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Trip Trapping Over the Troll Bridge

April 1, 2014

Weight LossFat HealthExerciseMy Boring-Ass LifeDiet Talk

Trigger warning: Discussion of healthy lifestyle and exercise.

Every so often somebody on Facebook, Tumblr, or the like will make the point that individuals who are both fit and fat shouldn’t really talk about their own physical abilities because it might undermine those of us who are less healthy. They argue that it sets up a Good Fatty vs. Bad Fatty dichotomy, which essentially plays into the trolls’ hands, by suggesting that if you can convince them you eat whole grains and can do a chin up then they might just give you enough grace until your stodgier, lazier brother comes trip trapping over the bridge. I completely understand that.

All fat people deserve basic human respect. All people deserve basic human respect. And even if you’re fat because you wash down a dozen Krispy Kremes with a bottle of full-fat Coke during your nightly first person shooter marathons, it doesn’t mean anyone gets to call you names or make you feel shit about yourself.

For the love of God, who wouldn't?

For the love of God, who wouldn’t?

But this sentiment is also problematic in a number of ways. Firstly, it silences fat individuals who are also athletes: those who dance, participate in marathons, or even those of us who are just striving to get our 150 minutes a week. Fierce Fatties on this blog, or on any other corner of the internet (or the dreaded real world, for that matter), should be able to feel that they can discuss their movement, seek tips and advice, and have a little boast without feeling like they have broken some kind of covenant of the Fat Dude Club.

Thin people don’t have to worry about showing up other thin people when they talk about their sport or how good they feel since they stopped eating McDonald’s for lunch every day. In talking about our own achievements, as long as we are not looking down upon or judging those who can’t or won’t do the same, then our consciences should rest easy. The covenant only breaks when a fit fatty starts throwing others under the bus, as in “I’m not your typical lazy, fat person; I work out!”

In any case, there’s no such thing as a Good Fatty, just as there are no Good Thinnies. Health, like weight, is a spectrum. I might run up my stairs half a dozen times a day, you might have run up all 40 flights of the Met (well done Atchka!). Some of us may challenge ourselves to go swimming once a week, others do it every single day. There are always more nutrients we can add to our food intake, more water to drink, more inner peace to find. The idea that fatties should keep schtum about the healthy things that they do suggests that health is a binary, with one set of activities on one side and different set on the other. It’s far more complex than that.

For instance, our donut-loving gamer from the first paragraph might be in the process of finding an emotional balance through a course of talking therapies, therefore significantly improving his mental health and his mortality and morbidity in the process. Hell, after a few more weeks, he might feel good enough to swap his soda for water. Should he then be prohibited from extolling the virtues of his new hydrated goodness because it might be seen as throwing more sugary fatties to the lions?

Water is good too, obviously. Yey water!

Water is good too, obviously. Yay water!

And that’s the point, isn’t it? The lions are going to eat the sugary fatties and then turn on all the other fatties too. There is a whole contingency of fat-haters who (if even they believe that fat people exercise or engage in healthful activities at all) will throw their hands in the air and announce “It’s not enough. Don’t walk, run. Eat more wholegrain. Avoid bananas. You put dressing on salad? There’s your problem!”

The trolls don’t actually believe that you’re working hard enough, because if you were then you would be thin. In their world, fit fatties don’t exist. In their world, thin people are thin because they are disciplined with food and take enough exercise, and fat people are fat because they stuff themselves and sit around all day. We know that that’s not the case. By virtue of a whole heap of genetic, hormonal and social wizardry, we know that unfit thin people are just as likely to exist as fit fat people — that is to say very.

If we put the kibosh on fatties talking about the exercise that they do, then we’re never going to change the opinion of anybody who thinks that they can diagnose health by BMI. Of course, there is always going to be a contingency of dudebros who will not accept that the first law of thermodynamics is not as good at describing humans as it is trains, but screw them. The people we really need to work on convincing is the doctors, health care professionals and policy-makers who have been running scared of the killer fat for decades now.

If you are a fat fatty, then you should stand up and be proud. And if you’re a fat person trying to improve your health, you should be talking about it too. And if you’re a fat person who does nothing, you should share your perspective as well. The more we have our own language of health that’s free from the tyranny of weight loss goals, the more we can provide support for all fat people whether they are doing massive things or just small things to take care of themselves. Most of us have spent too long worrying about all the things we’re not doing, all the exercise we’re not taking, all the nutrients we’re failing to consume. We’ve judged ourselves for years on our failure and played right into the hands of the good/bad binary, which implores us to continually be looking to improve.

three-billy-goats-gruff-ilene-richard

When I first wrote for this blog, not that long ago, I was keen to increase my own health, convinced by the liberating science of Health at Every Size® (HAES). I still am. I believe that by taking on more movement each week and by improving the quality of the food I eat (whilst still working within the confines of not turning into a boring shitbag) I will actively improve my life expectancy and reduce my chance of dying from certain diseases.

I am still at the very start of my journey, especially with exercise, and I am trying to find some kind of movement that I like and can enjoy (today I am sporting a massive bruise on my waist from trying — and failing — to learn how to hula hoop). Being honest, though, my instinct a few weeks ago was to set myself goals. To focus on the image of a fitter, more vital version of myself. To work out how much I should do of this and how often I should do that. I’m not dismissing the idea of goals here, and I think it’s a good idea to at least have markers by which you can measure improvement because it’s all too easy to fail to see how well things are going when they happen slowly, but what I nearly forgot to do was to congratulate myself on the healthy things that I currently do.

That, to me, is one of the most liberating things about the HAES concept: we don’t have to wait (forever) until we are thin to declare ourselves healthy. We can improve our fitness right here and right now, and that also means that we can acknowledge the things we already do to look after ourselves. We can do this without any prejudice against those who slot into different places on the complicated web of healthfulness. We can do that simply to acknowledge that we are not the health criminals that we’ve been portrayed as. So if you run (or walk) marathons then shout it from the rooftops. And if you eat an orange a day, then fucking celebrate that too. You can improve on it (if you want to) but it doesn’t mean it’s not a valid healthy behaviour.

This is my personal list of some of the ways I already look after myself. Feel free to add yours in the comments. Our lists shouldn’t be rules that we live by and that we think others should too, but rather a series of things that we do to look after our personal physical and mental health right now.

I'm doing it wrong, right?

I’m doing it wrong, right?

  • I don’t smoke
  • I don’t take drugs
  • I mainly drink water
  • I eat some fruit or vegetables every day
  • I wear sunscreen
  • I don’t drink much caffeine
  • I talk about my problems (or write them down)
  • I am starting to get some exercise
  • I breastfed (reduces mother’s risk of some cancers and osteoporosis)
  • I haven’t undergone any unnecessary surgery or cosmetic procedures
  • I don’t engage in high-risk hobbies
  • I use a menstrual cup
  • I keep up to date with medical tests and inoculations
  • I don’t diet!

Aside: My thin friend just picked up my hula hoop and did it first time. Despite pouring over Youtube videos and spending hours trying I still can’t get it, so if anyone has any tips on how to hoop with a fat body, I would be grateful. My hoop comes up to my bust, so I feel like it should be big enough?

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2014 11:05 am

    I used to hoop….there are two usual things that get missed, hoop height and hoop weight. I started with a hoop that hit above my bust and that really helped. A weighted and big circumference hoop also helped me out. Aside from those, it’s hard to say over the internet without watching you as a teacher would to help you out 🙂 Oh…and stagger your feet with your knees slightly bent if you aren’t already (so you can get a rocking horse motion from your legs).

    If that doesn’t help, maybe try hooping on other parts of your body to see if that’s easier for you. I can’t waist hoop any more because of my spine surgery, but I can do chest, arm, neck, and a few tricks 🙂 Finding your easy point can really boost your self-efficacy!

  2. April 1, 2014 11:10 am

    I’ll add a few to the list of ways I look after myself:
    1. I wear a seatbelt every time I drive.
    2. I don’t drink and drive.
    3. I use dancing as a pick-me-up when I feel down.
    4. I smile and laugh a lot.
    5. I give myself permission to feel whatever I feel at a given moment.
    6. I’ve learned how to say “no” when asked for favors or to do something for someone else.
    7. I’ve taken steps to remove toxic people from my inner circle.

  3. April 1, 2014 11:11 am

    My nine-year-old can hula hoop like a pro. I never could, even when I was nine.

  4. April 1, 2014 1:26 pm

    I think we can all agree that going to really toxic atmospheres (for whatever reason: looking for information, advice, or a heaping dose of masochism) and insisting that you’re a Good/Healthy Fatty because X, Y, and Z is a bad idea NO MATTER WHAT. It’s going to make you feel shit, and it feeds (hahahahah FEEDS) into the Good/Bad Fatty Dichotomy, where health and weight are moral, public obligations on the part of the individual. Otherwise, celebrating your health is a good thing no matter what!

    1) Fresh fruits and vegetables are part of nearly all my meals (depends on the cereal I have for breakfast).

    2) I allow myself to feel crappy when I feel crappy and lean on my boyfriend/friends in times of emotional duress. I also make myself available to them when they feel crappy, because that’s what a good friend does and being a good friend makes me happy.

    3) I drink water when I’m thirsty, and plenty of it.

    4) I move in ways I enjoy for the sake of my body.

    5) I ONLY move in ways I enjoy for the sake of my mental well-being. I refuse to continue in an activity if I don’t enjoy it.

    6) I refuse to make movement an obligation for me, because that way exercise binges and madness lies.

    7) I am mindful of my attention and try to limit my “zone-out” activities (Facebook, Pinterest, etc) in favor of “flow-creating” activities, like working, writing, or studying.

  5. April 1, 2014 1:32 pm

    Even as a skinny kid, I was never co-ordinated enough to master the hoop. :/

    Your paragraph about the “Lions” is spot-on. I used to be on another (general-interest politics) board where a vegan activist kept screeching about the horrible lives of fat people. He managed to steer otherwise-unrelated discussions around to this remarkably often. I finally got irritated enough to remind him that there are, in fact, fat vegans (some of whom were very devoted to animal rights, just as he was). Then I was treated to a lecture about how those people clearly were unfit because they drank too many sodas and ate too many potato chips. (He knew this because of his psychic powers, I guess.) I got the feeling he was even madder at them than at my big omnivore ass because they were somehow deliberately tormenting him by being so tantalizingly close to the path of True Body Righteousness or something. [rolleyes] I tempted to ask him why he cared so much how a fat animal rights activist might look. They were on his side and shouldn’t that have been enough for him? But I took the coward’s way out because there’s only so many hours in a day. :/

    (Clarification: The vegans I know IRL are not like this bozo. Thankfully.)

  6. April 1, 2014 1:52 pm

    Never could hula hoop, even as a skinny kid. Just wasn’t coordinated enough.

    On my list is using my cane as often as possible with my blown out knee. I have gotten a lot more active since giving in and accepting I have to use it. More support means less pain and less pain means more movement.

    Drink lots of water.

    Listen to my body when it comes to food. Some days my body wants no mean, other days it wants lots of meat, heck some days it wants Doritos and cream cheese.

    Eat as gluten free as possible (tho there are times where I have something that I deem is worth the pain and I am willing to suffer the consequences, but those times are becoming less and much farther between).

    Explore more cuisines in my search for more varied gluten free eating.

    Have hobbies that get me out and about (geocaching is very cool), love fishing and we camp when we can.

    Have kitties 🙂

    Take my meds.

    let my creativity flow thru my photography and jewelry.

    To name a few on my list 🙂

  7. April 2, 2014 4:56 am

    I could never hoop. Tried taking a hoop fitness class a couple of years ago. Three weeks and still nothing. Five minutes at the ASDAH conference with Deb Burgard and I was hooping like a pro. Go figure.

    Great post. One thing – you say thin people aren’t shaming fellow thinnies when they talk about their sports and their latest clean eating regime. I’m not so sure about that. There is a lot of smug condescension involved in a lot of these conversations – the whole fitspo thing – it’s not just aimed at us fatties. I think it’s all about context. Some people beat others over the head with how ‘good’ they are, holding themselves up as a beacon of morality – because ‘healthy’ eating and exercise have become proxies for character and human worth. This is always problematic. These people want to revel in their superiority and do not care to hear about your efforts. Then there are the trolls who don’t want to hear anything other than the sound of their own voices belittling others. It’s the people in between that you can have a conversation with, and without it turning into a whole subtext of who is worthier.

    For those who don’t know there is a Fit Fatties Forum, which is a HAES-friendly (i.e. no diet talk) site for people who do or want to exercise / move their bodies, to chat, ask advice etc. http://fitfatties.ning.com/

  8. April 3, 2014 3:00 pm

    Trolls = the most boring shitbags of all.
    Anyone who sees it as their life’s goal to be hateful to others is a worthless sack of excrement, pure and simple.
    The only way I was able to get to the point where I was exercising regularly was when I stopped making weight loss the mark of success. I’ve been doing my water workouts for more than two years steady now.

  9. Dizzyd permalink
    April 3, 2014 5:21 pm

    I couldn’t hula-hoop worth a darn as a kid, either. My healthy habit? Do as I please, and to heck with all the should’s and ought to’s and so on. I’ll work on the rest later.

  10. Happy Spider permalink
    April 10, 2014 12:39 pm

    I liked your reference to the 3 Billy Goats Gruff. I always liked that story. How unexpected to find this playful reference to it.

    I don’t like arguments that implicitly slight Bad Fatties and you expressed that really well. It cheered me to see that someone else understood my objections. I don’t like the arguments because they insult Bad Fatties and they are not logical. The argument I mean goes something like:

    Anti-Fat person: “Let’s shame fat people because they are lazy and gluttonous”. FA person: “You are wrong to shame fat people because they exercise a lot and eat a fairly healthy diet. I myself have just run 5k and I never drink soda. I am deeply offended by your slander of fat people.”

    I am a fat person who spends all her time lying on the couch and eating junk food. When I hear this argument I think, well, I guess I the FA thinks it would be perfectly ok to shame me in public. Look at how disgusted she is at the thought of being considered to be like me. How repugnant I am to her. I mean, really, it’s not like I’m going out and preventing her from doing all that running and healthy eating.

    Sometimes the FA takes it further and asserts that the Bad Fatty is a myth. Great, I think, now I’m mythological. I’m a unicorn. The FA says, “I’ve never in my life meant someone who confirms to the Bad Fatty stereotype.” So I’m a unicorn again. The FA says, “we have to teach people that they are wrong to think fat people eat junk food all day and are sedentary.” Unicorn, unicorn, unicorn.

    I just can’t believe that sedentary gluttonous fat people are as rare as all that. It’s the common stereotype. Which I fit, with no effort on my part. I’ve seen lots of dieting blogs where the dieters describe their former lifestyle of binging and junk food and non-exercise. I’ve read books of people talking about their lives and describing the same lifestyle. If you say so then I can believe that I am sort of an outlier, but I can’t believe I am THAT much of an outlier.

    So that’s how I feel implicitly slighted. But I also think the FA is not being logical. That really bothers me. I have a logical personality type so illogical arguments are like fingernails on a blackboard. It’s very frustrating. I can’t not react. Having a logical personality type does not mean, by the way, that I actually am logical. I think it’s more a style of communication. My type of people show up a lot in Atheism blogs, for example, and I’ve seen lots of bad arguments there from logical-type people.

    Unable to stand illogic, I end up having long rants inside my head where I try to reframe the FA’s statement so it is logical: First, their argument definitely implies that it is ok to shame Bad Fatties. That is clear. Second, that doesn’t really seem to be their intention. If they actually disliked Bad Fatties, they would criticize Bad Fatties for letting down the cause of fat people, and they don’t do that. Moreover I think the same people who say “you shouldn’t shame fat people because they aren’t lazy and gluttonous” also on other occasions say that people are wrong to shame other people for the way they live. Third, the argument isn’t some sort of misstatement because I hear it over and over again, sometimes really emphatically.

    I think the problem is that the anti-fat person is actually making two assertions: first, that fat people are sedentary and gluttonous, and, second, that such people should be shamed. When someone is making two arguments, then which one do your answer? I believe strongly in people’s rights ( I think it is part of the logical personality type) so I always automatically go with “It is wrong to shame people.” But it is perfectly reasonable to instead go with “I object to the picture you paint of what fat people are like.” As I say, illogical arguments are fingernails on a blackboard. The anti-fat person having wrong axioms, having a wrong description of the situation, is distressing. You can’t think clearly about something when your assumptions are all wrong.

    So the FA is responding to a different part of the anti-fat person’s assertion than I would. Is she wrong to do so? This is sort of the problem of derailment. Just about any statement has lots of flaws. You have to ignore some of them or you will never have a fruitful discussion about topic that interest you. In this case, no, the FA does not seem to be derailing things. Viewing fat people as abnormal is definitely a crucial part of anti-fat arguments. In fact, the FA’s response might be better than mine. I think when a group is being vilified that in general (although maybe not so much with logical-type people) it is less persuasive to talk about the rights of the vilified group and more persuasive to make the group seem less alien to the vilifiers.

    So I tell myself such things and then I don’t mind when I hear that I’m mythological. I figure that the FA is extremely upset from a lifetime of having a lifestyle attributed to her that she does not follow and she is just being very emphatic about how offensive that is. I like to hear people’s stories, so I enjoy listening to the FA. It would be derailing to interrupt her story of how badly she has been hurt by the Bad Fatty stereotype by telling her to stop and think of the Bad Fatties. Nonetheless, I liked that this post here actually talked about how the FA’s argument is slightly irritating.

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