T Nation

The Pro Fat Movement


This is something that we can all unite against. Fat people banding together....Check this out. The horror!!

America's Waistline
The politics of fat.
By Laura Kipnis
Posted Friday, Oct. 28, 2005, at 5:28 PM ET

In the war on fat, fat isn't just winning, it's crushing the opposition. A new study reports that in the course of a lifetime, 9 out of 10 men and 7 out of 10 women are going to become overweight. The CDC says that a third of the country is currently obese.

This puts a large portion of the nation's population in an unenviable predicament, since antipathy toward the fat, it's frequently remarked, is the last sanctioned form of bigotry. But bigotry is traditionally the plight of minorities, and the fat are fast becoming a majority. So, is America's spreading waistline at least a plus for anti-fat-discrimination efforts?

Perhaps. What is clear is that not all fat citizens are obediently jumping on the diet bandwagon: A growing number are organizing to demand that society transform its bodily ideals, instead of agreeing that they should try to transform their bodies.

The best-known of the fat activist groups is the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA), but there are dozens of others, from the Fat Underground, which devotes itself to disrupting Weight Watchers meetings with pro-fat guerrilla theater, to rabble-rousing zines like Fat!So?, "for people who don't apologize for their size." Read though these Web sites and manifestos and you encounter a political movement in the making, one that a lot of us overfed Americans may soon be thinking about joining.

As in any rights movement, the rhetoric is a mixture of self-empowerment credos and anger. The latter is directed at the diet industry for exploiting the fat (to the tune of $46 billion a year), at society for its ongoing cruelty to the fat, and at the medical establishment for providing condescending substandard care to the fat.

A particularly incendiary topic is weight-loss surgery (stomach stapling or more radical measures like rerouting the intestine). Activists regard such procedures as a human rights abuse akin to female genital mutilation. They also frequently cite contrarian strands of medical research, some suggesting that fat really isn't a health hazard, others disputing conventionally accepted disease and mortality statistics.

Contesting the usual origin story about fat?excess calories, individual blame?is high on the activist agenda. The preferred account is that fat is genetic and/or glandular, thus not anyone's fault. Alternatively, fat is caused by the diet industry: "We're getting fatter because of dieting," as one activist puts it. "The way to fatten an animal is to starve it and then re-feed it. Your metabolism slows down when you're eating less. People on diets are predisposing their body to gain more weight."

The origin question is important in the politics of fat because it shapes the approach to policy and advocacy issues. For instance, should the primary battle now be to ensure that obesity is included under the Americans with Disabilities Act? Some argue that this is a misguided strategy, since it turns fat into a disease instead of a rights issue?

though if it were a recognized disability, suing over workplace discrimination and access issues would be a lot easier. Access and mobility hurdles provide material for a lot of wrenching chat-room discussions: Sufferers trade coping strategies for an endless variety of daily humiliations or share the longing for less impeded lives?like just being able to get an airplane seatbelt around your waist without a humiliating extension.

Such admissions can also prompt heated responses from the more defiantly fat and proud: Doesn't wanting to lose weight mean giving into self-hatred? (Or, as the militant put it: Should blacks desire to be white and thus give into racism?) The psychological strain of trying to have dignity while lugging a fat body around is all too palpable, despite the pride rhetoric.

Not surprisingly, given such strains, this movement is rife with political contradictions. For instance, one topic you rarely find discussed in activist venues is food. Overeaters Anonymous, a 12-step program modeled on AA, does promote size rights while also linking obesity to overconsumption. But critics worry that treating fat on the model of alcoholism or compulsive gambling means pathologizing it.

Such worries produce certain political blind spots: While the diet industry comes under attack, the $900 billion food industry does not. But as Marion Nestle points out in her convincing treatise, Food Politics (2002), the food industry now produces 3,800 calories a day for every person in the United States (2,200 to 2,500 would be adequate). That's a 500 calorie-a-day increase since 1970.

And, as Nestle notes, the American weight spike in the late 1970s exactly corresponded with the invention of supersizing in fast-food marketing.

Unfortunately, focusing on the food industry would put the preferred activist fat origin stories into question?unless the one-third of Americans who are now obese all developed glandular or genetic problems simultaneously in the '70s.

Nestle's is a different version of fat politics: Hers spotlights how overconsumption is socially and politically organized, from agribusiness subsidies and price supports to a pattern of hiring lobbyists and corporate execs to run "oversight" agencies like the USDA and the FDA that?go figure?function like industry tools instead.

But the real bottom line is that processed food?which generally means higher-calorie food?is more profitable than raw food. Flavor is eliminated, then artificially added (usually meaning fat or sugars); nutrients are lost, then artificially added. The more additives, the higher the price. And we all know where this money trail leads: to our stomachs and hips.

The irony is that while overconsumption may be encouraged, all bodily evidence of it is stigmatized, especially in the romantic sphere. Activist organizations are now stepping in to rectify the problem. NAAFA doubles as a dating site, and Dimensions, a magazine and Web site that celebrates "the fat-positive lifestyle," gears itself to fat admirers (FAs)?those who buck social trends by preferring fat partners.

One of the most surprising elements you come across in these venues are the erotic fantasies of "feeders," who like to imagine a fat lover gaining even more weight. Arguments rage about whether such fantasies are harmless fictions, or whether love-struck objects of FA desire might be dangerously manipulated into complying to keep someone's sexual attention. (Though one wonders how different this is from its "normal" counterpart: dieting to attract that special someone.)

Clearly our bodies are being reshaped by the food industry's avarice?are our erotic fantasies being reshaped by it, too? Interestingly enough, Dimensions began publishing in 1984, as supersizing was sweeping the country, with the nation itself providing a captive population to corporate overfeeders.

Despite the fact that most of us now apparently face a roly-poly future, a visceral revulsion toward fat persists. It's an interesting form of social hypocrisy, hatred for fatness coupled with a free ride toward the industries that exploit the susceptible. But wait: Is that the sound of corporate responsibility kicking into gear?

Yes, in its ever public-spirited way, McDonald's has just announced it will start printing calorie information on its food wrappers. Once you've paid for your Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, you will learn that you're about to put away 730 calories*.

Whatever threat fat poses to the contemporary psyche?especially at the murkiest psychosexual levels where disgust is conjured?the fat themselves end up bearing a stigma that could be redirected to bona fide gluttons?the profiteers. Until that day, the bloating of the population continues apace.

*Correction, Oct. 21, 2005: This article originally and incorrectly stated that the Big Mac With Cheese contains 730 calories. In fact, McDonald's offers no sandwich by that name. The Big Mac contains 560 calories. The Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese has 730.

Laura Kipnis is a professor of media studies at Northwestern. Her last book was Against Love: A Polemic..


Excellent article Irish.

The attempt to legetimize obesity is disgusting. I have only met one individual in my lifetime that was overweight due to a medical condition. The other 99%, their problems with weight directly coincide with overstuffing of their grocery holes.

What I don't care for is the multi-billion dollar advertising assault on America's waistline. Those individuals that struggle with psycological problems,(depression, anxiety, OCD, etc.), are really at a dissadvantage. Alot of those individuals, in conjunction with the ad campaigns, manifest their conditions in overeating.

You can't drive down the street, watch an episode of Boston Legal, flip through a magazine, or listen to the radio, without being bombarded with an ad trying to get folks too stuff their faces with more chow than they need.

I have personally seen the effects of obesity on my father and grandparents. It is definately something that should not be encouraged or defended. A while back I responded to a call to assist a 600 lb woman to her bed. She simply could not raise from a face down position to her bed. Not even to her knees. It was disgustingly sad. Horrible even.

Hopefully America learns to correct the problem of obesity, not attempt to legitimize it.



Oh dear.
What a cultural train wreck.

If we ignore them, will they go away?

The part that makes me the most incredulous is how it's 'never their fault'. It's genetic or glandular.

Ok, strawman time!
Something I've heard is that 'they've tried everything', but weight-loss surgery helps.
Now I have a pretty simplistic understanding of this, so I'd like to hear more views on it.
Doesn't weight-loss surgery stop people from putting the same volume of food into their body?

Isn't that the same as calorie restriction/dilution?
If a problem really was glandular, wouldn't ANY amount/type of food cause fat gain? How could anything except hormone/gene therapy help with that kind of pathology?

Vya-"but it's just so hard to lose weight"-pada


That is unbelieveable...the kind of thing you only see on TV.

Ironically, on personal health I am far more blaming of the individual (as opposed to my politics). No one can decide to make the change but the individual, and I don't think the curtailing of the ads aimed at the fat bastards will do much good. It is a concious choice to eat the damn Big Mac. No one is forcing them to.


Yea, that's what I thought throughout the incident. That movie "what's eating Gilbert Grape".

Agreed. I just recognize the hurdle that obese overeaters face. Slick ad campaigns that are put together with input from psycoligists to unconciously convince us that overeating is okay. Constant bombardment to convince us that we don't have to plan out our meals, limit portion size, etc.

What we need is an ad campaign equal to or greater than that of the fast food industry. Education, education, education, that's what it all boils down to. If I can go into the schools and teach about fire safety, Then why couldn't someone (more impressive than myself) go in and do the same w/r/t nutrition and exersize. I don't mean the corny old Mr. Goodbody crap, I mean shit that kids today could relate to. Show kids of all ages that it's not okay to eat crap.
Let's get the crap out of the schools. The pop machines, the vending machines, the shitty food offered at lunch, etc. I really think that we not only can copmete with the fast food industry, but we could kick the shit out of it on their level!

But yes, I agree that eating the Big Mac is a personal choice. and I too put alot of stock in personall responsibility.


Yup, surgically induced calorie restriction.

I work with a lady who had this procedure done amd lost 100lbs. She told me that unless the procedure had forced her to reduce her food intake, it would have never happened.

Extreme for sure, but she claims that she would do it all over again in a second.


This weeks Time magazine some idiot reader writes in:

"Weil's 'Wellness Diet' seems right on target. But his recommendation that we 'strictly avoid all products made with partially hydrogenated oils of any kind' is almost impossible to follow. Nearly all snack foods, especially packaged cakes and cookies contain those harmful oils. Scientists should try to find an alternative to them as quickly as possible. People need to know just how bad that stuff is."

Or you could just not eat those foods or eat them sparingly and rarely. Idiot.


Great Article....

I'm sure you men have not encountered this to the degree that I have. There is definate reverse discrimination against fit women. The older and more fit you are the more other women (the non fit) don't like it. We are 'extremists'!! I've been asked about my diet and then told it sounds 'restrictive'. Or glared at while wearing a swimsuit. I'm sure you all have encountered this to some extent.


Ohh! Now it's not a glandular problem or a personal choice problem, but an industry that is conspiring to make them fat.
I think we should go back to punching and calling names. It isn't an industry wide conspiracy that is making people fat, it is political correctness. It's no longer O.K. to stuff a fat kid into a porta-john and knock it over.
What next? Are we going to have to stop calling them fat and start calling them "lipogenicaly superior" ?
Stuff like this pisses me off so bad I want to stuff my emotions and sneak eat a box of Ho-Hos.


Here ya go, on the house.

I wouldn't want to appear sizist.


I love how every fat fucker who gets gastric bypass surgery says that they've tried every diet known to man, but none have worked.

Yet somehow, when they physically CAN NOT over eat, they suddenly loose weight.


I hate fat fuckers.


LOL, well played.


Umm... doogie? Don't you know that when you staple somebody's stomach, all of a sudden all of their "glandular problems" that so many of us scoff at as some lame excuse -- those incorrectable hormonal imbalances they've been having -- are fixed? Oh, and stapling the human stomach also has the added benefit of altering the DNA of an obese human subject, resulting in a more healthful person several months later.

It's not magic... it's science, baby!


Living in Japan, fat people are a rarity. A healthier diet, a lot of riding bikes and walking, and a general dislike of fatness (unless you're a sumo wrestler, then it's okay) equals a slim nation. Apparently, things are worsening, with more junk food, tv/computer time among young people than ever before, but I would estimate the percentage of the population overweight to be less than 10%, and obese people- maybe a percent or so.

And there is certainly no pro-fat movement over here.


One issue I have seen with the medical articles on overweight americans is that a lot of them do not account for muscle. If someone were to look at my medical records it would show me to be way overweight. I am 5'8" and weigh 218Lbs. Now according to the chart at my Dr's office I should be no heavier than 160Lbs. I do not consider myself to be fat. My BF is around 12% and although not the leanest person around I am not bad off. On the other hand I do agree that americans overall are getting too fat. Just my opinion


Here in Austria, the Pro Fat Movement hasn't managed to gain ground to that extent yet. Nevertheless, I have experienced that not drinking alcohol, not binging on junk food and showing a certain degree of discipline is often attributed to a lack of "Gemütlichkeit". This is a German abstract noun which is hard to translate into English language ("cosiness" would be the closest equivalent I can think of). Basically, "Gemütlichkeit" describes a certain notion of social togetherness, acceptance, cheerfulness and almost everything else contrary to a hectic rush. Definitely a more subtle way of supporting the cause, but rest assured that Austria is by no means bucking the trend...


The western world, leading the way in renewable energy!



I would not judge people too hard who think that it is their genes or their glands or whatever. They will probably not have tried everything but maybe they have tried a lot and it didn?t work.

I had 150kgs and guess what, it was my genes and my glands and I tried a lot and it didn?t work. 4 hours of cardio each day, a diet consisting of protein, carbs and less than 20 g fat a day because "fat makes you fat".

Had I known that I react very strong to carbohydrates (genes and glands!)and that all I had to do was to get them out of my diet...

But I didn?t know, fats were evil, carbs were the holy grail, Atkins was obviously a lunatic out there to kill his patients...

Now I even like my bodies reaction to carbs because with the right nutrition timing I can create such an anabolic enviroment in my body that I could grow playing chess.

Those people simply don?t know better and they don?t trust anyone who tells them he knows the answer to their problems because they have been lied to once or twice to often.

If any of you had a major problem you failed to solve again and again and again, and if you had been lied to over and over again and if you had not been laid for several years and if you were fully aware that the one and only life you will ever have is a nightmare and you see no way of changing that, forming a fat acceptance group is the least you would do.

You would probably drag your fat ass, a gun and lots of ammunition to the nearest rooftop.

I guess what I?m trying to say is this: Would everyone of you who would not bother to help a fat person that finds it in him/herself to ask for help please SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Everyone that would help though, feel free to make fun of that fat acceptance group idiots.


I think there are very strong forces at work behind the obesity epidemic in this country. All of the agriculture industries that grow corn, soybeans and wheat demand that their fillers be both subsidized and used in almost every product. There is corn in everyting, same with soy and wheat. There needs to be a major restructuring of our food system to shun the bad junk food that is so prevalent in our society.

All of this is why I hate our government and I hate gigantic food conglomerates that pump out hyper-processed crap, making people sick and fat. They want us to become helpless, so we become reliant upon them. Just look at the African American population in New Orleans, for years they relied upon the Democratic party to "help" them with their problems. All of that "help" actually made them worse off. The government can't save you, they actually will destroy you in the end.

Americans have had it too easy for too long, we don't have threats to our safety and our economy shelters us from major problems. We have become fat, weak and stupid, ripe for the plucking. There is a large section of our society that will no longer fight for freedom, there are vast populations of people that can't fight for their freedom, being they are too stupid or too fat and weak. That is why I love T-Nation, the ideals are based upon freedom and self-dependance, not eating from the trough of government and corporate propoganda.


The food industry are assholes, without a doubt. But at the end of the day they are pitching their sale. It's the fat people's fault for not being active and eating too damn much. Nobody is forcing them to eat THAT much. The worst is that they have kids and raise them to be fat too - that's just a crime in my view. Genes or not, nobody is born obese, they are grown into it. You can't get fat if you're eating normal amounts and get some activity most of the week. Activity isn't a choice - it's mandatory. Human bodies are not used to the sedentary lifestyle and constant stream of food pouring down our throats. It's glutonous and disgusting - f%@k fat acceptance. It's not beautiful it's vomit-inducing.