Thursday, June 23, 2011

Good Fatty - Bad Fatty

In the course of a conversation at work yesterday, my colleague asked me if I knew Ms. X. When I said that I couldn't place her, my colleague responded:

"Oh, you probably met her at my annual Christmas party. She's quite heavy, but it's genetic, you know. She doesn't overeat or anything."

This response really struck me. My colleague had to make sure that I realized that her friend was a "good" person...despite being overweight. The sub-text, of course, is that being fat is "bad", but there are some "good" fatties nevertheless.

I actually put myself to the good/bad fatty test just this past weekend. My family and I went to a Sunday brunch for Father's Day and I started watching what people put on their plates and what they looked like. Of course, the first thing I noticed was some overweight people with their plates piled high. But then I looked again and saw all the skinny or "normal" weight people and guess what their plates looked like? They too were piled high. And I realized that I was trying to blame the fatties: if they didn't pile their plates so high, they would be slim. But then, what is one to think of the skinny minnies, their plates just as full as their fat neighbours'? Are the former "bad" and the latter "good"?

Blame and shame. Because we can. And because we want the world to make sense. And it only makes sense if we can place the blame for obesity squarely on the shoulders of the obese.

Oh, and what about my plate? C'mon. Take a guess!


  1. Ooohh! Definitely food for thought! Thank you, once again, for such a thought-provoking post.

  2. lol. good fatty bad fatty. Yes. But you know, I think that even 'enlightened' people doing this is inevitable.The idea that the fat determines a person's character is a strange concept. Here again, you will get that fat people are funny, or fat people are lazy or fat people are this or that. Even fat people buy into it. I did...I was always trying to be funny and even now my 'fat persona' comes out in tense situations...where I make jokes fast and furious. Instead of getting that kind of tense laugh from everyone, now I get just a strange look and a kind of 'goofball' type comment. People do it with clothes, cars, haircuts, facial hardware. Taking people as they are in our society...whether canada or america, is a long way off.

  3. How would this person know whether your co-worker overeats? When I had food issues, I ate very healthy in front of others, binged alone. Please keep in mind that self-reported data is considered one step above useless. Also, you can't look around at one party, and conclude that everyone eats the same. Everyone overeats at parties, they're social, there's alcohol, etc. It's the every day, day after day, lifestyle that you have to look at. For example, who always has a bowl of Snickers at their desk? Is it the same person who takes the elevator up and down one floor, all the time? The person who looked at me like I was on crack when I suggested that they didn't have to be tied to a shuttle that left once an hour, as the train station was less than a 10 minute walk? I stopped eating my yummy Asian buffet, when I looked around, saw about half the people there were overweight. It's not like that at my gym, grocery store, cafe, on the streets.

    Also, if I could remember where I read it, I would comment there, but I'm surprised by your comment about avoiding muffins for breakfast. I'm not an aspiring low-carber, nor have any interest in being one, but if I got to work and my choice was yogurt or one of those high-fiber low-sugar whole grain muffins, I'd eat the muffin any day. It's not the same as adding one of those sugary light blueberry things from the grocery store to your bacon and eggs. Even if it is a lot of calories, it keeps me full a few hours, which is useful, as I eat breakfast at 7, lunch at 11:30 or noon. I don't want to eat mid morning at 10. This seems very, um, diety, especially after other writings of yours.

  4. Julie,

    My point with this post was to talk about how we judge fat people as being "good" or "bad". There is so much we don't know about an individual, that we should wait before judging. I agree that someone who is able-bodied should definitely take that 10-minute walk rather than waiting for the shuttle, but we don't know the back story to the waiting crowds. If you met me, you probably wouldn't be able to see that I had a hip replacement or that my left knee is giving me more and more pain. Personally, on a day when my knee was killing me, I would wait for the shuttle rather than walk, although my first choice would always be to walk.

    As for the muffin, it was over at Andra's blog and you're right, my statement was a lot more diety than anything I usually say. I deal with a lot more contradictions than I let on here! And just to make the muffin story clear, I was talking about the muffins you get at chain cafes. We have a chain called Timothy's here in Canada: they make very good coffee (in my humble opinion) but their muffins are huge and jam-packed with sugar--nothing at all, for instance, like the banana bread I make at home, which contains half the sugar called for in the recipe and is made with at least half whole wheat flour.

  5. More thoughts for Julie:

    Please excuse me if I'm wrong, but I sense a bit of fat shaming in your statement too when you say "Please keep in mind that self-reported data is considered one step above useless." The sub-text, as I read it, is that fat people lie (consciously or subconsciously) about how much they eat or how much they exercise. Ergo, if they really ate that little (or exercised as much as they say they do), they wouldn't be fat. I think Ragen Chastain, on her blog "Dances With Fat" deals admirably with this myth.