Dying of Fatness?

There are some reports coming out now that claim to prove that fat people die sooner.  The studies that I’ve seen are deplorable science and maybe I’ll break that down here eventually but that’s not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to talk about what happens if I’m wrong and they are right.

In science, we always have to leave the possibility that we might be wrong.  There were times in our history when the best of science “proved” that the Earth was flat, that giving pregnant women thalidomide was a good idea, and that small objects fall more slowly than large objects.

Speaking of large objects….  I’ve examined a lot of scientific evidence about weight and health, and I’ve decided that a preponderance of the evidence points to a health at every size approach.  The fact that no study on weight loss has ever been successful, the fact that over 95% of everyone who diets fails, Linda Bacon’s work on Health at Every Size and a host of other information has lead me to what I believe is a sound scientific decision that healthy behaviors are more likely to lead to a healthy body than the lifelong pursuit of a specific height to weight ratio.

But just like I believe all of those people pushing the idea the thin = healthy are wrong, I know that I might be wrong as well.  It’s possible that I would live a longer life if I just kept trying diet after diet in the hopes that I would find one for which I am in the magical 5% who can achieve weight loss.

I also realize that even if I’m not wrong,  thanks to the drivel that passes for science these days, almost everything that you can die from has been correlationally related to being fat at some point, by someone.  (Including swine flu, no seriously…swine flu.)  I’m pretty sure that if I died because a giant flock of geese dropped a piano on my head, the report from the coroner would probably say that I died of fatness.

I digress.  I saw a great interview with Will Smith, of whom I have long been a fan,  in which he said “You have to say…this is what I believe, and I’m willing to die for it.  Period.  It’s that simple… You have to be willing to die for the truth.”  I agree with him 100%.

Here is what I think is true:

  • While many things have been correlated to obesity (with some really questionable science), almost nothing has been successfully causally related (despite numerous attempts)
  • Even if they could prove that obesity caused health problems, there is not a single thing that has been proven to actually succeed at creating long term weight loss (despite even more numerous attempts) so there is no “cure”.
  • The cycle (yo-yo) dieting that occurs when the vast majority of people fail at one diet and then move on to the next is being shown to be more harmful than just being fat
  • Health is not a barometer of worthiness, never guaranteed, and never completely within our control.

But what if I’m wrong?

There is a 100% chance that I’m going to die so I don’t think it’s about that.   I think it’s about how I lived.  I spent almost all of my childhood, all of my teens and a decent chunk of my 20s  buying to the diet industries’ version of truth and I was sick and miserable and still fat.  I know people who are in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and older still living a life of guilt, shame and weight obsession, crippled by their low self-esteem because they choose to buy into the diet culture and believe that they aren’t worthy until they are thin.   I live a life of health and joy, people tell me that I help them, and if I die immediately after pressing “Publish” on this blog, I will be happy with the life I gave.  I seriously doubt that I’m going to die of fatness, but if I’m wrong then my truth is that when I was trying to be thin my life was miserable and I wouldn’t want three or five extra years of that. If I am wrong then I choose to live a joyful, short life. But I think I’ll stick around to see if they are still VFHT-ing me when I’m 102.

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Published in: on December 6, 2010 at 3:32 pm  Comments (17)  

17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I wanted to touch base and let you know that I had a patient the other day who was literally beating herself up to lose weight, she had done EVERYTHING and still no budging. When I asked her if she was happy (as a matter of some diagnosticly sore points) she paused a minute and fessed up that she was not, that she had had to move to a city she didn’t like, was having a hard time making friends and was miserable.

    I wish you could have seen her face when I suggested that given her health history, loosing weight was not her first priority and that she should put her energy into being happy instead of loosing weight. “Do you want to spend the rest of your life fighting a battle you are not going to win?”

    Back in acupuncture school, I had a professor who would tell us that if you can get them pooping and sleeping a lot of other stuff will just fall into place and I think there is a similarity here: If you can get them to pursue healthy behaviors and get them happy a lot of other stuff will fall into place.

    I think it was the first time in her 50 years that anyone told her it was OK to be fat and she practically skipped out of my office. Oh, and she also reads your blog now as do many of my patients who come in for weight loss and have good metabolic health.

    • David, you make a fantastic point! Thank you for sharing that!

    • Dave,

      You are so incredibly awesome and your patients are lucky to have you (and I’m not saying that because you helped me so much, or because you recommend my blog to people, or because you wrote the word “pooping” in my blog).

      We all miss you and we’re looking forward to you coming back to Austin. In the meantime have fun and we’ll all be happy for the people who get to see you while you’re gone.

  2. I loved this blog post! You make so many great points! The Will Smith quote really resonated with me, and I’m glad you shared it.

    • Thanks, glad that you liked it :)

  3. I haven’t read a blog post of yours yet that was anything less than amazing. Keep at it. People need to hear this stuff.

    • Thank you so much! I’m glad that you are liking the blog :)

  4. One of my son’s friends had a terrible kidney infection that took a long time to heal. When she went to the clinic to report that she was still having trouble, the so-called medical expert’s response was “it isn’t your kidneys that are the problem. The problem is that you’re fat.” I think this jerk should have had their license pulled! What kind of an idiot would even think such a thing?

    • Ugh! I’m so sorry your son’s friend had to deal with that. I have tons of kidney issues, but luckily no one has tried to blame my excess weight for it. Even if they did I’d be tempted to whack them over the head with a rolled up magazine.

    • Ugh – I think we should start reporting doctors who do this to their medical associations.

  5. I had a friend, who was very overweight. An easy 150kg. I’m also from Australia, where we have some of the most poisonous spiders in the world.

    My friend died of anaphylaxis after being bitten by a white-tail spider. I am very angry indeed at people who have said in my hearing that he was a heart attack waiting to happen. It took a white-tail spider to make it happen.

    I’m also fat. I’m going to die of something. But it will be after a full and happy life.

    • Yikes – I had not idea about the spiders in Australia. I’m so sorry about your friend, both the passing away and the ensuing disrespect. Here’s to your full and happy life!

  6. You have hit the nail fair and square on the head Ragen. I’m 38 and I’ve been told now for about 27 years that if I don’t lose weight in the next… year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years… that something dreadful is going to happen to me health-wise.

    All that happened was I was miserable. So at 35, I decided to just be happy and take care of myself. I’ve never been healthier, and I’m still fat.

    I have one life to live. I choose to live it to the fullest and best of my ability, and not benchmark it to anyone elses. God will sort the rest out.

    • You are just awesome – you always inspire me and I really appreciate you :)

      • Ragen you don’t know how much that means today. Well, every day, but particularly today. Thank YOU!

  7. This is a beautiful post & one that I really needed today. (Serendipity for me that you linked it from your newest one.) Orienting ourselves toward health & joy, what a revolutionary thought! Thanks as always for your blog.

  8. Dear Ragen, you are cool, cool, cool! Your dance videos make me happy every time I see them. I am a fat singer and choir leader (I am sooo lucky that people seem to accept fat singers…).
    I am 50 and absolutely healthy, hooray! I fully expect to live 99 or more years, or as long as God needs me to do my job here (I lead 5 choirs, and 4 of them are Gospel choirs).
    You are my heroine!


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