Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Who is Fat?

From the NYT yesterday, an article detailing a new trend of overweight people fighting discrimination and lies perpetrated by pop culture.

For years, health experts have been warning that Americans are too fat, that we exercise too little and eat too much, that our health is in jeopardy. Some fat people beg to differ.

On the growing acceptance fat people are finding in online communities (emphases following are mine):

The message from the fatosphere is not just that big is beautiful. Many of the bloggers dismiss the “obesity epidemic” as hysteria. They argue that Americans are not that much larger than they used to be and that being fat in and of itself is not necessarily bad for you.

And they reject a core belief that many Americans, including overweight ones, hold dear: that all a fat person needs to do to be thin is exercise more and eat less.

“One of the first obstacles to fat acceptance is breaking down the question of whether being fat is a choice,” Kate Harding, founder of the blog Shapely Prose, said in an interview. “No fat acceptance advocate is saying you should sit around and wildly overeat. What we’re saying is that exercise and a balanced diet do not make everyone thin.”

The reality that those who diet and exercise don't necessarily become thin:

“You relapse, and then you go on a diet again, and this time you’re going to do it, it’s really going to be it this time,” Marianne Kirby, a 30-year-old blogger from Orlando, Fla., who writes The Rotund (, said in an interview. “And it still doesn’t work, not long-term — you end up heavier than before. And you say to yourself: Why did I fall for this again?’ ”

The unacceptable, cruel prejudice and hate directed towards overweight people:

The blogs have drawn their share of negative, even vicious comments...


Fat acceptance bloggers contend that the war on obesity has given people an excuse to wage war on fat people and that health concerns — coupled with the belief that fat people have only themselves to blame for being fat — are being used to justify discrimination that would not be tolerated toward just about any other group of people.

The obvious contradictions and paradoxes surrounding scientific obesity findings/claims:

But some experts say this sort of message is dangerous and undermines public health efforts to rein in obesity. “We do have to be careful not to put all the blame on the individual,” said Dr. Walter C. Willett, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. But he added, “The large majority of people who are overweight are overweight because of lifestyle.”


“We accept that some people are tall and some people are short,” said Rachel Richardson, 28, of Cincinnati, who writes a blog called The F-Word ( “Yet we seem to think all people should be thin — it just doesn’t make sense.”

Rejection of truth by popular culture and media:

The bloggers argue that changes in definitions over time, along with flaws in the body mass index formula, have pushed more Americans into the “fat” and “obese” categories, and they point to provocative studies suggesting that there may be benefits to being overweight, including a large study that found that underweight Americans are more likely to die than those who are moderately overweight.

Several other recent studies on heart patients and dialysis patients have also reported higher survival rates among heavier patients, suggesting that the link between body size and health may be more complex than generally acknowledged. Another study of people over 60 found that being fit has more bearing on longevity than simply being thin.

The way that weight is a morality and "qualified because you're thin" issue:

The bloggers’ main contention is that being fat is not a result of moral failure or a character flaw, or of gluttony, sloth or a lack of willpower. Diets often boomerang, they say; indeed, numerous long-term studies have found that even though dieters are often able to lose weight in the short term, they almost always regain the lost pounds over the next few years.

You may read the article in it's entirety here.

I would like to say here, as someone who struggles daily with food consciousness when my thin counterparts in this world never give it a thought, that I have had to accept that I will never be thin because God did not make me thin. I think that anyone who starves themselves or spends inordinate and unhealthy amounts of time exercising has a poor understanding of the sovereignty of God. I am not saying don't try to lose weight. I'm saying God gave you your metabolism, your bone structure, your height and your preset weight. You can never change those, just like you cannot change your bone structure and your facial features, your skin tone or the hairs on your head. God never said it's a sin to be fat, He only says it is a sin to overeat. He never said there is a perfect weight. He never set a perfect weight. And besides, just saying here, but some of the godliest people I know are overweight by the world's standards. Those who aren't I don't consider any more or less qualified because of their skin depth. I'm tired of the Christian market capitalizing on the false assumption that because you are overweight means that you don't have enough self-discipline and that if you're thin, you are a disciplined and spiritual person. I reject any such teaching that tells me I am less of a person because of the way GOD made me.

Beauty is only skin deep. Why have we ignored what God says about beauty and accepted the world's definition? The world says you are only beautiful, qualified and successful if you are thin and wealthy. God says you are all those things and more when you listen to His words and follow His commands, because His definition of beauty and success are in His Word. Read it to see how the martyrs, the sufferers, the persecuted, the rejected, the homely (Jesus was one!), the meek, the humble, the patient, the loving, the truthful, the peaceful, the faithful will inherit His kingdom one day.

To the world, suffering isn't beautiful, Christians being martyred or tortured daily isn't beautiful, homely isn't beautiful. But to God, these people posses His blessing, His love, His promise and His kingdom.

Disclaimer: I am not saying thin people are excluded from these things, certainly not - God made them too! But no one is waging a war against thin people, or demeaning them because of their thinness. Overweight people need confidence and reassurance in this world. I tend to be one of them, thus this post, which is for me just as much as it is for anyone who I hope receives comfort from it today.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time for this post - I need to reread it slowly, when I am totally awake :)

In doing some medical research yesterday - I came across this and thought I would share it...

Obesity. It's estimated that about half of women with polycystic ovary syndrome are obese

Conclusion... for some of us with other "conditions" - the only factor in our weight is not what goes in our mouth. And I am sure that there are so many "things" out there - that each person's "battle" may be different. We can't all eat the same, excercise the same, and end up the same weight.

Mrs. Molder

Shelbi said...

I agree entirely; I think this is really the whole thing about the weight misconception, that it is assumed if we ALL eat a certain way or exercise -hours a day, then we will ALL look the same, and obviously that can't be true as evidenced by the very fact that some people struggle with weight in the first place and others do not.

Obvioulsy, I could go on and on here... ;-)

Thanks for the link - I am going to sign off and go read it now. :)