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Touching, sad, chilling account of obesity in America.
July 19, 2004 6:37 AM   Subscribe

Touching, sad, chilling account of obesity in America People outside the US have this view of us as disgustingly, morbidly obese...and it can be true. This article from the Washington Post Sunday Magazine (free registration may be required) put a touching, terrifying, human face on one of America's biggest problems.
posted by chinese_fashion (219 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
This is going to sound shitty and moralistic, as the Baskins seem like perfectly nice people, but is there a limit to how much sympathy you can feel when such afflictions are largely self-inflicted. Deke is taking strides to deal with it, though it might be too late for him, his daughter has already set out on a similar path.

At times I do feel this way, but I can't make some specious argument about how it's all the fault of our if-it-feels-good-do-it-now consumerist culture; it is about personal responsbility, discipline, and dealing with whatever pain or personal void you have in a productive way.

I have a 40 year old sister who is also pushing the 350 lb. mark and though it breaks my heart to see her in such day-to-day misery, she's not going to come through it until she takes responsibility for condition, and directly deals with the underlying issues, the psychic pain that has caused a life of non-stop overeating. It's essentially slow suicide, and no amount of intervention or pleading or arguing or empathising or haranguing seems to do any good.

I can't presume to know the whys and wherefores of the Baskins' problems, but unless they take a good look at why giving in to their appetites have resulted in such physically dangerous conditions, they'll never save themselves.
posted by psmealey at 7:09 AM on July 19, 2004


Article: Keep your Flab On, an interview with Paul Campos, author of The Obesity Myth.

There may be some inaccuracies in the article - interviews are notoriously hard for authors to control and details that are right in the book are not always on the author's tip of the tongue. But don't assume that everyone agrees with the premise that being fat will kill you.

I sure don't.
posted by kalessin at 7:15 AM on July 19, 2004


Hard when the TV is always telling you about some great new fried chicken deal down the street or a cheeseburger to rival the Double Whopper

A statistic I remember from Supersize Me is if you were to sit down your child to a healthy meal 3 times a day and tell the child the benefits of eating healthy at every meal, you would communicate this around 1000 times a year. Through advertisment, in the same year, the child may see 10,000 advertisments for trash food like Skittles, Coke, and Wendy's.

When seeing a movie is a large Cineplex, before the movie begins, you may see 10 advertisments for Coke and Hershey's Kisses.

It's no doubt a difficult temptation, when everything around you is suggesting you eat, buy a car, eat, eat, take Paxil, eat, eat, eat.

Yet this does not seem to soften the sharp urge I feel every time I see someone obese, which is often, to walk to them and say, "Why don't you lose some fucking weight?"
posted by the fire you left me at 7:23 AM on July 19, 2004


The thorny issue of obesity has cropped up on metafilter before and in at least one instance led to several nasty contributions by one or two members. However, after reading that story, I did empathise with deke and the situation that he found himself in. It seems that these people have almost given up upon themselves, giving in to the powerful urge to consume vast quantities of food, with the ensuing collateral damage inflicted upon their bodies very evident. There are no easy solutions, diets which have been passed down the generations are literally killing these people. But, hope springs eternal, as I recall Finland used to have the highest rate of coronary heart disease in the developed world. This was curbed through government led initatives to encourage people to both exercise and eat healthily, proving there is hope for people like deke.
posted by johnnyboy at 7:24 AM on July 19, 2004


But don't assume that everyone agrees with the premise that being fat will kill you.

This may be true, but to a point. As a 6'0" man of 240 lbs (BMI = 22), I can tell you that I am considered obese by every "standard" measure I can think of. However, I play tennis 3x per week at an expert level (by USTA standards), I have a cholesterol count of less than 100, and I am in good to excellent cardiovascular shape (I can run a 6.5 minute mile without problem).

But when someone has developed diabetes as a result of his/her obesity, or the fact of climbing a flight of stairs or other mildly rigorous daily activity makes the person need to sit down and catch his/her breath, it's pretty evident that serious health problems are inevitable ahead.
posted by psmealey at 7:27 AM on July 19, 2004


I'm sure that part of the reason the South is more obese than the rest of the country is not only because of "soul food," but because it's really really hot and muggy there. Who wants to run around outside?
posted by agregoli at 7:29 AM on July 19, 2004


I don't think people have no control over their weight, but if you have a genetic predisposition to having it, in America, you are screwed.

I mean, lets not even talk about the gross (gross) amounts of corn we eat.
posted by Keyser Soze at 7:31 AM on July 19, 2004


This may be true, but to a point. As a 6'0" man of 240 lbs (BMI = 22),

Actually, you're BMI at that height and weight is 32.5, I know because 2 years ago I was the same height and weight.
posted by corpse at 7:32 AM on July 19, 2004


BMI is not a good way to measure obesity. It's just an easy way.
posted by smackfu at 7:38 AM on July 19, 2004


"Why don't you lose some fucking weight

I trust you wouldn't mind if they told you to mind your own fucking business, right? Do you walk up to people with long hair and say "why don't you get a fucking haircut?", or anorexics and say "why don't you gain some fucking weight"? I'm sure you don't (despite the fact that anorexia is just as or even more unhealthy). So why is it any of your business if someone is overweight? And why is it that obesity brings out this rage and lack of manners in people, when few other things do to this degree?
posted by biscotti at 7:39 AM on July 19, 2004


psmeasley, my issue is with the often conflated concepts that being fat will kill you. I have no beef with the idea that not being fit will do you long-term damage, but I do have serious problems with the idea that simply being fat is an indicator of lack of fitness and therfore that being fat will do you long-term damage.

Do think about actually reading where I linked to before going further. Dr. Campos makes some very cogent points about how we tend to think about issues regarding fitness, health and fatness that I'd be sorry to see you miss.
posted by kalessin at 7:40 AM on July 19, 2004


BMI calculator (in Metric and Imperial)
posted by trharlan at 7:42 AM on July 19, 2004


Forget measurements. If yhou look and feel yhou weigh too m uch, you do, unless you have an eating disorder. But then you know that too. As for the South: Down there gravy is considered a beveridge. I went to a rural area, small town, and every other building was for dialysis. Was told that all the talks, lectures etc do not change eating habits...note the reasonably wealthy: seldom have weight problem. why?
posted by Postroad at 7:45 AM on July 19, 2004


But don't assume that everyone agrees with the premise that being fat will kill you.

And not everyone agrees that HIV causes AIDS, and there are still people that maintain that flouridated water is a communist plot and the case against dioxin is bad science. We call those people "blinded by their own agenda" or, in extreme examples, "paranoid schizophrenics."

Regardless, the article is very interesting and it's good that I read it. Obesity is generally self-inflicted and therefore easy to dismiss in the abstract, but the article puts a human face on it and it would take a very cold person to sneer at that man's hardship. I will try very hard to think of this article the next time a very fat person annoys me just by being in the way. I'll be on my way momentarily, but that person I consider an obstruction has a lot more to deal with than being a minute late.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:46 AM on July 19, 2004


kalessin: I regard 'The Obesity Myth' as an extremely irresponsible piece of pseudo science. As far as I am aware there is NO scientific support for the arguments made (it's telling that they're contained in a publihed book rather than in scientific articles). Studies, such as this and this, continually show that being overweight means that you don't live as long PERIOD (the first referenced research shows that being active does not stop being fat killing you)

Now, I'm not saying that the american obsession with weight is a healthy one, but fat people die younger!
posted by daveg at 7:49 AM on July 19, 2004


note the reasonably wealthy: seldom have weight problem. why?

It's a very interesting class issue that isn't addressed enough. In societies where food is scarce, being fat is seen as a sign of affluence. In a society like ours, where effectively everyone has access to many more calories than they need, obesity is seen as being a sign of ignorant poverty.

I think that the reason poor people are over-represented among the obese is that the availability of food is one thing that poor people don't have to worry about, so it's an easy comfort that becomes abused. That and, because they often lack education and by definition lack money, poor people are victimized with the low prices and advertised convenience of bad food.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:53 AM on July 19, 2004


I know I shouldn't say it, but it's easier sometimes to just give them a broken-off bit of Butterfingers. Or some cakes, chips, a lollypop, a cheap fruit juice.

Her kids don't stand a chance. This was the saddest sentence of all.
posted by pieoverdone at 7:54 AM on July 19, 2004


Yet this does not seem to soften the sharp urge I feel every time I see someone obese, which is often, to walk to them and say, "Why don't you lose some fucking weight?"

The urge? You're already doing it with your disapproving looks and gestures. Don't think for a second that the people you pass by on the street have no idea what you think of them. I don't think you get any upstanding citizen award for doing everything but verbalizing your disapproval.
posted by PrinceValium at 7:55 AM on July 19, 2004


note the reasonably wealthy: seldom have weight problem. why?

possible dubious socio-biology speculation: we evolved to cope with starvation. natural food supplies fluctuate wildly. storing food in the body as fat made evolutionary sense. this would be reflected by attitudes in society - more powerful people, with more resource, would be fatter. heavier women would be more likely to be able to feed a baby, even during hard times. power and fertility implies sexy (see old paintings of sexy fatties).

this will only change when conditions are so stable that food is guaranteed. that is not the case for the poor in rich societies, or the rich in poor societies. for the rich in rich societies, however, a new way of signalling power is available - having a weight so low that you cannot survive a famine. the skinny millionaires daughter is saying i am so rich i don't need to worry about food.

(i think i may be lifting this largely from konner's the tangled wing)

oh. or what Mayor Curley said.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:55 AM on July 19, 2004


Smackfu wrote:

BMI is not a good way to measure obesity. It's just an easy way.

Not only is the BMI not a good way to measure obesity, it's completely useless for anything outside of providing a simple ratio of height to weight.

Simple BMI does not establish obesity. Percentage of body fat does.

I'm not an athlete or a bodybuilder, but I am 6'0 and hover between 230-240 lbs. At my last measurement, I came in at 18% body fat, which according to my own physician is completely acceptable; over 23% being obese, according to him, while most serious athletes hover around 7-10%, and anything under 5% would be dangerous, health-wise. Yet, the BMI would classify such notorious Twinkie Gluttons as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis as "Obese". Hmph.
posted by spirit72 at 8:00 AM on July 19, 2004


Agregoli: I'm sure that part of the reason the South is more obese than the rest of the country is not only because of "soul food," but because it's really really hot and muggy there. Who wants to run around outside?

The South is more obese? I thought the upper midwest had it in the bag, especially for childhood obesity.

I lost about 10 lbs when I moved from Michigan to Malaysia (a few degrees off the equator). I find the constant heat and humidity reduces my appetite a good deal. Plus your body doesn't need any fat for insulation purposes, so you don't put on that "winter weight" that northeners often do.
posted by BinGregory at 8:01 AM on July 19, 2004


Ugh. I agree pieoverdone, that's just awful. That's a form of child abuse, IMO. I'm sure that I already know that answer to this, but do schools bother to teach even basic nutrition these days? At the very least, kids armed with basic knowledge of the value of a well-balanced meai, could try to instruct the parent.
posted by psmealey at 8:02 AM on July 19, 2004


Musing:

It seems that here on Metafilter, the two sides to the obesity debate boil down to "Accept yourself as you are" and "Lose weight". But I don't think you can have one without the other. You can't lose weight if you hate yourself. It takes too much time and investment in yourself to lose a substantial amount of weight if you think you're a big fat worthless pile of shit.

Losing weight is hard. While the mechanics of it do boil down to "eat less, move more", that statement is the benchmark for "easier said than done". Once you've gotten to the point of being obese, you haven't just forgotten to exercise, you've made a lifestyle out of eating too much. You have a million excuses for not being active. You have grown dependent, either physically or psychologically, on certain types of fattening foods. You have to overcome TV, magazines, your friends, and most difficult of all, your own brain.

Anyway, I have some sympathy for the very fat, having spent the majority of my 20s in the same very fat boat. I think that if someone is really, honestly happy at their current weight, that's wonderful for that person. And I also think that no matter how many times a week you play tennis or how healthy your numbers are now, you will be amazed at how much better you'll feel if you were within a healthy BMI range (I use that indicator for lack of anything better right now--I agree it doesn't take into account the very muscular). Imagine how carrying a second, 100 pound human (again, asuming this extra human isn't contributing to your strength via muscle mass) on your back at all times would hamper your performance and general happiness.

On preview: note the reasonably wealthy: seldom have weight problem. why?

Processed, fattening sodium laden foods are cheaper. Hamburger Helper made using a pound of cheap, high-fat percentage beef is cheaper and quicker than a tofu and vegetable stir fry with brown rice. You can't join a gym, take classes, go to yoga, afford exercise tapes, and do you have time to exercise if you're working multiple jobs or overtime at an exhausting, low paying job? Super-sized extra value meals at fast food places, promoted as the way to show your family you care. And try getting fresh vegetables, tofu, rice, chicken broth, etc., in your food bank boxes. And being poor is stressful. And fattening foods are comforting.
posted by jennyb at 8:07 AM on July 19, 2004


For whatever it's worth, the author will be doing on online chat tomorrow at 1:00 pm EST/10 am PST.
posted by ph00dz at 8:15 AM on July 19, 2004


Yet, the BMI would classify such notorious Twinkie Gluttons as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis as "Obese".

BMI is for use on "ordinary" people. your examples are all people who not only spend a lot of time working on their body, but have been selected out by our society as particularly unusual. you can't criticise a general, broad-brush tool for not working on the statistical outliers. worse, to do so simply pushes the idea that the index is useless to people who might otherwise use it to avoid medical problems.

also, body fat and bmi are correlated - on average, one measures the other (of course).
posted by andrew cooke at 8:16 AM on July 19, 2004


Biological factors to be considered:

The sugar substitute fructose is now considered very bad for fat gain, as the body adjusts its metabolism for sucrose, but not for fructose. Fructose just turns into fat straight away. Being cheaper than sucrose, it is widely used in processed foods as a sweetener.

Exercise beyond mild exercise is not widely understood for its effect on different people. It is very beneficial for some, but it is destructive to others. Unfortunately, there is no recognition that people who cannot maintain a strenuous regimen of exercise suffer from anything other than a "lack of will." This is despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

Height and weight tables were established many years ago by the insurance company Metropolitan Life. These were not based on actuarial data, however, but on the scientific opinion of the time. Changes to them still aren't based on actuarial data, just current theory. Wouldn't it be better to base height and weight tables on resultant health and longevity than on theory?
posted by kablam at 8:22 AM on July 19, 2004


Moving from an affluent area of California to an average part of Texas was a very large culture shock for me. There are far, far more obese people here. I'm completely oblivious to their dietary habits, but my own personal opinion--after putting on nearly 20 pounds, the first significant change in my weight up or down in 20 years--is that it's not just cheap, pre-packaged, processed food, it's the damned portion sizes served at restaurants here...they're gargantuan.

I've quit dining out as a result.
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:28 AM on July 19, 2004


The poor can't afford gyms, often don't have leisure time for exercise, are in general less educated, and don't have access to the same healthy foods. Additionally, their peers (being poor) are often obese as well and will often actively resist their attempts at weight loss.

They deserve compassion, not ridicule.
posted by callmejay at 8:31 AM on July 19, 2004


I was told, by an epidemiologist - specializing in cancer - at Johns Hopkins, about ten years ago, that obesity was probably the #1 cancer risk factor. That working assumption has held up rather well over time. Obesity is also one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, but it hasn't been included so far in cardiovascular risk assessment calculations because researchers haven't yet figured out how do do so. When they surmount the technical challenge, it'll be there.

psmealey reminds us that one's BMI is only one gauge of health and that heavier people can be exceptionally healthy. I don't think this holds at the farther reaches of obesity though.

"Finland used to have the highest rate of coronary heart disease in the developed world. This was curbed through government led initatives to encourage people to both exercise and eat healthily, proving there is hope for people like deke." ( johnyboy ) - Of course, that isn't so likely to happen in the US for the fact that the fast food industry currently exerts a huge sway over US government

House bans fast-food lawsuits - Now, I do happen to think that people are responsible for what they eat.

But Congress is also in the pocket of the fast food industry. Billions of advertising dollars are spent pushing fast food, and advertising is proven to work. Further, a lot of those ad dollars target children.

Many of the children so targeted will become obese, and many also will develop early-onset diabetes. Some children who develop diabetes are not fat at all. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune systems destroys the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. But, type 2 diabetes is typically associated with obesity and has been occuring recently at alarming rates among children and teens.

"Super-size Me" mentioned a grim fact I hadn't known - early onset diabetes lops about a decade and sometimes two off victim's lives - 15 years, on average.

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation : "increased obesity has led to a recent "epidemic" in cases of Type 2 diabetes in young adults and children under 10 years of age." - ( Eyewitness News) "Type 2 diabetes has traditionally surfaced in adults over the age of 40. But Las Vegas endocrinologist Freddie Toffel says there's an alarming trend. "And the real sad thing is we're seeing more and more children developing type 2 diabetes. There are certain practices of pediatric endocrinologists in the past who didn't know to treat type 2 because it was non-existent. And now, half their practice is type 2," said Dr. Freddie Toffel, endocrinologist."

It's an evil enterprise, and current US Congress members showed a distinct lack "personal responsibility" in failing to confront that.

Why couldn't Congress have attached a partial ban on fast food ads - especially those which target children - to the "Personal Responsibility fast food lawsuit ban" bill ? Well, because a daily diet of industry lobbying has turned their sense of personal morality to flab.

________________________

My local HMO-run pharmacy just - and for no reason at all that I could see, but it's practically next dor to a "7-11" - put in a chip vending rack in it's waiting room. The chips could not be described - by any stretch - as "healthy". Obese people come in, wait for their medicines to combat cardiovascular ideases, high blood pressure, diabetes, and s on - and get to stare at all the chips.
_________________________

I wrote this little satire of men I would see at the gym, when I was working out a lot four years ago. It's related to the subject here :

"Their "strength" was in their arms, while mine was in my legs, butt, and torso.

Since they weren't connected to a solid base, I concluded that those big arms were strictly for sexual display purposes, like peacocks' tails.

Beefy-armed men with weak torsos almost inevitably mess up their backs and wind up on couches - watching sports, drinking beer, eating chips, and turning to flab.

Sometimes - often even - they manage to succesfully mate and produce offspring before that happens.

Meanwhile, the deterioration continues - as they have heart attacks, get triple bypasses, and spend the remainder of their days taking Statins, drinking Miller Lite, barbecuing, and riding around on lawn tractors obessively mowing their lawns.

This describes the life arc of a number of men on my street."

________________________

I've started a three-day fast today. No solid food, no sugar, no significant caloric intake ( no juice, sugared beverages, artificialy sweetened beverages, alcoholic beverages - just herbal teas ans water. But I have made one concession - I am drinking coffee this morning - black ).

It's a little R&R time for my liver and my pancreas.

Fasting is the queen of therapies :

WHAT IS A FASTING MEDITATION PEACE WALK?

A walk of several days (three or more) in which people walk in a meditative way while fasting

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF FASTING?
Fasting is the queen of all therapies. It is astonishing how much your health may improve, provided you're doing the thing rightly. Combining fasting with walking e.g. stimulates bloodcirculation, repairs bloodvessel walls, removes blood risk factors, optimizes both immune functions and detoxification, improves the hormonal system, sharpens the senses, cures a lot of disorders, through which total regeneration is achieved. It makes you fit, vital and beautiful. "

Here's one student paper, very well written, which presents the case for the health benefits of fasting : Detoxification is the foremost argument presented by advocates of fasting. "Detoxification is a normal body process of eliminating or neutralizing toxins through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph glands, and skin.....the most scientifically proven advantage to fasting is the feeling of rejuvenation and extended life expectancy. Part of this phenomenon is caused by a number of the benefits mentioned above. A slower metabolic rate, more efficient protein production, an improved immune system, and the increased production of hormones contributes to this long-term benefit of fasting. In addition to the Human Growth Hormone that is released more frequently during a fast, an anti-aging hormone is also produced more efficiently."

I can attest to the rejuvenating power of fasting. It does seem to have powerful health-giving benefits.
posted by troutfishing at 8:41 AM on July 19, 2004


> "Why don't you lose some fucking weight?"

For that matter, why do you assume they're not losing weight? It takes a lot of time to put weight on. It generally takes even longer to take it off. Assume a person is 150lbs over weight (let's say 300lbs total). If the goal weight were 150lbs and the person could lose 2lbs/week (a really good average), it would still take 75 weeks to hit the goal weight.

So, for a good part of a year and a half, the person in question would have to put up with the knee jerk judgement of people like you.

And for the others, all of whom, one would imagine, have tried unsuccessfully to lose weight, I'm sure your stares--and those of every other judgemental ass hat--provide no motivation at all to take a second (or third, or sixth, or tenth) stab at getting healthy.
posted by wheat at 8:43 AM on July 19, 2004


the body adjusts its metabolism for sucrose, but not for fructose

this is wildly off the mark. the body handles both glucose and fructose (sugar is 50% fructose and 50% glucose). there is some indication that high levels of fructose are worse for you than high levels of glucose, but it's not a huge effect and it's certainly not that fructose "cannot" be handled correctly.

cannot maintain a strenuous regimen of exercise

can you give any evidence for this?

Height and weight tables were established many years ago by the insurance company Metropolitan Life.

click on "Fig 1" here and see for yourself - the y axis shows how likely you are to drop dead (if you're aged 40-50, relative to others in the same age group). there's a clear region for BMI 20-25 with minimal risk. it's there, black and white. what more do you want?
posted by andrew cooke at 8:49 AM on July 19, 2004


One thing though - if civilization were to collapse and supermarkets to vanish overnight, obese people would have the extra body fat to get them through to the point where they could learn to grow their won food.

As for my lean self, I'd be long dead : even if I had turned to cannibalism, my cannibal diet of former fast food addicts would have quickly killed me as the toxins in their bodies accumulated in mine and caused massive liver damage.

andrew cooke - that's a good link.
posted by troutfishing at 8:53 AM on July 19, 2004


People outside the US have this view of us as disgustingly, morbidly obese

Aout 15 years ago I bought a BritRail pass, flew to London, and lolled around Great Britain. Poking around a stationery store in Scotland, I browsed some comedy mags and saw that every cartoon featuring an American showed them as a chubby person in a jogging suit.

Pretty funny!
posted by Ayn Marx at 9:11 AM on July 19, 2004


Oh yeah trout, because not eating is surely just as healthy as eating too much.

Really this isn't as hard as everyone wants to make it. Bodies come in different sizes, and people who tend to be plump even when they eat in moderation should be left the fuck alone. People who are *so* bothered by the obesity of others would do better to work to undo the structural encouragements towards obseity rather than expending themselves in feeling superior.

Does anyone really disagree that making healthy food more readily available while encouraging moderation would vastly reduce the incidence of dangerous obesity? When I was driving through France I was delightfully surprised to find that at the autoroute rest stops the food selections focused on freshly made sandwiches, salads and fruits as opposed to the McDo's here. Maybe we should work to encourage changes such as that instead of just sneering, huh? You think?
posted by dame at 9:12 AM on July 19, 2004


WolfDaddy -- I've taken off about 1/2 of the 40 pounds I've added since moving to Texas and am working on the other 20. For me, Tex Mex was (is and will always be) a key problem. But you're right, there are huge portions. A tip I got from a nutritionist is to tell the server to bring your doggy bag with the food and immediately put half (or more) in the container.

Callmejay -- I have empathy for the poor and obese. It costs much more to fill ones cart with healthy food vs. the bad food but that doesn't mean it is impossible. And it doesn't take a huge time commitment to get healthier -- people can find 10 minutes for a walk and hopefully more. One doesn't have to spend hours at the gym. A gym membership isn't necessary.

When I was in Mexico recently I noticed junk food ads on TV and in print would have little messages like 'eat well' or 'eat fruits and vegetables' on them. It wasn't huge, but it might help remind the consumer to eat more than refrescos y papas fritas. Unlike US-style "this will kill you" message on cigarettes, the Mexico approach seems to be a concession to the huge junk food lobby. It isn't an answer, but it wouldn't hurt.
posted by birdherder at 9:12 AM on July 19, 2004


So why is it any of your business if someone is overweight?

For the last 6 reasons listed here.
posted by shoos at 9:14 AM on July 19, 2004


Why do people get so vitriolic on this topic? It's like everything is a personal attack.

Body Mass Index is, of course, a coarse measure which doesn't work for everyone--I think most people agree that, say, Red Sox star Nomar Garciaparra and tennis diva Venus Williams are not "overweight", even though their weight-to-height ratio would put them in that category.

However, any individual person can assess whether he or she has a high weight for his/her height because of muscle or fat. It's not actually that difficult.

Being overfat (or underfit), however, is neither a moral failing nor (in the vast majority of cases) a "disease" per se.

Overfat may result from illnesses or disorders (either physical, such as Cushing's Syndrome, or mental, such as compulsive eating), and it does lead to a dramatically increased predisposition for many physical illnesses, disorders, and strains, but it is not a "disease" in itself.

Neither is it a moral failing. Some people may consciously choose the pleasures of eating whatever they want, whenever they want, over the pleasures of feeling fit and energetic. Hey, it's their right, just as it's other people's right to choose the pleasure of smoking over the pleasure of unimpaired breathing, and other people still's right to choose the pleasure of downhill skiing over the pleasure of unbroken limbs ;) .

Other people don't have access to good information about health and fitness. And, unfortunately, in the US, the issue seems to be polarized--nutrition and fitness choices are presented as "either you eat only steamed vegetables, like Madonna, or you order the Special MegaSize French Fry and Gallon Soda Deal at your local fast-food window".

And, re Postroad's assertion that "If you think you're overweight, you probably are"--NONSENSE! Almost half of all women surveyed who were within a healthy weight range perceived themselves as overweight, and more than a quarter of healthy-weight men perceived themselves as overweight.

If we had a more realistic view of fitness and health, people wouldn't try Draconian diets (which almost always fail), and would instead focus on sustainable changes in nutrition and exercise patterns.

And, since nobody else seems to have linked to it in these comments, The Onion does have one of the more hilarious takes on this in recent years.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:17 AM on July 19, 2004


I can't get over the fact that his daughter, who is 300 lbs, just had triplets 2 years ago. How large must she have become carrying 3 babies, and how fraught with peril was that pregnancy and delivery?
posted by GaelFC at 9:20 AM on July 19, 2004


I just tell myself every time that one of these threads come up, that it's a fucking good thing I don't know any of you in person--because, clearly, my body would revolt you and you wouldn't bother getting to know who I am because my fatness is just SO FUCKING GROSS that I'm not worth knowing. Or you'd lecture me about eating less and exercising more (and no, I'm not going to go into detail about my food and exercise habits--I don't need to prove myself to be a "good" fat person to ANYONE).

Yeah, this pisses me off. Every fucking day, this pisses me off.
posted by eilatan at 9:28 AM on July 19, 2004


I recently spent 2 years in the US, in the Bay Area, and gained like 30 pounds. Mostly, eating right in the northern CA is very, very expensive. Fresh vegetables are luxury items. Junk food is very, very cheap. You can't walk anywhere. Do the math. Thankfully, I moved back to Chile and lost most of the extra wieght.
posted by signal at 9:35 AM on July 19, 2004


" I'm sure that part of the reason the South is more obese than the rest of the country"

My experience in the south (I was in the restaurant business for several years) is that a lot of southerners allow their anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism to get in the way of common sense. Oh how they laugh at vegetarians and tofu and sushi. Gotta have that meat, boy. I glady added more gravy, butter, whipped cream, chocolate sauce - whatever the fat little piggies wanted while making their snide little comments about healthy food. Keep on eating, you ignorant redneck fucks .
posted by 2sheets at 9:49 AM on July 19, 2004


I have been trying to puzzle out why we as a society make victims of the obese. One could say its due to a noncompliance to societal norms with regards to image, also perhaps that obesity tends to bring with it other culturally undesirable traits. For "the fire you left me" and others, what pushes your buttons so much?
posted by Ogre Lawless at 9:52 AM on July 19, 2004


BinGregory - while the South doesn't contain the only fat cities in America, they do have more than the rest of the country.
posted by agregoli at 9:55 AM on July 19, 2004


What eilatan said.

shoos, you know what else costs employers money? Smoking. Gingivitis. Cancer. Drug and alcohol addiction. Tuition reimbursement. Mental health services. Unemployment payouts. Cataracts.

Care to be the first person to march up to, say, the parent of an adopted child and say "Stop wanting children so badly so I don't have to pay for it indirectly?"

Tell me you've never done anything that cost your employer time or money, and maybe I'll stop laughing at the notion that my physical appearance is any of your business.
posted by gnomeloaf at 9:57 AM on July 19, 2004


Ogre Lawless: it's always fun to victimize the weak and infirm, it's just that it's not currently considered proper to do so with cripples, mentaly and physically retarded people, etc., whereas fat people are fair game, as they are seen as bringing it on themselves.
posted by signal at 9:58 AM on July 19, 2004


Keep on eating, you ignorant redneck fucks

Jebus, 2sheets. Got some pent up anger?
posted by trharlan at 9:58 AM on July 19, 2004


I noticed that folk in Edmonton, Alberta, were substantially larger than folk in Vancouver, BC...
posted by five fresh fish at 10:15 AM on July 19, 2004


For "the fire you left me" and others, what pushes your buttons so much?

I posted earler saying that we should be more sympathetic, so I'm not condoning this attitude, even though it's very hard for me to suppress it in the moment:

Obese people, when out and about, are hard to maneuver around. They invariably walk slower than I do and are often difficult to get around because they're large and are still moving. When I'm at the grocery store, I want to get in and out-- I don't want to manuever around a fat couple who are blocking the cereal aisle. When I board a trolley, I want to sit and read and I get pissed off if a fat person is taking two seats because that's a seat that someone else should have. If the trolley's crowded and there's a fat person, I think that I would be a little less pressed against my fellow passengers if the fat person hadn't been so inconsiderate as to take up two people's space.

As I said earler, it's not an attitude that helps me or anyone else and I vow to work harder to suppress it-- the temporary inconvenience is nothing compared to what the obese person is going though. But no matter how trivial the inconveniences caused by obese people are, they're very real to a frustrated person who just wants to get somewhere.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:17 AM on July 19, 2004


BinGregory - while the South doesn't contain the only fat cities in America, they do have more than the rest of the country

I think it was Men's Health that recently came out with a study of cities, resulting in Houston at no. 2 and Dallas at no. 3 for "most overweight". This led to a challenge by both mayors to see which city could fall further down the list by next year's survey.

Dallas Mayor Laura Miller (who is quite fit and ran the White Rock Marathon last year) has begun her "lighten up, big D" campaign, something I thought was pretty cool until...

The DMN did a story on it showing her working out with a group of people, including Ronald McDonald.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:19 AM on July 19, 2004


I always read these conversations about weight on Metafilter, because I love knowing what it is that you all are saying about me.

I'm female, 5' 7" tall and weigh about 260 lbs. I wear a size 22 jeans and a DDD bra. By virtually any measure that our society has, I'm fat.

However, I also eat between 1500 and 2100 calories a day. (I know that for a fact because I obsessively keep a notebook where I record every bit of food I eat). I pay the extra money to buy and eat organic foods, and I try to eat a well-balanced diet - some grains, some proteins, some meat, some veggies, etc. I'm very active and not only do I walk for exercise, but I also do more "hobby" type activities including trail hiking and canoeing.

In other words, I'm not exactly your stereotypical fat girl, but you wouldn't know that to look at me. Yet you think you know all about me when you look at me.

If we're on a road trip to go hiking in Vermont and we stop at a McDonalds to use the bathroom, you think you know everything about me when I walk out the door.

If we stop at Dairy Queen with friends, and you drive by and see me standing there in line, you think you know everything about me even before you've seen me order my 100 calorie sugar-free Dilly Bar.

If I'm in the supermarket, and I put ice cream in my shopping cart to serve at a friend's birthday party, you think you know everything about me as you wheel your cart on past.

But you don't know anything about me at all.

Yes, its very true that a lot of the obesity in America is caused by bad eating habits, the high cost of fresh foods, and (in many cases) the sheer absence of choices if you live in a poor or rural area (I was in a supermarket in rural Maine this weekend that would make your hair stand on end). But, increasingly, I also think that undiscussed cause of much of the obesity in America has to do with medications and prescription drug side effects. I know that's the case for me, and I'm betting its the case for many other men and women who struggle and struggle and struggle to lose weight and don't ever understand why they can't.

Which is not to say, of course, that the fat on every fat man and woman in America is caused by their drugs. Because I know how expensive it can be to eat healthy. I know how available fast food/bad-for-you food is. I know all about the messages that the media sends out. However, I also know lots of fat people. They're smart people and rich people and poor people. They're men and women and they're all ages, and they're overweight for many different reasons.

Don't think you know all our stories by looking at us. 'cause you don't.
posted by anastasiav at 10:20 AM on July 19, 2004


Mayor Curley, everything you said could be easily said of "old people". Old people walk slowly and get in my way when I want to go somewhere quickly. When I get on the subway, I get angry when old people take up an extra seat with their walkers. Etc., etc., etc.

Sometimes, people get fat. Sometimes, people get old.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:33 AM on July 19, 2004




The DMN did a story on it showing her working out with a group of people, including Ronald McDonald.

The fitness guru who trimmed Oprah Winfrey and is riding his bicycle across the country to promote health and wellness is sticking up for his sponsor, McDonald's.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:41 AM on July 19, 2004


I always read these conversations about weight on Metafilter, because I love knowing what it is that you all are saying about me.

I think this answers the questions about why the debates about obesity on MeFi are so contentious and personal. People have tried to categorize some of their comments about the Other on this site as uncharitable stereotyping, and have stated that they'll try to be more compassionate as a result of the FPP. Still people still get offended, and take such comments personally, even when we are communicating impersonally on Matt's community blog.

Anastasiav, just as your story is not the same as my sister's, whose obesity is the result of an psychologically driven eating disorder, your story is not the same as that of the Baskins. The poster's stated goal here was to show us all a more human side to the story, so that, regardless of its causes (self-inflicted or the result of a glandular condition, or something else), perhaps we can all feel a bit more compassion for people afflicted by this condition.

Like every post on MeFi, some people accept the poster's point, if there is one, and as many others veer around it: both responses are valid. For my own part, my own feelings about this topic are too tightly wrapped up in my anger with my sister, who just won't seek help and therapy despite numerous entreaties on the parts of family members, and who at the relatively young age of 40, will likely be dead in 10 years (she already has juvenile diabetes, heart and lung issues, joint problems). It pains me that someone who is such a great and decent human being can do such damage to herself. This, I know, is an entirely different story from yours, and I think we can all learn a little bit from each other in this regard.
posted by psmealey at 10:41 AM on July 19, 2004


You can be as fat as you want (and i know tons of healthy fat people), but if you can't walk more than a few steps without being exhausted, or have to rely on a wheelchair because you can't carry your own weight, you should realize it's not a good thing. Unless it's from a medical condition, of course, and not just that your weight has become a medical condition.

We're all self-destructive in one way or another, and it sucks that there's so much prejudice against the obese. Join the club--and at least people aren't trying to write discrimination against you into the Constitution.

Does anyone really disagree that making healthy food more readily available while encouraging moderation would vastly reduce the incidence of dangerous obesity? When I was driving through France I was delightfully surprised to find that at the autoroute rest stops the food selections focused on freshly made sandwiches, salads and fruits as opposed to the McDo's here. Maybe we should work to encourage changes such as that instead of just sneering, huh? You think?
Amen! and cheaper, too. But that won't ever happen, and cars would have to disappear too. People just walking more in their neighborhoods would make a gigantic difference in the obesity rates--in most of the country, even kids don't ever walk anywhere.
posted by amberglow at 10:42 AM on July 19, 2004


I overeat at restaurants because 98 percent of the people that I have to eat out with are so mind-numbingly, stupifyingly boring, that I have to keep stuffing food in my mouth to keep myself from screaming. Fortunately, a strenuous exercise regimen keeps me trim and svelte. But if Americans made an effort to be less boring, I wouldn't have to exercise so much, and I could enjoy the many TV programs people talk about at work the next day.
posted by Faze at 10:43 AM on July 19, 2004


What anastasia said. And eilatan.

I dread the reappearance of this topic on MeFi because it forces me to be confronted with the fact that some of you - people I normally enjoy reading and "hanging out" here with - are, in fact, loathsome judgmental little turds. SKINNY loathsome judgemental little turds, at that. And then, I'm forced to try and remind myself for the next several days or weeks that you are not, in fact, pond scum not worth the time of day or the three seconds it takes to read your hateful, sneering little opinions...

Try this. Substitute the words "obese" and "fat person" in the rhetoric above with "nigger," "kike," "fag" or "my bitch" and try it out the next time your making dinner or bar conversation if you'd like to get a sense of how repulsive your words are to those of us you so casually consign to the scrapheaps of your perfect little worldview.
posted by JollyWanker at 10:45 AM on July 19, 2004


southerners allow their anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism to get in the way of common sense. Oh how they laugh at vegetarians and tofu and sushi. Gotta have that meat, boy.

Dallas, Tx. - sushi
posted by thomcatspike at 10:46 AM on July 19, 2004


birdherder: good advice. Tex-Mex is yummy, and that's what gave me my extra 20. Mexican food in California is an entirely different kind of food ... altogether.

Mexican food in California is an entirely different kind of food.

As to the people who are angry about society's attitude toward your body shape/weight ... THAT's probably doing as much to put you into an early grave as anything else. I used to have high blood pressure over this--I'm 6'2 and weigh 220-240, all of the body fat is in my torso--and when I moved to California, I thought I'd never be one of the 'beautiful people'. When I saw how much they obsessed over changing (or maintaining) the way they looked ... their unhealthy attitudes toward diet, cosmetic surgery, exercise, social circles, I realized that they were far, FAR more messed up than they perceived me as being. Once the blinkers came off, my BP dropped dramtically. True story.
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:48 AM on July 19, 2004


I call bullshit on bad food being cheaper and more convenient.

For the cost of a meal at a McJoint, you can get a really, really good salad at Quizno's, or a nice wrap/sandwich at Camille's, or a delightful freshly made sandwich at Subway.

For eating at home, there's all manner of cheap and easy-to-prepare dishes that are light on meat and other fatty items.

All you have to do is pay attention to what you're buying.

And one thing really stands out to me from the story -- the author followed Deke to the grocery store, and watched as he selected junk foods and his wife picked up chocolate bars. See, that's where you gotta start -- at the store. General rule to follow is avoid the middle of the store, and shop the periphery, where the fresh and raw stuff is. Another general rule: more packaging usually equals more junk.

Don't know how to prepare healthy foods using a wide variety of ingredients? Buy a fucking book. $10 at B&N or Amazon will get you a nice, easy-to-understand cookbook that anyone can follow.

And don't give me the "advertising made me do it" line either. We're all adults. We're all more market savvy than we credit. Grow the fuck up.

Live in rural America and don't have a nice variety of fresh stuff at your local ma and pa grocery? Start a damned garden. Now that's cheap. And fresh. (For a total cost of about $20.00 I've had bushels of spinach that's still producing, several bunches of broccoli, and carrots, celery, beans, and tomatos).

There are no excuses for eating bad in America.
posted by yesster at 10:51 AM on July 19, 2004


Obese people, when out and about, are hard to maneuver around.

Pregnant people, when out and about, are hard to maneuver around.

People with kids in strollers, when out and about, are hard to maneuver around.

People in wheelchairs, when out and about, are hard to maneuver around.
posted by JoanArkham at 10:51 AM on July 19, 2004


Another mote on the plot about health, fitness and fatness:
Cheryl Haworth, 2000 olympic Bronze medalist in weightlifting is "obese" at a BMI of 46.7 (profile/stats source and calculator). Yet, she has also been able to lift 110 lbs with ease (article description), and appears to be in the 2004 women's olympic team as well (article narrative).

She is also able to "run the 40-yard dash in 5.5 seconds, has a 30-inch vertical leap and can do the splits" (bio descriptive).

In all my reading about this fine young woman, I haven't seen one journalist or medical professional criticize her for her weight or BMI.
posted by kalessin at 10:56 AM on July 19, 2004


Massachusetts highway rest stops offer salads and wraps by Fresh City. They're delicious.

Yesster, how would people living in, say, the Cabrini Green housing projects deal with the high price and poor selection of fresh vegetables in every single grocery store that they can reach by public transportation?

Though it's true that many low-income people make poor nutritional choices, there is also a tremendous amount of data that show that affordable, nutritious food--especially fresh fruits and vegetables--are not easily accessible in low-income urban neighborhoods.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:58 AM on July 19, 2004


Hard when the TV is always telling you about some great new fried chicken deal down the street or a cheeseburger to rival the Double Whopper

Turn off the freakin TV! How hard can it be to see that TV screws people. It manipulates even the smartest person.
posted by stbalbach at 10:59 AM on July 19, 2004


Sidhedevil --- well, then there might be an entrepreneurial opportunity there. Take the farmers' market to the projects. Open a greenhouse there, and teach folks how to grow a garden (assuming, of course, that the housing regulations permit it, which they probably don't, which is completely asinine).
posted by yesster at 11:20 AM on July 19, 2004


Yesster, sometimes cooking up fresh food is harder than plopping something in the microwave, especially when both parents are working, so yeah--harder.

Learning to cook & planting a garder require effort. Worthwhile effort, sure, but effort nonetheless. More effort than stopping at McDo's on the way home from work & daycare, so yeah--harder.

The lack of time and encouragement to do these things is real. And if you want large groups of people to change their behavior, you should make it easier to do what you want them to do. If you think that's important.
posted by dame at 11:21 AM on July 19, 2004


I did a bit more reading and researching on Cheryl Anne Haworth. For your reference, her records (bottom of the page):

Snatch: 128.0 kg (~282 lbs) 5/18/03
Clean & Jerk: 160.0kg (~352 lbs) 12/9/01
Total: 285.0kg (628 lbs) 12/9/01

(conversion from kg to lbs provided by Google)
posted by kalessin at 11:24 AM on July 19, 2004


Try this. Substitute the words "obese" and "fat person" in the rhetoric above with "nigger," "kike," "fag" or "my bitch"...
Jesus goddamn fuck! Do you honestly think that comparison is even remotely valid?
posted by kickingtheground at 11:26 AM on July 19, 2004



I can attest to the rejuvenating power of fasting. It does seem to have powerful health-giving benefits.

You just reminded that I'll have to fast again soon. I tried it some time ago, the extra energy I got out of it during the fast was just frightening.

./A
posted by NewBornHippy at 11:29 AM on July 19, 2004


Jesus goddamn fuck! Do you honestly think that comparison is even remotely valid?

I happen to.
posted by kalessin at 11:29 AM on July 19, 2004


Ah, but kalessin, you can't compare fat with anything else because as anyone who believes the comparison is invalid will point out, you can control fat! You don't choose to be black, or female, or anything else! And because you choose to be fat, it's perfectly acceptable for people to discriminate against you. Because, you know, those fat people take up two seats or walk really slowly. Those darn fat people! Won't they just lose some weight already? Gosh! They're so fat! And so awful! Clearly, everyone must stop being fat immediately.

(yes, this was sarcastic.)
posted by hijinx at 11:40 AM on July 19, 2004


And I've gotta concur with kalessin.

It's easier for me to be queer than it is for me to be fat. And yet, I continue being fat because that's what I am and always will be. No matter how few calories I eat or how many hours a day I exercise, I will be fat.

I'm really, really sorry that bothers some of you to the extent that it does. But you can't make me--or others like me--disappear. And the fact that you'd like me to disappear really pisses me off.
posted by eilatan at 11:43 AM on July 19, 2004


Substitute the words "obese" and "fat person" in the rhetoric above with "nigger," "kike," "fag" or "my bitch"

Yes. Substituting any given term for highly offensive term will result in an offensive statement. If I wrote: "Those pedophiles disgust me," and you asked me to substitute "pedophiles" with "niggers," then, obviously, the recast statement would be offensive. That doesn't tell me anything about the offensiveness of the original term. (Whether it be "pedophile" or "obese").

With that said, I've never heard the claim made that "obese" is offensive, rather than descriptive -- let alone as offensive as the words you would like me to equate it with.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:48 AM on July 19, 2004


Do you think that some people hate fat people because there's an unconscious primal instinct that tells them that person will require more resources of the tribe, and can't pull their weight/slow them down?

I'm not trying to be ridiculous, just grasping at why fat people anger some skinny people so.
posted by agregoli at 11:54 AM on July 19, 2004


I think we can all learn a little bit from each other in this regard.

Amen to that, psmealey. I too have a sister who is somewhere over 350 pounds. I see the way people look at her when we are out together and it pisses me off. They don't know the thoughtful, kind, and funny person that I grew up with.

The last time she came to visit, the 1.5 block walk from the bus stop to my apartment left her wheezing and gasping for breath. She lives 800 miles away, and she lives alone, and if she doesn't return a call within a day or two, or reply to an email I've sent, I have these nightmarish visions that she's fallen and is trapped somewhere, or that she's in a diabetic coma, and that no one will find her until it's too late. Over the years our family has tried various methods to encourage her to be healthier. At a certain point, however, I came to understand that telling her she needs to lose weight isn't going to make her feel any better about herself- I know from my own experience that when I've gained a few pounds, or ten, I'm painfully aware of it, and it doesn't help to have someone else point it out. Clearly, I'm concerned about her health, and I struggle with how, or even whether, to communicate this to her, as the last thing I want to tell her is "you're not good enough."

We humans all have shortcomings. You can get on a bus and see a whole array of anonymous humanity- and the things that others might judge them harshly for are often not immediately obvious- you can't tell if someone is a complete deadbeat on child-support payments, or has repeated convictions for DUI, for example. But those who see overweight as a moral shortcoming often don't stop to think that not everyone else's struggles are as obvious to complete strangers.
posted by ambrosia at 11:54 AM on July 19, 2004


No matter how many hours a day I exercise, I will be fat.

I'm afraid your gluttony has confused you.
posted by the fire you left me at 11:58 AM on July 19, 2004


Yesster, whether or not someone eventually is able to "bring a farmer's market to the projects", the fact is that there is no farmer's market there now.

And "planting a garden" is great for three months of the year, but if you live in, say, Climate Zone 1 of North America, what do you do for fresh vegetables the other nine months of the year?

I eat amazingly well. I eat organic vegetables, free-range meats and poultry, wild-caught fish, whole-grain artisanal bread, etc. I can afford to do this because I am rich and live in a city.

When I was a kid living in the rural, economically depressed Northeastern US, though, most of my classmates ate canned vegetables, government cheese, processed meats, and white bread. Not good, not good for you, but available and affordable.

And when I was working in low-income urban neighborhoods, most people seemed to eat similar foods. Again, not good, not good for you, but available and affordable.

(Those of you who ate school lunches through the Federal Hot Lunch Program may recall the kind of menu that was usually served--high in sodium, processed carbohydrates, canned and overcooked vegetables and fruits, and high-nitrite processed meats. I went to school with lots of kids whose main meal that was for the day, too.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:00 PM on July 19, 2004


Thanks to JollyWanker and anastasiav for putting a familiar MeFi face on this issue. We've all got our own personal demons to face and it certainly doesn't help to hear nothing but negativity and recriminations from the people around you.

It also doesn't help that our government is subsidizing corn syrup or that we built a food pyramid in the 50s on the advice of the food industry.
posted by rks404 at 12:03 PM on July 19, 2004


Take the farmers' market to the projects. Open a greenhouse there, and teach folks how to grow a garden (assuming, of course, that the housing regulations permit it, which they probably don't, which is completely asinine).

FWIW, in Tulsa several years back (maybe 2000 or so), the local Green Party and Mayor Susan Savage teamed up to plant a community garden in one of the poorer neighborhoods in the area. This was notable not only b/c the garden was completely organic, fully functional, and available only to those that spent time working in it, I believe it was the first time that an elected official had worked with the Green Party in Oklahoma on anything.

I've got no idea if the garden still exists or is now an incidental compost heap, but there are people out there doing things on a community level. I'm sure it's far from what needs to be done overall, but it does happen sometimes.
posted by Ufez Jones at 12:08 PM on July 19, 2004


I'm afraid your gluttony has confused you.

I'm afraid your zealotry has turned you into an ass. Go find your heart, then come back.
posted by kalessin at 12:12 PM on July 19, 2004


the fire you left me: I'm afraid your gluttony has confused you. (in response to eilatan)

That was totally uncalled for.
posted by hijinx at 12:14 PM on July 19, 2004


With that said, I've never heard the claim made that "obese" is offensive, rather than descriptive -- let alone as offensive as the words you would like me to equate it with.

Nouns and adjectives are limited in their offensiveness. It is often instead the attitude behind the nouns that can indicate offensiveness. The lack of caring, the objectification, the exploitativeness, the lack of empathy or respectful sympathy, the finger-pointing and the judgmental attitudes, those are what really get offensive, don't you think?
posted by kalessin at 12:15 PM on July 19, 2004


I'm afraid your complete and total lack of knowing anything about me other than the fact that I'm fat has confused you, the fire you left me.

However, now everyone knows that you are an asshole.
posted by eilatan at 12:21 PM on July 19, 2004


Thanks for the credit, psmealy. I most certainly DID NOT post this so I could fire up a bunch of fat-bashing surface-based judgement. I just spent almost a year in Australia, returning to my home in the South. I've been shocked and disgusted and judgemental at the level of obesity I've seen here, with semi-outsider eyes, the doughnuts in my office, fat coworkers, fat kids, etc.

But this article made me look below that surface to some real suffering that I wouldn't wish on anyone. All this knee-jerk judgement of the overweight makes me feel ashamed. Sure, I've got my own prejudices in this regard, and I'm guilty of being a prick like the rest of you. But if you have any sort of feelings at all and read that article, I don't see how you can be so caustic.

I managed to drop 30 lbs of fat myself once, and it was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I've ever done. I had the luxury of being able to afford a personal trainer AND live a block away from a gym I had a free membership to.

So yeah. I'm sorry if my post got people's feelings hurt, and I'm really sorry I gave some of you caustic fucks the justification to pick on someone not quite your own size.
posted by chinese_fashion at 12:28 PM on July 19, 2004


If I were magically confronted with the choice of trading what I define as my own idiosyncratic set of "problems" for being 100 pounds heavier........

The option would give me pause.
posted by troutfishing at 12:32 PM on July 19, 2004


How about we inject some facts in this, then?

Over the past twenty years the number of "obese" in the USA has doubled.

Any of you healthy fat people want to explain that? Are you going to claim that those must be healthy fat people, or will you admit that most of these people are probably quite unhealthy?

Over the past decade, the number of overweight children has nearly tripled.

Any of you healthy fat people care to defend that trend? Are you going to claim that it's okay for parents to chubby-up their kids, or are you going to tell us that it's all due to heftiness genes?

How about the 50% increase in diabetes this past decade? Most of it is due to obesity.

How about how only 1 in 4 Americans eats their vegetables on a daily basis? Could you healthy fat people happily state that the majority of obese people are eating their vegetables, or will you admit that those people choose to eat an unhealthy diet?

How about a 50% greater mortality rate, 4x the risk of arthritis, significantly increased cancer risks, 2x risk of gallbladder disease, and all sorts of pregnancy problems?

Are these facts somehow unfair to the obese? Are the statistics biased against the fat? Are the numbers discriminatory?

Let's get right to the rock-solid truth: for the greatest majority of people, being overweight and especially being obese is terribly, terribly unhealthy.

And it's costing us a fucking fortune in health care and lost productivity, not to mention the emotional damage done to their families and friends.

Any one of you fat MeFi members may be relatively healthy and fit... but you are not representative of the fat population.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:45 PM on July 19, 2004


At least for me, I don't have a problem with obese people.

I DO have a problem with any person who knowingly and willingly (and my tax dollars in the health system) becomes obese under their own will. I also have issues with smokers, and drunk drivers, and people who don't excercise but are skinny.

Do I look at the fat person walking by with contempt? No. Do I look at the fat person walking by with a big bag of chips and a bottle of pop with content? You're damn right I do. Skinny person with same items? Same result.

Do I look at the person who has given up on being healthy (which, more than weight loss, is a good goal) and said that they can't do it with contempt? No matter what they do, they'll never be skinny? Yes. Being healthy is a painful and difficult process for EVERYONE. You might have a harder time than I do, but that doesn't make it easy for me either.

I don't always go to the gym, or jump on a bike because I want to (most of the time I do, but 6am Monday morning sucks). I do it because the next day it's a lot easier to keep being healthy if I was the day before.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 12:59 PM on July 19, 2004


Everyone has the right to make their own choices about their own bodies! How exactly does it affect YOU personally if other poeple choose to- oh, wait. Sorry. I thought this was the abortion thread.
Fat people suck!
posted by Stauf at 1:00 PM on July 19, 2004


This seems at least partially relevant.. of course, statistics will be statistics. Take with a grain of salt.
posted by Raze2k at 1:02 PM on July 19, 2004


And it's costing us a fucking fortune in health care and lost productivity, not to mention the emotional damage done to their families and friends.

But so do a lot of things. PA just repealed their motorcycle helmet laws. I have to walk through a cloud of smoke to get into my office in the morning. Co-workers come in sick and spread the flu around because no one feels like they can take a day off.

Why the hate? I really, honestly, not-trolling want to know.
posted by JoanArkham at 1:05 PM on July 19, 2004


fff:Are these facts somehow unfair to the obese? Are the statistics biased against the fat? Are the numbers discriminatory?

You seem to want to blame the fat people, but I would read the very statistics you cite as pointing towards a societal problem. Are people really less responsible, on average, than they used to be? Really? They all "chose" to be less responsible this generation, just for the hell of it? People new to American-like cultures suddenly become fatter in one generation because they "choose" to be less responsible? Wouldn't it make more sense to say, well people are basically the same, so there must be some societal issue? There are so many to choose from: corn subsudies, fast food, suburban sprawl, the increase in portions served at restaurants, etc. The government and the corporate world actively -- VERY actively -- contribute to the weight gain in the US. Where is their fucking personal responsibility?

Apologies if you're merely arguing the fat =/= fit point, but my argument stands for others in this thread.
posted by callmejay at 1:06 PM on July 19, 2004


Not sure about you guys in the US, but here in Canada, our subsidized health care system provides electric "carts" for many obese people.

Now, quite apart from my feelings about these folks careening down the sidewalks and almost killing pedestrians, it makes me scratch my head as to why our government would make this sort of concession to these folks instead of, say, paying for a health club membership or something similar that might actually improve their health.

It seems like the health care system is "giving up" on some of these obese people rather than trying to help them regain some of their health.
posted by jmcnally at 1:13 PM on July 19, 2004


As an American living in Europe, I can tell you that I can pick Americans out of a crowd of tourists merely by their size.

Americans have a very distinctive and pronounced culture of snacking. While many cultures have some kind of "snack food", I have never seen it inflated to the level of importance that snacking has in the US. People literally walk around with something in their hands to snack on. And a huge industry exists to make sure that they have a big shiney bag of fresh, crispy, salty, extruded potato starch handy at every retail point of sale in the country. In Hungary a snack used to mean a can of sardines. (Not any more, though. Market Capitalism comes packaged with Cheetos.)

When I have visited the US I was also amazed at the size of the portions, especially of "convenience desserts" such as the humongous brownies you could buy at virtually every cash register (carrot cake for those who wanted to seem health conscious.)

Sometimes I have taken American visitors to some of Europe's less developed backwater areas - Moldavia, eastern Hungary, eastern Slovakia - and the main negative impression most of them relate to me is their shock at the lack of familiar potato chips, pretzels, and quality chocolate available at the local village shop. I remember one American radio reporter I translated for who carried a backpack full of chips and pretzels with him through these snack food nether regions.

East Europeans, if left to their own accord, prefer a fatty, starchy diet, yet one doesn't see the levels of mass obesity that one sees in, say, Ohio. My guess is that after chugging down a lunch of fatty stew with dumplings you are simply not hungry anymore, and don't feel the urge to snack. Dinner is usually something simple - bread and cold cuts or cheese (the German influence of an evening meal called "abendbrot" - 'evening bread') and maybe soup, but the big meal is lunch.

The younger generation, however, is getting fatter, at least in Hungary. Snack items like potato chips have been introduced, McDonalds is everywhere, and a Pepsi is always within line of sight.

Oh yeah... it wasn't easy, but I dropped fifty pounds during the first half of this year. I figured If I didn't take control of my weight, my weight would take control of me. I still eat what I want, it's just that I have convinced myself that I don't want as much, I don't want potato chips, I don't have to have pizza three times a week, and I don't ever need to drink a canned cola ever again. And I bicycle.
posted by zaelic at 1:16 PM on July 19, 2004


You seem to want to blame the fat people, but I would read the very statistics you cite as pointing towards a societal problem.

That's awesome. Using judo against facts "I see the facts barreling towards me and I simply use their own weight to redirect them to where they can't hurt."
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:21 PM on July 19, 2004


five fresh fish: Any one of you fat MeFi members may be relatively healthy and fit... but you are not representative of the fat population.

Nobody said we represented some mythical "fat population." We're just people, you little twat, who happen to be heavier - some of us significantly so - than some other people. Most of us don't choose to be heavier, most of us have struggled against being heavier, most of us have failed, time and again, and neither you nor anyone else is is any way qualified or justified in judging us.

So, you know what? I'm going to give in, sink to your level and respond for the last time in this God-forsaken thread: FUCK YOU AND THE SKINNY LITTLE PONY YOU RODE IN, YOU PATHETIC, HEARTLESS SACK OF SHIT. I can only hope you end up with a long, pain-filled life of diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and pregnancy issues, because unlike me, anastasia, eliatan and doubtless hundreds or thousands of other MeFites, with your attitude about others and their problems, you deserve to suffer.
posted by JollyWanker at 1:24 PM on July 19, 2004


I'd point my finger at the fast food/junk food industries, and at the government.

For crying out loud, many American schools now serve - literally - fast food for lunch.

US society is in deep, deep denial over this.

The saddest notes - to me - of an otherwise very funny movie, "Super-Size Me" were 1) the teenage girl interviewed in the movie, who was obese but without a clue of what to do about it - she was just sad and helplessly resigned about her life condition and 2) all the obese people watching the movie who were drinking sugared sodas and eating popcorn drenched with hydrogenated oils.

People really do not know how to eat better. The only way to address the obesity epidemic in America is through massive public education about nutrition and exercise, and by restricting the ability of the fast food industry to continue saturation-bombing the US public with ads for junk food that I'd hardly call food at all.

"Blaming the fat" is a divisive, red herring strategy of distraction which - like any other type of victim-blaming - obscures the primary agents who have helped to create the problem in the first place, principally the American food industry.

But, there's a reason that the health food industry in the US has been the fastest growing sector of the food industry for about 20 years running - many Americans are starting to realize, bit by bit, that junk food and fast food is mostly toxic crap.
posted by troutfishing at 1:29 PM on July 19, 2004


jmcnally: Is that true? If so, could you provide a link/proof?

I wouldn't be surprised if it is, though, because the number of those carts has exploded (in Toronto, at least) in the last few years. You even see young/not obese people on them now. The other day, I was in a Shopper's Drug Mart and I saw a young-ish (obese) mother with her (obese) daughter, who was probably under the age of 10, both riding along on their own carts.

I think they're fantastic devices for the elderly and the genuinely ill, but if you're on one because you're too fucking lazy to walk about your neighbourhood, that's just sad. And a waste of my tax dollars, if what jmcnally is saying is true.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:39 PM on July 19, 2004


That's awesome. Using judo against facts "I see the facts barreling towards me and I simply use their own weight to redirect them to where they can't hurt."

I think the facts justify my point. If you disagree, perhaps you could explain why. Specifically, why are people heavier now than they were a generation ago if it doesn't have to do with something our society is doing?
posted by callmejay at 1:39 PM on July 19, 2004


Come to think of it - I was watching "The Stepford Wives" a few days ago (and sharing a pitcher of beer, BTW) and - as the slim and robotic "Stepford" wives pranced around on screen - together with Nicole Kidmann who seemed to me to be a far more natural Stepford product than all the rest - the movie cinema aisles were filled with people who were anywhere from obese to morbidly obese (as the technical definitions go) shuffling back and forth to the concession stand, making round after round to buy fast food-type burgers, pizza, hydrogenated oil drenched popcorn......

It was awful, the contrast between the health-food eating, well exercised, sex-symbol Hollywood actresses on the screen and the women watching the movie who had become convinced they could never look so good (or slim, anyway) or even remotely close to that standard and who were shuffling around with their packages of crappy food and glumly eating it as (what I saw to be) a psychological coping mechanism that only made things worse.

It's easy to ridicule, but we all bear the weight of collective unhappiness - from any and all societal maladies.
posted by troutfishing at 1:41 PM on July 19, 2004


"...a recent study done by doctors from Harvard , and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition...found a Type 2 diabetes/sugar link : that the increased consumption of refined carbohydrates (i.e., corn syrup) in the American diet, combined with decreased consumption of fiber, parallels the increase in Type II diabetes"
posted by troutfishing at 1:43 PM on July 19, 2004


Do I look at the person who has given up on being healthy (which, more than weight loss, is a good goal) and said that they can't do it with contempt? No matter what they do, they'll never be skinny? Yes. Being healthy is a painful and difficult process for EVERYONE. You might have a harder time than I do, but that doesn't make it easy for me either.

Just to clarify: I haven't given up on being healthy. I have, however, given up on the idea of conforming to a body shape and size that I am not designed to conform to. I have much better things to do with my life than castigate myself for having a bowl of ice cream maybe once a week or full-fat dairy products or, even, for eating salty crunchy food when I'm PMS-ing.

I suspect that y'all have much better things to do with your time than play Food Police on my fat ass, too. So why don't y'all go do them? Me, I'll be playing DDR. It's good exercise, you know.
posted by eilatan at 1:44 PM on July 19, 2004


Yesster, how would people living in, say, the Cabrini Green housing projects deal with the high price and poor selection of fresh vegetables in every single grocery store that they can reach by public transportation?

You mean that relatively new, YOOGE Dominick's on Division, the one a few blocks from Cabrini, has no produce? Damn.
posted by alou73 at 2:09 PM on July 19, 2004


Fat people (myself included) will make any excuse to blame someone else for their own problems. In high school there was an obese family who always blamed their problems on a genetic glandular condition. The daughter however would bring a full size grocery bag in for lunch filled with muliple sandwhiches, half a dozen bags of chips and pretzels, dessert cakes, sodas, the works. (salivary gland joke goes here)

If you're 5' 7'' ~300 pounds you had to eat enough food to get youself there. If you're saying you never strayed from your low cal diet, you're lying. Conservation of energy/mass requires it.

No matter how few calories I eat or how many hours a day I exercise, I will be fat.

There are physcial laws which govern the universe and you are not exempt.
posted by uftheory at 2:13 PM on July 19, 2004


Do you think that some people hate fat people because there's an unconscious primal instinct that tells them that person will require more resources of the tribe, and can't pull their weight/slow them down?

I'm not trying to be ridiculous, just grasping at why fat people anger some skinny people so.
posted by agregoli at 2:26 PM on July 19, 2004


It was awful, the contrast between the health-food eating, well exercised, sex-symbol Hollywood actresses on the screen and the women watching the movie who had become convinced they could never look so good (or slim, anyway) or even remotely close to that standard and who were shuffling around with their packages of crappy food and glumly eating it as (what I saw to be) a psychological coping mechanism that only made things worse.

and sharing a pitcher of beer, BTW
Dude, when can we start our act...mind readers? Seriously, your words read you can read minds. How do you know what people are actually thinking? The better the movie, the more I will eat while viewing it. One’s body language may read as an educated guess but they are not always true like when making assumptions. I notice you were drinking, was the alcohol giving that superior power one receives when the alcohol high kicks in? Making you notice the lowliness of your fellow movie patrons. Be careful pointing out what you don't truly know because you are making assumptions here. I notice those you describe don’t need their minds to be read – they tell the world out loud with their bantering loud talk after the movie. {you’re highly knowledgeable & pick up on things quickly; just be careful when assuming because it will ruin the credibility of your words ;) }YMMV
posted by thomcatspike at 2:27 PM on July 19, 2004


But don't assume that everyone agrees with the premise that being fat will kill you.

I sure don't.


How many obese 75-year-olds you seen around lately?

a lot of southerners allow their anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism to get in the way of common sense

Hear, hear. And on more issues than merely this one.

I dread the reappearance of this topic on MeFi because it forces me to be confronted with...blah, blah, blah, pointless personal attack.

Of course, in reality none of you who seem to be able to handle the honest and open exchange of opinion are forced to be confronted with anything. If you find these threads distasteful, by all means, skip them!
posted by rushmc at 2:32 PM on July 19, 2004


well exercised, sex-symbol Hollywood actresses on the screen
Not all, but the majority are under weight. The camera adds about 10 pounds to the person's Body parts, not the whole body itself. Notice how much room they have while sitting in the seat of a sports car.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:33 PM on July 19, 2004


i did read an article in the nytimes a while back about some doctors who had found that people's internal calorie counter was set to keep their bodies at a given weight. and that for some people that given weight was one that could be considered obese. the doctors believed it had something to do with primeval foodseeking in the time of plenty to survive the time of scarcity. we're always in the time of plenty.

joanarkham (hi, by the way, you may or may not remember me from roxy list): i also wonder where the hate on this issue comes from, too, and i always come back to fear. i had an anorexic girl friend in college (we hospitalized her twice one year) who simply could not be in the same room with another friend of mine who was obese to the point where it did cause him health problems. she hated him because he represented a terrifying lack of control to her. see, someone who wrecks a motorcycle while not wearing a helmet was exerting control (he was bucking the Man who told him to wear a helmet), so we may laugh at him, but we don't fear him or hate him. but for whatever reason, culturally, we have defined the obese as out-of-control. which makes people fear them or have no respect for them. which makes people vitriolic.

i see the same thing when i smoke around my coworkers. and it seems to be a fear/hate disrespect/hate that comes form believing i have no self-control. it starts as derision and quickly becomes something else. (but it makes me--who smokes fewer than three cigarettes in an average month--just want to chainsmoke around them)
posted by crush-onastick at 2:34 PM on July 19, 2004


I never understood that - how the heck can a camera add 10 pounds?
posted by agregoli at 2:36 PM on July 19, 2004


> I dread the reappearance of this topic on MeFi because it
> forces me to be confronted with the fact that some of you - people
> I normally enjoy reading and "hanging out" here with - are, in fact,
> loathsome judgmental little turds.

Speaking as a loathsome, judgemental little turd, I just want to note that being locked out of the blue from 8 to 5 by my company's netnanny does a wonderful job of preventing my making an obtrusive ass of myself in threads like this.
posted by jfuller at 2:42 PM on July 19, 2004


There's a little too much "blaming the food industry" for my liking. The fact is that food products that are non-nutritious, high in saturated fat, high in cholesterol, high in sodium, etc. can be, and are, enjoyed by thousands of healthy people in moderation. The argument about blaming the food industry is, for me, the same as blaming hollywood or music for acts of violence or other societal problems. Just like you could censor the shit out of everything, you could legislate an end to junk food, or legislate McDonald's out of business. But under the guise of trying to help those that aren't able to resist their wily charms, you've deprived those of us that enjoy junk food in moderation. That's not what a free society does. "You may no longer eat donuts. Although they never did you any harm, some people eat three a day, so our solution is to take them from everyone."
posted by pardonyou? at 2:45 PM on July 19, 2004


No matter how few calories I eat or how many hours a day I exercise, I will be fat.

As uftheory suggests, that is simply not a true statement. The following is unassailable:
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)
I'll happily grant you that the left side of that equation is subject to a host of variables, including genetic and metabolic factors, and no two people are alike. However, it is always possible to consume fewer calories than your body uses in a day, even if you're completely sedentary. It might not be pleasant (and could even be harmful), but it is possible.
posted by pardonyou? at 3:00 PM on July 19, 2004


callmejay: You seem to want to blame the fat people, but I would read the very statistics you cite as pointing towards a societal problem.

Oh. So society is to blame for people deciding to overeat, underexercise, and particularly to eat processed crap foods like white bread, instant chocolate puddings, potato chips, TV dinners -- a decision no doubt greatly assisted by the near-complete lack of fresh vegetables and whole grains in the grocery store.

Gotcha. Personal choice is not a factor. Blame society.

crush: I see the same thing when i smoke around my coworkers. and it seems to be a fear/hate disrespect/hate that comes form believing i have no self-control

I promise you, if you see hatred radiating from me when you smoke around me, it has absolfuckinglutely nothing to do with your lack of self-control, but the fact that you're poisoning my environment with the stinking, irritating, clothes-permeating, nauseating stench of your habit. Keep that shit away from me.

Metafilter: Your snack food nether region.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:16 PM on July 19, 2004


they could never look so good (or slim, anyway)

I look so much better now than when I weighed thirty pounds less, and I get more action too. Probably has something to do with not being a weight-obsessed cokehead anymore . . .

You know what makes people really hot? Weighing as much as they ought to weigh and being happy with it.

You know what makes them ugly? Assuming asinine things about non-skinny people eating popcorn at the theater.
posted by dame at 3:16 PM on July 19, 2004


Over the past twenty years the number of "obese" in the USA has doubled.

Over the past decade, the number of overweight children has nearly tripled.


Both categories ("obese" and "overweight") were redefined during that period of time.

There are also some significant questions about where these numbers come from, and how accurate they are.

Yes, most people in the US need to eat better and exercise more. However, treating them like lepers or idiots isn't going to accomplish that change.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:23 PM on July 19, 2004


I never understood that - how the heck can a camera add 10 pounds?

accckkkk, I did not describe that too well. Basically look how proportionally normal in size an actress/actor looks on film then add the comment I made for their size in a sports car. Only a thin person would have room. I'm 5’7 and because I’m structurally slim with longer than short body parts - I look under weight & smaller in person than a comparison of myself in a photograph with people.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:24 PM on July 19, 2004


How many obese 75-year-olds you seen around lately?
By physical looks today, most. Marilyn Monroe here would be considered fat by some today.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:39 PM on July 19, 2004


I DO have a problem with any person who knowingly and willingly (and my tax dollars in the health system) becomes obese under their own will. I also have issues with smokers, and drunk drivers, and people who don't excercise but are skinny.

Bit of a sanctimonious prick, then, aren't you?
posted by IshmaelGraves at 3:51 PM on July 19, 2004


You're all mad.

Americans are fat, the British are fat, Canadians are fat & the Australians are also heading down that jolly road of huge wobbling arses and diabetes. The facts are pretty clear on this, and study after study has shown that the west faces an obesity related health crisis.

I'm unconvinced about arguments about health costs because I think what it'll cost our society to look after fat people will be balanced by the fact that we'll die earlier anyway.

Why are we fat? For me it's because I'm a lazy-arse who eats and drinks too much and does too little excercise. This is my issue though. There are also people who suffer weight problems because of genetics and illnesses and all sorts of other issues. Don't give me that calories in vs calories out bullshit either, because although you're right, it's actually a bit more complicated than that.

For a lot of other people, I sort of blame the culture of fear we're currently made to live in. I suppose the cliched example is of the worried parent driving her under-active child the half a mile to school because of the traffic and the muggers and the paedophiles.

Finally, After this article on slashdot I'm trying to start my new Dance, Dance Revolution fitness program.
posted by seanyboy at 4:08 PM on July 19, 2004


When I was a kid, parents did not let their little darlings eat whenever they wanted. We were told to wait for mealtime. If we wanted something to drink, it was water, not Koolaid, not juice. If we were allowed a soda at all it was ONE, and that one was no more than 1o or 12 ounces, I think. Most moms did not work outside the home, and fast food was a rare treat.

Now, we all seem to eat all the time. This is politically incorrect as heck, and I have been a working mom before, so don't yell at me, but I would love to know if there is a statistical correllation between women going into the workforce and obesity.
posted by konolia at 4:23 PM on July 19, 2004


Oh-I forgot to add that restaurants never used to give drink refills. You got ONE pepsi or coke or whatever, and if you wanted another you PAID for it. And the servings were not very big.
posted by konolia at 4:24 PM on July 19, 2004


You got ONE pepsi or coke or whatever, and if you wanted another you PAID for it

In a lot of places in NYC, you have to pay for the extra refill.

And considering I know how much a refill costs, it pisses the hell out of me that they charge you extra. I tend not to visit those places again.
posted by Stynxno at 4:50 PM on July 19, 2004


How many obese 75-year-olds you seen around lately?

There are apparently enough old fat people that Medicare just classified obesity as a disease so that they can have themselves mutilated gastric bypass on the taxpayer dime. That would cover all the older members of my father's side of my family; the women live into their late 80s or early 90s and are fat. I take after that side of the family.

We start life fat (I was fat at age 3, on my first doctor ordered calorie-restrictive diet at age 6) and we die old and fat and yet, free of the diseases that all fat people are doomed to get -- according to the conventional wisdom -- somehow meaning that we're the odd fat people who aren't crippling the economy and burdening to all those who must come near our gross, oversized bodies.

As for the eat less+move more=weight loss theory, nice in theory, but not universally true in practice. Due to a combination of illnesses (which make me fat, not vice versa) and a botched surgery, I've only been able to eat an average of 1,200 calories a day for the last seven months. That should have translated into a significant weight loss, especially at my weight and activity level, yet I haven't lost more than perhaps five pounds in that time. It's not a simple matter of a glib little soundbyte math equation for everyone, and it would do many of you a lot of good to understand that.
posted by Dreama at 4:55 PM on July 19, 2004


These distinctions being made between the "general fat population" and the Mefites that you don't want to offend reminds me of white people who enjoy making distinctions between "black people" and "niggers." I'm yet another Mefi-er who is not part of the "fat population" some people think exists - yet is still, by all accounts, fat.

I'm six feet tall. I weigh about 250 pounds. I'm generally considered pretty (my pictures are on my livejournal, at www.livejournal.com/~futuregirl, for anyone who would like to contest this statement) in spite of the fact that I wear a size 20 tall.

I typically walk a mile a day or more. This doesn't make me exhausted or out of breath, even in the Las Vegas heat, though I have to avoid running due to exercise-induced migraines that I've had since I was six. I can swim a mile without being especially tired. I cook yummy, healthful things from scratch. But I noticed the same things as one of the posters did above - if people see me at a fast food restaurant, they assume things about me that aren't remotely true.

I remember back to high school - when I weighed 50 pounds more than I do now - and every ugly, mean comment people made about my weight when I went out made me want to just stay inside, to just retreat from the world and not even bother to try to get thinner.

When you look at fat people as if they're all consciously trying to get in your way, and as if they're all in the process of gaining weight, not losing it, you contribute to the obesity problem. How easy do you think it is for a fat person to put on an outfit to run in, and then go run while you stare at them and wish they were dead? How easy do you think it is for them to go to a health club full of thinner people who watch them and giggle when they have respiratory problems? Even people in the "general fat population" are often trying to lose weight, and instead of trying to be compassionate about it, you make them lose their will to be healthy. Well played.
posted by u.n. owen at 4:55 PM on July 19, 2004


"I never understood that - how the heck can a camera add 10 pounds?"

Because a camera photographs in two dimensions, "flattening out" the three dimensional perspective that allows us to see depth in a person's body shape.

I used to interview movie stars all the time as a newspaper entertainment reporter and I'm here to tell you that in real life, most young, "sexy" actresses are scary thin to compensate for the "weight" the camera adds. I remember doing a press junket for The Mask in which Cameron Diaz walked into the room, and my first impulse was to offer her a muffin. It's vaguely off-putting, to be honest.

I'm a firm believer in that there is a pretty wide range of healthy body sizes, since among other things I know a fair number of large people who also quite active and healthy. Having said that, I also believe the majority of people I know who are large are also living unhealthy lifestyles and are therefore larger than they should be; they're not pathologically fat or glandular or food-obsessed; they just won't be bothered to become more healthy.

I look at these folks the same way I look at people my age who smoke, which is to accept that whatever other good qualities they have, they've also got a mild self-destructive streak. That's their karma to deal with. When they try to become more healthy, I offer encouragement; when they slack off, I don't get in their face about it, since it's usually not my responsibility to do so, and anyway there are so many other things to talk about that are more interesting.

I have a kid so I make the effort to eat well and be reasonably active not just for myself but to set a good early example for her. I'm also not going to keep her from an ice cream now and then, because ice cream is good. I would be just as opposed to her being Cameron Diaz thin as I would be to her being too heavy. I want her to have a healthy body and as few self-image issues as possible.
posted by jscalzi at 4:56 PM on July 19, 2004


I remember doing a press junket for The Mask in which Cameron Diaz walked into the room, and my first impulse was to offer her a muffin.

that would be my first impulse too.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:10 PM on July 19, 2004


"So why is it any of your business if someone is overweight?"

Because in the next five years it is going to become the most expensive preventable condition to burden our public health system. Everyone needs healthcare and I am willing to do my part to pay for it (even a bit more than my part as I am priveledged in ways many in society are not). Universal health care would be significantly cheaper if obesity was curtailed as well as smoking and alcohol abuse.
posted by jmgorman at 5:14 PM on July 19, 2004


Yours would have a different flavour tho', Sarge, eh?
posted by dash_slot- at 5:20 PM on July 19, 2004


My theory is that some of the MeFi Thinifers believe that they are thin by dint of self-discipline, effort, and other secondary virtues. Therefore they feel affronted by people whose very appearance proclaims (apparently) that Thinifer restraint doesn't matter. Only this can explain the determination to discount reasonable explanations with cheap shots and slogans.

I believe I am in great shape, but I don't feel the need to slag off other people so I can feel good about it.

Perhaps some of the vocal fatty haters are actually unhappy with themselves? I sense a lot of projection in the insults.

unowen: I am always impressed when someone out of shape enters the weight room and I try to send them nice mental vibrations. I refrain from saying "good for you!" for fear of sounding patronising, and I think giggling onlookers should be sat on until they learn some manners.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:37 PM on July 19, 2004


Because in the next five years it is going to become the most expensive preventable condition to burden our public health system. Everyone needs healthcare and I am willing to do my part to pay for it (even a bit more than my part as I am priveledged in ways many in society are not). Universal health care would be significantly cheaper if obesity was curtailed as well as smoking and alcohol abuse.

Maybe that's a problem with universal health care?

I don't see how this is any different from any other sort of taxation - there will be some who benefit more than others, even if everyone pays the same amount. I bought a house near my job - why should I pay for roads?
posted by me & my monkey at 6:00 PM on July 19, 2004


Marilyn Monroe here would be considered fat by some today.

BZZZ, try again. She didn't make it to 75.
posted by rushmc at 6:04 PM on July 19, 2004


FYI, for those who don't read MetaTalk:

The appropriateness of the following comment has been questioned and the site owner has let it be known that this sort of hateful personal attack is welcome here. So rejoice and let rip the foulest verbal assaults of which you are capable, now and forever more!

Mathowie approved discourse: FUCK YOU AND THE SKINNY LITTLE PONY YOU RODE IN, YOU PATHETIC, HEARTLESS SACK OF SHIT. I can only hope you end up with a long, pain-filled life of diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and pregnancy issues, because unlike me, anastasia, eliatan and doubtless hundreds or thousands of other MeFites, with your attitude about others and their problems, you deserve to suffer. --posted by JollyWanker at 1:24 PM PST on July 19

posted by rushmc at 6:09 PM on July 19, 2004


Universal health care would be significantly cheaper if obesity was curtailed as well as smoking and alcohol abuse.

My car insurance would be significantly cheaper if speeding was curtailed, as well as road rage, drunk driving, cell phones, etc.

For my part, I'm going to go buy a pack of cigarettes now, drive home with my top down (ingesting smog) and stop at MickeyD's for a twenty-piece McNuggets, 'cause at this point living life is better than fretting over either what will come of it or some inane fucker telling me how my lifestyle somehow offends them.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 6:15 PM on July 19, 2004


Not all, but the majority are under weight.

Tell me about it. During my glancing encounters with quite a few Hollywood types back in my Cali days, they look emaciated in person. They're no better than the people in the audience if you ask me, and yet we hold them up as models of perfection. The worst I personally experienced was Heather Locklear. Her legs were the size of my arms. And I've got skinny arms. And she's about a foot shorter than me. I wanted to hug her, but was afraid she'd just shatter. So she hugged me instead.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is Jewel Staite from the late lamented Firefly. She was asked to gain 20 pounds for the show, and was the more adorable for it.
posted by WolfDaddy at 6:32 PM on July 19, 2004


I never suggested that she was, login. Take it up with tomcatspike.
posted by rushmc at 6:47 PM on July 19, 2004


There's some controversy about what Marilyn Monroe's dress size really was.
posted by GaelFC at 6:48 PM on July 19, 2004


hey, rushmc, i skimmed the metatalk thread in question and didn't see a "i heartily endorse the event and/or product" from matt. has it occurred to you, that, unlike you, matt might have better things to do besides hang out on the blue and grey 24/7?
posted by keswick at 6:50 PM on July 19, 2004


> Mathowie approved discourse: FUCK YOU AND THE SKINNY LITTLE PONY
> YOU RODE IN, YOU PATHETIC, HEARTLESS SACK OF SHIT.

I don't find any mention of this in the meta thread except someone complaining about it. Of course it is still here, while the "loathsome, judgemental little turd" business is gone, together with all the comments that quoted it. Strange, but do you necessarily see the Hand of Matt in this? Maybe the l.j.l.t. just got quantum-entangled with something it shouldn't have and sucked into the purple dimension. I don't think I would hang out near the heartless sack of shit much, either, for fear of catching some blowback when and if the lightning does strike.
posted by jfuller at 6:58 PM on July 19, 2004


The relevant Meta thread was deleted, keswick and jfuller. Seems clear enough.
posted by rushmc at 7:04 PM on July 19, 2004




Originally printed in Resurgence Magazine, Issue no 224, May/June 2004
posted by troutfishing at 7:16 PM on July 19, 2004


I'm not saying that the american obsession with weight is a healthy one

I've been fascinated by this lately. When I was living in North America there was a great reaction to all the images of idillic figures represented in advertising. There was an amazing obsession with dieting and looking slim. And yet whenever I return home from Asia I am struck by just how big everyone is.

It's like people want to be unhappy and unhealthy. On the one hand they can't stop eating at unhealthy levels and on the other they keep punishing themselves for looking fat. You either destroy your body by eating too many Big Mac's and snicker bars or destroy your body by extreme dieting and the binge eating that always follows.

Is this a society bent on being unhappy?
posted by cmacleod at 7:21 PM on July 19, 2004


It's a Puritan thing.
posted by keswick at 7:24 PM on July 19, 2004


u.n. owen: Hubba!

Obesity: I have several friends who were "large". One became vegetarian (although she does eat meat as a sample from time to time, it's never the core of a meal) and began an aggresive daily exercise program. It took her two months to see any noticeable change. Since then, she's cycled through wardrobes with a startling regularity until she's down to a body she's happy with. Now she exercises simply to control her weight, which she knows will get out of hand if she doesn't. Exercise is the key, and it takes time. No miracle diet or shortcut will do it.

Why was she so obese in the first place? The only things she was given to eat by her developmentally disabled mom fell into the 'fast food' or 'junk food' category. Only by completely swearing junk food and fast food (including meat) off could she get out of the mould her childhood had created for her.

There's no excuse for the culture of acceptance that our society has developed in regards to obesity, and our culture of 'not my fault' for whatever reason. I don't care whose fault it is. It's a problem, and you have to either fix it or accept the consequences. On the other hand, our culture's definition of overweight is -wrong-, as u.n. owen and Marilyn Monroe so nicely prove.

In the end, it's a person's choice. But I won't date someone who's a lot heavier than I am -- it's not fun for me. I've been called a pig, a bastard, and several things worse than that, and I've lost a friend because I wouldn't date her friend... who was very overweight, even though she was a great person. There's a consequence for every choice -- if it's too hard to be skinny, be prepared for disapproval from others and health problems later in life.
posted by SpecialK at 7:35 PM on July 19, 2004


u.n. owen: Hubba!

I'll second that! yowzah!

oh...um...back on topic....ummm...


i forgot.
posted by Stynxno at 7:53 PM on July 19, 2004


One-quarter of America's food intake is junk food.

How's it again that personal choices don't weigh into this epidemic?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:55 PM on July 19, 2004


Most moms did not work outside the home, and fast food was a rare treat.

geez, how long ago were you a kid konolia...? i was a kid in the 60's & 70's and all my friend's moms worked outside the home - so did my step mom, and none of us ate junk. snacks were always things like apples, raisins, and nuts. rarely did we drink pop (soda), chocolate bars and chips were a seriously rare occurrence. 3 times a week dinner was made by myself or one of my 2 step brothers - we were taught what good food was, and how to cook it - this benefited both her rightful desire to have a life outside the home, and our transition into healthy, responsible adulthood. the one thing that stands out to me is that advertising wasn't so in-your-face prevalent back then, but nowadays it's akin to being constantly screamed at to eat! drink! consume!

Perhaps some of the vocal fatty haters are actually unhappy with themselves? I sense a lot of projection in the insults.

bingo...! i could cite a few recent threads where some of the fat bashers detailed some rather serious personal issues that would support your theory.

There's some controversy about what Marilyn Monroe's dress size really was.

it's pretty obvious marilyn's dress size changed quite a bit thru' the course of her career. sometimes she was pretty thin especially just before her death (the misfits, something's got to give), other times (some like it hot) she was fairly zaftig.

During my glancing encounters with quite a few Hollywood types back in my Cali days, they look emaciated in person.

it can be really startling to see how unnaturally thin some of these actresses, and even actors, can be. i was seated next to meg ryan at a toronto industry dinner a few years back and was fairly disturbed by her skeletal appearance. we didn't see her take a single bit of food either, she just pushed her food around the plate, making clinking sounds with her cutlery occasionally - the way background extras do it in movie scenes.
posted by t r a c y at 8:06 PM on July 19, 2004


Well, FFF, one might posit that the immediate saving in time and money of buying junk food, combined with the pleasure provided, outweigh (you should pardon the phrase) the small incremental cost in health. Each individual decision works out just fine for the average monkey brain, it is only the cumulative consequences that are a problem.

Now while I agree that people ought to be better than they are, human nature makes it inevitable that most people will take the short-term convenient route. (and of course we'll park the issue of the metabolically atypical).

Sometimes it's worth formulating aggregate individual choices as a public policy problem.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:28 PM on July 19, 2004


i was a kid in the 60's & 70's and all my friend's moms worked outside the home ...
Me too, but we ate and drank all sorts of shit and junk food every day, all day long, from Sugar Smacks and Sugar Frosted Flakes for breakfast to Hostess cupcakes at lunch to cookies and milk after dinner (we learned to cook too, tho), but i think we were more active (due to no cable/videogames/etc)--or--it's the corn syrup thing (we might have been eating and drinking stuff that was made with real sugar rather than what there is now).

and konolia's not that old--only a few years older than us i think ; >

And the average woman in the US is a 12 or a 14 (altho you wouldn't know it from the media).
posted by amberglow at 8:51 PM on July 19, 2004


Overall, 69 percent of women in the survey had hips greater than 40 inches, "so that puts them up into size 12, 14 rather than size 8," says Lovejoy.--on vanity sizing and other stuff, from CSM: That size 8 dress may soon be a 12
posted by amberglow at 9:00 PM on July 19, 2004


I ate a lot of crap too - but my mother cooked some decent food too, like tuna casserole surprise and "goulash" with hamburger and "hamburger helper". She was a "health nut", so I ate vegetables too, like boiled broccoli.

My siblings and I drank so much frikkin' milk it's a wonder we didn't develop udders, and I'd sometimes eat a half of a stick of butter in one sitting, scooping it up with mini shredded wheats.

Not so much sugar though.
posted by troutfishing at 9:05 PM on July 19, 2004


"the Bushmen of the Kalihari, after stalking a giraffe for days without eating would then gorge on the kill, to the extent that to sleep, they'd have to dig holes in the ground into which they'd flop their ballooned stomachs in order lie down."
posted by troutfishing at 9:07 PM on July 19, 2004


yah we were definitely more active - we were only indoors when forced to be during summer vacation, staying out 'til curfew and not a moment sooner, all worn out from a full day of serious playing. in a single day we'd play badminton, ride our bikes, go swimming, build forts, and any other number of activities, plus i had ballet & tap classes. lord, what i wouldn't do for that sort of energy nowadays...!
posted by t r a c y at 9:10 PM on July 19, 2004


human nature makes it inevitable that most people will take the short-term convenient route

Nonsense. Some people will, some people won't. Education can help skew the numbers.
posted by rushmc at 9:18 PM on July 19, 2004


Because in the next five years it is going to become the most expensive preventable condition to burden our public health system. Everyone needs healthcare and I am willing to do my part to pay for it (even a bit more than my part as I am priveledged in ways many in society are not). Universal health care would be significantly cheaper if obesity was curtailed as well as smoking and alcohol abuse.

So here's a thought: how 'bout you leave me the fuck out of your universal healthcare and in return you stay the fuck out of my life? Huh? See how easy that was? You win, I win, we all win, it's a win-fucking-win situation, everybody's happy, thread's over.

NEXT UP ON MEFI'S GREATEST HITS: Kitten Killers: Sadistic psychopaths or preservers of neighborhood decorum? FOLLOWED BY: Smoking Bans: Flagrant violation of our God-given rights or long-overdue crackdown on dangerous addicts? AND ALSO: SUVs: Menace to society or utilitarian conveyance? ALL THIS AND MORE coming up next on THE MATT HAUGHEY SHOW with special guests the Neo-Puritans! Stay tuned!
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:52 PM on July 19, 2004


I'm reminded of a CS Lewis book I read called Mere Christianity. In it, he was attempting to explain why he thinks our society's sex drive has gone mad (he was writing in 1940s Britain, btw). He compared it to food. I don't have the book here, but paraphrasing:

"What would it be like if we ate and ate and wouldn't stop eating? What would we say if there were a society where men would pay money and go into clubs late at night to see a cloth being slowly removed from a juicy fresh steak; where people drooled over pictures of food. We would say that something has gone terribly wrong with the food appetite of people in that society. Thankfully, [ho ho ho] this will never happen. We all stop eating when we're full. We might eat a little too much..."

Now I'm on holidays in the US South, and there are huge pictures of burgers on billboards by the roadside, on the TV Homer is drooling over a TV ad for a burger and there are some of the largest people I've ever seen in my life.

To be honest, if I lived here, I think I would be too. The level of convience is astounding. Nobody appears to go outside at all, ever, except from air conditioned car to air conditioned building. You can pull up at fast food joints and the food whizzes out. *There are no sidewalks anywhere*.

I'd be huge if I lived here. Ice cream once a week, popcorn at the movies, fast food on the way home, man, there's food everywhere and it feels like the society's set up to make it as easy as humanly possible for people to continually graze graze graze. It's eye opening.
posted by bonaldi at 10:10 PM on July 19, 2004


Over the past twenty years the number of "obese" in the USA has doubled. Any of you healthy fat people want to explain that? Are you going to claim that those must be healthy fat people, or will you admit that most of these people are probably quite unhealthy?

Hey, I'm the first to say that there are a lot of people out there making unwise choices. But lets also look at some other things ... like the enormous number of prescription meds that Americans take for all sorts of things (my boyfriend was recently offered a pill to cure toenail fungus which cost something like $500 a year and had 'possible kidney or liver damage' listed among the side effects), many of which list 'weight gain' as a known side effect. All I'm saying is that there are a million stories out there, and you can't presume to know the details of all, or even most of them.

Come with me to the very scary 'Future Foods' food mart in rural Hebron Maine where I had to buy a few groceries for this past weekend's camping trip -- its the only place to buy groceries for about 15 miles in any direction, and the entire veggie selection was four kinds of lettuce, some sad little onions, and some very scary carrots. On the other hand, the chip section was a full twelve feet long, and the wine section took up an entire isle. What are the choices available to people (especially low income people) in this community (and hundreds of others like it across the US).

FFF, I can feel how badly you want this to be a personal responsibility problem. I really do. But the fact is that it is a social problem that needs to be addressed through engineered social change.

No matter how few calories I eat or how many hours a day I exercise, I will be fat.

All I can tell you its that its true for me. During my recent unemployment I actually spent four to five days a week in the gym doing cardio, weights, a very well-rounded fitness routine, and ended up gaining 17 lbs (which I could ill afford to add). Once I stopped going to the gym the weight slowly but surely dropped off until I got back to the weight I've been at for six or seven years now (as described above). I can't explain it, my doctor can't explain it, and my fitness trainer certainly couldn't explain it, but the fact was the fact, all the same.

Yes, I'm sure that if I was actually reduced to nothing but carrots and water for a month or so I'd lose another ten pounds or so, but that much unhappiness and deprivation isn't worth it to me. I'd much rather stay with my balanced diet (I'll be happy to mail you one of my food diaries if you'd like to see it in writing) and be happy and loved than be hurting myself in order to lose 15 or so lbs that will come right back the moment I go up to 2000 calories a day again.
posted by anastasiav at 10:24 PM on July 19, 2004


Not sure about you guys in the US, but here in Canada, our subsidized health care system provides electric "carts" for many obese people.

Are you sure it is due to obesity? I'm fat and disabled. I use a wheelchair or cane to get around. My fat has nothing to do with my disability. I have a hereditary disease that caused my disability.

I do use electric carts when I'm shopping as it makes it easier on my husband and me. Could it be these people are disabled and fat? That the carts have nothing to do with their weight?
posted by SuzySmith at 11:17 PM on July 19, 2004


These, I think, are the facts:
  • fastfood culture makes a society fatter.
  • when healthy foods are more expensive and/or less available than junk foods people will tend to become heavier and less healthy.
  • Lack of nutritional education results in poor food choices.
  • Even if none of the above came into play, there will be some people who will binge, usually because of emotional problems.
  • Not every body is the same; some people burn fat much faster, others much more slowly, for a variety of reasons.
  • Some people have medical conditions that affect their weight.
I would be very surprised if any of you disagree with these points, and if I'm right, I don't see what the big argument is here. I'm particularly perplexed by those of you who seem to be in attack mode.

For what it's worth, I've been seeing firsthand how fast food culture affects a society. When I first moved to Greece, about 10 years ago, there were almost no fast food restaurants, and it was extremely rare to see overweight people of middle age and under. I don't recall seeing any overweight children. Now, where I am, there are fast food outlets of some type on nearly every other corner, and it's quite shocking to see the increase in overweight people generally, and most particularly the children. I do not believe that the Greeks have normally had very healthy body weights because they have exercised strict personal discipline, and I do not believe that obesity is on the rise here because they have suddenly become wanton gluttons. I believe that the change is due to the introduction of a dietary paradigm that has saturated the U.S. for 30+ years.
posted by taz at 1:05 AM on July 20, 2004


I'm not sure I agree with the equation that eating leads to fatness quid pro quo. Nor that eating healthy foods leads to thinness.

At the age of 30, my body weight changed from 125 lbs (I'm 6') to 220 lbs (no change in height) over 2 years. During that time, I did not change my diet significantly (i.e. I still ate pasta at about the same frequency, meats, eggs, snack foods, etc.), but I did start eating a more healthy and less processed diet (less junk food, less processed food - I stopped shopping at Safeway [a fairly average, conventional U.S. grocery/supermarket] and started shopping at natural foods coops (Harvest Co-op in Boston, Roots natural market in Clarksville, MD and Whole Foods in Baltimore, MD).

Also in the meantime, my physical activity has increased. I have a membership at a gym and exercise (walking a mile or two on a treadmill in 20 minutes, lifting weights [high reps, lower weights]) regularly (2-3 times a week).

By all the arguments I've heard, I should not have put the 100 pounds on between the ages of 30 and 32 (i'm 35 now, and my weight's still 220). I also am reading lots of arguments here that my increased activity should lead to my becoming thinner. What actually happened, as far as I could tell, was that I got stronger and more fit.
posted by kalessin at 5:27 AM on July 20, 2004


> Because in the next five years it is going to become
> the most expensive preventable condition to burden
> our public health system

What public health system? Where do you live? Where I live, you get the health care you contract for (via insurance) or you pay as you go (via public clinics, etc). Health care in the US is cash and carry.

If the so-called public health system would recognize obesity as a disease and prescribe preventative care, we could nip this thing in the bud, rather than waiting for it to be expensive.

But, health care investment or not, you've no right to tell other people how to live their lives. Feel free to start up your own insurance company and exclude coverage of obesity, if you like. I'm sure you can find some like-minded investors right here.

The whole problem with this debate, as I see it, is that it's not a black and white issue, however much extremists on either side would like to have it that way. Obesiety is obviously both a societal problem and a personal problem. Fixing it will require addressing both of those aspects, rather than trying to shift blame from one to the other.
posted by wheat at 7:29 AM on July 20, 2004


Third time I'll post this comment, as I'd really like someone to give some feedback on it, but so far no one has:

Do you think that some people hate fat people because there's an unconscious primal instinct that tells them that person will require more resources of the tribe, and can't pull their weight/slow them down?

I'm not trying to be ridiculous, just grasping at why fat people anger some skinny people so.
posted by agregoli at 7:33 AM on July 20, 2004


agregoli - maybe, but I'm suspicious of that notion. There is a genetic imperative behind the weight distribution curve - fat people survive longer during times of famine.

Taz - I mostly agree, with one observation : The best possible diet I can imagine is nearly the cheapest. Whole grains and beans, high quality oil, certain spices, and fresh/frozen vegetables. Together with a little (and that means a little!) cheese, fish or meat to augment the protein level. I'd add a few specialized items too - a few of the cheaper vitamin supplements and seawead.

This is a very cheap diet, I can assure you. Even when a lot of it is organic. You cook it all, every meal - processed food is expensive.

I think the real bottleneck is between people's ears. There's astounding ignorance about even basic nutritional facts, such as - too much sugar, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates are bad for human health and some say those things should be avoided almost altogether.

Most nutrititionists in the US agree on the first part of that assertion. Perhaps a minority on the second.

Ignorance about nutrition is not the fault of the public, really. Not when the food industry spends - quite literally - bilions of US dollars each year to convince Americans (and now people arpound the Globe) to buy food that is fairly toxic.

If I had an ad budget of 5-10 billion per year and a one to two decade time frame in which to do it, I bet I could have most Americans walking about on their hands and joining Satanic Cults in large numbers. Or - I bet I could have them walk away, en masse, from meat eating - to turn to tofu.

Or, I simply might teach them how to eat healthier food.

Health is not so difficult, I think : a simple diet - of unprocessed grains and legumes as the base, and large quantities of fresh vegetables - with an added small amount of high quality oil (olive, canola). Small amounts of nuts, for protein and fatty acids (walnuta, almonds, sunflower seeds, etc.). Small amounts of good quality meat, fish, cheese, or tofu/soy :

Eat low on the food chain, and exercise daily and/or do hard physical work. Or - at least - take long, vigorous walks.

Get fresh air and sunshine. Be outside for at least an hour or two a day.

Watch little - if any - TV.

Smile. Talk to neighbors, friends and family. Play. Be alive.

Speaking of which :

"Death told me this:
He razors off 11 days of your life for every MetaFilter minute.
On your deathbed, in a dream, he dangles them in front of you,
And offers to reimburse you, if you'll just click 'Accept'.
And when you do click 'Accept' (and everyone always does)
The screen flashes fire, turns black, and says
'Error 404: File Not Found'
In radioactive green
And big red smoochy lips appear
At low resolution
And draw your sunken face to the screen
For a final skinless kiss
Goodbye.

posted by Opus Dark at 1:14 AM PST on July 14 "

posted by troutfishing at 8:46 AM on July 20, 2004


Yes. Being healthy is a painful and difficult process for EVERYONE.

I think that sums up the problem right here. At some point our notion of health got wrapped up with our notion of religion to the point where the protestant work ethic (if it doesn't hurt, you are not suffering enough) got mixed in with the fitness craze (no pain, no gain.) In fact, if being healthy was a painful and difficult process, can it really be called health?

One-quarter of America's food intake is junk food.

How's it again that personal choices don't weigh into this epidemic?


There seems to be this misconception here that we can pin everything all on personal choice, or all on society. So of course personal choices do weigh in this epidemic, however there are some other issues as well. However, for some reason whenever this issue comes up, we have a chunk of people who sit on a high horse and pretend that diet and health is a nice, simple uncomplicated issue. Very little in public health is nice and simple.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:48 AM on July 20, 2004


I'd be huge if I lived here. Ice cream once a week, popcorn at the movies, fast food on the way home, man, there's food everywhere and it feels like the society's set up to make it as easy as humanly possible for people to continually graze graze graze. It's eye opening.

bonaldi pointed out some valid points to look at.

Marilyn Monroe here would be considered fat by some today.

BZZZ, try again. She didn't make it to 75.

The point I was trying to make, "how many people make it to 75"? Skinny people also die young. Marlon Brando dies at 80.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:50 AM on July 20, 2004


I probably should mention that the "Marilyn Monroe = fat" meme is utter bullshit. You can do the google.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:36 AM on July 20, 2004


RE: Marilyn Monroe's dress size

Thanks to vanity sizing, Marilyn Monroe's size 14 would be about a size 8 today. So if you are a size 14 now, you are not the same size as Marilyn Monroe. Sorry.
posted by jennyb at 10:54 AM on July 20, 2004


Marilyn Monroe's size 14
Thought it said her dress was a "16" in the above link. Then a size 16 would be a size 12 today - today<4 sizes not 6. em>So, what can we say with any certainty? We can at least establish a range of measurements for Marilyn Monroe based on the available sources:

Height: 5 feet, 5½ inches
Weight: 118-140 pounds
Bust: 35-37 inches
Waist: 22-23 inches
Hips: 35-36 inches
Bra size: 36D
posted by thomcatspike at 11:57 AM on July 20, 2004


"So, what...Bra size: 36D" should be italicized.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:00 PM on July 20, 2004


SuzySmith: It's possible that some of the "cart people" are disabled and fat, but what galls me is seeing someone roll up to the 7-Eleven, get up and go in and come out with a bag full of cigarettes and junk food. I've seen it more than once...

There are even skinny smokers (with oxygen masks!) who have been issued carts so they can get around (buy cigarettes). Sometimes I just think that public money should be spent a little more carefully.
posted by jmcnally at 12:17 PM on July 20, 2004


I probably should mention that the "Marilyn Monroe = fat" meme is utter bullshit. You can do the google.

No, you're wrong. Marilyn Monroe might not have worn today's size 14, as has been claimed, but if she was the equivalent of a current size 8 or even 6, she would indeed be considered fat. Look at all the crap Britney gets about being slightly curvy.
posted by transona5 at 12:23 PM on July 20, 2004


"Dude, when can we start our act...mind readers? Seriously, your words read you can read minds. How do you know what people are actually thinking? The better the movie, the more I will eat while viewing it. One’s body language may read as an educated guess but they are not always true like when making assumptions. I notice you were drinking, was the alcohol giving that superior power one receives when the alcohol high kicks in? Making you notice the lowliness of your fellow movie patrons. Be careful pointing out what you don't truly know because you are making assumptions here." - Well, we all have to make assumptions. All I really knew in that situation was 1) a lot of men and women - but many more women (I double checked my perceptions with my wife) going back and forth between their seats and the concession standard buying bad food - many of whom were carrying an extra 100 lbs. or more. I'm not specifically judging them as individuals or judging their food consumption, but I am noting that the sort of food you can get at my local beer 'n pizza 'n popcorn 'n burger cinema joint is not the healthiest fare or even good food for that matter. 2) Every woman in the movie was slim - some anorexic even - and, indeed, most women in Hollywood movies are slim to anorexic. 3) The overweight women were chosing to watch the movie while eating a lot - but, maybe, that was their dinner.

Everything else is conjecture on my art. I'm just making some basic, broad brush generalizations about human psychology which I don't think are that profound : 1) The vast bulk of US advertising and Hollywood filmage depicts a female ideal which is very dramatically skinnier than American women - even of comparable age - really are on average. Women are being told - through these media - that they are desirable when very skinny or - conversely - less desirable when fat. Indeed, I read of studies which determine that people (male and female, all ages) use body weight as one criteria in making basic value judgements about the character of others.

None of this is fair, it simply is, and it's partly do to advertising and Hollywood.

So here's my question to you : why would American women keep watching movies and paying attention to advertising that (at least) showcases women who look very different than they do ? My assumption is that it's a complicated affair and different for every woman, but I can't imagine this is - for most women - a happy situation.

I love to eat - and would have done so in the movie. I just can't eat that kind of food any more. It makes me feel sick.

"I notice you were drinking, was the alcohol giving that superior power one receives when the alcohol high kicks in?" - I actually added that detail to underscore the point that I'm not perfect. I have my vices. I should add too - drinking a lot of alcohol or eating, and overeating, to the point of being 100 pounds or more overweight is not all that different. Both are self destructive -the obesity is just more visible. We could, here, happen to be talking about smoking, drinking, whatever.

"Making you notice the lowliness of your fellow movie patrons." - that's your assumption about me. Also, the movie wasn't especially good.
posted by troutfishing at 12:28 PM on July 20, 2004


jennyb is right; 36 inch hips are about a US size 6-8 these days, although BananaRepublic.com says that's a size 2-4. What made Marilyn appear so shapely (in a very good way, mrrow!) was her high waist:hip ratio, which is a hard-wired biological cue for fertility, as are big boobies, and thus seen as desirable and sexy.

And for what it's worth, her weight fluctuated to the point where she had to be actually sewn into that "Happy Birthday" dress just before she went onstage.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:30 PM on July 20, 2004


More about the important waist:hip ratio, including an online calculator. Marilyn's ratio was about 0.61, which is considered about as desirable (from either a health or a hotness standpoint) as it's humanly possible to get. (Pear-shaped beats apple-shaped for heart disease risk factors, anything under about 0.8 for women is considered good, and as mentioned before it's a key indicator of fertility.) Presumably, someone like J.Lo or a post-TrimSpa Anna Nicole Smith would have a similar ratio.

In other words, it's not just whether you have some weight on you, it's also where the weight is.

For a personal datapoint, I'm 5' 9 1/2", weigh 165 lbs, and wear a size 12-14 in pants (8-10 in tops). So I'm decidedly average and could stand to lose about ten pounds relative to my height. But I stick by my claim that my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard because I also have a booty ratio of 0.69. Whee!
posted by Asparagirl at 12:53 PM on July 20, 2004


the snopes link said monroe's waist was 22 to 23 inches, so even if she had to wear larger than average hollywood starlet dress sizes to accommodate her bust and hips, it's not as if she would be considered fat by most women.

I agree with others who consider this as much a social problem as a personal responsibility thing. Yes, it is possible to live in a food-drenched culture where your job requires no physical exertion and most of your time, and still maintain a reasonable weight even when you're predisposed to pick up extra pounds easily. But it is much more difficult than living in a culture where you have to walk or ride a bike just to get your errands done, where you are served smaller portions, where the fresh produce is cheaper and more available than the chips and cokes...

It isn't a moral failing to gain weight, but I don't think the backlash movement is a good sign either - the, "I can't help it, don't be a bigot" reaction. As others have said, there are a minority of overweight people who really can't have control. But the vast majority of people have just adapted to a different level of expectation. Just look at what the guy in the link considered "dieting". In our current culture, a person can feel like they're being good on their diet because they have abstained from dessert, or because they spent 45 minutes exercising... Those aren't momentous achievements, and it's very possible to stay very fat "only" having dessert a few times a week, while exercising on a couple different evenings.

What it comes down to is getting used to what a healthy lifestyle feels like. Eating is partly for re-energizing, and partly for sensory pleasure. Gobbling down a gigantic slice of cake is sort of neither. We don't need cake for energy, and often when eating big desserts, we're not really appreciating the sensory pleasure, but just stuffing ourselves while staring at the tv... so it's certainly not a crime to enjoy a good dessert, but it should really be enjoyed, and it should really be good, and I think aside from weight concerns, there's something fundamentally unhealthy about our gobbling-up-everything culture... And there's an odd sort of double edged sword about it, too, in that we (americans) tend not to like fat people, but we also tend not to like dieters - the skinny woman who orders a salad is looked down on as some kind of puritan - classic virgin/whore dichotomy, I guess. The skinny woman who orders the double bacon cheeseburger wins in everyone's court, oftentimes, but then, she may be puking it up in the bathroom...

Anyway. Someone earlier said she is 100 lbs overweight but walks a lot and keeps her food intake under 2100 calories, so it's not her fault. This is another example of our changed expectations. That we consider some walking "exercise" and less than 2000 calories "dieting" is indicative of how our standards have changed collectively, I think. I have some frozen mexican tamale pies in my freezer which I recently noticed were only 150 calories - they are not diet food - I mean, they aren't labeled as diet food and I didn't buy them for health reasons (I think they're yummy) - but 2000 calories would mean I would eat over a dozen of those in one day, which just sounds like an enormous amount of food to me. I don't know what my normal meals come to in terms of calories (I usually use unpackaged produce so don't have the numbers) but I can't imagine I would have to really watch myself that closely to avoid going over 2100 calories. But I'm used to a style of eating that I think has fewer calories. (I dislike the taste of processed food, I'm a vegetarian - my only real unhealthy cravings are for croissants and scones and ice cream, but that's not everyday.) I guess my point is, we have to rehabituate ourselves culturally to be healthier people, and this isn't done by yelling at one another to lose weight, but by subsidizing healthier food, encouraging public transport and sidewalks, making exercise fun and /or useful again, etc.

wow, sorry about the length there...
posted by mdn at 1:05 PM on July 20, 2004


mdn: That we consider some walking "exercise" and less than 2000 calories "dieting" is indicative of how our standards have changed collectively...

I think this comment is symptomatic of what I consider to be part of the problem (that I commented on earlier.) Healthy diets must be unappealing, and exercise must be painful.

Walking actually is an extremely good exercise. 30 minutes walking in the aerobic zone (light enough to maintain casual conversation, hard enough that you can't sing) does a lot more than 15 minutes of breathless sprinting. Walking certainly is less prone to injury than running or cycling, less constly than swimming, and as effective as any of the above.

Perhaps much of our exercise problem comes from the demise of the nigtly stroll, spatzieren, the promenade. Rebecca Solint in her wonderful work Wanderlust: A History of Walking describes how car culture has resulted in the decline of the nightly stroll through the community town square, where rendezous were arranged, business deals sealed, and the news of the day exchanged. There is some evidence this is the case as people who drive cars tend to be fatter than people who use public transportation.

It fact, it seems that our obesity problem has risen hand in hand with the exercise movement. Both the idea of exercise as an organized discipline, and epidemic obesity seems to have sprung out of the industrial revolution.

And I would argue that a large part of the problem has to do with the whole germanic-protestant "gymnastics" approach to physical fitness. After years of getting into "exercise" activities that pushed, more, higher, faster and "go for the burn" I ended up with string after string of sports-related injuries.

John "The Penguin" Bingham has in my opinion the best approach. Move until you are out of breath, then stop. The next day move a bit further, then stop. But even that requires quite a bit of consistency.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:59 PM on July 20, 2004


One more comment for those complaining about shouldering the financial burden of the over-weight (via health insurance). Taking the good with the bad, you have to give over-eaters credit for keeping restaurants in business. If everyone switched to healthy eating tomorow, Pepsi Co would go out of business. In fact, no one has posted anything about just how big a part of the US economy (and its plethora of crappy, service-industry jobs) is driven by bad food and compulsion-driven eating...
posted by wheat at 3:23 PM on July 20, 2004


wheat - but, US consumers would still probably spend that money and, if they spent it on healthier foods, drink, and products the nation likely would wind up - in real terms - wealthier.

Productivity, for one thing, would likely go up.

(KirkJobSluder) "...Rebecca Solint in her wonderful work Wanderlust: A History of Walking describes how car culture has resulted in the decline of the nightly stroll through the community town square..."

I'm sure that is a factor. Also a factor - the rise of corn syrup as a food additive has just been proven to correlate with the early onset Type 2 Diabetes epidemic which - alao - tends to correlate with obesity.

Then, there's TV watching.....

Processed food, in general, and more highly refined white flour in particular, much more fat also, and the trend (maybe peaking ) to make everything taste delicious "buttery" with hydrogenated oils....

Many contributing factors.
____________________

Also - I'd add - it's highly unlikely that humans evolved eating regular meals. Far more likely, they endured sporadic fasting and constantly skipped meals.

Meaning - three squares, with tons 'o snacks in between, probably constitutes a huge dietary deviation for the species.

Not to worry though - in a few thousand more years, those more susceptible to the ills of that regimen will have been culled by early death, and the "3 square meal" genes will emerge dominant.
posted by troutfishing at 4:26 PM on July 20, 2004


Ice cream once a week

Dude! Here many people eat ice cream once or twice a DAY, not once a week!
posted by rushmc at 5:13 PM on July 20, 2004


I'm currently working at one of the largest dairy companies in the world, and there is a freezer full of cost-price icecreams-on-a-stick and an honesty box about two metres away from my desk. Some of my colleagues are averaging three a day. I'm holding the line at one every other day.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:22 PM on July 20, 2004


Walking actually is an extremely good exercise.

Yeah, I meant more in the sense of "I'm working to lose weight" - I think we're basically in agreement. Walking should just be a regular everyday part of life. In NYC, your average commuter could easily walk a mile a day without noticing - 5 blocks from home to subway, 5 blocks from subway to work, and then the same on the way back. But in a suburban environment, where the car takes you door to door, where's the chance for it? So then it becomes a "spend 10 minutes on the treadmill" thing, and people only do it here or there, not intertwined with the rest of their lives.

I imagine exercise completely for its own sake and cut off from any other goal or part of one's life could be a real bore. That's why people have to either work exercise into their daily routines (ie, ride a bike to work, etc) or find a type of exercise they personally enjoy (kids don't take aerobics classes for fun - but they take dance or karate or ice skating or baseball... something that can be a "hobby" not just a weight loss plan). And the same goes for eating - sticking with the same food but just cutting it to portions that your doctor allows won't make most people happy - we shouldn't be "on diets" but finding diets (habituating ourselves to healthy food intakes) that are satisying and good for us.
posted by mdn at 7:53 PM on July 20, 2004


joe's_spleen - you know, of course (I've read about Bushmen, you see) that the best way to eat those ice-creams on-a-stick is to eat so many at once that your stomach bulges out so much that - as you're falling asleep from all the ice cream bars - you have the inclination to dig a hole in the ground to let your distended belly flop into ?*

That's what the Bushmen of the Khalahari do - or used to do anyway (maybe they have Burger King access now) - when they kill a giraffe. They gorge, dig a hole for their bellies to flop into, go to sleep, and don't eat again for a while....until the next giraffe, probably.

*Of course, you can't dig a hole in a concrete office floor - I know.
posted by troutfishing at 7:53 PM on July 20, 2004


Heh.

I was fat for as long as I had memories. Both my parents are fat. I gained weight as a vegetarian, peaking at 300+ pounds after having not eaten meat for, oh, maybe 6 years.

Got sick of it. Remembered that at around 20 I promised myself I'd hit peak physical condition at 30. Around 26 I figured out that losing the weight probably should be the prep, not the finish line.

Lost the weight. All of it--all the excess fat, about 130-140 pounds.

I lost it on lots of bicycling (until a nasty wreck) and controlled and predictable food portions, including daily fast food (Subway, before that goofy carnivore Jared made himself known) and, get this, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese! Rockin'. And I added tons of salt my food for a long time, until I got sick of it.

I always always always enjoyed the things I ate. Switched if I got tired of something.

Ate two meals a day, consistently. No snacking, period. Water as the only beverage (can't stand diet sodas; they feel wrong). The oceans of water I consumed are probably the only reason I didn't petrify my gallbladder or kidneys.

Went to restaurants with friends and didn't eat. Had fun, talked to people. No biggie. Try it. (cheap, too! :)

And it didn't start as strict as it matured into being. I used to drink a big ol' lemonade with lunch, for example.

When I started I was determined to really go all the way, because I'd seen my mother go through several half-measure diets and I decided I wasn't going to suffer through that just to end still being chubby instead of fat. I never even weighed myself at the start, because I knew I was in for a looong haul and was more interested in finding the groove of the process that I could maintain without the wavering feedback of the scale.

Eventually, after losing maybe eighty pounds, I flipped a mental switch and began weighing myself daily, which I still do. Knowing with certainty that what I did worked, it was fascinating to watch how the sensitive doctor's scale I used daily would show so much noise in the readings despite the irrefutable progress being consistently made.

Eventually I hit my initial target BMI of 24.0, authoritatively within the healthy range, by definition no longer "overweight." My own assessment of my body's appearance led me to believe that further improvement was available, so I set a new goal, BMI 22.5, dead center on the healthy BMI range. Hit that, and stayed on course for 3 more pounds (which isn't much on 6'1") so that I would have a little bounce buffer for when I came off my regimen. In losing those last three, I found the weight threshold at which, in my eyes, losing weight stopped improving my appearance, which made me comfortable with the 22.5 BMI target that those 3 pounds put me just under.

I've kept that weight off for 4 or 5 years now. It took time to understand and accommodate how my body deals with food at a radically new level, but I always intended to give myself a range of around ten pounds to move around in, and moving back and forth in that range taught me a lot about how to take care of myself (which does not include eating crap like Mac and Cheese any more. Give a brother some fiber, will ya?).

I'm trim and strong (push ups and crunches consistently) and today weigh about 2.5 pounds over my BMI 22.5 point. Which is fine, because before long I'll push it back down below that point.

It was a long sustained effort. I was hungry for a year and a half. And it was totally worth it.

End notes:
I never set foot in a gym throughout the entire weght-loss process, nor since (despite being thoroghly trained on the theory and practice of modern weight training in college).
New research shows a striking corrolation between soda consumption and throat cancer. I shit you not!
And I snore waaay less than I used to, which might keep someone else happy, too.
posted by NortonDC at 9:29 PM on July 20, 2004


Hmmm. Not snacking.

That's a good idea that I should try. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to maintain my weight as I head towards the big 4-Oh.

Also, and I know this but don't seem to quite grasp the urgency of it, I need to get some freakin' exercise.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:42 PM on July 20, 2004


i wonder if someone figured out the cost of hate, intolerance, bigotry and contempt if there'd be anyone who'd get as angry here as they seem to be at fat people ... i wonder if they'd post here saying that it makes them sick to see that at the 7-11 ... i wonder if they'd worry about the future of a people who indulged themselves in such rancor

probably not
posted by pyramid termite at 5:42 AM on July 21, 2004


"Making you notice the lowliness of your fellow movie patrons." - that's your assumption about me.

Troutfishing that was my fuel when pointing you were making assumptions, I too was assuming. Your reply filled me in with your educated thoughts so now I know more. I’m a people watcher, bet we would have fun together, why the comment for the mind reader business. You did read what I had in “{“, left the closing one off.

So here's my question to you : why would American women keep watching movies and paying attention to advertising that (at least) showcases women who look very different than they do ? My assumption is that it's a complicated affair and different for every woman, but I can't imagine this is - for most women - a happy situation.

On thing to note about film making is the industries ways of drawing you into a film. Take the not so attractive female role that wins the handsome leading man at the film’s end - making it a happy story and you also becoming attracted to her and the actress playing it. The actress usually will be plain upon introduction then slowly evolve into a beauty queen. It's done slowly so your subconscious picks up on it. So as the movie progresses she becomes more attractive as the movie plays on thus sucking in the audience’s love factor for her. You ever see a film then after it say; Gee I never knew he or she could be so beautiful? This is the best I could come up at this time. Besides, a skinny person eating food sells better than a fat one. Yet look at the Ballpark Frank commercial that was a post recently. The actor in it is heavy. Thinks he was the side kick on the Jimmy Kimmel show and now has his own sitcom on fox(think that was the late night talk show he was on). Also he is doing iirc, 33 of them.

Food for thought - let me ask you. Why is Senator Edward’s wife on the heavy side when her husband is handsome & well fit. Yes I know she has young children and know many women that knocked that weight off by the time the child was a toddler. Also know many older women with 8+ kids who are thin. Basically I’m presuming she was slimmer when they first met. This answer may clue us both into the questions' answers. (this question was asked to me recently by a friend)
posted by thomcatspike at 7:39 AM on July 21, 2004


Well done, NortonDC! Willpower is truly the most powerful tool we have.
posted by rushmc at 8:11 AM on July 21, 2004


As usual, I have no idea what thomcatspike is getting at.
posted by agregoli at 8:59 AM on July 21, 2004


My congratulations to NortonDC too.

Thomcatspike - I've got it all figured out now! It's really simple : government controls on fast food advertising that targets kids, and probably government funding for nutrution education in schools. Then, people are forewarned and, if they want to eat junk food, that's their won personal responsibility.

That does leave health care out of it. I'm really not sure how I feel about that aspect of this. Anyway.......

The major cleavage in this whole thread, I think, just became clear to me.

On one hand - there are those who assert the importance of taking responsibilty for one's life. Now, that can be meant in a crude sense - the sense in which the individual is ultimately blamed for all personal outcomes and even body shape and size - or it can be meant, at least, in a much deeper and more expansive sense - as an imperative that all individuals should assume responsibility for their life situations regardless of the extent to which external forces impinge.

To fail to do so - regardless of the odds - is to be psychically enfeebled or crippled. Further, this assumption of responsibility can also mean that one fights against external impinging forces, to seek redress of injustice. So much the better.

So - on the one hand, a narrative about personal empowerment : a view from the micro-scale, the level at which we live our individual lives. And, on the other hand - from the macro scale -

Those who observe that large scale forces - whether they be historic, economic, financial, cultural, through advertising - whatever - do effect mass group behavior. Now, these groups are comprised of many individuals who all choose, as individuals, to take personal responsibilty or not. But, these broad forces still effect the over shape of mass behavior.

This is the level at which those who criticize the role which corporate advertising has played in shaping American dietary behavior over the last several decades. There was once a time when junk food did not comprised at least 1/4 of the American diet (I might put that ratio higher, too, with a more stringent definition of what constitutes junk food).

Tens of billions in advertising dolllars (at least) over the last two or three decades helped to achieve this dubious aim, of fundamentally reshaping American dietary sensibilities. Partly through the targeted - as does McDonalds - of children.

We hold - as a culture - that children are not completely responsible for their decisions ; they know too little about the world and so must be shielded from certain influences as they grow up.

But - as of yet - this broadly shared cultural sensibility does not extend to the ad blitz which American childrenm are subjected to and which surely plays a major role in shaping their dietary preferences which are now translating into an historically unprecedented epidemic of early onset Type 2 Diabetes which will shave - on average - a decade and a half off the lives of those struck by the disease. Mere obesity is also creeping up the rank as an overall cancer risk factor - towards perhaps even the #1 spot.

Children, obviously and at the very least, are not to be subjected to the same sort of American ethic of extreme personal responsibility.

But, what many who advocate the ethic of personal miss is the fact that the very consciousness of children, dietary and otherwise, from which later adult behavior will spring is shaped by advertising which preys on their innocence.

In fact, The ethic of personal responsibility and the acknowledgement of the influences which shape childhood development up to adult maturation can coexist perfectly well if we only acknowledge - or admit, as a culture, that children are just that :

Children.

They do not spring fulll-blown, full blown adults, from the womb. They are shaped. By parents, by overall culture, and specifically also by omnipresent commercial advertising.
posted by troutfishing at 11:39 AM on July 21, 2004


agregoli, I was addressing troutfishing.

trout you are on to something pointing out Type 2 Diabetes which is plain saddening seeing the #’s in our society. The company I work for does many charity event through out the year for it.

Did you read about the guy whom just ate his 20,000 Big Mac yesterday? Back to the Type 2 Diabetes, you do have to wonder if our governent wants an easy cure by pointing out the simple bads with eating "junk food."

My grandmother was diagnosed with diabetes in her 20's. She ignored the doctors advice, penicillin shots. She treated it herself with a healthy diet & vitamins added, low consuption of sugar. As a child both her parents loved backing so it was common for her to have cake or pie in the house. She changed her diet by eating 4 times a day with snacks in between for the low blood sugar. 60+ years later the doctors are somewhat baffled by her health as she now shows no signs of it. They finally have stop telling her how to live and ask her about her healthy diet for treating other patience. The only thing the doctors do argue with her is when she tells of her butter consumption. Which is ironic as her father whom lived to be 100 swore by Ole.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:44 PM on July 21, 2004


Whether you were addressing troutfishing or not, I still had no idea what you were getting at.
posted by agregoli at 2:48 PM on July 21, 2004


Well done, NortonDC! Willpower is truly the most powerful tool we have.

Thank you, but I'm not convinced that willpower is a useful way to think of it. Thinking in terms of motivation seems much more fruitful.
posted by NortonDC at 3:54 PM on July 21, 2004


(Although it is entirely extraneous to the point of this thread, I would like to note for the record that NortonDC is hotter than a bucket full of hot things. Yum.)
posted by onlyconnect at 5:16 PM on July 21, 2004


Thinking in terms of motivation seems much more fruitful.

You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to...
posted by rushmc at 7:25 PM on July 21, 2004


Why is Senator Edward’s wife on the heavy side when her husband is handsome & well fit. ... Basically I’m presuming she was slimmer when they first met. This answer may clue us both into the questions' answers. (this question was asked to me recently by a friend)

thom, here's their wedding pic (Today Show interview)--they both were thin and gorgeous. And I think they still are a very goodlooking couple (i really think she's great--very down to earth and normal). Maybe it was losing their son, or maybe she had always been struggling with her weight, and finally decided to stop?
posted by amberglow at 7:35 PM on July 21, 2004


agregoli - try. many people understand thomcatspike very well.

thomcatspike - your personal story, I'd say, encapsulates my overall point : your grandmother likely got diabetes from the overall dietary trends of the culture she grew up in. But, at that point, she took personal responsibility. She's still alive, I hear. You're lucky. My grandparents all died early. At least one or two must have been worth at least a few talks but I'll never know.

Hell, I basically raised myself - with a bit of encouragement from my parents ; Parental involvement can be a blessing, curse, or both at the same time.

But we all need to acknowledge, in my opinion, the role of both personal responsibility and of larger societal forces in shaping a healthy culture.

Flat out.
posted by troutfishing at 7:41 PM on July 21, 2004


Why is Senator Edward’s wife on the heavy side when her husband is handsome & well fit.

Because some of us have more important things to do than worry about whether we look like a trophy wife?
posted by dejah420 at 9:40 PM on July 21, 2004


But we all need to acknowledge, in my opinion, the role of both personal responsibility and of larger societal forces in shaping a healthy culture.

Fersure. Seems we're taking steps in that direction, too, what with the nutrient labelling laws that weren't around even twenty years ago; and with the increased awareness of the need for exercise and self-control and suchlike when choosing one's foods.

Which is to say I think only a damn idiot or fool could scarf down a McBurger and claim that he thought it was a healthy meal choice. Or eat a serving of ice cream or other fatty, sugary dessert every day and claim she thought it was good for her.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:49 AM on July 22, 2004


>>Thinking in terms of motivation seems much more fruitful.
>
>You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to...

Not really. "Willpower" is something that people allegedly either have or lack (a character strength or flaw), while "motivation" is something available to everyone, they just have to find it.

Willpower must always be internal, while motivation can be internal or external, and is therefore more broadly available.

And onlyconnect is a babe! A smart, goofy, sexy, funny, open-minded BABE!
posted by NortonDC at 5:25 AM on July 22, 2004


I couldn't disagree more, NortonDC. In my view, "willpower" is something that can be developed, like physical strength or stamina. And all the external motivation in the world is useless if there is nothing in one capable of responding to it.
posted by rushmc at 7:59 AM on July 22, 2004


huh, I thought I agreed with NortonDC until he explained what he meant! I think it's better to think in terms of motivation rather than willpower, but not because willpower is some obscure thing that only some people have. Rather, the focal point for me is that willpower as victor implies that there is always a formidable enemy that has to be struggled against - it's a very american response, in my opinion, and fits with our whole 12 step culture - "I will always be an alcoholic and only thanks to god can I summon the strength to make it through a day without giving in to temptation". That just seems to make the enemy stronger, and your whole life is then a war between the desires of two different parts of you - your gluttonous body and your rational mind.

If you frame it more in terms of motivation, rehabituation, working toward a healthier lifestyle, then I think you can really change your relationship to food, and align both factions to a moderate but healthy treaty. Not to say there would never be border squabbles, but it's a different level.
posted by mdn at 9:31 AM on July 22, 2004


I still think it's semantics, mdn. I can't see how anyone can undertake the difficult steps required to rehabituate or work toward a healthier lifestyle without tapping into an inner will that enables them to do so—and to stick with it when it would be easier and more immediately rewarding to stop. And to me, the 12-step thing (like the underlying Christianity that influences it) is a celebration of presumed weakness, not strength.

But strip away the words and I think most of us are saying pretty much the same thing here.
posted by rushmc at 2:50 PM on July 22, 2004


Metafilter: strip away the words and I think most of us are saying pretty much the same thing here.

(couldn't resist) : >
posted by amberglow at 3:46 PM on July 22, 2004


So, rushmc, you think that willpower and motivation are both distinctly different and completely interchangeable?

Well, whatever, but to me the point is that motivation can have an external source, meaning it can be given to others.
posted by NortonDC at 4:16 PM on July 22, 2004


we look like a trophy wife?
Agree as looks do not make a wife/mother/a caring person/intellect. Remember my comments were stemmed from the side tracking. About movie actresses being attractive from healthy eating habits and exercising.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:36 PM on July 22, 2004


My post above was not complete : more important things to do than worry about whether we look like a trophy wife?

we all need to acknowledge, in my opinion, the role of both personal responsibility and of larger societal forces in shaping a healthy culture.

trout, my grandmother would enjoy you. Because you’re responsible and by your self education which backs your own responsibilities in life.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:51 PM on July 22, 2004


thomcatspike - I'd probably like her too. But - I haven't led an especially responsible a life so far. We're our own worst judges, and I judge that 'responsibility' is a value I'm just starting to acknowledge.

Also - I got an expensive East Coast prep school education, via scholarship. However, I 've never graduated fom a single high school or university I attended, so I might indeed be self educated. Eating well helps too - it buys time (extends lifespan), during which knowledge can pile up.

I'm trying to be more honest though. That's a virtue, so I hear.
posted by troutfishing at 10:04 PM on July 22, 2004


So, rushmc, you think that willpower and motivation are both distinctly different and completely interchangeable?

More semantic confusion. "Motivation" is commonly used to refer to two very different things: self-motivation, which is internally generated and replenished and could be said to relate to, or perhaps even correlate with, the will or willpower; and external motivation, or someone else encouraging certain behavior or behavioral changes in you via some combination of the carrot and/or stick. I don't dispute that external motivation can be effective; I just judge it substantially less effective and reliable, especially over the long-haul, than the internally-generated variety.
posted by rushmc at 11:20 PM on July 22, 2004


Very interesting discussion people.

p.s. Rushmc; Tony blair could have certainly employed your talents when composing the 'dodgy dossier'. For a lawyer his ability to compose succint and accurate prose withered alarmingly quickly :).
posted by johnnyboy at 3:02 AM on July 23, 2004


I don't dispute that external motivation can be effective; I just judge it substantially less effective and reliable, especially over the long-haul, than the internally-generated variety.

Why? What evidence is there that willpower ever works over the long haul?

I think that this is an very tough case to make, especially once you (and login) realize that bodily health is an external motivator to the mind. A pure willpower decision, by your own definition of what makes external motivation distinct from willpower, would have to be one with no foreseeable rewards outside the mind.

If that prospect makes you think "Then every decision made in pursuit of a concrete gain is a matter of motivation, leaving no room for willpower," then you're starting to get it.
posted by NortonDC at 5:50 AM on July 23, 2004


bodily health is an external motivator to the mind

But I would dispute this, not believing in dualism.

What evidence is there that willpower ever works over the long haul?

TONS of anectodal evidence...but of course, that's not what you're looking for, I suppose. But I would say that there was much more support in favor of the efficacy of willpower than there is for the direct influence of external factors.

Happiness is secured through virtue; it is a good attained by man's own will. —St. Thomas Aquinas
posted by rushmc at 6:52 AM on July 23, 2004


troutfishing - I did try. I just didn't get what he was getting at in this instance. Is that wrong to say?
posted by agregoli at 7:04 AM on July 23, 2004


Big congratulations, login!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:24 AM on July 23, 2004


rush, I agree it's mostly a semantics issue, but I'm not sure it isn't an important one to clarify. It reminds me of aristotle distinguishing between what is translated as "ethical continence" and true virtue - one is when you do what's right despite desiring what's not; the other is when you actually want to do the right thing. The second is achieved through good upbringing, increased awareness & knowledge, and habit.

Kant & many ethicists since have confused the two, basically by arguing that if people wanted to do what's right, we would have no need for morality; it's only because our desires and our duties come into conflict that we think of "being moral" as a particular kind of behavior. But this ignores the possibility that people can learn - that we can become moral people, not just behave morally on a given occasion. Anyway, not to conflate ethical behavior with healthy behavior, but I think the difference between learning to be a healthy person and struggling daily to eat healthy meals in accordance with one's will, is basically the same thing.

And while I agree that the 12 step stuff is about weakness, it's (like christianity) because of an assumption or recognition that the task at hand is too hard for a mere mortal. Jesus was a rabbi who told his followers, don't sin, and above that, don't even want to sin. The response was either one must have superhuman willpower, or one must submit fully to god who will help us not to sin. I think there's a third way, which is, you can learn to not really want to sin (using the word loosely of course, not religiously; I take jesus just to have been a jew who was influenced by the classic greek understanding of virtue as against the traditional hebrew approach, which is practical/behavioral, and I take "sins" to be basically "bad deeds" which means broadly, harmful to others).

The internal/external motivation split seems a little too clean to me - external factors can cause internal motivation, but short of pure slavery, if the internal motivation isn't on board, won't make anything happen. But external factors can have great effects - both in terms of motivation, and also just in terms of habit - eg, a junkie who moves to the country, a drunk who stops hanging out at the bar with his drinking buddies - forcefully moving someone won't do it (probably) but if they're internally motivated to stop, then changing their environment and familiar routine will make it easier...

amberglow, that's one of the most precise "Metafilter: blah blah etc" I've seen yet...
posted by mdn at 1:36 PM on July 23, 2004


Kant & many ethicists since have confused the two, basically by arguing that if people wanted to do what's right, we would have no need for morality; it's only because our desires and our duties come into conflict that we think of "being moral" as a particular kind of behavior.

Yes, I was just reading something of this yesterday:
Kant made a significant distinction between what he called a "good will" and a "holy will." A man with a good will is attracted to duty and virtue for their own sake, but that does not mean that he does not have base or ignoble impulses. However, by virtue of his good will, he overcomes his less worthy natural impulses by discipline and self-denial. It is a painful process, but he has the character to overcome this pain. Now, a person with a holy will would have no desire to do a wrong act in the first place. He has no evil desires to overcome, for he has no evil desires at all. So, for example, a man with a good will may have a desire to steal from his neighbor, but he will overcome his temptation to do so because he knows it is wrong. The man with a holy will will not even desire to steal from his neighbor. —Smullyan, The Tao Is Silent
It's not clear to me whether you are suggesting that people can simply become more successful at exercising their good will, or whether they can actually evolve a holy will.

In any case, I don't find much in what you've typed to disagree with. I do think that internal motivation is not only different than external motivation but also distinct from willpower. Motivation may be seen as a cue, or a reward (or threat), but willpower, it seems to me, is the focused energy that drives the movement from desire to accomplishment.
posted by rushmc at 9:26 PM on July 23, 2004


ALL human motivation is internal. It's source may be internal or external.
posted by NortonDC at 6:51 PM on July 25, 2004


Perhaps, but the picking of that particular nit doesn't change my point.
posted by rushmc at 1:09 AM on July 26, 2004


Which is what, that there's no empirical data showing that willpower works over the long haul?
posted by NortonDC at 6:48 AM on July 26, 2004


It's not clear to me whether you are suggesting that people can simply become more successful at exercising their good will, or whether they can actually evolve a holy will.

well, I would use aristotle's terminology, which is that you can go further than simply being ethically continent, and learn to be truly virtuous. By calling it a "holy will" as opposed to "true virtue", Kant implies that it's basically beyond the ability of a mortal. I disagree; a person can learn, can habituate herself, to enjoy being generous, to want to be honest, to actually prefer fair transactions to gain through deceit, etc... (even if there were no chance of being caught - not just out of fear) Indeed, many people live much of the time in this mindset.

By emphasizing the duty over the character, we forget this, stop expecting it of ourselves, and ultimately weaken our own ability to be ethical. I think the same thing happens with health - if we frame maintaining a healthy weight as a struggle against constant temptation and impulse that takes an unusually powerful will to uphold, we shift the normal expectation and only make unhealthy lifestyles more commonplace - just like maintaining that being moral is some kind of special ability reserved for saints makes unethical behavior more acceptable and "normal".

Kant maintains a standard of perfection, and humans of course are imperfect; therefore by his measure, we will always have need of ethical "duty" since we'll screw up from time to time. My point is just that although duty is a good "last line of defense" idea, it needn't be, and in my opinion, shouldn't be, the beginning.
posted by mdn at 8:01 PM on July 27, 2004


I absolutely agree with your entire post, mdn. That's not the sense in which I was using "will," but in the way you are using it, I couldn't agree more. Well said.
posted by rushmc at 11:31 PM on July 27, 2004


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