Hey everyone, it's your local fat girl back at it again! I've had a lot of fantastic things said to me by my peers regarding my weight ever since I first stepped on a scale with my own two feet: "You'd be pretty if you just lost fifteen more pounds" or "You're gonna get diabetes". Most of it has abated with age and the growth of a genuine body-positivity movement, but when I see such posts on Facebook and the like, the #1 most common comment is "I'm saying [this tactless, rude, ignorant, unwarranted and condescending thing] because I care about your health!"
The bottom line is we know you don't care about our health; either you simply don't know the lifestyle this person leads (but they're fat so it must be atrocious and you must inform them), or you're just uncomfortable with a person eschewing the norm and loving themselves while doing it.
Right off the bat, let's start with some facts: Having flabby arms and a hanging stomach is not always an indicator of poor health.
Although a study looking at 27,000 overweight Americans discovered that more adults were obese or overweight in the later years of the study, the number of those who were actively trying to lose weight had dropped from 56% to 49%. The most likely reason for the drop was due to the try-and-fail cycle of living a life of counting calories, losing weight, and gaining it back again.
However, Dr. Jian Zhang of Georgia Southern University (the author of the study), brings up several other studies where people who are overweight live just as long as people of a "normal" weight, if not longer. Similarly, the 'obesity paradox' describes a phenomenon where, although individuals with obesity are at higher risk of health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, they actually live longer and better than those of "normal" weight.
Case in point: I might not look skinny, but I'm eating the healthiest I ever have and get thousands of steps every day running after young children at summer camp. No matter what I look like, it's safe to say I'm capable of outliving a skinnier woman whose metabolism lets her eat donut after donut without gaining an ounce.
If I'm getting my 10k-a-day, how did I get fat in the first place? Well, according to Harvard Health Publications, the influence an individual's genes (the ones that control appetite, metabolism, body-fat distribution, and eating as a stress-coping mechanism, to name a few) on their predisposition to be overweight after puberty can range anywhere from 25% to 80%. If you're in the upper range, it might be near impossible to lose weight, even if you increase physical activity and change your diet significantly.
I also recommend checking out this Slate article talking about the myth of long-term dieting. Some gems:
1. "You’ll likely lose weight in the short term, but your chance of keeping if off for five years or more is about the same as your chance of surviving metastatic lung cancer: 5 percent. And when you do gain back the weight, everyone will blame you. Including you."
2. "Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention repeatedly find the lowest mortality rates among people whose body mass index puts them in the “overweight” and “mildly obese” categories. And recent research suggests that losing weight doesn’t actually improve health biomarkers such as blood pressure, fasting glucose, or triglyceride levels for most people."
3. "The idea that obesity is a choice, that people who are obese lack self-discipline or are gluttonous or lazy, is deeply ingrained in our public psyche."
So, to sum it up: Not all of us can control our weight to the degree some might think; and even if we do starve ourselves in an attempt to do so, it ends up doing more harm than good. If you live a healthy lifestyle, you are healthy, even if you don't look just like the woman on the cover of your Beachbody PiYo At-Home Yoga DVD. Also (in my opinion), fat people are goddamn gorgeous, with their radiant smiles and vibrant personalities to match. The bravery to overcome the fear of social ostracization can, for some of us, make life worth living again. We don't need you to educate us; we've been educated by the looks on your faces all our lives. It costs you exactly nothing to type "you look awesome" instead of "probably should've left it on the rack".