Once More With Feeling: We Already Know We’re Fat

kateiconZuzu sent me a link to the latest Schott’s Vocab post at the NYT, this one examining the phrase “fat gap.” Ben Schott points out that the phrase “has also been used to describe disproportionately high obesity rates among the poor, and the differing levels of obesity in different ethnic groups in Washington D.C.,” but here, he’s talking about how it’s used it in yet another article about yet another survey showing obese people are too stupid to know we’re obese. Says the Telegraph: “They are suffering from a new phenomenon dubbed ‘the fat gap’ which has blurred public perception of what is a healthy weight.”

Schott also quotes BBC health reporter Clare Murphy on the matter:

The findings appear to be fresh evidence of a phenomenon that health professionals have long suspected: as those around us get fatter, our perceptions of our own size change accordingly.

No, our perceptions of our own size are not the problem here; our perceptions of the size that constitutes clinical obesity is, and there are some damned good reasons for that. Murphy even touches on one of them — “pictures of children too fat to toddle or the adults so large they need to be hoisted from his house have transformed obesity into a freak show” — but still doesn’t quite connect all the dots.

Let’s review. As Fillyjonk said earlier this month:

This so-called epidemic is not made up of theoretical fucking people who are just as fat as you can possibly imagine. It’s made up of people you see every day AND WHO YOU PROBABLY THINK ARE “NOT FAT.”

It is also, of course, made up of the very fat people held up as “freaks,” and plenty of people in between, but the fact remains that in the U.K., as with the U.S., the majority of obese people have a BMI between 30 and 35. Which means that if they don’t know they’re clinically obese, it’s probably because they’ve never calculated their BMI, they look nothing like the media’s image of obesity, and they’ve constantly got people telling them they’re not even fucking fat.

That’s a sore spot for me, as you know, and I’ve been getting it more than usual lately. Jezebel commenters, journalists, anyone new I mention my work to — “Wait, I don’t get it. You don’t look fat to me!” My sister J’s first comment on the Chatelaine spread: “Guaranteed to garner plenty of ‘you’re not even fat’ comments!”  And the sad thing is, I’d already had the same thought. I am thisclose to making myself a skintight “This is what obesity looks like” T-shirt.

And it’s not even like I’m borderline obese. My BMI is about 35, based on my best guess of what I weigh right now (low 190s). So in fact, the only border I am on is that of obese class 2. I am, in fact, more obese than most obese people in this country. So is Fillyjonk. So is Joy Nash (at the high end of class 1, being 1 lb. heavier and 1 inch taller than class 2 FJ). So is Coco. So is Slay Belle. So is Shannon. Are you getting the picture?

I say this, as always, not to make fatter fats feel like freaks (of whom we are quite fond anyway), but to clarify why a reasonable person might be confused about the clinical definition of obesity, and just who makes up this epidemic we’re constantly hearing about. The reporters telling us that of 2000 people surveyed, 25% were obese but only 7% knew it, really seem to believe that’s because fatties are looking around at other fatties and going, “Well, gosh, I don’t look that bad, so I must not really be fat.” They don’t ever  consider that people who are class 1 obese — once again, most obese people — almost certainly realize they’re some value of “fat” but might not realize they’re over the “obese” threshold because the visual definition of “obese” they’re usually offered by THE SAME GODDAMNED MEDIA OUTLETS refers only to a tiny percentage of the population.

Oh, Murphy sort of acknowledges that, but here’s how:

The focus on the extreme in television documentaries about the very large but also in the pictures that are chosen to illustrate articles about obesity have also been held up as another potential culprit.

“If you see people with BMI of over 50, say, and you have a BMI of 40 then you may well think you aren’t too bad,” says Dr Krystyna Matyka of the University of Warwick Medical School.

OK, first, I’d just like to point out that the illustration for this very article is a close-up of belly rolls and the caption “Apparently we do not know what’s normal anymore.” Second, without knowing for sure how the stats broke down, I can almost guarantee you that the problem is not people with a BMI over 40 failing to recognize that they’re obese; it’s THE MAJORITY OF OBESE PEOPLE, WHO ARE MUCH THINNER THAN THAT.

So instead of actually teaching anyone what “obese” more commonly looks like, studies and articles like this merely reinforce the stereotype that fat people are not only ignorant but delusional. Instead of imagining people who look like Angelos or Ginny being unaware that they’re on the threshold of clinical obesity, or people like Cassie and Delilah not realizing they’ve already crossed it, the average reader imagines the headless, dehumanized, extremely fat person in the picture standing in front of a mirror, making finger guns and going, “How you doin’, slim?” Which serves the purpose of amping up discrimination against “ignorant” fat people quite well, but doesn’t actually do a goddamned thing to help the majority of obese people recognize that they qualify as such, which is supposed to be the point here, isn’t it?

Problem is, actually talking about people with a BMI just over 30 not realizing they’re officially obese, when most people wouldn’t realize it about them, either, would make it really hard to advance the thesis that fat people are idiots who lie to themselves! It’s much easier to stay vague about exactly who, among obese folks, doesn’t know it, and then “support” your thesis with lines like this:

Over half of those deemed morbidly obese believed they ate a healthy diet, while more than a third of the overweight said they had never tried to shed the pounds.

It’s not possible, of course, that over half of those deemed morbidly obese actually are eating a healthy diet. Calories in, calories out, people! Clearly, more than 50% of really fat people just DON’T KNOW THAT ALL THOSE DOUGHNUTS ARE BAD FOR THEM. Never mind that we have no idea who they are, what they’re eating, how much they exercise, or what sort of medical problems they have. Never mind that most fat people eat about the same amount as most thin people. As always, the important thing is to insist that the fattest fatties obviously know squat about nutrition and/or routinely lie to themselves about what goes in their mouths. And how about all those overweight people who have never even tried dieting — how crazy is that? I mean, just because they might look like Jessica or Kate or Meg and Jeffrey, just because they might not have been “overweight” at all before the threshold was lowered from 27 to 25, WHERE DO THOSE FATASSES GET OFF NOT EVEN DIETING?

Oh hey, speaking of which, did I mention that this is all based on an internet poll done  by market research firm YouGov for a company called Slimming World? Murphy, to her credit, does mention that. But it doesn’t stop her from ending the article with this quote from Dr. Susan Jebb of the Human Nutrition Research Laboratory of the Medical Research Council:

Everybody knows obesity is a problem for the nation, but they don’t accept it’s a problem for them – as this latest survey shows. We need to give people the confidence to recognise that it is problem, and that it’s one they can do something about.

We can totally do something about it! Like go to Slimming World! If only we have the confidence to recognize how problematic our fat is.  And of course we totally won’t gain it back within five years or fuck up our health along the way!

Now, back to that line about the morbidly obese delusionally believing they don’t eat poorly, and the overweight having the gall not to diet at all. You’ll note that there’s no mention whatsoever of the people most likely to misjudge themselves as non-obese, i.e. — sing it with me now — the majority of obese people. Do you see the bait and switch there? The story is ostensibly about obese people not even realizing how dangerously fat we are, but the examples given are of A) some obese people who surely do know they’re obese saying they eat healthfully, which is probably fucking true, and B) clinically overweight people choosing not to diet, which is probably because they’re not fucking fat (and/or they’re bright enough to realize diets don’t work).

This story says absolutely nothing about the majority of obese people, specifically. Meanwhile, 7% of those surveyed did, in fact, properly categorize themselves as obese — which happens to be a bit higher than the total percentage of morbidly obese people, suggesting that that group does, in fact, know bloody well that they qualify as obese (as do some people with a BMI lower than 40). So why are we talking about delusional death fats again? There’s also no mention of how the other obese folks categorized themselves, but I’m gonna go ahead and guess that most, if not all of them, would have gone with “overweight,” because fat people know we’re fucking fat, even if we don’t all know exactly where the BMI cut-offs are.

That just doesn’t sound nearly as good as “Apparently we do not know what’s normal anymore.”

137 thoughts on “Once More With Feeling: We Already Know We’re Fat

  1. BTW, if anyone saw this in a version that seemed distinctly fucked up, that’s because at some point in the writing process I hit “publish” instead of “preview” and put this out there before it was done.

    Also, yes, I know full well I am a broken fucking record here, but I was attempting to finally write the definitive post on these surveys, so I can just link to it from now on whenever I see an article about how fat people don’t know they’re fat.

  2. There’s also no mention of how the other obese folks categorized themselves, but I’m gonna go ahead and guess that most, if not all of them, would have gone with “overweight,” because fat people know we’re fucking fat, even if we don’t all know exactly where the BMI cut-offs are.

    Given the number of times I’ve heard comments like, “I could stand to lose 30 or 40 pounds, but I’m not OBESE or anything,” I think that’s definitely true.

    If a researcher is working off of one definition of obesity, and people are using another, and the researcher doesn’t bother to find out what their definition entails, then you are going to get results that tell you nothing.

    People do not define “overweight” and “obese” clinically, for the most part. I’m somebody pretty close to the obese border (BMI usually 29-31), and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve told somebody that I’m obese and they’ve insisted I’m not, even though I’m not much different from the size of most obese people. People define “obese” as “so large you can’t walk/breathe easily because of your weight” and “overweight” as “fat but not so fat that you are going to break most chairs,” or something like that. And, thank you for pointing out that it’s the fault of the freaking reporting on obesity that people hold that perception in the first place.

  3. Thank you for this. I’m new to the site, so if this is a “broken record” post, I wouldn’t know, and it was a smart and useful deconstruction. Also, thank you for including the links to photos of “overweight” people (according to the BMI). I’m kind of embarrassed to say that that was shocking.

    I’m a bit angry now.

  4. I guess since I’m one of those obese folks who falls into the “morbid” category, I’m at fault for skewing everyone’s perception about what is acceptable. Because, you know, when people look at me, they think, “Whew! I must be okay!! Shoot, before I got a glimpse of her, I actually thought I might be fat! But I’m not! Whoohoo!!” Do these researchers and commenters really think we’re all so stupid? (Yeah, I know. They do.)

    I just can’t begin to express how fricking sick I am of this. I am just beyond pissed. I became aware of the size acceptance movement in the late 80’s. I read the books that were out at that time; subscribed to Radiance magazine; was confident that people would grow more accepting of ALL people. But all I see and hear some twenty years later is that I am a freak, a leech on society, and an ugly, lazy mess with no self-control. Things have not gotten better; they’ve grown exponentially worse. This has happened despite the fact that the scientific evidence keeps piling up in support of the view that weight may indeed be one of those factors over which we have far less control than many think.

    And so, yes, I am pissed. I am pissed that, at the age of 47, after some 20 years in the size acceptance movement, the following things are realities in my life: 1)I still feel too ashamed to wear a swim suit so that I can swim in public with my daughter and husband. 2)I have been walking around with progressively worsening knee pain for the past several months, but I’m so intimidated about finding a new doctor that I’ve continued to suffer, this despite the fact that I am myself a health care professional. 3) I won’t post a current picture of myself on Facebook, because my old friends might see me as I have actually become.

    And I’m also tired. I’m tired of being seen as the cause of societal ills. I’m tired of having trouble finding well-fitting clothes. I’m weary of fighting what for me has been a twenty-year battle for self- and societal-acceptance, which is a battle I don’t seem any closer to winning now than years ago.

    I’m sorry if this post is such a downer. But these people have no damned clue how their collective voices hurt us. They don’t see fat people as fellow human beings; they seem to see us as “problems to be solved.” I am not a problem, dammit.

  5. That line, “people don’t know what’s normal anymore” really says it all, doesn’t it? I mean, if we don’t know what’s normal, how do we know whom to hate and judge? How terrible would that be?

  6. (((MamaD)))

    Also, I know you’re being sarcastic with this:
    I’m at fault for skewing everyone’s perception about what is acceptable.

    But I hope I’ve made it clear — because I don’t always — that I don’t think “morbidly obese” people are at fault for a goddamned thing. I think the media is at fault for A) demonizing fat people in general, B) routinely casting extremely fat people as freakish and somehow less than fully human, C) using the “freak” perception that they fucking promote to whip up panic about obesity, D) Letting personal biases and fat stereotypes shape the spin on reporting about fat, 99 times out of 10, and E) Reporting on internet polls commissioned by commercial weight loss programs in the health section of major media outlets, AMONG OTHER THINGS.

    As to everything else you said, all I’ve got is more internet hugs.

  7. I think part of the problem is that these writers think that if they could just shame us enough we’d finally GET that we’re obese and jump on the Slimming World bandwagon, because, after all, we’re causing the healthcare crisis, so we should be ashamed, right?

  8. Wow, thanks for this, and especially for tracking down the funding, because now, here is how I translate this article:

    “We, Slimming World, are missing out on the huge market of obese people who don’t know they are obese. Because they think they are fine. We could make a lot of money if we could target this group of people. If we could show them how not fine they are, we could get a shitload of new customers!”

    Like you, I’m aghast at the “troubling” statistic that “more than a third of the overweight said they had never tried to shed the pounds.” Like weight loss/dieting has become so normal and widespread that you are the freak if you aren’t on a diet. How dare you think you can resist us, fatty? Don’t you know how fat you are?…I mean…Slimming World is here to help you become the confident person you deserve to be.

  9. I still find it hard to say I’m obese because of the way it’s characterized in the media – but I’m going to start trying to say it when people mouth off about “the obese”, to try to counter this perception. If people understood that people they think aren’t really fat (I’m 5’2″ and wear a US 14-16, so am most definitely fat and I think my BMI puts me on the obesity class 2 border, but people still pull the “you’re not fat” thing with me) are in actuality obese, they might start to question what the media means by “obesity crisis”.

    L’obesity crisis, c’est moi.

    MamaD – I wish people would recognise that we all deserve to be treated like human beings*. It sucks that you can’t go swimming with your husband and daughter without feeling judged. It sucks that you even have to think about whether or not to go to the doctor for your knee pain because you know that there’s a good chance you’re going to get a hefty dose of fat-shaming. I don’t know if there’s anything I can say that will help, but wanted you to know that I’m sending virtual hugs your way.

    *In fact, I’m starting to think there are two types of people – those with empathy for others, and those who won’t ever look outside their own heads.

  10. Just to add, I re-read my comment and am worried that it read like I thought it was fine for all the fat-shaming stuff to go on if it was aimed at the really fat. Totally not what I meant, and am sorry if it came off like that.

  11. Wow, thanks for this, and especially for tracking down the funding

    Wasn’t hard, since the BBC reporter included that detail, very much to her credit. I wonder how many people skip right over that part, though. (Or how many people look at the name “YouGov” and assume, like I did at first, that it’s some government public health thingy, not a research firm.)

  12. @Kate—I was of course being sarcastic. This is one of the few places I go where I DON’T experience blame and shame.

    Thanks for all the virtual hugs, everyone. Virtual hugs right back at ya!

    I have to say I found it encouraging to find out that so many people had NEVER dieted!!

  13. fantasically brilliant post!!!
    as always, I will quote you (and give credit, I swear) in my “discussions” with folks who NEED to tell me about how fat I : am, am not, don’t look but still might be, am and and therefore also waddling toward heart disease, all types of diabetes, HBP, cancer, brain tumors, ingrown toenails……BIG SIGH

    I may begin carrying copies of your books and posts and just stuffing them in peoples hands, mouths, backpacks, purses, desk drawers

    again another brilliant post

    THANK YOU

  14. Those photos links are all the proof anyone needs that BMI just creates categories for the sake of having categories. Those numbers really don’t say much about a person’s health or well-being.

  15. Thanks for this post. I was just thinking something along these lines as I have ventured back into online dating, and was reading someone’s profile wherein he said he wouldn’t date obese women. I pictured him measuring his dates’ heights and weights, computing their BMIs, and then dismissing or accepting them based on that. My BMI is about 42, so I am most definitely obese by the medical definition–which is the only context the word “obese” should be used in. “Obese” doesn’t mean “fatter than I consider acceptable,” “circus-freak fat,” or any of the other definitions people try to hang on it.

  16. I would define the “fat gap” as that vacuous space between the ears of social planners who establish normative rules and standards for the rest of us.

    Totally loving this comment from the article.

    I’m one of those on the “overweight/obese” line. I know where I stand based on BMI. I also know where I stand based on body fat (which is actually within the “acceptable” range). I also know that most people don’t look at me and see OBESE. The delusion is in thinking that I can’t be healthy at this weight, not in me daring to eat normally instead of dieting constantly.

    And interestingly enough? I had brunch today with an old friend who is a few inches taller and probably 50 lbs lighter than I am. We ate exactly the same brunch (save my two pieces of bacon). Gee, I wonder what I’m doing wrong here.

  17. The flip side of this is that, when I was in high school, I was at my thinnest, 140lbs (at 5’4″). At this size, I was constantly receiving messages that a) I was morbidly obese, and b) this was a bad thing.

    It never considered myself a dieter or having an eating disorder, but it recently occurred to me that when I weighed 140lbs, I was also not eating breakfast or lunch (more out of stomach issues).

    100lbs (and 10 years) later, I am more active than I ever was (but, let’s face it, I’m lazy and prefer reading to exercise, so it’s only like 60 to 90 minutes of activity over a week; but hey! I take the bus to class, which requires a lot of walking, instead of driving!), and I eat better than ever. Now as someone who is at a BMI of 40 (i.e., who is now actually “morbidly” obese), I feel less “fat” (where, as others would tell me, fat = gross, ugly, worthless, etc.) and more Fat (where Fat = I just am, so what?).

  18. “I still find it hard to say I’m obese because of the way it’s characterized in the media – but I’m going to start trying to say it when people mouth off about “the obese”, to try to counter this perception. If people understood that people they think aren’t really fat (I’m 5′2″ and wear a US 14-16, so am most definitely fat and I think my BMI puts me on the obesity class 2 border, but people still pull the “you’re not fat” thing with me) are in actuality obese, they might start to question what the media means by “obesity crisis”.” ~Thegirlfrommarz

    This is me completely. Just repeated for emphasis. :)

    Great writing, Kate.

  19. I am so sick and tired of those headless fatties used in “obesity panic” articles because I could be one of them (at a BMI of 53, I more than qualify, being “deathfat looking for a place to happen already 25 years ago”). Thing is, that says nothing about my health. I just had my yearly physical, and blood pressure was 120/74, blood sugar was 98, cholesterol was on the low side of normal. I also had an ultrasound done of my carotid arteries and they are totes clear, no plaque at all, with a very strong heartbeat, according to the technician who did the ultrasound. But I can’t be healthy because, in most peoples’ minds, at 388 lbs, I shouldn’t even be able to get out of bed, let alone cook meals, do the dishes, do laundry, go grocery shopping, go swimming (and yes, and I put my fat ass in a swimsuit and go swimming with my husband and if people don’t like it, tough shit). Size is not an accurate indication of health or ability and never will be, not in my estimation.

  20. Kate,
    You look fabulous in that spread! And I would buy a “this is what obesity looks like” t-shirt if you do decide to make them. They’d be a great ad for this blog. And this whole story is yet another example of how BMI is fucked up.

  21. @Vesta44 Right, and if you reported all that on one of these surveys, you’d then be mocked by reporters for actually believing you do things like eat vegetables and swim. Over half of morbidly obese people don’t even know that when they eat salad and work out, they are actually eating Big Macs and sitting on the couch! Truefax!

  22. Haha, Kate. God, I’m glad I haven’t stepped foot inside a WW center since college.

    I still find it hard to say I’m obese because of the way it’s characterized in the media

    Same. I’ve taken to telling some friends that I’m borderline obese if we get into the whole “I shouldn’t be eating this” kind of talk. Most of them are genuinely shocked.

  23. I can feel my blood pressure going up. I’m pretty sure that the only real health problem my weight causes me is the occasional homicidal rages that come from reading about teh fatz in the mainstream media.

  24. Love Love LOVE this. I have no idea where the death-fatty-has-no-idea-she’s-fat meme came from, but it needs to die a fiery death.

    This is one of the reasons I’m so vocal about my size. I get the classic “you’re not fat” all the time from friends/acquaintences. Um… no. I’m 5’3″, 180 or so lbs (I try not to weigh myself), and have a BMI around 30. Yes, I AM the face of the Obesity Crisis. No, telling me I’m “not fat” isn’t going to magically change that. I’m a big ol’ fatty, world… deal with it!

    @LF I totally feel you. I had issues with anxiety around age 11, and I pretty much stopped eating. Of course, I was still “fat” by the standards of my classmates, and they let me know. Oh, they let me know.

  25. LMAO @ Starling “I’m pretty sure that the only real health problem my weight causes me is the occasional homicidal rages that come from reading about teh fatz in the mainstream media.”

    I’m morbidly obese and still so often hear that line “you’re not that fat” which makes me laugh. O RLY? I’m not that fat? 250lbs (give or take since I haven’t weighed in a while) at 5’3 IS THAT FAT. Then they tell me “but you’re pretty”. SO?

    I think what they’re saying is that since they don’t think I’m gross, then I can’t be that fat. Urgh.

    Funny thing, a few years ago I would’ve beaten myself into a black hole if I heard someone call me fat and these days I get offended when they won’t acknowledge that I am.

  26. For work, I get to fill out “health engagement” forms for insurance companies. If you follow the “health” criteria, you get a deduction in premiums and co-pays.

    If you have a BMI over 30 – and REFUSE to join Weight Watchers – you lose 15 points automatically. It’s irrelevant if the individual does not smoke or drink. It’s irrelevant if the individual has normal cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. It’s irrelevant if the individual has met all yearly testing. If you have that BMI over 30, YOU LOSE. But if you agree to lose all your death fat, and get under that precious 30 mark, you get your 15 points!

    Of course, if your BMI is in that “underweight” category, they say nothing.

  27. I think what they’re saying is that since they don’t think I’m gross, then I can’t be that fat.

    Dingdingdingdingding! And then, as FJ said in the post I linked, people read articles like this, define “obese” as “what I find gross” and conclude, “People I find gross don’t even know they’re fucking fat, which is one more reason to find them gross!”

  28. Of course, if your BMI is in that “underweight” category, they say nothing.

    Even though it’s correlated with more premature deaths than the net deaths from overweight and obesity.

  29. another amazing post. i’ve always been off the charts as far as BMI goes- i literally don’t think I’ve ever been anything but Morbidly Obese- like right at the end of the chart. Now I’m off it. It’s so ridiculous.

  30. “That just doesn’t sound nearly as good as “Apparently we do not know what’s normal anymore.”

    Apparently we don’t! We are shown, over and over and over, that grown women should look like skinny 13 year-olds, and 4 year-olds should look like slutty mini-teenagers, and anyone who looks like our friends and family well, they’re normal (because we know & love them) but they would look better if they were thinner/taller/younger/and with bigger boobs. And of course, they would be healthier and happier too…I’m quite mystified that BMI has been discredited many times as an absurd and antiquated measure of health (or even fatness!) and yet it continues to be a benchmark for normal.

    Kate, I know it must be discouraging to have to write on this exact same topic over & over & over. But all good teachers know one thing: Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until they know. Thanks for being a good teacher!

  31. As someone that’s weight is currently in the overweight category, I occasionally feel the urge to diet, but I fight it. I’m 5’2″ and currently 154 lbs. I also wear a US size 10. I also get looks like ‘you’re not fat.’

  32. If you have a BMI over 30 – and REFUSE to join Weight Watchers – you lose 15 points automatically.

    Also, doesn’t it cost money to join WW and its ilk? You save money on your premium by spending money on a corporate weight loss program.

    Not enough headdesk in the world for this topic, I swear.

  33. @Nancy—“right at the end of the chart. Now I’m off it.”

    This reminds me of when I took my then 9-year-old to a new pediatrician, who, when looking at her weight/height stated, “She’s off of the chart.” I blurted out, “Then maybe you should get a bigger chart!”

    Have you ever noticed that it’s often easier to defend others than it is yourself?

  34. I am this close to making myself a skintight “This is what obesity looks like” T-shirt.

    Please do this. It would make some heads ‘aslpode.

    Kate, it sucks that you have to keep yelling this all over again, but thank you for the yelling. I appreciate it.

  35. I’ve never done this before, but later today, I am going to stand in front of a mirror and make finger guns and say “How you doin, slim?” and I may even wink. This has to happen!

  36. I had brunch today with an old friend who is a few inches taller and probably 50 lbs lighter than I am. We ate exactly the same brunch (save my two pieces of bacon). Gee, I wonder what I’m doing wrong here.

    A friend and I had a plan to photograph ourselves eating foods, and caption things. Like, “A, who is slim, is eating a nice, healthy apple; M, who is fat, is also eating an apple. M’s apple has determined that she is fat and is increasing its calorific value r1t3 n0w.”

  37. i was over my “healthy” BMI when i was a size US/4. yes, FOUR. i was 18 and solid muscle, from head to toe. i was riding a mountain bike 20 miles twice a week. that told me that the BMI was fucked up, not me. now that i am no longer 18, and no longer a size FOUR, its still fucked up. i have to remind myself of that from time to time. when other people remind me of it, its even better. so, thanks for that.

    but its not really about BMI at all, is it? its about DIETING. its about CONTROL, or perceived control. if someone is a BMI 45, they are “fat” or lazy or a bad person, doesnt care about their kids etc. but if that same someone used to be a BMI 65, and worked really really hard to get down to that “fat” BMI of 45, they are to be congratulated. they worked so hard. they are so much healthier now. they are so disciplined. they saw the problem and they took charge. they took back control. blah blah blah. its the SAME PERSON you just said was fat! its so clear that its NOT just about your BMI, or even your SIZE. its about whether or not you are “willing” to “change” and whether you are “able” to take “control.”

    i particularly wince when the new jenny craig commercials come on now, with valerie bertonelli basially saying “the economy is fucked up, you are no longer in control of your life, so DIET! its control-eriffic!” ugh.

  38. As a “death fatty” (BMI 50ish), I get so tired of people assuming I don’t know I’m fat. Like at any point in my life I’ve been allowed to forget. There are times I feel so happy and/or sexy that I forget I’m not in that narrow margin of “conventionally attractive”, but there is always, ALWAYS someone or something to bring me back to that awareness. Sometimes it’s subtle, like going to the bathroom and catching a glimpse of myself next to another lady in the mirror. Sometimes it’s overt, like bastards oinking or mooing at me in public. Either way, the point is that I am never allowed not to realize I’m fat. So I don’t get why my entire extended family tries to sit me down to talk about my weight like I’ve parading around acting thin (and how does one “act thin” anyway?) and need to be brought down a couple pegs. 9.9

    This article is more of that. This is society trying to sit us ignorant fatties down so they can let us know how disappointed they are in us, and how we really should try harder, like the patronizing parent it is.

  39. “Over half of morbidly obese people don’t even know that when they eat salad and work out, they are actually eating Big Macs and sitting on the couch! Truefax!”

    Gee, I thought that eggplant tasted a little bacony.

  40. re: not knowing what “normal” looks like, if 66% (or whatever the statistic of the week is) of folks in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and overweight/obese folks think they are normal, then aren’t they correct? If the majority of folks are somewhere in fat-land, then why can’t it be normalized (she asks rhetorically)?

    It’s like asking people to look at themselves, and go, “Oh no! I don’t look like the thinnest 10% of the population! I must be awful!” Oh, wait. That *is* what we’re asking folks to do. I wonder why they’re not lining up for that experience?

  41. As someone who’s worried about being fat since she was 7, the conclusion that we don’t know what’s normal any more strikes me as very true- for a different reason. Children dieting and cultural weight-loss obsession strike me as very abnormal.

    On a slightly unrelated note, thank you Kate! You have been a major inspiration to me. I’m finally starting to put an end to the vicious cycle of dieting and self-hatred. I’ve been lurking here for about 6 months, so I figured I finally drop in and start participating.

  42. Considering that us “media obese”, those are who large enough to end up as a headless fattie on the news, make up a small percentage of fat people, in logical theory it makes no sense to use us as the poster child for society going into the deep fried pits of hel. But if the media showed people size 14/16/18, the number of people would believe we’re not in having an obesity pandemic and less people might be pressured into dieting and nonstop exercise, and the weight-loss industry might actually lose some money.

    At 5’9 and well over 300 lbs, I know I’m fat. But because I refuse to “do something about it,” that’s why my body, and anyone else who has the same shape I do gets so much scorn and ridicule. They can scold all they like, it won’t change anything.

  43. “Fat gap”? Try a gender gap, pal. From the Telegraph article:

    Two fifths of women think their relationship would be happier if they lost weight, compared to only a third of men who say it would be better if their partner lost weight.

    Almost two fifths of women were too embarrassed to let their partner see them naked because of their weight, compared to just one in five men.

    Yes, that’s correct. Forty percent of women whose partners like the sight of them naked (presumably, or they’d be partners with someone else) don’t want their partners to see them that way. That’s insufficient fat shame? Let’s see those stats broken down by gender, and then we’ll talk. I can buy that there are men who are “overweight” and don’t know it, because they’re actually well-muscled gym rats. But how can any female person in this world over the age of 4 not know exactly where she stands with the male gaze?

    Damn skippy we don’t know what’s “normal.” They’ve been telling us that the so-called “normal” weight range is associated with the lowest all-cause mortality, when it isn’t. They’ve been telling us women Jennifer Aniston’s size are healthier than women Beth Ditto’s size, which they’re not. They’re telling us you can predict the “healthfulness” of someone’s habits by their pants size, which you can’t. And they still — still! — tell us that we’re fat because thin people are too damn nice to us, which…well, if that were true, we wouldn’t all be here, now would we?

  44. How frustrating! That’s not the misperception that’s the problem, imo. I’d like some poll numbers about how many people think they’re “fat”. Not “obese”, just “fat”. Then the percentage of those who said yes who qualify “fat” as a negative trait. Then actual weights/heights. There are the awesome FA people, who will respond, “Yes, I’m fat, no, it’s not a bad thing, here’s my weight, look at how it corresponds to your BMI fat-standard.” But I’d bet anything that a large percentage if not a majority of those polled will answer, “Yes, I’m fat, yes that’s a bad thing, my this is my not-BMI-fat weight.” Anecdotally speaking (and I think everyone else has had similar experiences), there are a hell of a lot of non-fatties out there who look in the mirror and see “FAT”. THAT’S delusion for you. These articles on obesity aren’t about increasing the health of the community. They’re about heaping shame onto anyone who will listen so that they’ll buy into the next product meant to “make them feel better”, be it a high-calorie food, or a weight loss program.

  45. The nerve of these overweight people, not consuming the diets we’re selling and being happy with themselves, they ought to be ashamed.

    The day I understand these people’s thought process is the day I will voluntarily commit myself to an asylum, for I will know I have officially lost my mind.

  46. I am totally impressed by the 30% of “obese” people who have never tried to diet. They must have willpower of steel to resist all the cultural cues and medical fat-shaming.

  47. Even though it’s [c.f., "underweight is"] correlated with more premature deaths than the net deaths from overweight and obesity.

    Because very little of the DEATHFATZ rant is really about actual, verifiable body size, or actual, verifiable health risks, or actual verifiable death, at all.
    It’s about prejudice and perception.

    I think what they’re saying is that since they don’t think I’m gross, then I can’t be that fat.

    Like this.

    (OT: Love new site. Been away, getting used to navigating. Oooo. Munny 4 riting is gud and wuz the plan, i think, since i’ve bin a fan (when did you start this blog again? 2006?) so congratz, and thankz.)

  48. there are a hell of a lot of non-fatties out there who look in the mirror and see “FAT”. THAT’S delusion for you.

    Also, this. Don’t get me started.

  49. Sorry if someone’s said this upthread, I haven’t read the whole comments thread yet. I need to vent before I continue reading.

    This type of article just slays me. “Oh no, fat people don’t know that they’re fat!” “Fat is the new ‘normal’, it’s a sign of the Apocalypse- er, OBESITYCRISISBOOGABOOGA!”

    Yeah. Right. As if we don’t have advertisements every-frickin’-where telling us that we’re ugly and displaying a waifishly thin, heavily Photoshopped model as the goal we should aspire to. As if fashion designers don’t send size 00 clothing to magazines for photo shoots. (I can’t find the link, but the other day I read an article in which the editor of a fashion magazine- I think it was Vogue?- told off the designers for sending clothes that are too small.) We get oinked at in the street, we have to skip over the cute fashions we want to wear in order to get something that fits, our relatives push unwanted weight loss advice at us, doctors of all specialties scold and shame us for not fitting the numbers on the chart and/or having visible adipose tissue. (Including my neurologist, ferchrissake! How does the size of my body affect my seizures? It doesn’t!)

    The world makes damn sure that we know we’re fat. The only delusional people here are the so-called ‘journalists’ who write these articles.

  50. You know, until recently, I would have said, oh, no, I never dieted!!!

    Although I did, when I was in middle school, think I was fat when I was normal weight and eat so little that I started fainting in school. But it wasn’t a Diet!!!

    *sigh*

    (Don’t get me started on my ex-endocrinologist’s attempts to have me Not Diet to weight loss, including overprescribing medication *for that purpose* without telling me that was why she was prescribing it at all.)

  51. There probably are people who are clinically obese who don’t know it. You know, they grew up when “obese” was a height-weight chart that put the “overweight/obese” line in the low 30s of BMI, and it doesn’t occur to them that the line has moved downward to include them in the “obese” category. Sure, it’s in the news, but it’s illustrated with pictures of people like me or LifeOnFats or Vesta or MamaD, and we don’t have a BMI of 31 or 32, so the people who DO have a BMI of 31 or 32 figure they may be a little overweight but not, y’know, obese.

    And if anyone wonders: No, we are not making this up. Check out table 14 — in the US, 95% of all women age 20 and over have a BMI of less than 42. Table 15, 95% of all men age 20 and over have a BMI less than 39. This is from the American CDC’s NHANES study, not an online “So do you think you’re obese?” questionnaire.

  52. Like, “A, who is slim, is eating a nice, healthy apple; M, who is fat, is also eating an apple. M’s apple has determined that she is fat and is increasing its calorific value r1t3 n0w.”

    I’m imagining a PSA:

    [video of thin woman eating an apple, happy tinkly music] This is A. She is eating a healthful apple, making sure to get in her five servings of fresh-fruits-and-vegetables a day. A is taking care of her health – which helps us all!

    [video of fat woman eating identical apple, ominous music, disapproving voice] This is M. She is, once again, indulging her sweet tooth – at the expense of her long-term health, AND the nation’s bottom line. M needs to be taught to take control of her eating, stop indulging herself, and start working on her health.

  53. . . .the average reader imagines the headless, dehumanized, extremely fat person in the picture standing in front of a mirror, making finger guns and going, “How you doin’, slim?”

    Love it.

    And yeah, rarely do people use the terms “underweight”, “‘normal’ weight”, “overweight”, and “obese” in their true clinical sense. My friend is 5’4 and about 145 pounds. She’s apparently “overweight”, but I swear to god, if she lost any weight, it would be unhealthy for her! I’ve had people say they thought I was “quite thin” and even
    underweight once or twice, when I’m really in the dead center of “normal” according to BMI. (Yay for BMI completely fucking up tall people’s projected weights!)

  54. there are a hell of a lot of non-fatties out there who look in the mirror and see “FAT”. THAT’S delusion for you.

    Oh yes. I recently looked back at a bunch of pictures from middle/high school (during which time I was convinced that I was abnormally fat at anywhere from 150-165 lbs depending on how “on” WW I was at the time) and realized that I wasn’t fat at all. In fact, I looked pretty “normal.” I’m sad for all the things younger me missed out on because she thought she was so horribly wrong looking. (If only I had that perspective now that I’m another 10 lbs heavier than my heaviest weight in high school. Hmmm…

    You know, until recently, I would have said, oh, no, I never dieted!!!

    Yeah, I used to think the same way. Until I realized that WW is a diet and not actually a “lifestyle change.”

  55. Also, doesn’t it cost money to join WW and its ilk? You save money on your premium by spending money on a corporate weight loss program.

    The insurance company gives you a “special” discount for joining! They also give you a discount on a gym membership – which isn’t a bad idea, except it’s only geared at the bad fatties. If the insurance company is so hot on good health, they should give this discount to ANY member that wants it.

  56. Even though it’s correlated with more premature deaths than the net deaths from overweight and obesity.

    Yep, that is correct. It’s very possible that the underweight member could have an eating disorder too, which can be physically harmful (and costly). You’d think the insurance company would care about that, since they are SO CONCERNED!

  57. @ Meems–I had the very same experience of being the fat kid in grade school and recently looking at pictures of me then, and….looked just like the other girls, although I felt like the elephant. Maybe cause mom had me on the grapefruit diet every summer? (sigh)

  58. Meems–I had the same experience looking at photos of myself as a seven-year-old, remembering the dress I was wearing, and thinking, “I thought of myself as fat when I wore that dress.” And there I was, a normal seven-year-old. The same is true of photos of me at thirteen and seventeen and nineteen and twenty-three and twenty-nine. I always thought I was fat and therefore bad and undesirable. My actual weight–completely average, in-betweenie, or fat–was beside the point.

    This is the kind of body dysmorphia real people have, not “Here’s looking at you, slim!” dysmorphia. Not “I’m okay” dysmorphia, but “I’m bad and broken” dysmorphia. So thanks, BBC and Big Diet, for reminding us that we’re bad and broken, even if we have the unmitigated gall to think otherwise.

  59. @ Jaed – I have a friend who’s good with a camera (in college to become a director, to be exact). Maybe I should ask her to make that video. X3 It’d probably be a fun project for her! She loves pointing out the ridiculousness of life and what the media has to say.

  60. @emgee & Starling – I’ve had several people (totally unrelated to each other in any way) tell me that they think I have some level of body dysmorphia. They’re probably right. I was actually very thin pre-puberty, but the weight came on pretty quickly once I hit middle school and I’ve mostly been within 10 lbs of 165 lbs since age 12.

  61. I am totally impressed by the 30% of “obese” people who have never tried to diet. They must have willpower of steel to resist all the cultural cues and medical fat-shaming.

    I’m 5’5, ~270, which puts my BMI at around 45, so I’m not just obese but DeathFat, and I’ve never dieted. I’ve never even “dieted”. Yet I don’t really feel proud of it. I never dieted because I thought I lacked the willpower to see it through. It certainly didn’t stop me from imbibing all the social and cultural messages of fat=all that is bad, but it just added another layer of failure since I’ve never put forth any effort to “fix” myself. I didn’t diet and feel like a failure because they didn’t work: I just skipped the dieting altogether and went straight to the feelings of failure. I still feel that way somewhat even after a number of years of FA: I don’t have any credibility in saying “diets don’t work” because I never tried them, and I don’t have the authority of the “I dieted and it didn’t work and struggled and have come out on the other side of it fatter, happier, and wiser” narrative. I just must be a classic example of the lazy, willpower-lacking fattie, right? And I feel shame about all this, too?!? If that isn’t fucked up thinking, I don’t know what is.

  62. Just to get really META for a second. In addition to the reason Kate mentioned for this study’s f-ed up ness, there is another. We are mostly aware of this: http://www.maa.org/devlin/devlin_05_09.html

    but I really don’t think it can be said enough.

    The BMI was never intended to be used as a measure of health or weight at an individual level. The BMI categories were created in the 1800s to be used as a measure of a population’s overall height and weight. (Note, not health, Height and weight.)

    The BMI breaks down at an individual level because of variations in body type. A lot of the people they put in the “Obese” category could actually have very low body fat percentages, and still be classified as “Obese.” Does that mean they are still “fat”? Because the BMI says?

    I feel like I need to repeat this a few more times. (With feeling of course!)

    The BMI is not a valid measure for individuals. The BMI is not a valid measure for individuals. The BMI is not a valid measure for individuals. The BMI is not a valid measure for individuals. The BMI is not a valid measure for individuals.

    Whew, done.

    So basically the entire premise of this study is total BS.

  63. I remember reading an article about the BMI and how Cal Ripken, at the height of his career, would be considered obese under BMI. So that kind of did it for me regarding BMI.

  64. “Apparently we do not know what’s normal anymore.”

    They just took that statement and then ran in the precisely wrong direction with it, eh?

    *sigh*

    We need buttons saying “This is what obesity looks like” too (because some of us can’t wear t-shirts to work).

    DRST

  65. I was the fat kid in grade school. I was one of the, like, 5 fat kids in my high school. I weigh over 300 lbs and people will still have the gall to tell me “I’m not fat.”

    Do the author of the NYT article: I raise the middle finger of my right fist.

    Fuck you, Ben Schott. I proclaim you guilty of fat-scapegoating. You officially suck from now until the end of time. :-P

  66. I am totally impressed by the 30% of “obese” people who have never tried to diet

    Oh, but it’s NOT 30% of obese people according to this. It’s 30% of overweight people. Which is why I pointed out that a large portion of those people probably don’t register as remotely fat by any reasonable standard and were not, in fact, categorized as overweight 12 years ago.

  67. (Don’t get me started on my ex-endocrinologist’s attempts to have me Not Diet to weight loss, including overprescribing medication *for that purpose* without telling me that was why she was prescribing it at all.)

    @BaldSoprano – isn’t that, like, malpractice of some sort??

  68. “Apparently we do not know what’s normal anymore.”

    If I lost all my weight and was a size 12, I still wouldn’t be normal. Normal is this tiny little box that doesn’t include a lot of the things that I am besides fat. So screw normal.

    I’m superfat and I get “you’re not fat”. I, too, am guessing it’s code for “you’re not some hideous disgusting monster, so you can’t be fat!” Maybe that’s why I don’t know I’m fat, I can’t make other people see it! The next time I’m on a three hour bus trip to the only Catherine’s around I’ll have to concentrate extra hard to remember I’m fat! In the dressing room, as I ask the sales ladies to bring me one size bigger I’ll look in the mirror and try really really hard to see the fat.

    Yes, I frigging know I’m fat. I don’t dress like I had a run in with a Bedazzler and the makeover cast of “Ten Years Older” because I’m in denial about my weight. I pretty much caught on when the frickin “plus size” retailers decided that women my size didn’t need fashionable, young, cute, or durable clothing. Stop filming the superfat and talking about us like we’re too stupid to know what time of day it is!

  69. No, ‘we’ don’t know what’s ‘normal’ anymore, because ‘normal’ never WAS normal. ‘We’ don’t keep our finger pressed to the pulse of the ever-twitchy definition of externally-validated okayness, because it makes ‘us’ want to drive off a cliff. It makes EVERYBODY want to drive off a cliff. That’s the oppression of ‘normal,’ and I for one thank all that is holy that everybody, not just those of us who are used to doing so, are finally questioning the term’s validity.

  70. “Fat gap”? Try a gender gap, pal.

    Yup. I’d love to see a gender breakdown of how many overweight people have never dieted (I’m guessing the percentage of non-dieting overweight men is MUCH higher than non-dieting overweight women).

  71. I’ve never even “dieted”. Yet I don’t really feel proud of it. I never dieted because I thought I lacked the willpower to see it through. It certainly didn’t stop me from imbibing all the social and cultural messages of fat=all that is bad, but it just added another layer of failure since I’ve never put forth any effort to “fix” myself. I didn’t diet and feel like a failure because they didn’t work: I just skipped the dieting altogether and went straight to the feelings of failure. I still feel that way somewhat even after a number of years of FA: I don’t have any credibility in saying “diets don’t work” because I never tried them, and I don’t have the authority of the “I dieted and it didn’t work and struggled and have come out on the other side of it fatter, happier, and wiser” narrative. I just must be a classic example of the lazy, willpower-lacking fattie, right? And I feel shame about all this, too?!? If that isn’t fucked up thinking, I don’t know what is.

    Katherine, that describes my experience too. It’s frustrating that I feel like I can’t talk about FA, because I feel like I’d be “giving it a bad name”: I never dieted (and even “dieted” only for a week or two, maximum), so if I talk about it, isn’t it just another excuse to keep being lazy? I know it’s not, but it’s hard to talk oneself out of these feelings.

  72. “(I’m guessing the percentage of non-dieting overweight men is MUCH higher than non-dieting overweight women)”

    Lori, that’s the first thing I thought too. I don’t know many women who haven’t ever dieted, restricted what they ate or made a “lifestyle change” for the purposes of weightloss, but I do know a lot of men who have never done that, even though they are probably in the overweight BMI category.

    Katherine and Hanna – I think it’s vital that people who haven’t dieted add their voices to FA too and I don’t think you should feel bad about not having gone through the dieting mindset that many of us have. I’m glad you haven’t messed up your body’s setpoint the way I have by dieting – if I could go back and change things, I would never have started dieting in the first place. Ironically, I would probably have been a whole lot thinner, as it’s only after two experiences of fairly hefty weightloss (3 stone/42 pounds the first time; 4 stone/56 pounds last time) that I’ve ended up in the obese BMI category – so dieting and weightloss have in fact made me a contributor to the so-called obesity crisis. Mind-blowing.

    As for fixing the feelings of failure – let me know if you work that one out. I’m still struggling with the “FA is fine for all you gorgeous fatties, but not for me” mindset, and not seeing much progress in overcoming it.

  73. “Weightwatchers records the weight of all new members if its scheme. Over the last 20 years, show the average start weight has risen steadily from 12.3 stones in 1989 to 13.7 stones today, an increase of over 11 per cent.”

    Well, jeez. Using Weightwatchers records. Nice. Wonder if the weight gain has anything to do with them being in the weightwatchers program???

    *headdesk*

  74. ZOMG! Thank you media for telling me I am fat! I would have not known that was why I can’t find anything to fit me except for at specialty stores which unfortunately have a habit of bedazzling animals on the ass of the jeans!

    All those years of torment at school did not clue me in either.

    As for the fat epidemic…how about the drastic surgery epidemic? I am all for people that really need it getting it but they seem to push it on everyone.

    My friend had it and now every meal is a struggle not to vomit. Voluntary bulimia? I will pass thanks….

  75. I really feel like getting hold of things like the heights and weights of an entire flamin’ football team (you pick the code) and publishing their BMIs. Ditto for people like elite athletes, construction workers, people in physically active professions and similar. Not to mention weight-lifters (who have to be down to some ridiculously low percentage of body fat in order to compete).

    This might also help to hammer home to people that the BMI, on an individual basis, is *NOT* an appropriate tool for estimating a person’s health or otherwise.

  76. We don’t know what’s normal anymore!

    So True. Pitty they took that headline and then wrote the completely wrong article to go with it.

    I know I am not telling anyone anything new when I point out how stupid it is to blieve that weigth is something we can controle. But more than that, I think it is dangerous, too.

    I will never forge the time I spent in a privat clinic (yay social health insurance!), getting intesive treatment for my depression. The cleanic also treated a lot of patients who suffered from anorexia. Every morning, I would look over at those young girls, sitting at their table with a look of terror on their face, trying to force the food into themselves within the hour they were given. These poor girls and women were so terrified of food. And they all thought they were fat, even though most (especially at the beginning of treatment) looked like a breath of air could have knocked them over. They definitely didn’t know what is normal anymore.

    And talking to them, it became so clear that for so many ofthem, anorexia at the beginning was really a way to get a feeling of control. A mind-set of “I can not control my life on the whole, but at least I can controle my body. I can prove that I am a worthy human being y being thin”. That’s what we get when we are made to belive that controling weight is not only possible, it is a good thing and a sign of having a good character.

    Which is yet another reason why fat acceptance is important for everybody.

  77. I’d like some poll numbers about how many people think they’re “fat”. Not “obese”, just “fat”.

    @Rena From my own personal experience as a HS teacher for 20 years, I would say almost 100% think they are fat, especially among teen girls, who are still trying to figure out what it means to be a woman, and haven’t yet developed the skills to analyze how they are being manipulated, or the confidence to embrace their own unique body. One of the main reasons I got into FA (besides my own ED) was the tragedy of watching/listening to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of my female students (of ALL sizes!) devote their fleeting youth to an obsession with weight. The official conversation goes like this: “I’m so fat” “No you’re not” “Yes, I am” Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. And it doesn’t stop with the students, I hear the same conversation among the female staff…of ALL sizes too!
    The fear of fat, the obsession with fat, the focus on fat as a bad thing seems so much more harmful than actually being fat!

  78. I am totally impressed by the 30% of “obese” people who have never tried to diet. They must have willpower of steel to resist all the cultural cues and medical fat-shaming.

    Well… maybe. Chiming in with others, I’m one of those “obese” people that have never dieted. I’ve been subject to all kinds of fat shame, don’t get me wrong. I think I managed to resist any long-term disordered behavior because as a pre-teen/teen, I had NO IDEA how to go about dieting, and as an adult I’ve been too busy trying to keep the cupboard stocked with ANYTHING, much going to the bother of altering my grocery list and budget to adhere to some stupid eating plan. And going back to my teen years, I never made the choice to go on any sort of diet because half the foods suggested in any given diet plan sounded gross, and because on some level I had already embraced “diets are BAD FOR YOU”. So I had this cognitive dissonance thing going on where I’d go “I won’t diet! Dieting is for chumps! I’m… I’m just… gonna be fat forever OH MY GOD I’M A HORRIBLE PERSON AAAAAAAH” and so on and so forth.

    Hell, I still feel guilty about having never been on the diet train. How can I denounce something that I’ve never experienced? I sometimes wonder if I’m not just that bad-lazy-stupid-fatty that people like to demonize. Coming here helps shake me free of that, but I still have my weaker moments…

    Godless Heathen – If I lost all my weight and was a size 12, I still wouldn’t be normal. Normal is this tiny little box that doesn’t include a lot of the things that I am besides fat. So screw normal.

    Yeah. Ditto, here. If I woke up tomorrow and was magically thinner, I KNOW I’d still be going to the mirror and carping about my bad skin, bad teeth, mustache, disobediant curly hair, rough feet, insufficent eyelashes, and so on and so on and SO ON. It is a losing battle, trying to adhere to “normal”. Screw normal right in its stupid normal ear.

  79. I still feel that way somewhat even after a number of years of FA: I don’t have any credibility in saying “diets don’t work” because I never tried them, and I don’t have the authority of the “I dieted and it didn’t work and struggled and have come out on the other side of it fatter, happier, and wiser” narrative.

    Not that this will make you feel any better, but for many of us it’s “come out on the other side of it fatter, angrier, and crazier.”

  80. I have been waiting and hoping for a while now that someone who is employed by one of those companies that penalizes based on high BMI (but not a low one) would SUE THEIR ASSES for unlawful discrimination. Anyone a lawyer? How feasible would that be?

  81. Kate, if I believed in such things, I’d say that every time you speak up* an angel gets its wings. Because saying it again, and again, and again, is important.

    Language matters. The terms OVERWEIGHT and OBESE are used more as value judgments than scientific indicators.

    Definition matters. On a distribution curve of BMI vs Population, 25 is exactly in the middle. Saying that one side of that line represents normal weight and the other overweight simplistic at best. Saying that one side represents health and the other disease is arbitrary at best.

    Perception matters. I’m one of those so-fat-you-can’t-miss-it people. 30% of people I see on the street do not look like me. But, because of confirmation bias, all it takes is seeing one really fat person (like me) to prove to the public that the obesity epidemic is real.

    Self-perception matters. If more people realized they were counted in that 60%, or even the 30%, I think there’d be more people wondering about the validity of the claim that fat is unhealthy.

    Which brings me to something I often wonder to myself : Doesn’t it seem weird that 30% to 60% of the population are dying of a self inflicted condition? Am I the only one that notices how absurd those numbers sound? How absurd just about everything about the obesity epidemic sounds?

    *I think every person that gets vocal about fat acceptance should get an award. In many ways this issue is about who has the louder voice and, as a movement, we have yet to reach the volume to affect change in the popular perception.

  82. The fear of fat, the obsession with fat, the focus on fat as a bad thing seems so much more harmful than actually being fat!

    There aren’t enough capital letters in the world to convey this idea strongly enough.

  83. We aren’t dying. We’re living longer than ever before. As someone ‘overweight’ I have a longer life expectancy than someone ‘normal’ weight. Most men and women that are ‘overweight’ are healthy.

  84. thanks for making the gender-connection around perceptions of “fatness” and dieting. as a group, men tend to think they look great and have plenty to offer as potential partners (regardless of whether either are true) while women think about themselves that they look like shit and have nothing to offer (again, regardless of the truth of either one). gender differences in self-perception stay with us, even when we gain weight. and i definitely agree that women’s negative self-image dieting is of MUCH more concern (or it should be) and causes much more pain and economic “cost” in the way of lost work days and short-and long-term healthcare costs etc than people *not* dieting, no matter what their BMI is.

    its as if reality is of no concern to these people…

  85. I dieted for the first time last year, at 38. I come from a large family of large women and I was always the “small” one, even though I was on the “obese” bmi borderline.

    Witnessing the diet industry for the first time is what brought me here to SP. I could not get over the shaming and moral value judgements that I witnessed there.
    I was told over and over that my “goal weight” wasn’t low enough.
    Serious craziness…
    Made me think there had to be a better way, which led to HAES and to SP.

    I am new here so I apologize in advance if I said anything inappropriate!

  86. Not that this will make you feel any better, but for many of us it’s “come out on the other side of it fatter, angrier, and crazier.”

    Totally. Those of you saying you feel like you lack credibility because you haven’t dieted break my heart. I mean, I understand the logic there (though I think we all agree it’s a twisted logic), but it’s just one more example of how fucked-up and pervasive diet culture is. You really shouldn’t have to starve yourself to prove your desire to be taken seriously and treated as a full human being.

  87. I’ve never dieted either, and I’ve pretty much always been “overweight” by BMI and have stepped over the “obese” line in the last year or so. A big part of the reason I never dieted was because I saw my mother yo-yo diet like crazy when I was growing up, losing some weight, then putting it back on with more. She also has major clinical depression, and has been on every drug imaginable for that since she was in her early 30s — this started in the 1980s, before SSRIs, so she took some serious shit, like Lithium, which wasn’t well managed by her psychiatrist and landed her in the hospital with toxic levels of it in her system. Now at the age of 58, she has a multitude of health problems, including diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis (which went undiagnosed for years, and so has resulted in most of her joints being wrecked. She has had 3 joint replacement surgeries in the last 5 years and has a 4th scheduled.) Basically, my mom’s body has been ravaged by drugs and illness, and I can’t help but think that all those years of crazy starvation-type diets made things worse. So I’ve never been tempted, much, to diet.

    When it comes right down to it, I’m also not very good at not eating, or denying myself the foods I really like. I love good food, good wine, and I love cooking. I do eat a lot of very healthy foods — I love almost all vegetables — but I also love cheese and butter and all that stuff, and I’m not planning to stop eating it as long as there isn’t a health reason why I should. At this point, there isn’t.

    I’ve certainly gone through phases of intense self-hatred because my body doesn’t do “thin,” but I’ve always been sort of resigned to it. As a very active teenager, I weighed 140 pounds at 5’8″ and wore a size 12. Of course, I thought I was hideously fat, but I also didn’t see what on earth I could do about it.

  88. Thanks for this. I am another person who never really dieted. My mom took me to WW when I was 12, but that didn’t last long, and a couple years later I decided I liked a certain boy who told me he was only attracted to waify thin girls, so I hardly ate anything for 5 days (though a lot of that was due to anxiety over the crush). I’ve never lost an appreciable amount of weight on purpose, and I don’t think I could. I’ve tried to diet a couple of other times, but never managed more than a couple days. My body just demands food and I can’t deny it.

    I don’t lack willpower. I can walk into stores and not buy things I want. I can keep from having sex with people I shouldn’t. I can keep secrets even when I really want to blab them. I can even go to the gym when I don’t really feel like it because I know my body will be happy afterwards.

    But I also feel like don’t have as much credibility to say “Diets don’t work!” I certainly see them not working in the lives of my friends who have dieted, but I don’t have personal experience. Maybe a diet would work for me. Probably not, but I don’t know for sure.

  89. In my opinion, it is absolutely appropriate to call “bullshit” over and over again in the event that the same old bullshit keeps getting reported. Kudos and thanks.

    In this case it’s reported damned lazily to boot.

    Here’s the original news release from Slimming World: http://www.slimmingworld.com/press/viewrelease.aspx?id=118 . It looks an awful lot like the article in the Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/6218354/10-million-Brits-unaware-they-are-obese.html). It appears that the main exception is that Slimming World decried a, “perception gap,” whereas the Telegraph article whips out the “fat gap” terminology. Schott, in turn, essentially reiterates the Telegraph’s reporting of the press release. (Really, NYT! I expect more from you!)

    As a former PR person, I applaud the fine work of the Slimming World PR team. Well played, lackeys of Our Corporate Overlords. Doubtless you’re all 21 grams lighter now.

    As a consumer of information, (which is notoriously high in calories and will utterly blow your diet), I call bullshit. Reporters should not uncritically repeat whatever the PR hacks send them. Allowing one’s readership to be manipulated is not the way to be credible.

  90. off topic but I wanted to give an interent high-5 to Kate for her Polanski piece at Salon. The most clear-headed thing I have read about the issue all day. Kudos.

  91. “Weightwatchers records the weight of all new members if its scheme. Over the last 20 years, show the average start weight has risen steadily from 12.3 stones in 1989 to 13.7 stones today, an increase of over 11 per cent.”

    Has it occurred to WW that their “lifestyle program” fucks people up in the long run?

  92. Katherine, Hanna, Eve, and anyone else who’s never dieted and feels bad about it: I dieted enough for y’all. In fact, if you can take the burden of any one of these diets I was on and use it to say “there, it’s been tried, it didn’t work” and stop beating yourselves up, then maybe anything good at all would have come of my experience. *g*. (And if you’re in the small fraction of the heavy who are dealing with any sort of eating disorder that’s maintaining your weight above set point, restrictive weight loss dieting certainly isn’t the answer, even if your natural set point is lower then where you are.)

    For me, by the end, diets were something akin to mental illness because my body knew what was coming and I’d lose touch with anything but numbers and scales etc. In my case, dieting wasn’t anything noble any more than my depression was noble. Nothing I’m ashamed of, but painful nonetheless – it was just something I was coping with.

    These days, if I have the desire to beat up on myself for not engaging in a painful, embarrassing, and risky activity, I consider how I’m neither brave nor FA enough to go naked bungee jumping. It’s about the same. You go down, down, down, only to be yanked right the hell back up again.

  93. For whatever it’s worth, the fat people I know who have never dieted are also (mostly) the fat people with the fewest health problems. Just sayin’.

  94. To Katherine and Hanna:

    I so identify with this sense of shame, because I’ve never managed to put myself on a diet that accomplished anything (in the way of thinnifying) whatsoever. I’ve never even managed to *intend* to go on a diet for more than a couple of weeks at a time – so, yeah, I do feel embarrassed when I compare myself to women who’ve dieted down to a size four and gained the weight back, even though they were still trying as hard as they could to be thin.

    The weird part is, I was *put* on diets throughout my childhood and adolescence – portion control and diet recipes and a kitchen perpetually stocked with fake foods – tastes vaguely like food but isn’t! – and nothing worked. I think I lost a little bit of weight in fourth grade, because I remember my fourth grade teacher telling me I was doing a good job on my diet, but right after the brief burst of excitement I felt about that, it stopped working and I went back to looking like I had before.

    So my body – which apparently hangs onto its fat for dear life, no matter how little you feed it – should be like the perfect example of the degree to which fat bodies 1) do not understand our vanity and are more concerned with, you know, not starving to death than conforming to our perceptions of acceptable size, 2) resist weight loss, and 3) turn out fat if they freaking want to turn out fat, but I’m *afraid* to tell my friends that I now refuse to diet on principle and practice intuitive eating instead (and I can say with absolute truthfulness – though next to no one outside of FA believes me – that it is waaay harder for me to remember to eat on a regular basis than it would be to merely avoid overeating), because I am so paranoid that the size of my body, itself, is going to be taken as an argument against whatever practices I adopt for the sake of my health. And I do sometimes wish I could point to personal dieting experience and say, ‘look at how acetic I was! Look how I proved I was so strong, and now I’ve decided not to live that way, because I was miserable and there are, you know, actual side effects and junk to dieting!’

    Heh.

    On an unrelated note: this is my first comment since the new format. I am excited to find that my monster is now more monstrous than ever before!

  95. But I also feel like don’t have as much credibility to say “Diets don’t work!” I certainly see them not working in the lives of my friends who have dieted, but I don’t have personal experience. Maybe a diet would work for me. Probably not, but I don’t know for sure.

    The good news is, nobody needs personal experience when there’s so much scientific evidence pointing to the conclusion that diets don’t work. If someone asks how you could know when you’ve never tried it, you can just point out that you know how to read.

  96. On not having much of a dieting history: I forget how often I’ve tried limiting food, ‘just cutting down’, ignoring the hunger pangs and so forth. Actual dieting, not so much. About mid-90s, I tried some hideous ultra-low-fat plan out of a library book. I still have an old diary from back then, and about twenty pages of it are devoted to rows of fat grams and ‘Eat this instead of this’ kind of guff, most of it about foods I’d never normally have touched. I stuck it for two weeks before I gave up, and I never attempted a diet again, but, like many here, continued to feel awful about myself for not wanting to. I now actually feel rather proud of my body for not having put up with that crap, because if it’d gone on much longer I think I’d have been on the way to OCD, and since there are signs of that in my family, I’m not going there again.

    As for ‘normal’, I made the mistake of reading an article about Crystal Renn today in the Daily Fail – actually, the article itself wasn’t the mistake, Crystal is an amazing lady, but the comments were. It’s becoming depressingly familiar how many people these days regard a British size 12 as fat, or even ‘obese’ – clearly that term has escaped its medical definition (invalid as that is) and vaulted into the realms of ‘bigger than I am/want to be/want to sleep with’. If anything, the implied ‘normality’ of a constant stream of media imagery of very thin women seems to have shrunk the definition of normal.

    But anyway, I’m a UK size 18, not sure what I weigh but think it’s around 180, which at 5’5″ would give me a BMI of precisely 30. And I get ‘not fat’ all the damn time. So, I would definitely wear one of those T-shirts too.

  97. I also feel like the bigger gap is between what’s actually a healthy size (i.e. the result of generally treating one’s body well in a population with wide-ranging natural characteristics) and what is held up as the ideal of “health.” Most of the women we see in magazines and entertainment have dangerously unhealthy body types. Sometimes it’s natural – just like some people are naturally large – and sometimes it’s the result of unhealthy behaviors. But it’s changed our perception of normal. What’s so ridiculous about this is that the best definition of a “normal” body size I can come up with is one that isn’t the result of dieting. A balanced diet and exercise, sure, but calorie-restriction and basing one’s choices on the number on the scale? No wonder we’ve lost sight of normal – that’s about as far from it as we can get.

    My family provides quite a few examples of ridiculousness of BMI. My brother is the most extreme – he is overweight with a BMI of 26.5 and has a 28 inch waist. He misread the height/weight chart last time he was at the doctors and spent a year or so thinking he was obese. But, no, he did not go on a diet.

  98. I forget how often I’ve tried limiting food, ‘just cutting down’, ignoring the hunger pangs and so forth. Actual dieting, not so much.

    That’s my story, too. I’ve never been on a commercial diet, but I’ve had so many idiosyncratic “plans” it’s ridiculous.

  99. Two weeks ago, when I photographed myself holding an “I am the elephant in the room” sign and emailed it to Michael Pollan, I also made a “This is what obesity looks like” sign. I’d be happy to donate the design to the cause.

    /amy

  100. Hey, also off-topic, but Kate, I want to echo what MCM said: great job over on Salon re: Polanski. I frothed at the mouth on TWP comments about Applebaum’s article, but I am so glad to see someone with a genuine media voice making the same points! Thanks muchly.

  101. Most of the women we see in magazines and entertainment have dangerously unhealthy body types. Sometimes it’s natural – just like some people are naturally large – and sometimes it’s the result of unhealthy behaviors.

    Wait a minute. I’m pretty sure we’re on the same page, but I want to make it very clear: We don’t make generalizations about health based on size (e.g., “dangerously unhealthy body type”) here. When a person is naturally thin, there’s nothing inherently unhealthy about it, any more than there is when a person is naturally fat. Underweight and obesity are both correlated with some excess deaths, but as you know, that doesn’t mean anything at the individual level. Some people are naturally very thin and perfectly healthy. And some people are naturally very thin and unhealthy for reasons that have nothing to do with their behavior. And then others are unnaturally thin, and unhealthy because of what it takes to become so. Etc. The body type itself really doesn’t tell us much.

    I think you were aiming to say basically that, but I need to nitpick, because your word choice was right on the edge there. :)

  102. Kate –

    I’m glad I popped back to clarify.

    I ABSOLUTELY don’t think that you can judge health based on body size. Or weight, or shape or anything like that. That was pretty poorly worded. What I meant is that society holds up as healthy and ideal a body type that for many people would or does require unhealthy habits to maintain. The comment started out longer, but was devolving into parenthetical within parenthetical and the editing down made it a little less clear. Oh, man, don’t want anyone thinking that I’m going around judging people’s health and/or habits based on their appearances because that is one of the worst types of self-righteous.

  103. I just went around about this with my asthma doctor. She’s been insisting for months that my weight has to be part of the problem despite my evidence that having lost 10% of my overall weight did not make any difference, and in fact I put it back on when I was unable to work out any longer (due to asthma!). I’ve directly confronted her with the question of whether she’s ever known anyone to lose more than 5-10% of their body weight and keep it off for more than 3 years. She admitted that none of her patients had been able to do so. So, I asked, why would you think it would be any different with me? Her answer: Because it’s the only thing we haven’t tried.

    On this last visit, because I’ve gained a few pounds again (after having lost a few pounds) she asked her PA to ask me if I wanted to know my BMI. Now, he’s a nice guy and all, but I kind of exploded all over him. No, I said, I don’t need you to tell me my BMI. I already know it. I know I fit in the morbidly obese category (5’2″, 255), and I don’t give the BMI a lot of credence. Does she think I don’t know how much I weigh? Does she think I’m unaware of how heavy I am?

    At least he didn’t have to go back and tell her all that. I was loud enough that I’m sure she heard me sitting in her office in the next room.

    I’m going to have to find a new asthma doctor, which truly sucks.

  104. “Apparently we do not know what’s normal anymore.”

    Now, if we define ‘normal’ simply as what is the statistical norm for the population (and not as a value judgement) being overweight is “normal”. Apparently the author of this article doesn’t know what normal is either. It makes about as much sense as saying that being 6′ tall is not, you know, normal, because a lot fewer people used to be 6′ tall.

    Oh WAIT. ‘Normal’ means morally and aestically pleasing to the author. Got it!

  105. I was thinking about this weight-perception stuff a while ago. (I’m technically overweight (and definitely on the chubby side) but often people underestimate my weight/BMI/etc.)

    Anyways, I was recently having a ridiculously long workday (like, 20hrs) and I needed a coffee-flavored beverage to even have a prayer of keeping my eyes open, so I went to the nearby cafe to get a mocha-type thing. I told the guy to make it huge and extra chocolately, then paid and left while nomming happily.

    On the way back to my desk I thought that, hey, if that guy thought I was skinny and/or cute he probably thought my shamelessly getting a huge mocha was totally hot (guys like a girl who aren’t embarrassed to eat, dontcha know?) but that if he thought I was fat and/or unattractive then he probably thought I was a glutton with no self control. “That’s fucked up!” I thought, but it was definitely an interesting thing to consider, how the exact same person or behavior can be perceived so differently based on whether you count as “fat” or not. Hell, maybe the coffee guy thought I was cute and self-confident while the guy behind me in line thought I was a lazy pig who was gonna die of the fats! It’s all so completely subjective. (And yeah, I know this is kind of an obvious realization, but it was very gut-level and made a big impression on me.)

    (My thoughts didn’t affect my enjoyment of the mocha *at all* btw — that was delicious. So happy ending. :D)

  106. Bagelsan, I often had similar feelings when I’m eating a large portion of food or something sweet in public. I mean sometimes I order food and I can tell that the man serving it to me thinks it’s totally hot that a woman has the confidence to eat something ‘unhealthy’ in public. I feel like it’s other women that look down on me for ‘pigging out’.

    When I was young, other women would call me fat and ugly. Men my age always seemed to find me sexy. Funny, it was the quote straight girls that called me a fat pig and told me that I would never get dates. The only men that ever told me that I was fat or unworthy of dates were my doctors or my dad and the douchebags yelling from their car or truck. Douchebags yelling out of their vehicles aren’t real men anyway.

  107. Lillian, I agree and I absolutely think a lot of that is a function of insecurity. Women and girls get targeted by all that shaming so much that it’s easier to pick on the other women around them than to take a step back and say, “no, she’s fine and I’m fine too.” Guys don’t have to put up with most of that pressure so it’s easy for them to be generous about what women look like; after all, they think of those women as the actual resources instead of as competition for resources, right? (Only sorta tongue-in-cheek here… :p)

    Douchebags yelling out of their vehicles aren’t real men anyway.

    And yes. Not to mention that the aggregate douchebag-in-car community never seems to be able to come to a conclusion about whether or not I’d be considered boneable. 9.9 I’ve heard it go both ways…

  108. I’ve heard a lot of people talking about T-shirts and buttons, and I know I was really disappointed to find that the Cafe Press store had already been closed by the time I started lurking around here. Any chance of opening it again briefly? I have no idea what goes into that, if it would be difficult…

  109. This quote, by Vesta:

    “I put my fat ass in a swimsuit and go swimming with my husband and if people don’t like it, tough shit”

    …. is pure awesomeness in a box with a ribbon. And candy.

  110. Don’t know why this seems appropriate, but it does–I have a new favorite quote:
    “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”
    — Gandhi.

  111. For the commenters here who think they can’t speak because they’ve never been on a diet, I want to praise you and hug you. If I had been like you, I’d never have developed an ED, nor been obsessive about food to the point that when I joined yet another diet industry program, I considered quitting my job so I could concentrate on the diet full time.

    The “fat gap” isn’t that we don’t know we’re fat, it’s that we all think we’re fat, even teenagers lacking the necessary body fat to complete puberty.

    And so, I must conclude that society (and the journalists reporting on it) have had their minds replaced with a sugar-free, low calorie fat-substitute glop pumped in by the diet industry, and FA advocates are desperately trying to replace the glop with an actual working brain again.

  112. Yeah, I thought more about never being on a diet, and actually have to clarify a bit.

    I think what makes the feeling of not being qualified to talk about FA worse for me, is that although I’ve never been on a diet (on my own, at least) for more than a few days, I’ve been planning to go on some kind of diet probably half my life. So it hasn’t been that big of stretch to think I just don’t have the willpower.

    Also, I’ve been sort of put on a diet in my early teenage years. My little brother was diagnosed with something wrong in his metabolism that made him gain a lot of weight (I can’t remember what, and I’m wondering if it was a misdiagnosis or something, because it hasn’t been talked about for a lot of years now, and we stopped following the diet), and was put on a diet to keep it in check. Now, it wasn’t extreme or anything, and was probably quite a healthy way of eating, nutrient-wise. But it definitely was a restrictive diet in that there were orders like “eat only x amount of this”, “don’t eat that”, “eat like this for this time of day” etc. The whole family followed the diet, probably to make it easier for him. And as a result, I’ve had more or less disordered eating behaviors ever since (obsessing about food, eating in secret, binge eating etc) and the same, if not worse, goes for my brother. And we are both much heavier than we were before the diet, even taking into account that we’re not kids anymore.

  113. Having worked with insurance companies doing reviews of health care for a very short period of time, the chilling thought came to me that perhaps insurance companies know darn well that underweight causes more death than overweight, but have run the numbers and are ok with it because it’s faster, cheaper death.

    Corporate greed is scary stuff.

  114. I posted a link to this post on my facebook. The second comment I got was from my sister’s best friend telling me to shut up because I’m not fat. Seriously! Did she not read the post?

    The comments on this post are so smart, sensitive and funny. I’m so glad to be a reader.

  115. I feel some of the “I lack the credibility to say diets don’t work because I haven’t been on a diet”, myself. I think the biggest reason I haven’t been on a diet is because I always assumed it would be futile. I watched my mom diet off and on throughout my childhood and adolescence, and she never got anywhere with it–a bit of yo-yo weight loss, but no permanent changes. I also remember my mom telling me at an early age that most people did gain back the weight they lost, if they were able to lose weight. I guess that’s one advantage I’ve had–I always assumed that diets would not work for me, because they didn’t seem to work for anyone else.

    This is complicated by the fact that I have lost ~25 lbs over the past couple years, enough to go from the low end of “obese” to the high end of “overweight”, according to [teh evil] BMI. This was following ~15 lbs weight gain after moving to a new state and new job. I was not actually trying to lose weight, but I was trying to stop gaining weight. But although it was somewhat weight-focused, the things I did were generally consistent with HAES–primarily reducing processed foods and making an effort to get enough fruits and vegetables. I think that I’m at the lower end of my set-point range right now; this weight is similar to my weight in high school and early college. (It’s possible that both the weight loss and the decision to eat healthier were effects of being better-adjusted to me new life. And of course, there’s no knowing what my weight will look like in 5 years.)

    I feel like this means that people would take my history as evidence that if I just went on a diet, results would be even BETTER. I know the statistics on the futility of dieting, and I’ve seen its ineffectiveness play out in real life, but of course certain people believe that if you can lose X lbs, obviously you can lose Y. So yeah, I definitely get the feeling of lacking credibility.

    [I just want to make sure it's clear that I'm not trying to give people 'weight loss tips', or anything like that. It's hard to make that 100% clear without specifically spelling that out.]

    @KtK: This seems extremely plausible.

  116. Douchebags yelling out of their vehicles aren’t real men anyway

    Yes they are, Lillian. They are real men who are the real product of the real society we live in. They aren’t fake men, they aren’t figments of your imagination; they are men and they are real, so they are “real men”.

    What they are is pieces of shit, but there isn’t something unmanly about yelling out of your vehicle at people. It is in fact seen as an approved and encouraged part of masculinity by a lot of people, especially when the yelling’s aimed at women. The men who yell out of vehicles aren’t some easily-identifiable subset who fail to follow the “rules of manliness” in our society. They are in fact just taking many of the rules (women are communal property, a woman’s only worth is her fuckability, public spaces belong to men) to their logical conclusion. They are created by the misgoynistic culture we’re all soaked in, and we can’t wash our hands of them by declaring they’re “not real men”, because they are.

  117. I want to say thanks to Caitlin, too. Which is not to pile on Lillian. I totally understand the desire to separate these douchebags out as not “real men”, to define “real men” as good men, respectful men, but the shitty behavior won’t stop until we all acknowledge how ingrained this is in our culture’s construction of masculinity and why.

  118. I ran into this while talking to my own doctor. I explained that I had recently been trying to lower my cholesterol by eating a vegan-style diet, and had accidentally/unexpectedly/incidentally dropped a few pounds. “That’s great!” she said. When I reiterated later in the conversation that weight loss was not my goal, and that I was/am happy with my weight, just not my cholesterol level (over 300,) the look she gave me was so eloquent: absolute pity at my ignorance about how upset I should be over both my former and current weights. Self-acceptance = cluelessness, apparently.

  119. I’m puzzled by what you said earlier, Meem. You and your friend ate “identical” brunches, except you actually had two pieces of bacon more. So, not so identical…

    Not in ANY way defending the journalism Kate is discussing here, but that sort of fudging just reinforces the journalist’s idea that fat people are delusional about what they eat…

  120. KH – thanks for reporting on this. I missed the news of this “story” but it’s good to know the background in case someone brings it up later.

    Question – is it ever appropriate for a medical professional to suggest weight loss to a person whose health problems are caused or exacerbated by excess fat? I know the temptation is to be lazy and attribute everything to excess fat (smokers complain of the same thing), but how can this be balanced with the reality that excess fat is capable of worsening existing health conditions or create problems?

  121. @ recuerdo

    1 piece of bacon = 50 calories. 2 pieces of bacon isnt going to make anyone “fat.” and i hope you get ripped to shreds for even suggesting that here!

  122. is it ever appropriate for a medical professional to suggest weight loss to a person

    It is appropriate for a medical professional to suggest effective and safe treatments, if the condition is indeed exacerbated by weight (for example, back problems or problems with the joints of the legs and feet are often worse the more the person weighs).

    However, there are no known effective and safe ways to lose weight permanently, so in practice I would say this is never appropriate. There’s “eat well and exercise”, but that usually doesn’t bring about much loss of weight, although it generally improves health if the person is not already eating well and active. There’s “eat less!”, which will usually bring about short-term weight loss, but at the expense of long-term health (and often causes additional weight gain in the end). There’s gastric bypass, which is sometimes cosmetically effective but never safe. And a simple demand to “Lose weight, fattie!” without a treatment offered is about as helpful as “Lose height, tall person!”.

  123. Jaed – It’s sad, but I think I’m inclined to agree with you as doctors and nurses are not in the business of actually helping us live healthy lives, their function is to repair, treat, and cure.

  124. “Apparently we do not know what’s normal anymore.”

    Apparently not, if “we” refers to the people behind the article/people who take BMI seriously.

    And that’s all I have to say about that.

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