As obesity continues to diminish the quality of people’s lives and raise health care costs, the Institute of Medicine is pleased to join HBO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and Kaiser Permanente in developing “The Weight of the Nation,” a new national campaign tackling the obesity crisis.I am Type 3 Super Obese – I’m as fat as you can get on the (deeply flawed) BMI scale. I am obese, it is not a crisis, please don’t tackle me. My actual body size has not affected my quality of life at all. The only thing affecting my quality of life is the shame and stigma that I deal with from everyone from strangers on the internet to doctors, which is perpetuated when well respected institutions claim that my body is a crisis requiring tackling. Let’s be clear that if fat people’s “issues with our body size” are actually issues caused by social stigma, then the cure lies in ending social stigma, not ending fat people. And, based on all the science we have now, ending stigma has the added benefit of actually being possible and quick – just stop doing it. Let’s not forget that there are some very serious questions about how much obesity is affecting healthcare costs. Regardless, I just wanted to say very clearly that the PR firm that wrote this does not speak for my experience as an obese person, and has no right to try to replace my experiences with versions that will be more profitable for them.
The press release also stated:
Past studies by IOM and others have shown that obesity is not simply a failure of personal responsibility and combating it demands action at all levels — from the individual and the family, to communities, to the nation as a whole. IOM is also working with the collaborating organizations to develop action kits that will provide tools to help community-based groups take steps to prevent obesity.I fear that this one is a little from column A and a lot from column shit. Yay to “obesity is not simply a failure of personal responsibility”, except that the rest of it makes it sound to me like they think it’s a failure of family, community and National responsibility, rather than simply a body size which is separate from people’s health. Maybe they’ll surprise me and all of these community actions will not be about shaming and stigmatizing fat people, and will be about focusing on healthy habits for yourself, and minding your own damn business. I certainly hope so.
Especially since they don’t have any answers. Not even one scientific study of intentional weight loss has shown that longterm significant weight loss is possible. This is just a bunch of people saying “You just [fill in the blank with a weight loss cliche: eat less and exercise more, send your kid outside to play, count your points, give up carbs etc.]“ Pro tip – anytime someone is talking about health and weight and they start a sentence with “You just…” it’s better than even money that they are about to say something that is wholly unsupported by the science. Because health and weight are two separate things, both vastly complicated, and neither has answers simple enough to start with “You just…”
I am concerned about the trend I see of suggesting that the problem with obesity is that we just aren’t making fat people aware enough that they are fat. I saw an article the other day concerned that Doctors aren’t talking to their fat patients enough about their weight. This is not mirrored in the testimonials of real live fat people I know who go to the doctor (including me – who had a doctor suggest that weight loss was a good treatment for strep throat). Based on what I’m hearing from the actual community of fat people (and not those who make a profit on us) doctors can’t seem to STOP talking about our weight, even when it has nothing to do with the issue.
We already discussed how I felt about the article that suggested you confront a loved one about their weight over the holidays.
The folks over at Children’s Hospital of Atlanta – you remember them, they brought us the 100% logic-free message that their billboards don’t stigmatize or humiliate fat kids because the pictures of fat kids with stigmatizing, humiliating messages across them are targeted at parents. They claim that they have to shame and humiliate fat kids because 75% of Georgia parents are unaware that their kids are fat. I find that hard to believe, especially since they have refused many, many requests to give a source for that number.
So many messages about how we fatties need tough love, and someone has to tell us we’re fat.
Dude, we all know I’m fat. What we disagree about is whether or not it’s any of their damn business, and the fact that I think it’s just a descriptor – like I’m short and fat with curly hair – and they think it’s a reason to make my life endlessly miserable until I overcome all the scientific evidence and look like they want me to look, at which point I can engage in whatever unhealthy behaviors I want without comment unless I get fat again. Since I’m, you know, me, I feel confident that I have final say on this due to that whole life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness thing.
It’s certainly possible that some of these “shame the fatties for their own good” proponents are so insulated by their thin privilege that they honestly don’t know what it’s like to be fat, and they think that fat people walk around getting the same treatment they do. A problem that could be solved by having actual, real live fat people at the table for these discussions – talking with us instead of about us.
But I think that there is another contingent. A group who, when they say: “We have to tell fat people they are fat,” are really saying “We have to shut these people up”. The strides that have been, and continue to be, made by my heroes – people like Marilyn Wann, Linda Bacon, Deb Burgard, Jon Robinson, Paul Campos and many others – combined with the massive amount of science that supports a health-based, rather than a weight-based health paradigm, and a community that is starting to find the strength to stand up and demand respect, is threatening the profits of a 60 billion dollar diet industry and a pharma and medical establishment that looks at fat people and sees dollar signs.
So when those industries say “We need to make sure that fat people know they’re fat, and get their families and communities involved in policing them” what I hear is “We need to keep these people down to keep our profits up”.
There is a beautiful quote by Ghandi: First the ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. I think that the diet, pharmaceutical and health companies may be moving out of the laughing at us phase. Just remember that as long as we keep fighting we are getting closer to winning.
Fat people do not have to buy into the very flawed idea that we are a crisis, or an epidemic that requires intervention, no matter how profitable or self-satisfactory it might be for others to claim that we are.
I’m a podcast! (Well, it’s big news for me because I had to master a couple types of technology to get it done.) You can go to iTunes Store and search danceswithfat (all one word) or you can go to my podbean blogcast directly. It’s completely free, I’ll record most of the blogs and put them up on a few day lag. There’s already a back log there. Of course I still hope that you will come to the blog online to comment and interact, I just thought that this would be a neat addition for people who enjoy podcasts and/or might want to hear what these blogs sound like when I’m ranting them out loud. By the way, I started with the intention that every one would be perfectly read, but I find that my perfectionist streak fades around take 6, so the experience is sometimes more authentic than perfect.
Thanks for reading! ~Ragen