doctors

Reliably, Dr. Douchebag Keeps on Douching

While standing in line at Fred Meyer this weekend, I made the common mistake of looking around. As my eyes scanned the impulse magazine stand, I saw something that gave me the impulse to flip over my grocery cart and Fat-Hulk through the store terrorizing patrons and throwing bottles of Slim Fast into displays of Smart Ones with my +4 Fists of Douche-smiting.

Table Flip

Thankfully, I was able to restrain myself just enough to pull out my phone and snap a photo. Like HELL I was going to actually pay money for the damn thing. The clerk looked at me strangely, and I prefaced it with, “hold on just a sec, gotta take a picture of this offensive magazine”.

Dr. Douchebag

Ah, First for Women… confusing advertising with reporting and body shaming with empowerment since 1989, from the same media company bringing you other high-end publications like In Touch Weekly and Life & Style.

My regular readers already know my disdain for Dr. Oz. What a puzzling contrast between his Ivy League education/surgical expertise and the constant shilling of woo-woo pseudoscientific miracle “cures” with a strong bias against fat people. It’s good to know that there is something I can do about my “ugly fat”, so that I am left with only my non-ugly fat. Thanks to Dr. Oz and the fine reporting of First for Women, I know I am only part ugly.

for your eyes

The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part Three: F.A. Confidential

The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part Two: Too Fat, Didn’t Read, focused on the opinions of those who oppose Fat Acceptance, culled from +150 submissions I received based on a questionnaire written by supporters of Fat Acceptance. What happened when I provided a similar questionnaire to FA supporters, written by those who oppose their beliefs?

Firstly, I had trouble even finding people willing to write questions, let alone fill out the questionnaire. It took me days and days to get enough responses to create a reasonable analysis. Without a large enough focus group, it becomes difficult to write much more than possibly specious summative statements that may not accurately portray the movement as a whole. This lack of participation is probably rooted in the belief that by engaging in this activity, FA advocates are validating the opinions of people with whom they disagree. Thanks to a close group of supporters of varying backgrounds, I was able to generate enough questions to have a fairly well-rounded list.

  1. Why do so many in the FA/BA community try to pick apart scientific studies that prove that obesity is harmful to individuals?
  2. Where do you see the fat acceptance movement going in the next five years?
  3. What sorts of research (or even your own experience) would lead you to reconsider your beliefs?
  4. Why is “fat-shaming” considered worse than “thin-shaming”? Aren’t both considered insulting and demeaning someone by their body and therefore against the BA movement?
  5. Why do you perceive any attempt to address the underlying problems with fat in our society as a personal attack?
  6. Why shouldn’t doctors comment on a patient’s weight, especially in regards to medication potentially being less effective, or when it is exacerbating problems?
  7. Why do you choose to focus on accepting “fat” in our society rather than addressing the underlying social issues that have resulted in 60% of our society being overweight with a further 30% being obese?
  8. In your own words, why do you think that This is Thin Privilege and other similar sites are listed as self harm sites?
  9. Do you think telling people they have “thin privilege” is going to make them more sympathetic to your cause? What do you expect them to do with said privilege? Do you think there is a better way to get your message across than the privilege movement?
  10. The title “Fat Acceptance” is problematic because it puts the focus on the fat, and not the person. Isn’t it more important to accept the person, instead of the fat attached to them?

Just as before, I went through all of the answers, looking for redundancy based on specific key words. The answers featured in this article are representative of the majority of those who filled out the questionnaire.


Question One: Why do so many in the FA/BA community try to pick apart scientific studies that prove that obesity is harmful to individuals?

“If those who are hostile to us are actually concerned about our health, and if we [show] them how the stigma they place on us is more dangerous to our health than our fat, it can be good for reducing our chances of being discriminated against. Much of their hatred toward us is based on false information about how obesity works, how we become obese, and how obesity affects the body. By debunking the false information, we hope to take away their reasons for making negative value judgments about us.”

“BMI is used as the basis for many of these studies. BMI in itself is not meant for individuals but population groups and is based on white men.”

“Your very question hints at the answer: there is a pervasive misunderstanding about what scientific proof is. The gold standard of scientific proof are double blind, replicable studies which establish a causal link, in this instance, between obesity and harm. These studies simply do not exist. The research has many correlative studies, which definitely point the way to more research, but are not a basis for diagnostics and treatment. Therefore, assuming proof with correlations leads to guessing about obesity and health.”

It is clear that the fat acceptance movement views current scientific research as very flawed, and corollary in nature. There is further concern that these flawed conclusions are frequently used to denigrate fat people, and that by promoting more rigorous research a common ground might appear.


Question Two: Where do you see the fat acceptance movement going in the next five years?

“I see the FA/BA movement going similarly to the Gay rights movement. People will continue to bicker, many people will come to accept it and understand it, but there will still be many people who completely disagree regardless of what the science says.”

“Continuing the battle to try to overcome the brainwashing that most of us have been and are being subjected to tells us that one particular physical appearance and size is acceptable.”

“Hopefully it will become more popular, but right now there is a lot of backlash by people who think they can shame us and bully us into looking the way they prefer. Whenever fat acceptance is mentioned, someone inevitably asks “at what cost to our health?” and makes the argument that accepting a variety of body types will only increase obesity, even though research shows that fat-shaming and discrimination do not reduce obesity rates.”

“Hopefully toward PERSON acceptance!”

This paints a picture of a battle against brainwashing and discrimination, where healthism is used as a battering ram to break down the gates of personhood. These comments hint that a lighter touch might be appropriate. If victorious, what are our spoils of war? Acceptance of all bodies, regardless of type.


Question Three: What sorts of research (or even your own experience) would lead you to reconsider your beliefs?

“Research about health is … unlikely to change my mind, because even if it could be proven that obesity always caused poor health, and even if it could be proven that obesity was always the result of lifestyle choices that were certainly within every person’s control, each person would still have a right to make his/her own decisions regarding the health of his/her body.”

“Nothing would lead me to reconsider size acceptance and an end to discrimination.”

“My only “belief” in this matter is that fat people deserve the same level of respect and dignity as thin people, including such things as equal access to adequate health care, clothing options, employment opportunities, public transportation, and the like. To me the entire argument over whether or not it’s healthy to be fat is nothing more than an irrelevant distraction from the larger issue of how fat people are treated.”

“None. I have no reason to believe that my body is an enemy or causes anyone harm. My body is not an indication of my medical or health status. Self-love and acceptance was the key to losing weight, and that is only achieved when ignoring cultural bullying about being fat.”

Question three elicited strong, poignant emotions from nearly all responders. The bottom line? No research could convince them to view their bodies as anything other than something to be accepted and respected. No scientific evidence exists that warrant bullying and discrimination, both major perceived problems in Fat Acceptance communities.


Question Four: Why is “fat-shaming” considered worse than “thin-shaming”? Aren’t both considered insulting and demeaning someone by their body and therefore against the BA movement?

“All shaming is awful, but I think the reason some would give is that society does not go out of its way to insist that thin people ought not to exist. But society DOES try to keep fat people as invisible and made to feel unworthwhile as possible. This is a form of oppression.”

“Because thin people don’t have an entire social system telling them that they are less than, worthless, etc. Yes, it’s wrong to make fun of every body type. But fat-shaming comes attached to a society that hates fat people, denies fat people equal access and opportunities on a regular basis, and turn fat people into scapegoats for just about everything. When thin people are treated in the same way and thin-shaming is part of an overarching anti-thinness message in society, it will be the same as fat shaming.”

“Both are against the goals of the size acceptance movement, but in the same way that calling a white person a “cracker” isn’t on the same level as using a racist slur against a black person, insulting a member of the privileged class by pointing out that s/he is skinny is not as potent as calling someone fat, because it doesn’t have the power of the entire oppressive system behind it. Fat people are openly hated in ways thin people are not. We are shouted at, criticized, beaten, threatened, and treated as though we were inferior. Fat people face systemic oppression. We are more often denied jobs, romantic opportunities, and respect. Thin people are represented in positive ways on television, in movies, in magazines, and have a full range of opportunities … Thin people are constantly having their bodies validated by the surrounding culture.”

The fat shame/thin shame debate is a hill this blog frequently dies on. It seems my participants feel largely the same way. The two takeaways? Firstly, fat shaming and thin shaming (and all shaming) are terrible and antithetical to the body positivity movement, including Fat Acceptance. Secondly, there is a socio-power dynamic at play when someone is fat shamed that is not present when thin shaming occurs, as evidenced by our interactions with others, and in areas of media and consumerism.


Question Five: Why do you perceive any attempt to address the underlying problems with fat in our society as a personal attack?

“I am fat. I cannot separate myself from my phenotype. Attacking fat is attacking me.”

“Fat is not a problem, and by turning our bodies into a problem, you are essentially saying that we, the people who identify as fat, are something horrible that you hope to get rid of. You are saying that fat people only deserve respect if we are trying hard enough to become thin people, because really, only thin people are acceptable. The main problem with fat in our society is how it is being stigmatized. Discrimination is a much more serious problem than obesity, and the complications it adds to our lives are much more damaging for our health.”

“I think the premise of this question is immediately problematic because it assumes that “fat in our society” is a problem. Why are we even concerning ourselves with others’ bodies? It’s a matter that should be between them and their doctors. People feel attacked because the attacking is typically relentless, and when one has experienced it so frequently, one feels very defensive, because someone has just referred to our bodies as ‘a problem in our society’.”

This question makes clear a key dichotomy in the FA community: We do not suffer from obesity. We don’t have fat. We are fat, and when people talk about our bodies as inherently flawed and in need of fixing, how can it not be personal?


Question Six: Why shouldn’t doctors comment on a patient’s weight, especially in regards to medication potentially being less effective, or when it is exacerbating problems?

“I think that doctors most certainly have the right to discuss weight in this way. There are millions of reasons why people may be perceived as ‘fat’, but that shouldn’t preclude my ability to be treated for the non-weight related issues that I have. I was told by the medical system for 20 years that my joint pain was due to my fat.When I was diagnosed with a genetic disorder that causes joint pain I realized that I had been ‘fat-washed’ as a patient for decades, suffering needlessly. It is not always so clear that the weight is exacerbating problems if you aren’t willing to look at the patient as a whole being and not just a ‘fat’ being.”

When a doctor graduates and becomes a doctor, they take what’s called the Hippocratic Oath. The first part of that oath states that the doctor commits to doing no harm, first and foremost. Commenting on a patient’s weight can be harmful to that person’s psyche an it isn’t very helpful.

“Fat people *know* they are fat. Being condescending to a patient serves only to breed distrust. Doctors who treat their patients as whole organisms, instead of reducing them to something short of an ideal, will achieve much better patient compliance.”

Responders expressed concerned that they weren’t being looked at as a whole person by their health care professionals. This oversimplification is seen as discounting, with a strong negative stigma attached. This “fat washing” creates a hostile atmosphere where further critique emotionally damages the patient.


 Question Seven: Why do you choose to focus on accepting “fat” in our society rather than addressing the underlying social issues that have resulted in 60% of our society being overweight with a further 30% being obese?

Fat people have always existed and will always exist. Why should fat people have to change to gain the privileges society gives to thin people (e.g. clothing options, fair treatment in employment, seats that fit us on airplanes, the basic dignity of being treated in a humane fashion at all times or at least of being able to accept such treatment, etc.)? The answer to oppression and unfair treatment isn’t for the oppressed and unfairly treated to change. It’s for the oppression and unfairness to end.

For me, it isn’t about accepting “fat”. It’s about accepting my body as it is and loving it. My depression, anxiety, and negative feelings for my body all stem from the hatred and disgust I have been shown through other people my entire life. Loving and accepting my body as it is means that I can be free of all of my pain, my tears, my depression, my anxiety, and my fear that people won’t accept me as I am. Who wouldn’t want that feeling of love and peace for themselves and for everyone in the world? That’s why I focus on love.

First, let’s address the issue of obesity – the BMI is flawed. It was never intended for individual assessment but for use in studies of a mass population. It was developed at a time when people were several inches shorter, when deprivation and starvation were common and therefore the ‘base’ scores were founded in an underweight, unhealthy and underfed population. It was based on men – not women or children. Even so, there does seem to have been an increase in overweight people in our western culture … so what? Does that mean that overweight people don’t deserve to be treated as human beings with the same level of respect that thin people do? We are being brainwashed into believing that fat people should be treated with contempt because they are gluttons, pigs, unhealthy etc and are a burden on our health systems and our society in general.

Those polled did not like this question. Frequently, they questioned the statistics, taking issue with their relevance and accuracy. The take away, however, is that love (both inward and outward) is the driving force behind participating in the Fat Acceptance movement, and that everyone is deserving of it.


Question Eight: In your own words, why do you think that This is Thin Privilege and other similar sites are listed as self harm sites?

“I did not know they were.”

“I have no idea. I certainly don’t consider them to be self-harm sites. This Is Thin Privilege is a place where fat people go to share the difficulties they experience as fat people. I fail to see how that is self-harm in any way, unless you suddenly believe that acknowledging and sharing the realities of how someone is treated is somehow harmful to them.”

I’ve had no exposure to them, so I cannot comment.

Many of the responders were not familiar with This is Thin Privilege at all. The ones that were didn’t seem to know about it being listed as a self-harm site. I took it upon myself to research why TiTP was listed as a self-harm site, and all I could find was that Symantec, a company that makes computer protection software, has a blocker in place for TiTP. I could not find other similar sites blocked in this way.

Symantec

As far as I can tell, there was a campaign against the site comprised of people who oppose the Fat Acceptance movement, citing that promoting fat acceptance was tantamount to promoting a detrimental, self-harming lifestyle.


Question Nine: Do you think telling people they have “thin privilege” is going to make them more sympathetic to your cause? What do you expect them to do with said privilege? Do you think there is a better way to get your message across than the privilege movement?

“Stating someone has privilege is fact, not an attack or an insult. I have white privilege. I do not mind that people tell me I have white privilege, but because of that privilege, I am going to be ignorant of some things. As a good person, it’s my job to shut up and listen, to not speak over the oppressed group and then call out any racism I see. I keep my privilege in mind when I act and speak and it makes me a better person. I expect the same courtesy from my thin friends, none of them have an issue with it.”

“I would hope that for some people if they were told they had thin privilege it might make them ponder what that meant and look it up. I was in a situation where I had not heard of white privilege, but now I am aware of what it is and aware of the fact that I have it. This means that I can start to notice my own white privilege and where I see it in others, which allows me to try to address problems caused by it. I would hope that some people who become aware of their thin privilege would become allies. I have thin friends who understand their thin privilege and are amazing allies.”

Many answerers questioned whether the question writers had a solid grasp on what “privilege” was. They point to awareness of privilege as a transformative experience, showing the world through new eyes. They see the “thin privilege” movement as an invitation to become an ally.


Question Ten: The title “Fat Acceptance” is problematic because it puts the focus on the fat, and not the person. Isn’t it more important to accept the person, instead of the fat attached to them?

The term fat is the defining adjective that pertains to members of this group. Should we accept all people? Absolutely. Can this term still be an effective tool to use in working to promote acceptance? Yes.

I think the important thing is to take the negative association away from the word Fat.

“Fat Acceptance is important because we’re fat and that’s what needs to be accepted. What about Gay rights? Would you say it should be called “people” rights? No, that’s ridiculous because it erases what society has a problem with. I am a FAT person, it is not an insult, it is not something to be ashamed of. It is something I am that everyone else has a problem with. I accept it and I feel so much better about myself. I didn’t need to learn to accept myself as a person, I knew I was a person, I needed to accept myself as a fat person.

Answerers uniformly felt that being accepting of all people is important, but fat acceptance is a different, more specific issue that deserves attention all its own. Fatness is a visible attribute, and one that faces daily criticism and scorn.


Overall, these responses show genuine confusion and concern about the reasons why people oppose the fat acceptance movement. Responders spoke of feelings of fear, rejection, exclusion, discrimination, and displayed anger when posed questions invalidating or diminishing those emotions. Participants questioned the validity of scientific research, and emphasized that regardless of size or medical status, everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.

Writing this series was an emotional journey for me. It grew from a desire to be more educated, and to promote awareness of the topic among those perhaps unfamiliar with Fat Acceptance and its opponents. I faced stonewalling and ridicule during the seemingly simple act of data collection. People on both sides diminished my cause and dismissed my efforts. Even those close to me told me I was wasting my time, or looking for negative attention. During the analysis stage, I read seemingly endless tales of degradation, denigration, abuse, and bigotry. I read stories about people fighting for their lives, and for the lives of those they love. I read about science, both legitimate and faulty. I respect and love science; I see it is a tool to help us understand the world around us. It saddens me when I see it used as a weapon in a fight about social justice.

This brings me to my final point. Why can’t we discuss? Why can’t we have an open dialogue? Why does it fall to me to force these opinions out into the open? Are we so hopeless that we think we can’t sway people? Change someone’s mind for the better? Can we really expect to create social change without the “social” part?

tfdr

The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part 2: Too Fat, Didn’t Read

As I learned in The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part 1: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Stonewalling, the mere idea that the opposing sides of the Fat Acceptance movement could have a productive, positive discussion was dismissed out of hand by most parties involved. Still, I persevered and compiled a list of questions written by those who support the Fat Acceptance movement geared toward those who oppose it, as well as a list of questions written by those who oppose FA to be answered by FA supporters. This article will focus on the first set of questions, those written by supporters of FA.

Procuring the questions, as stated in the previous article, proved to be challenging. Many people in the Fat Acceptance camp didn’t want to engage in the activity at all, claiming doing so would “legitimize the toxic viewpoints” of people who didn’t agree with FA principles. Through this blog and its Facebook presence, I was able to cull a relatively anti-inflammatory set of questions from readers and friends supportive of the FA movement.

  1. Do you feel that others’ weight affects you directly, and if so, why?
  2. Do you feel that people you consider to be overweight are unqualified for certain jobs? If so, why?
  3. What are your thoughts on the behavioral psychology research proving that lowering someone’s self esteem is much less effective at changing behavior than raising self esteem?
  4. Do you think that every action a stranger takes or body condition a stranger has, which affects the healthcare system similarly, should be commented on in the same way (e.g. smoking, being sleep deprived, having cancer)?
  5. Why do you think that someone else’s body size affects people on such a visceral, emotional level?
  6. Fill in the blank: Fat equals ____
  7. Why do you think America is experiencing an “obesity epidemic”?
  8. What should the role of government/health care providers/the media be in addressing the “obesity epidemic”?
  9. How do you feel about your body?
  10. What is the best way to motivate people to be healthy?

I posted a link to fill out this questionnaire on Reddit and immediately received responses. Overnight, I had reached over 100 submissions. By midday, I had to close the questionnaire because I had more responses than I could possibly analyze. The first comment on Reddit was fairly telling of the overall response to the questions:

reddit questionnaire comment

This reply demonstrates three key principles of the anti-FA movement:

  1. They believe that the Fat Acceptance movement, or at least part of it, ignores scientific evidence that shows that being fat is unhealthy.
  2. They believe being fat is a choice.
  3. They consider thin privilege and oppression models to be invalid.

Do the answers to the questionnaires mirror these principles?

I went through, question by question, looking for redundancy based on specific key words. The answers featured in this article are representative of the majority of those who filled out the questionnaire.


Question One: Do you feel that others’ weight affects you directly, and if so, why?

“In certain understated ways, I actually consider the large bodies in public spaces to be “micro aggression” against people with smaller bodies. In my experience, large bodied individuals will not hesitate to let their body infringe on others personal space in public transit, while in a queue, or other spaces of modern urban environments. I consider these things “micro aggression” due to the unwillingness of large bodied peoples to not force their bodies on others. I am expected to move, or to get out of way in a lane even when I do not know anyone is there, I am expected to be accommodating at all times.”

“Yes. Normalizing unhealthy weight ideas, disregarding science, and forcing me to see things I really don’t want to.”

“In Canada our healthcare is covered by taxes. People who have obesity related diseases are therefore a drain on this and are directing resources from diseases that can’t be so easily changed. I pay taxes, I pay for the obesity related diseases.”

“If I know that person, hell yeah it affects me.  My mom is slowly killing herself.  She won’t live to old age. How the fuck do you want me to feel?  And she’s not enjoying herself, either. Her joints hurt, she has breathing problems, she can’t find clothes in her size, medications don’t work properly at her weight, and when she needs a surgery she will be at a considerably higher risk of complications.  The FA movement would have me applaud her for this.  Well no.  Fuck that.  She’s my mom, and when she hurts herself she hurts me too.  You wouldn’t stand idly by while your friend committed suicide or spiraled into drug addiction, would you?”

This first question is very illuminative. A fat person is seen as a drain on society, and an abuser of resources and space. They are also seen as pitied individuals, whose choice to remain fat ignores science and the advice of health professionals, and that not taking action constitutes standing by and letting someone self-destruct.


Question Two: Do you feel that people you consider to be overweight are unqualified for certain jobs? If so, why?

“Yes. Anything involving a lot of physical activity or requiring attractiveness, e.g. model, demoing stuff, etc. In general, obesity is an indicator of other traits undesirable in an employee such as a lack of impulse control.”

“No, I don’t feel that just because someone is overweight or obese that they are automatically unqualified for a certain job. If you are physically and mentally able to do something then, by all means, do that thing.”

“Yes. There are many jobs that require strenuous physical activity. If you cannot pass the physical qualifications for that job you should not be hired, as simple as that. If you are unable to perform your job and you were, for example, a firefighter you would be putting other people’s lives at stake because of your weight/physical condition.”

“I … think that obese doctors, nurses, nutritionists, personal trainers, and the like, would suffer from a credibility problem if they are obese and may not be as qualified for their position, vis a vis giving advice on health and weight.”

There are two lines of reasoning emerging from this question. Firstly, it is assumed there is a level of fatness that would inhibit a person from physically doing a job. Secondly, there is stigma that would preclude a fat person from being a successful model, or credible health professional.


Question Three: What are your thoughts on the behavioral psychology research proving that lowering someone’s self esteem is much less effective at changing behavior than raising self esteem?

“This question makes a pretty big assumption that is flat out wrong. Most people against the FA movement aren’t trying to just go around hurting fat people’s feelings. Yes, sometimes there are some unfortunate truths and harsh realities but saying that obesity is unhealthy, that it takes hard work and discipline to drop the weight and that most people that large lack the willpower isn’t about being mean. It’s just the way it is. No one will make any changes if they have convinced themselves nothing is wrong and that they are perfect and enclose themselves in an echo chamber of like-minded people.”

“Completely irrelevant. It’s peoples’ choice what they put in their mouth.”

“I agree with the sentiment, and therefore think that we should be motivating overweight people to lose weight, instead of telling them that they’re simply ‘disgusting’ or a ‘waste of space’. Promoting healthy eating, ease of exercise and education is essential to reversing the obesity trend of today.”

“Effective at what, exactly? Accepting lower standards for yourself?”

“Very much agree with this; however, I don’t really see this movement advocating change, just advocating acceptance. Acceptance is a wonderful thing, and people should be accepted for who they are, but I think one should always work towards bettering oneself. Having a healthy self-perception is a thing to work towards, but I think the extreme to which this movement takes it leaves individuals less capable of dealing with real life stressors involving weight issues. While advocating for acceptance is noble, it will more than likely not change societies perception about weight as a whole, therefore if you build your platform on just accepting individuals for who they are you ultimately are setting them up for failure when they leave your bubble of protection.”

Question three allows us to see the crux of the anti-acceptance argument: fat people should want to lose weight. They struggle with problems like a lack of will power, discipline, and education, and by ignoring these problems while surrounding themselves by people who encourage them to love themselves for who they are, they are ignoring the reality that there is something fundamentally wrong with themselves that they should be trying to better.


Question Four: Do you think that every action a stranger takes or body condition a stranger has, which affects the healthcare system similarly, should be commented on in the same way (e.g. smoking, being sleep deprived, having cancer)?

“Obesity and smoking fall under the same category of being under the person’s control. Insomnia and cancer are out of a person’s control. So no, they should not be commented on in the same way.”

“I usually do not begrudge smokers for smoking, because most will readily admit that, yeah, they know it’s bad for them. So I, personally, comment on smokers pretty neutrally. There seem to be a lot of fat people, on the other hand, convinced that they are somehow fat without over-eating, or that they’re perfectly fit and healthy despite their weight, or that their various bodily ailments are not caused/exacerbated by their excess weight. We all know that that’s bullshit, and because (some) fat people say a lot of bullshit like that, I personally will comment on them with a fair bit more scorn.”

“The reason obesity is so widely commented on as a major issue in healthcare is because of its prevalence and visibility in everyday life. We can’t always tell when a person is a smoker or a drug addict, but we can immediately see when someone is overweight, so it seems like a prominent issue. Therefore, we see obesity as a bigger issue than many other health problems.”

“I’m not sure what this question is actually asking… but not getting enough sleep, smoking cigarettes, and being overweight are all unhealthy. The difference is that there are no advocacy groups encouraging people to smoke and not sleep.”

Question four raised the hackles of quite a few responders. Many responders became very irate at the comparison between being fat and having cancer, but I think that was the point of the question. How ARE they related? What are the similar threads? Responders point to the visibility of fatness as a major reason it is commented on frequently, and that it should be commented on negatively as a choice people make to be unhealthy.


Question Five: Why do you think that someone else’s body size affects people on such a visceral, emotional level?

“When it comes to fat people, it’s like passing a car wreck. It’s utterly fascinating, yet horrifying and disgusting. I mean you’re PUSHING THE HUMAN BODY TO LENGTHS IT IS NOT SUPPOSED REACH.”

“It goes against everything we know on a basic biological level. We aim to be the best option for procreation that we can be. That’s literally our goal. We need to be good enough that someone we find good enough returns the feelings and decides to have children with us. Morbidly obese people are the bottom of the barrel especially if they cannot provide financially or have poor social skills.”

“A team is only as strong as its weakest player. In this sense we are all judged as members of society. If the majority deems that you are not up to standard, you will face stigma.”

“First, outward appearance has been used to determine if an individual is sexually fit (as in genetically fit) for breeding … Being fat can, in some instances, be a massive indicator of mental health problems as well as physical health problems. Not always but when someone is obese one has to wonder how it happened, is it an addiction, is it a lack of self awareness, is this a reaction to an event?”

Here we start toeing into the waters of bigotry. Fat people don’t meet acceptable, biological standards for reproduction. One’s fatness is indicative of other issues, such as mental illness and addiction. Is that why fatness is stigmatized? We are flawed on a basic, genetic level?


 Question Six: Fill in the blank: Fat equals ____

“Gross. Squishy. Unhealthy. Ugly.”

“Do you mean fat as in extra adipose tissue or the idea of fat people? If you mean the latter, I see it as a resignation that life cannot be improved upon.”

“Reduced willpower.”

“Lack of discipline.”

“Lipids. For real, I know this question is baiting me. You’re expecting me to say “unhealthy”. It is less healthy than being fit. And we’re not going to get into the “fat athlete” myth.”

“Adipose tissue in the body formed when the body’s energy input exceeds it’s output. Also a descriptive term for someone who has a large volume of this tissue, resulting in negative physiological changes to body size and shape.”

This simple question actually opens a big window into the anti-FA argument. A large proportion of the answerers commented on how the question was loaded, and that it was just meant to illicit answers like “gross” or “lazy”. A larger proportion actually answered with responses like “gross” or “lazy”. Very few answers listed any sort of neutral or positive connotation, outside of dictionary definitions.


Question Seven: Why do you think America is experiencing an “obesity epidemic”?

“Our body is designed to crave fats and sugars, a necessity when there is not enough food. Our society now has too much food, and companies are preying on those designs and ease of access to market unhealthy food to an entire populace.”

“Lack of self control. The entitled “me” generation that can’t stand to hear the word “no” and the parents who didn’t say no often enough.”

“Poverty, lack of education, lack of intelligence.”

“Because people are overeating.”

“The nature of our food has changed (intensive farming, processing, GMOs, pesticides), the abundance of our food has increased, our food is engineered to encourage overeating, our daily activity levels have decreased, our stress levels have gone up, our environments are polluted, we’re too distracted, we put too much emphasis on competitive sports and not enough on activity, we don’t get out in nature enough, the ‘worst’ foods are the most affordable and the ‘best’ foods are more expensive, we don’t have walkable neighborhoods.”

I was surprised by the amount of blame most responders put on society itself. There was the token “BECAUSE HAMPLANETS CAN’T STOP EATING HURR HURR”, but mostly answers focused on specific, systemic problems rather than individual actions. No one questioned the term “epidemic”, though; it’s clear this focus group equates fatness with illness.


Question Eight: What should the role of government/health care providers/the media be in addressing the “obesity epidemic”?

“Education about how to eat properly would be helpful for K-12 students. They should learn about portion control, exactly what foods will lead to weight gain, what is a good any time food vs. what is a good sometimes food, how to be critical of the media and advertising, how to avoid common pitfalls like ruining the healthfulness of a salad by smothering it in ranch or eating more to keep your metabolism from slowing down.”

“Joining in with us healthier people to shame you about your terribly stupid decision-making.”

“Research obesity related issues, develop ways to reduce the problem, and inform the public of these ways.”

“The media is concerned with entertainment, so don’t go looking to them to fix any problems. Also consider the amount of self generated content that is overtaking traditional forms – breaking through people’s self constructed echo chambers will only get harder.”

“The government and health care providers should stop giving money to non-disabled fat people. As for the media, how about some healthy fat-shaming?”

I like this follow-up question; it’s the seasoning bringing out the flavor profile of the relatively benign responses from question seven. The obesity epidemic? It’s a systemic problem. The solution? A healthy portion of “education” with a side of fat shaming. Unfortunately, we keep ourselves from being educated through the creation of our own fat-accepting media.


Question Nine: How do you feel about your body?

“I am 400lbs and very unhappy with my body.  I am currently doing what I can to lose most of the weight.”

“I love my body. I am a healthy weight for my height, and after recently losing some weight (about 10 pounds) I have become more confident.”

“I feel great about my body.  I’ve lost 80 pounds with a healthy diet and exercise and know it is possible.  I’ve never been happier.”

“Unhappy. I’m morbidly obese. Two weeks ago I changed what I eat and began walking some evenings and I’m already down 8lb. Aim to lose 100lb.”

“I love my body. As should everyone.”

“Why should I accept it if it makes me unhappy?”

This question generated the greatest diversity of answers. One surprising thing is the number of answerers who identify as being fat and unhappy. They see the relinquishing of “fat logic” as the first step in a transformative journey toward non-fatness. It’s reminiscent of Stockholm Syndrome; people repeatedly hammered by the rhetoric of one’s persecutors until they start to sympathize with the message.


Question Ten: What is the best way to motivate people to be healthy?

“The best way to motivate people, I’d say, is to make obesity illegal and arrest obese people on sight (barring those who can prove they have conditions that make weight loss impossible). Why I say this is because there are people in the world who believe they are healthy no matter what … With these kind of people, you cannot sway them to even think there is or will ever be anything unhealthy about them, and they will never do anything about their weight or general health.”

“I can say that the worst way is by making fun of people. Nobody should make fun of fat people, and I would never promote such a thing. But people should encourage fat people to exercise more and to eat better. They should be shown support.”

“Stop the fat acceptance movement. Once people stop believing that their doctors are shaming them and their family members are shaming them and start believing that people around them actually care about their health, they may realize they actually have a problem. If people are unwilling to get healthy, they need to shut their mouths. This is Darwinism in action. Adapt to the world around you or expect your bloodline to disappear.”

“Education.”

“Provide incentive and a conducive environment for health.”

“Have all obesity-related expenses come directly out of obese people’s pockets. This would include disability payments, knee braces, gastic bypass, ambulance calls for heat attacks and type II diabetes treatment.”

What a strange combination of positive reinforcement and punishment! The solutions involve education, denial of access to crucial services, access to incentives, removing support systems promoting fat acceptance, and criminalizing how someone looks. Can all these options exist simultaneously? Many answerers of this question strongly blame the Fat Acceptance movement for the problems faced by fat people, and many of them suggest penalizing fat people in some way just for being fat, but earlier, the “obesity epidemic” was blamed as a societal problem.


The responses to the survey paint a very clear picture of the anti-FA movement. The emphasis seems to be on promoting individual and public health, but the execution leaves something to be desired. The loathing (both outward and inward) is palpable. Guilt is seen as the primary, most effective motivator to make changes in one’s life, and that people should want to make that change regardless of how they feel about themselves. People filling out this questionnaire see fatness as a disease needing to be cured, and that any other viewpoints ignore science and are therefore invalid. Fat people who promote fat acceptance are seen as promoting disease and contributing to societal crisis, and therefore are treated with hostility and scorn.

Want to know what questions were asked of those supporting the Fat Acceptance movement? Want to know their answers? Stay tuned for The Fat Acceptance Fight, Part Three: F.A. Confidential.

BMI

Reblog: The Tyranny of the “Normal”

Reblogged from Riots Not Diets

Margitte Leah over at Riots Not Diets wrote a thoughtful, analytical essay of the bullshit of the BMI. It starts:

A few years ago I was getting a pap smear. The doctor—whom I had just met that morning—had me in those cold metal stirrups and was rooting around in my vagina when she asked, ever so casually, “so, do you know what the BMI is?”

I laughed.

As if a woman who has been fat all of her life might have never heard of the BMI.

The thing is, we all know about the BMI. It’s a simple chart that measures our height against our weight, right? The number that comes out of that equation places us into categories—underweight, normal, overweight, obese.

The BMI is supposed to be a value-neutral way to assess bodies across populations.

Except that, did you know that the BMI has never been neutral?

Read the rest over at her blog, Riots Not Diets.

Dr. Oz’s Bottomless Bag of Body-Shaming

I could write an entire blog just discussing the douchebaggery of Dr. Oz.

For those of you not acquainted with the wonders of daytime television, Dr. Mehmet Oz is a cardiac surgeon. He went to Harvard. Then Wharton. Then the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He currently teaches at Columbia, where he directs the Cardiovascular Institute and Integrative Medicine Program. He has patents. He has authored many papers. He got his showbiz career start as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2004. He then received his own spin off series produced by Harpo (Oprah’s production company) called The Dr. Oz Show. He’s won Emmys. Sounds legit, right? Right?

He’s wearing scrubs. Take him seriously.

Dr. Oz uses a lot of decisive language, claiming “revolutionary” “miracles” and “cures” for a whole host of health problems. One particular hill Oz has decided to die on is the horrible burden of fat. Not necessarily obesity (a nebulous term at best), but fat of any kind. I decided to spend some time over at his website watching episodes, and I think I killed off a small part of my soul in the process. The search term “fat loss” returned 752 results when I searched episode topics. I present a small sample of episode titles:

21 Days to a Flat Belly

Dr. Oz’s Two-Week Rapid Weight Loss Diet

Melt Your Fat Fast

Three Teas That Will Shrink Your Waist

The Next Big Weight-Loss Superstar

New Ayurvedic Fat Fighters

The Secret World of Squashers (wait, how is this even a health topic?)

Oz starts most episodes talking with guests (mostly women), encouraging them to speak about their bodies under the pretense of helping them to self-actualize and appreciate themselves for who they are, after which he promptly prescribes that they lose weight. I found a particularly shaming episode about bedonks that… well, see for yourself:

Bust Your Butt Fat, pt 1

Bust Your Butt Fat, pt 2

Bust Your Butt Fat pt. 3

I need to face my “rear-ality” and “bust (my) butt fat” with a “butt busting brownie”. Oh, to be as lucky as the guests on his show, standing around in nothing but panties and a t-shirt, encouraged to disparage my tush on national television in front of millions of people.

Apparently, there are only 4 steps I need to follow to fix my derrière dilemma. If you watch more Dr. Oz (though I don’t recommend it) you’ll notice a similar trend: “3 Ways to Get Your Fat to Eat Itself”, “The 3-Step Action Plan to Supercharge Your Hormones and Melt Fat”, and “4 Ways to Flush Fat From Your Body” are some examples. First, I find the numerical aspect interesting. Is there something innately appealing about a checklist? From my experience, quick fixes and fads do not make for sustainable weight loss. However, lists like these prey on the insecurities and frustrations of plus sized women, telling them that now, finally, there is an easy solution that will work for them. They just need to try! The other critical feature of these titles is that they heavily imply negative connotations. “Bust Your Butt Fat” evokes a feeling of combativeness, while “3 Ways to Get Your Fat to Eat Itself” implies some sort of weird, alpha-fat cannibalism super-struggle within your own body. I never understood the use of “melt” as a verb for weight loss, because it implies that the body is interacting with fat in a way that isn’t even scientifically accurate, and the same goes for “flushing” fat from one’s body.

Dr. Oz’s manipulative phraseology and imagery conveys a message that is just wrong. Millions of women watch his show every day. Millions of women hear Dr. Oz, a physician, telling them that their body is malformed and that they are unhealthy. Just in case you were wondering, there is no revolutionary miracle cure for “obesity” that involves shock, humiliation, and manipulation of statistics. That’s called bullying. In Dr. Oz’s case, it’s the bullying of millions of people for the sake of profit and renown.

What a douche.