How to Live With Obesity

Obesity is a common condition, but the combination of stigma, lack of understanding about the causes of obesity, and pervasiveness of weight loss advertising can make living with obesity a real challenge. Fortunately, there is a huge support community out there, and many ways to come to terms with your body and embrace your size and shape while maintaining your health.


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    Recognize your personal history with your body. As an obese person, you may have had many changes in size and shape over your life, or you may have always been about the same. You may have tried dieting and weight loss, confronted prejudice, loved or hated your own body, and confronted challenges with friends, family, coworkers, and romantic partners. Take some time to recognize that history and the lessons you have learned about your body.
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    Take a current body inventory. Evaluate how you feel about your body right now. What emotions come up when you think about your body, or particular body parts? Are there things you love about your body? Hate about your body? How do you feel about your body's size? What about its shape? Make a note of any negative feelings, and recognize that they are valid and you can get past them in time. Think about how those negative feelings might be linked to the lessons you've learned about obesity in school, at home, at work, or from the media.
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    Bring fat-positive images and words into your life. Look for fat role models and images of beautiful people who look like you, or share physical characteristics with you. Think about the things your body can do--for example, you may enjoy sports, the arts, yoga, or dance. If you've felt cut off from these kinds of hobbies because of your weight, but are interested in them, look for friends who might want to start a new hobby with you. Look for books or DVDs about that hobby, geared towards fat people. There is also a huge community dedicated to "fashion" and finding great clothes for fat bodies. If you're into fashion, consider following some fashion blogs online to build a fat-positive self image. Start to think of fat in a positive or neutral way. Consider responding to insults with positivity: if someone says that you're fat, start saying "yeah, I am. Way to be observant!" Or, if someone congratulates you for weight loss, challenge their assumption that losing weight is positive.
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    Take a look at your overall health. You may have been told in the past that you can't be fat and healthy, that your goal should be weight loss and nothing else, or that being fat is your fault. Doctors may have ignored your health concerns and told you that losing weight would solve the problem. Don't accept those comments! Obesity is correlated with all sorts of things, and most of those are not proven causes of obesity. Often, obesity is beyond our control, and diet and exercise won't change our size. But that doesn't mean that a person can't be both healthy and obese.
    • Look for resources on "Health at Every Size" (HAES). This philosophy challenges the idea that health necessarily means losing weight. HAES bloggers and online community members can provide suggestions on exercising while fat, staying healthy, and finding support in your area.
    • Find supportive doctors. A doctor should never say that he or she cannot treat you because you are fat. Ask questions before seeing a doctor to gauge his or her competence with obese patients. Get a full check-up and find out what health factors you need to watch out for, and how you can improve your health and reduce your risk of disease outside of weight loss.
    • Make overall health your goal, instead of weight loss. Diets fail because the goals are unrealistic. Try to improve your health by eating more fruits and vegetables, eating a balanced diet, avoiding foods that make you feel sick, and getting regular exercise (both aerobic and strength training). If you have food restrictions, health conditions, or a disability that make nutrition and/or exercise difficult for you, try to find someone who is experienced in meeting those needs who can help you come up with a plan. If you lose weight, don't think of it as a "point" or a "win," just a side effect of what you're doing that is value-neutral.
    • Address eating disorders. An eating disorder is a serious condition, and both fat and thin people have them. Doctors often ignore eating disorders in fat people and instead praise weight loss and encourage unhealthy eating habits. If you think you may have an eating disorder, look for support. Ask fat-positive community members for references to find an understanding health professional.
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    Refuse to accept discrimination. Don't allow people to insult you or exclude you because of your weight. If an employer, landlord, teacher, or someone else in power discriminates against you, go to someone higher up and explain why you were unfairly treated and what remedy you expect. Of course, this can be tiring, and you may prefer to just avoid such situations--if this is your outlook, then the fat-positive online community may be able to help you find support and safer spaces. If you do want to fight back, you might be interested in the fat activist community online. There are plenty of opportunities to write about and protest discrimination through grassroots and political action.


  • Don't get taken in by bogus public health claims. There is a huge, heavily-funded movement against the "obesity epidemic," and it can be aggressive and even violent in its insistence that obesity causes disease and obese people are at fault. Look for support against these claims and refuse to listen. If you are curious about a health study, check to see who funded it.

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Categories: Eating Disorders | Food Addictions and Cravings