Do Fat People Need a Reality Check?


Talking about obesity and fat people in America can be like walking a tightrope without a net while carrying samurai swords and poison arrows, as we've seen this week by the reaction to Maura Kelly's Marie Claire article. Even I was surprised by some of the venom-laced comments I received on my post Dear Maura Kelly: Stop Being Mean to Fat People! I wrote here the other day.

Clearly, we all have our opinions about health and obesity in this country, and how to talk about it, and how to treat the overweight and obese. You gotta know when to hold the arrows and when to shoot them.

Being mean and nasty may get you attention, but it doesn't do much to solve the problem. So when my editor asked me to comment on this article "Many Obese People See No Reason to Lose Weight," I had to, uh, weigh in.

The study "points to really a lack of understanding about the effects of obesity," Powell [ Dr. Tiffany M. Powell of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas] told Reuters Health. At the same time, she added, "you walk a fine line, because you don't want people to necessarily have an unhealthy body image, but you also want people to understand that they need to lose weight."

This trend is disturbing. I don't think you have to be thin to be healthy, but obesity is a national health problem of epic proportions. We can kill ourselves early with too much food and not enough exercise, and many of us are. We have to take this problem seriously, people.

Our nation's children are getting fatter and fatter. As their caretakers, it's our job to teach them how to get healthy, stay healthy, and control their weight. Organizations like the First Lady's Let's Move! are working hard to fight childhood obesity by educating schools, families, and communities on how to help kids be more active, eat better, and get healthy.

While I don't think it's okay to be mean and derogatory to anyone based on how they look, I am not a pro-fat advocate. Far from it. I am a pro-"love yourself" advocate. I'm also a pro-"take care of yourself" advocate.

I'm glad that some of the obese people out there are confident and happy with how they look, but I hope they are not ignoring their health. Pretending obesity isn't a real threat to your medical health is a dangerous game to play.

As I mentioned in my letter to Maura Kelly post, I've been fat and thin and in between, but I've always exercised, worked on eating right, ever since I was a kid, and I've been fortunate to stay in good health, even when I was on the fatter side of chubby. 

But this doesn't mean I was happy being fat or am advocating obesity as a lifestyle choice. I was happy with my life, fat or thin, but for a long time I wasn't happy with my body, fat or thin, especially as a teenager and a young woman. This is why I know first hand that ridiculing and shaming fat people doesn't help anyone. It's only recently, at age 44, after being married for 17 years, that I've decided to stop obsessing about my body and appreciate it for being healthy.

Sometimes it takes a village to help get the rest of the village healthy and happy. I'm active in the fitness blogging community, where hundreds of great independent writers encourage people to get up and get going, alone or with a group of people who help them feel good about who they are on the inside as they take care of the outside.

There are oodles of places on the web to find positive help and encouragement with your health and fitness if you're looking for it. Check out these sites:

The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans and Mamavation are both great portals for women seeking motivational buddies and tips and tricks to help them reach their health and fitness goals.

Need a kick in the butt to get motivated, an inspirational story, or just a good laugh? Here are just a few of the smart and fun bloggers I like to read to keep me in line:

Lisa Johnson is a real life trainer who also plays one in magazines and on TV! She writes Lisa Johnson Fitness: Everything for a Healthy Body and knows what the heck she's talking about. She's also nice and not too bossy.

Kara Richardson Whitely, who writes Fat Woman on the Mountain, wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro back when she weighed 360 pounds. She's lost 120 so far, climbed that mountain and many more, and now helps other people achieve their goals and raises money for charity at the same time.

Shauna Reid, author of the book and blog Adventures of Diet Girl, writes funny stories about her journey through losing "half herself" and learning to be happy from the outside in.

Jacqueline Carly, a friend of mine who writes the popular Fitarella blog, struggled with an eating disorder for years. She finally conquered it and is passionate about educating and helping people feel good about their own health and fitness. Her video audition for Oprah's OWN network pitching a show that will focus on positivity got over 9 million votes. Full disclosure: I did a video audition too, but I got 2,500 votes. So, um, thanks for reminding me she's way cooler than me! But it's not her fault. You can't help but like the woman. She's a health and lifestyle cheerleader and a real person all rolled into one.

Josie Maurer of Yum Yucky  is just plain hilarious. She's balancing fitness with her greedy side by becoming "best friends with Moderation, Discipline, Portion Control, and Commitment," as she says. Her honest taste-tests of all kinds of foods are a crack-up.

As a parting thought, I hope we can stop bashing each other over fitness, fatness, and misconceptions and reality, and start working on solving the real problem of obesity in America. If you're struggling with obesity, do whatever it takes to be happy with the body you've got, but please take care of it, for your own sake. You're worth it.


body image, diets, eating healthy, exercise, general health, nutrition, weight loss


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nonmember avatar Allboys

The problem with your line of thinking is that you assume overweight people need you to inform them. They have the same access to the same information that you do. You and anyone else telling them in your oh so nice voice what they should be doing is just as condescending as everybody else who does it in a mean way. Overweight people know they are overweight. They know how much they are eating or not eating. They know in order to loose weight it's a calories in verses calories out formula. EXCEPT there is so much more to the equation for each individual person than any one person can address in any one article. How about we all sit back and take a reality pill. Nobody else's weight impacts my life in such a significant manner that it is my place to shame them about it. The truth is very few people in our country are shown what a healthy relationship with food actually is. We are all constantly bombarded with unhealthy messages about food consumption. It really isn't shocking that so many Americans are overweight. Overweight people are not stupid and it's high time we stop treating them that way. Instead lets start actually addressing the real issues here.

nonmember avatar rick

Nice article. How many 90 year old, morbidly obese people have you ever seen? Learn self control over food and get moving, or prepare yourself for an early grave. Simple as that.

mrsrobin mrsrobin

I think we are too soft about this issue. I can walk up to a drunk and tell them it is bad for them, but if I see an overweight person eating 3 super sized Burger meals I can't tell them its bad for them because it is socially inappropriate. This doesn't seem right. If I thought a friend were being cruel to their body I wouldn't hesitate to tell them of my concerns.

Don't get me wrong. I have friends of all shapes and sizes, but they take care of themselves and are happy with their bodies.

We need to crack down on it. Alcoholics have feelings too, but we have interventions for them knowing its best. We need to take a stand to stop obesity.

nonmember avatar Yum Yucky

Thanks for including me in this fantastic post. And now I suddenly desire to climb a mountain...seriously!

nonmember avatar D

@AllBoys: What are the 'real' issues here? Anyone can sift through all the information that is thrown at us, and since you say that obese people have the same access to information, and they are intelligent, where does that lead? That means they are actively choosing to shorten their lifespan and increase their risk to many diseases by hundreds of percent. It's like telling someone addicted to a life-threatening drug that it's fine, treat it with love and compassion...

Susan Ann Weinman

what a condescending post.

Do not lump us all together . If your weight is an issue with your health then take better care of yourself. But not all fat people are ill.

Fat people can be healthy. Not all but some.

To lump people together is bigotry. How would the public react if you were talking about someone of a particular color, gender or sexual orientation? THE SAME.

That is why. You as a yo yo dieter and ms. kelly as an anorexic, are too invested in what works for you to see that each human is different. When you do that you undermine the very self love you profess to support.

Fat can be healthy. And i am one of those large and lovely ladies who has always had excellent blood pressure and blood. My doc wants my health! At age 47 the only weight related issues i have ever had are the emotional scars from people like you.

How does it feel to be lumped in with bullies and bigots. Not so good right?

nonmember avatar sallymandy

Agree with your concerns about obesity-related health issues. However, well-meaning thin people don't always realize that obesity is often a result of an addiction--not a simple lifestyle choice.

Go to an Overeaters Anonymous meeting and ask if anyone there is aware of nutrition. Or knows the health risks associated with obesity. Or has ever tried to lose weight.

Willpower is not the problem, nor is lack of education or knowledge. As the OA text says, "Compulsive overeating cannot be controlled by willpower alone."

Just like you can't just tell an alcoholic to stop drinking (if they could, many of them would have), you can't just expect the "fat people" you're referring to to make a simple choice.

Addictions are more complicated than that, especially when you can't just abstain from the substance to which you're addicted.

For these reasons, I did find your article somewhat condescending. Who can really say she or he knows what another person needs, and how to get there?

Heather Hurd

The issue I always have with the whole "fat people can be healthy" argument is this:  Can you be fat and still technically have healthy numbers?  Yes.  I know from personal experience. But would you be MORE healthy if you were at a healthy weight? YES! I've lost forty pounds this year but still have a lot more to lose. All the same, with those forty pounds gone I am healthier. I have more energy. I look better, which makes me feel better too. Although I think it's entirely possible for someone to be reasonably healthy while overweight, and I love that people are happy and comfortable in their bodies at any size, I cannot believe (based on my own experience and that of so many friends and loved ones) that anyone would not be better off at a healthier weight. I have never, EVER met someone who lost weight in a healthy way and looked back to regret it. I have NEVER had someone tell me they wish they were heavier again.

Sherry Sanders

I think YOU are the one who needs a reality check. I am a healthy proud 50 yrs old woman of 230 lbs with NO plans to ever diminish myself. (Lose weight) I am also a sociologist who has researched weight stigma for decades. In the first place, society has been nagging fat people for well over 50 years. It is acceptable to say to a fat person what it is acceptable to say to no one else. Fat people live their entire lives harassed in every situation. If these kind of boundary invasions worked, why is everyone not thin by now??? To the contrary they cause far more harm than good. 

Sherry Sanders

 In the second place, that fat is unhealthy is very controversial among scientists. The hysteria is generated by pharma marketing. Even the First Lady's misguided campaign is governed by pharma talking points. The only reason some medical professionals insist weight loss is necessary is because it a lucrative field for them. And as far as obese 90 year olds, I am in the process of starting a web site called healthy, happy, fat old people. Scores and scores of fat people live into their 80s and 90s with no premature health problems. Not even the most dramatic scare study finds ALL fat people are unhealthy, just that more are. But try John Adams, our second president. Chubby as a child, obese by current weight standards, he would walk 10 miles a day and lived to 91.  

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