Fat links

Jan. 2nd, 2013 11:30 am
hollymath: (Default)
[personal profile] hollymath
I've been just inundated with stuff about size and health since what I wrote yesterday, stuff that isn't "getting thin will solve all your problems." I haven't looked for it and it isn't in the usual FA/HAES blogs I read; it's just suddenly seemed like it's everywhere. Which is pretty awesome, even as some of it's kind of depressing. That's just because the truth about being fat is depressing, and it isn't depressing because we're unhealthy or lazy, it's depressing because we're treated like shit.

As Michael Moore says in a Facebook post I'm seeing mentioned in a lot of different places
skinny people (1/3 of the country) want us, the majority, to be like them. That's so nice of them.

But the truth is, exercise does not work, diets do not work, feeling crummy does not work. Nothing works. My advice: Quit trying to be something you're not, be happy with the life you've been given, and just go for a pleasant walk outside. With me. Wherever you are. Get off the treadmill, stop drinking diet Coke, throw out all the rules. It's all a scam and it conspires to keep you miserable. If it says "low-fat" or "sugar-free" or "just 100 calories!" throw it out. Remember, one of the main tenets of capitalism is to have the consumer filled with fear, insecurity, envy and unhappiness so that we can spend, spend, spend our way out of it and, dammit, just feel better for a little while. But we don't, do we? The path to happiness - and deep down, we all know this -- is created by love, and being kind to oneself, sharing a sense of community with others, becoming a participant instead of a spectator, and being in motion. Moving....You do not feel better admonishing yourself or beating yourself up or setting up a bunch of unrealistic rules and goals with all the do's and dont's that are just begging to be broken. You wanna know something? I eat ice cream every friggin' day. I drink a regular Coke every single day. I put butter on things. But I also walk every day.
He's too quick to generalize his experience -- not everyone can physically move every day, thin or fat -- but it's always good to hear someone acknowledge that the things we're told will make us happy are usually being sold to us by someone who wants to make a profit on our misery.

Then, I saw a couple of links on Twitter last night, first one that had been RTed by a man and someone else with a male-sounding name about how "interesting" this is, when maybe because I'm a woman who's fat I just found it belonged in the "no shit, Sherlock" file: women are more worried about being judged by their appearances if they're fat. Um, yes? And?

Annoyingly, the study uses BMI as an unquestioned metric of both "what counts as an overweight/obese person" and "attractiveness," when not only is BMI bullshit (more on this later) but also many people are neutral or even positive about the prospect of fat partners.

Actually what I thought was most interesting -- depressing, actually -- about this was that it didn't matter if the "overweight/obese" women were happy with their bodies, they still experienced the same blood pressure increase that the study used to indicate stress levels. Self-esteem is a great thing, but it doesn't change the fact that we live in a culture that stigmatizes and discriminates against people above a certain size.

The second Twitter link is the one about how BMI is bullshit...kinda. It starts off good, talking about how current ideas of healthy weights are very recent, and that fatter people actually tend to do better when old/ill, but it's like it can't give up the status quo: "But don't scrap those New Year's weight-loss resolutions and start gorging on fried Belgian waffles or triple cheeseburgers." They're keen to point out that just because fat people are less likely to die is no reason to be okay about being fat or eating food you like.

And baffled by the "obesity paradox," (here, "paradox" means "we've decided this thing is bad but science is saying it's good! we can't cope!), people try to explain it away with such gems as this: "You're more likely to be in your doctor's office and more likely to be treated," said Dr. Robert Eckel, a past president of the American Heart Association and a professor at University of Colorado.

I will bet you that Dr. Robert Eckel is not fat. I am pretty willing to assert that no fat people were involved in writing or editing this article. Because I really doubt that any fat person would have let that sentence get through. The experience of most fat people is the exact opposite: we don't go to the doctor very often at all, because we expect to be told that all our problems are because we're fat. The only thing we can't necessarily predict is the amount of bullying that will come along with the "lose weight" message. We can't win, though: if fat people put off going to the doctor, it might exacerbate their conditions and reinforce the mistaken belief that fat people are more unhealthy.

Dr. Eckel, and all others who think fat people live longer because we're getting such good and frequent care, should be aware that There are unacceptable levels of weight bias among UK students training to become nurses, doctors, nutritionists and dietitians. So you don't have to take my word for it, or that of my fat friends who laughed hollowly and bitterly when I tweeted Eckel's quote.

A lot of the fat people I know are aware that fat people can be as healthy as thin people, but since thin people seem to think "yeah but you would say that, wouldn't you?" it's lucky we've got evidence on our side. This is really important because so many fatphobic people have learned not to say "I am prejudiced against you because I think you're gross and lazy and ugly and unclean" and replaced it with concern trolling about health. "I just want you to be healthy!" can be dismissed as the bullshit it is, the thin veneer over the hate and disgust.

I am pleased to see signs that the culture's starting to shift, the old views on how weight and health conflate are being reconsidered and how bias based on body size impacts our health and the care we receive. I know it's selection bias but it feels good to be surrounded by so many positive changes and articulation of the surviving negative effects, because nothing will change if we stay silent.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-02 10:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] barrelofrain.livejournal.com
I saw that article, too, and I felt like it was on the verge of being a cool article, but then kind of failed.
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(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-03 10:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] minnesattva.livejournal.com
JUST BECAUSE EVIDENCE SAYS BEING "OVERWEIGHT" ISN'T BAD FOR YOU DOESN'T MEAN IT ISN'T!

Exactly; the whole thing has this tone of "heaven forbid fat people should enjoy themselves, rather than live in the misery they have brought upon themselves!"

That "obesity paradox" thing just makes me crazy; it wouldn't be a paradox if people weren't so dogmatic about fat!

a nurse asked me how much exercise I did, and when I said "none", said, "We'll just say moderate, shall we?" Um, what?!

Yes, if you're thin you must exercise! And the nurse I saw yesterday seemed so disbelieving when I said I don't really like sweets or takeaways and I exercise pretty regularly that I got defensive about it. She even said something like "Well if that's the case why did you put on this weight a year ago?" Like no fat person eats decently or exercises.

It harms everybody, not just fat people, if the received wisdom is that fat=unhealthy and thin=healthy.
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(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-03 07:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] minnesattva.livejournal.com
Something else I read today (http://theconversation.edu.au/what-does-fat-discrimination-look-like-10247) (this stuff does seem to be everywhere at the moment; this was another not-the-usual-suspects link) says:
Why this hostility and lack of compassion towards fat people? Why this apparent urge on the part of many to shame and blame people who are deemed to carry too much flesh?

Fat bodies are culturally represented as inferior, deficient, ugly and disgusting. These meanings have developed over centuries, derived from the Judeo-Christian idea that the disciplined body is closer to God. An ascetic self-control over such bodily urges as hunger and sexual desires is evidence of moral superiority and relative lack of sin.
I was raised Catholic enough to know at least some of the deadly sins, and I remember being taught that gluttony was bad because it was selfish: if you ate more than you needed you were depriving others of food (ironically the same "there are children starving in Africa" could be used to guilt fat people even as it was forcing children to eat more than they wanted). It was wasteful and greedy.

Being American I pretty much worry any time I see the word "Judeo-Christian" because it usually indicates someone who doesn't know what they're talking about and erases differences between wide swathes of Judaism and Christianity, but in this case it doesn't seem completely off-target to me. Yet I think this is a much more recent development: if you look at models and actresses of not so many decades ago, they have dress sizes and BMIs that in modern times would be ostracized, so it isn't just some long-standing religious thing. I'm sure there is cynicism and profit behind it somewhere, but it's not my specialist subject and I'm disinclined to look into it right now -- and bless you for realizing that might be the case and encouraging me not to pursue the subject if it's stressful :) Even when I'm feeling fine, that kind of acknowledgement is good for me. Blathering out of my own head isn't stressful at all, so don't worry, but I think Googling or getting any more involved might well be.

Anyone else who knows more, feel free to chip in!
Edited Date: 2013-01-03 07:25 pm (UTC)
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(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-04 12:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] minnesattva.livejournal.com
Judeo-Christian very often seems to refer to the Christian tradition and its interpretation of Judaism

Yeah, this is what I didn't quite manage to say in my previous comment. It's annoying even for me and I'm not even a religious person; I can't imagine how frustrating it must be to have things attributed to one's religion by people outside it (and most stuff that's attributed to "Judeo-Christian culture" is bad stuff, like patriarchal heteronormative xenophobic "traditional values" and stuff).

people who I consider not to be overweight at all obsessing about it

Oh totally. When I worked at the hospital, even though that's a time I was at my thinnest (I don't weigh myself but I wore a size 12 so I wasn't that freakish), I was the fattest woman, probably one of the fattest people there proportional to my height, and all the other women and at least one of the men were on diets. They talked constantly about hwo fat they were, about "good" and "bad" foods, about exercise and what a chore it was. It was one of the things that made it stressful for me to work there after a while: not only did it contribute to my feeling socially isolated and antagonized by some of those people, but it also was really bad for me to be in such a weight-obsessed environment with such negative messages about the supposed morality of food and that moving one's body is a chore.

Damn, it's hard to phrase this without sounding judgemental.

Totally. This is one reason i've just started saying "fat." And that's interesting, too, because a lot of times people will say "Oh, don't say that, you're not fat!" I clearly am! I've never been thin! Yet I think what they mean is "you're a good person, don't insult yourself like that." Like you say, how prevalent and all-encompassing and out-of-proportion anti-fatness gets.

Oh yeah, and:

I under-see weight sometimes - the doctor-defined "overweight" doesn't look like that to me

It doesn't look overweight to a lot of people; this is another reason BMI is bullshit. There is a thing on the internet that I can't remember enough about to look up now, which is a set of photos of people with all the different BMI numbers. A lot of the "overweight" or "obese" bodies don't look it (and a lot of the "normal" ones look kind of emaciated to me).
Edited Date: 2013-01-04 12:21 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-04 05:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] angeoverhere.livejournal.com
If you're interested in the sociological side of all this, check out Deborah Lupton's work. I've RTd her stuff to my personal twitter a few times and she has a new book out on the subject. Happy to access firewalled journal articles if you want them, but she has a blog and I think uses Pinterest and suchlike to collate useful links which should be public.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-05 12:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis42.livejournal.com
I'm fat and I have mixed feelings about it. While I don't think people need to be badgered about their weight and I don't think fat equals unhealthy I'm not okay with my body at this size. I have/had an eating disorder and also wasn't okay with my body at a size 2, so it's not like it's all about the fat for me. I'm not sure I want to stay fat and I'm not sure I want to be okay with myself at this size. But yeah.

BMI is utter crap. I've been about thirty different sizes before I destroyed my metabolism. The best shape I was ever in, I had an almost-overweight BMI due to muscle and was wearing a size 4 or 6. I'm not trying to say that size is some kind of badge of honor but at that size and 5'4 I was clearly not overweight.

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