diets · eating · fitness · food · health

Are fat people lying?

When I was a kid the thing I hated the most about being young was not being believed. See Seen but not heard: children and epistemic injustice for a discussion of this phenomena in the medical context.

Lots of groups aren’t given the credence they deserve. It’s not just children of course. It’s also women, disabled persons, people of colour. And people who bear multiple minority group status can be doubly or triply not trusted.

You can add to this list of victims of epistemic injustice, fat people.

See There are no right answers for your fat friend.

It’s about the interrogation fat people face about what and how much we eat.

“Sometimes, when I tell her how I eat, she will flatly insist, that’s not possible. Because to her, my body is evidence in a trial that’s already underway. Like a childhood nightmare, I am failing a test that was never announced. I am on trial, and she is judge, jury, executioner. Her eyes are fiery, overtaken with a determination I do not understand. She is a bomb I cannot defuse.

This is the interaction, with staggering reliability, and not only with her. The interrogation is visited upon me from old men and young women; city-dwellers and rural folks; people of all ages and many walks of life. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, this is how we will interact. Every question is a turning point, and every answer a dead end. I am forever searching for an escape that does not exist.”

I get this too. I hate feeling like I am a mystery or a liar. For awhile a group of fat athletes were posting food logs online. In a “believe me now?” exercise they shared without logs and food logs for the world to see.

But the thing is it never works. It’s all about fear. If I’m fat and exercise and eat well, it could happen to you too. That’s horrifying news.

No one wants to believe that. Thin people want to believe they work hard and deserve their thinness. So it must be that I’m lying. Or I haven’t tried the right thing that works. Most recent was a cycling coach (not mine who also struggles with his weight and knows) who said there must be some number of calories you could eat and lose weight. Do that! What if I ate that few calories and couldn’t ride my bike? Lose weight now and ride your bike later. Unbelievable.

It’s frustrating. It makes me angry. It makes me feel unseen and unbelieved.

I wish I had something positive to say about this, some suggestions for a way out, but I don’t. I do know that going down the road of telling people what I do and what I eat isn’t worth it.

I don’t hide in my room and emotionally eat cookies. I don’t. I don’t say I’m exercising when I’m not. Really.

Do you experience this? What’s your strategy?

A photo from Unsplash of colorful cookies, the word “love” and pretty pink flowers

7 thoughts on “Are fat people lying?

  1. If I may (I am significantly obese, current BMI is 35 and no, it’s NOT muscle)… A doc in a town close to mine used to tell patients that nobody ever came out of a concentration camp fat. It comes down to the energy balance.

    1. I’m not denying that there is some very small number of calories I could consume that would make me lose weight. Been there. I know that number exists. But it’s low enough that I could never do the physical activity I do.

  2. It took forever for my doctors to properly diagnose my autoimmune disorder, UC, because to them someone who was heavier couldn’t be malnourished……

  3. When I told one of my doctors what my diet and exercise program looked like he said, “then you’ll just have to starve.” He wasn’t kidding. He gave me a recipe for cabbage.

  4. I haven’t experienced this in the way you are asking. But I am a dietitian, so every day I talk to people about what they are eating (every work day I should say). In school we are literally taught that people will lie about what they eat: and the language used isn’t “people just forget, portion sizes are hard to know/define etc” literally we are told people LIE – purposeful, guilty, gluttonous lies. It made, still makes, me so, so mad at the horrible way we are taught to treat and think about our patients and clients.
    So I do my best to believe people. I have more fat people who eat healthy diets to whom I say, wow you eat great actually I wouldn’t suggest you change a thing. Because they’ve internalized the very message you’ve heard over and over; that they cannot be eating what they eat and be the size they are, they must be doing something wrong! (and well every doctor they’ve seen has told them so, and doctors are always right gah!!!) But they aren’t, they are eating what they eat and are the size they are and healthy.
    Ugh. I’m sorry for the experiences of people in our medical system, I do my best every day to look past the medical centered model we were taught.

    1. I used to teach back to back with someone from dietetics. They were legitimately recommending 1200 calorie diets just as a thing. For everyone. I was like, um, I would faint if I ate that little. I am tall, heavy and also active. So so so problematic.

  5. I admit to believing this myself in the past. Eat less. Lose weight.
    I can lose weight if I become restrictive enough. I have before.
    But what I never realized was the price of living on a low calorie, restrictive diet. The metal games, the lack of a period, the hair loss, the hormonal imbalance and the stress fractures.

    I just can’t imagine that restricting calories that far for weight loss could result in health.
    So my perspective on health has shifted.

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