What’s Stopping the Fatty Uprising

Wrong RoadI’ve been thinking about the policies directly aimed at fat people – paying for extra seats on airplanes, penalities of thousands of dollars from work insurance companies if you aren’t thin enough, etc.  I think that one of the main things standing in the way of a fatty uprising against all of the stigma, bullying and oppression of fat people is the belief that weight loss is possible, even likely, for all fat people. It’s not just that the people doing the stigmatizing buy into this idea, it’s that fat people do too. That’s pretty problematic since in over half a century of research there has never been a single study where weight loss worked long term for more than a tiny fraction of people.  The truth based on the information that we have now is that most fat people will always be fat.

For me the realization that I would always be fat was painful, since I had believed for so long that societal acceptance was just a diet away, but it was also the impetus for my activism.  It allowed me to clearly see that when I attempted to change myself in order to escape poor treatment, I had been working the wrong end of the problem.  The problem was the social stigma, bullying, and oppression and the cure for poor treatment is to fix the poor treatment, not to change myself.

When people get charged more for the same plane ride because they are fat, when they get charged more for their insurance because they are fat, when they are treated poorly because they are fat, they often think that the solution is to lose weight.  What if fat people accepted that they will probably never lose weight long term. I think a lot more people would become activists.

So many things are only acceptable because of fat phobia and because people (including fat people) believe that fat people not only can, but actually should, be obligated to lose weight in order to be treated better.  Imagine what would happen if the airlines decided to fit in more seats by creating seats that are designed to fit the average  7 year old boy?  Do you think people would be so cavalier to say that the seats are the size they are and if you are bigger you should just pay extra? I seriously doubt it. That system works because of fat phobia, because people think that if you are fat you can and should get thin and you should be punished until you do. What if fat people stopped believing that the insurance penalties are only going to be in effect until the work-sponsored Watchers Meeting that they have to give up their free time for makes them thin (despite WW’s own studies which show that they are likely to maintain only a 5 pounds weight loss for 2 years.) What if instead, fat people all realized that the Thin Fairy is probably not showing up and that the only way to stop paying more for every plane ride and being paid less than our thin counterparts, the only way to stop the stigma, shaming, bullying etc. is activism

A tiny fraction of people survive skydiving falls when their parachutes don’t open, but we don’t encourage people to try to beat the odds and jump out of planes without chutes, nor do we shame people who go ahead and grab that parachute before jumping.  A tiny fraction of people win the lottery, but we don’t encourage people to try to beat the odds and quit their job because today’s ticket could be a winner, nor do we fine them if they fail to win the lottery.  A tiny fraction of people succeed at longterm weight loss but that doesn’t mean that we should recommend that every fat person should try it, or that we should penalize people for failing.

How would things be different if every fat person operated from the knowledge that they are probably going to be fat their whole lives?  I think it would be a better world and I’m ready for the fatty uprising.

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Published in: on April 15, 2013 at 11:45 am  Comments (33)  

33 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. And that doesn’t even count the social stigma of “oh you must be lazy and undisciplined, or you would lose weight.” Honeys, I have two bachelors and a masters; I got them as a single parent, and I don’t lack for discipline. I ran a half marathon while “fat.” I have a health condition that requires meds that make me gain weight. When I’m off, I lose it, but when I’m on, I gain. I’m not magically more disciplined when I’m off the meds, y’all.

  2. I ready to storm the Bastille and put on a SHOW!

    Seriously, I’m going to be in the vanguard.

  3. Awesome piece Ragen you have hit the nail on the head. So many fat people live for the magic day when they are thin. The amount of women who message me saying they will buy nice clothes when they’re slim I’m like buy nice clothes now!!!!! There are options available. I’ve given up on that thin fairy rubbish I just wish others would to…..

  4. I completely agree, Ragen! That said, when I took on my diabetes educator using these facts, her response was that even if only a small percentage succeed, we should still encourage everyone to diet, so that the small percentage make it. AAUGH!?! What’s that quote i’ve seen about a person being unlikely to see the truth when their livelihood depends on not seeing it?!? At that time (2007ish) that hospital was pushing a 1400 calorie diet. Now i see that this same woman is part of a practice that puts on “Mindful Eating for Weight Loss” courses. Yes, Mindful Eating is something I would be interested in, but not when it’s marketed as a weight loss method and by them touting the ONE participant who lost 50 pounds and has maintained it for 2 years. There is no “average” participant information given, and the course costs $300 for 9 weeks. So I’m betting this one person is unusual.

    • Maggie, my husband is an RN who cares for many diabetics and he thinks the 1800-calorie diabetic diet is too little food. 1400 calories?!?!?

      • I have thyroid disease. I went to a particular endocrinologist twice. There were many reasons I didn’t go back after the second time but the main reason was that one of her assistants gave me a metabolic test. According to this test I burn 800 calories a day doing nothing. That is how they explained it to me. Apparently that is not good. So, when the doctor finally came in and talked to me for all of 60 seconds she told me my thyroid was fine (it wasn’t–she failed to diagnose Hashimoto’s disease and completely missed the giant tumor compressing my airway) and then told me that since I burn 800 calories a day that I should not eat more than that. I said “What?!” And she shoved a piece of paper at me and said goodbye. The paper was a very brief explanation on how to maintain an 800 calorie diet. I tried to ask her assistant for clarification. I was very confused. But she told me the paper explained what i needed to do. That was it. And like a dummy, I tried to stick to that 800 calorie a day diet. It lasted two days. I quit when on the second day, home alone with three small children, I almost passed out from low blood sugar.

        But basically, the doc I went to for help with my thyroid, decided weight loss was more important and put me on a dangerous diet.

        • I’m so sorry that happened to. I have no pituitary gland (lost it to a tumor), so my thyroid is way out of whack. It me three tries to find someone who paid attention to my issue, not my size! Once you find that endocrine doc who pays attention to the issues-WOW what a difference!!

      • Used to be the standard diabetic diet was 1000 calories. 1400 is decadent by comparison.

  5. I agree that if fat people stopped buying into their own oppression and accepted themselves at whatever size they are, we could get a lot more done. My problem is trying to talk to my fat friends about size acceptance without violating the underpants rule. I don’t have a facebook or a blog, so I can’t repost size-acceptance posts and articles. Ready for the epic facepalm? The only time I’ve gotten to a chance to talk about size acceptance is when my weight comes up – because I’ve been losing weight.

    What can be done to try to get fat people to stop hating themselves and start standing up for themselves? I’m talking about on a personal, IRL level.

    • I think the best thing is when you live your life as you see fit. That alone sends the message that we have the right to do what’s best for ourselves and shows the fatphobic folks that living happy, rich lives isn’t limited to thin people. If people bring up the weight loss issue, my comment would be, “Oh. I’m not interested in my weight. That’s just a byproduct of a number of things. What I’m really interested in is living my life on my terms. Wherever my weight settles, well then that’s where it’s supposed to be for me.” And leave it there. Just my thoughts.

  6. For me, it isn’t about accepting the garbage and refusing to do anything.. .it is more about taking on what I feel I can handle. I’ve been trying to make small changes and speak up when I can. Frequently I’ve run into similar issues as have been posted… just because I am sharing actual researched information and they (medical professionals) are spewing the same ol’ stuff they’ve been taught and bought into. I am a lay-person, so I can’t possibly be right.. in their eyes. The most I can do is stand up for myself and say ‘no’ when it is in my best interest. I can try to educate young people to eat for health and make sure that no unplanned weight control messages are given. This means that I have stopped using nearly ALL of my videos that help teach about portion sizes, nutrients and balanced meals. I also feel like a small pebble trying to hold back an oceanic tide. My voice is so small against the media, medical fields, other adults who are spewing the same ol’ body hate/weight=sick stuff.

    Too often I am seen as a fat woman trying to make excuses in order to stay fat. I don’t like being treated like that… so I don’t make waves.

    I know, I know… what I permit, I promote… but I am at a point in my physical and mental health that I must choose my battles. And, sadly, this is just one I can’t muster the strength to do… at least, not today.

    • And you know what? That’s OK, too. :) The underpants rule is all about you getting to choose what’s right for you to do. Brava for getting it right! :)

  7. So many of things are only acceptable because of fat phobia, and because people (including fat people) believe they not only can, but actually should, be obligated to lose weight in order to be treated better.

    I think this is the most important point that you made was “including fat people” until more fat people are in tune with a change in their way of thinking we can’t expect the non-fat to go along with it!

  8. The thing is that you just get scared of the amount of hate you get. I argued with a friend recently because she kept insisting that fat puts pressure on your organs (and you will most likely die because of this) and that it isn’t elegant for a lady not to cross her legs properly (? I can cross my legs BTW).

    I think it’s hard because most of fatties don’t have the empowerment that usually comes with acknowledging the fact that it’s OK to live in your body no matter the size, that health doesn’t equal thin and that you are allowed to stand up for yourself.

    I try to do that but I admit I sometimes come across as too defensive. I’m in a point in my life in which I feel that most people judge me by my size. I considered trying to lose weight to see if men would notice me that’s how low I got.

    Also, people LOVE those success stories, marketers can make it look like they too can get thin and stay that way because people will buy into anything. We love to hear about those who beat the odds and keep chasing ‘the dream’ even if it’s impossible really.

    • Elegance??? Geez. Talk about your first world privileged problems. *eyeroll*

  9. We are all preaching to the choir. We know this and we know we will not be thin and we will not grow another arm or foot (in heighth either) but the only way to get society to be educated is by being active in change. You are doing a great job, Ragen, and leading the way as are many others. Maybe you will see the change in your lifetime, maybe I may see it. I think this is a ‘tougher nut to crack’ than some of the other changes that have happened over the last 50 years. We have to find a way to take money out of the equation, i.e. medical costs due to fat people costing more. We know that isnt true, but that would be a place to start….insurance co.s etc. We got a good start wtih CVS and Michelen (sp) tires. Thank you for what you do. And to all of you who do your part, as little as you may think it is, but it all adds up.

    • There was money in slavery and racism, too–it’s economically very disadvantageous not to have free or cheap labor–but some of that has, thankfully, changed.

  10. I think what stops the “fatty uprising” is that would require a completely disenfranchised, stigmatized group to suddenly become a vocal spectacle. I mean how many of us lose sleep and cry at the very thought of going to the Dr, how many of us avoid eating out, parties, a day at the beach etc, just because we can’t face the condemnation of strangers, acquaintances and sometimes even friends and family? How many of us enjoy shopping for clothes, shoes or even groceries? I think we have a shared “shame” we have allowed our selves to be bullied into embarrassment over our bodies, and now many of us just want to be invisible. If I am out in the woods hiking with my dogs I love the body I am in, it moves me though the trees, it breathes the fresh air, it enables me to see the flowers, hear the birds, pet the dogs and wonder at creation, but somehow, when I am with others I become shy, or defensive or a weird combination of both. To coherently and intelligently stand up for mybody/myself to others? It seems impossible. I doubt I am alone.

    • Yes, absolutely. We are bombarded with the cultural message that our bodies are shameful and wrong, that we would be thin if we just did things right. Our entire culture presumes that only morally defective people get fat, and we believe it because “everybody knows”. So most fat people think they deserve to be penalized/punished. It’s hard to break out of that groupthink on your own, I think that’s why fat activism is so important, these blogs show people what lies outside the box we’ve been brought up in.

    • Absolutely. In fact this is what stops all the uprisings against things like racism, sexism, ableism, etc. We’ve been “gaslighted” so much we think that it’s us, and not other people just being bullies and jerks.

      • THIS. I tried to teach a friend about his gaslighting of me the other day when he suggested I be less “sensitive” about a fat pic he posted. I shared my favorite article about the topic. I’m betting he didn’t read it.

        • The film Gaslight that the phrase is based upon is available on either Netflix or Hulu, perhaps watching the film will help them understand it better. It helped me understand what it meant, as well as how it applied to my life.

  11. Thought provoking post. I think some of us are secretly hoping that a diet might work after all. It would make life so much simpler if it were only true. Right up there with waiting for Prince Charming to save us from pretty much any bad thing that might be tempted to cross our paths. Magical thinking is what it is. I’ll let you know if I figure out how to eradicate it :)

    • I often look back at my old way of thinking–how I was sure THIS time was going to be different. THIS time the weight was coming off. And I’d imagine how that would feel and get all excited about it. And, of course, it never worked. Now, having had my eye opened, I shake my head at that person–constantly starting new diets and starting new hope for a skinnier body. I’m so grateful I found a way out of that cycle and can appreciate myself how I am right now.

      BUT–every now and then I start falling back into the old way of thinking. Just this week I was looking at my face and thinking how round and puffy it looks. My husband just left for six weeks and I started to think how awesome it would be if I could shed a bit of weight while he is gone. (though he doesn’t think I need to lose an ounce) If I do it right, work hard enough, I could drop at least 12 pounds in that time…couldn’t I? Then my mind starts formulating a plan of how I could make it happen.

      And today I sit here, logically knowing it will fail and I shouldn’t even try. But it was a habit for so long that one part of my mind is considering at least TRYING. Because while I’ve accepted myself as is, life would still be so much easier if I were smaller.

      • Holy crap. I had these thoughts YESTERDAY. Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone.

      • I get these thoughts too. I know most of it is due to my being diagnosed with depression with a mild case of OCD. So I’ll obsess and obsess over something until I think it’s been solved. Of course, diet companies hold on to the hope that they can get your money, by taking advantage of people who are obsessed with the fantasy of thinness.

  12. Society has instilled it deeply in the minds of people. I have a social networking page and I’ve been apart of size acceptance groups on there for as long as I can remember. Let me tell you how things have changed, now a days my page is bombarded with weight loss tips from them. Back when I first joined the pages, the members would always mention they are strong, confident, healthy, proud plus size divas. Now it’s “I love my curves but now they’re smaller” or “Fit curves are in” and fit as in I’m getting “skinny” or “thin” now, instead of just promoting healthy habits. There are size acceptance blogs that used to be up from some fashionistas I used to follow but now they’re gone. One of them use to post fashion and pics of themselves but now they just post weight loss articles and only the fashion clothes or items. I agree that the message would be even greater if people of size would accept themselves, be who they are and just acknowledge that they don’t have to change what they represent in order to appease others. That’s the message any discriminated against group should promote. Larger people have the right to exist for whatever reason we choose to.

    Recently a celebrity went on their social network and mentioned how fat, lazy and nasty he thinks fat people are, and that if fat people don’t want to be bashed they should lose weight so it won’t happen.

    There is no stop in stereotyping people of size. I’ve seen even a few thin people defending people of size against discrimination and others go on a rampage of angry and disgusted comments aimed at people of size because in their minds, how dare someone defend the right to be fat. Fat people need to come together and make society realize we’re human, we’re just like everyone else only difference is our bodies. We’re healthy, we’re beautiful and we’re strong the only way we get that out is to promote better.

  13. This is an age old question. How can we get more people involved in fat activism when they believe they are the problem.? When I first came to the movement, I was so excited to be able to shed all that shame and come to acceptance of my body. I wanted to share the message, and I was so disappointed to learn that few people listened. At least now, most of the people I know, outside of the movement, do know my position. To my face they act as if they have learned from me. But, I have seen cracks around the edges, and, occasionally, I see their real beliefs. They have not been convinced. But, hey, I keep trying.

    • I think all you can do is keep trying. It’s hard for people to let go of the idea that their bodies, as well as other people’s bodies are able to be controlled. If it’s not them having to give up the illusion that they’ve earned their thin body through exercise, it’s them having to realize that you can’t tell anything about a person just by looking at what size body they have. It’s like trying to break them out of a cult.

  14. The THOUSANDS of dollars we end up paying(over a lifetime) for clothes! Ya know because of all that extra fabric (ya know that extra 1/8-1/4 yard Really adds up). EYE ROLL!

  15. Sorry for the venting but I found this article really moving.
    I’ve been fat since the age of about 6 or 7 (I’m now 30). Both my parents are fat but I have a slim brother who is always in the gym who often says to me “it’s easy to lose weight – just change your lifestyle, eat healthy and exercise loads”.
    It’s not easy. I’ve been going to slimming clubs and trying various diets and healthy eating plans since my primary school sent me to a dietician at the age of 10. I followed the diet with my teacher’s help and it didn’t work – I put on weight. Every time I joined a slimming club I lost no more than a stone, got fed up with the money I was wasting and stopped going – then put on 3 stone.
    I have an underactive thyroid and each time I go to the nurse she asks if I’ve considered losing weight. I tell her I’ve given up now as it doesn’t work so she offers me slimming club vouchers. A few years ago I was training for the 5k race for life to raise money in memory of my auntie who sadly died of cancer – despite all that exercise I put on weight.
    Despite all this – and I’m sure many other fatties have been through the same sort of thing – people STILL seem to think it is possible to lose all the weight and become slim.
    I’m fed up with the looks of disapproval, the disgusted stares, the discrimination, the plus-size stores taking advantage and overcharging for clothes “because we can’t shop anywhere else” and all the other bullying and other crap we are just expected to put up with for “having the audacity to be fat”. We are all human beings, with feelings and therefore we are all equal – at the end of the day we all sh*t through the same hole.

  16. Someone said they feel shame when seeing a doctor. I’ve been there. Then I realized I was in control of that visit and refused to be weighed. The number makes me feel worse, for a loooooong time, that the actual physical sensations I feel as a larger person. I never allow myself to be weighed now. I just say “Not today, thanks.” and the nurses accept that.
    I also threw away the notion of “normal” — it doesn’t exist. People will put you down if you allow it, they will try even if you don’t. Accept THAT, but never accept their truth as your own. The hardest thing about the bashing is when it comes from people who say they love you. It’s such a stealth bomb to hear “I say this because I love you” or “I worry about you!” … the stress in my life because intimate family members have said nasty, horrible, defeatist things is seriously impactful. I think that has done the most damage to my health.
    And then they go on with their day, congratulating themselves on being “honest” — and I think about what they said for months, sometimes years and have hatred for them and for myself.


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