But Wouldn’t Your Life Be Easier If You Were Thin?

I’m back from my trip to Los Angeles, it was amazing.  I got to meet a new friend (Hi Julianne!)  I also got to spend time with the awesome Jeanette DePatie (aka The Fat Chick and if you don’t know her you should totally check her out!) I walked on the beach and played in the water.  I now have some pretty severe beach envy.

I spent an afternoon with the always fun Darryl Roberts finishing up the filming for my part in his new movie – America the Beautiful II – The Thin Commandments. As part of that we climbed the famous Santa Monica Stairs.  This was made extra interesting because I was wearing a dress and some slip on shoes.  (This isn’t me in the picture, as soon as I have a picture I’ll be posting it):

This is only part of the stairs. Yes they are this steep.  I told Darryl that if this part doesn’t appear in the film I will have to hurt him.

I am a huge fan of Darryl’s work and I’m super excited about this film and the number of people who are going to be exposed to the idea of Health at Every Size because of it.

The trip was topped off by a talk at USC for their Love Your Body Week which was great fun and made me even more excited about the possibility of a Dances with Fat World Tour!

Now to the meat of the topic today.  One question that came up a bunch of times this weekend was “But wouldn’t your life be easier if you were thin?”

First, I really reject this question on it’s face.  There are a lot of things that might make my life easier – if I were taller some things would be easier (reaching stuff) but some things would be more difficult (standing up on a plane).  There are plenty of ways that I could change that would make my life easier but that doesn’t mean I should make those changes.  They may or may not be possible, easier doesn’t necessarily mean better, and there are typically trade-offs. For example, there is a freedom that comes from living completely outside the cultural beauty norm that I really enjoy.

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the answer is “yes” – that my life would be easier if I did not have to live under the constant stigma that comes from not conforming (or trying to conform) to the social stereotype of beauty.  This is still highly problematic:

First, even if being thin would make my life easier, nobody has any proven method to get it done.  Currently the best that science can offer me is a 5% chance for success and a 95% chance of failure including ending up heavier and less healthy than when I started.  I’m going to pass on that.

But it goes beyond that for me.  Even if it was proven possible, the cure for social stigma is NOT  for the stigmatized group to change and gain provisional acceptance. To me respect for all sizes is absolutely a civil rights issue.  As a fat woman there are two layers to this.  The first is my realization that I’m never going to be thin.  I don’t believe that’s a choice for me – just a matter of facing reality. The second is the decision to stop trying to be thin. That is a choice and a difficult one because it takes me out of the “Good Fatty” category (people who are trying to be thin and therefore get some modicum of approval from the stigmatizing group), and puts me firmly in the “Bad Fatty” category- someone who opts out of the diet culture completely and so is subjected to the full vitriol of the stigmatizing group.  So although my life might be easier if I were thin, or if I were at least seen as trying to be thin, I’m not interested.

Because where does it end?  If someone else gets to tell me what my body should look like, what else do they get to decide for me?  What other power do I have to give away?  I got a fortune in a cookie once that said “The person who trims themself to suit everyone soon whittles away to nothing.”  I think that if I want social change (and I do) then the first step is to stand up and say

No. I won’t do what you want me to do just to gain your begrudging, conditional respect and humane treatment, that I will only enjoy until you want me to change myself again to suit you. I will demand my civil rights now, as I am, and if you don’t give them to me then I will fight for them.

And you don’t want to mess with me because I can climb a whole bunch of stairs in a dress.

Published in: on September 15, 2011 at 7:34 am  Comments (46)  

46 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I tend to think, ‘easier according to what or whom?’
    And who says people who are thin have no issues, illness, diseases or problems? Gross generalisation.
    As you said Ragen, somethings would be easier but then a whole lot of new problems would emerge to take their place and those problems might be far more problematic than the ones that they already have. Anyone heard of the grass is always greener? How productive is thinking in this way? Oh yeah for advertisers and marketers it is how they have conditioned us to think so that we will buy their latest product or service….

  2. Your fortune cookie quote really strongly reminded me of a poem I wrote once. I was on a drastic diet at the time (which turned out disasterous, as is quite normal). This sums up the feeling of doing something and then realising I continue it as much because I’m scared of the judgement of others if I stop as for my own sake:

    Losing it

    The ever-shrinking woman…
    It makes me feel so shallow.
    I worry
    If I shrink much more
    Will I become
    Just the skin and bones
    Of my vanity?
    Will my satisfaction
    Melt away?

  3. Come visit Colorado Springs, you can join me in climbing a set of stairs that make those look like the proverbial walk in the park:

    Those suckers are BRUTAL. Most people probably assume that it’s my weight that causes me to climb so slowly up them, but in reality it’s that I’m afraid of heights and those narrow little stairs are pretty much see through. Plus there is the whole trying to pass people (or be passed) on them thing… a real challenge for someone who is also kind of freaked out when people touch her lol. But the trails at the top are simply marvelous, so I haul my rear end up those stairs a couple times a year when we can afford the park fee.

    I’m sure there are aspects of my life that would be easier were I conventionally thin/attractive, but I’m not sure the trade offs would really be worth it. I mean, most of the advantages would be in the realm of things that should be granted equally to EVERYONE. Other than situations where someone is using my weight as an excuse to be nasty, there have almost never been situations where the actual physical dimensions of my body provided an impediment. Maybe if I ever needed to navigate a very narrow canyon or cave or something.

    • It couldn’t be that the slowness of your ascent might be from altitude issues, could it?

      I’ve been here for almost six years now, and I still can’t climb stairs quickly. For me, it’s because I’ve never fully adjusted to the altitude. I mean, seriously, where DO they hide the air up here?😉

    • Of course this means that I have to make Colorado a stop on the Dances with Fat World Tour so that you and I can do these stairs! You rock🙂

      ~Ragen

  4. I have so much to say, I don’t know where to begin….

    I would describe myself a reasonably intelligent middle aged woman. So when I happened on your blog a few months ago, I was gob-smack to learn about ‘health at every size’. It is simple and it resonated with me on a deep level.

    It seems to me (and please correct me if I am wrong) that ‘easy’ in this sense means, “living one’s life so as to not upset others.” I get that. I will avoid conflict at any cost. But, as I’ve matured, I’m starting to realize that living one’s life avoiding conflict doesn’t make things ‘easier’. Because the conflict that we are avoiding in our lives scars our spirit, and our souls. So see, there is ALWAYS conflict, we just displace it somewhere else.

    I’m not a religious person, but I consider myself a spiritual one. I believe that each one of us has a purpose. But I don’t believe that life is about ‘finding one’s purpose’. Life is about being true to who we are. That is our ONLY PURPOSE!! And I think it is probably the hardest thing that we will ever have to do!!

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank-you, Ragan, for being who you are. Because, by being you, you have changed my way of thinking and given me permission to be me. I am not a ‘fatty’, but I am married to the most wonderful guy who is, and has been all his life. I have never asked him to lose weight, (I love him the way he is) but I have secretly always worried about his health. He plays hockey three times a week, eats well, sleeps well and has no medical conditions to date that we know of. And yet I worrieD.

    I say ‘worried’ because I don’t any more. And I see how my attitudes and judgements have effected myself and my relationships in different areas of my life. Now I question all my judgements, dig deeper, and try to live my life more authentically.

    Thank-you, Ragan for this gift.

    Karen
    xx

  5. Wonderful. I did actually just watch America The Beautiful with my boyfriend and it gave him a lot to think about. He’s pretty informed about this type of stuff but he keeps bringing it up, “I was thinking about this part of the movie…”. I love when something is that thought provoking. Really looking forward to Part Two.

  6. As someone who has always been thin, I can answer the question, “Wouldn’t your life be easier if you were thin?”

    No.

    It’s not enough for the image obsessed in our culture. I was too thin. I wasn’t tan enough. I wasn’t “buff” enough. I wasn’t good-looking enough. Life might be easier for those who are so visually appealing to the masses that everyone wants to do something for them, but for the rest of us, it’s the same-old-same-old. In so many cases, we don’t really eliminate difficulties in our lives, as much as we exchange one set for another.

    When we are badgered by others to deal with what they perceive as our chief difficulty, we then add the challenge of striving to meet their expectations of us. My life didn’t get easier or happier by accepting others’ demands of me. My life got easier when I decided to be happy with who and what I am, regardless of whether any one else likes me or not. My life got easier when I didn’t think of myself as the guardian of everyone else’s well-being or happiness.

    How I looked or how much I weighed had nothing to do with it.

    • This is so true.

      When I tried to fit in with everybody I ended up miserable, it wasn’t until I started saying screw it and just did what I wanted to do that I started being happy with how I was.

      You, random person, may not approve of how I act or dress, but that other random person over there may approve. And best of all, I approve.

  7. Yes life would be easier if I wasn’t always being told how to look and how much to hate my body. My weight is not the problem the weight of importance that others place on my weight is the problem.
    You are the greatest Ragen! Warmly, Dr. Deah Schwartz, leftoverstogo

    • “My weight is not the problem the weight of importance that others place on my weight is the problem.” – Exactly! Love it!

  8. This makes me think of a former friend of mine. We’ll call her Holly. She is thin and beautiful and men fall over themselves to be near her. Her life is wonderful because she looks like she stepped out of a magazine has a voice like a sexy female DJ. She’s one of the “beautiful people”. They think she’s better than those who are not as small and perfectly proportioned as Holly. That Holly is the perfect, healthy female specimen. People aspire to look like Holly and say things like why can’t you use Holly as an example and be healthy and pretty like her?

    But what they don’t know is that Holly has who knows how many STDs from constantly sleeping around, Holly smokes like a chimney, Holly is anorexic, and Holly is an alcoholic and totally hooked on heroin (and who knows what else). How beautiful and healthy is that? Yeah, I really want to emulate that. Not.

    • You are so right! I know so many people who are “thin” yet mentally, emotionally, spiritually unhealthy people. I am 280 lbs. and in the best mental & emotional condition of my life yet this gets overlooked because of my weight. Everytime I see my doctor she doesn’t ask me how life is treating me. She asks me how losing weight is going. I say, i’m not trying to lose weight. Why would I? I am in perfect health in all aspects of the word!

  9. My life would be easier (in some ways; harder in others) if I were rich. I think I’ll just be rich, then!

    • LOL Here, here!🙂

    • Say, you’re right! And come to think of it, my life would be so much easier if I were Caucasian. I’m gonna stop being lazy and start working on changing my skin right now!

      • Wait – being white is supposed to make my life easier?!? WHY DIDN’T ANYBODY TELL ME THIS??? I could have been skating on easy street all these years, instead of working my tail off in a factory for the last thirty years!

  10. The only thing that changes when you lose weight is the size of your body. Your problems are still your problems! If your life is amazing then your life is amazing, and the size of your body doesn’t change that. I sometimes think that thin indivuduals are actually envious of those of us who won’t fall prey to the “life is better when you’re thin” mantra. Here we are, being who we are, in the bodies were meant to be in and we’re doing our thing. We’re happy and we’re not focused on being thin, staying thin, who thinks we’re thin, who wants to have thin sex with us, etc. That’s a lot of energy to spend on “thin” and we’re not doing it! Our energy is being directed elsewhere – like this blog where people are all about the love🙂❤

  11. When I came out to my mom, she said, “but won’t your life be harder now, with people’s judgments?” and I found myself saying, “Mom, do you really think there is some big group of people who approve of me now as a feminist who are going to stop approving of me as a lesbian? Would you want me to not to be a feminist so people approve of me?” And it made us both feel better.

    Claiming your desires, your opinions, your fat, your body is all the same issue – and it is necessary if you want to claim your power. And you need your power to fight the stigma, which is the real problem.

    “But wouldn’t your life be easier if I stopped oppressing you?”

  12. Great post! What people are also saying when they ask why you don’t want to be thin…because I think they realize that it’s the very unusual exception who maintains weight loss. Don’t you want to engage in an act of self-hate that is highly likely not to result in winning the thin-supremacy lottery, because even that torment is better than being fat and being a target for hate. The very deep assumption is that there is no way to refuse fat hate or end it. I disagree.

    Clearly, there will always be fat people. So when we’re presented with the be-thin/weigh-less imperative, we’re being invited to try to achieve the position of Lucky Few and we’re also invited to agree that the Unlucky Many are just stuck and have no other avenue for hope. So even if *SOME* people can lose weight — especially if some people do lose weight — I hate the fat-hate system and enjoy making efforts to destroy it.

  13. Such an awesome, important post! After Boyfriend and I both watched America the Beautiful I on Netflix, we had a talk about some issues of privilege, body image, etc.

    One issue was about the thin women we know, including myself and one of his best friends, who have had disordered relationships with exercise and food. These women and I have been born into the privilege of thinness and socially approved appearance, and yet both of us spent years of our lives hating our bodies, hating ourselves, obsessing over food, starving, and exercising like crazy just to keep a grip on that ever-ephemeral social approval and to keep trying to claw infinitesimally closer to the elusive state of promised perfection. I’m not saying that thinness doesn’t mean a huge number of privileges in our society–just noting that many, many women who look “acceptable” are also ground down by the self-hatred that our predatory body-image monoculture perpetuates.

    BF also talked about those toolbag guys that Darrell interviewed in the movie, who mostly embraced the idea that women were essentially objects and if we weren’t thin we were worthless. He said he wished that there had been more discussion about what an essentially empty, sad, and disconnected experience life probably was for these guys, who, to paraphrase, probably didn’t even know the difference between real connection with women and what’s essentially ego masturbation via association with another person. I saw their attitudes very much as products and examples of male privilege, but he also saw them as examples of a problem for men that does real damage to their life experience. So, there’s another example of how the “easier” life does have huge privileges associated with it, but can also have some very damaging effects.

  14. I got my undergrad degree at USC from 2003-2007, and I wish that I was aware of something akin to “Love Your Body Week” while I was there (if they even did something similar back then). I have spent almost three years since moving away from LA attempting to undo the mental damage that that environment wreaked on me, a place where emaciated is normal, eating is not and I felt like ramming my car into the side of the freeway on-ramp daily even after I lost 40 pounds. For a city of millions, it is the most isolating place I have ever been to. My existence of waking up, having a cup of coffee, not eating, going to the gym and then drinking alcohol to oblivion was so SMALL, but that’s what was accepted so that’s what I did. Kudos to anyone who can create a space of love and compassion for themselves in that city, because I sure as hell couldn’t and I would never go back and try. And thank you for speaking there, if you can touch one person in the audience who struggles like I did, maybe they can create a loving mental and physical space to occupy in a city that gives them none.

  15. I know a couple of people who’ve managed to quickly drop a lot of weight (the long term results remain to be seen) who suddenly have all sorts of new insecurities, because they now have sagging skin in the stomach area. They’re thin, but they still feel like they can’t be seen on a beach or ever take off their shirts in front of someone.

    There’s nothing wrong with saggy skin. There’s nothing wrong with being fat. But if you spend your life aspiring to other people’s beauty ideals, you will never be able to live your life to the fullest. You will never be enough.

  16. Glad your trip went well and I look forward to seeing the new film and new action film star.
    In reading your blog “wouldn’t your life be easier” I began thinking about a conversation I had with a good friend who’s brother is a paraplegic. and she was describing his path of being a strong advocate for the civil rights of the handicapped. He has chosen a very active life style, marathons, skydiving, etc. The point of this thread is he made a choice after hearing the medical diagnosis that he was always going to be a paraplegic. From there he he made his choice of how was he going to design his life inside that context. His coice was his and others with the same circumstances choose different life styles and that is their choice as well.
    As someone who is diligent in not believing all of my judgements, the difference between I am never going to walk and I am never going to be thin comes down, for me, to the fact that I have bought into the medical model of spinal/nerve damage = you got it and now you deal with it the best way you can. I don’t see them and say shake it off, don’t be lazy….

    However, I have been unconsciously going through life in a body that has grown rounder through the decades but because of my genetics (versus a super human, amazingly strong focus on staying lean and fit) I am in the accepted body size range. From that lazy boy perch I have long judged fat people as being lazy at best. Your research under the covers of the dismal success rate of all the weight loss methods has given me a new window to look through and I appreciate you for it. Keep on, keeping on especially in your unique way of being you!

    • Stan,

      Thank you so much for saying this. You are amazing and I appreciate you🙂

      ~Ragen

  17. “But wouldn’t your life be easier if you were thin?”

    I think about myself thinner — obsessively logging calories, fat, protein, and sugar; doing a “calorie burn” workout even when I hurt (and when choosing an alternate form of movement would have served my body better); falling asleep early due to exhaustion — and I cannot imagine my physical and mental health then being better than they are now.

    At the same time, yes, it would be easier not to have to deal with fat-shaming bullshit — but other people’s BS reflects on them, not on me.

    But really, wouldn’t all our lives be better if there was a little (or a lot!) less body policing?

    • When I was thinner, I had to log the food that I ate, exercise excessively. I was constantly thinking about not gaining the weight back. It was a lot of effort. I still have three pairs of size 3 pants in my closet. I tell myself that I should get rid of them, but I don’t. I know it’s unlikely that I’ll be that thin again unless I’m under a great deal of stress.

      I lose weight easier when stressed. I can’t seem to lose weight at other times. Unless things are bad emotionally, I can make myself watch every calorie and exercise long hours. It’s just not worth it. I don’t want to deliberately make myself miserable. Live is too short.

  18. I’m 55 years old, 5’3″ and I weigh around 400 pounds. I have some health issues including having survived ovarian cancer which took great stamina and wouldn’t have been possible if I’d not been in pretty darn good shape otherwise.

    I’m sure most people my age have a few aches and pains regardless of size. It would be nice if my doctors remembered that instead of pointing to my weight for every little thing. My oncologist even hinted that I got cancer because of my size. Odd, since he also said that I was the largest patient he’d ever had.

    Because of the scarring from the cancer surgery as well as just getting older, gravity is somewhat difficult for me to contend with. Would weighing less make that easier? Probably.

    Is it likely that I can weigh less? Not very probable. I know because I’ve lost weight in the past and it found me again, bringing along a few extra friends. These days I work on being as fit as I’m able in the body that nature gave me.

    What would REALLY make things eaiser for me is a world w/o fat stigma. Especially when I have to deal with my doctors.

    • I love how doctors don’t ever point a finger at the food industry which loads livestock with hormones & antibiotics and douses our vegetables in pesticides. Geez, do they think that has anything to do with cancer?! No, it’s all my fault because I don’t fall into the “normal” range on the BMI chart! I’d like to see them try to connect your cancer to your body size. Stay strong and I hope you’re well and fully recovered.🙂❤

  19. But Wouldn’t Your Life Be Easier If You Were…

    Thin?
    Male?
    White?
    Christian?
    Abled?
    Straight?
    Youthful-looking?
    Rich?
    .
    .
    .
    Etc.

    • That pretty much sums it up right there! Awesome comment.

  20. The thing that the original question overlooks is that easier =/= better. And choosing the easy path just because it’s easier is a coward’s way out.

    • Good point! So true! Nothing worth doing is easy🙂

  21. Wouldn’t my life be easier if I was thin?

    Well, I’m recalling the one time in my life when I was substantially thinner, and it was a crap time in very many ways I won’t describe here.
    What would have really made my life easier back then was a lot more confidence, some better skills for dealing with toxic people, and someone, even just one person, to tell me I was actually ‘good enough’. Those are the things that have really made my life easier over the past twenty-odd years since then, and those are the things I think are probably most useful for any person, of any size, who wants to improve their life.

    The thing that, as people have already pointed out, would most make fat people’s lives easier – i.e. an end to other people’s hate and prejudice – is the responsibility of those people. Not us. We can try to change awareness by pointing out that behavior is wrong and offensive, and in some cases we can choose not to subject ourselves to it by not being around those people, but it is not our job to change ourselves to enable them to ‘accept’ us more easily (and if we have to change, it’s not real acceptance at all.)

  22. Possibly, but I’m certain that setting no moral limits on the means of being thin that we’ve been given is far worse than being a (fat) person who honours their soul.

  23. Thanks so much for this wonderful blog & your incredibly on-target article!! I’ve been fat & thin and either way there are challenges. I also have thin friends who are ‘beautiful’ (by European standards) and they hate having the constant problem of having to be suspicious of people who try to get close to them. So… as you pointed out, it’s a trade-off. By the way… I live in Los Angeles, but didn’t know you were coming out here. I sure hope I’ll get to meet you if you come again. And Juianne is a friend of mine! I’m so glad you got a chance to meet her. She’s a fantastic person. Where do you live?

  24. I think people who ask “wouldn’t it be easier if you were thin” are still caught up in what Kate Harding memorably called The Fantasy of Being Thin. Meaning the notion that becoming thin won’t just change your body size, it will make all the other things you don’t like about yourself magically change too – you’ll be able to fearlessly climb Mount Everest, chat up handsome men at the supermarket, play beach volleyball, etc. You know, all that stuff you can’t do when you’re fat . The only thing I can think of for myself is that clothes shopping might be easier – but even so, at my thinnest I was still a size 14 (I’m a tall girl with big bones and muscles.) Is that worth going through the hell of starving myself back down to that size again and obsessively tracking every bite of food for the rest of my life? NOPE!

  25. Hi! Not sure how I found your blog and this FABULOUS post (was it twitter? Or something? Oh, internets!), but I am kinda jealous. I live in the Los Angeles area and I didn’t know the “Love Your Body” week at USC. I really need to pay more attention. Since moving out here 10 years ago, I assumed it was all fake tits and botox. Who knew?!

  26. Just received this email from a group whose fitness certification I held. I was offended by it and thought I’d share it with you to hear what your thoughts are.
    Keep doing what you are doing!

    Dear AFAA Fitness Professional,

    AFAA would like to invite you to attend A Taste of… Biggest Loser® Live Training (Live Online Workshop) on October 6, 2011, for the special APEX price of $99 (normally $129).

    To register online at http://www.afaa.com/301.afa?PK75

    A Taste of… Biggest Loser® Live Training (Live Online Workshop)
    OCTOBER 6, 2011
    9am-12pm PST; Break; 1pm-4pm PST

    What is it?
    This one-day, live online workshop streamed live from http://www.afaa.com is designed to provide fitness professionals with an introduction to the knowledge, tools, and fundamental skills necessary to successfully work with larger-sized, overweight and obese participants. In addition, the workshop will introduce AFAA’s signature Complete 10™ Workout which is a key component of The Biggest Loser® Pro program*. This signature workout series is comprised of highly effective training routines that fuse high-intensity interval training, compound/functional resistance exercises, core strengthening and stretching/deep breathing into 10-minute, power-packed workouts.

    The curriculum includes both theoretical review and practical applications.

    Program highlights include:
    Information, review and discussion of the obesity health crisis
    Review of AFAA’s Exercise Standards and Guidelines for the larger-sized participant
    Appropriate methods of assessment and program design
    Effective training exercises and appropriate modifications
    Realities and challenges of working with this special population
    Coaching and communication tools
    Role of the fitness professional
    Hands-on Complete 10™ workout practice and design

    Who is it for?
    For all AFAA certified fitness professionals wishing to learn about working with this special population. Though this course does not qualify participants as Biggest Loser® Pros, we invite those professionals who wish to become a Biggest Loser® Pro to please visit http://www.biggestloserpro.com for full requirement details.

    Recommended Supplemental Course Materials:
    The 10-minute Total Body Breakthrough, by Sean Foy, M.A. ($22.95)

  27. Well then, shouldn’t Jews and Muslims in North America convert to Christianity, because then they’d avoid prejudice? And how about minorities aborting their fetuses so the children won’t be oppressed?

  28. I love you. I so love you. *_*

  29. You know, I reckon putting 30 years into trying to be thin is a fair bloody try. I think the fat haters should put 30 years into trying to be decent human beings.

    • And this is just one of the many reasons that I think you are awesome. Beautifully said!

      ~Ragen

      • Ahh thanks Ragen. This post inspired my latest!

  30. Oh this is so glorious! (I just found this post from Reddit). This is the best thing I have read all day:

    “The cure for social stigma is NOT for the stigmatized group to change and gain provisional acceptance.”

    It applies too all oppressed groups. And anyway, why would anyone want to change to gain acceptance from the sort of people who will only accept you if you make drastic, unhealthy changes that leave you unhappy? Those people aren’t worth changing for anyway!


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