On disclosing my fat-kid trauma in Newsweek, and those helpful comments.

By | April 22, 2010


Hello loves! I am extraordinarily pleased to announce that I have an article up on Newsweek.com today. For serious! It’s a heavily-edited version of the childhood obesity post of a few weeks ago, which elicited such a powerful response from so many of you. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kate Dailey, articles editor at Newsweek.com, who was willing to take this issue on and give it some crazy nationwide exposure.

Earlier this morning, I skimmed through the comments over there, and many of them seem to be repeating the same predictable choruses. I’ve no plans to read them in greater detail because, frankly, reading harsh and vicious things total strangers have said about me is kind of a bummer, and I dislike being bummed. I would much rather people criticize my arguments in a civil and thoughtful way, as I thoroughly dig those conversations, but some folks have to ruin it for everybody by Making It Personal, as though I, individually, am the Official Representative of all fat people everywhere.

My being an unapologetic fatty makes some people angry, y’all. It’s an unseemly kind of anger, not unlike folks who get all enraged about gay people getting married, or about electoral politics. It’s the anger of people who really can’t even articulate why they’re angry, because they are so very angry. And I believe in giving people their anger-space. I’m not keen on people exorcising their anger upon me personally, as I think in this case it’s misguided and unproductive, but anger is a valid emotion and one that’s better expressed than suppressed. I’ve got anger too! And I have far less of it today than I once did, so I understand the angry people, to some extent. I can even sympathize.

Thus, in the interest of clarifying some things, here’s a little round-up of typical angry reactions to my suggestion that being fat is possibly not the end of the world, and my own thoughts on each.

1. You’re using up all the healthcare! Ironically, the only time in my life I’ve been hospitalized was when I had my gallbladder out at 23, and my need to have my gallbladder removed was a result of repeated episodes of dramatic diet-induced weight loss. This is a known cause of gallbladder problems in people under 40. Seriously, google it. Aside from that, I go to the doctor for an annual physical and pelvic exam, and have the occasional office visit. I do this because that’s what healthcare is for. I’ve talked more in-depth about the broader implications of the OH GOD WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE HEALTHCARE issue awhile back and that’ll have to serve.

2. You’re a liar! This actually came up when the Newsweek piece was being edited: it was suggested that, in an effort to head off accusations of my pants being on fire, I include some hard examples of Things About My Health That Are Healthy. I nixed it for a few reasons, and the editors at Newsweek have my gratitude for not fighting me on that. First: health is private, kids. It’s all well and good for those of us with immaculate numbers to rattle them off as “evidence”, but I’d rather folks assume I’m right at this moment experiencing Death By Fat than reinforce the popular notion that anyone is entitled to private information about a stranger’s health. Second: whether or not I personally meet your arbitrary standards has nothing to do with my argument that regardless of their health, fat people (of all ages!) should be treated with basic human dignity and respect. You don’t get to be mean to fat people, be they adults or kids, be they sick or well. Third: the folks who call me a liar will not believe anything I say anyway. Why waste time and energy better spent grooming my pet unicorn, Glitterbum?

3. You just eat too much/don’t exercise enough! This is really a corollary to the “liar” comment, but it comes up often enough that it’s worth mentioning. I eat when I am hungry and stop when I’m full, and I probably exercise more than the average person. My weight has been stable for ten years now. When I say “stable” I mean I have neither gained nor lost an appreciable amount of weight at any point in that time. This is the case whether I exercise or don’t; whether I’m eating home-cooked meals of whole foods or eating dinners out. This is the case whether I’m a strict vegetarian or a casual omnivore. This is the case whether I’m spending forty-five minutes on the elliptical five days a week or whether I’m using that time to sit idly on the beach and read a book instead. Now, it’s absolutely true that I feel better overall when I’m home-cooking and exercising, so this is my standard mode of living. But my weight doesn’t change either way. I’m not stating that every single fat person on the planet is just like me. I don’t know every single fat person, and nor do you, so neither of us can say. But it’s certainly been true in my case.

4. It’s impossible to be fat and happy with oneself at the same time! In fact, it’s totally possible. It may not be your experience, but your experience is just one of the millions upon millions of unique experiences spread amongst all the wonderful people in this beautiful world, many of which are utterly foreign to you. And that’s okay! As for me, I’m not looking for your validation; I don’t require it.

5. This is not okay! You don’t get to decide this for anyone but yourself. You do not get to police other people’s bodies. You get to make decisions about your own body. This is called body autonomy. It means you get to rule your individual body, and everybody else gets to rule theirs, and we all get as much privacy on these matters as we want. Privacy is why we have doors on the stalls in public restrooms, folks. It’s a good thing. Trust me, if there’s never yet been a time in your life that you wanted privacy around the internal goings-on of your body, that day will eventually come and you’ll be glad to have it.

6. You’re irresponsible/reprehensible/evil for suggesting that this is ever okay! On the irresponsible/reprehensible tip, we have a difference of opinion. Surely we can agree that we are both tremendously lucky to be living in societies that allow us to have our own opinions about things. So far as being “evil” is concerned, shall I link to my infamous piece on Fat Satan at this point? I believe I shall.

7. You are physically disgusting! Here we venture into the realm of personal aesthetics. I don’t mind if you find me disgusting. I harbor no expectations that I am a universally majestic thing of beauty to all who set eyes upon me. As it turns out, I don’t owe you beauty. Indeed, no one does. And this is a good thing! It’s good because it means you don’t owe anybody beauty either. So many people spend their whole lives in pursuit of an idealized form that they cannot possibly achieve, and this information frees you from that obligation. Now you have unimaginable reserves of energy to put into something that makes you feel good about yourself, instead of the opposite. Take a photography class! Hike the Appalachian Trail! Develop a pitch-perfect karaoke performance of “More Than A Feeling”! Build a scale-model replica of the Sydney Opera House using toothpicks! Whatever tugs at your bobber, friends!

8. Why are you so fat? It was gnomes.

Have I overlooked any?

On the up side — lest I give the impression that it is all bad — I have been positively inundated with wonderful and kind and congratulatory and thankful emails all day long. I’m honestly blown away by the number of folks who’ve taken the time to say thank you, some using few words, some using many. So finally, because I don’t say it enough: my gratitude to every last one of you, all of you who read and comment, and who read and don’t comment, and who link, and all of you who send me emails, the heartbreaking ones and the funny ones and the uplifting ones and even the hateful ones. Thank you all, for giving me props when I do good and for calling me out when I do bad.


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