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SF area woman wants to be aeorobics instructor
February 26, 2002 10:00 AM   Subscribe

SF area woman wants to be aeorobics instructor but she weighs 240 pounds. Company says they won't hire her because of her weight. She is suing.
posted by KevinSkomsvold (123 comments total)

 
Good for her. People can be skinny and unfit and they can also be heavier than avg and quite fit.

Plus they're losing a great opportunity to pull in other overweight women and men who might feel more comfortable and hopeful if they had a similar role model.

Glad she started her own business! Maybe if Jazzercize losses enough business to her they'll see the light.
posted by Red58 at 10:07 AM on February 26, 2002


..except for the fact that i wouldn't trust a mechanic with a car that didn't work right.
posted by jcterminal at 10:19 AM on February 26, 2002


This may crop up in some circles as an Example of Our Litigious Society, but I don't think it is. (I also don't think the number of frivolous lawsuits even begins to approach the number of valid lawsuits that the wronged party can't afford to bring, but that's another matter.)

If she can do the job and do it well, she should be hired. Fortunately, it sounds like she'll have no problem parlaying this into a good living on her own.
posted by argybarg at 10:19 AM on February 26, 2002


jcterminal:

If you see aerobics as purely a weight-loss program, you may have a point. It isn't, necessarily.

Besides, the mechanic may just not care about his car. That doesn't mean he couldn't fix mine.
posted by argybarg at 10:20 AM on February 26, 2002


It's pretty unlikely that she does aerobics regularly, or correctly, if she weighs 240 lbs.
posted by bingo at 10:24 AM on February 26, 2002


I should sue because I didn't get the starring role in "Ali" even though I'm an out of shape white guy...

That being said, this could have been a non-problem for Jazzercise because it would certainly have generated some good publicity and if she couldn't keep students in her classes then they could fire her for that. If she did fill her classes then it's a money-maker for Jazzercise. I am mystified by their poor business judgement here.
posted by plaino at 10:26 AM on February 26, 2002


I don't think Jazzercise should have much of a case. If she ate junk food all day, never exercised, and then tried to apply for a position, I can see their point. But she's an active, healthy woman--a coworker described her on NPR as still bursting with energy after teaching two consecutive classes. Much better shape than I'm in. I would think it would encourage business for many non-ideal body type people, saying "I can exercise and be in shape, too."
posted by gramcracker at 10:27 AM on February 26, 2002


Bingo, you're just wrong. There are people in this world who are just big. No matter what they do. They can exercise and eat right and just don't achieve the "ideal, fit" look.

If the woman can do her 6 classes a week and does them well, then she should be allowed to teach. Maybe it will change some people's ideas that all fat people are lazy and unfit.
posted by aacheson at 10:32 AM on February 26, 2002


They should have hired her. She would have quit after three days instead of getting the grounds for the lawsuit that she wanted.

Guess it beats working-- that requires self-discipline.
posted by Harry Hopkins' Hat at 10:35 AM on February 26, 2002


There's this persistent notion that anyone who is overweight can't possibly be fit.

When I was a young lad my family and I took some informal aerobics lessons from a family friend (early 80s - before it became a fad). Now, this woman was rather large. I never gave it a second thought. She was in outstanding physical shape - more so than me, a skinny kid less than half her age. She easily did the whole routine while we got winded and tired in no time.
posted by O9scar at 10:37 AM on February 26, 2002


And another thing, the "supermodels" you see that you think look healthy, most of them aren't. Most are underweight, anorexic, and starve themselves to get their shape, not by leading 6 jazzercise classes a week. For example, the beautiful women in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition that just came out, I counted about a dozen of them that have the classic signs of anorexia and serious weight problems. Yet, I'm sure that if one of them wanted to be a jazzercise instructor, they wouldn't be given any problems from the company even if they couldn't do the classes half as well as the overweight lady.

HHH-why on earth do you say "she would have quit in 3 days?" She's been doing it for years, why would she quit when she gets a great job?
posted by aacheson at 10:37 AM on February 26, 2002


aacheson:

Because fat people are lazy and have no "self-discipline." Right, HHH? Or do your comments merely sound vicious?
posted by argybarg at 10:43 AM on February 26, 2002


It's pretty unlikely that she does aerobics regularly, or correctly, if she weighs 240 lbs

A recent nova special on obesity featured an ironman triathalon athlete that had successfully done the 2.5 mile swim, 120 mile bike ride, and 26 mile marathon run within a 24 hour period, several times. He is at the peak of physical conditioning, working out several hours a day to prepare for the ironman, and his doctors can't quite explain how he's less than six feet tall and weighs about 250 lbs. When they showed him on camera, he's incredibly stocky, almost stout, and you'd never think he could outperform almost anyone on earth (less of course, endurance athletes).
posted by mathowie at 10:49 AM on February 26, 2002


Weight is an odd classification for a discrimination law. No one "chooses" to be black, female, disabled, over 40. But people can choose (to some extent) not to weigh 240 pounds. Similarly, most people believe that blacks are not inferior to whites, women are not inferior to men, those over 40 are not inferior to those under 40. But almost everbody believes that it's bad to be 240 pounds, and it's preferable to be, say, 150 (from a health standpoint -- setting aside "attractiveness"). It seems ridiculous that a fitness center -- which is trying to promote health -- shouldn't be allowed to factor those truths into its hiring decisions.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:49 AM on February 26, 2002


This is ridiculous. Whether she likes it or not, when people go to work out, they're not solely seeking instruction. They're looking for inspiration, as well. Whether or not one has the ability to look like a swimsuit model, it's a nice dream to have.

Frankly, I don't think I'd sign up for an aerobics class taught by a 240 woman. Even if her weight is genetic, it would just seem like there was something intangibly "wrong" with the whole process.

Just because she was denied a job, a job in which health and physical appearance are important, doesn't mean she should sue. I think it's just a case of someone finding an unique idea to scam a company out of some money.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:51 AM on February 26, 2002


Just for the record, I've worked with alot of mechanics over the years and 90% of them have cars that aren't mechanically sound.
posted by tankboy at 10:53 AM on February 26, 2002


That's the long-and-short of it. You get fat by consuming much more potential energy than your body needs-- it suggests very strongly that you're sedentary.

If you're very physically active and still going 240, you're eating enough for two people. That's excessive enough to make me contemptuous.

In the end, it is true that fat people are lazy and/or have no self discipline-- either you're not moving enough, eating more than your share or a combination of both. If you disagree with that, please tell me how else one gets fat. Keep in mind that mass doesn't spontaneously generate.
posted by Harry Hopkins' Hat at 10:56 AM on February 26, 2002


jcterminal said: ...except for the fact that i wouldn't trust a mechanic with a car that didn't work right.

Would you trust a mechanic with a car that ran great, but had a paintjob you didn't like? That's the correct analogy here. The woman can do the job, she's reportedly in great shape. She's just large.

SweetJesus said: They're looking for inspiration, as well. Whether or not one has the ability to look like a swimsuit model, it's a nice dream to have.

I think I'd be more inspired by a person who was large and still in great shape than someone who was thin. I know I'll never be thin, so being fat but still in good shape is a more realistic goal. Personally, if she can do the job, I'd find her less intimidating and more inviting than one of those Stepford aerobic instructors any day.
posted by RylandDotNet at 10:57 AM on February 26, 2002


There's a common logical fallacy that because many people gain weight when they get out of shape, that anyone who is heavier than average must be in bad physical shape. That's a bit like saying, many people get tan when they spend time out in the sun, therefore anyone you see with dark skin must be spending time tanning, even if they're black or latino. (Yes I know it's not a perfect metaphor, don't bother nitpicking.) I'm a naturally skinny person who used to be in really bad physical shape. When I started working out, I actually put on some weight. The proof is in the pudding. If this woman can lead the class effectively and attract students (which she apparently is doing) then she is qualified.
posted by tdismukes at 10:59 AM on February 26, 2002


The letter the company wrote her specifically mentions their desire for someone with a better muscle-to-fat ratio. I think it's telling that nowhere in the article are we told what her body fat percentage is. If it's 10%, and that 240 lbs. is mostly muscle, good for her. That's not what it sounds like, though. Some people do have big frames. If Julie Strain or Bridgette Nielson want to teach an aerobics class, I'm down with that. But I get the impression this woman is obese. I could be wrong, but I think it's also telling that there's a very minimalist description of her ("At 5 feet 8, 240 pounds, Portnick looks nothing like the svelte models on the company's Web site and brochures"), and no photo.

For most human beings, a healthy diet and the amount of regular cardiovascular exercise you would expect from an aerobics instructor (i.e. more than 40 minutes per day on average) is going to burn enough fat that you are not going to be as obese as this woman seems to be (5'8" 240 lbs, with what is apparently a high body fat %, places her well into the "obese" category technically). I'm not saying you'll look like a supermodel. But you'll look a lot better than she does, unless you have some kind of medical disorder, e.g. a glad problem. But no such condition is mentioned in the article.

Who says she's been doing it for years?
posted by bingo at 10:59 AM on February 26, 2002


Invitation to a Lawsuit:

"Jazzercise sells fitness,'' Brown wrote. "Consequently, a Jazzercise applicant must have a higher muscle-fat ratio and look leaner than the public. People must believe Jazzercise will help them improve, not just maintain their level of fitness.''

Bet they won't be putting THAT in any future letters to job applicants. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
posted by groundhog at 11:01 AM on February 26, 2002


Harry Hopkins' Hat said: In the end, it is true that fat people are lazy and/or have no self discipline-- either you're not moving enough, eating more than your share or a combination of both.

OK, Mr. Conservation-of-energy, explain to me how someone can do aerobics for an hour a day six days out of seven and still be fat? How much do you have to eat to maintain 240 lb when you're expending that much energy? And how do you explain that some people who literally sit around all day doing nothing but watching TV and eating are still skinny?

Don't try to pass your prejudices off as knowledge, dude.
posted by RylandDotNet at 11:05 AM on February 26, 2002


HHH:

As many have noted here, it's possible to be overweight by genetic disposition (did you read any of those posts?). It's also possible not to care as deeply as you seem to care about the moral taint of being fat -- to commit the mortal sin of, as you say, consuming more calories than you use.

Your conclusion seems to have been that anyone who eats more calories than he/she uses must therefore be an utter moral sloth -- i.e., would rather order a lawsuit than work. It doesn't follow. I don't care what I wear; I'm lazy about it. I'm also a damned hard worker and good at what I do. In other words, it's possible to be indifferent to one area of one's life but not to another. Gosh!

But I think you're probably aware of that fact. It's that extra moral revulsion you seem to feel at obesity that leads you to such a vitriolic conclusion -- it's overwhelming your good sense. Why it does that to you, only you can answer.
posted by argybarg at 11:06 AM on February 26, 2002


Actually, HHH is right. It's really a fairly simple calculation:

- If calories needed > calories consumed, weight will be lost (body has to get calories from stored weight).

- If calories needed < calories consumed, weight will be gained (body stores excess calories)

The variable in all this is "calories needed," and that depends on a lot of factors, including exercise and metabolism. But even if we assume bad genetics, poor metabolism and little exercise, one can still lose weight by eating fewer calories than one needs Granted, it may be very few calories -- uncomfortably few, even. It may be hard, but it's not impossible.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:08 AM on February 26, 2002


But you'll look a lot better than she does, unless you have some kind of medical disorder, e.g. a glad problem. But no such condition is mentioned in the article.

There you have it, folks: All fat people are fat because they're lazy, unless they carry around with them documented proof they have a medical disorder. Guilty until proven innocent. Perhaps there's a special tattoo we could have them put on their foreheads so people will know which ones they can "legitimately" sneer and spit at.

Spin, bingo, spin!

Ironically, I'm not sure I believe the woman deserves to win this lawsuit. Jazzercize is as much about showing off whatever society currently deems to be "hot bodies," if not more so, than it is a real exercise program. Style over substance.
posted by aaron at 11:09 AM on February 26, 2002


I think I'd be more inspired by a person who was large and still in great shape than someone who was thin. I know I'll never be thin, so being fat but still in good shape is a more realistic goal. Personally, if she can do the job, I'd find her less intimidating and more inviting than one of those Stepford aerobic instructors any day.

Let's face it - Most everyone want's to be thin, healthy and attractive. Almost nobody want's to be overweight, unhealthy, and unattractive. Even if one is overweight and healthy, the vitality doesn't show through on a first impression.

Modern businesses are steadily moving away from selling products, into selling "lifestyles". Pick up an Abercrombie or Eddie Bauer catalog, and you'll see what I'm talking about. This gym is basically trying to sell a means to an end for a healthy, attractive, happy life. Most people don't think of these when they think of obesity (and yes, she's not overweight, she's obese. Her BMI count is 36.5, well above the 30 that's considered the cut off for the overweight label).

This gym is in business to make money, and they have made a decision that hiring this person would be detrimental to their business. Not just because of her weight, but because her weight effects her ability to do her job in the way that they expect. It's that simple.

And HHH, you're an idiot troll, and I'm calling you on it. Don't be a moron. Saying that all fat people are lazy, is like saying that all Arab's are terrorists, or that all Jew's love money - Either one you say, you still sound like a bigoted jerk. Grow up.
posted by SweetJesus at 11:13 AM on February 26, 2002


HHH - If you're very physically active and still going 240, you're eating enough for two people. That's excessive enough to make me contemptuous.

Tell that to Jerome Bettis. It's not hard to spot who's being worthy of contemp here.
posted by Wulfgar! at 11:13 AM on February 26, 2002


Granted, it may be very few calories -- uncomfortably few, even. It may be hard, but it's not impossible.

Often so few that it causes all sorts of other medical problems that are far more serious than merely being overweight. Which means they're forced to make a choice: stay overweight and deal with the prejudices of people like you, pardonyou, or starve themselves to conform to your standards, and go through sheer hell in the process. What a wonderful society we live in.
posted by aaron at 11:14 AM on February 26, 2002


pardonyou? said: If calories needed > calories consumed, weight will be lost, etc.

If "calories" were all the same, you'd be right, but calories come in different varieties. Eating enough peanuts for 100 calories is different from eating enough mashed potatoes for 100 calories, which is different from 100 calories worth of celery, and so on. How much fat you eat, how much sugar you eat, how much caffeine, how much starch, how much protein, etc., are all factors. You can't just set up a diet with X number of calories of any kind and expect the same results. Eating 2000 calories a day in fast food is much different from eating 2000 calories a day of well-balanced meals.
posted by RylandDotNet at 11:18 AM on February 26, 2002


This is ridiculous. Whether she likes it or not, when people go to work out, they're not solely seeking instruction. They're looking for inspiration, as well. Whether or not one has the ability to look like a
swimsuit model, it's a nice dream to have.


And what about people who live in the real world and *know* they can't ever look like a swimsuit model? Why do we insist on giving ourselves "inspiration" that is guaranteed to cause feelings of failure when we don't achieve what we're being (unrealistically) inspired to do? I suspect that more unfit overweight people would be inspired to get fit if there were more fitness class instructors like this woman.

Frankly, I don't think I'd sign up for an aerobics class taught by a 240 woman. Even if her weight is genetic, it would just seem like there was something intangibly "wrong" with the whole process.

What's "wrong" with it is that you're confusing "fit and healthy" with "thin" (thanks to the media, no doubt) and that therefore someone overweight is intrinsically less fit and healthy than someone at an (arbitrarily-decided-upon) "ideal" weight or underweight. What's "ideal" varies wildly from person to person, this woman sounds fit and healthy (if she can do 6 aerobics classes a week she's certainly fit), what's her weight got to do with whether or not she can do the job? It seems to me more like Jazzercise is trying to perpetuate misconceptions in the misguided idea that it needs to do so to stay in business rather than, as plaino said, seeing this as a great marketing opportunity. They could have run a whole campaign around this woman, encouraging overweight people to get active (I assume fat people's money is as good as thin people's, no?), but instead they decided to be closed-minded about it, and now they'll likely have damage control to do.
posted by biscotti at 11:19 AM on February 26, 2002


A quick Google search turned up the website for her company:
http://www.fitnessfuncentral.com/
posted by sanitycheck at 11:21 AM on February 26, 2002


Employers ought to be able to hire whomever they wish for what ever reasons they wish. Or not hire. It's their money.

A job is not an innate right. Private property is. The wages paid are money, which is private property.

It's my right to refuse to hire a mechanic because he sneezes too softly. It may not make sense, but it's my right.

I think this woman probably is qualified. Doesn't sound lazy. But while I disagree with the decision not to hire her, I will defend to the death the rights to private property that allow employers to choose their employees... rights which have already been too far eroded.
posted by dissent at 11:22 AM on February 26, 2002


Meta.

For the yelling and the shouting and the hey hey hey it hurts.
posted by Skot at 11:23 AM on February 26, 2002


I'm guessing (and yes, it's a guess) that the woman in this article probably could lose some weight if she wanted to. So let's say that she spends the next year eating less, exercising even more, and at the end of that year, she's down to 150.

At the end of that same year, and for the rest of his life, Harry Hopkins' Hat will still be an unmitigated asshole.
posted by anapestic at 11:23 AM on February 26, 2002


aaron, interesting that you think my comments had anything to do with this:

There you have it, folks: All fat people are fat because they're lazy, unless they carry around with them documented proof they have a medical disorder.

On the contrary, I used to be quite fat, and it had nothing to do with my being lazy. I disagree with HHH and others here about laziness and the whole equation of how someone gets to be fat. There are a lot of factors involved, including metabolism, lean muscle mass, and what kind of food you're eating in terms of carbs, fiber, fat, and other factors. I think that for most fat people, the root problems are really more psychological than physical, and they are often not easy problems to deal with.

However, that doesn't mean that this woman should get this job. I don't want a tattoo on her forehead. But whether or not she has a glandular problem is directly relevant to the issue at hand. If she doesn't, and she really is eating healthy and exercising regularly, she should be less fat than she apparently is.

As a formerly obese person who has lost a lot of weight via aerobic exercise, I am annoyed by all the fat people running around saying that one's level of exercise is not a significant factor in one's appearance. It is. You don't have to do it, you don't have to condone it, but that's the truth.
posted by bingo at 11:25 AM on February 26, 2002


it's possible to be overweight by genetic disposition

This is an oversimplification that needs clarification. The manifestations of a genetic predisposition for being overweight can be either physiological (poor glucose/fat utilization) or psychophysiological (improper hunger reponse) or some combination of those things. Energy is required for basic life functions so if you are alive, you are using energy. You might use more or less per day than someone else depending on how much you move around but in the end, physics (conservation of energy) demands that if you eat more energy than you use, the rest will be stored (as fat) and if you eat less than you use the balance needed will be taken from your fat stores. What does this all mean? It means that genetic disposition or not, if you are fat it is because of what you eat, which means, if you are fat you choose to be fat. Period. Metabolic set points, genetics, chemical imbalances, etc. are all terms describing real things but they have been hijacked for the purpose of relieving fat people of responsibility for their condition. If your metabolic set point is low then it will take twenty laps/day, for example, instead of ten to burn the same energy. Or it means you have to eat only one twinky a day instead of two to stay below your total energy useage for the day. It doesn't mean you "can't" lose weight.
posted by plaino at 11:27 AM on February 26, 2002


pardonyou:

I agree that most fat people can become skinny if they do all the right things -- not all, but most.

What staggered me was HHH's implicit contention that obesity proves that a person is incapable of good judgement, moral courage, or even a simple work ethic. That's not even an idea -- that's HHH's neurosis on display.
posted by argybarg at 11:28 AM on February 26, 2002


But no such condition is mentioned in the article.

But why is that a reason to assume one doesn't exist? The article is not about why she's overweight, and maybe she hasn't bothered to find out why herself.

It really doesn't matter why she's overweight anyway (unless she could then pursue the case as a disabilities issue (i.e. she's physiologically unable to lose the extra weight)), this is about whether Jazzercise can discriminate based on appearance.

The court will get to decide whether the apparent muscle to fat ratio of their applicants is a factor Jazzercise can use in deciding whether to hire someone. There are some professions and jobs where such discrimination is legally acceptable (movie and TV acting, for one), but is Jazzercise in the same category?

If the image is what they are selling, more than the classes, i.e. if it's the case that they are really just paying someone pretty and thin to stand up there and direct classes whose primary purpose is to look at someone pretty and thin, then I suppose it would be legal.

I'm not sure I agree that that's what Jazzercise is about and that appearance of the instructors is that crucial to their product.
posted by daveadams at 11:33 AM on February 26, 2002


And what about people who live in the real world and *know* they can't ever look like a swimsuit model? Why do we insist on giving ourselves "inspiration" that is guaranteed to cause feelings of failure when we don't achieve what we're being (unrealistically) inspired to do?

Great idea! Start a company, and when you do, you can turn away as many fake, media-inspired, unrealistic-goal-setting-models as you want. But until then, you shouldn't force another business to comply with your vision of a healthy person, or your vision of reality.

"fit and healthy" with "thin" (thanks to the media, no doubt) and that therefore someone overweight is intrinsically less fit and healthy than someone at an (arbitrarily-decided-upon) "ideal" weight or underweight. What's "ideal" varies wildly from person to person, this woman sounds fit and healthy (if she can do 6 aerobics classes a week she's certainly fit), what's her weight got to do with whether or not she can do the job?

Christ, don't blame the media for everything. That's such an easy way out. Sure, the media may have a lot of influence over children and teenagers, but as an adult you should be able to overlook all the bullshit and draw your own conclusions.

Whether or not this woman is fit, she is certainly not healthy. Obese people have a far greater risk of osteoporosis, heart disease some forms of cancer, and generally have a shorter life span than someone of a more normal weight. These are not attributes one want's in someone who is trying to make them more "healthy and fit".
posted by SweetJesus at 11:33 AM on February 26, 2002


Oh for goodness sake. There's obviously not enough information provided in the link to go on to make many of the judgments seen in this thread.

Yes it is very possible this woman's suing for contempuous reasons. It's equally possible this woman's been denied persuing her chosen career because of short-sighted people like many of the ones who have participated in this thread. It will be up to the judge to decide whether she has a case, or should be thrown out of court.

Not everybody believes that obesity equals sloth. There are medical conditions which explain the issue. If she is a qualified aerobics instructor who has sufficiently studied the topic enough to be confident in asking for such a job, she's obviously not sedentary. She's mobile and active. If they don't want to hire her, they need a better reason than her weight.

Human metabolisms differ from person to person. Assuming all overweight people eat more than "normal" people is short-sighted and prejudicial. In fact in my experience overweight people ARE the norm and thin people are weird freaks of nature. But then, I live in Texas where of course we all own a ranch and run around on horses with big hats, reddened necks and bellies full of lite beer.

She may or may not have an eating disorder, but regardless she has compensated by being active, and bully for her! Aerobic exercise is an ideal way for anyone to improve their physical health. It's frustrating and rather lame of many of you that you make incorrect assumptions based on her weight.

Oh, and Camryn Manheim is a babe! So there!
posted by ZachsMind at 11:34 AM on February 26, 2002


SanityCheck--thanks for doing the Googlin'! She looks healthy! She looks strong! She's curvy, yes, but what's wrong with curves? It's what makes her a woman. I'd totally take a class of hers (if I wasn't a lazy bum). She looks like a real person who I could identify with and from whom I would take advice. Who better to explain the right way a big girl should do aerobics than a big girl? The idea is to get unfit people active to improve their health & she appears to be able & willing to do that!
posted by macadamiaranch at 11:34 AM on February 26, 2002


HHH - Your knowledge of the biochemistry behind weight is a few decades out of date. The old concept that you can add up the number of calories in a daily food intake, look up the number of calories burned by your daily exercise and then divide the differential number of calories by 2000 to calculate the number of pounds you will gain/lose each week is just not factually correct. Think about it logically - by that theory, supose you had stayed 160 pounds for the last 5 years, then started jogging 3x a week for an extra calorie burn of 1000 calories, but you ate exactly the same. By the old theory, you would lose a pound every 2 weeks, indefinitely. In the first year you'd lose 26 pounds. After 2 years you'd weigh 108 pounds. After 3-4 years you'd be dead. Conversely, if you kept your exercise the same, but ate one extra banana every day, you'd eventually weight 600 pounds.

The reason this doesn't happen is that our bodies have extremely powerful mechanisms for maintaining homeostasis. The hypothalamus has a "setpoint" weight which it tries to keep the body at. If the calorie intake/output moves the body away from that, the hypothalamus will resort to tricks such as altering the basal metabolism to maintained the desired weight.

In many people, exercise helps to reset the hypothalamus setpoint to a lower level, but there is considerable genetic variation on this.

Bottom line, there are people who eat less & exercise more than me, but still weigh more. There are also people who eat more & exercise less than me, but still weigh less. (Not so many of those - as I said above, I'm a naturally skinny guy.) Check out the triathlete that matt mentions above - given that he probably does 10 times the exercise that most of us do, do you really think he eats 20 times what a average person does?

Forget weight, what counts is how healthy you are.

Bingo - You're certainly right that most overweight people can reduce weight through exercise (although it takes a lot more exercise for some people than others.) I do think that the goal should be getting into good physical condition - not getting skinnier. If you eat healthy food, exercise regularly, have good strength, aerobic capacity & muscle endurance then you are probably at the weight which is healthy for you.
posted by tdismukes at 11:34 AM on February 26, 2002 [1 favorite]


aaron: "Which means they're forced to make a choice: stay overweight and deal with the prejudices of people like you, pardonyou, or starve themselves to conform to your standards, and go through sheer hell in the process. "

Where the hell did that ad hominem come from? On what half-assed evidence do you base your conclusion that I'm "prejudiced"? All I did was put out the equation, and noted (truthfully) that anyone can lose weight. I admitted that it could be difficult, and I'm sympathetic to the plight. Simply pointing out the falsity of the claim that "some people can't lose weight" isn't prejudice.

And Ryland, all calories are the same. A calore is a calorie. What you're saying is that not all calories satiate the same. I don't disagree. Doesn't change the equation, though.

and argybarg, I wasn't defending the conclusions HHH drew from his analysis, just the correctness of his essential point that weight can be lost.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:35 AM on February 26, 2002


dissent: Point taken, but the main problem is that San Fran has a law against weight discrimination. Jazzercise should have been smarter, and should have known the local lawbooks. That's their own fault.

Weight gets into a very grey area here--obesity is a great public health epidemic--and it's getting worse, quickly. I think (and this is just a random guess) that the majority of people who are overweight are too sedimentary, and eat too many calories. However, there is a definite group of people who, no matter what they do, can't shed the pounds they'd like to.

Read this interview for some info on today's calorie consumption... we average 230 more calories per day than in 1980.
posted by gramcracker at 11:37 AM on February 26, 2002


I am annoyed by all the fat people running around saying that one's level of exercise is not a significant factor in one's appearance. It is.

It is, but it's a relative thing. For some people, no exercise is necessary to maintain a slim figure. For others, an obscene amount is required. Some people can make a lot of progress quickly by doing a little bit of extra exercise. Some people can't.

The point is that you can't compare Elle MacPherson and Camryn Manheim and say for certain that Elle eats healthier and works out more than Camryn. That may be the case, or it may be the opposite of the truth, but you don't know just by looking.
posted by daveadams at 11:37 AM on February 26, 2002


Eating enough peanuts for 100 calories is different from eating enough mashed potatoes for 100 calories, which is different from 100 calories worth of celery, and so on.

RylanddotNet - You are wrong. A 'calorie' is a unit of energy and is the same no matter where it comes from. Fat has 9/g, carbs and protein have 4/g. You 'burn' a certain amount per day and if you eat less than that amount per day you will lose stored fat, then muscle (in anorexia), then connective tissue (really bad anorexia). How you choose what you eat (burgers vs. rock candy) affects the ratios of fat/carb/protein and, more importantly, the vitamins and minerals and cholesterol you get but that has nothing to do with weight gain or loss.
posted by plaino at 11:37 AM on February 26, 2002


This New York Times article is informative: Why Some People Won't Be Fit Despite Exercise. (Apparently, you can reach a very high level of physical fitness and still look very unfit.)
posted by mattpfeff at 11:39 AM on February 26, 2002


If you consider the job of instructor to also be a sales role, then the company may have something to stand on.

While you can't discriminate on the basis of race, etc.. you can turn down a salesperson because they couldn't do the job required of them. Maybe the persona has terrible body oder. It's not a protected class, so that is a valid reason for not hiring. Although it may not sound very nice, there are little or no laws I'm aware of that protect obese people from discrimination.

It's much like a previous thread (I'm lazy, so I'll wait for someone like moz to do the search) about sexual orientation not being a federally protected class, and thus opening the door for it being legal to hire or fire someone on that basis in a private enterprise.
posted by rich at 11:46 AM on February 26, 2002


> If you see aerobics as purely a weight-loss program, you
> may have a point. It isn't, necessarily.

What Jazzercise sells is hope, the same as all the fad diet books (and all the other self-help/self-improvement books, schemes and programs) do.

If the hope "...perhaps I too can be 240lb (but fit) like the instructor..." is enough to sell tickets, then nobody should have any problem with this lady leading a class.

If the hope that sells tickets is "if I buy this program then maybe I can look like a 20-year-old lifeguard, the way the instructor does" then Jazzercise has a point -- the same point Honest Al's Used Cars would have if they turned down a sales applicant for looking like Richard Nixon.
posted by jfuller at 11:49 AM on February 26, 2002


Let me put it another way. This thread has split in two directions: The whether-she-has-a-legal-claim branch (which isn't really relevant to my point, so I'm not going there) and the she-wouldn't-be-240-lbs-if-she-were-really-trying branch. The latter branch has absolutely nothing to do with the legal/moral/ethical issue brought up by the front page post as to whether she's being discriminated against; instead, it's pure speculation about "what this woman ought to look like." Not what she ought to look it in order to run a Jazzercize class, but what she ought to look like period. That this nonissue is even coming up is the problem; who the hell is anyone in this thread to be making judgements as to what this woman ought to look like, exercise program or no? HHH's little one-liners are pure bigotry, but really, the longer, more thoughtful posts in this thread on the subject are still making a point only barely removed from his spewage: "If only she tried a little harder.....maybe her metabolism makes it more difficult for her than it does for most, but still..." This whole thread branch is one big "but still...", and it's pretty much as wrong as HHH's statements, although far more tastefully stated.

And bingo, you did come into this thread essentially accusing the woman of being a liar, saying she couldn't be 240 lbs if she was really doing aerobics, and then backtracking. With a somewhat useful point, but backtracking nonetheless from a statement that went too far, IMHO.
posted by aaron at 11:50 AM on February 26, 2002


aacheson,
I agree that people that are heavier than average aren't all necessarily out of shape. You should, too, recognize that not all skinny people and/or "supermodels" are anorexic.

The trend is now, and has been for a few years, to turn the tables on the skinny people of the world and assume that they all have some horrible eating disorder just because they are skinny (or, God forbid, pretty.) It wasn't proper when it was said about big people and it isn't proper when it's said about thin people.
posted by goto11 at 11:50 AM on February 26, 2002


Great idea! Start a company, and when you do, you can turn away as many fake, media-inspired, unrealistic-goal-setting-models as you want. But until then, you shouldn't force another business to comply with your vision of a healthy person, or your vision of reality.

Whoa! I never said that I wanted to force Jazzercise to do anything. I was merely pointing out that one of the reasons many people have self-esteem issues directly relates to the fact that what we as a society set as "ideal" is simply unattainable for the vast majority of us. I actually posted an agreement to dissent's post and then deleted it (but, for the record, I agree with what dissent said 100%).

Christ, don't blame the media for everything. That's such an easy way out. Sure, the media may have a lot of influence over children and teenagers, but as an adult you should be able to overlook all the bullshit and draw your own conclusions.

Sure, I hear you, but just because "an adult should be able to overlook all the bullshit" doesn't mean that an entire lifetime's worth of exposure to media-dictated ideals evaporates once you stop being a child.

Whether or not this woman is fit, she is certainly not healthy. Obese people have a far greater risk of osteoporosis, heart disease some forms of cancer, and generally have a shorter life span than someone of a more normal weight. These are not attributes one want's in someone who is trying to make them more "healthy and fit".

I suspect that a higher percentage of obese people lead sedentary ("unhealthy") lifestyles than thin people. Osteoporosis and heart disease are likely related more to the sedentary lifestyles many obese people lead than to the obesity in and of itself. Bones require weight-bearing exercise (among other things) to maintain density. Risk factors for heart disease, for example, include a high fat diet and being sedentary. An obese person who exercises and eats a heart-healthy diet is probably less likely to get heart disease than someone thin who's sedentary and eats a high-fat diet.
posted by biscotti at 11:51 AM on February 26, 2002


It still comes down to putting the calories in your mouth, people. Make all the noise you want about junk food versus tofu, it still comes down to putting the food into your own mouth or not putting the food into your own mouth.

Also, a BMI over 25 is "overweight," over 30 is "obese."
posted by NortonDC at 11:54 AM on February 26, 2002


aaron, here are some more prejudiced sources:

Energy Stored = Energy Intake - Energy Expenditure. Energy stored equates to weight gain, and energy intake is calories consumed from food and beverages. Energy expenditure is composed primarily of one's basal metabolic rate (the number of calories expended just to lie still and the major component of total energy expenditure) and energy expended for activity.

Body weight is determined by the energy balance equation: If energy in = energy out, weight maintenance occurs. If energy in exceeds energy out, weight gain occurs. If energy in is less than energy out, weight loss occurs.


There are two parts to the weight equation that people can change or adjust
: 1) calories consumed, & 2) calories used.

Your body needs a certain amount of calories to keep itself going, and if you eat more than that amount, you will gain weight. If you consume fewer calories than you expend, you will lose weight. It's that simple.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:56 AM on February 26, 2002


Of course, if you go by the charts Michael Jordan is technically obese. This is one of the reasons why BMI calculations specifically include quite a few caveats that they are just a statistical abstract and shouldn't be used to judge an individual person's health.

One of the problems is that the human body does not operate on a steady-state mode in which a surpluss of calories is converted to fat, and a lack of calories burns fat. Most of the research I've read recently suggests that traditional ideas of weight loss are seriously flawed. Less than 4% of the surplus calories are stored as fat and the rest are apparently pissed away. The relationship between diet and weight is quite a bit more complex than simply converting Weight Watcher's points into pounds.

Of course, this doesn't mean that one should not diet, just that it appears that BMI or body fat percentage alone is not a great health indicator.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:58 AM on February 26, 2002


I think this is great. People are so hung up on the thin=healthy and beautiful myth that few people believe that a woman who is at a less than "ideal" weight can be a great aerobics instructor...

It is a fact that not all obese people are lazy bums who sit on the couch all day and eat Oreos. Some of the most active, vibrant women that I've ever met weighed over 200 pounds and were big just because their genes made them that way or they dieted so much in their younger years that they destroyed their metabolisms.

And hey, I weigh 150 pounds (fat by the standards of our screwed up society) and I work out four or five days a week and eat about 1400-1500 calories a day...All people are shaped differently, and the world would be a really boring place if we all looked the same.

If Ms. Portnick was teaching a class where I live you're damn straight I'd want to take her class, because I'd MUCH rather take an aerobics class with a woman who looks like a REAL woman than the skinny minnies that you usually see teaching...

(and by the way, look at her website...she doesn't look all THAT big...Have people thought that a lot of her 240 pounds could be muscle?)
posted by Angflowr at 11:59 AM on February 26, 2002


Where the hell did that ad hominem come from? On what half-assed evidence do you base your conclusion that I'm "prejudiced"?

From here:

But people can choose (to some extent) not to weigh 240 pounds. Similarly, most people believe that blacks are not inferior to whites, women are not inferior to men, those over 40 are not inferior to those under 40. But almost everbody believes that it's bad to be 240 pounds, and it's preferable to be, say, 150 (from a health standpoint -- setting aside "attractiveness").

You're saying that all that matters is what people believe, even if that belief is false. Which is bad enough. (If most people did think blacks were inferior to whites, that would make it okay?) But what's worse is that the specific claim you make is false. It is not INHERENTLY bad to be 240 pounds, healthwise, regardless of how many people THINK it is. It could be, on a case-by-case basis, depending on a number of factors, of which actual amounts of fat deposits on the body is pretty far down the list. And in any case, the only way to find out would be through several medical exams, not by eyeballing them in the gym.
posted by aaron at 12:03 PM on February 26, 2002


Dissent wrote
It's my right to refuse to hire a mechanic because he sneezes too softly. It may not make sense, but it's my right.
Too true. But it wouldn't be at all necessary to set down in writing " you can't have the job because you sneeze funny". It would be smarter and more polite not to.
Specifically pointing out her lack of leanness in the rejection letter seems like a piece of deliberate cattiness. I would like to see someone with that attitude get a bit of a smackdown too. And groundhog said it best: "Stupid, stupid, stupid."
posted by Catch at 12:04 PM on February 26, 2002


Interestingly enough, the more authoritative source pardonyou cites includes the following tidbit:

Children who have overweight parents are more likely to be overweight themselves. This observation suggests that individuals can inherit certain genes that make them susceptible for weight gain. Studies indicate that genetic factors determine up to 75% of our body weight. Thus, an individual who inherits a low basal metabolic rate may be susceptible to increased weight gain. Genes also may affect energy intake by determining specific feeding behaviors and food preferences.

http://www.pediatricweb.com/triage/article.asp?ArticleID=834
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:06 PM on February 26, 2002


I agree with dissent on this. The larger (pardon the pun) question of whether or not she was capable of handling the class was sidetracked by Jazzercises underlying concern that instructors are not just instructors but advertisements for their services.

I used to be a fat person, but now I am not so I will comment only barely. I have enough trouble with my still overweight friends who want to know my "secret" and then are disappointed that it involves a lot of vegetables and running and swimming. Obesity seems to be a topic that lends itself to impassioned screeching. On the one hand, people are intolerant of it. On the other hand, people are hypersensitive to the point that any mention of it is regarded as bigotry.

If --for whatever socially blameable reason-- Jazzercise feels that their business is selling a program which will help people lose weight, then I can fully understand their desire not to have someone overweight teaching those classes. People say that would inspire them and make them take classes, that may be so. But if they believe the core attraction of their business is to help people lose weight, then their decision makes sense.
posted by umberto at 12:06 PM on February 26, 2002


I really think the argument over "can a heavy person be physically fit" is an exercise in futility. The hard evidence comes down on the side of 'yes, they can be fit' while there are lots of caviats where there are differences between genetically disposed people and people who are just lazy due to societal norms. And then the genetic crowd gets split into people that can do something about it and those that can't.

Sort of like alcoholism. You can be an alcoholic with no genetical proloclivity. Then you can be an alcoholic with a heavy proliclivity and have very litle control. And then you can be an alcoholic with genetic proliclivity and be able to manage it with vary degrees of effort.

The real issue that was brough up is the lawsuit, though. And as much as it might pain me, she doesn't have much to go on if you look at the job as a sales position.
posted by rich at 12:10 PM on February 26, 2002


There are two parts to the weight equation that people can change or adjust: 1) calories consumed, & 2) calories used.

Your body needs a certain amount of calories to keep itself going, and if you eat more than that amount, you will gain weight. If you consume fewer calories than you expend, you will lose weight. It's that simple.


You are ignoring the fact that there are many many other things that affect weight gain and loss that people cannot control.
posted by daveadams at 12:11 PM on February 26, 2002


sorry, proclivity. Bad spelling.
posted by rich at 12:12 PM on February 26, 2002


KirkJobSluder - According to Michael Jordan's official NBA stats, he is within the ideal BMI range.
posted by NortonDC at 12:13 PM on February 26, 2002


No, daveadams, that's all included in the equation. What you're talking about -- things like metabolism -- are built into the "calories used" or "calories needed by the body" side of the equation.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:14 PM on February 26, 2002


What you're talking about -- things like metabolism -- are built into the "calories used" or "calories needed by the body" side of the equation

I understand that. But those factors are not under the control of the individuals.
posted by daveadams at 12:16 PM on February 26, 2002


About this calorie thing...I think that saying "a calorie is a calorie" is like saying "a molecule is a molecule," or even "a pound of matter is a pound of matter." There is a difference. Yes, once the food has been broken down into microscopic pieces by your digestive system, a calorie is a calorie. But some food is easier to break down than others. Some food, depending on your metabolism and what your body is used to, stays around in your intestines longer, and is more likely to eventually turn to fat storage. Fiber is a big factor here.

Let's say that on average you burn 2000 calories per day. with your current lifestyle. One day, you go over the limit by 1000 calories, but that extra 1000 calories is made up entirely of fruit and vegetables. On another day, you consume an extra 1000 calories of high fructose corn syrup. The effect on your body is not going to be the same at all. The vegetables, mostly water and fiber, are going to go right through you. Some healthy eaters I know joke that celery should actually have a negative calorie count, because your body sometimes burns more calories digesting it than the celery actually contains.

When you take on the 1000 calories of corn syrup, you're consuming a processed product that is designed to break down into usable sugars as soon as it hits the gastric juices in your stomach. It contains no fiber. It's going to sit there until you burn it, or until you consume enough fiber to push it through, or until your body's fat-storage mechanism decides that you're not going to use it, and stores it as fat.

This "decision" that your body makes depends on a number of factors, but it mainly has to do with lean muscle mass, metabolism, and what it's used to. Just having a lot of lean muscle burns calories when you're sitting there doing nothing. Having an active lifestyle and/or a naturally high metabolism means that your body will probably hold on to the energy from the sugar because it "knows" that you are probably going to burn it off.

A lot of people with fat problems, including myself, have a hypoglycemic, or near-hypoglycemic condition, where your blood sugar levels can fall very easily and very frequently. When this happens, you crave food, even though you aren't really hungry, and in today's world of plentiful junk food that promises instant (if quickly waning) bursts of energy, it's easy to fall into a pattern of keeping your blood sugar high by eating crap all day. Then you go on a diet, and someone who doesn't understand this tells you to eat three meals a day, with nothing in between. Your blood sugar drops at 4 pm, you feel like shit and get tired and depressed, you give in and eat something, you feel like a failure, and then you throw the whole idea of changing your body out the window.

I have a lot of sympathy for this viscious cycle, having gone through it myself quite a bit. BUT. The woman in the article is fat. I do think it's relevant that they don't say her body fat percentage. I do think that the athletic club should have the right not to hire her on that basis. And I do think that if she has a high body fat percentage, it's a pretty good indication that the claim that she eats healthy and works out six days a week is either false, or I disagree with someone's definition of "healthy" and "working out."

As far as Elle vs. Camryn Manheim, give me a break. Genetics or no genetics, Elle has an athletic shape that you cannot possibly get just by sitting around doing nothing. At the other end of the extreme, someone who looks like Camryn, genetics or no genetics, is not getting a low-carb, high-fiber diet and regular cardiovascular exercise. Camryn has written a whole book about how she's proud to be fat. Good for her, if that's what she wants. I wouldn't take an aerobics class from her, though. If she was teaching an acting class, I'd get right in line.
posted by bingo at 12:16 PM on February 26, 2002


NortonDC: BMI is oversimplified to the point of being wrong. My BMI is around 26, and I'm pretty far from overweight. Bodyfat percentage is generally a better indication of size-related health, but it's a pain in the ass to measure.
posted by jaek at 12:16 PM on February 26, 2002


aaron, I have to call you on your total bs. Nothing in that statement you quoted indicates prejudice by me. Simply saying "most people believe ..." is not a prejudicial statement -- it's a true statement, as you acknowledge.

And if you don't think there's a statistically significant correlation between obesity and adverse health, you're just fooling yourself.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:18 PM on February 26, 2002


If --for whatever socially blameable reason-- Jazzercise feels that their business is selling a program which will help people lose weight, then I can fully understand their desire not to have someone overweight teaching those classes. People say that would inspire them and make them take classes, that may be so. But if they believe the core attraction of their business is to help people lose weight, then their decision makes sense.

However, one of the big reasons why the diet industry has failed in addition to being based on a flawed generalization is because of the obsession on BMI and weight tables (ignoring the fact that many athletes are obese based on the weight tables) rather than supporting long-term changes in behavior that reduce risk factors. Current paradigms of weight loss are not generalizable, they don't work for %50 of the population that attempts them in spite of their best efforts. On the other hand, almost anyone can train up to run or walk a half-marathon in a year. Just about anyone can train up to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 times a week. Just about anyone can switch to a low-fat diet. If the weight loss comes from this, great.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:25 PM on February 26, 2002


jaek - So what's a better measure for people to use to evaluate their fat/weight related state, that they can measure themselves?

Grunting "BMI bad" doesn't improve the accuracy of anyone's self-assessment.
posted by NortonDC at 12:25 PM on February 26, 2002


And if you don't think there's a statistically significant correlation between obesity and adverse health, you're just fooling yourself.

Thank you for proving my point. You're tarring all individuals that dare to weigh more than X based on generalized statistics for the entire human race, that lump in truly morbidly obese people with those that simply happen to be somewhat overweight. There are lots of statistics out there about race and crime rates too. Do you suppose people crossing the street whenever a couple of teenaged non-white males comes in your direction on the sidewalk?
posted by aaron at 12:34 PM on February 26, 2002


NortonDC "So what's a better measure for people to use to evaluate their fat/weight related state, that they can measure themselves?

For general fitness the measure would be questions like "Can you walk up several flights of stairs without getting out of breath? Can you go for long walks/bike rides without feeling all worn out? Can you lift heavy objects around the house without straining yourself? Do you feel physically energetic? Can you touch your toes easily? Do you suffer from chronic pain in your back or knees? Etc... If you're an athlete, you can raise the bar of your expectations proportionally. What counts is not your "fat/weight" related state - it's your "fitness/health" state.
posted by tdismukes at 12:42 PM on February 26, 2002


skinny DOES NOT = healthy, and fat DOES NOT = unhealthy. I played football and wrestled in high school at 250 pounds. I was much healthier than most of the people who didn't play sports. During wrestling, i did lose 30 pounds which occured from high intensity workouts for 3 hours a day 6 days a week. I don't have time like that now. I have a gut, but hey, a lot of people do like that. More cushion for the pushin :) There are a lot of people who dismiss main stream culture.

There are even extremes, such as people who want to be fatter. www.gainrweb.com

Wake up people. Advertising bombards us with the 'perfect' body, and most people don't care.
posted by LinemanBear at 12:44 PM on February 26, 2002


And if you don't think there's a statistically significant correlation between obesity and adverse health, you're just fooling yourself.

There are a large number of caveats to go with the correlation. Which is why we point out that correlation is not causation. In addition the correlation only suggests that obesity is one risk factor out of many. Rather than selling snake oil with dismal long-term success rates for one of several risk factors, why not focus on the risk factors for which it is possible to produce satisfactory long-term success rates?

jaek - So what's a better measure for people to use to evaluate their fat/weight related state, that they can measure themselves?

Grunting "BMI bad" doesn't improve the accuracy of anyone's self-assessment.

Well there is the problem, the focus on fat/weight related state. Rather than focusing on indicators that appear to be strongly resistant to long-term change, why not focus on health indicators that appear to be fairly easy to change but which are also strongly correlated with many of the risks of obesity? (Such as the ability to do a full hour of aerobics without passing out?)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:45 PM on February 26, 2002


A calorie is a calorie.

In my experience, not entirely. If you are a borderline type II diabetic, calories from carbohydrates can cause an excess of insulin to be secreted. Among other things, insulin regulates fat storage and cholesterol production. So if you are one of these people, and overweight people in general are at greater risk for type II diabetes than others, consuming too many carbohydrates can cause you to store too much fat and drive up your serum cholesterol.

Interestingly, while the human body requires certain amounts of dietary fat and protein for proper health, there is no minimum required level of carbohydrate intake. Carbs can be manufactured from protein (gluconeogenesis) in sufficient quantity for normal levels of physical activity. (You might have some difficulties if you are participating in some kind of strenuous activity that requires a lot of endurance, such as a long run or heavy weight training, but most people don't do that.)

So no, a calorie is not necessarily a calorie when it comes to weight loss. The form a calorie comes in (carb, protein, or fat) can have significant effects on metabolism, which can result in weight gain or loss. I lost 70 pounds one year simply by eliminating most carbohydrates from my diet -- no, I did not exercise. At the same time, my cholesterol profile improved, I had more energy, my mood improved, my sinus problems disappeared, and I needed 2-3 hours less sleep per night. Unfortunately, I stupidly returned to a "typical" diet when I had lost the weight I wanted to lose, and eventually gained it back, plus some extra. I won't make that mistake again. (I'm having to exercise this time, though. I'm taking daily walks up Queen Anne Hill for starters.)
posted by kindall at 12:46 PM on February 26, 2002


aaron, I'm not "tarring" or "lumping" anyone. I'm stating a fact. According to the National Institutes of Health: "Medical evidence shows that people who are overweight or obese have a greater chance of developing high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol or other lipid disorders, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers."

Or are they prejudiced, too?
posted by pardonyou? at 12:47 PM on February 26, 2002


However, one of the big reasons why the diet industry has failed in addition to being based on a flawed generalization is because of the obsession on BMI and weight tables (ignoring the fact that many athletes are obese based on the weight tables) rather than supporting long-term changes in behavior that reduce risk factors.

Diet industry failing in what sense? However reprehensible it may be to those with different ideal body forms, the diet industry seems to believe that it is good business to promote an ideal body type. I don't think they are failing as businesses. This was not a statement of moral imperative by Jazzercise, this was a business decision. I know, I know, it's telling that in our society the two are actual seperable, but there are people who make business decisions based upon whether or not it will profit them as opposed to whether or not it will empower someone's feelings about themselves.
posted by umberto at 12:50 PM on February 26, 2002


tdismukes and KirkJobSluder - I didn't ask about general health, I asked about fat/weight concerns. You are addressing valid questions, but you are not addressing my question.

It would be nice for people to stay on top of their serotonin levels, too, but knowing that wouldn't answer my question, either.
posted by NortonDC at 12:58 PM on February 26, 2002


Diet industry failing in what sense? However reprehensible it may be to those with different ideal body forms, the diet industry seems to believe that it is good business to promote an ideal body type. I don't think they are failing as businesses. This was not a statement of moral imperative by Jazzercise, this was a business decision. I know, I know, it's telling that in our society the two are actual seperable, but there are people who make business decisions based upon whether or not it will profit them as opposed to whether or not it will empower someone's feelings about themselves.

The diet/exercise industry is offering a product that does not work for more than half of their clients. We are talking about a product that fails to deliver promised results more frequently than it succeeds. If any other industry offered a product line that failed more times than it succeeded they would be quickly out of business.

tdismukes and KirkJobSluder - I didn't ask about general health, I asked about fat/weight concerns. You are addressing valid questions, but you are not addressing my question.

Actually, I did answer your question. BMI should be evaluated in terms of other indicators. For example, when I was working towards my first half-marathon, I lost 4 inches off my waist, my BMI stabilized at 27 ("overweight") and in spite of increasing exercise times while not eating noticably more I actually gained a few pounds. BMI is not valid for people who are more muscular than average, and I've read some research that BMI risk tables may not translate accross ethnic groups.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:07 PM on February 26, 2002


pardonyou? - (Regarding the NIH statistics) You need to distinguish between correlation and causation. (biscotti did a good job of explaining this above, but I'll try to break it down a bit more.) High blood pressure, heart disease, etc, etc, can be made more likely by a sedentary lifestyle or unhealthy diet. Overweight can be caused by sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet. Naturally, in the population at large, the health problems and the weight will be correlated. However there is absolutely no evidence that the weight causes the health problems or that an "overweight" individual who exercises and eats healthy will be at increased risk for these health problems.

NortonDC - Please clarify your question - other than the issue of health/fitness, what "fat/weight" concerns are there? (Other than good looks, which is a matter of personal taste.) Not a challenge, I'm just think I must be missing your point.
posted by tdismukes at 1:08 PM on February 26, 2002


the majority of people who are overweight are too sedimentary

Personally, I'm igneous, so there! ;-)

rich: If you consider the job of instructor to also be a sales role, then the company may have something to stand on.

True, but how often do you get to talk to the instructors before you plunk down your cash when joining the gym? In my experience, not often (and I belong to a gym I like).

Anyway....speaking as a guy who needs to lose a few pounds himself, I take all this with a grain of salt -- you really have to tailor your eating/exercise habits to your own personal needs. Personally I find Marty Gallagher's advice to be pretty consistent on this.

Oh yeah...I also think Ms. Portnick may have a case.
posted by PeteyStock at 1:08 PM on February 26, 2002


Genetics or no genetics, Elle has an athletic shape that you cannot possibly get just by sitting around doing nothing.

Respectfully disagree.

I'm speaking up to say that I have a pretty nice bod (not Elle McPherson, but very few people are) and I'm as lazy as they come. I eat whatever I want, and lots of it, usually while smoking and sitting on my ass in front of a computer. I'm coasting on youth and, more even than that, good genes---my family heirlooms include cancer, baldness, bad eyesight, and some scary thing involving lumpy kidneys, but there are very few "fat" people in my large, extended family.

Anyone who doesn't believe that genetics plays a big role in body type or shape is invited to come along to my next family reunion in rural Georgia, watch dozens and dozens of skinny people stuff themselves bursting-full of red meat, sweet potatoes, and pecan pie.
posted by Sapphireblue at 1:12 PM on February 26, 2002


tdismukes: "biscotti did a good job of explaining this above, but I'll try to break it down a bit more"

This is the most frustrating thread I've ever participated in. Yes, I know the difference between causation and correlation. Known it for a while now. Thanks for the condescension, but I never claimed that there is a causal link between obesity and adverse health effects in all cases. I do think that some people would serve their health well by bringing down the weight. Why is that so controversial? Most medical associations strongly advocate reducing obesity as a way of reducing the risk of correlated health problems -- not because there's a causal connection, but because the things you do to reduce the obesity -- exercise more, eat less -- can also improve your overall health.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:16 PM on February 26, 2002


First of all I will make my disclaimer. I am a woman 5'8" and I weigh 240 pounds. When I was 14, I weighed 125 and was in far worse shape than I am now.

I WOULD prefer to take an aeorbics class from this woman. I take aerobics classes now. I know many other women who would prefer to take classes from someone more physically like them.

If you skinny boys prefer to look at skinny women, then we won't miss you in class.

And futher, I am glad to report that all men (or even most men) and women do NOT believe that thin = attractive. I personally find thin men less than attractive and I am personally familiar with a number of men who find me attractive.

And being over the ideal weight does not mean that you are unhealthy. All the quotes I see from the most vehement of you say "more likely" not "guaranteed" or even "will likely be unhealthy". More likely by 2%? Sedentary folks are also "more likely" to be unhealthy, we just can't tell that by seeing them standing on the street.

We're seeing fat prejudice here.

And employers CANNOT choose who they want to hire if it's discrimation. You can't refuse to hire a male to be your secretary cause you'd rather look at a woman. Of course, the offended party has to prove it, but Jazzercize has made the proving pretty easy in this case.
posted by Red58 at 1:22 PM on February 26, 2002


For better or worse, the "our customers won't like it" defense never works when the applicant is a member of protected minority. And, in San Francisco, fat people are a protected minority, just like racial minorities are everywhere. So Jazzercise is probably going to lose, and they should, SF law being what it is. I have no comment as to whether that law is right or wrong.

However, I think that the idea that overweight people should be encouraged to be as healthy as possible is a fine one, and, in particular, should be encouraged to exercise as much as possible. This woman's commitment to that goal is very admirable -- and I'd say that it's quite likely that she's as healthy, all in, as many significantly skinnier people.

However, none of this goes to show that in fact a person can't be as skinny as they want. While it is true that there are many different physiological and psychological factors beyond any fault of the individual which contribute to overweight, none of them will keep anyone from losing weight who eats less than their bodies caloric demands. And, while metabolism will adjust, sometimes radically, in respect of reduced caloric intake, that adjustment, countered by exercised, can never "beat" reduced caloric intake.

However, it is hard to do it, and very much harder to sustain it, which is why I personally don't think that there's anything particularly wrong, or weak, in someone being fat. Very, very few of us overcome obstacles as steep as the physiological / psychological barriers to a fat person getting and staying slim. The way I see it is not "fat people are lazy" but "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."

Of course, I also think the same thing is true of smoking, and I always find it amusing to see 240 pound women loudly complaining about the fellow at the next table smoking a cigarette as if he was evil or something.
posted by MattD at 1:35 PM on February 26, 2002


pardonyou? - Sorry for coming across as condescending. I obviously was missing your point. Yes, I totally agree that a large percentage of overweight people may be at risk for the correlated health problems & by exercising more and eating better, they can improve their health and quite possibly reduce their weight at the same time. (In fact, I would advocate these activities for a large percentage of skinny people as well.) I have no problem with a generalization such as that. My point was that in the case of an individual, such as this fitness instructor or the triathlete matt mentioned, who is both physically fit and over the standard expected weight, there is no reason to believe that this person has more health risks than the rest of us or has any particular reason to reduce weight. Does that make sense?
posted by tdismukes at 1:38 PM on February 26, 2002


I am glad to report that all men (or even most men) and women do NOT believe that thin = attractive

Hand me those rose-colored glasses when your done.
posted by owillis at 1:42 PM on February 26, 2002


Hand me those rose-colored glasses when your done.

You really think that all men and women believe thin = attractive?
posted by daveadams at 1:53 PM on February 26, 2002


My thinking goes like this: the human body will not accomodate an infinite amount of fat, nor will it function with no fat, therefore approriate ranges of fat content exist for humans. The BMI threshholds, to my understanding, are defined by the points at which significant increases in medical problems are found at the population levels. I understand the BMI thresholds as guidelines, indicators of safer areas on the spectrum, not diagnostic tools immediately proving a specific medical problem.

If there are better ones that normal people can apply to themselves, that's what I'd like to hear about.
posted by NortonDC at 2:01 PM on February 26, 2002


You really think that all men and women believe thin = attractive?
Most.
posted by owillis at 2:04 PM on February 26, 2002


You really think that all men and women believe thin = attractive?
daveadams, I took Owillis' meaning as NOT all men (or even most men) and women do NOT believe that thin = attractive.
It's a totally different conclusion. Weird, huh?

Opportunity to throw in that I am overweight and it is because I am lazy and eat too much junk food, and anyone may feel free to revile me as much as they like. :)
posted by Catch at 2:05 PM on February 26, 2002


owillis is right. I was invisible when I was fat.
posted by NortonDC at 2:06 PM on February 26, 2002


If there are better ones that normal people can apply to themselves, that's what I'd like to hear about.

Sure, how do you feel?

(subtextual question, why are there many here trying to come up with defining standards for everybody else? If you don't like the way you feel about yourself, do something about it. If you apply those rules to others, under a massive blanket of this-is-right-and-that-is-wrong, then its prejudice. In case anyone was wondering, I agree with aaron here.)
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:13 PM on February 26, 2002


And employers CANNOT choose who they want to hire if it's discrimation. You can't refuse to hire a male to be your secretary cause you'd rather look at a woman. Of course, the offended party has to prove it, but Jazzercize has made the proving pretty easy in this case.

You're right. They can't. They should be able to, though. Again, I may disagree with their reasoning, but since they're the ones paying, they should be the ones deciding whom they wish to hire.
posted by dissent at 2:21 PM on February 26, 2002


NortonDC - To the best of my knowledge, the BMI threshholds reflect a rough correlation of weight to health risks. What I (and others on this thread) am arguing is that these health risks are more closely correlated (& possibly caused by) actual fitness levels, of which the fat is merely a side effect. Therefore my answer above, (and that of KirkJobSluder) does address your question, if I'm interpreting your question correctly. Does that make sense or are we still speaking different languages?
posted by tdismukes at 2:36 PM on February 26, 2002


There are a large number of caveats to go with the correlation. Which is why we point out that correlation is not causation. In addition the correlation only suggests that obesity is one risk factor out of many.

I just posted this in another thread less than a week ago, but I think it needs to be posted again. From the New England Journal of Medicine:
The data linking overweight and death ... are limited, fragmentary, and often ambiguous. Most of the evidence is either indirect or derived from [studies with] serious methodologic flaws. Many studies fail to consider confounding variables, which are extremely difficult to assess and control — Thus, although some claim that every year 300,000 deaths — are caused by obesity, that figure is by no means well established.
And yes, I realize that death and mere poor health are not quite the same thing, but it makes the point that so few people here are willing to accept: Much of what everyone "knows" about obesity isn't actually known at all. It's just supposition and correlation combined with the fact that we've all been trained to think that appearing fat = appearing unhealthy.

And futher, I am glad to report that all men (or even most men) and women do NOT believe that thin = attractive.

I'd like to borrow Oliver's glasses when he's done with them, too. There is no question, happily for you red58, that there are a sizeable (ahem) number of men who are very much attracted to females that dare not to be thin. There isn't a newspaper or magazine personal ad section that doesn't contain at least some ads from men seeking "Big Beautiful Women," and there are of course dozens of sites purely dedicated to men seeking such women. Unfortunately, the reverse is not true: There are almost no women out there seeking "Big Beautiful Men." I would guesstimate that there are between 250-500 men seeking large woman for every one female seeking a large male; the differences are that striking. Even more interesting, there are tons and tons of gay men into large men, especially large hairy men ("bears"), so it truly appears that men in general are, for whatever reasons - genetic, societal, who knows - far more likely to be accepting of body types that dare to variate from the norm than women are. I really wish I knew why, and how to counteract it, believe me. In fact, if you DO know of any "women seeking BBM" personals, then by all means please post a pointer! I'd love to be proven totally wrong on this hypothesis.

Pardonyou, I apologize for singling you out above in my statements. It's not that I think you individually are somehow more prejudiced than anyone else in the thread (besides, HHH took the gold medal on that one with an unbeatable score). It's that I think everyone in this thread who is arguing these points about obesity is prejudiced, merely by the fact that they seem completely willing to pull out all the stops to prove that the overweight are somehow bad people. (And I'll also add my standard statement of belief here: EVERYONE is prejudiced in some way or another towards certain types...you, me, all of us. The trick is to know when you should keep your beliefs to yourself for the sake of tolerance. And the sad fact is that Metafilter is incapable of hosting a single thread that deals with human weight issues in the slightest, without that thread immediately turning into a discussion of how many things are "wrong" with "those people," be it lazyness, intentional ill health, lack of willpower, on and on, in a way that almost never happens when we discuss any issues relating to any other class of people. That so many are so unable to keep themselves from launching into such impassioned arguments about why fat people are somehow bad people, when they have no trouble holding their tongues if we're talking about race or homosexuality or other issues, is indicative of a major problem.)

And, in San Francisco, fat people are a protected minority, just like racial minorities are everywhere.

MattD, are you absolutely sure of this? I'm not accusing you of being wrong, I just want to make sure you know of an actual statute in SF regarding weight discrimination, because I was wondering myself: Beyond any of the arguments in this thread regarding the legal matter, pro or con, I was going to post that it will be VERY interesting to see how the SF Human Rights Commission votes on this case, given the two competing meta issues: The SF's government's general, ah, ideological purity on such matters vs. the general societal belief that it's still okay to attack the overweight. But if it's already in the city's code that weight discrimination is illegal, then the case ought to just be a slam dunk for the plaintiff.
posted by aaron at 2:41 PM on February 26, 2002


NortonDC - you're giving too much credit to the folks behind the BMI. In all fairness they tried to do the impossible - namely determine someone's overweightness from their height and weight alone.

It may work better for the "average" person than it did for me - I'm 6'4" - but any system that doesn't take body composition into account is going to be inaccurate by its very nature, and lead to things like NFL linebackers being classified as morbidly obese at the same time that they have less than 10% bodyfat.
posted by jaek at 2:43 PM on February 26, 2002


Aaron: Chapter 12C.1, San Francisco codes:

"...obligating the contractor not to discriminate on the basis of the fact or perception of that person's race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, domestic partner status, marital status, disability or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, HIV status (AIDS/HIV status), weight, height, association with members of classes..."

Interestingly, I found this short compilation of anti-weight discrimination laws, too.
posted by gramcracker at 2:50 PM on February 26, 2002


I found this press release from the city/county of SF:

On July 26, 2001, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission unanimously approved Compliance Guidelines to Prohibit Weight and Height Discrimination in Employment, Housing and Public Accommodations. The Guidelines were created to help the Human Rights Commission enforce anti-discrimination protections on the basis of weight and height that were added to the City’s existing anti-discrimination ordinances by the Board of Supervisors in May of 2000. The Guidelines will serve to educate people about their rights and responsibilities and to assist people with questions about the new law’s practical applications.
posted by Skot at 2:50 PM on February 26, 2002


I was invisible when I was fat.

This is different from saying you are unattractive. This only refers to how you get the first glance. If you are fat and you depend on looks to make a first impression you're in trouble. But, first impressions can be made verbally as well and what a person says conveys so much more about them than what they look like. In my dating days I dated the whole spectrum of women from rail thin to considerably overweight because I found their personas attractive. I found that a woman's body became invisible behind a strong peronality.
posted by plaino at 2:54 PM on February 26, 2002


Thanks, gramcracker and skot, for the information!
posted by aaron at 3:21 PM on February 26, 2002


When you're fat and you walk into a room brimming with people that don't know you, the incidence of finding someone taking a lingering look over their glass at you is roughly 1% that experienced when slender.
posted by NortonDC at 3:22 PM on February 26, 2002


kindall: I like your post above about digestive chemistry (see my similar post) but my reading suggests that this one line is not correct:

Interestingly, while the human body requires certain amounts of dietary fat and protein for proper health, there is no minimum required level of carbohydrate intake.

I think you need 150 g of carbs per day to keep up a normal healthy level of brain function. Or so say those who put down the Atkins Diet.

aaron: And bingo, you did come into this thread essentially accusing the woman of being a liar, saying she couldn't be 240 lbs if she was really doing aerobics, and then backtracking. With a somewhat useful point, but backtracking nonetheless from a statement that went too far, IMHO.

Here's the original statement I made: It's pretty unlikely that she does aerobics regularly, or correctly, if she weighs 240 lbs.

If I backtracked from that, I didn't mean to. I didn't speak in absolutes, but yes, when push comes to shove, I do think she's lying.
posted by bingo at 3:23 PM on February 26, 2002


I think you need 150 g of carbs per day to keep up a normal healthy level of brain function. Or so say those who put down the Atkins Diet.

Neither Inuit nor some African tribes get any measurable amount of carbs in their diet (well, traditional diet). They seem to do OK. Further, a fair number of epileptic kids get put on the Atkins diet which reduces the number and intensity of their seizures dramatically.
posted by jaek at 3:30 PM on February 26, 2002


Hmm. I don' t think of myself as a Big Beautiful Woman. I just think of the skinny guys as terribly small. And the avg woman's size in the US is 14, so I guess I'm not too far off from avg.

And, although my evidence is also anecdotal, when I look around I see far more obese men with slim women than the other way around. My current partner is above avg is weight, too. I think he's attractive, so do other women I know. Maybe you'all need to watch less TV?

No one likes feeling rejected and unattractive. I just don't care about what most people think so much anymore. I thought I was fat and unattractive when I was 14 and 125. I feel good now. Being 14 sucks!

I'd probably feel better weighing less, it'd be easier to buy clothes. But then I'm a clothes hound with closets full of stuff already.

I think all the cruelty and "factual" declarations pf the evilness and ugliness of "fat people"we're seeing here are indications of the various writers' own fear of being - gasp - fat. And therefore unlovable. It feels threatening. If it's true that it can't be controlled as easily as implied by some, then maybe it'll happen to them too.

Scarey.
posted by Red58 at 3:41 PM on February 26, 2002


I think you need 150 g of carbs per day to keep up a normal healthy level of brain function. Or so say those who put down the Atkins Diet.

I don't believe this at all. I was unwilling to post this here concerning the volitility of this thread, but I began Atkin's slightly over a month ago. I've lost 20 pounds, and 10 points of colesterol. I'm taking about 25 grams of carbs a day, and, though I sleep more than I used to, I've noticed no confusion, memory lapses, or dizziness (the general signs of brain disfunction). The diet calls for increasing carbs until you hit a stasis in weight. For most women prone to being overweight, that hovers around 60 to 70 grams; for men, the range is much larger: 80 to 160 grams. Keep in mind that the Atkin's diet is not endorsed by the AMA (lawsuits and all that) nor am I endorsing or suggesting it here. Its working for me, and I don't buy just one more attempt at "shoulda" with an arbitrary standard good for all people.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:43 PM on February 26, 2002


And, although my evidence is also anecdotal, when I look around I see far more obese men with slim women than the other way around.

I never see this. Never. Except in cases of middle-aged people who are already married. And then I'm guessing the case is often the male gained weight well into the marriage, not while both were single. (There are two examples of that in my family that I know of.) And my experience is personal, and years long. I wonder if NortonDC almost never does either, judging from his 1% remark (which I think is actually a rather generously high number).
posted by aaron at 4:07 PM on February 26, 2002


To get back to the original point, this woman was, I believe, applying for a *franchise*, not a job with Jazzercise. I don't believe the discrimination laws apply to franchise ownership, but then again, I'm no attorney.

Sapphire brought up an interesting point earlier.....I've personally known many "stringbeans" that exercise not a whit, and easily eat a 2 lb bag of barbecue potato chips with a meal. How do they stay so thin?
posted by Oriole Adams at 4:20 PM on February 26, 2002


Perhaps they burn calories through anxiety? It has worked for me in the past.
posted by argybarg at 4:28 PM on February 26, 2002


I'm sorry I brought Atkins into this. A friend of mine is on it, and it's very popular here in L.A. I did some research, found that a lot of nutritionists have a problem with it, and decided not to do it myself. But Wulfgari, if it works for you, and continues to work for you, good. jaek, I have doubts about what you say regarding the tribes, and the fact that it's used to control seizures doesn't mean it's healthy in all other ways. But maybe it is, and maybe your info about those tribes is right. I really don't know.
posted by bingo at 4:28 PM on February 26, 2002


I'm sorry I brought Atkins into this.

I'm not sure why.

I have doubts about what you say regarding the tribes,

Umm, I am sure: Why?


Why the hell are we looking for some surefire panacia against weight that offends others at all? Its about our existance, folks. Live as you live. If it works for you then ...
posted by Wulfgar! at 4:59 PM on February 26, 2002


I never see this. Never. Except in cases of middle-aged people who are already married.

Silly me for including myself and the "middle aged" in this conversation.
posted by Red58 at 5:22 PM on February 26, 2002


Wulfgari:

Why about Atkins: because whether or not Atkins in particular works really has nothing to do with the issue the post is about, in my opinion. I mentioned it as an aside in reply to another aside, but really it's a whole argument in itself.

Why about the tribes: because I suspect they eat food from some sort of plants (e.g. fruits or vegetables of some sort), and such foods tend to contain carbohydrates.
posted by bingo at 5:24 PM on February 26, 2002


I think you need 150 g of carbs per day to keep up a normal healthy level of brain function. Or so say those who put down the Atkins Diet.

I was on a variation of Atkins ("Protein Power") and found it easier to just eat foods with negligible amounts of carbs than to continually have to keep count of them. So I ate essentially no carbs for more than six months. My alertness increased, and my mood improved significantly. In most people, gluconeogenesis can easily keep up with the small carbohydrate needs of the brain; in fact I have seen it claimed that parts of the brain actually prefer ketone bodies (the fuel produced by fat breakdown) to glucose, but I've not bothered to verify that in the literature. A friend of mine who's a DO keeps his own carbs down, a fact which I learned when he failed to react with the traditional shock or disdain the first time I mentioned low-carbing to him. Which is good enough for me. While it's true there are no studies showing an Atkins-type diet is safe for long-term use, that's because there have been hardly any long-term studies at all on that type of diet.

I will say that the time I lost 70 pounds (got down to 225, which is probably as close to my "ideal weight" of 199 as I'll ever get due to my large frame) it was a revelation to discover flirting with strangers. It had never happened to me before. Not the be-all and end-all of existence, but definitely fun.

My experience has been that women care a lot less about what guys look like than the reverse. Some women think they're fat (even though they're not, really, IMHO) and think it's unfair to judge the guy because of that. (Even if you're much more overweight than they are, they figure it's just a matter of degree or whatever.) I have never had any real problem getting dates when I was feeling social, but then I usually start looking online, where appearance tends to matter less.
posted by kindall at 6:11 PM on February 26, 2002


As far as Elle vs. Camryn Manheim, give me a break. Genetics or no genetics, Elle has an athletic shape that you cannot possibly get just by sitting around doing nothing.

Well, that's true as far as Elle as the example -- she does a lot of aerobics/toning, and has produced an exercise video or two (good ones, I mean, not one of those silly ones that famous people often are in).
posted by JanetLand at 7:06 PM on February 26, 2002


You're right. They can't. They should be able to, though. Again, I may disagree with their reasoning, but since they're the ones paying, they should be the ones deciding whom they wish to hire.

My company has mainly White, Christian customers who are looking for strong professionals to help them out. I'm not going to hire blacks. When my customers see them, they don't get that sense of professionalism that I want, and it hurts my business. Now Asians, I may hire some Asians for my accounting and computer departments, because everyone knows that they're good at math and computer things, and they wouldn't be out front where the customers would see them all the time. They can be a real boon to me if they stay out of sight. Now I know I'm definitely not hiring that guy in the wheelchair or the one with the burn scars on his face. They creep people out. Can't have that...
posted by Dreama at 8:02 PM on February 26, 2002


I posted this link originally; totally expecting a lot of one-off, innocuous comments about fat people. Instead its turned into a rather insightful foray into the unknown. My first reaction to reading it (the article) was maybe an over-simplification: "So what. She's too fat and those are the rules". I am now eating those words (no pun intended).

Thanks for opening my eyes.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:49 PM on February 26, 2002


Why about the tribes: because I suspect they eat food from some sort of plants (e.g. fruits or vegetables of some sort), and such foods tend to contain carbohydrates.

Not a lot of plant life North of the Arctic Circle. Plenty of seals and fish though.
posted by jaek at 9:05 PM on February 26, 2002


(A little off-topic; the number of posts have exploded since this morning.)

Quoth bingo:

Camryn has written a whole book about how she's proud to be fat. Good for her, if that's what she wants.

Have you read said book? It's not actually about "fat pride". It's about her struggle with weight, and the process it's taken for her to accept herself, shape and all. It's somewhat of an autobiography: very funny, witty, well-written, and an excellent example of how much people have to offer despite the assumptions made based upon outside appearances. You should read it, you might like it.

Otherwise: I remember a while ago a MeFi discussion about pro-eating-disorder websites, with a standout number of posts claiming dismay and sadness, speculating on the cause of these problems: upbringing, the influence of the media, perceptions about size and shape, etc. A lot of the things I've read in this post are enough to tip a recovering bulimic or anorexic into relapse, or justify their feelings of doubt. I'm not placing blame on anyone in particular, nor am I inferring that those with eating disorders/in recovery from them aren't able to take responsibility for themselves. You can't discount the influence of media, though: it's ridiculous to claim that as adults, we should "know better". The media presents a lot of contradicting images in terms of body shape and food. An article about a brand new fad diet could appear right next to an ad for cookies in any woman's magazine on the newsstand. On TV a spiel for the "Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle Diet" could appear during a slot for a cooking show. (That diet, by the way, is utter bollocks. Everytime I see that load of shite I yell, "It's water weight, you jackasses" at the TV.)

So being overfat (as opposed to being overweight, as many posts have pointed out that muscle weighs more than fat and is a contributing factor to the amount of energy one burns; someone with a crapload of lean muscle tissue could eat twice as much as another person and just maintain their current size and shape. The numbers on the scale, in some cases, mean jack) is unhealthy. I agree, it is detrimental to one's health to be obese. It doesn't help to just heap abuse on "all the lazy fat people" and spout "common knowledge" about calories. Overweight does not equal "ugly" or "unattractive". How do you know, for example, what 200 lb looks like? It can differ radically from one person to the next. In my wedding pictures I don't "look" like the 202 lb that one person might describe, sight-unseen, as "disgusting". Height, muscle mass, etc., makes a lot of difference.

Sorry for the rambling mess of a post, but this whole issue just touched a massive nerve for me.
posted by sammy at 9:59 PM on February 26, 2002


When I looked into the whole "obvious" issue of

INTAKE - NEED = OVERAGE (turned to fat)

I thought it was that simple. But, there is an implication here -- that the human body will take the energy it needs to survive off the top, and leave the rest behind. However, there are conditions in which the body, upon starting digestion, suddenly dumps insulin into the blood stream. The short circuit basically change the equation to

INTAKE - FAT STORE = OVERAGE (used to survive).

That is -- people with this condition tend to store fat, and if there is anything left to burn they use that, or go back to fat stores and attempt to keep the energy out of fat long enough to burn. These people get fat, get fatter, and there is no lower threshhold for which diet will cause a change.

For them, they need medical treatments to adjust the insulin levels in their blood. Problem is, this hormonal cascade is not fully understood, so it isn't yet possible to prevent it at the source. Other issues (in women) of this cascade are problems ovulating, and mood disorders.

None of this is caused by not exercising, or poor diet. As you can see, it is possible to do everything right, and live inside a faulty organism. And, the worst thing is this -- you cannot tell by looking at a person if they are broken biologically, or lazy, or an overeater. Assumptions you make, then, mark your own bigotry and prejudice. Like mine.... I still think that exercise is the key, but at least I understand the issue is bigger than I knew.
posted by dwivian at 7:46 AM on February 27, 2002


BMI is a statistical abstract that was used to make sense of demographic data, primarily because height and weight are among the few statistics consistently collected by doctors while a patient is living and pathologists postmortem. Most of the BMI studies I've seen have relied on intensive data mining of existing databases.

Statistical abstracts however can be misleading when you look at context. For a similar statistical abstract you can look at median income. Median income across the United States can be useful for comparing long-term trends. However median income alone is not very useful to answer the question of "do I make enough money?" Median income in depressed Patoka County, Indiana will buy you a large house on five acres, and a tiny apartment in Manhattan.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:11 AM on February 27, 2002


dwivian: It's even more complicated than how you explained it. Some people are predisposed to burn energy instead of storing it as fat, but exercise, an increase in muscle, and a high-fiber diet can change that. Please see my post above on this subject.
posted by bingo at 11:27 AM on February 27, 2002


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