Why We Shouldn’t Accept “Fat Acceptance” 

        6/14/12


I am a shallow jerk.  I wanted to get that out of the way at the beginning, because I know how this is going to go.  I’m writing about the obesity epidemic in America, and this means that, no matter what I say or how much sense it makes, it’s going to be dismissed on the grounds that I’m only saying it because I don’t find fat people attractive.  Even when I discuss this issue with my friends, who are very intelligent folks, more often than not they will cut me off with “Oh, you just hate fat people!”  It’s not that they dispute what I’m saying (none of them believes that obesity is completely genetic, or that exercise and a reasonable diet won’t keep you from getting fat) — it’s that they don’t like why I’m saying it.

So, okay, I will be honest and concede this.  It’s true that I don’t find overweight people attractive, and it’s true that I am more annoyed than most people are by being around fat people.  I will be the bigger person here (metaphorically speaking, of course) and admit that I would be a nicer person if these things weren’t true and that I should work on them…  But that doesn’t mean the things I’m saying are false.  If something is true, it’s true, even if the person who happens to be telling you so is the biggest jerk of all time.  It’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to admit to his face that he’s right, because you don’t want to give him the satisfaction, but what you admit to him and how you live your life when he’s not around are two different issues.

When writing about obesity, there’s just no way to win.  That’s what happens to a debate when it gets bogged down in identity politics and ad hominem arguments.  Think of the identity-politics tipping point as the event horizon of argumentation: once you cross the line where the majority of people participating in a discourse care less about what’s true than they do about who’s “allowed” to say what, it becomes impossible for any conversation about that subject to be productive.  And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s an unproductive discourse (and fat people, naturally).

And this isn’t just a tangent about the niceties of argumentation here — it’s a good chunk of the root of the problem.  This “Fat Acceptance” nonsense was only made possible by P.C. identity politics and the fact that an entire generation of Liberals never learned how to argue in any way besides making ad hominem accusations of prejudice.  Against abortion?  You’re a sexist.  Against affirmative action?  You’re a racist.  Against gay marriage?  You’re a homophobe.  Now, just to make sure Liberals don’t stop reading at this point, I’ll hurry up and clarify that I am personally pro-choice, in favor of affirmative action (with some qualifications), and support gay marriage.  But my arguments on these issues don’t simply rest on mudslinging about who my opponent “hates.”  Why not?  Because, as fun as it is to compare the other guy to Hitler, the fact is that prejudice is irrelevant.  If the other person’s position is really wrong, then there must be a flaw in the argument itself, not just in the arguer’s emotions — and if there isn’t a flaw in the argument, then… well, then there isn’t a flaw in the argument.  If your dog bites my kid, then whether I’m a dog lover or a dog hater isn’t the issue — I’m pissed either way, and I have every right to be pissed either way.

Long story short: it’s possible to think that something is a bad idea for a reason other than “hating” the people you’re talking about.  Of course, Conservatives, you’re not blameless here either.  The reason Liberals have been able to get by so effectively on ad hominem attacks about who everyone “hates” is precisely because so many Conservatives do in fact hate gays, Blacks, or whoever — so even though it’s a flawed strategy, the knee-jerk Liberal accusation of prejudice ends up being right a pretty good percentage of the time. 

Anyway, to try and get around this, I’ve opened by admitting that I’m a terrible guy.  Consequently, your responses can’t simply be to tell me that I’m a terrible guy, because I’ve already conceded this.  In fact, your responses can’t be about me personally at all.  Just pretend a person with a specific identity didn’t write this — pretend it was written by an arguing computer or something, so you have to either address the substance of the argument, or nothing.  This isn’t about whether I personally am male or female, gay or straight, Black or white.  This isn’t about who I personally do or don’t find attractive.  This isn’t about whether I personally can afford to join a gym or have a schedule that permits me time to go.  This isn’t about what foods I personally like, or what foods are popular in my culture.  It’s about whether the things I say from this point onwards are true, and that’s it.  If something I say isn’t accurate, then by all means correct me — the only indulgence I ask is that you don’t dismiss accurate things I say based on something to do with the fact that I happen to be the one saying them.  Deal?  Then let’s proceed. 

Now, while I’ll admit that there probably isn’t a good reason to oppose gay marriage if you truly don’t have any problem with gay people, the obesity epidemic isn’t the same thing.  It’s scientifically true that obesity is bad for you (and a miserable way to live even aside from the health concerns), and it’s scientifically false that fat people were doomed at birth to become fat people.  “Born That Way” is a great slogan about homosexuality or left-handedness, but it isn’t a great slogan for everything under the sun.  Should we tell a kid who gets bad grades in school he was “born that way” instead of trying to teach him better study habits?  Should we tell a smoker she was “born that way” instead of encouraging her to quit?  Maybe in the first case, a good point can be made that everyone learns differently and that education shouldn’t revolve around test scores and grades — but in the second case, erring too much in the direction of respecting the smoker’s right to smoke would only help to cover up the fact that tobacco companies are getting rich off of pushing a product they know is killing people.  Chalking everything up to live-and-let-live would mean letting them get away with it — and so it’s presumably exactly what they want you to do. 

I should hurry up and clarify, though, that this isn’t an argument about who I or anyone else is “allowed to not like.”  Arguments like that are inherently silly and only ways of avoiding the real issue.  And that brings me to my first problem with the Fat Acceptance movement — I don’t like the name.  Why?  Because it’s dishonest in its attempt to deliberately conflate two things.  Think about it: what does the phrase “Fat Acceptance” mean?  Does it mean that non-fat people should accept fat people, or that fat people should accept being fat?  Presumably both, and that’s a dirty trick.  I don’t object to the first meaning — if “acceptance” just means that non-fat people shouldn’t be mean to fat people, then I agree, on the general principle that nobody should be mean to anyone.  It’s the second meaning I object to — the idea that fat people themselves should just accept being fat, presumably because there’s probably nothing they can do about it.  I reject this on the simple grounds that it is not true (once upon a time, that was reason enough to reject an idea, if you can believe it).

The very name of the “Fat Acceptance” movement is exemplary of what’s wrong with identity-politics rhetoric: it muddles dispassionate conceptual arguments with overtones of personal, emotional stuff.  In other words, if you say “I don’t support the Fat Acceptance movement,” and what you mean is “I believe obesity is not genetic and it’s possible for fat people to lose weight,” it’s going to be heard as “I think it’s okay to be mean to fat people.”  And this is by design: the aim of the movement’s rhetoric is to render scientific arguments culturally unstable, so that they instantly degenerate into arguments about personal prejudice.  As a general rule, you should stay away from movements that make a habit of this sort of thing.

Look at it this way: suppose there’s a town where some stereotypically evil corporation is dumping toxic waste in the drinking water, and suddenly people are developing cancer right and left.  A few people notice that cancer rates shouldn’t naturally be this high, figure out the connection to the drinking water, and start encouraging everyone to boycott the corporation and drink bottled water instead.  But then, instead of listening, the rest of the townspeople accuse them of hating people with cancer, call them elitists because not everyone can afford to drink bottled water, and start a “cancer acceptance” movement based on the idea that everyone is supposed to get cancer and that everyone who doesn’t has a “drinking disorder.”  The bottom line is not only that lots of people get cancer who didn’t have to, but also that the evil corporation gets away with dumping toxic waste.  This is A) self-evidently ridiculous, and B) absolutely no different from what we are currently saying about obesity.

Are some people naturally fat?  Sure, just like some people naturally get cancer.  But if tons of people are suddenly getting cancer — or fat — then something is wrong.  (Conservatives, DO NOT jump on this analogy and try to use it about homosexuality — there were just as many gay people before, but they weren’t in a position to come out as openly gay, so that’s different, and you know it.)

And before everyone bombards me with links: yes, I know that people can still be in good shape even though they don’t look like models, so there’s no need to tell me about your friend who runs marathons but still has kind of a big butt.  Yes, I know that there are some genetic determinants of who gets fatter than who, because gene-pool isolation and normal genetic variance have resulted in some people’s metabolisms allocating a slightly higher portion of caloric intake towards long-term storage.  But none of this comes anywhere close to explaining why a majority of Americans have suddenly gotten really fat in the last couple of decades or why people shouldn’t be concerned about this.

What more proof do you need that obesity isn’t wholly — or even predominantly — genetic than the fact that it’s happening in America?  America is, as you doubtless learned in elementary school, a “melting pot.”  People have been coming here from all over the world for as long as we’ve existed.  There’s no such thing as being genetically “American” — so how the hell could something genetic be happening in America and nowhere else?  And don’t tell me people in other countries are all malnourished.  I’m not comparing us to North Korea and sub-Saharan Africa here — I’m comparing us to Europe, where most Americans’ genes sailed over from within very recent history, and freaking Canada, which is right next door.  Why would people in Minnesota be genetically fat and people half an hour across the border not be?  If two-thirds of Americans of, say, Irish or French ancestry are “genetically” fat, then roughly the same proportions of people in Ireland or France should also be fat, but they’re not.  The only way wildly disproportionate obesity rates could be both genetic and uniquely American would be if aliens are altering our DNA by bombarding us with gamma rays or something — in which case, I should really not be writing this article, because I wouldn’t like two-thirds of Americans when they’re angry.

hulk
Hulk just big-boned!

 
The whole “fat people can’t help it” meme is a scientific travesty.  Not a day goes by that I don’t see someone so fat they have to ride around on one of those little fat-person scooters.  How can it possibly be genetic that a significant portion of the population is fat enough to be immobile under their own power?  That’s not just “looking different” — it’s a crippling handicap that would doom someone in a state of nature, like blindness.  But whereas blindness has always existed, people have only suddenly and recently become this fat in such large numbers.  Something bad is causing this, we need to do something about it, and pretending it’s genetic is preventing us from doing whatever that thing is.  I understand sympathy, but this essay isn’t arguing that is should be okay to make jokes about these people or whatever — it’s arguing that we need to proactively address the problem.  The short-term impulse to “be nice at all costs” is actually anything but “nice” in the long term.  Suppose there was something in our food that was suddenly making lots of people go blind.  By pretending that all these people were genetically predestined to go blind, all you’d be doing is sentencing countless individuals in the future to go blind who didn’t have to.  Would it make any sense to rebuke the people trying to fix that problem by telling them that they just “hate blind people?”

If obesity is genetic, then why are poor people disproportionately fat?  Being poor isn’t a race; it’s a social condition.  Before you jump in with correlations of race and poverty, remember that this is only true in the big diverse cities.  Go to the middle of the country, and you’ll find poor white people who are just as fat as the poor minorities in the cities.  It has become a commonplace to say “it’s different for African-Americans” regarding obesity, as if African-Americans metabolize food in some alternate way — but they don’t.  The African-American community is disproportionately fat because a legacy of institutionalized racism has rendered them disproportionately poor, and — once again — pretending the difference is genetic is preventing us from addressing the real problem, which is that poor people have no choice but to buy terrible food containing substances that should probably be illegal.  (By the way, the people who say “it’s different for African-Americans” regarding obesity tend to be the same people who say “race is a social construction,” and it bears pointing out that both of those things can’t be true at the same time.)

This brings us to the “junk food is cheaper, so you are being classist” argument.  I have a degree of sympathy for this one, because it is partly true — but not entirely true.  Yes, it’s cheaper to buy the normal beef instead of the organic beef or the lean beef.  It’s cheaper to get McDonald’s for lunch than it is to get sushi.  But in a lot of other situations, the healthier option is the cheaper one.  You know what’s cheaper than McDonald’s?  Making a freaking sandwich at home and bringing it to work.  You know what’s cheaper than drinking soda with every meal?  Drinking water.  You know what’s cheaper than eating ice cream after dinner?  Eating nothing after dinner, because you just had dinner.

Another massive obstacle to our resolving the obesity problem is the fact that every online comment war about it ends up degenerating into celebrity snark: “celebrities look like that because they have personal trainers and dietitians, so it’s impossible for regular people to look like that.”  This is what’s known among argument fanboys as the Nirvana Fallacy — i.e., arguing that no action should be taken because a perfect solution is impossible (like saying “it’s pointless to have seat-belt and speed-limit laws because some people will still die in car accidents no matter what”).  On the one hand, you are right that it’s impossible for everyone to have the body of a celebrity.  But on the other hand, nobody is saying you have to.  Way fewer people should be really fat doesn’t mean everybody has to look like one of the hottest people on the planet or they’re worthless — it means way fewer people should be really fat.

Yes, it is true that you need personal trainers and dietitians to look like Gwyneth Paltrow or the dude who plays Thor.  But you don’t need a personal trainer or a dietitian to look like a reasonably attractive regular person.  It’s not like there’s no middle ground between “celebrity” and “big fat pig.”  In fact, I’ll map out that middle ground right now.

    10:  A-List celebrity who is one of the most attractive people on the planet
      9:  Incredibly hot person whom most people would still give their right arm to date
      8:  Damn good-looking person who has no trouble getting dates or attention
      7:  Totally cute person anyone would marry assuming they are compatible in other ways
      6:  Marginally attractive person
      5:  Marginally unattractive person
      4:  Fat
      3:  So fat your coworkers make faces when they hear you eating
      2:  So fat you need one of those fat-person canes with the three prongs at the bottom
      1:  So fat there’s a reality show about how fat you are


The “impossible without unlimited wealth, free time, and assistance” excuse only applies to looking like a 10, and nobody expects you to look like that.  What’s ridiculous here, and why I’m bothering to write this, is that it’s starting to become normal in America for people to use this excuse about why they don’t look like a 6 or 7.  And that’s insane.  It’s like saying you need NBA-level basketball skills to sink a free throw, or special-forces sniper skills to hit the side of a barn from twenty feet away, or that you have to be Shakespeare to remember which “its” has the apostrophe in it, or Michael Phelps to avoid drowning in a kiddie pool.  I could come up with a million of these analogies, and each would be more hilarious than the last, but you get the idea — people are confusing “requires a modicum of effort regularly” with “needs to utterly consume your life.”

I’m not saying it isn’t understandable that you want to sit on the couch and eat ice cream (or drink an entire six-pack) after work.  Of course it’s understandable.  All I’m saying is, if that’s what you choose to do, then be an adult and admit that it’s what you’re choosing to do.  You have decided that it is more important to you to unwind with ice cream than it is to be considered attractive.  It is your life, and you have every right to make that decision — but understand that you are the one making that decision, not “celebrities” or “society.”  Being fat is not the inevitable result of not being wealthy; it is the result of a hundred small decisions you choose to make every day.  If you need a personal trainer to tell you that it’s better for you to take the stairs than the escalator, or to walk to the store that’s four blocks away instead of driving, then a five-year old could be your personal trainer, because a five-year old knows those things.

That being said, this issue doesn’t come down to a lecture about personal responsibility.  Obesity in America is — and here’s the part Liberals will like — also largely the government’s fault.  Yes, part of the reason we’re fatter than Europeans is that Europeans ride bikes and cook meals at home and all of the other charming “elitist” stuff that it’s harder to manage doing in America.  But the other part of the reason is that American food contains additives that should probably be illegal, and indeed are illegal — or at least nowhere near as widely used — in other countries.  French people aren’t just thin because they ride bikes and cook at home — it’s also the case that the French version of the FDA is much stricter and more wary when it comes to approving wacky chemical ingredients.  So the “blame” question is a tough one here.  In my earlier cancer analogy, who should you blame, the company who dumped the waste in the water to begin with, or the people who stupidly drank it anyway even after the research indicated it was bad news?  Well, both, I guess.  But luckily, the question of blame is immaterial here, since ultimately we’re not trying to figure out who to get mad at, only how to not get fat.

The question of what stuff is in American food that shouldn’t be there is a huge one, worthy of an entire book all on its own, and this essay is already way too long to get popular on the internet.  But just for one example, let’s look at high-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS.  Links between HFCS and obesity have been suggested based on the fact that it almost totally replaced “real” sugar in American foods and drinks (most significantly soda) in the early 1980s and isn’t widely used anywhere besides America, due to the fact that America produces tons of corn, so it’s cheaper for American companies to use than “real” sugar, which is grown in other countries, some of which we don’t like — Cuba, for example.  (I’m not going to use the word “cornspiracy,” because puns are lazy writing, but you can have it if you want.)  HFCS apologists have responded with studies (many of which, to be fair, were funded by the corn industry) showing no significant difference between HFCS and cane sugar and pointed out that overall fructose consumption (fructose has been shown to increase adiposity, since the body only metabolizes it into liver glycogen, whereas glucose can be metabolized into both liver and muscle glycogen, so if two people consume equal amounts of fructose and glucose, more will end up as fat in the person who consumed the fructose) hasn’t actually increased since the introduction of HFCS, since the disaccharide sucrose (found in “real” cane sugar) splits into the monosaccharides glucose and fructose during digestion, and HFCS contains roughly equal proportions of fructose and glucose.  The riposte to that involves pointing out HFCS contains glucose and fructose as separate monosaccharides rather than bonded sucrose and that we don’t yet fully understand how this affects the body differently, and that at the end of the day, the fact that this weird new substance was widely introduced in America right at the time everyone started getting fat and isn’t used anywhere else is certainly cause for extreme suspicion even if it doesn’t constitute proof.  Sorry about the science lesson, but remember, actually solving the obesity epidemic will require whole books of this stuff.

Defenders of HFCS allege that “sugar is sugar”—and that’s true, if all we’re talking about is caloric intake.  But in the age of weird-ass chemical additives, there’s more to being thin than counting calories.  There’s some evidence, for example, that those sodas with zero calories will actually make you fattest of all, because the chemicals they contain screw with your organs so bad that your body starts instructing itself to make extra fat to protect your organs.

There’s also the matter of how effective a food or drink is at making you feel full, or making you want to move around versus sit still.  Normal sugar — like all stimulants — is an appetite suppressant, but some experiments have indicated that HFCS actually makes you hungrier.  Plus, normal sugar amps you up more, whereas HFCS doesn’t seem to.  You can go test this one yourself right now: go get some microbrew sodas that contain real sugar from Whole Foods or someplace.  Now drink one, and you will find the following things: you are less hungry than a normal soda would have made you, you feel like moving around, and — most importantly — you were totally satisfied by the first soda and have no desire to drink a second one right away.

So yes, “sugar is sugar” in terms of calories.  But between a sugar that decreases your appetite and makes you want to move around and a sugar that increases your appetite and doesn’t make you want to move around, the second kind will make you fatter than the first kind — not because it contains more calories in and of itself, but because it causes you to take in more additional calories in the form of other food and burn off fewer calories through exercise.

As a point of honor, I have to admit that nothing about HFCS causing obesity has been proven yet — but then, “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” is only relevant if we’re deciding whether to send weird mashed-up corn juice to prison, and we’re not.  We’re deciding whether or not to eat it, and for my part, I don’t.  If I go to a friend’s party and he has normal soda, I don’t get up on a soapbox about it, but on my own time I read labels and avoid HFCS, as well as any other weird-ass chemical ingredients.  And contrary to popular whining, this is not all that hard to do.  Even if they don’t have hippie grocery stores where you live (many of which, also contrary to popular whining, are not more expensive than normal grocery stores, as long as you resist the urge to buy the fancy stuff in them and just buy their versions of the same staples you would have bought at a normal grocery store), all you have to do is read the ingredients and not buy anything with an ingredient that isn’t the plain-English name of a normal foodstuff.

Just the other day, for example, I was buying peanut butter.  They had normal peanut butter and low-fat peanut butter.  The normal peanut butter said “peanuts, sugar, vegetable oils, salt” on the side.  The low-fat peanut butter said “peanuts” and a bunch of weird-ass chemicals.  I bought the normal peanut butter, despite its being nominally higher in calories, on the grounds that chimpanzees do not eat weird-ass chemicals and I have yet to see a fat-ass chimpanzee dragging its sorry chimp ass around on a scooter.  (The regular peanut butter also had more protein, and since I exercise, something with a fair amount of unsaturated fat but a lot of protein is a good idea for me in a way that it wouldn’t be for someone who is trying to be thin without exercising.  P.S., trying to be thin without exercising is stupid.)

Anyway, you get the idea.  Don’t eat weird-ass chemicals, and especially don’t eat stuff where the normal ingredients have been replaced with some bizarre substance tortured out of corn.  And in case there are any holdout Liberals who aren’t on my side yet, I’ll go ahead and mention that the “pay farmers to grow nothing but corn and then put corn in everything” stuff was Nixon’s idea, so if you choose to ignore me here, you’re not just letting the government make you fat — you’re letting Richard Nixon himself make you fat from beyond the grave.  I refuse to speculate on whether he did this deliberately because he hated attractive people, but I wouldn’t rule it out.  He would have done anything if it meant getting at just one of the Kennedys.

tk
Revenge is a dish best served
with unnecessary amounts of corn.

 
Unfortunately, I do have to include some depressing stuff before I wrap up here.  I’ve been talking as if not being fat is easy, but like the name of the Fat Acceptance movement itself, “not being fat” can mean two things: if we’re talking about not getting fat to begin with, then yes, that actually is easy as long as you have all the facts about diet and exercise (and aren’t a kid who’s at the mercy of what your parents feed you).  But if we’re talking about getting thin once you’re already fat, then that is another story.  Obviously, it’s a lot harder — it’s like the difference between quitting smoking and never smoking in the first place.  But the smoking analogy doesn’t explain why it’s harder.  Unlike with tobacco, the reason it’s hard to lose weight isn’t because you’re actually addicted to Twinkies or American soda.  Lots of fat people have successfully cut all the bad stuff out of their diets and still not gotten thin.  The bad news here is that eating the bad stuff and getting fat, especially early in life, might actually train your body to keep being fat even after you change your diet — and there may be such a thing as a point of no return.

You’ve probably already seen an article or two about this.  Whenever there’s something in the news about obesity being biological in origin, it spreads like wildfire, causing the Fat Acceptance types to pump their fists in victory and thumb their noses at people like me who say obesity isn’t genetic.  And yes, there absolutely have been recent studies indicating that cells in different people’s bodies allocate calories differently — that it really is the case that Person A and Person B can adopt identical diet and exercise regimens, and one will still end up fatter than the other.  But now we need another science lesson, because something being cellular isn’t the same as something being genetic.

Properly speaking, “genetic” means that the thing we’re talking about is in your DNA.  And nobody has found anything like an explanation for obesity in DNA (or chromosomes, which are made of DNA and proteins, or genes, which are contained in chromosomes).  All those recent articles are about cellular explanations of obesity, so the people who’ve waved them about trumpeting proof that obesity is genetic were mistaken — simply because it’s possible for your cells to receive different instructions from environmental factors after your birth without your genes being changed (which can only happen due to radiation exposure).  Here the analogy to tobacco becomes useful again: a smoker who develops lung cancer has indeed experienced massive cellular change, perhaps irreparably, but that’s not the same as saying that their lung cancer is genetic — if the smoker’s genes had been altered, then their subsequent children would be born with lung cancer, and we all know that’s not what happens.

This explanation was necessary because people on both sides of the obesity epidemic often speak fallaciously, using scientific terms in inaccurate and counterproductive ways — i.e., we use “genetic” simply as a synonym for “unchangeable.”  But this is uninformed, as a change can be permanent without being genetic: if you lose your leg in a car crash, it is not going to grow back, but your children will still be born with two legs, because your DNA has not changed.  If a bit of humility on my part will help matters, I admit that I have been guilty of this fallacy myself — in the past, I have been in the habit of using “obesity is not genetic” (which is true) to mean “all fat people could become thin if they tried” (which may not be true, and doesn’t mean the same thing as the first thing).

The study of epigenetics is still in its infancy, but the explanation for obesity may ultimately be an epigenetic one.  Very briefly, epigenetics — romantically referred to as “the ghost in your DNA” — is the notion that genes may have settings, like a lamp with alternate levels of brightness, and that environmental factors, or even hereditary ones, may change the “settings” of certain genes without technically changing the gene (i.e., the DNA sequence) itself.  A compelling case has already been made that predisposition to diabetes may be epigenetically linked to whether your grandparents were malnourished during puberty.

So, given all this, the worst-case scenario is that many people who are already fat may indeed be permanently screwed.  If there is an epigenetic scenario analogous to the diabetes example at play, it may also be the case that the immediate descendants of fat people may be born with some degree of disadvantage in that respect.  But none of this, remember, means that obesity is “genetic.”  It would still be the case that if everyone ate healthily, the problem would work itself out in a couple of generations at most — whereas with a proper genetic issue, this would not be the case.

In short, if your friends came to you waving the recent studies, shouting that obesity is quote-unquote “genetic” in the sense of “possibly unchangeable, and expressed in an identifiable way at the cellular level,” and you in turn were shouting to the heavens something along the lines of “But obesity can’t be genetic!  Why would it be happening recently, and only in America?” — then congratulations, you were both right, with the not-inconsiderable correction that your friends were misusing the term genetic.

It is customary to end an essay with a conclusion, and I don’t feel as if I’ve concluded very much — I confess I am better at explaining how other people are wrong than I am at making positive assertions myself — but to the extent that I have, here it is.  Stop consuming foods and drinks that contain HFCS and other wacky chemicals immediately.  Go to the gym when you can, and while there, do weights first and then cardio (doing weights before cardio depletes glycogen reserves, so that the cardio can get straight to burning stored fat; weight training is a good idea even if you are trying to just lose fat and not get “ripped,” because muscle is “metabolically expensive,” meaning that future calories will be allocated towards muscle upkeep rather than fat storage, and you don’t need to get especially “ripped” to achieve a significant effect from this; if you are a woman, don’t worry that weight training will make you too “bulky” — it can’t, because you don’t have enough testosterone for this to happen, another helpful weight-loss fact that people don’t point out enough because, as it deals with a biological difference between men and women, it is considered impolitic, at least in America).  If you are not fat yet, all of this will definitely keep you from getting fat.  If you are already fat, all of this will definitely make you less fat, although sadly I cannot absolutely guarantee that it will make you thin, for reasons already explained.

Most importantly, do not let your children get fat — even if you are a positive whale yourself and you secretly feel better the more fat people there are.  I am sorry that this has happened to you for the mind-blowingly silly reason that corn happens to grow in swing states, but that is no excuse for child abuse.  (If it helps, try to think like a smoker, as many parents who are hopelessly addicted to tobacco themselves would still raise hell upon catching their child with a cigarette; not wanting someone you love to make the same mistakes you made is absolutely not hypocrisy).

Finally, be you fat or thin, adult or child, I never want to hear the ridiculous term “Fat Acceptance” out of anyone’s mouth again.  It is dangerous lunacy, not progressive politics.  Yes, you should be nice to fat people.  You should also be nice to heroin addicts, but that doesn’t mean you’d be obliged to not care if two-thirds of the populace became addicted to heroin and simply resign yourself to no longer saying that heroin is a bad idea.  Although shocking, the drug analogy may be the most apt — not because of who we’re “allowed to not like,” which is childish, but simply because of what the people we’re talking about want.  Discussing fatness as “the last acceptable prejudice,” as some do, is dishonest.  It is different from the canonical forms of prejudice because — although Black people are perfectly happy to be Black, gay people are perfectly happy to be gay, and women are perfectly happy to be women — fat people themselves would rather not be fat, just as junkies would rather not be junkies.  If they could wave a magic wand and be thin, they would do it — not solely because of the quote-unquote “prejudice,” but because being fat sucks in and of itself.  “Fat Acceptance” revolves around certain self-appointed fat people lying to everyone else, and I do not think that they have the right to do this.  If they want to stay fat, it’s their business, but flooding the media with dishonest rhetoric about “genetics” in an attempt to keep other fat people from even trying to lose weight is simply wrong. 

I began this essay by declaring that no-one is allowed to call me shallow.  Over the course of writing it, however, I have come to the conclusion that this is unavoidable.  So instead, I’m going to close by defending shallowness.  Not on the grounds that it is good, but more practically, on the grounds that it is never going to go away.  Do not delude yourself into thinking that fat people will magically be considered attractive if everyone just preaches the right politics.  Is it “shallow” to find fat people unattractive?  I suppose, but lots of things are shallow.  It’s shallow to find acne unattractive — but would you deliberately rub grease on your child’s face, just because other people shouldn’t be shallow?  It’s shallow to ignore someone who has a stupid haircut, but would you deliberately give your child, or yourself, a bad haircut, just because other people shouldn’t be shallow?  Would you bash in your own nose with a hammer, or slash up your own face with a razor blade?  Presumably not.  And would you avoid complaining and just take it if the government did these things to you?  Definitely not.

Resist your urge to get mad at me, and instead remember who you’d be letting get away with something by accepting “Fat Acceptance.”  I may be a shallow jerk, but I’m not Nixon.



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