Chris Christie’s Too Fat to be President! – Roundup

Recently Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, has been attacked and concern-trolled over his weight; more specifically, that he has the utter gall to fat it around in the political arena. Even though Christie has said multiple times he’s not interested in running for president in the 2012 elections, it appears that trying to keep him out of the race he’s probably not going to enter was too much a temptation for some fatphobic concern trolls in the media.

However, what surprised the hell out of me is that after a round of attacks on Christie, came a round of defense, and not necessarily from his political allies. Turns out Atlantic columnist and economist/blogger Megan McArdle has done her homework on fat rights and size issues. Go Megan! You don’t know how rare you are, most journos and bloggers just swallow the obesity panic hype straight-up. Also, Jonathan Chait (Paul Campos’ co-author) has an article defending Chris Christie against fatphobic attacks. There are a few other defenders, some from the Fatosphere itself.

Without further ado, here’s the roundup.

ATTACKS ON/CONCERNS ABOUT CHRISTIE’S WEIGHT

FATOSPHERE RESPONSES

DEFENSE OF CHRISTIE AGAINST FATPHOBIC ATTACKS

I also have a few posts from during the NJ governor’s campaign on Chris Christie, his weight, and how it might play into his political life and the public perception of fat people:

What do you think of this hullabaloo over Christie’s weight?

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Harvest the Fatties as Horse Meat, and Other Gems of the Moral Panic

Today I saw one of the most inflammatory articles about the ‘obesity epidemic’ that I’ve seen in a while. It is an article that talks about how the ‘overweight and obese’ are more numerous than the hungry, planet-wide.

What’s truly alarming is that the International Federation for the Red Cross, a well-known humanitarian group, is taking this angle in order to — I don’t know what, get more donations for hunger programs by shaming the fatty-countries about our horrible fatness? Secretary Bekele Geleta gives a statement:

“If the free interplay of market forces has produced an outcome where 15 percent of humanity are hungry while 20 percent are overweight, something has gone wrong somewhere,” secretary general Bekele Geleta said in a statement.

What, pray tell, is wrong with that? Yes, it’s horrible that 15 percent of humanity is hungry. But why bring in the arbitrarily-defined overweight-and-obese in there, except in an attempt to indirectly correlate the prevalence of fat(ter) people with hunger? That is, it would seem this article implies that fat people are taking all the food and leaving nothing for the hungry people who need it more than those fat fatties. By the way, it’s not evil ‘market forces’ driving the a portion of the current spike in food prices — the subsidization of food like corn and demand for ethanol has a substantial effect on global food prices, making previously accessible foodstuffs inflate in price:

C. Ford Runge, a University of Minnesota professor of applied economics and law, argues that ethanol from crops has many “hidden costs” that should dissuade the government from subsidies.

Runge, who raised concerns about ethanol policy as early as 2007, says his research suggests some 30 percent of food price increases come from diversion of US corn for ethanol.

Blaming the ‘overweight and obese’ on rising food prices or hunger in the world is inflammatory at bottom. There is no correlation. Fat people are not taking the food out of the mouths of hungry infants. Yet an article which talks about the statistics of both would seem to suggest that very scenario. Shame on IFRC for resorting to such inhumane strategies in order to further their agenda. Guess fat people are okay to hate on, is that right, IFRC?

But they don’t stop there. The Asia-Pacific director of the IFRC goes on to say (without any references):

Asia-Pacific director Jagan Chapagain called [more overweight people than hungry people] a “double-edged scandal” at a press conference in the Indian capital, adding that “excess nutrition now kills more than hunger.” [clarification mine]

While “double-edged scandal” has a nice ring to it, that’s all it has. Could you use more moralized language than “scandal” to describe the prevalence of fat(ter) people? And I would love to see the stats on hordes of people dying because they’re choking on their own fat. Or any article that doesn’t conflate diseases for which fat is a risk factor (and usually a much, much smaller risk factor than, say, family history) as the cause of those diseases, hence counting death due to heart disease, cancers, and diabetes as deaths by fatness (which is usually how the ‘fat deaths’ numbers are generated).

This article was meant to inflame. The words of the individuals at the IFRC (shame on you!) were meant to inflame. And that’s just what they did.

I haven’t seen such blatant hate in comments on an article…well, ever. And I’ve read a lot of comments on public sites shaming fat people. I know this is Yahoo News. I know they have some of the worst reporting and moderation in the biz. Still, I can’t believe some of the stuff I’m reading. I felt the need to record it here, so that fat-hate deniers—and don’t we all know one of those, who says we just need to buck up and there’s no such thing as fat oppression and it’s just all in our fatty fat-filled heads?—can see for themselves just how bad it is. Just how deep it goes. That fat-haters really, really do want us to die. Sometimes they want to kill us themselves.

TRIGGER WARNING. Don’t go any further if you can’t stomach some of the worst fat-hate I’ve ever seen.

Please. Turn back now, if you’re at all sensitive to this stuff.

Okay. Here goes. Quoting from the comments in no particular order, without attribution or linking. I’ll link to the original article at the bottom of the post, if you really, really want to see these things for yourself.

Fat lazy pigs will bring this country to it’s knees. When I’m in the grocery and I see a fat mom with her fat kids with a cart full of soda,chips, frozen chicken ect……… I just want to smack ’em all right in their fat faces. I am a fataphobe. My girlfriend of 11 years just decided one day to stop exercising with me and started fast food -FAST FOOD people! Who the F eats that crap? She gained weight—quickly. I dumped her ass. If she wants to get fat and lazy she ain’t gonna do it around me.

I’m glad she dodged that bullet.

The next are a collection of comments that suggest we resort to cannibalism:

1. Cut slabs of meat off the fat people, and feed it to the skinny people.

2. When things get really bad, a starving person should be allowed to eat one obese person per year.

3. Ultimate Robin Hood: Liposuction the fat to feed the skinny.

4. So, harvest the fatties; ship them to the Third World; and sell them as “horse” meat.

5. Oh good. The potential food supply (fatties) now outnumbers the hungry.

6. Let the hungry people eat the obese people. Problem solved! [there are about a dozen of these that say basically the same exact thing, not going to mention them all here]

Lovely. Let me observe that the people who make cannibalistic comments aren’t getting a thrill from the idea of eating fat people — I’m sure they think we’re disgusting and riddled with disease. Rather, it’s the murder and torture of fat people that gets their rocks off.

But remember, we’re not just good to eat. We’re also a next-generation fuel source!

In terms of Karma, maybe the obese are the poor’s food supply when collapse happens, or in light vege-oil diesel, maybe a new energy supply? I wonder how far you could drive on one fat person?

By the way, did you notice the moralistic use of “Karma” in the comment above? Fat people are sinners by virtue of existence. We have done wrong, and we’re going to get our comeuppance one of these days, isn’t that right? I suppose that implies the thin are sainted by virtue of existence. Good to know!

Goes hand in hand with a record 48 Million getting food stamps that they don’t need!

Oh yes, let’s add people to the numbers of hungry on this planet. It’s good for them. They committed the sin of fat and hence need to atone, while the sainted thin can eat as their reward for being thin.

Of course, there is the perennial tendency to conflate the stats of ‘overweight and obese’ — which are relatively large — with the prevalence of the kind of very fat people used as strawmen in pictures on these articles, who comprise far less than 10% of the ‘overweight and obese.’

I have 2 words for the morbidly obese: STOP EATING!!

Which translates to: Die, fatty! Clever.

Here are a few comments to illustrate that the inflammatory rhetoric of the IFRC, and indirect implication that fat fatties are taking food out of the mouths of hungry babies, has achieved its intended effect:

1. So if the obese cut back on eating and gave this good to the hungry we would solve two problems.

2. So the obese people are numerous and pressuring the food supplies needed by the truly hungry. food stamps is really working. How come so many so fat with no job? Wonderful.

3. Sounds like the obese need to give some food to the hungry.

And remember, there are no fat people in concentration camps:

Why can’t we do an “exchange” program with countries like Ethiopia and Somalia. We’ll send a bunch of Fat Americans to poor countries with no food so they can go on a “boot camp survivor diet” and the starving Somali’s can come here and eat McDonald’s and get fat.

Also make sure to snark the standard headless fatty on the article, and link fat people to yet another social problem, this time to the failure of the Post Office:

Hey, thats a picture of my mail lady! I can tell because her thighs always rub together as she waddles down the street at a snails pace! I wonder why the Postal system is in the trash can?

Another gem:

Force the obese people to take the positions of the hungry and the hungry the positions of the obese. Switch their jobs, homes, money, everything. The hungry could use a bit lifting up and the obese could use a very large lesson of humility instead of wasting all their money and time on food!

Those goddamn uppity fatties! Their problem is that they’re not humble enough. We need to teach those fatties a lesson. How dare they spend their own money and time on food? How dare they smugly eat while people are starving, people who deserve to have their jobs, home, money, and time more than those horrible fat fatties who are so horrible because they are fat? Skinny hungry people wouldn’t spend their money and time on food! Oh, no. They’d all go jog in the park and each single leaves of lettuce for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and think it was a feast! Goddamn fatties.

Also, did you know thin(ner) people can predict the future? It’s BMI-tastic!

Life expectancy has increased every year since 1900. It’s expected to start going down for the first time in a long time. Why? Obese people. How you can let yourself get to 300 pounds is unfathomable to me.

Everyone over 300 pounds is a broken, horrible person who is killing us all and inflating my healthcare costs. Why? Because I said so, dammit!

For those who just need to be benevolently “nudged” away from their disgusting immoral expensive child-abusing fatness:

Solution – Give doctors incentives to help patients lose weight, give tax breaks to joining a gym. Tax bad food based on sugar content, calories and trans fat. No food stamps for crackers, cookies, candy. Remove all coke machines from all our schools. Require P.E. in all our schools. Charge higher insurance premiums based on obesity level.

Finally, a few sane comments, too-few, in the din of hate:

This is great news. Finally the over fed outnumber the under fed. Maybe we will see an end to those photos of undernourished children and maybe they will be replaced with sad pictures of chunky kids with chocolate on their faces. Success!

A decent comment about how inflationary tactics taken by many governments throughout the world increase the price of basic commodities like foodstuffs:

This article is truly unbelievable. They ignorantly try to blame speculative trading and Global Warning for the rise in prices while ignoring the direct cause and effect realtionship of countries weakening their currencies. Put simply, printing more $’s without production gains is simply inflation and commodities such as fuel and grain are the first hit. I guess it just doesn’t fit their model. The heck with the logical correlation, let’s just blame global warming and speculators…. the Big bad people. Wow!

Someone finally observes that obese people can be malnourished/hungry:

Believe it or not, an obese person can also be malnourished at the same time. I am slightly obese, and prior to having a hysterectomy due to years of monthly hemmhoraging, my hemoglbin level was 10, my vitamin D, B12, folate and chromium levels were low – most likely, I was bleeding out everything but calories while I was having unstoppable carbohydrate cravings and consuming too many empty calories. Now my sweet tooth is gone, and my appetite and energy levels are normal. Now I wonder how many other women are experiencing the same thing and why doctors are not diagnosing and treating it.

The glass is half-full, not half-empty:

“Obese now outnumber hungry, says Red Cross”… Let’s think about this for a moment. We have made history… Now if this means there is less hungry people these days, then great! The glass if half full, huh?

My favorite one:

You know you live in a great counrty when people are complaining that the poor are too fat.

Word.

The original article is here. Shame on you, International Federation of the Red Cross.

EDIT: As of right now, Yahoo has been removing some of the worst comments (including some that I copied here). I’m glad I was able to capture the vitriol early-on, though I’m also glad that Yahoo is doing some moderation. Better late than never, I suppose.

EDIT 2: Nope, the awful comments are actually still up on the Yahoo article…read at your own risk. Yahoo, I take back any love I gave you.

Say It: Obesity = Obese People

For a long time bloggers and commenters in the Fatosphere have observed that when most anti-obesity crusaders talk about ‘obesity,’ they’re really talking about ‘obese people.’ There is no such thing as obesity in a vacuum, there are just people who are obese being looked at on a population-wide scale. And the definition of obese changes far too much for it to be any kind of solid abstraction.

When you realize that obesity means obese people, suddenly the comments being made by anti-obesity crusaders become a lot more grim. For instance, the heart-warmingly positive phrase: “We will eliminate obesity in a decade!” becomes “We will eliminate obese people in a decade.” Yikes.

Obesity = obese people. Say it. Write it. Stop using the word ‘obesity.’ Really expose what this whole moral panic is about.

“We really have declared war on obese people,” said Dr. Kimberly Redding, director of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Program at the Georgia Department of Public Health. … “Targeting obese people is not going to be a quick fix,” Redding said. (bold substitutions, mine. original here)

Also, childhood obesity = obese children. Say it. Write it. Never use the term ‘childhood obesity’ again.

Making the substitution (also, ‘epidemic of childhood obesity’ = ‘obese children’):

Spearheaded by Michelle Obama, a new presidential initiative would reverse the epidemic of obese children.

The goal, as set out in a report from the White House Task Force on Obese Children, is to reduce obese children from 20% to 5% by 2030.

To accomplish this, the plan makes 70 recommendations for early childhood, for parents and caregivers, for school meals and nutrition education, for access to healthy food, and for increasing physical activity.

“For the first time, the nation will have goals, benchmarks, and measurable outcomes that will help us tackle obese children one child, one family, and one community at a time,” Obama says in a news release. (bold substitutions, mine. original)

Um, yeah. Shudder. Finally, some Jamie Oliver to whet your palate for a change in this disturbing discourse:

In 2010 Jamie was awarded the prestigious TED Prize to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obese people.

Having proven himself as a campaigner in the UK, Jamie is fired up about leading the fight against obese people in the USA. The second season of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on ABC is set to air in spring 2011 and will help to refocus the campaign to use cooking skills and fresh food to help end the crisis of obese people in America. (bold substitutions, mine. original)

I’m issuing a challenge to all my readers:  Stop using ‘obesity’ and ‘childhood obesity.’ Start saying and writing ‘obese people’ and ‘obese children’ instead. Stop playing the game on their turf, using their mealy-mouthed terms which pretend obesity is some kind of state of being that floats above the populace, or that childhood obesity is like a monster lurking in a child’s closet, rather than the child herself. Say it like it is.

You know the old adage about evil — if you are able to name its nature, then it loses its power.

Who’s with me?

More on the irrational obesity crusade

I saw a great piece out of Cato not too long ago that I’ve been meaning to link. It also references an upcoming book by the authors Patrick Basham and John Luik: Diet Nation, Exposing the Obesity Crusade.

How the War on Obesity Went Pear-Shaped

One gem in particular, which should get you to want to read the full article:

Strangely, the obesity crusaders remain unaware that there is an absence of scientific evidence to support their assertions: firstly, that overweight and obesity increase one’s mortality risks; and secondly, that the overweight and moderately obese should lose weight because such loss will improve their health and lower their risk of heart disease.

In fact, the obesity crusaders’ assertions about weight and longevity ignore 40 years’ worth of international data that suggest obesity is not a cause of premature mortality. Many studies for different disease outcomes have demonstrated that the effect of both diet and physical activity are independent of the effect of BMI or various measures of body size or fat.

Oh, and in case that only whetted your appetite, here is another lovely article from the authors – Healthcare for All! Unless You’re Fat

And a teaser (please read the full article):

An NHS health trust now proposes to stop sending obese people and smokers for certain operations. NHS North Yorkshire and York is planning to stop patients who smoke, and those with a body mass index of more than 35, from having routine hip and knee surgeries because their unhealthy lifestyles allegedly lower the chance of the operations’ “success.”

….skip

Such discrimination on the grounds of lifestyle is illiberal and encroaches on individual rights, and is arguably beyond the legitimate function of the state. Refusing medical treatment to an individual who not only requires it but who has has financially contributed more than the average to its funding, as a means of coercing him or her toward healthier behaviour, is undemocratic and borders on tyranny.

Woo-hoo (sound of BL cheering at her screen)!

Here are some other great obesity-related articles from Cato (note that there are a lot of great science-related citations in the articles, so if you’re a collector of such things, do take that into account):

On the 1% increase of obese and overweight in the US

If you haven’t yet seen the article from Reuters: More than 70 million US adults obese, US agency says

And here’s a link to the actual CDC report

Hey look, the obesity level in the US is remaining steady!

Oh wait, the article didn’t say that? The carefully timed flood of press releases on a ‘report’ from the CDC, an agency already over-reporting the levels of ‘overweight and obesity’ as well as stocking their site with all sorts of scare-graphs and claims of an ‘epidemic’ (and not to mention the same folks that claimed 400,000 deaths per/year were ‘attributable’ to obesity when it was found later that the figure was closer to 30,000 deaths/year) seemed to say:

WE’RE IN AN EPIDEMIC FATTIES OMG OMG CHILDREN WILL DIE ETC!

Or, what the CDC actually said:

Over the past decade, obesity has become recognized as a national health threat and a major public health challenge. In 2007–2008, based on measured weights and heights (1), approximately 72.5 million adults in the United States were obese (CDC, unpublished data, 2010). Obese adults are at increased risk for many serious health conditions, including coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, and premature death (2,3). Adult obesity also is associated with reduced quality of life, social stigmatization, and discrimination (2,3). From 1987 to 2001, diseases associated with obesity accounted for 27% of the increases in U.S. medical costs (4). For 2006, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at as much as $147 billion (2008 dollars); among all payers, obese persons had estimated medical costs that were $1,429 higher than persons of normal weight (5). In 2001, the Surgeon General called for strong public health action to prevent and decrease overweight and obesity (3). [EMPHASIS MINE]

A few things:

  1. Correlation doesn’t equal causation. The public health dollars scare tactic was calculated by taking the sum of ALL diseases ‘correlated with’ obesity and adding them together. That means there was a crapload of thin people with heart diseases, diabetes type II, certain cancers, and who suffered strokes that have been lumped in with all the fatties to make that percentage look as high as possible. Misleading.
  2. I don’t see a margin of error stated in the report, except a very narrow confidence interval of 0.7 – 1.4 percent. Really that — that — is what’s getting shouted from the rooftops of every science news agency and crappy local evening news station in the country? Really?
  3. Again, it bears repeating: A 1% increase over two years does not an epidemic make. Nor are we currently in an epidemic by any reasonable definition of the term. The fact that the CDC is bearing down on us with these imprecise scare-words means this is about politics and keeping themselves in the green, NOT about the actual fucking health of Americans. Anyone who hasn’t read Greg Bear’s brilliant Darwin’s Radio, please do.
  4. How is obesity a major public health threat again and, if this is true, how in the world has it just ‘become’ so, given that obesity rates have been leveling off for the last few years (isn’t it something like 5 or 6 years now, since 2004)? I smell a press release.

Methinks the CDC is working to ramp up anti-obesity fervor for something. To garner more support for the “Let’s Move” anti-obese kids program? To garner more support for some kind of new, wider initiative (since my guess is that “Let’s Move” hasn’t been generating any real results, surprise surprise)?

And then there was this lovely gem from the NY Times busting open the current HHS anti-obesity funds and focus: Antismoking Efforts Lose Ground to Obesity Fight

Shortly after the first lady kicked off the “Let’s Move” program, the administration awarded more funds to fight obesity than tobacco through two big new money sources for preventive health. The funds, totaling $1.15 billion, came from economic stimulus and health care reform legislation. They still provided more than $200 million for tobacco-use prevention, but much more to grapple with obesity.

Scary. Nice that part of the economic ‘stimulus’ package was funds to stimulate hate! Oh, dearie. It’s so funny I forgot to laugh.

Scarier still: apparently the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is involved. For extensive analyses of some of their anti-obesity initiatives, check out this link.

What do you think of all of this?

BMI of Every US Citizen to be Tracked

Obesity Rating for Every American Must Be Included in Stimulus-Mandated Electronic Health Records, Says HHS

New federal regulations issued this week stipulate that the electronic health records–that all Americans are supposed to have by 2014 under the terms of the stimulus law that President Barack Obama signed last year–must record not only the traditional measures of height and weight, but also the Body Mass Index: a measure of obesity.

Obviously this is both an affront to freedom in general and the liberty of those with ‘unacceptable’ BMIs (mostly fat people, though some very thin people) more specifically. This isn’t about releasing any more information than would have been released before — heights and weights were already set to be included in the electronic health records — but rather being specifically classified by some health index number that can be used as a justification to grant you different treatment than others.

A couple things are clear to me here:

  1. When others believe they have the power to make health decisions for you (for instance, they control your access to healthcare) then you lose your body autonomy. Full stop.
  2. A government is going to act like any other self-interested body with a lot of power—it will exert its political will on the populace in order to remain in power. Right now it is popular to blame certain groups of people (including fat people) for willfully using more scarce health resources than ‘normal’ people. So classifying people into groups that would allow such a body to ‘punish’ those groups in the name of the ‘normal’ people is politically expedient (in that it will likely do no political harm and might even scrape together a few extra votes).

What do you think of this? Do you think it will happen? Besides refusing to be weighed, how can you personally combat the threat of potential classification based on BMI? What do you think the implications including BMIs on everyone’s electronic health records will be?

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).