Assumptions about fat spilling over into financial jargon

One of the phrases that always “gets my goat” is one that popped up again today in the little box of Yahoo Financial articles: “Reduce monthly expenses by trimming the financial fat in these seven key areas.”  My problem with the phrase is easy to see when you look at the tips given in the article; ALL of which advise folks to save money by simply “trimming back” what they spend on frivolities.  Thus, the use of the phrase “trimming the FINANCIAL fat” is intrinsically linked to the cultural belief that in order to trim a person’s PHYSICAL fat, the same sort of logic applies.  Obviously if you’re in tight financial situations you are spending too much and need to cut back; just like OBVIOUSLY if you’re fat you’re eating too much and need to cut back.  Simple logic, right?

However, I do cheer when such articles allow comments and I see some skeptical comments to such financial advice articles; comments which point out that if you aren’t already overspending in the manner that the author assumes, then these tips have absolutely NO USE for people still struggling financially.

Now if only people could take that one sort of realization just that one logical baby step further and look at advice given to fat folks in the same manner and recognize the tips for the inanity they truly are.  Because if I already DO follow all of the prescribed tips, why aren’t I already financially secure, or physically thin?  But oh wait, that’s right!  Silly me, I forgot!  All poor people overspend and all fatties overeat and anyone in either situation suggesting they do otherwise is a big liar, right?  Yea, right.

Learn to ask questions about assumptions.  It just might surprise you to realize some of the bias and assumptions you still hold and how they color your snap judgements of the world around you.

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10 thoughts on “Assumptions about fat spilling over into financial jargon

  1. While I never really thought of the phrase “trimming the fat” in a human context (I always think of trimming fat off of a steak or some such), I adore you comparison between the quick tips to a better budget and quick tips to a better figure. Despite the fact that I turn down the heat at night and avoid mayonnaise on my (veggie) burger I still seem to be neither rich nor thin. I have given up on the tips to a better body a while back but I still open up those “5 easy ways to save money!” links only to be disappointed again with basic money saving tips that I have been practicing (without having learn about them on the internet thank you very much) for most of my adult life. The more I have learned about the FA movement the more it seems to apply to every aspect of life. Big business in all its forms is out there trying to make you feel bad about yourself in one way or another just to sell you the quick fix for your financial/physical/mental/sexual well being. But the ones that aren’t out and out lies are just the tried and true advice you probably learned at your mother’s knee. So if you will excuse me I am going to go turn off the light in the room I just left while I incorporate more fruits and veggies in my diet. And don’t worry, I am not charging for my opinion.

  2. Well observed. I’ve often thought there was a very noticeable similarity between those two types of articles. In both cases, they include things that most people already do/have already done to try to “correct” the “problem.” “Take the stairs instead of the elevator!” (If that worked, why wasn’t I thin when I lived in a 4th-floor walkup?) “Forgo that daily latte?” (What daily latte?)

  3. Sorry, but I think you’ve misunderstood the meaning/intent of “trimming the fat.” It has nothing to do with people, weight loss or obesity. It’s a butcher’s analogy. It quite literally refers to trimming away the fat (considered a luxury) from a piece of meat, so as to pay only for the barest necessity – a lean cut. Once upon a time, you chose your cut of meat from a butcher’s case, then told him how you wanted it trimmed. It wasn’t weighed until after the trimming (as opposed to today where all meat is pre-packaged and you pay the package price even if you ask your butcher to further trim or cut it for you). Wealthier people left the fat on for better flavor and texture – but this obviously raised the weight so they got less actual meat per pound. Poorer people invariably had the butcher “trim the fat” – the meat was tougher, dryer and less tasty, but it was the cheapest way to feed their families.

    Signed – granddaughter of Olaf the Butcher 🙂

  4. Christine, I knew that originally “trimming the fat” referred to buying less at the butcher shop, but it is often used for weight-loss analogies too – incorrectly, since short of liposuction there IS no way to only remove fat! 🙂

  5. Hi Christine,

    I actually wish the phrase was still used only in it’s original context but unfortunately, as living400lbs pointed out too, it has been used very often, perhaps even with increasing regularity in recent years, to mean trimming those fat bellies.

    Just do a google search on “Trimming the Fat”. The results are resoundingly for articles/blogs/tips regarding trimming waistlines and not cuts of meat.

    But I appreciate you adding the bit of history there. 🙂

  6. I’ve seen plenty of articles about “trimming the fat” from one’s diet, but they’re always quite literally about trimming the fat – substituting nonstick spray for cooking oil, or mustard for mayo, as examples. And I’ve heard it as a financial analogy many times – cutting wasteful or unecessary spending.

    Using it as an analogy for people and weight loss is a new one on me. Not only is it insulting, it doesn’t fit with the actual meaning of the phrase. (As Living400lbs points out, there is no way to “trim the fat” from a person short of surgery.)

    However, I’d rather give those using it in a financial context the benefit of the doubt and not be so quick to take offense. Unless they also make specific reference to fat people or obesity, I would assume they understand the origin of the phrase and aren’t using it as some anti-fat agenda.

    Butcher —-> Finance
    not
    Butcher —-> Obesity —-> Finance

    Does that make sense?

  7. Hmmm well pointed out Christine. I should give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps instead of intrinsically linked to removal of a person’s physical fat I should suggest that it is more linked to the belief that one must always strive to trim all the fat from one’s diet.

    I do still believe, though, that the analogy still stands. Financial tips such as these (and also tips given to overweight people) for how to “Trim” the fat from their budgets (or diets) assume that people with excess debt (or fat) must be not doing these very simple and commonsensical things in order to have gotten themselves into debt (or overweight).

    That’s why the phrase bothers me I think. It is the assumption behind it that not only is it a person’s fault they are in-debt or fat, but it is because they simply overspend or overeat that it is so.

  8. You know, the phrase “trimming the fat” doesn’t bother me as much as the financial tips that are provided always seem to target a certain economic status (read = upper middle class), and assumptions are made about them. First of all, not everyone buys a latte or store-bought hot drink everyday. Not everyone eats out everyday, much less once a week. Not everyone can create a wardrobe from malls, high-end stores, and high-end websites. Not everyone drives to work, and/or drives a fancy car or SUV. You also can’t assume working class or people are constantly scrimping and saving either. If you’re going to provide financial advice, don’t assume only white collar workers with higher paying jobs who work in the city are the only ones paying attention.

    The same goes for tips when it comes to “fighting fat” or just living a HAES lifestyle. Hardly anything I’ve seen tries to offer anything geared towards people who may not work in offices or have jobs where they can take an hour-long walk in place of their lunch, or live in areas where they can’t actually walk without the fear of being a crime victim, no access to stores or restaurants with healthier choices, or the ability to go to (as well as afford) a gym because they rely on public transit.

  9. I don’t think April was taking offense. I think she was making an analogy.

    A decent one.

    Guilt is a powerful motivator. Guilt is leveled at fat people for the supposed sin of overeating and sloth.

    Guilt is now aimed at Americans who are over-stretched, financially, because financial stress MUST mean frivolous spending.

    Sure, many of us made poor decisions about buying on credit. But an awful lot of people who pay their bills on time, budget carefully and delay gratification and are in real trouble.

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