Transcribe your podcast

Hi, everybody, and welcome to Maintenance Phase.


My name is Aubrey Gordon and I'm here with my co-host, Michael. Hello. Yeah, hi. Hi.


We're doing like a little overture episode. This is like a little like a little teaser because we know that when people find a new podcast, oftentimes they scroll down to the bottom of the feed.


That's what I do. Yeah. Yeah. So we wanted to give folks a little introduction to who we are, what this podcast is, and sort of what are some of the, like, underlying critiques that are going to come up. And we're going to talk about our own experiences in relation to those false.


I will be revealing nothing about myself but proceed. Ironically, the anonymous person here is going to be the whole show.


We talk about our inspirations for the show and how we got the idea of doing it. Yeah, what are you kicking off on this one?


So my desire to do a show like this came from a couple of months ago. I was looking through the sort of the top charts on Apple podcasts and health, you know, is one of the categories. And I was scrolling through the top, I don't know, 50 hundred health podcasts. And like very, very, very few of them were subversive at all or seemed to be in any way skeptical of, like the wellness industry. So I thought, like it would be a good idea to have a show that is kind of curious about this stuff.


And if we find good ideas, that's fine. But also, I think it's important to be like, are we really becoming healthier with all that stuff? Totally.


And like we have sort of very conveniently as a culture just collapsed our definition of health into our visual assessment of our own weight. That's a good way to put it. Even really smart, thoughtful people accept fully that how fat you are is a direct measure of how healthy you are.


And the underpinning of that is that it is your responsibility to be as healthy as possible.


Yeah, a lot of the other shows seem to have this kind of like our fat people, people kind of vibe weird, like this very exotic concept.


And so we're just sort of taking that as a as a starting point.


Yeah. We're going to assume that fat people are people.


You know what?


So do you want to tell people who are these millennials maybe about Gwyneth Paltrow and who are these millennials pressuring me into the extended group of.


What's your deal, Aubrey? What is my deal?


So I am a writer. You may know my work as your fat friend. If you have read anything by that person, that's me. And I started writing about being fat because I'm a fat lady and I have been a fat lady pretty much my whole life. When I graduated from high school, I was a size twenty four, which was at that point the largest size available even in plus size stores. So yeah, a lot of high school spent wearing sweatshirts with polo collars sewn in there.


Like if you're this fat you must be 60 or 80.


Oh God. That's why you're wearing men's wear. We were talking about earlier anyway, like pretty much every fat person, I tried every weight loss method that was available to me as I did that, as I went on diets and diet drugs and detoxes and cleanses and the lifestyle changes and whatever else, the same thing pretty much always happened, which is that I would lose a little bit of weight 10 or 20 or sometimes as much as 50 pounds. I would lose that weight and then I would reliably gain it back.


And then some the more I tried to lose weight, the fatter I got.


It's a very rare experience that only happens to ninety nine percent of people who go on extreme dieting. And so we're really in uncharted waters.


And it's totally and, you know, the only explanation that was available to me for that was that it was a personal failure. That's the only message that we ever get. If a fat person is fat, especially as fat as I am, it has to be their fault. Subsequently, we sort of deserve whatever's coming to us. Yes. If people are shitty to you, sorry. That's just what happens to fat people. Yeah.


Weight is the number one reason that kids are bullied at school. I feel like a lot of people don't know that. Yeah. And it's generally something that we just like except like, well, you know, she is pretty big.


So like that that tends to be the way that these kinds of bullying experiences get framed. And it's great.


Yes, absolutely. And it becomes like such a big thing, right. That there are some cases of children being taken away from their parents because the kids are fat. And that must be a failure of parenting to know about that.


That's bad. Oh, yeah.


So like we have sort of taken this reasoning to such extremes that we are building social systems around that. Right. And that is like really troubling to me.


But look look what you look what you just did. We were talking about you and then you got into academic research, which is which is what you do no matter what we talk about.


I ask you something about yourself. And then like two minutes later, it's like according to a peer review.


Colonel in 1990 said, like every other person, you and I are very well matched for a reason.


That is one part of what's so exciting to me on the podcast is that it relates really closely to stuff that has helped me a great deal in sort of making peace with my own sides, but also thinking critically about how fatness and anti fat bias and sort of this idea that everyone owes it to everyone else to be healthy because nobody gives a shit about the resting heart rate or the LDL cholesterol readings of someone who's skinny.


Right. I think people can genuinely believe that they are concerned for fat people self and that that belief can be rooted in faulty information and biased beliefs, that they have been fed and sort of consumed pretty uncritically for most of us, for our whole lives.


It's not all discrimination against a group manifests as like shouting slurs at them from a pickup truck. Right. It can very easily just be an overwhelming sense of paternalism or this like fake concern. Right.


There is this sort of like noblesse oblige that happens within people, which is sort of this belief that, like, I have cracked the code on being thin and you have. So it is my duty to instruct you on how to have a body that is less like yours and more like mine.


Yeah, but let's talk about your writing, because this is how I found you. This is a lot of other people found you. You started writing anonymously on the Internet, what, five years ago? Four years ago.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. I had gotten into an argument with a friend of mine who I love dearly. She and I had gotten into this back and forth about a Cheryl Strayed quote, of all things shut.


And so that's where it started and that's where it started, where like I had posted the Cheryl Strayed quote, that was something like, is there anything more boring than listening to a woman bemoan the size of her own body or something like that? So I had this whole sort of back and forth with my friend who was like, well, but you don't understand how hard it is to stay thin. Oh, we sort of went down this road where she was like, you don't understand what it's like to be me.


And I was like, cool. But also you understand what it's like to be me. Right. Right. We have this back and forth. And I wrote her a letter and sent it to a friend of mine to take a look at. And I was like, hey, can you just tell me if I'm being like a total industrial strength jerk in this letter or if I'm like, this is OK to send to someone?


And he was like, it's OK to send someone. And also maybe you should post it somewhere online because he was like, I'd like to share it. And I know a handful of people who probably would like to share it. I was like, sure, so I posted online. And then within about a week I think forty or fifty thousand people had read it.


So all of this means that you were into systemic bias before it was cool.


Just what you're saying, like you had to even the early EBP anyway. So I started writing, you know, for that audience, for people who were good, thoughtful, kind people who had never really thought critically about the ways in which they think about and interact with and treat that right.


We are the same age. We have both read a billion Newsweek cover stories that are like the obesity epidemic, obesity among our kids, like the same framing around obesity our entire lives.


Like how many times have we just seen a random sentence in a random article that's just like ducted a fat people are unhealthy at that. Right. It's one of those presumptions that sort of doesn't even need unpacking anymore.


Yeah, there's a lot of people who, like, believe this because this is something we've all been told a million times. And it's actually more complicated than that. Believe it or not, it's not as simple as every fat person is unhealthy and every skinny person is healthy. And every fat person needs you to tell them that they're unhealthy constantly and that will help them. And oh, it's just like smoking. If we shame them, everybody will not be fat anymore.


These are things that a lot of us believe without really interrogating them.


Well, I mean, like that's also part of what's, again, like, helped me pretty immensely right. In feeling OK. And my body is doing this kind of research. Right. And finding that actually those messages, those specific actual messages are part of what's making us fat and so is trying to lose weight.


I mean, should we talk about the science a little bit?


I think except hang on, because I introduced myself and then we started talking. I feel like you should do a little intro who you are. What brings you to this conversation today? I wanted to skip that part.


I was trying to keep the focus on Aubrey and the science. I'm sure you were reporting.


I was this was like, I don't know, eight years ago or something. I was on a date with a guy who was, I think, an anesthesiologist. And I was like, oh, yeah. How has your job changed since you started doing it? Or something, like relatively benign. And he started complaining about all of the fat people that he has to see and how it's hard to do anesthesia on them and basically complaining. The fundamental tenets of his job, which are like finding out what an appropriate dose of anesthesia is for a patient, and I was getting more and more angry at him and like visibly annoyed on this fucking brunch date.


And he was very quizzical about, like, why I was defending the basic humanity of fat people. And then at one point he sort of stopped and he was like, wait, did you have a fat mom or something?


Like you like accusing me of? Like, the only reason why I would give a shit about this issue is because, like, someone close to me is fat. Right? And the worst thing about it is that he's fucking correct.


My mom my mom was that growing up and it was a huge part of my life growing up was that I saw how hard my mom was trying. She was on a diet all the fucking time, which means the whole family was on a diet. And we saw her make different food for herself, like she would make the whole family like a nice meal. And then she would sit there and eat raw carrots out of a bowl. She was on the fucking Ornish diet.


And I was like a huge thing in the late 80s and early 90s. And I saw how hard she was trying and I saw how shitty the world was to her. My friends made comments we would be in public and people would make comments.


Waiters and waitresses at restaurants would make comments if she asked like basic questions about the food, like, oh, is the salad included with that? She'd get these sort of eye rolls right.


Like all the fat lady wants to know about the salad. Like it was so palpable to me just what bullshit it was. Right. Because she was constantly being told that she should lose weight. And it was like behind the scenes, I knew as young as like five, six, seven did. Like, she's fucking trying her best man and it's not working. Everyone is shouting at her to do this thing that she is already doing and nothing is ever enough.


Right. And also, like as a kid, I don't know man, if you have a decent mom. Right. Like a mom who's like not abusive or whatever, I don't know that there's anybody that you feel closer to in the world and more defensive in the world.


Fuck that anaesthesiologist. Truly. I also think it's worth sort of busting one of the myths. I think one of the accusations of sort of I guess like the fat politics or fat activism community online is that sort of they're implying that there's no unhealthy fat people or that every single person is just as healthy as every single skinny person. And that is not the argument. Yeah, there are unhealthy fat people. There are unhealthy skinny people that are healthy, fat people.


I mean, I think the fundamental argument of the fat activism community and the fundamental argument of this show is that this is all individual weight and health are two distinct concepts, and sometimes they overlap and sometimes they don't. So one of the most striking statistics I came across when I was researching a big, long article that I wrote about this two years ago now I think is that one third of, quote unquote, obese people have completely normal health markers like they are not unhealthy.


They do not have any of the risk factors. And around twenty five percent of skinny people do have the risk factors. Yeah. So the whole point of this is that individual variation in this matters and weight and health are not the same thing.


This is all one big scatterplot. Yes, the idea of a healthy, fat person existing is like inconceivable. Right?


You can go on Google Scholar and you can find a million studies that find a correlation. If you look at a population of a million people, you'll find that weight is correlated with poor health. For decades, what we've been told is that one thing is necessarily causing the other and that all we need to know about is that like fat people are unhealthy. So people shouldn't be fat, right? Like we solved it. Yeah, but of course, it's not clear from those studies if the same thing is causing people to be both unhealthy and fat.


Right. That there's actually more studies coming out now that are showing that fat people who exercise regularly are healthier than skinny people who don't exercise regularly. Diet and exercise do matter like no one is pretending that those things have nothing to do with health. But oftentimes there are lots of people who exercise a shitload and eat really well and they're fat. And there's a lot of people who never exercise. We all know these people and they're skinny. And so we're not trying to sort of transfer the stigma, like let's be shitty to people who don't exercise regardless of their weight.


But it's more about like taking the actual like the blaming is out of the whole thing altogether.


And I would say our research around fatness is very fundamentally shaped by our existing biases and beliefs about fatness and fat people. Right. There was a big deal study in like maybe ten years ago from the CDC was the first time they had studied anything, funded any studies related to lesbians. What go. Yeah, their research question, the question that they decided to fund.


The very first one was why are lesbians so fat?


No way. 100 percent. The fundamental research questions that we ask are not, hey, in what ways are fat people healthy? And what? These are fat people, you know what I mean? Like, what's the. Of bias in all of this, what's the role of dieting in all of this? Yeah, the problem with these correlational studies is that fat people have a lot more in common than just their weight. Right. So another thing that links the experience of fat people is worse medical care, because fat people often delay going to the doctor because they know that doctors can be extremely stigmatizing about their weight.


Like I interviewed, I think it ended up being like sixty six people for this article for Huff Post that I wrote two years ago. Every single fat person who I interviewed has had terrible experiences with the doctor. Like you go in for a migraine. I talked to one woman who was in a fucking train accident and went in with like a dislocated shoulder. And the doctor said, How long have you been this way? Yeah, there are all kinds of studies about the fact that fat people do actually delay medical care.


And so the idea that that would have some sort of effect on their health over time is like not totally nuts. Like, I have spoken to fat people who have had tumors like growths that show up on their x rays and their doctors will tell them, oh, lose weight before we do anything about it. And it turns out to be cancer.


One hundred percent. And I would say I had a doctor at one point who I went in to get examined and he would not touch me. Oh, my God, he was too uncomfortable to make eye contact Jesus Christ. And he told me to come back when I lost weight.


Oh, it is often an indicator of the care that will follow. Oh yeah. It is often an indicator that this doctor or nurse or whatever stripe of health care provider is not actually equipped to care for you because their biases are so front and center. Right, because this is the only thing that they can talk about and because doctors are frankly trained to assess patients on like what's the most likely cause of X and such things. Right. And for most folks, it is like visually presents that you are fat.


Therefore, whatever you were having. Yeah. Most because of that.


I will say I also went in at one point I am like thirty six year old baby in that my stress reaction is that I have ear infections.


Oh it's like fully like an infant. OK, I just get like I just need like bubble gum, amoxicillin or whatever you need to like get through these ear infections. I went in at one point and I had a double ear infection, so one in each ear and the doctor was walking me through sort of like, you need to use these ear drops, you need to take these antibiotics. And I was like, great. Is there anything else I need to know about aftercare?


And he was like, well, you need to lose a lot of weight. Oh, my God. And I was like, cool, I'm talking to you about my, you know, which definitely did not get fat. Yeah.


He was so sort of ingrained with this idea that, like every fat person needed to hear from him, that they needed to lose weight in every interaction.


This, to me, is the much more salient point. Like we could sit here and do studies back and forth about the complexity of the relationship between weight and health and various small studies in big cities. Like we could talk about the science for a thousand years and we will eventually do an episode on the science around weight and health.


But it doesn't fucking matter. Yeah. So even if every single thing that your doctor and my anesthesiologist guy, even if every single thing that they think is true, every single fat person is unhealthy. Great. You are correct, sir. Congratulations. Now what we know from a billion studies for a billion years that between ninety five and ninety eight percent of attempts to lose weight fail. We also know that out of many of those attempts, people end up gaining weight.


Yeah. So what do we do with that information? Because we know that telling people to lose weight does not help. We know that putting them on unsustainable diets makes it worse. Whenever I tell people that I wrote this article or that this is a really important issue to me, everybody wants to debate the fucking science and the like. What about calories? Like you get into these technical scientific debates immediately and they don't fucking matter. Nice to people like what fat people need is for their basic humanity to be acknowledged.


They need a medical system that actually asks them what they need. Like what's going on with your ear, Aubrey? Yeah, that's what people need. They don't actually need to be told for the ten billionth time lose weight because that doesn't fucking work.


Well, it does do one thing, which is it makes us fat.


All right. It just makes a good point. Totally.


So the experience of anti fat bias amongst fat people is extremely universal. Ninety four percent, I think of fat people in the U.S. report experiencing some form of anti fat bias like Reesa gets bad. And most frequently that comes from family, friends, partners. Right. Folks will report about partners actually restricting their food intake or monitoring their food intake. But it also comes from people like their doctors and their bosses and strangers on the street and coworkers. It just comes from all sides.


Right. And what we know from research is that that triggers what researchers call obesogenic. Processes, my least favorite term, not great, which is a series of processes that actually make us fatter in some cases as the result of cortisol and other stress hormones. Right. That hang on to whatever energy you have got for your fight or flight response rate that we don't really think about the ways in which we are sort of triggering these biological responses in fat people, by the way, that we treat them.


Right to your point earlier about your article, one of the things that absolutely blew my mind about that article, I've read it. I'm going to say 10 times and just go back to it all of the time. I recommend it to people constantly. It's so good, buddy.


So I tried to interview for it and you ghosted me on the Internet. I'm still mad about it.


Was, you know what, the year that I ghosted everyone there and within like the first year of writing as your fat friend, I was just like, I don't know what to do with this level of attention. So I'm going to fully hide and not respond to a single email.


Like, I don't know why I set up an email address.


Anyway, one of the things that I sort of pulled from that article and that I think about constantly is that actually the fatter you get, the less likely it is that you will become thin in your lifetime rate, which sort of stands to reason, but particularly for people my size and particularly for women my size.


So people with what they call an extremely obese BMI, these designations, the or super morbidly obese, I get coocoo.


Cool. Makes me feel like a supervillain. Yeah. Is that for women my size there is less than one tenth of one percent chance. Yeah. That we at any point in our lives get to what is considered a quote unquote healthy or normal BMI rate. So we are talking about infinitesimal likelihood that this will succeed. And all of our treatment of fat people is predicated on the idea that this is not only possible, but if you can't do it, it's because there's something wrong with you and it's necessary.


It's like, no, you you have to do this thing that is almost sure to fail and it's likely to make whatever you have worse to it. And it's also it's double dumb because we know because again, there's dozens of studies on this, that regardless of the weight that you are at, if you eat well and exercise regularly, that's going to do a shitload for your health. You might lose weight and you might not. Yeah, it's much more important to focus on people's lifestyles and something that they actually can control rather than weight, which people can't really control to the extent that we think they can.


A huge number of people are fat because of various medications that they took or, you know, they can't walk around the block because they're disabled or they have a hip replacement or there's a million reasons why people are at the weight that they are. And there's not a lot that they can do about it. Yeah, I mean, I also think that, like that that whole thing of like lifestyle choices and stuff, I mean, that's basically a conversation between somebody and their doctor.


I am not in the business of surveilling my friends to see how many minutes of exercise they're getting every day and how many fruits and vegetables they're eating. Like I'm saying that from like from an epidemiological perspective, we know that lifestyle changes affect health on a personal level. It's really not up to you to monitor the lifestyle choices of your friends, fat or skinny. Totally.


And also, like the health concerns around fat people are also very restrictive. FRADE There's not general concern about the health of fat people. There is very specific concern about the weight of fat people and the weight related things that might happen to them. So that's a good point.


Yeah, because nobody's ever like, oh, fat people have higher rates of depression or higher rates of suicide, which are true. Nobody's like, oh, we need to do something about this. It's just like, oh, we need to make them not bad anymore. That's the only extent to which we actually care about the health of fat people.


Yes, I had an experience earlier this year. In fact, I recently had to switch doctors because I switched insurance. I went to a new doctor who I found through the Whisperer network of fat people. She ran my blood work and she was like, hey, so it looks like you are on a statin. Can you tell me why that is? And I was like, I don't know. My last doctor said it was good to protect my heart and my kidneys and whatever, and she was like, cool.


So your cholesterol is supposed to be between one and two hundred, right. Is sort of the range of healthy cholesterol. She was like, that's a cholesterol medication and your cholesterol is nineteen. Oh, she was like, it's the lowest number I have ever seen. Whoa. She said, you know, looking at past blood work, she was like, I'm guessing you already had, you know, cholesterol that was on the low side just based on how you eat.




Oh wow. So the last doctor just gave you a statin, just like because you were there just like spray the fat lady with statins.


Right. I talked to a friend who's a physician assistant who said. Actually, there is a school of thought in medicine that is like you just put fat people on blood pressure medication, cholesterol medication and blood sugar medication, just do it straight out.


Whether or not they're diabetic, they're going on metformin, whether they have high blood pressure, they're going on a blood pressure medication. And that was part of what this doctor had done. And it put me at like a significant health risk. Great risks of very low cholesterol are the same basically as the risks of very high cholesterol. So I was at like super increased risk of stroke of like, you know, heart attack of like major, major problems.


Right. And that was a direct result of sort of like being treated the way that a fat person is treated and not even telling you to.


That's fucked to to be like, oh, I'm going to put Aubrey on this, but not just like tell Aubrey, hey, because you're fat, I'm going to put you on this medication. It's just like sneak in the statin. Right.


But what do you want, I guess, non fat people to know about, like the history of all of this? Yeah.


So, I mean, I think the thing that I think about most often is we are in a moment of like a full moral panic about fat people. Right. It bears repeating and is often sort of left out of this conversation that like despite the fact that we are all freaking out about fat people at this moment in our history, there have always been fat people. Sure, there may be more fat people now than there used to be, but like people's bodies look different.


I've also always been told people and short people and there have also always been disabled people. We have to get out of this mode of like envisioning a world which I think many public health institutions do and many individuals do, which is that like the best and healthiest world doesn't have fat people in it.


I remember coming across. I haven't been able to find it again, actually, but I remember very vividly years ago looking into this and coming across a European like a PDF from some European institution that was basically proposing that all public health messages should be geared toward health rather than wait.


Knowing what we know about how ineffective diets are, we're never going to have a world where there's deliberately fewer fat people. So what we can do is focus on health because honestly, diet related disease is a real problem, like heart disease is the problem. Strokes are problem. And I think I stole this from Kat Pawsey. I stole this from somebody. But it's like we've given up health to focus on weight. Yep. That's that's the point of public health is to make us healthier.


It should not be the point of public health to make us skinnier.


I, I personally think that weight and weight related messages should have no role in public health whatsoever.


I pretty strongly agree. I mean, I also think, like part of, you know, if we really want to tackle sort of the sets of issues that you're talking about here, diet related disease, you know, getting people moving regularly, getting people eating more vegetables, all of that kind of stuff, then we need to create the conditions in which that is possible, right? Yeah. Oh, so we need to address the conditions that have parents and particularly single parents working multiple jobs to make ends meet, which means there is no time to prepare food and there's often no money to buy like a fancier, fresher foods.


Right. Right. We also have to if we really want to get at sort of a collective and a healthier society, we actually, paradoxically, need to stop treating health as a mandate and as a moral obligation. Right. And we need to stop believing that we can assess another person's that we can and should assess another person's health by looking at them.


If you really want to help somebody's health, build them a bike lane, you know, get out there with cones.


Totally. If you really want to help somebody help make sure they have a living wage, make sure they have a place to live to make sure they have enough money for food.


I mean, the corollary to my belief that public health should give up on weight and focus exclusively on actual public health is basically the idea that individual messages and cajoling messages and fucking billboard campaigns don't work. We've had 30, 40 years now of telling people that fruits and vegetables are healthy, that everybody should get 30 minutes of exercise every day. I don't know if there's an American alive who doesn't know that in the same way, telling people cigarettes were bad for them, did not work.


So to me, the primary goal needs to be changing the environment. And like only 10 percent of kids today walk or bike to school, it used to be 50 percent. Very few people live close enough to their work that they can walk. That's another thing like we need denser housing, like there's all kinds of other policies that we need to make it possible for people to live healthy lifestyles. Like right now, it's not really possible to buy a bunch of fruits and vegetables and to like sauteed broccoli for dinner unless you can afford it.


So to me, I really have no. Interest in telling any particular individual you need to do X. It's really much more about like, well, let's just have a shitload of bike lanes to school and like really wide sidewalks so that kids who want to walk to school can and some kids aren't going to want to and some kids won't be able to. And that's fine. The first thing has to be focusing on, like, what can we do to help people?


And I really don't think that there's any point in, like telling people for the one billionth time, like apples are better for you than Snickers bars. Totally.


And also, like, you know, again, if we're looking at sort of creating a world in which it's possible for folks to make individual choices. Right. We sort of we really like to focus in on personal responsibility. It's this weird moment when, like, everyone becomes like a hard line Republican.


We talk about that is everyone's personal responsibility, bootstraps, willpower, little, right? Yeah.


Should should we talk about vocabulary briefly? Yeah. What do you want to say about vocabulary.


I mean, just that whenever I talk about this, I mean I do actually feel a little bit weird about this as like a thin dude talking about fat people. And I use the word fat because I have been asked to. And that is my understanding from people in these faces who prefer to use the word fat rather than euphemisms like curvy or big boned or overweight or obese, which are really medicalising. But it's also an interesting term because it's sort of in the process of being reclaimed, that there are a huge number of people who do not feel comfortable identifying self identifying as fat.




And some folks who are not fat, who have never been fat, who are very uncomfortable even hearing the word totally.


Yes. Yeah. So, yeah. Can you just talk about that a little more. So listen, the harm that comes to me as a fat person doesn't come because someone calls me fat. It comes much more often because someone refuses to call me fat and then treats me terribly anyway. Oh, OK. There's something that happens when I am with the person who is willing to say the word fat. I know that they are not so afraid of my body that they will just act out of their own weird biases.


Right. If someone is willing and able to say the word fat in good faith. Right. That tells me that they are as much concerned with how I identify myself as they are with projecting their own beliefs about fatness and fat people on to me by calling me like fluffy or like mortal love or whatever. Right. Right. The sort of challenges that fat people face don't come from a word. They come from the ways that we treat fat people.


And if we can't talk about that in a direct and honest way, we are always going to fall short in addressing sort of what fat people need. And if we can't take direction from fat people in a conversation that is fundamentally about like part of what we're talking about here is that we have been talking for the last 30 or 40 years about flipping out about fat people existing. And overwhelmingly that conversation has happened without fat people's participation.


Can I ask, how have you identified over the years? Oh, around my body.


Yeah, I just didn't for a long time. Oh, yeah. I totally remember having this experience at work. I spent years as a community organizer and political organizer, and I had this experience with a good, good friend of mine who was a coworker at the time. We were loading out boxes of materials from the state capitol and we had these huge boxes that we were carrying just in our arms. Right. We didn't have like a hand truck or anything.


We had to go up two flights of stairs to get the materials to where they needed to be. And I just looked at him and I was like, fuck it, I'm taking the elevator. And I went over and like with my one free finger. Right. Press the press the button on the elevator. And he looked at me and sort of grinned and went, is that why you're, you know, large?


Oh, wow. He was a good friend.


And he said it sort of with a twinkle in his eye. And honestly, like, my first response was absolute terror that he had noticed. I was so terrified that he had said anything about my size that I felt like my whole job in the world was to get people to forget that I was fans, which is an impossible task.


I am five foot six people are going to notice, right? Totally.


There's just sort of like core physical characteristics that are going to follow us around. And I remember being first mortified that he had noticed and then absolutely delighted that he had actually just said something that's interesting. But that was the first time that I really started like talking about being fat. Did it feel really good? It felt immensely free, yeah. Right. I had spent 20 some years hiding from my own body. That is an impossible task.


Like wherever you go, there you are. Do you have like a coming out process now?


Like when you meet new people, do you do you have like a way of telling them, like, this is a safe thing to talk about with me?


Oh, I just lead with it. Oh yeah. I'm just like, look, I'm fat. I'm queer. Yeah. I try not to shoehorn it into. Conversations, but I do try and make sure that it is present in my first couple of conversations with someone to just let them know that I know that I'm fat and that I don't have weird baggage around talking about it. I don't, you know what I mean? Like, I don't feel it doesn't feel emotionally heavy to me to talk about being fat.


And actually, it feels incredibly liberating.


It is very interesting because I feel like we have in our brains this coming out narrative for gay people. But the coming out process for a fat person is like there isn't really a script for fat people to do it. And there isn't really a script for, like non fat people to sort of react to it totally.


We're totally not used to it. And what usually happens in that moment, if you have like a concerted conversation that is like, look, I'm fat, I'm not trying to lose weight because that has never worked for me. Right. And I'm just going to be a fat person that what usually happens in that conversation, it feels very reminiscent of my life coming out conversations in the 90s around here, which is thin. People will then unleash their many anxieties about becoming fat onto you.


Oh, my God. Like when I used to tell my teenage guy friends that I was gay and they'd be like, sometimes I watch gay porn, man.


And I'm like, I don't want to go for this. Like, one time in boarding school, a dude gave me a handjob. I'm like, I don't need to know.


We don't need to hear this. I will say one crossover question that I get both for being fat and for being queer is how do you have sex?


Oh, my God, no. People who just want to know like that is the word, right?


Like, it's truly just like people's ID just jumps out at like or something that I can't control that I have to say to you right now, right now, there's totally not there's not really that kind of script for coming out.


There's not really a script for reacting to it, because I feel like people are used to this sort of like the fat person who makes like self-deprecating jokes about being fat. Like that's a script that most of us are familiar with. But I think the things that people find really threatening is I am fat and I am not trying to lose weight. Yeah, that as a concept is weirdly like really fucking triggering for, like, non fat people. It's fascinating.


People have such strong reactions to a fat person who is not actively performing shame. Yeah. Either in the form of self-deprecating jokes or pratfalls or. Right. Like any of that kind of stuff. Or in terms of I promise you, I eat a salad like eating out to them. Right. Listen, people often expect that fat people will report out what we are eating, how we are exercising, how it's going, how much weight we've lost, weight, that those are the first things that they need to hear from us in order to engage further at all.


Yeah, it's it's real.


Wow. I'm curious about you mentioned sort of response to your article. Like here I am talking about sort of coming out, quote unquote, as a fat person. I'm super curious about sort of like what was the kind what were the kinds of responses that you got? Oh, my God.


Many of the responses were like people sharing their personal stories, which were like I was like weeping, reading emails. I was writing people back. Like the sort of emotional response from actual fat people was extremely gratifying. It seems like it touched people, which makes me really happy. But then the response from non fat people, I don't know if you get these, but I got probably 50 or 100 emails from older like 40 to 70 year old dudes, all of which were like, no, no, no, no, no.


I have it figured out. What the fat people don't know is there's actually this system.


And then they would walk through this like Barock fucking clockwork diet thing that they had figured out.


And it was like eat like no more than 600 calories before seven a.m. and then switch to only carbs and then protein. And like some of them were like eight pages long.


And all the diet plans were fucking nuts, dude.


It was like eat nothing but venison on Wednesdays and then like collard greens on like Thursdays from seven to eight.


Yeah. I mean, like the other thing that I get I don't know if you get this, I'm sort of like exploring this lately is the you've got blood on your hands. Oh.


See, I didn't get that as much. So I get a lot of like you're killing people, glorifying obesity.


I got a lot of the glorifying obesity, one that was growing, which is also which is fascinating because nobody ever talks about glorifying thinness, which is what we do all the time. And we know how damaging it is to glorify thinness to the extent that we do. But no, it's like that's like that's fine because thinness is healthy, right? Like all the eating disorders are like fucking teenage girls are getting totally fine, you know, because thinness is good.


But glorifying obesity like that's really dangerous and also glorifying obesity, quote unquote, like that is a response to one of two things. It's either work like mine. It's like, hey, maybe treat fat people more like people, right? Or it's like a fat person posts a picture of themself at the beach on their personal Instagram account. And the people are like, you're glorifying obesity. And I'm like. I don't know, man, it's literally Lizzo, like riding a bicycle, like everybody relax, it's just like Lizzo having an enjoyable day and totally.


The comments are just fucking poisonous. Yes.


Any picture of a fat person engaging in any kind of physical activity, showing any kind of skin or with any kind of food in frame with them? Oh, yeah. Are all glorifying obesity.


When you think of, like, not trying to lose weight, though, of like just the image of a happy fat person. It's amazing to me how threatening people find it. Yeah. You know, I'm fat. I'm in a bikini. I'm on a beach. I got a hot dog. It's like that is enough to send people into this, like, spiral of rage. It's incredible.


Yeah, I mean, I think so. This is like the the white whale right out of my like, writing and research is to figure out what that is about.


What is your answer to that? You have a theory. I got a few theories over time.


So early on, one of my thoughts was, oh, my God, you feel like you have had to work so hard and be so vigilant to stay thin. And you've been so terrified of being fat that you've done all of this work to avoid being fat. And now you're seeing a person who actually is fat and is doing fine. And it makes you mad. Right. Another one of the theories was this one feels closer to the mark to me, but not quite it that like the way that people talk to me as a fat person.


Right. Like people like shout things from passing cars. Like that's the level that we're operating. And I've heard from other fat people and particularly people who are fatter than I am. And we'll talk about people throwing trash at them.


And so, for fuck's sake, I think in some cases people are talking to me as their nightmare, future self that they are. So they objected so strenuously to my body that they get so strident and kind of mean, frankly, about like how to diet and you have to do this. And then there is like such energy behind it that I'm like, oh, you're talking to you are talking to yourself.


I actually think so much of the blame for that kind of shit. I mean, obviously goes to the people doing that, but also to like public health messaging.


I mean, the sort of the basic presumption of every billboard eat five fruits and vegetables a day poster we've ever seen in our lives is it is bad to be fat and fat people are unhealthy. There really aren't any positive messages about like fat people alone or like fat people are fine or somebody else's health is none of your business. All of us have grown up in this just toxic sludge of like being fat is the worst possible outcome for you.


We have sort of been so careless with the way that we talk about fatness and fat people that we are now at the point that instead of when we talk about health risks, we're actually talking about people. Right. And when we talk about people, we're talking about them as if they are health risks with human health risks. And of course, that's going to have a huge impact on, you know, the lion's share of Americans who have BMI is that put them in the overweight or obese category.


That's most of us at this point.


I mean, I have interviewed public health professionals about this and sort of put this argument to them. And the answer that I have gotten back and I think this has really become the sort of standard answer from public health, is this idea that like, OK, weight stigma is bad, but it's OK to stigmatize the condition, like obesity is bad, but without stigmatizing individual fat people. And I think that that is impossible. I don't think that in a billboard campaign, that is like presenting a very simple message, right.


Eat vegetables or else you will become fat. There is no way to do that in a way that is not going to make people think that must mean that every single fat person refuses to eat vegetables. Yes, right. There's no way to not send that same message at the same time.


And it's extremely like there are so many parts of our conversation around, like fatness and fat people that feel like echoes of our conversations around gayness and gay people and transgenes and trans people, which is we are spinning our wheels for so long on two very basic, very terrible strategies. Right. One is love the sinner. Hate the sin. Yes. This belief that you can reject a core part of who someone is and how they move through the world but still somehow embrace them.


We have seen time and time again that this does not work and that it is deeply alienating and stigmatizing. Right. And the other one that we spend a ton of time on is, is this idea that, like, it's a choice, right? Sin people will continue to behave terribly toward fat people until they feel personally convinced that it is not a choice and no amount of data will do that convincing. Right. The only times that I have really seen then people turn around on this is like the experiences that you're talking about, right?


It's like seeing someone very. Close to you diet for a super long time, seeing how hard they try. Over the course of years and how terribly they are treated, that is actually the only thing that I'm aware of that meaningfully terms than people around on this stuff. That's dark. It's super dark. And I know from being a queer person who has done organizing around queer and trans rights for like a decade plus that, like we will spend years stuck on that conversation.


And it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not it's a choice. It is a code word for I'm not comfortable with you yet.


Somehow people are convincing themselves that, like yelling at a fat person from their car is like less of a moral transgression than like being fat. Doesn't mean like you can maintain your self conception as a good person, even while you are literally as an adult bullying other people. You're like, no, no. But her being fat, that's bad. Me shouting at a random stranger from my car, that's chill.


Not only that's chill, but like the number of people who say garbage things to me and then look so proud. Oh, I know. Yeah.


It's like I'm just like, oh, I would be remiss if I didn't tell this person to be ridiculous.


I did my good deed for the day. I yelled at a fat person and that helped that. Right. Like that is the belief here is that my abuse is to make you the best you write versus what I'm doing is abuse. Right. Like by any stretch of the imagination, shouting at people from a passing car, that is an abusive thing to do.


The only times that it is appropriate to do that is when somebody has a cute dog and you say, hello, little friend, I would love it.


I mean, like I had I tweeted about this recently that I was wearing sort of like workout clothes when I went to walk my dog and someone's like, stopped me to be like, good for you.


You'll get there. I know I saw you tweeting about that. And like, my entire face just like collapsed in on itself with a cringe.


I was just like, oh, God, look at cringe totally.


And that was a person who was absolutely like she sort of puffed out her chest and was like smiling really big, like we did it. We're doing it. You're working out.


I'm complimenting now. I'm working. Oh, my God. This is not a workout, ma'am. I'm walking around two blocks.


She should have said hello, little friend. That's the key. Totally.


Just say your dog is adorable, which he is. That would be correct. What did you say to that person? Actually, I just, like, waved and kept moving. I didn't say anything because I was just like, I'm not going to see this person ever again. Right. Like there's a calculus a little bit of like organize your brain. Right. Is like, how deep is my investment in this person, in our relationship and how much energy do I want to put into it?


Consequently, like I also had a person a few years ago stopped me on the street and without even saying hello, just said, hey, have you heard about this weight loss surgery clinic?


Oh, my God, they're really good. Right? Like, that was another person who absolutely felt like they were doing their good deed for the day. Yeah. If that had come from a family member or a close friend or a coworker or someone who I was going to see more often and or if I felt like I was in a place of like really being ready to tackle it, then I would yeah. In both of those cases, I was like, I am literally passing you by on the street.


I am not spending time on this or on you.


That's like an emotional labour thing to of do you really want to stop and spend forty five minutes like actually the peer review literature doesn't indicate that Britain health are perfectly correlated, like it's not your job and it's just it's exhausting.


And you have other things to do today. Totally.


I mean I will say there are times when I have done that with people in the street, like a couple of years ago it was like one hundred and six or something in Portland, Oregon, which is where I live. So I walk to work and was wearing a like sleeveless dress. And I was walking past a coffee shop outside my office. And this guy I would just walk past this guy and he just went, nobody wants to see that.


And I was just like, well, first of all, what are you doing? This is absurd. And I turned around and I just said, it's one hundred and six degrees today. What do you think I should be wearing? Yeah, fuck that guy. And he got really sheepish and he just was not the.


OK, did you think about giving that guy a new guy? Just getting him on, just rubbing his head in the knuckles? I think that would be just full wedgie. Was there a toilet nearby?


Could there be a twister particularly? Yeah. In your arsenal, we're talking a lot about weed stigma here.


And I also think there's something else that we're going to talk about here, which is the role that capitalism play in our understandings of health and wellness. Right. But like a lot of the things that we think of as like tried and true public health knowledge as just like people out in the world, is actually like a direct result of advertising campaigns, electrolytes.


It is Gatorade marketing that has taught you that you need to drink a sports drink. That's not real. You can have a banana or a glass of water. It's fine. Yes.


Probiotics are important in your digestive tract. And we don't know how to change the bacteria composition in your gut, there's all this stuff that we so want to believe. We so want to believe that we can exert a level of control over our own individual health. And what we know and what disability justice activists have taught us for a long time is that health is a privilege. It is an accident. And it is it is necessarily sort of transitory, right?




I would also say that actual health advice, like the things that we know from various peer reviewed studies and don't have tens of millions of dollars in marketing campaigns behind them are extremely boring. There is a vast array of healthy diets in the world, right? Like there are healthy Japanese people there, healthy Greek people. They're healthy Ugandan people. These are countries with wildly diverse diets. And we know that humans can be healthy with very different mixes of food, mixes of macro ingredients.


There's not going to be a single thing that is bad for you. There is no such thing as a superfood in general. The most important thing is finding foods that you like and all of the stuff you already know is good for you, is good for you, and all the stuff you already know is bad for you, is bad for you, and it's fine to eat stuff that is bad for you. Like if you want to Brownie, have a fucking brownie, like there's not going to be like this acai berry.


I'm probably mispronouncing that even like some weird smoothie that you drink that is all of sudden going to make you healthy or you're going to cut this one thing out of your diet unless you have like a specific food allergy, cutting one thing out of your diet or only eating one particular thing is not going to be the road to wellness like that isn't really how our bodies work.


Well, it's also all very like Ponce de Leon, right. It's all very fountain of youth, right? Oh, yeah. What we are addressing is not our actual health needs. What we are addressing is not specific concerns about our own family history of X, Y or Z condition. We are addressing our own fear of aging. We are addressing our own profound fear of disability, and we are addressing our own fear of our own mortality, all of which are part of being human.


There's also the thing that people do, not you healthiness. Yeah. If you're interested in your health and you really want to eat the healthiest diet that you can like, that's great. People have different hobbies, but I think the only extent to which we're going to give specific advice on this show is to not assume that your body is going to be relevant for other people's bodies that like maybe you have a vegetarian diet and you love your vegetarian diet and like you have a ton of energy and you're super happy with it.


Great. Other people are not going to feel that way. And just because you are really diligent about getting your five fruits and vegetables a day doesn't mean that other people want to be diligent about that or have to be diligent about that or can or can.


I mean, especially the cost, but also like for various disability reasons, a lot of people cannot do the things that you can do or don't want to do, the things that you want to do. And it's fine to tell people about, like the health behaviors that you have without thinking or implying that they should do those, too. Like, it's completely fine for you to tweak and mess with and optimize your health as much as you feel fit.


But other people don't want to do that. They have other things going on in their lives or health means something different to them, or they're focusing on their mental health and they don't give a shit what they eat right now. So like the only sort of like ten simple tricks life hacks that we're going to give you is just like mind your own house and whatever other people are doing is really not any of your business. Totally.


I will say anecdotally, I have a good friend who is on Social Security disability. She lives in low income housing where they do not have kitchens in their apartments. They just have microwaves and they have like a big roach problems right in her building. So she can't and doesn't keep fresh food in the house. And also she doesn't have the money for it. Right. She is also diabetic and she has found TV dinners that she can afford and don't spike her blood sugar.


So she eats like banquet frozen meals. That is the healthiest choice that woman could possibly make. Right. And that is a significant leap forward for her own management of her own diabetes. And that is a big part of what all of our public health campaigns are like. Definitely don't do this under no circumstances should you do this. And I'm like, that's actually like the best she's done in the ten years that I have known her.


She does not need your seven page long email about how has she tried switching to an all meat diet from six to eight p.m. every night like this is total. This is not what people actually need. If that's your diet and you're all venison all the time, have a blast, my friend. But that is going to work for everybody.


Yeah. If you know this friend of mine pays her rent, pays her phone bill and at the end of that has for. Left for the month for food, yes, she will be eating banquet dinners and knows she can't make year like cool zucchini noodles that you found in The New York Times. Yeah, yeah. Like, I see that as someone who makes a lot of zucchini noodles and a lot of New York Times.


So putting a farmer's market in her neighborhood is not what she needs. Right.


You know, needs like food stamps that cover more than 18 bucks a month. Exactly. And she needs some fucking celebration of her accomplishment of like figuring out how to manage an incredibly complex chronic illness on like zero dollars. Like she is like fully like dietary health. MacGyver. Yeah, no kidding. With that stuff.


So eat as much venison or as little venison as you require. Enjoy your however you eat as your hobby. Yeah. And leave Lizzo alone and the tune it.


I mean I feel like I'm so excited about the conversations that we have had that we're going to continue to have great. On this podcast. I'm so excited to talk to you all about, like not just the world of weight stigma, but also the world of like wellness companies that are making their money off of, you know, sort of our insecurities. Right. And the ways that they are sort of perpetuating those. I'm super interested to like have these conversations about sort of, again, like the role of capitalism and class and and race and ability and all of that sort of stuff on health and wellness.


And I'm really excited to have a conversation that is like pretty dramatically underserved.


Sorry I wasn't paying attention to any of that. I had another window open where I'm ordering a jade egg off of Gutkind.


Really sorry. I'm just going to have to repeat that, please. Oh.