How To Be a Fat Novelist

Hi folks! I’ve been neglecting this blog of late due to exciting indications that my writing career is starting to gain some traction. Currently I’m in the midst of revising one novel and writing the next. With 100+ hours split between my day job and my (as yet) unpaid writing job, I don’t have much time to post. But never fear, I’m still here doing big fat things and thinking big fat thoughts. To prove it, I’ve made this little list for aspiring fat novelists.

HOW TO BE A FAT NOVELIST – 5 EASY TIPS!

  1. Put down the two whole cheesecakes. You can’t write with cheesy fingertips. I suggest getting those Philadelphia cheesecake poppawhoozits, much cleaner.
  2. Tell the dude playing the tuba to stop following you around. He’s distracting your delicate muse.
  3. Hire an on-call repairman to fix all the desk chairs you break. While he’s there he can patch up the cracks in the floor from you walking to and from the refrigerator between paragraphs.
  4. In order to write a novel, you have to write. So training for the Two Whole Cakes,  Baby-Flavored Donuts, Live Deer, and Crisco Sandwich -eating competitions? Might need to be put on the back-burner for a while. Unless they’re research for your novel. Then go nuts. Salty, salty nuts.
  5. Have a sense of humor. Some things really are satirical. That goes for you skinnies, too. I’m watching you. I can’t see you all that well in the tall grass, but I’m watching you. Yeah, sure, it’s probably because I want to eat you, but HEY LOOK OVER THERE! Nom.

The Dieters’ Clusterfuck

It’s 11:52 a.m. You hear your tummy growling and, with satisfaction, remember that you brought your lunch today. Tuna salad sandwich with muenster cheese, sea-salt-and-cracked-pepper kettle-cooked potato chips, a couple homemade chocolate chip cookies, and Honest Tea. You decide to shoot off a few more emails before heading down to the shared office kitchen to retrieve your carefully-packed lunchbag, currently chilling in the refrigerator.

But, like sitting next to a cougher on the subway, your small bubble of contentment is suddenly violently and irreparably popped. All it took was a colleague loudly proclaiming to his open-office-concept compatriots that he “brought [his] low-fat lunch today because [he's] trying to lose weight!” The implication is, of course, that he believes being fat and either enjoying one’s food or not dieting is poor behavior he’s attempting to best by taking the dieter’s moral high-road. And he’s going to let you—well, everyone—know about it.

Then another employee chimes in. “Yeah, after Holiday X my pants are totally tight and I was like, time to switch to yogurt for lunch for a while! It’s great, I’m not hungry at all.”

Yet another member of the chorus: “Nah, you just need to start running. It’s more sustainable, and just look at my calves!”

And the (nonfat, sugar-free) icing on the cake: “I’ve got a couple free passes to my gym, a group of us should work out together. It’s better in a group anyway so we can keep each other honest!” (and what is worse—that you know they aren’t mentally including you in the group that could potentially get together to work out at the gym, or that it’s being used as a tool of employee bonding in the first place?)

Everyone starts pulling out their lunches. And commenting on them. And praising each other for only finishing half, or for being ‘better’ than their own selves by having a nonfat fiber-stocked twig salad or heavily processed frankendairy sugarfree nonfat yogurt substitute. You, prisoner of the open-office-space concept have nowhere to go, though your pointed absence would have been conspicuous, anyway. Of course the fatty isn’t joining in! Does she even know what a calorie is? Silly fatties. You pick at your tuna sandwich and barely touch your chips. Every crackle of the chip bag is a loud reminder that you’re not a part of their world, that you either don’t agree or are not privy to the Mystic Vision of Food Restriction and/or Sacred Treadmill of Redemption.

But that’s not the whole reason your appetite has fled. Frankly, you’re pissed off. You’re mad as hell, and you don’t want to take it anymore. And, dammit, you’re hungry and want to eat your fucking sandwich and chips in peace!

Welcome to the Dieters’ Clusterfuck.

It’s not just work, it’s parties, family reunions, holidays, anywhere there’s food. Like a timid mouse in the face of the jackal the Dieter glares fearfully at the food table, occasionally darting in to take a single plum tomato or grape or (gasp, “I’m being so bad!”) cube of cheese. Those who share the anxiety of the Dieter—other Dieters—quickly discover each other and coalesce near enough to the food table to feed their starvation ideation and far enough away not to be ‘tempted’ to actually take anything.

If you are the non-Dieting thin your presence in the group, whether you’re eating something full-fat or not, is likely to be received with a level of awe and disbelief. You are Neo, The One. How Do You Eat That and Stay So Thin? they ask, voices trembling in appreciation and envy.

If you are the non-Dieting fat your presence in the group, whether you’re eating something full-fat or not, is likely to be received with a sharp cessation of diet talk (since you don’t belong or they think it might offend you, a silly fatty), or an assumption of inclusion—”oh, I was afraid I was going to be ‘bad’ today and brought my baby carrots with me!” they exclaim as you savor a bite of homemade carrot cake. You see, baby carrots, carrot cake, it’s all the same thing, right? Healthy Alternatives! Why can’t you be as smart as Baby Carrots Lady, who knows that baby carrots and carrot cake are in fact the same thing?!

After becoming thoroughly bored with the Clusterfuck (which takes about 0.68 seconds in my experience) you wander elsewhere. Once you’ve left there’s general agreement among the Dieters—usually unspoken—that you didn’t belong, anyway, and isn’t great they can now get back to their circle-jerk and painstakingly show off to each other how much of the diet culture they’ve absorbed? Their cake and cookies, as it were, is the approval and admiration from their fellow dieters as they detail their regime, or empathy as they verbally flog themselves for not being ‘good’ enough by way of an extra snack or missed workout.

This, as I’m sure you know, can go on for hours. Hours. Despite having been a part of the culture in my memoried past I cannot currently fathom how in the deep dark Hades they don’t fall dead asleep after fifteen minutes. Perhaps it’s a way of keeping busy so that they are distracted from their foggied intellect and gnawing hunger, I’m not sure.

And then, by Jove, there’s the Internet. Whole forums dedicated to continuing the Clusterfuck and cultivating the circle-jerk. Not only hours but days, weeks, years are spent basically talking about the same thing over, and over, and over, and over again. “Holiday X came and my jeans are tight, eek!” “Weight Loss X Plan Pill Bar has worked for me!” “In a perfect world beauty’s on the inside but we live in practical reality, am I right? So how many cals in one Arby’s french fry, again?”And still, they keep coming back for more flogging, for more sympathy, for more emotional cookies. If you are extremely lucky you can escape—as many here have!—but most people unfortunately never, ever escape.

Because the Dieters’ Clusterfuck is, by its very nature, unending and infinitely repetitive. Because if you “keep the weight off” you remain as an Enforcer, a Top Dog, an After Picture. This elite status makes you stay on your Lifestyle Plan Change New Lease on Superior Existence and gives you the moral rectitude to keep Active Members and Dietn00bs in line.

If you are in the process of losing weight you are an Active Member of the Dieters’ Clusterfuck. You are likely between your Before Picture and After Picture, a self-righteous Pilgrim on a journey to Enlightenment. You’ve probably lost and regained weight many times before but This Time It’s Going To Work. Most in the Dieters’ Clusterfuck are Active Members. In truth, though they are widely touted, there are really only a rare few After Pictures. They are often diet forum moderators, family members which get trotted out in food-related conversations whether or not they happen to be present, or celebrities endorsing the Diet That’s Going To Work This Time.

Lastly there are the Dietn00bs, those only just opening their eyes in childlike wonder to the vast promises of the Clusterfuck, How It Will Change Your Life and It’s Just Calories In, Calories Out and Anyone With Half a Brain Can Do it! Dietn00bs also include people who don’t currently diet but believe in the verity of the dieting culture. They can include health reporters, anti-obesity researchers, and a plethora of other ‘concerneds.’

The reason I decided to write this somewhat satirical take on diet culture is that I want to reinforce how lucky we are to be out of it. It’s a sticky thing, the diet culture. It pulls you back in with its snake-oil promises of a better life—even vocal fat activists have fallen prey to it, abandoning fat acceptance out of fear of Eating the World or hope that This Time it Will Work. Even some so-called body image promoters and internal beauty enthusiasts adhere to or otherwise believe in the dieting culture. Even people who are otherwise liberally minded believe in or adhere to the dieting or anti-fat culture.

You—the activists reading this post—are brave. I appreciate you. I know what you’re doing is hard. I know it’s sometimes thankless. I know what you’re up against. And I know it sometimes can be hard to stick to your guns in the face of so much distraction and disgust. I applaud you for plowing ahead, regardless. I celebrate your joy in throwing off the chains of the diet culture and I support you as you weather the backlash from those still immersed in it.

And here’s to seeing the diet culture for what it really is—a giant, self-righteous Clusterfuck.

The Connection Between Health, Our Bodies, and Our Morals

Juliet gets up at 5:15am. She throws on some gym clothes, takes a few sips of orange juice, and fills up her water bottle. She opens the storm door ever-so-softly (as not to wake her still-sleeping husband and two children), and begins her warmup. Five minutes later she’s pounding the pavement; forty-five minutes later, she’s stretching in front of her house.

She wakes the children when she gets in at 6:00am, and jumps in the shower. She gets out in time to help the children pour their low-fat, low-sugar whole-grain cereal and skim milk. Her husband gets up and takes a leisurely shower, and wanders down to find the children finishing their breakfast, and wife chewing on a low-fat energy bar, drinking black half-caf. The children’s lunches and afternoon snack (to be eaten before their afternoon sports) — apple, turkey-on-wheat, veggie sticks for lunch, and peanut butter on wheat crackers for snack — have been packed by mom.

Mom loads the kids on the bus to school, making sure to tell little Alexis that maybe she should try out for junior cross country, because she’s worried about her unhealthily-expanding waistline which the pediatrician made sure to mention at their last visit. She suggests that perhaps Alexis should try to only eat half of her afternoon snack, and drink as much water as she could (and no juice).

Juliet arrives at work right on time, taking the stairs up to her fifth-floor office. At 10:00am she retrieves a non-fat, sugar-free yogurt from the breakroom fridge, and savors it at her desk for the next half-hour, drinking plenty of water. From time to time she stretches her legs under her desk, using a small rubber exercise ball purchased just for that purpose.

At lunch time she is asked to go out to lunch with her boss and a few colleagues, and she agrees. She orders a side salad and cup of low-sodium minestrone soup, then splurges on a half-piece of cake ordered by a male coworker. She thinks about how she will need to do an extra half-hour during her afternoon workout.

She skips her afternoon low-fat, low-sugar energy bar, and instead drinks a cup of black coffee. She picks up the kids from after-school activities, congratulating her daughter when she discovers half the peanut butter crackers remain uneaten. She gets them settled on their homework, and when her husband comes home she takes the opportunity to go for another run. She runs harder than usual, thinking of the cake during lunch.

She showers again, and starts to prepare boneless, skinless chicken breasts for dinner. She takes a few calls from her family, trying to convince her sister that her diabetes is curable if she loses enough weight. “I’m from the same family as you, sis, and I don’t have diabetes — or the extra weight you have, for that matter.” By the time she’s done talking, the vegetables have been steamed and seasoned with a low-sodium all-purpose seasoning. She mashes cauliflower and seasons it, then calls in the family.

Juliet savors every bite of her dinner slowly, fighting back her gnawing hunger. She suggests that Alexis do the same, “You might find you stop being hungry sooner, sweetie!” Her husband adds a few slices of cheese to his vegetables, and some canned gravy to his meat. She disallows this for the children.

There is no dessert in the house, so everyone is eventually tucked into bed with a glass of water. When Alexis says she’s still hungry, Juliet replies, “You only think you’re hungry, sweetie. Just keep sipping on that water, you’ll be fine.” Juliet shuts their lights and leaves their doors open a crack, pleased as she imagines the praise she and her daughter’s reduced waistline will receive at their next visit to the pediatrician.

She joins her husband for their evening movie, cuddling close. Her husband remarks that the lead starlet’s butt can’t hold a candle to hers, and they joke about how the starlet’s behind jiggles in particular scenes. They make separate bowls of popcorn: his regular butter and salt, hers plain with pepper. They fool around before bed, and fall asleep sated.

_____

Now, based on the short description above, choose one of the following. First pick on your gut, your base perceptions that may be greatly influenced by what you were taught growing up, and the current media-saturated culture in which we live. Then pick your real answer, and let me know in the comments what you chose.

Juliet is:

A: Admirable and hard-working, a diligent mother, wife, and sister.

B: Healthy, but could stand to spend more time with her family. But at least she’s trying to make it work for her, and is probably reasonably afraid of diabetes if it runs in her family.

C: Only admirable in the current context of our culture, but is actually morally neutral based on the description.

D: Seems to impose on her daughter way too much. What’s up with that? She shouldn’t be so self-absorbed, projecting her body paranoia on her child.

E: None of the above (enlighten us!)

The Tall Epidemic

We are in the midst of an epidemic.

I’m not talking about the Obesity Epidemic, fortunately already recognized and being actively combated by such brave foot-soldiers as MeMe Roth and Mississippi Lawmakers: no, I’m talking about the Tall Epidemic.

Face it: since the American Revolutionary Era, people have been getting taller. Chinese children are growing at an alarming rate, 6 cm (2.34 inches) taller than just 30 years ago. Teens getting taller and heavier.

Obesity is hereditary, second only to height. The Obesity Epidemic dictates that we underfeed children at a “high risk” for adult obesity (those who have fat parents, grandparents, siblings, and/or aunts and uncles). Underfeeding in childhood results in lower weight and stunted height. Given that, it should follow that parents should be made to put their kids on diets to keep them from both getting fat, and getting too tall.

The tallness and obesity epidemics are inextricable. Being too tall can lead to BMI differences between men and women. Taller women have a lower BMI on average, in comparison to taller men. This means we can combat the obesity epidemic by making sure men don’t get too tall. Women, of course, are expected to remain under an acceptable number on the scale, regardless of height, so as they get taller they better stay under 180 lbs, even if they’re 6′ 5″. A woman above 180 lbs is objectively fat, no matter what her height. As a society we could ease their struggle by enforcing the Acceptably Short standard.

Now you may think that all of this sounds Shortperior, but I am actually 6′ 0″ tall. It will be my goal to show you that if I can do it, so can you!

The Tall Epidemic has many costs, both economic, and health-related.

Economic Costs of Tallness

The economic costs of tallness are myriad, and therefore devastating. It’s reported that in Europe, the Dutch are growing at an alarming rate, placing an economic strain on the whole country scrambling to keep up with their unnatural growth:

The average Dutchman, whose country produces the Continent’s loftiest men, is now more than six feet tall – almost two inches above his American counterpart. And he is still growing. Across the Netherlands hotel owners are lengthening beds and raising door mantles to stop the nation’s tall youth suffering from irreparable anatomical damage.

According to a New Yorker essay on the subject last week, Dutch ambulances are even having to keep their back doors open on many occasions to allow for the prodigious dimensions of their patients’ legs.

Health costs of tallness


Tallness is associated with a range of cardiovascular issues, including (but not limited to), irregular heartbeats, atrial fibrillation, and venous thrombosis.

Greater height associated with central nervous system (CNS) disorders: Pre-Morbid Height and Weight as Risk Factors for Development of Central Nervous System Neoplasms

Greater height is also associated with a wide range of risk factors for cancers: taller and slimmer girls ages 7 – 15 have a greater incidence of breast cancer later in life, tallness is linked to increased risk for ovarian, pancreatic and pre-menopausal cancer, the greatest incidence of testicular cancer is seen in tall, slim men, tall women have a greater incidence of breast cancer, and greater height is related to increased prostate cancer risk.

In fact, greater adult height is a risk factor for higher overall incidences of cancer and, in particular, with cancer of the breast (after the menopause), prostate, large bowel, endometrium, ovary---that is, the major non-smoking related malignancies---and kidney.

What can I do to help combat the Tall Epidemic?

Though alarmingly paradoxical (since they’re usually blamed on the same phenomenon, better nutrition), the Obesity Epidemic can help to combat the Tall Epidemic.

At the time of the American Revolution, the average US male was two inches taller than his British counterpart. Today he is almost half an inch shorter.


America has eight million people with no job, 40 million individuals with no health insurance, 35 million living below the poverty line, and a population that exists mainly on junk food. There, the rise in average height that marked its progress as a nation through the 19th and 20th centuries has stopped and has actually reversed – albeit very slightly – in recent years.

I wasn’t aware my diet consisted mainly of evil “junk” food, but since one researcher in the UK says it’s so, it must be! Scienterrific!

From this we see one of the solutions may lie in the Obesity Epidemic itself. Clearly if we ate more “junk” food—foods that contain over an arbitrary level of fats, sugars, meats, ‘empty’ nutrients, carbohydrates, or basically anything except fresh wheat stalks, fruits, vegetables, and Splenda—we’d be shorter.

However, as we look into it, we realize our solutions are indeed vast, since people are both shorter from overfeeding, and shorter from undernutrition.

Undernutrition was strongly associated, both in the review of published work and in new analyses, with shorter adult height, less schooling, reduced economic productivity, and—for women—lower offspring birthweight.

It seems that both starvation and over-feeding can combat tallness. Parents, get started today!

In addition, it is our duty as concerned citizens to make sure the risk factors, both health-related and economic, get widely promulgated to a public that grotesquely associates tallness with greater health, success, beauty, and virility (in men). Our children are living in a culture infused with pro-tall messages that are damaging to their health. Not only are they psychologically damaged when they try to grow to that too-tall ideal and fail, but they are even more damaged if they succeed, falsely believing they are a better, healthier, more desirable person for being taller. These are frightening times, and it will take a lot to educate the public on the facts behind the Tall Epidemic, as illustrated in the many links to studies above, if we hope to stop our children’s heights from continuing to shoot up, and up, and up.

In fact, it is reasonable to suggest that if we keep growing at this rate, deaths from cardiovascular issues and cancer shall make this generation be the first generation whose average life expectancy lowered.

Mental and physical health notwithstanding, tallness also places a great burden on our society.

Tallness putting a burden on our society

Tallness causes the discomfort of shorter people. On airplanes, a tall person’s legs often jam right into the back of the seat in front of them. The person sitting in front of a tall person cannot recline their seat, or the tall person will protest. Having to fly with knees in your back, unable to recline, is an injustice. Part of what is included in airline service is some modicum of comfort within the small space of the seat for which you paid, which includes not having someone’s knees invade your space, or being able to recline your seat if you desire. Tall people should have to pay for their airline seat, and the seat in front of them.

Building codes adjusted for tallness place a hidden ‘tall tax’ on the rest of us. In Massachusetts, the building codes state that ceiling heights must be 6’8″ minimum in order to include space in the calculation of a house’s square footage. DF and I have a home where half the basement is at a height of 6′ 1″; we lose 250 square feet in the valuation of our house, which means thousands of dollars in lost equity because of too-tall standards.

Everywhere we see accommodations being made for tall people that wouldn’t be made for fat people, or short people. The tallest person, for instance, can find some sort of vehicle which accommodates him, even if he has to resort to a large truck or SUV for legroom. However, even the most petite two-seater Porsche still only allows the seat to be pulled up to a certain point, leaving little people in the dust, forced to buy extenders. Dangerous heightening surgeries are being undertaken by some little people in order to try to fit in to our too-tall world, while no one is clamoring for shortening surgeries for the too-tall.

The bad news: it may be too late for tall adults to turn back their tallness, though if the Tall Epidemic got as much media attention as the Obesity Epidemic, epidemiologists everywhere would be applying for grants through Lilly and Merck in order to fashion a prescription medication that would reduce height, by counteracting the overactive growth hormone in the too-tall, and so forth.

If the Tall Epidemic’s health concerns (see above), as terrifying as those correlated with the Obesity Epidemic, were given as much attention as those of the latter, surgeons would be proposing procedures which have been shown to cause great long-term difficulties to the patient but have the (at least temporary) effect of reducing the evil toxic fat (like bariatric surgery, lap-band insertion, liposuction, electrical shocking of the hippocampus). These potential surgeries could include leg-bone shortening, bariatric surgery in young children to reduce the nutritional absorption from food so that their growth is stunted, electrical shocking of the area of the brain that releases the hormone involved with height, imposed osteoporosis so that bones become more brittle and result in an effective shortening of a few inches, and so forth.

In short, if tallness weren’t popularly considered a beautiful attribute, and not an ugly attribute like fatness, people would be as concerned about the health risks associated with tallness as they are with the risks associated with fatness. People would be as indignant at too-tall people as they are at the too-fat. Tall people would be disincluded from popular media like most movies, television shows, and commercials, as are fat people. Songs would be written about killing too-tall wives, and children would be sent to summer ‘shortening’ camps. Schools would be reporting the heights of their children every semester, with the schools that lowered the average height of their children presented monetary awards by the town and/or state. Tall parents would be denied adoption or fertility services, and too-tall children would be removed from their homes and placed in the custody of the state. Tall people would have to purchase two seats on Southwest Airlines. Tall people would be required to report their heights at nutritional restaurants, and disallowed service if they are too tall. State and local ‘shortening’ programs would be initiated to help educate parents on how to best protect children at a high risk of becoming tall and falling victim to the host of health problems associated with tallness.

Disclaimer – though all the links point to real studies, the point of the post is satirical. All digs at tall or fat people are meant to be purely illustrative, and not literal.