| Wednesday, June 13, 2007
| Fattism (that's 2 t's, thank you very much)
|Housewife posted about her concern that obese people may be on the way to becoming a protected class. I will overlook the fact that she clearly hasn't been steeped in Supreme Court decisions for the past 3 years, and therefore is not aware that the last thing that's about to come about in this great nation is the formation of another "protected class," and skip straight to my opinion(s) on whether or not people who are obese should be hated for it. Or blamed for it. Or told that it's just because they "are too lazy, stupid, etc, to put their fucking fork down" (this remark can be found in the comments to Housewife's post, and was not written by Housewife herself).
This topic is one that I am naturally interested in, as I'm in the midst of a journey between "fat person" (for me), now at "relatively normal person" and hopefully on the way to "thin person."
What does this mean about where I stand on the issue? Do I think that people who are fat deserve every bit of nastiness they get from the likes of this Ahab character (again, in the comments - I'm really not up for linking directly to his blog), because of their laziness -- after all -- look at me. I'm exercising, I'm eating healthy and I'm seeing results. Why can't they?
Or does it make me sympathetic?
Well, I think it's horrible to make an assumption that because one person can be a certain weight, and has a certain reaction to a specific exercise regime must mean that any other person has to do nothing but the same things, and will be the same weight. It's just not true.
I come from a chubby (putting it mildly) family. I have an aunt who is 5'2" and 350 pounds. I have an uncle who is 6'6" and is likely 400+ (gosh, maybe 500, once you figure in how tall he is). I have a brother who is 6'5" and who I just found out had been just over 300 pounds (but is now 240, and that is his ideal/goal weight -- he's rather broad in the shoulders. A bit impressive, physically). Both of my parents are officially "obese." My mother has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, as was her mother before her (before she died at 62 of cancer).
I have struggled with my weight since I was in college, at least. I was always a stick as a kid, puberty brought curves (real curves ... not fat ... yet), and the freshman 15 was fought for a few years. There were a few times where I bit the bullet and did the work necessary to get me to where I wanted to be. This time has by far been the hardest.
Right now, and in the past, I am prioritizing weight loss. In January, when I first decided that I was going to pursue this as my latest goal (figuring that if I can go through law school, I can lose some weight), I started with my diet. I cut down to 1100 calories a day, after doing one of those little calculators to find out what my baseline was, and blah blah blah. I was very strict, counting every calorie and watching every single thing I put in my mouth. It was 20 degrees below zero here for most of January and February, and I have found that my cold-weather-running limit is approx 18 degrees ABOVE zero. So I was not running. I was not going to the gym, because I've got this thing called a family .... I like them and they like me and therefore, we like to spend time with each other.
3 months of this, and I lost 4 pounds. FOUR. I had seriously put my fucking fork DOWN.
And while it's true that I wasn't running every day - it must be remembered - we don't have a car! We are not sedentary people. We walk everywhere. I bike to/from school. Anywhere I go requires me to get off my lazy, fat ass and get myself there via my own feet.
When I started school, gym time was factored into how I set my schedule, and I spent at least 2 hours a day in the gym (I think it was more like 2.5-3 when you factored in the shower). Per day. I continued to be more than careful about my intake. Driving Beloved crazy with the parameters I was setting, as they affected his cooking choices.
For the first 6 weeks of this daily exercise, I had lost less than 10 pounds. Including the 4 from Jan-March.
I put my fucking fork down. I got off my lazy ass. And yet, I was hovering at 190 pounds, still a size 16, and feeling very frustrated.
I can understand how working so hard (or even not as hard as I was) and having zero results would make someone think that it just doesn't work - that they can't lose the weight, and that they are destined to just be fat. I mean, geez, how much do you hear that all someone has to do is eat less, eat healthy, and exercise. We even hear that all you have to do is go for a walk. Just do "something." Just "get out there and move" to quote Housewife herself on this earlier post of mine.
Getting out there and moving, alone, for me means very little. It does not make me thin - to say the least. Walking quickly for 30-45 minutes a day and riding my bike for 40 minutes a day does NOTHING. Cutting my calorie intake by approximately 400 calories a day (because I wasn't eating poorly pre-January) did NOTHING.
And sure, the fucking fork guy will likely rant and rave about how I got fat in the first place. Between the paragraph up there with my family history and statistics, coupled with a stress fracture, a sprained foot (that bothers me to this day), single motherhood and then law school ... I've got my reasons.
Every time I have been my ideal weight, I have had to make it one of the HIGHEST priorities in my life. 2-3 hours of my time is required per DAY. Once I get where I want to be, it will take less to maintain, but if I lose the gusto, then I lose the drive, and before I know it - without changing eating habits and without eating like a pig (we don't drink soda, we don't eat chips, we don't do fast food, we don't eat candy (save the occasional deluxe chocolate) we cut out high-fructose corn syrup for New Years in 2005, and haven't brought foods with that ingredient into the house since then, we eat lean meats, we eat organic fruits and veggies).
Does everyone who looks chubby have to defend themselves by listing their diet? Is that the alternative to this "fattism" question?
And then - what about our kids? I have already struggled with the fact that I live with two young girls. They know I am exercising. They have commented on the change in my appearance. When we go out and E wants a snack and I casually say, "I don't want ice cream, let's pick something else" and she says "why NOT?" in a knowing tone - I feel like I'm really screwing her up. I try very hard to keep the conversation centered on "health" rather than "skinny" - but it's hard, and they're not stupid.
Where also is the balance between accepting yourself for who you are? You eat healthy, you exercise a reasonable amount (which is less than 3 hours a day), and yet, people look at you and say "she's the reason I don't want national health care"? I can't accept that. I can't be that person walking around and sneered at (although I don't think I really was 25 pounds ago).
The attention that weight gets sucks. Whether it's hating people for being fat, or if it's telling people that the ideal is 5'10 and 110 pounds through the inundation of the media (like the bathing suit I saw in the Eddie Bauer catalogue the other day that looked nice on the size 6 model, and stunned me when I looked and saw it was only available in sizes 16W-18W -- they must have had one custom-made for the model).
I do not, however, hold any bitterness toward the person who is working from 8-5 and rushing to pick up her kids from day care and who potentially can't afford to shop at Whole Foods, and who does stop at the drive through window at McDonald's because a Happy Meal costs $1.99 (or whatever they cost these days) while cooking a decent meal costs at least $30, and who can't afford to join a gym, and who can't leave her kids alone to go running at 5 a.m. (whether it's because she doesn't have a husband, because her husband won't watch the kids, or because her husband got up at 4 to work the early shift so they can pay the rent this month).
Nor do I hold bitterness toward the person who decided that it was time to try and lose weight, and after one month of walking/running/biking and eating "healthy" had zero results and thought, "Jeez, "they" said that if I did this stuff, I would lose weight, but I'm not losing weight, and so I perhaps something is wrong with me."
I do, however, hold bitterness toward those who rant and rave about bans on trans fats. This culture has embraced shitty foods for so long, and then belittles those who are prone to suffering the negative effects, and if the culture can start to turn things around by saying, "hey! this is shitty food!" that is a good thing.
And, if you haven't figured it out yet, I hold a lot of bitterness toward people who find it appropriate to spew hate, assumptions and names at people just because they aren't the size that was chosen as "acceptable" by the speaker (yeah, that commenter again).
And I respect Housewife for her ability to mull over an issue and backpedal, if that's what reason and good sense requires :)
Labels: body image, exercise, hatefulness, obesity, parenting, weight loss
|posted by Zuska @ 7:38 PM
Amen! Am linking to this post.
BTW your weight issue is clearly metabolic. PWS people also have the problem so even if they just eat really really small portions they still get fat easily.
Did you steal post content right out of my mind? I'm a 16. My mother raised us on healthy food (no sugar cereal, fat free milk, veggies, fruit, whole grains) and we still grew up fat. I'm the work all day, school all night, excercise when I get the chance girl. I made it a priority before my son came along but now it kills me to take time away from him so I just try to do something at lunch when I can. It's such a hard topic and it's not at all helpful for people who've never had to deal with these issues to speak out about them. If you can eat two whole pizzas and guzzle 10 beers and never gain an ounce, you can't really speak to me and my plate of 2oz meat/1C steamed veggies. I gain weight just looking at a carb. Obesity discrimination is alive, thriving and apparently very acceptable judging by the comments people make online, in person and on television. Thanks for your thoughtful post on the topic.
Zuska -- a little late to this party, but great post.
Ditto. Fantastic insights and observations.
Interesting thoughts and this won't be the first time we've agreed to disagree.
I think morbid obesity is a problem worth addressing and the "fat acceptance" sites are filled with lies that compromise people's health.
Our body masses used to be on a bell curve, now it's heavily weighted to one side (excuse the bad pun) and although I disagree with lawsuits against food marketers I suspect that they do achieve something.
Goldfish no longer contain trans-fats. Kellogs is under fire and has promised to reform.
Culturally we're doomed if we don't stop pretending it's about how we look.
If you're healthy I wasn't railing against you but if you can't participate in your life any longer my comments about size aren't the biggest issue.
Cute. In one paragraph you say (basically) that you have no problem excusing people from personal responsibility for conditions of their own making but, a couple of paragraphs later, you have no problem with government inserting their will over our personal choices in order to protect us from ourselves.
My adult daughter is morbidly obese. She is going to die. She has already had blood clots which have caused deterioration of her vision and mobility as a direct result of her obesity.
She has "tried" dieting and exercise...for a few days at a time...but it didn't work immediately so she quit...just like you suggested she should...(yes, I'm aware you didn't mean it that way but exactly how do you think someone seeking positive reinforcement for their rationalizations would take what you said???)
People like you don't help. You reinforce her own rationalizations. You give her "excuse fodder" so that she can sit in her comfy easy chair with her big macs and super sized fries and cry "it's not my fault" when I encourage her to do something about it before she dies.
I'm sure reading your post would make her feel all warm and fuzzy and improve her self-esteem...right up until the inevitable heart attack or stroke that kills her.
What's more cruel: trying to encourage someone to do things to save their life, or telling them "that's OK, you're just big boned?"
Thanks for nothing.
But for all that...it's STILL not the government's fault, it's not McDonald's fault, it's not MY fault and it's not even YOUR fault that she's dangerously overweight. It's her fault and she is the only one who can decide to do anything about it.
My post isn't directed at your daughter.
My post is directed at people who generalize toward all people who they THINK are in one category, when in fact, a tiny peek under the surface may show that the ONE category doesn't even exist.
It has nothing to do with telling people that it's okay to be unhealthy.
I'm not obese. 25 pounds ago, I was in the borderline area of the obesity chart for my height, but you would not have looked at me and thought "wow, she's obese." Obesity actually spans a LOT more overweight people than is assumed, I think.
My mother is obese, and she has type 2 diabetes. Every day I encourage her to go for a walk, to get on the treadmill, to exercise.
If your daughter were to read my blog, she would see a woman who has worked hard despite many other responsibilities, a person who's up at 5:30 a.m. every day, and who has continued to strive toward healthiness through frustration and lack of results.
Not an allowance to do nothing.
And if you think your daughter is behooved by people who are unkind and who generalize and who call her lazy - you are sadly mistaken. Someone who is so obese that their life is in danger is doing more than just eating - they're struggling through emotional issues which contribute to their problem, and being nasty will only exacerbate those - certainly not heal them and help her to see that she CAN in fact, improve herself, and her life.
Trans fats bans are not the government taking away personal choice. I have NEVER gone to a restaurant and see "trans fat" on the menu. Never. If you want to cook with trans fats at home - go for it. None of the proposed bans would stop you from that. They limit what is cooked and sold to the public within that town (i.e., packaged foods are not covered).
We already have packaging requirements for foods sold. We don't have that option at restaurants. Now things can't get snuck in past those of us who are trying very hard to only put healthy foods into our bodies.