Often when Jezebel veers toward the topic of fat acceptance, commenters begin insisting that we all visit Kate Harding’s blog and educate ourselves. Any time I see mass amounts of people exhibiting slavish devotion to a writer with an agenda and the intense desire to spread her gospel my instinct is to head in the opposite direction, and upon browsing Harding’s blog, I don’t think my instinct was wrong.

In an article entitled “Don’t You Realize Fat Is Unhealthy?” Harding attempts to deflate some (mis?)conceptions about obesity. I absolutely agree with her that pre-judgment and cruelty are generally frowned upon when applied to any minority group, save for the overweight, and that there is a tendency to believe fat people “deserve” to be shamed in one way or another because they “brought it on themselves.” It’s also of course true that one tends to assume a random overweight person is unhealthy much more often than they would a thin person, even if in their private life the thin person consumes nothing but Diet Coke and heroin. (Yum!)

However, she starts to lose me here:

4. Diets don’t work. No, really, not even if you don’t call them diets. If you want to tell me about how YOUR diet totally worked, do me a favor and wait until you’ve kept all the weight off for five years. Not one year, not four years, five years. And if you’ve kept it off for that long, congratulations. You’re literally a freak of nature.

5. Given that diets don’t work in the long-term for the vast, vast majority of people, even if obesity in and of itself were a health crisis, how the fuck would you propose we solve it?

I don’t know how one can say that no diet works, EVER. And by saying if one does work for you, you’re a freak of nature–isn’t this sort of a cop-out? It’s hard for me to believe, based on this shrill language, that Harding has any degree of objectivity here. And I also don’t like the conclusion that, because dieting doesn’t seem to work, the obesity problem is unsolveable. I read recently that in the past several decades, the average American man has gained 25 pounds, and the average American women 24. I don’t know if I agree that we should all just “accept” people getting bigger and bigger. And if the number can go up, isn’t it natural to assume that there’s some way for it to go down? I don’t know, for instance, through encouraging avoidance of sedentary lifestyles and mass-produced chemical-laden foodstuffs? I mean, it’s not like it’s a mystery that since the 70s we’ve become increasingly chained to our televisions and computers and less likely to make home-cooked meals for our families. It’s not like the mass weight gain is inexplicable and should just be passively accepted.

Fat acceptance makes me a bit uneasy in that it seems like, forgive the pun, these folks want to have their cake and eat it too. I think it’s wonderful (and depressingly unusual) for a woman to actually make peace with her body and its various idiosyncrasies. But if you’re overweight, and you’ve decided you’re cool with it and aren’t going to struggle through diets and intense exercise, but ALSO feel like everyone should celebrate you for it… I dunno. That’s asking for a bit much–for it all, in fact. I think for every choice we make with confidence, we must also confidently accept that there will be plenty of folks who think it was a poor choice. And it’s annoying, and occasionally insulting, but life’s not fair.

Another aspect of Harding’s site that sent up a red flag is a feature called “Asshole of the Day”–the asshole being someone who’s not on board with fat acceptance. Yesterday’s nominee was Carl J. Lavie, a medical director who studied heart disease in fat and thin people. Poor Carl committed the heinous crime of pointing out that thin people get different kinds of heart disease than fat people–i.e. from more serious factors, since heart disease is often a by-product of excess weight, and to get it without being heavy means there are probably more difficult-to-manage underlying causes.

Lavie: It’s well-known that obesity leads to heart disease, and that’s a big part of the paradox. These people wouldn’t have developed heart disease in the first place if they weren’t obese. A thin person is getting it [heart disease] for a different reason, so he or she is getting a worse form of the disease, getting the disease despite being thin.

Harding: OK, seriously. “These people wouldn’t have developed heart disease in the first place if they weren’t obese”—immediately before you talk about thin people getting heart disease? And thin people get “a worse form of the disease” because… you think it’s unfair that they got it at all? Fuck the what?

On what planet did Lavie say it’s more of a tragedy for thin people to get heart disease than fat people? He’s differentiating between the types of heart disease people of varying weights get. And, I’m guessing, he’s saying it’s probably more difficult for thin people to contend with because it’s not like losing weight would help decrease their symptoms. To turn this man into a villain worthy of the bile of the millions of overweight people in this country is so ridiculous I almost don’t even know what to say. Kate’s fans seem even shriller than she:

“Fucking idiotic waste of body space. I am so fucking mad at this asshole. Like SUPER mad. This one gets me more than the typical assholes. I can’t even pretend to make sensible responses.”

“Man, that was cathartic…
Kate you write in this way that takes all the anger I feel about the stupidity of fat phobic annoying people and you just smash their shoddy arguments to bits. It’s totally like you are the superhero that has the power of writing a kick ass blog that destroys villains with your killer words!”

How can anyone conclude this guy is fat phobic? This level of impotent rage at anyone who dares to talk about health issues associated with weight does nothing but make the leaders of the fat acceptance movement seem like irrational bullies who personalize even the most impersonal scientific studies. Which is why I won’t be joining the chorus of Kate Harding devotees.