You Can Stop Wondering Why I’m Fat

Things you can tell by looking at a fat person

If you want a graph about fat people, I recommend this one.

Reader Michelle forwarded me a ridiculous graph called “This is Why You’re Fat America” listing the calorie counts for some very rich restaurant foods. I seriously doubt that The Cheesecake Factory is the patient zero from which all American fatness stems.  But this highlights a larger issue.

I have noticed that guessing why fat people are fat has become one of our cultures very favorite pastimes.  I don’t know a single fat person who hasn’t had to deal with people guessing why they are fat. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been told to “eat less and exercise more” by people who can’t possible know how much I eat or how much I exercise.  Or we get told that no matter what we’re doing our bodies make it completely obvious that we must not be doing it right.  We  are not doing enough cardio, we are doing too much cardio, we need to cut down on this food or eat more of that food or natures newest miracle berry blah blah blah.

This goes really bad because we’ve devolved so far from anything resembling scientific method and true healthcare when it comes to fat people that any theory that anybody comes up with becomes instantly actionable.  The mayor of New York thinks that banning extra large sodas will make people less fat, no need for any kind of evidence - just do it.  Michelle Obama wants to make her time as First Lady about focusing on the weight of children even though there are no interventions proven to lead to long-term weight loss in kids? No problem, take your best guess and turn kids into lab rats for 8 years.

I’m not going to go into explanations about why people are a lot of different sizes for a lot for different reasons, nor am I going to go into the fact that after over 50 years of intense study there is not a single intervention that has been shown to lead to long term weight loss, or that there is no study that shows that such weight loss would lead to greater health.  What I’m going to say is that this treatment of fat people is ridiculous.   It’s bad enough when people use their very limited time on Earth to make random guesses about why fat people are fat, but it’s worse when it comes to people who think that this constitutes some kind of evidence-based health intervention.    The way that you can identify an evidence-based health intervention is that it is based on evidence, and has something to do with health.  It is not based on somebody’s random guess about why people’s bodies are a certain size and how that size might be changed.

If I want someone’s rectal-pull-generated guess about why I’m fat, they will be among the very first to know.   Otherwise,  people are allowed to spend as much of their (possibly too much) free time wondering why I look like this, but I don’t give a flying frick. And I will continue to insist that my rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness include the right to exist, in a fat body, without being made the subject of a war on people who look like me, which includes a massive society wide game of “why is she fat” and “how can we change her.”

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Published in: on January 18, 2013 at 10:09 am  Comments (50)  

50 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ragen, I simply have to say that I love and adore you for that last paragraph! Thank you for this. This was a kicka$$ way to start my day. :D

  2. Love it, Ragen. lol

  3. Ugh, this reminds me of my last doctor’s visit (why do I even bother trying new ones? I think I do my do diligence and then–). The gal started lecturing me about my diet and exercise (you know, eat less, exercise more) BEFORE she’d asked me what my diet and exercise is. I finally got so annoyed I blurted out that I didn’t sit around eating cheeseburgers all day like she seemed to be insinuating at which point she DID ask me what my diet was like. Her response to that? To tell me I didn’t eat ENOUGH. Well which is it lady?!?? I can’t be fat because I simultaneously eat too much and not enough. She then proceeded to tell me I high protein diet would help me lose weight. I told her I’ve been this size since puberty, tried various interventions, and I’m still this size and I’m OK with it. She says, “But if you went on a high protein, low fat diet you WOULD lose weight.” Oh, okie-dokie doctor know-it-all. I’m sure no fat person EVER has tried that particular tactic. We’re all just too stupid to diet properly, huh? Nevermind that I’m 95% sure a high protein diet is specifically for building muscle so if I’m not in an exercise regimen to build muscle, I think a high protein diet is going to lead to more weight gain.

    And Ragen, if Cheesecake Factory is the patient zero of fatness then someone must’ve force fed me in my sleep because I’ve never dined at that establishment.

    • I got that bs from my gyno. I was already having a bad week and guess who got the short stick of my anger. It felt very nice to put her in her place, and I agree with you on the never eaten there part. Since 1) Canada doesn’t have any and 2) I hate cheese cake with a passion!

      • This was a new OGB-YN too– maybe it’s just me, but I’d kind of expect that kind of doctor to be more, rather than less, sensitive. I mean, telling me I need to lose weight while you’re sticking a speculum into me? Pretty much just going to make me hate you.

        • You would expect them to be more sensitive. Mine kept going on and on about the high protein, low carb diet and I just need to exercise more. I told her in a not so nice way that my diet and exercise routine were none of her business when she was checking my cervix, because I am sure my weight won’t have an effect on my results. Unless of course weight now has something to do with having a higher risk of catching a STD…

        • I’m kinda hoping a doctor brings up eat less/exercise more while giving me a pap so I can ask if they found some kind of list inside there that details what I eat.

          • HAHAHAHA, can I steal that? It’s brilliant. xD

            • By all means!

        • Any doc who tried to give me that lecture while sticking a speculum in me would get a boot to the head. :P Whoopsie!

      • I’ll just have to eat your portion, then. I love cheese cake. ;-)
        Sometimes it does feel great to let a sanctimonious asshat have what’s coming to them!

    • Yeah, all those “This Is Why You’re Fat” things are about foods I’ve never eaten at restaurants I’ve never been to. It’s like, “Calorie-dense food exists thousands of miles away from you, therefore you must have been teleporting it into your stomach!” Fat people have superpowers now?

      As for why I’m fat: None of their damn business.

      • Fat people have superpowers now?

        If we do, can I trade this superpower (which does not seem to exist for me, given that I still get hungry at relatively average intervals) for a superpower that enables me to always remember where the heck I put my car keys?

    • I had almost that *exact* same conversation with my gyno last year (and it’s almost time to go again, ugh). First I ate too much, then not enough, then the wrong things. I was honest enough to mention a few areas where I wanted to improve my eating habits (mostly avoiding mindless eating when I’m not hungry). I mentioned as an example that I sometimes ate raisins as I was cooking dinner because they were sitting on the counter and not because I wanted them, and she told me I shouldn’t be eating raisins at all. Raisins! The mind boggles.

      And in talking to several friends about this, I’m coming to the conclusion that gynos are sometimes the *least* sensitive about weight. What’s funny about my experience with my gyno is that I saw a number of other doctors last year about problems that are commonly associated with weight (knee problems, sleep apnea), and those doctors didn’t say anything about my needing to lose weight. If weight came up at all (and I only recall it being mentioned once), it was mentioned as something that helps some patients, not something I need to do.

  4. This has simply made my day! I have been having such a bad time this week and this post made it all better :) more so after the comment I got last night.

  5. You know, I don’t think the Cheesecake Factory has much to do with my glorious globularity, either. Perhaps that’s because (a) I’ve only eaten there twice, (b) I was already very fat the first time I went there, (c) I actually did lose a bit of weight between those two visits, and (d) I took home a doggie bag both times and only got a slice of cheesecake once.

    Other than that, though, it’s a much, much better theory than all the other theories I’ve had people spout at me about why I’m so fat. Funny thing, not one of them asked me a single question about my habits, my health, or my family background before coming up with a theory that simply must be true and cannot possibly be mistaken because I was apparently talking to the one and only person in the entire universe (all sixty-five bazillion times!) who truly understood the causes of fat.

    I don’t need crackpot theories. I don’t need the burning question (to others, it would seem) of why I am fat answered. I don’t even need the single miracle intervention that is guaranteed to make me thin and beautiful and healthy (because clearly being thin makes one those things automatically and not being thin bars me from either for all eternity).

    What I need is to be treated like a person simply because I am one.

    You know, like everyone else on the planet needs to be treated like a person simply because they’re people, too.

  6. I love the pictures of food. I don’t see them as being that big on calories. Most of those meals wouldn’t even be a normal days worth of calories. A few are a little more, but four to five hours of exercise would burn more than the excess.

    I was stressed out in September and realized I was losing weight through not eating and overexercising. I started to track calories to see what I was doing to my body. Heather did a post on calories of Fierce Fatties. I don’t know how to link.

    I haven’t been to cheesecake factory in a long time. Those picture make me want to go again.

  7. Ooh, you touched on a topic that bugs me as well – the First Lady working to prevent childhood obesity. I’d have been absolutely thrilled with the project if it had been labeled as encouraging children to eat healthy food, teaching them to enjoy moving, playing, exercising – and I believe those ARE the routes her initiatives are taking. I just hate the label – fighting childhood obesity. Labels like that lead to everyone playing the blame game – and the ones who suffer are the children.

    • Though I NEVER give South Park credit for being fair to fat people, they had an episode recently at the end of which Michelle Obama says she’s going to fight childhood obesity, and then she literally starts beating the crap out of Cartman. I couldn’t help but think it was an accurate representation of what she’s doing to fat kids’ collective self-esteem…

    • Damn it, why couldn’t she have used her clout to campaign for public playgrounds within walking distance of every home in America? Or restoring recess to public schools? Or a combined Web/TV campaign in which kids demonstrated the outdoor games of kid culture to kids who have lost this culture? Or more abundant, fresher, more nutrient-dense food in the school breakfast and lunch programs? Or free checkups and vaccinations for all kids in the U.S.? You know, things that might actually contribute to children’s health?

      But nooooo, it’s whang on fat kids time again.

  8. I have pretty much decided that the next time someone tells me what I “should” do to be thin (in their mind equalling healthy) is look at them in astonishment and say, “This world has existed for millions of years. Your life is a relative eyeblink compared to that, and you’re spending your precious time worrying about why I’m fat? Maybe you should re-think your priorities.” and walk away.

    • I would LOVE to be able to see their reaction to that response from you. That is a fabulous response and I think I’m going to have to put it in the memory banks.

    • FAB. YEW. LUSS.

  9. Best theory on why I was fat: the kid on my lunch table who, when I started to put on weight at age 8 or so (logically enough, since before I started on packed lunches I’d completely refused to eat the ones the school cooked, so up till then I’d effectively been living on two meals a day) told me in very matter-of-fact, scientific tones, when the other kids were poking fun at me, that maybe it was just the bacteria in the blue cheese in my sandwiches fermenting and making my stomach bigger. (J, I had a massive crush on you and your freckles, and I hope you found a worthy career in biochemistry.) Worst theory: my mother inventing a thyroid problem on the grounds that ‘You’re so fat, and your house is so dirty that you obviously don’t have the energy to clean’. (She also claimed my sister-in-law came up with the idea, which is a load of dingo’s kidneys since my SIL a) wouldn’t be that offensive, and b) knows that if I had what I thought were hypothyroid symptoms – which I never have – I’d already be getting checked out.) The worst thing was, it struck me afterwards that maybe she thought she was being nice by giving me an ‘excuse’. Past offerings were along the lines of ‘bread and potatoes’, ‘cheese’ and ‘reading’.

    The trouble with the question of ‘why?’ is that it’s almost always followed by ‘…and how can we fix this?’ That’s what’s worrying any time anyone mentions the possibility of a ‘fat gene’.

    I’ve never eaten any of the foods on that graph – I’m British, but when I’ve been to the US, everyone seemed to deal with the big portions by doggy-bagging. We only realized after a waitress offered us a box for the two-thirds of a Mexican dinner we couldn’t manage – it’s not such a common thing over here. So I think these wow-gosh! articles at the size of some US foods (and how many of them are offered as sharing dishes? is the other thing) are a bit of a red herring.

    • My understanding is some scientists outright refuse to look for a “gay gene” for the same reason the concept of a “fat gene” is scary– if we find these gene, how long before people start using it as cause to, say, abort your fat, gay baby?

      But READING as the root of obesity? That’s officially the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard all damn year. And so far 2013 isn’t exactly chock-full of reasonableness and sanity.

      • Of course it’s reading. Don’t you know we fat smart chicks never do anything all day but stick our nose in books? Good glory. The ARROGANCE of people who think they know my life better than I do is simply astounding.

        • Don’t you know we fat smart chicks never do anything all day but stick our nose in books?

          I should be so lucky.

          I mean, I wouldn’t like it for all time, but it would be nice for one day.

      • Oh, yes. Because it involved SITTING, and that makes your bum huge, as any fule kno. Kind of reminded me of Stanley Green, the Protein Man of Oxford Street, and his billboard:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Green

      • To Natalie Rose-
        A book called “Body Wars’ stated that 11% of people surveyed would abort a fetus if they knew it was predestined to be fat.
        I find this shocking and sad.
        I cannot have anymore children because of a rare autoimmune disease. (I have one miracle child, but wanted more)
        I would love and cherish an unwanted fat, gay baby.
        Has anyone else read Body Wars? (Oh wait, I just learned that reading is what made me fat!)

        • This is very sad but not surprising. There are some awful, selfish people in the world. Your child is quite lucky to have you for a mother. :-)

    • As someone with thyroid disease (and half my thyroid removed), I try not to bring it up if I can help it. I’ve learned that people either A)Feel sorry for me as in “oh! That is why you’re fat! Poor thing” and then give me a free pass. I’m a “good” fatty because it isn’t my fault. I hate that BS!! Or they B)Are skeptical–as if I created the disease as a way to excuse my size. So, I just now keep it to myself.

      Honestly, I’m not entirely sure my size has anything to do with my thyroid issues. I’m built exactly like my paternal grandmother. And if you look at pictures of her as a young girl she is skinny and as she ages she rounds out into a pear shape. My shape has always matched hers. :)

      • Most of my family has hypothyroidism – my two sisters are fat, my mother is not. My mom had a very hard time getting diagnosed in the first place because she was very, very thin, so I completely understand what you are talking about. I’m about the same size as my sisters, and my thyroid always checks out fine, go figure.

    • Well, yeah, part of the enjoyment of going to lunch or dinner at a mid-priced restaurant (not sure about the fancy ones, I’ve never been) is knowing that you won’t have to cook at least one meal afterward. I like (for example) reheating some of the usual gigantic mound of steak fries in the oven to serve with vegetable soup for lunch at home the next day. Or you can chop up the remains of the stir-fries from the Chinese restaurant, throw them all in an oiled skillet, stir in the leftover rice, adjust with soy sauce or extra garlic, and have dinner in ten minutes. And of course part of the fun of (non-raw) sushi for dinner is sushi for breakfast!

      I didn’t realize this was a USian thing.

      • Yeah, I love leftovers! “they” are also forgetting that most people don’t eat these ginormous meals all the time, and will often eat less afterward. They just think if it’s there, we fatties must be eating it. Just like on all the TLC shows. “30,000 calories a day!” Yeah, right!

  10. “Eat less” is so tedious and unintelligent. If “overeating” is defined as eating an amo8nt of food that sustains a fat body, they by definition all fat people overeat. Which means it is totally meaningless, as it says nothing about what they are eating, why, and how it is affecting them.

  11. While I disagree with their conclusions, I do understand where they’re coming from. Over the last decade or so, we’ve started determining the quality of a restaurant not by the flavor or quality of the food served, but by the size of the portions.

    I call The Cheesecake Factory the Land of Big Food. They can’t serve an appropriate portion of anything to save their lives. Don’t get me wrong – I love their food – but when I order a caesar salad, I don’t expect to get a complete head of lettuce in a bowl.

    • While TCF portions may be too large for most people to finish in one sitting, I disagree with the term “appropriate portion.” Appropriate for who? What does this imply about people who can and do finish whole portions at restaurants?

  12. It does seem reasonable that an otherwise healthy individual should be able to eat a bit less, exercise a bit more and thus lose a bit of weight.

    Instead, your body freaks out “OMG STARVATION” and figures out how to hold onto every single extra calorie as hard as it can.

    Once I figured out the only way I would ever reach a ‘target weight’ was to control ALL of my food and exercise multiple hours every day I gave up on the whole ‘be thin’ process. I’d have to because a fitness trainer or something and I don’t want to do that. Plus, after reading all these various blogs I’ve discovered a lot of people exercise multiple hours a day and are still fat.

    I won’t even get into what food control has done to so many people, none of whom got healthy from it.

    If there is a thin gene or collection of genes, the human race would have to wipe out large amounts of people in order to promote thinness. Since we seem fond of genocide as a group, I can’t get behind that kind of research.

  13. Thank you for this post. I love HAES, but sometimes get frustrated with the good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy that can come out of it – even in the most well-meaning way. (read: how can I advocate HAES when I’m not doing it perfectly, or I have a chronic illness, or I do overeat and not exercise) For me HAES is also about acknowledging that being fat, how you got fat, and whether you are trying to achieve a state of optimum health has nothing to do with whether you are worthy of love and respect as a human being.

  14. It’s unfortunate because I don’t overeat and I do exercise, actually my mom and dad who are both smaller than I get upset when I don’t eat enough and I’m like “:I’m honestly not hungry”. I remember being in the 6th grade and me and a few other classmates were discussing what “they” wanted after we came home from school. And they who were smaller, slimmer children, I remember their names and all, sure it doesn’t matter. They were all slimmer kids, and they were naming McDonalds, taco bell and everything else fast food related. They asked me which one I wanted and I said I really don’t eat that stuff, which I didn’t because my parents often monitored the food we consumed anyway. It wasn’t necessarily for weight purposes “solely” but they had this habit of being afraid of food from diners because of poor conditions, and was scared we’d get ill, because when I was in Elementary or grade school for some, my siblings and I would always get stomach viruses from school. so I never got accustomed to the taste of much fast food as a kid. And one girl asked me “Well if you don’t eat all of that then why are you so big”? I remember it bright as day, I was so embarrassed because the other kids laughed and enjoyed the comment and she asked in a almost angry “You owe me and explanation about your weight” manner, yes a 6th grader.

  15. Everyone these days seems to “know” Why People Are Fat, and How it Can be Solved. It’s always one simple reason that they’ve cherry picked out of the Grand List of Reasons for Fat People and they like to repeat, ad nauseum, that if fat people would all just _____ they’d all be thin. Sorry but even with shifts in either direction, the bell curve will ALWAYS exist with regards to body fatness with some average level and then those below – so called “underweight” and above – so called “overweight”. You can’t solve fat people any more then you can solve tall people.

  16. When all your posts are so kick-box spot on, what can you say about one that’s even better than that? I’d like to see this posted bigger than life on the electronic mural in Times Square. Read it and weep, Mikey.

  17. This post really resonated with me. I am vegan and have been for 15 years or so. (No meat, dairy, eggs). Not as a “diet” but because i like animals. A friend’s dad questioned whether i was truly vegan because i was fat. Messed up.

    • Back in my vegan days, I was a size 10. People doubted it constantly by saying, “Aren’t vegans skinny?” So it’s not just him, and not just you, and not just fat people. Apparently it’s anyone larger than a twig. Growl.

  18. How do these people keep the views that you are a stereotype when they see you doing the things you can do?

    I used to be a horrible stereotyper. Not out loud, just in my head. Strangely, it was a dress up game that changed all that. It was a revalation for me- she was fat, very much so, but she was still beautiful and happy and smily and the person I once was realized that that was just anothe kind of beauty. I was probably nine or ten, and I’m twelve now. After that, I’ve made an effort to be more open-minded, and I think your blog has helped- one of the few health type blogs that doesn’t keep me up at night.

    Thank you for going against society’s stereotype.

    • Dusky, you are a very smart girl. LOTS of us didn’t understand that at that age, me included. I am very happy for you and those you will come in contact with later that you understand that. You’ve just jumped leap years ahead of a lot of your friends. Keep up the AWESOME work!!

  19. I’ve noticed that, despite my BMI being well within the “normal” range, other women feel the need to say “But you could be smaller!!!”. Why in the hell would I want that? I’m actually trying to build muscle, FFS. There is this obsession with being at the absolute bottom of the “acceptable weight” range of the BMI, and I think that pretty much proves that all of this fat-shaming crap has absolutely NOTHING to do with being healthy. It’s all about image, misogyny, classicism, racism, etc.

    • I just call those folks Cassandras because I am always put in mind of episode 2 of Dr. Who, “The End of the World.” Even if you’re not a Whovian, watch this episode and you will ALWAYS have comic relief at your mental fingertips to combat the absurdities.


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