Big Fat Facts Big Fat Index

NPR asks us about children and body size

National Public Radio (NPR) is a vast network of local and university radio stations in the US; partly government funded, partly supported through fundraising drives. NPR stations often feature programs that focus on classical music or jazz, and almost all carry the nationally distributed NPR news programs. It's the only radio news in the US that could be compared to the BBC in the UK or the CBC in Canada.

Right now, NPR news is running a series called Living Large; Obesity in America. So far this series has been lukewarm at best, only occasionally questioning common misconceptions or mentioning the possibility of fat acceptance.

Now they're asking the public how we think body size should be discussed with children.

NPR is working on a story about how adults - including parents, teachers, doctors, etc. - interact with children regarding health, weight and body image. Is there a child in your life who you've talked to - or avoided talking to - about these issues? Tell us your story here. Nothing you write will be shared beyond our newsroom unless you give us permission at the bottom of this form.

Here's the link.

I commented already; said that children should be taught that people come in different sizes and shapes, just as they have different hair and skin colors. I said that all children should be taught about nutrition and given plenty of opportunities for active play, but that children should never be singled out because of their size.

What do you think?

Calls for conference submissions and book submissions

This post contains current or upcoming calls for submissions. The two of the conference submissions are due TODAY. If you have a call you would like posted, please contact me (withoutscene) through my BFB contact page or at withoutscene@gmail.com.
 
THREE CALLS FOR CONFERENCE SUBMISSIONS
 
LAST CALL for Abstract Submissions: DUE BY OCTOBER 31, 2011
2012 Midwest Sociological Society Annual Meeting
March 29 - April 01 in Minneapolis, MN

"Trans/Fat: Toward a Sociology of Fat and Trans/Genderqueer Bodies and Embodiment"
Organized by: Carla A. Pfeffer (cpfeffer@purdue.edu)
Co-sponsored by the Midwest Chapter of Sociologists for Women in Society

Sociology of the body and embodiment presents exciting new possibilities for studying and theorizing the complex intersections between bodies, identities, and culture, as well as social institutions and structures. In this session we will focus on bodies that are fat and/or trans to consider the ways in which these seemingly-disparate bodies and forms of embodiment are engaged in particular yet similar struggles and forms of resistance across areas that include (but are not limited to): identity, social stigma, medicalization, master narratives, media representations, and identity-based sociopolitical movements. Abstracts/papers focusing on those who are fat AND trans/genderqueer are especially welcome; but much of the work to draw conceptual linkages across and between papers will happen during the session itself.

To submit an abstract for session consideration, click on the link below:
http://www.meetingsavvy.com/mss/frmAltPresentation.aspx
1) Select "Gender and Sexuality"
2) Select "Trans/Fat: Toward a Sociology of Fat and Trans/Genderqueer Bodies and Embodiment co-sponsored by MSWS"
3) Click on the green arrow to proceed with your submission
_____________________________________________

Last Minute Reminder - Deadline for Submissions is TODAY! (10/31/11)
CFP: Sociology of the Body and Fat Studies Panel at the Southwestern Social Science Association (SSSA) meetings (in San Diego April 4-7, 2012)
Please consider submitting an abstract for consideration and please help me get the word out. :) Papers/abstracts can be submitted to jlgraves83@gmail.com or online at https://editorialexpress.com/cgi-bin/conference/conference.cgi?action=login&db_name=SSSASOC2011.
_____________________________________________

Fat Studies CFP: Popular Culture Association/ American Culture Association (PCA /ACA) National Conference in Boston, MA on April 11-14, 2012

Fat Studies is becoming an interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary field of study that confronts and critiques cultural constraints against notions of “fatness” and “the fat body”; explores fat bodies as they live in, are shaped by, and remake the world; and creates paradigms for the development of fat acceptance or celebration within mass culture. Fat Studies uses body size as the starting part for a wide-ranging theorization and explication of how societies and cultures, past and present, have conceptualized all bodies and the political/cultural meanings ascribed to every body. Fat Studies reminds us that all bodies are inscribed with the fears and hopes of the particular culture they reside in, and these emotions often are mislabeled as objective “facts” of health and biology. More importantly, perhaps, Fat Studies insists on the recognition that fat identity can be as fundamental and world-shaping as other identity constructs analyzed within the academy and represented in media.

Proposals in the area of Fat Studies are being accepted for the 2012 Popular Culture Association/ American Culture Association (PCA /ACA) National Conference in Boston, MA on April 11-14, 2012 (meeting after, not before, Easter Sunday), at the Marriott Boston Copley Place. We welcome papers and performances from academics, researchers, intellectuals, activists, artists, and others, in any field of study, and at any stage in their career. We also welcome panels and roundtables on a variety of topics under the heading “Fat Studies.”
Topics may include but are not limited to:
·        representations of fat people in literature, film, music, nonfiction, and the visual arts
·        cross-cultural or global constructions of fatness and fat bodies
·        cultural, historical, inter/intrapersonal, or philosophical meanings of fat and fat bodies
·        the geography and lived experience of fatness and fat bodies
·        portrayals of fat individuals and groups in news, media, magazines
·        fatness as a social or political identity
·        fat acceptance, activism, and/or pride movements and tactics
·        approaches to fat and body image in philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology
·        fat children in literature, media, and/or pedagogy
·        fat as it intersects with race, ethnicity, class, religion, ability, gender, and/or sexuality
·        history and/or critique of diet books and scams
·        functions of fatphobia or fat oppression in economic and political systems
By December 15, 2011, please send an abstract of 100 - 250 words or a completed paper to Fat Studies Area Co-Chairs Julia McCrossin (jmccross -at- gwmail.gwu.edu) and Lesleigh Owen (goddess_les -at- yahoo.com). Please include your complete contact information and a CV and/or 50 word bio, along with anticipated A/V needs. All submissions are welcome, but please use the information above to ensure your paper fits within the academic and political scopes of Fat Studies. Please also be mindful that Fat Studies is a political project and not merely an umbrella term for all discussions of larger bodies. Also, we encourage submitters to rethink using words like “obesity” and “overweight” in their presentations unless they are used ironically, within quotes, or accompanied by a political analysis.
Presenters must become members of the Popular Culture Association. Find more information on the conference and organization at their website.
_____________________________________________

TWO CALLS FOR BOOK SUBMISSIONS
 
Call for Submissions: Fat-Positive Anthology
1500-3000 words
Editor: Virgie Tovar - author, fat activist/lifetime fat girl, and MA, Human Sexuality
Deadline: November 15, 2011

I’m seeking personal essays for a fat positive anthology to be released in 2012. I’m seeking essays that either (1) focus on a specific event/experience that was truly flabulous or (2) tell the story of how you became a fierce fatty. I encourage contributors to hone in on a particular theme—like romance, parenting, family, fatshion, dating, performance—to use as a lens through which to tell your story. Fierce, sassy, thoughtful, authentic, non-fiction, previously unpublished, autobiographical stories from fatties who identify as women are welcome. The vision for this anthology is one of fun, unapologetic fat celebration and love!

Envision the book you would have wanted to read when you started out on your journey to fat positivity. This will be that book for a lot of people. So, share what you know and what you’ve learned, the way you navigate the world, your experiences, and don’t leave out the juicy parts!

Some guiding questions that may help as you’re writing:
-how did you become a fierce fatty?
-how do you create positive spaces in your life?
-what was a pivotal moment or experience that led to fat positivity for you?
-how do you talk to friends/family about being a fatty/fat pos?
-how do you "do" fatshion?
-how does being a fatty impact dating, sexuality and romantic relationships for you?
-has performance (e.g., fat belly dance or fat burlesque) impacted your body love experience?
-what people/communities make you feel fabulous?
-what role does your fierce fatness play into your friendships or family relationships?

Don’t feel limited by this list of suggestions, please!

Please send electronic submissions only. Attach your submission in MS Word (.doc) format to fatposanthology@gmail.com. Please include a short bio and your contact information in the body of the e-mail. Please direct questions to the abovementioned email. Also, if you feel you have a great fat pos tale but maybe don't feel ready to take on writing your story, I'm doing a limited number of interviews.

Contributors of accepted submissions will be paid $50 and receive a writing credit in the book.
Please feel free to distribute this call.

xo,
Virgie Tovar
_____________________________________________
 
Call for Papers: Queering Fat Embodiment
Type: Edited book
Submission deadline: January 15th, 2012
Contacts and editors:
Samantha Murray - Samantha.murray@mq.edu.au (Main contact)
Cat Pausé - c.pause@massey.ac.nz
Jackie Wykes - wykesj@unimelb.edu.au

Scope:
Against the backdrop of the ever-growing medicalisation and pathologisation of fatness, the field of Fat Studies has emerged in recent years to offer an interdisciplinary critical interrogation of the dominant medical models of health, to give voice to the lived experience of fat bodies, and to offer critical insights into, and investigations of, the ethico-political implications of the cultural meanings that have come to be attached to fat bodies. This focus on the regulation, discipline and representation of fat bodies make it critically invaluable to the advancement of scholarship on embodiment.

This edited collection seeks to publish recent scholarship that embraces ‘queering’ as a mode of critical engagement in examining fat embodiment. Queer is a heterogeneous and multidisciplinary practice aimed at ‘bringing forth’ and thus denaturalising the taken for granted, the invisible, the normalized. This collection seeks to challenge and destabilise existing ideas of fat and fat embodiment both outside of and within the emerging field of Fat Studies. This volume will bring together scholarship from various disciplines in order to examine the ways in which fat embodiment is lived, experienced, regulated and (re)produced across a range of cultural sites and contexts. In queering established ideas about fat bodies, and presenting challenging inquiries/inqueeries into these notions, this collection will represent an innovative and critically invaluable contribution to the advancement of scholarship on fatness, and indeed on embodiment more generally.

Topics may include but are not limited to:
• fat activism and embodiment
• fat mental and physical health
• queer(y)ing ‘hard data’ on fatness/obesity science
• queer(y)ing health policies related to fat
• cross-cultural or global constructions of fat bodies
• cultural, historical, or philosophical meanings of fat and fat bodies
• fat embodiment in literature, film, music, nonfiction, and the visual arts
• fat as queering sex, beauty, gender, and other embodied performances
• fat sexuality
• fat materialities
• fat and space
• fat and biopolitics
• fat and citizenship
• fat and neoliberalism
• fatness and consumption

Please note that we are already in the process of completing a proposal to submit to publishers, which we will complete based on the submissions we receive. We have had some preliminary interest from publishers, but as yet, we have not secured a contract.

Full paper submissions are due January 15, 2012. Articles should range between 15 and 20 double-spaced pages. Please send submissions, along with an abstract of your paper and a brief biographical sketch, directly to Samantha.murray@mq.edu.au
 

New study: body's resistance to food restriction is long term.

In yesterday's New York Times: Study Shows Why It’s Hard to Keep Weight Off, by Gina Kolata

For years, studies of obesity have found that soon after fat people lost weight, their metabolism slowed and they experienced hormonal changes that increased their appetites. Scientists hypothesized that these biological changes could explain why most obese dieters quickly gained back much of what they had so painfully lost.

But now a group of Australian researchers have taken those investigations a step further to see if the changes persist over a longer time frame. They recruited healthy people who were either overweight or obese and put them on a highly restricted diet that led them to lose at least 10 percent of their body weight. They then kept them on a diet to maintain that weight loss. A year later, the researchers found that the participants’ metabolism and hormone levels had not returned to the levels before the study started.

The study, being published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine, is small and far from perfect, but confirms their convictions about why it is so hard to lose weight and keep it off, say obesity researchers who were not involved the study.

There's an interview with Linda Bacon in More Magazine!

In this month's More Magazine: "Fat? Who Cares! Why Weight Doesn't Matter, A major expert speaks out on how weight-loss efforts are statistically futile—and how you can boost your health big time without dropping a pound," by Peter Jaret.

Doctors aren’t supposed to write prescriptions for medications they know don’t work. So why do they and many leading public health authorities continue to dispense advice that may be no more effective than a sugar pill—and might actually cause harm? In a landmark review published earlier this year in Nutrition Journal, the authors question why doctors and other medical experts routinely counsel over-weight people to get rid of extra pounds even though scientists, after decades of intense research, have yet to find a reliable prescription for weight loss. Moreover, the payoff for dieting isn’t even clear: There’s little evidence that losing weight is the key to better health, contends lead author Linda Bacon, PhD, a nutrition professor at the City College of San Francisco. And in some cases, she adds, efforts to shed pounds may actually be dangerous.

In her well-informed critique, Bacon not only raises questions about conventional weight-loss notions but also posits that there are more effective paths to better health. More asked her for details.

Linda Bacon is a researcher and the author of Health at Every Size, the surprising truth about your weight.

The rest is in question and answer format, with Dr. Bacon answering questions like "What’s wrong with dieting—that is, restricting your food intake to lose weight?" and "face it, though: A lot of people want to lose weight because they don’t like the way they look. What’s your advice to them?"

The article is long and well written, and it addresses most of the questions that an average person would have about medical research, weight and HAES.

More is a solid, middlebrow American women's magazine, the kind that you'd see at the supermarket checkout or on the table at the doctor's office. It's a great venue for getting the concept of HAES to the people who need it most.

Regan's already linked to this in yesterday's blog post, (which is brilliant, as usual) but I wanted to highlight it.

News Coverage on the Manitoba Report

Yesterday, we discussed the content of a new report that the University of Manitoba has produced for the provincial government: ADULT OBESITY IN MANITOBA: Prevalence, Associations, & Outcomes.

The report reveals that fat people are not using significantly more health care than anyone else, and are not dying earlier either. This challenges pretty much all of the common wisdom about weight, health, and life expectancy and disproves the idea thin people's taxes and insurance premiums are disproportionately being used to treat fat people's health problems.

Now, I'm going to post some of the media coverage. It all starts here, with the original University of Manitoba Press Release: 25% of Manitobans are Obese.

The headline's interesting, eh?

...and here's some of the news coverage.

It's interesting to note that the emphasis on the percentage of fat people in Manitoba started with the University's press release. It's also interesting that many of the articles either don't focus on what I would consider to be the most important aspects of the report, and if they do, they feel the need to add in bad puns and/or weight loss advice.

Manitoba fats are not overusing medical resources or dropping like flies

A report developed for the provincial government by the University of Manitoba has found that fat people are using only 15%* more medical resources than normal weight people per capita, and are not dying earlier. That is, Manitobans with 26+ and even 30+ BMIs are generally as healthy and long-lived as people whose weight is in the "normal" range.

This story has been all over the Canadian press this weekend, and I'll provide some links to the coverage tomorrow. However, I've tracked down and read (okay, skimmed) the original 200 page report.

Here's a link to the pdf: ADULT OBESITY IN MANITOBA: Prevalence, Associations, & Outcomes.

Let's take a look at it, shall we?

On the reasons for and uses of the report:

The main goal of this study was to combine administrative and survey data to provide Manitoba–specific results on the prevalence, trends, and outcomes related to obesity. These results will be used to inform public policy and program initiatives of Manitoba Health and the 11 Regional Health Authorities (RHA) in Manitoba.

On the use of health care resources by BMI:

We also investigated the relationship between obesity and the use of health care services including physician visits, hospital use, prescription drugs, home care, and personal care homes. This section, which capitalizes on the uniquely powerful health data system (the Repository) housed at MCHP, provides the most important contributions from this study. Overall, the results revealed that while the Obese group almost always had the highest rates of health service use, the differences between it and the Normal and Overweight groups were relatively small. That is, the health care system is not being overwhelmed by the demand for health services related to obesity. This finding is particularly important because no previous studies have been able to provide this kind of analysis on a large representative sample with such comprehensive data on health service use.
Furthermore, for a number of indicators, the higher rates were only evident for those at particularly high BMI values. For example, the Obese group had more physician visits per year than others, but only about 15% more overall...
...Causal modelling of health service use rates indicated that illness level was by far the strongest predictor of health service use, followed by sex, and then other factors including BMI, age, and socioeconomic status.

On the relationship between BMI and mortality:

Initial analysis of death rates by BMI value (and BMI group) revealed no systematic relationship between BMI and mortality, though the follow–up period for most participants was less than 10 years. Multivariate analysis including age, sex, and other variables confirmed that obesity does not have a significant direct association with mortality.

On the relationship between BMI and disease:

Among the diseases studied in this project:

  • Diabetes prevalence and incidence were strongly related to BMI group, especially for females. Among males, diabetes prevalence was 2.6 times higher in the Obese group than the Normal group; the incidence rate was 4.4 times higher. The corresponding values for females were 4.4 and 7.5, respectively.
  • Hypertension prevalence and incidence were also strongly related to BMI group in both sexes. The Obese group had rates nearly double those of the Normal group.
  • Heart attack (AMI) incidence rates were strongly related to BMI for males, but not for females. Conversely, total respiratory morbidity (prevalence and incidence) was modestly related to BMI among females but not males.
  • A number of indicators revealed no statistically significant associations: dialysis initiation, heart attack prevalence, ischemic heart disease prevalence and incidence, stroke incidence, and hip fracture rates...
  • Cancer incidence rates were also analysed and revealed few significant associations with BMI groups...

Got that? High blood pressure is associated with being heavier, but heavier people do not have a higher prevalence of heart attacks. Could this be because of white coat syndrome or because many medical professionals measure fat people's blood pressure with cuffs that are too small? Or perhaps fat people naturally have slightly higher than normal blood pressure? All of those would result in higher brood pressure readings that wouldn't translate into a higher heart attack rate.

We've been seeing alarmist "studies" (and I use that term loosely) in recent years, purporting to show that fat people are going to bring down the world's health care systems with our high demand for services. These papers are based on wild conjecture and statistical manipulation, but a lot of people take their claims for granted. Other papers have suggested that fat people have shorter life expectancies and will therefore use healthcare for fewer years, and that may cancel out our higher rate of health care use. Nobody, as far as I know, has challenged the idea that fat people use more health care resources than smaller people. Even I would have guessed that we use more resources on average, if only because of weight loss treatments. Weight loss treatments could certainly explain the 15% higher health care use by fat people in this report.

When the Flegal study revealed that people classified as overweight are at the peak of the life-expectancy bell curve, some people suggested this was because heavier people are being kept alive through the extensive use of advanced, modern medicine. This report makes that seem doubtful, as heavier Manitobans are not using significantly more healthcare resources than lighter ones.

The real news here is that when you look at the actual statistics that are produced by a public health care system, fat people are not using significantly more health care than anyone else, and are not dying earlier either. These are notable facts, as they demolish pretty much all of the common wisdom about weight, health, and life expectancy. Not only that, they expose as myth the idea thin people's taxes and insurance premiums are disproportionately being used to treat fat people's health problems. This is important.

* note: "15% more" means that, for example, people whose weight is in the obese range visit the doctor 23 times for every 20 times so-called normal weight people visit the doctor. Not such a big difference, especially considering the fact that fat people are constantly being told that we're inherently diseased and at increased risk for this or that health problem, which would make almost anyone paranoid about their health.

Tomorrow: a look at the news coverage of this report.

All Bodies are Goofy; All Bodies are Beautiful

I'm not a dedicated gym goer. A lot of the things you can do at the gym are too regimented for my taste. Many gyms - and many people who go to gyms - are focused on appearance rather than functionality or health. When your appearance is never going to meet their standards, there's no point in subjecting yourself to their reality.

Luckily, not all gyms are like that. I already knew that, but yesterday I was reminded of it. A friend and I went to the YMCA for an Aquafit class. She'd never been to a gym before. She talked about her experience with me a little bit afterwards, but just going there with someone new to gyms made me reexamine how I've experienced them over the years.

Things I like about gyms:

First, the social aspect of being there at a regular time or for a particular group activity.

The people at the gym can be a really nice casual social group to be part of. They're people that you get to know a little bit, like the Friday evening crowd at the local bar, the parents in your kid's play group, or your coworkers. I'm all for comfortable, friendly, diverse groups of people with whom to chat or joke around; nice people who I can have a superficial, no stakes relationship with. Close friends and family are more important, but friendly acquaintances make life a lot more pleasant.

Second, the openness.

You're around other people who are wearing swimsuits, or are taking a shower, or changing clothes. You're exposed to other people's bodies, and you realize is that the bodies that are closer to perfect by society's standards aren't always the most beautiful, the most graceful, or the most fit. You realize how few people have bodies that approach that ideal, and how little it matters. And, you realize that thinner doesn't equal more perfect. Bodies of all sizes come in all kinds of shapes. People's bodies change as they age. People have visible veins, floppy bits, scars, hair in unexpected places, exaggeratedly protruding parts, wrinkles, and spotty skin. Oh yeah. And many are fatter or thinner than average.

It's all okay. Human beings are a funny looking bunch, no doubt, and it can be a joyful thing. You might feel self conscious about your body. Other people might feel self conscious about theirs. But, everyone inhabits their body a little differently. The people who are furthest from our media enforced ideal can be beautifully powerful and self-aware; all there, physically and mentally. They can be glowingly alive and engaged with the world. That's real beauty. Seriously, that is what it's all about. It's good to be reminded of it.

Seeing other's bodies can strengthen your connection with your own body.

A lot of fat people really hate gyms or are intimidated by them. They bring back bad memories of school locker rooms and the horror of showering in public when you're 14. They bring on fears of being judged, because your body is right out there. Your focus is on your body. You're in a swimsuit or in some kind of workout clothing that's meant to let you move rather than let you hide. Sometimes there are mirrors, and you're pretty much forced to watch yourself.

If you've looked around and you've felt happy about all the interesting people around you and all their interesting bodies, then sometimes you find that you can look at yourself with the same kind of affection and lack of judgment. I used to like watching myself and the rest of the class in the big mirror covering the front wall of the exercise studio I went to in the mid-nineties. It was mostly aerobic dance and step in those days. I loved being part of this funny, beautiful chorus line of people; all different sizes, ages, and backgrounds. I learned to like the way I look - the way I look bouncing around in spandex, no less... and I was almost always the largest person in those classes. To this day, I can deal with being the largest person in a dance class. I'm okay with the fact that I might look silly sometimes, and that I might be surrounded by people who would be terrified to look like me. Because, I think that I can influence them through sheer attitude, as other people have influenced me.

I remember what it felt like the first time I really felt at home in my own body. I'd been living with a sort of reverse body dismorphia since childhood. I knew I was fat, but I didn't really feel it. At some point, it all clicked together. I'm fat, and I like to keep my body functioning well, and I like to wear nice clothes, I like to eat - and I'm IN HERE. This is really me. Not fat-me, just me.

**********

This post is a somewhat late addition to the 2011 Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival and was originally published on my Livejournal blog in 2007.

It's Love Your Body Day!


This is going to be a multiple-post day.
I'll start by urging you all to participate in the Now Foundation's Love Your Body Day activities.

The Blog Carnival

They will be publishing a list of participants and linking to the posts, starting today.

To participate, e-mail the link to your blog post to lybd2011 -at- yahoo.com by this Friday, Oct. 21.

They ask that you include the following text link in your blog post: "This post is part of the 2011 Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival" and link it to
http://www.now.org/news/blogs/index.php/sayit/2011/10/19/lybd-blog-carnival-posts

Let's Talk About it

Let's Talk About it is a call for videos. They'll post the ones they especially like on their website.

"The airbrushed body type portrayed as ideal is naturally possessed by less than five percent of women, so if anyone should feel bad about the pervasiveness of eating disorders and low self-esteem in women and girls, it's advertisers and the media," says NOW Foundation Education Vice President Erin Matson. "Let's talk about why it's so important to put an end to this madness with the most powerful tool we have: Our own stories."...

"I encourage everyone to make a video and post it online," said Matson. "Your voice might be the one that reaches a girl or woman who is struggling with her self-image. And together, the more videos we create, the more we become part of the solution."

The Let's Talk About it project is in partnership with the National Eating Disorders Association.

The Poster Contest

The Love Your Body Poster Contest winners are used to promote the Love Your Body Campaign.

Posters should be graphically attractive and use a dynamic message. We especially look for images that demonstrate beauty is not limited by body size, body type, ethnicity, age or physical appearance. The winning posters will be displayed in schools and other public settings, so please consider this when designing your poster.

IMPORTANT: Each entry must include the artist's full name, address, phone number, valid e-mail address and category number on the back of each poster. See the prizes section below to determine what category you are in.

Artwork: Poster should be no larger than 9" x 12". The poster must include the words "2012 Love Your Body Campaign" and the NOW Foundation web site address, www.nowfoundation.org.

BFB readers and commentators: if you create entries in any of these categories that touch on fat acceptance issues and don't have a high-traffic space to post them, send them to me at deeleigh -at- deeshead.net and I'll put them up on BFB.

Teaching Tolerance - sort of.

Teaching Tolerance is a Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is aimed at primary and secondary teachers and includes a magazine, professional development materials for teachers, classroom activities, and a teaching kit. What a great way to spread the message of civil rights and gender equality to the nation's teachers and to the upcoming generation!

The newest issue of Teaching Tolerance concentrates on an issue close to the hearts of many fat people, especially those of us who have fat children or were fat as kids: physical education. Game Changers focuses on a gym teacher who does many of the things that have been suggested and endorsed when we in the fat acceptance community have discussed our experiences with school gym classes.

Dorr taught Tim’s class five days a week, including 20 minutes in the classroom teaching about the connections between health, fitness and diet. Tim dressed every day and joined his classmates in compiling their personal fitness data. He took part in class: aerobic exercise, strength building, skill development and playing cooperative instead of competitive games.

Tim measured his progress using charts, graphs and a journal. He also noticed how supportive his teacher and classmates were of him and each other. Kids would finish their laps, then circle back and walk alongside him. They cheered when a classmate graduated from one push-up to five. “There’s only one way kids can get in serious trouble in my class,” Dorr says. “Only if they’re unkind.”

Fair enough. Kindness is good, and maybe Tim is tracking progress in his running times, the number of sit-ups he can do, and the weight he can lift.

Unfortunately, no.

This article features a Weight Loss Fairy Tale™.

The sophomore shed 45 pounds during the semester.
“One day, I heard screaming from the other side of the gym,” Dorr recalls. “And there’s Tim with his arms above his head. He was shouting and the other kids were clapping and cheering. He had just taken his body weight and fat index and had reached his personal goal.”

...and then it goes into the gym teacher's other job as a weight loss coach.

Now, many people do lose some weight when they become more active. But, the main benefits of being active do not necessarily include weight loss. Being stronger, more coordinated, having more stamina, being more physically confident and competent; those things are immensely valuable in and of themselves.

This Weight Loss Fairy Tale™ bothers me for two reasons.

First, I am sick of physical fitness - and especially physical fitness being taught competently in the schools - being treated as if it's about weight loss. Even fat kids who never get thin deserve to learn how to use their bodies effectively - not to mention kids with disabilities and kids with no interest in sports. They all deserve a physical education course that actually teaches them useful things.

Second, it just doesn't ring true. I find it doubtful that the anyone would lose 45 pounds because of a semester of gym class, and also it's really hard for me to imagine a teenager who showed a defiant attitude at the beginning subsequently making his weight into a public spectacle. As someone who was a fat teenager, I can say very confidently that having my weight made public in this type of gym class would have been at least as humiliating as being one of the last chosen for teams in a traditional class. In fact, it's hard to overstate the lengths I would have gone to in order to avoid being forced into a gym class that resembles a public Weight Watchers meeting with an audience of thin peers.

Many of the things that are discussed in this article have come up over and over again in discussions of school gym classes in fat acceptance circles. The importance of non-competitive activities and a supportive atmosphere. Teaching all the students how to stay healthy and active throughout their lives rather than concentrating on competitive sports and the kids who excel at them. But, the most important part of the Perfect Gym Class is tolerance, and the foundation of that tolerance is acknowledging that different children have different types of bodies, different talents and different interests. This type of class should not be aimed at trying to make all the students fit the same mould. Success should be measured in physiological knowledge and physical performance and improvement, not in pounds. The main difference between this gym teacher and your standard hard-assed sports coach is that she's patronising and focused on weight loss rather than demanding and focused on tangible accomplishments. That is not an improvement.

How could a magazine called "Teaching Tolerance" get it so wrong?

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.

BBC story funnier than Little Britain

Many times in the past year, my radio alarm has woken me up with BBC stories on "obesity" that have made me want to hit my head against the wall; stories full of stereotypes, incorrect assumptions, and misleading statistics, without balance or critical thought.

This morning was different. Not that different, because the BBC once again had an obesity story that was full of b.s. But this one was so incredibly stupid that I found it hilarious and have been making fun of it all morning. Even the announcer seemed a bit dubious.

You see, my fat friends, Lord McColl (a 78 year old surgeon and Conservative member of the House of Lords) has the answer. It's easy to get thin. It's amazing how so many of us, with all of our education and life experience, have been unable to figure it out. But now, it's as through the heavens have opened and the light of knowledge has shown down upon us.

Obesity 'cure is free - eat less'

Thanks, Lord McColl!! What a smart guy you are.

But Lord McColl's vast wisdom and deep insight don't end there. Oh no! Have you heard? Exercise isn't the answer! You see, we can't exercise. We're too fat!

Lord McColl said politicians refused to admit that the cause of obesity was over-eating: "In order for an obese person to lose weight - bearing in mind that most of them can't exercise because they are so overweight - all he has to do is eat less.

Why didn't anybody tell me this? Why, I was planning to walk a couple of miles and do a step workout later today, but I forgot that with a BMI of 36, that's impossible! Obviously, my massive obesity renders me immobile. Somebody had better tell Shauta and Regan, so that they'll know that they're too fat to exercise as well.

But wait! Lord McColl is right! Exercising is not making us thin. And as fat people, that should be our sacred duty and only goal in life. Being active? It makes us healthy, happy and physically capable while fat. That can't be allowed! If we fat people fail to be uniformly unfit, disease ridden, and miserable then the universe will implode.

Well, I'll just see if I can haul my massive bulk to the bathroom to take a shower now. So...hard...to...move...so...heavy...pant, pant, pant.

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For anyone who's unaware of how obesity is defined: people are classified as obese if they have a BMI of 30+. BMI is based on weight and height. 25% of Brits and 30% of Americans are classified as obese. The vast majority of obese people have BMIs under 40; the average obese Brit or American has a BMI in the mid-thirties. To get an idea of what that looks like, you can check out Kate Harding's Illustrated BMI Categories.
**********
Oh, and to the BBC commentator who implied that fat people are like heroin addicts? NAW! Wrong. That's not why the "just eat less" thing doesn't work. It doesn't work because fat people don't necessarily overeat in the first place - let alone have anything that could be likened to an addiction - and when we try to eat less permanently, our bodies think they're being starved and fight back by absorbing as much nutrition as they can from what we eat, using as little energy as possible, and making us preoccupied with food and eating. For Chrissakes, read up on Ancel Keyes.

Remember John Popper and Blues Traveler?

Comin' at you from the 1990s, just one of those fat people doing cool things posts...

For some reason, Blues Traveler popped into my head today and felt inspired to find out what happened to them and their very talented band leader and frontman, John Popper.

Remember Blues Travelers' Run Around video, where the real band was hidden behind a curtain while conventionally cool-looking people lip synched and pretended to play instruments out front? That song was number 8 on the US charts and the album it was from, Hook, was 6x Platinum in the US. If you were alive and in America and owned a radio in the 1990s, then you almost certainly know at least a couple of their songs.

Depressingly, John Popper developed diabetes and heart disease in his twenties and had an angioplasty and weight loss surgery sometime around the turn of the 21st century. But at least he's still alive and kicking, 10+ years later. Sadly, his bandmate Bobby Sheehan (bass) died of a drug overdose at around the same time. The band lost their major label support, but has stayed together.

Now, John Hopper has formed a new group (a side project) called John Popper and the Duskray Troubadours. It looks like they're based in Austin, TX and are doing a lot of local shows at the moment. Here's a live performance from earlier this year:

I hope John Popper sticks around for many decades to come. He's a fantastic live performer with a distinctive vocal style, and he's possibly the best harmonica player I've ever heard.

A rare moment of sense from the BBC

Today's Magazine carries an interesting article focusing on the role of statistics and projections in the media presentation of 'obesity' as a health and social problem. The basic thrust of the piece is that whilst recent headlines have shrieked about how the levels of 'obesity' have been on a relentlessly upward trajectory for many years and assume that this will continue indefinitely, the actual figures point to a flattening out of the rate of increase in some categories and statistically significant falls in others. In particular, it highlights that previous predictions of an obesity rate of 33% for men, 28% for women by 2010 have been way off the mark. Compare the projections on the third graph with the trends to date for an idea of the degree to which scaremongering plays a part in the latest set of predictions of a 40-50% rate by 2030.

There are a few issues with the piece. It doesn't really make the connection between the exaggeration of the figures and trends and the resultant fundamental problems with the whole concept of an 'obesity crisis', or mention the harm that the current panic is causing. It also skims over changes in the way obesity is defined, including the 1998 recalibration which mainfests itself as a noticeable jump on the graphs. And I just want to tell the shirtless fat guy in the stock photo which tops the article to buy some bigger jeans already. That said, the BBC have not only avoided the temptation to seek input from Tam Fry et al but sensibly denied the usual armchair obesity experts their opportunity to leave ignorant and off-topic comments below the piece, making it a good one to bookmark and link back to next time (and it won't be long coming) they run an open thread on a fat-related story.

Love Your Body Day is October 19

The NOW (National Organization for Women) Foundation has declared Wednesday, October 19th to be Love Your Body Day.


NOW has already selected a winning Love Your Body poster for 2011, and we reported on it back in March.

If you were thinking of entering a poster in the 2012 contest, then this is your reminder!

The deadline for next year's poster contest is December 3, 2011. Details are here.

Posters should be graphically attractive and use a dynamic message. We especially look for images that demonstrate beauty is not limited by body size, body type, ethnicity, age or physical appearance. The winning posters will be displayed in schools and other public settings, so please consider this when designing your poster.

IMPORTANT: Each entry must include the artist's full name, address, phone number, valid e-mail address and category number on the back of each poster.

Artwork: Poster should be no larger than 9" x 12". The poster must include the words 2012 Love Your Body Campaign and the NOW Foundation web site address, www.nowfoundation.org.

NOW tends to choose artwork depicting thin to average sized bodies. Let's make sure that isn't because it's the only kind of entry they get. (I did manage to find one winner on their website - the general category winner from 2010 - that depicts a larger woman. That's it above.)

I, for one, plan to make at least one entry.

Nancy Upton's American Apparel Saga

So... I hadn't posted anything about this story up until now because Jezebel has been covering it in detail and it's been discussed by other Fatophere bloggers. Also, American Apparel's new women's XL and Nancy Upton are not plus-sized by U.S. clothing standards. But the pictures really are outstanding and funny, and it's turned into quite the saga.

I think it's time someone put together a recap with lots of links. Here it is.

It all began when American Apparel, a failing company run by a rampaging perv, decided to finally cave in and start making clothes in a women's size XL. That's a US 12-14, folks. But they couldn't do it in a respectful way. Oh no! They had to have a modeling contest full of "fun" digs at these truly humongous, no doubt totally corpulant new customers!

This is where Jezebel picked up the story: American Apparel Introduces Size XL, Holds Search For ‘Booty-Ful’ Models.

It's a good thing that we have that Jezebel article, because all evidence of that contest is now gone from the American Apparel website. We don't get to share in all the brilliant and original fat jokes. ~sob~

ANYWAY (with links to Jezebel) ...

  1. Nancy Upton entered the contest with some truly outstanding and hilarious photos of herself eating (wearing, bathing in) "bad" food and looking very glam. These photos were meant to mock American Apparel and the offensively-marketed modeling contest.
  2. Due to the high quality and extreme coolness and hilariousness of her photos, Nancy won the modeling contest by popular vote. However, American Apparel refused to acknowledge her victory, and insulted her in the process.
  3. After being mocked and criticized in the media and online, American Apparel tried to cut its losses and invited Nancy to visit them in LA.
  4. Nancy accepted the invitation.

The invitation appears to have been a bit of a red herring. Nancy is reporting on it on her personal blog.

One of Nancy's favorite performers, Amanda Palmer (herself responsible for some rockin' rebellyion) is following the story and has posted a Today interview with Nancy along with glowing praise on her blog.

Nancy has published an article about her contest entry on the Daily Beast, My Big, Fat Photo Spoof:

So after I first heard about the “contest,” I couldn’t help but get it out of my mind. (I write “contest” in quotes because the legal mumbo jumbo in the waiver states that American Apparel reserves the right to choose any or none of the applicants for any or none of the prizes.)

The puns, the insulting, giggly tones, and the over-used euphemisms for fat that were scattered throughout the campaign’s solicitation began to crystalize an opinion in my mind. How offensive the campaign was. How it spoke to plus-sized women like they were starry-eyed 16 year olds from Kansas whose dream, obviously, was to hop a bus to L.A. to make it big in fashion. How apparently there were no words in existence to accurately describe the way American Apparel felt about a sexy, large woman, and so phrases like “booty-ful” and “XLent” would need to be invented for us—not only to fill this void in American vocabulary, but also make the company seem like a relatable, sassy friend to fat chicks.

A relatable, sassy friend who was looking to broaden its customer base after warning it might need to declare bankruptcy earlier this year. And a relatable, sassy friend who wanted as much free press as possible. That’s when I finally put my finger on why I couldn’t get this “contest” out of my head: American Apparel was going to try to use one fat girl as a symbol of apology and acceptance to a demographic it had long insisted on ignoring, while simultaneously having that girl (and a thousand other girls) shill their products.

Great stuff, and there's a lot more if you follow the link. Don't overlook the second page.

American Apparel is being mocked all over the web and even the conventional media, and Nancy has drawn attention to the condescending and prejudicial way non-skinny women are treated in our society. Now that is some effective activism!

BEDA is on board with HAES

Background
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association, for all intents and purposes, defines mental health issues by providing industry-standard diagnostic criteria. A new version of the DSM, the DSM-V, is due to be published in 2013. One of the major changes under consideration is adding Binge Eating Disorder as a distinct category, rather than including it under "Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified." This will probably raise the profile of BED and make it easier for people suffering from it to access treatment. That seems like it would be a good thing.

I don't know if we've talked about the DSM-V and BED on Big Fat Blog before. BED is more a general health issue than a fat/size acceptance issue. However, BED interacts with fatness in a few important ways.

  1. Some people assume that everyone who's fat has BED (not the case).
  2. Binge eating often causes people to gain weight.
  3. For that reason, people who have BED and their doctors often assume that the process of treating BED will trigger major and permanent weight loss. In fact, this is the main reason why some sufferers seek treatment.
  4. However, successfully treating BED does not always result in weight loss.

What is BEDA?
In anticipation of this proposed change to the DSM, an organization called the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) has emerged.

While in the past, treatment of BED has tended to focus on weight loss, BEDA seems to be taking a different approach. They are HAES-positive and are encouraging awareness of weight stigma. What does this tell us? It tells us that they're not incompetent. Although Binge Eating Disorder can arise independently as a coping mechanism, it is more commonly a response to food restriction; weight loss dieting. And guess how BED has often been treated in the past? If you said "more dieting," you'd be right. Can you imagine? Trying to treat an eating disorder with an outlook and behavior that triggers it? Obviously Health at Every Size, with its emphasis on balance and enjoyment rather than weight, is a better focus for BED treatment. HAES does not involve food restriction, which can trigger binges.

BEDA and the National Weight Stigma Awareness Week
Anyway, according to a press release from BEDA, BEDA Launches First Annual National Weight Stigma Awareness Week, subtitled The Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) announced today that it will launch its first annual National Weight Stigma Awareness Week, September 26-30, 2011.


The Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) announced today that it will launch its first annual National Weight Stigma Awareness Week, September 26-30, 2011. The objectives of this event are to build awareness of what weight stigma is, the harmful effects weight stigma can have on people of all ages in all environments, and what can be done to stop it.

“Whether it is children being teased and bullied in school because of their weight, adults being discriminated against in the work place, or patients being shamed in a physician’s office, weight stigma insidiously affects a variety of people.” says Chevese Turner, CEO of the Binge Eating Disorder Association. “We want to raise awareness around weight stigma and how a focus on weight rather than health and placing a higher value on “thin” can, in fact, have a negative effect on the physical and mental health of a person-of-size—especially those who have or are predisposed to eating disorders.”

As the “war on obesity” rages on and the $60 billion weight loss industry continues to grow, paradoxically, rates of obesity are not decreasing and eating disorders are rapidly increasing. Afflicting more women than breast cancer, eating disorders have the highest rate of mortality of all mental illnesses. They are complex disorders triggered by environmental factors, and studies have shown weight stigma plays a significant role. Several studies conducted by The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University have found that more frequent exposure to stigma was related to more attempts to cope with maladaptive eating practices and higher BMI.

Yes, they are talking sense. And their National Weight Stigma Awareness Week web page contains a wealth of information on weight stigma; its history, how it manifests, and the effects it has on people. Going through the pull down menu will give you a lot of general information. Perhaps the most helpful thing they've posted is this pdf file summarizing the research on weight stigma.

And, of course, if you suspect that you may be suffering from BED, they also provide a basic definition and a provider search.

1-800-Get-Thin claims fifth victim

via Jezabel: Fifth Person Dies After Lap-Band Surgery At Shady Clinics

The LA Times is reporting on yet another lap band death: Another patient dies after Lap-Band surgery, subtitled Paula Rojeski, 55, of Orange County died shortly after undergoing Lap-Band surgery at a clinic affiliated with the 1-800-GET-THIN ad campaign, according to records. The coroner has not determined the cause of death.

An Orange County woman has died after weight-loss surgery at a West Hills outpatient clinic, the fifth person to die shortly after Lap-Band procedures at clinics affiliated with the 1-800-GET-THIN advertising campaign since 2009, according to lawsuits, coroner's records and interviews.

According to the LA Times article, Paula weighed less than 200 pounds. That would probably put her into the 30-35 BMI category, a weight category that was only recently approved for lapband use by the FDA.

According to population-level data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005, people in the 30-35 BMI range, which is defined as "type I obese," have roughly the same life expectancy as people in the 20-25 BMI range, which is defined as "normal weight." (People in the 25-30 range - defined as "overweight" - live longest, on average)

WLS is a baby killer

In the Metro: Mother reveals how gastric bypass op starved unborn baby to death, subtitled "A once obese mother has revealed how her gastric bypass killed her unborn baby by starving it of nutrition in the womb."

They're now saying that women between the ages of (roughly) 14 and 55 shouldn't ever drink or smoke, just in case we become pregnant. It's called preconception care.

But, doctors are all too happy to subject fat women of childbearing age to medically enforced starvation.

Almost everyone in my generation (I was born in the sixties) was born to a woman who'd smoked and/or had a few drinks while pregnant. Not before they got pregnant or accidently, a couple of times afterward. Throughout the pregnancy, without knowing there were any risks involved in doing so.

We lived. Starvation kills.

The article ends with:

Dr Ian Campbell, a GP and obesity expert, said it was likely that baby Juli died from ‘micro-nutrient deficiency’.
A spokeswoman for Imperial College Healthcare NHS, which runs Charing Cross Hospital, said patients who have a gastric bypass operation should avoid pregnancy for two years.

But is the situation really going to be better after two years of undereating? Isn't it more likely going to be worse, the longer post-surgery people are? I suspect that (semi)starvation - especially when accompanied by the nutritional deficiencies that come along with weight loss surgery - isn't good for anyone, not even fat people. Especially not for women who want to have healthy babies.

You might want to read this.

First they came for your fat kids..., by Katharhynn Heidelberg,

Did Dr. David Ludwig of Harvard go all Jonathan Swift on us, when he suggested fat kids should be removed from their parents’ care?

Not quite. As it turns out, the media blew out of proportion his and researcher Lyndsey Murtagh’s commentary advocating government intervention in extreme cases. No “Modest Proposal,” this; apparently, the good doctor does not want to create and unleash the Fat Police — nor even satirically suggest doing so to make a point.

But the fact that he could raise the possibility for the media to run with should be cause for concern. Not because parents are trying their best, or need help, or because being labeled fat stigmatizes kids, as pundits have suggested. Rather, it’s cause for concern because parents do not “make” their children fat.

Repeat: Parents. Do. Not. Make. Their. Children. Fat. Not anymore than they can “make” their children brunette, or tall, male, or female simply by changing “habits” and “getting with the (government) program.”

Just follow the link above to read the rest.

This is a great, well-researched article, and it's as timely now as it was last month. I cannot believe that the idea of taking kids out of their homes because they're fat is being taken seriously in so many places. I think I've been hesitant to write about it, because I'm pretty sure that the press is in effect pushing this preposterous idea by publicizing it. In my opinion, it's such an insane idea that it shouldn't even be discussed. But it's being discussed. More than that, it's happened both in the US and in the UK.

Canadians debate denying fat women fertility treatments

Earlier this week, the Globe and Mail, arguably Canada's newpaper of record, published an article called Canadian MDs consider denying fertility treatments to obese women.

Canadian doctors are considering a policy that would bar obese women from trying to have babies through fertility treatments – provoking debate over whether the fat have the same reproductive rights as the thin.

One obvious issue is, of course, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which according to Wikipedia, affects 5-10% of women of reproductive age. PCOS is associated with fatness and also tends to make women infertile. As is the case with every health concern associated with fatness, many people assume that fatness causes PCOS. Having known several women with PCOS, I think it's pretty clear that the causation runs in the other direction; PCOS causes women to gain weight and makes weight loss extremely difficult.

We have a discriminatory (and proud of it!) jerk in Ottawa:

“We’ve had many angry patients say to us, ‘This is discriminatory’ and I say, ‘Yes, it is’ But I still won’t do it,” said Arthur Leader, co-founder of the Ottawa Fertility Centre. The facility where he works will not treat women with a Body Mass Index (a measurement of weight relative to height) of more than 35. A BMI of 30 meets the clinical definition of obese.

...and we have a voice of reason in BC:

“You’d be denying half the reproductive population access to fertility treatment,” said Anthony Cheung, a fertility expert at the University of British Columbia and Grace Fertility Centre. “These people already know they have a problem – are you going to make it worse, add to feelings of social injustice, low self-worth, depression?”
“We don’t say, ‘Oh sorry you smoke, so we can’t treat you – it could result in pre-eclampsia, or small babies.’ It doesn’t mean we have this blanket policy where we say we can’t treat (smokers)”
Dr. Cheung says it makes him wonder about the “biases of our own society around treating women with high BMI…if it reflects a paternalistic view around obesity.”

Ya think?

Evidently, this is a worldwide debate:

The Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, which recommends practice standards for the country’s fertility doctors, is not the first professional body to consider a treatment ban based on weight. The British Fertility Society recommended a ban in 2006, as has New Zealand, and it was the hot topic of debate at the European meeting on assisted reproduction in Sweden this summer.

Wow. A treatment ban. No exceptions. No case-by-case evaluation. Instead, a BMI cutoff for fertility treatments.

Arya Sharma, Canada's obesity czar, is with us on this one. However, he doesn't mention PCOS in his short post on the topic.

I think that one thing we can do to fight this is to tell our stories. I changed my mind about whether or not fertility treatments should be considered basic health care (for anyone) because a friend of mine shared the story of her and her mother's struggle with PCOS and fertility, and the fact that she wouldn't have been conceived without fertility treatments. Maybe we can change others' minds, too.

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