Will Our Fat Catch Up With Us?

This happens to me all the time:  I’m in a conversation with someone who thought it was appropriate to make random guesses about my health based only on my size.  I’ve quelled my rage, given them the benefit of the doubt, and asked permission to suggest another point of view – to which they’ve agreed. I’ve explained that there are other beliefs out there, I’ve explained about the science.  I’ve explained  Health at Every Size.  I’ve explained that there are plenty of people with the same food and lifestyle choices who have vastly different body sizes – both healthy and unhealthy.

Then it happens.  The VFHT:  The Vague Future Health Threat.  Today’s post is an oldie but goodie about what to do with the old “Your fat will catch up with you” cliche.

It sounds like this “Well, you may be healthy now, but it will catch up to you someday”.  They look triumphant because the VFHT is indefensible.

Now instead of completely quelling my rage and giving them the benefit of the doubt, I’m just fighting the urge to set this person on fire. It’s not just the person I’m talking to –  it’s also that this is the the 10 zillionth time I’ve heard this over the past 13years.  I’m still healthy and I’m starting to wonder if I’ll be 102 years old and still pressured to diet so that it doesn’t “catch up to me”.

I find this to be paternalist, ignorant, unsupported, and annoying for the following reasons:

1. Typically this person has already inaccurately assessed my current health (ie “Nobody can be healthy at your weight”) but now they want me to believe that they can accurately predict my future health.

2.  What is this “it” that will catch up to me?  I am not outrunning my fat – it’s all right here – I am not a thin woman covered in fat, I am a fat woman who is also a very fit athlete. So what’s going to catch up with me:  my perfect blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose and triglycerides?  My working out and eating healthy?  My strength, stamina, and flexibility?

3.  Everyone is going to die. There is a 100% chance.  I just happen to live in a culture where it almost doesn’t matter why I die – someone will blame it on my fat.  That doesn’t make it true.  This “it will catch up to you” claim is just not supported by the available science, and of all the people who’ve VFHT’d me in my life, NOT ONE has accepted my invitation to cite his/her research (including doctors).

4.  What if I changed the rules of the lottery so that if  you lost, you had to pay the lottery money as a penalty?  Now not only is your chance of winning infintesimmaly small,  but there is a near 100% chance that you’ll end up with LESS money than you had after you bought the ticket.  Would you play?  Now imagine that this isn’t your money we’re talking about – it’s your long term health.  There is not a single study that proves that any weight loss method is effective long term, but many studies indicate that weight cycling (yo-yo dieting) is less healthy than being obese.  Since diets have such an abysmal failure rate over statistically significant sample sizes, if I go on just 2 diets where I lose weight and gain it back (and I have a very high chance of doing just that both times), then I’ve likely damaged my current good health and endangered my future health on a roll of the dice that was obviously a losing bet from the beginning.  The person VFHTing me is asking that I do something they can’t prove is possible, for a reason they can’t prove is valid, with a very high percentage that I’ll end up less healthy at the end.  I’ll pass.

So what do you say to the VFHT?

Here are some possible responses broken down by category.  (As always, I never try to change someone else’s behavior. I ask for qualification and/or I set my boundaries and consequences. )

Quick and simple:

  • I find it inappropriate for you to make guesses about my future health.
  • My health is not your business.   (If, at this point, they bring up tax payer dollars or health care costs, I ask them for an itemized list of things for which their local, state, and federal taxes pay, or health problems that people develop for which causation cannot be proven;  broken down into categories of things they are happy to pay for, and things they don’t want to pay for. If they don’t happen to have that list on hand, I let them know that I’ll be happy to discuss it once they do.)

More detailed/scientific

  • I don’t know of a single statistically significant, properly controlled scientific study that supports that statement.  So, either cite your research or I’m going to assume that I know more about this than you do and you are just talking without actually knowing what you’re talking about.  (Or “talking out of your ass”, depending on my mood).
  • You have no way to know that.  Cite your research or I will assume that you are putting my health at risk by talking about things for which you have no actual knowledge or qualifications.  That is completely unacceptable to me.

The pointed response (feel free to mix and match questions/responses with boundary statements)

  • How dare you make assumptions about my health?  You may not discuss my health with me.
  • I find you completely unqualified to make that statement. Please keep your opinions about my health to yourself.
  • My health is not your business and you are not allowed to comment on it.
  • You will immediately stop making guesses and assumptions about my future health or this conversation is over.

The snarky responses (I don’t actually recommend these because I prefer some kind of productive conversation if possible, but it’s fun to think about)

  • I had no idea you could predict the future!   Would you mind giving me tomorrow’s lottery numbers?
  • Actually the fat doesn’t have to catch up with me – I keep it right here…unless you saw some back there that I lost?
  • I totally forgot that being thin makes me immortal – thank god you told me or I might have died some day.
  • I meant to tell you that I’m actually worried about you.  I read on a website that we are about to experience another ice age and without fat stores to keep you alive and warm, you’re absolutely going to freeze to death.  I know it sounds crazy but it was on the internet so you know it must be true and I’m going to tell everyone!

Remember that you get to choose how people treat you.  If you decide that they don’t get to VFHT you, then you just need to put that plan into action, set boundaries and consequences and get after it.

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book.  The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!

I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact  so it  is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on August 30, 2012 at 9:45 am  Comments (29)  

29 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Yea Ragan! Thanks again for the suggested responses.

    I recently had a discussion with someone about yo-yo dieting being more detrimental to health than simply remaining overweight. I then used my own history with weight loss/gain… The person insisted that I hadn’t actually yo-yoed because of the length of time over which I made the cycles. She insisted that my experience didn’t equal yo-yoing even though it very much fits the definition. I decided to cut off the conversation right then and there. The person couldn’t grasp what yo-yoing was, I knew I wasn’t going to have a productive conversation.

    • Ragen–geesh, please accept my apology on the misspelling. I got up at 4 AM, I must need more coffee.

  2. But the snarky comments sound so good in my head! ;)

    • Don’t they?? Sometimes I say that stuff under my breath to someone’s retreating back…. ;)

    • Tru dat!

  3. Love. This. I don’t happen to be fat (and I do happen to prioritize healthy habits relatively highly because it makes me feel better). But wouldn’t you know that EVERY TIME I “slip up” (not my words) and eat a cookie in front of certain family members, or say I skipped a workout, they remind me that the “fat genes” (from the other side of the family, of course) will catch up with me. Hope it would be ok to use some of these – with slight modifications – despite the fact that I definitely have some thin privilege. Either way, thanks – this is awesome!

  4. You know, I’m kinda glad this topic came up…
    I had my first “hater” the other day…I know I need to catch up right?
    Anyway, while I was in a rehearsal for an upcoming performance with my artistic Director, this random gal is looking in the boutique and asks if she can take a look at the studio space, the owner knows we are working and says yes but that there is a private session going on and to be respectful.

    So when I stop and am ready to get my critique form my director, she decides to jump in.
    Now I am already frustrated because I am having a hard time on this particular day to get into the appropriate head space, and my mind and body are NOT connected as they should be for the piece we are working on, we have already spent longer on it then we wanted and I am JUST getting to the point where there is a connection, and then this woman opens her moth.

    Talk about wanting to set someone on fire…I think everyone in the STUDIO did.

    She first goes to say that the dance was pretty BUT 9it always has a butt) She asks why I am wearing my WORK OUT PANTS higher up then on my hips. I answer her, and she gets a confused look and starts talking about the fact that I had a short torso and this that and the other and her best friend’s friend was a stripper in high school and she watched her make clothes for said stripper and that I should wear some kind of corsette thing attached to my pants so that the bra is supported by the pants and not the bra straps and such….blah blah blah

    This is a doozy..

    She has NO clue about what style of dance I am doing..at all.
    She has no clue about my piece I am working on
    I am in WORK OUT CLOTHES
    She has NO inclination what so ever what KIND of costume goes with this style OR what costuming I have.

    She would NOT let it go…she said if she didn’t help people her dog would get struck by lightning or something, and that apparently she used to hold her tongue too much in a past life……………..

    Yeah…

    She wasted 30 minuets of our time. Time that I PAID for in the studio, Time from my Artistic Director, everyone’s time, AND she got on the nerves of the Studio owner.
    Yes she gave some critiques NOT about my costume or whatever, but they were irrelevant in that she has NEVER seen me dance before and was talking about how I look in the mirror too much…I was not seeing the mirror I was lost in dance (you know what I mean) And furthermore, I have a TERRIBLE time remembering to look up in general I am WAY too in my head, so it just sounded moronic to everyone in the studio.

    It was insane, and having to get back to work after all of the stupid that poured forth, ranging from how much weight she lots to her insistence on costuming, to how many bloody and broken bones she has gotten. No topic was alike or even relevant to anything or what she had previously said.

    I would call this a fluke..but ugh…It makes me think if one of these self possessed people were to walk up to me and start talking this VFHt I doubt I would or COULD stop myself from giving them a large piece of my mind. And honestly if they are going to be like that and give me a piece of theirs, then they deserve my plus sized piece in return.

    • Dang, Lyssa! What an annoyance!

      I have to say I’m wondering why the artistic director didn’t tell her to butt the hell out of the rehearsal, and why the studio owner allowed her to interrupt your work for so long. Did neither of them make any attempt to remind her that you were in rehearsal?

      In rehearsal, the director is God, and God can throw anyone out. It shouldn’t have been your responsibility to end an unwelcome interruption by a person with absolutely no expertise or understanding of what was going on. Even if one thing she’d said made any sense at all, either the owner or the director ought to have ushered her out well before half an hour had been wasted.

      Humph!

      • I am in *complete* agreement. You should be refunded for whatever time that asshat took up that your director didn’t send her packing. That is not kosher. And even if they didn’t tell her to shut up and leave, I’m curious (and NOT in a snotty way) what made you not look her dead in the eye in one of her pauses and say, “Excuse me. While I appreciate that you have concerns, I’ve paid for this time in the studio, and I need to get back to my work,” and then just turned your back on her.

        • Actually I DID state to her that I practiced HAES and SA and she was like ” Oh I wasn’t commenting on your size or shape” Ahhhh yeah you were, buy telling me how much weight you have lost and gained and talking about my figure and talking about costumes YOU thing would look better on a dance form you know nothing about.

          As for the studio, They DID tell her that we were in a private session, and we DID try and get her to STFU MANY times, so many times. No matter what we said, she would just keep saying the same thing over and over then go on another tangent.
          My Studio is good to me, and they did NOT charge me for the extra time, as well as adding the time that was lost in order to make sure I was given the respect that I deserve.

          It was the craziest thing. I swear I have never had to bite my tongue so hard in my life. She was just all over the place, and the owner had to bite her tongue as well. I Don;t know. We always appreciate new people coming in, especially those that are interested in dance ( as she was apparently an ex ballerina..) Because we are a LEGIT studio and we try and promote the lost art of RESPECT for the dance (belly dance in particular has been sliding downhill lately) So that kinda makes us under the radar at times.
          They didn’t know what she was up to till it was too late, the owner DID say she could look at the dance area (as it;s divided by curtains and such, so there is privacy, but also open-ness to the studio) But she also said that there was a private session going on, and to be respectful.
          Then when I had finished dancing she butted in and we couldn’t get her to leave.
          So we were ALL pissed.
          But thank you I appreciate your words, and I am SURE she knew I was pissed because my body language spoke about a million times louder then any word I could say. But she was deaf to all but her own world, sad as that is…

      • Actually the Artistic Director DID finally say ” we need to get back to work, this is a private session” He was interested in another’s viewpoint from the performance aspect, not the costuming part, and I talked to them about it after. The owner of the studio said she got pissed off by this woman as well, but she was buying things and to be frank, the studio needs as much business as it can get. I wasn’t charged for the time lost, and they added an extra 30 min to my studio time. All in all I think the woman herself was a little off. It was VERY strange, and no matter WHAT we said she would NOT leave! it was the weirdest thing! Me, my Fiance (videotaping the session) The co owner and artistic director and the owner were ALL saying “yes thank you for your input, but we already have xyz whatever” and she STILL wouldn’t shut up or leave.
        After my AD finally called it and said “we have to get back to work” she went and bothered the owner in the Boutique, my fiance heard some of it, and he knew the owner was getting pissed.

        They respected me and my feelings and such. They know me and defended me when she said stuff that was out of line. I was more remarking on the fact that she walked in and started putting her 2c on EVERYTHING not knowing a damned thing about ANYTHING that we were doing. It would be like walking into a 5 star resteraunt and telling the head chef how to make pudding when it’s a steak place or something like that, then comment on how the hats should be made a different way, just random nonsense.

        Thank you for your support. My Studio Treats me well, they have given me a LOT and I have given in return, they wouldn’t let someone go over bored. My AD was just curious for a GP reaction even though this woman was obviously kinda off. And some of the things she said about the performance, or rather certain aspects were things the AD was going to say anyway. But they were just put in different words.

        The whole thing was frustrating, but at the end of the session I WAS able to get back to where I was on my first really big breakthrough on the performance and turn it up a notch. So progress was made. I will be performing said piece soon, so I can post the video to this thread when I get it :)
        Thank you again :)

        • That part is awesome. :) I’m glad they stepped back in.

          • Yeah they wouldn’t have let someone like that mess up my practice or be rude to me. They were trying to get her out for a while. It was extremely frustrating to everyone. BUT That is one of the things I have to face, any performer dancer or otherwise COULD have someone be a total bitch to them before a show and you gotta get back in that mind frame to be able to perform. Remove the static. So at least I was able to get a good final dance through.

        • I’m very glad to hear it, Lyssa. Best of luck with the performance! I’m sure I’m far from the only one eager to see it.

  5. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…anybody who lives long enough is going to get sick. And die. One’s age is a much better predictor of one’s health than one’s size. And one’s age is a much better predictor of one’s “burden” on health care costs than any other factor, including size. It’s not fat that is catching up with anybody…it’s good old Father Time. I don’t understand why some people don’t get this!

    • It’s true. I had a doctor who pointed out to me that not only am I fat, I’m fat with a “family history” of heart disease. I put it in scare quotes because in reality, that “family history” is one grandparent who had a heart attack… at age 87. Even if his weight was one risk factor, you know what I think is another big risk factor? Being fucking eighty-seven.

      I have since responded to subsequent doctors (in hopes of pre-empting their judgment), “And if I die from a heart attack at age 87 — though I have no family history of dying from heart attacks — I will consider that a life well lived.”

  6. Funny how no one ever thinks of the people who seem fit and healthy who suddenly keel over from a heart attack. Even the fastest woman of all time, Flo-Jo, couldn’t avoid death. She died at 38!! Even a high level of activity and a healthy diet isn’t going to make anyone immortal. I’m healthy and I’m fat and I happen to live with thyroid disease. Nothing I do will make that go away. I have some control over how bad the symptoms get (at least I like to think I do) but I can’t make it go away. Even if I shrink to a size 2, I’ll still have thyroid disease. There are an unlimited number of diseases and conditions that can strike and they don’t care how trim, fit or healthy you are. They’ll get you anyway. Ya know, or I could diet my ass off to a size 2 and then get hit by a bus. VFHT is ridiculous because it means nothing. It is a last resort for haters who they think have a point and want to prove it. Sadly, for them, the closer you examine it the more VFHT falls apart.

    • You know, I am SO going to remember that about Flo-Jo. I had forgotten that she died.

    • Yeah – I always remember Jim Fixx – the “father of the modern running movement”. Died of a heart attack at age 52. Even though he was one of the big health gurus of the 70s/80s. Kind of an interesting discussion on his death here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Fixx

      • I just read the Wikipedia entry. It’s ALWAYS about weight though, doncha know!

        “Granted access to his medical records and autopsy, and after interviewing his friends and family, Cooper concluded that Fixx was genetically predisposed (his father died of a heart attack at age 43 and Fixx himself had a congenitally enlarged heart), and had several lifestyle issues. Fixx was a heavy smoker prior to beginning running at age 36, he had a stressful occupation, he had undergone a second divorce, and his weight before he took up running had ballooned to 220 pounds (100 kg).[6]“

        • Oy, I hate that word,”ballooned” to describe weight gain. It implies someone blowing up like that girl in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” who turned into a bluberry. Not accurate at all, and a very derogatory description.

          • It also tends to imply humor and cartoonish-ness, mocking the issue.

    • I don’t disagree with your argument, but I don’t know if Flo-Jo is a great example to use. Many people believe that her premature death was a result of abusing performance enhancing drugs. Not necessarily a role model for healthy.

      • Maybe she wasn’t that healthy, but you can’t deny that she was active and thin. In fact, it may even enhance the point that just being/getting thin isn’t sufficient to be healthy, despite what a lot of people try to say.

      • Flo Jo has a epileptic seizure and a congenital brain defect that made her prone to seizures, which she’d been having for years. So…if she did take steroids that ain’t what killed her.

  7. This reminds me of America the Beautiful 2 and the part where it’s switching between you (Ragen) and whoever that “expert” dude is. He said something about “Obese people may be healthy now but when they’re 60 I guarantee you they will have health problems.” I was like, “Dude, at 60 years old almost any person is likely to be dealing with at least one chronic health problem, such as presbyopia or osteoarthritis.” That’s just called getting older! It has nothing to do with weight. Ugh.

  8. I am certain (and there is little I’m certain of in life!) that one day in the future humankind will look back on the way we treat fat and fat people now and shake it’s collective head… the same way we look back on the idea of using lead for water pipes, or the idea that people were left handed because they were possessed by the devil.

    I like to call this The Vague Future Health Positive :)

  9. There are times when I am so, so tempted to use the Snarky Responses. Usually with my younger sister. But I usually don’t say anything to her, but I do use the more pointed responses with random strangers who feel the need to comment, or classmates asking me if I want to go on a diet they’re going on.


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