Your Money and My Fat Ass

“As long as my insurance and tax dollars continue to pay for there [sic] diabetes, and heart disease, I’ll continue to feel justified in telling every overweight person I see that they need to lose weight.  Shame is powerful and there [sic] fat is costing me real money”

So I read when I broke the cardinal rule of being fat on the internet and read the comments.

First of all, when someone brings this up I typically demand to see their list of things that their tax dollars pay for broken down into things that they want to pay for and things that they don’t.  Nobody has ever produced such a list – that’s because this really doesn’t have anything to do with their tax dollars, it’s simply a convenient way to couch their size bigotry.   Nevertheless, I hear this argument a lot and I think that today is the day to break it down.

It is based first and foremost on the assumption that fat people are unhealthy and going to get diabetes and/or heart disease and that losing weight is possible for most people and will make fat people healthier.  I’m going to look at this two ways.  First the reality/truth, and then if those assumptions were true:

Reality:

We’ve already talked about the “Diabesity” myth.  Also, independent research has shown that the money argument is seriously overblown.  The truth is, you cannot tell how healthy a person is by looking at them, you can only tell what size they are.  There is no such thing as a healthy weight. There are healthy fat people and unhealthy thin people. There are physically active fat people and sedentary thin people. There are fat people who eat a “well balanced diet” (which is to say a diet of which concern trolls would approve) and thin people who eat fast food almost exclusively.  I think almost everyone has a thin friend who eats a ton of crappy food and stays thin, and typically people accept that.  But let a person eat well and still be fat and, in my experience, those same people call you a liar.  Regardless, all of these choices are the right of the person making them, everyone gets to choose how highly they prioritize their health and the path that they choose to get there.   But I digress.

Health is complicated, multidimensional, and not entirely within our control.

But let’s pretend that the assumption is true.

In that case:  I’m fat, so I’m unhealthy. But…

I pay taxes too, and my taxes go to pay for the war on obesity – I’m actually funding a war waged against me by my government. Meanwhile, prior to the Affordable Care Act I had been without insurance for 14 years because insurers were allowed to exclude me based entirely on my BMI.

I’ve never even smoked a cigarette.  And yet my tax dollars go to all the people who get health problems related to smoking.

I don’t drink.  I’ve never even been drunk. And yet my tax dollars pay for cirrhosis, drunk driving accidents and  alcohol poising.

I’ve never done drugs.  And yet my tax dollars pay for people whose lives and bodies fall apart due to drug abuse.

I look both ways before I cross the street.  And yet I have to pay for people who get run over after failing to do so.

I don’t mountain climb, but my tax dollars pay for the healthcare costs of people whose attempts to do so are unsuccessful.

And well they should, because that’s how civilized societies behave. I would rather my tax dollars pay for antibiotics to cure bronchitis than pay for hospitalization for pneumonia.  And I’d rather my tax dollars pay for hospitalization for pneumonia than pay for a public funeral because someone didn’t have access to healthcare. I think that a society with access to healthcare is better from every possible angle and so I’m interested in removing barriers to healthcare, not justifying them with an argument about my tax dollars.

I’ve also noticed that people who want to police my “health” (and by health I actually mean body size which is not the same thing) are never that excited to have other people police their health.  Should vegans only have to pay for the healthcare of other vegans if they believe that’s the healthiest lifestyle?  Should Christian Scientists taxes not have to pay for any healthcare at all?  Since I think that people who make this argument are bullies should I not have to pay for their healthcare since I don’t like bullies?

Marathoners drop dead of heart attacks.  People who do everything “right” die of diseases to which they were genetically predisposed. Other people live their lives in ways with which we disagree, we live our lives in ways with which other people disagree, and all this “won’t somebody think of my tax dollars” hand wringing is nothing but thinly veiled fat bigotry.

Bottom line:

Even if you could prove that being fat makes me unhealthy (which you can’t). And even if you had a method that was scientifically proven to lead to successful long term weight loss  (which you don’t). And even if there was proof that losing weight would make me healthier (which there isn’t). And even if you were going to go around yelling at smokers, drinkers, jay walkers, and thin people who don’t get exercise (which you aren’t) this slope is still too slippery.  And that doesn’t take into account the reality that your premise is completely flawed, your assumptions are faulty, and your method of shaming people is utterly ineffective since you can’t make someone hate themselves healthy.

So I think it would be dandy if they would just shut up.

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Published in: on April 12, 2011 at 7:31 am  Comments (52)  

52 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Amen, sister! Amen!

    xo Susie

  2. I wonder how much of the perceived unhealthiness is due to dieting? Anyone with half a brain can see how harmful the majority of diets are.

    • Fatphobes don’t take repeated dieting as a major factor that can lead to future health problems. The only equation they see is fat person + eating too much + not exercising = diabetes, heart disease & higher healthcare costs. It would be interesting to see how many fat people have repeatedly dieted and how many different diets they were on. There’s also WLS, which has proven extremely problematic or even deadly for many patients whose bodies didn’t respond well to the surgery, and as we know, that doesn’t come cheap.

      • I think that studies that look into the harm of dieting would be really helpful. Wondering where the funding would come from :)

        ~Ragen

      • I think also what is also overlooked is the mental health burden of a weight obsessed culture.

    • That’s a really good question. How does that body react to periodic starvation (often accompanied by over activity). Me thinks it’s not good…

  3. Here’s another one:

    I have good genes. I had the good sense to choose genetically pure parents before I was born, so if you didn’t do that, you deserve to die.

    Oh wait, we all know high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. run in families not because they’re genetic, oh no, can’t use that. It’s because they mysteriously pass on their naughty lifestyles…even the thin ones,

    • That’s awesome and so true. I have a friend who is tiny (less than 100 pounds) and her cholesterol is over 300. Maybe we should just stone her or something…clearly she’s using an invisibility cloak to hide all that fat.

      ~Ragen

      • “she’s using an invisibility cloak to hide all that fat” FTW!!!

        • I suppose it’s possible that I should lay off the Harry Potter movies :)

          ~Ragen

        • I suppose it’s possible that I should lay off the Harry Potter movies :)

          ~Ragen

      • Same here! I have a male friend who drinks alcohol heavily and eats well known unhealthy foods (trans fats, immense amounts of fast food, etc.) but because he weighs about 110 lbs, society assumes he’s healthy and no one says a word to him when he decides that cheese fries and a jack & coke make a good breakfast! We compared blood work results and despite the fact that I outweigh him by 170lbs I am FAR healthier than he is! My cholesterol is great, my blood pressure is fantastic, all my other #s were awesome. When is society gonna get it?!?! THIN DOES NOT EQUAL HEALTHY!!!

    • I think another article I recently read relates well to this debate. The narrowing of the parameters of health. Which means more and more healthy people, become unhealthy overnight. Thanks to big pharma. http://j.mp/eCn2Xc

  4. Just stumbled onto your site today and think you’re fab! Thank you for writing something like this. My mom’s husband is both insulin dependent diabetic and very active and healthy and has never been overweight. My mom (who is one of those naturally tiny people) and my brother (who has a job that requires a good deal of physical exertion) both have genetic high cholesterol. I’m bigger than my mom, but mine is fine. We all eat a nutritious and balanced diet. My best friend is a very thin person who alternates between forgetting to eat, ramen, and gummi-bears. She has digestive problems and genetically bad kidneys. Thank you for pointing out that all of this can exist within healthy and unhealthy (fat or thin) lifestyles.
    P.S. My dad smokes and I yell at him about it all the time, not because I wouldn’t pay the earth to have him treated for something, but because it’s bad for him.

  5. As long as my tax dollars pay for schools, I’m going to keep telling people who can’t spell that they need to learn to spell correctly. Shame is powerful and they should be ashamed of their poor spelling and grammar.

    You say you have a learning disability? That’s just an excuse; you’re just lazy. You’re perfectly intelligent even though you haven’t learned how to spell? Liar!

    Sorry if my sarcasm is harsh. I’ve been called a grammar nazi, but I try to keep my rage in check. I’ve known some perfectly wonderful people who couldn’t spell.

  6. HA HA HA HA! Great post! The closing lines are killer. I wish I knew how to capture that quote. Rock on!

  7. Yeah we keep hearing this crap more and more. All these outraged fatphobes seem to convieniently forget that there is virtually no health problem suffered by fat people which is not also suffered by thin people. And of course there are people who fit anyone’s definition of “healthy lifestyle” yet die prematurely. You simply can’t know for sure what health issues are caused by lifestyle. My health is not perfect, but I don’t have any more issues than my thinner coworkers. And I definitely take exception to the notion that thin people everywhere are paying my medical costs. Not when I’m paying for their costs right back! Actually the whole premise appears to be false. I recently read a great post on this very subject that demonstrates how it’s really the “healthy” people that cost so much- check out this link,it’s very thought-provoking and funny as well. http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2010/02/18/meme-roth-a-burden-on-us-all/

  8. Amen!! And when did we get so pompous in this country that we judge every little thing any person does – what they eat, when they eat, if they exercise, if they smoke, if they drink. We are so busy passing judgement on individuals that we are in danger of becoming a society of robots – everybody looking alike. I keep thinking of that old movie, The Stepford Wives! I tell my grandchildren that people come in all sizes and shapes, and that’s okay. Heaven Help Us!

  9. Bravo! :)

  10. I find it hilarious. I have health insurance. I’m paying my own way. Heck, most of the time I go to the doctor it’s because the sidewalks are at war with me and randomly trip me up and make sure I’m injured before calmly returning to a flat concrete space. Thankfully my doctor knows the difference between fat and other health issues and he deals with the health issues. None of my doctors have ever told me to go on a diet except some moronic shrink who said if I was thin I’d be happy (never mind I told him how “happy” my mom was being anorexic and bulimic or that I wasn’t happy when I was thin). My GP told me to tell him “he is supposed to watch your mental health. I’LL worry about your physical health.”
    I’m also paying for other peoples’ kids and paying into that tax system like everyone else. That’s called civic duty…something capitalists seem to forget about.

  11. Say it, sister! I wish people would realize the things you say in here! I am so sick of people seeing me as fat and deciding I must be a pig who never works out when in fact I eat well and enjoy doing strenuous workouts 5 days a week! It makes me sick!

  12. VERY well said!

  13. i’d like to know, in dollars, how much “real money” this person is paying. like really, how much, exactly?? and i didn’t realize so much of my tax dollars went to fat people…who knew??

    thank you for always reitturating health as the goal…not weight.

    • oops…reiterating.

  14. Another point of discussion:”shame is powerful and there(sic) fat is costing me real money.” Shame is powerful all right. I suffer from shame frequently (sometimes about my weight but more often other things about myself), and I can tell you that shame very rarely solves anything. Shame does not often motivate, instead it crushes spirits. When I am drowning in shame, it drives me to retreat from the world and saps my motivation; it actually inhibits my ability to solve the problem. The power of shame is the power to crush and destroy, not the power to lift up and motivate. If shame were the solution to obesity, there would be far fewer fat people.

    • “Shame is powerful.” That’s apparently Georgia’s new state motto.

  15. Amen to that! Very well put!

  16. What a wonderful post. I tend to lurk here, but in my yoga class today my teacher said something that related directly to this post. She said our goal for yoga is health and that it is wrong to think that thin=health. She then made a rather lengthy and detailed point about how many of the thin people she has worked with were terribly unhealthy. It made me happy to hear this, especially coming from a yoga teacher who would not be considered “plus sized.”.

    While I personally have never felt openly discriminated against in yoga because of my size (5’4 hovering around 200 lbs) because it is obvious that I can do the poses as well as a thinner person, many fat people don’t want to try it because they look at magazines with thin models and tiny clothes and think that yoga is only for skinny people, which it is not. I don’t know how many times a person with an “ideal” body type has been unable to touch their toes, but over on the next mat, there I am folded over with my palms flat on the floor! Oh no, nothing worse than a fatty showing you up!

    So, the message that thin is not exactly the epitome of health is getting put out there, but there is quite a ways to go. Keep up the good work, Ragen. Namaste!

    • I just wanted to give a shout out to my yoga teacher who IS a fat person. She is so inspiring and she looks nothing like those models in yoga magazines.

  17. There’s also the point some have already touched on and that is haters control and have totally interfered with fat people’s lives at every stage.

    Led by those we trusted completely not to have any reason to lie to us about things like dieting and on their repeated insistence we continue behaviours that turned out to be costly and self destructive and we still would be if we hadn’t decided enough was enough.

    Don’t even talk of all the slimmer people who’ve developed numerous disorders due to fear of fat being hyped to histeric proportions.

    They are totally implicated in any effects from this whether for good or ill.

    If they are now saying this is not very good or that its too expensive then that is as good as saying they don’t believe in their own agenda.

    If you believe in something pay for it, if you don’t wish to pay, you do not believe in it and that is the end of that.

    More than this though it is we who have and are paying the greatest price, if anything society owes us.

    I personally have lost palpably by following hateful ‘advice’ credulously. It has drained and diverted my energies, given me an eating disorder I had to deal with and impinged significantly on my mental health, for significant periods of my life. I’m sure along with many I wonder how I survived some of it.

    I’m prepared to put that down (mostly) to experience but I would advise haters of any stripe not to push this one or a full bill including compensation will be coming their way.

  18. I don’t have time to ask Uncle Google for the details but I remember that in the 90s there were several economic studies that concluded that over an entire lifetime smokers actually had less health care costs because they, on average, have a shorter life expectancy. Health insurance companies charge them higher premiums because in the short term they cost a lot and the policy under writer bears that cost. But when people make arguments like “you should stop smoking because you are costing me money” they are just wrong. They are actually saving the misguided judgmentalists money.

    I wonder if anyone has done similar studies regarding the VFHT of being overweight. If being fat really does make people diseased and die sooner, then really being fat saves the tax paying society money.

    • In the post I linked to earlier, the author actually goes over some of the math, and it would appear that smokers do indeed cost less over the long term. Consider 1)smokers pay cigarette taxes. Someone who smokes a pack and a half a day for 40 years will pay about $50,000, divided between state and federal govt.2)if that smoker then dies ten years earlier than the average non-smoker, he collects $140,000 LESS in social security payments than the nonsmoker. 3)Even if that smoker is treated for lung cancer on Medicare’s dime, at a cost of $40,000,he still saves taxpayers $122,000. The reverse is true if you’re looking at some health nut who lives ten years longer than average. Of course no matter how skinny and healthy you are, you will still eventually die(GASP!)and will likely rack up big medicare bills on the way out. Even if they just die in their sleep, the long-lived health nut will cost $140,000 MORE than average,in social security payments. And who pays social security? taxpayers of course. So if fat people are really DEATHFAT and die much younger than all those healthy skinny people, we’re actually saving them money. It should also be mentioned that the top 10% of income earners pay 55% of federal taxes, top 20% pay 70% of all taxes. So basically, if you’re not in the top 10% or so, you’re not likely paying for anyone else. Things that make you go Hmmmmm…

  19. Oh wow! as a smoker, i will be using that line! Thank you! I had not heard that one. and it makes sense. actually the way folks carry on about weight and smoking, we need to start demanding that prospective parents have dna testing so that they only produce perfect human specimans, right? the whole thing is way way out of control!! common sense must return to our society somehow!

  20. This really brightened up my day. Especially since we had a debate in my class in regards to Texas Legislation raising taxes on soda. One team was doing the whole “obesity epidemic! Obese people need to pay up or stick to drinking water.” rhetoric.

    When one girl of that team actually said “we need to battle the bulge in any way possible!” I was just about close to walking out.

    I’m going to print this off and use it for the next class debate that calls for it. Will that be alright?

    • Hi Alison, I’m sorry that you had to deal with that in class. Please feel free to use this in any way that it is helpful.

      Thanks!

      ~Ragen

  21. I freaking love you, Ragen. What a great point you made. And those people can kiss our fat asses – if they could keep up with us.

  22. There are six insulin dependent diabetics on the floor where I’m doing my clinicals for nursing. Only one–count her, one–is fat. There are two thin ones, and the others are average weight. Soooo….maybe being fat doesn’t have anything much to do with diabetes? In other words, maybe “diabesity” is a….gasp…myth!

    • Thanks for bringing this up. I actually blogged about this before (http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/the-truth-about-diabesity/) but it’s so much better to hear it from someone who is in the industry. Thanks!

      ~Ragen

      • I also did quite a bit of research at uni for insulin resistence/metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes. What was disturbing was that in the 60’s when this term was first coined to describe a clustering of symptoms, weight was excluded because the syndrome was found in people of all sizes! I highlighted this in my research to show how most medico’s are ill informed about pre-diabetes which may mean they are only targeting those who are visually overwieght and could exclude many others who might make better lifestyle choices if they had that information.

  23. Brilliant post!

    • Thanks! Glad that you liked it :)

      ~Ragen

  24. I’m a Type 1 diabetic. Which is NOT the result of obesity, rather it’s an autoimmune disease that I’ve lived with for 25 of my almost 30 years. However I’m also overweight and if you look at pictures of my biological family (I’m also adopted), it’s easy to see that all the people in the family are overweight. Either side I’m hit with it. I can’t get insurance no matter what, unless I go in under a group policy. It isn’t fair to punish people who have no control over their health. Being healthy is something everyone should strive for, but weight alone (or an auto immune diseases) is not a reason to deny health coverage.
    Thanks for this great post.

  25. If you are so confident in being a “healthy overweight” person why do you justify it so badly?

    • I think you mean “justify it so much” as opposed to “justify it so poorly” which is how your comment reads. Your questionable grammar aside, I’m not justifying anything – we aren’t in a discussion and I’m not interested in what you think of me. The diet industry in this country makes sixty billion dollars a year trying to make people feel horrible about themselves, conflating health and thinness and selling a solution with a less than 5% success rate. I use my little corner of the web to tell my story as a way to demonstrate an option where we can pursue health rather than thinness, and love ourselves and our bodies.

      ~Ragen

  26. I am also going to add in people who indulge in risk taking activities. You could include those that decide to climb everest, sail solo around the world, mountain biking, contact and motor sports etc etc. It is a slippery slope and in one way or another to begin this pathetic argument. By default this argument then requires the inclusion of any individual or group that through their reckless choices may result in a financial burden to the taxpaying community who need to bail them out.
    And what about people who choose not to take their medications correctly or see alternative therapists…Ok yes I speak crazy talk, must stop now.

  27. What about the mental health care costs that are contributed to by our weight obsessed culture and the increasing number of eating disorders?

    Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder and are EXTREMELY expensive to treat (inpatient treatment can be $1000/day for months). So maybe we should charge a premium on insensitive, fat-phobic, diet-mentality, body-hating comments because those raise our insurance premiums too.

    • Very well said!

      ~Ragen

    • This is an epic comment! I love it!! HAHAH Marisa, you’ve made my day!

  28. This is so wonderful! I got to the last line and laughed so hard it woke my boyfriend AND my cat (who were napping together – so cute!). I love this blog and the way it helps educate the misguided and media brainwashed. Keep rocking, sister! Because we NEED more people like you!

  29. I didn’t know you when you originally posted this. I so appreciate your consistently clear thinking! Thank you!


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