Good or Bad, All fatties deserve rights

There are a few of us on the fat-o-sphere feed who are in recovery for eating disorders right along side of being fat. I am one of those people. I’ve written a few blogs on this matter, but I’ll save you all from having to go through the library of posts on this site to figure out my issues. I was put on a diet by the parents at about ages 6 or 7, I then developed binge eating disorder, which permeated all aspects of my life through 17 years old, when I got too fat for my folks to handle, somewhere around 280 pounds I think. I then got put on another significant diet, whereby I was taken to a diet center, and subsequently developed bulimia, lost about 90 pounds, and then struggled with bulimia for a number of years afterwards, doing irreparable damage to my digestive system and potentially my heart, as I abused ephedrine in the thin-seeking quest.

I was never thin during my eating disorders. At my thinnest, I was still fat, weighing in at 171 pounds, after smoking during a bout of the flu. I wore a Size 12 at the Gap. It was a brief moment of joy in my life. Mostly, I was always well above 200 pounds, and fighting it all the way.

Eating disorders are not pretty, folks. I stole food. I hoarded food. I hid food in my pillowcase so that I could eat it later at night when everyone was asleep. I enlisted my sister to ask my parents for food on my behalf. I stole food as an adult, as well, not believing I had the right to buy groceries for myself, and also fearing that if I did, I would eat them all at once. Often, if I did go grocery shopping, I would end up  binging and eat most everything in the house methodically, just so I could be rid of the fear that there was food in the house. I never felt full, despite how much I ate. Later I would learn that there was an emptiness within me that food could probably never fill.

When I got diagnosed with bulimia, I told my folks, and they laughed at me.

I have done a lot of work around my eating disorders. I have a better sense of being full, because I am on a medication now that helps regulate satiety. I learned what my trigger foods were, and decided to keep those out of the house, making it safer for me to go grocery shopping. I decided to never diet again. I decided to ban any foods with the words “lite” or “fat free” on them, determined that I had lived a half-the-calorie life for so long, and it had left me wanting so badly, that I would eat everything in its full form and enjoy it. I decided to eat mayonnaise again. And bacon. Those had been deemed “bad” foods. I decided that I would bring lunches to work, so that instead of popping ephedrine and smoking through my lunch break, I would eat, and damn the consequences of potential weight gain.

I decided to work on the emptiness. That’s harder. It’s a battle I will have for the rest of my life. I have replaced some of the battles that I have had with food with other things, like smoking, or shopping.

I cannot go to the gym. It is too triggering. I cannot follow meal plans, also too triggering. I have to be careful, now, in another sense, not to engage in old patterns lest I wind up sliding down a very slippery slope. The eating disorder is always there, lurking beneath the surface. It’s a part of me, has been, since I was a kid. I have to fight against it all the time.

There’s a concept floating out there, or at least I’ve read it in a couple of blogs, that there are good fat people, and bad fat people, based on how fat people are taking care of their health. Based on if fat people are following HAES and exercising regularly. Based on if, essentially, fat people are following the “rules” of thin culture: which is that we are good if we are trying to appear thin by following the eating and exercise paradigms of the thin.

I want to say a couple of things on this. First, from the perspective of someone who is in constant recovery for an ED, I am uninterested in playing by the rules of any sort of eating/exercising culture again. It is far too triggering and damaging to me. I realize that how I live now may be unhealthy. But for me, it is an immense improvement over how I was living before, where I was drinking a case of soda a day, smoking a pack a day, taking up to 6 pills of ephedrine a day, binging on cookies, and eating cheese and crackers for dinner, and hitting the gym to burn off at least 600 calories in an hour and lift weights.

Secondly, from the perspective of someone who, in the middle of her eating disordered days, recognized she would always be fat, continued to engage in the disordered eating and exercise to show people she was at least “trying” to adhere to thin culture standards, I am uninterested in engaging in any sort of fitness and eating “program.” It would also be far too triggering to me. I do not feel the need to prove to anyone that I am a “good” fat person because I am eating healthy and exercising. To me, a “good” fat person in this sense means a person who is attempting to be accepted by thin culture. I am never going to be accepted by thin culture, because I am not thin, I never, ever have been EVER, and I don’t actually WANT to be. This is it, folks. This is me. Fat. Take it or leave it.

I am at a point in my own recovery, and in my own life, where fat is fat. How it got there, how I became fat, is unimportant. I am uninterested in proving to thin culture anymore that there a million reasons for fatness. They can suck it, as far as I am concerned. They don’t have to justify to me their thinness. Why? Because it is assumed that their thinness is inherently better. Just like white people don’t have to justify their whiteness to anyone else. Or straight people don’t have to justify their straightness to anyone else. These dominant cultures are allowed to trample all over the rights of anyone else because they are, well, dominant.

And quite frankly, people of color, queers, fatties: each of them have also been oppressed by medicine and science, stating that their inherent qualities are aberrations, when in truth, nature accounts for a variation within all populations. Fucking duh. Biology 101, people. But we don’t like people who look different than us, now do we?

So here’s where I am at with the good fat people — the fat people who exercise and eat well and follow the health standards of thin culture, vs. the bad fat people who do whatever they want. We are all fat. The End. To me, we all deserve the same rights, despite what we are eating, despite when and if we are exercising. If I eat 12 girl scout cookies, I still deserve to go to the doctor and be treated as though I am a Legitimate Patient with Legitimate Concerns, just as fat person who eats carrot sticks and celery every day for lunch. The doctor is still going to see the fat and think: Oinky, oinky, go on a diet. The visual presentation, despite the adherence to, or lack thereof, to thin culture standards, outweighs (pun intended) anything we are doing.

Fat is not a purposeful choice. I have not met a fat person yet who said: When I was a little girl, I said: I want to be a fat woman when I grow up!! Just like I have not met a queer person who has said: I chose to be gay. People do not choose to be members of oppressed populations. Every fat person I have met has been on a diet, some since literally early childhood. They have wrestled their weight. They have been on medically supervised eating plans. They have exercised. They have rejected their bodies in horrible ways. They know more about health and nutrition than Meme Roth. They have introjected thin culture standards and hated themselves for it for far too long. And yet, we are all still fat. It is time to realize there is no good or bad fat. There is simply fat. And all fat people deserve the same rights as every other person on this planet.



  1. Teppy said,

    March 17, 2008 at 10:45 am

    The visual presentation, despite the adherence to, or lack thereof, to thin culture standards, outweighs (pun intended) anything we are doing.

    Not to mention that when fat people adhere to thin culture standards (i.e., exercise, “healthy” eating), it’s still met with polite disbelief at best; at worst, with outright accusations of lying.

    So why bother, you know? If a fat person enjoys broccoli, then eat it for the enjoyment. If a fat person loves to run/swim/whatever, then do it for the enjoyment. But even if people see you engage in that behavior every single day, they’ll believe that there’s something you aren’t telling them. You MUST eat mountains of cookies in secret! Because otherwise, with all the public exercise and healthy eating you do, why, you’d be THIN!

    At least, that’s the attitude I’ve been met with by almost every non-fat person in my life. (My stick-thin mom: “You don’t seem to eat more than I do, so I don’t know why you don’t lose weight!” My ex-roommate: “Well, do you check your heart rate when you work out? Maybe it’s low.”)

    No one accuses thin people who live on soda and doughnuts of being “bad” thin people. Because — they’re THIN! They MUST be doing something right!

    So fuck it. Because you’re 100% right — it doesn’t matter what you eat and it doesn’t matter if you ever exercise. EVERYONE is entitled to the same treatment.

  2. OTM said,

    March 17, 2008 at 11:17 am

    I am uninterested in proving to thin culture anymore that there a million reasons for fatness. They can suck it, as far as I am concerned. They don’t have to justify to me their thinness. Why? Because it is assumed that their thinness is inherently better. Just like white people don’t have to justify their whiteness to anyone else. Or straight people don’t have to justify their straightness to anyone else. These dominant cultures are allowed to trample all over the rights of anyone else because they are, well, dominant.

    Oh man, that is so good.

  3. fillyjonk said,

    March 17, 2008 at 11:29 am

    So this is a great post, but I also can’t think of more than a very small handful of people who take the good fatty/bad fatty thing seriously. It’s almost always used as an example of a mindset we want to avoid falling into, or even seeming to fall into. There was at one point a lot of back and forth with a now-flounced blogger who really thought that FA should encompass only “normal fat” (i.e. non-ED, exercising, healthy-eatin’ fatties), but it’s very much a minority mindset. We do a lot of hand-wringing at SP about the difficulty of walking the line between making it clear that we are all wholesome-eating exercisers even though fat, and making sure we don’t make anyone feel excluded or “bad” for having different habits.

  4. Cindy said,

    March 17, 2008 at 11:45 am

    “They can suck it.”

    Yes. They can. I sent them a 24-carat gold-plated, engraved invitation to suck it.

    Yesterday, I had a revelation. I have been fighting these cruel “tapes” in my head for so long. “You’re huge!” “You should be ashamed of yourself!” “You’re a beast!”

    I was lanscaping yesterday. I pushed the shovel into the earth, then stood on it with both feet. I fell off it. Where is this beastly bulk? Why did my spade not dive to the core of the earth under my Godzilla weight?

    Because maybe I see and feel bulk that is emotional, not flesh.

  5. thoughtracer said,

    March 17, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Thank you , Teppy. I am so over the: Well, you must be doing SOMETHING to make you fat. Right. I spend 18 hours in front of other people engaging in the same behavior as thin people, and the other 6 engaging in fat-person behavior. Yes, that is what I do. For 6 hours straight every day, I turn into the awful fat person that everyone thinks I must be because of how I look: I smell, I eat non-stop, and I lay on the couch waiting for someone to flip me over because I am too addled by my massive girth I can’t roll my own self over.


    That language is just divisive and points to the inherent fear that thin people have about fat people and gaining weight and becoming fat. Because if they hold this notion in their head that clearly fat people are doing something to be fat, then they can say: Ha! I am NOT like them. I am BETTER. I do NOT ENGAGE IN THE FAT BEHAVIOR.

    Please. You know what? I have seen plenty of thin people eat an entire box of girl scout cookies here at my office in ONE SITTING over the last week, as they’ve all been delivered recently. What’s that? Fat Behavior 101. The difference is that as a fat person, I’m supposed to judge myself and be allowed to be judged by thin culture because as a fat person, I should not be eating cookies. A thin person can eat a box of cookies and it is excusable. And, it is assumed that a thin person is only engaging in cookie eating once a year, whereas a fat person does it every day. As a someone in ED recovery, I can say it would be more likely that I would have engaged in that behavior more often than people with no ED, but even at my sickest, it was not a daily or even weekly occurance.

  6. thoughtracer said,

    March 17, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Fillyjonk: I worry about even the handful of people. I worry about what even the beginnings of a meme can do to a movement, because if it gets out to others who are learning about the movement or who are against the movement, it can be damaging. I haven’t seen the argument too much, but I feel there’s got to be reinforcement that there is space for everyone here, even people who don’t exercise, even people who eat crappy. I’m not targeting SP or any other specific blog; I think this is an idea that seems to be taking shape or being tossed about and is troubling some people: where do we all fit in?

    I think it’s great that there are folks like Kate who can and do exercise and are comfortable being the spokesperson about being fat and fit. I think that’s probably what the media needs to see and hear right now in response to the medical industrial complex BS that is spewed forth like toxic pollution every day. I could never be a poster child for the movement on that level because my health is shit due to what I have done to my body in the name of dieting.

    I also want others to know that being fat does not mean we have to be perfect. I spent a long time trying to be fat and perfect. Like: Ok! I am fat, but Look at me! I am exercising, so I am an OK fat person. Look at me! I am wearing slimming colors! I am an OK fat person. Look at me! I am doing all the things that are mandated by the media as sexy and right for thin women and so I amd doing them too even though I am fat so hopefully I will be accepted just a wee bit more.

    I spent a long time apologizing, I guess, for my fat, by wearing restrictive clothing, uncomfortable shoes, obssessing about my appearance, not wearing certain types of hats or makeup or eyeglasses, or cutting my hair a certain way, or carrying a certain type of handbag, learning to walk differently, obssessing over whether I SNORED, all in the pursuit of attemtping to appear as thin as possible. I mean, the hatred of my very fatness, which is ME, was endemic. It went to my core. And so I don’t want anyone to mistakenly get the message that this is a movement where it is really important to do this or that to be accepted. Which I don’t think is happening, but I want the message to be firmly out there that all fat people are accepted, the end.

  7. fillyjonk said,

    March 17, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Well, I can’t say where the argument will go in the future. But I can say that it’s come up before, that it’s failed to get a major toehold, and that it seems likely to me that it will remain a fringe idea. Strong movements can weather fringe ideas. And the more mainstream voices are aware of and cautious about this one, which is why you’ll most often see people invoking the good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy in order to explicitly reject it.

  8. gnomeprincess said,

    March 17, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Thank you for this post. Despite other blogs saying that they don’t want us to be good fatties vs. bad fatties, I get the feeling they do it accidentally at times. Particularly when there is so much protest about us eating too much or being lazy. Sure, that’s not true of many fat people, but who is to say that many others don’t do this? I don’t think that is the important part, I think the fact that no matter what we are doing in our own lives about our own health, we are still humans! I just want to be human, whether I choose to follow HAES or if I decide that I want to relax in my very little time off from my two jobs. I am new to FA and I’m loving it, I just don’t want to feel guilty for giving fat people a bad name if I’m not doing everything for my health that I should all of the time.

  9. Jen Smith said,

    March 17, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Very thought provoking post thoughtracer. I am new to FA and have been absolutely amazed at how many blog posts resonnate with me. I DO want to be more active but I absolutely REFUSE to beat myself up because I am not getting off the couch. I hadnt realized but I too am avoiding triggers. Now that I think about it – what a “healthy” behavior that is – avoid triggers!

    I dont know a whole lot about FA yet – I probably flunk as an activist but I do know that my newly opened eyes have started some interesting conversations in my life. Isnt it amazing how many times in one day we are assaulted with diet and exercise crap – from friends and loved ones as well as from the media. I am soooo tired of hearing about so-and-so’s latest diet or exercise success! I secretly cackle and patiently await 5 years…

    The interesting conversations have been with friends and co-workers. I dont preach but when assaulted with the latest diet news, I try to gently point out that I dont diet because I got tired of feeling like I wasnt good enough just as I am. It both stops that “ohh you could do it if you just tried this…” and also, very rarely, gets people to think about the message they are giving their body. When will THEY be good enough?

    Food for thought anyway….

  10. March 17, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Just discovered your intelligent and thoughtful blog recently. Thank you for all the energy you have put into understanding your experience and sharing your wisdom based on it. You inspire and encourage!

  11. Colin said,

    March 17, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Fucking right on, as always. It never ceases to fascinate me how the divisive tactics used to separate members of oppressed groups into “good” and “bad” are so damn similar. Like NIMBY queers or whatever.

  12. thoughtracer said,

    March 17, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Colin: Yes! And how people who are members of one oppressed group don’t recognize the same tactics of oppression being used in/against another. Someone’s always got to be on the bottom.

  13. lanphuong said,

    March 17, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Where we tonight shall camp?….The top blogs of the day. the newest report , see and reply me some comments. Thanks.

  14. Harriet said,

    March 17, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Very moving post, thoughtracer. Thank you for sharing some of your personal story.

  15. AnnaB said,

    March 18, 2008 at 8:25 am

    First, from the perspective of someone who is in constant recovery for an ED, I am uninterested in playing by the rules of any sort of eating/exercising culture again. It is far too triggering and damaging to me. I realize that how I live now may be unhealthy. But for me, it is an immense improvement over how I was living before…

    Wow – this was a REAL revelation for me. I’ve never heard anyone talk about how it might be more “healthy” to avoid supposedly healthy eating and exercise routines if the routines are triggers. I’ve felt this was true for a long time, but I’ve never heard anyone say it. (And I read other FA blogs.) I really like the way you explain it.

    I’m in recovery too, and I’m fat and have high cholesterol and high BP. I think a lot of people I know, especially doctors, wouldn’t mind if I practiced eating and exercise behaviors that could trigger me – as long as my routine looks like it could lower my cholesterol and BP. Suck it, indeed!

  16. Karen said,

    March 18, 2008 at 9:07 am

    I think that there are two sets of people who use the “good fattie” argument. There are the people who mean well and are trying to prove that fat people are just like thin people with genetic differences, and there are the people who haven’t really accepted fatness unless you’re TRYING.

    The ones who mean well aren’t trying to hurt anyone, they’re trying to prove that fat doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy. You just don’t usually see equal time given to the idea that thin people can be unhealthy. I start to wonder if maybe the unhealthy aspects shouldn’t be emphasized more, ’cause the other way isn’t getting FA where to the destigmatization of fat. Too many people who fear fat come away with the idea that fatties who you see eating right and exercising maybe are trying, but most of what they register is “permission to hate fat people sitting down drinking non-diet.”

    Some of the others, I’m sorry to say, are using HAES as their new diet. They may or may not recognize that this is what they’ve done, but, for many, its really not all that different from “see, I’m not dieting, I’m making a lifestyle change.” This is a good(ish) thing; its a step on the path. But its not all the way there.

    You, on the other hand, I’m seeing in a state of recovery. The idea is always to no longer need to recover from anything, but that takes time. It is my hope that, one day, you won’t have to worry about your trigger foods or exercising, but that day may very well not be today. But I don’t know what that recovery time is. I’ve never heard any anecdote about the person who had this major mental problem who managed to spend most of their time as though it never happened. Untreated bulimia will kill you in a decade, your “unhealthy” eating and sedentary lifestyle won’t kill you until you’re 70 or later.

  17. Orodemniades said,

    March 20, 2008 at 7:10 am

    Great post, TR.

    I wish I could say I was in the same place, but I struggle, even without an ED, every day.

  18. Journeywoman said,

    April 24, 2008 at 9:36 am

    You can’t hear it, but I am standing on my chair in my cubicle, a la Joan Cusak in Working Girl cheering you on.

    Thank you for such a wonderous post.

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