7/14/2008

fat and healthy?

I was reading this blog today, and felt compelled to write about this myself. I wanted to ask some of these questions myself. If I've read the definition of fat acceptance correctly, its safe to assume that I am not fat accepting. However, I don't believe in weight discrimination.

Is it possible, that fat people are meant to be fat and there is nothing they can do about it? I highly disagree. I keep reading this argument over and over on fat acceptance blogs and on the Joy Nash Fat Rant, that fat people can live a healthy lifestyle and still be fat.

Is this true? Please introduce me to this fat person because I have yet to meet them. Everyone I know, myself included is fat because they eat too much of the wrong foods and they aren't active enough.

Every time that I've been consistent with exercise I've lost weight, even without trying to. Its true, 10th grade PE class? Lost weight. That one spring I was really into raquet ball? Lost weight. All of the walking when I first moved to NYC? Lost weight.

I like food in general, I like healthful foods, I like baked goods, I like fried foods. I just simply cannot get on the boat of "I'm fat and healthy" because I like healthy foods AND not so healthy ones too.

Growing up in WV, I've seen a vast array of fatness. I've seen a little fat, and I've seen middle fat and I've seen really fat. However, I've never met the super active/healthy eating fat person.

If you're out there, will you please send me an email and a video of yourself on the stair master for more than 5 minutes. Or hell, running up five flights or stairs?

To me, the danger of fat acceptance is that it seems to continue the trend of denial about weight. Diabetes runs in my family, but is it just some freak occurence or did lifestyle play a role in this?

Living in NYC has been great for my awakening, there are few fat people here. Is it just a mistake, is it something in the water? No. There is a higher standard of health (and appearance) here, as in most major cities. And in some European and Asian cities as well.

When I was in college I met a Chinese girl at work. I asked her millions of questions about what she ate because I was convinced that Asian people were genetically inclined to be thin. Yes, I'm aware at how stereotypical and incorrect that assumption is. However, she was blunt about it, she told me she didn't like sweets and most people in China only ate sweets/snacks on special occasions. She mentioned how sweet American desserts were in comparison and also that in China people typically regard fresh fruit as highly refreshing after meals.

I also heard this from a friend who visited France and lost 15 lbs without even trying. She wasn't even overweight by most standards at all. But, she said when she was there she noticed that people walk a lot and they never ate between meals. They even had signs in grocery stores suggesting to avoid snacking in between meals. Snacking is highly American. Did you know that most sodas made in Europe are sweetened with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup? And that most people cook at home?

Josh also has a friend who visits Germany on a regular basis, he is not someone I would consider fat by American standards. I mean he could stand to lose 20 lbs, but I wouldn't think much about it. However, he always notes how fat he is in Germany and how much he stands out compared to everyone else.

I am very much for self-love, I've been working hard on improving my insides as much as my outsides lately and feeling good about my life in general at any weight. I believe anything can be accomplished regardless if we're at our goal weight or not, but I think its naive to assume that we are "healthy" if we can't even run (I know I can't) or because we sometimes eat healthful foods. I eat good-for-you foods all the time, even when I wasn't trying to lose weight.

Similarly, I don't believe all thin people are healthy. Its annoying when I hear someone say "they take care of themselves" regarding a thin person who doesn't eat well or exercise. I've watched some of those model shows where I seriously think I could outrun the girl that weights 100+ lbs less than me because she doesn't exercise and probably eats very little.

I guess for me, I don't believe you have to be stick thin to be healthy or happy, I just think its really harmful to believe that we are "destined to be fat" or "genetically inclined" to be fat when so many people who live totally different lifestyles aren't fat.

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18 Comments:

Blogger Marshmallow said...

Well, I exercise - for the love of it, not for weight loss sake - on average 2 hours a day, maximum 3 hours a day, and I do not have a thin physique. I have a healthy heart, low blood pressure, and good cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and resting heart rate.

And yet, I am fat.

Yes, I may have lost weight originally, but that stopped a long time ago. I eventually got fed up with trying to lose weight, and have since shifted to trying to get fitter - participating in races, and I'm about to begin training for a 2.8km (~1.74 miles) ocean swim. Then, quarter and half marathons. (running, not walking.)

Just because the fat people you interact with aren't active, I don't think its fair for you to assume that every other fat person out there is the same.

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Zayna said...

*Long comment*
Hmm. This is a tough one and ongoing debate. Because I do honestly believe that a person can be larger & healthy. One person who has inspired me is Judy Molnar author of "You Don't Have to Be Thin to Win". You asked about finding someone who can run up a flight of stairs-check out this woman she is incredible. And some people would call her fat. The same thing with Shaquille O'Neal, right? He is considered obese.

I am defining fat as being larger than what a BMI identifies as "healthy" and not being thin. Years ago, the medical establishment used to say don't eat this, exercise and lose weight. It's not genetic.

Now, if you've ever been to a surgical weight loss seminar they are like "it's genetic, you CAN'T lose weight naturally. Let us cut you open!" Why? Because it's a big business. Who can a person trust? There is so much negativity around size that it is hard to have a unbiased position. We often confuse the look of something for the health of it.

I say you have to trust your own body and a good, sympathetic doctor. At a size 14/16 I was running from my apartment in Queens around the Astoria Park and back home again while my thin friend rode her bike watching me in awe.

At the same time I was called fat by some b-tch in the streets. I was not in denial about my weight. But I also was not willing to take crap from people who assumed that my larger body was Unhealthy just because it was larger. For a person to go from, say 400 pounds to 240 pounds is wonderful and I do believe that they can be a healthy 240 pounds in comparison to the person they were.

Then again I do not have dreams of a size 6 or 8 or even 12 as a sign of health. This is not a lowered expectation but it is because I am more interested in endurance, strength, blood pressure, cardiovascular health than dress sizes.

9:12 PM  
Anonymous Token Fat Girl said...

Thank you for both of your insights. Defiantly more things to consider.

While I agree that in the world of celebrity and fashion a size, 14/16 is considered fat. I don't really consider that "fat", just overweight?

I guess when I read claims about "fat people can be healthy" my brain wants to think "yes, slightly fat people can". Even though I can make it up five flights of steps and kick may way through a 60 minute kick boxing class myself, I am hard pressed to believe that my body will naturally remain fat even if I exercise consistently and watch my diet. Which as of recently are proving to make me lose weight.

Thanks for giving me more perspectives on the subject.

I just find it disheartening that pro-fat bloggers and advocates are claiming that some people even without a medical condition can't lose weight, even if they tried.

marshmallow, I would never think (looking at your pictures and reading your blog) that you were unhealthy. But, I also think that if you weighed 50+ lbs more with the activity that you are doing now 1) wouldn't be easy and 2)you would lose weight naturally, possibly to the weight you are now?




would be considered somewhat active, but I have a hard time calling anyone who is significantly overweight active.

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Token Fat Girl said...

*both are

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Cindie said...

Shaquille ONeal is not considered "obese" by anyone. He is a very muscular man. He can bench press 400 pounds. It's a known fact that BMI is meaningless when applied to muscular people - as muscle weighs more than fat. For example Mike Tyson at his peak condition would be "obese" on the BMI charts - obviously this is a fallacy of the BMI calculation and not some sort of fact to back up a claim that "fat people can be healthy." It's nonsense as is the entire "fat acceptance" movement.

This is nothing more than excuse for fat people to remain fat. The amount of diseases and negative health conditions related with obesity are too many to write down here.

It's insane for people to claim they can be "healthy" while being significantly over weight. It's like someone claiming they are a great singer when they can't hit a single note. It's just not possible.

It's also not possible for someone to eat the right foods and to exercise consistently and not eventually lose their excess weight. Sure some people have naturally slower metabolisms than other people - but by adding muscle people can increase their metabolisms and burn more fat.

What it all comes down to is the "fat acceptance" movement is all about a denial of reality. 50 years ago there were many less fat people than there are today. Why should we be accepting of this societal move towards a sloth lifestyle?

It's like someone convincing themselves they like the smell of garbage because they live in a dumpster.

10:25 PM  
Blogger Marshmallow said...

...1) wouldn't be easy and 2)you would lose weight naturally, possibly to the weight you are now?

1) Hah, who said it was easy now! When I started exercising back when I was at my heaviest, I was ashamed of my body, not listening to it, working against it, and effectively, torturing it with exercise that I didn't enjoy. I would exercise in the middle of the night, indoors, curtains shut, as if I could then one day 'reveal myself' as a thinner person. Now that I'm realising that that thinner person will NEVER exist, I'm getting out there and enjoying my life, and enjoying exercise. And? I wish I hadn't taken so long to do it.

2) I may have lost weight naturally, but if I had been in the fat acceptance stage, I wouldn't have been beating myself up and on the emotional roller coaster that I have been on. Exercise and healthy eating may be beneficial, but the emotional fallout of the whole weight loss process, I swear, it AGED me.

In short, if I had begun exercising at that intensity, and enjoyed it much earlier, at my highest weight, whilst adopting fat acceptance, would I have lost weight? Quite possibly. The difference is I would have been much happier in my own skin, a milestone that is much more valuable to me than any number of kilos. Seriously.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous MizFit said...

powerful well thought out post.

and really great comments so far.

Im not saying a thing except Ill be back to read more-----thanks for this.


Miz.

5:56 AM  
Blogger Zayna said...

Cindie- if you look at Shaq-he is not pure muscle. Every fan knows that. He is a mixture of muscle AND fat. He weighs about 335 pounds and not all of that is sheer muscle. If it was he would look a hell of a lot different. My point is that individual bodies are just that-individual.

This is what I think blanket statements like yours miss-the complexity of individual bodies and genes. The moment you start saying things like "fat people are this" or "if every fat person" you are moving into very shallow waters.

Weight loss is a combination of exercise, nutrition, genetics (with a capital G), body type and your own emotional history.

This is why I think it is best for people to seek individualized help specific to one's own lifestyle and needs & not to go around preaching at others about a "miracle cure".

I am a health enthusiast. I also am a person who loss half of her size and gained a lot of back. So, when you write that a person must simply do this and Ouila! I am laughing a bit.

Fat cells never leave. They simply shrink. A fat person must work with that for the rest of his/her life-- so many people live "healthier" lives with a little more junk in the trunk in order to not yo-yo constantly.

Perhaps this is what's important (on both sides of the debate) --instead of making big claims like "HEALTHY" which tends to normalize specific sizes we can talk about being "healthier".

It is quite easy to drop weight but the real test is in the sustainability of the loss.That is why I am cautiously and strategically dropping weight very slowly this time around.

And like Marshmallow I am trying to enjoy my "healthier"/happier approach rather than fixate on my looks or that F word.


BTW Marshmallow-Your accomplishments are quite impressive : )

1:37 PM  
Blogger Jack & Annett said...

Great blog thanks for the info.

8:38 AM  
Anonymous giyen said...

I've approached weight loss as working on looking good from within and then having that manifest into looking good on the outside. I've been fat and unhappy and thin and unhappy.

I am now striving for healthy both mentally and physically. Then it doesn't matter how much you weigh.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Marshmallow said...

I am now striving for healthy both mentally and physically. Then it doesn't matter how much you weigh.

That, right there, is the core focus of fat acceptance and HAES (Health at Every Size). Fat Acceptance is not a means of justifying a sedantary lifestyle, which I think is what most people assume the fat acceptance movement is about.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marshmallow, out of curiosity I had a quick look at your blogs. Kudos to you for being honest about your eating and exercise. However, with all due respect, my impression is that it very much highlights the problems with the FA, intuitive eating and HAES. In short, you seem to be overestimating your exercise-related achievements and especially underestimating your daily calorie-intake in a very big way.

Finishing a 5K in something like 36minutes certainly shows that you are not completely sedentary. But you might wish to do something like the Cooper test to determine your true level of cardiovascular fitness. Doing body balance and resistance training is good for you, but if you plan to become a runner and to finish a half marathon you most definitely need to improve your cardio. It might be a good idea to start with reading mag's like Runnersworld. They have lot of good tips for beginners re. work-out schedules and nutrition.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing how some people have larger people's lives and "problems" totally figured out, just by virtue of their own experiences or "checking out" a blog? Truly, some people are gifted!

HAES seems to promote good health, good habits, and a positive body image. What could be worse? Of course, many people do not feel like larger folks are entitled to have a positive body image, or that they can feel proud of their exercise, fitness, or healthy eating habits. (Cindie, your comment about garbage and dumpsters is incredibly telling.)

However, we can't control what other people think. In the meantime, I guess I'll just continue to eat well, exercise, be happy, love Marshie's blog, and according to some people, be "insane."

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Ian said...

Interesting observations.

"Is it possible, that fat people are meant to be fat and there is nothing they can do about it? "

Absolutely not, humans evolved as hunter gathers - highly active people, who ate a diet of meat, fruit and vegs.

Fat people are not meant to be fat, it's a combination of nature, nurture and then self education and discipline about the foods you put in your mouth.

The way society and modern culture is evolving I believe has had a great impact on this. The way people live their lives has changed. Few people now go out to the mill do hard labour for 14 hr days, technology has changed all this.

"I highly disagree. I keep reading this argument over and over on fat acceptance blogs and on the Joy Nash Fat Rant, that fat people can live a healthy lifestyle and still be fat."

We're all aware of the increased risk of heart disease and diabetes from being overweight. This argument just attempts to justify reasons for not trying to get to a healthy size.

I like to think of the body as a machine, or a car, it runs best when fed the proper fuel. If you feed it the wrong fuel, you'll get poor mileage. I for one want to live a long healthy life.

Keep up the good work,

Ian

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Andrea said...

I believe you can be "overweight" according to the doctor's charts and still be healthy.

It really depends on what type of foods you are eating and how you prepare them, as well as your physical activity. The danger and potential health risks come from unhealthy eating and inactivity in my opinion.

But weight loss is a personal decision and no one should feel pressured to do anything, whether it be natural weight loss, medically assisted wieht loss/w pills, or weight loss surgery.

10:56 PM  
Blogger Maryam in Marrakesh said...

What a thoughtful and interesting post. I want to wish you lots of good luck on your weight loss journey. I am convinced you will do it.

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

The problem I have with HAES is that it seems to really be FAES, "fitness at every size." In fact, it tends to be "fitness at every size up until reality hits at age 45."

Health includes not just "I can run a 5K and climb stairs," but also having knees, hips, and a lower back that work in your golden years, being free of cancer and diabetes, not having a myocardial infarction, etc. Many of the problems associated with obesity show up in middle age, and by then it's too late to realize that fit isn't necessarily healthy.

5:57 AM  
Anonymous asian fatty said...

dear token fat girl. i am a token fat asian girl. i have been chubby or fat all my life (except from age 3-5) I am american born so i can see why it may have something to do with what i ate as a child, but then again.... thinking back as a child my mom had a hard time coping with the fact that i wasnt small, by the age of ten, i was 110 lbs. and it was not just me, it was also my two older brothers.

when it came to our diet growing up, we were very limited. no soda, no junkfood, nothing really sweet unless we went to our friends house.

as for being active i was a competitive cheerleader and dancer for six years, while still being fat. its been about 3 years since i have quit, and i have gained about 20 lbs.so being less active has changed my size a bit, but it didnt explain why i was so big to begin with. now besides being fat i have not had any other medical issues.
so i guess im leaning towards the naturally being fat attitude.


however i dont want to. i would like to think that i can lose the 90 lbs in order to be the average 120lbs a normal asian female in her 20's is.

im really torn now. i guess i hope its all fake and that no one can be naturally fat otherwise ive got no hope.

8:45 AM  

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