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Just Because I’m Fat Doesn’t Mean I Need to Change my Diet

bruce and polly gerencser 1978
Bruce and Polly Gerencser, February 1978 I am a size 30 waist and size 40 suit.

Rant ahead. Raw feelings revealed that might offend others. You have been warned!

I am quite open about my health and my battle with depression, chronic illness and pain. As most readers know, I recently had an endoscopic ultrasound to see if I had pancreatic cancer. I didn’t, which is good news, but the one thing that has irritated me through this whole process is the assumptions that people make about my lifestyle. If I would only do _______________, then all would be well, or so these I’m-not-a-doctor-but-I-stayed-at-the-Holiday-Inn people think.

Let me state the obvious: I am obese. I’ve been overweight for 30 years. Thanks to recent health problems, I have lost 35 pounds. I weigh less than I did at any time in the past decade. I do not feel one bit better for having lost the weight. My feet are still invisible and I can assure you that losing weight does not make your penis longer.

Are you laughing? A pastor told me years ago that he read you gain an inch in penis length for every 30 pounds you lose. According to this dimwit’s advice, if I got down to my BMI chart weight, I would gain six inches. That would certainly be porn-worthy.

Ten or so years ago, I saw an orthopedic doctor about a problem I was having with my left knee. After taking less than two minutes to talk to me about my knee pain, he pronounced that I needed to lose weight. Duh, like I don’t know that? But here’s the thing about my knees. I have a torn meniscus in each knee. I have had these tears since 1981. A doctor wanted to do surgery 30 years ago, but I decided to cut back on the amount of basketball I was playing instead. When I injured my knees, I was quite fit. I played basketball three times a week in the winter and spring and played softball several times a week in the summer.  My weight had NOTHING to do with my knee problem, but all the orthopedic doctor saw was an overweight man and he judged me without knowing the first thing about me. (My first sports related knee injury happened in 1973 when I was 16 years old.)

I am 57-year-old, fat man. Thanks to Fibromyalgia and a host of other problems not related to my weight, I can no longer physically do many of the things I used to do. (I must use a cane or wheelchair to get around.)  People who haven’t walked one step in my shoes or lived one day with the pain I have are quick to offer unsolicited advice about everything from exercise to diet to the latest, greatest alternative medicine. These advice givers take a bare amount of information about me, make some assumptions, and conclude I need to do ______________.

My cancer scare has encouraged people to give me advice about how and what to eat. Everyone has a diet for me, sure to fix what ails me. But, here’s what’s wrong with their advice: they don’t know how or I what I eat to start with. If they did, they would refrain from giving me unsolicited advice I do not need.

What’s the underlying assumption here? If you are overweight, fat, obese, plump, a tall person in a short body, or whatever term is used to describe your largesse, the assumption is you don’t eat right. Over the past few weeks, more than a few people have told me I need to change my diet. Eat this, don’t eat that. Eat less of this, more of that.

Here’s the thing, my eating habits, 95% of the time are fine. I eat lots of veggies and have a varied diet. Most of time, I don’t overeat. I will consume eat a candy bar from time to time, along with a donut here and there, but I don’t drink pop. If we buy cereal, I will eat it and if we don’t I won’t. Most of my meat-eating is fish and chicken. Simply put, my diet is not the problem.

I am never going to be a vegan, vegetarian, or a raw food eater. It ain’t gonna happen. If that’s how you eat, fine, but I have no desire to eat as you do. I try to eat responsibly and healthily, but I have no desire to obsess about food and turn it into a religion. I read labels, count calories and carbs, and try to have a lot of fiber in my diet. I don’t need any more information about food and diet. I know all I need to know.

Here’s the real problem I have with those who preach the change your diet gospel to me. They take what works for them and they assume it will work for everyone. They practice bad science when they equate the health problems I have with diet. I know of no study that equates a bad diet with Fibromyalgia. I have MS-like neurological problems. I know of no study that equates a bad diet with Multiple Sclerosis.

Yes, I have high blood pressure, but even here, is my high blood pressure caused by my weight or diet? I doubt it. I took the time a few years ago to research my medical records all the way back to when I was six years old. I found an interesting thing; my blood pressure was marginally high way back when I was a teenager. I have an aunt on my Mom’s side, along with several other relatives, who have high blood pressure. But, here’s what’s interesting: none of them is overweight.

I have one health problem that is directly related to my weight and diet and that is diabetes. When people hear that a person is diabetic, they assume the person is on insulin. I am not on insulin. I take a small amount of medicine each day. My blood glucose levels are under control and my A1C level is on the high side of normal.

Let me sum up this post. Yes, I am fat but there is little I can do about it. I try to eat well and I don’t, most of the time, over feed. I’d love to run, play ball, and exercise, but I can’t. Those who have the kind of problems I do know this, and they, too, have had to deal with the judgements and comments of the exercise police. I do what I can. I am not a lazy person; if anything, I tend to overdo.

I know this is hard for the physically fit to understand. Through the lens of their personal experience, they judge fat people, concluding they are lazy and indulgent. This may be the case for some fat people, but I know one obese Hungarian for whom that is not the case.

Here’s what I want from family and friends. I want love and support. I don’t need fat shaming or subtle condemnation. I don’t need diet books, diet articles, or personal opinions about my eating habits and diet. I know all I need to know about food, diet, Fibromyalgia, chronic illness, and chronic pain. A lack of knowledge is not my problem.

Why is that people take it upon themselves to offer unsolicited advice about diet and food? The same goes for medical advice from people who have no medical training and don’t know the intricacies of my health problems. I have a good primary care doctor. I know how to read and I know how to properly and sufficiently investigate the various health problems that afflict me. Again, I am well cared for and educated.

I have a great marriage — 37 years to a wonderful woman. Not everyone has a marriage like Polly and I have. I have friends who have challenging marriages. I also have friends and family who have had their marriages end in divorce. Imagine me writing them and telling them, based on my own marriage, how to have a successful marriage. Imagine me writing my divorced friends and telling them how they could have avoided a divorce if they had just read and practiced Bruce and Polly’s 27 steps to a Long Marriage©. Offensive, yes? Why then is unsolicited advice about diet and eating habits any different?

Yes, I could stand to lose some weight. Yes, I could ALWAYS eat less of this and more of that. Yes, I could always make improvements in my diet. I am quite good at self-judgment and I know the difference between lazy and can’t. What I want from my family and friends is love and support, not unsolicited advice and judgment. When I want or need the advice of others, I will be sure to ask for it.

Now, let me get the ice cream out, put  six scoops of rocky road in a bowl and cover it with hot fudge, whipped marshmallow, pineapple, nuts, and a cherry on top. Oh wait, there is no ice cream in the freezer. Damn! I need to get Polly to bring home some healthy ice cream.

Note

Here’s my listing in Conservapedia’s wiki on Atheism and Obesity

conservapedia bruce gerencser

 

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26 Comments

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I had you in mind when I mentioned the aunt with high blood pressure. You’ve had high blood pressure for decades, yet you are not overweight.

      You’ve known me in every size. 🙂

  1. Avatar
    Becky Wiren

    I, too, am done with health advice from non-medical personnel. I did just have my yearly blood work and I will find out about my cholesterol and thyroid levels. The thing is, I know EXACTLY how to bring my cholesterol down if it is up with NO medication.

    I used to tell people I had fibromyalgia, and then I got people (who sold supplements for multi-level marketing) to try to sell me that stuff. I did spend several years trying the vitamin, supplement, etc, along with diet and exercise. Did NOT help my fibro.

    The funny thing is, my major weight losses of the last decade BOTH happened when I overworked myself and stressed myself past my limits. So I agree with you Bruce, that losing weight doesn’t solve all, or even most, of our problems.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I was hounded for years by a former church member who was certain that if I drank a high priced shake she was selling that I would be cured. It got so bad that she would stop by our house unannounced. I would hide and ask Polly to talk to her. 🙂

      Western medicine is far from perfect, but science is still the best way to determine how best to treat sickness and disease. I have been told things that I know are woo, bullshit that has no credible science behind it. I smile, nod my head, and try to quickly change the subject. If they continue, over time, to harass me, I stop being around them.

      I have good doctors and medical professionals that are family/friends. I am also a person that studies things to death, so I am usually informed when I go to the doctor’s office.

      Just today, a book I had reserved on pancreatic cancer came in at the library. Guess I don’t need it. 🙂

  2. Avatar
    Ami

    I have so much to say about this topic that if I had to do it aloud, I’d be reduced to sputtering incoherence within seconds.

    I’ll be ranting in a related fashion on my blog this evening.

  3. Avatar
    Mary Ellen

    I used to get awful harassment from of all people, Southern Baptists…one of the reasons I left them….Sounds like you’re doing what you need to do, and treating yourself once in a while, which is good for one’s mental health…

  4. Avatar
    NeverAgainV

    I have learned to not be so judgemental when I look at someone. It can be easy for people to wrongly judge someone who is overweight & think they are lazy or need to move more, eat less- etc..when we don’t know what they are going through, and what they have gone through. 🙁

    I hear you Bruce.

  5. Avatar
    Jada

    I’m so glad to hear that you’re cancer-free. I’ll tell you something about a cancer diagnosis, though, e-v-e-r-y-b-o-d-y and their dog have an opinion on how you developed it in the first place and all of those opinions put the blame squarely on your not taking care of your health or for being overweight.

    I could not believe some of the truly outlandish shit people said to my face, especially just basically saying well, you’re fat and fat women are more likely to develop breast cancer (that’s not true, incidentally). Yeah, well, at the time my oncologist figures the cancer started growing, I was slender and fit and had never been overweight. Oh, well then, it must have been because you haven’t been eating all organic. Did the research into that, too, and while I have GMO concerns, ‘organic’ foods are never necessarily anymore free of unhealthy chemicals, usually from unknown sources of contamination or runoff. What I ultimately learned from all my research is that cancer is a gigantic crap shoot, and if you’re going to get it, you’re going to get it. You might respond really well to treatment, like I did, or even with the identical diagnosis you may not respond to what worked for me at all. I think people like to victim-blame as some sort of whistling-in-the-dark mechanism that (falsely) assures them they’re doing all the ‘right’ things that will prevent cancer.

  6. Avatar
    Karen

    I am obese and have struggled with diet, exercise, and depression my whole life. The people I’m close to celebrate my efforts to improve my health without telling me about how I should be eating/not eating X or doing exercise Y. These people are self-selecting; those in my life who would order me about get held at arm’s length at best, and dismissed from my life at worst. I’m not above greeting such efforts with an expression that can almost freeze water and an equally cold silence. Life is too damn short and painful to put up with such garbage.

  7. Avatar
    Sergio Paulo Sider

    I am also sick and tired of those judgements and advices, especially from people who got luck with their genes in the first place. It’s like getting advice to how to win the lottery from a lottery winner.

    I was thin, fit, and then got my “beer belly” later, so I heard “eat more” and “eat less”. Add depression and physiological anxiety and some bad genes and you get a perfect scenario to transform your ears into a toilet seat.

  8. Avatar
    Zoe

    Yes Bruce but have you tried . . . ?

    *grin*

    Great rant. And then you’ve got the other end of the spectrum. Skinny me and the doctors and society think I’m healthy as a horse. Not. 🙁

  9. Avatar
    Texas Born & Bred

    I love reading about healthy living, especially summaries of bonafide research. But it’s amazing how little is really known. For those things that are known, a lot of reading material tends to cherry pick facts to suit the author’s theory. Moreover, there is very, very little known about cause and effect. The research might show a correspondence between an ailment and aspects of lifestyle (for those 100 people in the study), but they rarely show that one thing causes another.

    I have sarcoidosis, which is an autoimmune disease. Search the internet and you can find dozens of “cures” or “triggers” to avoid. But I was given the opportunity to search actual paid-for medical research materials. Their first sentence was that science does NOT know what causes or triggers sarcoidosis.

    My point is that people have lots of opinions that are spawned by drug pushers and snake oil salesmen. If you only drank a spoonful of vinegar, then your ailments would go away. Your BS alarm should go off.

    I am convinced that we must take control of our own medicine. And we should never judge a book by its cover.

    Oh, by the way, your penis does indeed grow as you lose weight. That’s because you can see more of it as you look down!

  10. Avatar
    Troy

    I wonder if Andrew Schlafly believes his own bull shit in the fat atheist Conservapedia article? It seems more like a fat shaming polemic than anything else. The poll cited shows only about a 6-7% difference in the religious and non-religious, could be explained by certain religions such as the Mormons making fitness a religious edict. Notice also the study is based on interviews on self described eating habits, not actual BMI or other objective measure of obesity. I also notice Rev. Jerry Falwell isn’t mentioned, perhaps he should he claims to have once been an atheist.

  11. Avatar
    Alice

    So good to hear that it’s not cancer Bruce:)

    Thank you so much for this post, it must be very frustrating for you getting all manner of unsolicited advice. We never know anyone’s struggles. I need to remember this all the time.

  12. Avatar
    Ian

    I attended church with a guy who believed that it was a sin to be fat. Of course, he and his wife were tiny people- both just over 5 feet tall and neither over 130 pounds. He basically starved his kids, who would then eat like pigs during potluck lunch at church every week.

    I am in a job that requires a certain level of fitness. I’m not skinny, but I am able to perform my job just as well as my skinny coworkers. We had a guy start who used to be fat, then lost a bunch of weight using high priced shakes and working out. Now, he is actually angry about food. When he goes off on his tirades about how crappy we eat, his face gets red and he raises his voice. We have all just learned to ignore him, there’s no sense in trying to talk to him.

    Bruce, I’m glad there is no cancer. I’m glad you eat well. I’m sure a lot of the weight is attributable to side effects of medicine. I know several people who swelled up when they started taking certain medicines, especially ones for MS. Keep up the good writing and enjoy a Snickers when you feel like it.

  13. Avatar
    Tige Gibson

    I’ve never seen anyone eat six scoops of ice cream. It makes me sick thinking about it. Maybe I just haven’t lived.

    Getting divorced was the second best thing that ever happened to me, after losing my faith. Liberating is the word that best describes both of those experiences. The idea that divorce is a bad thing came from the people who kept it outlawed. If divorce were really bad, non-religious people would be the ones who want to outlaw it.

  14. Avatar
    Angiep

    (1) Yes! Medications are notorious for causing weight gain, or what looks like it. (2) Here are two words people should not utter: “You should…” What makes them qualified? It makes no difference if they are right or wrong or somewhere in between. People do not have the right to give unsolicited advice. (3) I’m only a few pounds overweight, but I find fat-shaming (what a terrible term) to be very offensive when directed at others. (4) I agree that becoming vegan is not for everyone. I was on vacation recently and ended up at the only place that was open for an early dinner…vegan. That meal made me decide that, while I have no trouble going “meatless,” that is far from being “vegan.” It seemed to me that everything was just prepared in a way to mimic meat. What’s the point? When I eat real veggies and fruits, I don’t have to disguise them. Why should I eat a “burger” made of ground sunrise seeds? If I am not willing to eat in this extreme manner, do I deserve to be disrespected for it?

  15. Avatar
    Matilddaa

    I always want to ask these folk who believe their whacky diet plans are a 100% guaranteed cures why mainstream medicine doesn’t routinely and universally prescribe them? The doctors in my family are, believe it or not, intelligent highly-trained scientists. If a bizarre food diet cured cancer/any other serious disease, don’t you think they’d have the brains to prescribe it to all sufferers?

  16. Avatar
    Suzanne

    Hugs, Bruce, hugs, not dieting advice. I’ve seen you eat and you didn’t seem like you were hoovering up junk food. Fuck those people. I deal with them too. Chronic illnesses combined with higher than normal BMI turns rational normal folks into advice-spewing assholes. They don’t know you like you know you.

    But don’t let me near your Metformin as I might actually try to jack it from you. They won’t refill my script for it (popped a high blood sugar once on a test, went right back down)… and it actually helps my asthma.

  17. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    No one could call me skinny now,but I was underweight for all my childhood, until another move that coincided with no kids to play with all summer,along with puberty kicking in and endocrine disturbances(genetic). It all went under the pediatrician’s radar of course. In times of frustration and obstacles to surmount, I eat carbs to calm down. Turns out the carbs release serotonin,makes sense to me. My thyroid levels were below normal, lowering my metabolic rate. Doctors refused to address this,telling me as long as my thyroid made even a little thyroxin, I’d get no additional thyroid to make up for the lack, setting me up for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis later. I just hate American doctors now ! Long story short, I had a hard time finding systems that could really work to normalize my weight,as I’m short and small-framed. I read about a woman who only ate goodies one or two days a week, and gave it a try. I found it did work and I could use it as a lifestyle, but, the same year I lost so much weight was also the time I got caught up in the problems of a new friend,whom I stupidly thought God “assigned ” to me. Over time I fell off the wagon, feeling trapped. If I had a kitchen I’d make smoothies and juice drinks, as well as a healthier diet in general healthier diet in general. I now use the budget menu from fast food places, buy some fruit daily, and till recently, ate ice cream every day. This won’t last forever, I’m slowing down on the goodies because I won’t fit my clothes if I keep on this way. I had a broken foot that took too long to heal,so I was slowed down a lot by that. A new, non- conservative doctor is a great improvement for me. The previous one almost killed me last spring. Too many lousy doctors in this country, with that corporate thinking. These days you really do have to fight hard to get anything done right.

  18. Avatar
    Ross

    Please do the following if you want to know the real, medical scientific truth about obesity. Order from Amazon online a copy of the 1982 book “The Dieter’s Dilemma” and also google the words “diets fail, genes take over”. Contrary to common public misinformation and the medical quackery put forth by the dieting industry such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, people are not fat or thin because of how much or how little they eat, but because of genes they inherit. When fat people try their best with diet and exercise programs, despite their efforts, most dieters eventually regain all of the lost weight. This is because when fat people try to lose weight, the obesity gene they inherited slows down their metabolisms, until all of their lost weight gradually returns. That is it is desperately needed for medical science to find a real cure for obesity. At this point in time there is only one, safe guaranteed way to be thin: have thin parents!

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