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Do we choose to be fat?

One of the things I like about the online community is that no one knows if you’re fat or thin, male or female, black or white or purple with pink polka dots, unless you tell them. And even then you could be lying, unless you took a nap in the same room as a toddler with magic markers. However, if you’re an asshole it becomes apparent pretty quickly, which it did when I was reading a TV blog many weeks ago.

On this blog there was a post about an actress donning a fat suit for a made-for-TV movie and one of the first comments was that fat people were outcasts by choice. The argument was that fat people choose not to exercise, choose to eat large portions, and choose to eat unhealthy foods. Thus they choose to be fat and are personally responsible for becoming the type of person that the world generally discriminates against.

Is being fat a choice? I’d have to say yes and no. But reflecting on my own period of being overweight, obese, morbidly obese and then super morbidly obese, I’d say my fatness was more a result of the choices I wasn’t making.

To say that you chose a certain outcome, you need at least three things:

1) A moment where you actually consider several different options

2) Knowledge of the possible repercussions of these options

3) The means to actually pursue these options.

For instance, I woke up this morning and went to work. I did not go to Bermuda. Can we say I chose not to go to Bermuda? In all the time I spent picking out camouflage socks that matched my green top, measuring the proper amount of milk into my instant oatmeal, and locking the door as I left, not once did a thought bubble appear over my head saying “Hey, I could go to Bermuda!” This is partly because I am not a cartoon character and partly because the thought never occurred to me. If I never even saw this as an option, it’s not fair to say I made a decision not to go to Bermuda.

Similarly, I doubt most fat people hit a situation in their daily routine where they have to consider “Do I get fat or do I stay thin?” We don’t live on the Let’s Make a Deal set with curtain number 1 or 2 to choose from. At the most, you hit situations where you have to consider options that will lead you to the two possible end points of thinness and fatness, which is where number 2 on the list comes in.

Knowledge of the possible repercussions of these options

To convincingly argue that fat people choose to be fat, you have to prove that fat people are aware that their obesity-causing behaviors make them fat. If there had been a moment this morning when I had considered going to Bermuda instead of to the office, I would have also had to consider that such a choice would probably get me fired and drain my savings account. If I had made this choice anyway and then discovered I’d pissed off my family by missing Thanksgiving dinner, could we say I chose to alienate my family? If I honestly didn’t think my family would mind that I ditched their cranberry sauce for cranberry margaritas, did I choose to piss them off? I chose to do the thing that would ultimately irritate them, but I didn’t consciously choose that end result.

Similarly, if someone knows little about nutrition and exercise, has no concept of how many calories they are taking in every day or doesn’t even know how many calories they should be taking in, I wouldn’t say they are consciously choosing to be fat. They are still personally responsible for their actions, actions that are leading them to obesity, but if they are ignorant or at least partially ignorant, I don’t view it as a choice to be fat.

I spent one summer in high school at an academic camp where I ate pizza almost every day for lunch. I also had a not-so-secret affair with the soft-serve ice cream affair, and I wasn’t the only one, that whore! While I knew the ice cream was a bad idea, it never occurred to me that eating that much pizza was going to keep me fat too, even with all the walking around campus I did. I don’t know how I made it past admissions with this blatant stupidity. I was personally responsible for my food choices, but I wouldn’t say I was choosing to be fat when I chose pizza. I was just being a nutritional idiot who didn’t realize the full repercussions of my actions. When I chose the ice cream though, I knew what I was doing, and that was certainly a choice to be fat.

If the dozens of people I see in the McDonald drive-thru every evening truly knew how much a Big Mac costs them in terms of energy input and output, half of them would probably squeal their tires for the closest Subway shop for a salad. They might even get out and jog there to burn off the extra calories from that morning’s Egg McMuffin, assuming that a salad shop was nearby, which leads me to number 3:

The means to actually pursue these options.

If I had decided to chuck work this morning and run off for a tropical island paradise, would it actually have been an option? What if I didn’t have my passport? When’s the next flight to Bermuda and do I have enough money to pay for it? Who would feed my cat? I don’t even own a swimsuit that fits! Some people have lives where they could fly to Bermuda on a moment’s notice, but I am not one of them.

Some people have lives that are more predisposed to make them fat. If you have decided to eat healthy, what do you do when the cafeteria only has donuts or danishes left for breakfast? How easy is it for you to exercise if you live in an urban environment? Is it really a choice not to go to the gym if you can’t afford a membership?

Saying that fat people choose to be fat is at the least oversimplifying matters, and at the most it implies we have more control over our lives than we actually do. Not everything that happens to you is directly because of a choice you made. If it were, we’d all be all powerful and all knowing. If an idiot rear-ends your car, it’s not your fault simply because you chose to go for a drive. Sometimes things happen to us that we have no control over. Choices we make sometimes have consequences we were unaware of when we made our decisions.

That’s not to say we have no control either. Fat people can get thinner. I’m obviously an example of that and I’ve got the fat pants to prove it. You can start making different choices and altering your behavior. But a lot of my success came from awakening to the fact that I hadn’t been making choices. I wasn’t debating “Should I run tonight or not?” The thought never occurred to me. I didn’t know that eating a big bowl of macaroni and cheese would cause my blood sugar to rise and crash and leave me tired. Considering eating something better for me never came up. However, I did know that eating a jar of frosting with a spoon wasn’t making me the next Kate Bosworth either. That one’s all on me.

So did I choose to be fat? Yes and no. I chose the actions that ultimately made me fat. But I wasn’t always aware that the food I was eating had so many calories and I didn’t always have a treadmill in my bedroom.

I was responsible for being fat, but it wasn’t always a choice.

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28 Comments

K • November 22, 2006 at 4:11 pm

My dear, you are brilliant!

I think, too, that (as I did) lots of people probably think they’d need to make huge and daunting lifestyle changes to make any difference to their fitness/body. So they believe they’re stuck as they are, because they know they can’t, realistically, make these huge changes. I don’t think that’s a choice, exactly, either.

I’m not claiming that this weightloss thing is easy to do, but it seriously never occurred to me before I started that small changes would be worth making. I thought it was all or nothing: I can never be an athlete so I’m stuck as a slug.

If I’d known that running for a few minutes would be enough to improve my fitness so I could run for a few more next time, and then a few more, I’d have started a lot earlier.

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Kala • November 22, 2006 at 5:30 pm

amen sister….

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AJ • November 22, 2006 at 5:43 pm

You’re totally right.

Why would I choose to be fat? Or perhaps more apprpriately, why would a make a conscious decision to be fat? The reasons I’m fat (but getting skinnier! down 2kgs according to my gym fitness assessment this morning) are myriad and the choices I made are included among these, but to try and boil it all down to she’s too lazy and greedy? That’s just ridiculous!

It’s like PQ outlined in a previous post, there’s more to losing weight than eating less and moving more – just as there is SO MUCH more to gaining it in the first place.

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Janice Bridge • November 22, 2006 at 7:07 pm

And Outstanding Post! OUTSTANDING!!! I find my mind flooded with “amens” but also a lot of “Oh yes, and in addition. . . ”

I am a person who has lived with obesity all of my life. Currently I am in a normal weight body, having lost about 130 pounds since January 9, 2006. HOWEVER – I have always identified myself as FAT – and so much of what PQ has outlined in this incredibly well crafted essay – echoes my life experiences.

When did YOU first consider yourself FAT. Were you? Or was it a projection of someone else onto you? How do you (and how will I) learn to be yourself when you are living in a lower weight body?

I was no less intelligent or empowered when I had a BMI of 45+ but I was a lot less comfortable, a lot less able, and frequently treated as if I had an IQ of 73.

I think there is a LOT to be learned by exploring the personal and social elements in the life of normal people who carry more weight than is healthy for them.

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Chrissie • November 22, 2006 at 7:24 pm

One thing that you kind of struck right on but not quite was the eating and knowledge of nutrition. Everyone knows that a salad is better for you than a Big Mac. But they may not know that the salad that they’re eating, loaded with ranch dressing and crutons and hunks of bacon and cheese (to make it palatable for most people who aren’t used to salad eating) may be just as bad. So while they MIGHT be at least making an attempt at eating better they aren’t actually.

Not everyone is a nutritional expert.

So they may be making the choice to eat things that they think are better but aren’t actually educated enough in caloric content to be able to discern that they’ve made these “good for you” foods bad.

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Lori • November 22, 2006 at 8:33 pm

I agree with everyone else that this was brilliantly written and thought out. I just wrote in my blog how I became fat. I just went through life eating and not moving enough. And I assumed that there weren’t a lot of choices. There were choices but for some reason, I never glomed on them, made a connection or spent the energy. It just never really occurred to me. If you want to be thinner, you do have to devote a lot of time and energy and knowledge into learning what works for you. It does not come naturally.

The statistics about people keeping weight off is pretty depressing. I wonder how many people just don’t even try to make even small changes because it seems futile. I know I felt that way at my highest weight (339#) because what’s ten pounds when you have to lose well over 100?

I had a conversation with my mom who was griping about my dad; it’s the same conversation I’ve heard since I was a child. It’s very frustrating and yet, my mom doesn’t see how to do anything different or react differently. It’s not just fat.

I don’t think anyone chooses to be fat; I do think that for some people (maybe me) need to consciously choose to be thin or behaviors to try and keep me on the thin side (such as it is). I have to decide to go to Bermuda.

This was really a great post. Thanks so much!

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Patty • November 22, 2006 at 10:31 pm

I explored this topic a while back in my blog. But didn’t put so much thought and so well written as you! Sometimes, I do think I chose to become fat. I knew a lot about nutrition but that didn’t keep me from going through the drive thru’s week after week. I think the emotional side of eating and dealing with stress is what drove me to gain weight. And just burying my head in the sand and thinking it didn’t matter what I looked like, I still had people that loved me. But, I was wrong, I wasn’t fully loving myself by becoming big. For me (not for every body out there) my self esteem and feelings for myself just seem to make me bigger. Also, the loss of dreams unfulfilled and taking care of others but not my own needs. I have done a lot of self reflection this past year and it is helping. I am making a conscious choice now to become thin and why I made choices to make me fat.

It’s funny though, I was reading this newsletter I get called ‘lean plate club’ from the washington post. Anyway, they were talking of how to get through the holidays and maintain their weight this “Silver Spring, Md.: I find it weird that people spend so much time thinking about food around the holidays and how they plan ahead to avoid bad foods. I think its great that each person does what works, but why not just stop eating when you’re full? And try to make sure and eat as many fruits/vegetables as possible, but not worry about the rest of it? I love the holidays and all the great food that’s around and I have never gained holiday weight because I don’t eat more than I want. Sometimes it seems like people think way too much about it.

This is the response from Sally who writes the column:

“Sally Squires: Sounds like you already know the secret of really listening to your body, Silver Spring. But as the obesity epidemic illustrates, there are many people out there who eat because they are tired, stressed, bored, angry, happy, etc. (And, of course, the scale also moves in the wrong direction because we are gradually engineering physical activity out of our lives.) ”

Hurray for Sally and trying to help people understand why some of us can become overweight! (sorry for such a long post!)

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livingrainbowcolor • November 23, 2006 at 5:52 am

Awesome post! You inspired me to think more about ability level for basic life skills.

It’s not a choice when you are unconsciously incompetent.

Feel free to look at my post on my blog:

http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-3KR9mlA9crDGjqVO4ZIP7XCbv84njmxIhKQ-?cq=1&p=136

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Vickie • November 23, 2006 at 8:11 am

Very good post. I am not argue-ing with you at all – just asking – how does this then apply to alcohol, smoking and drugs? I find that for myself – I believe/agree with EVERYTHING you said if I apply it to FAT – but if I substitute alcohol/drugs/smoking (I suppose you could add gambling, sex-addict, over-spender, etc too) for the FAT in what you wrote – then I have the same perception problem that the rest of the world has to FAT.

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Marla • November 23, 2006 at 8:13 am

Love it! I have always thought there’s much less volition in fatness than people think. I can really only write my own experience, which leads me to think there are certain propensities which CAN be overcome, but sometimes require so much effort that they might as well be impossible. I’ve been fat since birth – literally. I was fat when I was born (actually overweight, not just cute baby pudge), I was a fat toddler, a fat child, a fat teenager, etc. As an adult, with control over my actions, I can choose to eat healthily and exercise–options I didn’t have when I was two years old. But I think by this point a lot of the damage is done, and is not easily undoable. I can’t choose to lose weight. I can only choose to do the things that OUGHT TO cause me to lose weight, and they don’t necessarily have the desired outcome.

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Jenny • November 23, 2006 at 1:12 pm

What really makes me mad is how a normal weight person can accuse an overweight person of eating too much bad food and not exercising enough, yet they eat too much of the wrong foods and don’t exercise enough either. So are they better than me only in terms of visual appearence? They certainly aren’t better than me in diet and fitness area’s.

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Greta • November 23, 2006 at 2:33 pm

I see thin people eat “bad” food also, but for some reason they often take 2 bites and then quit. I photograph weddings and I am amazed at the number of thin people who leave 2/3 of their dinner on the plate and skip the cake or take 2 bites and no more. However, I don’t see it as a “self discipline” issue. What would make one person perfectly satisfied after 2 bites of cake and another person scarf down a second whole piece? It has to be biochemisty of some people is different than other people’s. We do not SET our hunger mechanism, it is inate; built-in. People who eat 2 bites don’t have to RESIST eating the rest of the cake, they just don’t want it.

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Hilly • November 23, 2006 at 4:09 pm

I’ve always thought that we do make choices with what we eat, how much we exercise etc, yet we do not choose to be fat, obviously.

It’s sort of a catch 22 because I truly believe that most overweight people have some sort of emotional or eating disorder that makes it harder for them to not overeat….but at the same time, we really do have that crossroads moment where we want something but don’t have it or only have a little.

I think it is a matter of finding that balance and not listening to assjackets on blogs that have all of these fucktarded opinions about something that they know nothing about ;).

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Smissy • November 23, 2006 at 8:40 pm

You are an AMAZING writing! I also think you are dead on in your writing above. I love your blog and hearing about your progress – it’s extremely motivating. I know you are an awesome graphic/web designer but do you also do writing outside of this site? You should!

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i • November 23, 2006 at 9:59 pm

Yeah, I mean for anyone to say that “Fat is a choice” is to radically oversimplify it.

That’s kind of like saying “poor is a choice,” cause someone could always work 3 jobs, save every penny, never buy luxuries, etc. Obviously, it’s not quite that simple in practice, just as losing weight isn’t that easy.

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Vickie • November 24, 2006 at 2:04 am

GRETA – every thin person that I know – does INDEED WANT that cake – they just take two bites and stop because they want to be thin MORE than they want the cake and they KNOW it.

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Mari • November 24, 2006 at 12:43 pm

I stumbled here by accident and just want to give my two cents. If you want to take it from one of those skinny ones :-)

I have the exact opposite problem you guys have. I’m sure that’s no comfort, but I truly believe that being thin and being overweight has a lot to do with genes and not just with eating habits. Sure, there are lots of skinny people who don’t eat a lot and big people who binge, but it’s not necessarily so.

I am underweight and always fighting to keep my weight. I eat more than most people I know, some healthy, some not so healthy and I don’t put on weight. I sometimes even lose weight when I try to put on more. And trust me, that is just as frustrating as not being able to lose weight. And so far I have not gotten a single good tip how to change it. My doctor’s advice was, “eat, eat, eat.” Oh, how helpful…

One of the differences I have noticed is that people are less tactful to us underweight people. Maybe because there’s not a lot of us, or most really do starve themselves. I don’t even know how many times someone said to me that I am to thin, that I should put on weight, even asked if I was bulimic and tried to shove food down my throat. Not very respectful.

Two years ago I had pneumonia and lost 20lbs in the course of two weeks. Which is a lot, considering I only weigh 130lbs on a very good day (I’m 5’9”). It took me A YEAR to gain those 20lbs back and believe me, I binged. And still, last time I checked, my BMI was something around 18.

I hope I am not offending anybody here, I just want to assure you that there’s also desperate people on the other side. We may be a small minority, but we do exists. And it’s pretty hard when people just shake their heads at you and don’t believe you’re not able to put on weight. So I feel with all of you. And just as it isn’t my fault that I’m so darn skinny, it isn’t your fault you’re overweight. I blame nature. And my genes.

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Mari • November 24, 2006 at 12:47 pm

I stumbled here by accident and just want to give my two cents. If you want to take it from one of those skinny ones :-)

I have the exact opposite problem you guys have. I’m sure that’s no comfort, but I truly believe that being thin and being overweight has a lot to do with genes and not just with eating habits. Sure, there are lots of skinny people who don’t eat a lot and big people who binge, but it’s not necessarily so.

I am underweight and always fighting to keep my weight. I eat more than most people I know, some healthy, some not so healthy and I don’t put on weight. I sometimes even lose weight when I try to put on more. And trust me, that is just as frustrating as not being able to lose weight. And so far I have not gotten a single good tip how to change it. My doctor’s advice was, “eat, eat, eat.” Oh, how helpful…

One of the differences I have noticed is that people are less tactful to us underweight people. Maybe because there’s not a lot of us, or most really do starve themselves. I don’t even know how many times someone said to me that I am to thin, that I should put on weight, even asked if I was bulimic and tried to shove food down my throat. Not very respectful.

Two years ago I had pneumonia and lost 20lbs in the course of two weeks. Which is a lot, considering I only weigh 130lbs on a very good day (I’m 5’9”). It took me A YEAR to gain those 20lbs back and believe me, I binged. And still, last time I checked, my BMI was something around 18.

I hope I am not offending anybody here, I just want to assure you that there’s also desperate people on the other side. We may be a small minority, but we do exists. And it’s pretty hard when people just shake their heads at you and don’t believe you’re not able to put on weight. So I feel with all of you. And just as it isn’t my fault that I’m so darn skinny, it isn’t your fault you’re overweight. I blame nature. And my genes.

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Janice Bridge • November 24, 2006 at 2:15 pm

Mari,

Although we don’t ‘hate’ you, most of us who are obese (regardless of the size bodies we are maintaining) would kill to have your problem gaining weight.

Recent research indicates that there are bodies that are ‘spenders’ and bodies that are ‘savers’.

A ‘spender’ body burns all of the calories it takes in, and, if the person in the ‘spender’ body is very careful about energy expenditure, s/he might be able to add a few pounds of cushion by eating vast amounts of added calories (preferably in fat and carbohydrates) and being absolutely sendentary.

A “saver’ body begins to store calories ingested at the very time the food is taken in. A person in a ‘saver’ body can eat a 500 calorie meal, and within a an hour, a portion of those calories have been converted and stored as fat. This means that the person in the ‘saver’ body has access to fewer calories for short term energy expenditure – and as a result will be hungry sooner and have less energy to exercise. Individuals in ‘saver’ bodies have physiological and biochemical reasons for behavior that appears to be ‘lazy’ and/or ‘gluttinous’

Some people are born in ‘saver’ bodies and struggle (or not) with the impacts all of their lives. Some people are born in ‘spender’ bodies and live with the consequences of that for all of their lives. And some people are ‘spenders’ for the early portion of their lives and then have an experience or series of experiences that trigger the transition from ‘spender’ to ‘saver’. Common triggers are high levels of emotional stress; pregnancy and parenting, major illness or surgery, etc.

So far the researchers have not discovered a way to force the change from ‘saver’ to ‘spender’ . . . but that is where the drug companies are currently funneling their monies. Whomever corners THAT patent will be richer than Bill Gates.

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iportion • November 24, 2006 at 8:26 pm

Thanks for the post

=

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JB • November 25, 2006 at 1:52 pm

Illness can also cause either weight gain or difficulty eating well or exercising. One doesn’t choose to be ill, either. Just a small addition to this excellent post.

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Clam-bake • November 26, 2006 at 4:08 am

I think an important element to consider is the unconscious motivations that we all have. I’m a big advocate of psychotherapy and increased self-understanding, and I think for many of us, it’s not just that we are not consciously choosing to be fat, but that we are in fact unconsciously choosing to be fat. I think that it’s not just a failure to make conscious choices, but that there is a whole unconscious process that drives us to make the choices that we do.

For me, I’ve become aware that a significant part of what keeps me fat is a desire to be invisible. I find that when someone makes conversation with me, or a stranger makes a kind gesture, that they have “broken the rule” – it’s my own private rule that no one is ever supposed to notice me because I’m fat. Sometimes I’ll lose a few pounds, get asked out on a date, then immediately panic and put the weight back on. I have some issues too around eating too much or too little in response to emotions or stress, but for me I really think it is an unconscious need to be fat that is a bigger factor that the way that I “relate” to food.

I also know that in some ways, being fat helps me to avoid looking at other issues in my life. I can blame everything on being fat – the person who wouldn’t go out with me, the job I didn’t get….whatever. I’ve read about other fat people with similar feelings.

The skinny person who “knows” that they are choosing to be thin rather than choosing to eat the cake….well I think many, if not most, fat people would say that they would rather be thin, too. But there is something that drives us to eat it anyway. Even if we don’t “know” the exact number of calories we’re eating, it’s because some part of us is choosing to ignore the facts. Even if we can’t run the numbers, we know when we’re fat, and we know how we got that way, and we know how to solve the problem. We DO make a choice. If it is not a conscious choice, then it is an unconscious choice, and I think that the solution lies in bringing our motivations into consciousness.

Genetic factors are real too – I mean I know people who eat well more than I do and can’t get over 120 pounds, but I also know people who have to work their asses off and count every bite to stay thin. Not to mention age…..I used to be able to just “cut down” a little on my eating and knock off a couple of pounds – now I’m in my mid 30s and I have to practically eat nothing to lose anything at all….But I think it just changes how hard we have to work at it – maybe kind of like the alcoholic gene.

I used to drink every day – for years and years drink until I passed out….one day I stopped – no AA or anything…..it’s been ten years, and although I no longer get smashed every night, I do bring home a couple of beers on occasion, or sometimes I even go out and tie one on. I can do it a couple of times a year, and I never want to do it again the next day. I think I just don’t have that alcoholic gene….I am, however, afflicted with the twinkie and pizza gene….

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lulu • November 26, 2006 at 8:57 am

I’ve never believed that I chose to be fat, but I certainly chose either to ignore the consequences of cooking lavish meals and eating a lot, or to tell myself that in my case an exception would magically be made. And I didn’t find fat a convenient disguise, either. To me, the worst thing about it was not being able to fade into the background when I wanted to (that and breaking one of my boyfriend’s priceless Georgian chairs*). It was all about over-indulging one pleasure at the expense of all the others, regardless of the consequences. I just think I was lucky that it was an addiction to too much good food and not alcohol or drugs or gambling. Being fat didn’t suit me, because I’m not built to support a lot of extra weight, so I was miserable; but I still think there are worse things to be. What a pity we can’t just treat being fat or thin as an aspect of appearance like being tall or red-haired, without making it into a moral issue.

*I was forgiven for breaking his chair, but we had to get married.

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R • November 26, 2006 at 11:31 am

I’m fascinated by this article. I don’t understand it, but I want to. I also didn’t choose to go to Bermuda today – but I think it was a real choice, based on expected results. I’m not rich, but I’m sure I could find a cheap trip, lie to work (or even be open to them), and use leave relatively painlessly. I could probably lie on the beach, sleep during the day and not get a hotel. No, I don’t particularly want to go to Bermuda.

I understand that there is some misunderstanding of how food relates to being overweight, but how misunderstood is it really?

I think that habits play a huge role, that obesity is seen in cultures which have traditionally had labor-intensive jobs, and that food habits are particularly hard to break because there are sensory memories we are trying to evoke. Chocolate cake tastes good, undoubtedly, but I bet it tastes a lot better to someone who associates chocolate cake to birthdays, family, good times than it does to me. I seldom want more than two bites of chocolate cake. I’m lucky because my family instilled many sensory memories of healthy foods -beans, fruits, breads – along with the memories of nachos, chips, desserts.

I think that advertising plays a huge role, presenting junk food as linked to fun, togetherness. It’s part of our culture as a whole, I’m affected by it even though I almost never watch TV any more. I have worked to expose myself more to healthy cookbooks and cooking websites, and to try to focus on really flavorful and healthy foods. But it’s an effort to establish new neural pathways, to think “soup” instead of “nachos”, or even “sleep” or “bubble bath”. Unlearning bad habits, creating new ones, noticing subtle messages enticing me elsewhere. It’s not easy, and it requires having the time and mental energy to do this, but is it not a choice?

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Don • November 28, 2006 at 4:51 pm

Do people choose to be fat? Do people choose to have bald tires on their car? The answer is “no” to both in the short run…no one would ever push a button to be fat nor push a button to have bald tires.

However, in the long run, people do choose to trade an imperceptible amount of tire wear in exchange for the benefit of going to work, school, the mall or a friends house. Likewise, people trade an imperceptible amount of weight gain for the benefit of experiencing the physical/emotional pleasure that eating brings. Repeated over and over, we do choose to have bald tires and we do choose to be fat.

I’ll buy the possibility that on any given day someone can have so little nutritional knowledge that they don’t know they are gaining weight, like if someone didn’t know car tires could ever go bald. However, over a week or a month or however long, when they see weight gain in the mirror or on the scale everyone knows that this is due to too much food/too little exercise. You don’t have to know what a calorie or a carbohydrate is to know that too much weight comes from too much food. So, while on any given day, taken as a snap shot out of time, one may not be choosing to be fat, over a period of time everyone who is fat (medical conditions, etc., aside) chooses to be fat.

If someone notices they have gained weight over a period of time and then continues with the same eating and exercising habits during the next period of time, they have chosen to continue to gain weight, just as if someone notices their tire tread is starting to wear and keeps driving chooses to eventually have tires with worn out treads.

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Bree • December 8, 2006 at 11:09 am

Hi, I’ve read your blog a few times and think you’re great. I skimmed this post and it sounds like you’re arguing your own point. I’m fat. I lost down to a healthy (for me) 160 lbs, but have gained 30 back. For me it’s the emotional/depression that’s a huge issue. My life has had many setbacks, including getting pregnant, married, abandonment in my 8th months of pregnancy, reconciliation, depo after I had my son, instant weight gain from depo shot, unknown pregnancy when depo should have covered me, miscarriage at 5 months only knowing I was pregnant for a week, delivering my deceased angel (losing my mind!) holding him, burying my baby, almost bleeding to death from the miscarriage, surgery from that, and surgery a week ago (to get my tubed tied). Honestly, through all of that I am unable mentally to get back on track and lose this weight. I’ve been trying. I’ll do fine eating until I get home in the evenings and I’ll overeat. I keep saying I’m going to get back to jogging/powerwalking and I’m finding it impossible right now. I know HOW to achieve my goals again and I’m so unhappy with how I look and feel but life’s just too hard for me. I just keep trying and hope one day I’ll have the strength to take back control over my habits. I take responsibility and know it’s possible. but uggggggggggggggg…. it’s so hard right now.

I’d just like to say great job to you! wow!

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Olivia • January 31, 2007 at 1:57 pm

I’ve been reading your archives and decided to delurk. I started my lifestyle change a few weeks ago and your progress is very encouraging.

My comment is about the fat suit rather than the choice to be fat (although I agree with you). You have mentioned how much you hate when fat suits are used as comedic props in movies and tv, and I agree. But when reporters/models/actresses use them to “discover what it’s like to be fat” is a close second. I would rather the “research” be conducted by having an actual fat person document their life than a skinny person in a fat suit. Everytime a skinny person talks about how devistating it is when people stare or make rude comments to fat people I want to bitch slap them. As long as they can slip out of the fat at the end of the day, they have no idea what it’s like to be truly overweight or obese.

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Chris • March 23, 2011 at 12:08 am

Your most thought-provoking post yet! I have to agree, you’ve made very good points, but I’ve always been a very strong “personal responsibility” type of person, so I would probably say “more yes than no” to the original question. Claiming ignorance only goes so far, I think: if something is important to you, we tend to find the time to get it done, like reading up on how calories work, or getting to the gym regularly, or seeing an old friend who calls up suddenly to announce they’ll be in town the next day. I don’t have a ton of sympathy towards people who complain about their weight, yet at the same time claim they just don’t have the time to exercise/eat right. If it’s important to you: you’ll get it done! Not enough money for a gym membership? Cancel your TV service, most of it can be found on the internet now anyhow. Don’t know a damn thing about putting together a good diet program? Go to the nearest library (walk preferably!) and ask a librarian about some good diet books to borrow, and then read them. It’s a cliche, but actions really do speak louder than words: people waste far too much time talking about losing weight instead of getting the process started.

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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.

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