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Insatiable: Fat Shaming?

Because this article might ruffle some feathers let me preface by saying this:

I know what it is to be fat. While I was never obese, I was fat. I once had a 42-inch waist.  My self-esteem was super low, and my body image was extremely negative. I felt rejected and the fact that I was a great person yet nobody wanted me, crushed my feelings.

I was the “perpetual best friend”. You know, the guy who helps all the girls with their relationship issues, does everything for them, and remains forever in the friend zone? That was me. I had my first girlfriend at 21 years of age.

When I had had enough, I decided to get lean. I was already strong and carried some muscle under the fat, which would make me look pretty good with the fat gone.

I got lean after 20 weeks of excessive training, excessive cardio and excessive dieting. I suddenly started to be approached by random women in clubs. When I went to the water park, girls who would not have given me the time of day a year prior started turning around when I walked by.

I must admit that at first it made me feel great. But it quickly pissed me off. It made me realize that we live in a superficial society: people now liked me for my looks. What was inside was the same as it had always been.

I’ve also witnessed how crushing it can be to be obese. My younger brother was obese. When he was 12 years of age he was too heavy to play football! At 16 he was 295 on a 5’10” frame. He was made fun of, ridiculed, rejected. I love my brother and it was painful for me to see him suffer like that.

When he got to 19, he decided to lose weight. He went from 295 down to a low of 190.

I know how it is to be rejected (in part) because of your appearance and I’ve seen how much it can hurt to be an outcast because of your weight.

That having been said, this social witch-hunt has to stop! I’m talking about people who see mischief everywhere.

Who create causes to defend just to feel good about themselves.

Who want an aseptic world where everybody is equal, every day is sunny and your neighbour is a Carebear.

Insatiable, fat shaming and surrogate goals

As I’m writing this article there is a petition going around (more than 150 000 signatures so far) asking Netflix not to air their new series “Insatiable” on the grounds that it is promoting fat shaming (making fun or belittling fat people).

That alone is problematic: it’s called censorship and it is the first step toward a totalitarian society. But that’s not the problem.

The problem is that the petition is about a series that has not aired yet. A series that none of the people signing the petition have seen!  They base their claim on a preview that was aired.

They have no idea what the ultimate message of the series will be. They only care that the preview shows a fat, unpopular girl who loses weight because of an accident and suddenly becomes popular. Then she decides to seek revenge against those who hurt her.

The white knights claim that the show will demonstrate how being thin made her happier. And thus, that being fat prevents you from being happy. Illustrating that being fat makes you inferior.

They make that claim based solely on a preview!

I strongly doubt that Netflix would air a show in which the message is “if you lose fat you will be more socially accepted, if you are fat you are worth less than thin people“. How dumb would that be? Isn’t it more likely that the series will actually show that if you bully people because of their appearance you will pay the price?

Or maybe at first the protagonist feels better when she loses the fat but ultimately realizes, like I did, that being thin doesn’t really make you happier?  

I have a strong feeling that this will be the message, not that fat people are inferior citizens.

But what do I know, I only watched a preview…

.. But so did everybody who is already criticizing the show!

There is no such thing as equality

Here’s something you won’t want to hear: not everybody is equal. Some are born with advantages that others don’t have and that will give them a head start in life. It sucks, but that’s how it is. It’s how it has always been.

In every society since the dawn of time, there have been traits that were seen as desirable and those who possessed those traits were subconsciously seen as “superior”.

Those traits have not always been the same. They changed depending on the type of society and time.

For example, at one time being strong and muscular was seen as a very desirable trait.

When life was harsh and physical strength was an asset, those who possessed it were seen as superior. Which is one of the reasons why a lot of tribes selected their leader based on physical prowess alone.

However, the same type of physique was seen as inferior during a period starting from the Renaissance up to the 1600s. Being muscular was associated with manual labor, which was itself associated with the inferior social casts. During that period, men who were thin and effeminate were seen as “superior” to the strong, muscular ones.

If you look at women, you can see changes throughout the ages too. For example, during the Renaissance period, women with more curves (carrying more fat) were the standard of beauty.

Regardless of what era and society you lived in, certain body types were more desirable than others. It just so happens that in today’s society, a thinner look is seen as more desirable than a fatter look. It doesn’t mean that people who carry more fat are inferior people, it simply means that compared to what is seen as ideal by the society we live in, their appearance is less desirable.

Is it unfair? Sure. But that’s how human kind is, always has been, and always will be.

But you know what? At least with body fat, you can do something about it.

You can go on a diet, you can exercise more. There are many ways of making yourself look and feel better.

 It doesn’t mean that you have to resort to extreme measures to force yourself to fit into an “ideal model”. But what I’m saying is that if you carry too much fat there is a solution. Which is not the case with every inequality. 

It has been shown that taller people, on average make more money and progress more easily in their career. Being taller does give you an advantage when it comes to being promoted to a better job/situation. Sure, you could argue that the NBA and NFL screw up the average but once again, if you are born tall you will have a much better shot at being in the NBA or NFL.

The point here is that taller people do have an advantage in our society. Shorter people will have to work harder and prove themselves more to better their situation, that is a fact.

Being good-looking also gives you an advantage.

Sure, we immediately think of the great looking girl who gets what she wants easily because men cannot say no to her. But the same applies for men.

Be 100% honest with me for a moment. If two guys walk in for a job interview. One looks like Brad Pitt and the other guy is ugly: balding, weak jaw line, asymmetrical face, red nose and cheeks, etc.   Tell me with a straight face that the first guy doesn’t have a better shot at getting the job (at equal qualifications). Heck, even if he is a little bit less qualified, chances are that the good-looking guy will get the job.

Once again, the fact is that having an attractive face makes you more desirable and people will tend to treat you more positively. This is even true with children. Teachers tend to treat good-looking kids better than those who aren’t as pretty (yeah I know every child is pretty, women’s farts smell like roses and unicorns are real); they are less strict, more permissive with them and give them more positive feedback.

I’m not making this up, it has been demonstrated. When I was in college, I originally started out studying to be a physical education and history teacher. And they warned us that this was one of the most common mistake teachers make. It’s human nature.

And I’m not even going to touch on race. This one has been thoroughly talked about. There is such a thing as white privilege and in most places being white gives you advantages over people of color. Even people who are not racist will tend to favor people of their own color. It’s human nature once again.

But you know what the difference is between being of color, short, ugly,  or homosexual  versus being fat?

You don’t choose your race.

You don’t choose how tall you are.

You don’t choose how pretty your face looks.

You don’t choose your sexual orientation.

But you do choose to be fat.

Hold on to your horses before you throw something at your computer screen!

I’m pretty sure that nobody wakes up one day and think “Dude, I really need to eat more, I’m not fat enough… I want to get fatter“.

What I mean is that people don’t get fat by accident, and in the vast majority of cases it is their own fault.

Except for some rare medical cases, the reasons why someone gets fat is that they eat too much, exercise too little and eat the wrong stuff for years!

You don’t become obese in a few weeks or even a few months. It’s a gradual process. And at any time in the process you can decide to stop the fat progression or reverse it. You simply have to eat less, make better food choices and be more active.

My father lost 70lbs because he decided to train 5 times a week and eat better. My Thibarmy partner Fred himself lost 80lbs recently because he started training and tracking his food intake. Literally everybody can lose a lot of fat if they decide to change the way they do things.

Those who can’t lose fat are like that not because of a glandular problem but because they prefer to keep eating/drinking anything they want in any quantity they want and not exercising. They enjoy the food more than they want to lose the fat, period. It doesn’t make them bad people. It is their priority, their choice. That’s why I say that they chose to be fat.

It’s true that it will be harder for some to lose fat. Just like everything in life, some will have it easier than others.

Some people can barely train and become star professional athletes while others will practice 6 hours a day and never be pros.

Some will look at a dumbbell and gain muscle while others will have to do everything perfectly to gain a mere 3-5lbs of muscle in a year.

You have lifters who will squat 800lbs, bench press 600lbs and deadlift 900lbs while training 3 days a week for 90 minutes, while some will struggle to reach the 405/315/500 mark by training almost twice as much.

Losing fat is no different: some will have a harder time doing it. But everybody can lose fat, everybody.

Fat acceptance

Personally, I have zero problem with someone being fat. The one thing I have a problem with is people complaining that they are fat. Or whining that society treats them worse because they are fat.

First off, if you are complaining it’s because you are not happy with what you look and feel like. I get it. But are you doing something about it?

If something bothers you enough for you to complain about it, doesn’t it stand to reason that you should do something to fix it?

Being fat is not a problem (well, it can be for health reasons), but if you are unhappy because you are fat then it IS a problem (for you).

If you do not do anything to fix it, and you are continuing to eat the same way, then, in my book, you lost the right to complain about being fat.

As for society treating you worst because you are fat, as I said earlier, each society has its own set of traits that are valued. And this applies to physical appearance. It sucks that some people are seen as “more desirable” because they look a certain way. And yes, accepting who you are is important. But accepting who you are doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to better yourself.

I accept who I am. But I still train because I want to be stronger and look more muscular. I still study because I want to be smarter. I still routinely question myself about who I am because I want to be a better person and a better husband.

Accepting who you are and trying to become a better version of yourself are not mutually exclusive.

To get back to our society. If you know that society tends to be harder/unfair on people who are fatter then you have two choices:

1) Try to better yourself by losing fat through better nutrition and exercise

2) Change society

I’m not saying that no.2 can’t happen. The fact that the beauty standards changed over time are a testament that you can change what is desirable in a society. But these changes cannot be forced. You cannot drill new ideas in the heads of everyone in a society (if you plaster “fat is sexy” everywhere, it will not make fatter people more desirable). These changes are organic and what is desirable depends on what is the most needed in a society.

That’s where surrogate goals can come in, by the way.

Some of the basic needs of human beings are self-esteem (feeling good about yourself) and feeling accepted/like/loved.

That’s why a lot of people fight all these crusades. Defending a cause makes you feel good about yourself, it boosts your self-esteem. It also gives you the approval and maybe even admiration of like-minded people, you feel like you belong, like you are accepted. Basic human needs.

Therefore, a lot of people start being vocal advocates for causes not because they really want to change something, but because the “fight” itself makes them feel good about themselves and win them the approval of a group of people.

You’ll notice that those who preach the hardest for equality are those who refuse to listen to people with different opinions.

In fact, they attack people who have a different opinion. Kinda ironic for people who preach for equality and freedom of speech! But by disagreeing with them, you rob them of the approval that they need to feel good. And if you use logical arguments to show that they are incorrect, they have an emotional reaction and attack you because your argument creates anxiety.  The knee-jerk reaction is simply to protect their self-esteem.

Notice that those who defend a cause because they truly believe in it tend to be those who do not resort to emotional arguments or personal attacks. They argue logically and present facts. They are also open to discussion.

Those who defend a cause as a way to feel better about themselves are more likely to respond with violence and aggression when you present a different opinion.

So, the only true solution to the “I’m not being treated fairly because I’m fat” problem is to lose fat. And you know what? It is entirely up to you. And it’s simple: eat less, make better food choices, exercise, be patient. Regardless how long it will be for you to lose the fat you want, it will still be faster than changing society.

I understand that some people really are comfortable with the way they are. And I’m fine with that, in fact I admire it. However, it has been my experience that most of those who claim to be comfortable with their appearance in public really have problems with it deep inside.

My Thibarmy partner Fred was like that. He was 357lbs (on 5’8″) and would walk shirtless in St-Martin, cracking fat jokes all the time and engaging in self-derision. Things that someone who is very comfortable with his appearance would do.

But deep down inside he was sick and tired of the extra weight. At one point he decided that he had enough. Since then, he has gone down to 277lbs. His work is not done, but he is doing something about it.

Most people who claim to be comfortable with their body are like him.

This article went all over the place. But the take home messages are:

  1. Don’ criticize something that you haven’t even seen. If anything, the true message of “Insatiable” might be the same one that you are preaching!
  2. The world is not fair, and some people will have an advantage. Yes, it sucks! I wish I was 6’3″, I might have been a pro football player. I also always wanted to have a square jaw and not a weak chin like I have.
  3. The difference between being obese, of color, homosexual, short, ugly is that when you are obese you can do something about it. And those who reach that point, get there because of what they did (unless someone forced you to eat all that junk good or excess calories for 20 years).
  4. Everybody can lose fat if they want to, and you don’t even have to become obsessive and excessive about it. You can live a perfectly happy life while also losing fat.

-CT

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Thibaudeau

Written by Christian Thibaudeau

Christian Thibaudeau has been involved in the business of training for over the last 16 years. During this period, he worked with athletes from 28 different sports. He has been “Head Strength Coach” for the Central Institute for Human Performance (of…