Jokey the Beagle goes on a Diet

chalkboard-fat-267x267

It’s Circle Time, children! Gather around! Today we will learn about Jokey the Beagle.

Jokey the Beagle was big. Jokey the Beagle was fat. The vet said that Jokey was too big and too fat. Jokey needed to go on a diet.

The vet told Jokey’s family that Jokey needed to eat very little. Jokey needed to eat very little so he would lose weight. Jokey’s family did what the vet said and fed Jokey very little. 

Jokey stayed on his diet for 10 days. On the 11th day, Jokey’s family took him to the grocery store. Jokey was very hungry. He snuck away and ate some dog biscuits. Jokey felt bad, but he did not feel hungry.

The vet was happy because Jokey lost weight. His family was happy because the vet said Jokey would be healthier. Jokey was still hungry.

Did you like that story, children? Any questions? 

Why was Jokey’s family happy when Jokey was hungry? Good question! It was because Jokey was healthier.

Why was Jokey unhealthy? Because he was too big and that means he could get sick.

If Jokey didn’t want to go on a diet, and was hungry, why did his family make him do it? Well, Jokey didn’t know any better. He can’t make decisions for himself. He’s a dog.

Now it’s time for us to work on our assignment. Turn to page 29 in your workbook. Touch Part A of Lesson 9.

Jokey the Dog

“Everybody in the pictures below should be on a diet. Under each person, write what kind of diet the person should be on. Write L under the two people who need a diet to lose weight. Write P under the two people who need a diet to put on weight. Write H under the two people who need to be on a diet to stay healthy.”


While this story is paraphrased, the student workbook page is 100% genuine. It comes from a program called Reading Mastery, an edition for 3rd graders. 10 year olds. Kids who rely on their families, teachers, and schools to guide them. Kids who are just starting to develop their own body images. Children who, like Jokey, don’t know any better.

Imagine yourself, as a 10 year old, looking at those six people. What context do you have? Well, you know Jokey was too big. You know that Jokey needed to eat little so he could lose weight. You also know he needed to lose weight to be healthy. But these people aren’t dogs. They are people that look like all the other people in your life. There are two that are bigger. If the story is right, those people must be unhealthy! They need a diet to lose weight! The story didn’t talk about diets to put on weight, though. Does that mean being too small is unhealthy, too? And that as long as you stay in between, you’ll stay healthy?

Consider this paper out of the University of South Australia by Birbeck and Drummond (2006) entitled Very young children’s body image: Body and minds under construction. In it, the authors use a similar set of pictures and interview a group of five and six year olds with questions like:

  • Which of these images looks the most like you?
  • If I was Harry Potter and I could change you into any one of these images, which one
    would you like me to change you in to? Remember you might have to stay that way for a
    long time so it needs to be one that you really like. Why?
  • Harry Potter sometimes makes mistakes. What if by accident he turned you into this
    image (largest person). How would you feel? Why?
  • Out of all of these images which three would you invite to your birthday party? Why?

According to the authors, the real information comes from the “why” questions. Girls tended to make associations with the thinner figures, saying they were probably blond with blue eyes and a tan. The smaller figures were nicer and kinder. They did not want to be like the bigger figures, because they feared being teased or were already teased as “fat”. The boys frequently saw the larger figures as aggressors, bossy, or threatening. 

Even at this very young age, the link between health and size is being solidified. Consider the following:

The children’s perception of the images regarded as being healthy varied widely but can be categorised as belonging to broadly three constructions. For some children the thinnest images, Images 1 and 2, represent the healthiest bodies. Typically comments such as “they look good, they  are on diets, and they are skinny”, support their choice.

Another group identified images in the mid-range as being healthiest because, as (one boy) claims “the little ones have not eaten enough healthy food and the big ones have eaten too much fat food, probably hamburgers and nuggets.” The children’s understanding of health includes their own creative understandings with respect to what they have been taught.

When you delve even more deeply into the responses, you start to hear a strong parent tape, the voice of an authority figure coming out of the mouth of a child:

“The three thin ones have not eaten enough lollies to keep you just right. If all you eat is dairy you are always going to get skinnier but if you eat just some lollies you’ll be just right. It is really, really important to be the right shape.”

Black and white. Right and wrong. Good and bad. Is that really the best tactic when teaching children about body types and body image? Is it appropriate to create associations between body type, health, and worth at such a young age when, much like Jokey the Beagle, they can’t possibly understand the power of such value-laden, biased judgements? This is a form of indoctrination that is rarely questioned because, hey, we want “healthy” kids who make “good choices”. I am so grateful our children can now make good choices like dieting and excluding other children from birthday parties. 

Don’t worry readers! We haven’t forgotten you!

The Fat Word has been on a temporary hiatus to investigate new ways to garner support for the cause through cross promotion and public speaking. In the meantime, stay tuned for new content featuring childhood body image and stereotyping from a young age.

Growing Straw Men in a Field of False Equivalence: Conflating HAES with Fat Acceptance

straw men

The fat acceptance debate is one fraught with logical fallacies. People who don’t support fat acceptance cite a variety of reasons.

Fat is ugly.

Being fat can’t be healthy.

Fat people use up a disproportionate amount of resources.

Accepting fat people is acknowledging fat is okay.

The list goes on.

Health at Every Size is a movement dating back to the ’60s and, simply put, it states that aggressive dieting rarely works, and is emotionally and physically damaging. The idea is that everyone has their own natural metabolic weight ranges, and through intuitive eating, paying attention to what one’s body needs, and providing nutritious and varied meals combined with enjoyable exercise, the body will find its own set weight point for optimum metabolism and health. In short, many attempts to lose weight through drastic dieting do not lead to successful, sustained weight loss over time, and optimal mental and physical health comes from self-acceptance.

Self acceptance is the only real link between fat acceptance and HAES. HAES is a lifestyle. HAES is a choice people make for themselves to promote their own health and well-being. Fat acceptance is none of those things.

Fat acceptance is a movement. It is based in justice, equal rights, fairness, ethics, and inclusivity.

Fat acceptance isn’t a bunch of Tumblrinas HAES-binging on cupcakes screaming “MUH CURVES”.

Fat acceptance isn’t about hating thin people.

Fat acceptance isn’t about hating “small fats” for not having as tough a time as fatter women.

Fat acceptance isn’t about food.

Fat acceptance isn’t about dieting.

Fat acceptance isn’t even about science. Science is HAES territory.

Fat acceptance is a campaign to end weight discrimination and the negative stigma perpetuated by societal pressures of consumerism and mass media.

Fat acceptance is the idea that no one, regardless of size, deserves to be treated poorly.

No, you DON’T have to find us attractive. Attractiveness has nothing to do with equitable treatment.

No, you DON’T get to worry about our health status. Health status has nothing to do with fair treatment.

… And there’s the rub. When you lump HAES in with fat acceptance, you are opening the door for all sorts of fallacious arguments. It’s food for the Concern Trolls who seek to delegitimize the fat acceptance movement with health science “proving” fat is unhealthy and therefore is not an acceptable way to live. It also invites in all of the simplistic calories in/calories out “nutrition experts” saying that, if we’re unhappy, it’s because we aren’t taking the necessary steps to make our lives better.

How people appear, how they feel, how abled they are, what their BMI is, none of that matters. A fat person with diabetes deserves to be treated the same as a fat person with perfect metabolic health, a thin person with great metabolic health, or a thin person with terrible metabolic health.

Health. Is. Not. Relevant. Period. This is an issue of discrimination and tolerance. Using health status to justify why we shouldn’t treat everyone with the same care and compassion is a slippery slope. Making assumptions about a person’s lifestyle and then judging people based on those assumptions is unconscious, societally-bred prejudice at best, and at worst it is open hostility toward someone who does not conform to a prescribed “normal”.

If we open up HAES as a talking point in any debate about the fat acceptance movement, we are not just opening up the field in which detractors can erect straw men; we are giving them the straw for free, and showing them the best and most efficient means for construction. People will start trying to prove that being fat is bad for your health. They will turn the conversation from a social justice issue to a health science issue. It will become a discussion of will power, of laziness, of lack of motivation. It will become a conversation of “but we’re just trying to help motivate you to make better life choices!”

Fuck life choices. Who’s job is it to police life choices? Especially if said policing is, in actuality, just inferring one’s life choices with a cursory glance, confirming “yup, that’s a fatty!”, and then telling them to feel bad for it.

It’s my body. It changes. It gets bigger, it gets smaller. Why? Fuck you, that’s why. It does not matter. It’s my own goddamned business. My body, body choices, and health status do not factor into the reality that I am a human being, a member of society, and deserve to be recognized and respected as such.

“If you worked out as hard as you blogged, you wouldn’t need to blog anymore.”

Opponents will bring it back to metabolic health, again and again, because FACTS SCIENCE FATTY LIVER DEATH FAT DIABEETUS is the only real leg they have to stand on, and a hollow one at that, because again:

HEALTH STATUS IS IRRELEVANT in issues of basic human rights and social justice.

Yes, there are many fat people who practice HAES. There are thin people who practice HAES as well. HAES has self-acceptance at its core; it plays a key role in helping people overcome disordered eating, low self-esteem, and other symptoms of fat discrimination.

Fat acceptance is the movement that will end fat discrimination.

Here’s a space cupcake:

space cupcake

The Acceptance Gap: Partners

By sc189 on Deviant Art

Continued from The Acceptance Gap: Friends

Definition of THE ACCEPTANCE GAP

When personal and familial duties coexist with a lack of understanding and acceptance of who someone is as a person. This results in someone putting up with being judged, derided, or demeaned in the name of keeping the peace and maintaining the relationship.

We have compiled vignettes submitted by readers. These are all genuine; nothing has been added except formatting.


“To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.”

― E.E. Cummings

One of the hardest relationship struggles is when our partners, the people we choose to be our lifelong companions, do not see eye-to-eye on an issue which we hold close to our hearts. What’s worse is when that issue is, on a fundamental level, tied directly to our self esteem. Body positivity and fat acceptance are both shield and spear used to protect us from derision while simultaneously asserting our rights as individuals to live our lives how we choose. What happens when our lovers break our spears, sunder our shields? With our armor gone, can we still be the vanguard?

Barbed words and open wounds:

My husband is not supportive of the fat acceptance/body positive movement. We love each other dearly and are very devoted to one another, and have a great sex life; we both think the other is hot and desire each other. We have similar life goals and have a lot of fun together. We are both larger individuals though I am morbidly obese and he is overweight. He hates his own body and has an extreme problem with his body image. When we argue, though, and especially when issues about fatness come up – for us, it’s around meals and whether or not to have kids – we fight about fatness. Specifically, when my husband gets very angry and past the point of his ability to control his mouth attached to his emotions, he says very hurtful, awful things about fatness. Specifically, mine – that he’s ashamed to be seen in public with me, that I should feel ashamed in public, I obviously eat too much and unhealthily because if I did I’d be thin, etc. Generally hateful and incorrect assumptions.

These things always hurt my feelings and I get understandably angry about them. I also realize that he says these things when he’s feeling badly about himself – and when he feels emotionally attacked, either from himself or by me over a completely different topic, he lashes out. And as painful/angering as it is, it’s not enough that I want to throw away my marriage and the majority of our relationship that is good.

The eye of the beholder:

I’ve had some problems talking to my boyfriend about fat representation in art. I follow a wonderful blog called Keep Ursula Fat on tumblr and their aim is to point out fat erasure in the Disney fandom with their most popular fat villain. Despite being a villain, Ursula is a fantastic fat character, who is sexy and confident and is happy with her body. Too many fanartists out there are depicting her as thinner than she actually is, and as an Ursula cosplayer, lifelong Little Mermaid fan and fat woman, I love this blog and join in on discussion from time to time.

A recent post that I put on my main blog (I have a side blog for most of my political opinions, which is also something I do to maintain my IRL relationships) was seen by my boyfriend and he figured that the Keep Ursula Fat blog was overreacting to one image, which depicted Ursula as a smaller fat instead of the fabulous size she is. According to the media’s standards, this Ursula was a little chubby, but part of her fatness had still been erased. It’s dumb to have to argue with him that, yes she was still chubby, but no that blogger was not overreacting. For the most part, we see eye to eye on socio-political issues, but the world of art is where we both have stronger feelings.

The exception to the rule:

My husband knows that I work out 5-9 hours a week and he knows that I eat the same amount as he does. He stays “normal” weight and I stay “morbidly obese”. When people say fat-phobic things to me, his response is, “but most people your size don’t take care of themselves the way you do” or “they are just trying to be helpful because most obese people aren’t healthy like you are”. It doesn’t matter. Nobody deserves to be treated that way. Whether they overeat or not, whether they work out or not, NOBODY deserves that.

I consider myself lucky that I am married to a wonderful ally, someone who supports my work in BA/FA and fully understands the concepts of privilege, discrimination, and human rights. However, even when we argue about something petty, something unrelated to activism, it cuts. It wounds. It shakes up my worldview and causes me to question my own beliefs.

Remember, readers: equal rights, equal representation, anti-discrimination, self-love, these things are not beliefs. They are truths. You can always pick up another spear. Need a shield? Take mine. I have plenty. Family, friends, lovers, their opinions matter. But when their beliefs hurt? Take shelter in your community. We’ll protect you while you heal up, until you’re ready to reenter the fray.

Reliably, Dr. Douchebag Keeps on Douching

While standing in line at Fred Meyer this weekend, I made the common mistake of looking around. As my eyes scanned the impulse magazine stand, I saw something that gave me the impulse to flip over my grocery cart and Fat-Hulk through the store terrorizing patrons and throwing bottles of Slim Fast into displays of Smart Ones with my +4 Fists of Douche-smiting.

Table Flip

Thankfully, I was able to restrain myself just enough to pull out my phone and snap a photo. Like HELL I was going to actually pay money for the damn thing. The clerk looked at me strangely, and I prefaced it with, “hold on just a sec, gotta take a picture of this offensive magazine”.

Dr. Douchebag

Ah, First for Women… confusing advertising with reporting and body shaming with empowerment since 1989, from the same media company bringing you other high-end publications like In Touch Weekly and Life & Style.

My regular readers already know my disdain for Dr. Oz. What a puzzling contrast between his Ivy League education/surgical expertise and the constant shilling of woo-woo pseudoscientific miracle “cures” with a strong bias against fat people. It’s good to know that there is something I can do about my “ugly fat”, so that I am left with only my non-ugly fat. Thanks to Dr. Oz and the fine reporting of First for Women, I know I am only part ugly.

3 Reasons it’s Hard to be a Fatty on the Move

fatties on the move

Contrary to popular belief, many fat people are physically active, and enjoy sports, dance, yoga, Pilates, and other forms of exercise. I like canoeing, and ballet, and walking around the city. I like to go to shows and dance. With the amount of criticism fat people receive for allegedly not caring for our bodies, coupled with the good ol’ calories in/calories out oversimplification of metabolism, you’d think society would welcome fat people into the “fitness” fold and offer encouragement and support. I have found it to be quite the opposite. Let’s look at a few examples.


#1: Gyms are the WORST

Ever been a member at a gym? Many fat people have, including me. Why did I join a gym? It certainly wasn’t to feel good. I wasn’t there in the best interest of my health, I was there to get thin because I was insecure. Nowadays, I might actually reconsider and join again, but only because I have enough self esteem now to navigate the DEMORALIZING MINEFIELD that is your average neighborhood fitness center. Sights are targeted on fat people as soon as they walk through the door. Nutrition counseling is almost always offered; the immediate assumption is that a fat person isn’t at a gym to build cardiovascular endurance, or swim, or do yoga, or build core strength — they are there to LOSE WEIGHT. Very fat people at the gym receive judgmental stares. It’s assumed we don’t know what we are doing, and that we are just in the way.

This punishing, aesthetic-driven mindset creates an atmosphere of body competition, and the endless walls of mirrors don’t help. I would go into the gym and do the same exercises as those around me, and I would sweat. I would breathe hard, harder than those around me, and rather than think “Whoa, I am working hard! Awesome!” I would think that I was somehow less than the two ladies on the elliptical next to me, chatting about their evening plans, without a drop of sweat running down their carefully made-up faces. Hard work doesn’t feel like hard work in a big gym setting; it feels like public humiliation.


#2: There is a scarcity of supportive, fashionable athletic wear

Society screams at us to be thin and “fit”, yet there is very little exercise attire designed with our bodies in mind. Not only are there a dearth of options, but some companies flat-out refuse to carry bigger sizes (I’m looking at you Lululemon) or even shame our bodies in the process (still looking, Lululemon). When I go looking for plus size exercise outfits, I am met with a sea of black polyester and spandex. I usually emerge feeling more like a stack of car tires rather than a sporty jogger or graceful dancer.

Like a ninja, only not cool.

Another consideration is that we have a larger proportion of jiggly bits, and those jiggly bits, if left to jiggle unsupported, cause discomfort and sometimes pain. Let’s take me as an example: I have a large chest (38GG) and those puppies need to be strapped down securely before running and jumping anywhere. Retailers take regular sport bras, increase the dimensions, and just assume that something of a larger mass and volume will somehow magically bend the laws of physics and stay securely in place. My bras need underwires, and much more rigid fabric. An XXL sport bra at Old Navy is far to loose in the band to provide any support, while my cups spilleth over. Tops need to be longer, and pants need a higher rise to avoid ride-up/slide-down while in motion. And would it be too much to ask for patterns? Colors? Interesting details? Uncomfortable, ill-fitting and unstylish workout gear is antithetical to overall body positivity.

Working out when you feel ugly and are in pain creates an aversive relationship. I dug around and scrounged up some brands and prints I like for your consideration:

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#3:Scales

Oh the scale, implement of self-castigation for people of all sizes.

Scales are inextricably linked to exercise because society conditions us to associate exercise with weight loss. Fitness and wellness then become something measured with an arbitrary number system that actually provides us with very little information about how healthy we actually are, and those data are then combined with height to determine one’s Body Mass Index. BMI is a notoriously poor measure for fatness and health. I have friends who have had the luck to meet really thoughtful, body-positive personal trainers who de-emphasized weight loss as an ultimate fitness goal. One of my friends was told she wasn’t supposed to even step on a scale until after she’d been working her plan for a month, but even then the scale was used as final proof of improved health overall.

scales are bad

Scales are a constant reminder than we aren’t meeting a goal set by a society that determines our status and worth. I used to own a scale, and I would check it every day, celebrating every little dip and bemoaning every tiny increase. I used to weigh myself in the morning, while I was still dehydrated from sleep, after I peed but before I showered so that bladder fullness and wet hair wouldn’t add ounces to the readout. What I didn’t understand back then is that my celebrations and failures were fueled by bias, and rooted in discrimination. I don’t have a scale in my own home now. I resent “compliments” like “Have you been working out? It looks like you’ve lost weight!”, because they imply that the number, not the person, is the valuable variable in the equation.


Bottom line? My body is fine. Whether I work out or not is no one’s business. When I DO workout, I deserve the same resources and positive experiences normally associated with joyous physical activity. Want me to love my body? Then let me do it without judgment.

The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part Three: F.A. Confidential

for your eyes

The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part Two: Too Fat, Didn’t Read, focused on the opinions of those who oppose Fat Acceptance, culled from +150 submissions I received based on a questionnaire written by supporters of Fat Acceptance. What happened when I provided a similar questionnaire to FA supporters, written by those who oppose their beliefs?

Firstly, I had trouble even finding people willing to write questions, let alone fill out the questionnaire. It took me days and days to get enough responses to create a reasonable analysis. Without a large enough focus group, it becomes difficult to write much more than possibly specious summative statements that may not accurately portray the movement as a whole. This lack of participation is probably rooted in the belief that by engaging in this activity, FA advocates are validating the opinions of people with whom they disagree. Thanks to a close group of supporters of varying backgrounds, I was able to generate enough questions to have a fairly well-rounded list.

  1. Why do so many in the FA/BA community try to pick apart scientific studies that prove that obesity is harmful to individuals?
  2. Where do you see the fat acceptance movement going in the next five years?
  3. What sorts of research (or even your own experience) would lead you to reconsider your beliefs?
  4. Why is “fat-shaming” considered worse than “thin-shaming”? Aren’t both considered insulting and demeaning someone by their body and therefore against the BA movement?
  5. Why do you perceive any attempt to address the underlying problems with fat in our society as a personal attack?
  6. Why shouldn’t doctors comment on a patient’s weight, especially in regards to medication potentially being less effective, or when it is exacerbating problems?
  7. Why do you choose to focus on accepting “fat” in our society rather than addressing the underlying social issues that have resulted in 60% of our society being overweight with a further 30% being obese?
  8. In your own words, why do you think that This is Thin Privilege and other similar sites are listed as self harm sites?
  9. Do you think telling people they have “thin privilege” is going to make them more sympathetic to your cause? What do you expect them to do with said privilege? Do you think there is a better way to get your message across than the privilege movement?
  10. The title “Fat Acceptance” is problematic because it puts the focus on the fat, and not the person. Isn’t it more important to accept the person, instead of the fat attached to them?

Just as before, I went through all of the answers, looking for redundancy based on specific key words. The answers featured in this article are representative of the majority of those who filled out the questionnaire.


Question One: Why do so many in the FA/BA community try to pick apart scientific studies that prove that obesity is harmful to individuals?

“If those who are hostile to us are actually concerned about our health, and if we [show] them how the stigma they place on us is more dangerous to our health than our fat, it can be good for reducing our chances of being discriminated against. Much of their hatred toward us is based on false information about how obesity works, how we become obese, and how obesity affects the body. By debunking the false information, we hope to take away their reasons for making negative value judgments about us.”

“BMI is used as the basis for many of these studies. BMI in itself is not meant for individuals but population groups and is based on white men.”

“Your very question hints at the answer: there is a pervasive misunderstanding about what scientific proof is. The gold standard of scientific proof are double blind, replicable studies which establish a causal link, in this instance, between obesity and harm. These studies simply do not exist. The research has many correlative studies, which definitely point the way to more research, but are not a basis for diagnostics and treatment. Therefore, assuming proof with correlations leads to guessing about obesity and health.”

It is clear that the fat acceptance movement views current scientific research as very flawed, and corollary in nature. There is further concern that these flawed conclusions are frequently used to denigrate fat people, and that by promoting more rigorous research a common ground might appear.


Question Two: Where do you see the fat acceptance movement going in the next five years?

“I see the FA/BA movement going similarly to the Gay rights movement. People will continue to bicker, many people will come to accept it and understand it, but there will still be many people who completely disagree regardless of what the science says.”

“Continuing the battle to try to overcome the brainwashing that most of us have been and are being subjected to tells us that one particular physical appearance and size is acceptable.”

“Hopefully it will become more popular, but right now there is a lot of backlash by people who think they can shame us and bully us into looking the way they prefer. Whenever fat acceptance is mentioned, someone inevitably asks “at what cost to our health?” and makes the argument that accepting a variety of body types will only increase obesity, even though research shows that fat-shaming and discrimination do not reduce obesity rates.”

“Hopefully toward PERSON acceptance!”

This paints a picture of a battle against brainwashing and discrimination, where healthism is used as a battering ram to break down the gates of personhood. These comments hint that a lighter touch might be appropriate. If victorious, what are our spoils of war? Acceptance of all bodies, regardless of type.


Question Three: What sorts of research (or even your own experience) would lead you to reconsider your beliefs?

“Research about health is … unlikely to change my mind, because even if it could be proven that obesity always caused poor health, and even if it could be proven that obesity was always the result of lifestyle choices that were certainly within every person’s control, each person would still have a right to make his/her own decisions regarding the health of his/her body.”

“Nothing would lead me to reconsider size acceptance and an end to discrimination.”

“My only “belief” in this matter is that fat people deserve the same level of respect and dignity as thin people, including such things as equal access to adequate health care, clothing options, employment opportunities, public transportation, and the like. To me the entire argument over whether or not it’s healthy to be fat is nothing more than an irrelevant distraction from the larger issue of how fat people are treated.”

“None. I have no reason to believe that my body is an enemy or causes anyone harm. My body is not an indication of my medical or health status. Self-love and acceptance was the key to losing weight, and that is only achieved when ignoring cultural bullying about being fat.”

Question three elicited strong, poignant emotions from nearly all responders. The bottom line? No research could convince them to view their bodies as anything other than something to be accepted and respected. No scientific evidence exists that warrant bullying and discrimination, both major perceived problems in Fat Acceptance communities.


Question Four: Why is “fat-shaming” considered worse than “thin-shaming”? Aren’t both considered insulting and demeaning someone by their body and therefore against the BA movement?

“All shaming is awful, but I think the reason some would give is that society does not go out of its way to insist that thin people ought not to exist. But society DOES try to keep fat people as invisible and made to feel unworthwhile as possible. This is a form of oppression.”

“Because thin people don’t have an entire social system telling them that they are less than, worthless, etc. Yes, it’s wrong to make fun of every body type. But fat-shaming comes attached to a society that hates fat people, denies fat people equal access and opportunities on a regular basis, and turn fat people into scapegoats for just about everything. When thin people are treated in the same way and thin-shaming is part of an overarching anti-thinness message in society, it will be the same as fat shaming.”

“Both are against the goals of the size acceptance movement, but in the same way that calling a white person a “cracker” isn’t on the same level as using a racist slur against a black person, insulting a member of the privileged class by pointing out that s/he is skinny is not as potent as calling someone fat, because it doesn’t have the power of the entire oppressive system behind it. Fat people are openly hated in ways thin people are not. We are shouted at, criticized, beaten, threatened, and treated as though we were inferior. Fat people face systemic oppression. We are more often denied jobs, romantic opportunities, and respect. Thin people are represented in positive ways on television, in movies, in magazines, and have a full range of opportunities … Thin people are constantly having their bodies validated by the surrounding culture.”

The fat shame/thin shame debate is a hill this blog frequently dies on. It seems my participants feel largely the same way. The two takeaways? Firstly, fat shaming and thin shaming (and all shaming) are terrible and antithetical to the body positivity movement, including Fat Acceptance. Secondly, there is a socio-power dynamic at play when someone is fat shamed that is not present when thin shaming occurs, as evidenced by our interactions with others, and in areas of media and consumerism.


Question Five: Why do you perceive any attempt to address the underlying problems with fat in our society as a personal attack?

“I am fat. I cannot separate myself from my phenotype. Attacking fat is attacking me.”

“Fat is not a problem, and by turning our bodies into a problem, you are essentially saying that we, the people who identify as fat, are something horrible that you hope to get rid of. You are saying that fat people only deserve respect if we are trying hard enough to become thin people, because really, only thin people are acceptable. The main problem with fat in our society is how it is being stigmatized. Discrimination is a much more serious problem than obesity, and the complications it adds to our lives are much more damaging for our health.”

“I think the premise of this question is immediately problematic because it assumes that “fat in our society” is a problem. Why are we even concerning ourselves with others’ bodies? It’s a matter that should be between them and their doctors. People feel attacked because the attacking is typically relentless, and when one has experienced it so frequently, one feels very defensive, because someone has just referred to our bodies as ‘a problem in our society’.”

This question makes clear a key dichotomy in the FA community: We do not suffer from obesity. We don’t have fat. We are fat, and when people talk about our bodies as inherently flawed and in need of fixing, how can it not be personal?


Question Six: Why shouldn’t doctors comment on a patient’s weight, especially in regards to medication potentially being less effective, or when it is exacerbating problems?

“I think that doctors most certainly have the right to discuss weight in this way. There are millions of reasons why people may be perceived as ‘fat’, but that shouldn’t preclude my ability to be treated for the non-weight related issues that I have. I was told by the medical system for 20 years that my joint pain was due to my fat.When I was diagnosed with a genetic disorder that causes joint pain I realized that I had been ‘fat-washed’ as a patient for decades, suffering needlessly. It is not always so clear that the weight is exacerbating problems if you aren’t willing to look at the patient as a whole being and not just a ‘fat’ being.”

When a doctor graduates and becomes a doctor, they take what’s called the Hippocratic Oath. The first part of that oath states that the doctor commits to doing no harm, first and foremost. Commenting on a patient’s weight can be harmful to that person’s psyche an it isn’t very helpful.

“Fat people *know* they are fat. Being condescending to a patient serves only to breed distrust. Doctors who treat their patients as whole organisms, instead of reducing them to something short of an ideal, will achieve much better patient compliance.”

Responders expressed concerned that they weren’t being looked at as a whole person by their health care professionals. This oversimplification is seen as discounting, with a strong negative stigma attached. This “fat washing” creates a hostile atmosphere where further critique emotionally damages the patient.


 Question Seven: Why do you choose to focus on accepting “fat” in our society rather than addressing the underlying social issues that have resulted in 60% of our society being overweight with a further 30% being obese?

Fat people have always existed and will always exist. Why should fat people have to change to gain the privileges society gives to thin people (e.g. clothing options, fair treatment in employment, seats that fit us on airplanes, the basic dignity of being treated in a humane fashion at all times or at least of being able to accept such treatment, etc.)? The answer to oppression and unfair treatment isn’t for the oppressed and unfairly treated to change. It’s for the oppression and unfairness to end.

For me, it isn’t about accepting “fat”. It’s about accepting my body as it is and loving it. My depression, anxiety, and negative feelings for my body all stem from the hatred and disgust I have been shown through other people my entire life. Loving and accepting my body as it is means that I can be free of all of my pain, my tears, my depression, my anxiety, and my fear that people won’t accept me as I am. Who wouldn’t want that feeling of love and peace for themselves and for everyone in the world? That’s why I focus on love.

First, let’s address the issue of obesity – the BMI is flawed. It was never intended for individual assessment but for use in studies of a mass population. It was developed at a time when people were several inches shorter, when deprivation and starvation were common and therefore the ‘base’ scores were founded in an underweight, unhealthy and underfed population. It was based on men – not women or children. Even so, there does seem to have been an increase in overweight people in our western culture … so what? Does that mean that overweight people don’t deserve to be treated as human beings with the same level of respect that thin people do? We are being brainwashed into believing that fat people should be treated with contempt because they are gluttons, pigs, unhealthy etc and are a burden on our health systems and our society in general.

Those polled did not like this question. Frequently, they questioned the statistics, taking issue with their relevance and accuracy. The take away, however, is that love (both inward and outward) is the driving force behind participating in the Fat Acceptance movement, and that everyone is deserving of it.


Question Eight: In your own words, why do you think that This is Thin Privilege and other similar sites are listed as self harm sites?

“I did not know they were.”

“I have no idea. I certainly don’t consider them to be self-harm sites. This Is Thin Privilege is a place where fat people go to share the difficulties they experience as fat people. I fail to see how that is self-harm in any way, unless you suddenly believe that acknowledging and sharing the realities of how someone is treated is somehow harmful to them.”

I’ve had no exposure to them, so I cannot comment.

Many of the responders were not familiar with This is Thin Privilege at all. The ones that were didn’t seem to know about it being listed as a self-harm site. I took it upon myself to research why TiTP was listed as a self-harm site, and all I could find was that Symantec, a company that makes computer protection software, has a blocker in place for TiTP. I could not find other similar sites blocked in this way.

Symantec

As far as I can tell, there was a campaign against the site comprised of people who oppose the Fat Acceptance movement, citing that promoting fat acceptance was tantamount to promoting a detrimental, self-harming lifestyle.


Question Nine: Do you think telling people they have “thin privilege” is going to make them more sympathetic to your cause? What do you expect them to do with said privilege? Do you think there is a better way to get your message across than the privilege movement?

“Stating someone has privilege is fact, not an attack or an insult. I have white privilege. I do not mind that people tell me I have white privilege, but because of that privilege, I am going to be ignorant of some things. As a good person, it’s my job to shut up and listen, to not speak over the oppressed group and then call out any racism I see. I keep my privilege in mind when I act and speak and it makes me a better person. I expect the same courtesy from my thin friends, none of them have an issue with it.”

“I would hope that for some people if they were told they had thin privilege it might make them ponder what that meant and look it up. I was in a situation where I had not heard of white privilege, but now I am aware of what it is and aware of the fact that I have it. This means that I can start to notice my own white privilege and where I see it in others, which allows me to try to address problems caused by it. I would hope that some people who become aware of their thin privilege would become allies. I have thin friends who understand their thin privilege and are amazing allies.”

Many answerers questioned whether the question writers had a solid grasp on what “privilege” was. They point to awareness of privilege as a transformative experience, showing the world through new eyes. They see the “thin privilege” movement as an invitation to become an ally.


Question Ten: The title “Fat Acceptance” is problematic because it puts the focus on the fat, and not the person. Isn’t it more important to accept the person, instead of the fat attached to them?

The term fat is the defining adjective that pertains to members of this group. Should we accept all people? Absolutely. Can this term still be an effective tool to use in working to promote acceptance? Yes.

I think the important thing is to take the negative association away from the word Fat.

“Fat Acceptance is important because we’re fat and that’s what needs to be accepted. What about Gay rights? Would you say it should be called “people” rights? No, that’s ridiculous because it erases what society has a problem with. I am a FAT person, it is not an insult, it is not something to be ashamed of. It is something I am that everyone else has a problem with. I accept it and I feel so much better about myself. I didn’t need to learn to accept myself as a person, I knew I was a person, I needed to accept myself as a fat person.

Answerers uniformly felt that being accepting of all people is important, but fat acceptance is a different, more specific issue that deserves attention all its own. Fatness is a visible attribute, and one that faces daily criticism and scorn.


Overall, these responses show genuine confusion and concern about the reasons why people oppose the fat acceptance movement. Responders spoke of feelings of fear, rejection, exclusion, discrimination, and displayed anger when posed questions invalidating or diminishing those emotions. Participants questioned the validity of scientific research, and emphasized that regardless of size or medical status, everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.

Writing this series was an emotional journey for me. It grew from a desire to be more educated, and to promote awareness of the topic among those perhaps unfamiliar with Fat Acceptance and its opponents. I faced stonewalling and ridicule during the seemingly simple act of data collection. People on both sides diminished my cause and dismissed my efforts. Even those close to me told me I was wasting my time, or looking for negative attention. During the analysis stage, I read seemingly endless tales of degradation, denigration, abuse, and bigotry. I read stories about people fighting for their lives, and for the lives of those they love. I read about science, both legitimate and faulty. I respect and love science; I see it is a tool to help us understand the world around us. It saddens me when I see it used as a weapon in a fight about social justice.

This brings me to my final point. Why can’t we discuss? Why can’t we have an open dialogue? Why does it fall to me to force these opinions out into the open? Are we so hopeless that we think we can’t sway people? Change someone’s mind for the better? Can we really expect to create social change without the “social” part?

The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part 2: Too Fat, Didn’t Read

tfdr

As I learned in The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part 1: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Stonewalling, the mere idea that the opposing sides of the Fat Acceptance movement could have a productive, positive discussion was dismissed out of hand by most parties involved. Still, I persevered and compiled a list of questions written by those who support the Fat Acceptance movement geared toward those who oppose it, as well as a list of questions written by those who oppose FA to be answered by FA supporters. This article will focus on the first set of questions, those written by supporters of FA.

Procuring the questions, as stated in the previous article, proved to be challenging. Many people in the Fat Acceptance camp didn’t want to engage in the activity at all, claiming doing so would “legitimize the toxic viewpoints” of people who didn’t agree with FA principles. Through this blog and its Facebook presence, I was able to cull a relatively anti-inflammatory set of questions from readers and friends supportive of the FA movement.

  1. Do you feel that others’ weight affects you directly, and if so, why?
  2. Do you feel that people you consider to be overweight are unqualified for certain jobs? If so, why?
  3. What are your thoughts on the behavioral psychology research proving that lowering someone’s self esteem is much less effective at changing behavior than raising self esteem?
  4. Do you think that every action a stranger takes or body condition a stranger has, which affects the healthcare system similarly, should be commented on in the same way (e.g. smoking, being sleep deprived, having cancer)?
  5. Why do you think that someone else’s body size affects people on such a visceral, emotional level?
  6. Fill in the blank: Fat equals ____
  7. Why do you think America is experiencing an “obesity epidemic”?
  8. What should the role of government/health care providers/the media be in addressing the “obesity epidemic”?
  9. How do you feel about your body?
  10. What is the best way to motivate people to be healthy?

I posted a link to fill out this questionnaire on Reddit and immediately received responses. Overnight, I had reached over 100 submissions. By midday, I had to close the questionnaire because I had more responses than I could possibly analyze. The first comment on Reddit was fairly telling of the overall response to the questions:

reddit questionnaire comment

This reply demonstrates three key principles of the anti-FA movement:

  1. They believe that the Fat Acceptance movement, or at least part of it, ignores scientific evidence that shows that being fat is unhealthy.
  2. They believe being fat is a choice.
  3. They consider thin privilege and oppression models to be invalid.

Do the answers to the questionnaires mirror these principles?

I went through, question by question, looking for redundancy based on specific key words. The answers featured in this article are representative of the majority of those who filled out the questionnaire.


Question One: Do you feel that others’ weight affects you directly, and if so, why?

“In certain understated ways, I actually consider the large bodies in public spaces to be “micro aggression” against people with smaller bodies. In my experience, large bodied individuals will not hesitate to let their body infringe on others personal space in public transit, while in a queue, or other spaces of modern urban environments. I consider these things “micro aggression” due to the unwillingness of large bodied peoples to not force their bodies on others. I am expected to move, or to get out of way in a lane even when I do not know anyone is there, I am expected to be accommodating at all times.”

“Yes. Normalizing unhealthy weight ideas, disregarding science, and forcing me to see things I really don’t want to.”

“In Canada our healthcare is covered by taxes. People who have obesity related diseases are therefore a drain on this and are directing resources from diseases that can’t be so easily changed. I pay taxes, I pay for the obesity related diseases.”

“If I know that person, hell yeah it affects me.  My mom is slowly killing herself.  She won’t live to old age. How the fuck do you want me to feel?  And she’s not enjoying herself, either. Her joints hurt, she has breathing problems, she can’t find clothes in her size, medications don’t work properly at her weight, and when she needs a surgery she will be at a considerably higher risk of complications.  The FA movement would have me applaud her for this.  Well no.  Fuck that.  She’s my mom, and when she hurts herself she hurts me too.  You wouldn’t stand idly by while your friend committed suicide or spiraled into drug addiction, would you?”

This first question is very illuminative. A fat person is seen as a drain on society, and an abuser of resources and space. They are also seen as pitied individuals, whose choice to remain fat ignores science and the advice of health professionals, and that not taking action constitutes standing by and letting someone self-destruct.


Question Two: Do you feel that people you consider to be overweight are unqualified for certain jobs? If so, why?

“Yes. Anything involving a lot of physical activity or requiring attractiveness, e.g. model, demoing stuff, etc. In general, obesity is an indicator of other traits undesirable in an employee such as a lack of impulse control.”

“No, I don’t feel that just because someone is overweight or obese that they are automatically unqualified for a certain job. If you are physically and mentally able to do something then, by all means, do that thing.”

“Yes. There are many jobs that require strenuous physical activity. If you cannot pass the physical qualifications for that job you should not be hired, as simple as that. If you are unable to perform your job and you were, for example, a firefighter you would be putting other people’s lives at stake because of your weight/physical condition.”

“I … think that obese doctors, nurses, nutritionists, personal trainers, and the like, would suffer from a credibility problem if they are obese and may not be as qualified for their position, vis a vis giving advice on health and weight.”

There are two lines of reasoning emerging from this question. Firstly, it is assumed there is a level of fatness that would inhibit a person from physically doing a job. Secondly, there is stigma that would preclude a fat person from being a successful model, or credible health professional.


Question Three: What are your thoughts on the behavioral psychology research proving that lowering someone’s self esteem is much less effective at changing behavior than raising self esteem?

“This question makes a pretty big assumption that is flat out wrong. Most people against the FA movement aren’t trying to just go around hurting fat people’s feelings. Yes, sometimes there are some unfortunate truths and harsh realities but saying that obesity is unhealthy, that it takes hard work and discipline to drop the weight and that most people that large lack the willpower isn’t about being mean. It’s just the way it is. No one will make any changes if they have convinced themselves nothing is wrong and that they are perfect and enclose themselves in an echo chamber of like-minded people.”

“Completely irrelevant. It’s peoples’ choice what they put in their mouth.”

“I agree with the sentiment, and therefore think that we should be motivating overweight people to lose weight, instead of telling them that they’re simply ‘disgusting’ or a ‘waste of space’. Promoting healthy eating, ease of exercise and education is essential to reversing the obesity trend of today.”

“Effective at what, exactly? Accepting lower standards for yourself?”

“Very much agree with this; however, I don’t really see this movement advocating change, just advocating acceptance. Acceptance is a wonderful thing, and people should be accepted for who they are, but I think one should always work towards bettering oneself. Having a healthy self-perception is a thing to work towards, but I think the extreme to which this movement takes it leaves individuals less capable of dealing with real life stressors involving weight issues. While advocating for acceptance is noble, it will more than likely not change societies perception about weight as a whole, therefore if you build your platform on just accepting individuals for who they are you ultimately are setting them up for failure when they leave your bubble of protection.”

Question three allows us to see the crux of the anti-acceptance argument: fat people should want to lose weight. They struggle with problems like a lack of will power, discipline, and education, and by ignoring these problems while surrounding themselves by people who encourage them to love themselves for who they are, they are ignoring the reality that there is something fundamentally wrong with themselves that they should be trying to better.


Question Four: Do you think that every action a stranger takes or body condition a stranger has, which affects the healthcare system similarly, should be commented on in the same way (e.g. smoking, being sleep deprived, having cancer)?

“Obesity and smoking fall under the same category of being under the person’s control. Insomnia and cancer are out of a person’s control. So no, they should not be commented on in the same way.”

“I usually do not begrudge smokers for smoking, because most will readily admit that, yeah, they know it’s bad for them. So I, personally, comment on smokers pretty neutrally. There seem to be a lot of fat people, on the other hand, convinced that they are somehow fat without over-eating, or that they’re perfectly fit and healthy despite their weight, or that their various bodily ailments are not caused/exacerbated by their excess weight. We all know that that’s bullshit, and because (some) fat people say a lot of bullshit like that, I personally will comment on them with a fair bit more scorn.”

“The reason obesity is so widely commented on as a major issue in healthcare is because of its prevalence and visibility in everyday life. We can’t always tell when a person is a smoker or a drug addict, but we can immediately see when someone is overweight, so it seems like a prominent issue. Therefore, we see obesity as a bigger issue than many other health problems.”

“I’m not sure what this question is actually asking… but not getting enough sleep, smoking cigarettes, and being overweight are all unhealthy. The difference is that there are no advocacy groups encouraging people to smoke and not sleep.”

Question four raised the hackles of quite a few responders. Many responders became very irate at the comparison between being fat and having cancer, but I think that was the point of the question. How ARE they related? What are the similar threads? Responders point to the visibility of fatness as a major reason it is commented on frequently, and that it should be commented on negatively as a choice people make to be unhealthy.


Question Five: Why do you think that someone else’s body size affects people on such a visceral, emotional level?

“When it comes to fat people, it’s like passing a car wreck. It’s utterly fascinating, yet horrifying and disgusting. I mean you’re PUSHING THE HUMAN BODY TO LENGTHS IT IS NOT SUPPOSED REACH.”

“It goes against everything we know on a basic biological level. We aim to be the best option for procreation that we can be. That’s literally our goal. We need to be good enough that someone we find good enough returns the feelings and decides to have children with us. Morbidly obese people are the bottom of the barrel especially if they cannot provide financially or have poor social skills.”

“A team is only as strong as its weakest player. In this sense we are all judged as members of society. If the majority deems that you are not up to standard, you will face stigma.”

“First, outward appearance has been used to determine if an individual is sexually fit (as in genetically fit) for breeding … Being fat can, in some instances, be a massive indicator of mental health problems as well as physical health problems. Not always but when someone is obese one has to wonder how it happened, is it an addiction, is it a lack of self awareness, is this a reaction to an event?”

Here we start toeing into the waters of bigotry. Fat people don’t meet acceptable, biological standards for reproduction. One’s fatness is indicative of other issues, such as mental illness and addiction. Is that why fatness is stigmatized? We are flawed on a basic, genetic level?


 Question Six: Fill in the blank: Fat equals ____

“Gross. Squishy. Unhealthy. Ugly.”

“Do you mean fat as in extra adipose tissue or the idea of fat people? If you mean the latter, I see it as a resignation that life cannot be improved upon.”

“Reduced willpower.”

“Lack of discipline.”

“Lipids. For real, I know this question is baiting me. You’re expecting me to say “unhealthy”. It is less healthy than being fit. And we’re not going to get into the “fat athlete” myth.”

“Adipose tissue in the body formed when the body’s energy input exceeds it’s output. Also a descriptive term for someone who has a large volume of this tissue, resulting in negative physiological changes to body size and shape.”

This simple question actually opens a big window into the anti-FA argument. A large proportion of the answerers commented on how the question was loaded, and that it was just meant to illicit answers like “gross” or “lazy”. A larger proportion actually answered with responses like “gross” or “lazy”. Very few answers listed any sort of neutral or positive connotation, outside of dictionary definitions.


Question Seven: Why do you think America is experiencing an “obesity epidemic”?

“Our body is designed to crave fats and sugars, a necessity when there is not enough food. Our society now has too much food, and companies are preying on those designs and ease of access to market unhealthy food to an entire populace.”

“Lack of self control. The entitled “me” generation that can’t stand to hear the word “no” and the parents who didn’t say no often enough.”

“Poverty, lack of education, lack of intelligence.”

“Because people are overeating.”

“The nature of our food has changed (intensive farming, processing, GMOs, pesticides), the abundance of our food has increased, our food is engineered to encourage overeating, our daily activity levels have decreased, our stress levels have gone up, our environments are polluted, we’re too distracted, we put too much emphasis on competitive sports and not enough on activity, we don’t get out in nature enough, the ‘worst’ foods are the most affordable and the ‘best’ foods are more expensive, we don’t have walkable neighborhoods.”

I was surprised by the amount of blame most responders put on society itself. There was the token “BECAUSE HAMPLANETS CAN’T STOP EATING HURR HURR”, but mostly answers focused on specific, systemic problems rather than individual actions. No one questioned the term “epidemic”, though; it’s clear this focus group equates fatness with illness.


Question Eight: What should the role of government/health care providers/the media be in addressing the “obesity epidemic”?

“Education about how to eat properly would be helpful for K-12 students. They should learn about portion control, exactly what foods will lead to weight gain, what is a good any time food vs. what is a good sometimes food, how to be critical of the media and advertising, how to avoid common pitfalls like ruining the healthfulness of a salad by smothering it in ranch or eating more to keep your metabolism from slowing down.”

“Joining in with us healthier people to shame you about your terribly stupid decision-making.”

“Research obesity related issues, develop ways to reduce the problem, and inform the public of these ways.”

“The media is concerned with entertainment, so don’t go looking to them to fix any problems. Also consider the amount of self generated content that is overtaking traditional forms – breaking through people’s self constructed echo chambers will only get harder.”

“The government and health care providers should stop giving money to non-disabled fat people. As for the media, how about some healthy fat-shaming?”

I like this follow-up question; it’s the seasoning bringing out the flavor profile of the relatively benign responses from question seven. The obesity epidemic? It’s a systemic problem. The solution? A healthy portion of “education” with a side of fat shaming. Unfortunately, we keep ourselves from being educated through the creation of our own fat-accepting media.


Question Nine: How do you feel about your body?

“I am 400lbs and very unhappy with my body.  I am currently doing what I can to lose most of the weight.”

“I love my body. I am a healthy weight for my height, and after recently losing some weight (about 10 pounds) I have become more confident.”

“I feel great about my body.  I’ve lost 80 pounds with a healthy diet and exercise and know it is possible.  I’ve never been happier.”

“Unhappy. I’m morbidly obese. Two weeks ago I changed what I eat and began walking some evenings and I’m already down 8lb. Aim to lose 100lb.”

“I love my body. As should everyone.”

“Why should I accept it if it makes me unhappy?”

This question generated the greatest diversity of answers. One surprising thing is the number of answerers who identify as being fat and unhappy. They see the relinquishing of “fat logic” as the first step in a transformative journey toward non-fatness. It’s reminiscent of Stockholm Syndrome; people repeatedly hammered by the rhetoric of one’s persecutors until they start to sympathize with the message.


Question Ten: What is the best way to motivate people to be healthy?

“The best way to motivate people, I’d say, is to make obesity illegal and arrest obese people on sight (barring those who can prove they have conditions that make weight loss impossible). Why I say this is because there are people in the world who believe they are healthy no matter what … With these kind of people, you cannot sway them to even think there is or will ever be anything unhealthy about them, and they will never do anything about their weight or general health.”

“I can say that the worst way is by making fun of people. Nobody should make fun of fat people, and I would never promote such a thing. But people should encourage fat people to exercise more and to eat better. They should be shown support.”

“Stop the fat acceptance movement. Once people stop believing that their doctors are shaming them and their family members are shaming them and start believing that people around them actually care about their health, they may realize they actually have a problem. If people are unwilling to get healthy, they need to shut their mouths. This is Darwinism in action. Adapt to the world around you or expect your bloodline to disappear.”

“Education.”

“Provide incentive and a conducive environment for health.”

“Have all obesity-related expenses come directly out of obese people’s pockets. This would include disability payments, knee braces, gastic bypass, ambulance calls for heat attacks and type II diabetes treatment.”

What a strange combination of positive reinforcement and punishment! The solutions involve education, denial of access to crucial services, access to incentives, removing support systems promoting fat acceptance, and criminalizing how someone looks. Can all these options exist simultaneously? Many answerers of this question strongly blame the Fat Acceptance movement for the problems faced by fat people, and many of them suggest penalizing fat people in some way just for being fat, but earlier, the “obesity epidemic” was blamed as a societal problem.


The responses to the survey paint a very clear picture of the anti-FA movement. The emphasis seems to be on promoting individual and public health, but the execution leaves something to be desired. The loathing (both outward and inward) is palpable. Guilt is seen as the primary, most effective motivator to make changes in one’s life, and that people should want to make that change regardless of how they feel about themselves. People filling out this questionnaire see fatness as a disease needing to be cured, and that any other viewpoints ignore science and are therefore invalid. Fat people who promote fat acceptance are seen as promoting disease and contributing to societal crisis, and therefore are treated with hostility and scorn.

Want to know what questions were asked of those supporting the Fat Acceptance movement? Want to know their answers? Stay tuned for The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part Three: F.A. Confidential.

Adventures on Reddit: How I discovered Hamplanets and lost part of my soul

trollbridge

This blog has pushed me out into the internet in a mean way — sink or swim — CONSUME ALL THE MEDIA. I noticed we were getting a lot of traffic from a site called Reddit. Having never used Reddit, I decided to mosey on over there and see what was what.

Later, I was telling this same story to a friend of mine, and when I got to the part where I said, “and so then I headed over to Reddit-“

“NO! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!”

Why, indeed.

Reddit is the Bridge under which the Trolls live.

Now, there are a few sub forums on Reddit that aren’t soul-crushing. Body Acceptance is one of those forums, and was very supportive of our recent Fitspo/Thinspo/Fatspo article. Fatosphere is also a good subreddit, though with fewer subscribers. However, on the whole, it appears REDDIT HATES FAT PEOPLE.

FatPeopleStories is #1 on TFW list of WTF: Reddit Edition. Let’s take a look at their Rules Section (underlining added by TFW):

FPS rules

Hamplanet? Hambeast? Hamentality? What do those words even mean? Maybe I should use some context clues. Let’s look at the logos:

FPS logo

A fat man on a scooter with a pizza flag

FPSlogo2

A laughing whale

A Reddit ranking button with a hamburger and an apple instead of arrows

A Reddit ranking button with a hamburger and an apple instead of arrows

Clearly, it has something to do with fat people. Or sea-going mammals. Or hamburgers. Dammit, Reddit! Explain yourself!

whatishamplanet

Like a ham needs her McDicks? Oh yeah… hamburgers again.

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 9.54.17 AM

Hamplanet = Obesity + Shittitude

Hamplanet = Obesity + Shittitude

HAMPLANET = OBESITY + SHITTITUDE

Still confused? Here is further clarification:

hamplanet

This person has added “delusions” to the list of hamplanet requirements. These delusions, in the Redditverse, are known as “fat logic”:

hamplanet

To learn more about fat logic, let’s turn to #2 on TFW list of WTF: Reddit Edition — The FatLogic subreddit.

Example 1: There is an entire thread dedicated to bringing down This is Thin Privilege. The thread claims that not only does TiTP embody and embrace fatlogic, but it perpetuates it to the ruin of all. Here is an exerpt from TiTP explaining the relationship of thin privilege and health (emphasis added by TFW):

Let me make it completely clear from the outset that I do not believe ‘health,’ however defined, is a reasonable measure to determine whether or not someone deserves respect, civil rights, and fair treatment. If you have a problem with how health markets apportion your premiums or where your taxes go, then by all means, rage against the system. But do not think for a minute your assholish behavior towards people you imagine use more than their ‘fair share’ is justified.

In fact, I’ll go further and state that in my opinion the modern conception of ‘health’ is bullshit. It’s an ever-changing, largely arbitrary definition that seems to serve a single purpose: to blame modern ills on so-called ‘unhealthy’ people then define so-called ‘unhealthy’ people as unpopular social ‘deviants’ like fat people, poor people, and the disabled. The philosophy of vaunting the modern notion of ‘health’ to some kind of societal/moral imperative is called healthism.

According to the FPS subreddit, this is classic fat logic.

fatlogic

A obese person recognizes that their increased size means certain problems might arise. They anticipate and accept this. They realize that this is not “oppression” because they have the same rights to marry/adopt/own stuff/use establishments/free speech like everyone else…

… a hamplanet is defined by their delusional and self-centered perception (fat logic), not taking into account courtesy to others.

In sum, Reddit says a hamplanet is a fat person who uses fat logic to justify not taking care of themselves, as well as not taking responsibility for their unhealthy body size and the impact it has on others, and therefore has no business sticking up for themselves against the ridicule and persecution because they brought it on themselves.

My definition of “hamplanet”?

HAMPLANET:

A derogatory term used to describe a fat person who refuses to accept discrimination and derision as part of their daily existence, who strives for positive self-image amidst a mine field of prejudice and thin privilege, and who insists that no matter what someone looks like, they deserve be treated with kindness and consideration.

Your comments answered!

Here at The Fat Word, we’ll get comments from time to time that warrant lengthy, thoughtful responses.

Here’s one responding to Power, Privilege, and Fatness:

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 9.36.45 AM

No one is saying you have it great. No one is talking about YOU, specifically.

On the whole, most people feel bad about their bodies in some way. This essay isn’t about the individual slights against innumerable targets, each contextually unique. This essay is about sociology — the dynamics of fat and thin shaming working on a societal level.

Just because there are people made to feel badly about themselves for their appearance doesn’t automatically make them a member of a target group when studying systemic discrimination. On a societal level, fat shaming is different from thin shaming because fat people belong to a target group with less power and influence than the agent group of thinner people. Because society on the whole treats fat people with less respect, and fat people can do little to change it, they are the persecuted minority.

This sociological assessment most certainly doesn’t discount the individual suffering of people made to feel ugly and worthless for reasons other than being fat. Everyone has the right to feel good about themselves regardless of their position in any given power dynamic.


We another comment we wanted to address, this time on When Does “Fitspo” Become “Thinspo”:

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 9.35.15 AM

Weight loss is not the same as being healthy. Being fat isn’t the same as being unhealthy. A person’s body type and body size is not carte blanche to make judgements about them, their life, or their habits. In fact, unwanted, unwarranted judgement is DETRIMENTAL to one’s self-esteem and mental health.

The analysis of the “fitspo” pictures is to show that “motivation” can be unhealthy. Belittling others, making people feel bad about themselves, and promoting extreme and unhealthy means of weight loss creates an adversarial relationship with not only our own bodies, but with the bodies of others.


Lastly, we have one more comment from Power, Privilege, and Fatness:

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 9.36.15 AM

Joseph, the original author, wanted to respond to it himself:

I may not have made something as clear as I ought to have, as several posts have been brought to my attention by this blog’s founder from Facebook, Reddit, and even our own comments section, and I have been asked to respond. The posts in question read something like this:

“This jackass is comparing being fat with being black!”

I may be a jackass, but I am not, nor will I ever, compare the plight of the fat to the plight of any other target social group. To ensure that most got that message the first time around, this paragraph sat near the end of the original article:

“Nobody is suggesting that there has ever been a fat-person lynch mob. Nobody is suggesting that fat people are regularly murdered for declaring their love in public. Nobody is actually comparing the plight of the fat to the historical and contemporary plight of other minorities. Nobody who matters, anyway.”

I hoped the paragraph would curb that particular line of thinking before it began, but I may have been too cute with it (it’s a problem I have), so let me state it here again, clearly:

In no way are any two minority experiences are analogous or interchangeable. They’re not even the same between two different members of any one target group, much less across categories.

And in no way are fat people analogous to black people in terms cultural experience.

The actual comparrison being made was of dismissive behavior from agent groups. And again, as stated in the article, while I certainly don’t view them as in the same ballpark, I do firmly believe that they’re playing the same sport.

The wonderful thing about encouraging people not to be dicks to each other is that it isn’t a zero sum game. We don’t have to focus on one target social group and fix everything, then move onto the next only if there’s time and energy left over. We can be nice to everybody, surface our assumptions, challenge damaging cultural norms, be aware of how our actions play out on a societal level as well as the individual level, and all come out ahead.

Thanks for reading, and I’m glad the article resonated with so many.


We here at The Fat Word appreciate all of the feedback we’re receiving, both positive and negative. We are not here to preach to the choir. We are excited to be able to encourage critical thinking and discourse by sharing our messages of body positivity and respect for all.

When Does “Fitspo” Become “Thinspo”?

thinspo

“Thinspo” stands for “thinspiration” and is a commonly tagged word on Tumblr, Pinterest, and other social media sites. Thinspiration posts are designed to promote the idea that thinness is desirable, and that it must be pursued relentlessly regardless of consequence. Thinspo has become a contentious tag in social media contexts, and several sites are banning content associating itself with the thinspo label.

YAY! Huzzah! Let’s get this unhealthy, body-hating term out of Internet-Land, far away from our sensitive ears!

Unfortunately, there are always work-arounds.

On Pinterest, what I would previously see tagged under “thinspo” I am now seeing tagged under a new term: “fitspo”.

Fitsperation.

Upon initial contemplation, I loved this idea. Let’s make it NOT about body type. Let’s shift the conversation over towards a healthy lifestyle! Activity! Movement! Self-love! However, if you search for “fitspo”, you will be disappointed.

Now, I consider myself somewhat of a Pinterest maven, and The Fat Word Pinterest board is a repository of such body-negativity propaganda.

Initial rage thoughts:

  • Losing weight should NOT be tantamount to addiction. The idea minimizes the struggle of actual addicts while promoting the idea that losing weight is something so desirable that once you start, you need an intervention to stop. If it is actually an addiction, it’s called anorexia. Or bulimia. Or disordered eating. Or activity disorder. Not exactly inspirational cat-poster stuff.
  • Speaking of fluffy cat -posters, Ryan Gosling might be a little miffed that his image is being used to make people feel bad about themselves.
  • Writing letters to your fat gives it agency. No longer do you view it as part of you, but an enemy to fight. In reality, you’re just fighting yourself.
  • Society wants you to think that “you’ll still be uglier than you want to be in a few months, but if you keep self-hatin’, soon you’ll be even LESS ugly than you are now!”
  • Hotness does not equal fitness, especially when it’s measured primarily against other women.
  • I wear skinny jeans. And mini-skirts. I have crop-tops and short shorts. I almost exclusively wear bikinis. I get cat-called. I have fun. I am a confident, happy, healthy, satisfied person.

I need a mental antacid.

There is another key term out in Social Media Land, called “fatspo” — fatspiration. Not that the “fat body type” is necessarily something to work towards or cultivate, but that we can be fat, fit, happy, and beautiful.

That’s more like it. That’s what inspiration is supposed to feel like.


UPDATE

We have been receiving a lot of feedback on this article. Check out our responses!

Why I Haven’t Written My First Fat Blog

Marianne

I’m too busy. It’s conference week. I’m working through some family stuff.

The truth is, I don’t like the word fat. When I saw the web site up, IT, FAT, had the ability to shock me. I found I didn’t want the word associated with me. It surprised me how strongly I felt. I was feeling uncomfortable with the political tone, the “right speak” that some of the articles had for me. I felt stifled explaining why. I LIKED what Jennifer Lawrence said. She’s not stupid. She knows laws won’t be changed. But calling people fat and remarking on evening wear based on how they fit is mean spirited and should be stopped. She’s annoyed that so many of her interviews are based on body image and frankly she seems bored and would rather talk about something else. I found the phrase used to introduce the piece, “I love you, now close your mouth” really condescending. Is there only one correct way to support body positivity? Are we going to say close your mouth if someone is approaching the topic from a different angle?

I live in my big body every day. I enjoy adorning my body with fashionable clothes. I get tattoos regularly and am comfortable with dropping trow or unbuttoning my shirt, as the occasion requires. I found exercise – dance classes that I enjoy. I didn’t always do these things.

I had a horrible break-up and in that period of reinventing, I found I put most of my joys “on hold”. When I lost more weight, I would get a tattoo. When I could fit in a leotard, I would find a class. I found I was doing nothing. I changed my no to yes and my later to now. This has stood me in good stead; all that saying “yes” has developed into a pretty positive attitude. I think that’s why Shiloh asked me to join this blog.

Yeah, I live with my fat, I dress to flatter my fat, I exercise to keep my fat healthy, but I don’t think about my fat daily and I found I don’t like to TALK ABOUT MY FAT! Well, hell, why would I be writing a blog? I have bright pink hair that I wear curled in a Marilyn bouffant everyday. I don’t go out without my eyeliner and fuchsia lipstick. My demeanor says, look at me! I’m definitely not a beige plus-size matron.  More importantly, my demeanor says, define me by something other than my weight. I’m saying it, I don’t know if people are hearing it.

The day the first Spanx article came out, I had just received a package of really sexy, really comfortable shape wear, real “date lingerie”, (I’m an online shopper extraordinaire.) Usually, I’d pop in to Shiloh, and show off my swag to the appropriate oohs and aahs. Now I find I’m editing myself, are Spanx not cool? Is shape wear not ok if I’m body positive? I LIKE shape wear. I don’t wear it because I feel bad, or I am trying to fit into a fashion mold. I want to wear a favorite piece of clothing that clings and I think looks better over a smooth layer. I’m not fooling myself into thinking I look significantly smaller.

I enjoy following haute couture. I subscribe to Vogue.  When I see a look or a trend works on a tall thin model, I either, as a consumer, decide that look is not for me and move on; or as a designer and seamstress, I change it and make it work for me. I don’t feel anger towards the industry that they idealize young, thin, tall models. I don’t feel old, fat, and short. I’m looking at the clothes, the drape of the fabric, the artful photography, and the lush surroundings. Do I celebrate when they use a big model? Sure, but I won’t like her ad or the clothes she is advertising any better, if the skinny model’s clothes are better designed or that spread is better photographed. I personally feel excited and inspired when the big September issue comes out. When on vacation in New York, I like visiting the big name boutiques. And you know, the sales clerks treat me with respect, even if I can only fit into the handbags and scarves. I don’t feel unwelcome. I’m a consumer; they are the product providers.

The last “fat issue” I want to touch on is weight loss. My size travels between 18 and 24. When I’m at my best, running up and down stairs, sleeping well, good skin tone, standing straight and proud; I am exercising regularly and I am eating less-processed, nutrient dense food. When I’m at a low point, I’m too busy to exercise and I’m eating junk. I could be PC and say that at my smaller size I just feel healthier and happier, but you know? I also think I look better. I want to be smaller. Is it ok to admit that? I like big, bountiful curves, rather than floppy, bulgy bulges. But I don’t want to wait to do anything until I slim down. I’ll continue to say “Yes, now!” instead of “Later.” I want to talk about healthy lifestyle choices on this blog without fat-shaming or skinny-shaming, and to exercise the option of not really caring about it at times.

I think I can add some badass fashion, food, and positivity articles to this blog. Does my viewpoint gel with you? I don’t know. Does my viewpoint sound modern, cool and politically correct? I don’t care. Will I research numerous articles and cite experts in the field? Uh, no, not even a little bit. I want to be the Do It Now Girl! Try something new! Have fun! Look fierce! Give yourself a break! Yes! Yes! Yes!

And with that, she fell down the Tweet-hole and was never seen again.

https://twitter.com/TheFatWord/status/442379798656978944

The Feminomics of Spanx — Act Three: You May Crush My Internal Organs, But You Will Never Crush My Spirit

Spanx

Continued from The Feminomics of Spanx — Act Two: Sara Blakely’s Rags to Much Tighter Rags Story

In the last article, we briefly touched on the utility of Spanx; it smoothes bulges, hides lumps. It makes clothing that wouldn’t look “good” otherwise lay more smoothly against the body. It must be a tricky item to market.

“Are you malformed? Do you feel bad about your saggy lumpiness? Here, try SPANX!”

Not so coincidentally enough, Spanx does no actual marketing. It has grown solely through word of mouth. For example, Blakely kept sending gift baskets to Oprah with Spanx in them. Eventually, Oprah made Spanx one of her Favorite Things. Spanx is like an infection. There are no billboards, no commercials making you feel bad. It’s passed from person to person. Women, openly sharing with other women that they are unhappy with how they look, and recommending special expensive underwear to hide their imperfections. Women are sharing this with one another, spreading it, disseminating it. It’s everywhere now. Celebrities wear Spanx. There are Spanx for men. There isn’t a giant corporation telling us to perk our asses up. We are telling ourselves.

Think about the real purpose of Spanx; Spanx facilitates a lie we tell each other about our bodies. It’s a lie we tell because it is too hard to ask for support and respect for how we actually look. Spanx legitimizes what the Fashion and Beauty Industrial Complexes keep pounding into our minds.

We need to change to fit in.

We need to change to squeeze into the molds society has set out for us.

No, seriously. LITERALLY SQUEEZE.

Spanx and other foundational undergarments smoosh our insides so they don’t work properly. Our lungs don’t breathe as well, our nerves get pinched, our muscles atrophy. We don’t even poop properly anymore.

But look at this video from the Spanx website of a woman modeling the Slimplicity Full Slip:

Did you see how sad she looked? Then suddenly they gave her makeup and a necklace and she was happy! They smoothed out all her normal bumps and lumps, and made her pretty. Because she wasn’t pretty before. She was gross.

Sara Blakely is a model female entrepreneur, someone who pulled herself up by her pantyhose and is now trying to help other women do the same. But did she have to make her fortune on something like SPANX!? My heart, as well as my ass, hurts from knowing that our best model for women making it in the business world is someone selling insecurity out of a little red backpack.

Whitney Thore on the Today Show versus the Concern Trolls

Whitney Today Show

My Fat Girl Soulmate Whitney Thore was on the Today show last week, talking about her “A Fat Girl Dancing” videos. Overall, I think the appearance was a net-win for body-positivity activism, but I definitely had problems with the segment.

First of all, they didn’t have Whitney actually dance on the show. They showed brief clips of the videos, with two comments: “shaking it” and “she’s got the moves”. The rest of the interview wasn’t about her dancing at all. The website article did link to an in-studio clip of Whitney dancing via the Today Show Instagram account, but it was very short.

My second gripe was how the interviewers described her before she gained weight, saying “you were obviously very athletic”. Guess what, gals? She’s STILL obviously very athletic.

Thirdly, we have my biggest frustration: the concern trolling.

ConcernTrollisConcerned

WW: “My co-worker Jared picked [the video] and he said, you know what, Whitney? Fat girls are popular on the internet and dancing is popular and good music is popular. Put that all together and go do your thing. Then I started to embrace it and I think it is really important for me. I like being called fat. I don’t like it when people say, oh, you’re just curvy or fluffy. Let’s call a spade a spade. There is a lot going on here and it is fat. I like to juxtapose that word with these videos because I think I’m breaking down some stereotypes and the stigma that is placed on fat people because I’m being active and happy and I’m dancing and I think I’m talented. And I’m fat, too.”

TS: “You’re all those things. Do you think you’re healthy? Are you convinced that at this weight you’re still as healthy as you should be?” (emphasis added by author)

WW: “No. Luckily for me, I’ve never had high blood pressure , not high cholesterol , nothing like that. I’m very active. But if I stay this weight, for sure, I’m going to develop health problems.”

TS: “What’s your plan?”

WW: “My plan is to lose 100 pounds, which I already did once, but I gained it back.”

And thusly, dear readers, this interview was highjacked by the Health Concern Troll. What was supposed to be a piece on body positivity, self-love, and self-expression, became a curiosity on whether the health problems associated with obesity negated the message of body positivity.

I love Whitney Thore and all that she is doing. I can’t legitimately expect the Today Show to stride confidently into the realm of EQUALITY FOR ALL. I just resent the casual dismissal of Whitney’s message. If you also feel angry, or want to support Whitney…

Tweet the @TODAYshow and let them know what you think, OR

Tweet @WhitneyWay and let her know you support her message.

Reblog: The Tyranny of the “Normal”

BMI

Reblogged from Riots Not Diets

Margitte Leah over at Riots Not Diets wrote a thoughtful, analytical essay of the bullshit of the BMI. It starts:

A few years ago I was getting a pap smear. The doctor—whom I had just met that morning—had me in those cold metal stirrups and was rooting around in my vagina when she asked, ever so casually, “so, do you know what the BMI is?”

I laughed.

As if a woman who has been fat all of her life might have never heard of the BMI.

The thing is, we all know about the BMI. It’s a simple chart that measures our height against our weight, right? The number that comes out of that equation places us into categories—underweight, normal, overweight, obese.

The BMI is supposed to be a value-neutral way to assess bodies across populations.

Except that, did you know that the BMI has never been neutral?

Read the rest over at her blog, Riots Not Diets.

Where are the fat Disney heroines?

Ursula from The Little Mermaid

An online petition exists, created by a high school junior in Virginia, asking Disney to feature a plus size heroine in one of their movies. Specifically, the petition mentions making “plus size princesses in Disney movies”, but I find the “princess” concept in Disney to be generally anti-feminist and wearying. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy this new music video about the real messages our classic Disney princesses send to girls (even though Frozen isn’t exactly a beacon of feminism itself):

I thought I would go through and just do a roll call of fat female Disney characters, in either a major or at least visible supporting role:

As you can see, we have a stunningly diverse array, ranging from soft, grandmother-types, all the way to vengeful, angry, exaggerated villains. Oh wait, those are just two types. Oooh, we also have a little girl! (An aside, Lilo and Stitch is my favorite animated Disney movie. It’s perfect in every way.)

My Ursula ears from Disneyland

My Ursula ears

Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some Ursula. She’s always been my favorite villain, and I honestly think she’s a better role model for female empowerment than the vast majority of princesses. She knows was she wants, she pursues it ruthlessly, she’s a business woman, she’s powerful, and she’s persuasive. All of this brings me back around to my original point: Where are the fat heroines?

Well, some people flat-out claim it is a bad idea for “health” reasons, like Kathryn Darden, the author of this ugly article from theexaminer.com. A plus size female role model would “only enable and encourage the obesity problem” because girls would emulate the character and subsequently overeat. Darden compares having a plus size heroine to having one who smokes, abuses pills, purges, or cuts on herself. Sorry, Ms. Darden, but your article kind of makes me want to do all four.

Anyhow, we should be happy with what we’ve been offered by Disney so far. They’ve already thrown us fat chicks a few bones:

“Disney has already created Merida with her “plus-size” face, so it’s not like all Disney heroines are stick thin. Snow White is also usually portrayed with a soft, round face. Apparently these heroines are not fat enough…”

Oh, how stupid of me! How could I not think face shape and body type were the same thing? I mean, I should really just stop complaining, because while none of the female characters look like me, at least they don’t ALL look like yard sticks. Maybe the obesity epidemic in America started with Snow White. Everyone saw her fat face and immediately started scarfing down popcorn so they could emulate her. Maybe that’s why movie theaters started upsizing all their snack offerings; they needed to keep up with the Snow White Fat-Face Fad.

Okay, back to the petition. I am signing it. This is my rationale, which I included on the petition itself:

I am signing this petition, not because I actually believe that these sorts of internet petitions actually result in the desired change, but because I want the issue to be considered and discussed. I am a plus size, body positive blog writer, and I strongly feel that all people deserve to feel loved and valued regardless of appearance. Whether or not someone is fat should not impact whether they live “happily ever after”, or are deserving of a Prince Charming to love them unconditionally. In truth, it never really bothered me too much that all of the female leads had cartoon Barbie bods until I read this petition, followed by all the counter arguments. Disney is a mega-corporation in the business of making money, and unless they think a decision will be financially rewarding, they won’t make it. What really pushed me over the edge was the hate. Every argument I read against this petition screamed “FAT IS BAD FAT IS UGLY OMG GROSS”. People are making fun of fat people, curvy people, and even the thoughtful girl who wrote this petition in the first place. Detractors are disguising their prejudice and condescension as “concern” by setting up straw men labeled “Health” and “Obesity Epidemic”. People need to see this hate, READ this hate, and know that it is, in actuality, hate.

I hope you will take the time to go and sign the petition as well, if for no other reason than to promote the dialogue.

What the Hell is “Skinny Fat”?

I first heard the term “skinny fat” at an event during a conversation with an old acquaintance about their current fitness regime (which involved eating massive amounts of protein, as well as a shit-ton of pseudo-ephedrine as a “metabolism booster”). This acquaintance told me that “skinny fat” was when someone looked skinny, but was just not fit and healthy.

I put this concept on the back burner for a while for it to simmer down. And when I say “for a while” I mean six months. And when I say “simmer down”, I mean get to the point mentally where I don’t want to go running down the street screaming obscenities and shooting lasers out of my eyes like Cyclops without his visor.

I thought I had actually pushed skinny fat so far down into the back of my mind that I had forgotten it, until I ran across this interview with skier Lindsey Vonn:

“I’ve been to a lot of photo shoots and I just see these girls that are really thin, they’re not healthy. They don’t work out … It’s difficult to be at events with a room full of women who weigh half as much as you do. That’s always tough. I don’t envy them, though, because so many of them are skinny-fat. They have more cellulite than most people.”

“It may look good in a magazine, but it’s not healthy, and girls who are that skinny are actually fat. You can see the cellulite on their legs and on their butts. You know I have cellulite too but I go to the gym and I try to eat healthy. I think that’s a better model for girls to look up to than skinny people who need to eat more.”

First of all, c’mon, Lindsey! Every body’s got its own thing going on. Athletic, thin, fat, whatever — the commentary is not helpful. Aside from the clearly polarizing message, what the hell is this? Is skinny fat a legit thing?

GOOGLE-FU!

Apparently, skinny fat is another term for Metabolically Obese Normal Weight (MONW), which is confusing to me. Apparently, someone who is “metabolically obese” is someone who is “hyperinsulinemic, insulin-resistant, and predisposed to type 2 diabetes, hypertriglyceridemia, and premature coronary heart disease” just like many obese people are. What grinds my gears, specifically, is that not all obese people experience such symptoms.  IN FACT, research is now showing that 1 in 4 THIN people are showing signs of metabolic obese-ness.

So let’s just get this straight… there’s a metabolic problem fat people often suffer from that now lots of skinny people suffer from. And medically, we refer to the problem with the label “obese” even though it isn’t an obesity-specific problem. And colloquially, we refer to it as “skinny fat”, because the “fat” modifier tells the lay-person that it isn’t “regular” skinny… it’s “bad” skinny.

SKINNY FAT!!!

Cellulite: Another Way to Make Us Hate Ourselves

Just one of many cellulite "cures." The name implies that not only will your unsightly dimples disappear, but you'll also magically become skinny if you rub this cream on your fat.

Let’s talk about cellulite. It’s like, totally the worst, right? If you have it, you are clearly failing at life. I mean, why else would people market expensive cellulite-removing treatments? It couldn’t possibly have anything at all to do with making money. Right?

We are taught from childhood that as women, our worth is defined by how closely we match the perfect standards of beauty portrayed in the media. We are taught that aging will ruin us (if I see one more product that claims “age-defying” properties, I’m going to scream), that our wardrobe defines us, and that being overweight is a character flaw. And nothing screams, “You’re a huge, ugly fatty!” like cellulite.

Scarlett Johansson, one of the sexual and beauty icons of our time, an undeniably thin woman, has cellulite. In photo shoots, it's airbrushed out.

Scarlett Johansson, just one of many huge, ugly fatties.

Except that skinny women have it. Models have it. Athletes have it. WebMD says that it “is nothing more than normal fat beneath the skin.” It exists in over 85% of post-pubescent women, and it wasn’t considered unsightly or problematic until Vogue called it a skin disease in 1968. Scarlett Johansson, one of the sexual and beauty icons of our time, an undeniably thin woman, has cellulite. In photo shoots, it’s airbrushed out.

I have heard women bemoan the fact that they’ve been trying to get rid of their cellulite since they were teenagers. Which makes sense given that it is a secondary sex characteristic that develops along with breasts and body hair at puberty. And since it’s not a disease, there is no cure. Profit-hungry people will happily sell you expensive snake oil to help you rid yourself of your natural and healthy shape, but there is little evidence that the creams and treatments have any lasting effect – if they have any effect at all.

Just one of many cellulite "cures." The name implies that not only will your unsightly dimples disappear, but you'll also magically become skinny if you rub this cream on your fat.

Just one of many cellulite “cures.” The name implies that not only will your unsightly dimples disappear, but you’ll also magically become skinny if you rub this cream on your fat.

It’s an ongoing process, but I’m starting to learn to appreciate my cellulite. Mostly, I’m angry at the beauty industry. I’m pissed off that I have been deceived by unscrupulous people who don’t care how many women they harm in order to make more money. And I am livid that women have been trained to see their healthy bodies as monstrosities.

Body Competition as Anti-feminism: A Pinterest Round-up

A reader recently suggested a topic for The Fat Word, namely the incessant fat-shame/thin-shame nastiness that is flung back and forth in the name of “self-love”. Now, while I do not consider “fat shaming” and “thin (fit) shaming” to be truly comparable (a topic for a future lengthy article in the works), I do think the struggle represents something else even more unsettling. Not only are we allowing societal norms to dictate how we feel about ourselves, we are allowing a gut, reactionary response drive us away from fellowship with other women. Somehow, body empowerment has become a form of anti-feminism.

I myself have a bit of a Pinterest addiction. I use it for many diversions, including fatshion/style, home decor ideas, and as a depository of fatbulousness in the form of The Fat Word pin board. I have created a new board in search of the sort of divisive body “positive” propaganda that undermines the progress of women in society. I would like to share a few particularly aggravating images, along with a brief discussion.

This is probably one of the more aggressive pins I have found on the “fit” side of the fence. The pin reads:

“Fuck yeah, I’ll show off the body I slaved for. You can cry all day about my so-called arrogance, but if you worked as hard as I did for what I have, you would be flaunting it to (sic). Enjoy your jealousy. I’ll enjoy looking good.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Come on, girl! I am proud of you! You clearly work hard to maintain a certain body type. Hard work is commendable, and feeling proud about your hard work is natural. You have obviously received some degree of flack for your body, but do you really think jealousy is the problem? Maybe your “jealous” critics simply feel bad about themselves because of unrealistic societal expectations? Oh perhaps, they feel bad because they are being aggressively told that they AREN’T working hard, and that this perceived lack of effort makes them inferior in some way.

As you can see, us chubby chicks are equally responsible for this divisiveness. This pin reads:

“Thigh gaps are so last year.”

Um, what? Firstly, I am pretty sure the lack or increase of thigh gap-iness isn’t something in the Sportsbook at Ceasar’s. It’s not something that varies year-to-year, and certainly isn’t a fashion trend. Thigh gaps, or a lack thereof, are physiological. They aren’t something invented by the Fashion Industrial Complex, and they definitely aren’t something you can pick up at Macy’s. The insinuation here is that a certain physiological feature makes one more or less fashionable. This alienates thin women, rather than unites all women together against the common cause of fashion bias.

Here we have a double-whammy (really, it’s more like an exponential whammy) of two different “Love Your Body” campaigns smooshed into a single pin. If that isn’t direct comparison, I am not sure what is. First of all, my body doesn’t look particularly like the body of any of these women, so there is some alienation right there. Each ad by itself is harmful because it proclaims what “real” beauty is. The mad-pinner that mashed them together is the real trouble-maker, however. Together, these images create the message that there are super-thin women, and “regular” women, with “regular” women being more deserving of respect and admiration. The point of this pin is to make the viewer of the pin look at one graphic or the other and say, “Ew”.

Here is another highly aggressive pin. The stance is aggressive. The facial expression is aggressive. What it literally says is:

“Fat? No, I prefer too wide for your narrow mind.”

This pin does not say, “Cross this bridge with me.” Instead, it seems to say, “Get off my fucking bridge because I am hot and you can’t handle it.” This pin is divisive because it tells people their perceptions are not only incorrect, but that they are, in fact, stupid. As a hypothetical thin woman, am I supposed to feel unity with this pinner? Shouldn’t it be women vs societal oppression rather than aggressive, militant fatty versus poor, thin victim?

Okay, y’all… one more and I promise the torture will stop.

I think this is technically a “thinspiration” pin, to help motivate the pinner to work out and lose weight. It reads:

“Make them regret the day they dared call you fat.”

There are so many layers of malcontent discord-mongering in this one pin, I feel like I need a toothpick to hold it all together. First of all, who is “them” in this scenario? A particular person? Ex-lover? High school bully? Or is it society in general? If it is the latter, then doesn’t “them” encompass everyone viewing the pin with the exception of the original pinner? Secondly, I am really fixating on the phrase “make them regret”, as it implies there will be some sort of dire consequence exacted by the pinner against all who implied her fatness, because “fat” is a terrible, shaming insult. This pin suggests that being called fat is something so egregious that a POUND OF FLESH SHALL BE EXACTED FOR EVERY POUND OF FLESH IMPLIED. Again, a wedge is being driven between women of different body types under the guise of “fitness”.

If we really want to make progress in the arena of body positivity, we need to stop driving a wedge between ourselves. This isn’t just an issue of body type, it’s a fundamental feminist issue. We shouldn’t be on Team Fit, Team Thin, Team Curvy, or Team Fat. We should be on Team Woman, working together towards goals that will benefit ALL women, not just a small subset. Petty infighting will only further the agendas of others who look to oppress women and keep us feeling bad about ourselves.