How about “Tell Loved Ones You Respect Their Right to Take Care of Themselves”?

I read this terrifying article yesterday after some one linked to it on Twitter (via LinkedIn–I don’t follow this person on Twitter, and if LinkedIn weren’t more about professional connections than people-I-like-or-find-interesting, I wouldn’t be linked to him there either anymore).  The article is called “Tell Loved Ones They Are Overweight This Christmas”.  The title pretty much sums up the article, which takes the tone of “it’s a hard but loving thing to do–yay for you if you tell people they’re fat!  you’ll be the hero who saves a life!”.  One of the most chilling sentences for me was this one:

“But with families and friends getting together up and down the country over the festive period, the experts believe there is an opportunity that should not be missed.”

Ah!! Yikes!!! I can’t even really analyze that because it’s just so scary to me.  This is exactly the sort of thing that I live in fear of, that I unconsciously make up comebacks for, that I have to overcome when I decide to visit with family, and that essentially keeps me from being close to my family.  And yet it’s apparently the type of attitude that an acquaintance of mine supported enough to link to.  By definition, I don’t know this acquaintance that well, but I do know that he is a thin man, and I also know that he is not a villain, and that’s just what makes this so scary; he’s just an average guy who apparently thinks it would be loving, supportive, and informative to tell people they are too fat.  The article smacks of thin privilege to me.  The only way it could have been written is that every single person involved has never actually been fat or never actually lost a ton of weight.  Either that or there are fat or previously-fat people involved who are deluding themselves to fit in with the thin privilege.  I’ve been there, to some extent–I know that when you’re thin, it’s only cool if it was the easiest thing in the world.

I know it’s been said before (but apparently not enough!), but FAT PEOPLE KNOW THEY’RE FAT.  That’s not even my biggest problem with the article, but it’s the problem that most obviously gives away the fact that the writer and “experts” don’t really know their subject matter.  My biggest problems with the article are that:

1. it is NO ONE ELSE’S BUSINESS if a person is fat (even if this were driving up health costs overall, which it isn’t, but even if it WERE), and

2. breaching their autonomy is a potential relationship-killer, not to mention oppressive and a potential trigger for eating disorders, amongst other things.

And if that’s not enough of a reason to let your poor loved ones be, telling them they’re fat won’t make them figure out how to get thin, even if they wanted to.  Since anyone who would follow this advice obviously knows nothing about being fat or getting thin, it’s not like they would be any help.  So basically, no one stands to gain by this interaction, and there’s a lot of potential for harm.

Pretty much my entire childhood and early teenagerhood was one big “You’re overweight!”, which is fucking insane since I wasn’t even a fat kid.  And let me tell you, I have either difficult or distant relationships with all the people involved, mostly distant.  Also, I’m fat.  I know it, and it’s no one else’s business.  Which is what they will get told if they bring it up.  They also might get evicted from my life.

Now I feel like this post was just kind of rant-y and haphazard and didn’t do a good job of breaking down why that article was so terrible, but I guess that’s ok, because the point is that this topic can be extremely emotional and nuanced, and the article just floated around, cheery-as-can-be, instructing people to (potentially) inflict harm on an already much-harmed group of people, but framing it as ‘doing good’.  Normally I feel better about getting my feelings out, but this one just struck a chord, and I can’t release it.

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4 Responses to How about “Tell Loved Ones You Respect Their Right to Take Care of Themselves”?

  1. JennyRose says:

    Yes – and by all means bring up sex, religion and politics. Tell people they are wrong in those beleifs as well. This seems like a good way to put an end to future family get togethers.

    There is no need for sensitivity.

    Seriously – this is a good time to tell people they are fat? Not only are they acting in reckless disregard for their health they are too oblivious to even know they are fat. These people must happily sail through life without ever encountering any fat-phobia. They must not have heard about the war and obesity or any other propaganda thrust at us all day long. Good thing whoever has read the article can set them straight. /end sarcasm!

    • fattery says:

      Haha, yeah. I always felt bad “shushing” my little brother when he wanted to respond to crazy political things my grandparents said (you know, crushing the passion of youth), but now he’s older and knows it’s just not worth it.

  2. amanda says:

    I know that this is probably not a popular response on this particular site, but I only happened on this site by accident because i was looking for the lyrics to “Duane the Reindeer.” I remember singing it at a Christmas program at school, thought it was cute, was gonna teach it to my kids. I am obese. I have had a lap band surgery, I can’t lose weight still. Even though I want to lose weight for my health, for my looks, etc. I just can’t seem to do it. So understand that I have a full grasp of both sides of this story, and I don’t condone anyone using a family get together to tell another person how they should live their life or any other time for that matter, but I am a nurse and you are completely deluding yourself if you think your weight isn’t affecting your health. I haven’t ever taken care of anyone that had to enter a nursing home before the age of 60 that didn’t have some type of traumatic injury or stroke that caused them to be paralysed or was just too fat to take care of themselves anymore. Diabetes, hypertension, chf, sleep apnea, joint pain, back pain, all of these can be related directly back to obesity. And let me tell you it will be pretty hard to sit up on your high horse when you are bent over holding on to the sink so that a nurse can wipe your ass for you because you can’t reach it and you left your special sponge on a stick at home. Sorry for the crudeness but those are the cold hard facts about it.

    • fattery says:

      Hi Amanda,

      I appreciate hearing your opinion. My main stance is that health includes mental health, and some people have the privilege of not having emotional issues attached to eating and exercising, but some don’t. For those of use who don’t, the question of the “physical” issues of health can be secondary by necessity–as in “whenever I think about cutting back on processed foods, my brain panics and decides to eat everything in the house” (as an abstract example of how health advice that is given to a lot of people might be counter-productive for a given individual). So I’m actually less concerned about hard facts explaining the correlations between fatness and certain health problems, and more concerned that individuals get to decide what their health priorities are without stigma, especially from people they love.

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