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Dublin: 3 °C Saturday 20 January, 2018
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Dear Fifi: Why is it not okay to shame people over their weight?

Tuesday evenings mean a new Dear Fifi.

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Well holy God. It’s only gone and bloody turned October. The evenings are getting shorter and we’re hurtling towards Christmas. Guys, I don’t mean to wish our lives away but it’s practically 2018 already.

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Dear Fifi,

My issue is that it’s not seen as acceptable to shame fat people. Grinds my gears that people complain about airline seats, or clothes not being made for them when it’s their own agency that created the problem. If I put on weight I go to the gym and eat less. It’s not that hard. You can’t complain about how society treats you when you decide to eat four different types of cheese for dinner.

Obesity causes serious health problems that directs the health budget away from real issues. If someone is on Twitter bragging about their takeaway, they give up their right to complain that people look unfavorably upon that person’s weight. Fat positivity is about the same as people with bad personal hygiene trying to be odour positive. It’s a safe assumption to presume that overweight people are lazy and lack control.

Let’s pause before I get into the nitty gritty of this. This is a genuine question: what the hell does other people’s weight have to do with you?

Before you tell me it’s about health… I guess you’re simmering with silent rage at everyone you see drinking a pint and having a fag too, right? Give me a break. There’s more at play here.

Whether or not you want to accept it, we’re all socialised by a culture that’s stacked up to be unequal. That means we wind up sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist and fatphobic, amongst other things, to varying degrees. We all have to work against the shitty messages we’ve been bombarded with since birth. None of us exist in a vacuum. Believe it or not, you didn’t come to these discriminatory, unkind opinions about fat people all by yourself.

You’ll get irritated when I say that. But take a sec to unpack why you think other people’s weight is your concern. Why does it bother you to be told it doesn’t have anything to do with you? Why do you feel entitled to judge? Why is this – of all things on God’s green earth – the issue that moves you?

To get some perspective on this, I contacted writer and podcaster Bethany Rutter. She wanted to address some of the gammy science you mentioned in your letter – which she correctly described as more rant than problem.

I’ve included Bethany’s response verbatim, as I think it rather deftly deconstructs some of the things you think to be “true” about weight loss.

It seems what you want is to never see or hear from another fat person, right? Like that’s the crux of your problem: that fat people exist, and you wish we would just starve ourselves thin so you don’t have to see us anymore. Well, angry correspondent: did you know that long-term weight loss is basically impossible?
Did you know that the likelihood of someone keeping the weight they lose off for five or more years is 5%? Did you know that most weight loss research (and most weight loss research is funded by weight loss groups) only follows people for 18 months? Newsflash, buddy: diets don’t work. They just don’t! If they did, Weight Watchers and Slimming World and all those laxative teas you see plastered all over Instagram wouldn’t make as much money as they do, because people would lose weight once and keep it off for life. But where’s the money in a one-time client? Why wouldn’t you want someone to be a client for life?
The weight loss industry has figured out it’s better to force a lie on people to keep up the charade it’s going to change their life forever, over and over again. But it won’t! It’ll probably ruin my life rather than improve it. So when you’re asking me to diet my way into thinness so I meet your personal standards, you’re asking me to submit myself to everything that goes with yo-yo dieting: heart disease, insulin resistance, higher blood pressure, inflammation, and, hahahaha, long-term weight gain!
Just so, for maybe a year, maybe two, I will suddenly become acceptable to you, who hated me to begin with and will hate me again in a couple of year’s time! Doesn’t that sound sad, and counter-productive, and illogical? Kind of like the way you navigate the world, rather than trying to build meaningful connections with people who have bodies that are different to yours. You don’t want to see bodies that look like mine? I don’t want to hear opinions that sound like yours. Now, time for a four-cheese feast…

As for me? I’ll leave you with something to mull over. Those who are happy with their lot don’t tend to seek out faults in others, much less make it their crusade. Be kind. It’s a radical act.

(PS – for those looking for further rebuttal to people’s bad faith arguments on the issue of weight, Bethany recommended this article.)

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