On “tough love” and your fat friend’s health

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On “tough love” and your fat friend’s health

#1

Post by Saria Dragon of the Rain Wilds » Tue May 03, 2016 7:56 pm

https://medium.com/@thefatshadow/on-tou ... .bp1ahrjyn
I was in fourth grade, sitting in a doctor’s office, the first time my face flushed with shame. I was, I had just learned, overweight.

“It’s probably from eating all that pizza and ice cream. It tastes good, doesn’t it? But it makes your body big and fat.”

I was confused. Dinners at home were usually fish or chicken, rice, and steamed vegetables; breakfasts were cottage cheese and cantaloupe. After all, I was the child of a 1980’s Weight Watchers mother.

“Just imagine that your body is made out of clay. If you can just stay the same weight, as you grow, you’ll stretch out. And once you grow up, you’ll be thin and beautiful. Won’t that be great?”

I felt my face sear with shame. My skin was neon, hot and bright, noisy and garish. I had learned so much in that one moment: You’re eating too much junk food. You’re not beautiful. You’re indulging too much. Your body is wrong. You must have done it.

Something was wrong with my body. I’d failed a test I didn’t even know I’d taken.

The coming years became an exercise in weathering the storm of conversations like these. Well-meaning, otherwise supportive people eagerly pointed out my perceived failings at every turn. Even when I wasn’t in the doctor’s office, everyone seemed to have recommendations, hypotheses, requirements, edicts. Otherwise compassionate, thoughtful people abruptly shifted into harsh judgments and zero-tolerance attitudes, all bootstraps and personal responsibility. After all, I was responsible for my own body, and my body was an undeniable display of failure.

More and more foods, I was told, were off-limits. It wasn’t just that I shouldn’t eat them — they were sinful, bad, tempting. My agnostic family was suddenly awash in religious language, building a heaven and a hell with each meal, and it was clear that I was tempted by devil’s food, closest to hellfire. Get thee behind me, pizza!

Many of those foods — eggs, nuts, avocados — would later fall back in the good graces of healthy eating, redeemed years later by a ruthless culture. At the time, they were collateral damage in a crusade to slash calories at all costs. Fiber, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, protein — they were all sacrificed at the altar of calories in, calories out. The focus was never on enjoying healthy foods, just on deprivation, will, and lack. It was an orthodoxy of hunger, a never-ending fast. It was self-flagellation, a forced performance to display my commitment to changing an unacceptable body.

Food became not just something to eat when hungry, it became emotionally and morally laden. A slice of cheddar cheese became a referendum on my character. A bite of ice cream was a “moment of weakness”; a scoop, cause for concern; two called for an intervention.

Because those foods were quarantined, any occasion to eat them became a rare opportunity to indulge, the way I was told I had always wanted to. Birthday parties at school called for two slices of cake; potato chips required three helpings. Every encounter with forbidden foods became a time to load up. As I got older, this meant eating contraband in secret, hiding foods to eat when I was alone. Shame taught me to overeat, and to fetishize food. The more it was withheld, the more tempting it became.

My strength and activity deteriorated, too. I’d spent years on a competitive swim team, winning relay races and swimming the complicated butterfly stroke. I’d loved volleyball and softball. As I got older, my body precluded me from the sports I loved the most — not because it was incapable, but because it was unsightly. As a swimmer, I’d have to be seen in a swimsuit, exposing the body of which I’d learned to be so deeply ashamed. There were beach bodies in the world, and mine was not one of them.

Shame diseased all of my conversations, like blight spreading through a crop. I constantly inoculated those around me with an endless string of caveats and excuses for daring to be seen when I wasn’t yet thin. Still, I received unsolicited health suggestions, stern lectures, gym recommendations, names of surgeons — an avalanche of advice I was already taking. Talking about diet and exercise, my favorite vegetables and personal bests, were all shorthand to preempt the inevitable. I know I’m fat, but I’m spending every waking moment to change that. I hope you won’t write me off completely.

It took years to reprogram that thinking, to keep my head above water in a tumultuous sea of shame. I had been taught over and over and over again that my body was at best unexpected, at worst, worthy of public displays of disgust.

I was stuck in an untenable binary. In our cultural imagination, since I wasn’t already lithe and athletic, I must be sitting at home, eating junk food every day. And if I was doing that, I must be either ignorant of healthy behaviors, or arrogant, thinking myself above them. Unless I visibly repented, my body stood as a record of the sins I’d committed. The orthodoxy of calories in, calories out dictated that one French fry off a friend’s plate, one publicly ordered ice cream cone, even a plate of pasta was cause for intervention or judgment.

In that way, just leaving the house as a fat person can feel like a risk. Every meal, every trip to the gym, every outfit chosen becomes an insurmountable task, a statement, an invitation or renunciation of the comments and judgments that will inevitably follow. Anyone can be an expert on your body — what it looks like, how it works, what it needs. Anyone but you.

So, you’re faced with a charged choice: do you chase the perfection that won’t come? Or do you give up altogether? After all, there is no room for better, no room for nuance, no room for you. There is no in between. Walk the high wire of weight loss, making sure every calorie is accounted for, or freefall to the concrete below.

I spent years, decades, hating my body. It was a loathsome and inconvenient fact that I willed myself to ignore. I avoided pictures of myself, shied away from mirrors, wore clothing as unremarkable as possible. I eschewed makeup, wore ill-fitting clothing in drab colors, spoke quietly, stayed in. I willed my broad, soft body to become invisible. Stubbornly, hatefully, mournfully, it would not.

I withdrew, depressed and anxious. Anywhere I went was a place I could be seen. And anywhere I could be seen invited more of the same exhausting, exasperating conversations. My body brought me nothing but heartache, guilt and hurt. My health suffered, because I couldn’t fathom taking care of a body that had been so thoroughly punishing.

When my frustration became too much to bear, I’d brave a gym, only to be met with a “good for you!” while other patrons looked on with disgust or pity. Or I’d go to a support group for dieters, where the air was saturated with shame and deprivation, a heady reminder the very problem that had gotten me there.

Doctors’ offices were just as bad as an adult as they had been as a child. I visited urgent care for an ear infection. After receiving the prescribed drops and antibiotics, I asked the doctor about after care. He sighed, looking sternly at me. “You should lose weight,” he responded. “Immediately.” Fat hadn’t caused an ear infection, but it was always an urgent failure. The noblesse oblige of thin people obligated them to remind and educate me.

This was true of every visit to the doctor’s office. No matter my symptoms, no matter the needs I stated, everything was attributed to being fat. Even when I lost weight, my health failed. Bloodwork showed that I had become anemic, dangerously short on iron, and low on essential vitamins. Despite being a middle class, college educated woman, I was undernourished. Because the focus of weight loss is never nutrition — just burning off as much fat as possible, as quickly as possible. Anything that didn’t do that was an abject failure.

We talk about fatness constantly. Caloric foods are “sinful,” “tempting,” “bad,” or “cheating.” Thin bodies are “emaciated,” fat bodies are “dangerous.” Clothing is routinely evaluated by whether the wearer is young enough, thin enough, feminine/masculine enough to “pull it off.” No action is free of judgment, no body escapes evaluation, no outfit is beyond critique.

When some bodies are held up as examples of what not to look like and who not to be, all of us suffer. It creates a culture of judgment and rejection, which leads to a world of hurt and shame. When there’s a single standard of what a good, moral person’s body can look like, all of us are trapped.

Our cultural conversation about fatness is devoid of the voices and experiences of fat people, unless we repent or seek redemption. And when only one voice speaks, a conversation isn’t a conversation, it’s a lecture — all punishment, no support.

Every aspect of fat hate feeds into this machine. So, for that matter, does exclusion of bodies with disabilities, bodies of color, trans bodies, old bodies, and more. From overt harassment like shouting names at fat people walking down the street, to seemingly benign diet recommendations, or dwelling publicly on the parts of our bodies we hate — it all teaches us that our bodies are wrong, that they’re shameful reflections of the worst of our character. It’s a system that rejects all of us at one time or another.

And it leads to worse health. When I feel disconnected from my body, I don’t take care of it. When I embrace my body, when I appreciate what it does for me, I do. Learning not to hate our bodies isn’t a matter of feeling good or appeasing the self-esteem of fat people, it’s a matter of our physical health and emotional survival.

Health is a holistic thing. It speaks to our practices, our mentality, our family systems, our income. Health is impacted by what food we have access to, and why. It is impacted by our mental health, which can often be hampered by shaming. Health is impacted by our income, the care we have access to, the treatments we can afford. And health is impacted by our race — whether providers understand our cultures, our needs, our language. Health is multifaceted, and it exists in the irreducible complexity of our lives and identities.

At its core, weight loss is aesthetic. My weight doesn’t tell you what I eat, how much I exercise, how strong I am. It doesn’t tell you what my T-cell count is, or my bone density, or how healthy I feel. It doesn’t tell you if I’m thinner than I was before, or fatter. It doesn’t tell you how I feel about myself, or what I’ve learned, or how I’ve changed. Judging someone by the size of their body is strictly visual, and it flattens a whole, beautiful, complex body and an unknown, extraordinary person.

There is more than enough at work to reduce us, to make us feel hurt and hardened. Instead, let us do the hard, vulnerable work of unburdening one another, and release our cumbersome shame. Let us abandon the manifest destiny of weight loss, abandon the quest to conquer bodies and the people in them.

Let us soften. Love is tough enough without tough love.
Nonsense, I have not yet begun to defile myself.

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#2

Post by I REALLY HATE POKEMON! » Wed May 04, 2016 4:31 am

Some of this is plain ridiculous. A doctor who doesn't suggest that an obese person lose weight would be better suited to a different job, and it's just plain not true that weight loss is mainly aesthetic; obesity is linked to plenty of health issues. The general whine is just too much here as well, though I do agree that society has some problems when it comes to these types of issues. That doesn't mean that we should see morbidly obese people seeking praise for their condition, that's not good.

Just be a normal weight to be healthy, that's it. If you don't care about being at a healthy weight or can't, then there should be no shame in it. Eating healthy and exercising and all that is a real, legitimate challenge for some people and just judging someone for not being how you think they should be when it doesn't even affect you is outrageous, to say the least.

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#3

Post by Apiary Tazy » Wed May 04, 2016 6:52 am

On one hand, yes it is important to watch your own body and if you truly feel miserable then you have to be the one to do something about it, hate it or not. Some people do need a bit of a push.

But on the other hand, this is just proof that it's not a be all end all solution. For some it causes something like this where it just makes the situation worse. Some need a different approach if they even choose to have one at all. Nowadays we can do more to manage our weight than "no lunch celery only bathroom weight scale". You just have to find what works for you and go for it if that's what you want.

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#4

Post by CaptHayfever » Wed May 04, 2016 1:03 pm

^^I think the "there should be no shame in it" is kinda the point of this article, as it's aimed at the people who keep trying to put shame in it.

And remember, "I'm-a Luigi, number one!"

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#5

Post by I REALLY HATE POKEMON! » Wed May 04, 2016 7:34 pm

[QUOTE="CaptHayfever, post: 1594645, member: 25169"]^^I think the "there should be no shame in it" is kinda the point of this article, as it's aimed at the people who keep trying to put shame in it.

And remember, "I'm-a Luigi, number one!"[/QUOTE]

Problem is I don't think that's the whole point of the article. Sure, it's the main part of it but it has some unhealthy ideas in there which shouldn't be overlooked, so I mentioned them. Aside from complaining that a doctor did his job, and misinformation about weight loss basically being a matter of aesthetics, this type of article leads to "fat pride" or "fat power" movements, which can in turn lead to issues such as ignoring eating disorders.

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#6

Post by CaptHayfever » Wed May 04, 2016 8:34 pm

"Fat pride" is a backlash against people being jerks (like a doctor assuming that an overweight patient eats nothing but junk food, not doing his job). If you don't want the backlash, then don't be a jerk.

That goes for you too, anyone else reading this, even if you think I'm not talking about you.

And remember, "I'm-a Luigi, number one!"

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#7

Post by I REALLY HATE POKEMON! » Wed May 04, 2016 8:42 pm

[QUOTE="CaptHayfever, post: 1594667, member: 25169"]"Fat pride" is a backlash against people being jerks (like a doctor assuming that an overweight patient eats nothing but junk food, not doing his job). If you don't want the backlash, then don't be a jerk.

That goes for you too, anyone else reading this.

And remember, "I'm-a Luigi, number one!"[/QUOTE]

First off, you're the only one being a jerk here, so you don't need to tell me that until I'm being one. I'm bringing up legitimate points, so if you don't like the truth that's too bad.

And I don't see where the doctor assumed his patient was overweight due to a poor diet, he just told her to lose weight. He should have also been concerned about her nutrition though (seeing as she was malnourished), but you seem to be making up a fictional scenario for some reason.

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#8

Post by LOOT » Wed May 04, 2016 8:49 pm

[QUOTE="I REALLY HATE POKEMON!, post: 1594668, member: 18119"]First off, you're the only one being a jerk here, so you don't need to tell me that until I'm being one. I'm bringing up legitimate points, so if you don't like the truth that's too bad.[/QUOTE]

[QUOTE="I REALLY HATE POKEMON!, post: 1594668, member: 18119"]First off, you're the only one being a jerk here, so you don't need to tell me that until I'm being one.[/QUOTE]

[QUOTE="I REALLY HATE POKEMON!, post: 1594668, member: 18119"]First off, you're the only one being a jerk here[/QUOTE]

[QUOTE="I REALLY HATE POKEMON!, post: 1594668, member: 18119"]you're the only one being a jerk here[/QUOTE]

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#9

Post by Saria Dragon of the Rain Wilds » Wed May 04, 2016 8:56 pm

[QUOTE="I REALLY HATE POKEMON!, post: 1594668, member: 18119"]And I don't see where the doctor assumed his patient was overweight due to a poor diet...[/QUOTE]

Uh. The second line of the article?

Second line.

Scroll up. Read again. We'll wait.
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#10

Post by CaptHayfever » Wed May 04, 2016 9:06 pm

[QUOTE="I REALLY HATE POKEMON!, post: 1594668, member: 18119"]First off, you're the only one being a jerk here, so you don't need to tell me that until I'm being one. I'm bringing up legitimate points, so if you don't like the truth that's too bad[/QUOTE] I didn't say you're being a jerk. I was describing other people being jerks while simultaneously giving a preemptive warning not to be one.

And remember, "I'm-a Luigi, number one!"

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#11

Post by I REALLY HATE POKEMON! » Wed May 04, 2016 9:22 pm

Saria Dragon of the Rain Wilds, post: 1594671, member: 17429 wrote:Uh. The second line of the article?

Second line.

Scroll up. Read again. We'll wait.
He said that it "probably" was the cause of her obesity, he didn't say that it was. And taking the most likely reasons into account is just logical.

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health- ... obe/causes
What Causes Overweight and Obesity?

Our environment doesn't support healthy lifestyle habits; in fact, it encourages obesity.
  • Food advertising. Americans are surrounded by ads from food companies. Often children are the targets of advertising for high-calorie, high-fat snacks and sugary drinks. The goal of these ads is to sway people to buy these high-calorie foods, and often they do.
[DOUBLEPOST=1462411347,1462411259][/DOUBLEPOST]
CaptHayfever, post: 1594673, member: 25169 wrote:I didn't say you're being a jerk. I was describing other people being jerks while simultaneously giving a preemptive warning not to be one.

And remember, "I'm-a Luigi, number one!"
That's an infinitesimally small difference. You basically told me not to be a jerk, as if I'd be one. Nobody was in this whole topic so it was just unnecessary.

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#12

Post by CaptHayfever » Wed May 04, 2016 9:23 pm

So instead of doing what most doctors would do & asking her, he instead just admonished her for doing something she wasn't doing.

And remember, "I'm-a Luigi, number one!"

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#13

Post by I REALLY HATE POKEMON! » Wed May 04, 2016 9:25 pm

[QUOTE="CaptHayfever, post: 1594680, member: 25169"]So instead of doing what most doctors would do & asking her, he instead just admonished her for doing something she wasn't doing.

And remember, "I'm-a Luigi, number one!"[/QUOTE]

She was a kid. Doctors are **** at listening to adults, odds are they won't listen to a kid. But I actually forgot about the first doctor in the article and was talking about the second one who told her to lose weight, as a good doctor should.

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#14

Post by Bad Dragonite » Wed May 04, 2016 9:43 pm

I actually had a doctor tell me that once when I went in for a cold and blood work, I found out later he was closeted gay and figured maybe he was just not into fat guys.
:p

I have a genetic disorder that makes it super hard to lose weight, nearly impossible without alot of vigilance, doctors can't explain it, they just know it's probably genetic. That said even people like me can lose weight it's just much harder.
That example I gave was pretty much the only example though of anyone coming off as jerkish, only because i was in there for blood work. He gave me a diet for a cold, lol, and it wasn't a good diet either, he told me to cut down to 1000 calories, basically not enough for a 5 ft woman, let alone a 6'3 thuggish fellow like myself, but i understand he felt it was his duty so that's fine. Noone really gives me any kind of unwanted advice otherwise. One old dude cracked a joke once, it wouldve made me feel bad but it was actually funny. Either way fat acceptance isn't really a good thing either because well, it is an unhealthy state to be in generally. It's mainly personal choices that make or break the situation depending on what results you want either way.

The author comes off like she's self loathing more than anything. You just have to learn to accept who you are, understand some people are jerks, and move on with your life. Heck you could go full Tyrion Lannister and "wear it as an armor so it can't be used to hurt you" and you may say it's harder for people with depression and I'll say to that i have depression too that's why I'm saying so emphatically that the main thing you need to do is accept who you are and if you dont like the unhealthiness that comes with it then make new habits and work and work and if you fall just get back on it and keep going til you're at your desired fat level. Thats all you can do.
also no fat isn't just a beauty thing. It heightens your chances for depression, not just by self image but by hormonal issues caused by the fat storing hormones, heart disease, back problems, severe ankle problems, so on. Not all fat is outside either, generally men store most of their fats viscerally, around their vital organs which has its own problems.

my point is, being very fat is unhealthy, everyone accepting fat as beautiful is dumb since beauty is subjective, but that said some people have alot of trouble with it and may have bad memories so if their a grown person they probably know they're overweight, and dont be an ******* to them.
I think that's a good middle ground to leave this ramble at. ^^[DOUBLEPOST=1462412583,1462412402][/DOUBLEPOST]edit also, diet is the main thing you can change to lose weight, ot has more effect medically speaking for most people than working out ever does so him assuming its because of her diet is just the first logical place you could go
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#15

Post by I REALLY HATE POKEMON! » Wed May 04, 2016 9:56 pm

^ Diet isn't easy to change for everyone for a ton of reasons but I hear you.

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#16

Post by Saria Dragon of the Rain Wilds » Wed May 04, 2016 10:00 pm

[QUOTE="I REALLY HATE POKEMON!, post: 1594668, member: 18119"]And I don't see where the doctor assumed his patient was overweight due to a poor diet[/QUOTE]

[QUOTE="I REALLY HATE POKEMON!, post: 1594676, member: 18119"]He said that it "probably" was the cause of her obesity[/QUOTE]

You don't have a firm grasp of what the word "assumed" means, do you?
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#17

Post by I REALLY HATE POKEMON! » Wed May 04, 2016 11:23 pm

Saria Dragon of the Rain Wilds, post: 1594686, member: 17429 wrote:You don't have a firm grasp of what the word "assumed" means, do you?
as·sump·tion
əˈsəm(p)SH(ə)n/
noun
  1. a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.
prob·a·ble
ˈpräbəb(ə)l/
adjective
  1. likely to be the case or to happen.
An assumption runs on the belief that something is true. Believing that something is probable only means that it is likely. So when you see a fat kid, thanks to our knowledge of what the common reasons are, we can believe that it is probably because of their diet.

Unless I'm missing something, these two words

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#18

Post by Random User » Wed May 04, 2016 11:34 pm

Dude, if he wasn't just assuming he would have asked her if she ate a lot of junk food. He's totally just assuming, and he's an awful doctor for not asking the real reason. He is diagnosing the problem without knowing anything at all.

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#19

Post by I REALLY HATE POKEMON! » Wed May 04, 2016 11:41 pm

So you don't think it is likely to be the case in most situations?

And you guys are ignoring the doctor I was talking about, the one who simply told her to lose weight. There was nothing wrong with that.

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#20

Post by Deepfake » Thu May 05, 2016 2:07 am

There is no reason why an educated health professional should presume that over-eating and unhealthy diet are the primary cause for any individual's weight. To say that it is a probable cause for obesity on a statistical level is acceptable. For an individual, that professional should offer an actual tailored diagnosis by gathering data. Weight retention can be a symptom of more complicated conditions, and it is unprofessional to make such presumptions.
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