Your Fat is Not Your Fault 2: Blocking Out the Noise

Sunday night I returned from a long camping weekend off the grid to find a whole slew of angry comments on my most recent post, Your Fat is Not Your Fault. Apparently people get really mad when you deign to suggest that it’s okay to be fat on the internet.

Most of the comments were mean and/or stupid in that predictable way people like to be mean to fat people. Those were, and will continue to be, deleted. There were also some typical interweb lols like “I lost 100 lbs eating Paleo. Have you considered that everyone should just eat Paleo?”

There were, however, some comments written by actual thinking, feeling, people critical of  my assertion that dieting almost always fails, and that obesity as a social problem that must first and foremost be addressed on a systematic, societal level. While I won’t address all of those arguments right now, I feel that they are secondary to (and distracting from) my overall point. My point–that it’s okay and important to forgive yourself for being fat–unfortunately got lost in the politics of fatness.

I’m not here to debate whether or not obesity is unhealthy (at least not today). I am here to argue that guilt, shame, and self-hatred are unhealthy. If it makes me a  radical to suggest that guilt, shame, and self-hatred are significant problems then so be it. Body image disturbance (the term for all types of body image issues including dissatisfaction and distortion) is associated with eating disorders and low self-esteem. Self-hatred and low self-esteem keep people from reaching their full potential; they keep people from participating fully in their own lives and becoming productive, contributing members of society.

Think obesity is a drain on the healthcare system? Well, body image disturbance is a drain on every system.

Last year I wrote a post called Positive Body Image Won’t Make You Fat: The Case for Body Positive Health Promotion. Read it.

Having a positive body image won’t make you fat. Letting go of the guilt and blame will not keep you fat. In fact, it will help you begin to heal and one day embrace self-compassion and fun as motivators for healthy eating and fulfilling physical activity.  And once you’ve embraced self-compassion and let yourself have fun-while-fat,  you can start to make those positive lifestyle changes that will allow you live your life to the fullest, whether or not it results in weight loss. If you’re looking for help with this, there are some amazing books on the subject like Kate Harding’s Lessons from the Fat-O-Sphere and Linda  Bacon’s Health At Every Size, as well as coaches like Isabel Foxen Duke and Sarah Jenks.

But forgiving yourself for your fat is especially hard when everyone wants you to fix it, apologize for it, or suffer for it. It’s especially hard when when everyone acts as if it’s as easy as “putting down the cheeseburger,” when in reality it’s a gargantuan, exhausting, and wholly demoralizing task that requires strict self-regulation of every thing you eat or do for the rest of your entire life. It’s not helpful to listen to the noise, ever, even if you do want to lose weight.

Unfortunately, fat shaming trolls can be found just about everywhere, including the medical and public health establishment. I’ve recently learned that they are especially virulent among the uber-libertarians (“fat people are destroying our economy because they’re lazy and looking for handouts just like homeless people are lazy and looking for handouts”)  and men’s rights communities (“feminists are destroying my game by telling fatties it’s okay to stay fat”). Add ’em to the bingo card, boys.

In order to “become healthy” — whether that means getting fit, raising your self-esteem, having more fun in your life, etc. — you need to practice self-compassion. Treat yourself the way you would treat someone you love. That means looking backwards and thinking about when you “became fat.”

  • Were you a child? Not your fault.
  • Were you a teenager? The teenage world is one of desperate insecurity; you coped the best you could.
  • Were you in college? You were stressed and not sleeping and maybe partying a lot and still feeling invincible – it’s okay. As my fellow college health professionals often say, it’s “developmentally appropriate” behavior.
  • Were you pregnant or did you just have a baby? Were you coping with depression or another mental illness or maybe a disability? Were you working long hours with no time for yourself? Were you dealing with an eating disorder?

You are not to blame for all the circumstances of your life. Give yourself the compassion and respect you deserve. You would not blame your best friend. Don’t blame yourself.

If anyone out there wants to make you feel bad about your body or feel bad about yourself because of your body correctly identify them for what they are: a troll. If they act concerned for your health, they are a concern troll.

Only you know what’s best for you. Only you can determine what it means for you to live a healthy, happy lifestyle.

Block out the noise. Delete the comments. Do you.

And if anyone has any questions about my comment policy, this is basically sums it up:

5 thoughts on “Your Fat is Not Your Fault 2: Blocking Out the Noise

  1. I am obese. I hate it. I need to diet. I need to exercize.

    This is a problem that I am too smart to have. It is my conviction that diet and fitness are a function of self discipline. I quit smoking by going cold turkey and I will get fit by not making excuses or accepting cop outs. I have a very difficult road ahead of me.

    I mean not offense. I am not a hater or a troll. But madam…you are not helping anyone by telling them that being fat is acceptable and beautiful. The only reasons to be obese are because of medical conditions. Unless you have a glandular or metabolic or some other condition preventing physical fitness…there is no excuse to be overweight.

    You would do more for me as an obese person to keep your condescension to yourself. You would do far more to encourage healthy behaviours than enable unhealthy ones.

    Your current approach is unhealthy and to my mind – irresponsible.

  2. Why on earth are you trying to preach about obesity? It is most certainly not okay, and that’s what your article is perpetuating. There is no reason (other than a medical one) why anybody should ever be overweight.

    In fact, none of the examples you’ve given, i.e. childhood obesity or teenage/college stress-related overeating are valid. If you were fat as a child, that may not be your fault, but when you hit your teens, you’re more than old enough to fully realize the repercussions of an unhealthy lifestyle, and, typically, you’re given ample opportunities to curb that – and this is coming from someone that was clinically obese and bullied until the age of fourteen, when I made the decision to become healthier for myself. I am not hating, or bashing, but it is NEVER right to say that having so much excess weight is okay. Five pounds? Yeah, sure, most of do carry a bit around the tummy. But if you’re trying to tell me that a positive body-image was going to keep me from having a heart-attack at thirty when I was 5’0″ and almost 200lbs, then you’ve either never been fat or you’re particularly bad at prioritizing.

    The same logic applies to college. Stress and peer-pressure are again not a viable excuses to make s*** decisions.

    All I could think of when I read this was that you must consider yourself so noble for “going against the grain” and defending obese people. Now, let me tell you something as someone who formerly was one: it’s a ******* terrible thing to be. Not only do you look like crap, but you feel it from the inside. We, as humans, are not meant to be overweight, and none of us come into the world like it. Do your readers a favor and talk about the positive aspects of healthy living rather than attempt (poorly) to exonerate them. They’re still very much accountable if they choose to eat junk or forego exercising.

  3. the worst thing about writing fat-positive posts on the net is how reliably it brings out the haters — and they’re to a person sadly under-educated about health, fitness, and nutrition. much like so many doctors, so i don’t even blame them because it is more than a full-time job to sort the wheat from the chaff (i do blame them for meanness). i feel most for those who’re fat and desperate to lose that weight, and wish i could inoculate them with an agent that shows them convincingly why it would STILL be better to be kind to themselves and not heap shame, guilt, and blame on their own heads. because i’ve been there, and it was a miserable place. and i am so much better now (and yes, healthier too — just not skinnier).

    i am here via ragen chastain’s blog, and i enjoyed the post that linked me to, and this one and the preceding one on fat not being our fault. thank you for writing thoughtful and articulate posts on a highly emotional and politically fraught subject.

  4. I was surprised to see this in your post: “If you’re looking for help with this, there are some amazing books on the subject like Kate Harding’s Lessons from the Fat-O-Sphere and Linda Bacon’s Health At Every Size, as well as coaches like Isabel Foxen Duke and Sarah Jenks.”

    I was following Sarah Jenks ( although i do not believe she has any credentials for coaching about weight ) for a while and thought she had some fun ideas in her program “Live More Weigh Less” but she has lost ALL credibility when she changed her Mantra to “Live More” when she herself could not lose the weight on her own program which honestly seemed a bit simplistic and “cute” . She started off claiming that she discovered the miracle of easy weight loss , no dieting , just be happy then changed it all to “love yourself as you are”. So which is it? Today I received a message in my inbox from her which really made me wince. Is it my imagination or is Sarah Jenks’s “new” program “Live more, Weigh Less Life Style” promoting obesity? Her latest post shows overweight and some obese woman pouring their hearts out. I am not talking about woman who are a few pounds over their ideal weight either, I mean obese. Promoting obesity is not only dangerous but also irresponsible. As we know obesity is the number one cause of many dangerous and life threatening health issues. SJ seems to have abandoned the “weigh less” part of her program to “accept yourself as you are”. Yes, we should not obsess over not looking like super models however and while I see some merit in this approach , promoting obesity is not the alternative. Many of these woman on her video appear to have “real” deep rooted issues that require professional intervention. Sarah Jenks seems to think that she can “fix” them with a 10 minute answer to their problems or with a slick video promotion. I only wish that these ladies find professional help and that SJ and other internet bloggers stop promoting bad and dangerous advice. These people need to be regulated if they are promoting borderline medical advice . When will this madness Stop????How did she go from “weight loss”expert to “love yourself expert ” and she charges lots of $$$$ for this craziness??

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