101, Dieting/WLS, Fat, Feminism, Self-Image, Sweet Machine

No A for effort

Shapeling cggirl shared a story in the comments to the self-esteem thread that I imagine will sound familiar to many of us.

when i was like 20, i was talking to my mother (who is a wonderful person and who i don’t blame for the culture into which she was born, which caused her to have these attitudes and inflict them on me). i was trying to get her off my case, because she was horrified that i had decided to accept my own body as it was and was no longer willing to tolerate her saying anything about what i eat, or my weight, or anything.

i said to her, “look, you’ve spent your whole life worrying about your body and trying to diet and still you never reached a point of feeling good with your body.”
so she said to me, deadpan: “but at least i was TRYING”.

At least she was TRYING to hate herself into being smaller! At least she was desperately wishing she could shrink her body to a more socially acceptable size! We’ve all heard it before: if you’re going to be fat, the least you can do is try to be less fat, even if you know it won’t work — because if you don’t try, then you’ve failed everyone else.

There’s an insidious logic here that usually remains unarticulated (as there so often is in fatphobic arguments), which is that if you accept yourself as you are, then you’re undermining the effort of those poor suckers who are trying to fit in. Saying you’re “trying” to not be fat is agreeing to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, whereas if you decide NOT to perpetuate the cultural illusions of fatphobia, then you make the people who DO obey those maxims look, well, kinda stupid. There you are, dressing fabulously, enjoying food, and feeling good in your body, while all those other people are trying to hide, avoiding gutbusters like carrots, and desperately trying not to be in their own skins. No wonder you make them mad. If you’re not trying, then what the hell have they been doing all this time?

I’ve noticed that evangelical dieters and anti-feminist women often whip out this type of response to suggestions that people’s (especially women’s) bodies and desires should be accepted, recognized, and even celebrated. This is why dieting kerfuffles happen periodically within FA; this is why debates over makeup and high heels will never be resolved in feminist circles. We all make certain concessions to our dominant culture to get ahead or stay afloat, so when we see others who don’t feel forced to make those particular concessions, we get jealous, and we get angry, and then, too often, we get desperately mean. This is why you often hear people say things like, “But men don’t notice how women dress! Women only do it for other women” — complete bullshit, of course, but the truth is, groups do tend to police themselves. It’s what we’ve all been trained to do, every single one of us, and it’s one of the most important habits to break on your way to self-acceptance.

Remember, self-esteem is not a zero-sum game. Your self-acceptance does not magically negate someone else’s conformity; instead, it threatens to show that conformity for what it is (a punishing survival strategy in an oppressive culture) instead of what it’s idealized as (moral superiority, work ethic, individualism). It is much, much easier intellectually to blame yourself for not fitting in than to realize that the whole system has been rigged all along. No matter what your culturally “undesirable” characteristics are — your body shape, your race, your gender presentation, your sexuality, your level of ability — you can’t actually rack up “social acceptability” Brownie points by hating yourself. At the end of the day, you’re still you, with those same characteristics, and people still perceive you as a person with those characteristics whether you’re hating yourself hard enough or not. There’s no permanent record that says you were on Weight Watchers for three years so you don’t really count as fat anymore; there’s no aura around you that says “I’m really a thin person waiting to get out.”

Pay attention to the man behind the curtain. Don’t apologize for who you are. Don’t feel bad about making those poor suckers look foolish — they only want to blame you because it’s so painful to blame the whole damn culture. “Discipline” and “hard work” are not moral absolutes; they’re only worthwhile if the goal you’re pursuing is worthwhile. Hating yourself is not.

90 thoughts on “No A for effort”

  1. awesome. ‘you are not being a good girl if you don’t hate yourself enough’ was never better articulated.
    I have heard this from friends who are so so insecure about themselves all my life.
    If you liked yourself enough, you will not eat that food, you would wear clothes like that, you will get brazilian wax thing done, you will play adolescent games to entice men (playing hard to get etc), you will be this, that and the other. the common thing being, if you cared about yourself enough- making it sound like a choice! making it politically correct by their independent women standards (never feminist standards though as Feminism and Fat both are the dreaded F words!!!).

    I am trying to be strict myself and I am trying to be discipline myself into starving apparently means that i love myself!!! and if i eat food that i might happen to like and might make me happy is actually because i hate myself!
    Mind boggling. and no one questions the absurdity of the implications!!!!

    lovely post.

  2. sweet machine, this shit kicks ass.

    Also, I think that people who are trying to conform get upset when faced with those who don’t, because trying to conform is so painful, and it’s like “how dare you say that the thing I am suffering for isn’t important?!” They feel they have to punish themselves, and you feel you don’t.

    It’s the same way that non-vegetarians are so threatened by vegetarians. It’s as if the very fact that one doesn’t eat meat means that you are telling them their whole way of living is wrong (n.b.: I’m not vegetarian, but I have seen this shit a million times).

  3. This is awesome.

    “Discipline” and “hard work” are not moral absolutes; they’re only worthwhile if the goal you’re pursuing is worthwhile.

    Exactly! Working hard to succeed in grad school? Worthwhile. Working hard to blog more often and improve my writing? Worthwhile. Working hard to stay in touch with friends all over the country? Worthwhile.
    Working hard to drop the same twenty pounds over and over and over? So not worthwhile.

  4. At a 12-step meeting I went to once that had nothing to do with weight or food, some woman was going on and on after the meeting about how her doctor told her she was “prediabetic” and so she had to lose weight, she used to be thin, but since she was injured she’d gained weight, etc., etc., and so she was going to go to OA. I told her about my success at fighting off insulin resistance by making tweaks to my diet and exercise habits without losing an ounce, and she just looked at me like I’d told her I’d learned how to fly by falling out of a giant redwood and flapping my wings.

    Shouldn’t it make her happy that she doesn’t have to starve, that she doesn’t have to weigh herself and write down every crumb she ingests and worry about “blowing it,” that it’s really not about fat at all? I’d have thought this would be good news. But when I thought about it later, I realized why it wasn’t, as far as she was concerned. Her dream was to stand up at an OA meeting and pull out the waistband of her pants and crow, “I lost 30 pounds!” and have the whole room applaud her and have people crowd around her afterwards congratulating her and telling her she looked terrific. She wasn’t going to get that applause and attention by standing up at a meeting and crowing, “My A1c came back normal for the third month in a row!” Not without the pulling-out-the-waistband part.

    We are so far ahead of our time here, it is crazy. Thank you, SM.

  5. WOW! How do you all write so many insightful, articulate posts so close together? I can’t believe I can click to this site and nearly every day, sometimes twice a day, leave with personal inspiration and professional food (pun intended) for thought? I’m a psychotherapist and have been trying to explain some of these points to my colleagues, but am not nearly as clear, logical, and convincing! I want them to read this blog, but as soon as “blog” comes out of my mouth, they want to dismiss it. Ever thought of publishing in academic journals???

  6. You know, every day I come back here and read, and nod, and think to myself, “Shit, I wish I had something more interesting to say than ‘great post!'” Alas, I’m still a fledgling, new to flight. But thanks anyway, to all three of you, for making it look so effortless.

  7. Somebody needs to highlight these assholes, stat:

    Asshat doctors

    I already left them a couple of comments, but they’ll probably just respond with, “You’re fat! Go on a diet!”

    And of course, beautiful post. We need to stand up for ourselves against the negative tide, because doing so will lead to prevailing.

  8. Today I bought a pair of pants and a skirt, and while I was in the dressing room I had a fat-anxiety moment. I breathed deeply and remembered adipositivity and y’all.

    In the next room over, I heard a woman. Her collage age daughter was fetching her clothes. The woman had asked for large in a cardigan at some point, and later her daughter brought her a large in a button down shirt. The mom proceeded weep, while the daughter said, “I’m sorry, mom, I’m sorry. I know your diet is going really well. I know, it was a mistake.” And the mom, weeping, said “I know I asked for the large in the cardigan don’t feel bad, it’s just that was to wear over other things, I’m just not a large anymore, okay?”

    That woman is being driven by demons with such large pitchforks that the idea of stepping away will seem ludicrous, and the idea of being proud of her body at its natural size will seem like insanity. Otherwise, her bleeding work has been all for waste.

    (Off topic: adipositivity has been hard but necessary homework for me, and it’s made a huge difference over the past few months.
    It’s teaching my aesthetics – you cannot look for THIN beauty in a fat woman. You have to look for FAT beauty. If I only looked at how much my curly hair differed from those lovely waterfalls of straight hair, I would never see the beauty of the curls. Only the drawbacks – the tendency to frizz, etc.
    You know what? It’s *actually* working – for other women, of course. It’s going to take longer to appreciate me.)

  9. “Discipline” and “hard work” are not moral absolutes; they’re only worthwhile if the goal you’re pursuing is worthwhile.

    I think you’ll find that, according to the kind of suckers we’re discussing, discipline and hard work are never worthwhile when they’re being applied loving and accepting one’s fat body as it is.

    Fab post, by the way, as was fillyjonk’s yesterday.

  10. Kate, I love your blog. I’ve been lurking here for a few days, and it feels so wonderful to know that there are other people who don’t buy into the hysteria around fat, who don’t believe that women should hate their bodies. I feel like I’m the only woman in the world who was ever really happy with my weight.

    The most amazing thing about discovering the FA movement to me is that all the women who are involved seem to be so articulate, so passionate and so clear-headed. Maybe that’s what comes from not spending 80% of your brainpower worrying about your waistline?

    Sarah, thanks for pointing out that post. It’s incredibly depressing. I left a comment as Anonymous – not sure why, I’m sure he’ll probably brush it off, too, but I hold out the hope of getting through to him. I hope that deep down he still cares about preserving people’s health.

    I’ve reproduced my comment below, FWIW.

    As a former “fat chick”: hell, I wish I were still fat. It would be a hell of a lot better than losing 20 lbs/month because of a digestive disorder that my doctor still can’t really explain, and having people tell me, “That’s so great! I wish I had your problem!”

    It seems like every woman who weighs more than a hundred pounds has this attitude. They continue to say these things to me even as my ribs begin to protrude, my energy begins to flag, etc. As a doctor, doesn’t this worry you? Do you really feel you’re “doing no harm” by encouraging this disordered attitude towards food in the name of “ha-ha-laugh-at-the-fatties”?

    Or is “personal responsibility” just for fat people?

  11. BTW, I should apologize to SweetMachine for completely ignoring her in my comment! Unfortunately, Kate’s posts are the only ones I’ve really seen much of so far, so they’re the ones I babbled about. But I think this post is an insightful one and I’m looking forward to reading more from you. :)

    [And I still don’t think I’ve read anything by Fillyjonk, so I’ll just leave that gaping hole here…]

  12. It’s sad that cggirl’s story reflects the stories we have shared with so many of our families. I don’t even speak with my father or stepmother anymore because every conversation led to talking about food or diet or something of the sort.

    It is upbringings such as the one mentioned in this post that foster completely unhealthy attitudes toward food. It’s such a shame. It breaks my heart every time I hear it. It’s the kind of abuse that begats eating disorders and severe depression.

    Breaks my heart.

  13. Dear gods, that “asshat docs” post is reprehensible.

    as are most of the replies.

    makes me feel sick inside and also makes me want to cancel my doctor’s appointment.

  14. “…still a fledgling, new to flight….” riddlebiddle, that IS more interesting than just saying “great post” It is a great post and your comment was poetry…

  15. I am never sure how to respond to digs by my family members about my gaining weight. I want to have some kind of response to comments that are meant to remind me that I am fat. I don’t want to respond negatively but I want to establish boundaries, like is mentioned in this post. I want people to know that my weight is not for them to comment on or for them to determine. Anyone have a response they usually use?

  16. “But men don’t notice how women dress, women only do it for other women”

    So I have to admit that my boyfriend thinks along these lines, that women are the ones who create the unrealistic beauty standards. He thinks that men will like whoever they are told to like (apparantly he doesn’t have much respect for male intellect!) But he heard this on Bill Maher, and it really hit home for him, possibly because he is attracted to fat women and therefore needed some reason to explain his attraction. Blaming it on the women seems easy enough…

    He will defend his position stating that the majority of fashion mag editors are women, etc.

    Anyway, does anyone know of resources I can look into to learn more about this? I would really like to argue my points more effectively.

  17. OMFG. I just read the “asshat doctors” link. Someone who is more eloquent than I should (please!) go over there and rip them a new one.

  18. Brava, SM!

    M. LeBlanc:

    Also, I think that people who are trying to conform get upset when faced with those who don’t, because trying to conform is so painful, and it’s like “how dare you say that the thing I am suffering for isn’t important?!”

    TOTALLY. We’ve got a Douchehound of the Day post coming up soon that included, as part of an unbelievably long anti-fat acceptance screed, the remark, “Why can’t you just shut up and let people find their own answers?!?” As if, by writing this blog, we are somehow preventing other people from trying different diets, or finding the 80 bazillion websites that will cheer them on as they try to lose weight.

    Um, no, honey. If you feel threatened by a bunch of people you’ve never met getting together to say it is an option to love your fat body instead of trying to change it, that’s really not my problem. I am not oppressing you over here. But maybe, just maybe, there’s a part of your own brain that thinks all this makes a lot of sense? And the cognitive dissonance hurts, so you’re blaming me, ’cause that’s a lot easier than admitting to yourself that you’ve put all this time, money, and suffering into a cause that wasn’t really worth it? Ya think?

  19. WOW! How do you all write so many insightful, articulate posts so close together?

    There are three of us! You could probably do it if there were three of you (and one was Kate).

    SM: Put down/pick up that lipstick!

  20. Sara, I just left the an angry comment at that post you linked. I’m going to be pissed for at least another hour. *rings bell* I aaaammm aaaa Kiiiiitteeeeen.

  21. Great post once again, Sweet Machine! Y’all are just incredibly eloquent, and find great ways of stating your points.

    Also, Arwen, this:

    It’s teaching my aesthetics – you cannot look for THIN beauty in a fat woman. You have to look for FAT beauty. If I only looked at how much my curly hair differed from those lovely waterfalls of straight hair, I would never see the beauty of the curls. Only the drawbacks – the tendency to frizz, etc.

    …is brilliant! I’m still in process of changing my aesthetical viewpoint, especially of myself but also in general, and that’s a great way of putting it. Thanks!

  22. Kate, it’s not just about learning to love your fat body. It’s about learning to love your body PERIOD. Whomever you are and whatever size you are. Women and men. Fat and skinny and inbetween. I think FA is a small part of what needs to be a larger movement of just pure self-acceptance. Look at all the comment stories about skinny women obsessively dieting and promoting that diet culture in the offices we all work in.

    Learning to hate your body seems to be our culture’s version of the pubescent rite of passage. Except that nowadays, it can start much much younger. The larger culture can’t accept fat because they hate their own bodies too much. Like m.leblanc’s vegetarian analysis, just loving your body, whatever size it be, is revolutionary.

  23. Asshat doctors:

    I was watching an episode of scrubs the other day. I believe it was from the 5th season. They are dealing with a morbidly obese patient who had to be takent to the zoo to get weighed.

    Dr. Elliot Reid (sp?), played by Sarah Chalke, snarks at the patient: “You really have yourself to blame for this, don’t you?”

    Every other doctor had a patient with whom he (all the other doctors on the show with any screen time are men) had an issue and did some serious blame laying.

    All of the male doctors have to eat their words, because, in the words of Ani DiFranco, the Blame Game is messy. Some of it always splashes back on you.

    But not Dr. Reid. The morbidly obese patient is shamed and then disappears, and Dr. Reid doesn’t have to deal with her bad medicine. (Of course, she is a basket case, man hungry, career crazed and baby-fevered all at the same time. Maybe being female is punishment enough).

    I noticed that. You know? The fatty got his black ass tongue lashed, and a woman doctor got to be the vicious bitch, AND justified.

    God, I really am going to have to give television up. Again. It exists to sell me everything I don’t want.

  24. Hey, Shinobi and everyone else who replied to the asshat doctors, can you post your replies here so I don’t have to use up SW points wading through the rest of it? Anon, your reply was great. Hopefully someone will read it and learn something.

  25. “But at least I was TRYING.”….

    I wish I could remember where this story comes from:
    A teacher handed a student an orange. “Put this orange on the ground, then try to pick it up.”

    The student put the orange on the ground, and stood up. She then immediately bent over and picked up the orange.

    “No!” said the teacher. “I didn’t say to pick it up. I said to TRY to pick it up. Now, try to pick it up.”

    The student put the orange down, then bent over. She touched the orange, moved it around a little, but she did not pick it up. Instead she TRIED to pick it up, and the orange stayed on the ground.

    Eternally trying to lose weight is the same process. The weight does not get lost, but the trying continues day in and day out, without any benefit to anyone. Yet we are told that we must “TRY” in order to prove we are worthwhile people.

    This is the very definition of insanity.

  26. My response, wish I could say more to those asshat doctors, but I just don’t have the heart to right now.

    Trust us, we’re doctors.

    After the horrible crap you just spewed makes me want to never trust a medical professional again. Shame on all of you for the hateful words you have said here. Of course you will never understand why it’s so hateful because it seems that you think that because you have a specific education that you are infaliable.

    *sigh* Back to your mockery of those whom you have given an oath of “first doing no harm”, because of course no one will ever find this page and realize you are talking about them and be harmed in any way.

  27. Sarah, that blog is by a DOCTOR?!? Sickening. I left a comment, too…but not as even handed as some of you guys. I said,

    “Wow, you’re just disgusting, hateful human garbage, aren’t you? Do me a favor and get off my planet.”

    Because seriously? Sick. No other word for it.

  28. Here are Mine…. wow I talk alot. I’m sortof paraphrasing what they said, so don’t quote them on my paraphrase.

    Shinobi said…

    Seriously? This is FUNNY to you?

    This man obviously had a problem, no one who was emotionally and physically healthy would actually eat themselves to death. And whatever his problem was, (food addiction, some other eating disorder, mobility issues, thyroid issuess) went treated with nothing but “Hey fatass, learn to diet.” And so apparently he died, because the medical community failed to find a way to help him. And that’s Funny to you?

    If you think that’s funny, then I’ve got another one for you. I is just HILARIOUS, You’ve heard about those Women who STARVE themselves to death so they can be models. That freaking CRACKS me UP! THese chicks just STOP EATING so they can fit into clothes, and then they DIE! HAH I bet we could fit like 8 of them into a coffin and save a few bucks!

    Oh wait, but Those women have problems, they have disorders, this fat guy who couldn’t stop eating, he was just a lazy asshole.

    In Response to a later comment that basically said, if you don’t like it “GO THE FUCK ELSEWHERE! ”

    It turns out… And i know this is going to be… like… really hard for the last poster to comprehend. But, this is the internet. So when you post something on it, that means other people will read it. And then, people who disagree with it, will link it to other people, who also disagree. And then, they all show up on your blog and bitch. And that’s just part of the deal when you have a blog. Welcome :-)

    I in fact came here, specifically, to respond, to ETOTHEIPI’s post, and for no other reason. I think, it is important that he know, that I think that his commentary on this individual is reprehensible. Does that mean I’m going to stop him from thinking asshole things about fat people? Or posting asshole things about fat people on his blog? No.

    If he doesn’t want me to post on his blog about how he is being insensitive, then he should turn off the comments, or implement a comment moderation strategy. (Or not be insensitive, that’s an option too.)

    Blogs are public, on record, and on the internet. If you can’t deal with people disagreeing with you from time to time then you should find a more warm fuzzy place to express your opinions.

    I didn’t come here for validation, I came here to tell someone off. Long, Short.

    Also, as much as I appreciate the definition of hyperbole, that doesn’t change my point. Fat people who die from their disorder are still no less deserving of respect than skinny people who die from theirs.
    The earlier responder essentially said, and I’m paraphrasing, that while appearance shouldn’t matter, behavior should and that people who repeat bad behaviors don’t deserve respect

    I said:
    My assertion is not that all people are deserving of respect. That is demonstrably not true. My assertion is actually that fat people who die from their conditions are just as deserving of respect as thin people who die from them.

    People who starve themselves to death have just as many warning signs that they are on the road to their own demise as people who eat themselves to death. Anorexia and Bulimia are hardly without side effects. I am limited in my knowledge of them to experiences with my close friend which involved multiple hospitalizations for related issues before she would get help to save her own life.

    Yet somehow, when an anorexic model ignores these signs we hear about how sad it is. Poor girl just wanted to be thin so badly she killed herself. Perhaps I missed the jokes on various blogs about the hilarity of her death and am therefore misinformed.

    When obese people die because of their condition, it’s a great joke. Did you hear the one about the guy who had to be lifted out of his house by a crane? I laughed for milliseconds.

    Frankly, I think it is incredibly sad that someones life got to this point, no matter who was to blame. But it is even sadder when things like this are mocked and turned into some kind of “warning: do not feed the fatties” sign.

    Now perhaps I am overly harsh, perhaps you all, being the fair minded medical professionals that you are would have something similar to say about the anorexic or the suicide victim. I’m not asking you to respect everyone,

    I’m ultimately asking you to look and see if maybe you are a little less respectful of fat people than they deserve in comparison to others. Maybe the FAT guy is just a little “funnier”, because he’s little more socialy okay to hate on than the skinny chick.

  29. So, I know this particular post today has nothing to do with this, but I need to vent a second.

    I went to Cold Stone with a very dear (very thin) friend of mine. We wrote our orders down, because we’re both somewhat complicated. However, the young man behind the counter looked at both orders, and then looked at the two of us. He began filling the first one which just so happened to be mine.

    As he started scooping the ice cream, he took a second and asked us, “Is this for you, or her?” he asked my friend. I spoke up saying it was mine and he looked at me a second, up and down my body, before shaking his head slightly, and rolling his eyes. He then (quite obviously, though he probably thought I didn’t notice) put back about half the banana ice cream he’d originally pulled out for the “like it” (which happens to be the small) size I had ordered, and continued making what I’d asked for.

    He then went on to make Naomi’s order, which was also the “like it” size, and ended up containing roughly double the portion.

    My irritation stems from the fact that, yes I am a fat woman. But damnit, I can make my own decisions on portion size and what I will and wont put into my body. Don’t roll your judgemental oh-so-superior eyes at me, because a fat chick is eating ice cream. I happen to LIKE ice cream, and better yet, I tend to enjoy it even more when it’s been a rough few days… which it has.


    Anyway, sorry for the brief thread derail, just had to vent my irritation at twits who assume it’s their right to dictate what portion I am allowed to eat, just because I’m fat. It’s not the first time it’s happened (had it happen at restaraunts when my {thinner} sister and I would order the same entree) but today it just irritated the heck out of me.


  30. Anyway, sorry for the brief thread derail, just had to vent my irritation at twits who assume it’s their right to dictate what portion I am allowed to eat, just because I’m fat. It’s not the first time it’s happened (had it happen at restaraunts when my {thinner} sister and I would order the same entree) but today it just irritated the heck out of me.

    Are they assuming you must be on a diet? What gall.
    I hope you spoke to the manager, each time.

  31. No, I think they’re assuming that she SHOULD be.

    This is not the first time I’ve heard about food servers exercising their nonexistent right to alter your portion size, and it SUCKS and should get people FIRED.

    Well no, it should get people reprimanded. This is no time to wish for people to lose their jobs, even if those people are at Alert Level TSA Guard for getting off on their tiny amount of power.

  32. Shinobi, you’re a miracle. That was some great stuff you wrote. When confronted with that kind of bigotry, it’s all I can do to not dissolve into a string of profanities. *shrug*

  33. Paige,
    Sorry that guy was a deek to you in ColdStone. Don’t they have some policy about how if you don’t like it they will re make it? I would have made him re make it, twice.

    Thanks… for some reason I am channeling rage very well today. Other days I would have just soundlessly beat my head on my desk. I’d better warn my boyfriend before I get home.

  34. Paige, that’s utter shite. What an ass.

    I have a coworker I travel with often. A guy. We’re about the same size. Whenever we’d both order soda (one diet, one regular), *I* would be given the diet soda. Because I’m female. That’s all I can guess — all women should be dieting, and men never do, right? Oh, he’s diabetic, so it does matter, too.

  35. re: asshat docs

    It reminds me of an old ER episode where a doctor gets pissed and frustrated at having had to treat a patient over and over for the same problem (drug addict overdosing, I think it was) and says something like,”Why should we bother to keep helping people who can’t be bothered to help themselves?” and a nurse points out that those are the exact kind of people that they should be helping.

    That always stuck with me, because it’s really too easy to give up on people. I know I’ve gotten “pissed” at a few friends throughout the years for not suddenly not returning phone calls or invitations or whatever, only to find out later they were going through some heavy depressing life shit and were too embarrassed or sad to talk about it. They could’ve used some compassion rather than an attitude from me and others, that’s for damn sure.

  36. Okay, so this isn’t really related to the post at hand, but I am so angry and I need to tell someone and I knew this was the one place where people would understand.

    I moved to Ithaca for law school and have been going through hell trying to find a competent health care provider. I just got off the phone with the nurse at my current doctor’s office. I have PCOS, but have recently been having some other problems that I’ve been trying to get squared away. Anyway, she was telling me the results of a blood test, which showed elevated testosterone and insulin. “It looks like you have polycystic ovaries,” this fucking moron said. “I know that,” I said, “but what about my other problems, are they related to the PCOS?” “No, probably not.” “Okay…” “You know, the treatment for PCOS is birth control and weight loss. You’re on the pill, right?” “Well, I use the NuvaRing, but same idea.” “Okay, so you should lose some weight, that helps with PCOS. You are overweight, right? I don’t have your chart here in front of me.” “[long pause] Yes, I am overweight.” “Well, if you lose some weight, your periods should come back.” “I came to you because my period wouldn’t stop, not because it wouldn’t start. I’ve been menstruating for over 2 months.” “[idiotic fucking silence]”

    Yes, ladies and gentlemen, she (1) told me to lose weight without having any idea of what I weighed; (2) told me that if I would lose weight, my periods would come back, even though that is so not even remotely my problem (weight loss! it’s so magical, it cures problems you don’t have!); and (3) offered absolutely no insight whatsoever into my actual problems (the aforementioned period that never ends, inexplicable abdominal pain).

    Fuck these people so much. Fuck them. And thank you, because 6 months ago, I would have been wallowing in self-pity about how I was such a fat pig, and that was the cause of all my ailments. Now, I’m just pissed, but I should be, because that is some bullshit, right there.

    Sorry about the long rant, I just am seriously about to burst into tears, and needed to tell that story to people who would understand.

  37. Paige, that blows. If it happens again, I would definitely get confrontational. “Did you just give me half the amount of ice cream that you have another paying customer? Then you better give me half my fucking money back.”

    I had that happen to me once in my college dorm, where usually we scooped our own ice cream, but on one busy day there was a staffer scooping it. I couldn’t believe my eyes, and I remember joking about it with some friends, but at the time I still felt ashamed. Now I’d want to embarrass the hell out of the employee instead!

  38. @ Colleen

    That’s utterly horrific! Also, I thought weight gain was often CAUSED by PCOS, rather than vice versa.

    If it’s OK with the blog owners, you might consider submitting that to the First, Do No Harm blog (in sidebar).

  39. Nope, I didn’t say anything. I’m still very-much struggling with fat-acceptance, and… yeah sweetmachine – I felt pissed, but I also felt ashamed. So I didn’t say anything, and asked Naomi not to, either. *sigh* I got back to work and raged a little bit, wrote my little rant, and vented to my hunny. A few words from him though, made me feel much better.

    “Screw what some ice cream man thinks, the man that loves you, loves you the way you are, so you just stay the way you are, cause I’m gonna give you all the loving you need, fat chicks are the best lovers, and I got me the best here.”

    Needless to say, I’m feeling MUCH better, now. :D

  40. I suppose going back and beating up the ice-cream Obesity Crisis Watchdog is right out…? Oh well. ;-)

    makes me feel sick inside and also makes me want to cancel my doctor’s appointment.

    You’re not the only one. (Except I hadn’t gotten as far as making an appointment – only as far as thinking about it. Sigh.) It really makes me wonder what the point is of seeing a doctor at all, if the doctor isn’t going to treat anything that may be wrong (“Go on a diet!!!” is not treatment). So I’ll have the same problems I have now, plus be feeling down for a week from the obligatory humiliation, plus conceivably be catapulted into a major depressive episode.

    And, I mean, I haven’t even read the comment thread and don’t really want to. What really gets me down about these posts on doctors’ blogs is that it’s so seldom that a medical professional will talk back to the more hateful commenters – not even from a HAES perspective, just from a human decency and courtesy perspective. Someone please tell me that – at least – some doctor posting in the comments called other participants on the more hateful stuff?

  41. jaed, I don’t know if you read my earlier comment, but it details a terrible experience I just had with a doctor’s office. I know exactly what you mean, about feeling like there’s no point in seeking treatment, because they won’t help you. But I’m still going to force myself to get up tomorrow and find another doctor, and to keep doing it until I find one who will treat me for my actual medical problems. Because I am a human being, and I pay for my health insurance and medical care just like everyone else, and I fucking deserve decent treatment. I do not deserve to live my life in pain, and any doctor who thinks I do can kiss the very fattest part of my ass. I just keep telling myself these things, because otherwise I wouldn’t even be able to keep trying.

    I didn’t see any doctors over on that other site, but shinobi did a fine job of handing them a plateful of their asses with all the trimmings (which they probably won’t eat because of ZOMG the calories!)

  42. Colleen (not prettpear… whatever that means!), have you gone to http://www.soulcysters.com? They link to good PCOS docs around the country. There has GOT to be one in Ithaca! Certainly there must be many better than that idiot who you talked to today.

    Hang in there, and take care of yourself. I’m a stranger, but I’m with you in spirit. Fat-and-hairy-and-fabulous-PCOS spirit!

  43. O.C., thanks for the link!

    Oh, and the (not prettypear) thing is because there is a fairly regular poster here named Colleen who also runs the fabulous blog http://www.prettypear.com/. I don’t want to impersonate her, but am too unoriginal to think up a pseudonym :)

  44. Wow. Earlier today I was listening to a public radio program in which Terry Gross was interviewing a consumer reporter about his book called “Gotcha Capitalism.” She described her habit of feeling paralyzed when trying to decide whether to buy the full tank of gas upfront when renting a car, or trying to be sure and top off the tank.

    She said, “I never know what to do, because if I get the full tank, I know I won’t use it all because I won’t be doing a lot of driving. But if I don’t get the full tank, I may not have enough time to stop at a gas station to top it off before I return the car. So I might end up paying more for the gas in the end. What should I do?”

    And the consumer advocate laughed and said (paraphrasing), “well, the way things are set up, there is no right answer. Either option is a risk, and chances are that with either one, you lose and the rental company wins.”

    So basically, they only offer you two options and both cheat you.

    Then (just now) I read this paragraph: “It is much, much easier intellectually to blame yourself for not fitting in than to realize that the whole system has been rigged all along. No matter what your culturally “undesirable” characteristics are — your body shape, your race, your gender presentation, your sexuality, your level of ability — you can’t actually rack up “social acceptability” Brownie points by hating yourself.”

    I wonder if this would have sunk in the way it did if I hadn’t just heard about the other rigged system. But you’re right, the only way to win when it comes to body image is not to play. I’m thrilled that’s an option, and only wish I’d realized it sooner.

  45. P.S. I’m thinking about a term of contrast between, say “‘Gotcha’ Beauty” which means you always have to buy something else (a diet book, new skin cream, plastic surgery, hair straightener, new mascara, a protein shake) in order to look great and “Got it Beauty” which emerges when you accept and appreciate what you already have!

    Say, I like it! What do you think?!

    If you use it, just throw a little credit my way for coining it, ‘kay? And I’ll let you know when my blog is up and running, since it’s been on the back-burner for, oh, two years now. ;)

    Keep up the great work!
    Stacy Bond (Writer & Journalist)
    a.k.a theMediatrix

  46. I was starting to look at the comments on the asshat doctor site and then I remembered that I had just about used up all of my sanity watchers points up and I stopped.
    I just want to testify that Sanity Watchers works (if you work it).
    I found myself thinking about self-esteem, and the idea that some people deserve it and others don’t is, so, well, lacking in literal understanding. This post is helpful in that thinking
    It’s called “self” esteem. It’s about your own assessment of your self. What other people think about you isn’t self-esteem. It’s judgment.
    As far as I know, there isn’t really an upper limit on how much self-esteem it’s good to have.
    A good amount of self-esteem lets a person reflect on herself and see room for improvement in line with her goals.

    Oh, and I have PCOS, and have from the time of onset of my period. I have bad and good experience with doctors, but I’ve had some good doctors of late, so don’t give up looking.

  47. Has Sanity Watchers ™ put together a point system somewhere online, or does it remain an entirely virtual concept? Because frankly, after reading the first 30 posts of that appalling MD blog, I think I need to really cut down on my consumption of ass-hattery and I may need some help. I WAY overindulged today. My stomach feels uneasy and my eyes are burning and my skin feels like it wants to crawl off of me and go find the ass-hats and strangle them all by itself.

    Of course, that may be in part owing to the extreme quantities of coffee I’ve ingested today. But only in small part. I really do get that pissed.


  48. @bigmovesbabes

    I tend to cry only when I’m angry, rather than sad or hurt – comments on those kinds of sites make me cry a lot of tears of rage.

    Mostly I get angry not because I give a shit what those people think, but because I imagine fat people who don’t about fat acceptance reading them, and how it must make them feel, and then I want to, as you noted, strangle the asshats who write these things.

    I think it’s totally normal to get that pissed, which is why Sanity Watchers is a good thing, because no one can maintain that level of rage at all times and still have time to live life (sitting on the couch watching t.v. eating baby-flavored donuts and fried butter takes time, dontcha know)

  49. Thank you so much sweetmachine and all the commenters for articulating all this so well…

    Bellesouth – i’m so sorry to hear it was so bad for you that u can’t even speak with your dad and stepmother. i sincerely hope someday they will enable you to have a relationship without bringing up these things.

    for me with my family it was very hard, i had to put my foot down, i had to never bring it up myself, and i had to up and leave and go home if ever they broke this rule of not telling me what to eat, or to lose weight, or whatever – not even a hint of a look or an intervention into my portion size. (speaking of portion-interviention – paige that was HORRIBLE what that guy did to you.)
    anyway now we are fine, me and my mother, and she respects my boundaries. I even think some tiny bit of my attitude has rubbed off on her. just a bit.
    i tell u this to give u some hope, that it won’t necessarily always be this way, and i hope someday u manage to at least let them know – if they don’t already know – that you would like to have a relationship with them, u just need them to respect those specific boundaries. i dont know them tho so i don’t know if what i’m saying is relevant or helpful – just ignore me if it’s not :)

    And Yan – what you say about a broader movment for self acceptance is aboslutely true. I’m sure everyone here feels that way too.

    My mind immediately went to a co-worker who is quite slim and conventionally attractive, and has a scale in her cubicle where she weighs herself every day before lunch. i got the impression that was part of how she decided what to have for lunch.
    gee. disordered much?
    the sad thing is, nobody thinks this is troubling enough to say anything. in fact i’m sure other people, mainly women, like to borrow that scale from time to time.

  50. No doctor I’ve been to yet (and I’ve probably had ten different ones since becoming “officially fat”) has been enough of a douche to suggest that my “killer periods” are the result of my weight. And if one ever does, I can come back with exhibits A and B, my pencil-thin mother and grandmother, who also had “killer periods.”

    In fact, all my doctors and NPs and OB/GYNs have been cognizant of the fact that my weight is a side effect of PCOS, not the cause of it. (My current OB/GYN has PCOS herself, and never gave me any weight-loss lecture.) These practitioners do exist; I found my current PMD and the one before him on Stef’s Fat Friendly Doctors list, which is a treasure, although I’m aware it doesn’t cover every geographic area. I’ve also found that D.O.’s are a bit more open-minded than M.D.’s. (A D.O. is an M.D. with an additional year of osteopathic training.) Not sure why that is, other than possibly the fact that they’ve taken the time to learn more than is required by law to practice medicine, which makes them that much more knowledgeable, at least in theory.

    I’m sorry so many of you have had to deal with flaming assholes whose prejudice clouds their understanding of how the human body works, when they’re being paid to understand that stuff better than the rest of us do! All I can say is, if you run into a practitioner with a clue, make sure Stef gets his/her name to add to the list.

  51. I really need a Sanity Watchers plan, it is taking all the will power I have to not go back to that blog and see what they are saying. I need guidlines, or I’m totally going to overindulge on something that is actually harmful to me.

    Help! Sanity Watchers! I can’t do it alone!!!

    Oo ooo can we have weekly “Sane-ins”? I could really use a weekly dose of sanity.

  52. Okay, so I read all the comments. All of them, on the asshat blog post.
    And maybe y’all who posted didn’t change many minds, but it did show an impressive intellect and strength that is possessed by this community. So, hold your heads up high and know you might have brought just a tiny bit of humanity to that dark corner of the internet.

  53. Meowser, thanks for bringing up the osteopathic profession. I’m glad that you’ve had positive experiences with DOs, as I am training to be one; however, all y’all, be warned that, just like there are incredibly caring MDs out there, there are some pretty shitty DOs out there too. Also, technically, we only go through four years of school and usually the same length residencies, so I’m not sure about the “additional year.” We do, however, spend an extra 200-300 hours in school on learning osteopathic manipulation and philosophy, one tenet of which states that “the body is a self-healing and self-regulating unit.” That, my friends, I take seriously: WHAT??! TEH BODY KNOWS WHAT ITS DOING??? Um, yeah. And DOs should know that, but I assure you that at least my school is teaching the old “calories in, calories out” saw.

    Meanwhile, my MD stated that she figured my dependent edema, after looking for all other causes, might just be weight-related but, “Whaddya gonna do about that?” she said. Looks like this lady knows that diets don’t work?

    And amen, amen, amen to Sanity Watchers. I clicked, read the intro, and left the building. Nothing reads as good as sane feels.

  54. I was at a ecstatic dance/drum circle last night, and this beautiful woman came up to me and praised me for going out and dancing in the circle without worrying about what other people would think of me. Also because of the fact that all I was wearing was jeans and a (skimpy) tank top.

    I told her: “You know, it’s hard overcome societal strictures. But, you know, people here don’t care. We come here to dance, sing, pray, and be spiritual in community. People won’t look at you because you’re big.”

    She looked very thoughtful about it when I left.

  55. Hooray for you, Gina! And I’m glad you have a community in which you can enjoy spirit with your own body, not feeling like you have to wait until you’re fuckable enough to get in front of Deity. Cool.

  56. I am never sure how to respond to digs by my family members about my gaining weight. I want to have some kind of response to comments that are meant to remind me that I am fat. I don’t want to respond negatively but I want to establish boundaries, like is mentioned in this post. I want people to know that my weight is not for them to comment on or for them to determine. Anyone have a response they usually use?

    Summer, how about what you just said?

    “Excuse me, but my weight is not for you to comment on or for you to determine.”

    And then you go back to washing holiday dishes.

    Worked for me. But then, I’ve been deemed confrontational.

    To which I say, whatevs. In mah life wurkin mah programz.

  57. I have begun reading your blog by first visiting “Fantasy of Being Thin”, but this definitely is the best and most controversial entry so far.
    You’re saying such a profound thing about conformity and the real meaning of the hateful remarks women hurt each other with.
    This has been an issue for me all my life; I’ve always felt it so hard to be different. Now that I am in college it’s even worse, with well-meant advice by friends who tell me that ‘it’s just easier’. But even when I was a kid, it was there. It was always there, the struggle.
    Thanks for the post, really. It reminded me of a proverb that I read as a little girl:
    “You have to swim against the stream to get to the shore.”

  58. Just a followup to my earlier post about cancelling my doctor appointment.

    I didn’t. I was seeing one of the practice’s new doctors, pretty newly out of her residency, quite young and very nice. I started off by declining to be weighed. The nurse did not give me any problems with it. But when she took my blood pressure (with the big cuff, whew!) it was really high. Maybe because I was facing the BMI chart on the wall? Who knows. Anyway we had some chortles about that too, and then she left.

    The doctor was super nice. She LISTENED to me. She (gasp!) AGREED with me about HAES and my metabolism being screwed. She did not ONCE say or imply that I should lose weight. No patronizing. No talking down. She’s read HAES and FA stuff and is totally OK with it. She said she’s watched her family struggle with weight her whole life. I told her I have accepted that I’m famine-proof and she laughed. We talked about her extra interest in evolutionary science. We discussed my old back injury, my vertigo, my costochondritis. She re-took my blood pressure and it was much lower. I think I love her. She was in the examining room with me for almost half an hour. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a half hour with a doctor before.

    (dies of happy relief)

  59. Kate, I actually thought of that, but I’m unsure. She’s not the only doctor at the practice, and the senior doctor firmly subscribes to the “calories in/calories out” lie. He pretty much said I was lying about my eating habits last time I saw him, which is part of why I haven’t been there in about two years. Also, prominent BMI charts on the walls, information on ‘overcoming childhood obesity” plastered near the scales (natch) and PharmaTV playing in the waiting room. Lots of advice about getting rid of those pesky holiday pounds or fulfilling that new year’s resolution to finally lose weight. So I’m adopting a wait-and-see attitude through this course of treatment. If she successfully manages to find out why my feet keep going numb at night and manages to treat it at least semi-effectively, then I’ll ask her permission to put her name out there. ( I suspect bad back+pillow-top mattress, myself)

    Honestly, though, I’m still just right on the brink of tears I’m so relieved she didn’t give me any problems. Wow!

  60. Buttercup, I am so glad to hear that your appointment went well! That is fantastic. Thanks for letting us know.

  61. Colleen: well, I suppose if you lose ENOUGH weight your problem MAY be fixed, because your body will completely freak out and you’ll stop having periods. But that doesn’t seem like the best plan.

    You mentioned you were using NuvaRing – I don’t know anything about it, but I know with other female hormones prolonged bleeding can be a side effect. If this started around the same time you started using the NuvaRing you should try getting your gynecologist to give you a different birth control method. You may well already have been through that hoop – sorry if I’m telling you something redundant – but thought it might help if you didn’t know. :)

    Everyone else: I can’t believe what you’re saying about getting smaller portions at restaurants – that’s ridiculous! It sounds like some skinflint owner has decided, “Let’s cheat the ‘fat chicks’, they’ll be too embarrassed to complain!” and handed it down to his employees.

    How do I get in on Sanity Watchers? I think I could get my Mom’s old Weight Watchers cookbooks – would I get activity points for burning them?!

  62. “I think I could get my Mom’s old Weight Watchers cookbooks – would I get activity points for burning them?!”

    Only if you coated them in butter first.

  63. By the way, the good doctor’s eventual reply to my post was to dismiss me and ask if I have the munchies. Yes, that’s why I’m losing 20 pounds/month… damn those negative calorie foods. :)

    The funny thing is, I was really nervous about getting referred to the gastroenterologist because I’m afraid he’ll say something to the effect of, “You’re not emaciated yet! Why, I can’t even count your ribs! Come back in a couple of months!”

    But after having experienced THIS guy, I just can’t imagine a doctor being more of an asshat. :D

  64. Everyone else: I can’t believe what you’re saying about getting smaller portions at restaurants – that’s ridiculous! It sounds like some skinflint owner has decided, “Let’s cheat the ‘fat chicks’, they’ll be too embarrassed to complain!” and handed it down to his employees.

    Which is why I absolutely love SM’s take on it, and have filed it away in case anyone ever pulls that shit on me. Make it about money, not food — “If you’re only going to give me half the serving size, I want a 50 percent discount.” Sometimes I wish I could get a half serving because I can’t finish what they give me anyway, but I’m damned if I’m going to pay full fare for it.

  65. Oh, and Anon, any doctor worthy of the license should be extremely concerned about you losing 20 pounds in a month regardless of what your starting weight was. Unless you’ve had WLS, that simply does not happen through voluntary weight-loss efforts. A gastroenterologist, in particular, should know that that can be a sign of a much bigger problem. Good luck to you.

    Everyone, please do not let these asshat “doctors” (and who the hell knows if they even are doctors, anyone can fake it on the Net) deter you from getting the medical care you need and deserve! You are not mooching off anyone else simply by having a fat body. You are paying your taxes and your premiums and your fees like everyone else, and you should get what everyone else is getting.

  66. Yeah, I’m sort of wondering at this point about whether these folks are real doctors. I can’t imagine a pathologist making any such remarks. Maybe med students with a particularly juvenile sense of humor?

    This, however, will not prevent me from engaging in an internet flame war with them. At least until I see my doctor tomorrow. (I’m trying to find a way to work “Damn those munchies!” into my visit without convincing him that I’ve gone off the deep end from the stress.)

  67. What a great blog to have stumbled upon :-) …The comment at the beginning about the mom made me laugh SOOO much!!…I see my mom a few times a month, and when I visited over the holidays, she narrowed her brow in disdain at my apparent weight-gain (alright fine, so I had put on 5 or 8…).

    She then proceeded to tell me that I needed to lose TWENTY pounds to get back to where I was, otherwise no Indian man would take me in an arranged marriage (LOL…another story… ;-) )

    So I thought hmmm…”Did you fail math mom? I gained EIGHT, where the heck did you get twenty from???….Oh, and by the way mom, I’m 26 years old, so you know, I think I can run my own life…”….(I suppose it doesn’t help to have a 5’9″ stick-thin older sister, but whatever, I kicked her butt and stole the “personality” genes ;-) )

  68. Awww, Romi! Moms can be the harshest critics, can’t they? :-/

    I recently moved from the Midwest (where I’ve lived all my life) to the West Coast to start a job at a large software firm where most of my coworkers are both Indian and first-generation immigrants. It’s been interesting to me to see how different the attitudes I see represented are from the ones I saw back home. None of them have your mom’s attitude, though – maybe they’re here to get away from their own mothers? ;)

  69. My dear friend, “Marcy” had to be admitted to the hospital last night for observation due to chest pains. She is already a heart patient and has had a bypass and a difibulator (SP?) installed. She does her best to follow her doctor’s orders. She never eats sweets (doesn’t care for them) and she makes very healthy meals, and she does her best to get as much exercise as her time schedule allows, but she has not been able to loose weight. Today, I was visiting her in the hospital when a nutritionist stopped by. She was young, slim and was quite pretty. She asked my friend about her diet and portion sizes, careful to add that hint of condencending in her voice. Then insisted that my friend was not being honest when she said that she never ate sweets. I had to leave the room or else I would have thrown an absolute fit. Why is it that we are not telling the truth or “just not trying” when we weigh more than they think is acceptable?

  70. I think I’d have thrown the fit, JAN. I mean, nothing pisses me off more than being called a liar, and calling someone I care about a liar is a close second. Can you imagine someone with lung cancer who didn’t smoke being told by a health professional that they must be secretly sneaking cigarettes?

  71. I was totally shocked at the tone of voice, body language, and the looks the nutritionist was giving her. I was also angered that my friend was under all of this stress and pressure over something so trivial. She even pulled out rubber food and was like “This is what wheat bread looks like!” That was when I had to excuse myself. If there is a next time, I will throw the fit. I think sometimes it is better to misbehave a bit than to allow ignorance to survive. :-D Thanks for allowing me to share.

  72. LOL! I swear! Rubber wheat bread! She was flopping it around when I walked out. My friend later told me she also had a rubber “serving” of orange juice, steak and peas! Because heaven knows we gotta control that pea intake! :-p

  73. Hahaha…yes ANON, moms can be tough, but as long as I take her advice with a cup of a salt and a squinty eye, I’ll be alright ;-)

Comments are closed.