Other reasons why fat person cost calculations are bogus

Ragen has a great article out today, please take a look if you haven’t seen it already:

The True Cost of Fatties

In her post, Ragen talks about how the back of the envelope ‘study’ done a couple of years ago that suggests fat people are killing the planet with all the extra gas we consume, and the usual shady numbers we see about how much extra healthcare dollars fat people consume. Apparently fat fatties eat money just like they eat Twinkies — in excess, and uncaring as to how it effects anyone else in their lives. We’re truly terrible people, a costly evil scourge that must be eradicated…at all costs.

Which leads me to my first additional point to Ragen’s post:

When we hear fat person cost calculations, there’s an ever-present underlying assumption that if fatties were thinnies or normals, we wouldn’t consume those extra resources. However, overwhelming evidence shows that in order to maintain a significant amount of weight loss down from a natural setpoint of significantly higher, individuals need to dedicate something like a part-time job to it: exercising for several hours a day, paying for expensive diet plans or special meals or therapies, measuring and weighing and planning and special shopping trips and scribbling in a journal–you get the picture. There’s a $60 billion dollar diet industry that derives most of its income from people going on and off temporary diets. If fat people were to do what the above ‘experts’ claim and go on mandatory, permanent, life-long diets, imagine how that number would explode. It would likely eclipse the (shady) amount (badly) estimated spent on fatty healthcare ($147 billion in 2008).

The next part of the fat person cost calculation has to do with absenteeism and the murkily-defined and -exampled presenteeism. Presenteeism is, as defined, when workers show up to work but have much lower levels of productivity than a coworker doing the same job.

…presenteeism was measured and monetized as the lost time between arriving at work and starting work on days when the employee is not feeling well, and the average frequency of losing concentration, repeating a job, working more slowly than usual, feeling fatigued at work, and doing nothing at work. [2]

From what I’ve seen, fat people are accused of presenteeism because they’re assumed to have greater health-related obstructions to doing their job. This would be most pronounced in markets that rely on physical labor. However, the studies I’ve seen that show a ‘significant’ (1% difference! Le gasp!) increase in presenteeism as defined don’t correct for age, which is strongly positively associated with both fatness and decreased productivity in manual jobs.

Fatty presenteeism and absenteeism is estimated to cost employers $73.1 billion annually. My question is, naturally: how much more productive is a starving person? (dieting is indistinguishable from a famine state) How much more productive is someone who spends a part-time job in addition to their full time job keeping off weight? How much would it cost the economy as a whole if we estimated the lost productivity of fat people due to the fact that in order to maintain a thinner state, they would have to dedicate something like 15 – 20 hours a week they could have spent working additional hours, raising up a new generation of workers, or supporting their community and the productivity of others? Methinks that would be a hella more than $73.1 billion a year.

Now for the second point I wanted to add to, or rather stress, in Ragen’s analysis:

You can single out practically any group of people you want and find additional ‘costs’ associated to their ‘lifestyles’ or genetic differences. Thin people are the awesome du jour, but they’ve got their own set of associated costs (if you believe the hype that they’re more active and so on): cost of gas getting back and forth to the gym, athletic injuries, diet plans, they live longer and hoo boy is that expensive, they take more vacations, they tend to be richer and hence de facto consume more resources, and so on. Let’s add that up.

Or parents, as mentioned by Ragen and by me in another forum: parents, especially of unfashionably large families, consume mountains more resources than childless people, have high levels of absenteeism in the workplace, and cost their employers much more in family insurance plans, childcare benefits, and so on. Let’s add that up.

Or people who get tattoos — let’s go after them, shall we? They get sicker more often, as a new tattoo is the same as an open wound. They tend to hang out in edgier clubs, are exposed to the possibility of more violence, and are probably more likely to be drug users (a purely correlative assessment, of course). Let’s add that up. And don’t get me started on people with psychological disorders like depression, bipolar, or those who’ve had traumatic backgrounds, or who are part of prejudicial groups — the extra health costs associated with their therapies and prescriptions and their decreased productivity is nigh-on criminal(big flashing sarcasm meter on all these points, of course)

And so on, and on, and on…

So why fatties? Because we cost so much more than other groups? Nope. Because our costly status is preventable, or cheaper to treat? Nope (see my Truth About Fat: References page). Because:

Fat people are scapegoats.

For what? For a breaking healthcare system, a broken health insurance paradigm, a slowing economy, global warming, hunger in non-Western countries, the declining standard of Western beauty, and pretty much anything else some random person doesn’t like and doesn’t want to either understand or tolerate.

We are in a moral panic, not an epidemic. Fat people ‘cost more’ because we are hated. Fat people destroying the earth, or anything else for that matter, is a proxy for how the moral crusaders believe we are destroying humanity.


1. Rising obesity will cost U.S. health care $344 billion a yearUSA TODAY, November 17, 2009.

2. Obese Workers Cost Workplace More Than Medical Expenses, Absenteeism. Duke Global Health Institute, October 7, 2010.

3. Obesity Promotes Global Warming? John Tierney.The New York Times, May 16, 2008, 9:49 AM

4. Wrestling with the ‘Double Burden’: Hunger and ObesityWorld Food Program USA. By Sara Draper-Zivetz  Published on February 18, 2011

The Mia Freedman Debacle, or, Why Moral Panics Need Strawmen

Bri King of Fat Lot of Good, fellow Fat Acceptance blogger and general advocate, recently came under fire as she found herself daring to push back against a so-called body image activist allowing virulently anti-fat comments on a recent post about feederism.

Bri has since been asked to comment for articles in several Australian news outlets. (students of sociology, pay close attention to the language used in the titles of each of these articles—five extra brownie points for some analysis, if you wish to provide it!)

1. Herald-Sun: Body blogger Mia Freedman gets heavied

2. Today/Tonight: Heavyweight fury

3. A Current Affair: Mia’s fat fight

The article is the fairest, though uses some cheap fat-mocking ‘colorful’ descriptive language here and there. Both of the other segments I watched briefly without the sound so that I could get a sense for the kind of imagery they put forth, and it’s immediately problematic — headless and legless fatties, thinner people who get attractive straight-on headshots, and so forth. But I think others can go through the segments with a bit more of a detailed analysis, what I want to talk about is what really went down, here, and why this is an example of how the strawman effect is the most powerful foundation block of a moral panic.

For Bri’s explanation and links to Mia’s post and its comments, please see her posts here (ordered by date):

1. This Angry Fatty won’t just shut up and go away…

2. still Angry Fatty

Freedman has since come back to explain that, in fact, she wasn’t talking about fat people in general but was highlighting the feederists, which we can all agree are bad, bad, bad! And why don’t us regular fatties just shut up about it, what, do we think that kind of behavior is good or something? Of course, the arguments being made against Bri are chock full of logical fallacies (extra points for those who list which ones!). And it shows either a great deal of ignorance or intellectual dishonesty on the part of a so-called body image advocate to claim that highlighting feederism in the midst of a moral panic where fat people are the folkdevils isn’t harmful to fat people in general.

Here are a few facts to chew on, in case you’re still not convinced:

  1. Feederism wouldn’t seem as horrifying if society wasn’t already panicked and disgusted by fat people in general. The natural bigoted question being, “Can you believe there exist people who not only like being fat but want to get fatter?”
  2. Feederism wouldn’t seem as horrifying if the common wisdom wasn’t erroneously that people with few exceptions have the ability to control their body weight. The natural bigoted question being, “Can you believe these people want to be fat when they could be thin if only they got their priorities straight or were sufficiently shamed, and further, that they want to be so very fat indeed?”
  3. Feederism wouldn’t seem as horrifying if the nanny-state wasn’t continually making its version of ‘health’ a public responsibility (thus placing people’s bodies into the black box of common ownership and hence critique). The natural bigoted question being, “Can you believe these people are irresponsibly choosing fatness when it’s my wallet on the line?”

Let’s further the analysis, for those who still aren’t clear on the connection between these points — demonizing feederism in the context of a moral panic where fat people play the part of folkdevil — and why such a blog post, made by a so-called body image advocate, furthers general sizism and worsens general hate of all fat people.

Feeders/Gainers, and those who are seen as clearly choosing to get fatter, are the strawmen of the ‘obesity epidemic.’ Because one of the fundamental lines of reasoning behind the moral panic of fat is that the vast majority of fat people choose to be fat. Hence, in the common-wisdom narrative of the ‘obesity epidemic’ all fat people are, to some degree, feeders/gainers.

So demonizing feeders/gainers in the context of the ‘obesity epidemic’ moral panic is the same as demonizing the vast majority of fat people.

And the comments on Freedman’s site prove this point to be true, as do many of the comments on the Herald-Sun article linked above. Those commenters don’t care if Freedman was talking about feeders/gainers in particular — to them regular fatties aren’t really that different from feeders/gainers. So what Freedman has written has the effect of only reinforcing the bigoted notions of fat put forth by the common-wisdom narrative, reinforcing people’s disgust over fat people. What Freedman has written reinforces their horrified sensibilities concerning what and how it is proper to consume food or think about wellness and how they believe ‘proper thought’ to be inextricably tied to a particular ‘proper’ size. What Freedman has written reinforces the idea that it is okay to hate and ‘be against’ this behavior, which to them is only an extreme version of what they believe all fat people do.

Freedman, a so-called body image advocate, is doing nothing more than promoting the ‘proper’ body — one that isn’t too fat — by means of what she surely believes is well-placed concern about feederism.

Still don’t believe me? Take the tenor of the comments on any article which treats this debacle (including comments on Freedman’s blog). The high level of outrage and disgust signify rage and panic over someone daring to be an outspoken member of a deviant class. This is traditionally how moral panics police their deviant classes. If most of these commenters came in with honest curiosity or concern over health, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt the level of emotion would be quite a bit lower.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate a comment I made on Bri’s blog about this whole debacle, in particular the backlash against her take on the situation.

Remember, the ‘obesity epidemic’ is a moral panic, and by being an outspoken member of the deviant class you threaten the status quo and that’s obviously ruffling some feathers.

In fact, congratulations are in order: it seems you’ve advanced your particular message to the third stage of activism. For as Gandhi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

They’re definitely fighting you. Cheers, Bri, keep on!

EDIT (5/13/10, 11:30p EST): Please also take a look at Spilt Milk’s current Freedman post. She replies to a comment Mia Freedman made to Spilt Milk’s blog—it’s really fantastic, please read it!

NOTE: If you have come to submit the comment, “But don’t you know that feederism is bad? What, are you promoting feederism or something?” I might actually publish it, just to get laughs. But I request in any case that you re-read this post — and again, if you’re still scratching your head — and if you can’t get it after that, congratulations! You’re a bigoted pawn of the moral panic. Or should I say, I send my deepest regrets to your friends and family.

I’m bad at being succinct…

…but thank the Lords of Kobol there is someone out there who is brilliantly succinct:

[SP is] (Mostly) educated white middle class women in hot competition to see who can flagellate themselves with their various privileges the hardest and/or fastest to prove how right-on they are. So help me, if I hear one more word about fucking knapsacks I swear I will deck somebody.

gives anonymous poster a standing ovation

I have something to add, however — not only self-flagellating, but painfully condescending as they deign to enlighten the crowd with kindergarten knowledge about how people who are “different” than whatever the accepted norm is can be often ostracized or treated differently. Pass the juice, and get off my carpet square. Oh yeah, and getcher hands out of my knapsack!

Do these individuals, who have hijacked the term “Progressive,” honestly believe they’re liberal, compassionate, broad-minded human beings, as they hand out the Scarlet Letters to anyone who has legitimate (and there are many) differences of political opinion, at the same time engaging in blatant populism, encouraging their sycophantic followers to rip apart anyone who dares to disagree with a syllable or two of their dogma?

Lol, ur doin it rong!

Big dogs, and watchdogs, or: diversity makes us strong.

Hits count for a lot on the old internetz, but brother, they don’t count for everything. There’s something to be said for remaining critical and objective, but it’s not a trench in which to hide your biases while you fire at others. You’d think there’d be a low-tolerance for Baloney in the Fatosphere — I mean, we’re constantly getting the line, “Diets don’t work, but ~+~lifestyle changes~+~ do!” but apparently not.

Hit counts expose you in good and bad ways. And we all flub — maybe we don’t think about a particular political sect’s potential protests to that which we link, and perhaps we’re thinking one thing when we link and someone else is thinking an entirely different thing when they read that to which we linked.

No one is perfect. Especially not those who attempt to rip down a monolith with one out-of-context swipe. Constantly trying to find the keystone, those who desire to fell the monolith probe and pull, probe and pull. Finding a loose stone, they yank feverishly and, most of the time, are left with a heavy stone crushing them to the ground, the monolith still standing soundly.

It takes a lot of energy, that kind of hate, that kind of focus. Energy better directed where it can do the best good — like myth-busting the fat-haters — than trying (badly, and largely in vain) to paint another fellow blogger in the movement to be some evil word (fill in the blank. This word was: racist. We know that’s a loaded one around here. )

Here are some good posts which deal with the aftermath of this most recent in(fought?) hullaballo:

1. Shocking revelations about the Fatosphere (by Lindsay)

2. The Fatosphere is not a Hive Mind (by goodbyemyboy)

3. In a World Gone Mad (by Limor)

and a response — with a neat recent real-world example! — to the *real* issue at hand, which is the fight between those in the Fatosphere who support universal healthcare, and those who do not.

4. Taking a step back and thinking about the real story (by Sandy)

Healthcare decisions will no longer be those for individuals and their personal healthcare providers to make. Workers found to have high BMIs, cholesterol levels, glucose levels, or blood pressures will be required to enroll into wellness programs with their integrated disease management, along with weight loss targeting those with BMIs ≥35, and be given one year to improve, or be penalized $25/month. Those who are thin and have approved numbers will be exempt.

Diets aren’t ~+~lifestyle choices~+~, and government dictation is not the common good. Capisce?*

* An’ that ain’t racist, cuz I’m Italian. And you know what? It wouldn’t be if I weren’t.

Is this a form of plagiarism, or am I reading into it too much?

Hi all,

I really need your help. Recently Carrie at ED Bites posted: “Overheight Epidemic.” Of course, many of you will remember my “The Tall Epidemic” post from March.

While my post is longer, with many more links, hers seems like merely a summary of mine, with nearly identical phraseology in parts (especially in how it begins. Hers:

“My friends, we are in the midst of a tall epidemic.”

(notice saying “tall epidemic” instead of “overheight epidemic”), and mine:

“We are in the midst of an epidemic.

I’m not talking about the Obesity Epidemic…no, I’m talking about the Tall Epidemic.”

And while she brings up a few different examples (I never mentioned basketball players), underfeeding children, the genetics of height, surgery to “correct” tallness, are all included in my post, at about the same points. The satiric voice is nearly indistinguishable. Even my mention of people breaking bones from being too tall because they’re farther from the ground — included in a *comment* on my post, not in the body — was nearly hijacked word-for-word.

What do you think? Is it paraphrased plagiarism? It seems way too close to a summary of my post with a few different “In your own words” moments, like how a teenager would paraphrase Wikipedia for a report.

Please check out my post, and then read what I’ve quoted below (just in case Carrie changes it at some point, I wanted to have it quoted here):

Monday, June 9, 2008

Overheight epidemic

America is having a massive overheight problem. Our children keep getting taller and taller. Even just 50 years ago, adults were, on average, one to two inches shorter than they are today.

My friends, we are in the midst of a tall epidemic. Too many of our children are too tall. We must do something about this. All of this additional height is wasting thousands of yards of fabric as we try to cover these too-long limbs. Children are being injured every day as their too tall heads crash into doorways that were perfectly fine only a few decades before. Look at school photos. Kids were much shorter–and much healthier–when I was a student.

But don’t despair. There are real solutions to this overheight problem. Only mate with short people- tall people are contributing to this problem and your kids are much more likely to be overtall if your mate is also overtall. Height is contagious. Do not doom your potential offspring to a life of ridicule and ill health by having a child with someone who is tall.

Should you accidentally have a child with a tall person, feed them formula with supplements designed to slow the secretion of human growth hormone. This will keep them from getting tall, and give them all the benefits of being short. As well, if your child begins to show signs of becoming too tall, drastically reduce their food intake. A good supply of nutrients is associated with extra height. By not preventing the consumption of nutrients, this extra height should not be a problem.

If you or your child has already begun to suffer the ill effects of overheight, do not despair. Doctors have also researched various surgical options to combat this growing problem. Portions of your limbs can be surgically removed and then you will be sewn back together. You might not have the same mobility or quality of life, but you will not suffer from the health dangers of being too tall.

Insurance companies will be penalizing tall people for things like head injuries from walking into doorways, broken bones from falling further when they hit the ground, and sports injuries sustained by basketball players (who we all know are especially at risk for overtall disorder).

This is an epidemic that must be taken seriously. Too many of us are just accepting this extra height without considering all of the health risks that tall can bring. You can do something about this. You must. Our society can no longer afford an epidemic of tall people.

(And I’m not the only blogger worried about this epidemic. Recently Big Liberty posted about these worries here at her blog.)

EDITED to mention: Carrie only put a link onto her blog — her parenthetical statement at the end — after I requested she did so, and then denied she’d ever read my “Tall Epidemic” post:


Hey, great minds think alike, huh? I didn’t read your post, and if it seemed like I copied, it was totally inadvertent. Thank you for sending me the link, and I will add it to my post.

Language as a Smoke-Screen

It’s long been accepted that political language is often filled with obfuscatory phraseology, meant to deceive people into believing one thing is true when, in fact, the actions behind the language imply the opposite. Vagueness in language is often employed in order to serve as a smoke-screen for deceit. For instance, take the following passage:

Plan for a Healthy America

“We now face an opportunity — and an obligation — to turn the page on the failed politics of yesterday’s health care debates… My plan begins by covering every American. If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change for you under this plan is the amount of money you will spend on premiums. That will be less. If you are one of the 45 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, you will have it after this plan becomes law. No one will be turned away because of a preexisting condition or illness.”

— Barack Obama, Speech in Iowa City, IA, May 29, 2007

There are various forms of obfuscation employed in this speech snippet, taken from Obama’s campaign website. First, he begins stating we have an “opportunity” that is in fact an “obligation” to do such-and-such. Opportunities are not obligations: opportunities can be taken or ignored, signifying they are, in fact, optional. By beginning with the word “opportunity,” Obama makes what is in fact going to be mandatory seem optional, which is a much nicer state of things than mandatory compulsion. It is a trick to make people believe they still have freedom to choose when, in fact, choice will be taken away from them.

The next obfuscation is the phrase “to turn the page on the failed politics of yesterday’s healthcare debates.” It is a phrase characterized by opacity: what does “failed politics of yesterday’s healthcare debates” mean, anyway? Does it mean we’ve been talking about it too much? Too little? In the wrong way? When was “yesterday”? In context, one might realize he is likely speaking about Hillary Clinton’s failure to get a single-payer healthcare system in place during her husband’s presidency. So the phrase was meant to mudsling without naming names, so that Obama could engage in character-bashing without being pinned as a character-basher. Again, language has been used to deceive.

The rest of the speech is an exercise in half-truths. His plan covers every American (false: some Americans will be covering other Americans who do not currently cover themselves and fall under some income demarcation, while some Americans who choose not to be covered will be forced to cover themselves. A “plan” cannot actively ‘do’ anything). He asserts your premiums shall be less — leaving out the hidden costs of co-pays, waiting lists, lower-quality care, intrusive programs into lifestyle and diet to be employed to make sure you’re not costing the system ‘too much,’ higher prescription prices, lower financial incentive by professionals to do research, higher costs of ‘optional’ care, etc.

If you are one of the “45 million Americans” (likely an inflated, rounded-up number) who doesn’t have health insurance, you shall ‘get it’ after Obama’s plan becomes law. You shall get it, indeed—some shall be getting a large bill they before with which they chose not to be burdened, for whatever reason.

Language has long been used in this fashion, and shall likely continue to be so used. Language plays a large part in how far we allow the government to intrude into our lives — if we are made to believe we still have freedom, our civil liberties can be degraded, one by one, and no one will notice until it’s too late.

That’s why Sandy’s reporting on the degradation of the Second Amendment taking place in the lead-up to the Supreme Court hearing on the latter is so very important. Allowing the government to search and seize without a formal warrant is a dangerous precedent. It can have implications, the most frightening of which do not involve arms: the government feeling free to break and enter as long as lip service is paid to public health and welfare.

We must be vigilant. And we must understand that our civil liberties were laid down as such for well-thought-out reasons, by people with experiential and/or academic knowledge on the darker nature of government power-mongering.

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.

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.