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!

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9 comments on “Rush Limbaugh Spreads ‘Fat is Genetic’ Message

  1. lockeanddemosthenes says:

    I believe you’ve narrowed down the issue too much. Weight certainly is a genetic thing. But that doesn’t mean that people can’t do something about it. Like you said, Rush has repeatedly gone on diets and then regained the weight – when he chose to he successfully lost weight. The argument about fast food companies isn’t that they make Americans fat, it’s that they make them far fatter. And the statistics don’t lie – while there are plenty of people in the world who are fat who don’t eat “western food”, America is far and away the most obese nation in the world (one of the contributing factors to our ranking of 48th in the world in mortality rates). Like Rush said, you’re responsible for what you put in your mouth, but how many people who order a Whopper from Burger King really know what is in their sandwich?

    • bigliberty says:

      Sorry, I just can’t get around the illogic in the abutment of these two phrases:

      “Weight certainly is a genetic thing. But that doesn’t mean that people can’t do something about it.”

      How is yo-yo dieting permanently changing one’s genetic setpoint again? You may not know this, but diets don’t work about 95% of the time. You don’t seem unreasonable or trollish, which is why I approved your comment, so I’ll point you to the links on my (always incomplete) Truth Behind Fat page. If you have any technical arguments to make about how genetically fat people can become permanently thin (and especially, why they should feel it necessary to do so) after reading what is linked from this page, come back and let us know.

  2. This is very interesting. I dislike Rush’s style (and politics, as I’m a super-Canadian lefty type) but I do like the fact that both sides of the political spectrum have stuff to say on this topic. It’s truly a bipartisan conversation that needs to be happening.

    And, on that note, I really do agree that it’s no one’s effing business what goes on with someone else’s body, and I really-really-really dislike the idea of policing people’s personal habits “for the good of the country,” or some such nonsense.

    I find the Big Food issue more complex — I don’t agree with Pollan when it comes to “obesity,” but I do think there are some things in our food system that could use changing. Also, to me, “Big Food” is inextricably linked with “Big Diet,” who I, of course, have major beefs with.

    OH ALSO, inspired by your evidence page, I started putting links to articles on my sidebar that I’ve been collecting over the years — one I found yesterday that you might like is: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18647629 . If you can, get the full text. It’s pretty amazing.

  3. bigliberty says:

    Ooooh, a setpoint article! Thank you! I love having ready factmunition when I come across (yet again) the tired calories in = calories out misinformation.

    On the rest of your post, I just want to echo the important point you made about real fat politics being bipartisan. I think most people aren’t particularly interested in someone policing what goes in their mouths or how much they exercise, regardless of their personal politics.

    The only end to the chain of logic that obesity is a social problem is to somehow eradicate fat people on a social level. That either makes them some second-class deviant group with relatively limited rights, or it means to actually attempt to physically eradicate them (one can argue that the two methods aren’t mutually exclusive).

    Size needs to be removed from the social discussion all together. No, my size isn’t your business. You have the freedom to say whatever the heck you want about me, but you can’t intrude on my “property” (body).

  4. Rachel says:

    I’m generally more inclined to side with liberals like Pollan over Rush most days, but I’m glad that Rush is using his bully platform for something useful for a change. I think Pollan oversimplifies and exaggerates the relationship he says exists between Big Food and obesity, but like the fat nutritionist, I do think that relationships do exist and that they are vast and complex. As even Linda Bacon explains in her book on HAES, food manufacturers have engineered ways to make people crave their foods and some of the chemicals used in processed food cause our bodies to react in different ways to them, including weight gain. And we can’t ignore the fact that poor people, who tend to be disproportionately fatter than non-poor people, also tend to eat more processed foods owing to the price disparity between them and healthier foods.

    I’m in agreement with much of what Pollan writes in his books about nutrition, the evils of processed foods and the need for healthier diets; I just wish he would leave weight out of the equation. Not only does his focus on obesity alienate pro-food fatties like myself, it also ignores the fact that millions of thin people also eat crap. An unhealthy diet is unhealthy for anyone, fat or thin, period.

  5. bstu says:

    I don’t really see much good in what Rush is doing. He’s just using the issue to demogauge. He’s assigning Me!Me! Roth to the “left” with no justification. She’s not a liberal activist. She’s been quite apolitical, aside starting her fake career with a stunt that objectified women and suggested that women should always fit into their wedding dresses or they were dishonoring their husbands or something. He’s not attacking fat bigotry, he’s just attacking liberals and pretending that fat bigotry is a liberal issue. There are certainly liberal fat haters, but there are conservative ones, too. That’s now how Rush is approaching, this, though. Its not about opposing fat stigmatization. Just fat stigmatization promoted by liberals. If anything, that approach ultimately privileges conservative fat bigots so it can hardly even be said to be doing some good.

  6. bigliberty says:

    I do get the reaction to what Rush says as being something people will naturally see as always colored by his political beliefs — it makes sense, that’s what he’s all about. He sees his world through his moral value system which is his politics. But Newsweek isn’t really known for its conservative bent, and he quoted at length from that article. The argument can be made that he could have been doing it just because it provided him with talking points to argue with someone who was making a more left-leaning point, but why quote from that article? He could have just made the pure economic point that Nanny-state overregulation of behavior using economic measures (like taxation, fees, subsidies, and so forth) is self-defeating. He didn’t have to talk about fat at all.

    In the MeMeMeMe piece, I think he’s taking the position that someone who was more libertarian wouldn’t be trying to bully other parents to feed their children the way she wants her own to be fed. He associates forced idealism with a left-wing ideology (this is certainly arguable. I’m just stating what I understand to be his beliefs, as clarification). But no, as far as I know she hasn’t posted up her party affiliation anywhere.

  7. goodbyemyboy says:

    This is very interesting. It always throws me for a loop when someone who normally says things that I find vile starts to make sense for a few minutes.

  8. presq-t'j says:

    “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.”

    Or bourgoise professionals who think they know something. I’m A-OK with the above.

    “But that doesn’t mean that people can’t do something about it.”

    I don’t think anyone disagrees with that in an absolute sense, but that something is not diet and exercise manipulation, obviously.

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