You Just Need to Lose Weight and 19 Other Myths About Fat People by Aubrey Gordon (2023) is an exhaustively-researched compendium that is a welcome and necessary addition to all fat positive and anti-diet culture libraries. Gordon, co-host of the brilliant podcast Maintenance Phase and author of the equally brilliant What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat (2020) has collected and debunked twenty myths that make up the “conventional wisdom” that the mainstream establishment and media pushes about fat people.
This isn’t my usual type of review, because I’ve focused more on fiction and narrative nonfiction–but books like Gordon’s are critically needed because they help us focus the analysis and bring the anti-fatness that is baked into our society to light. Gordon has organized the book into four parts, with the myths organized into these four groups of anti-fat conventional wisdom:
- “Being Fat is a Choice”
- “But What About Your Health?”
- “Fat Acceptance Glorifies Obesity”
- “Fat People Should . . .”
Gordon explains in the Introduction that she struggles with myth-busting because it necessarily involves repeating the myths, but her hopes for the book include providing the research and facts that will help more of us to tackle difficult conversations about fatness and fat people–to help us interrupt moments of anti-fatness in our daily lives. Once you start to see it, you will see it everywhere.
The entire book is quotable, but three of the best quotes in my opinion, include:
“You can’t pick the right diet if none of them work.” (p. 20, quoting Harvard’s Robert Schmerling, referencing a 2020 British Medical Journal 2020 research review.)
“Discrimination against fat people is so endemic, most of us don’t even realise it’s happening.” That is, it isn’t that anti-fat discrimination doesn’t exist–it clearly does and has been proven to have devastating effects–it’s that anti-fat discrimination is so prevalent and ubiquitous many of us have a hard time identifying it. Like the air that we breathe, it is invisible to us, a natural part of our environment. It stops looking like harmful patterns of exclusion and starts to look like just the way things work. (p. 115, quoting Angela Meadows in The Conversation)
The fear of being fat is the fear of joining an underclass that you have so readily dismissed, looked down on, looked past, or found yourself grateful not to be a part of. It is a fear of being seen as slothful, gluttonous, greedy, unambitious, unwanted, and worst of all-unlovable. Fat has largely been weaponized by straight-sized people–the very people it seems to hurt most deeply. And ultimately, thin people are terrified of being treated the way they have so often seen fat people treated or even the way they’ve treated fat people themselves. (p. 133)
Don’t miss You Just Need to Lose Weight even if you don’t read it all at once–it’s organized so you can skip around, skim, and look at one myth at a time when you need to. I will be using it for years to come. Thanks again to Aubrey Gordon, Your Fat Friend, for writing it.