Patti (whipartist) wrote,

Personal responsibility and weight

Another in my series of writings on personal responsibility

So a lot of you are pretty sure you know what, or more precisely who, set me off on this series of personal responsibility rants. You are all very wrong.

Warning: this is is about fat acceptance, and about weight. Some of the things I say will be very blunt, and probably won't sound too nice. If this is a subject that you feel strongly about, and you don't want to be offended by what I'm about to say, you may want to stop reading now.

So you want to know what set me off on these rants? Here it is, one sentence from the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance website:

"Despite evidence that 95-98% of diets fail over three years, our thin-obsessed society continues to believe that fat people are at fault for their size."

They're probably right. I don't honestly believe the 95-98% number, but most diets don't work-- that's easy to believe. However, even if I give them the most generous estimate and agree that 98% is right, I don't believe that it necessarily follows that people should just be obese. I think there are more options than that.

What set me off on this series of rants was the implicit victimhood in the quote above. "Diets don't work, so there's nothing I can possibly do about being fat. It's not my fault."

Twenty or thirty years ago, a much lower percentage of the population was fat. Why is that? What was different? I don't honestly believe that either our environment or our genetics have changed so much in the past few decades that we have no choice but to gain weight; that doesn't add up. It's pretty clear to me that something we're doing is causing us to get fat en masse.

I can hear a few of you working up a proper sense of self-righteousness anad preparing to come down on me like a ton of bricks, so let me see if I can head you off at the pass. Yes, some people do have real medical issues that make it difficult or impossible for them to avoid gaining weight. Some people are naturally thin or heavy, and they have to work harder than others to change that. Our culture fetishizes an unrealistic and possibly-unhealthy level of thinness that few people can achieve, and this creates terrible self-esteem issues. People should love their bodies regardless of their size. It's possible to be healthy without being thin as a rail.

All true. I will not disagree with any of those statements. Please put that frying pan down; I'd rather not be hit over the head with it.

For those who don't know me, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I'm female and in my early 40s. Right now I wear a size 18-20, and I've been overweight for most of my adult life. My mother is built like I am, and I'm told my father was heavy as well, though I never met him. Neither of my grandmothers was thin, and I don't really know whether my grandfathers were heavy but I wouldn't be surprised. I haven't been thin since high school, and it's pretty clear that I have a genetic predisposition toward heaviness.

I will say this as simply as I possibly can: I chose to be fat. Oh, no, it's not like I woke up one morning and thought to myself, "Hmm, I think I'll put on fifty pounds. That sounds like a really great idea. Cool! Where's that pint of Haagen Dazs?" I didn't intentionally decide to gain weight. That would be silly. But still, getting fat was as much my choice as anything else I've done in my life.

How do you figure? It goes like this. I chose to live a sedentary lifestyle. I chose to eat fast food, fatty food, sugar, the large size, desserts, "well, maybe one more helping", and all sorts of things that are not the least bit healthy. I ate that stuff of my own free will, and knowing perfectly well that it wasn't good for me. Not one of the many Big Macs I've consumed in my life has been eaten at gunpoint. I chose to drive instead of walking, and nobody ever blocked the door to the gym so I couldn't go. I chose not to pay attention and react as the numbers on the scale started creeping up.

Was the deck stacked against me? Well, sort of, but not completely. I never learned to incorporate physical activity into my life as I was growing up-- my mother led a sedentary life, and my grandmother was the queen of driving around the parking lot until she found the closest possible parking space. I grew up in a culture where people ate lots of red meat and lots rich, fatty foods. As a kid I was fed lots of meat and cheese, not fresh fruits and vegetables. And my genetics are in favor of my having hips.

On the flip side, I'm an intelligent person with an above-average IQ. I know how to assess a situation, research what needs to be done, form a plan, and then carry it through. I've learned to overcome lots of other parts of my upbringing, and there's no reason that this one should be any different. But I'm lazy, and it was easier to just roll with it than to make lifestyle changes. So I got fat. My choice.

Remember that quote from earlier? Let's look at it again:

"Despite evidence that 95-98% of diets fail over three years, our thin-obsessed society continues to believe that fat people are at fault for their size."

I'm going to say this for myself, clearly and unambiguously. I am at fault for my size. My weight is primarily a result of the decisions that I have made in my life. I claim that power, and I take full responsibility for my size.

I am not a victim, and all the diet statistics in the world won't turn me into one.
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