Advice from the Trenches: Feminist or Fat?


Welcome to Advice From the Trenches, a monthly feature on NRI NOW.

In this month’s column, writer Cathren Housley addresses the question of when being weight becomes a health concern.

Housley uses practical knowledge and wisdom from the school of hard-knocks, combined with advice counseling for medical problems from a chiropractic physician and medical doctor to answer your burning questions.

Do you have a question for the column? Send your thoughts, ideas and woes to

Mention that you’re an NRI NOW reader so we can be sure to publish the answer here

Dear C;

I have a big butt. I was born with it, every woman in my family has a big butt, (and) I am pretty sure that it is in my genes. I’ve been picked on since 4th grade and I am sick of it.

The Fat is a Feminist Issue movement brought a lot of awareness to the unrealistic body image sold to us by the fashion industry – like those underweight models plastered all over the media, most of them the product of plastic surgery or anorexia. The average American woman over age 20 is 5 foot three inches tall and weighs 170 lbs for god’s sake. It’s like a plot to destroy our self esteem!

I thought that when the Hip Hop movement celebrated big butts and women like Nicki Minaj and Cardi B became fashion icons, kids at school would let up but I guess the guys at my high school haven’t gotten the memo yet and the size zero girls who have celery for lunch still feel obligated to tell me how extra weight affects my health.

So, what is it? Is my weight a big health risk? Or is fat a feminist issue? Someone needs to make up their mind.

–   Betty Blimp

C says:

I hope you weren’t expecting a simple answer, because there isn’t one. The truth is that not all fat is created equal. There are actually four different types, and they each have a very different function in our bodies.

Most of the fat in our bodies is White Fat. That’s where energy is stored and hormones are secreted into our bloodstream. When they are normal size, they actually produce a beneficial hormone, adiponectin, which protects us against diabetes and heart disease. But when people gain too much weight these same cells multiply and expand; that’s when they stop producing adiponectin and become hazardous to our health.

Brown Fat is a type of fat that is more like muscle than like white fat. Naturally thin people tend to have more brown fat than those who are overweight because this fat can actually burn calories when stimulated! Children have more of it than adults, which is why they can eat so much and not gain. If maximally stimulated, those few cells have the ability to burn off 300 to 500 calories a day. More children are overweight now largely because most are less active.

The really dangerous fat that doctors warn us about is called Visceral Fat. This is the stuff that collects in your midsection and wraps around your internal organs, including your heart. Visceral fat is a potential killer. It drives up your risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even dementia.The liposuction that is so popular for body sculpting can’t touch visceral fat, so the media influencers who undergo this procedure aren’t doing a damn thing for their health. Here’s how to tell if the fat around your waist is subcutaneous or visceral – lie on your back and see if your stomach flattens out. If it does, it’s probably not visceral. If you still look like you’re pregnant, that’s visceral.

And now for some good news – your big butt, along with any extra padding you may have on our thighs are made out Subcutaneous Fat, the kind that is directly under our skin. It is not as likely to cause the serious problems that deeper fat does, in fact – surprise! The fat in your butt or in your thighs is actually associated with better health, lower risk of cardiac disease or diabetes. 

Unfortunately, if you have a beer gut or a muffin top puff over your belt, you’re in trouble. Excess subcutaneous fat in your stomach area is as dangerous as the visceral kind.

So, the next time anyone gives you crap, you can throw this back in their face: the women who have been fat shamed for thunder thighs and junk in the trunk have the last laugh. They are at far less of a risk for health problems than those skinny men with the beer bellies. 

And as for the Size Zero torture team that is so concerned about your health? They could use a little advice themselves: anorexia has the highest death rate of any psychological disorder; and make no mistake – dead isn’t a good look for anyone. 

As originally published in Motif Magazine.

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  1. Fat is the storage of excess caloric intake. If you are fat, you are eating more than you are burning. No one came out of Auschwitz with a fat arse…. The answer is eat less, not “it’s in my genes”. It’s in your other jeans…

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