Big Fat Facts Big Fat Index


UK Government Policy encourages dieting, could be worse

(Link to BBC report - so, far, 500 comments in 2 hours including some that are not for the faint-hearted).

The UK Department of Health have finally published their long-awaited Obesity Strategy, the imaginatively titled 'Healthy Lives, Healthy People - A Call to Action on Obesity'. The main thrust of the paper is that, echoing Lord McColl's sentiments in his comments last week, we all eat far too much and need to get some self-discipline already and put ourselves on a diet. As such the majority of the proposals involve reducing calorie consumption, through 'nudging' (encouraging the food and drink industries to print energy content on menus, packaging and extending this to alcoholic beverages) toward a 'target' daily nationwide reduction of 5 billion calories (though they are keen to stress that this will not involve 'taking away choice' - we'll see about that). Physical activity is mentioned, but only in terms of its role in expending 'excess' energy as part of weight-loss efforts as opposed to its general benefits for people of all sizes.

The good news is that they've ruled out a 'fat tax' or for that matter significant additional anti-obesity legislation, for now at least, preferring an approach of 'supporting' and 'encouraging' individuals who are held almost wholly responsible for what is nevertheless framed as a 'national crisis' which is 'everyone's business'. So far, so consistent with the Tory 'blame the victim' approach. The bad news is that local authorities, not known for their proportional or measured approach on this topic, are to be handed a lot more power to formulate anti-obesity strategies, carry out monitoring and surveillance, and basically do what they do best by making lifestyles of which they disapprove their business. The role of the planning system (and in particular the controversial new National Planning Policy Framework) in contributing to 'well-being' is emphasised. There's also a worrying exhortation for employers to take a more active role in managing the behaviour of their workforces, though again no stipulation that they must do this.

There's a brief mention of stigmatisation, but only in the usual context of it being one of the inevitable health disbenefits of being fat and an unalterable given rather than something that can be reduced through the way the topic is discussed and presented. This is particularly frustrating given the Department of Health's simultaneous announcement of a strategy to tackle mental health stigma - apparently prejudice and discrimination are harmful barriers to recovery from some conditions but constitute useful 'social constraints' on the behaviour which they consider causes others. There are lots of graphs and tables, some 'scarier' than others but none of which reference the limitations of using data which is based on the BMI measurement and its disputed cut-offs and labels. And there's talk of 'building the evidence base' although I suspect that any evidence that doesn't fit the narrative (such as HAES) will as always be disregarded, downplayed and discredited.

Overall my view on this strategy is mixed. Of course I'm fundamentally opposed to the continued existence of the circumstances that have led to its production in the first place, though I also acknowledge we've a huge mountain to climb before the natural human variation in size which they have pathologised as 'obesity' is regarded not as a social problem but a fact of life consigning hand-wringing policy reports like this to history. In a professional capacity I'm not looking forward to having to refuse planning applications for fast food shops and car parking on the grounds that they 'promote obesity' (no doubt using some euphemistic terminology such as 'harm to wellbeing'). And some of the misinformation and scaremongering in there (ie diabetes 2 in children being somehow statistically significant, or the already debunked extrapolation of previous trends to some nightmare scenario of a fat majority) wants me want to bang my head against a wall.

On balance however and much as I dislike this Government's divide and distract approach (indeed their populist immigration reforms could potentially destroy my family and leave us without the fall-back of European human rights law) I'm relieved that there's not more mention of legislation and coercion, as was looking increasingly likely under the last administration. The cynic in me suspects that they know the effect of the proposals (most of which could be summarised as 'more of the same') on the overall weight of the population will be negligible, setting the stage to justify more draconian measures in the years to come, but maybe it buys us some time. It's a lengthy document and like anything of this nature full of potentially triggering headdesk moments, but definitely something worth being informed upon if you're fat and live in the UK.

Paul Campos on Bullying

Paul Campos has an article in today's Daily Beast: Michelle Obama's Let's Move Campaign Is Helping Bullies

Some plum quotes:

The first lady would, no doubt, be horrified by the suggestion that her Let’s Move campaign, which is dedicated to trying to create an America without any fat kids, is itself a particularly invidious form of bullying. But practically speaking, that’s exactly what it is. The campaign is in effect arguing that the way to stop the bullying of fat kids is to get rid of fat kids.

And, on the necessity of public policy that is evidence based and risk-assessed:

Given our political climate, it’s more important than ever for liberals not to assume that a particular government initiative to stop something from happening is a good idea. Rather, we need to be reasonably certain that a) the something in question is actually happening; b) we know why it’s happening; c) we know how to stop it from happening; and d) the benefits of stopping it from happening are worth the costs...

The Let’s Move campaign fails this test spectacularly. It has had one notable success, however: According to a Pew Foundation poll, nearly three in five Americans now believe that the government should have “a significant role in reducing childhood obesity.”

Some other good articles on the same topic:
• Two Whole Cakes: Fat Children are to Blame for the Economy, Says Michelle Obama, by Lesley Kinzel
• Red No. 3: A Radical Idea, by Brian
• The Daily Caller: An open letter to First Lady Michelle Obama, Brandon Macsata (speaking for NAAFA)
• Slate: Leave the Fat Kids Alone, by Daniel Engber
Dear Mrs. Obama, by Allison Dickson
• Live Once, Juicy: Do You Think Michelle Hears Us?, by Shaunta
• Newsweek: Fat Kids, Cruel World, by Lesley Kinzel
• The Huffington Post: Lessons From My Life as a Fat Kid, By Jane Shure
• And of course our own Fat Kids Targeted

'Free market' causes obesity?

Beware the headless fatty pic when clicking on the article, like usual. I haven't checked out the comments of course, but as usual proceed with caution.

Obesity more likely with 'free market' economies

Some of the points made are reasonable:

"Policies to reduce levels of obesity tend to focus on encouraging people to look after themselves, but this study suggests that obesity has larger social causes," said Avner Offer, a professor of economic history who led the study.

Then the correlative findings:

Offer's team looked at 11 wealthy countries and found that those with a liberal market regime -- with strong market incentives and relatively weak welfare states -- experienced one-third more obesity on average.

Comparing four "market-liberal" English-speaking countries -- the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia -- with seven relatively wealthy European countries that traditionally offer stronger social protection -- Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden -- the team found that economic insecurity is strongly linked to levels of obesity.

And then the specious hypothesis and outright wrong claims:

Countries with higher levels of job and income security were associated with lower levels of obesity, the researchers said.

"Basically, our hypothesis is that market-liberal reforms have stimulated competition in both the work environment and in what we consume, and this has undermined personal stability and security," Offer said in a statement about the findings.

He also argued that the onset and increase of large-scale obesity began during the 1980s, coinciding with the rise of market-liberalism in the English-speaking countries.

Actually, market-liberalism arose in the nineteenth century. It went into great decline in the war and postwar era, and then came back in some measure in the post-Carter Reaganomics era (though outlays for defense spiked during that time). But it was no new golden age of liberal economics: in general, the law of aging governments rarely deviates from increasing regulation, increasing control, increasing meddling, increasing services, increasing general dependency---a trend much more historically convincing than any kind of 30% correlation dredged up by the authors of this article.

In short, their economic assumptions, their attempt to tie in some kind of economic trend to 'growing' obesity levels (which we know were manufactured in part by changing BMI definitions from their adoption in the 1980s until 2000), lead me to believe that this is nothing more than a weak swipe at liberal economics by taking advantage of the Diet Season's weight obsession.

Here's concise history of the BMI, just in case you're interested. And here's a Flegal article (PDF) that goes into much greater detail, and even has a really handy chart.

But that's really beside the point. The article is about emotional instability and stress as the core driving impulse behind fatness. It also gives a nod to the fake 'fast-food shock' exemplified by scare-screeds like "Super Size Me." The population has gotten fatter with greater food security (about 15 lbs over the past 30 years), as it's gotten taller (about two inches in that same time period), healthier, and longer-lived. The idea that this more definite trend is rooted in economic insecurity is correlative, statistical-illogic BS.

If it was, we'd notice trends in fatness directly corresponding to times of greatest economic insecurity and the greatest domestic stress---war and recessions. It's just a guess since I don't have my hands on any charts, but I'm guessing if there's any size-related trend over time with respect to war and recession it's people getting thinner, not fatter.

Anecdotally---I come from a long line of fat people. Without exception (AFAIK), we lose our appetites in stressful situations. I know we're not outliers---I've heard of many others, including thin friends, who also lose their appetites during stress. My own husband lost 15 lbs the month we moved into our first house. An ex had chronic indigestion due to stress and had to carefully monitor his intake to make sure he was eating enough, as he was already underweight. The Mayo Clinic lists both overeating and undereating as signs of stress.

Based on what I've read all these years the difference in obesity rates has much more to do with distribution of genetic groups, which is another way the English-speaking countries are tied together. Economic insecurity and social stress is not by any stretch unique to relatively free markets. Blaming it on stress of the 'free market' is short-sighted, and reduces the complicated socioeconomic relationship to size to something simplistically meaningless.

This article is Diet Season incendiary crap meant to do little more than advance an agenda by taking advantage of a vulnerable population. It doesn't even touch upon the relationship between size and socioeconomic status, and if it did it would still ignore the elephant in the room---genetics---in its attempt to frame fatness as a social problem to be 'fixed.' It's time to take back our fat identities---we aren't problems, we aren't symptoms of a broken economic system, or a broken planet, or broken health, or a broken morality.

NOTE: Do not click on the links the last sentence unless you have at least 100,000 Sanity Watchers points.

There is nothing they will not do to make a buck...

From my home town paper today: Obesity Surgery May Become Option for Many More.

Allergan is petitioning the FDA to have the BMI at which the lap-band is permitted reduced so that people who do not currently meet the thresholds will meet them. Translation -- more customers. Apparently, sales are falling during this recession.

The article has a pretty good mix of some physicians saying -- "hey, before we start operating on millions of people don't we want to know this is safe?" and bariatric surgeons (themselves!) bringing up the issue of later deaths due to the lap band being under-reported. There is also shilling of the band by some who are trying to convince us it's great for reducing your cholesterol, diabetes... what ails you, basically. It does have some good mentions of side-effects and how people have the band removed because of them. BTW -- 70% of people who receive a band experience pain and vomiting. Show of hands -- who would like to barf and have a stomach ache all day long? Thought so. Me either.

The case they show is a woman who, currently at 5'6" and 175 lbs wants a band. The story is not detailed. They don't disclose dieting history, activity level or anything like that. She was fatter, she lost weight, still wants a band.

Let's see what the comments look like if they put it up on the Well blog or if they open comments on the article or the blog. It may become "popcorn time". Lots of trolls, lively discussion (not all of it erudite - alas), and verbal fisticuffs. For those of you who like pounding trolls, the Well blog is a great place to do it.

Anyway, not a bad article about a HORRIBLE idea. Let's see what comes of it.

--Andy Jo--

Fat News Roundup

So how fat is your state? The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health released another pointless report this week ranking the fifty states by fatness. The article points to an overabundance of food, aggressive food marketing, poverty, and low levels of education as significant causes, which I suppose is a slight step up from the usual disgust and personal blame. The education thing sticks in my craw though, because it implies that if we fatties only knew better, we just wouldn't be fat. Please, thin Americans, TEACH us to overcome our body's genetic tendencies. For the love of god, won't someone tell the fatties about calories in vs. calories out?? They just don't know!

Then we have this gem, about how, chemically, being fat means that you can't resist cupcakes as well as thin people do. Again, thanks, but your study involving ten whole fat people isn't really enough to convince me that the entire fat population's brains work this way, not to mention that you don't even really know what these results mean. My favorite part of the article is as follows:

Some of the most intriguing imaging studies have peered into the brains of people who have lost significant weight and kept it off through diet and exercise alone—although researchers say they're hard to find.

"They are very controlled individuals, and they are very rare. We had to fly some in from Alaska," says Angelo Del Parigi, a neuroimaging scientists who finally located 11 "post-obese" subjects who had dieted down to the lean range.

You don't say? People who have lost weight and kept it off aren't just coming out of the woodwork? Can we not maybe draw a conclusion here?

Finally, I'm sure you've seen some of the hullabaloo about the new diet drugs being tested and submitted for FDA approval. It looks like as of this morning the FDA has rejected Qnexa, which is shocking news in and of itself. Could it be that someone over there finally cares about side effects? Did they actually learn something from the whole Fen/Phen tragedy? If so, it's not stopping pharmaceutical manufacturers from trying again. Arena Pharmaceuticals is working on a drug called lorcaserin which, according to MSNBC shows "promise" and "little risk". It also shows little effectiveness, as study participants only lost an average of five percent of their body weight. That's about twenty pounds for a 375 lb gal like me. Given the risk for side effects, especially the ones they don't know about yet, I wouldn't say lorcaserin is a worthwhile bet. Seems to me that maybe we should divert those pharmaceutical resources to working on cancer or AIDS instead of trying to make the population slightly less fat and potentially harming them in the process.

But anyway...Happy Friday!

UCLA Lectures Update

Just in case you hadn't heard, the other two UCLA talks are up on YouTube.

First, we have Katherine Flegal. Haven't watched this one yet.

Then we have the infamous Marilyn Wann. Not any arguments unfamiliar to most of us, but totally fun. And I want her boots.

Is it okay to be fat?

This is the question posed in the Nightline debate linked to in withoutscene's posting below. The way I see it, when we ask "is it okay to be fat?", we're really asking a bunch of other questions:

  • Is a person allowed to have and maintain a body that is larger than average?
  • Is being fat a health problem?
  • Is a person with a health problem allowed to choose to not treat that problem?
  • Is fat caused by lifestyle choices?
  • Is a person in a group health plan allowed to make choices that might cause them to need more health care in the future?

When you break it down to what we're really talking about, I don't see how any rational person could conclude that it is not okay to be fat. What are your thoughts?

Kevin Smith and Southwest Airlines

So unless you're living under a rock somewhere, you've likely heard something about Kevin Smith getting thrown off of a Southwest flight from Oakland to Burbank because he was too fat. Here's a report on the issue from Shapely Prose as well as coverage from ABC's Nightline. I have some conflicting thoughts surrounding this incident (for instance, I'm thrilled that someone is finally paying attention to complaints about the way fat people are treated on airplanes, but I'm frustrated that it took a celebrity to make them pay attention and I'm not altogether convinced it will change anything anyway) but I'd like to hear what you guys think.

Fat Lectures at UCLA

If any of you live in the L.A. area, sociologist Abigail Saguy has put together a series of lectures on Fatness and Gender. The first lecture, by Paul Campus, happens tonight at 5pm. Katherine Flegal lectures in February and Marilyn Wann lectures in March! More information below.

Wednesday, Jan. 20, 5 p.m.

Fat and Identity Politics: Lecture by Paul Campos, professor of law at the University of Colorado and author of "The Obesity Myth: Why America's Obsession With Weight Is Hazardous to Your Health" (Gotham, 2004).

Wednesday, Feb. 10, 4 p.m.

Weight and Mortality: The Health Perspective: Lecture by Katherine M. Flegal, senior research scientist and distinguished consultant at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

Monday, March 1, 4 p.m.

Fighting Fat Fear During the War on 'Obesity': Lecture by Marilyn Wann, activist and author of "Fat! So? Because You Don't Have to Apologize for Your Size" (Ten Speed Press, 1998).

All lectures will take place at Royce Hall, Room 314, on the UCLA campus.


Marilyn Wann announced today that there will be another hearing for a height/weight anti-discrimination bill in Massachusetts! The hearing will be on January 27th. Marilyn says:

Let's flood the legislative inbox! Email Please copy me: Forward this! -- What to write: That you support H.1850. Your ht./wt. discrimination story (esp. at work, school, doctor, housing, seating) and why you care about this law. THANKS!

Please take the time to send an e-mail in support of this bill. If you are interested in testifying in person, please contact Marilyn at the above e-mail. Getting this bill passed would be a huge win for everyone everywhere.

Byron Rushing of Massachusetts tried two years ago to get a similar bill into law and from what I remember--although the bill didn't go through--things went pretty well. It would be fantastic if we could make this happen this year.
PS--Check out Marilyn's words regarding Rep. Rushing and her experiences with this bill below in the comments.

PPS--I failed to see Rep. Rushing speak the one time I was in Boston. I now may never forgive myself.

My Completely Unneccessary, Silly Letter to Jon Stewart: What's a Girl So Upset About?*

I know this letter is long and that's now how you're supposed to do protest letters, but I'm long-winded, people.

Jon Stewart,

Your bit with the fat suit on Monday’s show (September 14th,
2009) was distasteful, less than amusing, lazy, and sorely problematic. I know
what you were trying to do. People called you all lazy for taking three weeks
off; and since fatness is the ultimate symbol of being lazy, you got in a fat
suit. And since Jon Oliver had joked on his radio show about eating two whole
cheese steaks (or so I hear), you threw that in. Since you have a playful
relationship with Brian Williams, you took the opportunity to incorporate him.
I get that you were taunting your naysayers.  


I also get that for you it (likely) wasn’t about fat people
at all—but that’s part of the problem because it was on our backs. I know it seems initially an outlandish notion, but
you being in a fat suit and TDS using stereotypes and images of fat people the
way you did affects my every day life. I’m not saying you hate fat people or
that you are responsible for all of the derision and discrimination fat people
face—certainly not. But you are responsible for what you do, the messages you
spread, and your complicity, especially when so many people regard you as
someone well-reasoned, critically-minded, and progressive, someone who engages
in smart, sharp (if silly) comedy. Hang with me a second.


See, I am a fat person, and every day I deal with people
judging me as just some lazy fatass who doesn’t deserve a god-damn thing (aside
from a good fat-shaming, for my own good).
Fat discrimination, according to a recent study[1],
is as prevalent as race and gender discrimination in this country. I’m not just
talking about how people judge me on the street or how there is no room for
bodies like mine on TV. Fat discrimination and weight bias are prevalent in
health care, education, and employment. It affects real living, breathing
people. For instance, it affects the quality and thoroughness of care we
receive from medical professionals, and we suffer and some of us die because of

But what does this have to do with you in a fat suit? Fat suits have
been compared to blackface. Now, that’s not a historically equivalent
comparison in any way, but the the function is similar. You can put
on a fat suit and laugh with everyone else at the fat representation of you and
how gross and disgusting and wrong it is. TDS can further dehumanize fat
people by using a picture of a (faceless) bed-ridden fat person with Williams
face Photoshopped on—participating in what Charlotte Cooper calls the parade of
headless fatties—to drive home how disgusting it is to be fat. [3] And
in the process you and TDS can metaphorically masturbate stereotypes that perpetuate
the bias and discrimination we face in our every day lives—all for your joke
that really isn’t about fat people, which just means you have no regard for us
in the process.
And then you can take
that suit off and you don’t have to deal with the consequences.

Your promotion of fat stereotypes and dehumanization of fat people is part of a greater system of bias, discrimination, and dehumanization which directly affects my quality of life. It helps give people the idea that it's perfectly okay not to have any regard for us. After all, if we didn't like it, and if we had any dignity, we'd just put down the sandwich, right? If you had any sense, you might not assume fat people give up their dignity by virtue of being fat. For more a more
nuanced critique of “Fat on Film” you can visit the recent Newsweek slideshow of the same name:


This is why I’m disappointed in you and the TDS writers. I
expect better. And frankly, the best way to show your audience you haven’t
gotten lazy isn’t by telling lazy


There are three things you can do to help fat people and
our work toward social justice. First, educate yourself on this issue. Do not
take what you think you know about fat people for granted. Put some critical
thinking into it and be willing to challenge your own assumptions. Second,
bring critical fat studies scholars or fat activists onto your show. Open a
conversation. Linda Bacon (yes, bacon, haha) is a preeminent scholar of Health
at Every Size, who has found that fat people who don’t diet and don’t lose weight can be healthier than
ones who do.[4] She has
just published a book on the subject. Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby also have
a book out called “Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere.” Recently, scholars in the UK
have published a book called “Fat Studies in the UK” and soon the long-awaited
“Fat Studies Reader” will be out. Finally, we don’t care if you make fat jokes,
just make them funny. Make sure that you aren’t merely reinscribing harmful
stereotypes, and make sure they are the same critical quality as the rest of
your bits.





Fat Human Being, Fat Activist, and Doctoral
Student in Sociology and Women's Studies


[1] Puhl,
RM., T. Andreyeva, and KD Brownell. 2008. “Perceptions of weight
discrimination: prevalence and comparison to race and gender discrimination in
America.” International Journal of
32: 992–1000.

[2]  See the blog
“First, Do No Harm: Stories of Fat Prejudice in Health Care”: and
also the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity website:


[3] For the record, I know
TDS uses Photoshop to do much more ‘horrible’ things to people’s images—but
there is a particular history of fat people’s faceless bodies being debased and
dehumanized in the media, as your colleague, Colbert, has even pointed out.
Charlotte Cooper’s piece on Headless Fatties can be found here:

[4] Linda
Bacon’s website:

*Apparently being upset about something so trivial is just silly. And after all "The joke was funny--I'm a fat person and I thought so." And "It wasn't about fat people. C'mon, they make fun of EVERYBODY on that show." "Being angry about it isn't going to solve anything." "You shouldn't let words upset you so much--we should be showing people that words can't hurt us." And, of course, "Don't we [fat people] have bigger fish to fry?"
(These are paraphrases of claims made to me from people who identify as fat-positive, size-accepting, fat-accepting individuals. Claims that I hope to have arbitrated in this here letter.)

Edited to note: I know the racial comparisons I make are problematic. I hate to rely on comparisons to racial discrimination and bias to highlight fat discrimination and bias. I am open to finding new ways to make our cause seem serious and our claims seem legitimate without using analogies to other oppressions. I try not to. But in some cases, I just haven't quite figured out how to really put things in perspective for people without using comparisons. Even if I know it is problematic.

Oh hai blatant discrimination!

Rose tipped me off to some fat discrimination going on over in North Carolina. According to this policy document, the North Carolina State Health Plan (for teachers and state employees) will soon be divided into two sections: one for the "good" folks who don't smoke and have BMIs under 40 and one for the "naughty" smokers or people with BMIs 40 or above. Of course the good folks will receive more coverage at less expense than the naughty ones. Participants in the health plan are required to fill out a form every year that attests that they fit into the good group and they also agree to be subjected to mandatory random screenings for smoking and for BMI.

I am both appalled and terrified by this idea and the precedent it creates. First of all, does this mean that an NCSU employee is subject to being weighed and measured at work whenever HR deems it necessary? What about personal privacy? What about a person's body being their own property and not for their employer to judge? What about an employee being compensated on their performance and NOT their body size? Because no matter how this policy was initially intended, this ends up being another way to pay fat people less for doing the same job, as if that weren't happening enough already.

I hate the idea of the smoking thing as well on the grounds that what I do in my off time shouldn't be any of my employer's business, but at least that's a behavior that can be stopped. A fat person can't just stop being fat, despite the world's erroneous belief that all you have to do is just try a little harder to eat less and exercise more and the pounds will magically melt off. No one has been able to find a method of weight loss that works permanently for more than the tiniest percentages of people, which means that fat people are likely going to stay fat no matter how many crunches they do.

Let's not forget that the mainstream jury is still out on fat and health anyway...even Newsweek isn't sure whether fat=unhealthy anymore. Even if it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that fat people are definitely going to get sick, the whole point of a group health plan is that some people are going to get sick and some aren't. By buying into it you acknowledge that you are going to pay the same amount whether you get sick or not and whether other people get sick or not. If we're going to just weed out the people we think are going to get sick, what's the point of group health then anyway?

On TOP of that, what this plan is doing is funneling the people who are (supposedly) the most likely to get sick into a group that gets less coverage! Those who will likely need health care the most are all of a sudden going to get the least amount of assistance from their health insurance company! If this doesn't prove clearly how much more interested health insurance companies are in profits over actually providing health care, then I don't know what will.

Thanks Rose!

Paul Campos and America's Moral Panic

Paul Campos gave a great interview over at The Atlantic yesterday, but what I found most interesting about the whole thing were the comments on the article. Almost every one is well thought out, literate, and full of good discussion about the topic at hand instead of devolving into 'fatties are stupid and gross and OMG should just lose weight' territory. I'm not saying they're all favorable or that I agree with all of them, but I find it so much more enjoyable to read a well-constructed point that I disagree with than what amounts to a handful of insults or ignorant BS one might find in comments on other articles.

Anyway, give it a read. A lot of commenters brought up the type II diabetes question which I couldn't immediately debunk in my head. Anyone have good information on the correlation of fat and type II diabetes and medical costs?

Check out Kate Harding on WTTW Chicago

This segment is definitely worth a look. Kate does a great job of presenting a cool and logical argument against the war on obesity. What kills me about the concept is that the doc they had on to discuss the anti-fat side espoused a lot of good HAES principles. How can you get HAES and not get that the war should be on crappy food and sedentary lifestyles, not body size? How can you still be comparing fatness with smoking when smoking is a behavior and fat is a characteristic?

Also, does anyone have any sources for data on whether the rates of fat-correlated disease have actually risen as sharply as fatness is claimed to have increased? Because really, if one in three people is now overweight but fewer than one in three people has a heart problem or the diabetes, doesn't that prove the point right there that there are plenty of non-sick fat people out there and that the government should leave us the heck alone?

Your thoughts?

Fox News Anchor Defends Fat People?

By now I think most of you have probably heard about the NWA flight attendants who are demanding that they be allowed to wear the same "sexy" red dress as their thinner counter-parts.

And I'll give you one guess as to who thinks it's an outrage and that fat women shouldn't be allowed to be flight attendants anyway?

That's right, via Jezebel, obesity's arch-enemy, MeMe Roth, is on the warpath again. This time she's on Fox News. But there's a twist: The anchor, Stuart Varney, publicly shames her for her indulgent hatred!!

We have seen MeMe Roth and her special brand of crazy before, but this time she's got a crazy look and crazier antics than I remember. She acts like a two-year-old desperate for attention, holding up a pair of size 24 pants, laughing uncomfortably...and this guy tells just keeps on her and tells her, "That, madam, is a disgrace."

Who could've predicted that the taming of MeMe would have happened on Fox News?

(Go to Jezebel for the video. Can't imbed it at this time.)

Postscript: Granted, he goes way overboard and is out of line to say fat discrimination is "one of the most hurtful forms of discrimination," as if other forms of discrimination are somehow less hurtful. I'm pretty sure all forms of discrimination suck pretty badly. Oppression Olympics are unnecessary, sir.

Fat and global warming

When I first read this article I had an odd sense of déjà vu. Then I realized why: it's not a new story! Not only that, but every time this subject has come up, the same people seem to be behind it. Ian Roberts wrote the original diatribe in 2007, he and Dr. Phil Edwards wrote a letter to the Lancet in 2008 with the same message, and now they've published a study along these same lines. The thing is, all of their research is based on the same faulty assumptions: that fat people consume more energy by eating and driving more. Even this new "study" draws conclusions based on these assumptions. For instance:

Since it can be assumed that energy expenditure is approximately balanced by energy intake, it follows that total food energy consumption increases as BMI increases.

So, we're going to assume that each step up the BMI ladder means more food consumption? There have been studies to refute this, but even if you disregard them and assume that I, with a BMI of 60+ eat THREE TIMES THE VOLUME OF FOOD as a person with a BMI of 20, what about the one in four people in the UK who are on a constant diet? What about the 45 million Americans who go on diets each year? Some of those folks must be fat, yes? So right there you can see it's ridiculous to assume that every fat person eats more than someone with a lower BMI. If it were true, the diet industry would crumble.

To estimate the GHG emissions due to car travel by each population, we assumed that all individuals with BMI < 30 kg/m2 use an average small car (e.g. Ford Fiesta) and that individuals with BMI 30 kg/m2 use a car with more internal space (e.g. Ford Galaxy). The Ford Fiesta weighs 1530 kg and produces 147 gCO2 per km, whereas the Ford Galaxy weighs 2415 kg and produces 197 gCO2 per km.

So for the purposes of this study, we're just going to *assume* that all of the skinny folks drive tiny cars and all of the fat folks drive bigger cars. What about all of the skinny SUV drivers? What about the fat folks who drive hybrids or smaller, more fuel-efficient cars? What about all of the poorer fat people who don't even have their own car and instead take public transportation?

The increase in energy expenditure with increasing body weight should prevent further weight gain in a negative feedback loop but with rising BMI people are likely to move less, particularly those who are substantially overweight

Of course this part ignores the active fat people and imagines that all skinny people are active. It also incorrectly assumes (again) that the amount of walking a person does correlates somehow with their BMI. Furthermore, when I was digging for info I came across this article that states that driving might be better for the planet than walking anyway.

So Dr. Phil Edwards and Ian Roberts, here's some advice: no matter how many times you interpret and reinterpret these data, you're still starting off with a bunch of flawed, unproven assumptions that, despite the moderate media interest, add up to nothing more than fat-bashing, sizeist nonsense. Your "research" is focusing attention on fat people instead of the actual changes that need to be made to stop global warming. Do the planet a favor and kindly knock it off.

Thanks to DC and Marilyn for the tip

Help NAAFA change Nevada laws on weight discrimination

For those of you who have been looking for an opportunity to advance the fat rights cause, now is your chance! NAAFA members in Nevada have been working to get a bill drafted and voted on that would "help to eliminate discrimination based on physical appearance which is defined to include weight and height" Please read the letter below and take a moment to email the committee members listed, even if you're not a NAAFA member. Our voices can make a difference but only if we say something!

For forty years, NAAFA members have been writing letters to legislators working to improve the lives of people of size. Since those humble beginnings we have seen one state (Michigan) and a handful of cities change their anti-discrimination laws to include height and weight or physical appearance.

The most recent was just last year when Binghamton, NY changed their laws to protect people of size. They modeled their anti-discrimination laws after the laws in San Francisco. This is a proud day for those of you involved in that work in San Francisco. We never know the far-reaching effect our work will have!

It is to this end that members of NAAFA in Nevada have been working to see that their laws are changed as well. A bill has been drafted and is now awaiting review by the Commerce and Labor Committee before it can be passed along and voted into law. AB 166 modernizes Nevada's anti-discrimination laws and would help to eliminate discrimination based on physical appearance which is defined to include weight and height. The latest word from my assemblyman is that the committee chairman does not want to give this bill a hearing.

We're asking NAAFA members to step up to the plate and start writing letters again. Whether you are a Nevada resident or a visitor to Nevada, we need your help to insure that this bill will be passed into law. For residents, it would affect hiring processes, employment, housing and public accommodations. Why would you as a non-resident have any impact at all in this situation? The economy of the state of Nevada is heavily reliant on tourism. We need visitors in order to survive. As a visitor to Nevada, this change would affect "public accommodation."

What "public accommodation" includes for you as a visitor to Nevada is hotel stays, restaurants, theaters, clubs, etc. This law is about how you are treated while you are here. This change to our laws would mean that you could not be discriminated against because of your weight, height or a physical characteristic beyond your control. This is why this change is important to you and why we need your help!

Please write to the following committee members and tell them that it is VERY important that this bill become law:,,,,,,,,,,,,,

PLEASE take a few moments of your time and write today. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate, simply tell them in your own words that you support the passage of AB 166. We REALLY need you to act on this. Change only comes in society when we make it happen! Speak out today and take a stand for your rights. It's for your future and for the future of those you love. We need all of you to write in support of AB 166. People come in all sizes and it's time to support one another!

Thanks everybody!

CNN: Obama talked with Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General role


The Obama transition team approached Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent, about becoming U.S. surgeon general, according to sources inside the transition and at CNN.

Via the LA Times through the Chicago Tribune:

More recently, Gupta -- the son of immigrants from India and Pakistan -- launched a nationwide campaign on CNN titled "Fit Nation" to highlight the dangers of obesity in children.

"We are told that the pitch to him has been that healthcare reform will be a top priority," [CNN's John] King said, "that wellness, fitness, obesity, the issues he has focused on often here at CNN, will be a top priority.

This seems like a really, really bad choice.

Big Win in Canada: Two Seats for Fat People

As you've seen over the past few days, the biggest news in the fat community is that Canada's Supreme Court has ruled that fat people are entitled to two seats for the price of one. Air Canada and WestJet had sought to overturn the "one person, one fare" policy enacted by the Canadian Transportation Agency that we covered back in January.

The agency ordered the companies last January to adopt a policy of “one person, one fare.”

That would mean, for example, that a disabled person who needs additional room for a wheelchair, or an obese person who needs an additional seat, could not be charged extra.

It would also mean that, if a disabled person has to be accompanied by an attendant, the attendant would ride free.

Naturally this has brought thousands of truly brave (cough), anonymous (cough) internet trolls out of the woodwork on myriad newspaper sites, citing how terrible this is and how we're all just fat and need to lose weight, how not-fat people are "subsidizing the lifestyle choice of the obese", and all the usual crap. Glad they're being constructive.

The CBC has a more contextual article on this ruling. A WestJet official wondered how his company would implement this policy in a non-discriminatory fashion. Here's an idea: at the airport, include two actual, real seats from your planes. If a person can not sit with the armrest down, that person needs two seats. Seems simple. Is simple. And go the extra mile by making this a private area, too.

All in all, this is a superb ruling and the Canadian Transportation Agency should be applauded for upholding our rights, enforcing their ruling, and allowing fat people to fly with dignity - something that the loudmouthed "thin" people on the internet are taking for granted. [links via DeeLeigh, CarrieP, and roughly 40 others!]

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