Fatlogic and Self-Deception

where I keep my genetics

One of the most popular fatlogic tropes is the genetic theory. It is true that a certain amount of obesity is genetically determined. However, this is often seen as a poor excuse—not only by people who have no weight problem, but by formerly obese people who have “been there, done that” and no longer accept the rationalization. A frequently-repeated slogan is, “Genetics may load the gun, but you fire it.”

It is generally agreed that self-acceptance is a necessary condition for change, and must precede it. In some cases, the achievement of self-acceptance requires considerable mental gymnastics. It is such hard work that some people get stuck there. Positive self-talk, the little cheerleading sessions meant to boost a person over a psychological hump, can become the basis of a whole philosophy. If a person is not careful, she or he might become entangled in a web of self-deception and self-justification.

This is one reason why early intervention to prevent obesity is so crucial. It isn’t good, either physically or psychologically, for a child to get used to the feeling of being overweight, and the longer it goes on, the harder it is to change course. For a child old enough to be aware of fatlogic, it does not help to let them get used to thinking in the peculiar language of fatlogic.

People acquire beliefs from their upbringing, like the idea that a child with any visible bones must be starving. Older relatives pass along all kinds of notions that can mess up kids. For instance, a Reddit.com participant asked, “What Fatlogic Did You Believe in the Past?” A member called “Stolypin26” replied:

That I was just naturally 300 lbs thanks to genetics. My entire family still believes this despite the obvious problem my weight loss poses to that theory. They still swear up and down I’m gonna gain it back and that I’ll never get below 200 lbs…I’m dead set against proving them right….

One offshoot of fatlogic is fear that a child will get hurt during physical activity, and to be fair, that is not an entirely unrealistic fear. Fat kids do get hurt— and so do fit kids. Rugby player “Blackborealis” recounted the fears of joint damage and other injuries that his female relatives laid on him. He says:

I look at them, both on the wrong side of 50, both obese (my mom morbidly so), both with joint aches and sleep apnea, and think to myself that it’s pretty much a guarantee that my body will deteriorate. I’d just rather destroy it while conquering opponents as opposed to conquering a bag of sour cream & onion Lays.

Sane adults will invent for themselves justifications that they know are entirely silly, like the idea that if you snag a tasty morsel off someone else’s plate, the calories don’t count. Here are other examples from the same fatlogic thread:

If something is organic/low fat/whole grain, I could eat as much as I want.

I can eat a lot as long as I do it in the morning. Gotta fuel myself.

Your body can only absorb so many calories in a day so cheat days can be a free for all.

One more donut/beer/brownie/cup of ice cream/oreo/piece of chocolate won’t hurt!

Blamed my lack of exercise on my knees. Funny how my knees have improved since exercising.

Here is an interesting rationale offered by “Treeclimber3” as an example of abandoned fatlogic:

I assumed there were real and fundamental differences in how people’s bodies operate, because I didn’t see all the hard work that others did to get their fitness. I’d see people running or lifting weights, but it looked so easy for them, and I was so hard for me, I just assumed they were of a different caliber that I couldn’t measure up to.

The formerly obese “Treeclimber3” learned that it is never too late to initiate a healthier lifestyle. But that doesn’t mean the matter is not urgent. It doesn’t imply that obesity should be accepted. Early intervention is better than late, and total prevention is best of all.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “What Fatlogic Did You Believe in the Past?,” Reddit.com, 11/05/14
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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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