I was recently perusing a copy of Big Fat Lies by Glenn Gaesser that’s been sitting on a shelf in my office since long before I started working at my current job. I think that a lot of it’s outdated now, and it’s also a little on the extreme side but I was interested by the results of a poll that found that the majority of people would rather be stupid or mean than fat. This sparked a little debate between myself and a colleague. We were both in agreement that we would never opt to be stupid over mean or fat but that it was a bit of a toss-up between the two. An article in the Globe and Mail reported that a recent diet survey found that a slight majority of women would go a full year without sex if it meant they’d be skinny. The immediate reaction many people have to these sorts of surveys is indignation that people would choose options like no sex, being mean, or being stupid over being fat. The assumption being that this indicates our ingrained fat prejudice. This was my immediate assumption too when I read the study results in the book but upon closer examination I don’t think it’s that simple. There are many different reasons why people chose as they did and they may have nothing to do with fat prejudice. For instance, if you are single or just not that interested in sex, of course you’re going to opt to be thin over fat because you’re not getting any either way. As for the mean, stupid, or fat choice. We struggled with the fact that there were no quantifiers. How mean is mean? How fat is fat? It seems like lots of mean people tend to get ahead in life. If you’re so mean that everyone hates you then I’d opt for fat. But if you’re so fat that your health is endangered and your ability to function in the world is negatively affected then I’d rather be mean thanks. Fit and fat? Sure, sign me up. I think there are a myriad of factors that influence people’s choices in surveys like these and the actual results don’t really tell us all that much other than we are far too concerned about how others perceive us. We need to turn more attention inward and be the way that makes us feel best about ourselves.