Being fat online

I’ve started to write this blog several times. Each time it has spiralled out of control as I attempted to cover all the bases – look at supporting facts from all sides, make a call based on the evidence I could find and then branch into never-ending loops of options.

So instead I’m going for the opposite. A short-ish blog on Fat Acceptance. Fat Acceptance, if you haven’t come across it (and I’m guess most readers of this blog have) is a movement to remove discrimination against the overweight from Australian (and I assume, other) societies.

It’s a noble cause I fully support.

However, it goes further than that – the Fat Acceptance group also claims that health and weight are completely unrelated. When I first questioned this statement – after all, it goes against everything I’d ever learnt – I was told to ‘educate myself’. ‘Go Google’, I was instructed.

So Google and Google and Google I did. And here’s what I’ve found:

1. Obese people have reduced life expectancy compared to mid-range weight people.

I take life expectancy of a pretty reasonable indicator of health. After all, a live person can be reasonably expected to have better health than a dead one.

The statement most repeated in the Fat Acceptance blogs is this one: Fat people live longer than thin people. Of course it is true, but it is used in a fashion that is meant to deceive. It’s meant to read “Fat people live longer than other people”. Which isn’t true. Not that I can see. No matter how much I google or follow through the links listed on Fat Acceptance blogs, I never come to a single study disputing the statement that people in a mid-weight range live longer than those in the over weight range.

2. The overweight are more likely to have chronic diseases.

Now you’ll also see the follow statement “being overweight can be beneficial when you have chronic diseases. Fat people live longer after being diagnosed than mid-range weight people do”. Again, it’s true. What’s never pointed out is that overweight people are far more likely to develop chronic diseases and are on average more likely to be younger than mid-range weight when they develop the disease.

Which is how you reconcile the two statements: The overweight live shorter lives but being overweight is beneficial for chronic diseases. The answer is if you are in the mid-weight range and develop a chronic condition, you may live for less time than an overweight person but chances are you’ll be older, so on average the age you die at will be higher than the overweight person.

So ‘on average’ the conclusion is: being mid-range weight is healthier than being overweight.

Of course, this is over large populations. It is completely possible and very common for a specific overweight person to live longer than a mid-range person. And there lies another common Fat Acceptance argument: “BMI is bullshit, it says I’m overweight but I have no risk factors and am completely healthy”. Again, completely possible. After all, BMI correlates with risk factors. It isn’t a guarantee of poor health.

And before someone trots out “Correlation doesn’t equal causation” let me just respond with: true, but that is why science spends so much time working on this question. In fact, while I have resisted linking – because that’s a never ending story and I’m sure plenty of links will be posted in the comments – you should check out the article: National Heart Foundation: The Relationship between Overweight, Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease. It specifically categorises causation into those with good evidence of a link, moderate evidence and weak or no evidence.

So (from extensive Googling) the ideal weight to be over a lifetime seems to be this: be mid-range weight or slightly overweight for most of your life. You’ll slowly gain weight as you age (everyone does), moving into the overweight category around your fifties or sixties. You’ll stop putting on weight in your late sixties, and then, as everyone seems to do, start losing weight again at eight-five. You’ll lose weight until you die.

The thin die early in every case. Looks like there is some justice after all.

Linking health and weight isn’t a conspiracy by women’s magazines, weight loss and drug companies and governmental health experts. The link exists – over a broad population.

The above groups all profit, of course, from making people feel bad about their weight – Biggest Loser anyone? – and this is where I rejoin the ultimate goal of FA. Discrimination against people because they are fat is repugnant. But to make the argument against discrimination into a war against anyone daring to link health and weight is, frankly – a self-defeating action – and somewhat dishonest. It drives those sympathetic to your cause away. It happened to me when I – completely in ignorance – stumbled onto a Fat Acceptance blog and started shooting my mouth off. Several people who have contacted me about their fear of crossing this group because the attacks are sharp and overwhelming. That’s a crazy place to be. While I can’t speak for her, the attacks on Mia Freedman, merely because she dares invite discussion on the topic and doesn’t kowtow to the FA dogma probably make her feel the same (then again, she may be more mature than me). While some parts of the Mamamia website don’t interest me (and let’s face it, it’s a website for women, not Dads) overall I think she walks the fine line between encouraging respect, fighting discrimination and acknowledging problems about excess weight.

Sure, she might say something stupid once in a while but who doesn’t? Fortunately, the wonderful site-manager Lana deletes everything stupid that I say (thanks Lana, you can’t do that magic elsewhere can you?).

Fat discrimination is a real problem. Obesity in society is also a real problem. Overweight female teenagers are far more likely to commit suicide than mid-range weight teenagers. And overweight teens are more likely to develop chronic diseases.

Both are terrible facts.

Just because there is no quick fix to being overweight (we’d all be mid-range if there was) and crash dieting is dangerous and ultimately self-defeating, giving up isn’t the answer.

The answer isn’t easy – but what answer worth discovering is?

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38 thoughts on “Being fat online

  1. Thank you for this incredibly well thought out post. Your last line: “The answer isn’t easy – but what answer worth discovering is?” resonates with me strongly.
    I struggle and continue to struggle with my weight. I do not want to be overweight because intrinsically I know it is not good for me and frankly I feel better when I am not carrying 10-15 extra kilos around with me.
    I agree diets do not work and *takes deep breath * I have taken the step of booking to see a clinical psychologist in a couple of weeks to address my “issues” on the subject.
    Thank you for being brave enough to post this.
    I applaud you.

  2. I was going to write a lengthy response praising you for your research, for not conflating correlation and causation, for your highlighting of the psychological- not just the physical- dangers of being fat… but as a naturally thin (actually, mantisy) person I have just found out I am going to die early, and am thus off to make the most of the time I have left.

    1. Kylie, FA (size acceptance, body positivity, whatever you want to put on the tin) is for ‘mantisy’ types too. Please don’t assume that because we argue for acceptance of fat people that we wish to exclude, demonise or induce panic about thin physiques. Rather the opposite, actually.

  3. I think you’ve missed the point of what we do, but I’m writing a job application and that’s more important than arguing over a blog post. The one thing I will comment on is this:

    “Overweight female teenagers are far more likely to commit suicide than mid-range weight teenagers.”

    Do you really think that’s the fault of fat, or our hideously fat-phobic society?

      1. Whoops. It followed “Obesity in society is also a real problem” so I misread. Sorry.

        OK, I’ll go for another statement then: “the Fat Acceptance group also claims that health and weight are completely unrelated.”

        No, we don’t. We claim that weight isn’t the sole predictor of health. It is a factor, of course, as are lifestyle (eating habits and exercise, as it is possible to lead a healthy lifestyle and still be fat), genetics, disabilities, age, previous injuries and just dumb luck.

        We harp on about fat and health because so many people use health to dismiss us, whether through disgust or through ‘concern’. Because we are hammered with the “FAT=BAD” line constantly, people think that they can comment on another person’s health based on what they look like.

        We don’t advocate “giving up”. We advocate people making decisions about their own bodies based on their own experiences without fear of discrimination or hatred. That’s probably the best summary I can give of our “FA dogma”.

  4. I’m not part of the Fat Acceptance movement and have only come across a couple of blogs, however my take on what they are trying to say is quite different. Of course, the message people mean to send and what they actually send can be very different things.

    I think the point is that being fat and bad health are not causally related, they are both consequences of eating crap and being inactive. By focussing on fat, we are using appearance as a substitute for measuring people’s diet and exercise, and it is then a legitimate question how well they are correlated. And the answer is – only pretty well. We all know people who do nothing and eat rubbish but remain thin. Likewise, I know people who walk every day and eat relatively well but remain overweight. By focussing on fat, there are people who are damaging their health but think it’s ok because they aren’t overweight, and others who are miserable even though they are doing it right.

    Even worse, focusing on fat is counter-productive because it actually prevents people from developing healthy habits. Certainly the few people I know who openly advocate fat acceptance are not advocating giving up. They are advocating changing the focus from fat as a moral issue to more objective measures of health.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Deb! You make excellent points.

      Eating crap and being inactive is an excellent summary of the problem. And the focus on fat is also an harmful to the wellbeing of many people.

      However, the end result is quiet often obesity – the segment of the population that is obese is increasing. It is the most visual sign of an increasingly unhealthy population. So it gets the focus. Is that unfair? Hell yes, but the answer is not denial.

      The examples of flip sides (overweight and healthy, mid-ranged and unhealthy) doesn’t change that fact that when grouped together, people who eat crap and are inactive generally end up obese.

      Could it be like not mentioning lung cancer when discussing smoking? Some people smoke all their lives and never develop health issues. Others have never breathed a whiff of smoke and develop lung cancer. It doesn’t mean that smokers don’t have an increased chance of lung disease.

      That is the essential point of my blog: How do we supply a positive health message without an objective measure on what it means to be healthy?

      1. But the point is that obesity is not the cause of the problems but a symptom. If you mix up causes and symptoms, you have a very big problem.

        Headaches can be caused by dehydration or eye strain, among other things. Drinking lots is not going to fix your sight, nor is it going to identify if there is a deeper problem. A particular person’s obesity could be caused by no exercise. It could be caused by fatty foods. And yet currently they are lumped together, simply because they have the same symptom. That is not going to solve the health problem.

        To use your own smoking analogy, we are currently judging people’s likelihood of getting lung cancer based on how bad they smell. Deodorant is not going to prevent lung cancer any more than fad diets can prevent diabetes. At least deodorant isn’t dangerous in itself. Framing is a very well known psychological effect, and at the moment our society is framing this very real problem in an unhelpful and dangerous way.

      2. “How do we supply a positive health message without an objective measure on what it means to be healthy?”

        I don’t know that a measure is as necessary as we think it is. It is possible to encourage a healthy lifestyle without saying “Healthy looks like this” (which I think risks shaming and excluding too many people).

        I remember ad campaigns that aired when I was a kid that encouraged people to exercise 3 times a week. I remember the ‘Slip Slop Slap’ campaigns. They encourage behaviours, whereas too many public health campaigns today seem to focus on discouraging body types.

      3. The campaign you are talking about is LIfe. Be in it. There was Norm the fat beer drinking couch guy and a family of active people.

        I gotta find me one of those T-shirts…

  5. Just wondering what qualifications you have, nutritionist, doctor, researcher etc in order to write about this topic?

    It seems everywhere I turn everyone is an expert on obesity and weight. They read an article or two, pick a side and then blog it to death! Having an opinion doesn’t make it right, wrong or real no matter how much you want it to be so.

    Personally I would love to see nothing more than people allowed to be people, however they choose to experience that; fat, thin or otherwise. I would prefer to ALL of us encouraging each other to be the healthiest and happiest for us AND respecting that!

    Condemnation, criticism, guilt, fear, judgements etc are largely unhelpful or motivating to anyone. So throwing science, mortality and morbidity numbers, BMI’s and other random statistics etc isn’t likely to be anymore appealing or successful.

    So today what can you do for your health?

    1. HAEScoach,
      I assume your comment is one you cut and paste into every blog about FA – onto pro-FA blogs and not just those questioning some of the statements made in FA posts. Condemnation, criticism, guilt, fear and judgements are evident everywhere.
      I’m not a researcher, obviously and I’d guess that vast majority of FA bloggers aren’t either.

      That said “Pot, meet kettle” isn’t particularly satisfying for me.

      So let me expand: I was invited to write this topic by FA members. They asked me to research and learn about the FA stance. At no stage did anyone qualify their suggestions to ‘google it’ and ‘read a book’ with ‘only if you are a qualified researcher’. It was suggested that the information was simply out there for the layman to uncover. I’ve had a look. My questions are above.

      As for bringing in science and mortality and morbidity numbers – I have only mentioned these in context of a discussion around the two most common claims made in FA posts.

      I haven’t picked a side. I’m just saying that the two sides – media generated shame and fear on one and a war against the link between health and weight on the other are both reasonably unhelpful in getting people where they need to be: healthy.

      Lastly, I would have thought you’d be happy that every time you turn around someone has posted their thoughts on the topic. It means more and more people are questioning the overriding message received from mainstream media – that is fat equals immorality.

  6. @HAEScoach

    Very well-said.

    Author: you say you know something about Fat Acceptance but by summing it up as “giving up” you show you know very little. I wish you the best.

  7. HAEScoach said:
    “Just wondering what qualifications you have, nutritionist, doctor, researcher etc in order to write about this topic?”

    Ironically, most FA bloggers are always denying or questioning anti-obesity research performed by medical field professionals. It is also super ironic that Paul Campos’ “The Obesity Myth” -which is FA dogma-, is basically a book written by an attorney that is trying to interpret medical research.

  8. AMAZING POST! once again Chris.. U tread a fine line.. But u do it with poise.. *I* wholeheartedly agree.. And I think that fat acceptance is one thing.. But plain disregard for reality is another.. The reality is that these things are true.. There is a link between health and weight and ignoring that just for the simple fact that u don’t wanna offend is not on. Although… Treating people who ARE overweight as second class citizens is also not on. Why not support each other? Fat or thin? We’re all still people right? As always Chris.. LOVE YOUR WORK!!

  9. I think that you’ve set up a straw-person argument to pin your critique on here IdleDad.

    “the Fat Acceptance group also claims that health and weight are completely unrelated” – that is not a true statement, at all. There may well be some FA blogs or activists who make such claims (I don’t personally know/read any) but as a group and a movement? That claim is not made. In fact, many FA blogs (including my own) have quite a committed focus on aspects of health promotion. I’m not interested in telling people to be fat. I’m not interested in saying all fat people are healthy all the time. I’m not interested in claiming that there is never any relationship between a person’s weight and their health – but I am very interested in discussing how the belief that there is a SIMPLE relationship between food–weight–health is wrong and damaging. The relationship between those things is incredibly nuanced and complex and unfortunately the message people are getting from obesity panic denies that. It also denies the voices of fat people – FA is a movement that actually allows fat people to talk about our lived experience and to speak up about issues that affect us daily, including some of the exaggeration or misinformation about health. This misinformation is actively harmful to the health of fat people – check out some of the Yale Rudd Centre’s research on how fat stigma leads to poorer health outcomes for people and you’ll see what I mean. And I would include some health research – and especially the reporting of it – as contributing to fat stigma. I’m not a conspiracy theorist at all, personally, but unfortunately there is a funding discrepancy between ‘obesity = bad’ research and information dissemination and research into more size-accepting approaches to health promotion. (See Linda Bacon’s Health At Every Size for information on that.)

    FA doesn’t promote denial (and it certainly doesn’t promote turning negative attention onto thin people or thin health, as you’ve suggested here). I think it actually promotes the opposite of denial about health: those of us in FA who believe in Health At Every Size practice and promote a health paradigm which says basically this: it’s healthy to be active, so people who can and wish to, should engage in activity. It’s healthy to eat a wide range of foods according to appetite (to me that means listening to my body’s need for green beans as well as my occasional craving for chocolate). This shouldn’t be a radical notion but at present it is, because the belief that weight=health has allowed diet culture to flourish to the detriment of health. Weight loss dieting makes people fatter, not thinner. It also makes them less healthy. It also makes billions of dollars for corporations. And yet, perpetuating the idea that fat=unhealthy has led us to a situation where people believe that the healthiest thing they can do is to diet. This means that healthful practices like eating until satiated (not until a kilojoule goal is reached) and eating a wide range of foods (not just what’s on the dieter’s menu for the day) and listening to your body’s needs for exercise and also for rest (not just doing what is prescribed and nothing more, or pushing until injury, or doing nothing because the gym seems a hostile place in a fat-hating world). In other words, most FA blogs and FA as a movement tends to promote health and wellbeing very strongly – it just doesn’t say that weight loss is necessary for achieving health improvements. You’ll find that the research bears that out, since there is no proven way for 95% of people to lose weight and no proof that weight loss actually improves health, and plenty of evidence that increased exercise and minor dietary changes often do improve health outcomes even if no weight loss is achieved.

    This comment is far longer than I intended it to be, I apologise for the huge essay. It wasn’t my intention to come into your space and write an epic post! I thank you for your engagement with FA. And I thank you for your support of the notion that size-based prejudice is abhorrent. But I also hope that your readers and commenters will not take your assessment of FA at face value because I do feel that you have misrepresented the movement somewhat, probably unintentionally.

    If I may share something, here is a link to an excellent piece by Dr Samantha Thomas on how she views FA, which might give you another perspective on what the movement is about and why it is important.
    http://www.drsamanthathomas.com/blog/2010/08/fat-acceptance-what-it-means-to-me.html

    1. Elizabeth,
      Your comments and insight are always welcome here. I admit I’ve placed a few comment bait phrases in the article, in the hope to generate some kind of reasonable back-and-forth on this issue – something I couldn’t seem to achieve on your blog. I figured on my own blog I could control the attack stuff and let the debate stuff through.

      So far, there’s been no attack stuff at all. Just considered responses.

      So, I’d think we disagree about the level of correlation and causation between weight and health but maybe not as much as we think. I agree it is complex but I think it should drive more discussion, not less. And drive actual discussion, not drive personal attacks (from either side). Mia claims to have asked, during the FA dust up on her website, some of the participants and commentators to write a guest post but her offer was declined. I don’t know if you were asked but perhaps you should approach her to do just that.

      A well written article, followed by respectful discussion to a very, very large audience of women and a couple of blokes. What could go wrong? (LOL). And if not you, I’m sure Dr Thomas’ blog post from today could make a good start.

      In any case, thanks for asking me to blog and thanks for the comment.

  10. I wanted to comment but then Kylie L said what I wanted to say. (but as you’re a comment/stat fiend I’m leaving my mark anyway.) Nice work. Where on earth do you find the time?

  11. Hi there : )
    I am on of ‘those’ FA bloggers *grin* and I think you might have the wrong end of the stick about a few things re Fat Acceptance. Other commenters have gone into a few of the issues and explained it well so I won’t get into it again but yeah, there seems to be a fair bit of misinformation out there as to what FA is actually about and it isn’t surprising the a lot of people have the wrong idea. I hope you will read some of the Australian FA blogs (such as mine) and get more of an idea of what we are about. cheers!

  12. An Idle Dad, there’s a concept known as ‘safe space’ that I have only come across in my FA reading. The reason that many FA bloggers have very strict comment policies is because they face abuse, ridicule and just good old-fashioned frustration related to fat and weight issues almost every day, any time, anywhere – they certainly shouldn’t have to accept it in their own corner of the internet as well. Perhaps this frustrates some people, but they can go to the other 99.9% of the internet for their anti-fat fix.

    Not wanting to put words in their mouths, I think the bloggers that had been invited by Mia Freedman to write about Fat Acceptance on her blog were hesitant to risk putting their necks out for an audience that did not seem to be very, well, *open* to FA ideas.

    Especially when Mia could easily write an introduction herself, and link to any number of blogs – where the real 101 stuff has already been done many times over. It’s not that FA bloggers don’t want to hear other points of view from a wide audience – the entire rest of the world provides that!

    As for people feeling ‘attacked’ – while it may be the very first time that person has commented, FA bloggers have heard it all before. They heard it last year, last week, yesterday, today, and will hear it again tomorrow. Sometimes they just don’t feel like reinventing the wheel every time they respond.

    But, of course, that’s my take on it – and I’m not a blogger.

    1. Carmel,
      You won’t like me saying this (and there is probably no gentle way of doing it) but when I mention ‘giving up’ in my blog it comes from comments like yours.

      Your post can be read this way:
      – FA blogs aren’t spreading a message, they’re to reinforce the message to adherents
      – Outsiders aren’t welcome on those blogs
      – Questions aren’t welcome on those blogs – and the askers are inherently anti-fat who should go elsewhere for ‘their anti-fat fix’
      – When offered the chance to put the message out there and sell it to a wider audience, you decline because that wider audience might not agree!
      – Plus, you know, everyone should already know about it and be on our side anyway

      It just doesn’t work that way. Discrimination won’t melt away because your cause is just.

      I won’t deny anyone a safe place, but if you won’t create a separate space to push your message and fight the fight then what are you doing?

      Imagine if women seeking the vote one hundred years ago never spoke to men about it. Or if Martin Luther King never spoke to a white person about his dreams. Or if AIDS victims never put their case forward (I can remember when they were all gay and it was all their fault). Or if GLBT never put forward their arguments for equality.

      You see the internet and the world at 99.9% against you? Half (two thirds?) of Australian is overweight or obese. Compare that to the GLBT movement – the percentage is what? 10% at best? Yet they still are gaining mainstream acceptance?

      You’ve got a worthy cause against discrimination. You have a highly debatable case built around that cause. I’m not saying you ‘have’ given up, I just saying it sure reads like it.

      1. That is my understanding of a ‘safe space’, and if I’m off the mark I’m sure others will let me know.

        However, while FA bloggers and activists ARE fighting a fight – they still get to choose when and where and how they do it. They are under no obligation to teach people, or try to convert people, every time they talk FA issues.

        Most FA blogs I read are NOT open for debate. That’s just not what they are for, whether their readers like it or not. You may think this is a backward way of being an activist, but that’s not up to you, or me. FA activists use plenty of methods to engage with others. If their personal blog is or is NOT one of them, that’s their right.

        The majority of people may be overweight, but that doesn’t make the majority of the internet a fat positive space. Far from it.

        Try writing a post about ending fat discrimination, and see how many comments you get about how that would just encourage people to be fat, or lovely anecdotes about sitting next to fat people in planes, or how they just need to eat less and get off the couch. Why should they open themselves up to that every. single. time, just because you think that’s how activism works?

        When you say ‘you’ in your reply – I’m not sure if you mean a generic ‘you’ or me specifically. Speaking for myself, I’m not fat. And if I was, it wouldn’t be because I’d ‘given up’. So perhaps I’d better shut up and let the bloggers speak for themselves, should they choose to.

      2. “When offered the chance to put the message out there and sell it to a wider audience, you decline because that wider audience might not agree!”

        Mamamia is much more of a community over there, rather than just a blog or website, and considering the reception from FA bloggers have gotten over there (and on their own blogs) from commenters and Mia Freedman herself I’m not surprised that they’re apprehensive to write a post over there.

        That said, we are going to a mainstream audience. There’s an article on fat acceptance coming out in this Sunday’s Sunday Telegraph, actually (featuring yours truly). Dr Samantha Thomas recently got a pile of mainstream media coverage for research she has done into weight loss interventions. There are bloggers that have been on TV and radio to speak about FA. I know that we do a lot of preaching to the converted, but we are slowly getting out there into the wider consciousness.

  13. I read this when you first posted it and didn’t really have a comment. I have since been back and read the subsequent discussion. I think you have provided a great forum here for some really sensible discussion without the usual “attack” mentality. That is good to see.

    I have a love/hate relationship with my fat. I’ve been a “mantisy type” and now I’m a bit of a “christmassy beetle type”. I know precisely why I am this way. I eat poorly, I am lazy and I have a medical condition – a very underactive thyroid. I feel that I can comment on this because I am across the whole spectrum. I don’t like the way I look and feel at the moment and I know that is mostly because I am not eating as I should and I am being lazy. Combine that with a dodgy thyroid and you get a vicious cycle that is very hard to exit. Now I am not obese – I am still between a size 10 and 12 – however my “natural” size is a 6-8, but I have a sense now of how easy it is to become obese. Fast forward me 3 years following the exact same path and I would be obese. I am at my all time heaviest now but I also know that I will do something about it, but it does require hard work and motivation. Personally I wish I could be happy with my size – but, I know that I don’t feel as strong, happy and healthy as I do when I am not carrying 15-20 kilos of excess baggage. For me “fat acceptance” is accepting a lesser quality life. I am not prepared to do that. I don’t accept my fat. I don’t like it and I know it isn’t good for me. This is my opinion and I am not saying that is how the “fat acceptance movement” sees it. I am merely providing my opinion. One I feel I am qualified to provide.

    As usual Idle, a grand post.

    1. And as usual, your comment is far more eloquent than my post!

      Your point about the acceptance of a lesser quality of life is an interesting one. And probably goes to the heart of my iffyness with FA. Sure, it is possible that I am not accepting a lesser quality of life – it is possible I could be fit, active and eating healthy and still remain the same weight, but I have a nagging feeling that it isn’t true. My health is less.

      Sure, there are outliers – the thin who can’t gain weight, the overweight who can’t lose it – but I suspect that the vast majority have shifted up, and potentially can shift down.

      And even if everyone who is overweight can’t lose the weight – that is once you have gained it, you can’t lose it – does it make it morally wrong to pursue social policy that aims to prevent people from gaining the weight? If there is a connection between weight and health, doesn’t that imply that there is a healthy weight range?

      Thanks for the comment as always.

    2. “For me “fat acceptance” is accepting a lesser quality life.”

      No, that’s not it at all! Perhaps you’d feel more comfortable if you thought of our movement as body acceptance or size acceptance. It’s not just for fat people!

      As I said in an earlier comment, we advocate people making decisions about their own bodies based on their own experiences without fear of discrimination or hatred. I don’t feel right if I don’t go to my samba class, so I do and I feel better. I don’t feel right if I eat a really crappy diet, so I eat well and make sure I get lots of fresh food.

      Move in a way that makes you feel good. Eat things that make you feel good. Strut and never get down on yourself about the way you look. That’s fat acceptance. (It’s really quite hedonistic, if you think about it.)

  14. Wow, I’ve never even heard of ‘fat acceptance’! How about just accepting everyone for who they are?
    I’m overweight, I do exercise and have a healthy diet and I’m trying my best, but there’s no way I can just accept that this is the way I am and should be. Looks aside, I want my body to carry a baby and in it’s current state I don’t think it could. And then looking into the future, I don’t want my children to be overweight and go through the same things I did and still am, and I know having overweight parents is a huge precursor to childhood obesity.
    Thanks for the great thought provoking post!

  15. I apologise for entering this discussion three weeks late, but someone just linked here and I always enjoy talking to people who are not entirely hostile to our cause.

    I see you’ve already received several useful comments, but there is one thing that hasn’t been mentioned yet. This is an argument that only applies to diabetes and no other diseases, but nevertheless an important one: Insulin resistance actually seems to cause weight gain, so it is possible that some people only became fat in the first place because they were about to develop diabetes, not the other way around. As far as I know, there is no conclusive research proving one or the other. That said, some diseases definitely cause weight gain, such as certain thyroid conditions, and it is not unlikely that this contributes to the higher death rates.

    Also, did you know that stress increases blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels? I found out about that while researching stress, before I’d even heard of FA. With this knowledge in the back of my head, I was immediately drawn towards the idea that fat stigma might be responsible for all those well-known correlations, not the fat itself. Until someone disproves this theory, the statistics are essentially worthless. What’s the use in making people thinner if the reason why they’re sick is discrimination?

    Which brings me to my next point: As someone has already mentioned above, there is no evidence, so far, that making people thinner actually improves their health. Exercise, good nutrition and stress reduction do … yes, and sometimes that pushes a person down from the high end of their weight range to the low end (of what they can achieve easily). However, it doesn’t make them significantly thinner – an individual might still weigh 300 pounds afterwards, yet they are healthier than before.

    I agree that in some cases, weight loss would be beneficial in and of itself – for example, when mobility is impaired. However, you need a pretty unusual metabolism to reach such a high weight in the first place, so dieting is unlikely to help there. That is why I am personally not opposed to research into alternative weight loss methods – I mean other than various combinations of diet and exercise. Unfortunately not many researchers are interested in that.

  16. Wow. What an incredibly well written piece and such insightful comments from your readers. People are disagreeing with statements instead of making personal attacks. Such a refreshing read from all sides. I’ll be back when I need to exercise my brain a bit – you are all far too intelligent for me. Great read. Thanks.

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