quite skinny – though quite big-breasted, lovely Italian genes! – woman. And the only diets I did in my life were because of *serious* medical reasons: “serious” as in “cancer” or “dysfunction that sends you into a hypoglycemic coma if you eat too few / too much / just a spoonful of sugar”.)

    But, as a Maths student, I must point out that the “half of all people are thinner/fatter than the average” is not right “by definition”: if – say – we have 4 people, one weights 10, two weights 1 we have an average weight of (10+1+1)/3=4, but only one above average and two below average. (And it’s not because I have an odd number of people: try adding a person with weight 4 and the calculation still holds.) You must also consider the distribution of the weight. :-)

    (I hope that’s not too much of a geek comment.)

  21. Meowser Bow bow bow :)

    Hey it’s Stevie Wonder jamming on Sesame Street. No bad there!

    Anyway, the irrationality of fat phobia is, I think, about not just superstition but control. As someone pointed out: If fat people haven’t done anything bad to get fat – if their fat isn’t an outward expression of their inner sin – then anyone could get fat, and to a lot of people that’s incredibly threatening.

    When I encounter hostility from friends for talking about FA and saying “Diets don’t work” they don’t want to hear it because, as Kate said in FoBT, they see that as taking away their hope. The idea that weight is something you personally have total control over is so ingrained, to tell people they don’t have control over it is terrifying to them. It means consigning them to a lifetime of suffering under an affliction they can’t change.

    The constant guilt and feelings of failure over not having the “self control” to stick to a diet for infinity are harsh but the idea that you as a person are unable to control your own body may, for a lot of people, be even more frightening. With so much of the world totally out of your control (the more so for women, minorities, the differently abled, etc.) you’re gonna cling like hell to the few things you do feel you have control over and not let them be taken away.

    DRST

  22. … and then there are the scads of women who have raging eating disorders under everyone’s noses because their weight is of “ideal” BMI range

    This is one of the main problems with the DSM definition of anorexia (the DSM definition of bulimia, if I recall correctly, does not include a link to current BMI).

    Clearly, if one is to use logic, someone who’s been starving herself for a year, during which time her BMI has gone from, say, 32 to 22, has done much more harm to her body vis-a-vis malnutrition, kidney issues, liver issues, stomach lining issues, etc., than has someone who’s been starving herself for three months, during which time her BMI has gone from, say, 19 to 17.

    But according to the DSM, the second person is anorexic, but the first person is not–she’s “Eating Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified” because she’s not in the “underweight” BMI range yet.

    That’s messed up right there, and it underscores the concept that starving yourself is okay if you’re not thin. Even though, you know, bodies really don’t like to starve no matter what.

  23. It’s almost as if for some people, admitting the possibility that some people are fatter than others because, you know, people come in different sizes, actually makes you more likely to get fat.

    Which is funny, because doesn’t that sort of mean they’re LESS likely to get fat?

    I mean, if you’re not fat right now, and you’re not actually doing the six-hours-a-day maintenance plan, and whether or not you’re fat is generally controlled by genetics (and medication/medical condition) much more than what you do, doesn’t that mean that barring a medical condition or going on The Pill, your weight should be somewhat stable, i.e. you stay not fat?

    Well, other than aging, which they seem to treat as a medical condition. And pregnancy, and whatnot. So it falls apart pretty easily, but it’s at least as good as their logic.

  24. “But according to the DSM, the second person is anorexic, but the first person is not–she’s “Eating Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified” because she’s not in the “underweight” BMI range yet.”

    Yes! Been there, done that — but lack ‘official’ recognition for it, as I was still very fat.
    Anyways, screw that. I openly talk about having had an eating disorder now; I don’t need a ‘diagnosis’ to legitimate it.

  25. technically is only true if you mean the median. I’m pretty sure the mean is slightly bigger than the median, because the peak is slightly asymmetrical with a bigger tail on the fat side of things. Fwiw.

    Good point! “Roughly half” would be right (enough) though, right? I can change it.

    Also “because they are magical fairies” made me lol.

    But according to the DSM, the second person is anorexic, but the first person is not–she’s “Eating Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified” because she’s not in the “underweight” BMI range yet.

    Which is almost certainly why diagnosed anorexia incidence is only a fraction of a percent…

  26. I almost don’t want to mention this because it was so triggering for me, but I’m taking a course in abnormal psych right now, and the chapter on eating disorders has four sections: Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge-Eating Disorder, and Obesity.

    And how each of them is disordered and needs psychological intervention to fix. Yes, they recommend WW and WLS and diet pills. Yes, the only weight loss they ever talk about is in the first six months of any study.

    It’s no damn *wonder* medical and mental health professionals are so clueless. It depresses me, so goddamn much–and the fact that I have to regurgitate back “common knowledge” on a multiple-choice exam to get a good grade.

  27. (I hope that’s not too much of a geek comment.)

    No such thing around here.

    And to prove that: the person who beat you to the punch on this one is not only a regular commenter but actually slept in my house two days ago.

  28. Also, holy shit, Lis. I have seen that conflation before but that is really stark to see it in a fucking textbook.

    Dear textbook editor assholes: DISORDERED EATING IS A BEHAVIOR. ANOREXIA IS AN ILLNESS. OBESITY IS A BODY STATE.

  29. I’d love to know what the rate of anorexia would be if they took out the “must be officially underweight” requirement. I mean, surely the behaviors and their physical consequences, plus the psychological issues, are the actual problem, yes? Even if someone isn’t dangerously underweight they’re still doing harm to their body.

    It would seem to me that by not recognising anorexia unless the person is underweight they’re basically saying that the behaviors associated with the disease and their physical side effects aren’t actually a problem as long as the person isn’t going to die of starvation. Which, when you think about it, is pretty damn disturbing.

  30. Fillyjonk–and in the obesity section, they even mentioned people who can eat tons but still stay thin! It made me think of Oscar Wilde: “Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.” It just. Wow.

    I was going to say a better definition of anorexia might be “eating less than x amount of required calories a day” but there are so many practical problems with that (how you would measure it; what you would do with binge-purge anorexics) and also, as I’ve learned, the medical establishment doesn’t care. Disordered eating when you’re thin is anorexia. Disordered eating when you’re fat is being on a diet.

    (*hugs this blog tightly*)

  31. I don’t think there’s a way to make this compute. People do seem to think that there’s a few people whose bodies will be thin no matter us and the rest of us are consigned to being bunsen burners. Which is pretty ridiculous. I’ve found that I can often point that out to people and the set point idea starts to make the first bit of a click in their head.

    Though I also think that while half of people are thinner than average, most people want to pretend that “normal” is far smaller than average. Which is funny, given the body of evidence that average/overweight is correlated with better health outcomes than “normal/healthy” weight. But it does make it easier to judge people! /sarcastic glare at general populace

  32. Hey, that’s a good point about the concept “average”.What does that even mean? The average woman is a size 14, but I don’t think that’s what pops into most people’s heads when you say “average”. I’ve had friends here in thinness-focused San Francisco tactfully try to describe me as “slightly larger than average – but honestly, she’s still pretty!” and I’m a size 6-8. What is the average BMI? I’m thinking it may not actually be in the 18.5-25 range.

    What does it mean for a society when it’s picture of what average means is significantly smaller than the actual average? How does the cognitive dissonance not make everyone’s heads explode?

  33. Cassandra, have you ever wanted to smack your friend? That’s why I find it difficult to describe my body type (on dating sites, etc); technically, I’m a little smaller than average, but I’m not comfortable saying thin or slim. Curvy is accurate, but men always take it as an euphemism. *shrug* You just can’t win.

  34. thanks for posting this! it’s true, it is rational. people can be very thin, and very fat. comments on both sides are irrational, and people with eating disorders don’t deserve the hateful comments. they have a disease- it’s not a joke, and it’s not a game. the people to get angry at are the marketing executives who market unrealistic waifishness as the standard, and disguise it with health.

    the diet industry. the designers who refuse to have anyone with actual curves on their catwalks. Stop blaming the eating disordered girls. And, it’s not about size. Anorexia is a disease with behaviors. It sure can start at any weight. DSM needs to change their criteria for it, because it’s disturbing how you have to basically be on your deathbed to get treatment.

  35. this post gives me a lot of respect for Fillyjonk!

    Yeah we’re all different, fat people do experience discrimination that skinny people don’t. But preconcieved notions based on fat/skinny can make us forget the many ways in which we are all human beings. It doesn’t do any good to say “get rid of your preconcieved notions of fat people” and then say “it’s ok to hang on to your preconcieved notions of skinny people.”

    And intuitive eating and a sane relationship to food and a healthy body image are things that benefit people no matter what size you are. I’ve enjoyed reading the posts, I’ve learned a lot, and this post just reinforces the feeling I have that I am welcome here.

  36. Meems – Well, honestly, I don’t really blame friends for saying things like that because a., by the standards of that group I am larger than average, in that I’m easily the biggest woman in the group. And b., they’re living in the same fucked up culture the rest of us are, where size 2 celebrities can be called fat and a bunch of bitchy young men will chime in to agree.

    I agree with your point though. How the hell are women who’re bigger than the TV/Hollywood average, but smaller than the actual average, supposed to describe themselves? I’m married, but if I was dating now I’d have no clue how to self describe. I could say curvy, which is technically true, but most people would interpret it to mean something other than what I would mean by it. If I said slim or thin I guarantee that men would laugh in my face when they saw me irl, because “thin” now means really really thin. So basically I have no idea. Maybe we need a second category of inbetweenie to describe women who are somewhere between the media idea of what an average woman looks like and what the average woman actually looks like.

  37. Cassandrasays: “What does it mean for a society when it’s picture of what average means is significantly smaller than the actual average? How does the cognitive dissonance not make everyone’s heads explode?”

    It’s because society is primarily concerned with young women. Old women don’t count as women anymore because they’re not sexually attractive anyways, regardless of weight. And since young people tend to weight less than old people, we have a seriously skewed notion of womens’ average weight.

  38. To pick a really random part of the post:

    “the fact that I thought it was just based on hair and frame, when I would not think that about anyone with a less end-of-the-bell-curve body type”

    This comment startled me. It doesn’t seem particularly off-the-wall to me to see resemblance based on body shape and hair-cut. I’ve done it to plenty of people who are on all places on the bell-curve. If you have a friend or acquaintance who’s a particular shape, and you see someone from the back who has that shape and a similar haircut, why would it be so strange to think it’s your friend?

  39. “But according to the DSM, the second person is anorexic, but the first person is not–she’s “Eating Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified” because she’s not in the “underweight” BMI range yet.”

    Yes! Been there, done that — but lack ‘official’ recognition for it, as I was still very fat.
    Anyways, screw that. I openly talk about having had an eating disorder now; I don’t need a ‘diagnosis’ to legitimate it.

    I hope this isn’t too much of a derail, but I wish I had the courage to do this! Seriously. When I was 12 I was eating a glass of milk for breakfast, a piece of mozzarella or an apple or a yoplait (don’t remember if it was low-fat) for lunch, and the non-negotiable family dinner. I did this long enough that I started fainting in school (which fortunately (hah!) was fairly quickly, I guess). I still struggle with restriction and postponing/skipping meals. But I don’t have the courage to claim to have had an eating disorder because I know I would never have gotten a diagnosis of anorexia because I was never thin. Gah. (It doesn’t help having a doctor say that my issues with food –without the label of an ED– were ‘impossible’ because if they were true, I ‘wouldn’t look like that’, of course.)

    Gah. Sorry. If this is too much of a derail, tell me and I’ll post it to the ning site instead.

  40. TBS, I don’t know that personal stories about body issues could ever really be considered a derail on this site. I’m glad your eating is not as disordered now.

  41. Something I find interesting (and annoying) is that when very slim people claim that they eat and eat but just can’t gain weight, folks are inclined to believe them, but if a fat (or just not very slim) person says they don’t eat much but just can’t LOSE weight, nobody believes them.

    But then, I’m fat enough to be lazy, stupid and a liar…

  42. ps I hope that’s not too irrelevant as I was so keen to post I didn’t read the rest of the comments first!

  43. When I was struggling with ED-NOS, I was afraid to tell people because I thought they’d laugh or not believe me. I started at a size 16/18, and was 60 pounds lighter and a size 6/8 at the lowest point. As far as BMI, my lowest was a 24, so at the top end of “normal.” But what I was doing was still horribly unhealthy.

    Fortunately I had doctors who got it, that it was about the behaviors and not the size.

    Now that I’m around a size 14 again, and on the overweight/obese line, I’m ashamed to talk about it at all except with size acceptance adherents. How do you tell people that in the course of 5 months that you lost 1/3 of your body weight through an eating disorder, kept it off for a year, and then gained most of it back in two months when a physical illness took you from extremely active to hardly able to get out of bed? Once again I look like I did for most of my adult life, and the struggle it took to get here is completely invisible.

  44. HollyGAzam — I think part of it is that in their minds, nobody would admit to eating a lot unless it was actually true, whereas even if they see a fat person happily eating a smallish lunch, clearly they must be eating deep-fried steaks in private. Same thing with exercise. Not exercising is Evil (though slightly less Evil than eating), therefore if I say that I don’t move a lot but don’t gain weight, I am clearly a magical fairy who can get away with it. But someone who says they are virtuous but is still fat must be lying. *eyeroll*

  45. Vidya and Bald Soprano:

    Oh, yeah. I’m still pissed at my former GYN who took ONE LOOK at her favorite little chart—she sure as hell didn’t look at me—and said that losing half my body weight in about a year couldn’t possibly be the reason I hadn’t had a period in two years and couldn’t get pregnant, because I certainly wasn’t underweight.

    Charts, like real people, are not One Size Fits All.

    Actually, not much is.

  46. Once again I look like I did for most of my adult life, and the struggle it took to get here is completely invisible.

    One Jewish Dyke, that is such a powerful statement. I’m glad that you had doctors who at least realized what was going on and tried to help you.

    In order to maintain a weight of 188lbs, I had to eat a piece of fruit for breakfast, a bowl of soup with crackers for lunch, and maybe, MAYBE, a granola bar for dinner, to you know, prevent fainting at work. And I also had to exercise a whole lot. But no one gave a shit. No one noticed (or if they did, they didn’t care). The only thing anyone ever had to say was how great I looked and to “keep up the good work.”

    Yup, keep up the good work of slowly killing yourself. People only seem to realize the hard work it takes to be thin, not the hard work it takes to recover.

    Somewhere up thread someone said that the reason people are willing to entertain the idea even very thin women aren’t necessarily eating disordered, is because they have just done exactly what society wants only too well, and I really believe that. We are a results oriented society; we don’t care as much about the means, only the results. Sure, many people who find out someone they know had an eating disorder will feel bad for them, will believe the person should be healthy, but I think that most people just plain don’t get it and they’d rather compliment someone on how awesome they look than think about how they might have gotten that way.

    @ The Bald Soprano– You’re 12 year old eating habits sound exactly like mine. I could skip anything but that sit down family dinner!

  47. If you have a friend or acquaintance who’s a particular shape, and you see someone from the back who has that shape and a similar haircut, why would it be so strange to think it’s your friend?

    Lindsay, I live in a city with a daytime population of over a million people.

  48. a daytime population of over a million people

    I am tempted to make a vampire joke about your city’s population fluctuating after sundown but lacking inspiration.

    (I assume that you meant it’s a commuter place, where people go back out to the burbs at night.)

  49. Meowser,

    Even a lot of atheists who pride themselves on perfectly rational thought in all things (heehee) cannot bear to take all facts into account about fat before picking up Occam’s razor. They do have a god…it’s called thinness.

    Absolutely. I was thinking about this today, in terms of a tradition of mono theism.

    Like, you and DRST said, it’s about control, in lieu of actual control, we have the illusion of control. It’s a bit like fetish; desire gets attached to a symbol or link to said desire (control).

    What I don’t get is what’s so special about this kind of weight control through calories.
    If you’re desperate for it, why don’t you find a way that works.

    What I find odd, is that they don’t seem to want to. They’d rather pine for this way (diets) to work, why?

    It’s that yearning that I can’t quite get.

  50. Fillyjonk, this was just such a fantastic post, and these are such great comments.

    I think it’s important to remember, too, that a lot of fat hatred comes from fat people. With most of the population being overweight and obese, if all overweight and obese people were calling out fat hatred as bullshit when they saw it, it wouldn’t be a problem. Fat hatred can only be maintained, I think, if fat people can be convinced to hate themselves and that they are fat because of a personal failing. And for that to happen people must believe that being thin is both healthy and achievable for everybody, and that the only way somebody can get fat (or, for the more open-minded, extremely fat) is if they are doing something wrong.

    To me, it’s like the inexplicable belief that most Americans have that the very rich are rich because they worked so hard and that there are no other factors involved. I sometimes have my students read Peter Singer’s “What Should a Billionaire Give?” and I’m continually shocked that all or nearly all of them believe that no matter how wealthy somebody is, they have no moral obligation to give, because it’s their money and they earned it. How can you get people who will never, ever have enough wealth to have an estate to be so dead-set against an estate tax, or people making $30K a year think that progressive income taxes are wrong? How do you get people to be completely complacent in the face of the staggering and growing gap between the rich and the poor? You turn being poor into a moral failing, and being rich into a great individual achievement, and suddenly all the other factors at play don’t matter.

    I think we do the same thing with weight. We convince people–the majority of whom will never fit society’s ideal–that it’s not the ideal that’s wrong, but them, and that being fat is a moral failure and being thin is a sign of individual achievement. You can never be too rich or too thin because the richer and thinner you are, the more worth as a person you’re seen to have.

  51. Re: thinness as religion, I think this is a crucial point. I really do think that as we’ve become an increasingly secular society (and as the media has become increasingly secular), we have turned “health”/thinness into the new civic religion. It will bring you practically eternal life, after all (since if you have a BMI of 22, you are immune to all disease and may live forever).

    Oh, and to the point way up top about the whole “tempting fat people on reality shows with junk food” thing, the part that’s so awful about that is that it’s reinforcing stereotypes while perpetuating the circumstances that in many cases do cause binging. Because if you take anybody–fat or thin–and drastically slash their calorie intake while having them exercise strenuously for hours on end each day, they very likely will exhibit disordered eating behavior if they are suddenly offered large quantities of “forbidden” food. That’s a normal response, not a pathological one. If you’re starving–and they are starving the Biggest Loser contestants–then your body is going to rebel. But instead of recognizing this as a totally normal (and understandable) physical response to starvation, it’s seen as yet another confirmation that fat people are all just gluttons who can only stop themselves from binging on junk food all day if they are put on strict, monitored diet and exercise plans. I’m not a binge eater, but I can pretty much guarantee you that if I was put on a starvation diet and forced to exercise for 4 hours a day, and then somebody put a plate of cookies in front of me, I’d be wolfing down that plate of cookies. Starving people do things like that, and it’s a sign that their body wants to live, not that they are weak.

  52. Lori, I like the way you connected the way both poverty and body size are treated as moral failings, and the connection in that both are things people delude themselves into believing they can achieve their lifetimes. Yes, it (whether weight loss or wealth gain) does happen to people occasionally, and they get a lot of attention, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are a tiny tiny tiny minority of the population.

  53. “But how many people do you know who would be nodding through all of the above, but then balk or even become enraged at the idea that natural human variation might continue on up the scale?”

    Far too many still. I got into a discussion with a woman online who was thin and quite athletic and perhaps may have been only slightly more than healthfully obsessed with being sure to eat “good” food, but at base, was not eating disordered, just sort of new-age, “must always eat organic” obsessed, and was certainly very rigidly opposed to skipping meals. So she lamented the fact that many women in public would whisper audibly around her “god does she ever EAT?” or that strangers would outright TELL her “sweetheart, starving yourself isn’t healthy either”. This is unacceptable, she said. And I agreed. It’s absolute bollucks to have complete STRANGERS have the audacity to think they have the right to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your body, based on a twisted and incorrect body stereotype alone. She had me on her rant right up till the end. Where she then asked, “why is it so much more socially acceptable to tell a thin person to eat a hamburger than it is to tell a fat person to skip the fries when it’s so much more well known that a fat person is the more likely to be unhealthy?”

    At that I couldn’t help but headdesk. We got into it a bit and I finally gave up. It was obvious I wasn’t going to sway her that I’d seen plenty of instances that pointed to me that it actually seemed more socially acceptable to tell a fat person to starve because of the assumption that fat people were by default more unhealthy. *sigh* I agree that it’s bollucks to assume anything just by a body type, and even more bollucksy to say anything about it. And I don’t really understand why more people can’t start making the correlation between thin does not always = eating disorder and fat does not always = insatiable, lazy glutton. The superstition and/or thinness as religion actually makes quite a bit of sense on this. Just thinking about some of the diet regimes out there in the superstition light is laughable because it’s so true. So many of them have the completely irrational, “take it on faith alone” appeal that so many medieval witch doctor tactics had that we find laughable now.

    *sigh* /end novel sized rant

  54. It doesn’t do any good to say “get rid of your preconcieved notions of fat people” and then say “it’s ok to hang on to your preconcieved notions of skinny people.”….and this brings out one of my biggest problems. I understand that skinny people are skinny in the same way that I’m fat. But it’s too easy to hold onto my resentment of the treatment that a thin person receives vs what I receive. But then I realize that’s just from my POV. Yes, maybe it seems thinner people have it easier. But they may be stressed out about staying thin, or annoyed by all the guys that think its their right to hit on them. It’s just hard to be alive, sometimes. Period.

    And for the record. Sometimes I do eat a lot, too much. And sometimes it’s fatty, and “bad” for me. And you know what, at that time, I don’t care. I’d still be fat whether or not. Not going to beat myself up about it.

  55. AND
    “To me, it’s like the inexplicable belief that most Americans have that the very rich are rich because they worked so hard and that there are no other factors involved. I sometimes have my students read Peter Singer’s “What Should a Billionaire Give?” and I’m continually shocked that all or nearly all of them believe that no matter how wealthy somebody is, they have no moral obligation to give, because it’s their money and they earned it. How can you get people who will never, ever have enough wealth to have an estate to be so dead-set against an estate tax, or people making $30K a year think that progressive income taxes are wrong? How do you get people to be completely complacent in the face of the staggering and growing gap between the rich and the poor? You turn being poor into a moral failing, and being rich into a great individual achievement, and suddenly all the other factors at play don’t matter.”

    I was just thinking about this last night! AWESOME POINT LORI.

  56. But then I realize that’s just from my POV. Yes, maybe it seems thinner people have it easier. But they may be stressed out about staying thin, or annoyed by all the guys that think its their right to hit on them.

    HAHAHAHA yeah, that’s TOTALLY what happens. :) lol.

    Thinner people DO have it easier. But the crap they put up with that I think is being talked about here is still body policing by others – not the anxiety that they might become fat or the woes that come with too much sexual attention! I mean, SOME (dumb) people might complain about those things, but overall we’re talking about verbal abuse, bullying, and mean-spirited teasing about body shape. It’s just a question of degree and social context.

  57. (Note that I don’t think unwanted sexual attention is a minor problem, because it can be really intrusive and harrassing and seriously sucks. But that can happen to people of ALL sizes, and it’s not really what I thought we were talking about here!)

  58. Oh absolutely volcanista…I definitely get what we’re talking about. Just kind off topic stating that my train of thought always goes from preconceived notions of thin people right to resentment. And I’m trying to work on that.

  59. both are things people delude themselves into believing they can achieve their lifetimes.

    Yes, and then are told, when they fail, that it’s all their fault. How many people gain weight after dieting and then are told they failed, not the diet? How many people were told that home prices would keep going up and it was the best investment they could make, and now are being called irresponsible and stupid for taking on a mortgage that became too much for them? We hold out these fantasies to people–being thin, being rich–and convince them that we have just the way for them to achieve it, and then when that method inevitable fails, we heap the blame right back on them. It’s disgusting, really.

    I’m just constantly shocked by how bombarded we are, all the time, by the message that we are not okay the way we are. We aren’t thin enough, pretty enough, wealthy enough, young enough, etc. And so often we all just accept that the problem is indeed with us, and not with the absurd and unrealistic standards we’re supposed to accept.

  60. Volcanista,
    I think it distills to the idea of the female body as public property,
    which isn’t a fat or thin or in-between issue, but a feminist issue.

  61. This also calls attention to the issue of how people are choosing to “solve” the problem of “overweight” and “obesity” among children and teens. Making anyone who goes to the doctor and doesn’t measure between point A and point B on the BMI scales are often told by the medical field that a diet is necessary, that they have to watch their sweets, and of course, that they should stop simply watching TV and exercise– assuming of course, at appearance and at weight, that they couldn’t possibly be active and even less likely that they’re eating what they should.

    There’s amazing fallout from the approach– at war with food, poor body image, low self worth, among other issues. We have to become more cognizant of the results of such flash judgments any way we slice it.

  62. I can’t afford to be paranoid. I love my body, and I try to say so with the way I dress and move and enjoy the life I have. But stuff like your extremely clear and potent line of reasoning here, FJ, makes me feel empowered and scared at the same time.

    I just wanted to respond to this, and say I’ve kind of felt the same way. Honestly, FA makes me feel both empowered and scared at the same time, too.

    I think some of it is that people have a whole lot of cognitive dissonance going on about weight and body size. I’m another person who has never been harassed or taunted about my weight. I’ve never even been harangued by a doctor or “well-meaning” family member about it. I’ve certainly never been accused of being thin or underweight, and if pressed I’m sure people would describe me as larger than average or on the large side of average, but I haven’t had to deal with people calling me fat.

    Except online, where if I mention in any space that isn’t an FA blog, that I’m one of those obese people the media talks about (with a BMI of 29-31, most of the time), but that I’m also active and healthy and eat like most other people, I get called a liar, a food addict, a junkie, delusional, a heart attack waiting to happen (which I very well might be, but that would be due to have panic disorder since I was a child, not my weight), and just basically a fat lazy lying slob. The funny thing is, I once responded to somebody’s insistence that somebody can’t have a BMI of 30 and not be a sedentary food addict by posting a picture of myself, on the assumption that maybe this person didn’t have any idea of what “obesity” looked like, and I think I was right. After that, she stopped going on about how I was clearly a lying liar who must be binging on donuts all day. Now, it’s possible that she just didn’t want to come out and say, “Your picture totally confirms that you are the fat ass slug I said you were!” but given that she had no problem criticizing my lifestyle based on my BMI, I’m leaning towards that not being the case. I think she just had, on the one hand, a strong sense that being fat was always and only a terrible, unhealthy, and abnormal thing, and on the other hand is somebody who is around active, happy, healthy fat people on a regular basis (as we all are), and just didn’t realize it.

    I honestly feel like in my experience–although clearly not in the experience of everyone!–there’s more fat hate online than in real life. I don’t think it’s just a case of people being willing to say online what they won’t say in real life. I also think it’s a matter of people not connecting (because they ARE at a disconnect) the rhetoric we’re fed about obesity with the reality of the many fat people they know. Because so few people are honest about their weight and size and BMI, it’s easy to start abstractly hating somebody based on their weight or their classification as “obese.” In real life, though, when you see this person, and realize they look like your sister or friend or coworker, then it’s a lot harder to hold on to those assumptions.

  63. Volcanista,
    I think it distills to the idea of the female body as public property,
    which isn’t a fat or thin or in-between issue, but a feminist issue.

    I don’t think we’re really trying to distill it all down to one issue. Otherwise there wouldn’t be all these blog posts and comments about it!

  64. It would seem to me that by not recognising anorexia unless the person is underweight they’re basically saying that the behaviors associated with the disease and their physical side effects aren’t actually a problem as long as the person isn’t going to die of starvation. Which, when you think about it, is pretty damn disturbing.

    Especially when they have starved fat mice to death in a lab and found on autopsy that the mice metabolisms had cannibalized their muscle and organ tissue to make more fat tissue. Yeah, that’s really healthy. It’s not how much you eat, it’s what your body does with what you eat.

  65. Volcanista, I though I was agreeing with you,
    and that the universality to the woman condition WAS the reason for all these all these blog posts and comments about it.
    Perhaps I misinterpreted.

  66. This post is awesome. I’ve been reading for just a couple months, and am still struggling to apply FA as it relates to my own psyche. It’s amazing how much it takes for common sense to break through into self-perception. Would I think anything of it if a thin friend ordered a burger and ate all her fries? No. Would I walk away feeling guilty for being the fat girl who just ate everything on her plate? …Depends on the day. And the opposite holds just as true. If we both ate a balanced meal? Same game.

    @ Wiggles
    The yearning seems to be wrapped up in the superstition that Meowser mentioned earler. A lot of society’s notions about how and what we eat or how we excercise relates back to fat as morality–the price of sin via indulgence which we haven’t properly absolved via exercise. The fetishized ideal of control over our own bodies centers on this norm. I’m not sure most people who strive for it can see any other way, nor understand when it doesn’t come through the way it “should.” It is science after all.

    And who can argue against science ???

  67. Even though I know it’s no justification, I have to say that a lot of the backlashy defensiveness comes from the way many thin women aren’t just passive recipients of privilege bestowed by others – they positively, unapologetically BASK in it. It’s not just the guys hitting on them instead of me. It’s the looks they – skinny women, not some featureless blob of people in general – give me when I walk into any clothing store other than LB. It’s moving into an upper-middle-class neighborhood and having all the moms at the playground ask which family you work for (I’m white and native-born, so that’s not it). It’s the way they treated me in high school, when I weighed half what I do now. It’s the incident you encountered with the dance costumes – that email wasn’t “unexamined” privilege. It was knowing, triumphant privilege. You were being fat-shamed.

    Intellectually, I know that people like that stick out in my mind because of their individual choices. That most thin women really don’t care, and have issues of their own. But I can’t follow you all the way to the idea that they have it just as bad as we do, in their own way. Not when so many of them consciously participate in making it bad for me. I used to be thin (well, a tallish lanky in-betweenie, but close enough), and I know how I thought about fat people. I know how I looked at them and am horrified now to realize how unsubtle it must have been. To the extent that I managed to keep it to myself, it’s because of the manners I was raised with, not any particular sensitivity on this issue. The same mother who taught me to be polite also taught me that pillar of in-betweenie self-esteem: to comfort oneself by looking at fatter women and think “at least I don’t look like that.” I would love to believe that large numbers of thin people are secret allies who want to bond over how misunderstood we all are, but my experiences won’t let me. I hope the FA community can forgive me for the anger that is partially blinding me on this point. I am not ready to let it go.

  68. I wrote a large response to a few of you but I think the old cliche “the grass is always greener…” sums it up nicely.

    I’m thin and I think you have it easier. You’re fat and think I have it easier. Is either of us right? I don’t think you can win either way, honestly. Its pretty much impossible for a woman in this culture to tolerate herself, let alone do the whole self-esteem thing, no matter what your size is. :-(

  69. Elizabeth, this reminds me of a friend who was just complaining about “people who have met famous people” and how they’re always so insufferable and jackassy about it. I was like “um, that’s not about people who have met famous people; that’s about people who are insufferable jackasses. They’ll be insufferable jackasses about anything.”

    And so I say to you: that’s not about thin people, it’s about insufferable jackasses. Insufferable jackasses would flaunt any privilege they had in order to raise their own status. Yes, it’s a problem that being thin confers so much privilege for them to bask in, but they bask in it not because they’re thin but because they’re asshats.

  70. On the other hand, this:

    I’m thin and I think you have it easier. You’re fat and think I have it easier.

    is pretty disingenuous. It’s not exactly a “grass is greener” situation when one side is considered socially unacceptable, fundamentally unattractive, and on the verge of death and is treated as less than human by parents, peers, doctors, and the media and the other… is jealous of something, I’m not sure what. Volcanista wrote about it here. If you feel inclined to argue that there’s no such thing as thin privilege, I would urge you to read some of this blog.

  71. It’s not exactly a “grass is greener” situation when one side is considered socially unacceptable, fundamentally unattractive, and on the verge of death and is treated as less than human by parents, peers, doctors, and the media and the other… is jealous of something, I’m not sure what.

    Dingdingding!

    When people feel justified in actively discriminating in one side and not the other, it’s not ‘grass is greener’. No one has an easy job of body acceptance in our culture. But some, as they say, are less equal than others.

  72. Exactly. The demonization of fat and the presumption that women’s bodies are public property hurts fat and thin alike. But pretending that we couldn’t possibly figure out whether it’s worse to be a fat person or a thin person in a culture that demonizes fat and fat people is just silly.

  73. But I can’t follow you all the way to the idea that they have it just as bad as we do, in their own way.

    Fair enough, Elizabeth, you have every right to be angry! But I don’t think anyone has said this, and I think most of us have said the opposite – us thin women do NOT have it nearly as tough as fatter women. Period.

    I’m thin and I think you have it easier. You’re fat and think I have it easier. Is either of us right?

    Yes. The fat person is right. You are not.

  74. Those are some deep thoughts, milady.

    Actually I call those “subway thoughts” because my mind tends to go on long convoluted twisty turny thought patterns during my commute because I have nothing else going on. Just me and my iPod and my brain.

    Sometimes they get deep. Not today though. On the way home I was thinking about vodka. And blogging. Because today my internship involved both of those things.

  75. ^^That had like nothing to do with the topic at hand.^^

    One could also point out that there is a skew on the bell curve. One would think that the discrimination would be against the outliers on each end, but in fact if you drew a line where discrimination begins it would probably be a teensy sliver at the small end and then be from somewhere just below the middle on up. I wish I could draw that.

  76. one jewish dyke – Yep, that’s exactly what bothers me about the current diagnostic criteria. Even at my most blatantly eating disordered (under 800 calories a day), I was never really skinny looking or technically underweight, so no one saw anything wrong with my not eating. And I think that applies to a LOT of women who just aren’t gentically built to ever be skinny, but who’re living on a scarily small ammount of food. Why pretend these people aren’t anorexic? Especially when the must be officially underweight rule isn’t applied to diagnosing bulimia.

    Also totally agreed with Lori on the health=religion for a secular nation concept. How else do you get things like, in the other post, people expressing shock over the idea that butter is used in cooking by chefs who know how to make things taste good? And then there’s the quasi-religious tone that a lot of diet plans talk in, and the wierd reverence with which people talk about diet gurus. It’s all very “deliver me from my sins”, you know? And then there’s diet talk as a substitute for confession.

  77. Also about the whole grass is always greener idea…um, no. I’ve been fat, and I’ve been thin, and being thin is much, much easier, no matter how many extra annoying come-ons from entitled men you have to deal with when you’re thinner. Society pretty much sucks for women in general, but it sucks a whole lot less for young thin white women than for any other women.

  78. I was happier when I was heavier. I also didn’t have an eating disorder then. Maybe that’s it. Whatever.

    My life is glorious because I’m thin, ok? Fine.

  79. Whoa, jenny, you being less happy now that you’re thin doesn’t mean it’s universal. The point is that society as a whole is much tougher on fat people than thin people, in general, and one data point to the contrary doesn’t really change the overall trend. I’m sorry to hear you have an illness that has accompanied your change to thin-ness, and that could certainly be a reason you don’t feel happy right now. But to be honest, you haven’t experienced life as someone who grew up and was always effortlessly thin, and that’s a big difference. It is WAY easier to be that person. Some of us were born with that because of the luck of the draw, and that’s inherently privileged.

    Also, if you’re thin now after being fatter, you actually might be getting much less in the way of negative public attention. (Unless you were one of the luckier fat people who didn’t often get called names on the street.) You might have an easier time buying clothes in straight-sized clothing stores. You might be generally regarded as more socially “acceptable” in your body now. Those things ARE privileges. It doesn’t mean everything actually DOES become happy-go-lucky when you lose weight (the FoBT is a fantasy). But at the moment, you might have it socially easier than a fat person overall.

  80. CassandraSays: “Even at my most blatantly eating disordered (under 800 calories a day), I was never really skinny looking or technically underweight, so no one saw anything wrong with my not eating. And I think that applies to a LOT of women who just aren’t gentically built to ever be skinny, but who’re living on a scarily small ammount of food. Why pretend these people aren’t anorexic? Especially when the must be officially underweight rule isn’t applied to diagnosing bulimia.”

    I could have written this. Once I realized that the (fortunately) brief period of my life where I did this to my body combined with about 3-5 hours of exercise a day was anorectic behavior I realized that that was why I had an issue with assuming all rail thin women had eating disorders (aside from the fact that, you know, that’s akin to prejudging fat people). I lived about 5 months of this. And it took all of that just to get me in the “normal” BMI weight range, so since I didn’t “look” anorexic, I couldn’t possibly be anorexic, even though it was pretty obvious I was skipping meals.

    Also, Jenny, I’m sorry you feel the way you do, but no-one’s said “your life is filled with fuzzy bunnies and happy kitties who fart rainbows and poop sunshine!” because you’re thin. Thin women still don’t necessarily always have it easy, but as a thin person you’re a lot less likely to have a hard time finding cute clothing that fits well, be told by your doctor who doesn’t even first ask about your lifestyle that you live an unhealthy one, and you’re less likely to receive a smug look from the cashier who sells you that chocolate bar and bag of chips at the convenience store. You’re less likely to be accused (either directly or indirectly) of being a lazy, gluttonous slob. Having been fat, thinnish, and mostly hovering around inbetweenie most of my life, I can say that the above all applied to me in varying degrees at my various states. It was never to the extreme, and no, being thin didn’t make my life magically delicious (mostly because I was still convinced I was fat and was still torturing myself even when I was considered “normal”) but shopping for clothing was easier, I felt less self-conscious eating a burger in public, and I got less hints and accusations from my doctor (and family).

  81. Anyone want to petition the American Psychological Association with me to remove the weight requirement from the anorexia nervosa diagnosis in the DSM 5 (psychiatric Diagnostic and Statistical Manual)?

    That’s right. No matter how malnourished and close to death you are from self-starvation, no matter if you meet every single symptom (what you report) and sign (what the diagnoser observes) of anorexia nervosa, if your BMI is 81% or more of the lowest “healthy” BMI, you can’t be diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. My local inpatient hospitals take patients off behavioral plans and starvation precautions the second they hit 81% of “Ideal weight” – 82 lbs for someone my height (5’2′) and 116 for a woman a foot taller than me. Needless to say, this is less than helpful to my patients.

    Did you notice that even at starvation level, we’re only allowed a THIRTY FOUR POUND difference over a foot of height? That’s less than four pounds per inch of (usually) torso.

    GROSS OUT WARNING! SKIP the next paragraph if you are squeamish!

    Anyone who has ever seen the “human steak” cross sections at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (or anywhere else) can appreciate that this is kind of ridiculous. If I had 32″ circumference steak that weighed four pounds for my St. Patrick’s Day party, people would think I’m a skinflint because I can guarantee it wouldn’t be an inch thick.

    Not to mention, putting a *weight* requirement in a psychiatric diagnosis would seem bizarre to anyone not bred in our fucked up culture. I mean, there’s no requirement that we withhold the bipolar diagnoses from everyone not in the TOP 20% of BMI measures because everybody knows only REALLY fat people are “jolly.” (Yes, I’m aware that mania isn’t a bit jolly to live through – but it makes as much sense as labeling only REALLY thin people “starving.”)

    People can be dangerously malnourished at ANY weight – indeed, about half of the “10 fattest people” in a Dimensions article had died of malnutrition/starvation trying to lose weight. Even when the DSM was originally assembled, there were actual medical tests to diagnose malnutrition that were far more accurate than body weight, for crying out loud. Electrolyte levels. Anemia. Micro and macro nutrient deficiencies. Chronic dehydration. You know, all the problems bariatric surgery survivors (I say survivors both because this surgery is often fatal, and because it is deliberate amputation and mutilation of healthy organs.) encounter down the line.

    Malnutrition, not weight, needs to be the basis of determining whether dieting has turned into self-starvation.

    Of course, that would force psychiatrists and psychologists to acknowledge that the medical framing of self-starvation as pathological behavior for the thin and a “healthy lifestyle” for the fat is unscientific, superstitious and based on hatred rather than reason.

  82. Hey guys,

    I apologise for responding to something halfway up the page, but I only read every couple of days and you all move so fast :)

    RE: the “abnormal psych” and Obesity as a “disease” thing…

    I just had a baby, had preeclampsia & my son was growth restricted as a result… so he wasn’t getting the nutrients he needed that made me have to deliver him early. Yes, logical brain says “not my fault”.

    But how’s thing for triggering, for a person who barely survived severe sepsis after a botched lap banding… and who has been PROVEN to not “binge eat” or any of those other associated evil behaviours.

    On my discharge papers, it listed “medical conditions: Nutrition Issue – Obesity”. It pissed me off no end, and when I read it I laughed, but the more I think about it, the more I am thinking of wanting it removed from my record.

    I DON’T have a nutrition issue — when I was nearly killed with the band, I was drip fed for a MONTH and GAINED 7kg. My surgeon coud not believe it, and referred me to an endo who dismissed me and said to diet. Sigh.

    So to see myself pathologised like that, after I have battled for so long to prove that I am not a binge eater of donuts & cake… it means nothing when those words are sitting there on your record.

    Anyway, I apologise for the slightly off-topic comment, but the discussion reminded me of that. I tell you, having been the victim of medical mistreatment because I am overweight… its abhorrent and nearly killed me AND my son. Anyone who wants the story can email me… my doctor actually didnt treat me for gestational hypertension and I am suing him.

  83. Mary H: “Anyone want to petition the American Psychological Association with me to remove the weight requirement from the anorexia nervosa diagnosis in the DSM 5 (psychiatric Diagnostic and Statistical Manual)?

    *raises hand* Yes please!

    Also, Tea B, wow, I am so so sorry for everything you went through. It’s ridiculous but I’m so glad you’re suing him at least. I hope they take away his license to practice. That’s awful and totally unacceptable.

  84. ***Anyone want to petition the American Psychological Association with me to remove the weight requirement from the anorexia nervosa diagnosis in the DSM 5 (psychiatric Diagnostic and Statistical Manual)?***

    Sounds great, where do I sign?

  85. FJ, your story made me think about a ballet studio that I left fairly recently (–I am borderline “overweight” according to the BMI; my friends have frequently [and recently] called me “skinny” –I identify myself as a “fat ally” and I love the work you do here, so if I misstep *please* kick my ass). One of the reasons I switched studios is because I couldn’t bear to take class with a woman who was obviously very sick.

    Given the environment (and given that I’d been taking class there for several years) I made a reasoned, but unfortunate judgment. I wish I hadn’t. (Granted I’ll stay with the new place because 1. I’d been going there for donkey’s years
    anyway 2) the classes are smaller 3) they have an “unlimited for a year option” and 4) I never have to confront Wendy Whelan or Veronkia Part tying her pointe shoes in the lobby on the way to class)

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