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Those Fat People are Delusional. Or Not.

There is no such thing as Fat and Fit.   If you’re fat, I found out yesterday, you’re doomed to a life of heart disease, so don’t go trying to convince yourself that everything’s okay, just because you can run a half marathon, or complete a triathlon, or walk 26 miles.

At least, that’s what you’re lead to believe if you read the New York Times’ Well Blog, which yesterday highlighted a study of a bunch of 50 year-old white men in Sweden who were overweight, and eventually had much higher rates of heart disease than their non-blubber-coated friends.  If you have a burning desire to read the article for yourself, check out “Phys. Ed: Can You Be Overweight and Still Be Healthy” for yourself, (or the commentary, which will likely make your head explode).

I am not about to criticize the writer of the article, or the authors of the study.  Far be it for me to determine whether 1700 white men in Norway are a representative sample of health as compared to, say, 30 year-old women and men living in the United States.  And who am I to contest the author’s statement that it’s borderline malpractice for doctors to suggest that just because you’re overweight, you’re not a walking health nightmare.   I mean, she’s got a SINGLE quote to rely on here:  “Some scientists and doctors began speculating that healthy people who were sporting extra pounds didn’t necessarily need to worry about losing weight. As one researcher told a reporter in 2004, “If a fat person or obese person has normal blood pressure, if their total cholesterol and glucose levels are normal and they are healthy, there is no reason they should necessarily have to lose weight.”

And who am I to be somewhat annoyed that she thinks the poor, overfed, overweight and obese are “comforted” by the knowledge that they can be just as healthy as others who are not carrying extra poundage?  (“… several new studies are raising questions about that comforting notion at a very inopportune moment, with the holiday overindulgence season barely behind us.”)

So why am I annoyed?  Simple.  This premise is ridiculous.  I don’t think any of us believe that we wouldn’t be better off if we were slimmer.  But for many of us, the constant, daily struggle to manage our weight, calories, emotions, and lives, is something that we fail at just fine, all on our own, and are already judged on daily, thank you very much.  Unlike, say, alcoholics, who have to go on a bender in front of someone to prove their addictions, we have the dubious distinction of living our problems right out front, for all the world to see.  There is simply no hiding in a big body, and most of us are pretty used to it, right?

Right.  So I’m annoyed, (again) becuase I read between the lines to find the following message:  “look, you can do what you want to work out, but stop lying to yourself.  You might think you’re “fit” but you’re still a fatty, and you’re basically a walking death trap.”   So not only is the tone condescending, but it essentially says “don’t even try getting fit, because we’re still just going to put you in the “fat” category.  Stop trying to join us skinny people who do nothing but still have less body mass.  You’ll never be as good as we are, so just quit it already.” 

Yes, I’m rambling.  But I also read the article to assume that, for the past few years, we’ve all been wandering around in slothful overindulgence, grateful in the knowledge that even though we’re overweight, everything will be okay because we’re “fit”.  Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. 

I don’t know about you, but I think about how much better life would be if I were thinner every day.  When I search for something flattering to wear in the morning; when I try to take up as little space as possible on the train; when I break into a fine sheen of sweat walking the 6 blocks from the train to the office; when I sit in front of the videoconference and try to be seen from the most slimming angle possible; when I stand at a vending machine for a post-lunch cookie and hope that no one sees me; when I get home and consider my healthy versus quick cooking options.  And on, and on.

Given the fact that over 12,000 of you have come looking to this site since March, I’m also betting that you’re pretty aware of how the fat cookie crumbles.  You come here looking for clothes that fit overweight runners, and walkers, and triathletes, on a daily basis, because you can’t go into a store to buy them.   According to the New York Times, you should probably just stop shopping, because everyone knows you’re just fat.

I know, I should stop ranting.  So here:

I have news for the New York Times: the fat people are not delusional.  We already know that life would be better if we were slimmer.  But many of us, after years of struggling with our weight, have also come to a detante with the evil voices in our head that told us we were never going to be good enough.  We decided it was better to accept ourselves for who we were, and to work within the confines of the bodies we inhabit, than to constantly beat ourselves up and demean ourselves for not having the courage, or the tenacity, or the emotional ability to get to the body we want. 

My arrival at that destination has been hard-fought, but it does not mean I am an idiot.  I know very well that eventually, my weight will result in higher risk factors for a variety of medical issues.  But I have also come to the conclusion that I will not simply throw my hands in the air, and abandon all hope.  I will continue to be active because I LOVE it.  And becuase it’s wonderful for my body, and my mind. 

So please, have a little class.  Recognize that we aren’t deluding ourselves – we’re simply coping, the best way we know how, with an imperfect mind, and an imperfect body.  So you can keep your studies, and your condescension, and we’ll keep doing what we know best: plodding along in our plus-sized bodies, exploring new paths, and doing the best we can, with as little judgment as possible.

We’ll see you on the path.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m going to keep beating away at this one…you really, truly, honestly should write a book. You have a gift. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.
    I love visiting your blog. Keep up the good fight!

    January 8, 2010
  2. I like this article but you seem to be mixing up a few things. 1. What people think, say, or believe about “fat people” and health (which includes a lot of lies, pseudo-science, and hatred), and 2. What you should do with YOUR life (which is your business and your business alone! and I love that you share here!).

    I don’t know what science your read, because I think it has been pretty much proven that A. diets don’t really work – people can be naturally fat or naturally thin and it’s hard (but not impossible) to deviate from body setpoint and B. “health” cannot be measured by weight alone. Also… many studies have shown that people who carry extra weight are more healthy – by some markers – than people who are thin (see link below). So… it depends on the study you’re reading. But keep in mind our culture has a very healthy (har har) hatred and bigotry towards fat people so… any study is often bolstered by myths people like to carry and perpetrate (I just got mansplained the “calories in – activity = weight” b.s. for many minutes last night by a friend who’s fat but hates even fatter people MORE, ugh) and that really makes it for unpleasant, erroneous, and harmful reading.

    Have you read this post? I would love to know what you think.

    If you are concerned about your own health you can look into your own health – blood pressure, getting in tune with how your body feels, learning to eat intuitively. You can mess about with “health” but you don’t have to say you know you have MORE risk factors just because you’re fat. Sorry to say, you could get hit by a bus (unlikely – liklihood of dying by an accident is 4%) or succumb to breast cancer (less unlikely). My father was a very slim, muscular, long distance runner (he took up running at age 45 and did well at it0. He died long before his “time” – from colo-rectal cancer. How could he have forstalled this “risk factor” and avoided this death? I notice he spent his life being praised for being “healthy” when I can tell you he was naturally thin and ate basically meat and potatoes. He was thin before he ever took up regular physical activity. He was fortunate to be thin, if “fortunate” means he wasn’t regularly discriminated against.

    I’m sorry for writing an EPIC post but believe me, I could write even more – it’s a subject I’m so interested in.

    January 10, 2010
  3. Demiah #

    Thanks for “keeping it real” on both sides of the fat chart! I’m a big guy and active, and I’m tired of lying to myself and accepting the fantasy that everything is OK as long as I’m “fit and active”. I loved the article – I hope you responded to the NYTimes article as well.

    January 19, 2010
  4. Teilua #

    Also, I believe that constantly losing and gaining weight in the battle of the bulge damages your body in the long run. In my unscientific opinion, this is what I believe may have contributed to the singer, Luther Vandross’s death. There should be a LOT more studies about yo-yo dieting and its affects.

    February 26, 2010
  5. Demiah #

    @ Teilua:
    I agree that yo-yo dieting can be damaging to one’s body. I have a friend that has lost 30 lbs. in 30 days, but he’s gained it back 30 days later! I’m not in the medical field, but this can’t be safe to one’s kidneys, heart, and muscular system.

    Although his example is an extreme case, NOT dieting to prevent yo-yo dieting isn’t the answer either.

    March 3, 2010

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