Worth Your Weight

January 10, 2008

Let’s talk crazymaking

Filed under: fat acceptance — worthyourweight @ 1:04 am

Kate of Shapely Prose covered well the infuriating fallacy that fat people lie, underestimate, and flaunt their ignorance at every turn. There’s another crazymaking meme out there: there’s a psychological reason you’re fat, and you must find out what it is before you can truly live (read: lose weight).

This one is equally incensing, IMO. When I joined a diet support group a few years ago, I was told the first step in achieving permanent weight loss was to “fix my head.” OK. I was all on board. I read a recommended book, Fattitudes. Nothing in it really applied to me. We’re told time and again that fat women are hiding from men — literally using their fat as a barrier against men. Oprah is famous for saying there’s a psychological reason one is fat, and one needs to figure that out before one can get on with life (by losing weight, natch).

[Just a short aside on Oprah — why, oh, why, can’t she be one of us? She could be such a powerful fat acceptance ally. But no, she’s told by Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue magazine, to lose 30 pounds before she’s allowed on the cover, and Oprah — arguably the most powerful woman in the entertainment business — actually caves in!]

I tried and tried. I felt crazy that I could not figure out the why behind my fat.

Let’s see. I first got fat around age six or seven. I had just moved from a tropical clime to one with very harsh winters. I now discard the idea that it was stress-related from moving (I’d already moved once before that … and thin people get stressed, too.) I don’t take into account that I could have gotten less physical activity in a colder climate. That could be the case, but it doesn’t apply to becoming fat because at most one loses only four to seven pounds by exercising.

Then I came across a gem of a post at Fatly Yours. The author lives in Finland and talked about how her mother’s doctor explained how Finnish people tend to be fatter to make up for the colder temperatures. Eureka! I could have gained weight because my body was compensating for a different set of environmental conditions. Even if this is the case, that’s a physical reason … not a psychological one.

I don’t think I’ve ever tried to hide myself from the opposite sex. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve always been open to being noticed by men ;)

That book Fattitudes talks about things like sabotaging oneself and discovering if you (mistakenly?) hold onto the “hidden benefits” of being fat. In all honesty, I can’t remember the particulars. I do recall that pretty much nothing in there applied to me. I just felt even more freakish that I didn’t seem to have enough introspection to figure out this mystery of my fatness. That was surprising considering how I’m very much into self-reflection.

Learning through the fat acceptance movement that fat is under one’s control as much as height is — and that dieting causes weight GAIN — finally truly fixed my head for reals. It really makes sense to me now. It feels correct as well as registering correct when I read about the scientific studies (widely ignored) that pretty much prove it correct. Those are two WHYS that allow me to finally feel sane about my fat.

It’s difficult to explain, but it’s just like it clicked for me. Years and years of feeling like there was something psychologically wrong with me that manifested itself as fat — and not being able to determine what it was despite purposely trying to — and finding out that was just so much bullsh*t … well, it’s mind-clearing and calming.  Fix my head? If it ain’t broke, honey …



  1. Years and years of feeling like there was something psychologically wrong with me that manifested itself as fat — and not being able to determine what it was despite purposely trying to — and finding out that was just so much bullsh*t … well, it’s mind-clearing and calming. Fix my head? If it ain’t broke, honey …

    There’s the whole Geneen Roth philosophy about needing to eat because you need love as well. But the same people who believe that also believe the ‘padding to hide from men’ theory – so which is it? Fat couldn’t just be adipose tissue, could it?

    Comment by Fatadelic — January 10, 2008 @ 1:31 am

  2. I never thought of my fat as anything but a physical issue until people started suggesting to me that certain traumatic experiences in my past and a need for love were the cause of my fat.

    I’m a very introspective person, so I bought into it and did a whole bunch of work to learn to love myself to rid myself of my fat. In learning to love myself, I learned that my fat was not holding me back from experiencing love, nor was it a shield I used to protect myself. It was just part of me.

    Loving myself as I am and accepting my body the way it is endeared me to fat acceptance the instant I read about it. Suddenly, there was this whole group of people who felt the way I did about unconditional self-acceptance.

    I wish I could have saved myself the years of dieting and trying to shed my belly in a vain effort to prove to others that I loved myself, but I’m glad that I did figure out that my body isn’t broken and that I’m every bit as worthy of love as people with more fashionable figures.

    Comment by twilightriver — January 10, 2008 @ 2:22 am

  3. “What is true for some is not always true for all.” I’m sure there are some women who do compulsively overeat or binge because they were sexually abused, don’t want to deal with men, etc., etc. But given the fact that we don’t know how to make naturally thin people permanently fat (Ethan Sims et al), chances are pretty good that these women would have been fat anyway (to one degree or another) unless they radically starved or purged themselves, and that curing their EDs would not automatically get them into single-digit dress sizes.

    “Fix your head and you’ll get skinny!” is a great way to sell books and advertisements to women desperate for love who think their fat thighs are standing in the way — goddess knows I fell for that bullcrap when I was younger and didn’t know any better — but it’s a huge lie, or at least a gross overgeneralization, on a par with “autism is caused by refrigerator mothers.”

    Comment by Meowser — January 10, 2008 @ 2:45 am

  4. Funny, isn’t it–the very same bs is applied to eating disorders like anorexia: It must be because you were abused, or you don’t want to grow up, or fill in the blank. Anything but what it really is: a genetic/biological condition. When it comes to weight, we really want to believe it’s in our control. We as a society cannot seem to stand the notion that so much of this is hardwired.

    Comment by Harriet — January 10, 2008 @ 3:24 am

  5. Excellent post. I am so tired of those who want us all to believe that all fat people are mentally ill & maladjusted in some way & deliberately “making ourselves” fat, while apparently all thin people are mentally healthy & well-adjusted. I used to read some of the books about compulsive eating, including some of the Roth books, & I also read “Overcoming Overeating”, which in my opinion is better & more reasonable than the Roth books, but these books all taught me that, contrary to what the culture tells us, I did not have, do not have, never have had, an eating disorder. I eat normally, often less than many naturally thin people, & do not eat emotionally any more often than everyone else does on occasion, etc. Roth in particular I found very off-putting BECAUSE of her belief that fat is psychologically based & that, by following her program & “normalizing” one’s relationship with food, everyone will become thin. Many of us can no more become truly or permanently thin than we can become another age, or race, or height, & probably less easily in the long run than some become another gender. It took me some years to fully accept that my eating habits are just fine,thanks, &, if I have a tendency to ‘disordered’ behavior, it is the tendency to fall into compulsive exercise at times, & that I am fat because my mother, grandmothers, aunts, sister, brothers, & who knows how many other relatives are fat! Fat is not a disease, either an emotional or a physical disease, it is a natural, normal variation in the way human beings are made!

    Comment by Patsy Nevins — January 10, 2008 @ 6:28 am

  6. I hate the assumption that if you’re fat it means you have some deep-seated psychological need to be fat, usually to keep men away. Some of my fat is there because I’m built to have big hips and big boobs; the rest I gained after a period of malnutrition. Physical reasons. Nothing about keeping men away. (Another one I hate is the idea that if you’re fat you must be addicted to food. Um, no.)

    Comment by Z — January 10, 2008 @ 6:40 am

  7. Hilarious story, I was in rehab last year (Vicodin fun!!) and all they wanted to talk about was my WEIGHT!!! I was told to go to OA to find out why I hated myself so much because I was so fat, and so on. It was crazymaking. Fat has never held me back, I’ve always had careers, love, all that stuff. The times I didn’t have those things is when I was actively dieting, it made me crazy!!

    Comment by mshell67 — January 10, 2008 @ 7:20 am

  8. I had the same experience with the “psychological causes of weight” that some of the other commenters did: I bought into the whole thing and was convinced that I had somehow made myself fat to protect myself from all the bullying I got in school. (Which makes no sense, of course, because had I been fat at the same time as the bullying they’d have picked on me about that too.)

    I was just thinking yesterday that when I was in high school, I used to say jokingly that my total failure at athletics was because I had chosen to focus on brain, not brawn. Later, during my mercifully brief dieting stint before finding fat acceptance, I was horrified. By choosing not to focus on physical attributes, I had given myself an excuse to be fat! I’d made myself fat! OMG onoes!

    Thankfully, I’ve realized how ridiculous that thinking is, but it was a bit of a tough time. I really resent the widespread manipulation that convinced me that I was a horrible fat fatty because I’d *gasp* not dedicated my life to athletics.

    Comment by caffeine — January 10, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

  9. You know, the recent article about “unpopular” teenagers more likely to gain weight than “popular” ones made me think about this concept of how our outsides affect our insides and vice versa. I have to say, I’m probably more fucked up by the fat hatred I’ve had to endure my entire life than anything else, and I’d be willing to bet that every. Single. Fatty. Has had some sort of experience with other people that has left some serious psychological scars–not the other way around, where serious psychological scars have left the person fat. I do not underestimate the frequency with which broken hearts heal themselves through food, but it canNOT be as common as having a heart broken because you were just born to be fat. Chicken? Egg? Can I have both?

    Comment by Phledge — January 10, 2008 @ 2:43 pm

  10. I appreciate the comments, guys. Great points!

    Comment by worthyourweight — January 22, 2008 @ 1:03 am

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