This is going to be unpopular…

…but it has to be said. This kind of infighting is going to stymie the movement. It’s going to split it and make it weak. It likely already is, if the comments to that post are any clue.

I don’t understand where that kind of vitriolic racism has come from, but it’s got to stop. There’s racist remarks about nearly every group there, and equal misunderstood, one-dimensional comments about white people as there are the racist grouping WoC (women of color, which bundles everyone who isn’t “white” into a neat package). The great thing about NOT being narrowminded is that you understand you haven’t lived someone else’s life, yet you do your damned best to apply what you HAVE lived in order to understand them better. You realize that people are just people, and we’re more alike than we’re not. You don’t start spouting hateful language at people you believe are privileged because they’re one color (‘scuse me, have you lived their lives?) and you don’t start spouting “I hate PC” at people who you believed are non-privileged (‘scuse me, but they’ve heard it before!). I’m not saying that individual perspectives aren’t important to take into account. But do I go around telling everyone who’s never been in an abusive relationship that they have no idea where I’m coming from and we could never really get along because there’s a fundamental disconnect between our respective histories?

Listen, if you want to split yourself off from other people because you don’t like their skin color and what you believe comes from that skin color, just fucking say it. Stop acting like you’re some kind of martyr or hero or that others FORCE you to split off from them. This goes for the white “I’m sick of PC” -ers and the “Fat is the last acceptable form of prejudice” -ers, as well as the people who claim that, because of my skin color alone, I could never deserve to march arm-in-arm with them against the prejudice that we have in common.

I know you don’t see what you’re doing as splitting the movement, making us weaker, etc. But you are. Stop infighting, and find our common ground. If race is a sensitive subject, and for instance, some of you don’t like the fact that Dr. King is my idol because my skin color doesn’t match his, or you think that I’m some alien to your history because of my skin color, fine. You don’t have to march with me. I wish you would anyway; I don’t like that you distrust my skin color, but I’ll march with you anyway. Because we are more alike than we are different. We’ve got the most important parts of ourselves in common—we want hate to end. Our push, our characters, our minds, our UNIQUE EXPERIENCES which only ADD to our strength, THAT’S what makes us strong.

This is extremely difficult to write. I don’t like conflict, as a rule. It’s probably why I was cowed for so long by manipulative jerk after manipulative jerk. But do you know what shutting up and not standing up for myself against their abuse did for me? Fuck nothing. And I’m NOT going to stand for that kind of racism. Tara was right; we do have different histories. But she was wrong to lump me into some kind of group based on my skin color, assuming privilege, assuming experience, assuming a mindset.

It’s not white women or black women or Asian women who are splitting this movement; it’s a divisive mindset that is splitting this movement.

Follow-up (on Dr. King’s words and FA)

This started as a comment on the last post I made, but I figured it needed its own spot.

I sincerely hope everyone understood what I meant by this particular quote from my last post:

Debunking the idea that some Ugly, automatically inferior group, even exists, is a difficult task that hasn’t been taken up by most any of the previously oppressed groups, with the exception of people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—and his words have largely been spun by his successors to apply only to black people or only to racial relations, and not have the generality he originally intended.

Race relations is extremely important, and his words were born from that movement, and should necessarily accompany the movement in its modern struggle for rights.

However, I’ve heard—even by a few prominent civil rights activists—a bit of a sneer when anyone tries to apply Dr. King’s words to the plights of other oppressed groups. But they do apply, which is one of the real greatnesses of Dr. King, in that he advocated acceptance and equal rights—not glorification and special rights—much like what we’re doing now.

We don’t think we’re better than thin people, we don’t want thin people to suffer for the psychological and physical pain we’ve endured, simply because they enjoy—by no fault of their own, rather faulty thinking and scapegoatism by the culture—privileged status. We want to join hands with thin(ner) people (many of us are already married to them, have family members, or are thin people) and be treated as cultural equals.

As a brief qualification, there are some people who should suffer for the psychological and physical pain we’ve endured—but they’ll suffer in the form of plummeting profits and zero demand as the general public finally wakes up to the truth behind the Diet Farce. Politicians will suffer in the form of lower votes and anonymity as the public will no longer support a politician who stakes his career on getting the laws changed to make having a fat child abuse, or who pushes restrictive calorie school lunch programs and overzealous, socially embarrassing ‘wellness’ programs (since, yanno, fatties don’t know they’re fat, they must be told!).

The ‘obesity’ researchers who’ve been sucking from the teats of Lilly, Merck, &etc will suffer, as their grant money will dry up. The journalists and radio talk show hosts who expounded on fat with bigoted, hate-filled language will suffer as their readership and listener pools dwindle.

The problem isn’t thin people—it’s the culture, and the machines keeping some lies loud and truths unheard. Just like Dr. King stressed that the problem wasn’t white people—it was the culture.

Just thought I should clarify.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I’ve been listening to the Good/Bad fattie debate with a bit of detachment. I haven’t thrown my hat into the ring yet, since I feel the Good/Bad division is a historically natural human response, a sort of boundary/structure-seeking inherent in finding one’s place within a group. Perhaps my detachment comes from not feeling any need to be a part of a group, per se, which comes from my slightly different neurological profile. But I recognize the human, or typical, urge to find one’s place within a society in which they’ve accepted as their own.

Hell, we see this dynamic all around us. It’s part of what we’re fighting against; we’ve become the victims of a war of attrition, the wearing down of our equal status as individuals and, when it comes down to it, as full-status humans. Many groups have historically undergone similar warfare. Political and religious structures, some long-lasting and some not, have cropped up throughout history which reflect this desire to structure society so that it can be more easily navigated and controlled. Caste systems, racial classification, economic classification, fat classification, &etc.

That we seek to similarly divide ourselves is, therefore, natural. It is not, however, in any way, shape, or form, desirable. It is an impulse we must fight against, at all costs. And that’s why I think there was such a furor this week over the Good/Bad fattie classification. It’s not because the majority of us think in such terms, but because the majority of us know that groups have the tendency to divide their members into such categories, and we know that we must reject this tendency if we are to really change anything.

Are we changing anything if we get fat accepted, but now there are strict guidelines about how much one should exercise because it’s been determined that activity level, and not fat, are what most closely correlate to good health? Are we changing anything if we just put everyone else on another diet, namely, some particular person’s (not everyone’s) definition of HAES? Are we changing anything if, instead of keeping quiet about the size-control methodology of some private insurers and their interested diet industry sponsors, we give that power to the government and their interested lobbyists instead? Are we changing anything by buying fat-hiding clothes, and wearing skirts to the beach, because we’re afraid of being heckled by teenage boys? Are we changing anything if we feel the need to list what we ate that day and our activity levels to people who are anyone except our doctor? Are we changing anything by supporting others’ decisions to mutilate their bodies by amputating their stomachs, starving their bodies, cutting off parts of their bodies, &etc instead of trying our very best to educate, and then support them only in recovery from that disordered thinking and not during it?

Recently I was “outed.” Just today, I received a comment on my blog from someone who knows me personally; I have no idea how she got the link here. I have had to struggle with my own anonymity, since every fiber of my being screams against it, wants to be open and honest and unafraid of the consequences. I have much to fear, honestly: retribution from a previous abuser, misunderstanding of my posts by family and friends, frowning-upon by employers who might find my confessions unprofessional and ‘unhinged;’ personal and professional doom is very possible if this blog is truly “outed.”

The point is, the truth, to some, is Ugly. Not ugly, Ugly. Disgusting. Horrifying. Makes one quake with fear and loathing.

Ugly is a concept we’re all familiar with; Ugly is Bad, Ugly is a characteristic held by one person which ensures all the rest of us who aren’t Ugly are automatically better than that person. Beauty is the opposite of Ugly. Beauty connotes automatic superiority. Many things can be beautiful in different ways. It is harder to be Ugly; Ugly isn’t open to interpretation. The Beautiful are protected from the Ugly by laws. The Ugly are put in cages, or jails, or eke out lives at the bottom of the totem pole, or succeed only as long as they remain invisible and anonymous.

Fat has become Ugly. Automatically inferior to non-Fat. Our voices have been suppressed, our bodies made invisible or the objects of jokes, our minds marginalized, our morality falsely interpreted as encompassing the historically-defined morality of Ugly persons (lazy, mean, stupid, crazy, unhealthy, contagious). It is interesting to note that the aforesaid Ugly morality has been, at times, attributed to most other oppressed groups (Jews, blacks, gays, &etc were all at some point labeled approximately thusly).

So while we’re discussing Good/Bad fatties, even if the Bad fattie is indeed a “straw” fattie, let’s keep in mind that there is a very good reason we must be vigilant about this dynamic infiltrating FA. The fact is, the war we’re fighting is being fought against All fatties, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, however they are defined within our ranks. It might even seem, to some, reasonable to compromise with anti-Fat warriors by throwing Bad fatties to the wolves, so that society can just transform its precious dichotomy of Beauty/Ugly : Thin/Fat to Beauty/Ugly : Healthy/Unhealthy.

Debunking the idea that some Ugly, automatically inferior group, even exists, is a difficult task that hasn’t been taken up by most any of the previously oppressed groups, with the exception of people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—and his words have largely been spun by his successors to apply only to black people or only to racial relations, and not have the generality he originally intended.

I think the Good/Bad fattie debate isn’t spurious. In fact, it’s vitally important: in busting one false dichotomy (thin = Beauty, fat = Ugly) we must be careful not to simply transfer that dynamic to a whole new group of future oppressed people. That open racism is largely frowned upon is a great victory. There have been many other victories for historically oppressed groups. We aren’t the last group to be oppressed openly—the desire to oppress, to find one’s place in a class-conscious world, to assert one’s status using traits that are purely incidental and have nothing to do with the content of one’s character, will always be there. But we need to name this dynamic; like the courageous and brilliant Dr. King, we have to call it out for what it truly is, and we need to let people know that our struggle isn’t just about Fat, it’s about busting this highly destructive and oppressive dynamic.

It comes down to “Superiority by Birth”: because I was born to look/act/etc a certain way, I’m better. I didn’t have to do any work, or prove myself in any way — I’m just naturally better, and you’re naturally worse, there’s nothing you can do about it (though you should sacrifice your whole life trying).

This last statement is one of the most destructive and oppressive viewpoints in the history of mankind, and is at the root of all sorts of massacres and atrocities. Take your pick—the Crusades, the French Revolution, the Holocaust, the massacre of Native Americans, the rise of the Roman Empire, the fall of the Roman Empire—and so forth.

And maybe it is just human nature, and we must succumb to repeating history with different groups in power and poverty, for equally arbitrary reasons.

But perhaps, like Dr. King, we can step out of ourselves, and maybe — just maybe — evolve as a species beyond the arbitrary and hurtful definitions of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Shoring Up

When I was first reading the FA blogs, I read somewhere (possibly written by Rachel, fillyjonk, or meowser) that many people who come to FA from fat-bigoted cultures/families or eating-disordered pasts become angry when they learn just how far over their eyes the wool had been pulled, their whole lives.

It’s not just a matter of, “Oh, ha-ha, you got me!” Many people experience very real physical and psychological torture at the hands of fat bigotry (in its many forms). Whether it’s the pain, guilt, self-hate, elation, and accompanying regain-plummet of yo-yo dieting, being physically abused by school-children or family, or just being constantly bombarded with WW ads on the bus every morning, noon and evening, fat bigotry is practically common-place. Which means, of course, that it gets most of us, somehow. Which itself means when we find the house of bigotry is a house of cards we become very, very angry.

And I was. Perhaps I still am; I certainly am indignant at the thin-crazy/fat-invisible media, the vocal, unavoidable, and plentiful shills by Big Pharma and weight-loss industry members, the memories of the abuse I suffered, the constant reminders that fat people are second-class citizens in this country, the conventional wisdom fallacies about the connections between weight, health, the economy, global warming, &etc, &etc, ad infinitum.

But lately, I feel as if I’m quieting down a bit. I’m getting a much better sense of how to read and interpret the studies and literature; my baloney detector for such things has been honed. I feel as if I can absorb and understand a good deal more, and that’s what I’ve been doing: reading and absorbing, reading and absorbing. No longer reacting (as much); I’m a vessel, and I want to have as much knowledge, as much truth, as much ammunition, as possible.

Perhaps it’s a natural stage in the process of coming to terms with the truth behind a good deal of life lost to a lie. Maybe others can speak to this. But I’m more peaceful now, and very much enjoying ‘shoring up’ after a long spell of indignant anger.

BeingGirl: For girls, by liars

This morning, Harriet Brown had a wonderful post to which I felt compelled to respond upon a bit more digging.

“BeingGirl: For girls, by girls,” a site hosted by Proctor & Gamble, is one of those places that draws in teenage girls with cutesy graphics and shitty writing (by the staff), and better writing which populates the rest of the site (posts by the girls themselves). Some of the posts are heartbreaking, and the articles themselves (esp. the ones concerning weight) are filled with virulent lies, and ‘methods’ of weight-reduction which read like a pro-ana site.

What dangerous nonsense…I hope my teenage, computer-literate, soon-to-be step-daughters haven’t ever stumbled into that den of lies.

Here’s a quote from the “Express Yourself — Creative Expressions” part of the site:

All that I can think about are the calories in that food

All that I can think about are the calories in that food Constantly counting and adding to make sure I don’t eat too much I know that it is bad to diet, but being thin makes me feel good That feeling of the fat on my stomach is annoying to touch So 900 calories a day is all that I can allow People tell me how much weight I’ve lost, but I just don’t see it I’m scared to eat more than that I don’t want the weight, not now People saying “Eat more, eat more” makes me just stare at it and sit Yes, food, food, everywhere, but I’m scared to eat it up You want to help me Well, I’m way beyond help I’m lost…

It was given 1046 positive “votes,” which means that resonates with at least that many girls on the site (the ones that bother to vote, anyway). It looks like the average number of positive votes is about 1000, from what I can see.This one, lower on the list, makes me feel very good, however:

Being Me

I have always struggled with weight issues and until recently I have
never really accepted myself. I always had self esteem issues and
would hide behind a facade of friendly compliments to other people and
big clothes. I figured out that I really needed to accept myself, so I
really stepped back and looked at my choices. Not just my eating and
exercising habits, but also my dressing and grooming habits. Going out
and buying that dress that I have always wanted but never felt I could
pull off.

I found that by stepping outside my safety zone I found more
confidence in myself and began to accept me for who and what I am.
I have found myself actually pursuing romantic endeavors I had never even dreamed of before.

I just wanted to let anyone who is having self esteem issues know that if you can step outside of your safety zone, as hard as it can be, you can
truly make a difference in your life. It has in mine.

But this post only got 422 positive votes, compared to the negative body image’s post of 1024. 😦

These article writers (not the open-forum posts by regular girls like the ones quoted above) seem like they’re ALL nasty liars. Here’s another quote, from “Teenage Girls Fear of Fatness”

You would think from the words Carrie uses…guilty, bad, cheating, hate…that she was talking about something more immoral or harmful than snacking on potato chips. You would think she was worried about the osteoporosis, anemia, obesity and cardiovascular disease that might be made worse by eating certain foods [emphasis mine]

Anemia? Christ, that’s a new one. Where the hell are they getting this garbage, anyway? Or is it just “known” that OMG FOOD!1! is a toxic substance that causes diseases, and we need to try so hard to find the ‘wisdom’ to abstain from it?

The rest of the article is filled with confused contradictions, at one moment claiming rightly that body image is horribly skewed in the teenage girl population, then wondering “what causes” this when their own site is replete with panic-mongering bullshit, ending with :

Learn to see yourself through your grandma’s eyes not that distorted mirror you rely on. There’s no need to eliminate any food you enjoy from your diet. Just learn to make trade offs and balance unhealthy foods with healthy ones. And keep on the move. The safest and most appropriate obesity prevention strategy is to get rid of those “automobile feet” and exercise.

And when they don’t “prevent obesity” that way (exercise has been shown to be a largely ineffective way to lose weight, though it’s very effective in increasing health), what then? How are they going to feel? Like they need to start ritualizing food, just like they thought? That they aren’t good enough, and the answer is just to exercise ‘more’?

I could go on and on with this site. Instead, I’m just going to end with a few gems that you can discuss (and, of course, feel free to go to the site as well):

The Runaway Eating Epidemic

A recent study by the National Longitudinal Study for Adolescent Health revealed that in the five years between 1996 and 2001, about two million teens joined the ranks of the clinically obese!

Uh, yes, revising standards downwards in order to label more people obese (in 1997 or 1998, I forget) is going to make the ‘ranks of the clinically obese’ go up (don’t you love how ‘clinically’ obese makes it sounds so uber-scary and real, even though it’s an arbitrary number based on the bullshit skewing and misemphasizing of the Nurse’s Study’s statistics?)

Dieting Myths

This article “debunks” dieting myths—and also let’s you know which ones are “true”! The poll questions are the standard stuff, but one of them asks:

To keep weight off, you should take off how much a week?
1. at most 5 pounds
2. at most 2 pounds
3. at most 6 pounds
4. at most 4 pounds

The real answer, of course, is “at most 0 pounds.” “Taking off” weight doesn’t work for the vast majority of dieters, and to expect that one can “take off” some magic perfect number a week and “keep” it off is dangerously fallacious. To suggest to teenage girls that permanent weight loss is achievable in any fashion as long as they do it the ‘right way’ is abominable, and goes against the preponderance of evidence.

Fitness and Diet

This one is confusing, filled with dangerous contradictions:

When Should You Diet?

Unfortunately, women today are often pressured to measure up to a certain body type so they “diet’ to achieve that goal. But there are many body types and some people might have bigger shapes just because they’re built that way.

Just think of it in nature. Some cats are naturally skinny, some are husky, and some are heavier. Different builds and body types in animal are natural. And it’s the same with people. Each person has an ideal, individual weight range where they are still healthy. That range could be higher or lower, depending on the person. So just because you don’t look like the skinny actress on the cover of an entertainment magazine, don’t worry. And don’t go crazy dieting.

Sometimes going on a diet can really help you — if you’re overweight and need to lose pounds, for example. More than 1 of every 3 American adults is considered to have an unhealthy weight. Because of these excess pounds, they are more susceptible to disease. So being very overweight can be unhealthy, and is a good reason to “diet.” [emphases mine]

Huh?? One moment we’re all “different,” the next minute overweight is unhealthy and should be dieted off??? I don’t have the energy for this last one. Please tear into it for me.

My to-be stepdaughters shall be warned away from this site.

Edited to correct typos and provide emphases.

Quick “duh” hit

Special attention should be given to portion sizes, which have increased significantly over the past two decades (http://hin.nhlbi.nih.gov/portion/index.htm). Though there are no empirical studies to show a causal relationship between increased portion sizes and obesity, there are studies showing that controlling portion sizes helps limit calorie intake, particularly when eating calorie-dense foods (foods that are high in calories for a given measure of food). 

 

Source: The Good Ole USA Gov’ment 

Thanks, Einstein. Limiting caloric intake limits caloric intake. And the Obvious Award goes to…. 🙂 

However, even more telling was the line right before.  “Though there are no empirical studies to show a causal relationship between increased portion sizes and obesity, there are studies showing that controlling portion sizes helps limit calorie intake…” 

I.e., though fat people don’t eat more, if you don’t want to be a fat person, you shouldn’t eat as much. Set-point theory, anyone? Sure, you can lose weight by restricting your ‘caloric intake,’ but you’re not going to keep it off — otherwise there would exist a causal relationship between portion size and obesity. 

No kidding. 

Massholians — stand up and be counted

Fellow Massholians, proud payers of the government of Taxachusetts, pahk your cahr and get to the wicked Statehouse to testify for your pissar fellow body-diverse Minutemen!

Details via Kate Harding, quotes from Marilyn Wann, and how to get in touch with Ms. Wann here.

And quotes from Paul Campos’ book The Obesity Myth, to inspire you:

“…Americans who would never dream of consciously allowing themselves to be disgusted by someone’s skin color, or religion, or social class, often feel no compunction about expressing the disgust elicited in them by the sight of people who weigh anything from a lot to a little more than our current absurdly restrictive ideal.” [p. xxiv]

“To the tens of millions of Americans who are being made miserable by the lies of the weight loss industry, and its mouthpieces in the medical and public health establishments, I would say this: Rejecting those lies requires nothing less than an act of personal and social revolt. And nothing less than a revolution is needed to overthrow America’s eating-disordered culture, with its loathing of the most minimal body diversity; its neurotic oscillation between guilt-ridden bingeing and anorexic self-starvation, and its pathological fear of food, pleasure, and life itself.”

Time to stand up and start the revolution.

Eat right = Eat thin = Starve

Food is bad for you.

You shouldn’t have too much fat, sugar, salt, carbohydrates, and meat. You should “eat right” they say, before or after the qualification that this is necessarily related to losing weight, gaining health, or both.

“Eating right” means there must exist such a thing as “eating badly.” “Too much,” they say. “You mustn’t eat, drink, etc too much. Everything in moderation.” What they mean, of course, is that you shouldn’t eat too much “bad” food, with “too much” equaling “any.”

“Eat right” means “eat thin.” Everywhere I see “eat right,” it’s followed with flowing praises of vegetables and whole grains, with the qualifications that whole grains needs to be moderated because they can be high in calories. “Also,” they continue. “Make sure to take a daily multivitamin!” —ostensibly implying they’re concerned about our nutritional intake. Why, oh why, would they be concerned, if we were truly “eating right”? Isn’t nutrition what food is for?

Because these days, “eating right” means “eating as few calories as possible without dying.” When WW is touted as a “healthy” plan and promotes recipes which feature Splenda as the main ingredient, you’ve really got to scratch your head and wonder what crackpot nutritionist put the rubber stamp on that one (if any).

Eating for “health” is equated to eating as few calories as possible due to the prevalence of the fallacious stereotype that adipose tissue is some kind of toxic, alien, unbeneficial, unnatural substance that clings to your body like the brain suckers from the original Star Trek (okay, I’m a nerd), except this tissue invades like a virus, permanently corrupting your cells and turning you into a lifetime, diabetes-riddled fatty, regardless of your family history.

The idea that the anyone took this study seriously is evidence that the popular notion of fat tissue as simply ugly has evolved into some diseased, toxic substance (which is still ugly).

To truly eat right, one must have fats, and sugars, and salts. I’ve got chronic low blood pressure (thanks, Gram!) that sometimes requires medication, depending on the season. My cardiologist routinely gets on my butt to make sure I’m eating enough sodium. And, indeed, it makes me feel much better when I have a goodly amount of sodium in my system. Too little and I’m woozy, depressed, and can’t breathe that well.

Though most people have normal and not too-low BP like myself, it can be argued that food — all food — serves a purpose. “Eating right” being equivalent to as severe calorie restriction as is physically possible, depending on the individual, their activity level, their age and gender, and so forth — as long as you take your multi-vite!— is simply promoting lifetime starvation.

Starvation as healthy eating?

Welcome to 2008.

Editing for clarification: this post was meant to stress not that healthy eating is bad, but that when (most!) people talk about healthy eating these days, they’re actually talking about dieting, not about balancing what they eat in order to get the right nutrition from their food (and not solely from a multivitamin since the rest of their diet consists of Splenda and water). Cheers, thanks to hotsauce for pointing out the confusion! 😉

The Tall Epidemic

We are in the midst of an epidemic.

I’m not talking about the Obesity Epidemic, fortunately already recognized and being actively combated by such brave foot-soldiers as MeMe Roth and Mississippi Lawmakers: no, I’m talking about the Tall Epidemic.

Face it: since the American Revolutionary Era, people have been getting taller. Chinese children are growing at an alarming rate, 6 cm (2.34 inches) taller than just 30 years ago. Teens getting taller and heavier.

Obesity is hereditary, second only to height. The Obesity Epidemic dictates that we underfeed children at a “high risk” for adult obesity (those who have fat parents, grandparents, siblings, and/or aunts and uncles). Underfeeding in childhood results in lower weight and stunted height. Given that, it should follow that parents should be made to put their kids on diets to keep them from both getting fat, and getting too tall.

The tallness and obesity epidemics are inextricable. Being too tall can lead to BMI differences between men and women. Taller women have a lower BMI on average, in comparison to taller men. This means we can combat the obesity epidemic by making sure men don’t get too tall. Women, of course, are expected to remain under an acceptable number on the scale, regardless of height, so as they get taller they better stay under 180 lbs, even if they’re 6′ 5″. A woman above 180 lbs is objectively fat, no matter what her height. As a society we could ease their struggle by enforcing the Acceptably Short standard.

Now you may think that all of this sounds Shortperior, but I am actually 6′ 0″ tall. It will be my goal to show you that if I can do it, so can you!

The Tall Epidemic has many costs, both economic, and health-related.

Economic Costs of Tallness

The economic costs of tallness are myriad, and therefore devastating. It’s reported that in Europe, the Dutch are growing at an alarming rate, placing an economic strain on the whole country scrambling to keep up with their unnatural growth:

The average Dutchman, whose country produces the Continent’s loftiest men, is now more than six feet tall – almost two inches above his American counterpart. And he is still growing. Across the Netherlands hotel owners are lengthening beds and raising door mantles to stop the nation’s tall youth suffering from irreparable anatomical damage.

According to a New Yorker essay on the subject last week, Dutch ambulances are even having to keep their back doors open on many occasions to allow for the prodigious dimensions of their patients’ legs.

Health costs of tallness


Tallness is associated with a range of cardiovascular issues, including (but not limited to), irregular heartbeats, atrial fibrillation, and venous thrombosis.

Greater height associated with central nervous system (CNS) disorders: Pre-Morbid Height and Weight as Risk Factors for Development of Central Nervous System Neoplasms

Greater height is also associated with a wide range of risk factors for cancers: taller and slimmer girls ages 7 – 15 have a greater incidence of breast cancer later in life, tallness is linked to increased risk for ovarian, pancreatic and pre-menopausal cancer, the greatest incidence of testicular cancer is seen in tall, slim men, tall women have a greater incidence of breast cancer, and greater height is related to increased prostate cancer risk.

In fact, greater adult height is a risk factor for higher overall incidences of cancer and, in particular, with cancer of the breast (after the menopause), prostate, large bowel, endometrium, ovary---that is, the major non-smoking related malignancies---and kidney.

What can I do to help combat the Tall Epidemic?

Though alarmingly paradoxical (since they’re usually blamed on the same phenomenon, better nutrition), the Obesity Epidemic can help to combat the Tall Epidemic.

At the time of the American Revolution, the average US male was two inches taller than his British counterpart. Today he is almost half an inch shorter.


America has eight million people with no job, 40 million individuals with no health insurance, 35 million living below the poverty line, and a population that exists mainly on junk food. There, the rise in average height that marked its progress as a nation through the 19th and 20th centuries has stopped and has actually reversed – albeit very slightly – in recent years.

I wasn’t aware my diet consisted mainly of evil “junk” food, but since one researcher in the UK says it’s so, it must be! Scienterrific!

From this we see one of the solutions may lie in the Obesity Epidemic itself. Clearly if we ate more “junk” food—foods that contain over an arbitrary level of fats, sugars, meats, ’empty’ nutrients, carbohydrates, or basically anything except fresh wheat stalks, fruits, vegetables, and Splenda—we’d be shorter.

However, as we look into it, we realize our solutions are indeed vast, since people are both shorter from overfeeding, and shorter from undernutrition.

Undernutrition was strongly associated, both in the review of published work and in new analyses, with shorter adult height, less schooling, reduced economic productivity, and—for women—lower offspring birthweight.

It seems that both starvation and over-feeding can combat tallness. Parents, get started today!

In addition, it is our duty as concerned citizens to make sure the risk factors, both health-related and economic, get widely promulgated to a public that grotesquely associates tallness with greater health, success, beauty, and virility (in men). Our children are living in a culture infused with pro-tall messages that are damaging to their health. Not only are they psychologically damaged when they try to grow to that too-tall ideal and fail, but they are even more damaged if they succeed, falsely believing they are a better, healthier, more desirable person for being taller. These are frightening times, and it will take a lot to educate the public on the facts behind the Tall Epidemic, as illustrated in the many links to studies above, if we hope to stop our children’s heights from continuing to shoot up, and up, and up.

In fact, it is reasonable to suggest that if we keep growing at this rate, deaths from cardiovascular issues and cancer shall make this generation be the first generation whose average life expectancy lowered.

Mental and physical health notwithstanding, tallness also places a great burden on our society.

Tallness putting a burden on our society

Tallness causes the discomfort of shorter people. On airplanes, a tall person’s legs often jam right into the back of the seat in front of them. The person sitting in front of a tall person cannot recline their seat, or the tall person will protest. Having to fly with knees in your back, unable to recline, is an injustice. Part of what is included in airline service is some modicum of comfort within the small space of the seat for which you paid, which includes not having someone’s knees invade your space, or being able to recline your seat if you desire. Tall people should have to pay for their airline seat, and the seat in front of them.

Building codes adjusted for tallness place a hidden ‘tall tax’ on the rest of us. In Massachusetts, the building codes state that ceiling heights must be 6’8″ minimum in order to include space in the calculation of a house’s square footage. DF and I have a home where half the basement is at a height of 6′ 1″; we lose 250 square feet in the valuation of our house, which means thousands of dollars in lost equity because of too-tall standards.

Everywhere we see accommodations being made for tall people that wouldn’t be made for fat people, or short people. The tallest person, for instance, can find some sort of vehicle which accommodates him, even if he has to resort to a large truck or SUV for legroom. However, even the most petite two-seater Porsche still only allows the seat to be pulled up to a certain point, leaving little people in the dust, forced to buy extenders. Dangerous heightening surgeries are being undertaken by some little people in order to try to fit in to our too-tall world, while no one is clamoring for shortening surgeries for the too-tall.

The bad news: it may be too late for tall adults to turn back their tallness, though if the Tall Epidemic got as much media attention as the Obesity Epidemic, epidemiologists everywhere would be applying for grants through Lilly and Merck in order to fashion a prescription medication that would reduce height, by counteracting the overactive growth hormone in the too-tall, and so forth.

If the Tall Epidemic’s health concerns (see above), as terrifying as those correlated with the Obesity Epidemic, were given as much attention as those of the latter, surgeons would be proposing procedures which have been shown to cause great long-term difficulties to the patient but have the (at least temporary) effect of reducing the evil toxic fat (like bariatric surgery, lap-band insertion, liposuction, electrical shocking of the hippocampus). These potential surgeries could include leg-bone shortening, bariatric surgery in young children to reduce the nutritional absorption from food so that their growth is stunted, electrical shocking of the area of the brain that releases the hormone involved with height, imposed osteoporosis so that bones become more brittle and result in an effective shortening of a few inches, and so forth.

In short, if tallness weren’t popularly considered a beautiful attribute, and not an ugly attribute like fatness, people would be as concerned about the health risks associated with tallness as they are with the risks associated with fatness. People would be as indignant at too-tall people as they are at the too-fat. Tall people would be disincluded from popular media like most movies, television shows, and commercials, as are fat people. Songs would be written about killing too-tall wives, and children would be sent to summer ‘shortening’ camps. Schools would be reporting the heights of their children every semester, with the schools that lowered the average height of their children presented monetary awards by the town and/or state. Tall parents would be denied adoption or fertility services, and too-tall children would be removed from their homes and placed in the custody of the state. Tall people would have to purchase two seats on Southwest Airlines. Tall people would be required to report their heights at nutritional restaurants, and disallowed service if they are too tall. State and local ‘shortening’ programs would be initiated to help educate parents on how to best protect children at a high risk of becoming tall and falling victim to the host of health problems associated with tallness.

Disclaimer – though all the links point to real studies, the point of the post is satirical. All digs at tall or fat people are meant to be purely illustrative, and not literal.

Before you succumb to “authority”…

…remember that those in authority who are supposed to possess expertise may not. In fact, if a bias exists in general form in certain programs, that bias will ‘trickle down’ to the future professionals in that field.

For instance, here’s a webpage maintained by medical doctors which ranks high on the Google search hits for “genetics height weight.” The webpage features average height/weight charts for whites, blacks, hispanics, and others, categorized into male and female (I have problems with the racial categorizations, though some would disagree with my trepidation). They also have weight charts for children (interestingly, however, no height charts).

Featured within the description box are, of course, the BMI charts for men and women. They also have an ideal weight page, which says that I should lose 100 lbs according to certain calculations, and that the “medically recommended” weight for me is at least 75 lbs lower than I am right now.

Interestingly, I’ve been in that range before. What did it take to keep me there? Eating three Fig Newtons every day, drinking liters of Diet Coke, and taking Metabolife at its maximum doseage (those were on the days I actually ate: I would fast from 1-4 days periodically, living off Metabolife alone). I hit 155 lbs doing that, at the lowest level of my eating. When I began exercising I started gaining weight back, since even the Metabolife wouldn’t kill the hunger (that was back when Metabolife had ephedrine; it didn’t work at all for me once ephedrine was banned from ‘herbal’ diet pills).

When I was on a “healthy” WW diet, I never got that low. I bottomed out at 205, with 2 hours of hard cardio a day in addition to fruits, veggies, and Splenda-flavored air.

But hey, anything to lose weight and get into that “medically recommended” range, eh? Interesting that there are no “recommendations” on how to healthily get into that range (because, OMG, it’s obvious — eat less, exercise more!).

Back to the main page, we find this gem:

The most common reason that people use these charts is to find out if they, or someone they love, is overweight. While it is scientifically proven that obesity is unhealthy,

Wow, it is? I don’t remember that happening. Blanket panic-statements are scienterrific!

please also remember that a negative self-image is also unhealthy. [emphasis theirs]

So you better hate and fear your fat at the same time maintaining good body image.

If you are overweight, these charts show that you are not alone. The people you see on television or in magazines, don’t represent the real population.

…but they’re still unhealthy, because they’re FAAAATTTTT!!!!!!1! Did I mention that fat is unhealthy?

But wait, there’s more:

Medical science can suggest a normal range of body mass index values that are equally reasonable and healthy.

“Reasonable,” even though 95% of you non-normal people can never achieve it.

Outside of that normal range, when either overweight or underweight, then some statistically significant health risks have been proven.

Aha, well, so it’s risks you’re talking about, then. How convenient! Let’s lump people together using statistical correlations and not describe what actually causes conditions. For instance, 7 of 8 fat people do not have Type II diabetes. But you could say those 7 other fat people have a risk of getting diabetes because they’re being lumped into the same group as fat people with diabetes (namely, their risk is 1 in 8, or 12.5%).

However, that’s not taking into account the causes of diabetes. Diabetes is strongly genetic; so can those 12.5% of fat people with a genetic predisposition to diabetes be compared to fat people with no or small genetic predisposition to diabetes? “Medical science” says yes — because they’re fat. Common sense, or actual rigorous science with no agenda says no — people with a genetic predisposition towards something should be lumped with other people who have that same genetic predisposition.

But hey, this blog has never tried to suggest much medical research in obesity either doesn’t have an agenda, or is as rigorous as it could be (for whatever reason).

Hopefully this ‘medical conventional wisdom’ will change as unbiased, non-Pharma funded (and that includes equipment, too!) research turns out the real mechanisms behind weight.

And a final, terrifying remark from that site:

On the other hand, public opinion, as influenced by television and print advertising, portrays an unrealistic narrow range of “ideal”. So, remember that genetics and family history is the most significant determinant of your height and weight. (Just don’t use that as an excuse to avoid exercise and good nutrition).

Ah, yes. Always the admission of the strong hereditary nature of height and weight, with the “caveat” which translates into: Remember, you can’t control your natural setpoint range. But that’s no excuse not to try to control it.

For more evidence of non-expert “expertise,” please go to First, Do No Harm.