“Fat is Fabulous?” … Enabling vs. Tough Love vs. “Shaming”

This one may get me in trouble.  I concede that. Hopefully people will read this completely, to the end, and not just assume what I’m going to say and switch off. If you choose to, well, hopefully you’ll come back.

A few things I am NOT going to say:

  1. Fat people (or “morbidly obese,” to use the medical term) are all lazy, shiftless, good for nothing’s who care nothing for themselves and are too lazy to stop shoving food in their face. That’s a broad brush statement, and, in some cases is simply not true. I am well aware that there are legitimate disabilities, physical and genetic challenges, as well as side effects from medications and other issues that can make weight gain almost inevitable, and weight loss VERY difficult.  (The flip side of that is that, far too often, that is used as an excuse for being morbidly obese when such conditions do not exist, but I digress)
  2. Fat people deserve to be made fun of, shamed, put down, and otherwise ostracized in public, and at every chance. NO. There are only two groups of people that I believe deserve to have the above things done to them; pedophiles and rapists. (At the risk of sounding belligerent, if that makes me a bad person, I don’t know what to tell you. I’d rather you think me a “bad” person than a dishonest one.) Other than that, I don’t engage in or support the idea that by shaming people, we’ll make them better. There are far too many studies to list that say the exact opposite, especially as concerns people who are already obese. Feel free to do a search for “Does shaming work?” and draw your own conclusions. I never claimed to be the voice of God, after all.
  3. Fat is anything over your BMI. BMI has been shown to be misleading, outdated and in some cases, even dangerous. There are too many factors to being healthy then can be shown in a simple “height vs. weight ratio.” (In point of fact, my own cardiologist told me that should I ever reach MY BMI, he’d be concerned for me because I’d most likely look like a scarecrow) There’s a difference between “plus size” and “obese.” I don’t define healthy (nor do many, actually) by the airbrushed bikini model, or the Barbie doll.
  4. Being fat is o.k., healthy, and if you say anything different, you’re a bigoted, narrow minded hater and you just can’t stand to let people live their own lives.

Like most, you were probably with me until we hit number 4. Number 4 may enter the realm of “Ouch! Wait a second” because it requires two things that seem to be in short supply in our society today  – the ability to show tough love, and the ability to not engage in enabling. Too many people believe that “unconditional love” means you accept every single thing about a person, good and bad, and never, ever say anything about the bad because, if you do, well, you don’t love them unconditionally.

Well, no. That’s not true. It’s not true from a social standpoint, nor from a moral standpoint, nor even from a psychological standpoint. As the image associated with today’s post says, “Unconditional love doesn’t mean you have to unconditionally accept bad behaviors.” The hard reality of life is that being obese is not healthy. It’s not good for your body. It leads to increased chances of far too many health problems for me to list here. Feel free to check them out yourselves: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/risks

So what’s the Boot of Truth? The Boot is this – I am not, for a moment, suggesting that we stop every obese person on the street and start lighting into them about the harm they are doing themselves, or the ticking time bomb that is going to go off in our health care system as all these obesity related health issues come to pass. Not at all. People STILL have to choose the life they live. I am, however, saying that we can take a stand against the Social Justice Warriors who try and spread the lie that if you don’t agree that “Fat is Normal, Harmless and Beautiful,” you’re some kind of bigot by refuting it with facts and refusing to go along with it. Shaming someone is not the same thing as telling the truth, any more than quoting crime statistics makes you a racist because in some areas of the country, more blacks are killed by other blacks than they are by other races or ethnic groups. I AM saying that if you have loved ones or friends who are seriously overweight, love them enough to say something. (In the case of friends, I would also add the caveat that it depends on the level of friendship and trust you have with them. Not all friendships are the same, or of the same depth.) That tired old trope about the husband sleeping on the couch because he spoke about his wife’s weight may be good in a TV sitcom, but will it be as funny if someday, you’re looking down at her in a funeral home because she died of a weight related illness? Wives, would it be worth it if it’s your husband who died FAR too early of a massive heart attack/stroke because he was overweight and “Oh well, I didn’t want to hurt his feelings” or even worse, “It’s not my place to judge.” Would it be worth it were it a friend whom you loved dearly but to whom you never said anything, for the same reasons?

HERE’S A HOT NEWS FLASH – IT’S NOT JUDGING SOMEONE TO LOVE THEM ENOUGH TO POINT OUT WHEN THEY ARE HURTING THEMSELVES. I, personally, have buried far too many people who, had they had someone who cared enough to speak to them (and to be fair, they had chosen to listen), may have lived longer. Not saying something and allowing someone to continue with self-destructive behaviors or harmful behaviors, whatever they may be, isn’t love. It’s enabling. (Do a search for Compassion vs. Enabling. It’s eye opening, believe me)

As much as I find the web page “Rational Wiki” to be distasteful in many respects, I agree with these statements, with which I’ll close:

“Studies have shown that actually shaming obese people really will do nothing to encourage them to lose weight, and will probably make matters worse by provoking comfort eating and other negative psychological effects. The problem comes when HAES (Health At Every Size) advocates interpret genuine, well-intentioned offers of support from medical practitioners or family members as “shaming”, refuse to recognize their obesity as a problem or refuse to even recognize their obesity exists or can (or should) be defined as existing.

There is also nothing intrinsically wrong with self-acceptance, but balanced self-reflection and self-criticism is also an important component of normal psychological well being — “I hate all of myself entirely and I am awful” and “I unconditionally love everything about myself and I am perfect” are almost as unhealthy as each other, while HAES would have one believe that the latter is the right approach, ignoring the more sensible middle ground of reasonable self-critique. Similarly, an obsession with weight and calorie intake to the exclusion of all else is extremely unhealthy (indeed, that is more or less the definition of an eating disorder) but that isn’t what anyone (least of all a doctor) would rationally advocate or is advocating, and it certainly doesn’t mean that completely ignoring calorie intake or weight is a good idea. The real solution is to do what humans are meant to do; eat a sensible, balanced diet rich in vegetables and complex carbohydrates and low on (not entirely without) sugars and simple/refined carbohydrates and processed foods.”

Thank God I have a wife who cares enough to watch out for me, and I for her. Can you say the same, if not about a wife or husband, then about a friend? Do YOU care enough about them, or they about you, to be able to speak to you in love and compassion, or do they have to enable you, or you them, in order to show they “really” care about you?

Think about it.

God bless today, my friends.