Thursday, February 24, 2011

Who Are the Fat People?

You know the story about the blind men and the elephant? One touched the tail and thought the elephant was long and skinny. One touched the trunk and made up his mind about the shape of the animal. Another touched one of his flanks and got a completely different image.

I had the same thing happen to me a few years ago when I accompanied a commission of enquiry around the country to examine the question of violence against women. After ten days of horror stories, I started feeling like I was suffering from PTSD and almost forgot that there are lots and lots of good men out there who wouldn't lay a finger on anyone.

I'm starting to feel the same way about how fat people are portrayed and portray themselves on the Internet. After reading many blogs in the weight loss community, here's the impression I get:

  • fat people are all current or recovering binge eaters
  • fat people are all addicted to sugar, fat, carbs, name your poison
  • fat people have been or still are junk food addicts
  • fat people know that they must shoulder all the blame and responsibility for the fine, fat mess they've got themselves into.
This leaves me a bit perplexed. I don't know anyone like that, though the people I know come in a variety of shapes and sizes:

  • S. who eats with gusto, exercises obsessively and looks like she just came out of a concentration camp.
  • C. who eats with gusto, cooks with gusto, isn't particularly fond of junk food, goes to the gym fairly regularly and carries around a nice chunk of extra weight.
  • J., who has slowly gained weight over the years, though he walks at least an hour a day and does not eat gargantuan quantities of food. He recently cut out drinking a glass of unsweetened juice before bed, has cut down his portions slightly and has been losing weight slowly. He is not on a diet.
  • I., a woman in her sixties who was quite slim in her younger years and now is rather round. She is the epitome of an intelligent eater: always the last to finish her food, does not stuff herself, exercises regularly.
  • L., who has not eaten red meat in over twenty years, is interested in healthy eating and yoga; managed to successfully keep her weight at around a "normal" BMI until she had a child; is now somewhat overweight.
  • Cl., whose weight has never fluctuated more than a few pounds during his 70 -odd years on this planet. Has been known to lose weight and look gaunt when having health problems. And his 30-something son looks exactly the same.
  • B., a fitness professional and certainly one of the fittest people I know, totally vegan and yes, overweight.
  • S., who was anorexic as a teenager. Now eats normally though never quickly, dislikes sweets, is neither fat nor slim, with just a bit of middle-aged spread.
I could tell you about many other people I know, some fat, some thin. None of them have much in common with most of the weight loss blogging community. Maybe blogging attracts those who are suffering the most? Certainly, this community, for the most part, looks nothing like the world where I live. Maybe I'm lucky.

Please don't get your knickers in a twist. I don't look down on the weight loss community. It's full of brave people fighting high odds against them. It's just that I see a very different world around me.


  1. I was a binge eater and you wouldn't have known even if you were my best friend.

  2. By all means, our culture urges, overindulge, EAT, EAT, and EAT some more, then CONSUME mass quantities of everything!!!

    But for gawd's sake, DO NOT get fat! And if you do get fat, at least have the decency to feel ashamed and guilty (remember your place.) Feel sinful and rotten and unworthy for taking up an extra few inches on planet Earth.

    And yet.

    Consume the rain forests and amass billions? No problem.

    Consume the ocean's reefs, fish and mammels, killing off species willy nilly, while amassing more billions? No problem.

    Enslave the masses world wide with back breaking work for less than subsistance pay? No problem.

    Dupe the world into consuming every conceiveable manner of crappy merchandise and use up the planet's limited resources while amassing billions? No problem.

    As a matter of fact, do any or all of the above and we'll get you special boxes at sporting events, seats in congress, pleasure crafts the size of ocean liners, private jets, private islands, unlimited power, unlimited sex, unlimited EVERYTHING!

    But get fat? OMG. Go hang your head and remain out of sight. You people are *costing* the rest of us.

    *head desk*


  3. Love you, Rebecca.

    Anonymous: I don't deny the existence of binge eaters, but if you only know fat people over the Internet, it seems like practically every single one is a binge eater. I just can't believe this.

  4. My husband is quite overweight, but he is not a binge eater, nor does he eat junk food, etc. He is a gourmet cook, but everything he cooks for us is healthy food. (no crap)

    His whole family has always had a problem with weight, he had his DNA tested and he has "the fat gene." So, in spite of what negative thoughts people think about him for being overweight, he is none of those things.

    He is currently finding some success on a lower-carb diet, but it's just the way he eats now, it's not an obsession. Which I am very happy for. I spent way too much of my own life obsessing about my weight and food. It's not worth the negative energy.

  5. Wow, you know a lot of healthy people. I don't know that many overweight people who eat healthy foods.

    I think you are right about the blog world attracting people who are more, maybe obsessive? Not sure that's the right word.

    For me, taking the responsibility for anything, not just extra weight, gives me power. If it is my responsibility, I have the possibility of changing it. Otherwise I am a helpless victim. That said, I do believe that there are factors in my body at work that are beyond my control. Still, taking responsibility and learning all I can about that aspect of weight loss/maintenance gives me a certain amount of personal power.