On reclaiming "health"

Got a couple concern trolly comments on my last post trying to enforce conventional moralizing about health. Which is pretty par for the course. While I feel a lot of "good fatty" fretting amounts to a straw-man argument, there are people who do promote this kind of bargaining. Its just rarely the so-called "good fatty". More commonly, I've seen it coming from people who are far more interested in the prosecution of bad fatties. They magnamonously agree to let a platonic "good fatty" off the hook so long as we all agree the bad fatties are SUPER BAD. I don't agree that any fatties are really falling for this, but it clearly exists and clearly should be resisted.

These are the people who like to shame fat people who are diabetic or who have high blood pressure or PCOS or... well, as you might imagine the list will go on. Rest assured, when all is said and done, they will probably ensure that no "good" fatty even remains, but they'll have flattered their sense of even-handedness by offering their false compromise. There is this notion that fat acceptance can't be "serious" or "realistic" without playing by their rules, and I'm sure some fat people buy into this. In the end, though, every fatty will be a bad one.

Which is what troubles me when my fellow fat persons feel the need to self-identify within their system. Because their system has no room for our health at all. Their system will only ever look at us and think we're ignorant, making excuses, looking for an easy way out. I said that I refuse to be excluded from "health" because I have high blood pressure and the snarky attack is that I'm glorifying high blood pressure. This is why we can't play by their rules. Not just in theoretically self-identifying as "good", but also self-identifying as "bad". In the end, they will always moralizing our lives because we have fat bodies. We have to break this and reclaim health. Not by their rules and standards, but by ones which are free from their shaming and which affirm the right for all fat people to receive health care free of shaming, stigmatization, and judgment.

When I talk about reclaiming "health", I mean the word. Not the concept as those who stigmatize and moralize define it. I don't want that because all that is is an unattainable standard. It has nothing to offer us. It wants us to be ashamed of our health concerns. No. I will not be. Fat acceptance is for all fat people. Those with health concerns, those who differently abled, all of us. We need to move past the shame and stigmatization of good vs. bad, healthy vs. unhealthy. We need to reclaim "health" as something we all have a right to. Not as something withheld if we have a condition to care for. As much as they want to make us out to be looking for excuses, what fat acceptance is really fighting for is for every fat person to have a chance to have their health needs addressed as they desire and without shaming. We are past their rules of healthy and unhealthy. Their rules have failed us and are failing us. When fat acceptance talks about "health", we aren't talking about what our fat shaming culture is talking about. We aren't trying to tweak their rules, we are tearing them down to their very foundation so that we can construct something that will actually serve our needs and wishes.


silentbeep said...

Exactly. To put it bluntly: you are one of the very few FA bloggers that talks about fat and health in the right way, if I do say so myself! lol

"We aren't trying to tweak their rules, we are tearing them down to their very foundation so that we can construct something that will actually serve our needs and wishes."

I cannot agree with this more because regardless of our so- called 'moral behavior' none of us deserve to die and be refused adequate medical care, because we are fat. Period. To be told, over and over again, "go home and lose weight then we'll talk" is not good enough. No one deserves to suffer because doctors and/or nurses are invested in the idea, that fat people are just "acting bad" and they don't deserve listening, care and medical treatment that does not absolutely require weight loss. Even for some of the so-called 'good fatties' people accuse them of lying anyway so whatever so called "approval points" good fatties get for "right behavior" doesn't really matter- that approval I think is largely a myth. People often don't believe fat people when we tell them that yeah sometimes we eat vegetables (sometimes we are vegan or vegetarian) or sometimes we go to the gym: we are often straight out accused of lying.

Brian said...

VERY glad to see you commenting again, silentbeep.

It isn't really like I have some big disagreement with the people objecting to the "problem" with so-called good fatties. I completely object to any health shaming, I just don't feel like it originates from fat acceptance. It originates from people who say things like "I appreciate some of what fat activists are saying, but..." and I don't consider that fat acceptance. I don't buy into this "fat acceptance is whatever you think it is" deference. If your "fat acceptance" sets rules for acceptable fat, then its NOT fat acceptance. But that might be another post.

silentbeep said...


Oh I agree: if someone is using their so called "good" behavior to "justify their fat" or some such thing, it's not fat acceptance, and it's not coming from fat acceptance: it's the same old mainstream way of thinking about fat people, in a different form, appropriating and twisting some FA talk. It's not the same thing.

ZaftigWendy said...

This is exactly why I find it hard to admit to having diabetes. I know that I didn't do anything to "earn" this disease, but I know that as soon as people find out that I have it, I become a "bad fattie" in their mind. I can see it click in their head. And even the look in their eye hurts. It's not enough for them that I have to draw blood daily, that I had to radically change my diet, that I have to take medications with seriously unpleasant side effects, and that I may lose a kidney anyway, but I have to deal with their judgment and self-righteous hatred at the same time.

Brian said...

I had the same hesitation about acknowledging my hypertension, Wendy. I definitely get where people are coming from in feeling stigmatized this way, but that shame is coming first and foremost from our culture. I don't think fat acceptance perpetuates it even by pointing out fat people who don't have these health concerns. The intent of that is not to say "well, these fat people are okay". Its to say that the judgments being made about fatness are verifiably false. It absolutely would be silly for us to say "You are 100% lying about this, but I'm sure everything else you say must be completely accurate". I don't get people who insist for FA to be taken seriously we have to defer to a perspective so easily disproven. I think what fat acceptance advocates for isn't an especially radical idea, but it does demand very radical change because the status quo is actually quite extremist.

Brian said...

Yes, biomechanical. I have very little tolerance for people using my site as a forum to fat shame me so I normally remove concern trolling on sight. I felt it worth remarking upon even after the removal this time for the particular level of entitlement on display since they weren't merely concern trolling fat acceptance but also specifically fat shaming me.

Anonymous said...

I hope you don't mind, but I just yoinked that last paragraph as a quote to post on Tumblr. I want that heard as many places as possible!

Anonymous said...

From comments I've seen in other blogs I think some people got the idea that you were saying you were refusing treatment for hypertension because you didn't believe it was a problem. I don't think that's what you were saying. I thought you were saying that just because you have high blood pressure (presumably kept under control by meds?) you should not be excluded from the category of 'healthy'. Did I understand you correctly? If so, you might want to clarify it for those who did not.

Brian said...

@biomechanical In this context "fatty" is probably being used in both a satirical and a reclaimatory way. In generally, though, "fatty" is being used as a reclaimed word by fat activists, though.

@fatheffalump Of course I don't mind. I hope to have a follow-up expanding on that point up today.

@Anonymous I'm aware of people misinterpreting what I said. I don't owe them anything, though. Their lack of clarity is willful and stems from me not displaying what they consider the appropriate level of shame for my health needs. This post was my response. If I didn't handhold them through their most egregious and most unsupported "misunderstanding", it was purposeful. I am not going to take serious complaints from people who put words in my mouth. They added their own meanings to what I said, and I cannot answer to their prejudices.

Well-Rounded Mama said...

I'm not aware of all the stuff that went on elsewhere about this, but I applaud you for not letting concern trolls define health for you, and for not hiding your hypertension.

The truth is that, as we age, many people of ALL sizes will develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, or whatever. A lot of it is your genetic predisposition. Lifestyle does have some impact but even a great lifestyle can't overcome some genetic predispositions or underlying metabolic differences. There are many factors that affect health and we must stop thinking of it so simplistically.

At some point, MOST people get SOMETHING that needs treatment. It's just that when fat people do, the stigmatization is tremendous. So you speaking out about it is a huge help for many out there who are probably not talking about it openly. Bravo you. Kudos.

Moose said...


I really love the "of course you have {diabetes, high blood pressure,cholesterol and/or triglyceride issues, sleep apnea, joint problems, insanity, desire to become an axe murderer, etc. etc. etc.}, you're FAT!"

Answer this riddle: if every fat person gets all the "bad health" that fat is supposed to bring, how the hell are fat people living to 70 or 80 or older?

Recently I saw a Dr at a free medical clinic [for us poor people without insurance] where, I will give them this, there is a NO JUDGEMENT policy. Nobody ever ever ever has told me "You have to lose weight" or even brought up my weight unless it was completely relevant [ex: We need to give you a higher dose because the 'standard' dose is designed for people who weigh up to 200 lbs.].

For some weird reason, *I* brought up my weight -- I wound up mentioning to the Dr that many years ago I was told I would die before I was 30, then I was told I would die before I saw 40, and that I'm looking for some Dr to tell me I will not make 50 so I can win the Trifecta. She thought this was hilarious (in the "Some Drs are nitwits" kinda way).

Erin S. said...

The comment I see a lot, speaking of "you won't live to..." comments -- people going on about how they don't know any fat 80 year olds.

Know what? I don't know any 80 year olds with black hair! That must mean black hair is deadly!

Either that or it turns gray. Because, you know, aging. Hair turns gray, skin gets wrinkled, lots of people lose huge amounts of weight even without any health problems, etc.

Although I do admit that I am extremely envious of you Moose... we're stuck in that fun spot of not having employer provided insurance, not making enough for an individual plan, and making too much for any of the state plans. Fun fun!

Anonymous said...


I don't understand why people think that shaming is good for anything? In what situation has shaming EVER improved a person or their well being? Take that concept and apply it to parenting. I am sure that most people who abuse their children by shaming them are under the false impression that they are doing their children a service. Thankfully, most rational minded people understand that shaming has no place in good parenting. So, WHY would anyone think it is going to work in a positive way on adults? Pathetic!

The world needs to separate the issue of HEALTH from weight and size! The two simply are not connected. It is bad science. The same illnesses plague fat and thin alike! I find it funny that just because SOME people who change unhealthy behaviors happen to lose weight, they come to the conclusion that the weight was the reason for the illness and not the unhealthy behavior? How is that even logical???? WHY can't we move past all that and focus on healthy behavior!

For example, I think fast food is evil. I feel that way simply because of the way fast food makes me feel; ILL! However, I am appalled by the myth that fast food makes you fat for two reasons. #1. I don't think fat is a bad thing. I LOVE my fat and I LOVE fat on other people! It is BEAUTIFUL. #2 I hate lies and it is an outright LIE. I've known far too many inactive, unhealthy, THIN, people who live on fast food for it to be true.

Honestly, like you said, even healthy and unhealthy are irrelevant though, aren't they? It all comes down to human decency. How does an unhealthy person deserve less love and respect than a healthy one?

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