This is the original text of a comment I made to a post on Reddit titled I believe obesity (as a result of overeating and lack of exercise) should be stigmatized in the same way smoking is. It is posted in the “Change My View” subreddit, which is described as: For people who have an opinion on something but accept that they may be wrong or want help changing their view. I understand that the text below might not change other people’s viewpoints, but that’s not why I wrote it really. I wrote it because I was angry. I wrote it because I didn’t want to and didn’t feel I should have to just swallow that anger and pain for the sake of “winning” an argument with those I, admittedly and possibly unfairly, imagined as a bunch of young punks that have never had to deal with adversity in their lives … who have never had to struggle with or for anything.
And while I am not proud of my struggle or even maybe these words. While I don’t really want to take away from the other things that I put here on my blog by associating this with them. While I want this blog to mainly be about cerebral things rather than emotional diatribes. While I want this blog to be about things I consider interesting rather than about me. I do feel that what I felt and said is important enough to preserve … and this is where I do that.
I don’t want to reply to all the comments individually, so I’ll just try to collect my thoughts here …
Weight loss is hard. Only approximately 20% of those who lose 10% or more of their initial body weight are able to keep it off for one year. Keeping it off for good is even harder. Multiple studies have shown that only about 5% are successful at keeping the weight off for five years or more. All these TV shows (The Biggest Loser, Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition) and people posting success story pictures immediately after they lose a bunch of weight just feeds the horrible stereotype that all it takes for fat people to “fix themselves” is to “suck it up”, to “not give up on life”, to “grow a spine” or “have some willpower for once”.
To the person below who claims to have lost over 100 pounds, congratulations. But you’re only a “former fat guy” if you maintain for over five years. Lots of people lose weight. I lost over 90 pounds in six months and then lost another 20 in another six months. And struggled to lose more for another six months but couldn’t lose a single pound. Then I met a woman and slowly gained all of it back over the span of about two years.
Why? There were a few reasons. Because spending time with her was more important (to me and to her) than going to the gym. Because we both made good money and we liked enjoying a “decadent” lifestyle of resorts, massages, travel and, yes, food. Because I was trying to get promoted and worked my ass off for a year and a half to make it happen (it didn’t).
You know what’s really fucked up? I lost all that weight in a very expensive (it cost me $16K) and famous weight loss program. But what they didn’t tell me is that I had essentially reached what would be considered “average” body-fat-wise (22%) and didn’t really need to lose more weight to be healthy even though I was still over 300 pounds. Why didn’t they tell me? Because they are doing a long-term medical study and it skews the numbers if they tell me that I’m OK now and don’t really need to lose any more weight.
Oh? You think that over 300 pounds is still overweight? Yeah, so did I because I had been listening to all of you fuckers who don’t know anything about weight and health. I’m 6’2”, broad shouldered and barrel chested. I will never be small or lean or lithe. I could probably reach the “sunny side of 300” as I used to call it if I worked at it hard enough and long enough … but why? I was healthier than I had ever been since I was still in high school and was invited to be an Olympic swimmer. My resting heart rate was 58 and my blood pressure was 110/60. My cholesterol and triglycerides were exactly where doctors want them to be. How many of you can say the same? I was just about to turn 40 … all you 20 year olds that lose 100 pounds can suck it … try it again in 15 years. But I thought I had to lose more weight because I had bought in to the stigma! I had bought in to the idea that I needed to look like a body builder to be socially acceptable. I had bought in to all the body dysmorphia-inducing crap that all of you have that makes you think it is OK to look down on people and tell them they’re worthless and then turn around and pat yourself on the back and say that you did it for their own good.
Yes, I am completely responsible for my situation … both initially and for slipping back into this state again after having made such progress. But don’t you dare think that I am going to sit back and let you tell me I’m a bad person or there is something wrong with me because I haven’t been successful to your standards.
Hell … why stop with obesity and smoking? How about we stigmatize everything that is deemed socially unacceptable? Do you have bad credit? Let’s send you to debtor’s prison or bring back indentured servitude! Are you a slut? You should be stripped naked and scourged in the town square. That’ll teach those women to not sleep around! Are you gay? Hell … there’s a whole Wikipedia page on the things we can do to you! Are you black? … well, how about we stop there.
Fuck all of you for thinking you’re better than me and that because you happen to look the way society deems more “acceptable”, most likely through no real effort on your part, that it gives you the right to try to make me feel worse than I already do about my current situation.
And one final point about what I feel is the difference in attitude between stigmatizing smoking and obesity. I think great care has been taken in the public advertising campaigns (though perhaps not in people’s internal attitudes) to stigmatize smoking, not the smoker. What I see here is the intention to stigmatize the obese individual, not the habits that led there or the fact that modern processed foods are designed to be addictive or any of the other factors that make obesity a growing (ha-ha … see, I can do it too fuckers) problem that so many people are falling prey to. The only thing that I think will be successful in the main and in the long term is a “Love the sinner, hate the sin” approach. Support people and give them more and more ways to be healthy and let them fix their own problems their own way.