Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
6 Jun

The Stigma of Obesity

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.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. 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) then it is your fault.

    I follow a paleo diet because I feel much better. I haven’t lost weight but I am not gaining. I work on functional movements like squatting and proper form when I walk. I recently improved enough to add a daily walk.

    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.

    Gracie wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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.

      PotAsh wrote on June 6th, 2013
      • 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 that I was somewhat insulin resistant, which means that my blood sugar fluctuations were a bit more dramatic than a “normal” person’s. SBD allowed me to gain control of that. I noticed that when I got a little too lax with my diet, the hypoglycemic issues would return.

        When it came to the prescriptions, I noticed that ones that came with the warning that they could cause weight gain, usually also had a warning for diabetics, stating that they may affect their blood sugar. I figured if it affected the blood sugar of diabetics, it probably affected the blood sugar of non-diabetics as well, and that was probably the reason for the weight gain, so I paid attention to see if that was the case for me. I found that on the medications with those warnings, that I had to be very strict with my diet otherwise I craved foods that were higher on the glycemic index and/or ate more than normal. This tells me that they medication probably made me slightly more insulin resistant than I was when not on it. This may or may not be what is going on with your mother. Since she “was always thin” she may have been one of the lucky ones who was able to handle sugar and carbs with no issues. If the medication is affecting her blood sugar, like some of them did mine, she may not recognize the symptoms (almost nonexistent) of mild, medication induced hypoglycemia.

        b2curious wrote on June 6th, 2013
        • @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:

          Charles W. James wrote on June 9th, 2013
        • 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 weight an maintain it because a reduction in calories causes the metabolism to slow down, your appetite to increase and as soon as the diet is stopped, you’ll put the weight back on again. Trying to keep the weight off often results in disordered eating, i.e. counting calories, fat, carbs, measuring food and episodes of binge eating, as the body fights the weight loss.

          Low carb diets only work because it makes fat storage difficult for the metabolism (carbs stimulate insulin production and low levels make fat storage hard) and a low fat diet does too (converting carbs to fat is inefficient so the body prefers to burn, rather than store them). Both extremes cause you to eat fewer calories, they’re not magic. Low carb is better for some, and low fat better for others. Unfortunately for some, just changing the macronutrient ratios is ineffective or creates more problems than it solves.

          Weight gain for people who aren’t prone to obesity is difficult and impossible to maintain in the long term. The Vermont overfeeding study conducted on prisoners showed that even eating 8000kCal to 10000kCal per day for 10 weeks only caused a weight gain of 25% at most and they returned to their normal weight when eating normally.

          Medication can cause weight gain or loss, via changes in appetite or metabolism. The risks of taking vs not taking the medication need to be balanced which includes other side effects as well as weight. Quite often your body returns to its original weight when you come of the drugs so it’s not a problem.

          I’ve been overweight and anorexic before and now I’m a lean and healthy. I’ve done low fat, low carb, very low calorie (800kCal) and high calorie diets (<6000kCal) before before. It wasn't easy to overcome (still struggle now every now and then) and I understand why some people have a life long struggle with their weight, whether they be underweight or obese.

          Alie J wrote on June 10th, 2013
    • 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.

      Miryem wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • hang in there, Gracie! it’s rough to be around the judgemental assholes, but rest assured a LOT of people empathize!

      tess wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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, the better I get at not judging ANYONE about ANYTHING. :)

      gibson wrote on June 6th, 2013
      • “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 the emotional pain she went through.

        Although I’m overweight (and have been all of my life), I can thankfully say that I’ve never had any of the issues Mark discussed. I have had issues where I couldn’t perform something properly due to my weight, which made me angry rather than depressed, but those issues are few and far between. I’m mostly trying to slim down because my family has a bad history with cardiovascular disease!

        Charlayna wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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 effortlessly skinny guy (6′ 0″ and 170#), but after I got married, I ballooned up to 220# (granted not super overweight, but still a significant increase) and was teased about my weight as well. It was then I realized how hard it can be to lose weight and what others go through.

      Thoughts and prayers are with you!

      Jacob wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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.

      Holly wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • “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 and father have always been seriously overweight – my mother is in a nursing home a good 70 pounds overweight. We have family friends even bigger.

      My father doesn’t like me to take pictures of him – you know why? Because all he can see is a fat old man.

      I want to take the picture, because *I* see the man who held our family together through my Mother’s literal craziness. The man who cared enough to uproot his life after 5 decades in one place and move near to my Sister and myself. Who still tries everyday to take care of himself by playing a really lousy game of golf 3 times a week and manage his diet long after my Mother gave up on life.

      Don’t condemn me because you don’t like what you see in the mirror. I already see more than that. :(

      Amy wrote on June 6th, 2013
      • 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 fat self he is responding to my fat. Not me. It was up to my pharmacist sister in law to figure out that I was having a problem with medication that drove up my blood pressure.

        When I have 17% lung function and have to rest in between showering and brushing my teeth and someone tells me that I will feel better if I get more exercise, they are responding to adipose tissue and not Gracie.

        When I look in the mirror I see me. I am very fat. But I am still here. And I am very happy. It is when people speak to me that I cannot pretend they still see me.

        Gracie wrote on June 6th, 2013
        • 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, but I am still the same person, just better educated.

          One of the biggest changes in my life since going Primal is losing the guilt that I have felt since childhood about my weight; it was guilt and feeling like a failure that hurt me way more than being fat.

          You’ll never stop people judging you by the way you look but I do believe it’s possible to find inner peace.

          Good luck for the future, I’m sending my best wishes for you.

          Primal-V wrote on June 7th, 2013
      • 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 she said how close to delivery she was. Funny to me when that happened. So, some of us do not “see” fat/skinny people but see humans when we look at different sizes. Dignity, we can all show it to others.
        Like I tell my son, do your best, some days it’s better than on other days but your best is just that your best.

        2Rae wrote on June 7th, 2013
    • 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 have hope and she is starting to dare to hope (a little). Hang tough and stay the course.

      Don Jagoe wrote on June 7th, 2013
    • 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” and oftentimes don’t even enjoy.

      Txomin wrote on June 7th, 2013
      • 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?

        Christina wrote on June 8th, 2013
      • 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.

        Dan wrote on June 11th, 2013
    • 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

      Joy Beer wrote on June 9th, 2013
  2. Even after losing most of it I can tell you the scars fade but do not heal.

    Groktimus Primal wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • The hardest part isn’t the weight loss, it’s adjusting to the new person and how they’re perceived/treated.

      MattyT wrote on June 6th, 2013
      • 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!

        gibson wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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.

      Amy wrote on June 6th, 2013
  3. 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….

    tess wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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.

      cTo wrote on June 6th, 2013
      • 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.

        Tim wrote on June 6th, 2013
        • +1

          Julie wrote on June 6th, 2013
  4. 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 sounds terrible. I hope anyone who experiences that has the pleasure of reaching their goal weight as proof to people who are quick to judge.

    Danny wrote on June 6th, 2013
  5. 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!

    kate wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • Don’t look down on someone unless you’re helping them up…I love that!

      Stealing…hope you don’t mind. :)

      Jacob wrote on June 6th, 2013
      • not at all Jacob! Share the good vibes.

        kate wrote on June 6th, 2013
        • I also love that. How wonderful. I’m also going to steal that….

          Clare wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • “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!

      Celestia wrote on June 7th, 2013
    • Very well said Kate! Wish everyone shared your thoughts!

      Rocky wrote on June 1st, 2014
  6. 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 unsustainable, yet I’ve been doing it for almost 3 years and thus they assume that I will fall off the wagon and gain the weight back. Lastly, most people just want to lose weight. If I don’t hear “I want to get healthy”, I usually don’t bother wasting my time. People waiting for you to gain weight back for self gratification (wanting you to fail) is kind of offensive.

    However, forgetting what you used to be like and seeing the looks on peoples faces that haven’t seen you in a year or two is priceless. That and your uncle asking people who that was in the wedding and them tell them is was you. What I have found, however, is that after a while people just forget you were ever fat (including myself). It’s to the point now that I’m surprised when someone is surprised to see me now.

    The most frustrating part is that I am still, technically, overweight. I am still over 20% body fat, yet people think I am too skinny now. I look different than the guy with the same weight/height because I don’t have that belly. The fat is just stored in harder to notice places. Those parts are being massively stubborn to get rid of.

    Doug wrote on June 6th, 2013
  7. 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 48 years old and need recovery time for lifting.) It’s invigorating. The more of this primal (as opposed to the ordinary, slow, “heart healthy” aerobic) fitness I gain the better I feel and the better I feel about my body. I walk with confidence these days that I didn’t have before. The result thus far is that even though I’m the same size, wearing the same clothes, people keep telling me how fit I look.

    Diane wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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!

      Jacob wrote on June 6th, 2013
      • 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!

        Diane wrote on June 6th, 2013
        • 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…

          iluvoptics wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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!

      Cindy wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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 problem” levels and go back to “minor inconvenience” within a few weeks of adding planks back in. So if you’re not doing planks regularly, you might want to work on them a bit more, it could help. I hope you get the same results as me, if not better.

      b2curious wrote on June 6th, 2013
      • 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.

        Jacob wrote on June 6th, 2013
      • Thanks for the plank suggestion. I swear, when my daughter was born, that whole system of my body was just never the same!

        PJ (RightNOW) wrote on June 2nd, 2014
    • 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.

      Carol wrote on June 6th, 2013
  8. 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.

    Jeff wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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!

      Linda wrote on June 6th, 2013
      • 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.

        Jacob wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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.

      BonzoGal wrote on June 6th, 2013
      • Done that one too. The three friends I lost were all in recovery as well.

        Jeff wrote on June 6th, 2013
        • Lost family as a result of getting sober. They dont like who i have become?
          I think they are intimidated.

          TerriAnn wrote on June 7th, 2013
  9. 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!

    Nocona wrote on June 6th, 2013
  10. 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 my husbands turn, the last two years he’s gained about 50 pounds. He’s always been super thin while living on pizza and hamburgers, and still doesn’t think he needs to chage his diet (mostly from stubborness). He finally admitted to me he never realized what it was like to be overweight, and thought people were just being lazy and eating too much. However he still refuses to read “The Primal Blueprint” because it crazy hippie sh*#. One day he will see!
    I have to admit that, I too have found myself looking at an obese person and thinking they should really try harder, but I have to remind myself that maybe they don’t know how. There was a time when I didn’t. So I pass on my new found knowledge direct them to MDA and let them decide to make the change. Sometimes that’s all I can do, but at least it’s something!

    VetTech wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • +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.

      Primal-V wrote on June 7th, 2013
  11. 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.)

    Judy G wrote on June 6th, 2013
  12. 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 the weight off. i have recently started crossfit (in april) and LOVE it! everyone there was talking Paleo this and Paleo that. i have decided to give it a go, now on day 4 without any sugar, dairy, grain or refined carbs. I can already tell a difference, just in my sleep pattern alone. in regards to being judged for my weight, yes, that happens. i too have lost people that i thought were my friends. but i have to remember that i’m not doing this for friends. i’m doing it for me, and if they can’t support that, then good riddance.

    Michelle wrote on June 6th, 2013
  13. 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 I keep telling my 7-year old for the past year whenever conflict arises between her and her little sister. Must be a gene that’s expressed when parenthood ensues.

    Aaron Blaisdell wrote on June 6th, 2013
  14. What happens when someone doesn’t want to lose weight, and is healthy and happy being a bigger person?

    Jason wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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 of my life, and that energy DOES come out of my career, my family, etc.

      The other place I see the stigma is in medical claims that are flat out false, and are impacting things like decisions about health insurance structures. 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.

      Mary wrote on June 6th, 2013
      • “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 tender age of 51 has already back surgery and knee replacements. My Mother, already weak from non-exercise, has increasing mobility problems directly related to the extra weight.

        Stigma aside – don’t fool yourself about the health consequences of ignoring a serious weight problem, especially later in life. It’s worth the effort to lose the weight.

        Amy wrote on June 6th, 2013
        • 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 demands on my time and energy. So not quite putting in that extra effort in the office or in life because I’ve spent my cognitive energy on the food battle doesn’t do anything to me. But if I were in an exhausting job, or hovering on the edge of being laid off, or had a child at all, much less a demanding one… I could not do what I do. And I’m doing it every day, so I do know what it takes and I don’t judge anyone who makes a different decision.

          Mary wrote on June 8th, 2013
    • 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.

      Pamsc wrote on June 6th, 2013
  15. 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 what I ate my entire life, and started the Paleo diet a few months ago. While I am feeling healthier, I still struggle to lose any significant amount of weight (despite testing for hormonal abnormalities).

    I totally agree with your observations about society’s perceptions of obesity and how we look down on fat people, but fail to understand the complex issue of how people become fat or remain fat.

    I long to live in a world, where my dress size is not something that is used to describe who I am.

    Kristin wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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.

      Stephanie wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • “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 what you think others think of you. I’ve found the overweight and obese to be much harder on themselves than any outsider might have been, especially adults.

      Amy wrote on June 6th, 2013
  16. 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.

    cTo wrote on June 6th, 2013
  17. 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.

    Malissa wrote on June 6th, 2013
  18. 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.

    charity dasenbrock wrote on June 6th, 2013
  19. 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 and just made the assumption when he first saw me that I would be unhealthy. He was actually surprised when – other than the BP – all my blood work numbers were good. Anyway, I struggled for years trying to lose that extra weight and get back to feeling good – I joked that I lost 150 pounds but it was the same 10 pounds 13 times (I did actually lose 30 but it was hard)! Bad relationships, unemployment, and that emotional eating made everything very difficult. Inside I was miserable.

    I discovered primal in March this year; I was already off most processed food due to chemical allergies and I quit dairy last year. I’m not even following the lifestyle 100% and I’ve already lost 25 lbs. I feel better than I have in years, I’m riding my bike again after a 30 year hiatus, and I’m healthier at 52 than I was at 44. That said, if I had not finally figured out what the cause was behind my emotional eating and worked very hard to fix it, I don’t know if I would be having success now.

    Adriana Vidal wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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 also lose plenty of weight (I lost about 10 pounds in 7-8 weeks last year). But I’ve just finished my final exams, so my eating has been a bit all over the place. But I’m picking myself up and carrying on because I know that I’m going to be happy when I’m healthier.

      Good luck to you!

      Clare wrote on June 6th, 2013
  20. 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.

    Tessie wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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.

      iluvoptics wrote on June 6th, 2013
      • 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.

        Petra wrote on June 6th, 2013
        • 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.

          eema.gray wrote on June 7th, 2013
  21. 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 put to work keep me focused and encouraged.

    Stephanie wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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 is doing so well for me, why would I want to do surgery? Why not just eat well??

      That these women were nearly all 30-60# overweight themselves and yet, since I was more overweight, felt entitled to the whole attitude toward me, just boggled my mind. Mind you, all my blood readings were fine (to never-ending surprise).

      (This reminds me of eating in restaurants, where anyone at the table no matter how fat, if they are even 10# obviously less fat than you, will feel perfectly entitled to spout their eating philosophy as ‘advice’ even if they have never dieted successfully in their life.)

      I don’t visit docs much and I only had one doctor that ever did jack for me — he ‘prescribed’ me a book on lowcarb. Although I don’t eat that way any more (it did well for me but after my VLC ‘success’ I’ve had years of seemingly massive fatigue-etc. problems, but I’m coming out of that, eating generally primal) it probably saved my life at the time. Every other medical opinion I ever got when visiting a doc has ranged from useless to actually harmful.

      PJ (RightNOW) wrote on June 2nd, 2014
  22. 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 do to get where you want to be, if you really want it. I see too many people who treat their diet carelessly, and exercise as a foreign movement. Our health is wealth, our health is life, and most just don’t want to acknowledge that. I hope for desire and commitment to you all. One love.

    David N. wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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 those who are overweight are that way because they’re basically not trying hard enough. It’s definitely more complex than that.

      I’m not trying to undermine your feelings, because the whole fat on the inside feeling is also a very complex thing. What a blessing that you’ve been able to become physically and mentally fit; you understand the struggle it takes. So I hope you can also empathize with those who just aren’t there yet. Their physical weight is no less difficult than the mental weight you carried for years.

      Stacie wrote on June 7th, 2013
  23. 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.

    Mary wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • And why kill yourself for something you can’t sustain? I think you’re on the right track. Keep it up!

      Stacie wrote on June 7th, 2013
      • 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.

        Mary wrote on June 11th, 2013
    • 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 months of fasting more, I stepped back and realized that I’d made two little changes at the time weight loss slowed: 1) started putting heavy cream in my coffee, and 2) stopped going to a weekly 2-hour session of Reformer and then yoga–probably a 2k net weekly Calorie increase just from that. Sure enough, a few weeks ago I dropped the cream and picked up the yoga mat, and now I’m seeing changes again.

      Regardless, you should be proud of your achievements thus far. :)

      KevvyB wrote on June 12th, 2013
  24. 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” statement. I didn’t used to be so inactive, but it’s so much more difficult to get the energy, effort, and *motivation* now, even though I know it would be good for me.

    Anony Mouse wrote on June 6th, 2013
  25. 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 triggers). The obesity issue cannot be properly tackled without tackling those issues. I’ve been to see a CBT therapist who has helped me immensely; it has, to an extent, changed my view of food, but most importantly given me an understanding of how my thought processes were stopping me from succeeding. It was a shock, and was really, really difficult at times. Doctors (in the UK we’d be dealing with “general practitioners” – local family doctors) are not qualified, generally to deal with all the complexities which lie behind excess weight.

    Clare wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • “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.

      b2curious wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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. Just saying that this idea that people get fat because they eat when emotional is probably, at least most of the time, not really so, since plenty of thin people are just the same way.

      PJ (RightNOW) wrote on June 2nd, 2014
  26. 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 simply tell each other they are beautiful no matter how big they are. The people may indeed be beautiful. But there is nothing beautiful about increased rates of cancer, heart disease and atherosclerosis, Type II diabetes, arthritis, dementia, and all the other ills associated with obesity. Some one earlier wrote that life expectancy for someone who loses weight after 40 is pretty much unaltered, and with all our modern medications, they are right. We’ve kept quantity up there, but quality goes straight down the tubes. Decreased mobility, handfuls of pills, aches and pains galore, reliance on other people to get by.

    Everyone has a right to live their life how they want. But what’s the correct way to fight the disinformation out there (big is beautiful, now scoop up more whole grains onto your plate) without appearing sanctimonious or hateful? Or is there not one?

    Shane wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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 a huge problem!

      VetTech wrote on June 6th, 2013
      • Sorry that should say “the biggest misconception out there is weight=health”. Wrong choice of words…….my bad!

        VetTech wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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 dad stick a needle in his leg for insulin. That’s when it hit me….I need to change something or I’ll be doing the same thing in 30 years, probably less. That was about a year and a half ago, and now down 35 pounds, I feel confident that I am extremely healthy even though I have about 20-30 more pounds to lose. So yes, I am beautiful, even though I’m still bigger. But I’m also healthy, and building a lifestyle that will let me sustain and even improve my health.

      I try to fight the disinformation by sending people to this blog and telling them to sign up for the newsletter. Even if it helps one person, I think that’s amazing.

      Stacie wrote on June 7th, 2013
  27. 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.

    Kim wrote on June 6th, 2013
  28. 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.

    Zosha wrote on June 6th, 2013
  29. 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.

    Julie wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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 to never speak to her or darken the door of the family home again (this is a BIG threat – I’m an only child and mum always wanted lots of children) unless she shut up about it. Losing weight and being healthy is something, like it or not, that people have to make their own decisions about. I took a decision one day to lose weight – over the next 18 months or so lost 63 pounds. It’s gone back on, but it’s my decision about losing again. You can’t go about telling people that being fat is unhealthy etc etc. People won’t listen to other people telling them negative things. But once they make that decision, and even better, if they decide on a course of action, support them in that.

      Clare wrote on June 6th, 2013
  30. 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 I was being judged for my physical attributes again instead of my personal qualities.
    It hit me like a ton of bricks one day. Most people have no clue how they are treating me (and everyone else). Our primary purpose on this planet is to reproduce. We are hardwired to be attracted to people who might help us pass on our genes, in other words, people who look healthy. We subconsciously pre-judge others based on how healthy they appear to us. Perceptions become reality and we then act according to our perceptions.
    Some of the perception that others have of us may in fact come subconsciously from us. While there are many reasons why people get fat the truth is that most of us (myself definitely included) get fat because we didn’t do what our bodies needed us to do. When we begin doing what we need to do and stop doing what is harming us, we start liking ourselves more. I have always been a happy, friendly outgoing person. However, when I like myself I’m even more happy, friendly and outgoing. Misery loves company and happiness spreads happiness. If I don’t like myself, you’re not likely to like me either. Again, this is largely subconscious but face it, we are not normally attracted to unhappy people.
    We do have the ability to cognitively override some of what we perceive. I believe that it is my responsibility to do my best to not allow these prejudices to affect my actions but, I also need to cut people some slack when they treat me differently based on what they perceive about me subconsciously. They may not know that they’re doing anything differently and if they do, they may not know why.
    I do know that I like myself better now and if others like me, well that’s ok too.

    Tealdo wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • Exactly! Well said.

      2Rae wrote on June 7th, 2013
  31. 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 I give them the “diet / exercise / sleep / stress reduction” elevator speech the response is typically “No, that can’t be the reason, grains are GOOD for you” or “Wow, I could NEVER give up pasta and bread”. Education, determination and resolve are the keys I think. I realize there are some factors and viable situations that make weight loss very challenging for some.

    George wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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 is not only hurtful, it’s plain wrong in many cases.

      As far as health risks are concerned I’d take an overweight person following PB over a thin one eating SAD any day.

      Nikki wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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.

      Brandi wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • Or we could stop subsidizing processed food.

      Marcia wrote on June 7th, 2013
  32. 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 to much, sometimes ones metabolism is just completely messed up. I am a fifth generation diabetic and was showing signs of it as a 100 lb, 5’4″, 12 year old.

    Job interviews are hell for fat people. You can have an awesome resume and the minute you walk in for the interview you can just watch their eyes shut you off and dismiss you. My husband was nearly fired from his job of eight years for being obese. He was perfectly capable of performing his job but a new regional manager came in and said that he exceeded the weight limits on the ladders in the warehouse, fire him. His store manager stepped up to bat and said that is discrimination and said that all that would be needed was to get ladders with a heavier weight limit. Which is what was done.

    Ingvildr wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • 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.

      Brandi wrote on June 6th, 2013
  33. 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!

    Lucylu wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • That’s a great attitude to have! Way to go, and looking forward to reading your story on Friday someday in the future :)

      Stacie wrote on June 7th, 2013
    • Good eating Skinny Girl. Keep us all updated.

      2Rae wrote on June 7th, 2013
  34. 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.

    Terry wrote on June 6th, 2013
  35. 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 instance (just remembering from the book, so not promising total accuracy here), there are two times in childhood that leptin affects a person’s whole system in ways that may change that system permanently. So you cannot look at someone who is carrying a lot of weight and come up with these things about “try harder.” Given the horrible bias against fat people in our society, if one could “try harder” and succeed, a lot more people would do it.

    Susan wrote on June 6th, 2013
  36. 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.

    Colleen wrote on June 6th, 2013
  37. 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 out), how you feel, how you perform, and how you approach your day-to-day life are better indicators of success.

    I have never had the stigma of obesity, although I have been made fun of for being too skinny. Or people roll their eyes when they see me pull out a salad because “if they were my weight, they’d eat whatever they wanted!” On the other hand, I know some overweight people who are just good-natured, outgoing, and love life, and I’m thinking, wow, wouldn’t I love some of that!

    Wouldn’t it be nice if it weren’t about food and weight, but about making the best choices that align with our goals in life?

    Deanna wrote on June 6th, 2013
  38. Sometimes it sucks so much that you can lose any sort of momentum or desire to even try to lose weight.

    Jeff wrote on June 6th, 2013
  39. 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 snide because of your weight, confront them on it.

    austin wrote on June 6th, 2013
    • It’s the opposite problem in black america. People are toooo accepting of obesity.

      Sophia wrote on June 7th, 2013
  40. 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.

    Amber wrote on June 6th, 2013

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