In the  Times,  a profile of “fat activist” Virginia Sole-Smith. The piece seems perfectly pitched to ignite angry discourse, in part because the

Fat or Thin, We Are Not Meant to Feel Good About Ourselves All the Time

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2024-05-16 01:30:04

In the Times, a profile of “fat activist” Virginia Sole-Smith. The piece seems perfectly pitched to ignite angry discourse, in part because the woman profiled appears intent on doing exactly that. Beneath the surface, though, there’s pain.

I should start by saying that I’m someone who has a great deal of sympathy for people who fight against reductive attitudes towards weight and shape and fitness. I am, after all, pretty fat myself these days, although I’m on semaglutide and slowly losing weight. I have direct and unambiguous experience that demonstrates the folly of seeing weight loss or gain as a simple function of behavior and choice. When I’m manic, I quickly lose weight without trying, sometimes when I’m actively trying to bulk; when I’m on meds, I try very hard to keep weight off, and put it on quickly anyway; when I’m neither manic nor medicated, I usually just stay the same weight, regardless of what I’m trying to achieve. Now, I’m going to spend ~$10,000 this year on a drug that’s hopefully going to take all of this out of my hands. Either way, any way, all ways - my personal effort has almost no influence on my weight. My various diets and workout regimes and tricks and schemes are powerless in the face of forces I can’t control. And yet gaining or losing weight is widely thought to be a matter of simple virtue or lack thereof. I find this senseless and deeply cruel.

But, of course, that is not enough for people like Sole-Smith. The understanding that losing weight is hard and highly variable depending on genetics and environment, and a subsequent dedication to not blaming individuals for how fat they are (and to minding your own business), are not enough. The fat activists instead insist, as Sole-Smith does, that fat people should not attempt to control their appetites at all, and that doing so constitutes “diet culture,” which is presumed to be psychically unhealthy and a vestige of bigotry no matter what the circumstance. They also tend to minimize or dismiss decades of research findings that show that carrying around a lot of excess fat is dangerous in and of itself. (This is, indeed, why I’m on Rybelsus, on top of the fact that it simply became too physically uncomfortable to walk around with 270 pounds on a 6’2 frame.) “Fat activism” vs. “cruel and unscientific insistence that fat people can just choose not to be fat” is a perfect synecdoche of our rotten political culture, a diorama of our whole system, which amounts to a series of dueling incurious orthodoxies prompted by the desire to inflict cruelty on one’s enemies. Someone else’s obesity is none of your business; insisting that there are no health consequences for being obesity is both personally and socially destructive.

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