Worth Your Weight

March 15, 2008


Filed under: fat acceptance, HAES — worthyourweight @ 3:18 am

Whenever I feel adrift in the fat acceptance community and tempted to go to war against my body, these are the points I return to and that keep me anchored:

  1. Fat people eat the same amount as thin people do. This is a fairly radical idea, but well documented in Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin. Junkfood Science talks about it, too. My mind often comes back to the woman who performed a size zero diet experiment and who pre-diet consumed around 2500 calories a day. The obesity experts would call that a good eating plan to get/stay fat. Yet, she is not fat.
  2. Fat people are not fat because they under-exercise. In Glen Gaesser’s Calorie Myths lecture in 2007, he mentioned the results of a study that showed the difference in weight between the least active subjects and the most active was five to seven pounds. Laura Fraser, author of Losing It, puts the figure at four to seven.
  3. Fat people are not fat because of psychological problems. From Rethinking Thin, pp. 93-94:

    The conclusion reached by Stunkard and others who were doing similar experiments was unmistakable: There is no psychiatric pathology that spells obesity. And there is no response to food that is not shared by people who are not fat. You can’t say you got fat because you, unlike thin people, are unable to resist temptation. Both fat and thin people are tempted by the sweet smell of brownies or the sight of a dish of creamy cold ice cream. You can’t say you got fat because there is a lot of stress in your life. Thin people are just as likely to eat under stress. You can’t say it was because you used food as a reward. If that is the reason, then why do thin people, who also use food as a reward, stay thin?

  4. Fat does not equal unfit. Covered extensively in the Fatosphere, plus see the last paragraph under “About this blog”
  5. Normal eating has zip to do with calories, carb count, and fat grams. See the Ellyn Satter quote here.
  6. Fat is not an aberration; it’s a variation. Again, from Rethinking Thin (forgive me; it’s sort of become my FA bible), p. 115:

    The Rockefeller researchers explained their observations in one of their papers: “Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this study was that the removal of obesity by means of caloric deprivation led to behavioral alterations similar to those observed in the starvation of non-obese individuals. It is entirely possible that weight reduction, instead of resulting in a normal state for obese patients, results in an abnormal state resembling that of starved non-obese individuals.”

    Eventually, more than fifty people went through the months-long process of living at the hospital and losing weight, and every one of them had these physical and psychological signs of starvation, Hirsch reports.

  7. My most successful weight loss attempt killed my gall bladder. Even though for years doctors had recited the risk factors for gall bladder disease as “forty, fat, and female,” they never factored in the most important part of that equation. Fat females in their 40s are highly likely to have dieted repeatedly. Dieting is linked to gall bladder disease. I know we are expected to function without it, but I think the removal of my gall bladder has made digestion more difficult for me. If for nothing else, I vow not to harm my body and its organs again by dieting — a “prescription” that’s never been proven safe or effective yet ironically is looked at with inexplicable forgiveness when it comes to side effects and complications.
  8. Exercising for fun and eating normally — NOT for weight loss — makes me feel good.


  1. Agreed. My mother lost her gallbladder when she was 25 and she was as thin as a rail in those years. Not fat or forty.

    Comment by lillian64 — March 15, 2008 @ 9:18 am

  2. Just a thought. I agree with you, but I don’t trust Gina Kolata or S. Szwarc. They both defend really bad environmental polices too, and Sourcewatch claims they are both being paid by corporate interests.

    Comment by Just a thought — March 15, 2008 @ 9:40 am

  3. I lost a dramatic amount of weight rapidly but wasn’t aware of the link between such weight loss and gall bladder attacks. I had one at work one night and I thought I was dying. It was the worst pain of my life, worse than I imagine childbirth to be, even. I had a surgery scheduled to remove my gall bladder but chickened out because I’m wary of medical procedures, and also because you couldn’t drive for 6 weeks afterwards. I lived alone at the time, school was starting back up the next month, and I needed to work. There was no way I could afford to be laid up that long. Luckily, I haven’t had an attack since.

    Comment by Rachel — March 15, 2008 @ 10:30 am

  4. Just a thought,

    Can you cite any statements about obesity they’ve made that aren’t supported by science?

    Thank you.

    –Just the truth, and not smear tactics, aka, BigLiberty

    Comment by BigLiberty — March 15, 2008 @ 10:31 am

  5. I had my gall bladder out because of dieting. My digestion has been permanently screwed up since. I’d rather be fat and no diet than fuck up my digestion any more.

    Comment by thoughtracer — March 15, 2008 @ 10:55 am

  6. OK, I’m a big fat pinko commie liberal leftie who’s extremely suspicious of corporate moneymaking and all that, and even I reckon Sourcewatch is really clutching at straws most of the time. Their posted criticisms tend to come from sources that have shaky credibility themselves, and it’s a fairly see-through attempt at the very psy-ops they like to criticise. I don’t agree 100% with Szwarc and Kolata, either.

    Comment by La di Da — March 15, 2008 @ 11:17 am

  7. I’m also skeptical of Szwarc because of her global warming views. But I thought Gina Kolata writes mainly about health for the NYT? I can’t recall ever reading an article by her about environmental policy of any kind.

    Comment by LadyGrey — March 15, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

  8. What difference does their stance on the environment have to do with this subject? People are allowed to have many, many different viewpoints on lots of different subjects. Just because they may be confused or wrong about one subject (and I’m not saying they are, but just “if”) then that doesn’t make everything they say or think wrong.

    Of course, I come into all of this not knowing very much about the subject, really, but still, that’s a weak argument.

    Comment by KarenElhyam — March 15, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

  9. lillian64,
    Did your mom diet? (Out of curiosity.)

    “Just a thought,”
    What of the sources Kolata and Szwarc reference? Are those scientists bad greenies and corporate shills, too? I doubt it.

    Let’s say I take your advice and don’t trust them. What about the article by Louise Burke I linked to above? A fat person eating 2500 calories is told they are overeating by a good 1000 calories. (I, for one, was.) What about your own experiences and observations? Again, mine support this idea that fat people and thin people eat in the same amounts and for the same reasons.

    Why do sources used by the FA movement get so scrutinized, much more than the mainstream news sources beating us over the head with all the anti-fat stuff? I’m all for careful consideration, but do it across the board.

    I think you’re one lucky duck to have avoided the surgery. Agreed that the pain is just horrific. I had my first gall bladder attack after losing 48 pounds. I desperately wanted to avoid surgery, but couldn’t.

    Yeah, what you said times 100. I guess I can understand people questioning sources cited by the FA movement. To the uninitiated, they do sound like some crazy claims. BUT have the questioning types bothered to read the material? What about the original material the authors cite? Maybe I’d believe this “trust no one who supports your own experience and observations” more if they were commenting here to say, “Hirsch and Stunkard and Keyes are liars and here’s why.”

    I have a feeling the Kolata and Szwarc detractors also believe fat people lie about their food intake when they participate in studies, too.

    It just amazes me that I was always made to believe my gall bladder going bust was because I was fat. To find out it’s the opposite — because I dieted because society wouldn’t “allow” me to be fat — stuns me.

    La di Da,
    I’ve never really found a reason to question Kolata or Szwarc. So that’s why I’ve never investigated Sourcewatch. But if I read anything that sounds fishy, I do tend to follow up on it to see if it holds up. Just curious, but what from Szwarc and Kolata don’t you agree with?

    Kolata’s probably getting lumped in with Szwarc by “Just a thought” in order to make her point.

    Comment by worthyourweight — March 15, 2008 @ 2:10 pm

  10. Yeah, it’s a little hard, even if you don’t like Kolata or Szwarc, to claim that Mickey Stunkard and Jules Hirsch and other researchers they reference are lying sleazebuckets. My analogy is, Branch Rickey didn’t sign Jackie Robinson because he was such a great civil rights crusader, he did it because he thought Jackie Robinson would put asses in the seats at Ebbets Field and make him lots of money. Just because he was right doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have done it.

    Comment by meowser — March 15, 2008 @ 2:47 pm

  11. My disagreement with Szwarc lies mainly in her stance on government-provided health care and global warming. I agree pretty much with her stuff on fat and nutrition, as there are plenty of authoritative sources that agree too, and while she’s received money from various interest groups in the past I don’t believe she’s getting any now. Disagreement with Kolata is pretty tiny, mostly to do with writing style that’s sometimes a bit offensive, like a few times in Rethinking Thin when she describes someone as “grotesquely obese” and such. That could be sub-editors’ work though.

    Comment by La di Da — March 15, 2008 @ 7:11 pm

  12. I saw Super Skinny Me and it was fascinating how these women actually started getting excited when they started seeing the weight come off (even though they didn’t need to lose weight.) The diets seemed to spur on eating disorders, to bring them out or bring them about or something – they felt themselves getting messed up mentally. I’m very glad they would not want to do that to their bodies again!! Or at least that one wouldn’t. If they ever replay the show, you should watch it. It was on BBCA.

    Comment by anniemcphee — March 15, 2008 @ 9:18 pm

  13. This is probably an unpopular thing to say but her stance on government health care and “global warming” is probably one of the things I like best about Sandy. Heh. Along with, you know, the debunking of bad science on fat and nutrition.

    Comment by anniemcphee — March 15, 2008 @ 9:20 pm

  14. KarenElhyam,
    I agree to a certain extent. Disagreeing with another’s views on one subject does not necessitate disagreeing with her views on other subjects. I was actually quite surprised to see the Weather Channel cover the few positive effects of global warming (better crops, less heating costs). Does that mean I think global warming is a good thing? Does that mean I won’t trust what temperature the Weather Channel tells me it is?

    Apt analogy. Thanks!

    La di Da,
    I appreciate your answer. I must admit I hatehatehated Rethinking Thin when I first read it back in October. The book is filled with “fat is caused by overeating” myths, mostly because every study she references begins with that premise. When will obesity researchers get creative?

    But the book ended up having the most impact on me of almost any of the FA books I’ve read because those studies ended up debunking their own premises that fat is caused by overeating and/or psychological problems. Essentially I learned from Rethinking Thin that fat or thin, people eat in the same amounts and for the same reasons. *Thunk* — a huge puzzle piece falls into place.

    I’m definitely going to try catching Super Skinny Me. And I can’t help but smile about your liking Sandy for the views others dislike.

    Comment by worthyourweight — March 16, 2008 @ 2:30 pm

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