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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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The "None of My Goddamn Business" principle. [20050412|11:13]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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I admit it. When I see a large, heavy, overweight, oh all right a fat person, my initial reaction is not positive. I tend to find a slender athletic build physically attractive. I don't tend to associate fat with aesthetically pleasing automatically. I have to reset my mental processes, the ones that are busy passing judgment on what I assume are the person's diet and exercise lifestyle choices, and apply what I call the "None of My Goddamn Business" principle.

It doesn't take long. Maybe ten seconds. Then I go on to treat the person as I would anybody else upon first meeting them, assuming they don't punch me in the face first: politely.

The "None of My Goddamn Business" principle governs my entire philosophy of social interaction. I've found it futile to try to avoid passing judgment at all. However, I don't tend to question the choices of my acquaintances, friends and family, even if I think they're destructive or that they're going to end in tears and regret. I won't necessarily be openly supportive, either, but as long as the effects of those choices have no effect on me, I strive not to let my estimation of them affect our relationship. After years of pondering, I've come to the conclusion that your decision to eat a burger and fries instead of a salad has virtually no impact on the quality of my life.

The moral of the story is, I don't care if you're fat and neither should you, as long as you're not trying to take the food off my plate before I'm finished eating, because that steak is mine, bitch.
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Comments:
From: joegotamuffin
2005-04-12 15:35 (UTC)
i'm of the same mind, regarding orientation
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[User Picture]From: elleclectic
2005-04-12 16:31 (UTC)
As a fat person, I can say: fair enough. You're right: it IS none of your business what I'm having for lunch, and believe me - I'm MUCH more concerned with and aware of what I'm eating or how much exercising I do than what you THINK I'm doing. Fat people are embarrassed enough that we're fat, we know we look aeshetically displeasing, and we know everyone else knows it too.

In the words of Miss Piggy: It's not easy, bein' fat.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-04-13 00:26 (UTC)
Yeah, it's kind of horrible being either fat or thin. If you're fat, people give you nasty looks on the subway and bus and when you order your food. If you're thin, people tell you to eat a hamburger. And nobody seems to know when they're the "right" weight anyway. I would say overall, Americans have really crappy self-esteem when it comes to physical appearances.
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[User Picture]From: elleclectic
2005-04-13 03:10 (UTC)
Agreed, weight is an annoying issue at best. How have you noticed self-esteem functions among Brits (versus Americans)?
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-04-13 08:32 (UTC)
Hm, well, I would have to say, most of the Brits I know are thin and/or fairly confident about their bodies. It's not a topic that seems to come up much socially. When we've gone out and had meals with Brits, no one has said, "Oh, I can't eat that, I'm on a diet." This isn't to say that Brits don't watch their weight, but most of them seem to keep their physically-based self-esteem issues private. The general attitude seems to be that there are plenty of other things to talk about.
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[User Picture]From: elleclectic
2005-04-13 15:40 (UTC)
Perhaps that's as it should be, I'm so sick of people complaining that they can't eat something when you're out at lunch or dinner!
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[User Picture]From: coredumper
2005-04-12 16:38 (UTC)
i'm of the opinion people's obesity (or lack of) has more to do with genetics, than lifestyle.

that's not to say people people should not exersize or should not watch what they eat, but simply put, given equal amounts of diet and exersize, some people are born to carry extra wieght, some are not not. out of those 80%-90% will engage in low to moderate exersize and diet, which may swing level of fat down 10% or so. but for the most part they will still be in the ballpark of the same person they were, or are to be the rest of their lives. the remaining 10%-20% will engage in moderate to high diet and exersize and will break out of their genetic chains (for some time at least) and live life outside of their natural fat levels.

i have no scientific data to back up what i say. just observation.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-04-13 08:50 (UTC)
Whatever the cause, it's still unfair to try and assess at a glance whether a person is fat because they're genetically predisposed to it or because of lifestyle choices and whether or not they're trying to fight it. For the most part, I would say it can't be done. I don't think it's any more just to decide to be more kind to people who you think are fat and live a healthy lifestyle than to people who are fat and unhealthy.
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[User Picture]From: danaid_luv
2005-04-12 17:12 (UTC)
"I have to reset my mental processes, the ones that are busy passing judgment on what I assume are the person's diet and exercise lifestyle choices, and apply what I call the "None of My Go*da*mn Business" principle.

It doesn't take long. Maybe ten seconds. Then I go on to treat the person as I would anybody else upon first meeting them...
"

Woah. I do much the same thing. Not proud of it, just recognize it as a truth in my daily thinking. Especially when it's inconveniencing i.e. the beepy complimentary store ElectricWheelchair they're using to buy groceries that blocks the whole da*mned isle as they slowly creep along. *shrugs* Again, not proud--just honest.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-04-13 08:43 (UTC)
It's not fun to have to fight irritation or repulsion every time you look at a person who doesn't automatically fit your mental image of "healthy" and "attractive." But I would say anyone who says they do never have to do it is probably kidding themselves. I don't think it's something to be proud of or ashamed of, it's just something that has to be done if you're striving to be compassionate towards everyone.
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[User Picture]From: victorine
2005-04-12 19:46 (UTC)
As a former fat person (remember when me and Bri got married? I was pushing 190 and my face looked like it was about to pop) the only time I have a problem with fat people eating whatever they want is when they bitch about how fat they are. "I need to lose weight, blah blah blah. moan moan bitch bitch," and then proceed to eat butter soaked whatever somethered in butter cream sauce with deep fried butter on top. Actually I think my attitude towards people like this stems more from the fact that I hate when people, myself included, fish for comments. "oh no, you look fine, those pants are supposed to be riding up your crotch like that."
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-04-13 08:37 (UTC)
I hate it when I hear myself do that too. I have no reason to moan about my weight. Even when I weighed 15 pounds more than I do now, I was not fat. I particularly dislike it when a bunch of thin people get together and complain about how bad they look. I refuse to participate. Aren't there a lot more interesting things we could be talking about?
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[User Picture]From: prosicated
2005-04-12 22:49 (UTC)
As someone who's gained over 50 pounds in the last few years because of thyroid disfunction and lifestyle change, I'm glad you're deciding not to judge people on how they're shaped. There were a few years where I cried when I looked in the mirror because there was *nothing* I could do to change the way I looked. That was around when I decided I couldn't be an architect -- there was no way I could talk about aesthetics during the day and look like I do.
I'm working on medication, diet, and exercise right now, but it's slow, painful going, and I resent every bite of steak (well, not really as I don't like steak) that I see people who don't fight their weight eating. I'm working on that one, though...
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-04-13 00:43 (UTC)
Some days I just don't understand how it is that we've managed to create a society in which it is so goddamn hard to like ourselves the way we are. It doesn't help that we then go about reinforcing it for one another by behaving so crappily towards one another based on our ill-informed snap judgments. When I catch myself doing it, I get so mad I could spit.

(P.S. Did you get my e-mail? I had some trouble this morning with sending messages, so not sure if you got my answers to your questions. Is it too late now or shall I re-send?)
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[User Picture]From: prosicated
2005-04-13 11:48 (UTC)
I didn't get your email, no... please do re-send, that would be awesome!! Thanks!

I know what you mean. I read a study the other day about how people associate certain personality traits with certain physical features, and while it was pretty valid methodologically, and while it backed up experiences I've had, it made me want to scream.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-04-13 18:19 (UTC)
Okay, e-mail re-sent. Please let me know if it arrives and if you want me to expound (or if you'd wished I'd shut up!).
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[User Picture]From: greyface
2005-04-13 01:04 (UTC)
It is almost impossible to tell from visual inspection who fights their weight.

If you see somebody gorging on desserts, that doesn't mean that they eat carelessly, it could just as easily mean that they are having a rare indulgence. Until you actually crawl inside somebody's head, you don't know.
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[User Picture]From: prosicated
2005-04-13 11:53 (UTC)
I am fully aware of that, my point was the same as yours -- it's as easy to be disgusted and resentful from the other side if L's post as from hers, because you *don't* know how and why people are living their lives. I was pointing out the same instinct I have, and agreeing that it's hard to fight.

That said, I'm an anthropologist-in-training, so I'm familiar with that "until you crawl in someone's head" phenomenon, and boy, do I wish I could sometimes! =)
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[User Picture]From: becala
2005-04-12 23:22 (UTC)
I would like to point out that fatness does not necessarily equal unhealthy habits. I know a number of fat people who are healthy eaters and physically fit. Of course it's a valid assumption with many Americans, fat or otherwise, that they eat unhealthily and don't keep in shape.

Don't think that I missed your point- I feel you. I have similar reactions though not to fat people, and have to apply the same principle on at least a weekly basis. Just wanted to nitpick that one assumption. Won't bring up all the rest of the issues that come along with the discussion of obesity, cause if you haven't heard 'em, you certainly know how to use google.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-04-13 00:16 (UTC)
Yeah, but really, why should it make any difference if a person is fat because they're genetically predisposed to obesity or if they're fat despite their efforts to be healthy or if they're fat because they eat too much? They're still worthy of the same courtesy as everybody else.
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[User Picture]From: telnar
2005-04-13 14:26 (UTC)

Agreed

One of the benefits of starting from the "it's done of my business" premise is that you don't need an opinion on how much control the person has over his weight. Since it's not harming you, what difference does it make whether it's a conscious choice to enjoy more food at the expense of higher weight, or a thyroid condition.

Incidentally, I think that this philosophy applies in other areas as well. I've seen people who seemed very emotionally invested in whether homosexuality is environmental or genetic.

If we can decouple the question of how to behave towards someone from the question of what is causing that person's behavior, I think that we'll all be better off.

Someday, the question of how much one's genes influence weight may be settled. It is, after all, ultimately a question of fact. I hope that we can find a social answer to how to behave civilly towards overweight people long before that.
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[User Picture]From: becala
2005-04-13 17:32 (UTC)
That's very true. But while I manage to treat certain people with the same courtesy I give everyone else, I find that I still have guilt issues and frustration with my silent judgement of them. I can tell myself that it's none of my business, but it isn't very effective internally. It only changes my external behaviors. In some cases, I'm perfectly comfortable with my personal judgements. I treat habitual meth users with respect in public, but don't have any problems with making negative judgements about their probable behaviors and thinking to myself that they need help.

But I've found that in cases where I am prejudiced due to cultural indoctrination rather than sad personal experience, it's most effective to spend a lot of time thinking about the sources of the prejudice. I used to have the same reaction to fat people, especially fat women, and have more or less gotten to the point in the last several years where I may notice whether someone is fat or not, but not think much further about it. And that happened because I attempted to understand the entire issue, not because I convinced myself that their behaviors are not my problem. Of course they aren't. Didn't help me. What did help me is reading radical fat positive 'zines, being in Olympia in general, reading interviews with Nomy Lamm, and meeting a number a fat chicks who happen to eat far better than anyone else I know AND keep in shape. It all came together to rearrange my view of the world in a way that just withholding judgement couldn't.
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