Oh to HECK with your “willpower” already

There’s something that has been bothering me for a while that I want to address.  It is the foundation of my step-father’s argument that being Fat is a simple matter of overeating.  The crux of his personal-experience based argument centers around willpower.  His (and many others who seek to flame here or elsewhere on the fat-o-sphere of blogs) reasoning is that if he has a moment of “weakness” and eats an entire tub of a favorite ice cream (or experiences any sort of non-exercise week/month) he gains weight.  Therefore, anyone FAT must do that same sort of will-power lacking giving-into-weakness ritual ALL THE TIME in order to be so much fatter than him.

Sorry folks but human bodies do not work in this sort of linear extrapolate-from-one-person’s experience sort of way.  I am NOT fatter than you because I don’t have some sort of super willpower gene so that all I do is force obscene amounts of “naughty” foods down my gullet all day and/or not move at all.

Let’s take a reminder from a previous post of mine about myth-busting:

Fat people are lazy gluttons lacking willpower. Recent research, building upon years of already established research, points to evidence that “healthy obese people eat and behave no differently than anyone else to explain why their bodies are bigger”; that in general people are not sloths; and that no amount of willpower will make a diet work permanently.

So whenever I hear someone I know or someone else online ranting that “if ONLY these awful fatties would just put down that can of soda they saw that one fat person drinking once or stop eating at McDonalds since they totally saw a fat family there once, and just get the WILLPOWER and take CONTROL of what they put into their bodies then *poof* the magical fairy of One and Only Correct Body Size and Shape will come and allow these former fatties into the Thin Persons Club FOREVAH!” I can’t help but wonder what experience has given them such conviction?

Is it like my step-father?  Did they once eat so much they felt awful and then gained a few pounds and assumed forever on from that moment that if they continued in the SAME way ALL the time they would just Devour the World and NEVER stop gaining weight so that must be the problem with all the people bigger than them?  Is it fear like I had during all of my dieting days?  That knowledge that eating more than diets (*cough* sorry Lifestyle Changes *cough*) prescribe for losing or heck even MAINTAINING a low weight, is less than I desired led me to always feel like I must have some sort of Abnormally Large Appetite and a fear that if I ever gave into it I would quickly become Fatter than Life.  So is the fear that giving in to hungers will make us fat what spurs such extrapolations that run counter to all evidence to the contrary?

For the record, and while noting that I understand that personal anecdata does not a proof in concept make, I would like to point out that I personally have some AMAZING willpower.  And you know something?  Not a damn shred of it anymore is dedicated to feeling valorous for avoiding that mini-bar of candy or for eating a salad that I desire instead of pizza.

THIS willpower is devoted to maintaining a level of civility in the face of blatantly fearful hatred spewing from people who do not want their perfect world of Imaginary Thin Bodies to be burst in upon by some reality or differing thoughts.  THIS willpower is about reaching beyond the surface and rejecting the main-line arguments pushed by folks with a visible interest in keeping the population miserable about their bodies without exploring them for myself first.

So before you try to act all trumpeting-swan like because you “whipped your body into shape” by denying yourself or because you are finally adept at forcing yourself to love a “virtuous” food you hate, think for a moment about how much MORE willpower it takes to stay away from the main-stream push to diet while condemning your body as unworthy and to instead remain positive and self-loving.  Then come back to me and let me know how freaking proud of yourself you feel for not wrapping your lips around a tiny piece of chocolate.


30 thoughts on “Oh to HECK with your “willpower” already

  1. “the magical fairy of One and Only Correct Body Size and Shape”

    wow she’s one heck of a lazy fairy if you look around X) i love this idea and am giggling a lot!

  2. I like to point out, for the “it’s all about willpower!” crowd that somebody who has an MA, works full-time and has a toddler *pretty much has willpower* and lots of it.

    But OMG, I’m fat and must therefore be valueless and without moral fiber or character. Of course!

  3. Sorry folks but human bodies do not work in this sort of linear extrapolate-from-one-person’s experience sort of way.

    Uhhh, what do you mean? Look, I get headaches when I’m around someone who is wearing English Leather cologne. Therefore people who have chronic headaches must DO NOTHING BUT SIT IN VATS OF ENGLISH LEATHER COLOGNE ALL THE DAY LONG!! /snark

    Seriously, though, hear hear to everything you wrote. 🙂 Great post.

  4. Yes, I admit, I have no willpower. Just because I would regularly go for over 4 days at a stretch without letting anything enter my body besides water with lemon juice in order to lose weight doesn’t prove anything because I was, and am, still fat.

    Obviously someone with willpower would have left out the lemon juice. I am weak.

  5. Well… ya know… if your step-father is not fat, then if it’s so easy for him to be not fat, then it must be easy for anyone else to be not fat… which means that fat people must go above and beyond in laziness and gluttony to achieve their fatness. It is straight up narcissism to assume that everyone is just like you.
    I actually have a fat step-father who is a fat hater. I have my theories on why he is that way too…
    I have seen him fail on so many diets over the past 30 years… and I think he’s internalized the idea that he is some kinda gluttonous, lazy failure, cuz he hasn’t become thin forevers yet.
    I also think that maybe there is something of a self-fullfilling prophecy going on. He sees himself as fat, so he does things that he thinks fat people do… and then condemns himself and fat people for doing those things… overeating, etc.
    It’s a real shame… the guy is in his 70’s and he’s been hating his body and himself for being fat most of his life… what a waste.

    • angrygrayrainbows I think this “something of a self-fullfilling prophecy going on. He sees himself as fat, so he does things that he thinks fat people do… and then condemns himself and fat people for doing those things” is a very good observation. And it does seem such a waste to hate the body you grace this world with for an entire life 😦

  6. And, ironically, the recent research that shows that yo-yo dieters end up weighing MORE than when they started even works to disprove this. If I hadn’t had so damn much willpower every time I went on a diet (*cough* sorry lifstyle change LOL *cough*), I wouldn’t have gone down so far in weight, and wouldn’t now have a setpoint higher than I naturally would have (probably).

    Sorry, I’ll go climb back into my VAT OF ENGLISH LEATHER now! 🙂

  7. I don’t think I ever bought into the whole “fat people lack willpower” thing because everyone I knew who dieted like crazy (starting with my mother) was very disciplined in every other area of their lives. I actually tend to think really heavy people are more disciplined than the thin or average because I’m convinced dieting makes you fat, so the fatter you are the more disciplined you are, right?

    Okay, not strictly accurate, but I do puzzle over the “fat people lack will power” thing when, in my life, there is sooooo much evidence against it. But then, I’ve known a lot of fat people – I expect the most prejudiced are those who know the fewest fatties, because their very prejudice is going to encourage them to avoid people they label fat.

  8. I have to say that I really believed fat people were fat solely because of a lack of willpower…at least until I became fat. When I started gaining weight for no apparent reason whatsoever (which later turned out to be PCOS), I realized that the entire premise of the dieting industry/obesity panic was utter bullshit.

    So, sorry for being a judgmental ass when I was 14, but I swear I didn’t know any better.

  9. We show will power daily by not beating all these assholes unconscious. And indeed virtually all of us do & accomplish a great deal in our lives, but it is all negated by our inability to have a 24 inch waistline. And, Ashley, almost no one knows better at 14. I knew so little at 14 that I allowed my abusive father to not only convince me that I was generally worthless & everyone would be better off if I were dead, but that, if my weight got above 140 or so, I was getting “puss-ey” (a term he made up to mean chubby or fat) (& I am just under 5’6″, btw). It took me another 16 years or so to wake up, long enough so that I bought it when a young doctor labeled me, at 156 pounds, ‘obese’ at the beginning of my second pregnancy.

    And the idea of a man in his 70’s still hating his body & struggling to lose weight (& very likely damaging his health & possibly shortening his life somewhat) is so inutterably sad. Is he unaware that no one lives forever & he is wasting precious time? I wish he would realize that he is unique, that life is short & unpredictable, & that he should enjoy every moment to the fullest, & that includes eating whatever he damn well pleases without guilt & accepting his natural size & shape.

    And your stepfather, April, is not gaining weight eating one carton of ice cream. If his weight fluctuates by a few pounds occasionally, that is normal for all of us. I know that you will not convince him of anything he doesn’t want to believe, but there is far less connection between weight & food intake than he has been convinced.

  10. Uh huh! I also think that, if someone is naturally lean and isn’t particularly active, maybe they think fat people must be REALLY lazy in order to be as fat as they are..?

  11. I used to think I had no willpower whatsoever … while I was thin. Because I could never follow any eating rules I made up or exercise as regularly as I thought I should. While I was thin. All the fat people I knew seemed to have more willpower than I did because they actually managed to DO THOSE THINGS. While being fat. Case closed.

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  13. The English Leather comparison is one of the best I have ever heard! Is it ok if I use it but substitue Aramis, for the English Leather? I actually lurve English Leather, and I have a headache! Go figure!

    • Heehee. Catgal I don’t think A Sarah would mind and I don’t 🙂 Not sure I’ve ever smelled Aramis though. For me it is more the highly floral scents or anything with Patchouli that triggers instant headaches!

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  19. This: “Then come back to me and let me know how freaking proud of yourself you feel for not wrapping your lips around a tiny piece of chocolate.” really struck me because I watched it happen yesterday at work.

    I have a size-obsessed colleague who is constantly trying to explain to me that my food choices are wrong and hers are right. She is insanely thin, but can’t stop talking about how she has to be so careful or she’ll “blow up” after one extra bite of something “naughty.”

    Usually I just roll my eyes and enjoy the food she’s obviously lusting after, but yesterday I forgot the lunch I had packed and had to run out. When I came back with my burger and fries, my colleague jumped on me like a heroin addict who had been too long without a fix. “Can I have a fry? Just one fry? I shouldn’t eat more than that. I’ve been really good, but I LOVE fries so much and those smell terrific!”

    I handed over about six fries and she gobbled up five of them and then refused to eat the sixth. Because that was her way of proving that she “could” leave it if she wanted to.

    I ate as much of the box of fries as I wanted and left the rest on her desk.

    Because sometimes torturing people is fun.

    I guess I really DON’T have any willpower, after all…

    • And the really frustrating part (aside from people commenting on others’ food choices of course) is that if she just stopped treating fries like this forbidden fruit; they would easily lose that overwhelming appeal that seems so much like a deadly siren song to her!! Glad you enjoyed your lunch at least (and I hope if she did eat those other fries your co-worker didn’t end up with digestion troubles from eating stuff she isn’t used to!!)

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