Wednesday, June 11

Why health is not a useful discussion

Today on twitter I said something about fat (about how I hate the fact that getting fat is seen as worse than ANYTHING even really awful stuff). I was thinking about this because I was remembering how someone on the same ward as me in hospital (when I was having/recovering from ankle surgery recently) seemed to be more scared of getting fat than the implications of her (really bad) knee injury.

I got trolled, and I replied and got drawn into something which I shouldn't have really, but I get fed up of not responding and thus being silent/feeling oppressed.

The person made a bunch of assumptions which were:
- Fat people are unhealthy
- Fat people don't eat well or exercise at all
- Fat people eat McDonalds
- Parents who let their kids get fat are bad parents
- Parents who feed their kids McDonalds are bad parents
- Skinny parents with fat children are even worse

I called them out and every time they would state another assumption whilst saying they weren't talking about me personally, but fat people as a whole. I told them what they were saying was wrong, classist, fat shaming and health shaming (tip of the iceberg), and to be honest I think I'd rather they had criticised *me* personally rather than making massive generalisations about all fat people, as if that was somewhat better.

I am fed up of fat meaning EVERYTHING else - it took 8 minutes for someone to bring up McDonalds in reference to a tweet about nothing related. Just now I logged in again and found that someone else has tweeted me offering exercise "advice" and telling me that it is possible to eat well for less. A few dieting accounts have followed me too. It's impossible to talk about fat without it being conflated with health, or morbidity, or gluttony, or a million other things.

I can deal with this and I'm not upset personally - I'm used to dealing with this every day, but I thought this would be a good time to talk about it. Most people would've brought up HAES, but I didn't, because I'm a fat adult who was a fat kid raised by fat(sometimes) parents who fed me McDonalds - and I'm okay and don't resent this at all. I live a sedentary life and I'm not healthy. I don't care! So are a lot of thin people! I also don't think anyone has an obligation to be healthy. I think there are more complicating factors around being healthy i.e. time, money and resources that are needed to exercise and that not all people have access to. Hey, if you can eat healthily and exercise on a budget, I'm happy for you, honest, but this doesn't mean everyone can or even should be obliged to.

I also think that using health as a get out clause ignores the wider problem of fat shaming, that it's not fair to only defend those who are fit, healthy, otherwise socially acceptable fat people. Making excuses that justify our right to be fat is adhering to a social agenda that insists that being fat is inherently inferior. Here's another example: on that telly programme a lot of you saw me on, I was repeatedly asked about what I ate that day, how much I exercised, what I ordered when I ate out. I refused to give "good" answers (or "bad" answers), but the necessity for me to tell them this was there. I'm sure none of the other participants faced that sort of questioning. 

I don't care if you're fat because it's genetic, because you're lazy or unhealthy, if you can't exercise or afford to eat well, I don't care if you're slightly fat, or if you're super fat, if we can't support each other in different lifestyles, then fat acceptance isn't acceptance at all. So you won't catch me talking about health when I talk about the right to be fat, to live fat and to exist without being shamed.

48 comments:

  1. This is a great post, thanks for sharing it.

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  2. What about the ever increasing strain on the NHS due to the obesity epidemic? What about the future mental/physical health of children who didn't choose to be overweight (they might develop issues such as bulimia, or major physical issues as a result of the excess adipose tissue sitting on their organs)? Also, statistics have shown that obese children often grow up to become obese adults, you might think this is okay but it really isn't, these children should have the right to a healthy start in life and everyone should have the right to be shown in childhood how to be healthy. Where children are concerned the issue of obesity is such a huge one and such a sad one. Linear time trend forecasts show that by 2030 80% of the population will be obese. Additionally, unhealthy foods that often lead to obesity (e.g. fast foods) are actually one of the biggest causes in this country of obesity, there is absolutely a direct link between obesity and the surge in popularity of fast foods (this was around the time when it became common for women to have jobs and fast food became a go-to when they didn't have time to cook, there was little demand for fast food until then) and there are many published and peer-reviewed articles on this, this may be why many people associate obesity with restaurants such as McDonalds- however, there are also quicker ways to cook nutritious, healthy and low-calorie meals at present so even for those that are incredibly busy, there are still ways to maintain a healthy diet, and on a budget. Society (in Britain, particularly large towns and cities) doesn't help either as almost everyone uses some form of energy-saving transport to get around which makes it all the more important to do that additional exercise, something many people don't realise or bother with. Additionally, there's been a HUGE increase in the amount of refined sugar added to soft drinks, a major contributor to obesity and something that the recent "Change 4 Life" program has touched on. Obesity is an issue that should not be taken lightly or viewed as normal- yes, every single person on the planet should be respected and I am 100% against fat-shaming, but encouraging those that are overweight to believe that its okay to do nothing about it is actually really unkind (rather like not trying to help someone who is dangerously underweight), its like saying its okay to feed an addiction (there are many studies which suggest that sugar is in fact addictive and that is why these evil corporations are increasing the quantities of it in their products constantly- it increases the quantity of dopamine in the brain, a chemical which elevates one's mood and is also released when taking cocaine or heroin) when really we should be encouraging people to exercise, eat healthy and feel fantastic, both mentally and physically. Obviously there are some exceptions (e.g. those suffering from Prader-Willi Syndrome) but these exceptions aren't the majority, the majority are just victims of society who don't know how to get out of the lifestyle they've had since before they can remember. I think its important to care about the health of people living every lifestyle and to support those that are most vulnerable to these industries in a way that will make them feel so good about their self. Its heart-breaking to see someone struggling to get up a hill because of the weight they're carrying or to hear that an obese friend is in hospital after suffering a heart attack- I would never wish that on anyone and that's why I think its tremendously important for everyone, regardless of class and lifestyle, to support one another in maintaining/achieving a healthier lifestyle. I myself am not even close to being as healthy as I would like to be but I am surrounded by fantastic people who motivate me to be healthier and consequently happier. There is a difference between "fat-shaming" and encouraging someone to feel good and live longer.

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    1. Learn to paragraph.

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    2. Learn some manners.

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    3. Lol I particularly like how you manage to shame women as well as fat people here for their daring to have jobs.

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    4. "Anonymous" isn't shaming women anywhere; they're just explaining how society became addicted to fast-food.

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    5. By placing blame solely at the feet of women going to work - and not considering things like poverty, food deserts, a myriad other things - anon/Rach/you are women shaming.

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    6. So you admit that obesity is a problem and something people are better off without? If you didn't feel it was a problem you wouldn't feel that women were being "blamed" for it, the concept of blaming it on someone wouldn't come into the equation if you truly feel that obesity is something that should be accepted and ignored.

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    7. Having said that I don't want to sound like a dick and I'm aware that I may have just come across as one, I'm just giving food for thought- I do think its wonderful that people are speaking out against fat-shaming because no one should be made to feel 2ft tall because of their appearance.

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    8. I think that food poverty and people being unable to access fresh and affordable food is a problem, whether those people are fat or thin.

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    9. You've gone completely off-topic. We aren't discussing food-poverty, you were commenting on how you felt "Anonymous" was "blaming" obesity on working women, despite the fact that you claim obesity not to be an issue- as a result the cause of the obesity epidemic shouldn't be something you feel is being criticised. Whether or not "Anon" was wrong here, you have still accused them of being sexist despite the fact that you shouldn't have an issue with whether or not women working was the cause of the epidemic, since you don't feel obesity is an issue to criticize anyone for. I think you're a little confused or you've realised that your accusations and opinions conflict here. As I don't want to upset you or make you feel silly I shan't continue this conversation. Kind regards and I wish you the best :)

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    10. Wow that's a lot of assumptions in one paragraph. So while we are using assumptions so freely I will assume you have very little education and have done zero actual research and your ideas are based soley on media headlines.

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    11. I know I said I wouldn't reply but the previous comment is so ignorant and clearly written by an individual who has their head in the sand. The Masters degree I am studying for is heavily related to medicine, nutrition and body mechanics, so pretty much all my research is from Pubmed (if you even know what that is). I've done 2 in depth essays on the obesity epidemic so far, (its causes and the effects of sugar on the aetiology of obesity). Its amusing that you'd think peer-reviewed statistics and information in journals written by reputable individuals, taken from a website doctors use regularly is just a bunch of "ideas...based solely on media headlines". I think a statement like that truly reflects the lack of knowledge you have on this topic.

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    12. I'd be very surprised if you'd never heard of biases in research, yes even peer reviewed. Peer review isn't the be all and end all of clinical studies.

      Do you honestly feel that the papers you've read are more important than someone's actual lived experience? If so, I really hope you don't plan on using your degree to enter the healthcare field.

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    13. Yes because they are written by individuals with a great understanding of health, many of which have dedicated their lives to it, and there is much INDEPENDENT research out there on obesity. Analysing one person produces just one case study, therefore, the experiences of one person or even a handful of people produces nothing but a weak case/argument in support of a hypothesis (any scientist will be able to explain that to you) and it appears that the majority of those here and their poorly-constructed opinion on health are incredibly bias. You're telling me that the vast majority of papers on obesity (some including hundreds of subjects and many of which are independent) that show it to be a huge problem are all bias? You're denying that excess adipose tissue contributes to coronary heart disease (one of many examples) and and that poor nutrition (often a factor of obesity) doesn't have a negative effect on one's mood?! If all papers were bias and against obesity then how could I have possibly found myself reading journals on The Obesity Paradox?! My degree is entirely focused on health and I think you'll find that the vast majority of Health Practitioners (yes, my future career), share my view, because, well... we're educated on the subject.

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    14. Anon you've made a lot of assumptions about the education level of a lot of the people replying to you - some of whom have also gone through medical training (not that this makes them any more qualified to comment than those who aren't as educated). This isn't a game of I'm more educated than you - not least because throwing education around is classist and implies that institutional education is inherently better than other types of knowledge, which is not always the case. Let's not pretend that this type of education doesn't come with its own biases as well.

      The vast majority of health practitioners agree because they are all taught the same thing. Are alternative clinical practices like Health at Every Size taught to you? There's actually quite a large international body of fat positive medical professionals out there who might have the energy to combat your arguments. Educating yourself about them might actually improve your capacity to provide good healthcare to people.

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    15. Please take a minute to note who first criticized who on education, who first took offence at a list of theories and facts despite the fact that they weren't presented in an insulting way, but actually out of kindness, look at who has been swearing at who throughout the comments and the hypocrisy in stating that anyone should be allowed to comment when you've previously told me that I should not comment because what I've been taught and researched thoroughly contradicts with your "HAES"- btw, I had a look through the HAES website and it appears to be based on the idea of IMPROVING one's health at every size, I couldn't find anywhere where it stated that obesity can't contribute to health problems.

      You need to learn to stop trying to rattle people who are just trying to give you some constructive criticism and voicing their opinion. I am going into the Health Care profession because I actually care about the health of the nation and the individuals that make up that nation. I made a comment bringing to light the flaws in your argument and got sworn at, told to "fuck off", described as uneducated, told that I shouldn't go into the profession that I've chosen, told that its wrong to care about other people and told that all the research I've done is a waste of time which it most certainly is not.

      Oh, and now I've been accused of being "classist" despite the fact that it was not I who first accused someone here (myself) of being uneducated- I'll have you know that I know a large number of incredibly educated women who came from working class backgrounds, many of which I am good friends with. You are bullies who can not handle someone voicing their own opinion and talking about valid research if they don't like the thoughts/outcomes. How dare you tell me how to provide healthcare when you have been so rude. There were no insults or harsh comments in my original posts, it just upsets you to hear something you do not like. I'm disgusted with myself that people commenting here brought me down to a similar level of indecency, close to the level that they had been showing to me. I certainly won't be replying again or returning to this page as this is clearly just a page for people who do not know how to respect those with opposing views and have sensible debate.

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    16. Why do you assume no one else here is "educated on the subject"? I'm a registered nurse, but unlike you, have actual clinical experience rather than just reading studies. You clearly have no respect for those with opposing views, as you accuse others of, or you would be more readily able to respect those views. Providing proper healthcare is about respecting the choices of your patients, not preaching what you think is right for them over and over until they feel so enraged they swear at you.

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  3. Hello Anonymous. YOU ARE THE PROBLEM. Take your concern trolling elsewhere, you ignorant fuck.

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  4. Its not trolling, its responding to the attitude so many have of "its okay to be obese". There is a problem, people should be helping eachother to get rid of it and looking out for eachother in that respect (regardless of class/lifestyle) and this young lady seems to think that concern for another's well-being is "fat-shaming". This is a really sad and narrow-minded post in my opinion.

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    1. It is trolling. Why follow this blog if this is your view? Purely to sit there in your wonderful glass house and throw stones?

      Kindly unfollow and fuck off back to where your views are wanted. They are not wanted here. And I guess they're not wanted anywhere else to be honest.

      I feel good, I am happy, I am healthy, and I am fat. Happiness means I'll live a fuller life than those who worry about image and thinness and 'health'. I'd take happiness any day.

      Now again Anon, do fuck off.

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    2. Trolling is done by someone who is trying to piss you off, I am merely voicing my opinion and showing you why its important to talk about health as well as explaining why people relate fast food to obesity etc. I'm not "throwing stones" and I'm sorry that you find it difficult to hear anything that opposes your view and react to it without swearing or being insulted.

      Maybe you should make your posts less general if you are only referring to yourself? Health is something that NEEDS to be talked about and you should not suggest that supporting the lifestyle of another means ignoring their health issues. What next? If someone has depression and they're self-harming should we ignore that too? I am not ignorant, I just care and I know a number of individuals who have significantly improved their lives and are noticeably happier since becoming much healthier, talking about health was a huge step of their journey and if health was a tabooed subject they might not have reached their goals. You have made so many ignorant comments in your post (which I do not follow, I merely stumbled on) and its actually quite sad to see your anger. I will not reply again, this is clearly a sensitive subject, I just really hope that you don't go around having a go at people for talking about health.

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    3. I did not write the above post by the way. So nice of you to assume that I did. I'm taking it as a compliment.

      Health = hidden. You can't tell by looking at someone if they are healthy or not.Thinness does not equal health. Fatness does not equal poor health.

      By hiding behind the notion of 'I caaaaaaaaaaaare' - it helps no one. What you mean is you're offended by how someone looks and you want to change them. The self harming reference? I wouldn't approach the subject. Only if THEY mentioned it, then I would be s supportive ear.

      That happiness you say your friends experience now they're 'healthier' - how do you truly know they are happy? You don't. So I suspect it's a lie they tell themselves and others. It is often that people think 'I'd have a better job if I was thinner, a better love life, a more confident life' - it's not the case - they are still the same, only smaller.

      So kindly DO ONE and leave. And you say you 'stumbled' across it. Kindly don't come back to check for comments then.

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    4. It is universally known that obesity is linked to MANY diseases so no, one cannot be obese and healthy. Simple fact. If someone tells you they're much happier, is clearly much more secure about their body (e.g. not wearing baggy clothes), is smiling constantly as opposed to always looking down and is generally more confident around new people then I think its safe to assume that they're happier.

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    5. Anon, you've stated your point many times now. We don't agree (I'm not going to get into an elaborate discussion about how fat *can* be healthy and happy because you don't want to hear it and I don't have any interest in talking about health), and insulting me isn't really helping your corner. There are plenty of places on the internet where you'll find people who *do* agree with you, so I'd suggest you go to one of those.

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    6. Ok, I won't reply again, but as far as health goes, one cannot argue with scientific journals and statistics which are concurring with data taken from many other countries worldwide on the same or similar subjects, especially when they have no evidence to back up their own fabricated argument. If you show me that a high quantity of adipose tissue is completely unrelated to health problems such as angina and arthritis, and also show me evidence which suggests that obese individuals rarely feel insecure about their weight and suffer from low self-esteem as a result of it, then I would happily change my view. This is a post on the internet, you cannot decide who sees it and who doesn't and telling someone to go away because you can't argue with their opinion speaks volumes.

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    7. You mean studies done by companies funded by the pharmaceutical industries? Oh yeah, cos they're fair. Check out research such as HAES, for the evidence you're looking for.

      I might be wrong, but arthritus = an auto immune disease, so nothing to do with size...?

      And angina = stress induced also. So not exclusively related to anything.

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    8. Overweight and fat people (I won't use the word obese as I am not a disease) might feel insecure about their weight and suffer from low self esteem because THE WHOLE FREAKING WORLD TELLS US TO FEEL THAT WAY

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    9. Both arthritis and angina are often heavily related to excess weight since it puts strain on the heart and on the joints. This is an interesting blog, I must say, it is actually really lovely to see people speaking their minds and battling stigmas that seem to be forced on everyone by an incredibly harsh and condescending society.

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  5. Hi K,
    I totally agree with about 90% of what you’re saying here. Concern trolling, and the conflation of health with weight is not useful by any means and we absolutely need as a society to get over the misguided belief that you can ‘read’ a person’s health or lifestyle by their dress size.

    The one part that got me thinking was where you say you don’t think anyone has an obligation to be healthy. If here you mean ‘healthy’ as the societal conflation of skinny=healthy then I totally agree, we don’t have any obligation to ensure that what is healthy for us ‘matches’ what is society says healthy should look like. But if you mean here just general health I can’t help feeling that actually we do have some form of an obligation (although I wouldn't necessarily use that word) to our loved ones and (importantly) ourselves to take care of the bodies we are given (again, I really do not believe weight/size gives any accurate indication of to what extent a person is ‘taking care’ of themselves, nor do I think an ‘obligation’ to be healthy should automatically rule out the option of engaging in so-called ‘unhealthy’ behaviour from time to time – be this food, alcohol, smokes…whatever )

    The fact is healthcare is a finite resource and if everyone stuck two fingers up to personal responsibility we would be in an even bigger mess than we are (again I’m really not talking weight here – It could be driving without a seat belt, sleeping in a sunbed or chain-smoking 24/7). I guess taking health at its most general, and taking into account (as you do) that numerous factors that impact an individual’s ability to engage in healthful behaviours and therefore we all can only work toward health within our individual means, I do think health is something that we should (and most people I’m sure do) want for ourselves and for our society.

    I suppose what I am trying to say (granted probably not in the clearest way) is that I can’t help feeling to reject the discussion of ‘health’ because it has become politicized and corrupted with societal attitudes to weight and appearance is also unhelpful. I guess it feels a little like stepping out of the dialogue when really we (society) need to be moving the discussion of health away from the current very narrow framework that puts weight at the centre (which is unhelpful for everyone – ‘thin’ and ‘fat’) and have a more objective discussion where yes, sometimes, weight will have a bearing, but only as one of the absolute myriad of things that can and do impact our health on a daily basis.

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  6. This is a great little write up. I have read none of the comments. That always seems to take away from these kinds of posts. I just want you to know that I appreciated your effort and your message.

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  7. None of the types of arthritis are caused by being overweight. Angina can develop as a result of high cholesterol or high bp but again, not directly by being overweight.

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    1. That was in response to "Rach", dunno why it appeared here.

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    2. Yes but they are HEAVILY RELATED. Please read comments and statements properly before replying to them.

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    3. Nobody said they were the cause, they can infinitely worsen the situation surrounding both arthritis and angina in a patient though.

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    4. No really, arthritis has nothing to do with weight.

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    5. High blood pressure and Arthritis can be caused by obesity! welcome to the real world your actions have consequences take better care if your body its the only place you have to live.

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    6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22514156 one of many journals, this one analysing 813 cases. Anon, Rach and Sam are right I'm afraid :/

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    7. See that word "may"? Correlation and causation are not one and the same.

      This whole thing is getting ridiculous now, to be honest. Everyone preaching their faux concern has proven that they are not actually interested in the health of others, nor should they be! Maybe it's time you all moved on? Maybe go find some smokers to troll or something, I dunno.

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    8. "Conclusion: Obesity IS associated with a modest risk for developing RA"- it is wise to read an article before making assumptions about it based on the first couple of lines. I am not even going to bother to reply to the rest of the assumptions in your response, although cheers for the chuckle.

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    9. I read it, thanks. That study is about rheumatoid arthritis. What part of autoimmune condition is it so difficult for you to comprehend?

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    10. Actually, forget it. More important things to do today than argue with trolls, as amusing as you've been. I'm out.

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    11. Its amazing, anyone would think you couldn't read. The study says it ALL, it states FACTS about the LINK between RA and obesity and puts forward a fantastic example of a potential cause-effect that's taking place now because of the obesity obesity epidemic and that they are researching because RA and obesity are linked. At the beginning they even state that the like between RA and obesity is UNDERRATED. Its like you only see what you want to see.

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  8. Hi,

    I just want to say that I'm sorry if I offended anyone, my initial message was genuinely out of kindness because I really do think that health is such an important topic. I'm rarely a harsh person but yes, being called an "ignorant fuck" naturally did rattle me, and the comments that followed. I feel terrible for upsetting you and it did actually upset me to have so many people making such harsh assumptions about me when I work very hard at my education. I can't remember the last time I had an argument on the internet and I wish this one hadn't got so out of hand, I was really quite shaken after reading some of your comments about me and that is probably why I retaliated in such an unkind way.

    Kind regards and I hope your futures are wonderful, I'm sure you're all lovely people and I genuinely am sorry that I may have upset you, that really wasn't my intention.

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  9. I was fat but it started affecting my health.i certainly didnt feel confident in my clothes, I started having major shoulder problems, ugly double chin, chaffing from my bras and when I went on holiday like a beached whale in my bikini, so I went to a 2 week bootcamp, lost loads of weight but more importantly my health improved so much, and im so much more confident in my clothes,instead of getting stuck into McDonald's cream cakes pizzas etc I exert self control and go for healthy options.there is no way I want to be fat again, ok being fat works for some people but it certainly doesnt work for me anymore, I have never been so happy...wendyx

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  10. I was grumpy, unpleasant to be around, depressed and moody, sweaty, tired all the time, sluggish, bad hair and skin, circles under my eyes, bad breath, bad gums, chafing, body aches and back aches.

    Being fat didn't work for me at all either.

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  11. "about how I hate the fact that getting fat is seen as worse than ANYTHING even really awful stuff"

    there is no support or reputable data provided on this post from any health association or related census that supports this 'fact'. And seen by who? Americans? Who is the targeted 'them' here that perceives getting fat as worse than ANYTHING. I think your passion with this social issue creates the perspective that it's more important than anything, but to go as far as assuming that getting fat is seen by everyone else as worse than anything is a bit extreme and presumptuous. There are plenty...and I mean PLENTY...of other social issues people (both nationally and globally) care more about than getting fat.

    "I think there are more complicating factors around being healthy i.e. time, money and resources that are needed to exercise and that not all people have access to"

    - as above so below: the same amount of time, money, and resources are required to be 'unhealthy'. However one chooses to spend their time/money/resources, it's still being utilized. Just because one chooses to exercise and adopt a lifestyle that incorporates a balanced nutrition doesn't mean they have more resources than one who chooses to live an alternate lifestyle, it just means these people have different priorities. Either way an active and sedentary lifestyle both use the same amount of time, and its not about whose better or right based on health its about living one's truth. Victimization is an excuse, not a reason. Be sedentary or whatever because that's what you want...not because you feel powerless. Everyone has power.

    "Hey, if you can eat healthily and exercise on a budget, I'm happy for you, honest, but this doesn't mean everyone can or even should be obliged to."

    - who is knocking on your door and asking you to pay a fine because of your body shape? hmm? no one. if anything there are questions in obamacare that pertain to smokers more so than obesity which probably implicates that there's a greater emphasis on smokers than those with obesity. Your rates and the rates of others with different body shapes are the same granted yall have the same plan or whatever, however rates do change with people who choose to smoke. There are no decreased rates or incentives for people who are fit either...we are all treated equally in the eyes of the law (I think...I am open to being proven wrong). There are no taxes for those who are above or below a certain weight or measurement and there are no specialized lunches given to children who are considered above average in their weight class, but you know what the government does provide nutritional facts and an assortment of food so they can develop a healthy relationship with food and make choices for themselves. I just want to state the facts here and point out that there are no obligations for anyone to be healthy...and to say that there is an obligation is an extreme way of describing social pressure which...seriously? I thought you didn't care. " I live a sedentary life and I'm not healthy. I don't care! " We can't control what others say do feel think ... so just live your truth and be.

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