Don’t Cry for Me Well-Meaning Concern Troll

Yesterday I revealed the super secret blog project that I’ve been working on  with some amazing people –  a video response to The Biggest Loser’s Campaign to love yourself only after/because you lose weight.  One of the responses that I saw a lot as it got posted around the web was “I’m glad that these people are happy but I’m concerned about their health”.

These people may be well meaning, but here’s the deal with this – my health is none of their business and is not discernible by looking at the size of my body. (Or for some of the serious whackadoodles who tell me all about my health without meeting me – from looking at pictures of me and reading my blog.)

This can be difficult to deal with because, since people seem well intentioned, we can feel obligated to appreciate what they are doing or accept it as ok.  Like everything, it’s your choice how to deal with it, but for me this is not ok.  People are allowed to be concerned about whatever they want, but it is not ok to unburden that concern onto me. Whatever my level of health, it’s highly unlikely that it will be improved by having people tell me over and over that they assume it’s poor. It can also be a quiet way to try to say that I am not a competent witness to my own experience, and let’s not forget that however well-intentioned it might be, this kind of “concern” is based on all kinds of myths, misunderstandings, and misinformation and conflates weight and health  in a way that is not appropriate.

There are lots of reasons that people may choose to express their concern.  There are some who are truly  well-meaning, for others it’s about feeling superior, feeding their ego, or just killing fatties with kindness.  It does not matter why someone does it, it does not fit within what I consider acceptable behavior.  The way that I handle this with people I care about is by setting boundaries.  Of course this is just how I handle it, there are many, many ways and they are all valid.  Take what you like, ignore the rest:

“I’m just concerned about your health”

Basic responses:

  • Oh, no need, my health is fine.
  • My health is great, thank you, and I’m not soliciting outside opinions.
  • My health is none of your business.

Data based responses, especially good for a teachable moment:

  • According to research out of Columbia, people who are concerned about their weight have more physical and mental illness than those who aren’t – regardless of weight.  So every time you try to make me concerned about my weight you may be putting my health in jeopardy.
  • Can you tell me how you justify your beliefs based on the findings of Matheson et al., Wei et. al, the Cooper Institute Longitudinal studies, and Mann and Tomiyama 2007 and 2013?
  • Are you aware that there isn’t a single study in which more than a tiny fraction of people succeed at longterm weight loss and that there isn’t a st single study where dieting is shown to lead to better long term health?
  • The most likely outcome of weight loss attempts is weight regain, so even if you believe that fat is bad, weight loss attempts are the worst thing that you could recommend.

The things I think but do not say when I’m having a bad day:

  • My path to health is something that I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching – are you an expert on this or can we just assume I know more than you about this than you do?
  • Really? Coincidentally,  I’m concerned that all of your worrying will affect your health.  Please feel free focus your concern somewhere that is else.

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Published in: on January 11, 2012 at 6:08 am  Comments (34)  

34 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Sigh. As you probably know, but your readers might not, I just had my first foray into the world of trolls when a piece of mine was published in Huffington Post. It all happened very fast. The night before I got the email and by noon the next day I was live. By three I was on the front page and about an hour later headlining on AOL.com. Believe me, no one was more surprised than me. My 15 minutes of fame lasted about 24 hours, and now I’m old news. But those 24 hours were like being on and withdrawing from crack (I am guessing, since I’ve never done crack). The high was for obvious reasons. The low was entirely a result of trolls. At first I was so high I could snap my fingers both ways and all proud with my bad self, say the kind of things you suggested. I reasoned with them, I stood up for myself, I told them it was none of their damn business, and I mocked them for just a bit for flavor. By 4am I was hyperventilating into a paper bag. These ignorant, mean, superior, and just plain stupid people brought a relatively secure 44 year old to the state of a weeping four year old — you know that kind of crying where you can’t get a full lungful of air. I was so out of my right mind I think I dumped a really nice guy by projecting all that insanity onto him. I’ve apologized profusely, but he’s ignoring me totally. So maybe he’s not that nice after all. But anyhow, I overestimated my strength and underestimated their power. Those trolls have super human strength. So what’s my point? First I’m just venting because you brought it up. Second I want to say I have mad respect for you and others who handle them far better than I did. And third, let this be a lesson to any newbies. You may not be as strong as you think and when people tell you not to read the comments, or a friend offers to screen them, don’t be as arrogant as I was, because you may end up with your BFF bringing you wine and chocolate to tempt you off the nearest ledge.

    • Thing is, the only “super human” power these trolls have is anonymity. That’s it. Trolling is pretty much as cowardly as one can get on the internet, and these asshats are spurred by the idea that their hateful comments can’t be traced back to them. And many of them are wrong.

      The other thing is that anger is a secondary emotion, the primary emotion being fear. The diet industry has instilled the fear of being fat so deeply in our society that ignorant, gullible folks–who wouldn’t check a fact if their life depended on it–think the only reasonable response a fear of becoming fat is to berate and belittle perfect strangers. It’s inhumane and disgusting, and at the same time very human.

      Ultimately, though, I don’t *really* get it. Sure, I have some fears that are backed a lot of anger, but then tend to be towards, oh, say very bad people who think child rape is super fun. I can’t imagine hating someone just because of how they look. Since when is it ANY of my business? I mean, if these trolls could all worry about their own lives for a minute, maybe they wouldn’t be so miserable that they have to hate on other people just to feel superior.

      • AGREE!!

  2. Interestingly, I received practically NO response when I posted the video. I don’t know WHAT that says about my friends and followers, really. Do they disagree and think fat people don’t deserve to be happy? Are they “concerned with our health” but didn’t say so because they were too chicken to? (I’m told I can be intimidating) Were they all, “Eeeeeewwwww happy fat people! Disgusting!” The only thing I CAN deduct from the silence is that the people following me who saw it and said nothing have some sort of problem with it – and therefore a problem with me. And that’s rather an eye-opening moment.

    • I have also been getting zero response when post stuff inspired by this blog. I posted the video and a few other things and nothing but crickets… I think people are assuming that I’m just trying to cope with gaining weight due to pregnancy in a very odd (to them) way and don’t want to knock it. We’ll see what happens when I’m not pregnant anymore and NOT torturing myself to lose the “baby weight”…

      • Thirded. I have no idea why, but my friends have also been silent with regard to the video. I have tried not to speculate as to why…

  3. If I can get my cousin to take a picture of my in the gym, I’m in😀

  4. “There are lots of reasons that people may choose to express their concern. There are some who may actually be well-meaning, for others it’s about feeling superior, feeding their ego, or just killing fatties with kindness.”

    I think there’s also fear. Fear that if I, the fatty, am healthy, then all of those hours that the health-obsessed thin person is spending hungry, and flailing away on a stair stepping machine in order to be “healthy” by rigidly maintaining their thinness… are all of those hours wasted? If you and I are healthy, we represent such a threat to their world view, and their self image.

    • I think there’s also a twisted element of “I struggle so hard to maintain this socially-approved body type, by starving, excessive excersize, dangerous diets, etc., that it’s not fair that someone else gets to not do all that and still be healthy and/or attractive.”

  5. People are allowed to be concerned about whatever they want, but it is not ok to unburden that concern onto me.

    I like this a lot.

  6. Amen. Or, as I am more likely to say, “Leave me the HELL alone & mind your own business!”

    And, yes, it is scary if we can be fat & enjoy good health most of our lives & live to a ripe old age. It does make them question why they are doing whatever they do to stay thin, kind of like Jackie Kennedy, who asked, as she was dying of cancer at age 65, “WHY did I do all those thousands of sit-ups & always go hungry, never let myself really enjoy a meal or have a full stomach.” I came across this quote several years ago in an article about Mrs. Kennedy & it is also worth mentioning that the person who wrote the article found it necessary to immediately follow the quote with, “Of course, no one is saying that we should not take care of ourselves, watch what we eat & keep in shape.” Heaven FORBID that anyone might think that it was alright to enjoy food, have a full tummy, or weigh more than a box of Kleenex! Ironically, the article was about why it is important to relax, enjoy life, & not be so hard on ourselves…as long as we can do it & stay thin, I guess.

    • Jackie Kennedy asked, as she was dying of cancer at age 65, “WHY did I do all those thousands of sit-ups & always go hungry, never let myself really enjoy a meal or have a full stomach.”

      That’s easy enough to answer. She wanted to live a rich life, with money from rich powerful men. Rich powerful men want their women to be thin. Women’s power has traditionally been in their looks.
      This was her choice.

  7. Actually, the article was ABOUT ‘healthy pleasures’ & enjoying life & quoted Mrs. Kennedy as an illustration of being too hard on oneself. I just re-read & realized that I said it was ABOUT her & I wanted to be accurate.

  8. ” “WHY did I do all those thousands of sit-ups & always go hungry, never let myself really enjoy a meal or have a full stomach.” I came across this quote several years ago in an article about Mrs. Kennedy & it is also worth mentioning that the person who wrote the article found it necessary to immediately follow the quote with, “Of course, no one is saying that we should not take care of ourselves, watch what we eat & keep in shape.” Heaven FORBID that anyone might think that it was alright to enjoy food, have a full tummy, or weigh more than a box of Kleenex! ”

    Or, you know, heaven forbid someone might read that and think it’s ok to eat chocolate cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the rest of his life.

    Every time someone pipes in with some sentiment to just eat the damned cake already and stop the food shame and the food guilt, some concern-trolling jack wagon has to jump in with “but only in moderaaaaaationnn!!”

    Like people are so stupid and lacking in self control that they’ll just go buck wild at the buffet while fresh fruits and vegetables lie fallow on the shelves.

    Most people know to “indulge” in moderaaaaationnnn. Anyone who watches TV has had that message pounded into their head. Those who don’t, don’t for any number of reasons from not caring to not having other options, but rarely from complete ignorance.

    So concern trolls need to can it and let people “do themselves,” whatever that may be.

  9. The only thing that might make your blood pressure go up are the silly questions you have to deal with.

  10. How big do I have to be to be considered “fat enough” to send a pic? I’m the fattest girl in zumba and on the treadmill…. does that count!? I ‘d love to send a pic!

    • Hi Ann,

      It’s totally a self-identification thing, send them along!

      ~Ragen

  11. “I’m glad that these people are happy but…”

    See, I’m pretty sure, from long experience (with comments like this about fat and about other aspects of my life), that people who say this are not ‘glad you’re happy’. If they were, the ‘but’ wouldn’t be there. Whatever follows it really means ‘…you shouldn’t be happy the way you are, I’m bugging you so you can be appropriately miserable until you’ve changed enough to deserve happiness’. The concern isn’t really concern; it’s thinly veiled outrage that someone who doesn’t follow the rules they’re following could still have a nice life.

  12. Thr trouble with concern trolls is that they never shut up long enough for you to tell them how best to express their concern. I generally retort with “When did you last write to a shoe company to ask them to make their sneakers in wider widths?” There’s more I could say, but i assume their attention span isn’t long enough to hear it.

  13. I’m in! I just sent you a picture of me SCUBA diving in Cozumel this summer!

  14. I’ve been in a three-day online debate with someone who constantly sites similar reasons to stigmatize fat people: e.g., They are wasting resources; They drive a wasteful food industry; There is NO WAY they are healthy. It seems like he wouldn’t mind starting a fat holocaust of some sort. His words are as disturbing as they are infuriating. I’ve given him several links and references, but he only retains what he wants. I suppose I didn’t need to send this email; I just needed to blow off some steam.

    This person is yet more proof that people are emotionally invested in hating fat people.

    • Want him to really blow his top? Point out that fat people have thrifty genotypes and thin people have spendthrift genotypes. So who’s being wasteful?
      After he erupts again, tell him that all that anger is bad for his health, and you’re concerned that he might be damaging himself. He should be able to show some self-control, after all.

  15. Actually, I had positive responses when I posted the video, but many of my friends aren’t twigs anymore just like am not. Most of us are also horsewomen, run our own farms, and while bigger than the average gal, are also healthier with good muscle mass an move every day between chores, riding, etc. I sent a couple pics of me riding- horseback riding, especially on a competitive scale like mine, is no armchair sport.

  16. “I’m just concerned about your health”…
    *Curious dog head tilt* When did you get HIPAA certified?

    “I’m just concerned about your health”…
    I’m just concerned about your social skills.

    No one has ever said this kind of thing to my face, thankfully. Feel free to use the above if it strikes your fancy.🙂

  17. Sometimes I imagine people going around with glares and going “HEY! Hey you! Have you had a mammogram this year???” I mean, I’ve never even had someone not related to me chide me about not wearing a helmet on my bike. I’m guessing they’re not actually that concerned about my health.

    I’m not actually overweight on the bmi scale anymore, and my new weight has been pretty steady. I hope I can show solidarity without being too loud, please feel free to tell me to be quiet if I am. And, ummm, if you ever need a video of a totally unhealthy average weight person, I could help you out there. Due to complications from surgery on my throat, I have a horrible wheeze and difficulty breathing. When I was fat, people glared at me. Now I’m not, and they genuinely look concerned. So, it’s weird.

    • Hi Kris,

      Thank you for sharing your story. Please feel free to show solidarity as loudly as you wish. I think it’s crucial that we are all together in this. If you ever feel like the work that I’m doing is at the expense of those who are your size, please let me know. I’m sorry that they didn’t treat you well before, I’m glad that you are being treated better now, and I’m grateful that you are willing to tell that story because it’s important. Thank you!

      ~Ragen

      • Oh, no, I’m good. For that matter, I’ve never exactly heard anyone say “Burn the medium sized people! [Evil laughter!]” I’m getting a little stressed out by the 5% of dieters thing, but really, I think I’m at the weight I’m supposed to be and my previous weight was brought on by unemployment and depression and an under-treated thyroid disorder and was overall a state my body just didn’t like. I’m eating what I want, doing physically what my respiratory problems will let me do, so I’m set. From a minor disability perspective, treating health like it’s obviously obtainable if you’re just willing to put in the effort makes me a little sad sometimes, but I’m sure by health you just mean maximum healthiness allowed by your situation.

  18. Ragen, I wonder if you would like any pictures of women giving birth? If you dont mind I might post this on a forum I’m part of – a homebirthing forum.

    Its really common these days for Drs and hospital staff to rabbit on about labour and birth complications arising from being a certain BMI. It seems that most of these complications stem from the actual hospital practices, not least of all the assumptions they make, and being lumped in the high risk category from the get go.

    Anyhoo, its mostly anecdata but we have found amongst our forum members plenty of women in the obese or morbidly obese category by and large seem to have no problem at all giving birth at home. Some women I know have been in labour for 50hours or birthed 10pound babies despite being told by health professionals that they’d never be able to do it.

    I’m an average BMI, but I found labour to be the most intense physical activity of my life. No-one ever tells lighter women that they’re high risk because of their low muscle tone or will probably have to have surgery because they wont have the stamina. My advice to any pregnant woman would be eat well, exercise, prepare mentally and be supported.

    • Hi Murasaki,

      I agree that there are some serious issues with the way that doctors deal with weight and pregnancy. I also understand that give birthday is a very serious physical undertaking. I don’t want to take anything away from that, but those pictures aren’t right for this particular project. But never fear, there will be other projects. For those interested in the topic in general, I highly recommend wellroundedmama.blogspot.com/ Thanks!

      ~Ragen

      • No worries.
        Twas just a thought.

        Good luck with your project.

  19. Hi!
    I just found your blog, are you still working on this project?
    I’m a personal trainer, and would love to participate!
    If the project is done, I hope to see more about it!
    Ann

  20. “It can also be a quiet way to try to say that I am not a competent witness to my own experience…” This is such a beautful statement!
    I loved this blog and your other blogs that I have read. I am also someone who believes in personal autonomy and you would not believe how many people have a problem with the fact that I do not want to interfere in someone else’s personal decisions!
    Thank you for your very perceptive and quick witted responses to other people’s intrusive behavior.
    I do not appreciate people who think I just am not seeing “their truth” and once they open my eyes, all will be well because I will finally see that they are right. So thank you for your very courageous blogs, it really does help to know that other people are out there, seeing the bigotry for what it is and not the “concern’ that some people claim it to be.

  21. To be sung to the tune of ”Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”

    Don’t cry for me well-meaning concern troll,
    The truth is i won’t listen to you
    All through my diet days, my great confusion
    I bought those products, and their delusions

    Don’t cry for me well-meaning concern troll,
    truth is i never asked you
    For your ideas, your recommendations
    i choose health habits and not starvation!


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