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Michael Moore Hits the Diet Trail

Filmmaker Michael Moore, a man who could easily win Fat Hate Bingo, is now intentionally losing weight "for health reasons". (Warning: link has diet language.)

Here he reveals that he's very much anti-diet pills (and Alli - no one wants to crap their pants) but is all for weighing his food. This is all noteworthy because Moore has been noted in fat circles in the past for being (at least) fat neutral and not publicly speaking out for or against fat. But he's pretty clearly on the side of "losing weight in the name of health" here, and that's a shame.

This all arose out of his work on Sicko, which looks at the ridiculousness of the American health care system.

I guess we won't see Michael Moore do an expose on the ridiculousness of the diet industry. Too bad.

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chondros June 22nd, 2007 | Link | The bright side, I guess, is

The bright side, I guess, is that Moore seems to grasp -- and comes close to saying -- that regular, moderate exercise and a good night's sleep are more important for health than weight loss. He also acknowledges the inefficacy of commercial diet plans.

The bad news, unfortunately, is pretty grim. It's not just that another prominent and successful fat person is proclaiming his desire to lose weight. Moore's movie, however well-intentioned and however justified in its critcisms of the American health care system, is essentially a call for government-run health care (aka socialized medicine, aka single-payer health care). In the contemporary climate of fat hatred, such a system would almost certainly be a disaster for fat people.

Nationalized health care means rationing, and one of the easier ways to ration health care is by denying it to certain groups who are widely seen as undeserving. For the past two years, a whole range of medical procedures have been unavailble to fat people in the U.K., on the ostensible grounds that the procedures won't benefit them as much as non-fat patients. (Lurking in the background, of course, is the premise that fat people don't deserve the same consideration as others because they've brought their health problems on themselves.) Sadly, I see no reason why we shouldn't expect something similar to happen here.

rachelr's picture
June 22nd, 2007 | Link | Sorry, I don't agree.

Sorry, I don't agree. Losing weight is not always tantamount to anti-fat.

Moore publicly stated he's against diet pills and plans. As he says, "None of them work, and they’re a huge waste of time." What Moore is doing instead sounds more like intuitive eating. He's eating healthier foods, exercising regularly and is getting enough sleep. This is something everyone ought to aspire to do, regardless if you lose weight in the process or not.

Moore certainly did not attain his prominence and success because of his weight. And his own personal decision to lose weight shouldn't diminish it either.

chondros June 24th, 2007 | Link | ?

rachelr, I don't really understand from your post what it is you don't agree with. Nobody said Michael Moore's decision to lose weight was tantamount to his being anti-fat. Nobody said his decision should diminish him in any way (except, I suppose, in the strictly literal sense).

SilverSeraphim June 22nd, 2007 | Link | Actually, what if this is a

Actually, what if this is a gimmick for a new documentary, focusing on the weight loss industry. He loses some weight on his program, shows how absurd most weight loss programs are, then points to himself as an example of how you don't need pills, restricitve diets, or surgery to lose weight? It's an interesting thought...

paul June 22nd, 2007 | Link | Interesting idea

Oh, interesting thought, Silver. But (of course) the whole "I lost weight without crapping my pants or taking pills!" approach implies that there's something wrong (medically, morally) with being fat.

It'd be like the opposite of Super Size Me, but could still perhaps hold disdain for fat people.

Meowzer June 22nd, 2007 | Link | This doesn't surprise me one

This doesn't surprise me one bit. Marilyn Wann mentioned on the Fat Studies Yahoo list once that about 10 years ago she met Moore and tried to enlist him in the size-acceptance movement. Moore's reply was, "Don't you think we should just be taking a walk around the block?" (meaning that no fat person could possibly be exercising because he wasn't). To which Marilyn parried, "What makes you so sure I don't?" Moore had no reply to that, she said.

There are fat people who don't exercise or eat vegetables, and once they do start doing those things oftentimes they lose weight (especially fat men, who tend to have less prior dieting history than women). Unfortunately, many of them also make the leap towards universalizing their particular situation, assuming that because weight loss was easy for them, it would be for all of us, if only we "took care of ourselves." They don't see that there is a huge range of eating and exercise habits amongst the "obese," and that's it's definitely possible to eat plenty of veggies (or "fiber," as Moore puts it) and get plenty of exercise and still be "obese." Even when they're told, they have a hard time parsing it.

Like Kate Harding says, if he wants to tell us all how his diet totally worked for him, let's wait until he keeps off 50 pounds or more for five years or more. He might have a better chance than most because he has the money and the scheduling flexibility required for diet, weight maintenance. But he's not even close to being there yet.

sevendayswonder June 22nd, 2007 | Link | And just as I was collecting little pieces of hope...

I guess one could have predicted this and I knew Moore really wasn't about to leap up and champion size-acceptance, but ugh. I take this as a bit of a mixed blessing. He still implies that "taking care of yourself" equals weight loss and that you have an obligation to do so, I mean, if you don't want to be an amoral hypocrite and if you want to be "healthy" so you can stay out of the health care disaster system. Lots of people who aren't fat have health problems...lots of fat people who don't have health problems are bombarded by the medical establisment. *SIGH*

Despite all this, I still encourage anyone and everyone who has dealt with weight discrimination and/or been done harm by the medical industrial complex or knows of someone, anyone who has...should write to him or create a video in response to his video on YouTube. No one asks for fat people's stories, but here's our chance to tell ours and maybe chisel away at his lingering assumptions and his "feeling so bad for us when we could have prevented it".

jportnick's picture
June 24th, 2007 | Link | Too bad

You know, I thought that Michael Moore might be an ally in the fight for fat acceptance. I'm totally with him when he recommends taking care of one's health by getting enough rest, and eating your veggies (which happen to be bulky, fibrous foods), going on walks as a part of taking care of oneself. But I definitely get that he is unhappy with his size, and I would guess he has probably been under pressure to lose weight for some time.

I'd like to see the rebel in him come out in favor of being who you are, even if that person is a fat one, and not rearranging your life around weight loss. Maybe in five years, as Meowzer points out, he will have a different point of view, since in that amount of time he is most likely to have lost weight, gained it back, and regained more on top of the original loss.

wallflower June 25th, 2007 | Link | I wouldn't be so sure that

I wouldn't be so sure that he won't still do a book or movie about the diet industry. I think after he bangs his head against the diet industry a couple of times he'll probably have enough material for two books.

I dryly reminded my husband yesterday that if he wanted to insult Michael Moore he could use other language than insulting the man for being fat. I kind of beat him over the head with the idea that any fat-negative language wasn't going to fly with me. I've never been a huge fan of MM, but any problems I might have with his methods certianly have nothing to do with his weight.

Missa June 26th, 2007 | Link | Michael Moore doesn't strike

Michael Moore doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who's ever cared too much for nutrition or exercise. He's always describing himself as the "an Average Joe" and these days that often means eating fast food and sitting on the couch. So if that's true for him, he's probably always just chalked up his weight to the lifestyle he leads. He probably got good and scared filming Sicko, seeing all the things that can go wrong and learning that one's weight can be considered a "pre-existing condition" and/or a reason for insurance not to cover a necessary treatment. That's enough to scare any "Average Joe" into wanting to do something about his health. I can't REALLY fault him for linking "getting healthy" to "losing weight"--most people don't know any better. If nutrition and exercise doesn't turn out to be a magic elixir for him, who knows, he may start to question the whole thin = healthy paradigm. That'd be great! It'd be nice if he could just see the light without the learning curve, but asking someone to believe something that goes counter to their experience doesn't usually turn out very well.

tealou's picture
June 26th, 2007 | Link | Oh Gosh. Lookie here: PETA &
writerchic June 26th, 2007 | Link | Since I found out about some

Since I found out about some of the deliberate untruths MM has presented as truth in his "documentaries," I wouldn't believe him if he told me my house was on fire.

Chondros is right on the money about nationalized health care. We get it and what percentage of those posting on this forum would be without health care? I've said for years that when we start allowing the government to legislate what's "good for us," we're in trouble, and believe it or not, I think it started with the seat belt laws! Is it a wise decision to wear them? Of course. Should there be a law requiring it? No way.

The same is true with health care. I can see fat people being denied even basic health care, and with a nationalized program, it would be possible to issue everyone ATM-type cards they had to swipe every time they went to the grocery store. The card would be programmed to monitor the fat and carb count in every food product, and when anyone (particularly a fat person) tried to buy something over their "fat limit," they wouldn't be able to get it. Don't think it couldn't happen, either. What about government "health officials" having the authority to enter homes and check pantries and refrigerators for "unhealthy" food? It could happen. Maybe not in my lifetime, but it is possible. And I'm not a conspiracy theorist. Fat people could even be prohibited from having biological children because they might pass on those "fat genes" and in Australia, obviously wouldn't be "fit parents" anyway. This country used to have mandatory sterilization for mentally retarded persons. Don't think it couldn't happen again with fat people.

Pendulums swing back and forth, though. I'm hoping that, in time, the "thin at all costs" attitude mellows and size acceptance finds a larger audience.

meiran June 27th, 2007 | Link | "Since I found out about

"Since I found out about some of the deliberate untruths MM has presented as truth in his "documentaries," I wouldn't believe him if he told me my house was on fire. "

Exactly. I read a book about him and the ways that he manipulates film and I haven't trusted a single word out of his mouth since. Mostly because of the blatant hypocrisy involved in making a clearly biased, truth-twisting film and then getting up on the Oscar stage to speak about how he deals with TRUTH.

No he doesn't. He deals with agendas and bias the same as the rest. Besides, any film student knows that you can't commit the truth to film, there's an inherent bias.

Aside from that, I hate the way he speaks in that interview, which is often how he speaks, that his way is the right way, he's the most intelligent, he's the most correct, he knows what he's talking about.

If you are unhealthy, then taking the steps to make yourself healthy is admirable. If someone was pre-diabetic and started paying attention to their carbs and sugars, I'd say good on you.

But at the same time...the way he says things is derogatory. If he had said "My health wasn't very good, I wasn't eating well, I wasn't active. I decided to fix that and take care of myself." Then I don't know how angry we would have been. Instead it was talk about how people are sick and they could have prevented it, and if you take care of yourself the weight drops off.

In a year, when he hasn't lost those 75 lbs he wants to lose, we'll see what he says.

MarilynW's picture
June 27th, 2007 | Link | In the mid-90s, I went to a

In the mid-90s, I went to a book-signing Michael Moore did in Berkeley. During the Q&A, I wanted to say something to raise awareness about fat hate. So I said I was a fat activist and asked whether he was going to take on the then-$40 billion/year diet industry. He looked incredibly uncomfortable, milked the pause for a laugh, and then said, with a scrunched-up face, "No."

So I felt bad about putting him on the spot and triggering fat hate, rather than opposing it. I bought his book and waited in line so I could say something to follow up. When I came up to him, he didn't look glad to see me, naturally. I said that I do try to take on the weight-loss industry because their product is harmful to health and reinforces prejudice. He looked at me with this sad look and said, "But don't you think you and I just need to run around the block a few times?" Whew. I felt really bad for him. But I said the fat-pride thing, "How do you know that I don't?" He said, well, yeah, but I eat crap on this book tour and get no exercise. So, again, I did the HAES thing and I said that I'm all for good nutrition and regular exercise, but see no reason why we have to attach a poison-pill of weight-loss expectation to those beneficial habits. He didn't get it.

He was appearing the next night to give a talk in SF, so I wrote a letter setting out fat pride and HAES concepts with back-up data points. I said that I was aware he gets shit from people for his weight and that I hoped he would feel prepared to speak against such prejudice and discrimination and/or call on me or other body lib people to oppose such hatefulness. I printed the letter on my usual fuchsia paper and handed it off to one of his helpers before his talk. I saw the letter in his back pocket, as he started his talk, but didn't push it any further with him.

I'm disappointed in him for having limited political consciousness and/or will to confront weight-based injustice along with all of the other inequities he takes on. Although I suppose it's an ego point, that those of us who do fight fat hate are doing something even bad-ass Michael Moore can't manage.

SilverSeraphim June 27th, 2007 | Link | "I'm disappointed in him for

"I'm disappointed in him for having limited political consciousness and/or will to confront weight-based injustice along with all of the other inequities he takes on."

It's not just Moore. I'm of the opinion that fat is a prejudice that even liberals feel safe indulging in. Someone mentioned the PETA and Moore thing, plus PETA has a history of using fat people as "unhealthy" models to promote their "healthy" vegan philosophy.

And just a couple of days ago, I got into an argument with a fellow lib on a political forum I frequent. He'd referred to Fred Thompson, presidential candidate, as "Tubby Thompson". I called him on it, telling him fat jokes did not make for intelligent political discussion. He, in all seriousness, told me I needed a "thicker skin" and that I "couldn't go through life offended". Can you imagine the stink he'd be raising if someone had said that to any other minority group? But he was apparently under the impression that since "fat" is not covered under the almighty creed of Political Correctness (since there's no law against fat discrimination), I should sit down and shut up when someone makes fat jokes.

writerchic June 27th, 2007 | Link | I don't even think it's an

I don't even think it's an ego point. It may start out that way, but then you see all the people who live miserable lives because their bodies don't conform to an unrealistic, largely unattainable idea. You also see how these baby steps towards total fat discrimination can lead to a completely fascist society. I swear, I sound like my conspiracy-nut hubby, but if you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, he will jump out. Put him in a pot of cold water, heat the water gradually, and before you know it, you have boiled frog.

writerchic June 27th, 2007 | Link | Silver, you're right on the

Silver, you're right on the money. My boss is supposed to be this open-minded liberal, but he's seriously fat-o-phobic, and when we had an editor who was gay, he made his life miserable.
Fat people don't fit in with that lean, healthy, green-conscious, consciousness-raised, we-know-what's-best-for-you image that so many liberals seem to have. Don't offend them with cigarette smoke, red meat, carbs, fat people or REAL LIFE! They just can't handle it. They want diversity, but only their idea of diversity. They want freedom, but only their vision of freedom. Now, not all liberals are like this, but it seems the ones who make the most noise are. I've got a cousin who went to college, became enlightened (I have a degree too, btw), militant vegetarian, PETA supporter and liberal. She now will hardly speak to me or my sister, although we've never done anything but love her. Because of some remarks she's made, I know it's because we're fat.
Size discrimination is the last bastion of acceptable prejudice. For obvious and good reasons, you can no longer say (insert your least-favorite racial epithet here). However, it is perfectly acceptable to say: fat pig, cow, whale, slob, huge, gross, disgusting, smelly, sweaty, stinky, hippo, etc., without fear of reprisal. Because we brought it on ourselves. That's their rationale. You can't help being black, gay, Jewish, female, etc. But we can keep from offending them with excess weight if we would just have some self-discipline. How selfish of us! So we deserve to be ridiculed.
It's a schizo way to think. But it's a schizo world. Why else would women's magazines have the most luscious dessert on the cover, along with "Lose weight and look great in that bikini!" Psycho thinking.

diane June 28th, 2007 | Link | "Since I found out about

"Since I found out about some of the deliberate untruths MM has presented as truth in his "documentaries," I wouldn't believe him if he told me my house was on fire."

I hope you feel the same way about the people who run our country and the very deliberate untruths they and their corporate owned media have shoveled at us. MM is just a filmaker highlighting a problem as he sees it in society--he's not the policy makers in Washington or the corporations, both of which are creating the problems. MM might tell you your house is on fire, but it was set ablaze by those who want to buy the land real cheap and your house was standing in their way.

"I've said for years that when we start allowing the government to legislate what's "good for us," we're in trouble.... "

You mean like civil rights, clear air and water, safe roads and highways, public transportation, safety rules regarding medical practicies, products, food et al? And how can you be for the civil rights of fat people and then say govt shouldn't be involved in legislating what's "good for us", which means--good for society as a whole, of which fat people are a part. Women getting an education, not being considered property, being able to vote etc.. is a GOOD thing, but without legislation giving rights to those long denied them, we'd still be living like in the 12th century.

Also, it seems to me that because a fat person in the media is just soo scarce, and because they're in such short supply, it seems those in the Fat Acceptance community want that fat person to live their life in accordance or to adopt the views that the Fat Acceptance Movement has. But I look at a fat person in the media, and I celebrate what that person accomplished, which ususally has very little to do with their size at all. I don't live in that person's body and would never presume I know what's best for them. If MM felt that eating in a more nutritious way and walking would help him, then good for him. There are any number of reasons he may felt he needed to do that at this moment in time. Perhaps it's that his latest film is about the health care system and some of its faults. Now our society currently thinks fatness is a great financial burden on the system, and so to keep the focus on the message of his movie and not his own weight--he may have taken preventative steps to keep people focused on the film and not him. Maybe not, maybe it was something he decided to do because of what he's seen and learned about during his film, but either way, it has nothing to do with me.

I've seen this attitude in Fat Acceptance towards other celebrites and performers who have decided to do what they feel is best for themselves, and they're lambasted for it. Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion but I guess it's not my thing to be mad that someone isn't living the way I want them too. I mean, that to me is why we have fat hatred to begin with! Society wanting everyone to be thin! So I'm certianly not going to do the same to anyone else regarding their body. But that's just me.

writerchic June 28th, 2007 | Link | Diane, whatever MM wants to

Diane, whatever MM wants to do with his life is his business. I don't really care. I just don't like his condescending attitude, prevalent throughout his body of work. I don't wish any evil on him, and I hope he's successful in his endeavors to be healthier. I don't trust what he says simply because he's been caught in some pretty serious misrepresentations of the truth. If he said his movies were based on fact, or that parts were fictionalized, or changed for emphasis, I could deal with that. However, he says his films are documentaries, a description which carries with it the presupposition that his representations are accurate, even if they do carry some bias. And they're not. I don't swallow whole what politicians say, and I don't swallow whole what he says. I check the facts and make my decisions from there. I don't care for the man's work. You find it enlightening and thought-provoking and that's your right. My hubby admires his work.

When I said that about government telling us what's good for us, I meant them interfering in those little details of our lives that we should control, not the government. There's a big difference in the general, civil good versus government poking its nose into every little detail of our lives.

Having civil rights for all people and clean air and water, a safe food supply, etc., is the government's responsibility. These are the things that are good for people as a whole. Fat and size acceptance, to me, would come under the heading of civil rights for society as a whole, regardless of size, color, creed, race, sexual orientation, etc. The problem is that government is getting a little too intrusive in the lives of individuals, in my opinion.

I wish Michael Moore well. I defend to the death his right to express his opinions, even though I don't agree with them. I have the right to disagree with him and not go see his movies.

meiran June 29th, 2007 | Link | Meiran

"Can you imagine the stink he'd be raising if someone had said that to any other minority group? But he was apparently under the impression that since "fat" is not covered under the almighty creed of Political Correctness (since there's no law against fat discrimination), I should sit down and shut up when someone makes fat jokes."

Once, a long time ago, when I was angry about something I posted in my personal online journal that "the only socially acceptable groups left to discriminate against are fat people, and those whose choose not to have children."

I was blown away by how angry everyone got with me, and how insulting their responses were because they assumed I was belittling the discrimination still seen towards minorities and gay people. I tried to be clear that it had nothing to do with if there still WAS racism or sexism. It had to do with what is generally socially acceptable.

And I still stand by my statement. Fat people and those who choose to be childfree are scorned, mocked, and belittled by society and it's ENCOURAGED. As someone who is "overweight" and doesn't want kids, I get the full brunt of it. I'm allowed to have almost no say in my own medical treatment and I've yet to find a doctor who will listen when I talk.

As for Michael Moore...well, I do agree that people tend to lambast larger celebrities who decide to lose weight, and sometimes they don't look at their motives. Like I said, if he had sat back and said "I'm unhealthy. I can barely breath, and my heart is going to fail. I need to fix this" and not made it about NUMBERS and weight, then maybe people wouldnt' have jumped on him so quickly. But maybe they would have, you never know.

Marshfield June 29th, 2007 | Link | Interesting topic. I'm

Interesting topic. I'm childfree by choice, have been since my twenties, and no one has given me a moment's grief about it. Maybe they're just happy I didn't reproduce! Smiling

I keep hearing about all Moore's lies (part of a deliberate campaign to discredit him, I suspect), but no one ever says what those "lies" are so we can make up our own minds. When Fahrenheit 9/11 came out, Moore established a website to refute similar charges on a point by point basis.

Kunoichi July 4th, 2007 | Link | I keep hearing about all

I keep hearing about all Moore's lies (part of a deliberate campaign to discredit him, I suspect), but no one ever says what those "lies" are...

Well, I wouldn't know about lies, but from what I've heard about Sicko so far, it's rather full of inaccuracies. While I happen to greatly appreciate Canada's health care system, it isn't perfect, by any means. It also isn't the same across the country - things covered in some provinces, aren't covered in others. Dental isn't covered at all. There's limited coverage for eye exams. Most prescriptions aren't covered.

Unless you're on welfare. Then it's all covered.

And it most definitely isn't free. While we don't pay for basic medical services directly, the system is incredibly expensive and there's a huge amount of wasted funds within the bureaucracy. We all pay for it through our taxes, and our taxes are very high, at all levels of government (though again, some provinces are different than others).

DeeLeigh's picture
July 4th, 2007 | Link | Most insurance in the US

Most insurance in the US doesn't cover dental or eye care, either.

paul July 4th, 2007 | Link | Not perfect, sure

I'm not sure that Sicko (what I've seen so far) portrays Canada's healthcare system as a godsend but, he does leave out some smaller details - such as those you mention here, as well as the higher tax rate. I just assumed that taxes would be higher, though.

I've never had a plan that covered dental and eye care directly; rather it's usually a "discount club" type of thing that allows free routine exams and discounts on dental and eye surgeries.

chondros June 29th, 2007 | Link | I also haven't noticed the

I also haven't noticed the discrimination against the deliberately childless. I'm sure it's probably pretty strong in some families, regions, or ethnic groups, but it certainly doesn't seem to me nearly as intense as the animus against fat people.

I keep hearing about all Moore's lies (part of a deliberate campaign to discredit him, I suspect), but no one ever says what those "lies" are so we can make up our own minds. When Fahrenheit 9/11 came out, Moore established a website to refute similar charges on a point by point basis.

I don't really know anything about this. I haven't seen any of Moore's films since "Roger & Me," which bothered me only because it seemed to be making fun of the people it purported to champion (rather than because I perceived any factual errors or deliberate deceit). And all I've really absorbed from critiques of Moore that I've heard or read is how eager they seemed to be to bring up his weight. But...I have to ask: how can Moore refute charges of lying if those charges are never specific?

writerchic June 29th, 2007 | Link | Meiran, I know where you're

Meiran, I know where you're coming from. My husband and I hadn't been married a week when we started getting, "And when will you be having children?" We are childless by choice, too. I sympathize.

Icecat62's picture
July 6th, 2007 | Link | Losing weight for your health

I see nothing wrong with him saying he's losing weight for his health. Not all overweight people have medical problems, but there are those that do, and if losing weight corrects it, then lose the pounds to be healthy. I'm 22 lbs. overweight by the BMI, but I have great bp, etc. I play ice hockey, I workout, and I eat chocoate practically every day, and I'm healthy. My husband is 30 lbs. overweight and pays more attention to what he eats and his bp is high. When he loses weight, his bp goes down. So I can't knock Moore for his comment or get po'd at someone who wants to lose weight. As long as Moore doesn't get thin and start bashing "fatties", then go for it.

Meowzer July 6th, 2007 | Link | I don't think anyone has a

I don't think anyone has a problem with Moore changing his diet, or even with his losing weight, as such. I know my particular problem wasn't with that, but with his assumption that everyone who "ate right and exercised" would find the "extra" pounds melting away for good. That certainly isn't true of everyone, and someone who is allegedly known for superior critical thinking skills -- who in fact stakes his living on that reputation -- should know better than that. It's not like he hasn't been briefed (see Marilyn Wann's post above -- sorry, Marilyn, I guess I got the details of your story a little bollixed up when I tried to tell it).

And Icecat, it could well be the dietary changes and exercise themselves, rather than the weight lost, that affects your husband's BP for the better. I don't imagine that if he lost 30 pounds through self-induced vomiting or some other equally risky means, that he'd reap equal health benefits.

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