Show Your Fatty Papers

Recently I got mud on my boots in a popular feminist news blog. The topic was a new weight loss drug, and far be it for me to leave that shit alone.

I mocked its promised 11% weight loss (in the short term, since that shit gives you kidney lesions and can’t be taken long term) and brought up the 40% – 80% hereditary nature of body weight (which I got by scouring Google Scholar one weekend. I suggest you try it, it’s fascinating. Turns out I was underestimating – it’s more like 65% – 85% (see here and here)).

The response? I was asked how I ‘knew’ that my body weight was genetic. Did I get a genetic test done or something? Really. The commenter really wanted to know, guys, honest.

I asked how the commenter ‘knew’ their eye color, nose shape, and height were genetic. Did they get a test done? Really. I wanted to know.

The point of this is that body weight is highly heritable, as heritable as height, and so on. We know this. We’ve known this for nigh on fifty years now. It’s not even a little in question. But this obesity moral panic is so advanced, so strong, has so penetrated popular culture with its toxic propaganda and lies, that people find the generally genetic nature of body weight so unbelievable they demand our fatty ‘papers’ before we’re allowed to say our body weight is genetic.

If this isn’t proof enough that size discrimination and fat loathing has nothing to do with facts or science, I don’t know what is.


On Mother’s Day 2011, Hate for Fat Moms in Abundance

I’ve been tweeting up a storm this Mother’s Day morning, all on the #thingsfatpeoplearetold hashtag. Not about anything particularly new, or some fat-hating piece released this morning, but rather on the messages about fat motherhood and mothering fat children I’ve heard in some context or another during the past few years.

Full disclosure: I’m not a bio mom. I have three stepchildren between the ages of 17 and 21. I’ve been in their lives since the youngest was 12. None of them are fat; all three are quite thin and conventionally attractive. My husband and I can’t have kids the traditional way, since he’s got a 15 year-old vasectomy. A couple years ago (when I was a fledging size activist) I started looking into non-traditional ways of having kids. I quickly learned there were two huge barriers: sizism, and ageism. My husband is 24 years older than I am, turning 53 this year after I turn 29. Adoption agencies, both local and international, discriminate against couples who have at least one member over the age of 50 (sometimes even 40). But also? Couples with at least one ‘obese’ or ‘morbidly obese’ member are discriminated against as well. Given that many private adoption agencies in the US are Christian, and I’m not Christian, there’s another roadblock.

So we considered artificial insemination or some other procedure. They are very expensive, not something we could even dream of affording in the short term. Also? Some fertility clinics put up major obstacles (i.e., charge you much higher fees) if you’re over a BMI of about 33, or just outright disallow it, though there’s no real evidence that the IVF limit is justified in any medical sense (though we can be sure the social engineers have their justifications).

But the final nail in the coffin of my desire to have children (at least, in the short term) was the barrage of negative/othering messages directed at fat moms, moms of fat kids — which my child has a decent chance of becoming, given that body size is 77% heritable.

Some of the messages our enlightened age given in regards to fat motherhood:

Fat children are a symptom of bad parenting.

Didn’t you hear? If you’re a mom who works (like most moms do), you’re making your kids fat. But if you shelter your kids too much and cater too much to their wants and needs? You’re also making your kids fat. And you’re ignorant, too; moms of fat kids don’t understand it’s just calories in/calories out, stupid.

Becoming a mom while fat is irresponsible and dangerous to both you and your child.

Maternal obesity is the plague of the land, didn’t you know? It’s causing the obesity epidemic (which surely exists, am I right?). Fat pregnancies result in fat children. Or maybe it’s being too thin while pregnant. Or maybe it’s dieting while pregnant. Or maybe it’s eating too many fats. Or it could be that you didn’t control your weight gain while both fat and pregnant. But it’s definitely your fault! Couldn’t be that pesky 77% heritability. Certainly not.

Fat moms are a burden to society.

You cost more in hospital resources, fatty! It couldn’t be that C-sections are way over-prescribed for fat pregnancies relative to thinner populations, given that fat pregnancies almost automatically get slapped with the ‘high-risk’ label despite the individual health of the mother (hello, failure of population study research to apply to the individual).

Fat moms are embarrassing to their children and husbands.

Kids can be cruel, can’t they? But is it really the kids, or a combination of their youthful urge to categorize and understand the world, including complex social mores, in the context of what they hear from their parents, see on TV, read in magazines and the internet, and hear from their friends? Children are wonderful, tragic barometers for the bigotries of our age. So is it so surprising when a mother hears that her child is being teased because she has a fat mom? And, moreover, that her child wants to transfer that bigotry to her mother to stop the teasing? Or that her husband doesn’t want her to participate in public activity because he’s embarrassed of her size?

Fat moms are guilty of child abuse, and should have their kids taken away from them.

This one, more than any other, made me change my mind about having kids. Having been abused by other people in my life, the idea of being categorized as one of them — whether justified or not — was too much to bear. There are many other examples of this, please Google it if you’re interested (and have banked the requisite Sanity Watcher’s points).

I want to issue special Mother’s Day good-wishes to fat moms, given the above, and everything else they must put up with to survive in a society who hates and blames them at every turn.

What other messages directed at fat moms have you heard, both from the media and in your own life?

First Lady Releases Child Obesity Recommendations

…largely blames mothers for child’s obesity.

cue shock and surprise

Link to the AP article

Some particular gems (note throughout these that the child omgbesity is referred to, without challenge, as “the problem”):

Mrs. Obama has said she wants to help solve the problem in a generation so babies born today will come of age at a healthy weight. The report says that could happen if childhood obesity rates dropped to 5 percent by 2030.

Read: Non-experts who don’t apparently know anything about statistics, genetics, and the science of size can now control billions of dollars and influence countless lives as long as they’re somehow connected to an influential politician (this is not new, of course, but it can’t be reiterated too many times in my opinion).

Or: Welcome to the moral panic. Check your deviant status—and your children—at the door.

Or: The report says that one can solve the problem in a generation if rates drop to very low in a generation—i.e., one can solve the problem if one solves the problem—i.e., the utter BS non-speak tautologies presented as some kind of ‘revelation’ in order to push an agenda fueled by bias and the politics of crisotunity rather than facts and reasonable outcomes.

The report says a woman’s weight before she becomes pregnant and her weight gain during pregnancy are two of the most important factors that determine, before a child is born, whether he or she will become obese. [bold mine]

Read: Fat women have a higher likelihood of giving birth to fat children. Before driving in the Duh! Truck, realize that they’re not implying here that fat is genetic. In fact there isn’t the single, slightest nod paid to the overwhelming (77%) role genetics plays in the determination of weight. The report is written on the assumption that weight—for a mother before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and then the weight of the child—are completely controllable. Of course, instead of just assuming fat children would become thin children with the ‘proper’ diet, it attempts to correlate some hoo-doo about the physiology of fat mothers and future fat children. If this seems convoluted to you, then you’re on the right track. Instead of talking about genetics or talking about what fuels significant weight gain in pregnancy (someone more expert correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that large pregnancy weight gains in general are most strongly correlated with a concurrent cessation of a calorie-restricted diet), they couch everything in dubious ‘risk factor’ and correlative language.

(As an aside, if anyone has a copy of this actual report, I’d like to read it. I have a feeling it’s just a data dredge survey of some kind)

Something also very interesting to note, for those who have a nose for these public policy scienterrific press releases: the selective use of numbers. Note that the statistical correlations between fat moms (before pregnancy), weight gain (during pregnancy) are just reported as existent, while the correlation between breast-fed and reduction of obesity likelihood is stated outright (apparently 22%, but remember this is an odds ratio, so what that really means is that if the average bottle-fed child has a 15% chance of becoming obese, if they are breast fed then this goes down by 22% of 15% — that is, by 3%. So if the average bottle-fed child has a 15% chance of becoming obese, the average breast-fed child apparently has a 12% chance. The numbers are a bit less scary, no? That’s why they’re reported as odds ratios instead of real probabilities — to inflate their significance).

Human Metabolism Variation, or, Useful Trolls

So there’s an MFS troll over at BFB forums, and it’s actually been kind of useful. I had a dusty old primer on the human metabolism that I lost track of, and when it brought up the common fallacious argument that all humans have around the same basal metabolic rate and that fat is naturally attributed to overeating/underexercising, I took the opportunity to do a little digging. I’ve known for a while that mitochondrial efficiency is a large part of metabolic variation between individuals — you know, one of those things you research once for a few days, read through a fuckload of articles and get a good idea of, and then don’t save the research path.

So I did some fresh research. And that’s why this post is also titled, “Useful Trolls.” Because, while they’re mostly just dumb and annoying, sometimes the pseudosmart ones can actually force you to compile your research. So thanks for the holiday gift, lovely MFS troll. Hugs!

NOTE: I will add these links to the “Truth Behind Fat” page.

First thing’s first, here’s a better ‘equation’ of human metabolism (that is, to replace ‘2000 cal = food – exercise = weight maintenance’). I’ve linked the terms. The ‘equation’ is from this article [1].

Classically, three major biochemical systems are believed to contribute to basal thermogenesis: futile cycles, Na+/K+ATPase activity, and mitochondrial proton leak [2 – 3].

One of the most interesting parts of the ‘equation’ above, to me, is the mitochondrial proton leak, which is highly (if not entirely) genetic. That would be the second item in this quote (link):

Discrete gene sets may prevent or facilitate obesity in humans by influencing food intake (e.g., leptin), by altering the ability of skeletal muscle to dispose of excess energy (e.g., uncoupling proteins [UCPs]), or by influencing the capacity of the adipocyte to accumulate triglyceride (e.g., CD-36, perilipin). [4]

There’s a lot more research one can do, here. But I thought that during this season of panic concerning overeating, taking a closer look at the human metabolism and its inextricable connections to genetics would be a nice little present for y’all.

Happy Holidays!


1. W. Timothy Garvey. “The role of uncoupling protein 3 in human physiology.” J. Clin. Invest. 111(4): 438-441 (2003). doi:10.1172/JCI17835. link

2. (rat study) Various. “Characterization of weight loss and weight regain mechanisms after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass in rats.” Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 293: R1474-R1489, 2007. link

3. (rat study)

4. Various. “Decreased Mitochondrial Proton Leak and Reduced Expression of Uncoupling Protein 3 in Skeletal Muscle of Obese Diet-Resistant Women.” doi: 10.2337/diabetes.51.8.2459 Diabetes August 2002 vol. 51 no. 8 2459-2466 link

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!