This fat acceptance rant does more harm than good

I came across the following statement on a variety of fat acceptance blogs.

[Y]ou do not have anything interesting to say to someone who is struggling with obesity. You do not have better willpower than they do. You do not “care about myself” more. You are not more “serious about a healthy lifestyle” because you took off the eight pounds you gained at Christmas. You are no more qualified to lecture the obese on how to lose weight than I am qualified to lecture my short friends on how to become tall. You just have a different environmental and genetic legacy than they do. You’re not superior. You’re just somewhat thinner.

What do you think?

I fully agree that overweight people are treated unfairly. However, I also think that statements like this simply damage the fat acceptance movement and accomplish nothing good.

First, there’s the livid tone of the message. Instead of offering a reasonably dispassionate plea for fat acceptance or tolerance, it amounts to nothing more than an angry rant. There are times when expressing anger is appropriate, but in this case, it simply makes the author sound indignant. An author can sometimes get away with this when the rant is accompanied by some hard facts or well-reasoned logic. Because this particular posting lacks any solid facts or compelling logic though, I think that most readers would dismiss it as mere defensiveness and rationalization.

This leads to my second concern. The rant is filled with claims that are either grossly oversimplified or just plain wrong. Consider the following:

[li]“[Y]ou do not have anything interesting to say to someone who is struggling with obesity.” Really? In other words, no matter what somebody says, it cannot possibly be of interest to someone who struggles with one’s weight? Those don’t sound like the words of someone who is genuinely concerned about his or her own well-being.[/li][li]“You do not have better willpower than they do.” If the writer were to say that thinner people don’t necessarily have more will power, then I would wholeheartedly agree. After all, a great many factors can affect one’s obesity level. However, when somebody insist that thinner folks do NOT have more will power – PERIOD – then that’s an oversimplification, to put it mildly.[/li][li]“. You do not ‘care about myself’ more. You are not more ‘serious about a healthy lifestyle’ because you took off the eight pounds you gained at Christmas.” Same as above. A more dispassionate writer might claim that thinner people do not necessarily care about themselves more or take their health more seriously. To insist that they do NOT care more about themselves or their health, however, is an over the top claim that’s completely devoid of any nuance.[/li][li]Finally, “You just have a different environmental and genetic legacy than they do. You’re not superior. You’re just somewhat thinner.” One could chalk all the previous statements up to wild exaggerations or overly impassioned rhetoric. This last claim, however, is just plain wrong. It’s true that thinner people are not inherently superior, insofar as one’s waistline is not the measure of human worth. However, when somebody insists that others are only thinner due to their environment or genetics, then that’s just plain wrong. It’s difficult to take someone seriously when he or she flatly denies that physical activity and dietary habits do play a role in one’s girth?[/li][/ul]

I know that obesity is a touchy subject, and it has certainly sparked some heated discussions here on the SDMB. However, I daresay that when people post rants like these, they don’t accomplish any good. Instead of calling attention to their plight, they simply damage their credibility. They come across as petulant children who refuse to accept personal responsibility, claiming instead to be helpless victims who have no control over their conditions. That can only hurt them rather than help.

I was going to just complain about this until I saw the context the original quote was from:

This quote was after a section discussing seemingly rather harsh studies and conditions under which people were losing weight, including people on starvation diets.

I find it interesting that the first part of the quote was removed. Did whoever first edited it find that the actions listed made them look less sympathetic, especially considering that the writer noted this would be under a normal caloric intake?

The writer of the piece also notes that she’s never had higher than a normal BMI.

(Me, I have a normal range BMI, and about 10 pounds to lose. I have never been more than just a point or so above the normal range of the BMI level. I attribute a whole lot of that to willpower.)

2000-2500 is a normal range? I would have guessed more like 1750.

But no, I don’t think that rant does anyone any good. Not that I have any plans to talk to anyone about their weight anyway.

Wow. That’s interesting. I agree that the original quote is more reasonable. The quote is still filled with gross oversimplifications and unnecessary anger, but it’s at least somewhat more reasonable.

However, it still bothers me that people are deliberately trimming off the first part of that quote, as though THAT were the part that they agreed with and considered to be important. If I were to read such an edited claim, I wouldn’t be quick to agree, and I certainly wouldn’t go around reproducing it.

Like you, I have to ask why the original editor would deliberately lop off the first part, thus removing the quote from its (slightly) more reasonable context. I’m not a mind reader, but it sounds like somebody eagerly seized on the latter half (“Aha! Thinner people DON’T have more will power than I do!”) and chose to focus solely on that part.

It depends on who you are.

I can eat 3000ish calories a day, and not gain a pound, throughout most of the year. But in the winter, if I eat the same amount, I’ll gain a few pounds because I don’t move about as much, and I never work out, I’m just a six foot tall 20 year old male.

On the other hand, I’ve known very small women who could eat twice what I do, and gain no weight, or very small women who could eat just over half what I do and balloon up like Gloria did after All in the Family.

It might be a common range, but 2500 is quite a bit above normal: the usual recommendations are that men eat 2000 calories a day, and women (like the ranter) a bit less at 1700-1800.

I don’t know why the first part of the quote is cut off, though I suspect it’s to make the woman sound more sympathetic, not less. The part about will-power is undermined by first couple lines when she complains about only eating 200-700 more calories than is supposed to be healthy.

This is correct. I am more serious about a healthy lifestyle because I didn’t gain eight pounds in the first place.

Adding back the introduction to the quote makes the first portion seem a bit more reasonable and less militant. But then it all falls apart as the angry fatso goes on and on to show us she is as addicted to ranting about skinny people as she is to eating.

I’m pretty sure that men are put on 2000 calories as a REDUCING diet…that is, only if they want to lose weight. It’s been a while since I looked at the recommendations for men’s diets, though. I remember looking at the calorie recommendations for men on a reducing diet, and feeling insanely jealous that even on a diet, they got to have 2000 calories.

She probably means that she’s heard it all before. No matter what gems of wisdom you think that you have to impart to her, she’s heard it before, and it is no longer new, interesting information. It’s just the same old shit that she’s heard for however long she’s been fat.

Eh, 2000-2500 is what was on the back of my cereal boxes as a normal diet when I was a kid (2,500 for men, 2,000 for women). I’d forgive her for using it as a generalization.

I think the quote resonates with a lot of people because, for whatever reason, there are a lot of smug idiots who purport to have the answer for obesity. Look at this forum – people will walk in, say “Just eat less and exercise more!”, then saunter off, the problem firmly resolved in their minds. Any attempt to make the discussion broader than this is inevitably met with disbelief or downright hostility.

It’s frustrating to deal with judgemental, ignorant people who believe they know all about an issue that they really know very little about. It’s along the lines of people with depression being told to just cheer up, or parents being told that their kid needs a spanking and not Ritalin. I’m sure that in some cases, either of those statements might be true, but chances are it’s not some wag on the Internet that knows the best thing for you.

If people could grow up and accept a happy middle ground between “it’s not my fault I’m fat, it’s completely out of my hands, diets don’t work” and “put down the fork and go to the gym, stupid” then we wouldn’t see comments like this.

I just recently “discovered” the world that is Fat Acceptance. I am in awe. A friend of mine is trying to do a pro-fat blog thing, and I’m stunned by what I come across.

The problem is that ANY criticism of bigger folks, from “You know, if you didn’t eat as much as you do, or if you exercised more…” to “Jesus Christ put down the Ho Ho’s you cow!” will elicit the exact same “This is how I am, nothing is wrong with me, it’s society that needs to adapt to me and you’re a sizist jerk” response from the FA crowd. As near as I’ve been able to tell.

The truth, no matter how badly folks would like to not accept is, is that the vast majority of overweight American’s are that way because of poor diet and lack of physical activity. I know… I’m one of them.

But that’s not what FA tries to tell you. FA tries to tell you that dieting is hating yourself, and that it’s up to society to accept us the way we are, no matter what (which is true) and that it’s wrong to try to lose weight. That your size is in no way your fault. AS can be seen in the quote in the OP: “You just have a different genetic legacy and environment than they do”.

And that’s dangerous. From what I’ve seen, most of the FA blogoverse is more like PETA than AA.

Quoted for truth. As a rule of thumb, you can assume that anyone who actually cares about being fat knows about the existence of diet plans and gyms.

I do think that the unredacted quote is far more compelling. The author is not “complain[ing] about only eating 200-700 more calories than is supposed to be healthy.” She is, as I understand it, pointing out that most everyone has a caloric level below which they shift mentally into starvation mode: “spend[ing] significant amounts of your day fixating on food–fantasizing about it, binging, hiding it, strategizing how to procure it.” If that caloric level is high for you, you are likely to be obese. We know very little about how that caloric level is determined for each person, but some contributing factors seem to be genetics and dieting history (the more your weight has cycled up and down in the past, the higher your caloric setpoint).

Speaking purely as a fat chick (soon to be un-fat chick):

This is no good. People are afraid to tell overweight people that they’re fat. I can appreciate their thoughts, but if someone (my doctor, a friend, anyone) had sat down with me and said, “I’m worried about you and your health: how can I help you?” it would have been well-received. Tact and preserving dignity is really important: if a slender person would just come out and say, “Dang, girl: you’re fat!” they may get any reaction between tears to being slugged.

I have lost weight by having the love and support of many people. Everyone at work knows how much I weigh. Heck, soon everyone in my town will know how much I weigh because of the Arrow Meltdown. But that’s okay. Why? Because telling other people and sharing my goals helps me keep motivated and stay accountable. I have gone from needing support and inspiration to being the support and inspiration for someone else. It’s a great feeling.

Fat acceptance, in the end, is detrimental to the general health and welfare of the person, the country and the national health care system. Being accepted for who you are is one thing: but when the behaviour can kill you, it’s a whole different ball game.

Is the Fat Acceptance movement concerned with anyone deemed fat or only the clinically obese? I’ve read some really intelligent stuff from bloggers who seem to be Fat Acceptance activists, but now that I think about it I’m not sure who they were targeting.

I’m somewhat thin and don’t doubt that I eat more and exercise less than many women larger than me. I love food but can’t help but wonder what my diet would be like if I’d grown up in a household or in a different area. I have worked with Inuit women who were easily twice my size, as were their mothers and grandmothers. They subsisted on country food: seal, whale, sometimes caribou. Put them in a magazine or bring them to a party and they will be ‘the fat girls,’ but they are healthy. Get them to the city and give them fast food and it’s a another story, but I refuse to believe that their shape and health isn’t a factor of their genes.

My boss, an East Asian woman with no brain/mouth filter, immediately blurted “what happened, did you gain weight?” when I poked my head into her office today.

And bless her for it. I will now *unquestionably *be hitting the gym for some cardio this evening.

Nope. Look at any food item, and it’ll tell you that the daily value percentages are based on a 2000 calorie/day intake, because that’s the standard for 1/2 of the adult population.

I’ve never known ANY fat person who didn’t know that they’re fat. They might not talk about it, but every fat (as opposed to plump) person knows s/he’s fat.

I just took the first 10 food items with labels in my pantry and looked at them. 8 had both 2000 and 2500 calorie percentages listed, and the other two only had 2000 calorie percentages listed. The two with the 2000 calorie percentages had very small food labels, so my WAG is that the 2500 calorie percentages were left off because of space.

I will agree with this. But I feel if talking to a friend were done from a position of love and support, instead of a negative tone, it could go a lot further.

No way. For any moderately active non-scrawny adult male, 2500 calories is a minimum. What they base the nutrition labels on is completely irrelevant to reality.

And don’t make me bring up Michael Phelps.

There’s a name for this in the blogosphere: concern trolling. I don’t know how many times someone in my life has “from a position of love and support” tried to “talk to me” about my weight. It all comes down to the same conclusion: you’re a fatass, you should diet. As if I never have. As if I haven’t ruined my metabolism with endless variations on diet after diet after diet from the time I was eight years old. And the underlying message there is “you haven’t tried hard enough, fatty.”

The implication that I don’t care enough, haven’t put in enough effort to conform to everyone else’s expectations of me, that I’m wrong in a variety of ways because I don’t hold those same expectations for myself or can’t live up to them is writ large all over that “position of love and support.”

All the love and support in the world isn’t going to make Weight Watchers work the 6th time when it didn’t work the first five times or get me through a tenth year (roughly) of being constantly cranky, hungry, sore and miserable from going low carb. All the love and support in the world can’t insulate me from the numerous complications that could follow if I chose to have some temporary surgical fix.

If people really love and support me, they’ll support the things I’m doing to maintain and improve my health despite the fact that intentional efforts at weight loss are no longer a part of the program.