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CNN: Obama talked with Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General role

Ooof:

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.

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Haylstorm's picture
Haylstorm
January 7th, 2009 | Link | Urgh!

I heard this on NPR this morning and was screaming, "NOOOOO!!!!!" at the top of my lungs in the car. Gupta is a BAD choice period. He's an extraordinarily bad choice if you are a fat person in the United States. Increased marginalization and vilification here we come.

BigLiberty's picture
BigLiberty
January 7th, 2009 | Link | Ugh. This doesn't surprise

Ugh. This doesn't surprise me, given his healthcare policy declaration (available in PDF form on his website). Here are a few quotes from that PDF:

Underinvestment in prevention and public health. Too many Americans go without high-value preventive services, such as cancer screening and immunizations to protect against flu or pneumonia. The nation faces epidemics of obesity and chronic diseases as well as new threats of pandemic flu and bioterrorism. Yet despite all of this less than 4 cents of every health care dollar is spent on prevention and public health.8 Our health care system has become a disease care system, and the time for change is well overdue.

And, to add insult to injury:

This nation is facing a true epidemic of chronic disease. An increasing number of Americans are suffering and dying needlessly from diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and HIV/AIDS, all of which can be delayed in onset if not prevented entirely.

O Rly?

All the major candidates had similar policy declarations, but that doesn't make his any better. Especially if he's going to want his legacy to be "change" --- we can rest assured he'll go full steam ahead with these kinds of plans. Full steam ahead, in the wrong direction. All we can do is hope for some last-minute stroke of enlightenment on the subject, but I'm not sure that's going to happen if he intends on surrounding himself with anti-Obesity (read: anti Obese People) shills.

Bree's picture
Bree
January 7th, 2009 | Link | To play devil's advocate, I

To play devil's advocate, I think any candidate for surgeon general would be on the frontlines fighting "The War on Fat People," which unfortunately is trumping a lot of real and more dangerous health crises.

But Sanjay Gupta is an outspoken mouthpiece for speaking the same old myths, so he is definitely not a good choice. For him, healthcare reform means getting rid of fat bodies and little else.

vesta44's picture
vesta44
January 7th, 2009 | Link | Epidemics (like the "obesity

Epidemics (like the "obesity epi-panic") are created when standards of wellness are lowered because pharmaceutical companies/diet industries aren't making enough money. Lower the BMI standards, and more people are fat without gaining a pound and you have a larger audience to whom you can shill your unnecessary products. Lower the diagnostic thresholds for blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure, and you will diagnose more healthy people with problems they don't really have so you can sell them medications they don't need (and could do more harm than good in the long run).
Gupta has bought into that whole mentality. I really don't think we need a misogynistic fat-phobic doctor setting health policy for our country, especially when at least 50% of the population are women, and 60% of the population is fat. That gives him entirely too many people on whom he can hate and try to legislate out of existence. That is not something I want to see happening, especially when it's couched as "for your own good".

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

richie79's picture
richie79
January 7th, 2009 | Link | I agree with Bree; sadly,

I agree with Bree; sadly, fat has become the health issue du jour and I suspect there'd be a lot of raised eyebrows if he DIDN'T make a big issue of obesity. Still, going on the text quoted in BigLiberty's post this fellow sounds like the sort of neo-puritan health-establishment scaremonger of which there seems to be one being born every minute at the moment. If it's not teh bioterrorist on every corner looking to wipe us out it'll be the flu pandemic or our old friend the dreaded fatz. Either way we're all gonna diiiieeee!!111!!, if we don't Take Action Now - after all, won't Somebody Think of the Children!?! Um, no. Don't you just love the politics of fear?

"if you think fat people have no self-discipline, consider the fact that they haven’t killed you yet." - Miss Conduct, Boston Globe

JeanC's picture
JeanC
January 7th, 2009 | Link | Bad choice, we really don't

Bad choice, we really don't need a media slut who hasn't a clue about what he is speaking about as Surgeon General. We need someone who will actually do some good in there instead of seeing how often he can get his name splashed across all the news portals Sticking out tongue

Bilt4Cmfrt's picture
Bilt4Cmfrt
January 7th, 2009 | Link | Unfortunately, this was kind

Unfortunately, this was kind of inevitable. I'm sure in the parallel universe where McCain-Palin won the election, something similar is happening right now. The only difference being that the Obesity EpiPanic maneuvers in that alternate universe are probably being made with a little more Jr. Bush style lip service than with any real conviction. If there's anything positive that can be said about the, soon to be Ex-Presidential Shrub, it's that he really didn't give a flying F about any Epidemic, real or imagined, and was therefore less inclined to actively persecute. . . Oop's, I mean 'Motivate' fat people in this country. Pres. Elect Obama is both a thinker and a Do'er (Potentially much better than a 'Decider' ). Hopefully good for the economy, foreign policy, and the state of the nation in general but no one is perfect. There will be missteps and mistakes. This would, most definitely, be one of them.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you.
Then you win.
- Mahatma Ghandi

moxie3's picture
moxie3
January 7th, 2009 | Link | This is really no surprise

This is really no surprise to me as Obama seems set on picking people in his cabinet that are popular and well liked. No real thought put into these people. Which is more of a problem in our country children not getting enough food due to economic problems or the "obesity epidemic" affecting our children, come on! moxie3

mailbean January 7th, 2009 | Link | Agreed. This isn't remotely

Agreed. This isn't remotely surprising. "Obesity Epidemic" is the current "health" buzzword, and it doesn't look like it's going away anytime soon. Anyone put in as the Surgeon General would automatically put "obesity" as his or her top priority. I don't think Gupta is any worse of a choice in terms of policy - for the Obama team, he would look like a better choice, because he's already a well-known public figure.

pani113's picture
pani113
January 7th, 2009 | Link | Ugh!

I think it is a terrible choice, but then I also think that there are powers that be behind every politician in this office. I think Obama is smart enough not to make waves, at least at first. The war on obesity keeps billions flowing from the masses to the power elite. It also keeps the population distracted and guilty so there are more easily manipulated.

One the bright side (she said factitiously), the economy is going to tank so much, people are going to have far worse problems than obesity to worry about. And people are more distrustful and angrier that ever. I think if we just hang in there, it will be easier to make our case for size acceptance because the government's credibility is going down the tubes as fast as the dollar!

"Fat can be beautiful. Intolerance is ALWAYS ugly!"

rebelle January 8th, 2009 | Link | I also shouted at my TV when

I also shouted at my TV when I heard this news. What an abysmal choice! I don't see much substance to Gupta; just another pretty face. I am especially creeped out when I recall the Denver Post's editorial a few days back that appealed to agriculture (? I think) secretary Tom Vilsack to "do something" about the "twin problems" of hunger and obesity. As you might suspect, the bulk of the editorial focused on obesity, including a pretty disturbing statement about needing more government involvement because taxpayers are "subsidizing" fat people's irresponsible personal choices, and that line of bull is what the DP uses to counter the arguments for minding our own business when it comes to what other people eat. The DP also starts off with saying it "seems" that "many" heavier people are drinking sugary soda for breakfast and eating fast food. Thus, we have several myths rolled into one piece! Plus bad journalism — you don't have to prove statements like "seems" or "many" after all, let alone also prove the opposite: that "most" thin people DON'T "seem" to be swilling cola and eating cheeseburgers.

Great. So we have people wailing to the new ag secretary about the evils of faaaat, and now, we have as surgeon general the most march-in-step fat hater ever spawned. As others have stated, the twin attitudes that fat is very bad and MUST be controlled is probably pervasive in government and will get worse before it gets better. Might as well have Huckabee as prez.

josecheung January 9th, 2009 | Link | My first thought was, Jerry

My first thought was, Jerry Springer used to be the mayor of Cincinnati, but that doesn't mean he's qualified to run the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.

levye January 9th, 2009 | Link | it's the same

It's the same as his announcement, made calmly the day before yesterday, that, of course, we need to find ways to save money on Medicare and Social Security costs. Does anyone else notice that if the money might go to the little guy -- the home owner, the worker, the citizen -- then that's a national crisis, but it can go to the rich, the execs., the banks with no oversight and that's, well, just reasonable and natural. The Democrats love their nanny-state (or, I'd say, surveillance state). Expect more speeches, like the one Obama gave to a black church on father's day, reprimanding people for giving their children fried-chicken for breakfast because we all know that that's why people are fat.

JennyLinsky January 10th, 2009 | Link | Dear Obama: Fried chicken

Dear Obama:

Fried chicken for breakfast is far healthier than feeding children sugar and chemcials for breakfast (AKA 99% of all breakfast cereral, Pop Tarts, etc.) Chicken contains protein, which is important to get kids going in the morning, and it does not contain HFCS, which makes them bounce off the walls. Please get out of our kitchens and go back to the economy, two wars, and important things. Kthnx, bi.

D-Man's picture
D-Man
January 12th, 2009 | Link | Do you think it's funny to

Edit: I'm retracting my point because I was reacting to it without realizing its context. I apologize for being rude and confrontational.

Reading skills, D-Man. Reading skills.

Viola's picture
Viola
January 12th, 2009 | Link | Fried chicken for breakfast

Fried chicken for breakfast is far healthier than feeding children sugar and chemcials for breakfast (AKA 99% of all breakfast cereral, Pop Tarts, etc.) Chicken contains protein, which is important to get kids going in the morning,

I think whether or not fried chicken is healthier really depends on how the chicken is processed and cooked as well as what the alternative breakfast is. Yes, I agree that for the most part, it is healthier just because of the protein and vitamins in the meat. A lot of fried chicken that is pre-packaged also contains a number of additives, flavor enhancers, and then there is the whole issue of how it is fried, because the process of deep frying can add trans fatty acids to mix. But if it was freshly prepared in the church, which I'm assuming it was, then I would say it was a good thing. I think dinner foods are always good for breakfast, so I don't get why the admonition would be for serving fried chicken for breakfast instead of at any meal time, but I don't know the context of the comment that Obama made.

I am aware, of course, that we all have different dietary schools of thought, and we may not be able to convert one another, so all of this is just my opinion.

paul January 11th, 2009 | Link | Please, let's not make this

Please, let's not make this into a hatefest for political parties.

Bree's picture
Bree
January 12th, 2009 | Link | D-Man, I think you should

D-Man, I think you should take some of Paul's advice as well and stick to the topic on hand. I really don't believe anyone was making a racist comment, but commenting on fat prejudice that leads to classism and racism. You're only making things worse.

rebelle January 12th, 2009 | Link | Didn't anyone notice that

Didn't anyone notice that Jenny's comment was in response to Levye's, who was referring to a speech Obama himself gave that "reprimanded people for giving their children fried chicken for breakfast"? Jenny wasn't making a joke! Racist or otherwise.

But, to the topic at hand: Gupta would be an unfortunate choice for SG. At least Obama hasn't tapped Mehmet Oz, though. That would be even worse.

Kunoichi January 12th, 2009 | Link | You know, it wasn't until

You know, it wasn't until this election campaign that I discovered fried chicken was a racial stereotype. Until now, I just thought it was... you know... food people liked. Maybe it's because I'm in Canada or something. I'd never heard this before.

Too bad fried chicken does nasty things to my digestive system. I'd take it for breakfast over, say, packaged cereal any day. I guess I'll just have to make do with other "unhealthy" things, like eggs, pancakes, toast, ham, bacon, or whatever else happens to be in the fridge that day.

Being a Canadian, it doesn't effect me directly, but I really hope things work out well for the US with Obama at the helm. Looking at the people he's been appointing, however, I think things are going to get a lot worse, not better. Like this Gupta appointment, there's a lot of flash, dance and sparkly images, but little substance.

rebelle January 12th, 2009 | Link | Thanks, D-Man. Just saw your

Thanks, D-Man. Just saw your response. Mine was posted below it because I just did a regular comment, rather than hitting the reply button. D'oh.

chondros January 18th, 2009 | Link | On the bright side...the

On the bright side...the economy is going to tank so much, people are going to have far worse problems than obesity to worry about. And people are more distrustful and angrier that ever. I think if we just hang in there, it will be easier to make our case for size acceptance because the government's credibility is going down the tubes as fast as the dollar!

pani113, I'm afraid you may have this exactly backward. The worse things get, the more people are going to be looking for a scapegoat. And right now, fat people are ideally suited to this role. Historically, mass victimization has tended to occur when things have gone badly in a society, not when they've been flourishing.

In addition to hearing about how fat people are costing us money in health insurance premiums, expect more stories about how obesity lowers economic productivity and makes America less competitive internationally.

BigLiberty's picture
BigLiberty
January 20th, 2009 | Link | chondros, you make an

chondros, you make an extremely valid point. We are in a place that fertile ground for a moral crusade against a group(s) of people. History illustrates this very poignantly.

richie79's picture
richie79
January 20th, 2009 | Link | All day the news has been

All day the news has been about Obama's inauguration, but unsurprisingly (and with this story at the front of my mind) I can't in any way share the global excitement at the prospect. Much as i would delight at joining in the great SP shoe throw at Bush (size-11 Dr. Marten coming your way Dubya Evil ) I have major reservations about his replacement. Obama may or may not turn out to be a friend to many, but I fear his 'new era of responsibility' and the potentially immense state apparatus that will result can give little by way of hope to fat people of holding on to their increasingly fragile civil rights.

"if you think fat people have no self-discipline, consider the fact that they haven’t killed you yet." - Miss Conduct, Boston Globe

vesta44's picture
vesta44
January 20th, 2009 | Link | Yeah, I went to Obama's site

Yeah, I went to Obama's site where people can input things the new administration needs to work on, Citizen's Briefing Book (link here), did a search on obesity (you can vote on the things you think need to be given a high priority), and the news is not good. Most of the things that people have put in there to be voted on are full of mythperceptions, mythinformation, and mythconceptions about fat and how to end the "obesity epidemic". And the comments on those suggestions, well, be sure you have a couple of years' worth of Sanity Watchers points, you'll need every one of them, and then some. Ignorance and prejudice seem to be the in the majority of opinions, and the blame game is rampant. I voted down on the blaming ones, and up on the ones that were FA/SA positive. I think those of us in FA/SA need to submit some ideas of our own to counter all the myths being posted.
This is not good news for fat people and our future treatment at the hands of the government and the medical establishment.

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

vesta44's picture
vesta44
January 27th, 2009 | Link | Evidently, you can't add

Evidently, you can't add anything to what is already there. From what I read, it was open for ideas before Obama was inaugurated and the best-rated ideas will be gathered together and sent to him after he's sworn in. So I would assume that's what they're working on now. It looks like we can still vote on the issues listed, but I can't find a way to comment on any of the issues on which we vote up or down. I wish this had been better publicized when it was first created, then we may have had a chance of getting our voices heard.

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

sannanina January 21st, 2009 | Link | Personally, I am very glad

Personally, I am very glad that Obama is the new American president - but I am not a US citizen, and I am mostly glad as a European who has lived in the US and who loves the country and very much wants better relationships between the US and pretty much the rest of the world, not so much as a fat person.

I do believe, however, that having McCain as president wouldn't be better for fat people than having Obama as president - it simply wouldn't make much of a difference. At this point, fat acceptance is still seen by the majority of people as some kind of obscure fringe movement. The president of the United States (and of any other country for that matter) is only a person - he does not have the capacity to get into every single issue presented to him in detail. So I think that even a sympathetic president will rely on his advisors when it comes to things like "The Obesity Epidemic". Since sadly enough the majority of medical doctors and (to a somewhat lesser degree) life scientists and psychologists hold on to the beliefs that a) fat is bad and b) fat people can become thin people while at the same time still not understanding the full degree of discrimination fat people face everyday I think there is little chance that any advisors of the president and as an extension the president himself will think of fat acceptance as anything to take serious at all. Moreover, I think the only way to change this is to somehow make the voices of HAES and fat friendly scientists and medical professionals heard - fat people themselves will at this point not be taken seriously. (That is frustrating and sad - but to be honest, I have at times discounted the ideas and demands of certain groups of people myself, and while I think that I mostly was right to do so or at least had good reasons, I also might have overlooked legitimate pleas because they were counterintuitive to me or because they contradicted what I had been told by people I saw as experts on the respective subject.)

diane January 21st, 2009 | Link | No way are fat people going

No way are fat people going to do well under a Machevillian scumbag like Obama. He has already said something along the lines that fat people have spent millions of dollars that they should have to repay to the People.

I soo wish I could find that footage! It dont' even remember what news channel I saw it on. It was a quick blurb because the Media fawn over this jerk like a bunch of luv sick groupies and never question anything he says.

levye January 21st, 2009 | Link | I get frustrated

I agree with many people here. When you start hearing words like "personal responsibility" and "sacrifice" and when you start hearing that someone is going to look for "commonsense" ways to save money, you better be worried. The Democrats have already instituted a variety of things, including a law a few years ago that allows health insurance companies to charge we fatties more. (It was introduced by Tom Harkin of Iowa, a rabid anti-obesity person.) I can't even listen to my local community radio station with a lefty bent without having that scary thing called obesity evoked again and again. So many people now think that they can cash in on the obesity epidemic, whether it is environmentalists pushing for mass transit or health insurance companies pushing for more profits.

We need to make it less acceptable to be so hateful.

DeeLeigh's picture
DeeLeigh
January 22nd, 2009 | Link | Fat people have been charged

Fat people have been charged more for health insurance for a long time. When I was temping in the early nineties, I looked into buying insurance. They would have charged me twice the going rate because of my BMI - which was 32 - and I was an extremely healthy person in her twenties. I went for five years without insurance rather than paying as much for it per month as I was paying in rent.

levye January 22nd, 2009 | Link | I should have been clearer,

I should have been clearer, but apparently, it has not always been the case that employers could charge some people more than others for healthcare. Now, they are allowed under federal law to charge fat people up to either 20 or 25% more. I am aware of health insurance companies denying coverage for fatties or charging exorbinant rates, as I am aware of health insurance companies refusing to cover pregnancy or birth control.

BigLiberty's picture
BigLiberty
January 22nd, 2009 | Link | One easy way of making it

One easy way of making it less acceptable to be so hateful is to take the power behind the words away. That is, we don't give so much power to someone like a figurehead junk-science spewing "As Seen on TV!" Surgeon General pick. One needs to make it impossible for government to interfere with our personal bodily choices/behaviors/genetics in the first place. Then the empty rhetoric remains empty (as it should be).

There's a huge difference between an unarmed guy saying he wants to eradicate you, and a man holding a gun to your head and saying the same thing.

Unfortunately, this modern era (it existed under Bush, too) of grow-government-happy politicians isn't likely to see less power wielded over citizens, especially RE: health.

levye January 22nd, 2009 | Link | I agree with you,

I agree with you, BigLiberty, and that's why I do so mistrust all those who want to "help" us (or me) when that help justifies the expansion of bureaucracies. Problem is that corporations have so much power, and I'm not sure if I see a way to restrict their malevolence without some government intervention. Of course, when we have privatization of government programs (like health care delivered -- or rather "managed" -- through private health maintenance organizations), we have the worst of both worlds. If it were only big government, then the citizens could have a say, but when its private corporations contracted through the government, no one has a say.

But, I don't think this is only a structural problem. We need to make it clearer that they are spewing hate when they are demanding weight loss or even when they are insisting that they only want to help me by making me "healthier" (i.e. thinner).

pani113's picture
pani113
January 22nd, 2009 | Link | Chondros you missed my

Chondros you missed my point. I am well aware of the fact that people look for scapegoats during hard times. I have given that lecture to my students so many times I put myself to sleep. But more people than ever distrust the government right now. I know I am finding more people willing to listen to me when I post on Alternet or Daily Kos. It is also interesting that most of the public in New York is not buying the "obesity" tax. As for people on websites, many are probably professional trolls put their to advance Pharma's agenda. I never said it would be easy! I simply said we do have a window of opportunity should be chose to be very proactive! Very discontented people are willing to listen in ways in which they would not before. I would rather try and be proactive and seize an opportunity rather than simply encourage my fears!

"Fat can be beautiful. Intolerance is ALWAYS ugly!"

chondros January 23rd, 2009 | Link | pani113, of course I have no

pani113, of course I have no problem with being proactive; being proactive is good and necessary and praiseworthy. I'm glad we agree on this. Where we may disagree is that I tend to think wishful thinking is as much of a danger to the success of fat acceptance activism as despair -- I believe more fat people will be more inclined to take action if they can be made to realize the potential seriousness of the situation.

pani113's picture
pani113
January 25th, 2009 | Link | "I believe more fat people

"I believe more fat people will be more inclined to take action if they can be made to realize the potential seriousness of the situation."

That is exactly why I did my master's project on antifat hysteria as a deviance scare akin to the phenomena of witchunts which was completed in 1991. It is also why I connect deviance scares and antifat hysteria on many blogs as well as incorporate them into my lectures with my own classes.

"Fat can be beautiful. Intolerance is ALWAYS ugly!"

scruffmcgruff January 24th, 2009 | Link | The criticisms against Obama

The criticisms against Obama are baseless.

On the one hand he has MDs, PhDs, and people with advanced degrees and training and vast knowledge of the human body informing him and helping him make public health policies.

We have basically a bunch of people on the internet, and a couple of groups without any lobbying power. The only MD here was banned.

I don't blame Obama at all. I don't like his choices, but they are understandable.

levye January 24th, 2009 | Link | It takes an MD or PhD and

It takes an MD or PhD and money (i.e. "lobbying power") to have a right to be heard? Pretty sad, and yes, pretty undemocratic, scruffmcgruff.

pani113's picture
pani113
January 25th, 2009 | Link | "On the one hand he has MDs,

"On the one hand he has MDs, PhDs, and people with advanced degrees and training and vast knowledge of the human body informing him and helping him make public health policies."

And many of these "experts" are actually lobbyist or others with industry insiders. Most of the obesity "experts" that have the ear of politics and the media are backed by pharma.

I would also like to point out MDs are not the only qualified "experts" on this issue. Many of the studies conducted on obesity are epidemiological studies, which basically means they are field studies and even SURVEYS. The look at a person's weight and health record, without understanding how many confounding variables can influence their findings. It may surprise you to know that many MDs don't get training in research methodology. Such disciplines as sociology usually receive excellent training in this area. Furthermore, pharma influences every step of the process of medical decisions, from the content medical students get, to "informational lectures" run by drug reps. So doctors are hardly the only "experts" quailifed to have an opinion on obesity and health.

"Fat can be beautiful. Intolerance is ALWAYS ugly!"

scruffmcgruff January 24th, 2009 | Link | That's not the point I'm

That's not the point I'm trying to make at all. The point I'm making is a question: Why *would* the leader of any country disregard the advice of people with experience & credentials to adopt the agenda a small group widely regarded as "fringe"?

Even if you don't agree or like Obama's choices, you can't seriously expect him to listen to us when we banned the only MD, when all the research scientists and doctors disagree with us, when we aren't willing to engage fundamental health questions. Even I, someone who has been working in FA since before it was actually a movement, have grave doubts about some things. We can't expect anything more of Obama. I certainly don't.

levye January 24th, 2009 | Link | You're point is very clear

You're point is very clear -- only health matters, and health defined by a very few credentialed people. The gay rights movement offers the best lesson here, when they busted in the American Psychiatric Association and said that they would have no more discussions of homosexuality without the voice and perspective of homosexuals themselves. They were sick of being pathologized and diagnosed by others, especially the haughty credentialed experts. In the same way, I say, no more discussions of fat (or "obesity") without the fatties. Fatties have the authority to speak on this matter, whether or not they are credentialed and whether or not they bow down to the oppressive ideal of health.

sannanina January 24th, 2009 | Link | Even if you don't agree or

Even if you don't agree or like Obama's choices, you can't seriously expect him to listen to us when we banned the only MD, when all the research scientists and doctors disagree with us, when we aren't willing to engage fundamental health questions.

It's a bit more complex than that. There are researchers of various relevent fields as well as therapists out there who agree with us. (I don't know about medical doctors though I am sure they must exist - however, I personally haven't met one, online or in real life. That said, I know at least of one fat and FA supporting medical student who has commented here). While there is some data suggesting that fat people in the "obese" BMI category have on average higher morbidity/ mortality rates at a given age, the research is not clear on why that is. I personally think that weight might at some point become in issue in itself (something which is true for high but even more so for low weight). However there is evidence that factors such as stress and worse health care quality due to discrimination plays a huge role also - for example stress due to discrimination and social exclusion have clearly been shown to increase a persons risk for all kinds of physical disease and that discrimination in health care poses a health risk for fat people is something that is even either to grasp. Also, lack of exercise and low quality of food often correlate with being fat for a variety of reasons, and it is almost impossible to pry the effects of being fat, lacking access to/ not eating high quality foods, and not exercising apart. On top of this it remains true that intentional weight loss will not be successful in almost all cases, and if it is succesful we don't know if it truly lowers a person's overall morbidity/ premature mortality risk.

The thing is (and as a scientist myself I don't fully understand why this is the case): The voices of the researchers and other experts who disagree with the current mainstream view of "obesity" don't seem to get heard much. I don't blame Obama - he cannot be an expert on everything, and I don't think it is reasonable to expect him to know what is going on in terms of research on discrimination of fat people, as well as on the real health consequences of being fat, and on the fact that we don't have reliable methods to make people thin permanently when there are millions of other topics that rank higher (and often should rank higher) on his list of priorities. That doesn't mean I don't want him to become aware of all those things. The problem here is: How do we make our voices as fat people but even more importantly the message of the relevant research which speaks for itself heard?

Fatties have the authority to speak on this matter, whether or not they are credentialed and whether or not they bow down to the oppressive ideal of health.

While I agree with that there are plenty of fatties out there many of them don't agree with FA.

Edit: Related to the "the only MD on this board got banned" part: I am tired of people assuming that MDs are the only health experts out there. Yes, MD's voices should be heard on questions of public health. But they are not the only people with relevant knowledges. There are also neuroscientists, psychologists of many different colors (clinical, but also social, developmental, cognitive, and health psychologists - and there are psychologists in FA, for example Deb Burgard), nutrition researchers (most prominent FA relevant voice would be probably Linda Bacon) etc.

DeeLeigh's picture
DeeLeigh
January 24th, 2009 | Link | Are we even sure that he was

Are we even sure that he was the only MD on the board? We don't usually discuss our work here. There could well be others. I know both a medical student and a nutrition student (IRL, no less) who have posted here regularly.

scruffmcgruff January 24th, 2009 | Link | I don't know how much more I

I don't know how much more I can say without crossing the line.

As a person of color, I try to reconcile my FA beliefs with the fact that my community is largely decimated by a lot of health problems that are the result of bad nutrition, lack of access to healthy foods, a lack of exercise etc.

I think the fat acceptance movement has in some ways become extremely intolerant of opinions that veer from the party line. Do I think all people should be treated well regardless of weight? Yes. Do I think weight loss surgery is gross? Yes. Do I think fatphobia is classist and sexist? Yes. Do I think diets don't work? Yes. Do I think it's more important to focus on eating well enough most of the time and moving in ways one can and enjoys? Yes.

But I also believe that carrying hundreds of pounds of unnecessary fat can have some health consequences. It can make one store visceral fat around organs. It can produce pressure on joints.

And for that, I'm basically not that welcome in most circles of FA, except places like Fashionista where a lot of women share my opinion.

What I'm trying to say is--maybe Obama believes as I do. Everyone knows that diets don't work, but people don't want to admit it. It makes sense than focusing on Health at Any Size is more productive than trying to get people to lose weight. The thin standard is unhealthy etc. etc. etc.

Ugh. My point is getting all muddled. I am desperately trying to not offend anyone. The point I am trying to make is that given the information Obama has, I think it makes sense for him to trust who he trusts.

People are going to trust conventional wisdom unless they have a reason not to. It's our job to give them that reason-a job we've not yet done. But until then, I don't blame him.

pani113's picture
pani113
January 25th, 2009 | Link | "As a person of color, I try

"As a person of color, I try to reconcile my FA beliefs with the fact that my community is largely decimated by a lot of health problems that are the result of bad nutrition, lack of access to healthy foods, a lack of exercise etc."

Don't forget the effects of environmental racism. Poor people and people of color are disproportionately affected by pollution and other environmental hazards. These also contribute to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Yet because of a highly successful PR campaign, obesity as scapegoat eclipses everything else.

"Fat can be beautiful. Intolerance is ALWAYS ugly!"

sarahj January 25th, 2009 | Link | I think the fat acceptance

I think the fat acceptance movement has in some ways become extremely intolerant of opinions that veer from the party line.

I don't apologize for being "extremely intolerant" to people who continue to use disproved studies and statistics to promote hatred against fat people. I don't care much for opinion - show me the FACTS WITHOUT BIAS, and then I'll listen to you.

But I also believe that carrying hundreds of pounds of unnecessary fat can have some health consequences. It can make one store visceral fat around organs. It can produce pressure on joints.

OK, so do you suggest we weed out people who store their fat improperly? Thin people who have visceral fat around their organs are in the EXACT predicament as fat people. Do you call them out too?

And putting pressure on joints? That happens to most people. Men and women who work in labor-intense fields will especially experience this, because the thin layer of soft tissue around the joints will wear away from their labor. Are you concerned about them too?

People are going to trust conventional wisdom unless they have a reason not to. It's our job to give them that reason-a job we've not yet done. But until then, I don't blame him.

Obama has proven himself above "conventional" wisdom. I'm not going to let him slide here. It's quite embarrassing than he used an outdated and debunked CDC study on his campaign site about obesity, and it's my hope that the mistake does not spill over into policy.

AndyJo's picture
AndyJo
January 25th, 2009 | Link | Lots to think about [edited to add final paragraph plus grammar]

I originally navigated away from this wanting to leave well enough alone, but... Somehow I can't. Hope I don't break any rules here.

I can understand scruffmcgruff's point -- this general community (let's call it FA-supporters or "fatosphere") is not generally composed of those who are normally considered experts, and it thus cannot leverage influence on political leadership directly. We each are, however, experts in what it means to be fat and to lead a fat life. Our views are not a monolith. In fact, if someone were to interview each and every one of us, I suspect that the findings would show a whole spectrum of opinion and belief. I don't, however, think it is correct to say that NO individuals who can be considered experts share some of our core values and opinions.

There are researchers who share our views, and some have published books (although they are not MD's, but they participate in the medical community). MD's have a challenge when it comes to writing about FA. First, if they do they face professional ridicule. Second, most out there treat patients and don't write books like the nominee for Surgeon General - so we don't know who they are. My issue with Gupta is not only his stance on issues of obesity, but his experience in public health (none). Despite his having been in Iraq reporting and having performed an operation there, he is more of a media darling than a healer. I suspect that he was the ONLY neurosurgeon nearby in Iraq, and a surgeon who is qualified but doesn't practice as much as another is better than NONE at all in an emergency. Good for him, hope his patient lived and thrived and all is well.

Where I do NOT agree with scruffmcgruff's point is this: We are not powerless. We ARE needed. We are voters. We are customers, patients, and readers. We are citizens and taxpayers. We can use our system to effect change, and we can look to other efforts around civil rights to put forward our cause (OK -- let's not get into the comparisons argument here, OK? -- I'm talking about learning from others not comparing experiences).

What stands in our way of doing this, however, is a good statement of our core ideas. This doesn't mean that we all think the same, it just means that some fundamental values are shared by all of us. This does not mean that these are the ONLY things we focus on exclusively, and without meaning that anyone who might be more "radical" or "conservative" is dead wrong and should be ejected summarily from the movement on his or her tuchus. What I mean here is that we have some growing up to do, and I believe that the Fat Rights coalition (formerly COFRA) and other similar efforts are steps in the right direction.

I do grieve (and I mean it that way) that voices that say what one or more of us might not want to hear are silenced in some fora. I can't say I read the postings in other blogs to which scruffmcgruff refers, but I remember the MD incident here well. It was an ugly incident, but it involved more than ideas. I grieve at the loss of this individual's input because we lost an opportunity to educate. At the same time, I believe that the WAY the individual chose to communicate ideas was part of the problem and each and every one of us needs to be conscious of what that might mean in our case when we post. I mean that particularly when we issue a screed at someone (done it), and end up looking worse (and behaving worse) than the target of our wrath.

Again, though -- as a reminder. This is a blog run by a private individual and like all such it is subject to that person's rules and ideas. Private blogs operate at the discretion of their owners, and that is as it should be. Perhaps we need to think about a space where ALL ideas around FA can be shared, and where learned discussions can take place. I don't know what that might look like (such discussions bring out way too much flaming), but I believe it is worth thinking about.

Sorry about the long post. I hope I haven't broken the rules inadvertently.

--EDIT --

By the way -- I DO NOT grieve for douchehounds being ejected. There ARE people who just troll for the fun of it. I don't feel they have anything to contribute. I was referring to actual human beings in this post -- just for the record.

--Andy Jo--

scruffmcgruff January 25th, 2009 | Link | I don't believe that the MD

I don't believe that the MD was being a douchebag. I think he was a little arrogant and voicing unpopular opinions that very few people agreed with. But that was far different than being a douchebag and for him to be outright banned left a really bad taste in my mouth. Of course, it is not my blog and not my decision, but what kind of message is that sending? We should welcome a diversity of opinions, especially from doctors!

Anyway, I somehow feel like this is inappropriate. I'm not crossing the diet talk line, because I think diets are harmful and bad, and I would never recommend anything more than proper nutrition and movement to anyone, but still--in the back of my mind is the nagging voice that says, well, maybe a lot of excess fat/weight can be harmful to some people some time, and we as a society deal with this in an even more harmful way.

I do not believe this opinion is harmful and wrong, but I believe it pretty much disqualifies me from participating in FA more than I do--basically in Fatshionista posts encouraging women to find themselves beautiful--and I believe this is a problem that will keep this movement small & stop it from growing.

That said, I am NOT an expert, and always willing to learn. I would love to believe that fat can never ever "too much" or a weight can never be "too high" for optimal health, but I just don't, and I've never read anything to contradict this. And if for that reason, I can't be part of the movement, so be it. And if for that reason Obama only has a tiny portion of the 50% (!) or so of people in this country reaching out to him, then so be it.

sarahj January 25th, 2009 | Link | You are missing the point -

You are missing the point - again.

Of course, it is not my blog and not my decision, but what kind of message is that sending? We should welcome a diversity of opinions, especially from doctors!

This blog has a very SPECIFIC purpose - to promote fat acceptance. Having a MD behind your name does not make you an expect, nor does it make your opinion more valid than anybody else around here. I work in the medical field, and doctors are not immune to ignorance and human prejudice.

Majority does NOT equal truth, scruff. A majority of doctors once believed that blacks and women were physically and mentally inferior. Science and observation proved 'em wrong on many accounts. The same is happening within fat acceptance, but the "majority" you stick up for can't see past their misconceptions and prejudices to accept what is right before them. Fat hatred is entrenched in our culture, and even you have fallen for it.

That said, I am NOT an expert, and always willing to learn. I would love to believe that fat can never ever "too much" or a weight can never be "too high" for optimal health, but I just don't, and I've never read anything to contradict this.

NOBODY in the fat acceptance movement is advocating we all weigh 1000+ pounds and get our own specials on the TLC channel titled "The Half-Ton Man." NOBODY is advocating sedentary habits and poor eating choices. However, the FA movement would like if we could show the same dignity and respect to that 1000-pound person who is unhealthy. People are still people, no matter what the scale says. We need to stop applying morality to food and weight here. Those who fall into the "morbidly obese" column are a very SMALL minority of people.

And if for that reason Obama only has a tiny portion of the 50% (!) or so of people in this country reaching out to him, then so be it.

I have to remind you that McCain did win 58,343,671 (46%) of the vote. And PLENTY of FA advocates voted for Obama too. We expect to have the right to voice our opinions to our elected President on the issues he brings forth. A vote for a politician does NOT mean we have to follow lock-step with all of his ideas on how this country should be governed.

richie79's picture
richie79
January 25th, 2009 | Link | Scruffmcgruff, with respect

Scruffmcgruff, with respect I wonder if you're missing the point slightly. Whether or not it's unhealthy to be fat (and frankly if you set aside the issue of media bias there seems to be as many studies suggesting it isn't as support the more widely accepted position) the fact remains that there is no proven long-term safe method of losing weight, however desirable it may be considered. 95% of diets fail - either they involve unrealistically stringent restrictions on food intake which cannot be sustained, or the body adjusts to the lack of calories and stores them more efficiently. Exercise can benefit some but often people just convert fat mass to muscle mass resulting in no overall loss whilst putting strain on joints etc and storing up other problems. Various anti-obesity drugs either don't work or have such horrific side-effects they've been banned, or a combination of the two. And of course we all know what weight-loss surgery does to the body - if even ripping out half of a person's digestive tract can't guarantee sustainable weight loss I suspect there's a little more to it than eating 'right' and exercising - if it's possible at all.

I'm no doctor but a reasonably intelligent lay person and I suspect this has much to do with genetic predisposition and setpoint theory, which despite being ridiculed in recent years have never been adequately debunked (see my post on the Forums linking to a BBC article about why try as they may some people are simply not able to become fat). Some scientists are now taking this seriously enough to start talking about gene therapy to switch off or override the FTO and other associated genes, something which as I also mentioned in my Forum post seems foolishly short-sighted given that the current security of food supply is such a fragile thing.

By all means be in favour of healthy eating and exercise - in short HAES - but don't fall into the trap of thinking that it's a reliable method of weight loss for anyone except those whose weight is already dramatically above setpoint, or more importantly to thinking that health is or should become some sort of wider moral imperative about which it is appropriate to evangelise. The whole area of defining health and ill-health, the extent to which a person is 'responsible' for their own health, and the degree to which that should impact on the way they are viewed or trated by others, is a very complicated topic indeed. I know the supposed risks of being 20st, but I enjoy my 'unhealthy' food, don't particularly enjoy getting hot and sweaty and have therefore made a decision based on weighing up those risks (and the likelihood of success) that I'm not going to 'do anything' about my size. It's the same decision I subconsciously take every morning when I leave my house and cross the street, go to a nightclub where there's a chance (albeit remote) someone with a gutful of ale and a flick-knife could take a dislike to me, or spend 8 hrs a day staring at a CRT under flickering neon lights dealing with levels of stress which have been 'clinically proven' to prematurely end one's life. Decisions that millions take daily without a second thought. Others go through the same process before they jump out of planes, play football or smoke cigarettes, all infinitely more dangerous activities than takeout pizza and fried breakfasts. And it's none of the business of the Government, the media, or any number of pressure groups and charities, well-meaning or otherwise, particularly as having made an educated decision no amount of force-fed information is going to change it.

As for lonewolfdo, I believe he was ejected not for holding a conflicting view but for the generally arrogant tone of his posts (an arrogance that seems to be common to a lot of medics and which makes them very difficult people as a group to engage with) and his flat refusal to even consider modifying his position to engage with what various posters had to say. There comes a point when a discussion reaches impasse and it's not especially productive to keep arguing it round in circles. It's not just MDs - there was another fellow who showed up on the forums ostensibly 'exploring FA' but again preferring to keep espousing one point of view even after many of his assertions had been challenged, before descending into all out trollery and ad-hominem attacks on members.

"if you think fat people have no self-discipline, consider the fact that they haven’t killed you yet." - Miss Conduct, Boston Globe

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