Do you have any idea? On walking with a new puppy and resisting “good fatty” privilege

The other afternoon I was out walking my new puppy. (A new rescue puppy. See the back story here.) It’s a fair bit of cajoling, a little rewarding, some carrying, and a few bits of actual walking. See enthusiastic (not so much, let me sleep) puppy right here.


On our way home, I ran into a neighbour with her dogs. We agreed that early socialization was great for puppies and that the walks were a good way of getting him used to meeting new people and new dogs.

“It’ll be good for you too.”

At first, I thought she meant the socialization. I’ve been joking about the challenge of being an introvert in my neighbourhood walking a puppy. Everybody stops and talks to you.

But no, she went on the explain that the exercise will be good for me. She patted her hips in a knowing way.

Right. Thanks.

I didn’t explain that I’d already ridden my bike 165 km that week and that I’d been out running three times. I kind of assume that my neighbours know this about me. There’s a lot of lycra clad people coming and going from my front porch.

I guess she didn’t see it. People certainly don’t hear it. And because the truth would contradict some basic beliefs, such as the belief that fat people are fat because we never move our fat bottoms off the sofa, it doesn’t seem to sink in.

I’ve blogged a few times about the time our department secretary recommended that I start to exercise for weight loss by getting off the bus perhaps one or two stops early. That advice might not be bad advice normally except at the time I was training for a triathlon. I was working out with the campus triathlon club most mornings, often riding my bike in the dark and the snow, to make the 6 am swims.

I thought my activity was hard to ignore. I was the chair of my academic department at that time and I was actually kind of worried about my office. Between the bicycle, the swimming clothes strewn across the bike drying, and the running clothes everywhere it looked a bit more like a locker room than the office of an academic department chair. I guess I needn’t have worried.

In the case of a fat person evidence of exercise can easily be ignored.

I tried to correct the department staff person but I didn’t correct the neighbour now. Where to start really? Exercise doesn’t necessarily lead to weight loss. You can’t tell how much someone exercisers by how much they weigh.

Partly I didn’t speak up because it’s not worth it and partly it’s because I don’t owe anybody a story about whether or not and how much I exercise.

No one asks whether I am trying to lose weight. They just assume that’s what I’m aiming at.

More and more I’m refusing to claim good fatty privilege. For why it’s a trap, see here.

It’s wrong to offer anyone unasked for health advice. It’s rude.

I just shook my head smiled and walked away.

Happy puppy update: He’s walking better….we’ll work on running later….and getting up to speed on that necessary academic dog skill of walking to coffee shops and quietly sitting under my chair while I work.


16 thoughts on “Do you have any idea? On walking with a new puppy and resisting “good fatty” privilege

  1. Shaking your head and walking away from somebody so misguided is good, blogging about it is perfect. Education is key. I love your puppy btw. A totally adorable little fluff ball. He`ll be up to speed in no time.

  2. I have considered getting a dog (and am still considering it), but one thing that makes me think twice about is now *not* *good* the dog-walking exercise is — my low-intensity exercise is well above the “goin’ out for a smell” pace that dogs seem to be prefer 🙂

    If you’re up to it, it’s probably also helpful to say “Oh, I’m not working on losing weight, but I do exercise [daily | a lot | whatever], and I definitely enjoy it!” and see what happens, at least once in a while. I think laying it out there might lead to some interesting responses and maybe start a ripple effect of at least thinking about it.

    I think we should look at ways to reframe the “get off the bus a stop early” and “take the stairs if you can” advice, too, to where it is really most appropriate: many of us are too sedentary (in our modern, technology-heavy society). Improving our casual activity has a health benefit — including just shaking things up a little and giving the brain a break.

  3. What a cute puppy! Golden retriever? He’ll be up to speed in no time.
    As for the encounter with your neighbour, I’m sorry that had to happen. Hopefully the rest of your walk was enjoyable?

      1. He’ll be a great dog. Both breeds are amazing and very smart. Looking forward to reading about your adventures together!

  4. Thanks for posting this; I feel very torn about what to do in these circumstances. It’s annoying that standing up for ourselves and re-establishing boundaries (e.g. saying “actually, I rode 165 km this week; being in excellent shape does not equal having a certain size or shape body”) counts as rudeness to most people. But how will they learn? Most media and medical messaging speaks against this point, fueling mass misunderstanding (feeling alliterative today…). Your response was a good one, and I like caitlyn’s too.

  5. I love this post.

    Also your puppy is adorable. We adopted two puppies last year. When we just had the one, we did some walks on a leash, but he wasn’t too good at it. With two, it was a mess, especially since #2 was a pit mix, and she’s strong enough to pull your arm out of its socket. The solution? We take them out the river delta, where they can romp and play off leash. We walk anywhere from 3-8 miles, and they run even more, plus they swim in the river when it’s warm. Much more fun than the walk around the neighborhood. (Added benefit: no one out at the river has told our non-skinny selves that it will help us lose weight, at least so far.)

  6. I’ve thought long and hard about how to respond to these sorts of comments because I seem to be on the receiving end quite a bit. Often I do what you did, just shake my head and walk away. Two things I’ve also tried lately are, “Whatever makes you think I’m doing this to lose weight? Such a silly comment on your part.” and “Oh, I can’t believe you just said that. I’m so embarrassed for you. Never mind, I’ll just ignore your bad manners.”

  7. What bothers me the most when I get unsolicited advice is that I let it bother me. In general I think people mean well, so why do I continue to waste my mental energy and emotional energy on comments like these? That is what I would like to overcome.

    That puppy will soon learn what a beautiful world we live in with a friend like you to look over him Sam 🙂

  8. Great puppy! Shitty neighbor. I work in a middle-upper class school district, and everyone always assumes that everyone is trying to lose weight. They all comment on each other’s appearance without a second thought. “Oh you look so great, are you losing weight?” “You can afford to eat that piece of cake, you’re so skinny!” It all really repulses me. I do my best to educate or counter these remarks when I can, but I’m not always up for the task.

  9. I have a lab she is a chocolate called Java.She has glaucoma and is blind. She has given me more joy than anything in life. You will be so happy you have this puppy. Get out and enjoy.. poo (not literally on your neighbor)

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