Did you know that there exists a war of words between a growing fat acceptance movement and folks who advocate weight loss as a means to decrease the likelihood of diseases like diabetes and cancer?  The folks in the fat (or body size) acceptance movement label their adversaries fatophobes while the weight loss advocates have a name for the fat acceptance folks- fatophiles.  Both sides make interesting points.  In the end both sides have their problems.  The fatophiles come off as bent on rationalizing unhealthy body sizes by whatever means possible, while the fatophobes appear unrealistic and intolerant of variations in body size.  However one thing is clear, both messages taken to their extreme pose a danger, but the former appears to be much more dangerous than the latter.  Listen to the fatophobes too much and perhaps anorexia becomes a bigger problem as people become more irrational about their weight, listen to the fatophiles and their excuses for obesity and what is now labeled “an obesity epidemic” only grows worse.

The fatophiles do have some things going for them and they are worth mentioning here. First, variation in body size is often a good thing.  We definitely shouldn’t try to pigeon-hole everyone into looking like a magazine cover model.  However, as often happens with acceptance movements, the fatophiles are so accepting that they refuse to recognize that there is such a thing as an unhealthy body type.  Second, weight loss for the sake of weight loss often leads to self-destructive behavior (not to mention crackpot weight loss methods).  How many people do you know who tried to lose weight by practically starving themselves?  By following some ridiculous fad diet like eating nothing by grapefruits?  And that leads to perhaps the strongest argument in favor of the fatophiles- thinness alone isn’t enough.  All too often people want to simply “lose weight” and get thin, instead of seeking to live healthier and get fit.  I’ll let the fatophiles and fatophobes argue over it is better to be thin or fat AND unfit.  As for me and my house, we will focus on fitness.

This leads to my major problem with the fatophile movement- they don’t speak about living a healthy lifestyle.  They are the body image equivalent of the 70s free love hippies.  Hippies preached a message of free love that ignored the problem of S.T.D.’s.   Similarly, the fatophiles proclaim an intoxicating message of acceptance while they not only ignore but even condemn those who would dare point out the unhealthy consequences of certain body shapes and sizes.  Their imperative is on some subjective idea of loving your body no matter its size while they remain willfully oblivious to the actual damage they might be doing to their own body by living an unhealthy lifestyle.

So where is the middle ground?  Well don’t be shocked by what I say next, it really is this simple.  Eat healthy, exercise regularly (resistance training and cardio), and be active.  Given those three inputs your body will find an equilibrium that is just right for you.  Some of us won’t have 6-pack abs, and that is okay.  Some of us will be barrel chested, that is fine.  And yes there are some people who due to medicine and medical conditions can’t lose weight.  Only you know if you are one of those folks- but good news for you the reader, most people are not.  [I can speak from experience since I took phenobarbital for three years.  Its side effects include lethargy and a drop in the metabolism which often leads to weight gain.  And trust me, I dealt with those side effects].

If you want some background on this debate, check out some of the links below….

Background Reading

Representing the Fat-o-philes

Fat and Happy, John Tierny

A Word of Caution: When you come across passages like the following, think for a minute,

“The fatophobes are fighting on, disputing the new study and arguing that it still shows the fatal dangers of being seriously obese. But they have lost the scientific high ground. Not only do people of “normal” weight die younger than the moderately overweight, the study shows, but thin people die even younger than those of normal weight.”

See anything wrong with this?  When are these weights registered?  Around the time of death?  One has to wonder if the study (and many I’ve actually read don’t) took into consideration people dying of wasting diseases or who wasted because they were dying?  My grandfather was a overweight for the last few decades of his life and struggled with diabetes, but after his stroke he lost a considerable amount of weight and would no doubt be labeled “thin” for the last 4 or so months of his life.  So keep such in mind as you hear statistics like the one above.

Representing the Fat-o-phobes

To Lengthen Thy Life Ignore the Fatophiles, Michael Fumento

There is much more to read out there in Google land.  If you have the spare time, this should help you get a head start.

  1. TopDog says:

    Losing weight is hard work there is no easy way…….You must work at it everyday and never give up…Good Luck to anyone that has to work hard like me ……………

  2. I’m with you on this one!

  3. Neil says:

    “Well don’t be shocked by what I say next, it really is this simple. Eat healthy, exercise regularly (resistance training and cardio), and be active. Given those three inputs your body will find an equilibrium that is just right for you. Some of us won’t have 6-pack abs, and that is okay. Some of us will be barrel chested, that is fine. And yes there are some people who due to medicine and medical conditions can’t lose weight. ”

    That nailed it well. So many people do an all or none: A) Sloth and bad eating habits or B) Obsessive exercise and a doomed-to-fail Homer Simpson strategy on dieting (“As God is my witness, I will always be hungry again!”).

    The first will make you miserable and slowly kill you. The second will make you miserable and is unsustainable, and usually leads to a seriously messed up metabolism.

    Just get real, people. You don’t have to be a triathlete. Just slowly scale down your portions, don’t drink multiple large sodas each day, get off the couch and walk 20 min. 3 times a week, and see what happens.

  4. And Neil the fatophiles would call you a fatophobe for pointing that out. They would then go on to list the 4 out of 1,000 people who have a disease or consume a medication that prevents them from losing weight (or even causes them to gain weight).

  5. Neil says:

    They just might. But I’m used to silly pejoratives ending in “phobe” by people who can’t discuss things like adults.

    Yes, a few people do have medical issues. A few. One of them is a close friend whose medicine causes her to gain weight. But we’ve noticed that she won’t even go for walks, watches loads of TV and eats lots of junk. So yes, there is a medical correlation but it doesn’t explain everything.

  6. “But I’m used to silly pejoratives ending in “phobe” by people who can’t discuss things like adults.”

    -phobe is the new “you are wrong and I hate your ideas but I can’t explain why” statement these days.

  7. Teresa says:

    To me, “phobe” and “phile” are markers that show that you think someone has lost their grip on a common-sense approach to a subject.

    In this case, neither side is terribly objective. Fat is not the only indicator od health, nor is it the most important. OTOH, it is not UNimportant either. One side wants to make it disproportionally important, and the other wants to make it disproportionally unimportant.

    It is definately a factor to control as much as possible with sensible action.

    Many people are repulsed by my weight, and describe me as “fat” or “unhealthy”.

    I could run most of those people into the ground. Most of the rest, I could at least keep up with.

    To me, I dont care how thin you are, if you cant bend down to tie your shoe, walk up a couple flights of staris without gettin winded (I did 20 flights last night…no stopping…not bad for an “obese” person…huh?), or do at least a dozen push-ups…

    ….then don’t lecture me about my weight! 🙂

    guess that makes me a “fat-o-phile”, to the fat-o-phobes”. 😉

  8. “In this case, neither side is terribly objective. Fat is not the only indicator od health, nor is it the most important. OTOH, “it is not UNimportant either. One side wants to make it disproportionally important, and the other wants to make it disproportionally unimportant.”


    “To me, I dont care how thin you are, if you cant bend down to tie your shoe, walk up a couple flights of stairs without gettin winded”

    It is about fitness, not weight. Weight just happens to be a very conspicuous factor to the casual observer- since one can’t peak inside the arteries of another person or guess their cholesterol based on their body size. 😉

  9. DR says:

    This debate between phobes and philes went a little nuts on this blog – http://whyareyousofat.wordpress.com/2008/06/27/my-first-real-hate-mail-its-about-time/

    You have to check out the comments.

    Silly me, when I commented, I tried using logic.

    Big mistake

    Seriously, this is a very emotionally charged issue. I have run into a few of the pro-fat / fat acceptance cultists on various message boards and will never debate/discuss obesity with them again.

    They can get a little fatal attraction. Scary

  10. I know what you mean DR. I made the mistake of commenting at a fatophiles blog and had all kinds of odd quasi-Marxist fat acceptance vile spewed at me. My comment about the conspicuous expanding waist lines at Wal-mart was greeted by a claim of classism/classist. Kind of odd considering I do 95% of my shopping there and reside firmly in the lower middle-class. Anyway, I just gave up on responding since the blog author deemed any kind of disagreement as “trolling” and worthy of moderation.

  11. Neil says:

    Wow, I had no idea this was this big of an issue. To state the obvious, people shouldn’t go around commenting on the appearance of others. I assumed that was basic Ms. Manners stuff that most knew and taught their kids.

    I figure that fat people know they are fat, and if they want my tips on getting slimmer they’ll ask. If they don’t ask, I don’t offer.

    And of course it is way better to be fit but a little fat than to have eating disorders and obsess over food.

    But to be well overweight, to eat primarily bad foods and to not exercise is nothing someone should defend or encourage. Our bodies were not meant to consume huge portions and to do no physical activity. It is that simple.

  12. “But to be well overweight, to eat primarily bad foods and to not exercise is nothing someone should defend or encourage”

    One would assume as much. But I am no longer surprised by these kinds of things.

  13. Dan says:

    What about if your thin, eat primarily bad foods and dont exercise?

  14. “What about if your thin, eat primarily bad foods and don’t exercise?”

    Then you are most likely unfit and unhealthy and you should look into acquiring healthy habits (proper nutritional intake and daily activity). The ideal isn’t to be fat or thin, but to be healthy and let your body find its own equilibrium.

    I was reading an article not to long ago about the famous Gracie family (you might know them from UFC). I think the family’s patriarch said it best when he stated that one of our biggest problems comes from hedonistic eating- the idea that food is meant primarily to give pleasure. However, foods most important role is providing energy to keep us active, moving, and alive. Yes, often healthy food can be quite tasty- but that is a bonus, not an essential.

    When I think about my most enjoyable meals I also try to think about how I felt after the meal. And when I do that it seems that the meals I enjoyed most while eating them resulted in a sluggishness and lethargy post-meal. I would much rather eat a meal that is good and feel great after than consume a wonderful meal and feel the need to unbutton my pants and recline for the next 3 hours.

    BTW, I should add that at 18 I ate a pretty unhealthy food intake of 90% Ramen Noodles, but was VERY active as a fitness enthusiast and full-time fireman. And while I was physically fit in the areas of strength and endurance, I was treating my body like crap with the food I consumed. Had I been thinking about what I was eating (and not the many women who loved a man in uniform) I certainly would have done things differently. Needless to say at 29 I can’t eat Ramen Noodles 7 days a week and be healthy OR thin. HA!

    Sorry if this response is rambling, my in-laws are here and we’ve been quite busy all day.

  15. Dan says:

    I too think that it really doesn’t matter what you are but more what you do. I think the emphasis is on eating healthy and exercising not been over or underweight since both groups can contain lazy and healthy individuals. I find the emphasis can be too much on peoples weight yet I know plenty of big guys that are very active and plenty of skinny ones who arn’t and eat like shit.

    As for the eating I dont think eating untill your so full that you need to unbutton your pants is enjoyable. So we probably agree on this too. I also feel you should feel great afterwards.

  16. I agree Dan. I love watching those World’s Strongest Man competitions AND sumo wrestling- and those guys are exceptionally fit with very large body types. Like we’ve been saying, you should focus on being fit and healthy. Your body will find its own equilibrium weight and shape. For some of us that is a six-pack while for others it is a broad shoulders and a barrel chested torso.

    Whatever body you walk around in you should feel good knowing that you put in a maximum amount of effort to be fit and healthy.

    That being said I am launching a 10 weeks to a ripped body challenge this coming Monday. The challenge does have a definite weight focus, but it is one that is possible since I’ve been there not too long ago- so I know I am not setting an unrealistic goal. Plus, if I don’t get there I won’t be depressed or brokenhearted as long as I put in 100% effort.

  17. virgomonkey says:

    Ah! Now I can see where you found my site!

    The thing is, why should some care if one is healthy or not unless they’re a loved one?

    Next, do you know the percentage of those people that are fat because they don’t have an illness (physical or mental)?

    I’ve been around for 39 years, and I am quite a social animal. 🙂 I have never even heard the word, “fatophile” and 2) have never seen groups banding together in some form of “fat pride”. Now, I have heard of a show (forgot the name) of black people being proud of being “plus sized”. But outside that, I am clueless. What am I missing? These must be internet groups, I reckon?

    If there is such a culture that praises the fat, let them be. They aren’t like STDs that can spread like wild fire.

    I do understand that you think that the fatophobic culture is bad too (although not as bad). Actually, I think it’s worse and more demeaning. People forget that we’re people too. We cry the same tears and spill the same blood. But people have to tell us off in public, and create blogs (not you) about us with the sole intent to hurt under the veneer of “tough love so that I can help you”. If you want to see how bad the “tough love” out there is, just look at my blog on my sidebar under, “Obesity Epidemic News” and under “Cushings” as well. If you are really interested in this topic, I highly recommend those links. In the Cushings Help and Support Forum (No, it’s not a Fat Pride Group), I hear case after case where a doctor has denied patients tests because all they think is that with proper eating and exercise that they will be better – only later to find out that they had a tumor causing a secretion of excess cortisol in their bodies. The later Cushings goes untreated, the smaller the cure rate. My fat friend went to the ER with an adrenal crises and was dismissed as the “doctor” at the ER said, “She’s too fat to have Addisons”. (People die from adrenal emergencies.) I am only saying this because the fatophobia is WORSE than the fatophobics imagine it to be. It is doing way more physical harm to these people than good.

    This fat pride is also interesting because the fatophobes will often complain that fat people whine incessantly. But when fat people are proud of their weight, they are criticized for having confidence in themselves. So, no matter what a fat person’s philosophy on life is, they are made fun of as if they’re animals or less than human.

    It’s also necessary to understand that just because I don’t mock fat people – that doesn’t automatically mean that I support their habits. I don’t know about yourself, but people usually get confused by this.

    Also, not everyone wants to live to 100+ years. I would be perfectly happy if I died in my 60’s for example. And I’m not alone in this thinking. Additionally, stress is bad on the body too. And I wouldn’t bat an eyelash if it were just as bad if not worse than overdosing on twinkies! Stress can cause weight gain too in the form of central obesity.

    In my opinion, there are a lot of other worse things happening in the world such as people hurting other people whether it be physically or verbally. This is happening to both children and adults all over the world. If I, personally, were going to worry about anything, I’d spend time worrying more about those harming innocent people than whether Amy Sue in MIssissippi is healthy or if her weight is killing her. She knows exactly what she is doing to her body. Just because these fat pride groups exist doesn’t mean they don’t know that they are killing themselves! What about bullycide in the US and in other countries? People often kick that under the rug. There are so many of our youth killing themselves willingly. Lots of corruption – even in our own government.

    All I am saying is that there are more pressing and serious issues going on to be so obsessed about how Amy Sue is doing with her “Fat Pride” group in Mississippi. Who cares? That’s how I think. Especially for us adults. Adults should be able to make decisions for themselves, and whatever they choose, they are choosing it for a reason they are happy with – even if just temporarily. If someone doesn’t like the choice that an adult makes, they must ask themselves, “why” and how it is an obstruction to their (the fatophobics) life, liberty and pursuit of happiness – in the grand scheme of things?

    I, of course, know that fat people are ugly and hard to look at. For the fatophobes, they can just easily turn around and look elsewhere or get used to looking at them in their place of work. If mocking them in blogs were working, we would be seeing a decrease. The fat epidemic is not as “new” as some are making it to be.

    It is just my opinion that these Fat Pride groups exist in the first place because of so many people making fun of them. If anything at all, they need CONSTRUCTIVE advice. That can be done WITH leaving them some dignity. Telling someone that they make them shiver, are ugly, disgusting, smelly, and gross is hardly constructive and will do more harm than good. I’m not saying that YOU do this, but most do – or at least they are being mocked all over the web. If these things must be said, they should be said to the person’s face in a polite way. This is not about being “politically correct”. This is about having manners. There’s a big difference. This is also the reason why some don’t leave their house. I know it’s their choice, but it’s one that I can understand especially if it’s something that they’ve had to deal with all their lives.

    If the tables were turned, EVERYONE would feel humiliated being mocked because of how they look just as much as skinny people don’t like being called anorexic! This is a natural reaction to that type of bullying. And, I reckon, fat pride groups are created in order to survive the stigma and tell the fatophobes to F off. Not that I would ever do this. Not that I condone this. I’m just saying……. There is a reason for all this behavior. It may not make sense to us, but it works for them, and we need to let them be.

    People are mean. They find strength in numbers and band together (like the fat pride groups) and lock, load, and attack. I haven’t seen this attacking scheme work for anybody that I know of.

    To conclude, whether one is becoming fat out of pure pleasure by their own choice, or out of any other reason, it is really our place to judge unless they SPECIFICALLY ask for advice?

  18. virgomonkey says:

    Oh, I forgot to also mention that even over-exercising isn’t healthy. Anything OUT of moderation isn’t healthy. Some people try to test their limits, and I have heard accounts where they pay the price for that too. And interestingly enough, those people that brag of jogging 478452005259 miles a day pay a price for that too, and I doubt it is good health – maybe short term yes, but not long run.

    I’m not talking about you. I am talking about the health fanatics which are just the exact opposite of the sedentary over-eaters.

    There is always a payday for “over-achievers” and they will find out someday. That is my hunch. Some of these people, by the way, call themselves “doctors” and their profile picture has “big muscles” in them… to compensate for something that is not there, I guess? I hope everyone is impressed with this guy as I am. 😉

    DR, asking for proof for something like this is like asking proof that the colors of the Canadian flag are red and white.

  19. “those people that brag of jogging 478452005259 miles a day pay a price for that too, and I doubt it is good health – maybe short term yes, but not long run.”

    A bit of hyperbole, eh? 😉 And yes too much of anything is bad. That is why I emphasize rest between exercises sessions. I also don’t run all the time since it can be hard on the knees- although it does have the positive impact of making the bones more dense and more resistant to breaks and osteoporosis. I try to train for running twice a year (about a 1/4 to a 1/3 of the year) and otherwise I focus on other lower impact cardio activities.

    [Aside: thanks for the comment Virgo. I think you win the prize for the longest comment ever on this blog.]

    “Also, not everyone wants to live to 100+ years. I would be perfectly happy if I died in my 60’s for example.”

    We have two very different perspectives on this. I feel that I have a moral obligation to my creator to treat my body like a temple and avoid defiling it with any one of a number of things- one among them is over eating of unhealthy foods that promote weight gain because of their caloric density and low nutritional content. If this means that I live to 100+ years- great. I will also admit that I would love to see my daughters children born, grow up, and graduate from college, and more! She has given me such great joy in her youth, I would want to be there for her in as she grows, and be there for her children too. I am not living this life merely for myself anymore.

  20. Chrissy says:

    Wow! What a very interesting post! I’ve just been catching up on some of your older posts and must say that I am truly impressed by your story of weight loss. You’re doing such an awesome job!!! 🙂

    Thanks for popping by and leaving a comment on my blog 🙂 I’ll definitely be back to check in on any updates on your blog!

  21. […] The post I’m going to talk about here is titled “Fatophile vs. Fatophobe?“ […]

  22. […] John of the Total Transformations blog has a good summary of the arguments on his entry titled Fatophile vs. Fatophobe […]

  23. daviddevero says:

    i didnt know that , this post rocks

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