Sunday, January 24, 2010

Who Are the Fat People?

(I orginally posted Bene's photo (which I found on Facebook) at the beginning of this post, but have removed it since I don't have her specific consent to do so. I do think she's a lovely--not to mention extremely intelligent--young woman.)

Something's been bugging me. Something's been bugging me big time. It's the message that we are fat because we:

-eat junk food
-eat huge amounts of food, most of which is junky
-are lazy bums who can't do anything but sit in front of the TV, eating huge amounts of mostly junky food.

...and that if we finally stop eating huge amounts of junky, sugary, fat-laden food and exercise religiously, we will turn into healthy, beautiful, sylph-like creatures and that all will be well with the world...

...and that this goal--being healthy, beautiful, sylph-like, loved, admired, etc., etc.--is all within our reach. It is ALL up to us and that if we do not succeed it is only because we haven't been "good" enough in following the rules. The rules will set us free.

Sorry, it just isn't that simple.

Don't get me wrong. I have genuine respect for the many hard-working weight loss bloggers out there. However, I don't think very many will reach their goal and even fewer will maintain that goal. OK, I can give you examples of people who HAVE succeeded. You know them, some of you ARE them. I'm not saying weight loss is no more feasible than developing naturally blue skin. I just think that weight loss as a main goal is neither feasible nor actually laudable for most people, most of the time.

Why am I suddenly so hot and bothered about this? Here's the reason. You have to watch this video at We Are the Real Deal. Bene is the face of overweight that we don't want to admit exists. She is the face of a perfectly healthy young woman, who eats reasonable amounts of healthy food (certainly better than some of her skinny friends) and is still overweight.

Bene is the face of many people and I consider myself to be one of them. How many overweight people out there are NOT binge eaters, did NOT eat themselves into a several hundred pound hole of fat, enjoy moderate daily exercise, eat healthy foods and are STILL overweight?

If we accept the existence of Bene, of me and of others, then we have to accept that there are many types and sizes of healthy people and that our weights do not always depend on our attitude. Perhaps it's the nature of weight loss blogging. People who don't have a binge eating problem or aren't addicted to McDonald's or Burger King or Dairy Queen aren't sexy and aren't compelling bloggers. It's harder to point a finger at them and say "it's your own darn fault". Because it isn't.

Genetics aren't sexy. You can't beat your genes. You might have a paunch even when you lose all the weight you want--especially if you've had children and especially if you've had children in your late thirties instead of starting at 21. I watched a fascinating show on twins recently on TLC where they talk about how genetics trumps environment so often. Twins separated at birth often end up weighing within about 10 pounds of each other, for instance. We are dealt a hand at birth and that's the hand we have to play with and respect throughout our lives.

Am I telling you all to give up? No. What I'm saying is that I've come to the conclusion that we have to stress "health at any size". And if this means that you end up losing weight because you've stopped gorging yourself on junk food and started going to the gym, good for you. But it might just mean that you continue to be a person with a slightly "elevated" BMI who is perfectly healthy.

Personally, I'm not going to forget Bene and how society is turning her into a freak because even if she doesn't drink Coke and eat cake for lunch and does eat salad 'til the cows come home, she's not going to be slim. And there are lots of her out there.


  1. Good video - good post, as usual!
    I was never overweight as a child, or adult (although never really thin, either.) I just gained weight over the past few years.
    Something changed...but it wasn't my diet.
    Interesting - this missing link in the food chain... and thought system.

  2. I almost feel I am one of these people as well. I do eat a mainly healthy diet, I have managed to increase my exercise levels quite a lot and I am losing weight - albeit very slowly. What bugs me is that according to the actuary tables my ideal weight is 8 stone 7lbs. (Thats 119 lbs or about 50kg) I once did get down to 9stone and everyone asked if I was feeling OK. I am happy and comfortable and look good at somewhere 9st 7 lbs and 10 stone. Yet at that weight I would still be judged 'over weight' So I am with you. If your joints , mobility, and blood pressure, are OK and you dont have diabetes, and (most importantly0 you are happy with yourself, then why sruggle to lose weight to conform to someone elses idea of what is right?

  3. This is a very compelling post and although uncomfortable to read (I'm being honest) it is very true. There are people who don't binge, don't severly overload on calories and are overweight. They can change their weight, but it would perhaps be harder for them than for someone who is genetically predisposed to being a more "average" weight.

    Thanks for the link to the video! It's very important not to judge people on their appearance. I learned that firsthand when I was constantly judged (and found lacking) during my morbidly obese years. I was the same me inside, but the outside had changed.

  4. Well, I was a binger, so i guess that makes me one of the glamorous ones, but it was an extreme amount of effort even after I stopped bingeing to lose. I envy the few who can just eat a little less and walk for half an hour. Honestly, though, I think most people overeat really crappy food on a consistent basis, and lead rather sedentary lifestyles. I watched most of that Bene movie, don't remember what it said about what she ate, so this may or may not apply to her. I think it's much easier to be normal weight if you never gain it in the first place, and difficult after.

  5. Hi,

    I haven't been able to download the video (my computer is acting up). That being said, I totally agree with you. This is why, shows like The Biggest Loser are not realistic. We need to find a balance in life. We need to be healthy but, we also need to be happy. I have always had a weight problem (from a bit chubby, to overweight to obese). This is going to be my life struggle.

    I take it one meal at a time and that is all I can worry about :)

  6. Great post, something to seriously think about! I have always eaten healthy enough but have always been overweight. If I had no intention of joining the Air Force, I think my weight loss journey would be non existent. Unfortunately, I have to be a certain weight to join, so the battle begins! But I too, take it one meal at a time as Monster Soprano =)