Rush Limbaugh Spreads ‘Fat is Genetic’ Message

On Rush Limbaugh’s radio show today, he quoted at length from the Newsweek article that obesity is genetic, as heritable as height. Millions of people listen to this show every day.

I know many of my readers here don’t agree with Rush’s politics, but spreading the message that fat has been shown to be as heritable as height, and is not under a person’s control in the long run, is extremely important. Rush was responding to Michael Pollan, who argued in the New York Times on September 9 that Obama should go after Big Food first before going after Big Insurance, because — you guessed it — fat people are the reason why health costs are going up, and they’re going to keep going up unless you go after Big Food (i.e., eradicate fat people).

(as a note, many Sanity Points are required to read the article — it contains the usual myths about the costs of fat people. It also, aggravatingly, euphemizes the ‘obesity epidemic’ with phrases like ‘a result of the Western diet’ — because, yanno, there aren’t any people who eat a non-Western diet that are fat!, and ‘fast-food diet’ — because, yanno, all us fatties do is chow on McWhatevers. Additionally, it assumes all diabetics are diabetic because of what they eat and how they exercise)

Rush has been notably up and down on the issue of fat in a personal sense — a fat man himself, he has regularly undergone diets and then regained the weight (he’s on a diet right now in fact). However, he’s been fairly consistent with his message that it’s no one else’s business but your own what goes into your mouth, and certainly isn’t something that should be regulated by some Nanny-state. He’s also been the brunt of much fat-stigmatization (his opponents regularly take cheap shots at his weight before they go on to explain why they disagree with this-or-that message, or even use his weight as a symbol for what they perceive as his moral failings), and has said surprisingly refreshing things about fat:

The Left’s New Villain: Fat People where he takes some delightful shots at MeMeMeMe Roth:

Did you catch what this Roth b-i-itch said at the beginning of the bite?  You’re supposed to be working out every day?  You’re supposed to be working out. You’re supposed to eat fruits and vegetables, you’re supposed to be.  And MeMe Roth, who nobody has ever heard of, is now the sole authority on what you ought to be doing.  I tried to warn people.  This is the SUV all over again.

“People who regularly exercise….are the ones getting regularly injured. …. you’re the ones putting stress on the healthcare system.” link is to audio, not text

Of course, his track record isn’t perfect. But he’s regularly saying a lot more fat-positive things, especially in the context of body autonomy, than the vast majority of media with his kind of audience. And that’s important, regardless of how you view his politics.

Here’s to you, Rush, and I hope that your journey becomes personally fat accepting with time, though I thank you for a few sane points about “the obese” in a chaos of illogic, hate, and blame!

Unfriending the Bigots

Ah, Facebook bigotry.

Guaranteed to be even more awkward than your ordinary brand of internet bigotry, as it usually involves family, friends, classmates, or coworkers.

I recently got into a bit of an exchange with a person I’ve met all of once, who thought it necessary to masturbate his fat-hate onto my Facebook wall. Seriously, I can just picture some of these bigots with pleasure-faces as their hate oozes out into the world, delighted as pigs in shit often are to root publicly, messily, and splashing it up on you if you’re not careful to stand far enough away.

I shot back with a link to the heritability study and told him that “even if adiposity measures health in some kind of reasonable way (which *hasn’t* been conclusively shown, despite “common” knowledge), your health isn’t someone else’s business, so bugger out of their life. Trust me, fat people know they’re fat. No, really. They do.”

Yeah, a bit grammatically incorrect. I don’t deign to be that careful with my sentence construction when I’m addressing hateful morons that really, really need to bugger off with their hate, oh, yesterday.

I’m rather pissed. And do you want to know the earth-shattering, oh-so-deviant, gravity-defying status update to which the douchebag above was referring?

Body obsession occupies women’s time and minds, as a tool of patriarchy to pin us down. What if we could put this energy into politics, poetry, science, or art?

And his response (get out your bingo cards!):

Well, I guess we’d be a race of super advanced fat people, like in WALL-E… 🙂
Obsession is always bad, I agree. That said, from a health perspective, we do let ourselves go quite a bit, women and men, and I think it’s very easy to over eat and under exercise. I also find it funny and a little pathetic that one of the biggest research fund hogs in the world right now is a pill to make you lose weight. Seriously? Is it *that* hard to go to a gym 3 times a week?


What’s your story of fat-related Facebook/MySpace asshattery? Or rather, have you noticed the sheer determination of bigots to be bigots in *your* space?

(oh yeah, and I totally unfriended his ass. Hence the title of this post!)

Obesity is 77% Heritable

This post is meant to archive a study oft-cited by fat liberation activists. Please take some time to read the study, and please link to it on your own blogs if you find it compelling.

Wardle J, Carnell S, Haworth CMA, Plomin R. Evidence for a strong
genetic influence on childhood adiposity despite the force of the obeso-
genic environment
. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:398 – 404. [HTML]

Accompanying editorial:

Obesity–still heritable after all these years [PDF]

Benefit of Large Thighs – Study

There is a lot of interest swirling around the study that showed a larger thigh circumference may add years to one’s life.

To start, I want to remind everyone that the strongest predictor of your lifespan is the various lifespans of your parents, siblings, and grandparents.

To continue, I wanted to first link to the full text of the study itself. Please take a little time to read through this, take a look at the graphs, think about how the sampling changes based on what is being looked at (in other words, sometimes the author is only talking about the group of people who died during the study period, which instead of 3000 people, is closer to 300).

Another point is how the study is being marketed. A great example is this “caveat” tacked on to the end of an MSNBC article:

She was quick to add, however, that the study should not be interpreted as a free pass for people who want to skip the gym. In this case, much bigger was not better. The protective benefits of heftier thighs didn’t rise when thighs grew larger than 60 centimeters. “There’s no further advantage there,” Heitmann said.

This is the usual media/study author obesity-study-lie-by-omission (can’t give those fatties any reason not to loathe themselves, or for thinner people not to loathe the fatties). If you look at the charts in the original study, you’ll notice that though the supposed benefit is maximized at a thigh circumference of 60 cm, there is no marked decrease of benefit with larger thigh circumference. That is, at 70 cm one enjoys every bit of the benefit enjoyed at 60 cm.

However, I encourage you to come to your own conclusions about this study, based on the text itself. The text author is an out-and-out obesity researcher: his bread and butter is trying to show correlations to health indices based on weight, BMI, body fat, etc (just do a search for his name and institution on Google Scholar).

These are not the droids you’re looking for

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Zeke Emanuel“, posted with vodpod

Click here if you can’t watch it.

“In the next decade every country will face very hard choices about how to allocate scarce medical resources. There is no consensus about what substantive principles should be used to establish priorities for allocations,” he wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine, Sept. 19, 2002. Yet Dr. Emanuel writes at length about who should set the rules, who should get care, and who should be at the back of the line.

Dr. Emanuel makes a clear choice: “When implemented, the complete lives system produces a priority curve on which individuals aged roughly 15 and 40 years get the most substantial chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get changes that are attenuated.”

The youngest are also put at the back of the line: “Adolescents have received substantial education and parental care, investments that will be wasted without a complete life. Infants, by contrast, have not yet received these investments. . . . (, Jan. 31, 2009).

“This civic republican or deliberative democratic conception of the good provides both procedural and substantive insights for developing a just allocation of health care resources. Procedurally, it suggests the need for public forums to deliberate about which health services should be considered basic and should be socially guaranteed. Substantively, it suggests services that promote the continuation of the polity – those that ensure healthy future generations, ensure development of practical reasoning skills, and ensure full and active participation by citizens in public deliberation – are to be socially guaranteed as basic. Conversely, services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.” (And people had the gall to smirk at the idea of “death panels” – the only reason they aren’t death panels is because they aren’t CALLED death panels. Maybe they should just call them “Caskets for Clunkers.”)

Recognize the words of Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, health advisor to President Obama? Take a peek at John Holdren sometime – he’s no mere advisor; he’s got a backdoor cabinet post – it’s called a “Czar” and it means there is no confirmation process, no accountability to congress or constituencies – he’s merely appointed, and there he stays. He’s the “Science Czar” and he preaches forced abortions for those he deems unfit, forced sterilizations, birth control in the water and food supply to control the population, and forcible removal of children from single mothers or those who deign to have more than two children. Hey, totalitarian madman – Goebbels wants his script back!

Then don’t forget Obama’s declaration to the rabbis that we are partners together in matters of life and death. No. No no we really AREN’T. Who in the hell gave him that delusion of grandeur? All these things taken together, if they don’t give you pause as to who exactly is in charge and is demanding to be put in full charge of your most intimate matters, well, you better wake up and take notice.

The “profit motive” so many decry need only be examined in light of reality – to bring it into perspective let’s look at Barbara Wagner. She had state-run health care, and due to her age and her condition (cancer) it was deemed too expensive to cover the cost of her drugs, the drugs that would have prolonged her life. They did, however, offer to pay for euthanasia. This is in the US, by the way, not in some already-socialized health care country. So what became of her? The evil big pharmaceutical corporation, that had spent millions, perhaps billions developing the drug that would prolong her life and bring her comfort, since they had been allowed to make the profit to sink into that effort and since they could afford to, gave her the drug for free. In fact every pharmaceutical company has a program available to make their drugs free or at a reduced cost to those who can’t afford them, and those on goverment health care are at the top of THAT list. The state put in no personal interest at all – they look at their charts and their tables and say “This person – euthanasia; this person – productive enough and doesn’t cost too much – treatment approved.” The drug company looked at the woman and her circumstances and decided accordingly to give her the drug gratis. The government, which produces nothing (it can only take), which progresses nor grows anything (only what it can confiscate) does not have these resources available – either for the R&D that went into the drug or the ability to give it to certain needful persons for free. That isn’t. how. the. world. works.

But let’s move on. Let’s say for some reason you believe in universal health care and socialized medicine, and you want it to become a reality. Well then you will not be fighting for the passage of this current house bill (try reading it – I know it’s long; that’s the idea; most of them haven’t even read it even as they ram it down our throats) because that isn’t what it is. The preamble states that the purpose is not, as many believe, to provide comprehensive health care to all regardless of their income or station in life; the purpose is to cut costs. To ration healthcare from on high and make life/death decisions in order to bring down the costs of medicine. Now government can’t bring down the cost of anything, and the bill is by and large surprisingly non-specific – but what it DOES do – all 1400 pages of it, is wrest control from private people dealing with private doctors and private companies for what they want and how they want it and what they’ll pay for it, and put the entire control in the hands of as-yet unnamed appointees and yes, PANELS, to make all those decisions for you (you needn’t worry your pretty little heads anymore with making decisions – we will once and forever be CHILDREN instead of free men and women)…with a goal towards lowering costs. Heaven help you if you aren’t “productive” enough for that panel – bottom of the line for you. Or if your illness (obesity, asthma, diabetes, et. al.) are “preventable illnesses” AND you’re not very productive because of them. You think they won’t offer to pay for – not your knee replacement, silly, but your gastric bypass! Or maybe, if you’re too far gone, like Ms. Wagner, your death.

If you really, for whatever bizarre reason, support universal socialized health care, start demanding an ACTUAL universal socialized health care bill, because that isn’t what this is. Oh, there’s elements of it in there, but this thing is just a travesty and any thinking person who’s read it ought to have their heads examined if they support it.

As to this federal bureaucracy being “responsive” to the people living and dying under it? Call up your congressman right now and see what kind of response you get – you might even act like you disagree with this bill, and see what they say. See how “responsive” they are to your pleas. Remember how “responsive” Obama was to the woman who asked about her hundred year old mother that needed a pacemaker, and THAT was while campaigning FOR the bill. Get back to me on that responsive thing. With the government, there IS no appeal. There IS no review. You die, you die. And all the better if you weren’t properly productive anyway, right? C’mon, it’s for the children.

Fat Ladies Singing

Deborah Voigt, pre-WLS, performing

Deborah Voigt, pre-WLS, performing

In the comments of a recent post on Shapely Prose, a few of us in the fat community mentioned that we were classically-trained singers. For those not in the know, a classically-trained singer typically sings opera or folk music and ballads.

An interesting thing about classically trained singers is that, for a significant span of time, fat people were quite present and sometimes dominated the scene, especially as what are called “Wagnerian sopranos.”

As you can see, there are faces of all sizes in this crowd, but the average is decidedly fat, even in the modern-era sopranos. It should be noted that Deborah Voigt, the last soprano on the list, got WLS after being fired off one show by a fat-phobic director for not fitting into a dress. The director decided to replace the filler of the dress, rather than letting the dress out, or switching to a more reasonable period dress. Voigt then caved to insecurity and concern trolls and butchered her healthy organs in a three-hour weight Voigt, post-WLS, in the controversial "little black dress"loss surgery procedure. She lost 100 pounds afterwards and was rehired by the company that had fired her for being too fat. Her fans have cheered the results of her barbaric surgery, and she’s working more now than ever, though I’m fairly certain her voice and talent haven’t improved because she now can fit into some particularly-shaped bits of cloth.

But she’s not the only one on that list who was plagued with problems based on her weight. Want to guess which is the next one? If you scanned through and picked out the other modern soprano of the fatphobic era we all currently “enjoy,” you’d be correct. Jane Eaglen has also been badly characterized and passed over because of her weight in favor of thinner, less capable singers. Unlike Voigt, however, Eaglen refuses to apologize for or mutilate herself because of her weight:

Eaglen doesn’t fit the stereotype of a reigning superstar. In this age of marketable singing actresses who pride themselves on being nimble and trim, the thirty-eight-year-old Eaglen is a throwback to an earlier age of Wagner sopranos, resplendently zaftig and virtually immobile onstage. She acts with her voice, not her body. And she’s proud of her appearance, making no apologies for her weight, arguing that as long as she’s healthy, it’s no one else’s concern. If a director won’t work with her because of her size, she says, that’s his problem, not hers. Such candor and defiance are refreshing, if controversial.

Additionally, I highly recommend this article, which is surprising fat-positive, and textually sneers at shallow producers and directors who are trying to turn opera into yet another plastic veneery low art form. The article was written as an angry (yet classy) response to what happened to Deborah Voigt.

Jane Eaglen, performing

Jane Eaglen, performing

These stories hit close to home for me. Growing up, I always had an extraordinarily powerful voice. My grandmother and grandfather sang semi-professionally during the post-WWII years before they had children, as a way to make a little extra money. My grandfather was English — a broad, tall man with power — and my grandmother was German, a petite, yet broad-framed woman whose voice could knock your socks off. My Italian grandfather on the other side of my family had perfect pitch and was an extraordinarily tall, broad-framed man.

Those qualities all came together in me. I inherited large lungs, a large frame, a voice that could knock your socks off, and perfect pitch.

For a while, it was obvious that I was going to do something with singing, as a career, that is. But I kept losing leads to more petite, prettier, wispier voiced bodies. Frustrated, I concluded that the world of performance was inherently fatphobic and began turning my attention to other pursuits.

Only recently has my voice changed yet again (one’s voice changes constantly, and in a good way if you maintain it, until well past 50). I’m singing parts I could never quite handle right before. My voice is so powerful that my neighbors can hear me singing even when all the doors and windows in my house are closed (and my house is well-insulated!). My perfect pitch means I can practice without accompaniment…and I’ve begun to write music again, namely, operatic music.

Accepting a body that is widely unacceptable in a particular culture or society is one thing. Your main battle is with hate: banish hate and disgust, and you will be able to reach that place of acceptance.

However, my fat, tall, broad body allows me to produce uniquely beautiful music I would be unable to produce in a different body. Fat acceptance, for me, is not enough. I need to revel in my fat. Love my size. Appreciate it the way women today are told to appreciate a rock-hard stomach. It allows me to do things I wouldn’t be able to otherwise do. It adds to my abilities rather than, as we are taught to believe about large size, takes away from them.

Appreciating and loving your large size, especially in an age that would have you revile it, is, in my humble opinion, the hardest step of fat acceptance. But for many singers who have profiles similar to mine, part of what we can do is defined by that size (and I hate to say it, but WLS-induced bulimia cannot be good for one’s voice, ultimately).