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(15,641 posts)
Sun Feb 8, 2015, 04:34 PM Feb 2015

"People are not fat. They HAVE fat."

I get the idea of not shaming people for their weight.

I get the idea of valuing people for who they are, what they do, not what they look like.

Absurd language games offend me, however. "Fat" is both an adjective and a noun. It is perfectly valid English to use the word both to denote the substance that is fat and the condition of bearing excess fat.

I hadn't heard the phrase "People are not fat. They HAVE fat." until I saw a Facebook posting of an Upworthy video featuring obese people dancing, showing they weren't ashamed of their bodies. The phrase appeared several times in the comments, making me wonder if this was some new trend I'd somehow missed.

All the more power to the dancers in the video, and anyone else content with their body as it is, so long as they're healthy. Hell, more power to them even if they've made a conscious decision that losing weight, whether necessary for their health or not, isn't their most pressing concern. That's their right.

But they are fat. They both have fat and are fat. This Newspeak attempt to deny the adjectival use of the word "fat" doesn't strike me as a useful consciousness raising tool, but as something more likely to produce an eye-rolling reaction to the absurd denial built into the phrase.

For what it's worth, I've been overweight most of my adult life. I lost weight for one span of about 7-8 years, fell out of my fitness regime for over a decade, and I've been fit and trim again for the past two years now.

I was fat. I actually wish more people had described me as fat because I had too easily convinced myself "I'm just a little overweight" until I'd gained so much that it seemed like a very daunting challenge to do anything about it.

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(1,712 posts)
1. I completely agree with you.
Sun Feb 8, 2015, 04:43 PM
Feb 2015

I'm overweight right now. That means I'm fat. There's no finessing that point with any intellectual honesty. All this increased sensitivity to fat and how we talk about it is a side effect of our obesity epidemic. Science shows there are true, detrimental health effects. Trying to normalize obesity is as silly as denying climate change or insisting that vaccinations cause autism. Alcoholics and drug users are told they need to admit they have a problem before they can start undoing their damaging behavior. The very same applies for overweight people.



(5,815 posts)
3. I saw a weird term on tumblr, "death fat"
Sun Feb 8, 2015, 04:54 PM
Feb 2015

And this was something very obese people were using to describe themselves. Blew my mind.

I'm very against body shaming. I was overweight when younger. Slid a little in my late twenties, but corrected course. I always try to be friendly and encouraging at the gym when I see people in there fighting for their health. I've been there, I know how miserable it can be at first.

But this weird embracing of unhealth, and demanding language changes to shield the reality of the situation, is something I cannot get on board with. I won't openly judge or discourage or make fun of anyone for their weight (not even Republicans!), but please don't ask me to join the Newspeak about unhealthy lifestyles are really just a-ok. If that does it for you, great. If you're happy, awesome. But please don't try to make me pantomime that I agree. I don't.

I need to stop reading social justice on the internet. I've been having a long debate with myself lately on whether or not I'm a liberal. I believe in liberal ideals and liberal causes the same as ever, but I just won't embrace Newspeak or people deciding you must think a certain way or you are the most horrible person ever. It's exhausting, and my care checked out years ago.


(15,641 posts)
5. You can be a very liberal person, yet on DU and many other liberal web sites...
Sun Feb 8, 2015, 05:11 PM
Feb 2015

...there will always be plenty of people who will try to make you feel somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun if you don't get on board with all of their purity tests and language-use demands.

It's not just the Newspeak either. I get the impression some people expect me to look at obese bodies and celebrate what I'm seeing, they expect me to decide that all of that fat is actually attractive. I'm a bad mean terrible person if my "acceptance" doesn't go all the way down, deep into my soul, changing at my core my sense of aesthetics and physical attractions.


(24,374 posts)
6. "But this weird embracing of unhealth, and demanding language changes to shield the reality...
Sun Feb 8, 2015, 05:38 PM
Feb 2015

...of the situation, is something I cannot get on board with."

Well and succinctly said. Shielding from reality is not ultimately helpful.


(22,336 posts)
8. Hmm I think the point might be
Sun Feb 8, 2015, 08:36 PM
Feb 2015

that it should not be a central defining point? I'm sure you're right that there's play with the noun/adjective thing going on, and I think that's intentional to try to make that point.



(20,317 posts)
9. I actually think that's a healthier way to think about it.
Sun Feb 8, 2015, 08:42 PM
Feb 2015

It puts the weight in it's proper perspective, imho. Excess fat is a thing you can drop by eating the right amount of calories-- it doesn't define you as a person, it's just extra tissue. I do think people often see their weight as something so much a part of themselves that they can't ever beat it, but they can. Just takes a change in habits.

On the other hand, I suppose a lot of people might see this rephrasing as a way of saying it's fine to be morbidly obese.


(15,641 posts)
11. If I come in from the rain and somebody says, "You're wet"...
Sun Feb 8, 2015, 09:23 PM
Feb 2015

...rather than "You have rain on you", the first way of saying it doesn't define my very person as being intrinsically damp. It doesn't mean wetness defines me, it doesn't mean becoming dry is an overwhelming challenge.

To me the awkward phrasing of "have fat" backfires against any intended effect.



(20,317 posts)
15. True enough. Also, considering the fact that even the fittest people have fat...
Mon Feb 9, 2015, 12:30 AM
Feb 2015

it might be more accurate to describe them as 'having excess fat' or 'having unhealthy levels of fat'.


(12,526 posts)
10. And why is it Morbidly Obese
Sun Feb 8, 2015, 08:53 PM
Feb 2015

but never a death knell pronouncement for other serious health situations? Never Morbidly Skinny, Morbidly Old or Morbidly Stupid.


(15,641 posts)
14. I think that's simply because morbid obesity until recently has been a rare thing.
Sun Feb 8, 2015, 09:48 PM
Feb 2015

For much of human history few people had the resources, or access to cheap and plentiful calories, to gain so much weight as to greatly threaten their health.

Extra weight has long been considered a sign of wealth and well being. People haven't needed much convincing that gaining a lot of years is ultimately deadly, or that starving will kill you.

I'd guess the phrase "morbidly obese" came about simply because it was more necessary to convince people that excess weight can be a serious threat to their health, and it's relatively new that so many people have needed convincing.



(4,571 posts)
12. +1 While people can be "overweight," as currently defined (which is actually a stricter
Sun Feb 8, 2015, 09:26 PM
Feb 2015

definition than held in the past) and still be quite healthy (more healthy than skinnier people, in fact, as determined by increased lifespan), morbid obesity is something else, I think.

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