Friday, April 22, 2011

How Not to Address Weight

[trigger warning: weight, eating, fat shaming. please enjoy this nonjudgmental otter instead.]

I would like to start this by saying I have spent almost 13 years with a man who has ranged from overweight to obese to morbidly obese and back again the entire time I have known him. He knows what his weight is. This is not some sort of mystery to him. He has tried all the diets and exercises you can think of. The thing is, he eats about as much as I do and the same foods that I do, yet I'm never more than the lower end of my recommended weight range and he's never less than overweight. My body likes to be thin, his body likes to be overweight. That's all there is to it.

My husband does not need to be told he is overweight. He certainly doesn't need this bullshit:

Structure House, a North Carolina-based weight-management facility, offers an online refer-a-friend program in which an e-card with details about Structure House's offerings arrives in your pal's inbox, with a note reading, "I saw this program online and thought I would share it with you."

Translation: Hi! I saw this business advertising itself, and I thought I'd help them out by humiliating you and ending our friendship! Aren't you glad I found a stupid way to tell you I'm an asshole?

Experts are divided on whether this is an effective — or especially friendly — way to tackle the topic. But it speaks to the fact that weight loss is an extremely sensitive issue that leaves many at a loss for ways to broach it.

Experts are divided? Are half of those experts house plants? Because while I am not an expert in assholery, it took me all of 0.1 seconds to see exactly how rude that is. What do they think the reaction is going to be? ZOMG! I had no idea I was overweight! I only live in this body and I was completely unaware of that fact. Thank you so much for letting me know! Really, fuck off.

Here's a clue: don't broach the subject. There is no reason to. There is no more reason to discuss someone's weight with them (unless they themselves begin the conversation) than there is to broach the subject of their bad haircut or their poorly decorated living room.

Here, I'm going to say it really slowly and really loudly: DON'T. DO. IT.

Your friend knows zie is fat. It would be literally impossible to live in our culture and not know that. In fact, people of normal weight generally think they are fat because every image you see, in magazines, on TV, in movies, celebrates people we actually should be deeply concerned about, because despite what they say, no model or actress is achieving concentration camp thin by eating at McDonalds.

But, hey, I'm not an "expert", and clearly I do not properly appreciate the tremendous immediate danger of obesity:

"If you saw a loved one with a sore on their arm that could be a melanoma, you would ask, 'Have you had that checked?'" says Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association. "If you think their health is at risk, it's not a judgment, it's a concern. If you saw someone with a gun to their head, you would try to take the gun away. If the person is at risk for diabetes, they could lose their sight, they could lose their legs. The person, in a way, has a gun to their head. They may not know what to do." [emphasis added]

Ah, the proverbial gun to the head. It may sound familiar if you are an atheist, because we get that, too. It's just as fucking stupid in this context. I added the bolding above to point out just how ridiculous that statement is. Your obese friend may well not know what to do about their weight, but you don't, either, so just shut the fuck up.

Let's be honest: nobody knows what to do about obesity. If they did, we wouldn't have so much of it. Diets don't work, exercise isn't the cure everyone thinks it is*, and often, obesity has more to do with lack of access to quality foods and opportunities to exercise than it does with ignorance or lack of desire to lose weight. Telling someone they're fat doesn't help any of that. So shut the fuck up and stay that way.

A critical first step is keeping the conversation centered around health.

Grefe suggests asking your friend if she or he has had a recent physical. Offer to help locate a doctor and attend the appointment.

"Let's see where they are on the map," Grefe says. "See if they have high blood pressure. See if there's undetected diabetes. Keep the approach on health."

Friend: So, been to the doctor lately?

Overweight Person: Yes, actually. I just got over a sinus infection.

Friend: But, did you have a physical?

OP: No, I did that 6 months ago.

Friend: Do you have high blood pressure?

OP: Nope. 116/74 just yesterday at the drug store.

Friend: Do you have frequent urination, blurred vision or unusual thirst?

OP: What the fuck?

Friend: You're fat!

OP: *punch*

There's no way for that conversation to end well. Leave the health concerns to the doctor and SHUT. THE. FUCK. UP.

edited to add: Please visit the Cynical Nymph for a continuation of this discussion.

*Exercise is good for you, but it can increase appetite over the calories you burned exercising. Some peoples' bodies love being fat. They just do.


  1. I think we need to tell people we are continuing our riot over at CN's...

  2. 1) We should probably warn people that Comtesses parties are ragers. Literally.

    2). I love today's otter. It's all, "Say whaaaaat? You thought sending me an advertisement that insults my body would indicate that you are a caring and loving friend? There are literally not enough rotten fish guts in the ~world~ to hurl at you."

  3. Did you know you can create short links with AdFly and make dollars for every click on your shortened links.


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