Fat, No Shit Sherlock

Special Delivery from the Duh Truck

Both that headline and this article come courtesy of reader Kate217. Thanks, Kate!

The article is about a new study that shows the following things:

  • Overweight teenagers are just as likely to exhibit disordered eating behaviors (binge eating, using diet pills, vomiting, using laxatives) as thin ones. It just doesn’t make them thin.
  • “A history of teasing about being fat was one of the strongest predictors of risk for being overweight and extreme dieting.”
  • Things get especially bad when it’s your own fucking family telling you you’re too fat.

Any of this news to those of you who have actually been fat? Didn’t think so.

Seriously, though, I’m thrilled that this is out there, since it is news to a whole ton of people. And I’m over the moon that the article ends with the following paragraph. The quote is from the study’s lead author, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D., a professor of public health at the University of Minnesota:

“We have seen over the years that it does not work to make people feel worse about their bodies. The data are striking — talking about weight, worrying too much about diet, focusing on it increases risk not only of eating disorders, but also of being overweight.” Instead, she suggests modeling and positive encouragement of healthy behavior like making better food choices and exercising — and unconditional love, regardless of weight.

Emphasis mine, of course. Especially on that last part.

79 thoughts on “Special Delivery from the Duh Truck”

  1. Hey Kate, long-time reader, first-time poster, etc. etc. Love your blog; can’t say enough good things about it.

    Anyway, this:

    Things get especially bad when it’s your own fucking family telling you you’re too fat.

    Sweet Jebus is this true. My mom made me go to Weight Watchers when I was freaking TWELVE. I hadn’t even stopped growing in height yet. I’m 29 now (and married, with a high-powered job and two delightful but psychotic cats), but my parents still give me crap about my weight. I could write a whole book about it, but I’m sure it’s nothing you haven’t heard before from your friends and readers.

    I wish my parents would understand that all their comments about my weight just make me that much more neurotic about what I eat. I can’t pick up a bite of sushi (or ice cream or green beans or pizza or what-the-heck-ever) without hearing my parents’ voices in my head. I’m seeing a psychologist for some anxiety issues, and we’ve also started talking about my family and my body image and my relationship with food. And it’s really, really hard to talk about. I don’t think my eating is disordered, but it’s definitely not 100%, er, ordered, if you know what I mean.

    Also, thanks for making me question my own assumptions about fat. I’m definitely fat, but I’ve held a lot of prejudices and delusions (e.g., “I’m fat but at least I’m not as fat as [insert anyone bigger than me]”; “If I just work harder I can lose weight,” etc.). So thanks for raising my consciousness a bit.

  2. I don’t think my eating is disordered, but it’s definitely not 100%, er, ordered, if you know what I mean.

    Julia, there’s actually an important distinction between “disordered eating” and “an eating disorder.” Practically every western woman has probably engaged in disordered behavior at some point — there’s a strong argument to be made that dieting is disordered eating behavior. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you (or the kids in this study) have a diagnosable eating disorder.

    That’s something I should remember to make clear more often.

    And I’m so glad you’re reading — thanks!

  3. . “Most families where there is weight-teasing are not abusive. They just don’t realize how hurtful it is,”

    I’m wondering how they define “not abusive”.

  4. there’s actually an important distinction between “disordered eating” and “an eating disorder

    That’s something a lot of people don’t get. When I try to talk about disordered eating or poor body image among western women, I get silenced with: “Only 1% of people are anorexic, 30% are obese!” Which, I know that. But just because a person isn’t anorexic doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have an extremely harmful relationship with food and their weight.

    That’s a good article… yeah, it’s stuff we already know, but having it in print gives us ammunition against people who are unwilling to actually listen to our personal experiences.

  5. “A history of teasing about being fat was one of the strongest predictors of risk for being overweight and extreme dieting.”

    Kate, this is something that haunts me. Its one of the hardest things for me to overcome in trying to accept my fat.

    As a kid, I was tormented about my weight. In fifth grade my nickname was “butterball.” As I grew older, I had huge breasts and I pretty much thought I was a blob.

    Truth was–I wasn’t at all. I’m sure that the BMI still would’ve declared me at least overweight but by my standards today, I would not.

    To illustrate this, here is a picture of me from 8th grade: (I’m going to try HTML, hope it works) http://pics.livejournal.com/towanda/pic/000g1wd1

    I thought I was the fattest ugliest person on the planet. I let people change the way I saw myself in the mirror. Even my mother’s protests that I was not fat did nothing to break through the dysmorphia that I experienced. That power is astounding to me.

    I did all the diets, including Jenny Craig. I lost weight and gained it back. Then I went to college and gained a lot. But I also discovered my local women’s outreach center and began to learn about fat acceptance and loving my body.

    It changed my whole world.

    This is me now: http://pics.livejournal.com/towanda/pic/000g2qqc And quite frankly, I’ve never been happier with myself and my body.

    I just get so pissed off to think I wasted all that time–all that YOUTH–believing I wasn’t beautiful.

    I don’t think that the teasing caused me to be fat. That’s pretty well entrenched in my family history. But how could anyone not have a lifelong battle with food and weight when people go out of their way to convince you of your own worthlessness. And how can we break those barriers and help young girls believe in themselves??

    Just wanted to share my experience and frustrations. Thanks for this post.

  6. Duh, indeed. My family was one of those fat-phobic, shame-the-kid-into-thinness types. Didn’t make me thinner but did make me feel like my only value as a human being depended on looking a certain way. Weight was a moral barometer in our family. I was somehow of weaker character than my slimmer sister, because even though we sat at the same table and ate the same food, I was fat and she was not. But I guess our experiences are only “anectdotal” and so don’t count. ;-)

  7. This post is extreme awesomeness. Seriously. I, too, came from a family that figured the more we pick at her, the more weight she’ll lose. My mother (God Bless Her!) made it a point to give me magazines and articles featuring plus-sized models and women so that I knew that being bigger than did not mean less than.
    My wish is that more parents get on this bandwagon.

  8. My mother used to tell me that no man would ever love me and no one would want to be my friend if I didn’t lose weight. Lovely, no? It left me vulnerable to feeling grateful for every abusive jerk who did pay attention to me. It took me most of my adult life to come to the realization that someone who had issues with me because of the shape of my body wasn’t actually someone I wanted to associate myself with anyway.

  9. I’m sad to say a family history of fat-teasing, jokey and malicious, was passed down on both sides of my family (happened to both my parents too) – but that particular buck stops here. My kid is still tracking at the 50th percentile for weight at age 10, but if she takes a sudden upward swing at puberty like I did, there will be NO taunting.

    There will instead be “hey let’s buy you some new clothes” neutrality instead of “We just bought you those pants 2 months ago…can’t you TRY to fit in them a little longer?” whining or “Haha look at Julie, she’s bustin’ out all over” teasing.

    I engaged in disordered eating fairly early, and it led to bulimia and ED-NOS. I’m recovering really successfully now, and part of the process was telling my family, in no uncertain terms, to fuck the hell off about my weight. And you know what? THEY HAVE.

  10. Um, did they really get funding for a study to see if fat kids are more likely to get teased for being fat? What’s next, an in-depth exploration of the height of kids nicknamed “beanpole”?

  11. Yes, they got a grant. Yes, that is common sense. But now it’s codified/published common sense and now further papers and projects can cite this one legitimately instead of saying something like “well DUH everyone knows teasing hurts and causes problems.” That’s not how academia works.

    You’d be surprised at what sort of research proposals get grants – like the gazillion funded projects that led to development of multiple erectile dysfunction meds. WTF is up with THAT?

  12. My parents were, for the most part, very supportive about most things but I still remember every comment they made about my weight. Vividly. They didn’t taunt me or insult me (maybe once or twice) but it was the comments about needing to wear flattering clothes, or my mom telling me how she had been chubby as a child, too. It’s amazing how little things stick with you.

    And, Liza, I totally relate to what you’re saying. I had a girl tell me in the 5th grade that “they” had decided I was one of the fat girls in my class. I hit 5’2″ in the 5th grade and was never above 120 until I was in high school. Fat? Not so much. But I sure obsessed about it. Yup, I’m pissed too. Glad I’m not that age anymore, though. I’d rather be fat than a middle schooler!

  13. Um, did they really get funding for a study to see if fat kids are more likely to get teased for being fat?

    Nope. Try reading harder!

  14. Um, did they really get funding for a study to see if fat kids are more likely to get teased for being fat?
    Um, no, that’s not what the study said. The study said that being teased for being fat increases an adolescent’s risk of:
    1) Developping an eating disorder/disordered eating patterns
    2) Becoming/staying overweight in the next 5 years.

  15. Yeah, my mom used to give me so much crap about my weight…her and my (naturally thin) sister would tease me, calling me chunky, or inform me, “your ass is spreading” She used to say that I’d never find a husband unless I lost weight…or she’d give me lovely advice like, “you shouldn’t date a guy who is too handsome, because thin girls will just steal him from you.”


    So, one day when I was about 21 or so, when my mom started in on me about my weight, I looked her dead in the eye and informed her that if she ever breathed one word about my weight again, it would be the last time she would ever speak to me.

    And she hasn’t mentioned my weight since. Not once. It’s been almost ten years. Harsh, but effective. *shrug*

    And my man is actually pretty damn handsome, I must say.

  16. “you shouldn’t date a guy who is too handsome, because thin girls will just steal him from you.”

    My jaw just dropped. Jesus. And it’s not like my mom was sanguine about fat.

    You rock for putting an end to that, Mel.

  17. Yeah well, my mom was really slim and small, my dad was fat, and when they split up she was pissed. And I took after my dad. So yeah, redirected anger’s a motherfucker.

    It was tough growing up in a house full of skinny women, but fortunately, I developed a mouth as a result.

  18. I spent years at the local swimming pool being called “Twinkie eater.” But I kept going to that pool because I was doing what I loved. The only reason I’ve made it it because I do have a supportive family – mainly my mom and older sister, who is also fat.

    My dad is another story. He told me that my arms were too flabby. He denies to this day ever saying that, but I remember it as clear as day!

  19. God Bless my Mom. Seriously. I read all these horrible things that mothers said (and say) to fat daughters and it makes me want to cry. My Mom, size 2 petite, 105 lbs soaking wet, has never made a single negative comment about my weight in my whole life. Not one. I’ve been made to feel pretty damn bad about my weight from plenty of other factions – including my father – but never Mom. To my Mom I’ve always been beautiful just the way I am.

  20. The idea that a human being can be “stolen” is just asinine. And it’s doubly asinine when coupled with the idea that being pretty enough will prevent such “theft” from taking place. Don’t tell Jennifer Aniston, K?

  21. My mom was the “concerned” type… she wanted me to be happy, she said, and being fat wasn’t going to lead to me having a happy life. Plus she was upset at all the teasing I got. She would use guilt, though, and fear of my dad, to try to manipulate me to lose weight. I remember when I was 8 or so, and we were shopping for some jeans for me to take to summer camp. I had to get jeans labelled “Husky”… and I still to this day remember my mingled shame and fear when she said “I’m going to have to tell your father about this.'”

    My ~dad~ was the hateful one (well, except for my little brother.. .and he was just being a little brother, using any means at his disposal to win in the Sibling Wars). My dad was obsessed with fat women, and he used his medical career as an excuse for it. (Funny how he had no animosity directed at fat ~men~ though….) He even wrote me a letter, when I became a “born again Christian” in my late teens, about how God was disappointed in me because I was fat. (Dad never let an opportunity for emotional manipulation go unused.)

    And the kicker of it all was, back then I WASN’T FAT. I was over the “accepted weight for my height” standards, and I was pudgy at times before I hit a growth spurt, but I didn’t become truly fat until my latest teens/early 20’s. My parents had divorced, and Mom told me later that I always put on a lot of weight any time I heard that Dad was coming to visit us.

    And there was my grandmother, my Dad’s mother, who would spy on me, searching through my drawers and belongings, for any sign of candy wrappers or other evidence of “forbidden eating” so she could report it to my dad. She did this for as long as I can remember… and the summer I was forced to live with her, the summer between high school and college (I couldn’t get a job in my town, so my dad made me move in with her in the city so I could find one), she would regularly snoop through my suitcases and write reports to my dad. My brother, who spent a month with my dad that summer, told me about that later. Grandma would also harp at me for eating too much, that I was costing her all this money to buy food for me, but if I didn’t eat, then she complained that she was wasting all this money, buying food for me that I wasn’t going to eat. I couldn’t win with her either way.

    But the reason I looked so fat in all my pictures was because I was always wearing clothes that were too small for me, and so they always looked stretched-too-tight on me, like sausage casings. Even when I wasn’t really fat, I wore too-small clothing… both as a way of denying my perceived (and accused) fatness, and also to avoid the shame of having to have my mom buy the larger, “truly would fit” size clothing.

    I cry when I read the studies like this, that teasing and harrassment about being fat, and especially by one’s own family, are the greatest predictors of ~being~ fat. Because as hard as I try to accept myself as I am (and I’m getting better all the time, as the song goes), I still can’t help but think “What if”…. What if I had been accepted as I was back then? Would I still have become as large as I am? Would I, instead, remained the “larger than accepted but not ~really~ fat” person that I was in those older early-teen pictures? I still have enough of the ingrained-over-almost-my-entire-lifetime fat hatred for that to matter to me, even if only a little bit.

    So I cry for what I might have been, and more importantly I cry for what I lost, what I was never given — acceptance and love for who and what I was. And so it is still hard at times to accept myself as I am now, and to maintain that self-acceptance, in the face of the current (and increasing) fat-hatred of our society.

  22. A word about family genetics — my dad had a bit of trouble with his weight, and probably could put on a lot if he wasn’t careful, but his own “battle the weight” concern stemmed from a photograph that made him look old, not fat. My mom was naturally thin, and never had a (real) weight problem; her concerns came from nagging from my dad. (When my mom was pregnant with me, she actually ~lost~ weight, becase my dad haranged her so much about “getting fat”) And my brother couldn’t gain weight if he tried. He thinks he does, and so works out on a regular basis, but he can’t even put on ~muscle~ bulk (though he does get some awesome definition going…). He’s 6’4″ tall, and he is a walking blast furnace. Seriously, I can’t sit next to him in the summer because he radiates so much body heat. And he eats worse than I ~ever~ did, he’ll even admit the fact. He lives on sugar… and at Easter time he could support the whole “Peeps” industry just by the amount of Peeps he consumes. Me, well, I was a stick until about 8, when I put on a bit of pre-growth-spurt pudginess. After that I was always “heavier than the charted recommendation” for my age and height, but only in a thin-obsessed society could I have been thought of as fat. (Until college, when I “grew into my own” so to speak). My metabolism is the exact opposite of my brother’s — I have an over 2-degree lower body temperature than the standard; when the thermometer reads 98.6 for me, I actually have a fever. My body is very, very good at conserving its resources.

    But going beyond my immediate family, almost all of my Mom’s side of the family is heavy — Pennsylvania farming stock, from both her mother and her father (in fact, both maternal grandparents came from the same small farming town). My dad’s family doesn’t have the heavy genetics so much, but my dad was definitely heavier than his two brothers.

  23. Coming out of quiet reader mode to say that many of these stories make my jaw drop. Whatever teasing I received now seems pale and minor league by comparison. I feel sad–and furious–that the ones who are supposed to love us can turn and hurt us so much.

    Amber de Katt, your story really got to me. I hope you can find peace and self-acceptance.

  24. Confession time:

    The FA movement, while it has done a world of good for me, has probably saved my 13 year old son. He has a host of medical problems, and I worried about the weight he put on and the food he was eating. It was a constant battle.

    Then I realized what I was doing. I had internalized the messages and was often framing it in the terms of weight and fat. It has and will be an uphill battle with myself, but for the past six months, I have focused on him eating a bit of veggies and exercising for how much better it will make him feel, and for the health benefits (One of his issues is chronic constipation, so we do need to encourage to eat better)

    I honestly hope that I can undo the messages he was getting and replace them with better ones. His 9 year old brother has a bit of pudge starting, and I am really trying not to give him poor messages about it.

    End of confession (This was very hard to admit and write….)

  25. Krista, I’ve been sitting here thinking about what I might be…no, to be brutal AM doing to my 2 boys (6 and 10) in terms of talking about weight. They’re both quite heavy and tall for their ages and they’re not naturally active (take after their mum there) and I have been trying to improve their, and my, eating and to get us all being more active.

    Reading this post and the comments following has really brought home to me how incredibly important it is not to stuff this up and to make sure I’m teaching them HAES messages and not how to hate their own bodies.

    Kate, I’m learning so much reading here, thank you for everything you and the other bloggers here do! I’m very new to the whole FA movement and I’m not yet sure how I feel about it in regards to myself but I’m 100% convinced that I don’t want to pass on to my kids the legacy of body image issues I am dealing with.

  26. Oh, wow. Some of those stories just broke my heart. Thank you for posting this.

    I had a mom tied up in the same diet cycle I learned – in fact, she taught it to me through her own starve/purge cycle, and her depression while I was an adolescent. I don’t mean “she taught it to me” in any deliberate or shaming ways; those were just the messages I took in from watching her starve one week and eat nothing but peanut m&ms the next…and never enjoy one bite. I hated watching her hate herself, but what does an 11, 12, 13 year old kid do?

    The one who was always downright cruel to me was my dad’s mother. She made clothes and would send me smaller ones as “inspiration.” She’d make comments about everything I ate, and worse yet, she inspired in my dad this entire culture of “you have the right to evaluate and report what people who are NOT you are doing.”

    The kicker came in college when a boyfriend of mine was visiting the family. My grandmother pulled him aside – but deliberately within earshot – to have a conversation with him (he was not fat) about how “wonderful it is to be svelte, and shouldn’t everyone want to be svelte.” I can’t even HEAR the word “svelte” without cringing now. Grrr.

    It just hurts so much to know that your family finds you – at a base, bodily, fundamental level – unacceptable. I’m still getting over that.

  27. Wait, I’m going to answer my own question about what “an 11, 12, 13 year old kid do?”

    Answer: the exact same thing.

    Which is why this post and all the brave replies & personal stories are so important. Thank you.

  28. You know, this should probably be linked from the “Don’t you realize…” post, under point 9.

  29. Amber, of course I have no statistics (and how would you measure it anyway) but it seems frighteningly common for men in the medical profession to use their authority and the trust of their patients to advance their own fat-woman-hating agendas. I don’t know how much of it is related to what these men have always believed, and how much of it is the fatphobic stuff they must get endlessly in med school (about how they will need to fight the good fight to end the OBESITY EPIDEMIC but those lazy, excuse-making, Twinkie-stuffing fatties–who are far less worthwhile as human beings than thin, smart doctors who run on the treadmill regularly–will be trying to thwart them at every turn), but whenever some fat-hating commenter somewhere talks about how it must be right that you need to lose weight because your DOCTOR says so (often with that sarcastic sneer, like it’s impossible for them to understand how in denial you would have to be to question someone as smart and impartial as a DOCTOR), I roll my eyes so hard that it hurts. ‘Cause no doctor has ever allowed his personal prejudices and issues to affect his medical practice. Oh wait, that should say “doctors are human beings, so pretty much every single one of them allow their personal prejudices and issues to affect their medical practice.” Their words belie their “objectivity.” I have seen so many examples of hateful, nasty, misogynistic speech from doctors online related to weight issues (it’s easier to let your true colors shine through when you’re typing instead of face-to-face) that I don’t understand how anyone could fail to see that there are certainly doctors out there who are just affronted that they have to gaze upon women at any time whose appearance they don’t personally find either sexually attractive or “appropriate.” Actually, I have always felt that the medical profession seems to actively disproportionately attract this brand of paternalistic asshole, but I have no evidence for that.

    I’m sorry your dad was so awful to you about your weight. I ended up screwed up enough, and my mom was not 1/10th as bad as many of your parents in terms of insulting me or haranguing me to diet (not that she didn’t do some of that), so hearing these stories really brings home how screwed up we are as a society. I wish I could hug all of you. My (as yet nonexistent) kids will never hear a negative word breathed about their bodies (or my body or my husband’s body) if I can possibly help it. Although I have internalized stuff as much as the next person so I know it won’t be easy.

  30. Gods, do I feel lucky right now. I can remember my dad saying “I wish you’d play some sports or something,” and sometimes “stop borrowing my cowboy boots” but never “you should starve yourself for awhile so you’re not such a fatass.” I got teased in school for being brainy, but never fat.

    Lucky, lucky, lucky me. I wish I could retroactively share my experiences with folks who didn’t have that.

  31. Speaking of asshole paternalistic doctors, I don’t know if I have told this anecdote here yet, but I have had a Weight Watchers leader who not only experienced the story I am about to tell, but must think it’s AWESOME because she told it on two of the three occasions I had the misfortune to go to her meeting.

    Apparently, said woman has a congenital heart condition and has been told throughout her life by her doctors that she needs to keep her weight low so her heart doesn’t have to work so hard. Fine. But she said on one occasion, her doctor finished up with his exam and she thought she felt something on her stomach. As she went to sit up and get dressed, she checked this out and found that he had written “FATSO” on her stomach with a ball-point pen. I was horrified and couldn’t believe the entitlement and paternalism that would have to be involved to motivate someone to perform this completely unprofessional violation of a patient’s dignity, personal space, and body.

    By contrast with my horror (I’m sure my mouth was hanging open), she seemed to love this “wake-up call” and said she “really likes it when people are straight with her.” When I told my friend this story she said “That would be kind of like saying ‘I asked my husband how dinner was, and he slapped me right across the face, and that was great because I really love those straight shooters who tell it like it is.'”

    The same leader told us how her teenaged daughter was once laughing at her openly while she tried to zip up a too-small dress, so she got her asshole of a husband (who is now a minister, awesome) to join the referendum on her body by asking him what he thought about her weight, I guess. He concurred with her daughter, saying “Yes, she’s really let herself go.” Now tell me a) that women don’t hate women, and b) that men don’t use weight to try and control women.

    The good news (for me, not for her) is that I can’t imagine giving my husband that kind of power, to ask him to look at my body and judge whether it’s acceptable. I don’t think he would ever try to assume that kind of power anyway, but I certainly would not be complicit in letting him.

  32. Spacedcowboy, Jesus! I can’ t believe those stories! And no, I’m working on trying to pull that power away from people like my mom and sister, I’m certainly not going to hand it over to a man. Lucky for me, my fiance couldn’t care less how much I weigh.

  33. Aw, thanks… I am geeked about the compliment because you’re so smart and I love reading your analysis here.

    I also just remembered, a colleague of the same friend who made the slapping analogy above recently suffered a sexual assault, which involved the attackers scrawling words and pictures on her body. I am not trying to equate the WW leader’s experience with this attack by any means, but I believe the impulses of a man in a position of power to control and objectify a woman’s body in the two cases are not as unrelated to each other as I might like to think.

  34. Sorry, meant to direct that at fj… Becky, this woman is older and although I think she is unusually backward in her thinking even for her age, growing up in a prior generation might explain part of it. I’ve heard her come out with several gems not necessarily even related to weight, like (apropos of nothing) commenting how men used to be men and women used to be women and they were different from each other, and if one of her aunts could see the kinds of things that go on these days, it would “curl her hair.” I thought, what kinds of things? Like women working outside the home? The more of this stuff I actually commit to writing, the more I think maybe this particular woman is just a particularly toxic brand of crazy. Thank god she has a job where people look up to her and take her word as gospel, eh?

  35. Great, now I feel the need to triple-post because what I said sounded like I think older people are backwards and stupid. I just meant that as unfortunate as they are, these kinds of ideas were probably more mainstream and less jarring when the WW leader (I think she’s 70-ish) was growing up.

  36. it seems frighteningly common for men in the medical profession to use their authority and the trust of their patients to advance their own fat-woman-hating agendas

    Two stories I can’t hold back any longer.

    1) As a med student, I had to work in an internist’s practice for a short time. Middle-aged man, reasonably renowned. He used to tell fat patients, but only female ones, to “eat nothing.” E.g. “The reason for your stomach ache/bad eyesight/irregular menstruation/incontinence is that you’re TOO FAT. This means you must EAT NOTHING AT ALL. Then you’ll be better.” I am not fucking kidding you!!! One woman told him “I’ve only been eating an apple a day since you told me, I’ve lost lots of weight, but this stomach ache is still killing me”, and he said “Didn’t I tell you to eat NOTHING? Your body doesn’t need any food! You’re fat!” (And no, sorry, I didn’t even try to stand up to him. He was a scary tyrant with the power to have me fail the internship at the blink of an eye, and I was a frightened little student with no wish to repeat the experience.)

    2) I’m on the mailing list of two different med schools. They both use Yahoo groups. Twice a year, some of the members graduate and try to leave the mailing list. Medical doctors. Twice a year, my inbox is flooded by messages for weeks. “Take me off the list, please.” “Come on, I don’t want to receive these messages any longer.” “Seriously now, I’ll sue you if you don’t stop sending me these messages!” When the instructions of how to leave the list are posted at the bottom of. Every. Single. E-Mail.

    What I’m trying to say, for the love of god, people, they’re human! And not particulary great humans, either! It really, truly doesn’t require even an average level of intelligence or common sense to be a doctor. Trust me.

    The only professional attire I’d ever put enough trust in to stop eating at their will, is a spandex overall and a cape.

  37. The most hurtful thing my mother ever said about weight (and there were many) was when my aunt’s longtime battle with cancer had taken a turn for the worse, and we all knew she wasn’t going to get better this time. Mom called to give me an update on my aunt’s condition, then wrapped up with: “But the good news is she’s losing weight, and she looks really good.”

    I said, “Mom, I really don’t think it’s a good thing when a cancer patient starts losing weight.”

    And my mother actually explained to me why my aunt’s weight loss was positive! “It’s not like she’s on chemo,” my mother said. No, my aunt didn’t have the energy to cook, and was skipping breakfast every day because she was too tired to get out of bed until almost noon, and had lost her appetite besides.

    Wow, what a relief! Glad to know the “Terminal Cancer Diet” was working so well for her. Thanks mom, for explaining it to me! Maybe I’ll get lucky someday and get a wasting disease, and then I’ll lose weight effortlessly too.

    I wish I could say I had blasted my mother. Instead I wimped out, just repeated that drastic weight loss was a bad sign for a very sick person, and changed the subject.

    Later, when my aunt was near death, my mother complained to me that my aunt ate nothing but sweets and always had a box of candy by her bed. That time I did snap, and told her for God’s sake to leave my aunt alone and be grateful there was something she could enjoy eating.


    Especially “I told you to eat nothing.” SOMEONE PLEASE FIND AND REMOVE THESE PEOPLE.

  39. Omg, Darcy, that is just wrenchingly horrible. My god.

    Em: did that asshat ever give them an end-date for their Eat Nothing Diet? Or was it just indefinite?

  40. Darcy, I want to cry for your aunt. What a terrible lack of perspective. I don’t seem to understand people at all most of the time.

    Em–that internist is so awful that I am tongue-tied. I’m sorry you had to work for him and I’m even sorrier that those women had to endure that advice. Again I am thankful that for all my faults and doubts and lack of ability to stand up for myself, I can’t even imagine thinking that advice like that had any merit. I might not tell him to go fuck himself but I certainly wouldn’t think he was right. What if that poor patient had stomach cancer or something immediately threatening? The pain and blood and mental anguish of those women are on his hands.

    Can you imagine someone like that telling a man to “eat nothing”? Ha! It would never happen unless he thought the man in question wasn’t manly enough, or something.

  41. Darcy,

    Your comments are all too familiar to me. I have crohn’s disease and it tend to keep me quite thin. I’m always complemented for my figure when I’m at my sickest and lowest weight (under-weight). It disgust me that people do this and on top of that, when I tell them I’m thin because I’m sick, they tell me I’m lucky to have an illness that makes me thin. It’s insanity.

    Tha cancer comment is 100 times worse because the seriousness of the disease, but people’s brainwashed commitment to thin will always win out apparently.

  42. My mother has always been skinny.

    I started gaining weight at around age 7. When I got taunted at school then, she turned a blind eye. But when I turned 12 or so, it started.

    I was fat.

    I had chunky thighs.

    I ‘had my aunt’s build, and you know what happened to her…you’ll end up with hip trouble like her’. (My beloved paternal aunt never married – there’s a whole family story there – slaved for her brothers and parents for decades, was always on the go and, I’m guessing, simply wore herself out. She died shortly after her parents, blind and having had one elg amputated. But my mother seems to thionk because my aunt was ‘fat’ she had bad osteoporosis, which I know is a disease of the underweight, but you can’t tell her that because she’s always right.)

    I needed to walk five miles a day, at least.

    I should eat less bread and potatoes but keep eating sugar because ‘your body needs it’. (She has a very sweet tooth and excuses this by claiming refined sugar is a dietary essential…of course, they got it on ration in WWII, so it MUST be.) I’ve occasionally had her actually take food – food she’s dished out to me! – off my plate on the grounds that I ‘don’t need it’.

    I must (later, and this is from someone with NO medical knowledge) have thyroid trouble ‘because you never do any housework either, it must be your thyroid making you fat and giving you no energy’. (My thyroid is fine. I just happen to not want to go round picking cat hairs off chairs 18 hours a day.)

    The rest of my family, to their credit, have NEVER made this an issue. Having said that, my mother is like this to everyone…I just happened to be in the direct line of fire.

    I have the last laugh, though. She always used to tell me – loudly, in public, in stores – how with the flabby tops of my arms, I really shouldn’t wear anything sleeveless. At all. Ever.

    Today, I take her at her word when I visit her. Not because I hate my arms – I don’t – but because they’re both tattooed and she’d have kittens if she knew. Living well is definitely the best revenge! ;)

  43. I recently read an article bemoaning fatness and America’s “obesity epidemic” that stated something like: Isn’t it horrible that we’ve been fighting obesity for 30 years and people are just getting fatter.

    Well Duh! Maybe fighing obesity (through diet and through fostering a hatred toward fat people) CAUSES obesity?

  44. I just read this article and reading through the comments… wow. I’ve been fat my whole life… I joked to a nutritionist once when she asked what my highest and lowest weights were and when, that my lowest weight was 8lb – at birth.

    My mom’s also been fat almost her entire life, not counting the many times she lost weight through dieting only to gain it all back and then some. She’s admitted that her biggest fear for me when I was young was that I’d be fat like she was, and have to endure the same shame and humiliation my whole life. She did what she could to control what I ate, but somehow I gained weight anyway. Some of her choice quotes that have stuck with me:

    (When I was about 8 or 9) “Oh Meghan, you look like you’re six months pregnant.”

    “Well, for a chubby girl you’ve got pretty nice legs.”

    (In high school) “You’d be the prettiest girl in school if you just lost some weight.”

  45. I’ve spent the last hour or so reading through a bunch of varying blogs and posts, after having read today’s (01/22/08) NYTimes article on the “Fatosphere,” and I finally have to write a brief post.

    I currently weigh a bit over 200. Since I’m well under six feet tall and female, that means I’m fat by any measure. I look back at the photos of myself in college, when I weighed around 130 and thought I was desperately fat. That particular number has been my goal for years.

    I hated the way I looked in college. Would I have not hated it so much had I read this sort of information back then? Or would I have not hated my looks so badly had my mother not hated her own looks?

    Thing is, my mother is fat. Both of us carry the weight mostly in the belly and breasts. I am now 58. Mom, in her eighties and healthy but still 200+, has better looking legs than many women in their thirties. We’re classic apple shapes.

    My now-thirty daughter *isn’t* fat, but she probably is close to 130. She has *curves* and looks *feminine.* Actually, she looks HOT. (Not just my opinion; ask any of her mostly-male co-workers.) Even though she lives in L.A. now, she has no interest in looking thin. She accepts herself. She knows she looks good. She’s smart, and has a good relationship with a terrific guy who thinks she’s hot, and she is gorgeous.

    Somehow, I’m not sure how but somehow, I managed to raise her without infecting her with my own self-hatred. Even if she gets up to my weight in latter years, I doubt if she’ll suffer this hate-virus. But my GOD how I regret not having had more fun in college, how I regret the years of self-loathing for my ample curves.

    Keep doing the good work, and may all women who hate the way they look hear the message.

  46. I, too have a “concerned” mom. She’s been fighting the same 10-20 lbs. her whole life. I was skinny until college when I stopped growing taller and started growing wider. Every time she visits, she tries to talk me into joining a gym or a weight loss program, which I know I would never stick to. I know she “means well”, but I told her that her “helpful suggestions” are hurtful to me and make me want to eat more, and she said, “I’m not responsible for your feelings or your overeating.” Of course she’s not, but she is responsible for her comments. She is always telling me worst-case scenarios – I am going to give myself a) diabetes, b) cancer, c) etc. by being (somewhat) overweight and not exercising enough (by her standards). She is always mailing me diet books and articles about weight. When I asked her to focus on her own life and not to drive herself crazy worrying about mine, she said, “If I were an alcoholic, or if I were poking myself repeatedly in they eye with a sharp stick, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to get me to stop?” Wow…. I was speechless. I finally said, “Hey, I am taking care of myself as best as I can, not poking myself with a stick, and if you were an alcoholic, I’d join Al-Anon, and learn how to disengage.” Now I find myself facing some unpleasant fertility treatments. My doctor does not think that my weight is the primary cause of my fertility issues, and yes, we have discussed the leatest studies. Extensive testing (of self & hubby) has not shown any conclusive reasons why I’m not pregnant. Mom, tho desperate for grandchildren, has not been supportive of my pain and fear in this journey, but continues to harp on my weight, in an I-told-you-so kind of way. I finally called her on it, and she refused to back off. She says I’m too touchy and she resents having to walk on eggshells around me. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!! Thank you to my friend who send me a link to this, so I could see that other women have experienced the same pick-pick-pick from their families, and so I could share my story. Thank you all. May we not repeat this insanity with our offspring.

  47. Yes, my mom is ‘just concerned’ for my sister and I. Worse, she is now ‘concerned’ about my 11 year old daughter. I’m fighting the good fight though, for all three of us.

    My favorite quotes and anticdotes:

    When I was 8 years old, my mother, “concerned” took me to the Dr where I was put on a 1,000 calorie diet. When I said, “but mommy, it’s not like I’m FAT!” She said, “Yes, you are! You are FAT!”

    When I was 17 I lost 75 pounds in 3 months. It was my goal to weigh less at bedtime than I had in the morning. Most days I ate toothpaste. My mother was “SO PROUD OF ME!”

    When I was 23, married and 7 months pregnant I sat crying on my kitchen floor as I listened to her tell me that my husband was going to leave me if I didn’t lose weight.

    When I was 25 and a single mother (he did leave, not because I was fat, but because he was an asshole) I went back to school to get a bachelors and didn’t stop till I got my master’s. After the graduation ceremony she told me that I’d have a hard time getting a job if I didn’t lose weight.

    When I was 29 I lost 75 pounds using weight watchers and walking everyday. I felt so healthy and proud that I had stuck to an exercise I actually enjoyed. My mother however, in an unrelated argument deemed that I was still fat, worthless and not living in reality. Sadly, I quickly stopped exercising and gained every pound back. Fortunately, I learned that her ‘concern’ will never end.

    2 days ago, I am 33, I was making a salad in the kitchen of her cafe’ (Oh, did I mention she owns a restraunt and catering business?) and I grabbed three pieces of bacon to crumble on top.

    She said, in front of my 20 y/o sister, “BACON! Do you know how much fat and calories are in each piece?”
    “Yep”, I replied, “every delicious one! how do you think I keep my curvy figure? but tell us, how do keep your nose so buried in everyone’s business?”

  48. All these well meaning mothers!

    “I just want you to be happy! And you won’t be happy if you’re fat.”

    “You have such a pretty face, I bet you’d have more friends if you weren’t so fat”

    Thanks, you’ve made me into a stable and happy adult.

    I was really poor for a while, had to walk everywhere and couldn’t afford much food. I dropped all the way down to 95 pounds, scared the hell out of everybody. Scared them enough that even though I’ve been at my ‘fat’ weight of 135 for 5 years, I haven’t heard a peep about it from anyone.

    Similar to what Amber said above, I think all the negative comments from my family made me eager and happy for any attention at all, so much that I got myself into dangerous and unsavory relationships. While it’s nice to know I’m not the only one to be so foolish, it saddens me to think how many other women have been in similar situations.

    No one should be grateful for the attentions of a loser who treats them like garbage, no matter their size.

  49. “Things get especially bad when it’s your own fucking family telling you you’re too fat.”

    I sure know that :( I got yelled at for being an average weight. Wonderful stuff.
    I cried the whole drive to school.

  50. Wow, I feel pretty lucky. I was as thin as a stick when I was young, but hit puberty way faster than most kids. My mom always gave me issues about my breasts (too big, can’t we deemphasize them?) and way I “presented” myself (slouchy and disarrayed), but when I started to gain a lot of weight in high school, she never said a thing and neither did my dad. I’ll always remember the time when I came home happy about something or the other and my mom said that I was beautiful. My mom probably doesn’t even remember the event, but ten years on, I can still remember the look on my mother’s face when she said it. That’s the kind of positive reinforcement kids need today.
    On the other hand, my grandmother who lived with us, would on one hand say that I was fat and on the other, become upset if I didn’t eat enough. She even filled my plate up and then simulateneously was angered if I finished it and disappointed if I didn’t.
    College really saved me. My parent’s even told me that college straightens a lot of kids lot since they’re away from the house and making their own choices. And they were right, a month away from my grandmother and the pants started slipping and I didn’t feel the need to gorge as often.
    So I guess what I’m trying to say is that it wasn’t that I was fat (my grandmother would have acted the same way if I was skinny), it was my perceptions of myself that needed to loosen and when they did, I found my true size after all.

  51. Hi. I don’t know if anyone will see this- but I felt a need to put my story in here, too. I am 38 now, and I started putting on weight when I was about 12. My mother was and is intensely controlling and her response was to lecure, nag, and put me on diet after diet. My older brother was physically and emotionally abusive: he called me “fat assed bitch”. That isn’t language I’m comfortable with, but that is what he called me.

    I can only wish that I were the size NOW that I was THEN when my family started calling me fat. I lost weight on several diets as a child (all enforced by my mother) but always gained weight back. SHe’d put me on aother diet. I can remember being eighteen and away at college and happily describing to her how some other girls helped me get ready for a horse show and I bought them donuts and chocolate milk for breakfast as a treat. Her response was not “I’m so glad you’re making friends” or “How fun!” or any other appropriate response. It was, “You don’t eat like that every day do you?”

    ANd the thing is, I ddidn’t even EAT the donuts! I bought them for somebody else. I remember visiting my grandparents and being shamed when I took a third taco, because my mother told my grandmother to only let me eat a certain amount. I was probably hungry, but being called out for it certainly took away my desire for that taco.

    I starved myself in college – anorexic – and ended up at that “normal” weight, but I acheived it by not eating!!!!
    I got treatment, but when I am really depressed the last thing I want to do is eat .

    This part of my history is largely the reason that I have given up on trying every diet that comes down the pike. I get OBSESSED. I weigh myself four times a day. I obsess about every bite and every pound. It’s not good for me and I am just not convinced that it’s necessary. I have had a painful road to accept myself, but I do it pretty well most days. Needless to say, my mother does not. She still nags and lectures and tells me things like she doens’t want me to die first. I don’t think I”m in danger of that. She purposefully doen’st buy the soft drink she knows I like because she doesn’t want me to drink it. When I had surgery over the summer I was stuck at her house and she refused to bring me what I wanted to drink but nagged me about falling asleep “too much”. SHe enjoyed having control over me in a situation where I couldn’t easily get up and go get the drink myself. She also disapproved of my club soda, because it had “too much sodium”. SO what does the woman want?

    Psychologists would probably say never nag your former anorexic child about food or weight, but of course my mom doesn’t care. Probably in her mind, I never really had that disease because I never got REALLY skinny.

    My self esteem is taking a bit of a blow lately because I have developed arthritis in one hip. I don’t know how severe the joint changes are, but the pain is severe. I know that many people, even doctors, will try to blame the arthritis on my weight. Yet there is no guarantee that I wouldn’t be in pain even after losing weight. And the catch -22: how do I exercise to lose weight when I’m in constant pain, waking and sleeping?

    I really need to find a rheumatologist that won’t just tell me to “lose weight”. I don’t know if my weight caused my problem, or if it has to do with genetics or 15 years of horseback riding, or my knees that slip out of joint easily. But don’t I deserve resepect? And someone who won’t jump to conclusions about me, about my life, based on what I look like?

    Many people probably judge me, while few know the whole story. Does anyone else deal with osteoarthritis? How do you make people understand that it’s not necessarily “your own fault”. That is my fear, that I somehow deserve the pain because I “let myself” get fat.

    This is a big step for me. I am often judged, and fear judgement. I am trying to stand up for myself more. So I hope I can be heard here.

  52. So, I just found this….

    My family was extremely abusive about my weight. My entire family. My home life was pretty much hell. I got fat around age 10 and never heard the end of it from then on.

    Aside from the general teasing from my siblings, my fatness was used in any fight we ever had. “I’m going to let the fat out of you!” was the most common threat, if I recall right.

    I was made to feel guilty about eating. Didn’t matter what I was eating, or when. If I had food in my hand, or came into the kitchen, there would be at the very least a reproachful look. Usually they’d say my name in a warning tone.

    Not surprisingly, this led to extremely disordered eating habits. I ate at night. I ate in secret. Once I could drive I ate in grocery store parking lots. Eventually I internalized enough shame to lead me to bulimia.

    I’m 28 now, live on my own, work as a teacher… and ‘m completely unable to eat in front of people. My co-workers have given up on seeing me in the staff room at lunch. If I bring a lunch at all, I eat it in my classroom with the door locked, and take the wrappers home because I don’t want anyone to see them in the trash can. I even stress out when we have potlucks, not because I’ll actually go (I never do), but because everyone has to bring something even if they don’t go, and I worry about what the food I bring will “say” about me. I haven’t been a take-out or restaurant in many years because being seen ordering food is unthinkable. I even feel humiliation at the checkout line at the grocery store.

    Oddly enough, I’ve been at a normal (even lower-end) weight for nearly ten years.

    Permanent scars… I have them.

  53. @ Elvira

    * Hugz *

    I wanted to cry when I read your story. I’m so sorry that happened to you. No one has any right to treat you the way your family treated you.

    I wish I could say something that will ease the pain of your experiences but I know that’s not possible. All I can say is that my heart goes out to you. And I hope that, with time, you will be able to do something like eat in front of others, completely secure in the knowledge that the only reason they’re looking at you is because you’re pretty and they like you.

  54. These are heartbreaking stories to read. I am proud to say I have never once given my kids (6 and 4) anything but love for their bodies – and I have never once put my own body down in front of them – ever.

    I was not so fortunate growing up. Mostly it is my mom’s own behavior that makes me sad; always dieting, always putting off things she wants until she loses weight. I know so many women like this – they don’t “deserve” a short haircut until they lose fifty pounds (yeah – often some rather large amount of weight!) or they could “never wear this or that” because it’s not flattering (remember, the job of clothes is to create the OPTICAL ILLUSION you are different than you really are!), blach blah. I hate hearing that kind of talk but I am unsure of what to say.

    With regards to my kids I have found myself hoping my children – especially my girl – stays thin so that life is easier on her. WTF? I am all done thinking that, as of reading many things on this great site.

    Thank you to everyone who’s shared!

  55. Wow, Amber de Katt, your story just makes me writhe with anger and confusion. I’ve heard some pretty bad stories about families being that way to the “fat” kid amongst them, but, you story really tops them all off. I’m a big girl too and I thought I had been teased a lot (I went to a private school with barbies and beauty queens…) but, wow. I am so sorry your family was that way. My grandma had a similar issue with my grandpa and took speed and even wore tight girdles during pregnancy because my grandpa detested her if she gained a pound.

    I hope that someday you’ll be able to find peace with yourself and, quite possibly, your family :)

  56. This seams to be the pattern…

    Our society (you can blame the media for this too) has put so much pressure on everyone to be thin it has caused parents to bully their kids about their weight, causing the kids to be stressed out, causing the release of cortisol, causing more weight gain, causing them to get teased more, causing more cortisol to be released… the pattern goes on and on and on….

    and, it has been proven, that in other societies, where being fat is considered wonderful, those who are overweight do not have the health issues of those who are overweight in the western society… hmm… maybe because they aren’t being pressured to be thin and being made to think they’re ugly if they aren’t… so, it can all be linked to one thing… STRESS.

    It needs to stop…

  57. Sweet Jebus is this true. My mom made me go to Weight Watchers when I was freaking TWELVE.

    Mine put me on WW at ten. By 18, I was anorexic and completely obsessed with how much food ‘cost’ in points.

    It makes me incredibly, helplessly angry thinking about the fantastic childhood I could have had if I hadn’t been obsessed about food and busy hating my chubby body.

    Interestingly, when I was 19 I had to have my gallbladder removed because it was full of stones and about to pop. My surgeon firmly believed from his vast experience that crash dieting contributed to gallstones, although he’s never researched it.

    I can’t wait to have a children myself so I can love them unconditionally no matter how they pop out!

  58. Wow, these stories are shocking. I remember some decades ago my mom commenting on a friend of the family who was fat saying something negative. I tried to call her on it and she said “I just think she doesn’t respect herself if she lets herself look like that”. She didn’t overtly give me trouble about being chubby back then (in middle school) but did often tell me I was “too busty”. I must have picked something up though because I did start being somewhat anorexic then – throwing out my lunches and skipping breakfast ( I got over it and have never dieted in my adult life.) My mom had actually been somewhat overweight at some point (I’ve seen pictures) but in the ’80s she started jogging and has ever since and has been rail thin for quite some time (now in her late 60s). However my boyfriend and I agree that she has some serious issues about controlling what people eat. Whenever she has us over for a meal we often plan to get food before or after since she usually serves so little (for instance salmon steaks cut to less than 1/2 inch thick or for breakfast only english muffins (half per person) and a couple of spoons of egg . She once told me that she couldn’t travel with some particular companions anymore since they eat “breakfast, lunch, AND dinner”. She often comes over to my house and says that she can’t possibly have lunch since she had a cookie with her tea for breakfast and is terribly full still. Crazy…
    I do also have a story about a gynocologist (skinny pointy nosed witch) who I asked when my period would come back after I stopped taking birth control (it had been a few months) and she told me that I wasn’t having it because I was fat. Totally not true – I got it a month later and was very regular after. I think it’s important to get these stories out there.

  59. These were difficult to read. My mom put me on my first diet when I was 8. I have seen pictures of myself – I wasn’t overweight. I’m sure I was the only skim milk-drinking third grader to know how many calories were in an apple.

    My dad never said one word about food or my body, but I do remember my mom’s parents offering helpful hints like, “why don’t you eat cereal instead of waffles for breakfast?” and 10-year old me thinking, “I don’t eat waffles!” because I was allowed one cup of cereal, one-quarter cup of blueberries, and one-half cup of milk for breakfast. When I was in the sixth grade I was 5’6″ and 111 lbs. I wasn’t overweight. To contradict these messages about what I should be eating, the house was always full of junk food.

    That was the start of my food obsession; I was a vegetarian for a while to restrict my intake and then I was diagnosed with bulimia in high school. I saw a therapist for 7 years, which shamed them, I’m sure, since I was made to drive myself to the therapist and pay for her services with a part-time job.

    All of my dresses for high school dances had sleeves, because my mom bought them, and with my “big arms” I shouldn’t wear anything sleeveless.

    I’m almost 30 and I am terrified that if I have a child someday, I will do the same thing to her.

  60. I never got any of that myself, thank god, though I think in recent years my mother has developed and eating disorder. She goes on Weight Watchers for a while (my dad has commented that it’s dieting for people with OCD, with all of that point counting), then stops and gains some weight back, probably because she basically eats nothing but ready meals. And junk. She has NO self-control around it, if it’s in the house it’ll disappear. (Which may be rubbing off on me, eek.) Food is about the only aspect of everyone else’s lives that she DOESN’T try to control.

    But I remember in middle school one of my close friends, who was MAYBE a trifle plumper – probably just more developed – than her peers, and her dad was HATEFUL. She was a sweet, lovely person, in the gifted program! And her dad told her that nobody would ever like her and she’d never have friends because she was a fat idiot. We were all completely horrified and assured her otherwise. (…She had a large group of friends that were telling her this. Her dad was DELUSIONAL.) Sadly, she moved to another state after sixth grade, and apparently had trouble making friends at her new school :/ I still worry about her sometimes.

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