Should we be mean to fat people? You bet.

My editor does not want me to post this blog. That should tell you something about the sensitivity around the topic I am about to discuss.

First, some background. Not too long ago I wrote a post in which I observed that pudgy Southern teen girls often grow up to be pudgy women. I expected some reaction, but I didn’t expect the reaction I got, which was to get pelted from every angle. The right and the left. Men and women. Old and young.  It was as if I spit into the ocean and caused a tsunami.

OK, at the bottom of the page before you post a blog there is a small box that says “Check to allow comments.” If you check that box, as I do, and write about controversial topics in provocative ways, as I do, then you shouldn’t whine (even though I do.)

But as is usually the case, from pain comes insight, or at least insightful questions. In this case: Why the extraordinary sensitivity to comments about overweight young Christian women? If I’d written a line critical of skinny adolescent male Muslim pot smokers, do you think people would have leaped to their defense? I don’t.

What was it about this group that drew this reaction? Was it because they were young? Women? Christian? Overweight?  I think it was because they are overweight.

90% of my blogs are humorous. This is one of the other 10%.  I am profoundly serious about what I am about to say. Many people believe it is unfair or cruel to call out people for their weight. They are dead wrong, and here’s why. 

There is a general trend in our society to be less judgmental. Since you have no choice whether you are born white or black, male or female, smart or dumb, or gay or straight, we have agreed as a society not to judge based on those inherent characteristics. We use public approbation to try to enforce those rules on everyone in our society. Good for us. But our society has simultaneously decided that it is still OK to discriminate on the basis of the choices people make.

We discriminate against some choices for good and obvious reasons, like pedophilia and wife beating. Some for less obvious and less good reasons, like practicing a religion other than Christianity. Some choices we discriminate against more aggressively  than others, like smoking. As a society, we have decided it is OK to be openly mean to smokers. In part, that is because we believe it to be a choice that affects all of us negatively, through second hand smoke, birth defects and health costs. In part, it is also because we believe by being mean to them we are helping them.

I don’t smoke. I have never smoked. I hate smoking. Most people agree with me. A few years ago in Berkeley, I saw a young professional woman cross the sidewalk to get as close as possible to two smokers, and when she got next to them wave her hand in front of her face, cough theatrically and mumble something. That same young woman would never, ever walk across the street towards two fat people drinking milkshakes, puff out her cheeks and mumble, “Oink! Oink!” The very idea horrifies most us.

Because unlike smoking, where most of us feel free to openly criticize our friends who smoke, we all give the obese a free pass.  Perhaps it’s because so many of us carry extra pounds ourselves and we sympathize. Or perhaps it’s because it seems too personal. Or perhaps it’s because we view obesity as a condition rather than a choice.

If it’s the last reason, we are simply wrong. Less than 1% of all people have a medical reason for obesity like thyroidism or Cushin’s syndrome. That means that for 99% of people who are overweight, obesity is a choice, or accumulation of choices. The choices are subtle. It’s hard to see saying yes to whipped cream and caramel on your frappucino as  deliberate decisions to be fat, but they are.  Semi-medical reasons like “slow metabolism” are not legitimate and sufficient excuses for being overweight, any more than chemicals in the brain are excuses for smoking, drinking, or gambling. If you have pale skin, use more sunscreen. If you tend toward gaining weight, eat less or exercise more.

There are good arguments for being mean to fat people. Like smoking and riding a motorcycle without a helmet, obesity is a choice that drives up health costs for all of us. And there’s an even better argument: Because it works. In 1950, roughly half the population smoked. It’s now fallen below 20%. Why? Because of a panoply of mean-spirited anti-smoking measures, from taxation to advertising to social stigmatization to good old fashioned scolding. Humans are social creatures. We can’t help it. We care what others think. Make something uncool enough and we will stop doing it. Currently 2/3 of adult Americans are overweight and 1/3 are obese. If we are mean to fat people as we are to smokers, could we get that down below 20% as we have smoking?

Instead though, not only are we not mean to them, but we bend over backwards not to be critical, particularly young overweight women. It’s well intended, but foolish. We seem to think that nagging them about their weight will either cause them to get an eating disorder or erode their self esteem. 1000 people die each year from anorexia, 300,000 die from obesity. Eating disorders are a tragic problem. Obesity is a pandemic. And no, we don’t want to erode young women’s self-esteem. But do we really think scolding them for being fat is going to erode their self-esteem more than being fat itself?

Why weren’t we this considerate for smokers? We never worried about their self-esteem.

Most of us have been fat at one time or another in our lives. We all have fat relatives. We all have fat friends. If we love them, we will nag them continuously. We will make it uncool. We will tax frappucinos  just as we did cigarettes.

A few years ago, a seriously obese relative invited us to a party. My wife and I, each of whom could stand to lose  ten pounds or so, were by far the thinnest people there. The tables were loaded with the least healthy assortment of food I’ve ever seen. Her friends ate from paper plates stacked high with cheese and fried chicken wings dripping with sweet sauce. One chubby six year-old stood at the table with a deviled egg stuffed in each cheek and one in each hand. If I was at a party where the host allowed her six year-old to smoke, or do cocaine, or even drink a beer, I probably would have said something. But I said nothing to this kid or to the parents. Instead I was polite. Or lazy. Or cowardly. Take your pick.

For some reason, we are reluctant to call out fat people and the behaviors that cause obesity. But our silence isn’t kindness, it’s enabling.

93 comments on “Should we be mean to fat people? You bet.

  1. Well, your editor is glad that you at least addressed a couple of the issues he was most disenchanted about.

    I question some of your logic, though. I grant a lot of what you say, no doubt. We’re not a healthy culture and it’s because we make some bad dietary choices. I say this as a guy who once weighed 40 pounds more than he does right now, and who, by the way, picked up Type 2 diabetes along the way as a result of bad choices. I’ve never been obese, but I know what it is to pay a price (a severe price, as those closest to me can tell you) for certain kinds of bad choices (like a 2 liter a day Pepsi habit).

    The thing is, while we don’t have the same kind of attitude about ridiculing fat people like we do smokers, we still live in a society that punishes anything but slim and athletic. Don’t believe it? Have a look at any movie, TV show, commercial, fashion magazine feature or cheerleading squad.

    Is the negative reinforcement less in your face? Maybe. But it’s there, it’s real, and we just get fatter and less healthy by the day.

    So I’m not sure that I fully agree with this piece of the thesis.

    I expect you to take some abuse over this one. But I’ll allow that if people can get past the initial outrage, there’s a point worth discussing here…..

  2. Sorry about throwing you under the bus, bro, but it made for a great opening line, I thought.

    (For the record, Sammy is an excellent editor. And as someone who has had many editors, let me go on record as saying a good editor is a blessing from a loving god, and a bad editor is a plague and an abomination.) He’s probably right about this one. But excessive honesty has always been a problem of mine.)

    But back to the point. My argument is that subtle negative reinforcement is clearly NOT working. But we know active harrassment works, because it worked with tobacco.

  3. “Less than 1% of all people have a medical reason for obesity”

    Oh really? When you make a statement that profoundly ludicrous, it would be a very good idea to cite your sources. I’m pretty sure this is an official PPFA number. (Purely plucked from air.)

    Not only is obesity a symptom of other medical issues in a much larger number of people than your imaginary statistic would suggest, but you are also completely failing to notice that obese people are already treated terribly in this society. They are discriminated against when job seeking, they are ostracized by social circles, they are charged for two seats by some airlines even if they get stuck sitting between two people with no empty seat next to them, their clothing isn’t carried by “hip” stores because those stores don’t want big people shopping there and tarnishing the store’s image, and none of that even begins to mention the actual taunting they do receive from supposedly adult people.

    Perhaps you should give some thought to being nice to people even if they smoke, or are overweight, or fail to meet some other standard by which you judge those around you when deciding who to show common courtesy to.

    Should we be mean to insensitive rude bloggers? You bet.

    • Obese people are just not good at math. I don’t care what the real percentage with a medical problem is. It’s really a simple formula. Less calories consumed than energy spent during a day = weight loss. Fat does not magically appear from nothing. Storage of fat is the result of consuming more calories than the body burns off on any given day. If an obese person consumed 1000 calories a day for one month, disease or not, they WILL lose weight.

    • Yes, they receive all of this hell about their weight and STILL do nothing about it. That’s just being lazy. So on top of being ridiculed for their obesity, let’s ridicule them for not having the drive to do anything about it. They’re completely fine with living that life because it is honestly not hard to change. Especially with the hundreds, thousands, or more weight loss programs, supplements, diets, tips and tricks, etc. and those are all either free or cheap. Doesn’t cost anything to go for a 30 minute jog, and it actually saves money to cut out half your calories. I agree, 1% is probably a made up number, but who cares, the majority of obese Americans are that way because of their lifestyle, not a legitimate medical or genetic condition. I’m respectful, and I’ve never insulted someone about their weight even if they needed to hear it. But look right there, I just admitted that I’m aiding the problem. I just talk to someone who is overweight as if it wasn’t there. It doesn’t change who that person is, but it speaks volumes for the amount of effort they put into taking care of themselves, which in turn can speak about the way they treat anything else in life. I’m not saying we should insult an obese person outright, but I agree that we shouldn’t take such a passive “you’re beautiful no matter what your size is, you should be okay with being fat because you should be proud of who you are” attitude about it either.

    • I’m sorry, but society wasn’t designed to humiliate fat people. Fat people perceive social connotations towards skinny people as favorable. True, social stigmatization might say we prefer healthy people to represent us, but the media hasn’t waged a war against fat people. If an obese individual sees a cheer leading team with only slim athletic girls on it, don’t get insulted you moron. A fat person insulted by that is really just angry because the cheer leading squad is essentially a reflection of what the fat person wishes they were…skinny. I’m sure a fat girl can join the squad if she can do backflips and be tossed in the air to do a flip, and land back down where her teammates can catch her. However, if an individual’s weight prevents them from meeting the basic requirements, then it is not the cheer leading squad’s fault, but the obese individual’s. Quit complaining about your weight and do something about it, nobody else can lose the weight for you. For starters do 20 push-ups and 20 sit-ups during commercials. If you watch TV all day, there isn’t anything stopping you from doing a workout that kids in 1st grade can do.

  4. I’ve been thinking that our overweight country is a sign of unconscious fear that our country is about to hit the skids. Fat people survive starvation better than skinny ones so piling on the fat is a tactic, not a dysfunction.

    Just a thought.

  5. I saw a rather striking CT image a week ago which should be used in anti-obesity campaigns. In the US standard-sized CT and MRI scanners are now too small for the average American.

    People are not big-boned, though. The image I saw clearly shows an ordinary person enveloped in a 10 inch layer of pure fat. It was utterly horrifying. You can see the muscles, organs and bones exactly where they should be if the person weighed less. And just this ugly terrifying layer.

    Can you imagine dressing yourself in 10 inches of clothing and then going out and carrying that around?

  6. Sam,

    With an upcoming family gathering, some might suspect an attempt to limit attendance, but I don’t think that’s your motivation. I agree with the overview but struggle in the details. Three points:
    1) I had a sister who had a heart that beat like a hummingbird. All,of her short life (died in her early forties) she struggled. To slow her heart to give her a few extra years resulted in her metabolism slowing and she got and stayed fat.
    2) From a family that produced a few alcoholics, I know that none started out with the plan to become dependant on booze, but they did. I’ve heard that for some, eating is like alcohol, equally addictve.
    3) As someone whose “shit increasingly doesn’t work” I’ve battled to keep moving, lifting and active. Some of the “fatties” have an equally difficult challenge.

    Having said all that, I see all the Pepsi and fries everywhere and I cringe.

    Miles

  7. Wayne

    I spent three weeks writing that post. I spoke to a doctor and every statistic is sourced. That one is from WebMD.

    Yes, overweight people face quiet discrimination. But my argument is quiet disapproval isnt working. We need open disapproval to change behavior.

    As for all the examples of fat people who eat like birds and are still fat, my doctor friend says those examples are exceedingly rare. What is more likely is that they eat and you don’t see it, which apparently is very common. It’s arithmetic. If you want to eat, exercise. If you can’t exercise, don’t eat.

    As for rudeness. Which is ruder? To be “nice,” pretend the problem doesnt exist and not invite fat friends to parties because you’re embarrassed. Or to be honest. I think we should all be more honest. If it bothers us, which it does, we should say so and save their lives.

    • If you’re embarrassed to invite a friend to a party because of their body type, then you’re not a friend at all.
      I could never consider someone who shares your way of thinking as a friend. If my nephew grew to have your lack of respect and tact for people’s feelings, I would be so disappointed.

      You may have rhino-skin, but not everyone is so hard-backed. Some people are really sensitive, and some are emotionally unstable, so you can’t just say ‘call them out’.
      They know what they look like; they know what people think about the way they look. So what can your bullying do other than crush someone’s self esteem further?
      Do you not know the risks of bullying? People turn to anything that can distract them from the hell people like you create for them, and in drastic cases, some even take their lives.

      Well, all I can say is that you must have balls of steel to be able to brush that responsibility off your shoulders.

      • Not balls of steel. Just a lack of empathy for other human beings. Only in America do we pusue utopian societal perfection so relentlessly that we are willing to kill other human beings to obtain it. Actually, that’s not true is it? Other countries who pursue a similar societal perfection come to mind: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, North Korea, et al. And the most famous person in history who demonized the less desirables as he saw them – Hitler.

        Shaming people doesn’t work so well to curb behavior. It just leads to dead and demoralized people. However, why should the author care? She’s not one of the “undesirables” disturbing someone’s view! So, they won’t come after her – at least not just yet.

      • agreed. The logic in the original post is reminiscent of those who “called out” effeminate boys and masculine girls in school. Calling out seems quite like bullying….and if rising medical costs are an issue, the public and those that are unhealthy will always be a scapegoat while shareholders and rising premiums for the sake of profit and to match inflation will always be overlooked.

        what’s next, a post in a few years to blame the old boomers for rising health costs??? doubt it since you’d fall into that category….

        those addicted to anything suffer daily….to say that its a choice is dismissive of the struggle they go through daily….having compassion is strength, not a weakness…

    • Thought you may find this interesting. I am one of those “rarities” – a fat person with some seriouly messed up medical issues. To summarise : my parents used those abhorrent hormonal fertility treatments from the 80′s to achieve and MAINTAIN pregnancy, my mother smoked like a locomotive while she was pregnant with me & my father died in a motorcycle accident 5 months before I was born (so I experienced 5 months of severe depression before I even made it into the world). I arrived 3 weeks late & 2 kg’s underweight. Puberty hit me at about 8 & it has been a losing battle ever since. My hormones (not just the usual complaints about oestrogen & thyroid, I have serious problems with my pituitary & adrenal glands) are so screwed up that some of the best doctors in our country do not know where to begin. At 8 I was raped by a family friend, this left me fighting for my life against some horrific virus as a result of the rape (I look like I have been butchered with the way I was cut, I am covered in gnarly scars as my skin does not heal well). I tip the scales around 220lbs at 5’7, but I have a funny type of build – the problems with the pituitary gland caused me to fill out like a man, not only was I fat but I was quite muscular & naturally strong. I used to love it – I protected my mother from a psycho lunatic by beating him into hospital (a policeman & featherweight boxing champ to boot), my sheer size & strength was enough to deter even the most brazen attacker.

      Fast forward to my 30′s . . . the hormone problem has intensified unbearably. I suffer from a painful and embarrassing skin condition called HS, I have a beard on my chin, cannot fall pregnant & battle about 80 lbs of extra weight (I don’t seem to gain too much weight, but battle to shift it). I married my childhood sweetheart, we were best friends & I trusted him implicitly (when we got married I was at my heaviest). He always told me that my weight was a slight problem, but that his love for me as a person outweighed any problems I had, I really thought I had found that 1 in a million. Here comes the real sad part : 2 years ago I got seriously hooked on some hard core drugs & of course the weight came off – I NEVER ate (I was shoveling “draino” up my nose – everything made me vomit), didn’t sleep and lived off water & cigarettes. I lost about 50 lbs & it felt wonderful. My husband was insanely in love with me again (he has never been so loving & affectionate as he was during this period), my friends & family were constantly complimenting me saying how healthy I looked. I lost my job & decided to quit the nose candy in an effort to get my life back on track. Guess what, the weight is back, I found out that my husband is cheating & I am so depressed I just wish life would end. So sad that society appreciates a drug addiction, but not the fat ex addict. Even after all the heartache that my extra weight has caused, I can honestly say that even more than I wish to be thin & acceptable, I wish to be healthy & free of the disgusting, embarrassing hormone problems that are just getting worse with age.

        • Thanks, I appreciate it. I didn’t post for pity though . . . but you guys have to know that not all fat people that claim to have medical issues are lying or making excuses. I definitely would not want to be called out or taunted about my weight or looks (this is actually something I have never really had a problem with, by the way, I think people are too intimidated by my overall appearance to tease me ;) )

  8. I don’t completely disagree with you — we certainly shouldn’t glorify obesity or promote it as an acceptable choice. Fat comedians, for example, aren’t something to be celebrated. (These guys, for example: http://topcultured.com/fat-comedians-on-being-fat/ — it’s a coping mechanism, I suppose, but not something I really see the humor in.)

    But I don’t know that we should be actively mean to overweight people. I also don’t think we should be actively mean to people who have made other lifestyle choices, like smoking or drinking (assuming they aren’t endangering your own life by blowing smoke in your face or operating a car while intoxicated, that is), no matter how reprehensible you might find it. Civil society demands some civility.

    Should be villainize being fat the way we have smoking or alcoholism via PSAs? Sure, if it turns out that approach works in getting people to lose weight (as Sam points out, anecdotal evidence might suggest not — I have to assume it does help in getting people to smoke and drink less, though I have nothing to back that up).

    But one piece that you fail to mention is that obesity — though it may be a choice for most (I couldn’t find your exact 1% stat on WebMD, but I found enough supporting evidence that I’ll grant it to you) — is not an active choice for all. There’s a reason that poor and urban areas, for example, have higher rates of obesity and diabetes. And it’s not because poor, black people are stupid and just make bad choices. Many poor and urban areas lack easy access to healthy food, and urban youth are heavily targeted by marketing at fast food and junk food companies. When you don’t have a car and the only think you can walk to is Taco Bell and 7-11, it’s easy to be fat, and it’s not totally your fault. Is ridicule really going to solve that problem? Not unless the convenience food execs are the ones you’re targeting……

    • Josh’s point on convenience – I’d go a step further. Our economy has found ways of making bad food cheap. There have been times in my life when I had very, very little money (literally, two dollars to my name, this one time I remember, and the next paycheck two weeks away). I didn’t eat a healthy diet at times like that. Taco Bell would fill me up for a couple of bucks.

      So there are some larger economic issues, as well. Whole Foods is better in most respects, but it is no way in hell cheap.

  9. Josh

    Nice comment and good point. Although I am not sure you’re right. I know that is commonly accepted, but I dont buy it. I read a stat somewhere that 49% of poor people are obese and access to alternatives is commonly given as the reason. But most fast food places have healthy choices on the menu, it’s just that poor people (black and white) dont take them. I think that negative pressure might well have an effect on the poor as well. And for the record, I grew up in the projects, so I have an understanding of poverty some commentators do not. I actually wrote a post on it some time ago entitled Waycross.

    As for the stat, it’s not a great one, but it’s all I could find.

    Medical Causes of Obesity
    http://www.webmd.com/diet/medical-reasons-obesity – CachedSimilar
    Sep 19, 2009 – About 1% of the cases of obesity have medical causes, including thyroid problems or Cushin’s syndrome. Learn more

    By the way, I got the idea for this post watching 48 Hours the other night. Story was about a pastor who killed his young wife because she was fat and his mistress was thin, but of course when it went to trial five years later, the mistress was fat, too. In fact, every one of the upper middle class women from Kerrville, Texas in the story were fat (save one.) So I am not banging on black folks here.

  10. First, I am not overweight, so your inference that all who criticize your post are overweight is wrong. I have seen firsthand what bigots like you have done. Yes, you are a bigot. You treat overweight people the same way some treat African Americans. You also assume that 99 percent of those who are overweight are so by choice. Much of the way we live is based on the family in which we were raised. Growing up I was given fruit for snacks. My cousins were given cookies and other sugary sweets. They are all overweight as are their children. My brother and sister are normal weight as are my sister’s children and grandchild. My daughters are normal weight as are my grandchildren. So, much of our eating habits are ingrained in us before we have reached the age of reason. My wife was shocked to see one of my cousins feed her 1 year old Kool-Aid and give him cookies. He and his sisters are now overweight. The reason this is is important enough for me to write is that my wife (now deceased) was overweight. Much of this stems from a very controlling mother who never let her have any snacks because she didn’t want her to be overweight. Her brother could have dessert, but not her and she was not overweight at all. Out from under her mother’s control her rebellion was gradual and despite many diets gained a lot of weight. I watched her struggle, I watched people like you give her dirty looks or sometimes look past her as if she didn’t exist. Eventually she had surgery and lost a lot of weight and found ways to deal with the mental abuse her mother put her through. My point is that being overweight can stem from things other than just gluttony. I stand by my statement that you are a bigot which Webster defines as, ” A person intolerant of any creed, belief or opinion that differs from his own.”

  11. “Shunning often involves implicit or explicit shame for a member who commits acts seen as wrong by the group or its leadership. Such shame may not be psychologically damaging if the membership is voluntary and the rules of behavior were clear before the person joined. However, if the rules are arbitrary, if the group membership is seen as essential for personal security, safety, or health, or if the application of the rules is inconsistent, such shame can be highly destructive. This can be especially damaging if perceptions are attacked or controlled, or various tools of psychological pressure applied. Extremes of this cross over the line into psychological torture and can be permanently scarring.”

    The above is from Shunning at Wikipedia.

    Rather than advocating the escalation from passive to aggressive shaming, you might think about advocating for some sort of save or adopt the obese program. Walk a mile or two every day with an obese person…. In other words, try to help and not simply scorn.

  12. Mike L.: While my comment above should make it clear that I don’t necessarily agree 100% with the author, I think your comment misses the mark. You don’t see to grasp that there is a very real difference between being African American and being fat (the two aren’t mutually exclusive, of course). Being black is not a choice. The author is arguing that being fat, in most cases, is a choice, at least on some level. (You might disagree with that point or present other, contradictory data, but that’s not what you’ve done.)

    If we can establish that being fat is a choice, then your argument is a moralistic one. You think the choice to be fat is acceptable, Otherwise feels that it is amoral and should be shunned by society. Fine — but frame your argument that way. Comparing this article to racism won’t with you any points with rational people.

    To your point about obesity having a correlation to how you were raised, I’d be willing to wager that Otherwise would tell you that parents who feed their kids unhealthy crap and damage their health should be equally shunned by society.

    (On that point, I’d certainly agree. Pumping your kid full sugary snacks and processed foods that lead to obesity, heart disease and diabetes is as criminal as blowing second hand smoke in a kid’s face or leaving a toddler unattended next to a pool. Our nation is collectively outraged when a terrible mother like Casey Anthony leaves her kid to die, but no one bats an eye at the millions of children whose health has been severely compromised by parents that feed them junk food. Hypocrisy? You betcha.)

  13. Sam: Of course. Our food system is design so the fake shit is cheap and the real food is hard to create and expensive. Thank you corn and soy subsidies, thank you factory farming, thank you petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides.

    Creating food the “natural” way is expensive. It doesn’t have to be, I don’t think. But lowering the costs of whole, “real” foods would require revamping our food system to establish smaller, local economies and would require people to make some sacrifices and switch to a more seasonally appropriate diet for where they live, rather than one that puts a premium on convenience.

  14. Obesity is a serious problem in the United States and we should all be working together to find ways to reduce obesity. However, my concern is that this article is more likely to have negative effects than positive effects.

    First, let’s look at some numbers. According to the CDC, “About one-third of U.S. adults (33.8%) are obese.” http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html#National According to the U.S. Census, the adult population , the adult population in the United States in 2009 was 232,438,000. http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2011/tables/11s0007.pdf That works out to approximately 77.5 million obese adults in the U.S. If the WebMD article that was quoted is correct, there would still be over three quarter of a million people that suffer from obesity because of medical conditions. I am not sure that a course of action that could do harm to these people, as illustrated by EmmaZahn’s comments is particularly ethical, whether or not we are sworn to the Hippocratic Oath.

    Yet even that statistic needs to be questioned. WebMD has since updated the page to say “a small percentage of cases excess weight gain is a symptom of another disease”. They cite hypothyroidism as one possible cause. Yet according to Jack DeRuiter (2002). “Thyroid pathology” (PDF). Endocrine Module (PYPP 5260). Auburn University School of Pharmacy. p.16, “the overall incidence is about 3% of the general population”. Granted, there may be some cases of hypothyroidism that don’t result in obesity, but this number alone is enough to make WebMD’s numbers questionable.

    The National Institute of Health also mentions polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) as another call of obesity. “PCOS is a condition that affects about 5–10 percent of women of childbearing age. “http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/obe/obe_causes.html

    Another cause that WebMD cites is Cushing’s syndrome. Massachusetts General Hospital says, “An estimated 10 to15 of every million people are affected each year”. http://pituitary.mgh.harvard.edu/cushings.htm.

    The MGH article also starts off talking saying “Cushing’s syndrome is a hormonal disorder caused by prolonged exposure of the body’s tissues to high levels of the hormone cortisol”. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress. This points back to the role of poverty in obesity. I would encourage people to check out Development and Psychopathology (2001), 13: 653-676 “Can poverty get under your skin? Basal cortisol levels and cognitive function in children from low and high socioeconomic status” http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=82088 “ The results revealed that low SES [socioeconomic status] children from 6 to 10 years old present significantly higher salivary cortisol levels when compared to children from high SES. “

    Another important issue is what is available for good food. As a starting point, I would encourage people to start off with the article in Health Affairs, “Following Federal Guidelines To Increase Nutrient Consumption May Lead To Higher Food Costs For Consumers”, http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/30/8/1471.abstract : “We found that increasing consumption of potassium—the most expensive of the four recommended nutrients—would add $380 per year to the average consumer’s food costs. Meanwhile, each time consumers obtained 1 percent more of their daily calories from saturated fat and added sugar, their food costs significantly declined.”

    This is complicated by the issue of food deserts, area where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain in the United States. I encourage people to check the USDA Food Desert locator. http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/fooddesert/fooddesert.html

    I have none done the research to back this up, but I suspect that you will find there are high correlations between food deserts, areas of poverty and areas of unmet medical needs.

    Returning briefly to the WebMD article, it mentions depression as another cause of obesity. Being poor, stressed out, in areas where it is difficult to obtain healthy affordable food can easily contribute to situational depression. So can having people be mean to you.

    So, if you are really interested in addressing problems of obesity in the United States, start with something meaningful, like fighting poverty, or making health affordable food more accessible. Follow it up with making sure that people have good opportunities to exercise, by making sure health recess is available in schools and that people have parks, trails, and other safe areas to walk in their neighborhoods.

  15. Aldon

    Fabulous comment. This is the quality of debate we should be having on issues like obesity.

    Yes, the numbers around who can’t help being fat and who can are a little loose and are heavily politicized. A few years ago the CDC was forced to recalculate the number of deaths from obesity because of public outcry.

    However, according to the same sources—1/3 of Americans are obese and 1/3 are overweight. So those incidences should be spread over 155MM. Doesnt change your excellent points though. Because smoking tends to cause some very distinct diseases–lung cancer, throat cancer (killed my mom,) and COPD, perhaps it’s easier to count (and thus easier to focus on)?

    Thx

  16. Do you honestly think that fat people don’t know they’re fat? Do you really think that fat people are too stupid to know the value of regular physical activity and a diet that’s nutritionally balanced? Pointing out that fat people are fat and then telling them what to do about it is the height of condescension. Besides, about a third of those fat people are completely metabolically healthy – normal blood pressure, cholesterol, fasting glucose, etc. (That’s about the same percentage of thin people who are metabolically unhealthy, by the way.) Those fat people who are unhealthy (just like the many thin people who are unhealthy) are not actually your business. An individual’s health is between that person and their doctor. No one else.

    Furthermore, weightloss is not nearly as simple as eating less/healthier and exercising because:
    1. Eating and weight loss are not as intertwined as most people think: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-06/uoc–eaw060308.php and http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2008/02/how-weve-came-to-believe-that.html

    2. Individual bodies have comfortable weights or weight ranges, and those weights may not fall within BMI standards: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18647629

    3. Weight is highly genetically influenced: http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Obesity-largely-determined-by-genetics-says-study

    And finally, “obesity” is a tricky word to use when talking about fatness, because it’s medical and has different classifications. While very high weights are associated with higher mortality, people at the lower end of the “obese” range (which is the vast majority of people classified as obese) do not have significantly higher mortality rates than those in the “normal” BMI range: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19543208

    If you’re going to write about obesity, perhaps you should try to be unbiased in your research. And talking to ONE doctor doesn’t really count as doing much in the way of research.

    • so true, i am a 41 yro momther who could not get to 100lb not matter what i ate or did! then cancer came along fought that & still fighting, tumors, i see a doctore every week about somthing different! I have a daughter who is 15, she is overwiegh, guess what? she has cystic fybrosis, so her meds add on the lbs.. it kills me to see how people look at her, her illniss is not shown but people assume ohh she is FAT. everone needs to take a step back, and just be better & kinder

  17. One serious problem with this whole thesis is, what is fat?

    I’m 6’1″ and could stand to lose my belly, but if I was to fit the USDA (or whoever made up that chart that says that “If you’re this tall, you should weigh this much:) I’m be one very slim guy. In fact, I was that slim when I was 25. But along with my belly I lifted some weights and put on some muscle mass (which is even heavier than fat).

    You (or at least, I) can tell when someone is fatter than they should be by simple observation: some people who are judged “fat” in our culture are probably at their perfect weight, as shown by their robust health and physical energy.

    Girls and young women are barraged through every sense channel that “not skinny” is fat and gross (pick up any magazine targeted at this demographic and look at the ads – the stories are all about accepting yourself but the ads are all about skinny). Some of use who don’t criticize young women who may appear to be over their ideal weight do so simply because we’re trying to compensate for the cultural bullshit these women are subjected to.

    “Fat people” is a culturally bound concept. It’s pretty obvious some fat people are just slobs, while others may actually be at their ideal weight. Winston Churchill lived into his 80s and for the last forty years of his life he was fat, smoked and it’s rumored he drank a quart of scotch a day.

    I’ve had to nurse more than one fat person through illness and death, and the illness was due to, if not acerbated by the obesity, so I can testify that we’re not doing our fat friends any favors if we don’t comment on their lifestyle choice. But you don’t have to be mean to do it: try something like, “I love you but your eating habits are really destroying your health and that’s hurting me, too.”

  18. Josh, the point I was making when referring to African Americans had to do with pointing out that the author is biased against overweight people the same way that some people are biased against African Americans. He seems to feel it is acceptable to be mean to obese people. He sounds more like a high school bully than someone whose opinions are worth listening to. I occasionally read S & R based on the headlines I see on FB, but question whether this author deserves to have his tripe published. The second point I was trying to make is that there are other factors that contribute to obesity. The family we grew up in had a profound influence on eating habits and the effect of certain types of abuse have in this area. Jane and Aldon both point out other factors that contribute to obesity that are not easily controlled. The author seems to think that only 99 percent of the obese people have a choice to have normal weight, but fails to acknowledge that heredity, family upbringing, abuse and economics also influence the picture. I hope the editor will think twice before publishing any more garbage from this bigoted author.

    • As a morbidly obese man who has struggled his whole life to get to an acceptable weight, I agree with the author 100%. I do not see him as wanting to be cruel or discriminatory against obese people. African Americans face FAR more than just social discrimination, they face institutionalized prejudice that affects not just their emotions and self esteem, but also affects their education, career and even personal freedom. Obesity is simply NOT on that level. No one is saying fat people should be pulled over in traffic for DWF (Driving While Fat), or that fat people should lose the right to vote or be separate (but supposedly equal) from thin society. There are no thin only water fountains or thin only restrooms. Fat people are not required to sit at the back of the bus or only enter the service entrance of restaurants. There is no socially accepted or institutionally legitimized argument in favor of obese inferiority of morals or intelligence. Let’s not argue a separate, much more crucial, social issue here. The author is addressing society, and our enabling of obesity in the name of being nice.

      I will say that the author did inadvertently misrepresent the level of cruel and overt discrimination that obese people DO suffer in society. It is more than just a subtle nagging or disapproval. There is a small portion of our society (from my experience as a morbidly obese person I would estimate 10-15%, though the research hasn’t been done to my knowledge) that is particularly cruel and malicious towards anyone they perceive as fat/obese. Young children are especially susceptible to this cruelty, both dishing it out and experiencing it. I don’t believe that the author, “Otherwise”, is supportive of cruel behavior or actual discrimination, I think the point was to say that society must choose to be level headed and open about this CLEARLY UNACCEPTABLE situation and behavior. It is not just damaging and dangerous to the people who are obese, it is also a threat to the health and well being if society as a whole. It is not necessary to be cruel or hateful or discriminatory to obese people in addressing the obesity epidemic. All that is required is patient, relentless discouragement of the BEHAVIOR, not of the person. It is perfectly acceptable (and I, as well as the author, would argue imperative for our society as well as the future well being of fat people) to point out, every single time one has the opportunity, all of the behaviors that are leading to Obesity…as well as the perils and pitfalls of overeating, comfort eating or morbidly sedentary behavior.

      It is clear that to avoid the issue actually does a much larger disservice to the obese. I speak from personal experience when I say that I FAR prefer the person who cares enough about me to criticize my lifestyle choices (obviously without being cruel or hateful) than the person who simply ignores the elephant in the room…which in this case would be me LOL. Human nature dictates that those things about each other which we do not address DIRECTLY strongly influence the subtleties of our attitudes and behavior towards those people. In short, if we do not openly criticize behavior and characteristics of which we disapprove, we will find a way to communicate that information non-verbally. Most often, non-verbally communicated disapproval takes the form of emotional and social dissociation, effectively isolating and ostracizing the very people who need more support and encouragement (in the form of open communication of disapproval and active, not passive, reinforcement of the proper behavior) to solve their problem. Great Article! This is a debate that we need to have right now.

  19. So heredity, family upbringing, abuse and economics would all serve as good reasons for someone being a smoker, heavy drinker or abuser too then…right, Mike?

    It really doesn’t matter if young women are bombarded with subtle and not-so-subtle messages about weight, because they’re also bombarded with messages about eating too much crap food. At some point there’s a choice made to eat the crap food and then feel bad about body image that stems from crap food consumption.

    And that’s the real root of this issue. The American people are fed like livestock: it’s all corn and soy. The livestock industry realized that if they put cows in low activity living and stuffed them full of corn and soy, the cows put on weight very quickly. It may have been unintentional with people, but the result is the same.

    The only thing left is to lead them to slaughter to make delicious steaks and burger for us skinny people.

  20. Good reasons? Not necessarily. But all those causes you mention are factors in smoking, drinking and abuse, too. It’s possible to fight against your upbringing, but it’s damn hard and for most people it will require therapy in addition to the desire to change. For most people, it is too overwhelming to just decide one day to be thin. They are fighting on too many fronts.

    Add in that our food supply and the government subsidies of corn make it near impossible for those with limited resources to eat a decent diet of real food. Think about who, for the most part in this country, is severely overweight. They live in food deserts where fresh produce is scarce but boxed mac n cheese is cheap and plentiful. They work 2-3 jobs and at the end of the day, those extra couple of minutes to chop the vegetables and steam them just aren’t there. I daresay that only a handful of this blog’s readers have any experience in that world.

  21. To Lex, otherwise and everyone else: The bottom line is this; there is NO GOOD REASON for anyone to be MEAN to a person just because you don’t like the fact that they are fat. That bias is YOUR problem, not that of the person who is fat.

    • Mike: I think the argument being made is that there actually MAY be a good reason. I absolutely share your unease with being mean to people. I grew up in the South, the land of etiquette and manners, and can barely bring myself to be mean to people who very richly deserve it by any measure. And there are certainly valid, humane reasons to be nice. I get all of that.

      But the thesis here is that obesity is horrible for people and that being nice makes it easier for the obese to put off doing something that will save their lives. That’s a jarring argument that seems to take tough love into new and disturbing territory, but I think your argument that the bias isn’t the fat person’s problem ignores the key point. Being fat IS that person’s problem, and it’s perhaps a fatal problem.

      The author and commenter Lex aren’t mean people, although I see how they might come off that way. You clearly have a strong perspective and some insight here, and I think we’ll all benefit if we can focus as much as possible on the nuts and bolts of the thesis itself. If it’s proven invalid, then the idea that mean works goes away automatically.

  22. Fat people only endanger their own health though. If I walk past someone smoking, my lungs will seize up into an asthma attack. Nothing like that happens if I walk past someone eating deep fried butter at the state fair.

    Economic costs are a whole other matter. As a public health problem, obesity is expensive. But I’d find fault first with the agri-business and government that has conspired to make crappy processed food the cheapest way to get calories.

    • Jennifer is right. Second-hand Big Macs don’t threaten my health. And if we care about the economic costs, let’s make sure we have a good whack at the corporate enablers, too.

  23. You bring no evidence to bear that “being mean” to smokers caused the rate of smoking to drop. More likely, it was better education about the deleterious health effects of smoking, a ban on deceptive advertising linking cigarettes with sex, health and fun, an increase in taxes, and the slow effect of a generational change in behavior.

    Therefore, your argument reduces to your general desire to receive approbation for being mean to people. I’m sure this will help the world — I only hope that you get as good as you give, dude.

    Moreover, as stated by many others, the causes of obesity are complex and diverse. Hormones in our food and plastics may play a part. So might highly processed corn syrup. Whipped cream, despite what you imply, does not. You might do well to visit the Weston Price website and learn a little about nutrition before concluding what other’s problems are.

    Taxation did help to reduce the rate of smoking. Taxation is a legitimate method of modifying public behavior. If the subsidies that went towards corn, soybeans, and factory farming were directed towards small-scale local sustainable agriculture and healthier foods in general, that would do far more for people’s health than being mean to them. I doubt that fat people, as a group, would feel hurt or oppose this measure.

    Ignorance combined with incivility is a toxic combination, but glancking around the globe, it appears to be the preferred method of handling social conflict these days. May I suggest respect and finding commonalities of purpose would be better?

  24. Second-hand smoke doesn’t seriously threaten anyone’s health any more than second-hand Big Macs do. (excepting parents smoking in the home around children, in cars, etc) Certainly no more so than second-hand-coal-fired-power-plant-in-China does, or someone making the choice to drive down the street that occupies the air we breathe. Obviously it isn’t good for you, but if we ban everything that isn’t good for everyone we’re going to be a pitiful group of monkeys.

    I find it uproariously funny that the same people making an argument to be nice to fat people because it’s not their fault for making choices or being somewhat forced into choices are all too willing to cast approbation on others for their choices. It’s always ok to be mean to people you don’t like but never ok to be mean to people you do. Rationalizing it is still just rationalizing it and will always be just that.

    I find second-hand Christianity to be dangerous to my mental health (and Judaism and Islam too). It should be banned and its practitioners shamed into giving up an unhealthy addiction they inherited from their parents or were forced into by the spiritual desert they live in. My mental health is more important than theirs, and since theirs impacts mine they’re wrong.

    I also find white people distasteful. Even though i’m white too, and it’s not my fault, i recognize that something must be done about white people for the greater good.

    And while i thank Sam for defending my niceness, it’s not necessary. I am mean. What i try not to do is pretend that i’m not while directing my meanness at a handful of officially sanctioned targets that everyone can feel good about being mean too.

    I’d also totally eat human steaks; that wasn’t a joke.

  25. From my experiences being obese, I’d say that the underlying problem that I had was a lack of discipline and self-confidence. If negative social pressure prevented people from going to seed, then they probably wouldn’t have ballooned in the first place.

    In high school, I was 6″2′ and 245 (BMI of 30.6). I wasn’t balloon-shaped but I was pretty damn close with how husky I was. I had terrible portion control and was pretty sedentary since I spent most of my time doing schoolwork or playing FFXI. I pretty much ignored any criticism from being overweight. My obesity was entrenched firmly in a cascade of excuses and rationalizations. It wasn’t until:

    1) I took a physical education class seriously to lift weights. I got some nice results in both cardiovascular and muscular performance.
    2) Friends convinced me to join the Lacrosse JV team, in which I got a serious crash course in aerobic training.

    That I started to get confident enough to take exercise seriously. I still hadn’t lost much of any weight because I ended up eating even more. After graduation, I sprained my ankle hard on a trampoline. The limping around really killed my urge to go eat, and the standing metabolism had been boosted by all the lacrosse training. At this point, I was pretty shocked at how I shed weight like a boss, down to 220 in the middle of the summer. I went to college at the weight of 210, I learned how to control my diet, and started up exercising again. I went back home in June at 6″3′ and 185 lbs (BMI of 23.1). I’m currently at 195 lbs due to summer laziness, but I have a feeling it’ll quickly go back down once I get back to college.

    It still took a school year of exercise to get the ball rolling. Without that foundation of physical endurance and metabolism increase, it would have been pretty hard to shed that weight. I don’t think that negative criticism will help most people at that point. You need to find a way to convince people to get more active, improve their diet, and continue that positive change for a long period of time. Negative reinforcement rarely gets such a significant and permanent lifestyle change.

    • Brian – man, I hear you on portion control. Like I said before, I was never obese (had a ridiculously high metabolism when I was younger) but I probably would have been otherwise due to my lack of discipline. I’m better these days (now that the metab has slowed WAY down) and have finally learned how to control my cravings.

  26. Mike L.

    How was i being mean to fat people? I said it was their choice in the end and simply pointed out the same thing lots of other people have said in a different way: they’ve been fattened like livestock. If speaking the truth is making fun of people to you, that’s YOUR bias.

    I’d eat skinny people too, it’s just that fat people would be more economically efficient. But honestly, i’d eat organic vegans if i had the choice…grass fed.

  27. Malooga

    Good point. Obviously, being mean is only justified in extreme cases, e.g., when doing so may help save someone’s life. And my argument that being mean helped curb smoking is simply observational data, which is always dangerous.

    Maybe I should define “being mean.” By that, I mean making comments intended to curb harmful behavior. For example, when my Mom used to smoke around me, I’d say, “You know that’s bad for you” and when my brother did it, I’d say, “Not in my house, man, take it outside.” I did not say “you are a bad or weak or evil person for smoking.” I commented on the behavior, not the individual. In this case, I could see that taking the shape of “Hey, you should be eating fruit instead of that ice cream, man.”

    And I believe the unpleasant truth is that just like negative political advertising, negative reinforcement works. We all WISH that positive reinforcement worked all the time, but it doesn’t. I weighted 215 five years ago. I lost 40 lbs because my wife stayed on me about my weight. My son weighed 245 and I rode him constantly. He now weighs 165. My daughter weights close to 200, but I am reluctant to criticize her because society has told me how bad it is to comment on young women’s weight. I have bought her a very expensive elliptical and done all I can to encourage her, but I have stopped short of negative reinforcement. I am not sure I am being a good father in doing so.

  28. Ahhh…. So now we arrive at the real crux of the matter…

    Yes, Negative reinforcement can help, especially in personal relationships when we are sensitive enough to gauge how the other person is handling it, and if we are willing to back off when we see it is becoming counterproductive. This is why being a good parent is so hard — we must always question our own mix of behavior in the relationship. But that mix of behavior, carrot and stick, while always observing the other person and continually adjusting our own behavior in response — what we might call being in active relationship — is always preferable to acting from rigid inflexible rules, either completely permissive or completely judgemental. Because when someone is inflexibly judgmental of ourselves, we react by becoming inflexible ourself, as a protection mechanism. Nobody wants to be “remade” by another person.

    What might at one point in time be right for your son, might at the same point in time be wrong for your daughter. And we are never completely certain that we are doing the right thing. Relationships really are hard work sometimes, but that is part of what makes them so rewarding.

    So what CAN be accomplished — with some difficulty, and much skill, tact, and love in interpersonal relationships — is far harder to accomplish in the public sphere where the feedback mechanisms necessary to know when to adjust our behaviors are not as pronounced. How can we enhance those feedback mechanisms to increase our chance of success?

    It would be far easier to adopt a form of fundamentalist behavior, where one rule governs all actions and responses — indeed, that is the very allure of fundamentalist thinking. But it is far more effective to preserve all of our options and, being in continual relationship, to respond continually, to the best of our abilities to other people, while respecting their own humanity.

  29. I look at the title of the article and note that otherwise, Lex and a few other people find justification in being mean to fat people. Sam and Malooga seem to think that it might actually work. Make fun of the fatties and shame them into changing. Consider this, that it might do just the opposite. It makes them feel worse about themselves; they withdraw and go to the one addiction that they know, eating. I witnessed firsthand what this did to my wife and it was not pretty. If she had been surrounded by people like Lex, otherwise and Malooga she would probably have pulled back and eaten her way to an early death. The people who are our friends accepted her the way she was and encouraged her to get help. You notice I said “encouraged” rather than shunned, shamed or said they were mean to her. Those who make these statements about it being good for them to be mean to fat people are no different than the Rush Limbaughs of the world who make fun of those on the left. Yes, I am comparing you to Rush. Sam sent me an e-mail saying that Lex and otherwise are actually good people. I don’t see that. I see them as self-righteous pseudo-intellectuals who have no concern for the damage they can cause. I sent a message via e-mail to the administrator asking to be deleted from further contact with this and keep getting the e-mails that continue this discussion. I no longer wish to have contact with S&R as many of you comments bring back many painful memories.

  30. Mike L.

    I think you have misinterpreted my position. I agree with you. If one is sensitive to the other person one would never keep pushing when the others response is to withdraw. People who made fun of your wife were obviously insensitive to the signs she was putting out.

    I’m sorry for the pain you and your wife went through, and it points out the danger of inflexible behavior.

  31. I don’t see myself getting an answer to this, but i’m still not sure how i’ve been mean to fat or advocated being mean to fat people to make them thin. True, i personally find obesity to be disgusting, but that’s a personal opinion and irrelevant…especially from someone who’s genetically incapable of ever being fat.

    In the end, i don’t care if people eat themselves to death. I don’t care if people are fat or not. I don’t care if they smoke or not. I don’t even care if they shoot heroin or not.

    But i’m not going to handle anyone with kid gloves for any reason. I’m not responsible for other people’s self-esteem and, yeah, i’m going to be pissed if i only get half the airline seat i paid for because someone next to me loves twinkies too much to say, “no.” But that’s only because i paid for a whole seat. Put the person in another row and and i could give a fuck less how much they weigh. (And i wouldn’t care if they smelled of cigarette smoke and “invaded” may air. I paid for the seat, not the air.)

    God damn, between the militant calls for perfect political correctness and the complete lack of humor that defines modern America, i’m surprised we haven’t imploded into a quivering mass of tears.

  32. Since this subject has been explored from so many angles, I will add a few tangential obserations.
    First, our non-technical vocabulary(“layman’s terms) to describe medical conditions is woefully under-developed, largely because the advances in medical science have been so rapid and profound over the past 25 years. Most recently, the discovery in cancer research that what was called (layman’s term) “junk DNA”–the 98% of DNA which does not produce enzymes or proteins thought necessary for cancer cell growth (and which has been ignored for 9 years while research was focused exclusively on the other 2%, in fact, is quite possibly a cancer causing agent by virtue of a (layman’s term) “pseudo-gene.”
    I bring this up around the use of the word” addiction” to describe the inability to stop smoking, drinking and to lose weight. Because addiction is so strongly and “correctly”associated with the former, it seems trivial to apply it to the last. But, as my physician brother put it the other day: “Our pleasure sensors are formed at an early age and it is hell to change them.” Food certainly would not seem to have the same addictive quality as alcohol and tobacco, but why do I find myself like clockwork, 9:00 pm, without really being conscious that I am doing it, scouring the kitchen for something sweet to eat. Go ahead, try to offer me a piece of fruit as a substitute– ice cream or chocolate or I am off to the Shell station for my fix unless I will myself to stop.
    Finally, as the father of an obese daughter of 22, I have seen the cruelty that she has faced, the snubs from “friends,” not being invited to parties, the sorrow, despair and loneliness she fights. Sam, I think she has faced your quota of “meanness” and then some.

  33. You pick on overweight people because they are an easy target, and most people NEED to pick on someone. Makes them feel superior and satisfies some inner need to dominate someone. Overweight people are already ashamed, even if they are part of some small percent that have trouble being thin. Your society has already shamed them. They know you think they are lower than drug addicts, robbers, and some killers. In fact, you’d rather be seen hanging out with a notorious killer than with somebody fat, wouldn’t you? Overweight people probably won’t fight back. Most of them are mild, polite, empathetic, always worrying about hurting someone else because they’ve been hurt so much they know what it feels like. I don’t care where you got your statistics about what percent of people cannot help being fatter than the rest. Doctors are frequently wrong about many things. Some thin people barely eat, and are really fat people in disguise. Other thin people eat like horses and never gain an ounce. I know some of those. One in particular always criticizes people who are even slightly plump, without being grateful for her own rapid metabolism from birth.

    You don’t need to start being mean to fat people. It’s not a new idea. Instead, when you see a fat person out and about, you should stop and be extra kind to them, because their coming out of the house today, into a cruel society, probably took more courage and guts than you expend in several years. Instead of hatefulness, try kindness and support. They already know they are overweight and that you find them abhorrent. Perhaps, though, they are too polite to tell you just how repugnant they find your ugly spirit.

  34. You know, if you pick on fat people, you are taking a serious risk of being punched in the head! They might turn into the monsters that you are making them out to be. Maybe that will motivate you to keep your big damn mouth shut.

  35. I know this is a really old post- but I just wanted to point out that my being fat doesn’t have any bearing on anyone else’s life (except, possibly, being unpleasant to look at), whereas someone smoking in a public place is subjecting everyone around them to their toxins and stench.

  36. I’m just gonna come out and call you an idiot. If you had done any real, unbiased research you’d have discovered that shaming people makes them treat their body badly, not well…

    Of course my body is none of your fucking business and I’ll eat whatever the fuck I want and what you think is your problem… so don’t make your shallow tastes MY problem.

    You don’t even know the extent of the discrimination I face because I’m fat. I’ve had people plan to rape me and threaten to kill me and YOU are saying that THAT behavior is okay. YOU are saying people SHOULD do that to me.

    God damn… the fuckery that spewed forth from your fingertips is both disgusting and an absolute wonder… your lack of common sense and critical thinking skills is laughable…

  37. Allow me to better explain myself.

    I was not raped or killed (which I am most grateful for) as the threat on my life was quickly reported and a classmate warned me about the boy planning rape.

    I wasn’t saying the author condones rape and murder (I understand that my original statement was unclear), I was stating that the author condones the harassment of fat people. Part of my harassment for DARING to be fat in public was rape and death threats. Not to mention having food and glass bottles thrown at me, near constant sexual harassment, physical abuse, self flagellation, public shaming by teachers and classmates and anyone else who thought I deserved to be taught a lesson for being different, and having my pleas for help blatantly ignored by school officials and anyone else around me. THIS (is not all but part of) how the public tried to force me to conform to their standards of beauty. This is what “being mean” is for me and thousands of other fat people, therefore… if he condones the harassment of fat people then this is exactly what he condones whether he realizes it or not.

    If he does not realize it, I suggest he (and anyone who agrees with him) take a big step back and take a long look at what he’s saying. If he DOES realize it, I suggest he stop the “it’s for their own good” bullshit and just say he finds fat people gross.

    What he is condoning has mentally, emotionally, and physically scarred me and countless others beyond repair. And the best part? Despite years of forcing my body to be what it is not just to get the abuse to stop… I’m still fat.

    • Thanks for responding, and I’m sure we accept your comments here. However, I do want to be brutally clear about something. You say:

      I wasn’t saying the author condones rape and murder (I understand that my original statement was unclear)…

      In fact, your exact words were:

      I’ve had people plan to rape me and threaten to kill me and YOU are saying that THAT behavior is okay. YOU are saying people SHOULD do that to me.

      Rhetoric is fine. Emphasis is fine. I exaggerate to make a point all the time. But you absolutely, positively DID say what you said, and misrepresenting the words of others is frowned upon here, especially when it is to such an egregious degree.

      We’re happy to have informed contributions to debate here, and we’re just fine with people disagreeing passionately about controversial ideas. But I strongly encourage you to avoid this sort of mistake in the future.

  38. I agreed that my statement was unclear and explained further.

    As you can see, I say “YOU are saying that THAT behavior is okay.” The word “THAT” represents the verbs that came before. The verbs that came before are “plan” and “threaten,” not “rape” and “kill” because no raping and killing went on, only planning and threatening.

    Of course I said what I said… It wasn’t a mistake, but I can see how someone may get confused if he or she does not take the time to fully comprehend the statement- grammar included.

    Once again, I am saying (and was always saying) that the writer condones harassment which includes threats such as the threats (not the acts) of rape and murder. If the author did not mean to condone such behavior (the behavior being threats, not acts) then he should think about what he’s said and clarify.

    I’m sorry that my writing was so difficult to fully comprehend.

  39. I don’t think you know what you are saying LexieDi.

    “I’ve had people plan to rape me and threaten to kill me and YOU are saying that THAT behavior is okay. YOU are saying people SHOULD do that to me.”

    By your own context you are saying that the author said it is ok for people to plan to rape you and threaten to kill you and that he is saying that people should do that to you.(fat people)

    None of that is in the article.

    This article isn’t about being mean to fat people by itself. Its about how its ok to be mean to druggies and such, but it’s not ok to be mean to fatties and how it is messed up.

    That sentence I wrote alone will make people rage, because its not ok to say fatties, but it is ok to say druggies, even though both types are “making their own choices that do not affect society.”

    • Can I ask, do you actually agree that obese people should be treated with the same caution and contempt as you would a drug user?

      The fact is, obese people affect their own health, but drug abusers can affect the safety of others!
      In my line of work, I come across addicts on a daily basis, and let me tell you, some of the stories I’ve been told, would make you utterly ashamed of that comparison.
      When they’re high, they’re not in control of reasoning. Can you comprehend the dangers people are in when they’re among someone without sense of what’s right or wrong, without care of consequences?

      If you have an issue with bigger people, fair enough, but do not think to peg them in the same category as drug users!
      I don’t know whether to laugh at the absurdity or to be concerned that someone actually has such a problem with the way people look.

      Let’s hope you keep your figure. God forbid that you’d one day wake up to look in the mirror and have a ‘fattie’ stare right back at you.

  40. I know perfectly well what I am saying. I read the article and I’m a victim of harassment daily because people think I need to be taught a lesson.

    By my context, I’m saying that the author thinks that fat people should get the same harassment as (insert addiction here). Whether the author realizes it or not, harassment for fat people does not stop at people making oinking sounds and grimacing as they walk by; harassment for fat people includes threats of rape and murder. Therefore, again, whether the author knows it or is meaning to or not, he is condoning the use of these kinds of threats as harassment. He’s condoning the use of these kinds of threats as harassment possibly because he is ignorant to what actually goes on, or, possibly, he knows perfectly well what goes on and thinks it’s acceptable. I don’t know. I’m not the author.

    So yes… it is in the article, it’s just not explicit.

    As for smokers getting harassed and fat people not? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Does the author really think fat people don’t get publicly harassed? Saying that fat people don’t get harassed is some extreme thin privilege. People who say those things are ignorant, have put blinders on, or are bullies themselves who think they’re the only ones bearing the noble fat-bashing torch.

    In fact, let me tell everyone a little something about fatties and a little something about smokers. My father is 55 years old. He’s smoked since he was about 14. He quit recently. Guess what? He didn’t quit because people rudely coughed when they walked by… Being rude and harassing and publicly shaming smokers doesn’t work… and neither does harassing fatties. If harassing fatties worked, I’d be thin.

    Not to mention the fact that there’s at least one huge, glaring difference between being a smoker and being fat… One does not have to smoke to survive, but one DOES have to eat. So when you (meaning anyone) see a fat person eating, you don’t have the right to oink at them because you don’t know their circumstances- that may be the first meal they’ve had in days, they may have anorexia (which fat people can have, trust me). When you see a fat person taking an elevator instead of the stairs, you don’t get to judge them because they may be anemic (like I am) or they may have just gotten out of the hospital.

    And if you see a fat person eat two whole cakes and then take the elevator, you don’t get to say anything because it’s none of your business and there is no such thing as the food/exercise/fat police. So put down that imaginary badge- you’re helping no one…

    (I won’t even go into the fact that not all fat people are fat because they over eat or that 95% of ALL weight loss attempts fail. Science!)

    And the whole “It’s a choice to be fat” thing is pure bullshit. Our society in no way caters to fat people. The self-hate alone was enough for an eight-year-old me to pray for an eating disorder and shove my fingers down my throat in a panic, wishing the food would come back up. I may have to pay more because a greedy airline doesn’t want to make seats comfortable for everyone. I will get yelled at by a man driving by while I walk down the street. I have been told by family that no man will ever love me. I will almost never see a positive portrayal of a fat person in the media. Fat people in the media are non-sexual (because fat people don’t have sex, right?!), constantly eating, dumb, greedy, slovenly, evil, or losing weight so that they’re “better,” or any combination of those. I have had food and bottles thrown at me. I’ve had a boy verbally harass and threaten me daily for two years while my school counselor and then the principal ignored my constant pleas for help. I will have a doctor give me diet drugs, including fen-phen at 10. I will have other doctors put me on brain chemistry altering medication just because one of the side-effects is weight loss. My family will spend over a hundred thousand dollars on programs, food plans, diets, weight loss drugs, and personal trainers. If I want to adopt a child, I may be turned down because of my size. If I have a child it may be taken away from me because of my size. O yes, life for a fat person is SO great isn’t it? No wonder I choose to be fat!

    I looked at this site’s “about” page, it reads, “We’re different in many ways, but we share a general belief in progress, a conviction that smarter is better, and a passionate distaste for convention.”

    I appreciate a blog that strives for intelligence and because this seems like a good blog, that welcomes opinions and ideas, I want to point out that this post flies in the face of what you all claim to believe- It’s not progressive, it’s not smart, and it’s horribly conventional.

  41. Here’s what I said.

    1. Most obese people are obese because they eat too much.
    2. Our society does not treat overeating as it does other behaviors involving poor choices, e.g., smoking, gambling, substance abuse.
    3. If we are doing so out of kindness, that kindness may be misplaced.

    In no way, explicitly or implicitly, did I suggest that rape was an appropriate form of social approbation. I am a careful writer. If I didn’t say it explicitly, then I didn’t say it. I can’t help what you read, but I know what I wrote. If you think my post condones rape, you either are not an intelligent person or are so emotionally wound up that you are unable to process.

    I am sorry you are fat. I am even sorrier that the fault lies everywhere but with you.

  42. I find it hilarious that a place that supposedly values intelligence has contributors that have really bad reading comprehension skills.

    I’m going to say it again, as clearly as I possibly can… I said you condone harassment and thereby condone threats because threats are part of the harassment faced by fat people.

    Reading comprehension skills are so incredibly important in life.

    As for your points:

    1. Wrong.

    2. Yes, it does.

    3. Laughable.

    You claim to have researched, but you didn’t do a very good job.

    You may write carefully but, in this case, you write too generally. Because you are ignorant to the harassment fat people actually face in real life, you left your opinions too broad, thereby (whether you meant to or not) did implicitly say that harassment (which includes threats) is appropriate. Enjoy that thin privilege.

    Don’t be sorry I’m fat. I love my fat body. It’s just as good as yours in every single way. I LIVE to gross out and piss off people who don’t like my body. And, it doesn’t matter if my being fat is “my fault” or the fault of something else because I still deserve respect and I still deserve to NOT be harassed by… you know, people like you. My body and why it is the way it is and how it got the way it is is none of your fucking business. And, of course when I say my body, I mean anyone’s body… and when I say it’s none of your fucking business, I mean it’s none of anyone’s fucking business… Just in case you don’t get the implied meaning.

    For a “smart people” blog, this lot sure seems ignorant.

    I’m sorry you have bad reading comprehension skills. I’m even sorrier you’re a bigot.

    • You said this and I directly quote you, with emphasis on certain words using caps:

      “I’m going to say it again, as clearly as I possibly can… I SAID you condone harassment and THEREBY condone threats because threats are part of the harassment faced by fat people.”

      That is crazy talk, you just clearly put words in the original poster’s mouth. You JUST wrote it…. my god, how stupid are you to not even know it, AS YOU WROTE IT???

      You are basically reiterating the INTERPRETATIONS from your reading of the original blog entry, with no direct quotes (i.e. copied and pasted examples from the original post) to accuse the original poster of condoning rape. You basically threw your misconstrued interpretations at everyone as SOLID PROOF that the original poster condones rape, based not upon fact, but upon your FAILED attempt at reading comprehension 101.

      Do you not understand the distinction between what you INTERPRET and what is BLATANTLY WRITTEN? Is there a clearer way to put it so that you may understand? Are you mildly insane? illiterate?

      Let me teach you in simple terms: In order to prove the statement that the original poster condones rape a FACT you’d have to directly quote him/her saying “I condone rape as an act of sexual harassment against the overweight.” or similar DIRECT QUOTES FROM THE ORIGINAL BLOG ENTRY. NOT something you INTERPRET. If they did not BLATANTLY WRITE SUCH A STATEMENT IT MAKES WHAT YOU SAID AS INTERPRETATION, NOT FACT.

      If you cannot PRESENT direct, unaltered quotes, you are PUTTING WORDS IN SOMEONE’S MOUTH. Do you NOT understand what that means???

      Then you defend yourself that you did NOT accuse the original poster of condoning rape. However, that first sentence I quoted directly from you, LITERALLY MEANS you are saying the original poster condones rape, period. That is what YOUR sentence means, you were not stating an opinion but presented it as a factual statement.

      Do you even understand the basic concepts of statements one can make that are clearly based on your opinions from that of those you are attempting to present as FACTS?

      Perhaps you were ridiculed in your youth not for your fatness but for your apparent inability to read, write or understand simple concepts, explained to you over and over by several different people, in several different ways. I’m sure your irrational stubbornness to admit fault may also be a factor, that characteristic trait cannot possibly attract friends or sexual relationships.

      I don’t understand how you did not see your error, AS you continuously repeated your error. It would’ve been graceful to just say “Oh, I see, that isn’t what I meant.” Rather than try to explain away by use of something you apparently never to use in public – English.

      I’m interested in the comments here but reading yours totally irritates and disturbs me. It did not further the discussion and just wasted time. Like you were venting or trolling or in need of therapy and acceptance. I’m probably trolling now but I hope to say something so maybe those like you would not add to a discussion after you’ve exhausted all real depth to it. Jesus. I truly feel very sorry for what you’ve been through but honestly, your past sufferings and harassment issues may not have resulted from your JUST your weight. It may have been you were an outcast because you were insultingly stupid to the human race.

  43. Fat people are truly a disgrace to the human race.

    The thing that makes us humans great is our ability to push ourselves to do great things, in our careers and with our mental and physical health as well.

    If a person wants to roll over and kill themselves slowly with hot dogs and ice cream, please just do it with cyanide instead and make it quicker so we don’t all have to bear witness to your slow and obvious suicide. Grow some motivation!

    As a society we are too generous to those lacking in will power, and make it too easy for them to just roll along from one day to the next. It’s such a stupid thing when a fat physically incapable person has a heart attack, and never saw it coming!

    Maybe getting your toes surgically removed due to diabetic complications at age 40 will convince you to start jogging. Too late? Alright then, have a nice wheelchair life.

  44. I am 18, a Christian girl, and I am fat. Why does it matter? Why go out of your way to purposefully hurt someone me? Being mean to someone because of their size is a sign of an insecure person. In today’s society no fat person is catered to as you suggest. Maybe clothing sizes have gotten bigger, maybe people are not as healthy, but why should it matter to you? Worry about your own health. Being ridiculed about my size made me bigger and if you think being mean is a cure, you are sadly mistake. Of course I envy skinny people for their petite size and seeming perfection, but why is it so wrong for someone to love me for my rockstar personality? If the mindset for all people morphs to what is suggested in this writing, I will honestly lose all hope in humanity. I should not be defined by my size.

    • I truly hate the argument that those who dislike the overweight must be insecure. That is a faulty and stupid argument. Over and over it has been stated, the health risks to those who are overweight and the cost of healthcare due to those issues that arise from obesity and overweight patients.

      No one at the age of 18 should make such obviously childish, wishful accusations. It’s like a defense mechanism similar to “they must be jealous,” when there are “haters.” The strangest thing is your mention of envy for thinner people, if you can articulate that, why would you think those who frown upon the overweight would be the ones who are insecure? They probably are aware that they are enviable in comparison to the overweight/obese. Makes no sense to be insecure in regards to those they frown upon.

      You probably do have a rockstar personality and people should love you for that, but it will be different for romantic love and relationships. Sexual attraction is different than spiritual attraction and appreciation. It’s very sad and unfortunate but it is also the truest reality you will learn as you get even older. The difference between a friend and a lover is usually the sexual attraction and tension that exists with one and not the other.

      It has nothing to do with insecurity, it is a health epidemic that affects everyone, in the long run, for generations to come. If rising numbers show the obesity rate is climbing maybe moderated versions of what the original poster suggested would be needed. I don’t believe in shaming but I also strongly reject “fat acceptance,” or any ads showing today’s women and men are on average now a much larger size, so it’s “normal,” it is not healthy and encourages an attitude of ambivalence towards weight gain and health issues related to weight gain.

      It is highly unrealistic to be feigning kindness and acceptance when there is no question that it is not something to promote, as such. If someone cannot help their weight, maybe a movement will develop more help and awareness to counteract those with hardships in losing weight or maintaining a healthy one.

      Fat acceptance on any level is in my opinion, a cop-out, a means to submit to feigning kindness, propriety and political corrected-ness. We all know the health implications why chose to use marginally small numbers of those who are fat and healthy as reasons to promote such a dangerous notion?

      Drastic times calls for drastic measures.

  45. A lesson on bullying from the playground and beyond.

    It is extremely rare for an individual to pass comment on the weight of another individual out of genuine concern for said individuals health, or social standing, although it is possible and there are some kind people in the world but they are rare.

    For the most part this is a fishing exercise to determine weather the overweight individual in question is mentally/emotionally weak and will accept the position of scape-goat or victim, in a bully-victim scenario.

    It would be likely that the potential bully would of made the assumption that an overweight person would lack self-esteem and would therefore be an easy target.

    I think it is very important to remember no one is perfect, every individual has flaws
    even though on the surface these flaws may not be so apparent as flaws linked to physical appearance, scratch deep enough and flaws will become evident in ALL PEOPLE.

    It is my experience that an individuals flaw or flaws has little real significance to their potential social status, it is simply a case of repetition and the stronger desire of the bully to be in CONTROL.
    The victim will be more comfortable in the submissive role and will give in first.

    If you use the flaw of another against them often enough over time, chances are
    you will reduce them to the scape-goat position in the social pecking order.
    Once you have located the flaw of the individual and created a catchy unique catch-phrase
    or “label”, to identify the victim.

    The label will relate to the identified flaw in question this label will be used to undermine the self-esteem of the victim which quickly links the victim to their own flaws and causes further personal shame for themselves.

    reducing an individual to a label, enlisting the support of other (potential scape-goats,) The potential scape-goats will be only too happy to join in, since joining in with the bullying of an established scape-goat, will in their minds inhibit them from become fully fledged scape goats themselves, enabling them to score much needed brownie points with already established bullies.

    Bullies will chant and laugh at scape-goats as soon as they see them, or hear of them
    Bullies will express pleasure in their eyes as they chant the label that identifies the scape-goat.
    The satisfaction that the scapegoat will witness in the sparkling eyes and laughter of all the bullies will further reduce the self-esteem of the identified scapegoat-victim.

    It is my experience that around 98% of ALL people have the potential to become scapegoats
    regardless of body-shape / weight.

    My unsolicited advice to overweight people would be, don’t be the scape goat victim

    If you want to be overweight that is your right, do not let anyone attempt to make you the scape goat.

    If you want help or think you need it to become thin ask for it, and become thin it is possible for the majority of overweight people to lose weight, believe in YOURSELF

    Is it easy to lose lots of weight ? , NO it’s very hard but it is possible
    people that have never had the need to lose lots of weight could never
    understand how hard it really is, this is their ignorance do not let it upset you.

    If a scapegoat/bully/stranger offers you advice:
    Thank them for their unsolicited advice, and bid them good day, and get on with your life.
    chances are they just wanted to put you down anyway, not fighting with them or becoming angry will leave them powerless and redundant.

  46. I’m sorry. But how can you compare being overweight & obese with smoking? Bigger people don’t hurt me like secondhand smoke. And unlike smoking -or drugs- food nourishes ones body. It’s absurd that you could imply an eating disorder being better than being obese. I know from personal experience that’s something no body should go through. Also, a lot of people who actually recover from an eating disorder gain weight… But they love themselves when they are fully recovered. You can say whatever you want. But as a social human being you should know harassment is not a good thing. I wish that everyone loved themselves enough to realize how ridiculous this article is but sadly most people get hurt by things like this. If that makes you sleep better at night good for you. But I (and others) enjoy being nice to people and accepting them for who they are. Basically my point is… Someone’s being fat is none of your damn business and people who buy into things like this should educate themselves and realize their are much better ways to interact with people.

  47. Pingback: Prejudice/Weightism | annasarahwiseman

  48. Alright, I was born big, was a big child been fat all my life. Actually, pretty much my entire family is ‘fat’ except for my dads side.

    I think society is doing pretty good at treating fat people like they are trash, so don’t worry everything is going according to plan. Why not just lock all the big people in a barn and burn them alive? That will seriously decrease the amount of obese people in the world.

    Except I really don’t think it will do any good. I’ve been treated quite badly, and to be honesty I’m really not that over weight, at least i can still shop regular sizes.

    When i was 8 a group of high school kids told me i shoul kill myself because fat people dont belong, so when i went home i tried to slice my own throat. Tell me should an 8 year old girl attempt suicide just because she is overweight? I’ve tried plenty of diets even simply cutting out junk, didnt work. Then i starved myself for months only eating ice cubes, nearly killed myself but when my parents caught on to my plan they watched me eat. I was fine with dying at 13 as long as i was thin.

    what i’v learned over the years is that being skinny isn’t worth shit. You’re going to die anyway aren’t you? My father is perfectly healthy and now he’s missing two legs, I guess eating healthy doesn’t make you invincible.

    • My point was we should call out the behavior that leads to obesity and discourage that, as we did with smoking. I think it is fair to remind fat people of portion control, of food choice, of lack of exercise. That’s what we did with smokers, called out the behavior, and it helps.

      Abusing people just for the sake of cruelty is not helpful, and that not the behavior I was supporting. I was also a fat 8 year old who got teased. I get that it hurts, and your sad story brings tears to my eyes. I am sorry.

      But my point stands.

      The idea is that people are letting obese people die because they think it is mean to call out the behavior. Obese people have become unbelievably accomplished at the excuse card, e.g., “I was born big,” “it’s not a decision, it’s a disease,” “I have a slow metabolism,” and all of those excuses are bullshit. Eat less and you will weigh less. Period.

      • When you put it that way, I have to agree with you. People need to stop using that as an excuse. I said that I’ve always been big, but I didn’t mean that I could never be healthy. I know damn well that I could be at a normal weight range and am currently working at it.

        I don’t agree though, that eating healthy is the problem with all people because folks have different reasons for being overweight, whether it’s their eating habits, lack of exercise or whatever.

        My initial reaction at this article was to be offended, now, with your reply I see that maybe I took things out of context. I don’t believe treating obese people badly is a good thing but I don’t think making them okay with being big is okay either.

        I was ok with it for a while, being large that is, but it isn’t how we look that bothers me (like I said my family is big and how they look doesn’t bother me) it’s how we treat our bodies. Your body does so much for you, why not treat it well, right?

        I went on a two week juice fast, I would recommend this to anyone, consult with a doctor of course, but it was really good for me. When you are through with the fast you are never going to want to eat junk again, and you are going to want to be active an exercise. Plus, poverty can’t be used as an excuse, I fill my fridge and cabinets with veggie for 20 bucks! It improves my self esteem as well.

        Once I started doing things for myself the teasing stopped, and I felt better about myself. I don’t think being fat is the problem, I think being fat and not doing anything about it is the issue. Am I wrong?

        There is no excuse for being unhealthy (I won’t say fat, because being underweight is no good either), treat your body well and get healthy :)

  49. Being obese is not always a choice as you may think some people have serious psychological problems and I feel like you have no right to talk about being obese if you have never faced it you don’t know what obese people go through day in and day out you act like obese people don’t know their fat they don’t need strangers like you telling them something they already know

    • How old are you people? I’m honestly amazed at the level of insensitiviy found in the thread of some of these comments! I’ve been obese most of my life. I have been bullied by family, teachers, students and even my minister. My weight never stopped me from living a full and productive life, including two college degrees and yes, a forty year career the medical profession. Ok, I’m like old! What did make deal with my obesity was PAIN, physical pain from a number of orthopedic problems esxascerbated no doubt by being a hundred pounds overweight. And yes, I tried all the diets, joined gyms ,and could, still can, tell you all the scientific hows and wherefores of weight loss and am amazing at telling how many calories etc are in any given food. I didn’t need anyone to tell me off for being fat, I and almost every felllow fat person I’ve ever met does that for you when they look in the mirror. Do you have any idea how hard it is to loose a hundred pounds? And actually keep it off. Did you know that something like 80% of people who have weight loss surgery gain the weight back or become addicted to something else, watch the Discovery channel to verify this. Think about it. Obesity is extremely complex, it is caused by all the same factors of most addictions. An alcoholic can live without alcohol, a herion addict without his fix and a smoker without their cigs. How well would they do if they were that to cure their problem they had to be totally abstinent from drinking or smoking or having a fix except once a day? An obese person cannot live without food!! Now you have a tiny, tiny glimspe of what an obese person goes through every day. I’ve found I will never be normal around food and participate in Overeaters Anonymous to control my addiction. I am so grateful this works for me. At the begining of this thread someone mentioned education as the starting point, massive education, only when people vote with their pocket book will healthy food become more affordable. Sadly, I think America will not change its eating habits until the 1 in 6 children who are obese (stastic from Dr Oz) start to die from obesity related illnesses will any thing be done. And its starting to happen now. In 1970, the norm was to check for high cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension at age forty, now it is age TEN. So its not just a matter of telling a fat person to get busy and loose weight, however kindly or not, its a matter of needing an incredible shift in our collective thinking as a nation to save our children from dieing before we do.

  50. My name is Leslie, and when I was in middle school, I was the most active, happy girl you could imagine. And then something changed: My mother, who had been overweight her entire life, became obsessed with losing weight. My mom has always had problems with anxiety, and her coping mechanism is to constantly work and fret to avoid it. For a while, she was able to simply focus on herself. She starved herself, limited herself to 700 calories a day and burned 1,200 at the gym. She’d get up at 4 AM to go the gym for three hours, would go to work, and then go straight back to the gym for another hour. She came home exhausted. Her personality changed.

    My mother became mean.

    When she dropped the weight, my mother could no longer fret over herself. So, she turned her fretting to me. At the time, I was in the seventh grade. I wore size six pants. I had never been bone skinny, but I had always been fit and healthy. I played volleyball, soccer, and basketball. I played softball and rode horses year round. But my mother didn’t like my body shape. She didn’t like that my stomach was “too big” for her liking. She began to watch everything I ate. She would insist I measure out my cereal in the morning and never have more than one cup. She would prepare my lunch with less food than my brother’s lunch. When I ate something she didn’t like, she’d tell me “Fine, Leslie, get as big as a fucking hog!”.

    That was when my relationship with food changed.

    Eating, to me, became shameful. I would steal food from the kitchen and hide it in my room so my mother wouldn’t see me eating something as natural as skim milk, because she believed that skim milk had too many calories. When she made sweets, she would call me out in front of the entire family if I ate some. She did this to me alone: Not to my older brother, not to my father who had always had a weight problem. There wasn’t a day that went by that my mother didn’t shame me for eating food, any food. She would tell me that she was doing it “for my own good”, just like you’re proposing. It did the exact opposite.

    In time, I developed an eating disorder called BED, Binge Eating Disorder. My problem here was that I developed the “wrong” eating disorder, as my mother would complain. She’d tell me she’d prefer I was anorexic. BED doesn’t mean that we simply eat because we like it. BED begins as a coping mechanism, just like every other eating disorder. I would eat huge amounts of food, for fear that if I left any my mother would yell at me. I’d hide food in my closet, in my drawers, because i was never sure if I’d be able to eat this or that again. When I was diagnosed, my mother didn’t believe our therapist. She told her, in no short terms, that I was simply fat and lazy, that I “just didn’t want to do anything”.

    I became ashamed of my body. I ate to reinforce the body I saw. I wanted people to be as repulsed by me as I was of myself. My college years were the worst. I gained about forty pounds in two years. At 5’4″, I was 175 lbs. I went to self-help groups and started a round of therapy for the years of mental and emotional abuse my mother put me through.

    What you are suggesting we do to “Fatties” is exactly what my mother did to me. I was never fat before my mother made it so. Her words cut deeper than you can imagine, and even after therapy and eradicating certain foods (soda, for one) entirely from my diet, I struggle every day. This isn’t, for me, a matter of me being lazy and unambitious. It’s a matter of finding different coping mechanisms to deal with the stress that’s in my world.

    If ending American obesity was as simple as people telling “fat people” to eat less and work out more, there wouldn’t be an epidemic. This is simple logic. I do exercise. I enjoy walking and being outside. I love horseback riding, swimming, and hiking. However, I still struggle with my weight being around 167 lbs, no matter how much I try to starve myself and no matter how much I try to exercise.

    Do you know what it’s like to be an overweight female? To have men you’ve adored tell you they loved your personality, if only you had a flat stomach? To have your mother tell you that you will never be successful, that you will never be married, that you will never be surrounded by friends until you reach the “perfect size”? Fat people do not need MORE of this in their lives. They struggle with it EVERY. DAY. And perhaps that’s the reason some people stay that way.

  51. You feel the need to be mean to me because I’m a little overweight? I’m sorry, but I’m not taking food off of your plate, I’m not filling no space you want to claim, and I’m not spending your pounds in order to lose mine. I may be big, but at least I’m not a bigot.

    The reason people get pissy about other people smoking, is not just because second hand smoke has the possibility to lead to cancer or cause birth defects, but it CAN aggravate respiratory problems and irritate eyes. The law here states that in public places, you can only smoke in the designated areas. No more are you forced to choke on their exhale.
    As a non smoker, I don’t have an issue with people who smoke, because while they do that in a controlled environment, or in their own residence, they’re not affecting my health.
    So, I ask you, what affect does my excess weight have on your health?

    Your opinion that people are now quitting smoking because they’re being bullied into submission is absolute bollocks! Most people who are giving up on the fags are quitting because they’re getting EDUCATED about the significant damages they’re doing to their health. Some are even giving up as a form of protest against the ever rising tax- which ironically goes towards anti-smoking campaigns.

    I’m a vegetarian with an overall balanced diet, although I have a hearty appetite. (I take after my dad’s side for that, unlucky for me the fast metabolism didn’t come along with it!). But if there’s a healthier option available, I would more than likely opt for it.
    To be frank, after a long day at an emotionally draining job, I usually go to pubs or restaurants with peers for dinner and drinks to unwind and to keep work from following me home. It would be great if my idea of relaxing would be to break into a sweat at the gym and blend up a concoction of lemon grass and celery, but unfortunately, that is just not my cup of tea.

    I don’t know if you know this, but dieting sucks! Everyone on one is miserable, and become obsessed in not only what they eat, but also what other people eat. The only thing more irritating then dieting, is dieters themselves!
    I know that people who are prone to weight gain (bonnie folk that have never been able to lose that last bit of puppy fat), really struggle to lose weight on these fad diets, and they really do try and push themselves to meet their goal.
    The thing is with them people; eventually they put the weight back on, and in most cases, more so.
    It is a constant battle for some people, and they suffer enough without your bloody taunts to boot.
    I can only excuse your insensitivity and mockery for ignorance.

    Educating people as a whole, be them ANY size, to eat healthier and to become more active for their own well being, is a smarter approach then singling someone out with a negative ‘You are fat. You need to go on a diet so you don’t exhaust the NHS fund’.

    What you have done, is promoted bullying. Do you know that your taxes contribute towards anti-bullying campaigns? How can you justify, firstly, promoting aggression towards people, and then have the gall to use healthcare expense as a valid reason to do this?

    Is it really unacceptable to accept the workings of your body and to embrace your curves?

  52. This is the most absurd thing I have ever read in my life! Being overweight is not exactly a choice! Annasarahwiseman is right, how could you blame everyone?

  53. People are in control of much more than they think they are. Frankly, I don’t care what anyone does, but I don’t want to pay for health care for someone who won’t at least try to make better choices, be it wearing sunscreen, stopping smoking, or exercising. Do what you want, but take responsibility for the consequences.

  54. This article evinces significant misunderstandings of both medical science and basic human psychology. Widely cited scientific research that disproves your simplistic “people are fat because of their choices” line has already been covered in other comments. But I want to make something clear: your speculation that “being mean” to fat people will get them to change their lifestyles is totally ridiculous. I’ve struggled with weight since childhood, and I can tell you from personal experience that being ridiculed and ostracized doesn’t encourage one to lose weight. In fact, it has the opposite effect. The reason is very simple: if you don’t have a high enough base-level of self-esteem then you won’t see improvements to yourself, your health, and your long-term happiness as being worth the effort. If everybody has treated you like shit your whole life, then you’re going to see yourself as a piece of shit, and if you’re a piece of shit, then why would you waste the effort on yourself? The only times in my life when I really felt motivated to improve my health were when I felt worthy of love, when I felt that I was worth taking care of, when I felt that my future was bright. Changing the way you live in order to be healthier is an investment in your future. Again, I’m speaking from experience: you won’t try to prolong your life if you don’t like your life in the first pace. Being mistreated, being bullied, being looked down upon, etc. all increase levels of stress and decrease self-esteem, both of which will simply reinforce the tendency to overeat. I don’t know anybody who’s ever lost weight out of spite or in an effort to prove the bullies wrong. So while you want to tell people that their obesity is merely a choice (which is logically inconsistent to begin with), doing so in a way that constitutes “being mean” will simply damage their self-confidence, and self-confidence is precisely what you need in order to make difficult changes! This should be obvious to anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of human psychology. And this isn’t a moralistic argument (you CLEARLY don’t share my moral dispositions); I’m simply pointing out that what you’re advocating won’t work. It wasn’t public humiliation that made tobacco-use decline, and it won’t work for obesity either.

  55. This is ridiculous. Why does anyone think they have the right to “be mean” to anyone? Tall/short gay/straight black/white fat/thin….they’re all people. Every person deserves to be treated with respect.

  56. I loved reading this article and showed it to my kids. I think you are correct I’m a smoker who had encounters with crazy people coming up to my face telling me off. Why not fat people why not its not racist it’s not wrong it’s fat people making a choice to be fat. No one has ever given me a smoke and said go on smoke it, no one keeps giving them food to keep eating. Oh yeah anyone with family’s who do that get over it your adults shopping for your own death. I have a choice keep smoking and die or quit my choice I keep smoking same thing goes for fat people. I told my 12 year old if she does not loss weight I’m going to tell people she is not mine. Wrong yes, why not bad parent? sure why not, or am I, she had no support for bad behavior no added bonus for her lack of control I took her right to be ok the way she is. Before you jump on me I need to say there is no junk food in my house we eat healthy and we all work out and take the dog on a walk. She had snacks out side the house she went out her way to eat I stopped that by just telling her it’s ok if she wants to be fat just not MY fat child. If you find this wrong I feel sorry for you. My child is active now picks right things to eat and does not look back on the fat days if she wants to blame me later in life let her that way I can say I’m sorry you got everything you wanted in life handed to you in your size 0.

    • You write like a 12 year old. Are you a bad mum? Yes. Mother’s should love their children unconditionally.
      You will come to find that your child will rebel against you, and will actually binge eat as an act of defiance against your obsessive control to mould her into a certain image.
      If you are worried about her health, or think that her weight would be an issue for her, then you can be supportive by other means then simply threatening with ‘I’ll disown you’. That was simply disgusting to read, and you should be ashamed!

  57. Why is it any of your business? What happened to respect these days. You don’t even know these people. I guess It’s easier to toss them in a group then actually getting to know them.

  58. If it is such an easy feat for fat people to just “eat less and exercise more”
    Then i suggest you and your family gain 40 pounds and then try out your so called “tough love” and see how it will work..
    Yes…people can choose, and others have issues with weight, and it is something that is harmful to a person’s own health.

    You speak across a fence that you have not walked through.
    I do not care what you say about being mean as a deterrent for obesity…you have proof from overweight people that wrote down that such comments and meanness doesn’t work for them.

    And although you didn’t mean for the intent of rape or harassment as a way to be mean…you do not think someone would take it that way?

    Your article does not compensate for what kinds of people will interpret “being mean”

    Your article does not consider environmental/ social/physical/ psychological factors

    Your article does not compensate for what obese people go through as much as any unwanted flaw in our world..

    Your article IS BIASED…because you aren’t obese and trying to keep the standards of acceptance to your own preference.

    If somebody would like to smoke their brains, drink, gamble, or even eat—fine, they have that right.
    But do not get up on your apparent high horse with the solution to any of these things…including obesity…
    Because you are not a doctor, a psychologist, a dietician, or in any kind of position to say what you said as a legitimate statement.
    In the reality..
    Your article means nothing.

    • In 2008, my weight shot up to 217. Over the next nine months, I lost 45 lbs through intense exercise and avoiding alcohol and desserts. It was hard.

  59. I think the topic and discussion you have stimulated is a good one. As a women who lived with and then successfully battled obesity, I see the need for honest discourse about weight and the epidemic in this country.

    However, the hypothesis that overweight people can be harassed into weight loss is proven wrong and represents a fundamental misunderstanding about food addicts (let’s call it what it is). We don’t need any specific pointed insults for obese people when we already have media, diets, doctors, the disrespectful looks from strangers, and a hundred other signs in our culture to say that fat is bad. So every obese person already feels intense humiliation about being overweight no matter how some may try to shout “big is beautiful.”

    Addicts are seeking ways to numb their emotions like anxiety and shame which is why harassment will send them back to the bottle, the drug, or the refrigerator. Feeling lovable and then learning to love myself was what finally created a shift in my choice-making and behavior. Based on study results, it seems our search for answers may need to begin there, instead.

    While I do find your argument to be wrong, I do laud the courage in approaching a sensitive topic.

    Link to research about shame and weight gain below:
    http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/07/26/fat_shaming_leads_to_weight_gain_not_loss_according_to_a_new_study.html

    • First, congratulations on changing your behavior. Your success story made my day. Honestly, I smiled at the computer as I read it. Thank you for sharing it and hopefully it will provide encouragement to someone else.

      Second, I think there’s a fine line between criticizing the behavior and criticizing the person, and between doing so in a loving and helpful way and doing so in a nasty, mean way. And I have to say my provocative title invited confusion. What I really mean was to criticize the behavior softly. For example, I’d say to my smoker friends, “I thought you were quitting” or “I worry about your smoking.” Neither of those is really mean and neither criticizes the person. That’s the sort of thing I think could help.

      What I don’t think is helpful is ignoring it, celebrating it (big is beautiful,) or enabling it (The billboards that say it’s a “disease, not a decision.” It may very well be an addiction, but that’s not a disease.)

      Third, I saw that study, and sad to say I don’t think it adds much to the debate. It is flawed methodologically and it doesn’t make the distinction I think is important–mean and personal vs. loving and directed at the behavior.

  60. Thank you for this very interesting and candid post. I am an overweight person who is making progress toward a more healthy weight, and I can say that making excuses and trying to blame anything other than myself for my condition is completely unhelpful. What I put in my mouth (and how much of it) is a choice, as is how much or how little exercise I get. No one puts a gun to my head and forces me to eat baconators and lay around on the couch. I do (or more accurately did) that completely by myself, because it is easy. To get healthy, you have to make healthy choices day in and day out, which is hard, and as Americans we don’t like hard. I think many of us in this country are in dire need of a reality check. We eat too much and exercise too little, then have health problems and somehow think the blame lies with anyone but us, and expect the rest of society to have sympathy for and even accommodate us. It sounds harsh, but the truth is that if you are fat, the responsibility for that lies squarely at your feet, unless you actually have a legitimate medical condition. Most people are not in that situation. Two months ago, I weighed 268 lbs. Today, I’m a more muscular 247 lbs. The only reason I’ve had any success at weightloss at all is that I’ve made a conscious effort to make my decisions based on the greater future happiness that comes through being in shape, instead of how I feel in any given moment. NO ONE enjoys discipline. We enjoy the RESULTS of discipline, but those don’t come without a struggle and a conscious CHOICE to say no to the excuses. The whole “it’s just one more” or “It’s ok if I don’t exercise today” thing has got to stop, because those little easy choices add up to one big lazy lifestyle. I’m 29, and I’ve decided that I don’t want to be in my mid 30s, overweight, single and unable to do any physical activity, but with a myriad of reasons why I can’t change. I don’t want to be that person because they’re pathetic, and only I can make sure I don’t end up there.

  61. I honestly agree with everything you’re saying, because I was really overweight (163 pounds), but I never really noticed how big I was getting, even when I looked in the mirror. My friends would tell me ‘oh you’re not fat, just average’, or they’d say ‘you’re just really curvy’. So I never had motivation
    to really start losing weight because, I didn’t think my situation was bad. But my grandparents were the ones who openly told me that I was fat, and that they were telling me because they loved me and wanted me to live a healthy life. Because literally all I ate was junk food. Right now I’m 18 18 and didn’t learn good eating habits from my parents. Honestly because of them and their tough love, I finally decided to do something about it and have lost 30 pounds and counting and it’s only been 3 months! I agree that people should be honest, especially when you ask. I have no sympathy at all for people who defend their weight, because I’ve learned that if you just eat healthy food and cut out anything bad it just drops from you..

    So ya, people should openly say it out of love, especially if they’re your family or friends.

  62. I am surrounded by a bunch of mean snobby overweight women. It doesn’t stop them from gossiping about me and they think it’s okay because I am thin.

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