Entries from July 2007 ↓
July 29th, 2007 — fatphobia, skience, the media
So, if having fat friends supposedly makes you fat, and thin friends makes you thin, and fat people are directed to make thin friends so they can catch Teh Thin and thin people are to avoid having fat friends so they won’t catch Teh Fat … how exactly is that supposed to work again?
Fatty Boombah: Hi, Slim Jim! Can I be your friend so I will become socially acceptable?
Slim Jim: No way! Oh my god, get away from me! The adiposity, the adiposity!
La di Da: My head a splode.
July 25th, 2007 — dieting, fatphobia, feminism, misogyny
This was written in 1975. Nineteen seventy fucking five, people.
In the straight world, the excuse for oppressing fat women is simply that fat is considered ugly, and women are expected to be attractive for men. In the Lesbian culture, the excuse is health.[And nowadays everywhere, thanks to the obesity epidemic panic.] You’re fat because you don’t take care of yourself–it’s unhealthy. Besides which it doesn’t fit the popular image of your healthy athletic dyke. What utter crap. People do all kinds of horrible things to their bodies for a variety of reasons and are not expected to be asexual because of it. [...] “Health” is used as an excuse to degrade us, just as the medical establishment would have it that everything that ails us from influenza to clap is due in its entirety to our “unhealthy” condition–our fat. I know a woman who has scars in her throat from sticking a toothbrush in it to force herself to throw up every day, along with eating two boxes of Ex-Lax in order to lose weight and I wonder how many of you would consider her actions healthier than mine? Is it really my health that worries you, or is it that somewhere in your mind you still think I’m obligated to be beautiful in some male-defined way?
From a paper by Laurie Ann Lepoff, published in Plexus, May 1975, Issues in Radical Therapy, Summer 1975, and Shadow on a Tightrope: Writings by Women on Fat Oppression, 1983, and reproduced online at Feminist Reprise.
I couldn’t pick any specific quote out of another essay from Shadow on a Tightrope, “The Fat Illusion” by Vivian F. Mayer, so go read the whole thing.
So, have we really come a long way, baby?
July 24th, 2007 — dieting, doctors, fatphobia, the media
A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald tells us what we already know – obesity hysteria fuels eating disorders. Dr Jenny O’Dea, another of the (sadly small) handful of nutrition/health/obesity/etc experts who aren’t all OMG TEH FAT = EVIL!!!, points out that the moral panic over fat kids is helping create increased levels of disordered eating behaviours. Sandy Szwarc has written a response to the article, but there’s something else I want to address:
The executive officer of the Australasian Society for the Study of Obesity, Tim Gill, agreed there had been “some degree” of panic but said campaigns had been very sensitive.
Dr Gill said there had not been any emphasis on weight loss, but on such things as increased physical activity.
“There is a difference between clinical eating disorders and self-reported [eating-disordered] behaviour,” he said. The level of clinical eating disorders among girls was “very, very low and has been for some time”.
“The problem of obesity is of equal if not of greater concern … so it would be wrong to stop focusing on obesity for fear that it might increase eating disorders,” Dr Gill said.
Harriet Brown has blogged about the problems with having eating disorders (EDs) diagnosed at a clinical level – for example, girls not being diagnosed with (and getting treatment for) anorexia nervosa because her body still menstruates despite the starvation.
Other problems of course include: many of these behaviours are given either blatant or tacit approval, especially if the young person in question is considered ‘overweight’; they could well be hiding the behaviour from parents and teachers; their parents may not recognise the behaviours and symptoms or know how to help. So, these kids are not being counted in the ‘official’ ED statistics and the likes of Dr Gill can dismiss the problem. “It would be wrong to stop focusing on obesity for fear it might increase eating disorders,” he says.
Wrong? Wrong to stop focusing on a goddamed BMI category that doesn’t actually have the alarmingly inflated health risks that the campaigns are based upon? Wrong to stop focusing on weight, a number on a scale, an aesthetic, even though kids in frikkin’ kindergarten are worried about their weight? So, it’s ok that more people will suffer and die from eating disorders (whether they have an official diagnosis or not) because we have to ‘fight’ the fat? Well, it bloody well is NOT. It is not acceptable to have these ‘casualties from the fat wars’.
Now, Dr Gill also says
“[But] there has been some moralising … even the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health have both moralised this issue, saying it’s a lack of self-control and a lack of will.”
Which is true, but what’s missing is that he’s not really making the connections between fat as an artificially-created health issue and the stigma fat people face – and the fear many people have of becoming ‘like them’. Also, I’ve heard too many ‘obesity experts’ claim they really do understand fat people, they know being fat isn’t the fault of gluttony and sloth – only to have it revealed that they need this position so they can peddle diet pharmaceuticals and bariatric surgery.
Then there’s the statement on anti-obesity campaigns from the Australian Government, that there hasn’t been “any emphasis on weight loss, but on such things as increased physical activity” – well, sure, but you don’t need to say it when your audience will fill in the blanks for you. The implication from “eat healthy and exercise more” is that this should result in weight loss, or “maintaining a healthy weight”, as this is what we’ve been told for decades. The follow-on from this is that if you don’t lose weight even if you’re eating well and getting regular exercise, you’re failing at being “healthy”. If the campaigns were truly about health, they’d admit that you can get health benefits from a balanced diet and exercise no matter if you lose or gain weight or stay the same. They’d admit that being fat is not actually a death sentence. The media sure ain’t helping – all those “reality” shows about weight loss, the “lifestyle” shows, the heath shows, they just reinforce the message. How about a Government health campaign that tells people to stop hating on the fat because that’s what’s really unhealthy? Didn’t think so.
The Rotund has pointed out this great post from Rio Iriri about thin privilege.
If you’ve built upon the privilege that comes with being thin, and someone suggests that it’s equally as valid to be fat, you stand to lose the things you’ve gained from that thinness.
Also, if you are a thin person who has built status by treating fat people like they are lesser beings, you’re going to have a great deal to answer for when they become recognized as equals.
Likewise, if you’ve built your career or profession or business upon the back of fat shame and fear and hatred, no matter how much you think or say you’re actually doing it for fat people’s “health”, it’s likely that you’re not going to be terribly happy with the possibility that fat people don’t actually need your diet plans or your surgery, pills, fat-free yoghurt, or your advice. Not only do you have an emotional investment to lose, but a professional and financial one. Thin privilege-fat hatred as commodity! Hooray!
July 13th, 2007 — children, doctors, fatphobia, the media
Commenter Jackie pointed out to me this recent news item on how “fat kids face widespread stigma“. It’s yet another one to add to the “No kidding!” files.
It’s full of what we already know but now it’s out in a paper that reviews all the literature on fat bias over the past 40 years, published in Psychological Bulletin. The full article isn’t general access, but the abstract states:
The authors then review stigma-reduction efforts that have been tested to improve attitudes toward obese children, and they highlight complex questions about the role of weight bias in childhood obesity prevention.
With these literatures assembled, areas of research are outlined to guide efforts on weight stigma in youths, with an emphasis on the importance of studying the effect of weight stigma on physical health outcomes …
Now that last part’s very interesting indeed and I’ll have to try to get a hold of the full article to read about it. Weight stigma and bias can kill, as Kate Harding’s guest blogger Thorn tells in Fat hatred kills – about how her mother died as a result of the negative attitudes of doctors.
And if this is what happens with adults, the effect on children is very alarming indeed – they are dependent on the adults around them for their health care, and I don’t know that there are many children who can be truly assertive in demanding proper care. Unless their parents follow the ideals of size/fat acceptance and ‘health at every size’, they’re unlikely to be able to show their doctor an introductory letter stating how their weight is just fine thanks and be able to leave if the doctor starts in on the nearly inevitable weight loss lecture.
The child’s dependence on adults for care is made more dysfunctional when, as the the study authors say, one of the biggest sources of weight stigma comes from parents. This from the parents has been around since well before the Childhood Obesity Crisis! bandwagon rolled around, but Jackie made a good point in her comment – it’s unsurprising that parents will engage in ultimately destructive practices to do anything to make their child “normal” weight when we hear stories of child protection agencies removing children from their parents because they’re “too fat”. No parent wants that, and they may ‘do what it takes’ out of sheer desperation and fear.
And look what’s just come up on the BBC site via Google News: Obese girl taken into care because of her weight. She’s apparently eight, and 5’1″ (about 156cm) and a size 16 (US size 14). That she is EIGHT and already 5’1″ should be a big fucking clue that she could well have some hormonal issues, or possibly be naturally quite big.
And people wonder why I’m perpetually cranky.
July 11th, 2007 — dieting, doctors, skience
Yo-yo effect in dieters who get counseling, too reports the New York Times.
Counseling-based weight-loss programs — those led by dietitians, nurses or doctors — produced an average weight loss of 6 percent of initial body weight, or about 11 pounds, at the end of one year. By the end of three years, participants had regained about half of that weight, and at the end of five years they had typically regained all of it.
Still, the lead author, Dr. Michael L. Dansinger, a physician with Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston, said: “When it comes to long-term weight loss, the health care system wants an A-plus grade, but based on this report, I’d give it a C minus. Primary care doctors should take a more active role in seeing patients more regularly for lifestyle management.”
So … supervised and monitored weight loss programs don’t work either, so doctors should see patients more often to tell them to eat less and exercise more, again. That’s what I’m getting here. “It doesn’t work! Let’s do it more!” (Because we all know what “lifestyle management” really means.)
How bloody thickheaded do you have to be?
Problem: Childhood and adult anti-obesity programs don’t work.
Solution: Let’s have more, just in case we weren’t sure the first 292612 times around!
Also, the moon landing was faked and if you say “Candyman” five times while looking in the mirror you will instantly lose 3lbs, provided you crap yourself in fright.
July 7th, 2007 — fatphobia, miscellaneous, skience, the media
Whew, work’s finally slowed down enough for me to do something else! (And a big PHHHTHTHTHHTHBBT! to those people and diet books foisted upon me as a young ‘un that said fat people never ever get good jobs so lose weight now, fatty.)
Right. There’s an as-ever fantabulous post over at Shapely Prose on some of the more recent WTF? moments from the media on fat and diets. The willingness of supposedly fully-grown, educated adults to engage in magical thinking and related ways never ceases to amaze.
Here’s another scientifical snacky-cake:
Heavy moms who shed pounds still have big babies.
“However, overweight women who lost weight before their second pregnancy did not eliminate their increased odds of having an oversized newborn. This, the study authors speculate, could mean that a woman’s excess pounds have a lasting effect on subsequent pregnancies, even after she’s slimmed down.”
Gee … do you think it could have anything to do with body size having a genetic component? If you’re naturally a large woman and you manage to lose some weight for a while, it doesn’t actually change your genes and therefore your chances of having a big or small baby. Unless you have doctors who live in magical fairy land, or something. I especially like that last bit. Your excess pounds could haunt you even after you’ve become slim! Zombie fat: you can never be rid of it even if you cut its head off.
As a side note, if you’re fat and pregnant or thinking about it, head on over to the wonderful Plus-size Pregnancy Website. Hell, even if you’re not planning on any kids, it’s a very informative read anyway, and has information useful for all fat people, such as how to get an accurate blood pressure reading. (It’s more than just cuff size.)
And as a special bonus, now not only do we have cats and dogs and horses and birds getting in on the obesity crisis action, now it’s the turn of inanimate objects. Yes, the vehicle world is suffering from fat cars! Read all about it: Carmakers face obesity challenge. At first I thought it might be about car makers actually thinking about installing seat belts rated to more than 200lbs, but no. “Market forces have sparked an obesity epidemic in the car industry.”