Never Good Enough: How a Big Body Means “You’re Doing it Wrong”

One of the things I find deeply frustrating as a fat woman is the assumption by many complete strangers, that I am not doing enough for my health.  And the more I appear in public and on television, the more I hear this criticism leveled at me. No matter what I’m doing for my health, clearly I’m not doing it enough, because, well look at me.  And if I should claim to be doing something far beyond what another person is doing, then I must be lying.

For example, I am a fitness teacher.  I exercise pretty regularly and moderately.  But many people believe that clearly, I’m neither exercising hard enough, nor the right way, because look at me.  I’m still fat.  I should lift more weights.  I should exercise at a higher intensity.  I should do Fred the Celebrity’s Super Insane Fitness Plan.  Forget that I might get injured.  Forget that I would hate it and quit after a few workouts.  The folks that know everything about everything are glad to let me know that since they are thin and I am fat, I’m not working out as well as them.  And when I tell them, that when I was training for the marathon and walking/running up to 35 miles per week I still maintained this weight, they tell me I was eating 4,000 calories per day, or lying.  People who are conventionally thin, don’t get this treatment.  If a conventionally thin person says that they exercise 45 minutes per week, they are usually told, to keep doing what they are doing because they look great.

The same is true with eating.  Many people assume that since I am big, I eat nothing but junk food, I eat large amounts of food and I eat all the time.  In pre-interviews for certain public appearances, I am grilled over and over about what I eat, when I eat, how much I eat, and so on.  No thin woman is asked these questions.  It is assumed that if they are thin, they are eating well.  But the producers ask these questions of me because A) they think their audience will wonder (and they are probably right about this) and B) they just can’t imagine that I’m not eating the whole house because, well, look at me.  We have been conditioned so deeply to believe that fat people do unhealthy things and fat people do healthy things that we assume that we know, by looking at someone what their habits are.  In the name of full disclosure, I would say that my eating habits are pretty average.  I eat more than some and less than some.  I eat more junk food than some and less than some.  Some of those who eat less than me weigh more than me.  And many people who eat more than me weigh less than me.  As comforting as the idea is that we can control every aspect of our appearance and our health outcomes with our behaviors, it just isn’t true.

So all we can do is what seems to be best for us at the time.  There is no perfect exercise regimen.  There is no perfect diet.  There are no perfect people.  There’s just people.  So the next time you look in the mirror and decide that your size means you aren’t doing the right healthy things or doing enough healthy things, maybe that’s the time to just stop.  You don’t have to put yourself into the same box that society does.  Make your own plans and build your own life.  Build a life that is joyous and right for YOU.

Love,

The Fat Chick

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40 thoughts on “Never Good Enough: How a Big Body Means “You’re Doing it Wrong”

  1. Cerres

    what a true entry. if you’re fat, people believe you don’t do anything, that you sit around all day and eat bon bons and never exercise, consuming five thousand calories a day. i still get “that look” even having lost over a hundred pounds over the the past two years. i spend close to 15 hours a week/five days a week in the gym/pool. i still get that look because for as much as i’ve lost, i still weight 250 pounds. it doesn’t matter what you do, people will always have preconceived notions. they’ve been conditioned to believe it’s okay to discriminate and think nasty things about people who don’t fit a particular image. it’s unfortunate.

    Reply
  2. kimmaryelizabeth

    Why do we have to justify or defend ourselves in the first place? It’s amazing to me that because we are fat we are EXPECTED to answer personal questions asked of us by the public at large (no pun intended?). Examples include what do we eat, why do we eat, how much do we eat, how often do we move, in what manner do we move, and one of my favorites (NOT), how did we let ourselves GET LIKE THIS,
    Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot from both Ragen Chastain and our favorite Chick. And at age 51 I feel very comfortable telling inquiring minds the following, “My weight is not a topic for conversation. Period.”

    Reply
  3. singleshaming

    I appreciate all this stuff since I have been the poster child for yo-yo dieting. Sure, I can lose weight. I’ve done it 100 times. But it won’t stay gone and it’s NOT healthy. I am trying to focus more on my health now.

    Reply
  4. susiekline

    One day my son and I watched a TV show about food addictions. I can’t remember the name! But every single episode stressed that the people were eating massive amounts of calories each day (the sugar addict at 6500! daily). Not one of them was obese. Doesn’t make sense from all we’re taught, right?

    Great post, Chick!

    Reply
  5. SF

    There are people that are overweight, but still healthy metabolically (glucose levels, bp, etc). Also, you can be thin or normal weight and unhealthy.

    However, unless one has metabolic issues or something if one is gaining weight it is because calories in are greater than calories out. This doesn’t necessarily mean junk food. People can gain weight eating “healthy” by simply eating too much.

    Also, unfortunately for a 200 lb person to maintain at 155 lbs, that person has to eat less than a person who is “naturally” 155 lbs. This has been shown over and over again in studies and the mechanism has not yet been explained.

    Regardless, it is no one’s business to make comments about your health or weight and to do so is incredibly rude. However, if you are promoting health fitness, you will have to understand that people will question advice coming from someone they don’t equate in their minds as the picture of health. They want to see a thin, toned, muscular spokesperson advocating exercise and healthy eating and they are a little thrown off when someone doesn’t meet that expectation.

    Reply
  6. Cathy

    I hear you 100%!! I tell people all the time that opposed to my outward appearance, I am not a couch potato. I do not sit around eating twinkies or chips. Actually, quite the contrary, I eat a lot of rabbit food. You know, the green kind and I don’t sabotage my green food with high calorie dressing. I use olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I do not drink soda of any sort. No fast foods or processed food. I cook every single day, from scratch. So there! I not only go to the gym 5 days a week, I do yoga there 3 days, workout 3 or more days and swim everyday I am there. But yes, I am still quite portly. Go figure. As trifling as it is, I refuse to quit. I will continue to plod along with what I do so long as I get satisfaction from it. The rest of society can just…bite me!
    PS~ oh, I forgot to mention: I have horses, ride them and do all their care including muck stalls, bale hay, walk fences. You name it, I do it. :)

    Reply
    1. ST

      If you are looking to lose weight, try a calorie counting website like myfitnesspal.com. It is easy to miscalculate the amount of calories you are eating, especially when you are eating healthy foods. I’ve done it. I thought I was eating a calorie deficit because I switched out sweets for fruit, but I was eating more fruit and was going over my calorie budget. Honestly it is as simple as calories in < calories out (unless you have a medical problem) though it gets harder as we age and have hormonal changes.

      If you're not looking to lose weight, keep on doing what you're doing.

      Reply
      1. ksol

        There’s a lot of good research out there that says it is NOT as simple as calories in/calories out. Most people can lose weight through calorie restriction, but the body fights back in numerous ways. I believe you might think that this is only coming from people justifying their larger bodies, but go read Dr. Arya Sharma’s blog or the bloggers at Obesity Panacea. If you want to know the reality of what it’s like to maintain significant weight loss, check out the archives at Debra’s Just Maintaining

        Granted, the body is not a perpetual motion machine, but it responds to ups and downs in food intake in unpredictable ways thanks to all sorts of adjustments in hormones, body temperature, you name it. It is not as simple as you think for everyone. Plus, it works much better in the short run than the long run. Most people can lose weight, but regain it — and then some — within 5 years. Dr. Sharma has joked that the best way to gain 25 pounds is to lose 20.

        Many of us are not looking to lose weight. I am not. I just want to do what I can to maintain the best health I can. I know what it took to get down even close to my theoretical “ideal” weight, and it was not healthy.

    2. Tori

      … and I don’t sabotage my green food with high calorie dressing.

      I’m uncomfortable with you using such a loaded term to describe eating a particular food. I mean, if you don’t want to use any kind of dressing (high calorie or otherwise), that’s 100% your choice. But there are people who do use dressings — and it’s not “sabotage” to do so.

      My food does not become my enemy just because I pair it with a second food.

      Reply
      1. Nikki

        yes, and also – high-fat dressings help you absorb the nutrients in your salad more! There were a load of articles on that a few months back. I guess in our high-nutrient availability society, we might not need so many of them, since we get them elsewhere, but high-fat isn’t always bad. :)

        And while I agree with the calories in – calories out idea *in theory*, what you can’t take into account is the variations in everyone’s bodies. My calories in aren’t going to equal anyone else’s even if we ate the exact same thing, and my calories out are going to be totally different, as well. It sounds like you are living a great lifestyle, though (original poster). Actually, a pretty dreamy one, I wish I could keep my mare at home.

  7. Janet Giiles

    Think you look good & the exercise you do is good people will think things that may not be true so just do what is good for you.

    Reply
  8. wartica

    I agree; society has such a warped interpretation of what healthy is–thanks to our media–that people with a little meat on them are totally unhealthy–definielty not the case:))

    Reply
  9. Lisa in Boston

    RIGHT. ON.

    This really bothers me, too! And it bothers me that there’s really not much I can do to change this *in the moment* because I would basically spend my entire day confronting people on their assumptions, etc…. I am trying to change this *over the long term* by being part of the HAES(R) movement.

    I appreciate your willingness to put yourself out there publicly and go through the cross examinations. And that picture of you with your arms crossed that way – adorable! :))

    Reply
  10. Kelly

    I can relate to everything you said. I exercise 5 days a week, walk 5 miles a day, everyday, and still have problems with my weight. I had a genetic screening in 2005 and they found a gene mutation which cause me to have a “fat” gene. It really bugs me that people make conclusions without all the facts, because clearly they would never know this by looking at me.

    Reply
  11. Teresa Peters

    So well written! And so very true. As a person who just simply doesn’t want to just love only myself, it is very difficult being single as I feel that no man is interested because of my size. I am told they are out there, but where are they? And I would be lying if I said I felt satisfied where my weight is at 260. I look awful and I can’t ride my horse nearly as well. I hate that I CAN be successful at losing weight but then just stop trying because all I think about is how my next meal is supposed to be. That being said, I am so very happy and proud for the women who can be happy with themselves no matter what their size is. I’m just not one of them.

    Reply
    1. susiekline

      There is someone out there for you, no matter what you weigh. We are programmed to believe that men only want waifs, but not all men do. Like body size varies, so do the things that men find attractive.

      Reply
      1. susiekline

        When I was 30 and divorced, I had an incredible change in attitude toward dating. No longer was I looking for someone who wanted to be with me. I was looking for someone who I wanted to be with–and who was worthy of my time and effort. I dated a lot–at 250 pounds! My friends told me to pick someone already. But I waited for the right one. We’ll be married 15 years on Halloween. He fit everything I wanted in a man.

        I believe it was that simple change in attitude–changing from letting someone choose me to me choosing them. I knew I was worth it for the right person!

    2. Mari

      Studies show that a lot of people lose weight initially on diets, but 95% of those people gain back what they lost (and then some) after five years (whether they stick to the diet or not.) So you are not alone and you aren’t the problem, the diets are.

      When you look at those odds, a 5% success rate, it’s not too hard to accept the fact that dieting is never going to help most people attain that happiness that they think being thin will bring them. It is a better idea to love their body as it is, take care of it by giving it healthy foods and fun movement every day, throw the scale in the trash, and focus directly on attaining all those things they think being thin will give them.

      It is possible that the fact you yourself are not satisfied with yourself when you are fat, and think you look awful, is the very reason you have a hard time finding someone who is attracted to you at a larger size. People generally are attracted to confidence. I think many women who work really hard on being thin would do better putting all that effort into working on their self esteem if they want people to find them attractive.

      Reply
      1. Bethany

        Funny, I have had so many people tell me that the reason men don’t approach me is because I’m “too confident.” Maybe it’s because I’m confident and fat? I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to be fat and confident. Oops!

      2. susiekline

        When I was finishing up my master’s degree I was told I was too confident to work with clients. That I would make them feel uncomfortable. I don’t know if being told that helped or if it didn’t matter, but I was great with teenagers. The funny thing: I didn’t feel confident at all…

    3. Cerres

      my husband and i married when i weighed nearly 400 pounds. trust me they’re out there. it’s amusing what susiekline said below about the ‘programmed to want waifs” comment. i accused him of this very thing when we first met. i couldn’t believe that he’d look beyond the weight. coincidentally, it also took him about two years of him telling me “you’re a beautiful woman” before I’d believe he actually felt that way, which is rather sad in retrospect.

      Reply
    4. Nikki

      Oh Teresa, I do get your pain about this, but you really aren’t alone. Women at every weight have trouble believing in their own attractiveness, but I think it is especially hard in our society to accept ourselves and see our own attractiveness when we are overweight.
      My friend is very obese (and since the start of university, always has been), and she’s happily married to a twig-skinny artist who is in mad love with her curves. They just had their first baby.
      The best way I’ve found to feel healthier and better about myself is just to get out more, even though that’s the hardest thing to do. Hang out with my horse more, stop thinking about it all and live my life by doing what I want to do and letting the rest take care of itself. Literally. I try really hard not to think of my food that much, or then I think about all that I am trying to restrict and then that’s all I want.
      Oh, and walking or recently doing the ZombiesRunGame on my phone cuz OMG that’s hilarious. I find plugging in my ipod / mp3 player and just walking around town with great music (and occasionally the zombie hordes) is awesome for my emotional, and maybe physical, health. Just all that fresh air and great music really helps when I’m feeling crap, also I get to fantasize about awesome shit I am going to do, which I probably won’t ever do. LOL. I’m overweight myself, but like the author am in fairly good shape, and really do find that just getting out and living really improves my mindset. Even though I look exactly the same afterwards, I feel so different.
      I know you have said that you aren’t one of those women, but I can guarantee you that you deserve to be happy regardless of your size, and meeting someone can only happen if you put yourself out there. :)

      Reply
  12. Kristel

    LOVE it! And I agree. I’ve been frustrated for the same reasons, though at this point in my life I have no trouble at all telling people to mind their own damned business re: my eating habits (pretty average) and my exercise level (more than many of my thinner friends).

    I have been thin, and I didn’t care for it at all. I know it’s a state that many find preferable, but it wasn’t for me. While I would like to maintain a healthier weight, I prefer to have curves:-)

    Reply
  13. Amanda

    I love this. I write a blog for plus sized horse back riders and recently posted a “full disclosure” blog entry about my daily habits and the fact that my body remains roughly around the same size which really kind of goes along with this. I have been writing the blog for a couple of years but am just now beginning to get into the HAES movemebt. I am off now to plow through the rest of your entries! :) Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Justine Sutton

      Amanda~ I would love to read your blog about big riders. I used to ride and weigh a lot more now than I did then, and have been wondering if I will ever be able to ride again. Please post the link, and thank you!

      Reply
    2. Tori

      THERE IS A BLOG FOR PLUS SIZE HORSEBACK RIDERS?!?!?!?!?!

      I’ve been riding recreationally since I was 5; my sister (my size) is a trainer.

      If you would post the link, I’d muchly appreciate it.

      Reply
  14. BFD

    Well put! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten an incredulous look when I tell someone I do half marathons. “You run?!” When I explain that, no, actually, I walk, then I get the “ahh, that makes more sense, because marathon runners are thing” look. It’s an uphill battle, but I fight every day to eradicate the idea that you can tell anything about someone’s health habits by looking at them.

    Reply
  15. ksol

    The “you’re doing it wrong” thing makes me crazy. I waste too many sanity points looking at comments on news stories on obesity, but my personal favorite ridiculous response to a person who said that they did an extreme diet with exercise and still didn’t lose weight was “There’s your problem! You’re not eating enough!!” Really? This in the midst of a sea of comments saying it’s as simple as calories in, calories out? The standard “Nightmare on ELMM Street,” as Dr. Arya Sharma put it.

    Reply

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