Tag Archives: healthism

What are the odds?

Hey there!  Sorry I haven’t blogged in a few days.  I’ve been on the roller coaster and hanging on for dear life.  Seems like that’s the way of it, doesn’t it?  First you’re on top of the world, and then BOOM, sick in bed with a terrible, nasty, icky head cold.

It’s not like I haven’t taken prophylactic measures.  I’ve been taking lots of vitamin C, drinking lots of water, washing my hands raw and all of that good stuff.  I’ve been doing my very best to get good sleep and trying my best to manage stress.

Ever since I felt a sniffle, I’ve been rubbing menthol on my feet and sucking a zinc lozenge every few hours and drinking massive quantities of tea.

I’m doing everything that statistics suggest I should to prevent and minimize colds.  So why am I still sick?

I got sick because I got sick. No matter how many steps you take, you can stick get sick at any time.  Does that mean I shouldn’t have taken those steps to try to minimize my risk and minimize my symptoms?  Well no.  The steps didn’t have many potentially negative side effects and weren’t too difficult.  And they might have worked.  And who knows, things might have been worse had I not taken those steps.

But this is the thing about statistics and health.  If there’s a 1% chance of getting sick, that means that out of every 100 people, about 1 will get sick.  And no matter how many remedies you try, no matter how strong your immune system may be, that one person might be you.  And as tempting as it might be to believe you didn’t get sick because of the mouthwash you used, or the special ritual you followed, you might not have gotten sick because of dumb luck.

So as much as we may wish to believe that we are “healthy” because we are virtuous people who eat whole grain cereal and do yoga, I think we need to give at least a passing nod to all the other stuff that goes into it.  As Fall Ferguson writes in her post on the ASDAH blog: there are many, many factors that go into whether or not a person is healthy.  Doing healthy stuff is just one of those things.  So where does this leave us?

We may wish to do stuff that increases our odds of being healthy.  How much stuff we are able to do may well be decided by our socioeconomic status or access to good healthcare.  How effective those healthy behaviors are may well be decided by our genetic makeup.  How much stuff we choose to do is up to each and every one of us.  It’s time we give up the notion that being healthy is “virtuous” and being sick is a sign that we are “weak, lazy, undisciplined or unconcerned”.  Sometimes we just got sneezed on by the wrong person at the wrong time.  There are no guarantees.

So even though I feel tired, and cranky and stuffed up and sneezy and sick, I choose not to bother feeling guilty.


The Fat Chick

P.S. Still waiting to hear when our Katie Couric episode will air.  Will keep you posted!  oxoxoxoxox


Why I Write About Health


There are times when I and other fellow bloggers in the fatosphere are criticized for talking about fat and health.  We are accused of healthism and ableism.  We are told we are furthering the notion of “good fatties” who eat well and exercise and “bad fatties” who don’t.  We are told that we are playing into “poster child” syndrome where fat people feel obligated to behave in a way that is outwardly healthy in order to be accepted in our society.  So I thought I’d take a moment today to talk about why I blog so much about health.

First let me state for the record that I think every human being on the planet should be treated with respect.  Whatever you choose to eat, whether or not you choose to exercise, whether or not you choose to go to the doctor–however you choose to live your life, that’s your choice.  No one has the right to call you names or choose not to hire you or give you health insurance based on the way you look.

Second let me state that I am one person who happens to write a blog.  I am not the end all and be all authority of what it means to be a fat person.  I do not speak for or represent all fat people everywhere.  I am one person, and I report my experience from my perspective.  And in my world and from my perspective health is very important to me.  So I write about it.  That doesn’t mean that there are not other very important things to write about.  Some people write about being fat and wearing fashionable clothes.  Some people write primarily about being fat and social justice.  Some people write about being fat and having a fabulous sex life.  These are all perfectly wonderful things to write about.  There is not one single one of us fat people who can write about the entire experience of being a fat person and cover every angle, every detail and every nuance of what it is to be a fat person in our society.  We all write from different viewpoints, and I say vive la différence.

I also understand that not everybody is coming at health from the same place and with the same access.  Not everyone has access to good, affordable medical care.  Not everyone has a safe place in their neighborhood to go for a walk.  Some people cannot walk.  Not everybody has access to the food they would like to eat or the fitness resources they might like to utilize.  Not everybody has much free time in their lives to focus on anything other than earning enough money to survive and to shoulder the responsibilities they have for caring for family members.  I get it.  I offer what resources I can when I can.  I offer resources understanding that accessing these resources may prove very difficult if not impossible for some people.  Again, I am not everything to everybody.  But if I can be something to somebody, I’ll keep doing what I do.

As I said, I write about health because it is a topic that is important to me.  And since health has always been important to me, understanding that Health At Every Size (R) was even possible was an important step on my personal journey to self acceptance.  Because when I believed that being fat was necessarily and unquestionably a death sentence, I had a hard time with the idea that being fat was okay for me.  I understand that there are no guarantees in life.  I am not nor will I ever be “in perfect health”.  In fact, I don’t believe “perfect health” even exists.  Health is a continuum along which we all travel back and forth from hour to hour and day to day.  And when I am sick and when I am injured and when I face health limitations, it doesn’t mean I was a good fat person or a bad fat person.  It means I am a human person.  And I’m okay with that.  But knowing about HAES (R) was unquestionably important to me.

Just because I write about health does not mean that I think it should be important to everybody.  But I want people to know, that if being healthy is important to them, health is possible at every size.  They can choose to have a health focus in their lives without choosing to spend a lot of their life losing weight.  If health is important to you, there are plenty of things besides weight upon which you can choose to focus that are statistically likely to help you be healthy and may have a positive impact on your quality of life.

Another reason that I choose to write about health is that fears about our health have been used to bully fat people into some very dubious health practices by people who may be well meaning or may simply want to earn a lot of money from us.  Frankly, before I decide to have gastric bypass surgery, or take weight loss medications or ingest a tapeworm or empty my stomach contents into a bucket in the name of health, I want to understand the true story of the health risks of engaging in these behaviors as well as the health risks of not engaging in these behaviors.  I want to understand alternative treatments.  If engaging in a little bit of moderate exercise is likely to have a better health outcome than a surgery which permanently alters the way I digest food, that is something I want to know.  Not everybody in the world may want to know that.  It doesn’t mean that everybody in the world is obligated to choose moderate exercise.  But if there is an alternate therapy that costs very little and has very few side effects then I am going to talk about it.  I am going to share that possibility.  You can pick it up or leave it alone as you choose.  You can read my blog that day or be completely uninterested and read something else, it’s up to you.

Look, in my little blog corner of the world, I can choose to serve pancakes.  Maybe somebody else will choose to serve lobster.  I think I can serve pancakes without in any way disparaging the lobster chefs or lobster eaters out there.  Thankfully life is a giant buffet with infinite choices.  Fill your plate with the things that make you happy.


The Fat Chick


Where there is Hatred, Let’s Sow Love


Recently my good friend Deb Lemire sent me a link to this amazing Ted talk.   Why not go take a look right now?  It’s that good.  I’ll wait.

It’s clear to me that Lynne is an amazing woman–one I’d love to meet one day.  She said many, many true and moving things in her short talk.  But one of the things I’d particularly like to talk about today is her discussion of the war on obesity, and her assertion that war is about hate.

I think it’s important to share this business about this war on obesity.  There are new people every day who join the ‘righteous’ and march out in this war.  The recruits are now younger and younger with indoctrination beginning in kindergarten and even preschool.  So what’s wrong with it?  Why not fight against this crushing “disease” which is “killing our children”?

In answer, I’d like to begin with two words: collateral damage.

I think many of us have been caught in the “friendly fire” of the war on obesity.  Many of us have seen the disapproving looks as we dare to order a roll (maybe even with real butter!) to eat with our salads.  We’ve been photographed and filmed with our heads cut off and displayed for the wartime propaganda.  We’ve been made scapegoats and blamed for everything from high prices for flying and insurance to global warming.  We have been named bad parents and some of us have even had our children torn from our grasp.  We are the butt of the joke, the cautionary tale, the perennial ‘before’ photo and the ’cause of the downfall of the human race’.

Except, for one problem.  It ain’t necessarily so.  There is little evidence that fat people raise health insurance rates to any significant degree.  Flying is expensive because of a whole host of reasons including  high fuel prices, inept airline management, a complex web of travel taxes and tariffs and poor aircraft upkeep among many other factors.  There is little reason to blame fat people for any of the problems the world is facing right now.

And even beyond those issues, there is one other.  The war can’t be won this way.  You can’t hate fat people thin.  For all the marching and the propaganda and the fabulous uniforms and billions of dollars spent, people aren’t getting any thinner.  All the money we’re spending and the people being emotionally and physically damaged in the crossfire is for nothing.  We are not making people any thinner.

I’d say that perhaps some of this money should be spent on determining what should be done to make the world healthier and happier without causing massive casualties from collateral damage, except we already know what actually works.  It’s called Health At Every Size or HAES and it’s for every BODY.  There is a lot of evidence that healthy habits are a better determinant of health at all sizes than body size.  So HAES simply suggests that we work on making healthy behaviors available and attractive to folks of all sizes, and stop trying to make fat people into thin people.

Why can’t we focus on health irrespective of size?  Why can’t we focus on making healthy options like good locally sourced food and safe places to walk and play for people of all sizes, races and economic levels?  Why can’t we focus on teaching our children to love and respect their own bodies and those of everyone around them?

We can.  As it says in the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, “where there is hatred let us sow [your] love”.  So, let’s do it!  Let’s commit to being body pacifists.  Let’s throw down our weapons and walk out on the battlefields and bring aid and succor to those who are hurting out there.  Let’s find the kids who are wandering around shell shocked and bewildered and show them that there is another way.  That making a healthier body is about having a healthier community and a healthier world forged from love and not hate.  “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”


The Fat Chick