Biscuits and Gravy

“Biscuits and gravy! Heh, I can’t believe she ordered it.”

“Heh, I can. Heh, biscuits and gravy.”

The worst part? Those biscuits were the consistency of spongy hockey pucks, and the gravy something between glue and edible. I picked at them, had maybe one bite, and any part of my appetite not killed by the sad copy of food on my plate was killed by humiliation.

We were on a road trip, to some hot state in the middle of the summer. Hotel prices in the sweltering states were cheaper in summer, and my parents more likely to take vacations. So in the van we packed pillows, Walkmans (Walkmen?), luggage, sandwiches, and our sorry selves. Twenty hours later we reached some kind of human destination, unbearably humid.

The best part of the trip, I remember, was when my dad drove and I kept him company, up front in the passenger seat. It was midnight or thereafter; my stepmother and brother slept in the back. We drove through the orange groves in Georgia. The air was spiced with the scent of the groves and honeysuckle. We played the game from the Albert Finney version of A Christmas Carol, “The Minister’s Cat”.

I’ll include it here, since I still feel warm and fuzzy thinking about it:

The next morning we stopped at a southern version of Denny’s. Shoney’s, maybe. As a kid I hated breakfast foods, except hot and cold cereals, and toast. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, English muffins, bagels? Blargh! Breakfast foods were either too sweet or too salty, and sometimes they combined the two in freakish horrors like bacon covered in maple syrup, or the abomination that is chocolate chip pancakes.

At any rate.

So, of everything on the menu, “biscuits and gravy” looked the least breakfast-y. I was hungry, having stayed up all night to keep my dad company while he drove (I was probably 10 at the time). We didn’t have biscuits and gravy for breakfast up North; to me, it was the perfect solution to my breakfast-nausea-dilemma.

I was duly mocked, as noted above. But it didn’t stop there. It turned into the joke of the trip. Then, the joke of the year. The last time I heard it was maybe five years ago, so that’s a good 14 years of torment.

And why was I tormented and mocked for my breakfast choice?

Because that 10-year-old girl was also chubby. And chubby people love gravy, donchaknow!

Maybe they didn’t realize how much their jabs hurt. Maybe they didn’t realize how deeply I internalized the shame I felt, how an intelligent little girl heard, “Biscuits and gravy, heh!” and translated it to mean that she was bad, out of control, a terrible person, a terrible daughter. So when my dad told me later that I should eat veggie burgers, plain popcorn, plain cucumbers, and drink water as my whole diet? I tried, for him. Because I didn’t want him to think I was some gross, out-of-control chubster, some human eating machine that goes bonkers at the idea of gravy. He was the first person to give me diet pills. I lost rapidly, and when I refused to eat even vegetables out of fear of remaining fat or gaining back lost weight, I thought about how I’d vindicated myself. No way he’d accuse me of the sin of “biscuits and gravy” again!

Sometimes, when I’m sitting, my heart flutters in my chest for no reason. I wonder if it has to do with all the diet pills I took when I was a teen. That, maybe, biscuits and gravy would have been a better option than diet pills.

But I guess I’ll never know.

This post is dedicated to my husband, who has never made me feel bad about what I eat.

Advertisements

Food Addiction the Next Focus of Obesity Epipanic

In a study posted online that will appear in the August print issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the response of 48 healthy young women in response to cues signaling impending delivery of a highly palatable food (chocolate milkshake) vs. a tasteless control solution; and consumption of a chocolate milkshake vs. a tasteless solution.

The women ranged from lean to obese and had been recruited for a healthy weight maintenance trial. Their eating behavior was assessed using a food addiction scale developed by lead author Ashley Gearhardt, a doctoral student at Yale University.

“Similar patterns of neural activation are implicated in addictive-like eating behavior and substance abuse and dependence,” Gearhardt noted in the study.”Food and drug use both result in dopamine release in mesolimbic regions [of the brain] and the degree of release correlates with subjective reward from both food and drug use.”

Gearhardt and colleagues found that participants with higher food addiction scores showed more activity in brain areas linked with craving. “These findings support the theory that compulsive food consumption may be driven in part by an enhanced anticipation of the rewarding properties of food,” the authors write. “Similarly, addicted individuals are more likely to be physiologically, psychologically, and behaviorally reactive to substance-related cues.

The researchers said that if certain foods are addictive for some people, that could explain in part why they find it so hard to lose weight and keep it off.

While researchers have speculated that an addictive process may be involved in obesity, the authors said that this is the first study to identify distinctive neural or brain activity in people with addictive eating behavior.

In addition, Gearhardt said, ”If food cues take on enhanced motivational properties in a manner analogous to drug cues, efforts to change the current food environment may be critical to successful weight loss and prevention efforts. Ubiquitous food advertising and the availability of inexpensive palatable foods may make it extremely difficult to adhere to healthier food choices because the omnipresent food cues trigger the reward system. (PsychCentral) (emphasis mine)

First, this is clearly a press release — the article doesn’t even come out in print until August. If I know anything about scientific publishing (and I know a little from my day job), it’s obvious that the ink was barely dry on their paper before they released it online, making sure to alert the major channels as soon as they hit “Upoad Article.”

Here’s the link to the online article. Naturally, the full text is behind a paywall. Any of my Fatosphere buds out there got an Athens login?

So this is what we have to go on without even knowing anything about the methodology beyond the statements released by a co-author.

First of all — 48 women. Not a giant sample size. Second — they weren’t all overweight or obese, and they were recruited from a “healthy weight maintenance trial” (if some were obese, and obesity is considered an ‘unhealthy weight,’ then does that imply the obese and possibly overweight women were dieting?) A natural question to ask is if this is going to be another round of ammunition against obese people in the grand moral crusade, how did these addictive responses correlate with BMI? This wasn’t mentioned in the vast majority of statement press-releases (nor in the article quoted above). I dug around and found one person at Consumer Reports who actually read the damn study (shocking, I know, most science ‘journalists’ can’t be bothered to actually read studies), and she said:

The researchers also found that a high score for food addiction didn’t correlate with having a high BMI. You can be lean, but still have an addictive relationship with food. They speculated that this might put lean individuals at an increased risk of future weight gain, unless they can develop behaviors to compensate and keep control of their food addiction. (emphasis mine)

Naturally, BMI isn’t mentioned in 95% of the articles except to implicate this as some factor in the Obesity! Epidemic!

Third — well, where to start. I’ll sketch my ideas, below, my first and later impressions.

First Impressions

As long as they use this study for what it actually shows — that some women out of a tiny sample with higher “food addiction” scores have higher activity in some brain areas linked to reward — and don’t try to generalize to all fat people or fat women, we’re good.

However, it’s unlikely that will happen, given the sensational nature of the science-illiterate press. Also, the co-author herself makes concluding remarks about how this might shape efforts to make people (excuse me, encourage!) lose weight. I.e., change the “current food environment” and restrict “availability of inexpensive palatable foods.”

Well, that’s a funny thing! How would we restrict availability of inexpensive palatable foods? Oh, by levying unpopular food taxes, you say? And you say that if we create a scare, make people afraid of fatty foods by suggesting the foods themselves are dangerous addictive toxins and — horror of horrors! — these are foods readily sought after by especially children and poor people, they might be more in favor of food taxes?

Yeah. Because it’s not like we can just stand by while poor people are actually able to afford energy-dense food, and might even — gasp! — feed it to their children.

Now onto the issue of ‘food addiction’ as an actual phenomenon parallel to addiction to substances like heroin.

When it comes down to it, an “addiction” to food is a silly idea, since it’s not a foreign substance that we can just quit. If someone exhibits higher pleasure or expectations eating food, then it would seem the real root of the issue is why? That ‘why’ is what needs to be discovered and addressed.

Also, food isn’t inherently addictive because there are people who eat loads of fatty, sugary, salty, etc food without experiencing an attachment beyond that being their regular diet. The issue is much more complex than the drug-addiction model, and simplifying it to that point loses precious information about what’s really going on.

I wonder how many of the women who scored high on the “food addiction” scale were former dieters or were currently dieting? I recall items like milkshakes, pizza, etc holding MUCH more fantastic interest when I was dieting (and I’ve heard many, many other dieters talk about this food-fantasy effect, and Keyes did a study years ago that shows it’s a side effect of one’s body experiencing famine). Could it be their wiring is a bit shot, or sensitive, because they’re restricting or have restricted in the past and a bit of their ‘famine’ mindset is still at work?

Final Impressions

This is why a lot of these studies are little more than junk reinforcing cultural biases against fat people or people who overeat. There are so many obvious questions that go unanswered, because all they want to do is generate a quick correlation for a press release. The medical research looking into body size is rife with these kinds of examples.

I took screenshots of a Google News search to prove this thing was an unabashed press release, intended to be — in a very calculated way, mind you — a seminal work in the war against obese people (excuse me, obesity). Some of the article headlines:

  • Heroin vs. Haagan-Dazs: What food addiction looks like in the brain (healthland.time.com)
  • Freakonomics: Another Obesity Explanation: Food Addiction (freakonomics.com)
  • Craving a milkshake? You might be a junk-food addict (Globe and Mail)
  • Can people be addicted to food? (CBS News, 20 hrs ago)
  • Compulsive Eaters May Have ‘Food Addiction,’ Study Finds (BusinessWeek, 14 hrs ago)
  • For Some, Food ‘Addiction’ Similar to Substance Abuse (PsychCentral, 1 hr ago, complete with pic of Sad Addicted Fatty)
  • For Food Junkies, Brains React to Milkshakes Like Drugs (LiveScience.com, April 4, complete with pic of Bad Woman Inhaling Chocolate)
  • ‘Tempting foods as addictive as cocaine’ (Times of India, 11 hrs ago)

What do you think about this study?

It’s the Little Things…

I was reading up on lower back exercises, when I had the distinct pleasure of coming across this little gem:

Circled text:

In addition to imparting strength to your core back muscles, this exercise, will also keep a tab on your waistline! Isn’t that a great incentive to do this lower back exercise, specially for the fairer sex?

Fat hate in everything, specially for you laydeez. We know you love fatphobia, and specially like keeping a tab (is that like the soda? Cuz that stuff is gross) on your waistline.

This is just one of the too-many examples of fat hate and size restraint/obsession just about everywhere one looks. It’s especially bad during the height of Diet Season, but this stuff is pervasive, regardless of the time of year. It’s only during Diet Season when it’s the focus of every. damn. conversation.

(NOTE: FFS is my favorite internet acronym, “For Fuck’s Sake!” I even use this in RL, lots. But I always speak it longform)

What’s Your Anti-Diet Commercial?

Ah, the season of diets is upon us! There have been some particularly horrendous early contenders — like the one from Nutrisystem about how much better life is for those who’ve dieted away X lbs on Nutrisystem’s diet junk food.

The common theme uniting all these commercials is to promulgate the belief that going on X diet is temporary. You just need to sign up for Y months of Hip Watchers and you’ll lose “the” weight. “The” meaning the extra stuff, above some arbitrary Thin Fantasy boundary which can be anywhere from 5% – 30% less than your current weight. After losing “the” weight you can stop the diet, resume  normal life like eating how your thin husband/wife/friends eat, and exercising how they exercise.

When you actually do that? You gain it back. Plus 10%. Just in time for the new diet season. Shock!

So another round of Hip Watchers or DietJunkFoodSystem is in order. And it happens again. And again. And again.

Because there’s no such thing as losing “the” weight unless your weight gain was caused by something outside yourself. And then losing “the” weight usually just means recovering from an illness, having the baby, and so on.

Still, the idea of diets being temporary and weight loss being permanent is the most prevalent — and profitable — myth of the December 26 – February 15 diet season.

We’re told by the suggestive after-photos and testimonials that life is so much better after the diet is over. We’re aren’t told that the diet is never over. The pain, severe restriction, part-time job sweating at the gym, calorie account books, obsession over ‘bad’ and ‘good’ foods, fake diet junk food or refusal to eat whole food groups without a good medical or ethical reason, brain-fogginess of constant low-grade hunger, metabolic state of starvation even though you don’t look like you’re starving — it doesn’t end. Not after “the” weight is lost. And when we finally capitulate to a state of well-being that would be considered torture by any natural thin? — it means we’re broken .

Fuck that.

It’s time to push back against these insidious messages, the ignorant assumption by friends and family and coworkers that losing weight is always good and definitely permanent if you “do it right.” It’s time to expose the reality of the tortuous condition of the dieting life, and that other diet called maintenance.

How? By creating an anti-diet commercial.

Ideally, it would be a foil to Nutrisystem’s most recent commercial (can’t find a link), but ultimately to any commercial that tries to sell you on how much better life is after dieting, the typical — “more energy, cute clothes, bikini body, can now climb mountains, so happy, play with kids all the time, have constant sex with spouse, etc.”

I put together a short anti-diet commercial for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!

Here’s my diet success story. What’s yours?

Include your anti-diet commericals in the comments, or send them to me at big dot liberty at yahoo dot com.

The Dieters’ Clusterfuck

It’s 11:52 a.m. You hear your tummy growling and, with satisfaction, remember that you brought your lunch today. Tuna salad sandwich with muenster cheese, sea-salt-and-cracked-pepper kettle-cooked potato chips, a couple homemade chocolate chip cookies, and Honest Tea. You decide to shoot off a few more emails before heading down to the shared office kitchen to retrieve your carefully-packed lunchbag, currently chilling in the refrigerator.

But, like sitting next to a cougher on the subway, your small bubble of contentment is suddenly violently and irreparably popped. All it took was a colleague loudly proclaiming to his open-office-concept compatriots that he “brought [his] low-fat lunch today because [he’s] trying to lose weight!” The implication is, of course, that he believes being fat and either enjoying one’s food or not dieting is poor behavior he’s attempting to best by taking the dieter’s moral high-road. And he’s going to let you—well, everyone—know about it.

Then another employee chimes in. “Yeah, after Holiday X my pants are totally tight and I was like, time to switch to yogurt for lunch for a while! It’s great, I’m not hungry at all.”

Yet another member of the chorus: “Nah, you just need to start running. It’s more sustainable, and just look at my calves!”

And the (nonfat, sugar-free) icing on the cake: “I’ve got a couple free passes to my gym, a group of us should work out together. It’s better in a group anyway so we can keep each other honest!” (and what is worse—that you know they aren’t mentally including you in the group that could potentially get together to work out at the gym, or that it’s being used as a tool of employee bonding in the first place?)

Everyone starts pulling out their lunches. And commenting on them. And praising each other for only finishing half, or for being ‘better’ than their own selves by having a nonfat fiber-stocked twig salad or heavily processed frankendairy sugarfree nonfat yogurt substitute. You, prisoner of the open-office-space concept have nowhere to go, though your pointed absence would have been conspicuous, anyway. Of course the fatty isn’t joining in! Does she even know what a calorie is? Silly fatties. You pick at your tuna sandwich and barely touch your chips. Every crackle of the chip bag is a loud reminder that you’re not a part of their world, that you either don’t agree or are not privy to the Mystic Vision of Food Restriction and/or Sacred Treadmill of Redemption.

But that’s not the whole reason your appetite has fled. Frankly, you’re pissed off. You’re mad as hell, and you don’t want to take it anymore. And, dammit, you’re hungry and want to eat your fucking sandwich and chips in peace!

Welcome to the Dieters’ Clusterfuck.

It’s not just work, it’s parties, family reunions, holidays, anywhere there’s food. Like a timid mouse in the face of the jackal the Dieter glares fearfully at the food table, occasionally darting in to take a single plum tomato or grape or (gasp, “I’m being so bad!”) cube of cheese. Those who share the anxiety of the Dieter—other Dieters—quickly discover each other and coalesce near enough to the food table to feed their starvation ideation and far enough away not to be ‘tempted’ to actually take anything.

If you are the non-Dieting thin your presence in the group, whether you’re eating something full-fat or not, is likely to be received with a level of awe and disbelief. You are Neo, The One. How Do You Eat That and Stay So Thin? they ask, voices trembling in appreciation and envy.

If you are the non-Dieting fat your presence in the group, whether you’re eating something full-fat or not, is likely to be received with a sharp cessation of diet talk (since you don’t belong or they think it might offend you, a silly fatty), or an assumption of inclusion—“oh, I was afraid I was going to be ‘bad’ today and brought my baby carrots with me!” they exclaim as you savor a bite of homemade carrot cake. You see, baby carrots, carrot cake, it’s all the same thing, right? Healthy Alternatives! Why can’t you be as smart as Baby Carrots Lady, who knows that baby carrots and carrot cake are in fact the same thing?!

After becoming thoroughly bored with the Clusterfuck (which takes about 0.68 seconds in my experience) you wander elsewhere. Once you’ve left there’s general agreement among the Dieters—usually unspoken—that you didn’t belong, anyway, and isn’t great they can now get back to their circle-jerk and painstakingly show off to each other how much of the diet culture they’ve absorbed? Their cake and cookies, as it were, is the approval and admiration from their fellow dieters as they detail their regime, or empathy as they verbally flog themselves for not being ‘good’ enough by way of an extra snack or missed workout.

This, as I’m sure you know, can go on for hours. Hours. Despite having been a part of the culture in my memoried past I cannot currently fathom how in the deep dark Hades they don’t fall dead asleep after fifteen minutes. Perhaps it’s a way of keeping busy so that they are distracted from their foggied intellect and gnawing hunger, I’m not sure.

And then, by Jove, there’s the Internet. Whole forums dedicated to continuing the Clusterfuck and cultivating the circle-jerk. Not only hours but days, weeks, years are spent basically talking about the same thing over, and over, and over, and over again. “Holiday X came and my jeans are tight, eek!” “Weight Loss X Plan Pill Bar has worked for me!” “In a perfect world beauty’s on the inside but we live in practical reality, am I right? So how many cals in one Arby’s french fry, again?”And still, they keep coming back for more flogging, for more sympathy, for more emotional cookies. If you are extremely lucky you can escape—as many here have!—but most people unfortunately never, ever escape.

Because the Dieters’ Clusterfuck is, by its very nature, unending and infinitely repetitive. Because if you “keep the weight off” you remain as an Enforcer, a Top Dog, an After Picture. This elite status makes you stay on your Lifestyle Plan Change New Lease on Superior Existence and gives you the moral rectitude to keep Active Members and Dietn00bs in line.

If you are in the process of losing weight you are an Active Member of the Dieters’ Clusterfuck. You are likely between your Before Picture and After Picture, a self-righteous Pilgrim on a journey to Enlightenment. You’ve probably lost and regained weight many times before but This Time It’s Going To Work. Most in the Dieters’ Clusterfuck are Active Members. In truth, though they are widely touted, there are really only a rare few After Pictures. They are often diet forum moderators, family members which get trotted out in food-related conversations whether or not they happen to be present, or celebrities endorsing the Diet That’s Going To Work This Time.

Lastly there are the Dietn00bs, those only just opening their eyes in childlike wonder to the vast promises of the Clusterfuck, How It Will Change Your Life and It’s Just Calories In, Calories Out and Anyone With Half a Brain Can Do it! Dietn00bs also include people who don’t currently diet but believe in the verity of the dieting culture. They can include health reporters, anti-obesity researchers, and a plethora of other ‘concerneds.’

The reason I decided to write this somewhat satirical take on diet culture is that I want to reinforce how lucky we are to be out of it. It’s a sticky thing, the diet culture. It pulls you back in with its snake-oil promises of a better life—even vocal fat activists have fallen prey to it, abandoning fat acceptance out of fear of Eating the World or hope that This Time it Will Work. Even some so-called body image promoters and internal beauty enthusiasts adhere to or otherwise believe in the dieting culture. Even people who are otherwise liberally minded believe in or adhere to the dieting or anti-fat culture.

You—the activists reading this post—are brave. I appreciate you. I know what you’re doing is hard. I know it’s sometimes thankless. I know what you’re up against. And I know it sometimes can be hard to stick to your guns in the face of so much distraction and disgust. I applaud you for plowing ahead, regardless. I celebrate your joy in throwing off the chains of the diet culture and I support you as you weather the backlash from those still immersed in it.

And here’s to seeing the diet culture for what it really is—a giant, self-righteous Clusterfuck.

On Being Pro-Liberty and Anti-Dieting

elizebeth has a post today, in which she says:

The conflict comes when I think about suggesting that path for others. It’s one thing for me to say “I’M” fine with accepting my fate…but am I promoting the idea that others should too?

What if the science is suggesting that being naturally fat ALSO means I’m naturally meant to die a little earlier than my thin counterparts?

Am I suggesting that EVERYONE should just accept that? Do I think we’re just supposed to accept our genetic destinies, regardless of the possible outcome?

It’s a hard question.

At the very same time, I also can’t imagine trying to DICTATE how people SHOULD live their lives. Which is why I take a diet neutral stance.

If people can find some way to be happy with who they are AND diet with the goal of weight loss, who am I to say their choice is wrong?

So, if I am to say that I’m “pro-fat”, I have to add the addendum that I’m also “pro-liberty.”

I think there are a few things going on here. First off, there is the murky suggestion that ‘science might say…’ and then a hypothetical decision being made based on what you’re hypothetically positing science is saying at the moment. Namely, that certain fat people ‘will’ die sooner than other people, due to their fat.

Many studies have shown a J-curve relationship between BMI and mortality (here’s one). They each suggest that underweight is the most risky category in which to reside throughout life, and overweight the least risky. ‘Normal’ and small fats (BMI 30 – 35) have the same risk. BMI > 35 has more risk than the others except underweight. I would guess that further partitioning the BMI >35 range would show most of the ‘increased risk’ was at the far higher end. I would also suggest that most people at the higher end of the BMI range are fat due to illness or some kind of condition (that is, fat as a symptom). And it would be the illness or condition that’s a greater predictor of early mortality, which would be conflated with fat in most risk-factor analyses (which don’t care about chicken-and-the-egg causation, just correlation).

So, that being said, your blanket implication (without any real analysis of the gravity of that implication) that ‘science might say…fatties are doomed to die earlier,’ and how you as an individual process that pseudoscienterrific statement, doesn’t really fall out of the evidence.

What I’m seeing a lot of in this post is this fake-skeptical balancing act which seems to grant the fatphobics their arguments in the name of ‘skepticism,’ then goes on a hypothetical walk around the pond to sort out implications. It just doesn’t mean anything. It’s not like we’re in the nineteenth century, when no real science had been conducted on this subject. You don’t have to sit around and ‘wonder’ what might be true. Go out there and read the evidence (The Fat Nutritionist has a superb list of links…magnifica, amica!), and then sort it out on your own. It’ll make your arguments on the implications of science a lot more rational. I mean, I could sit around and say, “Hey, what if unicorns do exist?” and write a blog post about the implications, but it wouldn’t really mean anything in reality, would it?

It’s your blog, you can say anything you wish on it. But as a fat acceptance activist, I take issue with some of your claims (especially since you’re on the Fat Liberation feed), and the way you choose to argue them.

Okay, time for the next point here — on why being pro-liberty doesn’t mean one has to be diet-neutral (or anything-neutral).

There’s a false dichotomy being built in elizebeth’s argument above. The suggestion is that those of us who don’t take a diet-neutral stance want to dictate to others how they should live. But, of course, that simply isn’t true. I can root for you to have the power to make any choice about your body you deem expedient, or not, for whatever, or no, reasons. All being pro-liberty means is that one is anti-interventionist. It doesn’t mean that one has to sit twiddling their thumbs in a dieting-obsessed, fatphobic world, and not speak out against these things.

As an anti-interventionist pro-liberty gal, I think I can speak to this point with some kind of expertise.

The evidence suggests that dieting doesn’t work. The evidence suggests that we are in a moral panic where fat people play the part of folkdevil. The evidence suggests that the vast majority of fat people are programmed to be some degree of fat. Many pro-interventionist, anti-fat studies are conducted in a non-rigorous manner, play fast and loose with the statistical analysis, are meant as anti-fat propaganda/marketing pieces which go straight to AP press-release and then to your local nightly news, or feature giant conflicts of interest in funding or authorship.

Okay, let’s check — yep, I’m still pro-liberty. Now, what just happened here?

I was able to define clear points on why I’m fat accepting, and how the evidence plays a crucial role in that state of being. I didn’t breathe a word about what other people should or shouldn’t do—in effect, I was engaging in education and promotion, not public policy. There’s a difference. I didn’t assume that my fat readers fell into any particular categories, nor did I feel the need to talk out of both sides of my mouth in order to appear as some kind of ‘moderate.’

What I don’t think is understood clearly is that this ‘skepticism’ being employed on some pro-fat blogs is not making your arguments appear more reasonable, it’s just watering down their meaning to nearly nothing. I can still give my opponent his best argument while fashioning one of my own. For instance, even if fatness qua fatness is associated a higher risk of death in some fat populations, that doesn’t meant the ‘obesity epidemic’ is a reasonable movement of any kind. Because, quite simply, there are other populations that experience this same kind of J-curve relationship with respect to mortality, with respect to other characteristics. Athletes and tall people, for instance. Yet, I don’t see people talking about a Tall Epidemic, or angrily protesting outside Olympic stadia that they have to support these athletes and their irresponsible, health-costly lifestyles.

We’re in a moral panic. Moral panics infuriate pro-liberty people like me. The vastness of the ignorance that needs to be put in motion in order to force society to evolve to this state is astounding. Additionally, moral panics often result in some kind of intervention forced on deviant groups by the other groups in power.

So what does being pro-liberty have to do with taking a neutral stance on dieting? Well, nothing. I can be pro-liberty and anti-dieting without contradiction. However, one cannot be pro-dieting and anti-dieting without contradiction. And one certainly can’t be fat accepting while weakly arguing the other side’s case without necessary logical and evidential caveats, under the guise of ‘skepticism.’

Another One Takes the Cut

I debated a bit whether to post this, but decided to.   When I started this particular job some year and a half ago I was pleasantly surprised to note that there were plenty of fat people around – safety in numbers, you know?   And I was far from the fattest by any means.    But where you find plenty of fat people, you find Biggest Loser competitions, you find dieters, and you find gastric bypass.  Sometimes despite knowing the fact that you believe the surgery (even in your libertarian heart) ought to be outlawed except for all but the most extreme cases of people who are caught between a rock and a hard place and can’t even get out of bed (though that doesn’t mean the surgery will be a cure) your supervisor insists on spouting off to you about how great she sees other people doing with either diets or surgery.  Even when said supervisor never succeeds in a diet herself; she internalizes every example of someone who has taken the cut or starved themselves thin and goes on and on about how it’s a cure for all “the sugar” and how “good” this or that one is being.   Gag me.

Well this time, the first woman who actually made me feel comfortable here, both because she was very fat and because she is really very nice, has decided since her brief, once-in-a-lifetime romance crumbled, that she too has to undergo bypass.    At first I didn’t get it; my supervisor said, “She’s going for a bypass,” and I thought something was wrong with her heart – I was shocked!  This woman has no trouble walking except for some knee pain from various prior falls in her life, she’s over 50, she eats a fair-seeming amount of so-called healthy food, she doesn’t have any mobility issues, no heart problems, no lung problems – just a very large amount of fat from the waist down.    And so-called pre-diabetes.   You don’t even know she’s fat until she stands up, because her shoulders and face are small; she’s like the fattest-bottomed pear I’ve ever seen, and she looks good to me.   She looks…healthy.  She IS healthy.

My fear is that she will no longer remain healthy after such life-altering surgery.

Against all hope, when she mentioned it to me, I hopefully mentioned “So…are you getting the band?”  (Please please please be getting the band.)   Nope.   “Because on the band you can cheat, and with the bypass it’s just one-time, it’s a done deal, there’s no going back, nothing you can do about it.”   Do people hear themselves when they say things like this?   Has she been informed that it can KILL her?   Has she been informed that it’s supposed to be for *serious* health problems and she doesn’t have any?   And then she gets nothing but encouragement from the people around her.   Now I’m not going to say anything one way or the other except to hope for a good recovery – but there is no real recovery from surgery designed to create within you a disability and malnutrition, is there?

I am afraid she will possibly turn to substances, if indeed she uses food for comfort (who doesn’t?) as so many surgery candidates do.   I am afraid that she will get rickets or any one of those other hideous malnutrition diseases or, God forbid, as happens frequently, they simply cut a little too much, you go bald and shrivel away and die over the course of a year, only they can’t attribute it to the surgery anymore.   I’m afraid she is going to wreck her healthy glow and her cheerful disposition.

Am I afraid that I’ll be one of the fattest women in the place?   No.   I have a feeling she will not even get down to my size before the first year is up and she’s not the only fat person by a longshot.   But I’m uncomfortable with how this surgery has been portrayed in this establishment, how many people have undergone it, and how many are held up as having done so well.   I don’t want her to be an example, do I?    Well, no.    I don’t fucking know how to feel about it because of that, and frankly, I don’t want to keep thinking about it right now.    It’s enough to make a person go on a diet, isn’t it?   (Well, no.)