In Part 1, we looked at the dangers of that perennial question: Do I look fat?
I explained my stance for answering that question, and we looked at a different (and dangerous) approach taken by the Fat Acceptance Movement. I shared with you some of their fallacies and refuted some of their claims.
In short, I didn’t have anything good to say about it.
In part 2 I’ll hit another two of the FAM’s claims with a dose of fact, and I’ll conclude by sharing with you the plan I would use to tackle dangerous question with which we began this article: “Do I look fat?”
The Fact Acceptance Movement (Continued)
Weight is Not Race!
FAM proponents often cite fat discrimination as being as prevalent as racial discrimination. By corollary, they would have you believe that one is as serious as the other, and hence equally important to eliminate.
The prevalence may well be equal, but don’t insult people who are suffering from real racial prejudice everywhere, and battling for even basic rights and needs. In some cases, people are getting killed just because of what race they were born.
You can’t choose your race.
You can choose a lifestyle that supports certain weight.
You can choose to load up at the buffet table… or not.
You can choose to go for a late night supper… or not.
You can choose to indulge in chocolate cake, ice cream, waffles, and muffins… or not.
You can choose to prioritize and schedule exercise instead of leaving it as an easily cancellable option… or not.
The HAES (Health at Every Size) website states “Let’s face facts. We’ve lost the war on obesity. Fighting fat hasn’t made the fat go away. And being thinner, even if we knew how to successfully accomplish it, will not necessarily make us healthier or happier.”
There is a vast difference between accepting the unchangeable, and simply giving up or not trying because it’s too hard.
Is adopting a healthy Lifestyle easy? Hell no, especially if you’ve been eating indiscriminately and slothing for years.
Is making small, sustainable changes possible, until you ultimately adopt a healthier Lifestyle eventually? Heavens, yes! Especially if you realise you need to make a change, and take that brave first step.
Lost the war on obesity? Some people haven’t even begun strapping their boots (gym shoes), picked up a weapon (weights, bands) or mounted a combat vehicle (cross-trainer, treadmill) in their lives and they talk about losing a war?
These people look at my clients at 200lb, 235lb, and say, “See, that’s proof you can’t lose weight!” Bullshit! What these people don’t see are the same people when they were 30-100lb heavier. Sure, they might never look like models, but they are lighter, healthier, and yes, happier with the freedom to do more things thanks to their lighter weight.
Fat is Not Beautiful
When I consult, speaking or write, I emphasize the most important thing about a person is who they are inside and how they treat the people.
I want that clear.
BUT… don’t blind yourself to reality by creating a false one.
While a person can be beautiful because of their values and behavior, actual fat is not attractive. I’m sure in some culture somewhere, being fat is beautiful. In the past, fat may have been attractive due to association with childbearing potential, and signs of affluence since only rich people could afford fattening foods.
Ironically, it’s the well-to-do now who are moving away from fat towards a fitness ideal as a sign of success.
Today, our standards of beauty have changed in favour of slimness. Mind you, I am not for unhealthy, anorexic, uber-low bodyfat levels. However a slimness that includes general leanness, muscle shape and tone, a nice WHR… these are standards of beauty that it would be a fool’s errand to try to overturn.
I am NOT for overturning it in favour of accepting being fat as a new type of beauty, because of what I know professionally.
When FAM proponents preach about seeing past the surface to the person inside, they are ironically describing what I am doing. When I see fat it is not just a matter of physical appearance, but my professional knowledge of what that fat represents. Higher risk of cardiac disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, joint pain, internal fat wrapping around vital organs, suffering for self and loved ones, economic damage, depression, and even premature death… that’s the mental image I see.
Trying to change opinions and convince people that loads of bodyfat is in fact beautiful is self-deception, like the Emperor’s new clothes.
Am I being a mite harsh? Yes. But I’m less worried about offending someone than I am about the harm this will do. Because sooner or later, someone overweight I care about will listen to FAM pundits, get swayed and brainwashed by it, because they are already vulnerable and susceptible to the temptation of something a lot easier.
Here’s someone who knows firsthand what I’m talking about.
Back to the Question
So HOW do you answer the original question?
First, let’s throw out the scenario when they really aren’t fat. There are so many ways to answer this and all of them will probably be quite safe. Google is your friend.
That out of the way, let’s tackle the real problem, when they are fat.
1. First, don’t ever answer “Yes” directly
You are looking to shorten your Life and this is not the blog for you.
2. Ask a question based around what THEY think
“Why are you asking me this?”
“What makes you say that?”
“Why would you think that?”
“What are you concerned about?”
“Is there an area you’re worried about?”
You see, I believe (excluding cases where body image distortion is a problem such as anorexia) every person knows the answer inside.
They may want
- reassurance that you still love them even if it may be so
- an honest confirmation that something needs to be done
- an external conflict they can focus on instead of facing up to the truth
You are going to guide them to answer their own question.
Get the conversation to them… fast. Get them talking about the cause of their concern, what they are thinking, anything… wait for an opening for the third step.
3. Position yourself as an ally
Position yourself as part of the solution, ready to help. Remember to soften this up.
“If you think you look fat, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Let’s work on it together.”
“I haven’t noticed, but let’s ask a doctor/ fitness consultant/ dietitian for an opinion. I’ll make an appointment for you.” (Obviously this option is out for me)
“I’m not sure, but these things happen so slowly; in fact I may have gained some myself. Let me get the weighing scale/ tape measure out and we’ll both check.”
At the end of it, we want i) acknowledgement of a problem and ii) actual support and help to take actions steps for that loved one. Maybe it’s commitment to start walking, take up an activity, find out about healthy cooking, and so on. You want your loved ones to not just look good, feel good, but actually be healthier.
Will this always work for everybody? Of course not!
It won’t work in case c) above: when the reason someone fires the question is to create an external conflict they can focus on, or an external enemy (that would be you) they can blame. It’s escapism again, and I leave it up to you if it’s a relationship you want to be in.
If you read books they’ll advise you to evade the question with things like: Blame the dress, reassuring her you love her very much, asking her if she’s kidding, and the like.
The problem is, all these may get you off the hook, but it doesn’t address the very real problem if she is fat. In fact, if they work too well, you may have a loved one getting fatter by the day, and a lost chance to leverage on her bringing up the issue in the first place.
Most books or articles will tell you that there really is only one correct way to answer that question.
You know what? I think so too.
Disclaimer: I share with you my answer in good faith. I cannot be held responsible for loss of life and limb if things go South after following my format. Good luck!
Are Metabolically Healthy Overweight and Obesity Benign Conditions? A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Kramer CK, Zinman B, Retnakaran R, Ann Intern Med. 2013;159:758-769.
My Brother is Eating Himself to Death. Shriver L 2009
“Honey, do I look fat?”
Any man who has been a husband, boyfriend, or male friend who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to get this question knows the primordial fear our caveman ancestor felt when he caught the whiff of a sabretooth tiger, or realized he’d stumbled into the lair of the prehistoric cavebear.
What should the answer be?