You Just Need to Lose Weight by Aubrey Gordon

Known for years as Your Fat Friend on social media, Aubrey Gordon was an anonymous fat activist until in 2019 when she revealed her identity. Then, in 2020, her first book, What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Fat was published. Now, in 2023, her second book has been released. I attended an online conversation between Gordon and Hanne Blank (author of The Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise) that was hosted by Charis Books. I keep telling you guys about Charis because the events are free, they’re later posed on YouTube if you miss or can’t attend them, and if you buy a book from Charis, you’re supporting a revolutionary bookstore. When I went to by Gordon’s newest book from Charis — nearly breaking my NO BUY oath for the next two years — I learned not only was the book sold out at the store, it was already in its second or third printing — and it was just released.

You Just Need to Lose Weight and 19 Other Myths about Fat People is organized by those twenty myths, and truly, to get the best sense of what Gordon’s book contains and if it appeals to you, read the table of contents. Here is what you’ll find:

  • “Being fat is a choice. If fat people don’t like how they’re treated, they should just lose weight.”
  • “Any fat person can become thin if they try hard enough. It’s just a matter of ‘calories in, calories out.'”
  • “Parents are responsible for their child’s weight. Only a bad parent lets their children get fat.”
  • “Thin people should help fat people lose weight.”
  • “Weight loss is the result of healthy choices and should be celebrated.”
  • “Obesity is the leading cause of death in the United States.”
  • “The BMI is an objective measure of size and health.”
  • “Doctors are unbiased judges of fat people’s health. Fat people don’t like going to the doctor’s office because they don’t like hearing the truth.”
  • “Fat people are emotionally damaged and cope by ‘eating their feelings.'”
  • “Accepting fat people ‘glorifies obesity.'”
  • “Body positivity is about feeling better about yourself, as long as you’re happy and healthy.”
  • “We’re in the middle of an obesity epidemic.”
  • “Fat people don’t experience discrimination.”
  • “I don’t like gaining weight, but I don’t treat fat people differently.”
  • “Fat people shouldn’t call themselves fat.”
  • “People who have never been fat have ‘internalized fatphobia.'”
  • “No one is attracted to fat people. Anyone who is has a ‘fat fetish.'”
  • “Fat people should pay for a second airplane seat.”
  • “Skinny shaming is just as bad as fat shaming.”
  • “Anti-fatness is the last socially acceptable form of discrimination.”

Okay, that’s a long list, but I quoted the entire thing because these are statements I — and I’m sure you — hear, so I wanted you to mentally compare your attitude against the myths Gordon lists. Now, to the review.

Gordon’s book challenges readers both fat and thin. There were times I found myself disagreeing with her, internally saying, “Yeah, but . . .” only to be persuaded by her evidence. In particular, I was challenged by the chapters on “Anti-fatness is the last socially acceptable form of discrimination” and “Fat people should pay for a second airplane seat.” The airplane chapter in particular had me hesitate because I hear so much about the embarrassment fat people face asking for seat belt extenders or being forced to buy two seats. Also, how airlines keep shrinking the seats — this is all familiar to me. Gordon went beyond what I expected, analyzing airline policies, the flaws in them, and how a lack of communication between airlines and passengers is one of the biggest problems, all of which I was not aware of.

Although there are a few personal anecdotes, the overwhelming majority of the text is supported with data, studies, and texts, all cited, she tells us (I couldn’t see; I had the audiobook, read beautifully by the author) at the end of each chapter. What this means is readers can look at the data themselves to further their education or analyze the source material themselves.

An admirable quality of Gordon’s work is the way in which she considers minority communities within the fat community. “Small fats” have more privilege than “Very Fats,” and if someone is very fat, they have more privilege if they’re white. Even if a fat man and fat woman weigh the same are are the same race, a fat man still makes more money than a fat woman. The last myth, that anti-fatness is the last acceptable form of discrimination, delves further into our perceptions of harassment and how fat people are guilty of ignoring other forms of violence and bullying because they are not part of or exposed to other communities, such as the LGBTQ, indigenous, and immigrant communities. And though she doesn’t use the term “crab theory,” she does explain how fat people will hold each other back with phrases like, “Well, at least I’m not as fat as [insert other, fatter person].” Or, as, Gordon describes, criticism leveled at the musician Lizzo, who has been celebrated for her body, scolded for her food choices by fat people, and demonized for showing more skin despite other women standing around her wearing less clothing.

You Just Need to Lose Weight is an excellent book, one that is challenging and informative. It reshaped my thinking, though at times I felt triggered by some of the material, because these myths are often established in seeing fat people as less than human. Because Gordon carefully analyzed and responded to each of the 20 myths, I won’t be responding to any disagreements with the myths in the comment section below. It would be a disservice to the author’s time and work.


  1. My favorite part was the cogent way she laid out the problems for fat folks trying to cope with the challenges of airplane travel. I’d come to some of these conclusions myself but appreciated the big picture. As an academic, I thought I just hadn’t done enough research on which airline had what policy, but Gordon reveals that the research can’t be done because the information is not out there. Also she reveals the importance of abasing yourself if you get seated next to a thin person with an attitude (Gordon wouldn’t abase herself, but I would if it meant the thin person wouldn’t get so worked up I’d end up getting kicked off the flight).


    • I find it interesting how we can compare fat people to tall, athletic people and see that they have the same “issues,” but are treated differently. A fat person on a plane who doesn’t fit in the seat is a problem. A really tall or muscular person on a plane who doesn’t fit in the seat is a poor baby. A fat person who needs knee surgery is a glutton who brought it upon themselves (even if the knee issue has nothing to do with their weight) and is a drain on medical insurance. An athletic person who needs knee surgery because they keep tearing their ACL or running when they shouldn’t is a banged-up sports hero who did a good job staying fit and is definitely not a drain on medical insurance.


  2. I definitely need to read this. You know I listen to a lot of podcasts and I’ve decided this week that Gordon’s Maintenance Phase (with Michael Hobbs) is my very favorite! I just adore their rapport and find their episodes fascinating.


  3. This sounds like a good and important book. It’s also very sad that fat people discriminate against each other. But that really is not different from any other oppressed group racial or gendered or otherwise. It speaks loudly to how we all carry the oppression and the trauma within ourselves. and how much work we have to do to overcome it.


  4. I remember you mentioning this book before. So many of these myths are so deeply engrained in our society that we’re barely aware of them. This sounds really good.


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