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Acceptance, not complacency

Sometimes I feel weird being a fat person who supports fat rights and likes seeing fat people on TV, yet whose top goal of 2007 is to no longer be fat. Do fat acceptance and weight loss mix like carrots and kerosene? Or can you accept yourself and also be working to change yourself at the same time? At first it does sound like you’re trying to play both sides of a game of tug-of-war. If you really accept yourself, why are you trying to make yourself a different person?

There are several definitions for “acceptance” in the dictionary, but the one I like best is “to recognize as true.” For me, when I say I’ve accepted myself it means I’ve recognized who I am to the best of my ability, flaws and all. It doesn’t mean I’m necessarily satisfied with all the parts that make the house of me. The kitchen tile should really be replaced, the patio door may be squeaking and what *was* I thinking when I chose that wallpaper? But I’ve at least taken a look around the place and written an honest appraisal. It doesn’t mean I can’t hire a contractor.

Just because I’ve accepted who I am doesn’t mean I have to cryogenically freeze myself as that person for the rest of my life. It would be rather sad if I’m still the exact same person in 20 years as I am today. What would be the point of all that living? You’d hope I could learn something new in the next couple decades. Acceptance does not equal complacency. I don’t have to throw up my hands and say “Okay! This is it. This is as good as it gets.”

Similarly, you can support the rights of a group of people without actually wanting to be part of that group. For instance, I support gay rights, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy I’m not gay. Society gives gay people a lot of shit. Whether you think they deserve it or not, I’m personally glad I don’t have to deal with that. It’s just easier being heterosexual. I feel the same way about being fat. I support fat rights and think fat discrimination is wrong. Whether you think fat people deserve public scorn or not, if given the choice I’d rather not have to deal with any of it. Just let me be thin. I still think fat people and gay people and even fat gay people should be represented in our society and on TV, I just don’t want to be one of them. They won’t be writing any ballads in my honor, but it’s the truth.

Let’s just accept that, shall we?

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45 Comments

Lani • July 25, 2006 at 10:57 am

I feel the same way. You know that new show for the fall called Ugly Betty? I’m so looking forward to it. Its with that girl from the movie Real Women Have Curves and something about traveling pants. I don’t want to be fat but I can’t help but be happy/excited where there’s fat people on tv. It’s even better when they’re not playing the one who cant get a man and is completely miserable because of her weight. Hollywood needs to get a clue.

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Candy • July 25, 2006 at 11:44 am

amen….

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angelfish • July 25, 2006 at 12:24 pm

I know what you mean. I tried to accept the fat me as the real me but I was think for the 1st half of my life and I like living that way more. No people ignoring you or looking through you they seem to take you more seriously and think more of you if you get fit and take care of yourself. Anway, that’s what I think. I’m trying to analize why I put this layer of fat around me, to protect me? Maybe just due to emotional eating and not learning how to eat healthy and having a child added more. I’m on the wt loss journey too and there is no turing back this time. I want to live life to the fullest not be on the sidelines watching others. Just recently started reading your blog, you are doing so great and are an inspiration!

http://www.blogger.com/profile/27493015

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Peter Audrain • July 25, 2006 at 1:16 pm

I think this gets to the heart of what kind of weirds me out about something like bigfatblog (which I saw in the sidebar here). It’s certainly very important as a matter of civilization and decency to accept and be nice and unhorrible to fat people, including yourself while you are one, but it’s also a lot better to just do what you can to stop being one.

(I could see Eric Oliverish arguments possibly being used to deny the second part of that sentence—as in fat acceptance writers who put the obesity epidemic in scornful scare quotes—and that’s what made me uneasy.)

Accepting oneself as fat (at least for people without rare glandular conditions) seems a little like accepting onself as a smoker—it’s admittedly an aspect of yourself that can be very, very hard to change, given the way most people’s lives work, but, in fact, you can change it if you do the right things and try hard enough.

Or accepting yourself as a procrastinator, might be a good analogy. I don’t know.

Anyway, I like your definition of “accept.” Maybe the uniqueness of fat comes from its being a condition that, even when you’re eradicating it, necessarily goes away slowly, leaving you still fat even when you’re dieting and living healthily and have done the equivalent of “quitting smoking.” So if you hate yourself the whole time, you’ll actually become likely to pick up the bad habits again.

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Greta • July 25, 2006 at 1:21 pm

I am all for fat people’s rights. I think that gradually we are moving as a society towards accepting fat people without prejudice. However, there are known health problems that result from overweight plus there can be mobility issues. I don’t think that you have to want to be fat or stay fat in order to regard other fat people with love and acceptance.

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kim • July 25, 2006 at 3:07 pm

In my own weight loss journey, it has been important for me to accept my own size – rather than hating my fat, which leads to a general size acceptance. This helps me feed my hunger, rather than my emotions. Hating mine and other peoples fat just made me fatter. Learning to be kind to myself and others, doesn’t make me want to stay fat – I want to run and ride rollercoasters – but rather just makes me a nicer person. I second that amen!

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Milana • July 25, 2006 at 11:33 pm

I think that the need for “fat acceptance” is there b/c there is no reason for a person to have to deal with rudeness, harrassment, or any other bad energy because of their size. However, its know that a lot of people who are overweight are unhappy due to different reasons (emotional), and when you add that bad baggage that they have to deal with, it makes life alot harder…in addition usually causing people to gain more. So there’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose the extra weight (for both physical, mental, and emotional reasons) and supporting fat acceptance so that life isn’t harder for anyone just because of their size…

did all that make sense?

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Richard • July 26, 2006 at 6:26 am

“Sometimes I feel weird being a fat person who supports fat rights…”

The universe seems to operate as a contradiction. When you get to look ever more closely at reality, it starts to edge beyond your normal perceptions of the everyday and into what many might consider weird… so that your enlightened perception of normal are others’ unenlightened perceptions of weird.

“Society gives gay people a lot of shit.”

Still?

Perhaps those less enlightened and more officious might give gay people that, but they are but a mere portion of society. I think that distinction is important in serving to lessen or separate the societal worth of just such individuals’ shit from others.

“It’s just easier being heterosexual.”

In your context, perhaps, but across the board?

“I support fat rights and think fat discrimination is wrong.”

I support every natural human right except that which would limit those rights.

“Just let me be thin.”

You have a beautiful body in any case.

Spinning you around with that 3D thing made me feel vaguely guilty, perhaps as though you were a department store’s merchandise, but it was a guilty pleasure, and worth your effort.

” I still think fat people and gay people and even fat gay people should be represented in our society and on TV…”

Do you know what the mainstream media is? It’s no longer radio or television. It’s the internet, including blogs like yours. That’s societal representation. And, I rarely watch tv anymore.

“Let’s just accept that, shall we?”

I always have. :)

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lulu • July 26, 2006 at 7:46 am

Thank you for being the one brave enough to say this. Before I found your blog I had been following BigFatBlog for a while (is this what is called lurking?) and I was torn between being impressed by its attitude and being concerned at its apparent refusal to admit there might be a real health risk involved in being massively fat.

I got to the point a few months ago when I thought that nothing was ever going to work and perhaps I should just accept myself (I am exactly twice as heavy as the recommended weight for my height). I read Wendy Shanker’s book The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life and Pattie Thomas’s blog, and thought they made lots of valid points. In theory I agreed with them: one of the main problems faced by fat people is the negative attitude of others.

But it isn’t the whole story. I admire Wendy Shanker for being able to work out at 220 pounds, I really do. But I can’t walk more than a few yards without needing to rest; I can’t even stand up for more than 10 minutes without developing terrible backache. I am tired all the time. I have to go up and down stairs clinging to a handrail. I can buy stylish plus-size clothes – at a price – but I can’t dance in them because, well, I just can’t dance. Is this really what I have to put up with for the rest of my life? There is no way I can be fit and healthy at this weight: there is no way I can exercise enough to keep myself mobile and flexible. I admire those who do, but I can only think their bone structure and muscles must be much more robust than mine.

Even when I was very slim I used to detest the disrespect that was shown to fat people. I remember some years ago one of my friends asking me how I could be going out with my then boyfriend “because he is so disgustingly fat”. He was a big guy (6’3″ and about 350 pounds)certainly, but to me he was handsome and sexy. Now, with another man (not as heavy but still burly rather than skinny) who loves me just the way I am, I still feel confident and attractive, and I’m not ashamed of my weight and size. I just want to be a different, slimmer shape, and a smaller size. I want to be able to walk lightly and quickly through the world instead of plodding along in pain, expecting it to change to accommodate me. I do remember what it felt like to be slim, and I want that feeling back.

But how? If, as FA people say, diets don’t work and no one can lose weight once they have gained it, and if you are fat you are obviously designed to be that way, what was the use of even trying?

Then I chanced on your blog. I read through the whole archive in 2 days. I know people have told you this before, but I wonder if you really know how inspiring you are. You are not merely telling us, but showing us, what’s been happening. The superimposed pictures were amazing! It is so empowering to know that it is possible to do this without becoming weird and obsessive(Frances Kuffel’s book Passing for Thin really upset me), and without having terrifying and expensive surgery (Carnie Wilson’s Still Hungry is a great read, but I’m too cowardly).

I am so glad that you are doing this for yourself while you are still so young. You have already achieved so much, but I am sure you have a wonderful future ahead of you. I hope you have been approached to write a book about our experience: you are a natural writer and communicator, and I for one would love to have a permanent reminder of all you have done.

BTW, off-topic but on my mind, I found a website with lots of formal evening gowns in plus sizes, including off-the shoulder styles with a wide band which covered the upper arm but still kept the sleeveless vibe. Not that you will need to worry about that for much longer!

PS hope it was OK to mention the books. I still like to turn pages sometimes…

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Rachel • July 26, 2006 at 10:25 am

I’ve heard it said before that discrimination against fat people is the only form of discrimination still accepted in this country, and I have to say, I think it’s true.

I’m right there with you–there needs to be more acceptance for fat people, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t work on losing weight ourselves.

I like your definition of acceptance. Acceptance is the first step toward change. When I really started getting moving with my weight loss was when I finally accepted that I was where I was, it was me that got myself there, and I was the only one with the power to change it. I quit bitching about how unfair it was and hating people who were thin without having to work for it. I just accepted things for what they were and got to work.

So why can’t everybody else just accept fat people for what they are and stop couching their distaste in “concerns for the fat people’s health.” Sorry–strangers don’t give a damn about whether somebody they’ve never met is healthy. They care about having their view ruined by that fat person sitting across from them in the cafe.

But long story short, you really are an inspiration. Whenever I need motivation I just come spin you right round like a record, baby, right round, round, round. :)

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Jennah • July 26, 2006 at 11:02 am

So well said… thank you for that. You always seem to put the perfect words to what churns around in this heart and brain of mine. :) Take care, you are doing fantastic!

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Peter Audrain • July 26, 2006 at 1:30 pm

Fascinating, eloquent post, Lulu.

I don’t want to give advice you don’t need, but have you Googled the Hacker’s Diet? It might count as being obsessive (you have to count calories, with the help of measuring spoons and a scale, and keep a simple spreadsheet so you can actually see what is happening and tune out the “noise” in your daily weights), and the South Beach Diet sure seems to be working great for Pasta Queen.

But the Hacker’s Diet approach is very good for restoring a feeling that your body is a manageable system, since once you’re losing weight on it, it is *completely* predictable. No uncertainty or anxiety at all.

And–this is what always feels amazing when I start it up again to go down another round–”it really works!” There are no mysteries, nothing unexplainable happens. You set up a calorie deficit, after three days you don’t notice it any more, and you lose weight at the predicted rate. And use your spreadsheet to make sure your deficit is what you think it is. It’s a feedback system.

Good luck to us all!

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K • July 26, 2006 at 5:22 pm

“Just because I’ve accepted who I am doesn’t mean I have to cryogenically freeze myself as that person for the rest of my life.”

Yes! I totally agree with this. I’ve been stopped from doing quite a few things in the past because I was worried people would think it was weird or out of character, and I wanted to avoid the questions. Looking back, most of them were perfectly unexceptionable (and I’ve now done some of them). Playing football was one; so was lifting weights.

I also agree with your definition of acceptance, and I’ve got another one: the opposite of denial. If you want to change your circumstances, I think you have to know what they are and how you feel about them. (I found it quite easy to be in denial during the twelve years or so that I didn’t ever weigh myself…)

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Michelle • July 26, 2006 at 7:31 pm

You rock! Keep up the great work!

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Lowcarb_dave • July 27, 2006 at 6:27 am

Of course you can be for both!

Just because the Fat Acceptance Movement has taken an anti-diet political type stance, doesn’t mean we dieteres can’t be pro-acceptance.

I think they have had to take that stance. I don’t think they exclude dieters from their ranks, they just forbid diet talk in their gatherings.

PQ – I am exactly like you – I am for both. But you know what?, if someone is healthy, fat and doesn’t want to diet – I am for that!

Unfortunately I have never been healthy and fat :(

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lulu • July 27, 2006 at 12:17 pm

One of the things that put me off BigFatBlog was its apparent view of attempts to lose weight as a betrayal of fellow fat people rather than a valid personal choice. They won’t let weight-loss bloggers sign up! I am unhappy with any organisation which tries to turn Us against Them. But in my opinion any civilised person should respect the rights and dignity of others, whatever their personal aesthetics may be.

Peter, thanks for the Hacker’s Diet tip: nothing is more welcome to me than advice based on personal experience! I like calories (they are delicious) because although fiddly they give you maximum freedom. I would love to try the South Beach Diet, but it seems to rely heavily on foods which are probably readily available in America but less so in England, where we live mainly on bacon sandwiches, chocolate biscuits and cups of tea. Or perhaps that’s just me.

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PastaQueen • July 27, 2006 at 12:29 pm

lulu – “They won’t let weight-loss bloggers sign up! ”

OMG, that explains something I’ve been wondering about. I’d registered an account on Big Fat Blog to comment a while back and had posted maybe 2 comments all together. But I noticed recently when I went to comment on an article that I got a “You are not allowed to post comments” message. I e-mailed asking why that was and never got a response. Maybe they’ve banned me because I’m losing weight! Hmmm, I’ll try e-mailing about it again.

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Paul • July 27, 2006 at 1:08 pm

And hi!

It was a conscious choice of mine to not allow people to discuss weight loss on BFB, and I also am uncomfortable with people who have weight loss blogs posting on the site. No problem if you disagree with this, or find it to your disliking.

It’s also not an intentional “us versus them” thing; rather, that’s just not something I want on the site.

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PastaQueen • July 27, 2006 at 1:49 pm

And mystery solved! Thanks, Paul.

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Kay • July 27, 2006 at 8:41 pm

No problem if you disagree with this, or find it to your disliking.

Ummm… am I reading him wrong or was he just an ass? I bet he doesn’t appreciate your linking to his site and giving him all those hits either.?

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PastaQueen • July 27, 2006 at 9:29 pm

Kay – Actually, now that I’ve learned that weight loss bloggers are not welcome on the Big Fat Blog I’ve decided to take him off the blogroll. I don’t think weight loss and fat acceptance are mutually exclusive and I can’t continue to endorse a site that does. And I don’t mean that in an “OMG, u banned me from ur site! U sux!” kind of way. I legitimately have a problem with that philosophy in a non-personal way.

Oh, and when he said “No problem ..etc” I took it to mean him saying “This is the policy. It’s my site. I’m not going to fight about it.” So on an asshole meter going from 1-10 I’d give it a 3, maybe a 4. Brusque, but not overtly rude.

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Caroline • July 28, 2006 at 8:56 am

Certainly seems a very odd attitude…

By the way, love your blog…found it after dicovering you had already snagged the blog title I wanted I also need to get rid of half of me…we have the same goal, but you’re a lot closer, despite starting from a lot further away. You are a real inspiration…and I find your blog very inforamtive and insightful. Good luck with the rest of your journey, I’m going to be with you the rest of the way.

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Dr. Strangelove • July 29, 2006 at 7:40 am

lulu- “One of the things that put me off BigFatBlog was its apparent view of attempts to lose weight as a betrayal of fellow fat people rather than a valid personal choice.”

Well if all members started dieting and talking about it, BigFatBan might lose its raison d’etre and memberships would dry up and the name would have to change to something like SmallSkinnyBlog.

Dr. Strangelove

“Or how I stopped worrying and learned to love the ban”

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Mark • July 30, 2006 at 10:36 am

Is Paul that fat acceptance guy who isn’t fat? THAT’S the mystery I want solved!

I guess allowing people with diet blogs to comment on his site would sort of blow the DIETS DON’T WORK!!! meme they promote.

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Dr. Strangelove AKA Richard • July 30, 2006 at 5:54 pm

Mark: Good question and point.

…So who’s going to ask Paul? :)

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Julie • August 5, 2006 at 10:50 pm

The way I look at fat acceptance is this:

It is extremely difficult to lose weight, especially if you have been fat all your life. People need to understand that and have some respect.

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julie • August 5, 2006 at 10:59 pm

I sent that last comment before I meant to…

I just wanted to add that I am losing weight but when a person over three hundred pounds loses even 100 pounds, they are still fat. It’s very hard to be working and struggling to lose weight and still get the looks and the comments and still not be able to fit in the tiny chairs, etc.

Being thinner will make me feel better and give me better health, and I am working on it. But I’m not stupid, lazy or a bad person because I am fat. There are a scary amount of people out there who don’t understand that simple concept.

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Paul • August 11, 2006 at 5:37 pm

PQ: So on an asshole meter going from 1-10 I’d give it a 3, maybe a 4. Brusque, but not overtly rude.

That’s pretty good – I usually score higher! Seriously, though, the “No problem” was indeed meant to be in an “agree to disagree” tone.

Mark: Is Paul that fat acceptance guy who isn’t fat? THAT’S the mystery I want solved!

I’m “class II obese”, if you go by the BMI scales.

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anon • September 5, 2006 at 3:31 pm

“Sometimes I feel weird being a fat person who supports fat rights and likes seeing fat people on TV, yet whose top goal of 2007 is to no longer be fat. Do fat acceptance and weight loss mix like carrots and kerosene?”

Got it in one. No, under no circumstances, are you part of the Fat Acceptance movement.

Now, the question is, why can’t the dieters leave us the hell alone? You already have the support of the mainstream culture (even though you’ll never be permanently or safety thin, and therefore will never be their “equal”.) Why do you have to try to suck up fat acceptance, too? Why the compulsion to ruin our movement.

And, no, attempting to lose weight is not a “valid personal choice.” It’s really, really stupid and dangerous. I don’t support people trying to lose weight for the same reasons I don’t cheer on smokers or drinking alcoholics. Talk to me when you’re sick of being sick.

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PastaQueen • September 5, 2006 at 4:40 pm

anon – “Why can’t the dieters leave us the hell alone?” Well, anon, you’re the one visiting my blog so isn’t the real question why can’t you leave dieters alone?

“even though you’ll never be permanently or safety thin, and therefore will never be their ‘equal’”

If you are trying to say that people who lose weight are always incapable of keeping the weight off, I’d like to point you to the National Weight Control Registry which tracks over 5,000 of these people you think don’t exist. I also find it discouraging that you seem to be grouping people into “real thin” people and “fake thin” people. Isn’t one of the principles of the fat acceptance movement that we are all just people, and that we are all deserving of the same dignity and respect?

“[weight loss is] really, really stupid and dangerous.”

This really depends on how you lose weight. If you go on a crash diet, constantly yo-yo in weight or succumb to an eating disorder than weight loss can indeed be dangerous. However, if you eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, weight loss can be safe and ultimately beneficial to your health. There are too many scientific articles that prove this for me to quote them all, but just google for “obesity epidemic” and you’ll find some. I also don’t know how you could think my 372 pound self whose knees hurt when I walked down the stairs is somehow healthier than my 209 pound self who can run a mile.

“Talk to me when you’re sick of being sick.”

I’d love to if you would leave your actual e-mail address instead of using a fake one. If you want to have a real discussion about this, I’m up for it. But if you can’t get along with people like me who bridge the gap between the fat acceptance movement and the fat-phobic masses, what chances do you have of changing the hearts and minds of fat-haters? It saddens me that you see me as your enemy when we’re really on the same side. The battle you should be fighting isn’t with me. If anyone is in danger of “ruining” the fat acceptance movement it’s people who are stirring up conflict where it doesn’t exist when they should be doing their jobs at the California Department of Water Resources instead.

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katep • September 6, 2006 at 3:06 am

The thing is, if you were once very fat you will always be different. Regardless of what your BMI is now. What’s going on in your hypothalamus will not be the same as what’s going on in the brain of a never-obese person. Fat really is a genetic propensity, and people who become fat – especially those who become very fat – have a different physiology. Some of these are inborn differences, and some are irreversible changes caused just by having been fat.

But the upshot is, even if you attain a “normal weight,” you will never be “normal.” You will probably always be fighting your body’s natural set point. You will almost certainly always have to exercise a lot more and diet a lot more to stay “normal” weight. It will probably always a difficult struggle. This is what even the most anti-fat doctors mean when they say “obesity is a lifelong disease.”

I’m not trying to be discouraging of your decision. I’m just thinking about what the “difference” is that defines fat. It’s not just about whether you happen to have a given BMI at a given time. The differences I’ve described are invisible, but are just as real as BMI, and may even be more fundamental. And while some of the variables change when you lose weight, the differences don’t all just evaporate.

So I’m skeptical when people insist that being gay is inborn and being fat is a choice. You can have the desire to sleep with the same sex and not act on it, just like you can have the desire to overeat and not act on it (to some extent). But in both cases there’s still something different about you and your desires and what’s going on in your head, regardless of what your outward appearance or behavior is. And in neither case is that internal, invisible, difference a “choice.”

So for those reasons I believe even dieters have good reason to be for fat acceptance. They may attain “normal” weight, but most of them will never be entirely “normal.” And statistically, most of them will become fat again. All of us need to insist that fat people or formerly fat people aren’t morally deficient or psychologically disturbed, and deserve equal rights and respect.

But I also agree that maybe there’s a problem with the term “fat acceptance” if it implies that you can never try to alter your weight. Because whether you choose to try and change your weight — or not — is deeply personal decision. And a highly complex one to boot.

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PastaQueen • September 6, 2006 at 10:55 am

katep – From what I’ve read I think “reduced obese” people burn about 15% less calories during exercise than people who have never been obese. Their resting metabolism and thermic metabolism (energy burned digesting food) however remain the same as “normal” people. So yes, in that way I’m always going to be different than someone who was never fat, but I guess that’s just my burden to bear.

It really bugs me when people like anon come along and try to shove dieters out of the fat acceptance movement. Who put him/her in charge of issuing membership cards? It’s the “fat acceptance” movement, not the “we only accept you if you’re fat” movement. When someone implies losing weight is always stupid or dangerous it makes everyone in the fat acceptance movement look like extremists who can’t read a science textbook. It makes the whole movement lose credibility and easier for people to assume that the fat acceptance movement is full of bitter, fat people who spread lies.

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fu LOSERS • September 7, 2006 at 11:09 am

Dieters are NOT IN THE FAT ACCEPTANCE MOVEMENT. GO AWAY AND STOP TRYING TO SUCK UP OUR RESOURCES AND TIME AND ENERGY. (Must be all the dieting — it makes you unreasonably greedy.)

And, for the love of all things intellectual, get your brain in gear. The “weight loss” registry is short by a couple million people if they’re trying to invalidate the FACT that <98% of weight loss attempts “succeed.”

IF YOU’RE TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT, YOU’RE NOT IN THE FAT ACCEPTANCE MOVEMENT. IF YOU’RE TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT, GO AWAY. WHAT CAN YOU NOT UNDERSTAND ABOUT THAT???????????????????????

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PastaQueen • September 7, 2006 at 11:34 am

fu LOSERS – “GO AWAY AND STOP TRYING TO SUCK UP OUR RESOURCES AND TIME AND ENERGY”

As I said to anon, you’re the one visiting a dieting blog. So you’re the one who is sucking up your resources and time and energy. If you are not interested in listening to other people’s opinions, the weight loss blog circuit isn’t for you.

“The ‘weight loss’ registry is short by a couple million people if they’re trying to invalidate the FACT that < 98% of weight loss attempts ‘succeed.’”

They’re not trying to invalidate that fact. The registry tracks the rare individuals that have been able to beat the odds and sustain a weight loss in the hopes that the majority who fail can learn something from them. It shows that while long-term weight loss is difficult, it is not impossible like many fat acceptance extremists would have us believe.

“WHAT CAN YOU NOT UNDERSTAND ABOUT THAT?”

Since you have failed to give me any convincing arguments for why dieters are not part of the fat acceptance movement, no one who is looking at the topic objectively would understand your emotional viewpoint. Also, leaving a juvenile name for your post and leaving a fake e-mail address reduces your credibility to the size of a peanut and makes you sound even nuttier.

Words weren’t made for cowards. If you have a good reason why dieters shouldn’t be part of the fat acceptance movement, then state it in a rational and reasonable manner. Leave your real e-mail address and name to show that you aren’t scared to stand by your opinions. Don’t just shit all over someone’s blog and run away like a hit and run.

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Katep • September 8, 2006 at 7:22 am

(Eh, I can’t seem to edit myself tonight, so apologies in advance for the length, and I’ll understand if it’s tldr for you.)

katep – From what I’ve read I think “reduced obese” people burn about 15% less calories during exercise than people who have never been obese….but I guess that’s just my burden to bear.

If it were just metabolism it would be no problem to be thin. But it’s the whole range of physiological controls your body uses to regulate your weight – especially the appetite changes – that should give you pause. Here’s an intro – from a pro-diet source, btw – talking about two separate hormonal changes increasing appetite when you lose weight below your set point. It’s just the tip of the iceberg, but maybe it helps give you an idea of why you will always be different from a person whose set point is naturally 130 lbs. Plus there are other changes too, having to do with energy expenditure, probably desire to move around/fidget, etc.

But the bottom line is that losing weight below your set point puts you in the position of constantly fighting your body’s homeostatic controls. And that’s a big deal. It’s a bigger deal than fighting a bad habit or even an addiction most likely. Because think – what are the other homeostaticly regulated behaviors? ..breathing, sleeping, drinking, temperature, urination. Think about a life of fighting the urge to sleep. I’m not up for it.

Now it’s not yet 100% clear that fighting the urge to eat is as futile as fighting the urge to sleep. I suspect that long-term it basically is, but this is really where the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) comes in. They’re looking to prove that it’s not impossible by finding anyone – anyone – who can hang in there. But even this research group – which is very pro-diet – is under no illusions that people who have lost weight are different from the never-fat. In fact here’s an article they themselves wrote documenting some of those differences in the brain.

I’d read the NWCR’s own papers. Yes, they were able to ferret out a group of “successful” losers over the internet, including people who’ve had weight loss surgery. But even this golden group – when they followed them for two years, 23% dropped out, another 55% were regaining weight and only one in five were maintaining their weight loss. ANd that’s just within two years after registering. The 55% who were regaining hadn’t regained much – 8 lbs on average. But still, these were serious dieters who were regaining in two years and they still have a lifetime of weight control ahead of them. The NWCR’s results should be a clue that even successful dieters are not… not… not the same as someone who’s never been fat.

Now the NWCR drives me crazy because they keep overstating the “good news” in their studies. On closer inspection it’s usually more like “not necessarily as horrible as you thought” news. But god bless them, they’re the only ones trying to pick apart the diet numbers, which are problematic. And more importantly they’re one of the few things standing between a whole lot of fat people and the bariatric surgeons’ knives, or the next recklessly undertested and irresponsibly marketed diet drug.

If you want to move away from the pro-diet cheerleaders, start reading about the research out of Leibel’s lab at Rockefeller. link link link link Admittedly these guys are probably digging for pharmacologic gold (always be a cynic). But I think most people are persuaded by the basics of their model though there’s plenty of room for controversy on the margins. I’m persuaded, though I have no doubt that in 10 years these same people are going to be pushing the FDA to fast-track their highly lucrative drug with the questionable safety record.

It really bugs me when people like anon come along and try to shove dieters out of the fat acceptance movement. Who put him/her in charge of issuing membership cards? It’s the “fat acceptance” movement, not the “we only accept you if you’re fat” movement. When someone implies losing weight is always stupid or dangerous it makes everyone in the fat acceptance movement look like extremists who can’t read a science textbook. It makes the whole movement lose credibility and easier for people to assume that the fat acceptance movement is full of bitter, fat people who spread lies.

anon seems to be a troll, so I’d ignore him/her. And I agree with you, the f.a. movement does itself no favors by alienating people who are trying to lose weight. After all most f.a. advocates were once avid dieters. My feeling is that there’s so much complexity and so many unknowns here that any insistence that someone else must or must not diet is inappropriate and invasive.

But, to be fair, the fat acceptance movement is not nearly as much at odds with science as your average dieter. Even the NIH – as conservative and traditional as you get – isn’t recommending that a person try to lose more than 10% of their weight through diet and exercise anymore. And look at what the Merck Manual (a pretty standard medical reference) has to say:

In recent years, the goals and methods of the treatment of obesity have changed radically as a result of two developments. The first is evidence that a modest weight loss, 10% or perhaps even 5% of body weight, is sufficient to control, or at least improve, most complications of obesity. Therefore, there is no reason to pursue the traditional goal of attaining an ideal body weight, which is so seldom attained and, if attained, is so rarely maintained. The “10% solution” has become the goal of most treatment programs.

The second development, derived from the poor maintenance of weight loss during treatment, is a move from a goal of weight loss to one of weight management, achieving the best weight possible in the context of overall health.

Does your average dieter even know that? No. I personally came to fat acceptance strictly because of the science. And it frankly irritates me when fat acceptance is accused of being anti-science by people who invariably know next to nothing about the science or the data. Or worse, what they do know is misinformation that is either 40 years out of date or gleaned off of Jenny Craig commercials.

The real problem isn’t that f.a. activists are going against the science. It’s that they’re going against tenaciously held mythologies about fat. Mythologies that that most researchers in the field no longer believe, but aren’t quite willing to go out and educate the public about, for fear the facts might inadvertendly exacerbate the “obesity epidemic.” The whole situation is a bit like an absurdist novel. A Catch 22 or something.

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"pastaqueen" = food obsession • September 8, 2006 at 10:23 am

The “acceptance” in fat acceptance is in the first person; I accept myself fat. It’s not about other people’s “acceptance,” i.e. the fight against job discrimination, or being able to buy clothes, or walk down the street without being harassed or attacked. All that other stuff is simply fighting discrimination. It’s worthwhile, too, but FAT ACCEPTANCE is, by definition, not pursuing weight loss. Period. And, since the primary reason to not engage in weight loss attempts is because they kill people, you’re rarely, if ever, going to be congratulated or indulged or listened to ad nauseum by anyone in the movement for trying to lose weight, for exactly the same reasons no one in their right mind would listen to someone singing the praises of driving without a seat belt or deliberately getting addicted to heroin. In other words, if you’re ever going to work with other fat people fighting bigotry, the first thing you’ll have to do is shut the fuck up about food and weight loss and weighing yourself and your goal weight and how “bad” or “good” you are. And, that — shutting the fuck up and not trying to be the center of attention as a reward for being a “good” fat person — is something I’ve never seen any dieter be able to do. You just can’t get your ego out of the mix. You never, ever, SHUT THE FUCK UP on the subject. It’s a free country — kill yourself any way you want, but don’t try to co-opt the Fat Acceptance movement by presuming you have the right to take up our time and energy with your suicidal weight loss obsession rituals. We’re really, really not interested, and, to tell you the truth, watching you kill yourself is just too pathetic and depressing, and we have better things to do.

Get it, now?

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PastaQueen • September 8, 2006 at 1:21 pm

Katep – Don’t worry about your post length. I appreciate the fact that you care enough about the topic to give a detailed explanation of your point of view. If anything, thanks for posting links to those articles. I know putting that stuff together takes a lot of time and I’m sure anyone who finds this post via google in the future will find them handy.

As for the Science vs. Fat Acceptance fight, Sunday night in Vegas, one night only (all you can eat buffet provided) – I think there are two rounds in this fight. First, are there biological mechanisms that make losing and keeping weight off difficult? Second, do the obese have more health risks and a higher mortality rate than thin people?

I notice most of the articles you linked to talk about the first question and show that yes, losing weight is hard to do and your body actively fights against it. Most fat people, including me, are not going to argue with you about this. When I get mad at fat acceptance people for ignoring science, this is not the stuff that I’m talking about.

The second question is the one that usually sparks the most fighting – can you be obese and healthy? (Follow up question, is losing weight harmful to your health?) This is one that is still being duked out and I know I could throw a medical article at you that says one thing and you could throw one back at me that says why that article is wrong, but then we’d just end up with paper cuts all over our faces and no real answers. This question is one that’s going to be examined and studied a lot in the future, and eventually it will be sifted and sorted out into an answer generally accepted by the medical community. Personally, I think if you are eating well and exercising, yes you can be fat and fit. But I also think if you are eating well and exercising, you’re not going to be morbidly obese either.

So when someone comes to my blog and accuses me of being sick because I’ve gone from 372 pounds to 209 pounds, I think they’re obviously the one who is sick in the head. I think part of the reason I scrape up against the F.A. community on why it can be good to lose weight is because they seem to ignore really extreme cases. Someone who is 20 pounds fat really isn’t in the same situation health-wise as someone who is 200 pounds fat.

Even if it is true that we all have a set point as the New York Times article you linked to said, it also says that a person “typically varies by about 10 percent from a midpoint.” I highly doubt that my set point was up in the high 300′s. Even if my midpoint ends up being 170 or 180 or something, it is still significantly less than what I weighed. So I read that to say that I am right to be losing weight. I was definitely at the far right of the bell curve. I also doubt that the Merck Manual was talking about people like me when they recommend a 10% weight loss. I was an extreme case. The extremity of my obesity (I was in the top 1% most obese people in the country) probably shapes my viewpoint on the fat acceptance community since they don’t seem to think of extreme cases like me, whose mobility and quality of life were inhibited by weight, when they talk about how you shouldn’t lose weight.

Regardless of the fact that the deck is stacked against me, so what? There is a group of less than 10% of people who *do* maintain weight loss and I’m going to be one of them. I’ve kept my weight off for almost 2 years now. Maybe to you I sound like a kid with a garage band who tells her mom she’s going to be a big pop star someday. Sure, it’s unlikely, but some kids do grow up to be pop stars. I intend to be one of those weight loss divas.

anon seems to be a troll, so I’d ignore him/her

Yeah, I know. I think I must be part billy goat though because I kind of enjoy skewering trolls on my horns, especially if I’m doing it on my own turf.

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Bigot Hunter • September 8, 2006 at 1:42 pm

“I support fat rights and think fat discrimination is wrong.”

Even though I’m calling people who refuse to ruin their health by trying to lose weight “complaicent.”

FU hypocrite. If you don’t want people calling you out on your hate speech, stop posting it online.

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PastaQueen • September 8, 2006 at 1:44 pm

Hey there, anon/Fu Losers/”Pastaqueen” = food obsession! How’s the weather in sunny California?

FAT ACCEPTANCE is, by definition, not pursuing weight loss.

The wikipedia and I are going to have to disagree with you on that one. According to wikipedia (which is the keeper of all truth on the Internet, all hail wikipedia), the FA movement encompasses societal, internal and medical fronts. Perhaps most telling, it also says “The movement also argues that people of all shapes and sizes should accept themselves as they are, at any size.” Any size. Fat, thin or in transition between these sizes.

The “acceptance” in fat acceptance is in the first person; I accept myself fat.

I do too. Accept that you’re fat. I also accept that I’m fat. As I said in my entry to accept something is to recognize it as true. It does NOT mean that you have to like it. I think this is where our biggest conflict lies. A lot of people in the fat acceptance movement want fat people to love being fat, love it so much that they should stop wanting to be thin. I can’t buy into that. If you do enjoy being fat, that’s great. However, I would be lying if I said I liked being fat. Some people in the fat acceptance movement try to make people who don’t like being fat feel guilty about it, but that’s just as wrong as being a part of the media who tries to make people feel bad for not being thin.

you’re rarely, if ever, going to be congratulated or indulged or listened to ad nauseum by anyone in the movement for trying to lose weight

Where did I ever say I expected to be?

You never, ever, SHUT THE FUCK UP on the subject.

Yeah, funny how I talk about weight loss on my weight loss blog. I know you were expecting me to chat about what color I’m dying the drapes instead. If you were to add up the amount of time I spend writing this blog and talking about weight loss in a week, it equals about 3% of my time. I spend more time driving to and from work.

We’re really, really not interested, and, to tell you the truth, watching you kill yourself is just too pathetic and depressing, and we have better things to do.

You’re not interested? Then why do you keep posting here? Why did you come back to read this comment?

BTW, as for your “Pastaqueen” = food obsession comment, if you had read my bio page before spewing your rants on my blog you’d know that my nickname has nothing to do with food. My name is Jennette. (Hey, what’s yours? You’ve still been to cowardly to tell me.) In high school this morphed into Jennetti Spaghetti, Queen of Pasta, which eventually became PastaQueen. If you’re going to insult somebody’s name, at least get your etymology right.

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PastaQueen • September 8, 2006 at 1:51 pm

Bigot Hunter – If you are happy with your weight, than you are not being complacent by staying the way you are. If you *are* unhappy about something in your life and aren’t changing it, then you are being complacent.

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re • September 30, 2006 at 3:03 pm

As a fat person, I am all for the FA movement. I really am glad they exist, and they rally against fat discrimination, and they don’t allow diet discussion. I hope they succeed. I hope the fat joke becomes as unacceptable as the gay joke.

HOWEVER, will I join the movement myself? Hell no, for purely selfish reasons. I wanna be thin and healthy. I think anyone who actively follows the “diets don’t work” philosophy is delusional. If they want to throw their bodies on the grenade, refuse to lose weight, and fight fat discrimination, that’s great for me. But I personally going to keep working to get this weight off.

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dag • September 30, 2006 at 3:08 pm

There is also something important regarding a little word. A tiny little word that means something. That word is “hope.”

What sounds more psychologically healthy? “I will never succeed at weight loss. Might as well sit on ass and eat the rest of my life.” Or “maybe I will succeed, and so today I’m going to eat healthy food and work out.”

And I’m sorry, that Paul dude is a Grade A, classic, chubby chaser fetisher.

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Cynthia • January 16, 2007 at 6:34 pm

Um, what does “I was definitely at the extreme standard deviation of the bell curve” mean?

I did take statistics in college, and my recollection is that a standard deviation is the degree to which an individual value, on average, varies from the mean of a set of values. Unless there is some alternate meaning of standard deviation that I am not aware of, your sentence doesn’t make sense.

I’d like it if you would fix your wording (I think you just mean “far right” on the bell curve), since this clunker really takes away from your eloquent argument.

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kat • January 17, 2007 at 1:35 pm

As someone who used to be a heavy smoker and over 300 lbs (I’m still working on the weight thing…I’m at 266), I have found that it is only when I accept myself that I am ABLE to change…ironically…

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Chris • March 23, 2011 at 12:23 am

Very acceptable :-) I won’t “scorn” fat people, but I personally would prefer to be non-fat, it is healthier and I find I’m much more mobile when I’m not clutching my back in pain. I don’t like being in pain when I bend over to shave, because I have a gut that’s stressing my body out. If people are willing to put up with that (or they’re overweight and don’t have those problems) than feel free! I’m not sure that I like people saying that being obese is OK or healthy, because it just isn’t: the scientific evidence doesn’t support that claim. You’re taking some serious risks with your health by remaining obese (particularly morbidly so), and it’s nonsensical to pretend those risks aren’t there.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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