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July 17, 2015

Do I Look Fat? Part 1: The Fat Acceptance Movement

by alive

Cave bear“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?



In Part 1, I’ll share my approach to this question. Then I’ll share an alternative, more dangerous and yet far more seductive one you might hear these days. I’ll try to deconstruct it for you.


In Part 2, I’ll finish with ideas on how to actually answer this dangerous question. If you’re reading this during such an emergency, you might want to start there first.



My Stand


With a loaded question like “Do I look fat?” you never ever know with 100% confidence what women want to hear.


Are they asking for reassurance of your love? Honesty about their size? Concern for their health? Each of these necessitates a different type and tone of response.

Its a trap

Me, I have it tough. Everyone in my circle knows what I do. They know I run the exercise part of the Weight Management Program in my hospital. They know I’m an expert on exercise and fat loss. They know my preference for body type and the importance I place on fitness and good health.


That, plus my belief that if you’re a real friend, you tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear, means I don’t have the convenient expedient of lying. And I do NOT in fact want to because being fat is dangerous.


So my approach is to answer that question truthfully, personally and professionally.


HOW I answer though, is the important soft skills part I’ll get to in Part 2.


Before that, let me tell you why supporters of a different approach, the Fat Acceptance Movement, would probably not tell you that at all.



The Fat Acceptance Movement (FAM)


What is it?


You can get more detail online, at Wikipedia for instance, but let me summarize it.


The FAM claims that there is a discrimination against fat people in society. This bias comes in different forms. Most obvious is body image and how being fat is viewed by many, but less apparent to most people are different treatment legally and by the medical establishment.


Fat prideFor example, the lack of facilities to accommodate overweight people, disadvantage during the hiring process, and even charges for two seats on an airplane.

The FAM argues you can be fat and healthy. One of their ideas is Health At Every Size (HAES), so an obese person could be as healthy as someone of ‘normal’ weight.


In other words, fat shouldn’t be used to judge someone’s health as the two could be independent. So for example, making a judgement of one’s health based on weight in situations like job hiring or insurance premiums is wrong.


Some have even made the parallel of fat discrimination with race discrimination.


Finally, some FAM proponents claim that fat can be beautiful too, and are fighting for a new standard that defines it as the ‘new’ woman, the ‘real’ woman, and other nice labels. They rail against the stereotypical slim form as a fraud, an unattainable goal without lots of genetics, exercise, and dieting. Accept your body as still beautiful and sexy, and don’t accept that you must lose weight to be attractive


Despite the exact spelling the acronym shares with my own surname, I claim no affiliation with any of its forms whatsoever.


So let me create a new movement I am happy to put my name on.



The Fact Acceptance Movement (FAM)


Let me give you my thoughts both personal and professional.


The FAM movement is generally rubbish. It is one of those feel good deals that sell because they’re easy to swallow, diverts responsibility externally, and doesn’t require any hard work.


Again you’ll find tonnes of criticism of it online but let me give you just a few thoughts.


Healthy but Fat?

If you do a search for “healthy but fat” or even the “fat paradox” you’ll doubtless get numerous in support. However, the preponderance of scientific evidence and clinical experience show that the fatter you are, the more unhealthy you will be.


A meta-analysis conducted by Kramer and colleagues in 2013 found that even if you didn’t have a disease like high blood pressure or diabetes, you have a higher risk of premature death or developing a health problem. It also suggested that previous studies ‘proving’ people could be both fit and fat were flawed.



Complications of obesityBeing overweight is a reliable precursor to a whole slew of health problems, with increased risk for almost anything you can think of. Heart attack, stroke, diabetes (and its associated sequelae such as blindness and amputations) are real dangers to basic quality of Life itself, let alone living it to your full potential.




Even disputing what’s happening inside, no one can believe that carrying all that extra weight is going to do your joints any favours, and if you develop pain in your load-bearing joints like your knees, hips and back, that’s a LOT of things you won’t be able to do, disease or no.



It’s the Genes/ The Thyroid/ The XXX…


obesity geneticsYes, there is a genetic component to obesity. And yes, some medications can make people gain weight.


That’s not the majority of overweight people. You won’t see someone who eats healthy, watches calories, exercises regularly, and still obese.


Even if you were genetically predisposed, you’d need a trigger, and that trigger is still caloric surplus.



That’s where environmental factors and habits come in. There are ways to combat these and many people who are overweight do NOT.

Calories in > calories out = fat gain

You can’t escape this equation, no matter how many fancy arguments you can create.


If you use this calculator you’ll get an idea how many calories you need to maintain your body weight. Then check if you are really around there, or are you taking way more?


A sedentary 170cm, 40 year old man who weighs 70kg needs 2285 calories a day.


I’ve seen many 170cm, 40 year-old sedentary men who eat way more than this. They also weigh more than this.


Here’s what makes you fat, genetics or not.


Lack of exercise makes you fat. If you don’t move, and spend all your time sitting or lying down, you’re not burning calories and there’s no need for your metabolism to rev up. If you burnt just 500kcal a week for a total of 2000kcal a month, your genetics would still be the same, but you’d be much fatter than if you didn’t.


Overeating makes you fat. This is true especially if you live or work near conveniently placed fast food restaurants or hawker centres selling oily food. It’s well known that Pima Indians who leave their native regions and migrate to the States become fat. Did their genetics change?


Have you been exercising regularly for a total of at least 150min a week, at an intensity level of 4-6 out of a 10 point scale?


Have you been eating a healthy diet, keeping fatty, fried foods, snacks, and sugary beverages down?


If you haven’t done any of these, you have no business claiming genetic causes.



Next time, I’ll address the claims that fat is beautiful, fat discrimination is like racial discrimination, and reveal my answers to this entrapping question: Do I Look Fat!



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