One of the most delightful things I’ve ever read was this essay by Domenick Scudera in which he shares the details of the average day in his “gay lifestyle.” In the course of his gay day, the gay Scudera wakes up with his gay husband, eats a gay breakfast, serves as a gay hospital volunteer, teaches at a college where he is protected from discrimination for being gay, spends time with his gay husband and goes gay bowling with friends before finishing the day with a refreshing read of The Gay Agenda. Throughout his gay day, Scudera is aware that his very existence is destroying America, but he still makes the choice to be gay.
Reading this essay again, I’m struck by the many parallels between Scudera’s internalized messages of homophobia and the messages of fear, hatred, and misunderstanding that fat people receive every day. I understand that some people bristle at this comparison because, they say, gay people really don’t choose to be gay while fat people do choose to be fat. You know, I’m just not sure if that’s true.
Every single day, often multiple times a day, I see references to the “obesity epidemic” and the “very easy things” that people can do to be thin. You can, for example, stop drinking soda. You can learn to cook a few basic meals. You can take the stairs and join a gym. If you do these things, you will be thin, and everyone will breathe a sigh of relief that you’ll definitely avoid diabetes and heart disease now, since those things never happen to thin people. Also, you’ll be ever so much more attractive and that will make everyone feel a lot more comfortable around you.
Over the past several months, I’ve become more and more frustrated by these messages, because I’m fat. When I say this someone always rushes to tell me that I’m “not really that fat” or they’ll use some other euphemism like “generous” or “voluptuous” or “Ruben-esque,” but honestly, I’m just fat. That’s my body. That’s where I live. Sorry if it makes you give me the side-eye to hear me say it, but deal with it. I’m fat. And it’s not a compliment to try to convince me otherwise. I’m fat, so when you talk about “obesity epidemic” or the things that you think make people fat, or the things that you think could make a fat person thin, you’re talking about me. And no, you don’t really care about my health, because if you did, the last thing you would tell me to do is to diet, AKA “detox.” You would not make assumptions about my “lifestyle.”
When I see the umpteenth article about weight loss, invariably titled something like, “The 17 Things That Helped Me Lose 250 Pounds Forever By Which I Mean the Past 18 Months and How You Can Too Because Our Bodies Are Genetically and Environmentally Identical,” I scan through them looking for the thing, the Truly New Idea, the Groundbreaking Medical Research, the Holy Grail that I have not tried. And I am always disappointed. The article is always laden with assumptions about my fat lifestyle that just aren’t true. These earnest lists just aren’t inspiring to me, because my fat lifestyle includes things like…
Surprisingly enough, I know what they are. I can identify several on sight. I even know how to prepare them. Yesterday was very busy so my family had leftover pizza for dinner, but I can’t eat that, so I baked a salmon fillet with a big mess of asparagus and edamame pods on the side. Since I’m fat, those were the first vegetables I’d eaten in weeks, and I barely got through half of them before running for a Snickers bar. Just kidding, I actually had vegetables for breakfast and lunch as well. When I’m not hitting the drive-thru for two Adiposeburgers and three sides of fries, my lunch most days is a big salad of romaine, radicchio, and baby spinach with white beans or tuna. A few weeks ago I decided to incorporate vegetables into breakfast as well, so if you add in dinner, which always includes a salad as well as filling half of my plate with vegetables, I get 8-10 servings every day. I’m still fat, though, so maybe I should stop that. It’s obviously not working.
I’ll be honest, fruit is a challenge. I have to make a conscious effort to eat fruit as a snack, which seems like a generally healthy habit, unless it’s a banana which obviously causes the ‘beetus. I’ve gotten much better in the past few months, though. I rarely snack — I know, as a fat person I should be eating at least one family-size bag of Cheetos every day, but I do find that challenging on the ol’ digestive system — but when I do I really try to have fruit, maybe with some nuts if I’m feeling especially peck-ish. Which I rarely do because my meals are absolutely ENORMOUS, like two entire eggs with the yolk and everything, and I like to have at least one stick of melted butter in my coffee, because maintaining a body this gigantic takes real effort.
Whole grains & legumes
I love me some beans, which is good because if there’s anything that definitely makes people fat, it’s high-fiber foods. I can hear the paleo dieters nodding with sage wisdom now — so THIS explains it. I got terrifically fat eating brown rice! It’s true, that’s just how it happened. I gained a good chunk of weight as a vegan living on whole wheat tortillas, tempeh, and kale and riding a bike as my only mode of transportation. Crazy, right? I can’t explain it. Maybe some of it was inflammation from wheat consumption, and perhaps because I was using a steroid inhaler on a daily basis, but that makes no sense since the only way to get fat is by shoveling prosciutto down your gullet with a back-hoe. Search me.
I’ll be honest, I do have white rice sometimes. I used to allow only brown rice, but over the years I’ve come to accept that white rice is fine with curries and other foods containing fats and proteins that can lower the overall glycemic load of the meal. Most fat people have never heard of the glycemic index of course, but it popped up as an ad on a recipe for deep-fried bacon-wrapped Butterfingers so I kinda couldn’t avoid it.
My goal is 100 grams of protein a day and most of the time I reach that goal. I don’t use protein powders or anything, I just eat eggs, beans, dairy products, tofu, fish, and meat. Meat is expensive and I don’t always feel great about eating it, so I try to stay on the bean & egg side and have red meat and pork just once or twice a week. I know that protein is supposed to help you be thin but don’t worry, I have other daily goals that support my choice to be fat. I go for AT LEAST 500 grams of high-fructose corn syrup and 40 grams of trans fat, which is challenging since for the most part I don’t eat packaged foods. It’s hard work being fat but two-thirds of the population’s gotta do it!
Dairy is my weakness and my #1 method for staying fat. I like it all — real butter, whole milk, full-fat yogurt with the cream on top, and fancy cheeses that make me a whimper a little at the check-stand. Just yesterday I bought a new cheese, Truffle Tremor, and had that for lunch along with Van’s crackers, fancy green olives, and blueberries — a fine specimen of an obesigenic meal. Over the years I’ve often wondered if my dairy habit is responsible for my fatness, but then again, I was vegan for four years and still gained weight, plus I was sad because no cheese. So now I am not vegan, not sad, and still fat, so probably it’s a wash.
I did have a recent shift, though, and have somewhat preferred less fat in my meals. So I eat low-fat yogurt now (not fat-free, the additives ruin the texture of the yogurt), and I also switched to milk instead of half & half in my coffee. That amounted to a loss of about 150 calories a day but it’s fine, I’m still fat.
My understanding is that whole entire books have been written about how going gluten-free even if you really have no medical need to complicate the next several decades of the your life will give you six-pack abs and add three inches to your penis, but I can’t say I’ve experienced those benefits. I just spend a lot less time in the bathroom and my bone mass has stabilized and boring shit like that. If anything I’ve actually gained weight since going gluten-free, so y’know, consider yourself warned. It’s great for me though, since I choose to be fat.
As a fat person I should of course be consuming loads of sugar. I do like maple syrup in my coffee, maybe two teaspoons per day. Occasionally I make desserts… I know I should do it more often but since I don’t diet anymore (duh, that’s why I’m fat), I don’t have much of a taste for sugar. Sometimes I buy ice cream and it just sits in the freezer for, like, weeks, even though I could pound down a whole pint in a night when I was dieting. Don’t worry, though, despite consuming very little sugar I’m still fat.
I drink soda once or twice a year in very small quantities — I have tried to drink more so as to stay fat but it hurts my head and stomach. I used to consider it a special treat to have a soda at the movie theater, but then I made friends with a film buff and started going to the movies once a week instead of just a few times a year, and very quickly lost my taste for soda altogether. This is a real bummer since soda is an absolute necessity for maintaining a high body weight — I’ve heard so many stories of people who stopped drinking soda and the pounds just melted away, and of course their bodies did not compensate for the calorie loss in any way so the weight never came back.
Speaking of calories, I track them. I know that fat people are not supposed to be aware of what we’re eating because as soon as we have to confront the reality of 1500 daily calories from Frappuccinos alone we’ll just drop half of our body weight, but I do it anyway and the other half of my body hasn’t gone anywhere.
I chart six days a week with one “free” day in which I don’t eat differently but just have a little break from tracking. I aim for a maintenance caloric intake, and I don’t “eat back” exercise calories deliberately, but I will eat if I’m hungry, like only fat people do. I don’t stress if I go over my calorie goal, but I do try to be a little more conscious the next day, and I’ve noticed that I am generally less hungry and often want to be more active if that happens. It’s almost like my body wants to stay at this grotesquely fat weight, but we all know this can’t possibly be true.
In the past I have deliberately restricted calories, since that’s how the fat get thin and stay thin forever, but I tend to get depressed, my hair and skin suffer, I feel very tired and prefer not to exercise, it takes longer to recover, I get sick a lot and just generally feel crappy, which is all good because it means I just get to stay fat. It’s a choice every day to be fat instead of depressed and sickly, a choice that I joyfully embrace because I really enjoy making people pay more for their health insurance.
Here it is, my secret to staying really, really fat: I don’t like to exercise. As a kid I wasn’t very active because I had asthma, and also because I lived in Arizona and if I went outside I’d sweat and get sunburned and possibly die from heat exhaustion. I still hate to sweat more than just about anything. Exercise is both supportive and detrimental for asthma — cardio increases lung capacity but can also induce asthma attacks, which I like to avoid even though I’m pretty sure steroid medication helped me become super fat. So I don’t do cardio-style exercise very often. But I do walk my dog for 30 minutes a day, and I just added another 30-minute walk in the mornings so that’s 60 minutes a day. It’s not exactly leisurely but luckily I still haven’t lost weight from it.
I also lift weights every other day, nothing very serious since I choose to maintain a pathological ratio of body fat. When we move to Portland I plan to get a bike and use public transportation as much as possible, thereby including “functional movement” in my daily life. I don’t expect this to induce weight loss, however, since many studies have indicated that exercise isn’t very effective for weight loss, and because I’ve been very active in the past while still being fat.
I don’t consider it exercise, but I practice yoga regularly, working up to daily since I’m really excited to attend Fat Yoga when we move to Portland. (I understand if that link surprises you since I, too, thought that the only people who practiced yoga were thin, white, able-bodied, and magazine-ready, but apparently a wide range of body sizes, shapes, and ability levels can enjoy yoga!) I also meditate and explore non-denominational Buddhism, and have a very positive sex life and get plenty of sleep.
Some people say that such practices are important adjuncts to weight loss, but that hasn’t happened for me — rather, they help me accept and even appreciate my fat body instead of constantly fighting against myself. They give me a lens through which to examine weight-loss culture and resistance to change, aging, and death. All of this allows me to stay fat while still making choices that are generally considered healthy.
Real life doesn’t usually match up to our simplistic expectations, and that’s really upsetting to some people. That’s why some folks look at fat people like me and think that they know something. They know how I live and what I eat. They know that if I just put coffee in my rectum I’d shed the fat attached to my body. They know if I just go paleo or vegan, eat “clean” or high-raw, eliminate ___________, take supplements, drink green smoothies, intermittently fast, eat spirulina and chia and goji berries, live a white person’s interpretation of the Mediterranean or Okinawan or Inuit lifestyle, do Crossfit and Zumba and run marathons, I’ll be thin.
These talismanic rules are predicated on the belief that thinness is always best, always worth pursuing, that weight loss is usually successful and sustainable, and that a fat person who becomes thin has the same body as a person who has always been thin. But the science to prove these ideas isn’t quite there, so what it really comes down to is that people have been indoctrinated to prefer thinness, to consider fatness ugly, on a level so deep and intimate they can’t even hear their own thoughts about it. The argument from health is just used to bolster a general dislike for fat people, just as people will argue that being gay is bad for children or for society at large when really, the thought of gay sex just kinda squicks them out.
If anyone really cared about fat people being healthy, the last thing they’d suggest is weight loss. Restricting calories or macros or both may result in short-term weight loss, but in the long term, the weight comes back for the vast majority of people, and an increasing load of research indicates this is for physiological reasons and not just because fat people are stupid and lazy. When the weight comes back, or even if it stays off, there are metabolic consequences that may not be present in a person with a stable high weight. Indeed, a person with a stable high weight who engages in positive health practices can be just as healthy as a thin person, or even healthier than a thin person who engages in no such practices.
This is why Health At Every Size is such a profound paradigm shift, and so critical to the future of healthcare for everyone. Most people who are not currently thin will never become thin. Most people who become thin will not stay thin. Many people who are currently thin will someday become fat. Is reducing scale weight really the best we can do for everyone’s health? If people improve their diets, become more active, relieve their stress, improve their metabolic markers, and remain fat, have they failed? Should we really allow our hatred of fat people — of ourselves — to go unexamined?
If the knowledge that the “lifestyle” of a person we dislike is basically the same as ours is unsettling — because we are so afraid of becoming that person, or having to engage with that person as if they are equivalent in value to ourselves — that’s an experience worth pondering.
If you’ve gotten this far… thanks for reading.