Wouldn’t it be wonderful to start from scratch, without preconceived prejudices about what to think about fat and thin and make up our own minds? Unfortunately, we can’t completely erase our mental chalkboards or delete all our attitudes, but we can do a good deal to think clearly and for ourselves. First off, how ‘bout being conscious that we’re programmed to believe a certain way—that thin is better than fat?

If you saw a dog or cat that was no meat and all bones what would your initial reaction be? If you’re honest, it would not be, “Gee, Fido or Whiskers is sure lookin’ good” or “What a fine looking animal!” Rather, you’d be alarmed that the poor scrawny thing might be undernourished and starve to death. And if you saw a slightly plump animal, I doubt you’d recoil in horror; you might even find it endearing and cuddly. So why don’t we use the same common sense and give the same respect to people that we do to pets? After all, since the beginning of time and for nearly all of history, until the late 20th century, fat meant health and survival and thin meant disease and death. In the earth’s timeline, we just happen to have cropped up during the insane period that not only turned tradition on its head, but went on to make a religion out of ultrathinness!

Bottom line is that fat is more cells than thin or, conversely, that thin is fewer cells than fat. There’s nothing in that objective description, the denotation of the words, that says that one trumps the other. It’s the meaning we attach to words, the connotation—arbitrary and time- and culture-bound—that makes one appear better than the other.

But, you may be saying, what about health, weight-related diseases, and the quality of life? Although everyone needs to be aware of these issues, medical concerns are not what fat phobia and thin worship is all about. What drives them is the subjective association of thin with attractive and fat with unattractive. Really, when you see a fat person, do you get all anxious about whether they’ll keel over tomorrow or do you focus on their looks? When you spot a thin person, is longevity the first thing that pops into your head or do you envy them for achieving a cultural ideal? Sadly, so sadly, we’ve been sold a bill of rotten goods about how to look acceptable and “right.”

Rather than focus on thinness, put your energy into becoming fit, a “normal” eater, and a healthy thinker. To reach those goals may very well mean bucking the crowd and making up your own mind about both food and body size. What better place to start than by examining and revamping your prejudices about fat and thin?