Fat America: Profiting off the Majority-Minority

Fat Wallet

A fundamental pillar of body diversity activism is the concept that fat people are a persecuted minority in this country. Statistically, people classified as “overweight” actually make up over two-thirds of the population. That means we can’t be considered as a minority, right?

Wrong.

This statistical discrepancy is used as fuel to discredit the body acceptance movement. What a cursory internet search reveals, however, is that this is a legitimate phenomenon called the “majority-minority”. In Texas, New Mexico, and California, for example, non-White Hispanics constitute a majority-minority, in that their population outnumbers that of other races in the same region. This majority-minority status does not negate the discrimination faced by the Hispanic population. Things like housing discrimination and hate crimes (which among immigrant populations are most likely higher than reported due to fear of deportation), are just as bad in these states compared to states where Hispanics are merely a minority-minority group.

Increased population, and thus visibility, is not a cure for discrimination. This is painfully apparent when looking at the treatment of fat people. Even though fat bodies, or at least bigger than “average” bodies (think about that statement for a second) are by far the numerically dominant group. Logically, businesses should be catering to us. Services should be catering to us. People who make waiting room seats, underpants, and cars should all be catering to our big butts. There are billions of dollars to be made here. A capitalist’s wet dream.

Instead, I hear arguments along the lines of, “just because you’ve let yourself get fat doesn’t mean you deserve special treatment”.

Is it special treatment when it directly caters toward the majority of people?

In fact, weight-loss is a huge money-making industry. It just doesn’t cater to us. It tricks us into THINKING it’s catering to us. In actuality, it’s taking advantage of us. Warning: dieting and weight shaming ahead.

From media empire charlatans …

… to the tech industry …

… to multi-level marketing schemes…

… to the pharmaceutical industry …

The diet industry is a $60 billion a year industry, and it works if your metric for “working” is making a shit ton of money reliably over time. What it doesn’t succeed in doing, however, is helping people lose weight and achieve that much sought-after “average”-ness. Most people regain the weight they lose. Businesses and corporations stand to gain by keeping your sad ass fat, and your fat ass sad. By treating the majority like a minority group, by keeping us feeling disenfranchised, lonely, ugly, and unloveable, corporations can keep us buying things that don’t work and things we don’t need. Fat Americans face discrimination on an economic level, with constant messages telling us we aren’t worth anything unless we change. That we don’t deserve to be treated well unless we stop being “lazy” and “exert some effort”. We are subjected to scare tactics, personal attacks, and public shame. “Average” and “thin” people are susceptible to these messages as well. People are pressured to utilize “willpower” to maintain their physique, to eat certain foods and take certain medicines so they don’t devolve into a dreaded fat person. This fuels societal stigma, and creates a body-type based class system where thin people benefit from fat people staying fat. People who stay “fit” because they “put down the cheeseburger” or “get off their ass”. They can feel superior. They can feel “better than”. They can feel right, as long as they keep taking their probiotics and count every calorie and exercise 90 minutes a day.

Show me a world where we aren’t profiting off telling people being fat is bad and you might just have a case against the overweight in this country being a true minority.

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.

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.