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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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June 06, 2013

The Stigma of Obesity

By Mark Sisson
216 Comments

In Group, Out GroupOne of the things I love about positive-focused healthy lifestyle communities (like but not limited to MDA) is the genuine support that exists for people to take charge of their well-being. It’s the collective excitement when others transform their bodies and health. It’s the willingness to offer help and advice, personal anecdotes and perspective to those beginning their journeys or struggling with the process. In the bigger framework of society, and even occasionally in these positive communities, however, weight-related stigma still holds sway. In these more subtle demonstrations, it becomes a sort of “if you’d only do X” assumption, a looking down one’s nose at someone else’s grocery cart or an unconscious judging that faintly influences impressions and interactions.

We live, of course, in a culture, obsessed by body image and weight. Celebrities are skewered on the covers of magazines for gaining (or losing) weight. Advertisements for diet products, often designed with questionable taste, are at every street corner and commercial break. For weekly entertainment, we watch obese people battle their weight on T.V., ominous music and trainers screaming in the background. Within this swirl of society jokes, cultural judgment, and media images, the obesity/overweight stigma is ubiquitous. Far beyond the intention to help, the function becomes to exploit. Outside any interest in being supportive, the focus becomes voyeuristic and, at times, self-congratulatory.

Some say the obesity/overweight stigma is the last allowable prejudice. Although I think there’s enough animosity and judgmentalism in the world to debate the statement itself, I understand the central point. Researchers have time and again measured the “anti-fat bias” (effects ranging from outright discrimination to unconscious stereotyping) at work in everything from employment to health care. Obesity/overweight stigma figures into the collective consciousness far more than we often give it credit for – lurking in places and people we’d assume would be immune to its effects.

Physicians themselves, numerous studies show, demonstrate a significant anti-fat bias. Just a few weeks ago, a published study reported 40% of medical students demonstrated an unconscious weight bias. Research has illuminated anti-fat bias in therapists and even health professionals within obesity related specialties.

With all this, research shows primary physicians are offering less weight loss counseling to their patients – particularly those with high blood pressure or diabetes. Karen Hitchcock, a physician who works in an obesity clinic with a bariatric surgeon’s group, offers a candid and surprisingly personal glimpse at the discomfort of a physician who struggles with counseling her patients: “The emotion in the room thickens; I am acutely aware of the shame my patients feel.” As critical as the need is for honest consultation, her perspective is hard to dismiss.

Finally, the kicker. Research shows that the social bias remains even after people lose weight – and can be as strong against those who were obese and lost their excess weight as as it for people who are currently obese. As someone in the health and weight loss business, this is the hardest to hear. I can’t quite imagine what it’s like for a person who actually experiences that bias.

I think it’s clear I believe in people taking personal responsibility for their health and well-being. That said, I also understand the reasons for obesity are varied and complicated. Genetics do play a role, and for some people it simply takes more effort. Thyroid, other hormonal issues, and even toxin exposure can throw a wrench in the best weight management endeavors. On a cultural level, too many people have little access to fresh food and even fewer to real nutrition education. Too many grow up with the unchallenged influence of incessant junk food marketing and perhaps poor familial modeling at home and school. As Karen Hitchcock suggests, “We live in a society that judges people for being fat, yet has in place every possible means for making them so.”

Physiology is physiology. The biological facts behind obesity are constant, yes. The personal picture of one’s weight – not to mention each person’s experience of it – however, is much more complex than any stereotype or momentary judgment can begin to tell.

When we simplify other people’s stories, I think the person we end up diminishing is ourselves. My mother used to constantly say “Worry about yourself.” Sure, it was generally in response to sibling quarrels or school yard gossip, but it gained dimension as I grew older. To this day, it’s one of the most abiding pieces of wisdom I’ve ever come across. It doesn’t mean of course, don’t appreciate other people or help where and when you can. After all, life is about connection. Happiness and health are about connection. That said, we miss the point when we bring a self-grandiosity or condescension to that engagement. We do better when our support for others comes from a place of personal humility.

If we’ve been successful in losing or managing our weight, that’s a great accomplishment. If we’re working on it, we’re worthy of respect and genuine support in our efforts. If we’re not to that point yet, we’re still worthy of the same respect. It’s been my observation people are more inclined to invest in themselves – and believe in the support of others – when they believe in their own worthiness. When we choose to question the obesity stigma, whether we’ve ever personally fit that category or not, we value – for ourselves and others – living as healthy but also “whole” people. That’s, to me, the best endeavor for thriving.

Thanks for reading today, everyone. I hope you’ll share your thoughts and comments on the obesity/overweight stigma. Have a great end to the week.

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216 Comments on "The Stigma of Obesity"

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Gracie
Gracie
3 years 3 months ago
Thank you. I was always a thin person. I actually felt virtuous about that. I don’t thik I was mean to anyone. But I did think that being thin meant something good about me. A few years ago I was diagnosed with a life threatening illness. Forced immobility and steroids have left me very very heavy. The heartbreaking thing is being fat is harder for me than having a terminal illness. People don’t feel free to criticize you if you are going to die. But if you are going to die fat (even if the fat came after the sick)… Read more »
PotAsh
PotAsh
3 years 3 months ago

Gracie – Except you know that you’re working hard and putting in the effort. You don’t need to please anybody but yourself. Who cares what strangers think anyway?

My mom has a similar issue. She was always thin, and since she started taking some medications for her migraines a few years ago, she gained weight. She is fighting hard to stay where she is now if not lose a little bit.

Good luck with your fight.

b2curious
b2curious
3 years 3 months ago
As one who has been on medication for migraines in the past (I was diagnosed with chronic daily headaches, which were mild to moderate migraines), I know that some of them come with warnings that they can cause weight gain. My doc and I had tried a few medications, before I finally tried the herbal supplement feverfew, which worked for me. (It doesn’t work for everyone, and not all supplements are created equal.) I’d been doing the South Beach diet (SBD) for a while, which does a good job of stabilizing blood sugar. I had minor hypoglycemic issues, which means… Read more »
Charles W. James
3 years 3 months ago

@Celestia, I’m not getting used to fasting yet. I’m on SCD, which is pretty close to Primal, for about 7 years now – my recent fasting experience was very difficult… I hope the next attempt will be easier 🙂

I’d like to know if you were talking about intermittent fasting or extended fasts?

Anyway, even though this is difficult for me to fast, I don’t want to stop: the benefits are way too important for me not to continue!

If you’re interested, 2 days ago I shared my experience and results after a 16-day fast:

http://nutritiongang.com/therapeutic-fasting-my-results/

Alie J
Alie J
3 years 3 months ago
It’s just not possible to gain anything but water weight on 1000kCal per day, irrespective of the macronutrient ratio. It’s much less then anyone needs to be healthy and is an anorexic diet. People often underestimate their intake. Prisoners in concentration camps got around 1000kCal per day and they either died or became emaciated, not one of them left at a healthy weight, let alone overweight or obese and the Minnesota starvation experiment demonstrated emaciation on 1500kCal per day with exercise. I don’t judge or blame people for their weight problems though. I know it’s not possible to diet, loose… Read more »
Miryem
Miryem
3 years 3 months ago

I respect you and pray for you. I’ve never been that sick before but as a medical intern I see a lot of terminally ill patients who struggle a lot more psychologically than physically with coming to terms. I can’t imagine how hard it is, but at least when my time comes I’ll know many people strong like you made it through before me.

tess
tess
3 years 3 months ago

hang in there, Gracie! it’s rough to be around the judgemental assholes, but rest assured a LOT of people empathize!

gibson
gibson
3 years 3 months ago
Gracie, I understand. There is bias, sometimes so subtle the owner doesn’t realize. I have been both fat and normal weight. Just the way strangers interact is amazing. When I’m fat, I’m invisible. When I get past the thyroid and pcos (and stress) and lose weight, I find strangers are obviously cordial. I think it’s hard-wired into some of us to be Fixers, and we might think we’re helping. That can come across as “something is wrong with you and all you have to do is…(diet, exercise, sleep more, stop worrying, get a different job, etc).” The older I get,… Read more »
Charlayna
3 years 3 months ago
“I have been both fat and normal weight. Just the way strangers interact is amazing. When I’m fat, I’m invisible.” My cousin had this issue–she became overweight after a bad car accident that left her with a double hip replacement at age 16. After she graduated, she moved to college and lost ~50 lbs, and everyone started to treat her differently. Whenever guys would hit on her, she’d get very depressed because she never got positive attention when she was larger and nothing about her personality changed… It was a hard time in her life, and I can only imagine… Read more »
Jacob
Jacob
3 years 3 months ago
Gracie, I am truly sorry for what others have put you through and I will say a prayer for you to remain strong through your struggles. I hope your illness is gone so you can focus on healing and recovering. If not, I pray for a speedy recovery. I won’t lie, thoughts and biases about weight have entered my mind in the past, but I have worked hard on focusing on the individual and their story because a LOT of people have stories like yours and it’s not always about them just being lazy. I also used to be an… Read more »
Holly
Holly
3 years 3 months ago

I lost 60 lbs 6 years ago at the age of 20 and and have kept it off. Because I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. But, it’s amazing how people treat you differently.

Amy
Amy
3 years 3 months ago
“But none of it feels like enough. Because when people look at me they see fat. And fat means lazy. They have no idea how hard I fight just to stay mobile. I will never again be worth respecting. What people will see is the weight and all the things that they think it means.” Can I hazard that this is what YOU see in the mirror, not me? I don’t really appreciate being prejudged that all I see is your weight because I’m “thin”. I have been seriously overweight during my childhood and until my 30th year. My aunt… Read more »
Gracie
Gracie
3 years 3 months ago
Actually, I am not responding to what I see in the mirror. I am responding to words that people choose to use when they talk to me. I don’t assume that people think things about me. That is a losing game. But when people suggest that scarring in my lungs could be reversed if I would “loose a little” they are responding to the fat. When I go to the doctor because even as a fatty I have always had low blood pressure but it is suddenly very high and he says “What do you expect” while gesturing towards my… Read more »
Primal-V
Primal-V
3 years 3 months ago
Hi Gracie, my heart goes out to you, I’ve been on the end of people’s judgement too. From childhood I was chubby and grew into an obese adult. I accepted the judgement of others about my weight because deep down I knew that they were right; I was lazy, greedy and a failure. I know realise that the weight wasn’t due to my laziness or greed, the wrong foods messed up my hunger hormones and made my body store fat. The way that fat people are treated isn’t fair, people treat me differently now that I’m at a ‘normal’ weight,… Read more »
2Rae
2Rae
3 years 3 months ago
I agree, sometimes when we look at others we see in them what we are hiding in ourselves, it comes out as negative judgment of them but in reality it’s a judgment of ourselves, although most don’t really know that. When we “see” it in ourself we no longer see it in others. Ahhhh, how nice it feels to allow others their own path without feeling the need to judge them. Funny situation, the other day I met someone who was 9 months pregnant and but I didn’t even “see” her big stomach for some reason, was totally shocked when… Read more »
Don Jagoe
Don Jagoe
3 years 3 months ago
Don’t fall prey to this negativity–fight it like everything else you are fighting. Having watched my beloved wife fight Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 28 long years, losing so much of what she loved in life, but remaining strong, feisty and committed to being the best she could be (and she’s great!), I know that the world-at-large doesn’t care or take the time to really get to know you and what you face. Still, there is a lot of support out here and you are doing all the right things. We are both Paleo now and she’s doing so much better…I… Read more »
Txomin
Txomin
3 years 3 months ago
If people want to criticize you, they will always find a way. Don’t waste energy explaining yourself. As someone (more and less) said, your friends don’t need the extra information and your enemies won’t believe you regardless. About weight gain, just remember that medicine is not made of calories so, if you are putting on weight, it is coming from somewhere else. I myself find that I care less about whether my weight goes up or down than “not knowing” why. In other words, I prefer an honest, upfront, additional cheesecake/pizza/etc than a sneaky, closeted one that I don’t “count”… Read more »
Christina
Christina
3 years 3 months ago

Ummm medicine is not made of calories? That’s a pretty stupid thing to say. Weight gain is not solely dependent on calorie consumption, brainiac. Medicine interferes with or alters hormone production, which is mainly what affects fat storage.

Omg I can’t believe you even wrote that?

Dan
Dan
3 years 3 months ago

I just held back from letting you know how moronic your comment was until Christina said pretty much exactly what I thought….That’s it from me I might enjoy an honest upfront cheesecake now.

Joy Beer
Joy Beer
3 years 3 months ago

BIGHUGGRACEBIGHUG A virtual cup of nourishing bone broth to share with you this Sunday afternoon, and wishes that those who love you and know you would surround you and forget about this sickness humans have…BIGHUGGRACEBIGHUG

Groktimus Primal
3 years 3 months ago

Even after losing most of it I can tell you the scars fade but do not heal.

MattyT
MattyT
3 years 3 months ago

The hardest part isn’t the weight loss, it’s adjusting to the new person and how they’re perceived/treated.

gibson
gibson
3 years 3 months ago

Agreed. It took me months, even years, to feel like it was really me in the new body. I wonder if the different treatment by the world had something to do with it. Never considered that!

Amy
Amy
3 years 3 months ago

The scar on my finger where I cut myself in the 8th grade will never “properly” heal and yet it as much a part of me as my finger. “Scars” from use on sturdy, lasting furniture are generally called character. I tend to think of them as the same in people.

tess
tess
3 years 3 months ago

EXCELLENT article, Mark!!! i find that some of the athletic people EVEN HERE make disparaging comments about those of us who have to struggle to make progress….

cTo
3 years 3 months ago

Yep. I realized recently that there is no one magic community where everyone is perfectly open and nice to each other all the time. Some people are going to be assholes no matter what community they are in.

Tim
Tim
3 years 3 months ago

This is very true, but I can tell you for a fact that the weightlifting sites I use are full of assholes that put those here to shame. I just figure it’s good practice to learn to filter that crap out and keep fightin’! Most people are cool and want you to succeed. The rest…well, life’s too short.

Julie
Julie
3 years 3 months ago

+1

Danny
Danny
3 years 3 months ago
I’ve always been pretty lean myself, but strive to be healthy and lower my body fat percentage for aesthetic reasons. Thus, it was not until this article that I thought about the extra hurdle that people who are overweight have when trying to follow the primal diet. I imagine a whole slew of extra judgement for all the meat and fat consumption over ‘healthy’ iceberg lettuce and HFCS dressing. There’s been numerous posts about the shock and awe of people when observing primal eating habits. Adding to that a hefty serving of self-righteous judgement because that person might be overweight… Read more »
kate
3 years 3 months ago

I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum so yes, I’ve walked a mile…yada yada.. but my motto has always been don’t look down on someone unless you are helping them up. You don’t know anyone’s story. If you are fortunate enough to be of good help then celebrate your good fortune and share that positive energy with others who aren’t so fortunate. Great post Mark!

Jacob
Jacob
3 years 3 months ago

Don’t look down on someone unless you’re helping them up…I love that!

Stealing…hope you don’t mind. 🙂

kate
3 years 3 months ago

not at all Jacob! Share the good vibes.

Clare
Clare
3 years 3 months ago

I also love that. How wonderful. I’m also going to steal that….

Celestia
Celestia
3 years 3 months ago

“Don’t look down on someone unless you are helping them up.” Well, I won’t be “stealing” this because it was on a poster in my college dorm in the 70’s, and was the topic of a workshop I attended in the 80s, and I read it in a newspaper article in the 90’s……so not original, but still awesome! Thanks for reminding us of it!

Rocky
2 years 3 months ago

Very well said Kate! Wish everyone shared your thoughts!

Doug
Doug
3 years 3 months ago
Interesting article. Luckily I have avoided the stigma associated with large weight loss and I haven’t seen the prejudice continue, but mainly the prejudice was from the opposite sex (which I never was upset about) and not as much from society. Perhaps this is because I am in the technical field and/or because I have in Ohio, where obesity is rampant. I do have some issues, however, that are frustrating; There are quite a few people that what to know “how I did it”, but than they will debate you as either incorrect or as folly. They judge it as… Read more »
Diane
Diane
3 years 3 months ago
The stigma is difficult. I have always been chubby and even after a couple years on primal I’m still chubby and nobody will look at me with envy or use me as an example of success. I can say though that doing the primal fitness is a huge contributor to making me feel awesome and happy with my body. I lift weights now and measure my progress by the weight on the bar, not the scale. I have been working on adding in sprinting (it’s hard because I pee myself if I run and otherwise it’s very exhausting and I’m… Read more »
Jacob
Jacob
3 years 3 months ago

Diane, I’d say your doing just fine then. If you feel great and happy about where you are then more power to you.

I personally can’t say I experience the same issue with sprinting that you do, but sprinting is such a great exercise…don’t give up on it! Find a private place to perform your sprints then you don’t have to worry about it. 🙂

Best of luck!

Diane
Diane
3 years 3 months ago

When I was a kid I would wait so long before going to the bathroom that I would be crossing my legs and holding myself to avoid peeing. I took a cue from that and use the exercise bike for my sprints. Works great and no need to wear maxi pads or diapers!

iluvoptics
iluvoptics
3 years 3 months ago

maybe try Kegel exercises too. You can do them wherever, whenever. No one can tell. (and they help with more than just incontinenece 😉 but yeh, I’ve had that problem in intense boot camp classes! And you pray it’s just mostly sweat but you just don’t know…

Cindy
Cindy
3 years 3 months ago

LOL Diane. I know what you mean! I can’t run at all since my daughter was born (21 years ago)! If I do any type of bouncing or jarring activity, that’s all she wrote. Thank God for Bikes!

b2curious
b2curious
3 years 3 months ago
With the stress induced incontinence, wetting yourself when you run (or sneeze or cough hard), I have found, that in my case, doing planks religiously helps a great deal, though it takes a few months to see real results. It’s not completely gone, but is back to very minor inconvenience it was after the birth of my first child, rather than the major problem it was after my second (who weighed 10 lbs 3 oz). I know it’s the planks because I’d let them go by the wayside when things got really hectic, and had the problem return to “major… Read more »
Jacob
Jacob
3 years 3 months ago

I’m going to hold onto that tidbit of information in case my wife experiences the same issue. We’ve already had one girl and she’s near the end of our second pregnancy with twin girls no less! So I imagine things might be a little beaten up in there by the time it’s all over.

PJ (RightNOW)
PJ (RightNOW)
2 years 3 months ago

Thanks for the plank suggestion. I swear, when my daughter was born, that whole system of my body was just never the same!

Carol
Carol
3 years 3 months ago

Regarding stress incontinence. I agree with the plank suggestion. Core strengthening will tighten up the pelvic floor too. Also, try using a tampon when working out. I can jump and sprint with no problem if one is in, but without it (like in a pick up soccer game with the kids) the problem returns.

Jeff
Jeff
3 years 3 months ago

This is so true. I’ve lost three long term friends AFTER I lost 100lbs and have kept it off for going on four years now. It gives me a little relief to see this fact stated in writing. Hell, I thought there was something wrong with me.

Linda
Linda
3 years 3 months ago

I am not at all surprised. Some people like it when you’re a “mess” and when you make changes to improve yourself, they change towards you. Personally I think it’s because they no longer feel superior and they are uncomfortable when you are in a good place. These are people you do not need in your life so be happy that they are gone. Congratulations on losing 100 lbs. AMAZING accomplishment!

Jacob
Jacob
3 years 3 months ago

Sadly, you’re right. I had to let go of some lifetime friendships because they needed to feel superior to others regardless of how petty it was. Life is a lot less stressful now and I can focus on bettering myself and encouraging others without the distraction of them trying to make it into a competition of who does what better.

BonzoGal
BonzoGal
3 years 3 months ago

Same thing often happens when you quit drinking– people accuse you of being “no fun any more”. If you can’t be like them, or won’t be the way you “used to be,” then they can’t deal with it. Sad.

Jeff
Jeff
3 years 3 months ago

Done that one too. The three friends I lost were all in recovery as well.

TerriAnn
TerriAnn
3 years 3 months ago

Lost family as a result of getting sober. They dont like who i have become?
I think they are intimidated.

Nocona
Nocona
3 years 3 months ago

I have to admit that I have been judgemental of obese people and smokers in the past. Since becoming Primal I have become much gentler and try to help as many people as I can without the judgements or being attached to wether or not they are interested. Both my brothers are doing fantastic on Primal and all our talk is positive. Grok on!

VetTech
VetTech
3 years 3 months ago
What makes the stigma harder to cope with is when it’s in your own home. After my 3rd baby I held on to 60 extra pounds, and when I would tell my husband about my “extreme” plans he would tell me, “you don’t need to do that, just eat less and exercise more” I tried and tried and tried to follow that advice with very little results. But apparently I just wasn’t trying hard enough (according to him) It wasn’t until I found MDA that I learned the truth. I am now down 54 pounds and counting 🙂 Now it’s… Read more »
Primal-V
Primal-V
3 years 3 months ago

+1

My husband has been lean all his life and eats like a horse, I have to remind him sometimes that he has no idea what it’s like to be fat, and that the advice to “just eat less” is hopeless and impossibly hard to implement.

Judy G
Judy G
3 years 3 months ago

Good for you Diane. Keep the effort up. You’re doing awesome by showing the love and attention to your body and mind first and foremost. And don’t get hung up on the running thing. I’ve found walking or riding my 25 year old bike fun and not so exhausting. (Yay…it still worked after all these years.)

Michelle
Michelle
3 years 3 months ago
I have struggled with weight for most of my life. I was always friends with lots of people, pretty active and thought i was happy. I worked hard and lost 100# through diet and exercise (mainly playing racketball everyday). I noticed that people that i knew before the weight loss treated me differently after i lost the weight. some were supportive, others became “more friendly”. it was definately interesting. I got pregnant, put on bed rest and gained all of the weight back with that combo and some post pardum depression issues. it has take me several years to work… Read more »
Aaron Blaisdell
3 years 3 months ago
Conventional Wisdom is that people become fat because they’re lazy and gluttonous. In Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes suggests causality should be turned around in the other direction, people become lazy (dysregulation of effort and activity) and gluttonous (dysregulation of appetite) as a result of becoming obese. I have some hot-off-the-press data from a rat study that seems to confirm the premise that obesity is a cause of laziness (willingness to make an effort to obtain a reward). I’ll be presenting these data at the Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS13) in Hotlanta this year. “Worry about yourself”. Hah! That’s what… Read more »
Jason
Jason
3 years 3 months ago

What happens when someone doesn’t want to lose weight, and is healthy and happy being a bigger person?

Mary
Mary
3 years 3 months ago
Exactly! I love all the “well at least you are trying” responses to people. THAT IS EXACTLY THE STIGMA!!! It takes a lot of effort to manage the illness of obesity, an illness that no one picked to have. If someone decides their life energy needs to go to other activities, that is a reasonable and valid choice for them. They don’t need to fight their obesity just to make the people looking at them happy. I say this as someone who has lost 80 lbs. and it is a battle every day and will be a battle every day… Read more »
Amy
Amy
3 years 3 months ago
“Being thin might make others happier to look at you, but losing weight over age 40 does almost nothing to your life expectancy, or example. Yet in serious healthcare decisions and in everyday conversation people say to me “oh you’ll live longer!” No, statistically, I will live exactly the same length of time.” Maybe. That time might seriously suck, though, if you’re seriously overweight. It isn’t a theoretical for me. Most of my family and their friends are overweight to seriously obese. They do have the same life expectancy, but they are on cabinets full of drugs. One, at the… Read more »
Mary
Mary
3 years 3 months ago
And thanks for proving the point. I already said I had lost weight, but you get to give me the snotty lecture because you are better than me for being thin? And you get to ignore a scientific fact to justify your snottiness? You think I don’t know what it feels like to be 80 pounds lighter? And not to have to deal with the likes of you? I do, and I do. And you have NO IDEA if it is worth the effort. No idea. I am fortunate that I am rich and white collar and have no particular… Read more »
Pamsc
3 years 3 months ago

That’s good too! I really don’t feel better at a lower weight. There is a little vanity involved, but mostly I like being at the lower weight because people can’t question my choices as much if my weight is socially appropriate.

Kristin
Kristin
3 years 3 months ago
I have dealt with weight and the stigma of it, my whole life. Always be labeled as ‘plus sized’ despite participating in athletics in high school and college. I walked away from an abusive relationship after 3 years where my ex would use the word “fat” like a weapon in his words and deeds. He was blessed with skinny genes, and I inherited the fat genes which have plagued my mother’s side of the family. Even my thinner siblings have fallen into unconsciously saying things about my weight, even as I currently participate in marathons and triathlons. I have watched… Read more »
Stephanie
3 years 3 months ago

Exactly. As long as my size doesn’t interfere with what I want to do I don’t care. I doubt I will ever be a thin person because of hormonal abnormalities. I do know I have more energy and feel better living in a more primal/paleo way so that is what I do.

Amy
Amy
3 years 3 months ago
“I long to live in a world, where my dress size is not something that is used to describe who I am.” I hovered on size 16-18 for the first half of my adult life, overweight even as a child. I know what’s like to be called fat and ugly in middle school, in small town with no friends. It hurt like h?ll. But you know what, I stopped being mentally fat when I left that world and stopped worrying about it. (Which was well before I lost the weight.) Some of that stigma is about being overly sensitive to… Read more »
cTo
3 years 3 months ago

EXCELLENT post! I am very cognizant of “fat-shaming,” both in regular society and, sadly, in the paleo community as well, and work to avoid it as much as possible.

Malissa
Malissa
3 years 3 months ago

I have lost 160 pounds following a not very strict but mostly paleo diet. I absolutely know that people treat me differently. And when I tell a stranger about my weight loss it really baffles them, I think it’s hard for them to imagine me as being obese, when I am still getting used to being thin.

charity dasenbrock
3 years 3 months ago

Thank you Mark. I’m wondering if you are familiar with Marc David of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Check him/it out.

Adriana Vidal
3 years 3 months ago
I have always been heavier than normal and never been a yo-yo dieter. I thought I had a pretty good body image but I was an emotional eater. And I had lots of triggers. Other than being overweight I was fairly healthy until about 10 years ago when I went through a terrible 18 month period of time and gained about 65 lbs on top of already being about 65 lbs overweight. My blood pressure went up and thanks to starting the change of life I also got depressed and lethargic. My doctor at the time definitely had a prejudice… Read more »
Clare
Clare
3 years 3 months ago
Oh Adriana – I hear you! I too am an emotional eater. It’s taken me about 1 year of CBT to work out why I do such things to myself (cause, if you think about it logically – you won’t eat tons of stuff that will make you fat). One of the main things I realised is that I probably will always comfort eat, because emotions are much stronger than logic. What I can do is limit the worst of the damage, and not beat myself up when I do have a slip. When I stick with the programme, I… Read more »
Tessie
Tessie
3 years 3 months ago

I still remember this from college over 20 years ago. I was jogging and someone yelled out their window, “You know you have to eat less too.” Even heavy people trying to do something about it are judged.

iluvoptics
iluvoptics
3 years 3 months ago

I too had something like that happen whiile I was riding my bike. I just couldn’t beleive someone would yell out their window like that, like how rude! It affected me for hours, days afterwards.

Petra
3 years 3 months ago

So they judge you for being fat, and terrorize you when you want to do something about that. So not supportive actually. How would Grok and his mates have reacted in their society.

I hope living Primal also reflects on living to make your community solid.

eema.gray
eema.gray
3 years 3 months ago

Had Grok witnessed someone shouting at you like that, he would shun and/or shame the person doing the shouting. From what little I’ve read of tribal communities, the social emphasis is on building and maintaining the community ties. Mocking a person for putting in their best effort does not build or maintain community ties in a healthy way. Shunning and shamming disruptive influences are presently considered to be disruptive in and of themselves and therefore undesirable but they do have the effect of immediately and distinctively isolating someone who does not help the community.

Stephanie
Stephanie
3 years 3 months ago
This article resonated with me, maybe moreso than any other I’ve read. I am morbidly obese, and strangely, I feel the largest bias coming from my doctors. I’m constantly pushed toward bariatric surgery and I’ve had more than one doctor question my lab results because they don’t line up with what a fat person’s health should be. I’m mostly healthy, despite my weight, and I owe a lot of this to a primal way of eating. It’s a harsh world out there, but my faith that I am cared for by my Creator coupled with the new lifestyle changes I’ve… Read more »
PJ (RightNOW)
PJ (RightNOW)
2 years 3 months ago
When I went to the doctor years ago, having lost 170# (!!) on low-carb (and mostly whole-foods LC at the end), all the (obese!) nurses wanted to talk about was their expectation that I would be having gastric bypass and their shock and dismay that no, I wouldn’t even dream of doing that, given that (a) it won’t change lipedema which is where nearly all my fat is, and (b) screwing up my nutritional absorption is the worst thing I can imagine for my health, and (c) as I kept repeating, but if I am on an eating plan that… Read more »
David N.
David N.
3 years 3 months ago
Hmm. I’ve been thin my whole life, but for the majority of it, I was fat, on the inside. Just because someone doesn’t physically have fat, doesn’t mean that that’s not how they look on the inside; I believe that I’ve had to work just as hard to become physically/mentally fit. I think the whole “fat genes” and slow metabolism thing is just an excuse. Some people have to work harder than others, that’s a fact of life. I understand if someone was hit with an illness, and gained weight, but after recovering there is clear things on what to… Read more »
Stacie
3 years 3 months ago
While I can appreciate where you are coming from, but I’d have to disagree with your assertion that there are “clear things on what to do to get where you want to be.” Mark shows us time and time again that conventional wisdom is anything but clear, and even those of us who wanted more than anything to be healthy and slim were unable to be so because of all the mixed messages being sent on what is healthy and what is not. This post is trying to point out those subtle assumptions like the ones you’re expressing here, that… Read more »
Mary
Mary
3 years 3 months ago

Over the last year and a half I have lost over 80 lbs, quit smoking, and begun a strength training program. I still have 30 lbs to lose, but the number on the scale will not budge. It’s depressing and a little humiliating. Yet I’m unwilling to reduce my caloric intake below 1400–1600/day or increase my exercise to more than an hour/day. People can judge me all they want. I’m not going to torture myself to take off the last 30. My efforts may not be Herculean, but they are sustainable.

Stacie
3 years 3 months ago

And why kill yourself for something you can’t sustain? I think you’re on the right track. Keep it up!

Mary
Mary
3 years 3 months ago

Thanks for the encouragement! I’ve been reading the comments and I think it’s remarkable that two Marys who each lost 80 lbs are posting on this same post. (She sounds a little angrier.) I should start using an initial.

KevvyB
KevvyB
3 years 3 months ago
That’s pretty amazing progress! I like how Mark put it in an interview, that for some people weight loss slows because the brain (i.e., metabolic level) looks at the body and says, “I like what you’ve done with the place.” And just because the number on the scale isn’t changing as much lately, doesn’t mean body composition isn’t improving in other ways. It may also be worth looking at whether anything has changed to slow your progress. In my case, I was trending nicely for like 6 months, but then suddenly found that I’d plateaued. So after a few frustrating… Read more »
Anony Mouse
Anony Mouse
3 years 3 months ago
I went on a field trip with my daughter’s class, a group of 7-year olds. One of her classmates asked me if I was pregnant. I very calmly replied I wasn’t pregnant, that I was overweight. She looked at me and said, “Are you saying you’re fat?” My daughter hugged me and told that girl that I was, “Just the right size. She’s my mom.” I go back and forth between being proud of my daughter, and ashamed because she shouldn’t have to defend me. Ouch. And yes, I can fully attest to the “being lazy came AFTER being obese”… Read more »
Clare
Clare
3 years 3 months ago
As someone who’s been battling excess weight for a long time now, the article really strikes me as true. As I said to someone the other say on the 21DSD; if you wouldn’t say it of someone else, why do we say it of ourselves? I regularly call myself fat (often followed by “weak” and “lazy”). I should not, since I probably restrict my own successes…. Hey ho. One thing missing from the evaluation of the “causes” of obesity is psychology. Many people “comfort eat”; either because they are lonely, sad, upset, bored, stressed etc etc (those are my personal… Read more »
b2curious
b2curious
3 years 3 months ago

“if you wouldn’t say it of someone else, why do we say it of ourselves?” I read essentially the same advice, almost 30 years ago, in an article called “How to stop being your own worst enemy.” I have done my best to follow it ever since. I also pass it on to others on a semi-regular basis. I beleive I recently said it here too. 🙂 I love it when I hear/see someone else passing on that advice.

PJ (RightNOW)
PJ (RightNOW)
2 years 3 months ago
Thin people often eat when emotional also. Fat people are so terrorized into Stockholm Syndrome culture-wide that psychology will find any reason to dig out to “explain” why it must be so. They become sure that if, when they have a fight with their SO/parent, they eat too much or eat carby foods, that this explains why they are fat. Actually, plenty of thin people do that too. It doesn’t actually explain why anybody is fat. It might however be worth recognizing since it can put a real crimp in getting healthier, obviously. Not saying it isn’t real, it isn’t.… Read more »
Shane
Shane
3 years 3 months ago
My natural state is scrawny. I’ve never put on weight that wasn’t hard-gained muscle except for 2 months after I quit smoking, when I gained an absolutely insane 30 pounds in that little bit of time. I’m saying that because I have never been obese, and have very little personal experience in that realm. I have no desire to be self righteous. (By the way, I always ate pretty close to primal without even knowing there was such a thing. Personal taste preference.) My question is how to respond to society that increasingly wants rather than to get healthy, to… Read more »
VetTech
VetTech
3 years 3 months ago
I personally have much more respect for someone who is making an effort to be healthy, as opposed to how much they weigh! Telling someone they are beautiful no matter what size they are is not doing anyone any justice, if they refuse to take their health into their own hands! I know some people who are overweight and healthy and beautiful, and I say “more power to them”. I also know many thin people who don’t think they need to worry about their health because they aren’t “fat”. I think the biggest stigma out there is weight=health. That is… Read more »
VetTech
VetTech
3 years 3 months ago

Sorry that should say “the biggest misconception out there is weight=health”. Wrong choice of words…….my bad!

Stacie
3 years 3 months ago
This is something I go back and forth on as well. I think if we can slowly start changing our focus from weight to health, we can achieve a happy medium? Growing up I was always bigger, but active…yet I still wanted to be skinny because I thought it would make people (ahem, “boys”) like me more. This is something I wrote about in my journal, prayed about, and cried myself to sleep over. I just wanted to be skinny. It never crossed my mind that I wasn’t healthy, and I only came to that realization when I saw my… Read more »
Kim
Kim
3 years 3 months ago

I have so much more compassion for anyone trying to lose weight – be it a few pounds or 100 – now that I’ve learned so much about the food industry. Processed food is addicting! Anyone who is educated about how the food industry has manipulated food and caused the obesity epidemic can only have compassion for others. I wish everything I’ve learned at MDA could be taught in the workplace, in schools and published widely.

Zosha
Zosha
3 years 3 months ago

I was always about average growing up, but I put on 60 lbs when I got pregnant and continued to gain for years after that, reaching 290 at my highest. All in all, I spent about 10 years being obese. I’ve been eating paleo for almost a year now, and have lost ~70 lbs, but am still technically obese. Still, I notice how people treat me different now. Random strangers will make eye contact with me and smile. It’s a real subtle difference, but I can feel it. People don’t realize how invisible you feel when you’re fat.

Julie
Julie
3 years 3 months ago

It is super frustrating to know someone who’s obese, and not be able to help them. But I have found that you have to wait until someone asks. If you offer advice, no matter how gently you do it, you’re either foolish or offensive. My mom’s health issues have made her gain a good 100 lbs, maybe more. She makes self-deprecating comments about it all the time. She’s embarrassed, she’s unhappy. But she’s not ready to fix it yet. When she is–unless she dies first–I’ll send her here.

Clare
Clare
3 years 3 months ago
You’re so right. My mum, who’s hardly a paragon of virtue as far as weight is concerned (was severely underweight as a girl in the 1950s and blames having me at 37 for her increased weight once she hit 40), is always going on and on about how fat I am, and how that’s not how she brought me up, and how much weight I need to lose (and then tells me that I’m doomed to fail in losing weight because she hasn’t – very supportive). I have restrained myself from actually physically assaulting her. Just. But I have threatened… Read more »
Tealdo
Tealdo
3 years 3 months ago
I have noticed a big change in the way I am treated by both strangers and people who knew me before I lost over 100Lbs. At first I was flattered by the way I was being treated. Women started hitting on me again and men treated me with more respect. Then I started to get annoyed because I thought I was still the same person with all the same internal qualities that I always had. When I was fat, I wanted to be valued for my personal qualities rather than my physical attributes. Then as a healthy, primal, athletic person… Read more »
2Rae
2Rae
3 years 3 months ago

Exactly! Well said.

George
George
3 years 3 months ago
Some mixed emotions about this. Being snarky, petty and judgmental is never a good way to go, people should be treated with respect regardless of race, religion, color, age, gender, weight, disabilities. The other side of the coin is the skyrocketing cost of health care for all of us could be cut in half if people would keep their weight in line. Approximately 64% of people in the US are overweight or obese I think I read the other day. I sometimes get the question “how do you stay so thin and fit, you must have good genes right?” After… Read more »
Nikki
3 years 3 months ago
The problem with that line of thinking is that most thin people in the US are eating the same garbage that obese people eat and are really no more healthy. Weight does not equal health. I happen to be technically obese, but my blood numbers, energy levels, sleep, etc. are better than those of most thin people. I can lift more than any woman I personally know. On the other hand, I am surrounded by thin people with all sorts of health problems ranging from acid refulx and acne to cancer. Being judged as unhealthy just because I am larger… Read more »
Brandi
Brandi
3 years 3 months ago

Be careful of those numbers on obesity, those numbers are usually using BMI. Which is an insanely inaccurate way of measuring obesity, My boyfriend at usually over 200lbs and 5’10 or so is overweight even tho it is muscle. Lots of people are ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ because of this.

Marcia
Marcia
3 years 3 months ago

Or we could stop subsidizing processed food.

Ingvildr
Ingvildr
3 years 3 months ago
I strongly disagree with Felixs comment about fatness being caused by eating too much. I have type II diabetes and Hashimotos. I can gain weight on 1200 weighed and measured calories IF the proportion of carbs is too high. The level of insulin resistance that I have pretty much guarantees that the majority of carbs bypass my muscles and pretty much go straight to fat. Before my Hashimoto’s was diagnosed I couldn’t eat more than 700-800 calories without gaining weight. I was hungry as hell and anemic but couldn’t eat any more without gaining. So no it isn’t always eating… Read more »
Brandi
Brandi
3 years 3 months ago

I have been turned down for jobs because of weight, the interviewers love me, Until they meet a thin person with the same qualities and abilities. There is no doubt in my mind that calories in calories out is such a disservice to the people of the world. Whoever put that out there really screwed everyone over, because it ISN’T and never will be as simple as that. when I was twelve I was 4’9 and 125 I knew I was overweight but since I was younger it hadn’t distributed in the ugly way it has now.

Lucylu
Lucylu
3 years 3 months ago

I use to always be “The Skinny Girl” until my 30’s, never in a million years thought I would become obese. Now, 20 years and 100 pounds later here I am…
Three weeks ago I stumbled across MDA and made a decision to change my life. With the grace of God I have no doubt a year from now I’ll be celebrating my success with you all!

Stacie
3 years 3 months ago

That’s a great attitude to have! Way to go, and looking forward to reading your story on Friday someday in the future 🙂

2Rae
2Rae
3 years 3 months ago

Good eating Skinny Girl. Keep us all updated.

Terry
Terry
3 years 3 months ago

It is my understanding The government is making new guidelines for who and how they will treat older and other high risk patients, I’m sure with the view of saving money. Some of the things on the list were BMI, diabetic tendencies likely hood of stroke or heart problems. We will have to have to decide if we are to be treated by doctors or accountants it seems.Of course it will not apply to the polititions and likely not to the bureaucrats.

Susan
Susan
3 years 3 months ago
I recommend Gina Kolata’s book “Rethinking Thin” to anyone interested in educating themselves further about these issues. There is a tiny percentage of people who lose a lot of weight and keep it off for more than five years. Tiny. But for the rest of the world, it looks like losing 20 pounds, gaining 15, or losing 20 pounds, gaining 25. Maybe primal eating is part of the answer. Maybe it isn’t. The guy who discovered leptin pretty much says we still have no clue about why some people weigh more than others, or what to do about it. For… Read more »
Colleen
Colleen
3 years 3 months ago

I’ve been thin and I’ve been fat, and boy do you get treated differently. One good thing about experiencing the bias: it teaches you very quickly about who is worthwhile to keep in your life.

Good to have these conversations, good to examine our own feelings and actions.

Deanna
Deanna
3 years 3 months ago
Wow, what a touchy topic! The obesity stigma works on so many levels beyond just hatin’ on fat people. From another perspective, while I love this website dearly and have been reading it for 2-3 years now, so many of the success stories focus on weight loss that it’s really just another way of saying thin=successful. I do applaud success stories that focus on being healthy regardless of weight. Especially for women, who I think are finding out that a healthy Primal woman DOESN’T necessarily mean you’re going to look like a fitness model (I know that’s what I’m finding… Read more »
Jeff
Jeff
3 years 3 months ago

Sometimes it sucks so much that you can lose any sort of momentum or desire to even try to lose weight.

austin
austin
3 years 3 months ago
yeah, as a black american, i noticed this amongst white america… And I think its a terrible flaw. Blacks and Latinos are obese, but you dont get the snide looks and judging eyes. I feel that more people need to speak out. I guess the different is if you look down your nose at a black person or latino, they would speak up and defend themselves to you. I guess in white american culture, they are not talk to act out like that, so they are silently the whipping posts. Stop being so quiet, if you feel someone is being… Read more »
Sophia
3 years 3 months ago

It’s the opposite problem in black america. People are toooo accepting of obesity.

Amber
3 years 3 months ago

There is DEFINITELY a stigma against people who are overweight and sadly it is very apparent in the Paleo community. So it is great for Mark address this here.

Brian Kozmo
3 years 3 months ago
Having been fat most of my life, this stigma has permanently messed me up psychologically. Loneliness, depression, etc.. I have come to resent most people because of it, if not hate them, because everyone seemed superficial. But now I realize, can you really blame them? It’s only human nature. We are hard-wired to want the healthiest genes possible in our partners. We wouldn’t be the humans we are today if it wasn’t for this hard-wiring. Although modern ways have an impact on the body unrelated to genes (some people say fat people would be better off back in the day,… Read more »
trackback

[…] One of the things I love about positive-focused healthy lifestyle communities (like but not limited to MDA) is the genuine support that exists for people to take charge of their well-being. It’s the collective excitement when others transform their bodies and health. It’s the willingness to offer help and advice, personal anecdotes and perspect… Mark’s Daily Apple […]

Mary
Mary
3 years 3 months ago
I have to admit I have been guilty of ” looking down one’s nose at another persons grocery cart”, especially when the person was overweight and shopping in her pajamas at my local Market Basket. When I stopped working after my second child and had to cut down on Wholefoods shopping I was shocked at what I saw at local ” regular” or non yuppie grocery stores. I now have a silent wish when I see obese or unhealthy people filling their carts with FDA approved foods; ” I wish you health and happiness”. The light within them is the… Read more »
Regan
Regan
3 years 3 months ago
Thank you for writing this!! Ten years ago I had a macro non-secreting pituitary tumour removed. Previous to this I had always been of average weight, and pretty focused on my outward appearance. Since surgery, I have just struggled with my weight, hormonal issues requiring a premature hysterectomy, Lupus and steroids/medications all of which have been hard on my sense of vanity. Thanks to starting the paleo lifestyle this January my Lupus is in better control and I’ve lost nearly 40lbs, while I have plateud in the last month. However I would love to lose 100lbs more! I have wonderful… Read more »
TaiChiHolly
TaiChiHolly
3 years 3 months ago

Thanks for this article. This is one that strikes home. I’m someone who has my entire adult life struggled with weight. I really appreciate all of the daily information and I’m motivated at this point.

Scott
Scott
3 years 3 months ago
I haven’t met any one who chooses to be overweight. People don’t wake up in the morning and say to themselves “today I am determined to eat as much as I can to gain weight”. There is more sympathy if you are an alcoholic or a drug addict. Sugar is addictive and killing more people than all the other stimulants put together. I also feel we are being let down by the medical industry. I can’t think of the last time a doctor said lets try and find out why your not eating well. They just prescribe pills because their… Read more »
Jose
Jose
3 years 3 months ago

“People don’t wake up in the morning and say to themselves “today I am determined to eat as much as I can to gain weight””

Think again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yoEepkeF9U

Marcia
Marcia
3 years 3 months ago
Very interesting. I used to be fat, and I know what it’s like to be treated poorly. But then I lost the weight. I don’t think I was treated badly after though. I find myself in the situation where – on one hand, I KNOW how much it sucks to be fat and how hard it is to lose weight. On the other hand, I KNOW it can be done for most people. But here I am at almost 43, post a second baby, and man, this second time baby weight is a lot more stubborn that the “I’m just… Read more »
Tom
3 years 3 months ago

“In these more subtle demonstrations, it becomes a sort of ‘if you’d only do X’ assumption, a looking down one’s nose at someone else’s grocery cart”

I have definitely been guilty of this. Coming from a place of understanding, I can stop assuming certain things simply based on what people have in their carts.

Nicole
Nicole
3 years 3 months ago
I am formerly obese. (I am now overweight by 10 pounds, according to the dubious BMI.) I know how I became obese: I ate far too much (as in, an extra meal a day and ridiculous portions) and was sedentary. I lost weight by reducing my food consumption and exercising. It really was that simple for me. I am fortunate that I was never treated badly as an adult for being obese, nor have I been treated differently since losing 90+ pounds. In fact, I have received much kindness and support throughout my weight loss journey. However, I find myself… Read more »
Shary
Shary
3 years 3 months ago
You’re right; it is a choice, but it’s one that many obese people either can’t or won’t make. I’ve never been overweight by more than 15 or 20 pounds, but I couldn’t seem to drop those extra pounds. Then I got serious about paleo/low-carb. I dumped the sweets (including artificial and substitute sweeteners) and the grain products. The extra weight melted right off without me changing anything else, and it has stayed off. I didn’t cheat, I didn’t rationalize, and I didn’t give in to cravings, which incidentally disappeared within a week or so. I mentioned this to an overweight… Read more »
Gracie
Gracie
3 years 3 months ago
One funny thing is that even though I am very fat, I am very strong. Since limited lung function makes aerobic and cardio activity unsafe I can’t do that. But I decided a few years ago that this is no excuse for being weak. So even though I am very fat and huff and puff on my very slow 1/2 mile daily walk, when I go to the feed store I throw a hundred pound bag over each shoulder and walk out. When it is branding time I don’t have to use the chute for any animal under 500 lbs.… Read more »
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