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Fat bug
January 26, 2009 4:35 AM   Subscribe

Obesity can be “caught” as easily as a common cold from other people’s coughs, sneezes and dirty hands.... As many as one in three obese people may have become overweight after falling victim to the highly infectious cold-like virus, known as AD-36.
posted by caddis (327 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
WARNING: LOW SCIENCE QUOTIENT DETECTED. LOLS MAY FOLLOW.
posted by DU at 4:40 AM on January 26, 2009 [26 favorites]


the "AD" in AD-36 stands for American Diet, right?
posted by mannequito at 4:42 AM on January 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


With all due respect for yourself and *ahem* The Daily Express, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center is hardly a household name.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:45 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Paging the debunkers at junkfood science...
posted by Rhomboid at 4:50 AM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ahem.

*taps mike*

SCIENCE!!!
posted by silby at 4:57 AM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


HAHAHAHA! Good one DU.
posted by a3matrix at 4:57 AM on January 26, 2009


Obese people may also have become overweight after falling victim to the American diet.
posted by gman at 4:58 AM on January 26, 2009


...or what mannequito said.
posted by gman at 5:00 AM on January 26, 2009


I keep telling my wife it's just a virus, that if I just get some more rest here on the couch and make sure I'm well fed, I'll get all better and soon I'll look like Daniel Craig.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:02 AM on January 26, 2009 [12 favorites]


Put down the fork, fatties, and stop blaming it on everything else! (with the exception of those with thyroid disorders)
posted by sunshinesky at 5:03 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


People, take it to MetaTalk.

Oh wait.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:08 AM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Well in that case - yes, I would like extra gravy on my cheese-fries....
posted by Bango Skank at 5:11 AM on January 26, 2009


Put down the fork, fatties

If I may be eponysterical for a moment: You seem to be taking our size rather personally. Were you sat on as a child?
posted by Joe Beese at 5:11 AM on January 26, 2009 [20 favorites]


Moral of the story: avoid fat people like the plague.
posted by Harry at 5:12 AM on January 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


chuckdarwin: "With all due respect for yourself and *ahem* The Daily Express, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center is hardly a household name."

Well it's not really a fly-by-night operation either. And AD-36 has been linked to obesity in chickens, but I'd guess it's more likely that a change in body conditions allows infection by this virus. Fatties don't have the healthiest immune systems.
posted by Science! at 5:15 AM on January 26, 2009


I heard the IDF were sending declawed cats deliberately infected with the virus into Gaza hidden in SUVs, in an attempt to make people starved by the blockade look better on TV.
Where's this MeTa place you mention?
posted by Abiezer at 5:15 AM on January 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


OMG OBESITY BIRD FLU???? We are DOOOOOOOOOOOMED.
posted by gomichild at 5:16 AM on January 26, 2009


Yes, new guilds and new argument trees for MMRBORG Weight Wars: "It's not me, it is this disease." and "Stay away from us healthy people, we don't want to be infected."

If you have a character in this game, consider if you should bring it to this thread.
posted by Free word order! at 5:17 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Put down the fork, fatties, and stop blaming it on everything else! (with the exception of those with thyroid disorders)

Every Weekly World News must have its Ed Anger.
posted by Kinbote at 5:18 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


MetaTalk is down and we are about to have an obesity is/isn't people's fault thread! That's it, I am officially putting my dick in the mashed potatoes.
posted by ND¢ at 5:18 AM on January 26, 2009 [48 favorites]


Go be fat somewhere else. I'm not kidding.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 5:20 AM on January 26, 2009


The only cure for the virus is Big Macs. Wait! Where did that come from?! I must be infected!!!
posted by orme at 5:26 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's it, I am officially putting my dick in the mashed potatoes.

Damnit, I was gonna eat those!
posted by Pollomacho at 5:28 AM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


If there is free will then obesity is a person's fault. But it isn't like it's not a valid decision. If a person wants to eat a lot or want's to do other things instead of exercise that's ok and being fat might be a consequence. And I'm sure that some people will naturally have to work harder than others to not be fat. But if a person could make decisions that would lead to them not being fat, it is their fault but big deal. But let's not imbue the question with this weird moral dimension.
posted by I Foody at 5:37 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Horizon: Why Are Thin People Not Fat? is on BBC2 at 9pm tonight.

See also:
Horizon: Why Are Smart People Not Stupid?
Horizon: Why Are Sober People Not Drunk?
posted by slimepuppy at 5:41 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: This weird moral dimension
posted by michswiss at 5:43 AM on January 26, 2009


They had a bit on 60 Minutes last night about how they starve monkeys (sorry, "calorie reduction diet") and they live longer and have less health problems then the normally fed monkeys.
posted by smackfu at 5:46 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not a complex social and nutritional problem - it's a virus! No wonder I haven't been having many colds over the past few years.
posted by mippy at 5:46 AM on January 26, 2009


smackfu: "They had a bit on 60 Minutes last night about how they starve monkeys (sorry, "calorie reduction diet") and they live longer and have less health problems then the normally fed monkeys."

Calorie restriction studies have shown similar results in other animals as well, there's even people who get in on the act.
posted by Science! at 5:49 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Put down the fork, fatties, and stop blaming it on everything else!

Oh dude. Put a caption to this photo for me.
posted by gman at 5:52 AM on January 26, 2009


It never ceases to amaze me that people who see themselves as progressive show good ol' Jim Crow style bigotry when it comes to obesity.

I'd rather be fat than be a hypocritical asshole.

As for the article, I think it is far-fetched at best.
posted by SteveTheRed at 5:54 AM on January 26, 2009 [16 favorites]


sunshinesky - And do you have any similarly scientific advice for diabetics?
posted by gman at 5:56 AM on January 26, 2009


This obviously has nothing to do with the endless river of ghetto-ass snacky cakes and cookies that I shovel into my big fat pie hole. No, sir. NOTE TO SELF: WALK MOAR AND EAT LESS CRAP.
posted by loquacious at 5:58 AM on January 26, 2009


When did Fark start using a blue backround?
posted by R. Mutt at 6:03 AM on January 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


Silly English people.... Poor diet and lack of exercise causes weight gain, not the flu.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:04 AM on January 26, 2009


So the guy from Super-Size Me just happened to catch the fat bug as soon as he started living off of shit food and not exercising? Amazing fucking coincidence.
posted by Dark Messiah at 6:05 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Obesity is unusual in Japan. A new theme restaurant has this attraction:"chubby maids":

"But it's also here in Japan that a bunch of not-so-thin girls run
Pomeranian: The Chubby Maid Café, every month in the otaku mecca of
Akihabara. The waitresses all dress up in maid costumes, and they all
have a nice, cozy amount of heft on them. They call their customers
"master" and they attend to their every culinary whim and need. In
Japan, the land that gave us rail-thin, orange-tanned, shopaholic
gyaru, these chubby charmers are like a warm, soothing breeze that
smells faintly of milk chocolate. (...)

Have you had any particularly unique customers?

Yes, one man wanted to take a Polaroid of every single maid in our
café. We have this system where you can take a Polaroid with a maid
for 500 yen, and this man wanted to pose with every single girl. He
was at the café the whole day, waiting for the shift change so that he
could get every one of us. "
posted by iviken at 6:05 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I bet obese chickens are tasty!
posted by photoslob at 6:06 AM on January 26, 2009


You're SICK I tell you! Sick! And Fat.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:07 AM on January 26, 2009


SCIENCE SCHOOL - DAY ONE

CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION

THAT IS ALL.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:10 AM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Wait...so now it's cool to snark on fat people on Metafilter again? I'm so confused.

Putting in a pony request for a front page status widget...
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:17 AM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Good god, did you have to post this today?

And, incidentally, the article is fat with stupidity.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:19 AM on January 26, 2009


I hear you can catch teh gay by hanging around gays too. Best to shun them too. Same principle.
posted by edheil at 6:19 AM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


5 second rule on those mashed potatoes
posted by Humanzee at 6:19 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


So the guy from Super-Size Me just happened to catch the fat bug as soon as he started living off of shit food and not exercising?

Just out of curiosity -- I didn't see it -- did "The Guy" stop exercising?

I thought the point of the exercise [heh] was to change only what he ate.
posted by Herodios at 6:23 AM on January 26, 2009


He took the amount of exercise the average american takes every day.
posted by minifigs at 6:32 AM on January 26, 2009


gnomeloaf: "Wait...so now it's cool to snark on fat people on Metafilter again? I'm so confused.

Putting in a pony request for a front page status widget...
"

I'm seeing the snark and hate in this thread directed at the silly excuses some obese people give for their condition. It's one thing to be obese and cool with it, it's another thing entirely to blame a life threatening condition on anything you can find that's not your own choices to eat too much and not exercise.
posted by Science! at 6:35 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just out of curiosity -- I didn't see it -- did "The Guy" stop exercising?

Yes, he cut down to less-than something like 5,000 steps or less (per day), taking a cab once he used up his allotment of "walking" he was allowed. The 'point' was more-or-less a commentary on the American diet and fast-food lifestyle.

On another note, I find this thread amusing -- as all obesity discussions -- because no one thinks twice about telling a physically addicted smoker that they should quit. Try and tell someone to eat properly and exercise and you're somehow an asshole. Meanwhile us tar-lungs get flack for all the "health care dollars" I cost.
posted by Dark Messiah at 6:35 AM on January 26, 2009 [10 favorites]


I read the first paragraph or two of the article, then came here expecting someone to reveal this as satire. Sadly, such is not the case.

This doesn't seem particularly scientific, but newspaper articles rarely do. Whether or not there are more studies backing this up, I suspect my inbox will soon be flooded with spam urging me to try Latest Remedy For Teh Fat Virus.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 6:36 AM on January 26, 2009


Obesity is unusual in Japan. A new theme restaurant has this attraction:"chubby maids":

Surely the Japanese version of 'obese' is what Westerners would consider medium-sized?
posted by mippy at 6:39 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


no one thinks twice about telling a physically addicted smoker that they should quit

People who are addicted to food don't shove food down my throat while they're eating. When you smoke, not only are you hurting yourself -- you're also directly hurting everyone that has to breathe around you. I say this as someone who has crappy health because she grew up in a house with three smokers (and was formed in the uterus of a chainsmoking woman).

That, and no one tells someone recovering from nicotine addiction that he must smoke a few cigarettes a day, but no more than four. It's another thing to be addicted to something that you need to consume to continue living.
posted by giraffe at 6:45 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


It seems to be a serious study, and AD-36 has been looked at for some time. The full paper is here: Adipogenic human adenovirus-36 reduces leptin expression and secretion and increases glucose uptake by fat cells.

Here's the end of the abstract, though:

Conclusion:
The in vitro and ex vivo studies show that Ad-36 modulates adipocyte differentiation, leptin production and glucose metabolism. Whether such a modulation contributes to enhanced adipogenesis and consequent adiposity in Ad-36 infected animals or humans needs to be determined.


I personally detest Junkfood Science, and predict that this is going to be a Big Deal over there, despite the bold part which I have so kindly reproduced.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:46 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


The only problem with obesity is it makes people harder to circumcise.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:48 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well they say 'feed a cold'

And that'll be The Express, even worse than the Mail, 'Diana was murdered!', Express, then. I'm surprised they are not blaming asylum seekers.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:49 AM on January 26, 2009


Fuel for the fire:

"Infectobesity: viral infections (especially with human adenovirus-36: Ad-36) may be a cause of obesity.

Metabolically favorable remodeling of human adipose tissue by human adenovirus type 36.

Human adenovirus type 36 enhances glucose uptake in diabetic and nondiabetic human skeletal muscle cells independent of insulin signaling.

Links to the pubmed pages.
posted by LunaticFringe at 6:50 AM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Silly English people

The supposed study is from a US-based institution ("Professor Nikhil Dhurandhar, of Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in Louisiana"), it is just being reported by the British media. Give it some time and I'm sure the US press will pick up on this as well.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:52 AM on January 26, 2009


And even if this virus is determined to cause weight gain in some humans, there's this:
Now studies on humans show that 33 per cent of obese adults had contracted AD-36 at some point in their lives, compared with only 11 per cent of lean men and women.
In other words, nobody's claiming that the virus is the sole cause of obesity — only, at most, that it's a contributing factor, presumably alongside the usual suspects like metabolism, activity level AND DIET.

They're not denying that you can gain weight by eating. They're not absolving anyone of (at least partial) responsibility for their weight. They're not suggesting that obesity is simple or unproblematic.

I suppose this isn't gonna do anything to derail the shitstorm already in progress, though. Ah well.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:54 AM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Horizon: Why Are Thin People Not Fat? is on BBC2 at 9pm tonight

The continued dumbing down of once great program just depresses me.

Though I think they reached their nadir with, I think, last year's 'If you lock the average* person in a totally dark room for a week, will they go mad?!?**'

* Where 'average' includes a stand-up comedian
** May not be the actual title of the program
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:55 AM on January 26, 2009


You're fuel for the fire is two papers by the same author quoted in the article, and then a paper from someone at a plant research facility to a journal called "Medical Hypotheses"?

That fire ain't gonna burn.
posted by Science! at 6:56 AM on January 26, 2009


*Your
posted by Science! at 6:57 AM on January 26, 2009


Nebula: I was attempting the same thing by posting pubmed articles. What I would like to know is, how is the metabolism/immune system of the 11% of the resistant "skinnies" different that it can resist the virus' actions and can this difference be exploited pharmacoloigcally for the percentage of obese people for whom diet and exercise seem to do so little?
posted by LunaticFringe at 6:58 AM on January 26, 2009


Science: I didn't say they were good articles, I just copied and pasted the first three hits from pubmed. Do with it what you will.
posted by LunaticFringe at 6:59 AM on January 26, 2009


Well, this discussion has been had before - who’s fault is it the U.S. is fat. And it mixes between the free will and the environment thing. I will say though there is an appaling lack of information and education on actual physical fitness and health and proper eating habits. Brought a buddy of mine’s kid to the gym with me as a favor, teach him how to get in shape, all that, and my buddy asked me ‘is he going to need a jock?’
And this is a fairly sharp, well educated guy. Just doesn’t know anything about physical fitness. I know in lower income areas it’s even worse.
Hell, even in the gym, where habits are strong, there’s still a lack of solid information and method of delivery. Heard a guy trying to body build tell another dude he had ‘good genetics in his legs.’ WTF is that supposed to mean? I mean - he said it as though genetics were some sort of actual discrete object that existed in his legs.

What bugs me is not the excuses, because everyone has an excuse for everything, but the disinformation that pushes out actually useful habit forming and body maintainance.

But that’s endemic in the U.S. There’s so much more focus on the ‘cure’ rather than prevention.
Because, y’know, there’s money in it.
Go giving people information on how to exercise properly, give them a healthy attitude towards their bodies and not make being fat shameful (which you see people feel all the time in the gym, whether anyone other than them actually even cares is another matter) and proper nutrition and systematic methods in food preparation (how to eat right with minimal effort) and you’re not going to make a lot of bucks.
Funny how it’s personal trainers are so often written off as leeches (To be fair, some are. But most of the people I know actually do help folks get into shape) not this kind of media.
(Funny, in the alliterative, Medea ate her children)

I can’t ‘blame’ someone for being fat if they don’t know any better. You can’t hold someone responsible for something they have no power over.
It’s not simply a matter of ‘willpower’ or some such. It’s that folks don’t actually have the tools to be physically fit. Most of those tools are mental - information and habit. You can program yourself to do it.
This is not to say they can’t get it done of course. I’m no auto mechanic, but I can take the car in to be serviced as a matter of prevention. Oil changes, tune ups, all that.
Same deal.
I’d agree someone who won’t maintain their car doesn’t have much right to bitch if it breaks down.
And same deal for smoking - not much help to say ‘hey, quit smoking’ without giving folks some techniques.
I think pairing it with ‘willpower’ is the failure point. No one wants to think of themselves as weak (although they’ll happily point to that in others)

“They had a bit on 60 Minutes last night about how they starve monkeys (sorry, "calorie reduction diet") and they live longer and have less health problems then the normally fed monkeys.”

I’ve seen that. Fairly true. I have yet to see a very fat old person.
On the other hand, that’s a controlled environment. All things being equal, you do need some extra calories on occasion to hit certain peaks. If you get into a fight, say, or have to run, or whatnot. It’s nice to have some extra muscle mass. And that mass requires a higher calorie intake. Still, a lot to be said for being lean.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:00 AM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


I didn't read the detail of the research. What does AD-36 do? Give sufferers big bones?
posted by MuffinMan at 7:02 AM on January 26, 2009


Don't know about this "cold-like virus," but obesity has been shown to travel through a social network. Slate's William Saletan analyzes here.
posted by Sloop John B at 7:03 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Muffinman: I didn't do that much reading on it but it seems its an adenovirus that targets liver, brain, fat, and something I don't remember. When it infects adipose tissue it results in cell division, multiplying the number of fat cells. However, the article fails to mention you still have to fill those fat molecules via diet. Perhaps that's how that 11% is resistant...

That's interesting about a social network "spreading obesity", not surprising though since most of American obesity can be attributed to social factors.
posted by LunaticFringe at 7:10 AM on January 26, 2009


A quick PubMed search reveals about 20 articles on this subject in the peer-reviewed biomedical literature going back eight years. The more recent articles are in fairly prestigious journals like Diabetes.

I'm somewhat stunned by the dismissal of this idea out of hand by people who have not read the original articles. There are the facile comments such as "correlation does not equal causation," which is an old standby from people who don't understand how science works, but then there is someone who "sadly" notes that no one has revealed this as a hoax yet. Why on earth would that make you sad?
posted by grouse at 7:23 AM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hell, even in the gym, where habits are strong, there’s still a lack of solid information and method of delivery. Heard a guy trying to body build tell another dude he had ‘good genetics in his legs.’ ...Go giving people information on how to exercise properly, give them a healthy attitude towards their bodies and not make being fat shameful (which you see people feel all the time in the gym, whether anyone other than them actually even cares is another matter)

I wish I could favorite Smedleyman 1,000 times. I'm ultimately responsible for my body of course, but it wasn't until I was an adult that I really understood fitnss. School phys ed classes didn't address fitness (at my school it was all about team sports not about life long fitness) and I was completely discouraged that my body which isn't graceful and tends to be pudgy could EVER be fit and for a long while I gave up. And I was too ashamed to go to the gym for years.

And even at the gym just recently I heard a teen girl tell a friend that she wouldn't do strength training because "lifting weights makes you look like a man". Clearly, there's a lot of educating to be done.
posted by pointystick at 7:23 AM on January 26, 2009


HURF DURL LOL FATTIES

Goddammit, people, do we need to go through all this again?

You are not skinny because you are so awesome.

You are skinny because you didn't inherit genes predisposing you for obesity from your parents. You are skinny because you don't get nearly as hungry as obese people. You are skinny because your body metabolizes your food more effectively. You are skinny because, when you exercise, your fat burns off more quickly. You are skinny because your body is not constantly fighting against you to stabilize your weight to a "normal" level that is much higher than average. Maybe you are skinny because you didn't catch this virus. And, yes, the American food system is completely screwed up, which doesn't help.

So good for you if you're born with a "normal" metabolism, and if you have the money, education, social status, and leisure time to eat healthy foods and work out at the gym.

But it doesn't make you morally superior, and it doesn't make you a better person. Just because it's "common sense" that fat people are idiots who stuff their face for no good reason doesn't mean it's true.
NY Times: The Rockefeller researchers explained their observations in one of their papers: “It is entirely possible that weight reduction, instead of resulting in a normal state for obese patients, results in an abnormal state resembling that of starved nonobese individuals.”

Eventually, more than 50 people lived at the hospital and lost weight, and every one had physical and psychological signs of starvation. There were a very few who did not get fat again, but they made staying thin their life’s work, becoming Weight Watchers lecturers, for example, and, always, counting calories and maintaining themselves in a permanent state of starvation.
posted by designbot at 7:23 AM on January 26, 2009 [46 favorites]


there is someone who "sadly" notes that no one has revealed this as a hoax yet. Why on earth would that make you sad?

Because obesity is only awesome if it can be used as a moral failing to bludgeon someone with.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:25 AM on January 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


You are skinny because you didn't inherit genes predisposing you for obesity from your parents.

If it's all genetic, how come there are more fat people now then there used to be? Evolution does not work that quickly.
posted by Sloop John B at 7:30 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


You are not skinny because you are so awesome.

And you're not fat because life decided you failed a saving throw.
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:35 AM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


You are not skinny because you are so awesome

On a more serious note, you don't find many people advocating that being skinny is actually because you have a genetic defect.

It's only relatively recently - and indisputably recently in evolutionary terms - that the ability to not store fat would be advantageous. For a long time, and possibly again in the future, the ability to store fat was advantageous. One of my old teachers always used to chide pupils who made fun of the class's plumper members by reminding them who would last longest if food became scarce.

I guess that's why in some societies where food shortages are more common fat is still prized as a physical attribute.*

I'm aware that being fat also indicates wealth, but wonder if anthropologists overplay its significance.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:38 AM on January 26, 2009


If it's all genetic, how come there are more fat people now then there used to be?

Genetic predisposition ≠ "all genetic."

Their American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that differences in body mass index and waist size were 77% governed by genes.
posted by designbot at 7:38 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isn't it "feed a fever, starve a cold"?
posted by autodidact at 7:39 AM on January 26, 2009


I assume you mean the same BMI that classifies body-builders as morbidly obese?
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:40 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Skinny people can make themselves fat by eating more and exercising less. Fat people can make themselves thin by eating less and exercising more.
Please explain the role of genetics in these processes.
posted by rocket88 at 7:40 AM on January 26, 2009


Why Are Sober People Not Drunk?

I often ask myself this question, actually, and have yet to come up with a satisfactory answer.
posted by Caduceus at 7:44 AM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Skinny people can make themselves fat by eating more and exercising less. Fat people can make themselves thin by eating less and exercising more.
Please explain the role of genetics in these processes.


A) This is not always the case.

B) Are you arguing that any two people who eat the same amount of food and perform the same amount of exercise will be the same weight?
posted by designbot at 7:45 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Their American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that differences in body mass index and waist size were 77% governed by genes.

Fair enough. And this is one of the reasons why we should sympathize with the obese. But all the same, I feel like a lot of people point to the genetics argument and use that as an excuse for why "it's pointless" to do things like diet and exercise. The fact is that obesity is on the rise, and that's largely because of our modern diet and lifestyle.

Look, I'm genetically predisposed to a whole host of baddies, such as OCD, heart disease, and lactose intolerance. Others are predisposed to things like alcoholism, heroin addiction, and yes, obesity. Doesn't mean you need to throw in the towel. It just means that, if you're predisposed to certain things, you need to be a bit more careful around things that much of the population takes for granted.
posted by Sloop John B at 7:46 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Skinny people can make themselves fat by eating more and exercising less. Fat people can make themselves thin by eating less and exercising more."

Old people can do yoga so they can touch their toes. This means age has no bearing on one's ability to stretch muscles or joint movement.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:47 AM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


You are not skinny because you are so awesome.

It is true, my excess of awesomeness is the reason I am not skinny.
posted by ghost of a past number at 7:48 AM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


hmmm... the whole post should have been in italics as it is a direct quote from the article. agghhh.
posted by caddis at 7:49 AM on January 26, 2009


Wait a minute.
What does the fat and the virus have to do with thinking you're good at crosswords?
posted by chococat at 7:55 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


A) This is not always the case.

Not always, but in general the priciple works.

B) Are you arguing that any two people who eat the same amount of food and perform the same amount of exercise will be the same weight?

No, I'm arguing that there's much, much more than genetics at play.

Old people can do yoga so they can touch their toes. This means age has no bearing on one's ability to stretch muscles or joint movement.

Of course not, and I didn't argue such. There are thin people who got that way almost entirely by hard work, exercise, and determination. Writing their thinness off to the luck of the genetic draw does them a disservice.

Let me state that obesity is not in itself a moral failing, but at the same time it's not a genetic inevitability. Genetics may make it more difficult to achieve your health and body goals, if indeed you have any, but doesn't make it impossible. I hate to see people give up on their goals because they've bought in to the falsehood spread here and elsewhere that their genetics are such that they shouldn't even bother trying.
posted by rocket88 at 7:59 AM on January 26, 2009


who gives a fuck if someone is fat you ugly internet nerds
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:00 AM on January 26, 2009 [12 favorites]


To me losing weight is kinda like going back to college when you're married with kids and a fulltime job. It's doable, but the distractions are endless and at times, it'll feel like the hardest thing in the world. Certain societies have built up a shitload of bad habits when it comes to eating and exercise and that's not going to be fixed overnight or even over a year or probably a decade.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:05 AM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Genes matter, among other things. But someone is fat, or skinny, not simply because of their genes, but because of the interaction between their genes, their behavior, and their environment. You can't (easily and safely) change your genetics, as far as I know.

But behavior and environment are not simply "givens," that we have to accept "because that's the way it is."

And of the two, I'd guess environment to be far, far easier to change than individual behavior. How much effort does it take to convince 100,000 people to change their diet and exercise habits, compared to reengineering the public spaces used by those same 100,000 people?

I really think the "ha ha, those lazy fatties!" stuff is misplaced (not to mention ignorant). Much better would be to reflect on what has changed over the last fifty years that is making some people respond by gaining weight (eg cheap automobile transportation, high fructose corn syrup, etc), and which of those things are subject to simple interventions that can mitigate some of that impact.

Once we really, fully understood what the impact of unrestrained pollution was having on people, we brought in limitations. Not a return to a pre-industrial economy, but smokestack scrubbers, Clean Air and Water Acts, and no more leaded gas. What is so hard about saying, Gee, our modern physical and social environment is producing some undesired outcomes, like obesity, and we need to make some adjustments to mitigate those impacts?

Our environment structures and constrains our choices. If cigarettes are super cheap, smoking is allowed everywhere, and it is promoted heavily, more people will smoke than if cigarettes are heavily taxed and smoking is not allowed in many places. If gas costs $1.50/gallon, people drive more miles per year (and purchase lower mileage vehicles) than if gas costs $4/gallon. If I live in a city with no sidewalks and fast roads, I am unlikely to begin riding my bicycle to work.

My sense is that the last thirty or so years of obesity efforts have been basically totally wasted, because of the focus on individual behavior rather than physical and social environments. Treat obesity like any other public health issue, from smoking to asbestosis, and there are immediately a range of powerful tools at your disposal. Use those tools to make some changes to the food system, our physical environment, and so on, and I think you'll get far better results than with the "fat = lazy" paradigm.
posted by Forktine at 8:11 AM on January 26, 2009 [19 favorites]


If it's all genetic, how come there are more fat people now then there used to be? Evolution does not work that quickly.

If true, would guess it's because there is increased calorie intake in skinny and fat people alike and virii can't create cells ex nihilo. But in some cases, the virus may be the dividing line between skinniness and fatness rather than calorie intake per se. So basically, let's show an equal amount of contempt for pasty, thin folks with no muscle tone.
posted by mobunited at 8:13 AM on January 26, 2009


The human body is complicated.

If there were a "magic bullet" for obesity, it would have been solved long ago. The weight loss industry is measured in billions of dollars, the financial incentive to find a "solution" is astronomical.

It is not as simple as "diet and exercise" for everyone. If you give 100 people the EXACT same diet, and have them perform the EXACT same exercise regimen, you will not have 100 identical results. In fact, you won't have 5 or 10 discrete results. It will be all over the place, where you have people who gain, lose, and stay the same, even with identical conditions.

If it were as simple as "eat this many calories, do this much exercise, and you'll lose X weight" then there would be spas and camps all over America with waiting lines several hundred thousand long.

Do you think many obese people would spend a month at a retreat to get guaranteed and permanent loss? I do. Do you think they would spend thousands of dollars for it? I do.

In fact, I think not only obese but even mildly overweight and even many normal weight who wanted to be thinner would sign up. I think the company that invented this would make Microsoft look like a mom and pop outfit.

Metabolism is the great mystery. Why can one person eat 2 big macs for lunch and a whole pizza for dinner, still proclaim to be starving, never seen a gym, and weigh 130lbs while another person eats salad for lunch, has grilled skinless chicken for dinner, spends 30 min a day on the treadmill, and weighs twice as much?

It's complicated. It's not just diet. It's not just exercise. It's not just genetics. Again, if it were simple, this wouldn't be a problem any longer.

designbot has it precisely right. We're all individuals, we're not identical food-burning combustion engines manufactured on an assembly line.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:15 AM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


B) Are you arguing that any two people who eat the same amount of food and perform the same amount of exercise will be the same weight?

Actually, yeah. They won't be exactly the same, I think the metric is you should allow +/- 10lbs for frame size, but no, one won't be morbidly obese and the other won't be anorexic. Numerous studies have been done that show overweight people routinely underestimate how much they eat. Some BBC show a while back took two friends, one thinner and one fatter, who both swore that the skinny friend ate tons more than the fat. And when the BBC monitored their true caloric intake for a week via some chemical excreted in their urine, rather than relying on self-reporting, surprise surprise, turns out the fat friend ate more calories a day. Look [url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/humanbody/truthaboutfood/flashapp/nonflash.shtml]here[/url] and click on "Is my metabolism to blame for my weight?"

Look, I've been a bigger sort of lady all my life. And in the past two years that's gotten to be about thirty pounds too big. I weightlift, I do conditioning work, but until I got my food intake under control about two months ago those thirty pounds stayed. Weight loss is about food, plain and simple. I think people need to pay more attention to the [i]kind[/i] of food, rather than just quantity--someone eating 2000 calories of sugars and carbs is going to feel a lot less full and be more unhealthy than someone eating 2000 calories of protein and fat--but the the point is, it's food.
posted by schroedinger at 8:17 AM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Fair enough. And this is one of the reasons why we should sympathize with the obese.

I don't know why it's this little sympathetic head pat that sets me off, but it does. Maybe it's this:

NO OBESE PERSON DOESN'T KNOW THEY'RE OBESE. Anyone who's even chubby, in this society, knows it. THEY ALL KNOW, OK?

"The Obese" are not a separate species, they are a group of human beings who are freakin' tired of being treated like idiots and punching bags. Almost to a person, they have struggled, dieted, and hated themselves in good old American puritanical fashion for being outside the acceptable norm. If you have never been one of them, hooray! Enjoy your genetic luck/good upbringing luck. If you have been but are no longer, hooray! Now you too are acceptable! Here's hoping you're one of the 2% who remain thin!

This prissy-assed, finger-shaking outburst of "concern" that "the Obese" will use this particular scientific study as "an excuse" for their regrettable insistence on staying fat is just patronizing and enraging in equal measure. If you're not fat, it's not your problem. If a fat person comes up to you and asks you how not to be fat? Feel free to advise away. Otherwise, you can safely assume that what you have to say, has been heard, my thin friend, and you are not required by God or man to be the official Voice of Fat Shaming for "the Obese" of America. Thanks all the same.
posted by emjaybee at 8:17 AM on January 26, 2009 [33 favorites]


Both of my parents are obese and I am thin. This is not because I dodged a genetic bullet, it is because I struggle to eat well and exercise, and they do not. I may have to struggle more than someone without the genetic baggage of two fat parents, but it would be pathetic to just give up.
posted by amro at 8:20 AM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


So good for you if you're born with a "normal" metabolism, and if you have the money, education, social status, and leisure time to eat healthy foods and work out at the gym. (emphasis mine)

Funny, when I look at photos of people from the Great Depression, I don't see any fat guys. These must be photos of the well-monied, the educated, the socially able and the gym rats.

Or perhaps, they were all working all day on the farm? But I don't see a tractor in this photo? Or this one? I guess it's just around the corner. Of the city. With the cars. And the office buildings.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:24 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


People hate people what ain't like them.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:29 AM on January 26, 2009


There are thin people who got that way almost entirely by hard work, exercise, and determination.

Yes, but many of them end up gaining the weight back when they stop starving themselves/working out 2 hours a day. How can anyone fault people for wanting to live a normal life and not be constantly obsessing about their weight?
posted by 912 Greens at 8:30 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know what I think is funny? The truth is always 5, but people on the internet always seem to want to argue that it is either 1 or 10. Invariably, the answer to any argument is found in some undefined gray area in the middle. Whether it be two different theories, two different countries, two different philosophies, whatever; the truth is always that a little bit of both are right and a little bit of both are wrong. And pretty much everyone know it. Nobody here thinks that obesity is either completely genetic or completely a result of choice, but it is no fun for a thread to read - 1st comment: "Little bit of both right?" 2nd comment: "Yeah pretty much." No further comments. We all have to pretend that we don't have any sense in order to make this an entertaining argument to have while we are supposed to be working. I mean, I am fine with it. I don't want to actually do work either. I just think it is funny.

Also, the recent measured and intelligent comments by Ynoxas and Forktine kind of undercut my point. Thanks a lot jerks!
posted by ND¢ at 8:30 AM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ah yes, the "it worked for me, it should work for you" argument. Always a winner.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:30 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I agree that food is definitely one of the largest issues here, and I agree that we also have to look at environmental conditions/constraints. We've gone over this before, but it doesn't take a scientific study to realize that processed/pre-packaged/take-out/etc. does not fill you up in the same way that a home-cooked meal does (and by home-cooked I simply mean something you prepare yourself).

There are an astonishing number of people in this country who do not know how to cook. Cooking, if you have some basic skills, is not that time-consuming, no more than ordering a pizza and waiting 30 minutes for it to arrive, or adding water to that mashed potato mix while baking those Pillsbury Crescent rolls...you're looking at the same amount of time. Steamed vegetables, any pasta dishes, rice or casseroles...these are all fairly simple and quick things to make that you can do with whatever it is you have on hand. I'm sure there must be studies on this, but "common sense" tells me that being involved in food preparation and being party to the smells associated with whatever you are making simply fills you up in a way that getting a pre-made thing does. Not to mention all the nasty stuff in packaged food--sodium, chemical preservatives, HFCS, simple carbohydrates--that make you hungrier because they aren't serving your body the way it needs to. As someone mentioned, if you live off of 2000 calories of rice, beans, green vegetables and some good protein you will not weigh as much as someone who lives off of 2000 calories of processed shit.

So yeah, I think part of the problem is definitely education, starting at a younger level. We should be more hands-on with food and cooking, and more comprehensive as far as teaching kids what is really good for them and what isn't, and how simple it is to make something delicious at home rather than assuming that the only good stuff is stuff you buy already made. I'm sure, though, that the food industry would never allow such a thing to occur, because most of this comes down to money and profits...at least the food angle.

Also, I hate to be a cynic*, but has it ever occurred to people that the reason there are always new studies about what "really" causes obesity is simply a way to take power away from the individual, and make them dependent on the diet and pharmaceutical industries?

*this is a lie
posted by nonmerci at 8:33 AM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


"getting a pre-made thing does NOT", that is.
posted by nonmerci at 8:36 AM on January 26, 2009


designbot, sure, if we're just talking about thin vs. overweight. But surely there's a point at which it becomes ridiculous. What point? 20 pounds overweight? 50? 100?

Once past that point, the metabolism and other factors don't matter as much, do they? Because everything past that point can be shaved off by eating a few less cheeseburgers and running a few more laps.

I say this as someone who used to be grossly (~60lbs) overweight and wondered if I was doomed to be blubbery forever. Then I started running and eating better, thanks to a friend who took up the cause at the same time. My weight's fluctuated since, but never gotten anywhere near that high. And I find once I'm at a baseline health level, it's much easier to maintain weight by just doing a little exercise and watching my caloric intake.

Your points about money and leisure time are reasons but certainly not excuses. But you don't need a gym to work out and healthy foods are more affordable than people like to pretend. And social status? Really?

You take any schmoe 50 or more pounds overweight, that doesn't have serious underlying chronic health problems, who doesn't live in a complete food desert, and there is no reason they can't drop that with a few months' work. Motivation is the key, and there's no easy answer for that.
posted by vsync at 8:37 AM on January 26, 2009


Enjoy your genetic luck/good upbringing luck

Because hard work had nothing to do with it. Because saying no to the tasty cheesecake, even though I would have enjoyed it, wasn't a factor. Because the very real pain and discomfort of the heavy weight training and the feeling like I was going to puke after a long run didn't contribute.
I don't care in the least if you attribute your situation to "bad luck", but please don't insult me by attributing mine to "good luck". I worked hard, made sacrifices and earned it. Add I continue to every day.
posted by rocket88 at 8:38 AM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Echoing what giraffe said. Having to eat to live certainly makes things harder.

And the healthy diet thing is really very simple: assume anyone selling you food is trying to poison you, and anything labeled "healthy" is more likely to be a lie. I've seen all-natural 100% juice with tons of extra sugar added. Most bread is that only in name. Anything you would think is made of milk is just as likely to be made from oil and corn syrup. Just read the ingredients list and ignore the rest.
posted by vsync at 8:40 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Funny, when I look at photos of people from the Great Depression, I don't see any fat guys. These must be photos of the well-monied, the educated, the socially able and the gym rats.

Fat guy third from the back. Fail.
posted by mobunited at 8:41 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


If anyone's interested in learning more about the interplay of genetics and free will in obesity, Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata is a terrific book.
posted by 912 Greens at 8:56 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your points about money and leisure time are reasons but certainly not excuses. But you don't need a gym to work out and healthy foods are more affordable than people like to pretend. And social status? Really?

You take any schmoe 50 or more pounds overweight, that doesn't have serious underlying chronic health problems, who doesn't live in a complete food desert, and there is no reason they can't drop that with a few months' work. Motivation is the key, and there's no easy answer for that.


Hard to have much motivation, let alone time, when you're working two minimum wage jobs just to scrape by, and still can't afford much more than Hamburger Helper, ramen noodles, and McDonalds (for all the times you're just dead on your feet and don't have the energy to even cook, and after all, you work there anyway, don't even have to go anywhere to get it).

Yeah, it's a generalization, I know, but not everyone is middle class with enough money and leisure time to both work out and hang out having discussions on Metafilter.
posted by Caduceus at 8:59 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


The trans-border Pima aboriginal group are pretty close to the perfect exemplar of the genetic influence on obesity and its interaction with the environment. On the Mexican side, they tend towards normal body weight; on the American side, towards obesity. So, 10,000+ years of the "thrifty gene" which promotes fat retention as a buffer strategy in a marginal environment is now causing widespread diabetes etc. as the (cultural) environment has now changed to one of freely available calories for some members of the tribe. PBS story, but you can find a huge peer-reviewed literature on this case.
posted by Rumple at 9:00 AM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


I caught it from beer. NOWHERE IS SAFE!
posted by Artw at 9:02 AM on January 26, 2009


Yes, but many of them end up gaining the weight back when they stop starving themselves/working out 2 hours a day. How can anyone fault people for wanting to live a normal life and not be constantly obsessing about their weight?

This attitude is part of the problem right here. Eating right should not be thought of as "starving themselves". Two hours of physical activity a day should not be an outlandish thought.

I agree with Forktine in that this should be looked at as a societal problem. Two hours of physical activity a day doesn't seem normal/feasible mostly because of what our career lives are like.
posted by ODiV at 9:03 AM on January 26, 2009


Have they found people who can produce fat while burning more calories than they consume? Because if so, I have an effective (if gruesome) solution to our renewable energy problem.
posted by 0xFCAF at 9:06 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


McDonalds (for all the times you're just dead on your feet and don't have the energy to even cook, and after all, you work there anyway, don't even have to go anywhere to get it).

Even in this worst case, they could always eat the healthy things at McDonalds. You seem to be saying they choose not to and that's not their fault.
posted by smackfu at 9:10 AM on January 26, 2009


Because hard work had nothing to do with it. Because saying no to the tasty cheesecake, even though I would have enjoyed it, wasn't a factor. Because the very real pain and discomfort of the heavy weight training and the feeling like I was going to puke after a long run didn't contribute.
I don't care in the least if you attribute your situation to "bad luck", but please don't insult me by attributing mine to "good luck". I worked hard, made sacrifices and earned it. Add I continue to every day.


Fortune was the precondition for your success. You earned your success, but there are several common scenarios where your hard work wouldn't have amounted to as much, would have been more difficult, or wouldn't have been possible at all. If we tweak your insulin resistance, change the shape of your glottus just enough to induce increased apnea and associated fatigue, genetically shuck some more of your fat from the exterior to your viscera, get you into more shift work, alter your genetic, neurobiological relationship with leptin or do a bunch of other stuff, you don't get your opportunity to work hard with the same rewards.
posted by mobunited at 9:12 AM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


You are skinny because you didn't inherit genes predisposing you for obesity from your parents. You are skinny because you don't get nearly as hungry as obese people. You are skinny because your body metabolizes your food more effectively. You are skinny because, when you exercise, your fat burns off more quickly. You are skinny because your body is not constantly fighting against you to stabilize your weight to a "normal" level that is much higher than average. Maybe you are skinny because you didn't catch this virus.

I grew up skinny for all the reasons you mention.

I stayed skinny because when people pointed out I was getting fat, I changed my diet, started cycling to work regularly, and took off twenty pounds. My genes didn't change. My metabolism only continued it's gradual slowdown. My "stable" weight didn't suddenly drop I didn't "uncatch" a virus.

And while I don't think I'm morally superior or a better person because I'm not fat... I do get a slight feeling of moral superiority from not telling fat people that their health problems are completely beyond their control, giving bad advice that might shorten their lifespans if they follow it. That's kind of nice.
posted by roystgnr at 9:12 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fortune was the precondition for your success. You earned your success, but there are several common scenarios where your hard work wouldn't have amounted to as much, would have been more difficult, or wouldn't have been possible at all. If we tweak your insulin resistance, change the shape of your glottus just enough to induce increased apnea and associated fatigue, genetically shuck some more of your fat from the exterior to your viscera, get you into more shift work, alter your genetic, neurobiological relationship with leptin or do a bunch of other stuff, you don't get your opportunity to work hard with the same rewards.

Serious question: what cannot be justified or nullified by this type of logic?
posted by Bookhouse at 9:14 AM on January 26, 2009


"If it's all genetic, how come there are more fat people now then there used to be?"

Y'all never studied art history, did ya? Western European types have tended towards the fat for centuries, and not cause they've always been well fed or lazy.
posted by edheil at 9:15 AM on January 26, 2009


Eating right should not be thought of as "starving themselves".

Except there are studies that show that when obese people restrict their food intake, their bodies react exactly how a thin person's would if that person were literally starving.

There's certainly a social component here, but too often it gets presented in a way that reads to me as good old fashioned moral panic. I think it's important to listen to people who are obese when they say that they feel blamed and degraded because of something that they have limited control over. Urging people to take responsibility for their own health is something I support, but it's not helpful when it shames people for their size.
posted by 912 Greens at 9:16 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hard to have much motivation, let alone time, when you're working two minimum wage jobs just to scrape by, and still can't afford much more than Hamburger Helper, ramen noodles, and McDonalds (for all the times you're just dead on your feet and don't have the energy to even cook, and after all, you work there anyway, don't even have to go anywhere to get it).

Work in a restaurant, problem solved. I both learned to cook for myself and had access to real food.

Maybe it's just where I live, but junk food isn't that cheap. Conversely, real food isn't that expensive either.
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:20 AM on January 26, 2009


time to eat healthy foods and work out at the gym.

I can't stand this notion, held by so many people, that getting exercise means you must go to the gym. Such a marketing victim thing to say. I think this idea that you must attend a gym for exercise probably discourages a lot of people from even trying to improve their fitness.

If you have two working legs, exercise is only ever one minute and a change of shoes away. Walk to the grocery store once or twice a week... take the stairs if your hands are free... you will lose weight!

I get lots of exercise, but I don't "work out" so much as try to walk somewhere now and then, and I drop down to the floor and do sit-ups or push-ups a couple times per day, when I have an idle minute (rebooting PC, reheating coffee,
posted by autodidact at 9:21 AM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Serious question: what cannot be justified or nullified by this type of logic?

You can justify things where the strong majority of people experiencing these unfavorable conditions do not in fact find a way to overcome them. It's pretty reasonable to think that lacking the ability to peer into human souls, raw statistics can tell us that there are plenty of educated hard-working fat guys who are amazingly still fat.

This is different from, say, having a family background largely similar to that of a murderer; lots of folks like that do not in fact kill anyone.

I know, I know. Some of you desperately *want* to feel special because you worked off your chub or the genetic lottery made you bent-over, pasty skinnyfat types instead of folks inclined to have a gut. Or even if you don't feel special, you want to feel *better* than *them.*

But even though your journey to fitness is fulfilling and important for you (and that's important for your own quality of life - don't doubt it!) in the big picture it doesn't matter. You are not universal role models - just schmoes.
posted by mobunited at 9:28 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


My God, I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Definitely not in my own estimation. But none of my failings are attributed by anyone, myself included, as "not my fault" or "beyond my control". Of course they're my fault. Who the hell else is responsible for me?
I don't get any kicks from shaming people or making them feel bad for the choices they've made, but at the same time I want to support anyone who wants to improve themselves and help them do so. I want to counter the false messages that tell them to give up because they've lost the genetic lottery or caught a fat virus and tell them that their health is absolutely in their own hands and that improvement is possible. It's hard, but it gets easier, and being hard just makes it more worthwhile to achieve.
Why do so many people want them to give up by telling them their efforts are wasted?
posted by rocket88 at 9:32 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Except there are studies that show that when obese people restrict their food intake, their bodies react exactly how a thin person's would if that person were literally starving.

Yeah, because they were on diets of 600 calories a day. If you are obese, and think you must eat only 600 calories a day to be thin, that right there is a big reason why you are still obese. For Chrissake, I am a member of a weight-loss forum that is packed full of 250+ lbs people who are losing weight on 2500 calories a day or more.

As for those prisoners, it's also no wonder they regained the weight--if you lose weight, and return to your old habits, then yes, you will get fat again. If I don't want to be overweight I can't down a pint of Ben & Jerry's four times a week and eat pizza or Chinese food every other day. If you think these restrictions amount to "starving myself" then that explains a lot about your relationship with food.

You do not need to starve to lose weight. You just need to eat a bit less than you currently are (unless you're eating like Michael Phelps) and make sure what you're eating is of good quality. I'm at 174lbs and have lost 12lbs in seven weeks on 1800-2000 calories a day, and the only "secret" is ensuring my carbohydrate intake comes entirely from vegetables and fruits and making sure I'm eating shittons of protein.
posted by schroedinger at 9:32 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Walk to the grocery store once or twice a week...

Some people live in places where pedestrian areas are not safe/accessible. Interestingly, these are often the same places where the nearest place selling "groceries" is a crappy corner store. But obesity is not a class issue!
posted by 912 Greens at 9:32 AM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]



Have they found people who can produce fat while burning more calories than they consume? Because if so, I have an effective (if gruesome) solution to our renewable energy problem.


It also makes the best soap. The very definition of clean fuel!

The always entertaining Hurfdurf Wars aside, I think the buried neat bit here is that there's probably all kinds of viruses out there that haven't even been found yet--despite being fairly common. Simply because they don't manifest in a very easy way to spot.

Me, I've always wanted to catch the luck virus from Red Dwarf.
posted by Drastic at 9:33 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


and still can't afford much more than Hamburger Helper, ramen noodles, and McDonalds

Since when is McDonalds more affordable than healthy food? On that note, I got paid today, so I'm going to drag my skinny-genes down to McDs right now for a BigMac and have a great laugh over all this.
posted by sunshinesky at 9:34 AM on January 26, 2009


this is interesting. I always thought I 'caught the obesity bug' from those free fries coupons the local mcd had printed on all the football stadium tickets. the stadium was on the way to my school on game days I'd just collect a couple and be set for another kilo or two.

but hey, 'I caught a bug' sounds so much better. there just isn't anything you can do about that, right? boo responsibility, yay "it's in my genes, it's a bug, it's the man." don't laugh, I bet that one is just around the corner.
posted by krautland at 9:36 AM on January 26, 2009


If you think these restrictions amount to "starving myself" then that explains a lot about your relationship with food.

Wow, you sure know a lot about me and my eating habits, internet stranger! But I'll admit, this is a personal issue for me in part, because I know/am close to people who are overweight...maybe even obese (gasp!), who actually eat healthy food in normal-sized portions! I know others who are hungry much more often than me and most thin folks I know. This leads me to the conclusion that bodies are not identical bunsen burners and metabolism is a bit more complicated and individual-specific than calories in vs. calories out. And I think it's morally fucking wrong to make assumptions about people's habits and character based on their size.
posted by 912 Greens at 9:42 AM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Looks like Metafilter's got a case of the Mondays.
posted by hellojed at 9:42 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


If we can stop thinking of "obesity" as a booga-booga end-result disease-in-itself kind of thing, perhaps we can consider what this research is actually saying: that, apparently, 20% more fat people than thin people have contracted a certain virus.

It doesn't necessarily mean the virus caused thin people to become fat -- but if you want to think of it that way, then maybe you could also consider, if that's the case, the possibility that gaining fat was a protective mechanism for those people.

Or maybe those people more likely to contract the virus were fat to begin with -- maybe fat people engaged in certain behaviours that lowered their resistance to this virus (depending on where your politics lie, you can define these behaviours as either "spooning lard into their morally bankrupt, porcine faces" or "going on bizarre diets in a desperate attempt not be reviled by the sum total of humanity." Your choice.)

But, just like we saw in the leptin-deficiency mouse model, the proposed "bullet" that supposedly "caused obesity!!!!1!" only actually applied to a relatively small segment of fat humanity. So it seems, with each revelation, we have found there are many potential "causes" of fat, and these multiple factors are likely to mix and blend in different proportions in any given fat individual.

What concerns me is not so much the search for a "cause" for "obesity," so much as it seems this search inherently carries with it the flavour of "blame." WHO DO WE BLAME? Because, not only is fat an inherently bad thing for which blame must be determined, but, presumably, if we find someone (or something) to BLAME, we can finally decide how fat people are to be treated. Are they to be taxed more? Or strong-armed into participating in reducing schemes at work? Or pitied as victims of a capricious genetic fate, felt sorry for? Are they humans, or are they walking diseases? Symbols of everything we hate about our culture and ourselves, about consumerism and greed and capitalism? Are they system-squeezers, insurance-stealers, parasites of the social order who would instantly bankrupt any attempt at universal healthcare or welfare, and therefore are closet commies?

Or could they maybe just be people, some of whom are sick or well, some of whom have large appetites or small, some of whom eat compulsively or try to starve themselves, some of whom are active or indolent, some assholes and some sweethearts, but all of them, always, human?

Nevermind; go back to fighting about twinkies or whatever. Next time you see a fat person out and about, don't forget to cross to the opposite side of the street, lest it's catching.
posted by peggynature at 9:47 AM on January 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


<>
posted by nonmerci at 9:49 AM on January 26, 2009


This leads me to the conclusion that bodies are not identical bunsen burners and metabolism is a bit more complicated and individual-specific than calories in vs. calories out

And most of this thread leads me to believe that a lot of people don't have the faintest clue as to what the metabolism is, or what it does. Sort of like Smedleyman's anecdote about fucktard and his "leg genes".
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:50 AM on January 26, 2009


FUCK. That should read (and now it's worse):

/finds this "discussion" a bummer, returns to Regional Pizza thread./
posted by nonmerci at 9:50 AM on January 26, 2009


My God, I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Definitely not in my own estimation. But none of my failings are attributed by anyone, myself included, as "not my fault" or "beyond my control". Of course they're my fault. Who the hell else is responsible for me?
I don't get any kicks from shaming people or making them feel bad for the choices they've made, but at the same time I want to support anyone who wants to improve themselves and help them do so. I want to counter the false messages that tell them to give up because they've lost the genetic lottery or caught a fat virus and tell them that their health is absolutely in their own hands and that improvement is possible. It's hard, but it gets easier, and being hard just makes it more worthwhile to achieve.
Why do so many people want them to give up by telling them their efforts are wasted?


If people in this thread were really focusing on health the discussion would be about cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and joint health. These are things with honest to god functional indicators. Maybe it would help if we decided not to give a shit about shape and thought more about performance. There's correlation between these elements and body fat, but specificity allows us to get past aesthetic bullshit. There's no debate about whether people should be stronger, more flexible or be able to hustle for a couple of blocks. *That's* what matters. That's what begs the question: How can we lower the barriers to improved physical performance for fat people? Pat cries of "Willpower!" are patronizing, simplistic and unsupported by the reality of these situations.
posted by mobunited at 9:54 AM on January 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


And most of this thread leads me to believe that a lot of people don't have the faintest clue as to what the metabolism is, or what it does.

As this seems to be directed at me, I will admit that I am by no means an expert on this topic and would be interested in learning more. So by all means, feel free to provide links to relevant information rather than just being a dismissive prick.
posted by 912 Greens at 10:04 AM on January 26, 2009


People, take it to MetaTalk.

Oh wait.


YES WE CAN
posted by grobstein at 10:06 AM on January 26, 2009


peggynature: I have no idea what you're trying to say here, sorry. It feels like the more words I read, the less I understand. Are you just saying that bodyfat percentage is but one attribute of a human being for which they shouldn't be defined? Or did you actually have something to contribute?
posted by ODiV at 10:07 AM on January 26, 2009


As this seems to be directed at me, I will admit that I am by no means an expert on this topic and would be interested in learning more. So by all means, feel free to provide links to relevant information rather than just being a dismissive prick.

Can we just pretend I linked Wikipedia for you...

Or, you could follow links (Windows Media Player) others have posted.

But you know, nothing your fault, not even ignorance.
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:12 AM on January 26, 2009


And most of this thread leads me to believe that a lot of people don't have the faintest clue as to what the metabolism is, or what it does.

You know, as far as I'm concerned, I don't give a rip about people's metabolisms and whether they vary that much, or whether we're all, secretly, just fleshy housing for perfectly-calibrated bomb calorimeters.

What I'm concerned about is being hungry. People get hungry, and they get hungry for a reason -- because their body wants that energy, those nutrients. Some people's hunger gets messed up, sure -- but those people are not exclusively fat.

Thing is, I know a fair bit about nutrition, since I pay an obscene amount of money to study it at school. But the average person, on account of having a rudimentarily-functioning body, also knows a fair bit about nutrition -- they know when they are hungry, and only they know (and can decide) how much and which foods are going to make them not hungry anymore.

I understand our concerns about the food industry, and certain products on the market, and people's basic education about whether they should eat Top Ramen all the time, or have some fruit and veg and protein here and there, but on the whole, lots of people know how to eat. They are roughly acquainted with the food pyramid or whatever, or have read nutrition articles or diet books (and you can argue the details about food politics or whatever, but since we don't seem to have devastating, population-wide micronutrient deficiencies like beri-beri or scurvy going on in wealthy countries, or protein-energy malnutrition like marasmus and kwashiorkor, I'm not going to get into it with you) and most healthy people have functioning hunger/satiety signals.

And the thing is, it is really fucking insulting that, because I'm hungry for a certain amount of food and because my body arranges itself in a certain way as a result of that hunger, the entire world feels it is their place to tell me that my appetite is wrong, that I must just not know what the fuck I am doing with myself, that I must eat donuts and drink sugared cola 24/7, and that I am fair game for public commentary on my private habits, my health status (diabeetus!), and how unfuckable I am (or, in many cases, how uniquely fuckable I am, since REAL WOMEN GOT MEAT ON THEIR BONES, HAR HAR.)

A lot of thin people dislike exercise, or inordinately enjoy fast food, or have had eating disorders and body image problems that messed them up around food. But somehow, we don't comment with quite the same moralizing derision on their struggles. Somehow, we don't come to quite the same assumptions about them, or presume it's our place to tell them how to eat or move. We don't assume THEY'RE DOING IT WRONG quite as often as we do with fat people.

So, in my experience, my metabolism works pretty much the way a metabolism works in a textbook. I eat a stable amount of food, I get a stable amount of exercise, and I maintain a pretty stable weight. But it's not like I picked the amount of food and exercise to get off a chart somewhere, or had my doctor write it down on a pad like a prescription -- it's what I am driven to do. Just like I am driven to, mostly, get 8 hours of sleep a night, but occasionally get by on 5, or luxuriate in 10. And how, for some others, they feel sleepy if they don't get 9, or they get restless if they get more than 6.

And that's okay. Cause people are different, and sometimes they're meant to be different. You can't seriously delude yourself by thinking that the fat people who live in our culture have just somehow been magically deaf to the public health campaigns and nutrition and exercise advice shoved down everyone's throat on a per-second basis. We're not. We hear it, some of us try to adhere more closely to that advice than others, just like thin people. And, as a result, we've got a variety of shapes and sizes. It's called diversity, and as far as I can tell, physical diversity can protect species from outright extinction in a changing environment.
posted by peggynature at 10:15 AM on January 26, 2009 [21 favorites]


Why do so many people want them to give up by telling them their efforts are wasted?

Wow, you must spend a lot of time working on your self-serving argument muscles: they are like huge.

People should be encouraged to get in shape and eat well because those are good for, not because they make you thin. And if someone works out and eats well and is still a little fatter than you, I don't need them beating themselves up for not working hard enough. So I am going to say, "Hey look there are other factors; you aren't some weak jerk, but there is value in exercise even if you are not a size 6."
posted by dame at 10:16 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


"They had a bit on 60 Minutes last night about how they starve monkeys (sorry, "calorie reduction diet") and they live longer and have less health problems then the normally fed monkeys."

But then there is the obesity paradox.
posted by terranova at 10:17 AM on January 26, 2009


Where can I catch the Increase Penis Size virus?
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:19 AM on January 26, 2009


Or did you actually have something to contribute?

NO SORRY I WILL TAKE MY BOOBS AND GO HOME
posted by peggynature at 10:26 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Once again, I find myself wondering which people in a LESS FOOD MORE EXERCISE A THIN IS YOU thread went out and had a smoke after they posted.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:27 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Worst food in America.

But it looks delicious!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:28 AM on January 26, 2009


Once again, I find myself wondering which people in a LESS FOOD MORE EXERCISE A THIN IS YOU thread went out and had a smoke after they posted.

I had mine while I was posting. I'd just lit a fresh kitten on fire and didn't want to waste the chance to light my tasty tumour with such a readily accessible flame.
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:29 AM on January 26, 2009


The correlation-causation patrol is a little overzealous, although the work you guys do is important. The study doesn't "prove" the role of AD-36 in human obesity, but it does make it seem rather plausible, and we should adjust our beliefs accordingly.

However, it's still a long leap from there to "fat is a disease." Consider this, from the article:
His studies indicated that the virus lingers for up to three months, during which time it multiplies fat and is contagious to others.
In other words, the virus doesn't persist forever in the background, continually multiplying fat cells. Rather, it acts as a one-time shock. This shock is sufficient to push many people into long-term obesity. This suggests a different way of thinking about obesity: not (merely), how do you avoid the habits that lead you into obesity in the first place, but: how do you cultivate the habits that allow you to recover from a one-time obesity shock?

If 75% of those infected remain obese, why are they unable to recover from the one-time shock? Diet and exercise almost certainly play a role.
posted by grobstein at 10:30 AM on January 26, 2009


peggynature: I didn't mean it that harshly, sorry. You're just quite wordy and I was trying to decipher what your overall message was.

Society does judge people who are overweight quite harshly, I agree. People can be cruel sometimes and tend to take everything to extremes (as evidenced in this very thread; it seems an individual either starves themselves and go to the gym every day or they stuff their faces with two quarts of ice cream and a large pizza for lunch).
posted by ODiV at 10:34 AM on January 26, 2009


Can we just pretend I linked Wikipedia for you...

Wikipedia? Seriously? Perhaps it's my colossal ignorance speaking, but I tend to like my sources a little meatier. Meatier, because I'm fat.

Also, do you think I'm saying that diet and exercise don't play a role in weight loss/gain? Because I am not saying that.
posted by 912 Greens at 10:37 AM on January 26, 2009


You're just quite wordy and I was trying to decipher what your overall message was.

Thanks for the explanation -- it is sometimes difficult to decipher genuine curiosity from snark. My main point: the tenor of this research, the article about it, and the attendant MeFi discussion seems to be about assigning "blame" for fatness. But I don't think anyone's to blame for something that 1) is not necessarily a disease, and 2) is morally neutral even if it were.

Sorry for the wordiness, it's just how I operate.
posted by peggynature at 10:38 AM on January 26, 2009


No apology necessary on your part. Rereading my comment: Or did you actually have something to contribute?
Is absolutely way harsher than I intended and is pretty much impossible to be read without snark.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled mefight.
posted by ODiV at 10:42 AM on January 26, 2009


I've read this whole thread and still don't understand what it has to do with Israel/Palestine.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:43 AM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


If you really wanted to start a fight, you could have posted the brain-scan study that suggests women overeat more because they have worse impulse control? this simply can't be true for broad notions of impulse control, right? but that also doesn't mean there's nothing to it.
posted by grobstein at 10:45 AM on January 26, 2009


I think you'll find bacon is the link, Astro Zombie.
posted by ODiV at 10:45 AM on January 26, 2009


I agree to lose weight you have to exercise more and eat less. I lost 80 lbs doing that. However, I also think weight is a social problem as well. In the seventies when I grew up, we didn't have a hundred commercials a day for food. There wasn't a fast food place or chinese food place on every corner. Portions in snack machines were a portion not a portion and a half. I remember when the kids Happy Meal was the ADULT meal at Mcdonald's. I don't remember the HUGE array of choices at the grocery store. We were active in and out of school. Food did not seem like an obsession like it is now. As society has gotten faster and more difficult, I applaud those who can say no over and over again to poor food choices, but there are those for whom all the choices and decisions are exhausting and they give up when it comes to food. Food should be simple and healthy, but the food business makes it difficult and purposly so. They use psychology against us to get people to buy, buy, buy, and eat, eat eat. It's not fair but it's capitalism. I don't know what the answer is but having been a fattie I know how much it hurts to have people stare or else treat you like you are completely invisable.
posted by brneyedgrl at 10:45 AM on January 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


this simply can't be true for broad notions of impulse control, right? but that also doesn't mean there's nothing to it.

Please don't refer to women as "broads".
posted by Rumple at 10:56 AM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't know why it's this little sympathetic head pat that sets me off, but it does. Maybe it's this:

NO OBESE PERSON DOESN'T KNOW THEY'RE OBESE. Anyone who's even chubby, in this society, knows it. THEY ALL KNOW, OK?


Wow emjaybee, nice angry little polemic that completely ignores the meat of my comment. Bonus points for focusing on the word choice in my first sentence - oooh no, I said "the obese" instead of "obese people" - instead of actually addressing my point about genetic predispositions.

B--- WOULD ROLL MY EYES AGAIN
posted by Sloop John B at 10:58 AM on January 26, 2009


perhaps we can consider what this research is actually saying: that, apparently, 20% more fat people than thin people have contracted a certain virus.

Actually, what it says is stronger than that, because scientists have found some evidence that would point to a causal relationship between the virus and the generation of fatty tissue by testing in several animal models (chickens, rodents, and primates). After the animals were inoculated with the virus, they tended to become fatter. This is not to say that this link is well-established, but it goes far beyond mere correlation.
posted by grouse at 11:05 AM on January 26, 2009


I'm curious about people's desire to place blame. Why does it matter so much whether or not it's a fat person's fault if he's fat? Isn't the issue simply one of public health? For some reason (their fault or not), many people have a serious health problem. What can we do to solve it?

I'm also curious about what people mean by "their fault." Does it mean someone could easily choose a good path but instead chooses a bad one, as in when picking socks that don't match verses socks that do? Does it mean someone is refusing to put considerable effort into making the right choice, as in me stealing a little of my roommate's coffee instead of walking mile in sub-zero weather to get some of my own when I don't own a coat? (In that example, I am to blame for stealing, but isn't the more important issue the fact that I'm too poor to afford a coat?)

What if -- in order to do the right thing -- I need to do something extremely painful every day of my life? Am I equally at fault as someone who can make the same choice without pain?

What if there's a good choice I can make (say salad instead of a Big Mac) but, due to poor education, I don't know about this good choice? Is it still my fault if I don't make it?

What if there's constant temptation for me to make the bad choice? Are adult people expected to be able to resist all temptation? Are we sure that's a matter of choice? Are we sure that ANYONE can resist ANY temptation?

Is the whole point of this an attempt to decide whether or not to spend public funds on helping obese people? Is the argument that if it's their fault, we shouldn't help them? We should only ever help people who are in trouble due to no fault of their own? And are we sure that if there's a choice, all seemingly unconstrained people are capable of making the right choice?

Or is it just a matter of deciding whether or not it's okay to make fun of them? Most of us agree that it's not okay to make fun of people who are afflicted due to something that they didn't choose. But do we think it IS okay to make fun of someone for a choice them made? Why?

If it IS okay to make fun of people because they make poor choices, are there any mitigating factors? Is it okay to make fun of me if I'm in trouble at age 40 because of a choice I made when I was ten?

My guess is that the reality is very complicated. If I'm overweight, it's partly due to lack of willpower (and is how much willpower I have under my control or not?), partly due to lack of education, partly due to genetic factors, partly due to emotional issues, partly due to upbringing factors, partly due to lifestyle factors and partly due to environmental factors.

Is this desire to place blame (in a binary way) an to simplify a frighteningly complex world?
posted by grumblebee at 11:07 AM on January 26, 2009 [10 favorites]


Hmm, I'm a skinny person (by popular definition of my peers) and I don't do crap. I eat well, I guess, since I can afford to keep up with buying fresh veggies (it's not that hamburger helper is cheaper, it's that to keep in food I need to grocery buy on a tri-weekly basis, while a 'fat' diet would allow for shopping weekly and consuming what's available near your place of work). But the thing that depresses me is that I'm in terrible shape, in the sense of crappy cardio and so on and I can't find much helpful information that isn't geared towards 'lose fatz!' unless it's intended for arthritic senior citizens.

And the knowledge for meeting goals I want, to actually have balance, to have the capacity to take action for long periods of time without panting, and so on, just don’t exist. Willpower? Pfft, try being sick of being told that every activity is designed to prevent the dreaded weight gain. :P
posted by Phalene at 11:07 AM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


On another note, I find this thread amusing -- as all obesity discussions -- because no one thinks twice about telling a physically addicted smoker that they should quit. Try and tell someone to eat properly and exercise and you're somehow an asshole. Meanwhile us tar-lungs get flack for all the "health care dollars" I cost.

If tobacco products tasted wonderful and were supplied (even force-fed) to you before you were even old enough to lift your head; if they were available to you in a nearly limitless supply as soon as you were old enough to scrounge for coins under the couch cushions; if the Marlboro Man rode down the street each evening selling cigarettes to all the neighborhood children; if every night, your family passed around a pack of Camel Lights following dinner as a bonding exercise; if nicotine was added to bread, canned vegetables, soup, salad dressing, deli meats, chili, and routinely used as seasoning, and to avoid it you had to buy specialty products or cook everything from scratch; if tobacco consumption was so ingrained into normal societal interaction that you were thought of as a nuisance at best, extremist at worst if you decided to avoid it altogether - then maybe you might have an argument there.
posted by granted at 11:08 AM on January 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


and the generation of fatty tissue by testing in several animal models (chickens, rodents, and primates). After the animals were inoculated with the virus, they tended to become fatter.

Right. That was for the animal models, and it is suggestive. However, these things don't always play out in humans in the same way they do in the animal models (that's why I bring up the leptin example. It didn't pan out in the way they were hoping, iirc.)

I was talking about the humans, though. Unless they went around injecting thin humans with the virus, they didn't establish a causative correlation to human fatness. They just determined that 20% more fat humans had the virus at some point than thin humans.
posted by peggynature at 11:09 AM on January 26, 2009


I'm so upset right now that I'm going to eat an extra skinny person for lunch.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:13 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


peggy: it's completely true that an animal model isn't 100% representitive to what happens in humans but the fact that it's consistent between across several species, including primates, is a good sign. Also, testing in humans is a lot more difficult as the ethics laws are quite different in animal vs human testing. You can't keep a human in a cage, feed it a strict diet, infect with a virus and observe the results. You can do that with animals. In addition to that, these mice would be from the same genetic background, reducing variability in the population. This really doesn't happen in the human world that often, perhaps in some isolated islands, but not in Europe and North America.
posted by LunaticFringe at 11:20 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


...if tobacco consumption was so ingrained into normal societal interaction that you were thought of as a nuisance at best, extremist at worst if you decided to avoid it altogether - then maybe you might have an argument there.

You've just described the 1950's.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:23 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


The level of abject fear of fat and the determination to blame people who get fat for being fat-- especially by people who seem to be implying they are or were fat!-- surprises me more than I thought anything that happens here would, after three years.

The science behind this looks pretty strong to me, and I don't think it's at all likely to be overthrown. I'd go further than the studies and say that it's very likely that anyone who gets infected by this virus will have a higher fat 'setpoint' than than they would have.

But the virus does a lot more than simply cause your fat cells to multiply. According to Lunatic Fringe's third link, it increases the metabolic potential of your voluntary muscles and might therefore make you more likely to be active and get exercise:

CONCLUSIONS: Ad-36 infection increases glucose uptake in HSKM cells via Ras-activated PI 3-kinase pathway in an insulin-independent manner. These findings may provide impetus to exploit the role of Ad-36 proteins as novel therapeutic targets for improving glucose handling.

It also makes your muscles more able to absorb glucose without insulin in your blood, and that probably means it would be a considerable help for a person with type I or II diabetes to be infected by this virus, although for that to be the case, the muscle effects would have to last beyond the period of initial infection.

Ad-36 might be one of the first viruses which turns out, when considered as a whole under the average of human conditions throughout history, to be beneficial to the people it infects.
posted by jamjam at 11:25 AM on January 26, 2009


In addition to that, these mice would be from the same genetic background, reducing variability in the population. This really doesn't happen in the human world that often

And that, in itself, is another interesting point for why this disease may not represent quite the major causative factor in human fatness that it appears to in other animals. Even if the presence of the virus in more fat people than thin people were purely causative in nature, then 1) why didn't those 11% of thin people get fat, too? And 2) what about the other 80% of fat people? Something else must've caused their fatness.

My final opinion, which is the same one I walked in with, is that overall body size, whether fat or thin, is a phenotype with many, many factors contributing -- some genetic, some environmental (and that environment includes diseases as well as Teen Burgers.)
posted by peggynature at 11:28 AM on January 26, 2009


Someone better call the FDA and have them check packs of Hershey's Triple Chocolate Chunk brownie mix for contamination. I think that stuff may be infected with this virus because after I eat a couple brownies, I definitely feel fatter. Of course, that may be because I added some extra dark chocolate chips to it and made Quadruple Chocolate Chunk brownies. But hey, only the FDA can rule out viral contamination!
posted by jamstigator at 11:29 AM on January 26, 2009


That's it, I am officially putting my dick in the mashed potatoes.

"Officially"? How's that work, you cut a ribbon or something?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:30 AM on January 26, 2009


She's actual size, but she seems much bigger to me.

She must be ill.
posted by owtytrof at 11:31 AM on January 26, 2009


Thin. Normal. Overweight. I rarely see that spectrum represented in neutral language other than in the BMI, which to its credit uses the word "underweight." There are documented, undeniable, unquibblable deaths from anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, which given body image issues as they usually play out, are almost certainly facilitated by "obesity epidemic" rhetoric. Given my conversations with dieting women over the last few decades, I wouldn't be surprised if a non-trivial number of unexplained auto accidents resulted from people passing out at the wheel from low blood sugar. We do know that a non-trivial number of suicides are related to eating disorders, and the majority of women I know struggle with something akin to depression over body size. Why isn't there the same unctuous concern about the eating disorder epidemic? It would seem on the face of it to be a more acute public health issue than some dude's gut hanging over his belt.

I agree that the American diet is somewhere between less-than-healthy and toxic. I agree that lack of exercise is unhealthy. A lifestyle that combines those two is unhealthy for everyone, regardless of body mass. I'm prepared to accept the idea that sheer body size plays a significant role in health. But most of the studies I've seen, if I'm reading them right, fail to separate diet/exercise from obesity as factors. There's certainly a bit of circular logic involved: obesity is assumed bad by definition, and if high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats seem to cause health problems for obese people, it's the obesity's fault because obesity is bad because obese people have trouble with HFCS and trans fats.

Re: exercise? In 2003 I weighed fifty pounds more than I do now. I'm a hiker, and I realized some time ago that my hikes in 2003 were all done with the equivalent of a fifty-pound pack on my gut compared to my hikes today. It takes the same number of kCal to heft fifty pounds up a hill whether the fifty pounds is pig iron or adipose tissue. You weigh 150 pounds and you're exhorting a 300-pound person that they should exercise more? Put on a 150 pound backpack and go grocery shopping and then talk to me. Fat people are STRONG.
posted by Coyote Crossing at 11:31 AM on January 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


How come people can't have a conversation about weight without accepting that there is a huge difference between being 20-30 pounds overweight and being 70-100 pounds (or more) overweight? The reason we keep hearing about obesity epidemics is that we are seeing people who 30 years ago would have been in the former category are now in the latter.
posted by aspo at 11:33 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


And that, in itself, is another interesting point for why this disease may not represent quite the major causative factor in human fatness that it appears to in other animals.

No one is saying that Ad-36 is the major causative factor in other animals, just that has been demonstrated to induce adiposity in other animals (and to have some effects on human preadipocytes in vitro). The relative importance of various factors in what is clearly a multifactorial condition has not been established. Nonetheless, the establishment of an additional factor is an interesting scientific result.
posted by grouse at 11:39 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm curious about people's desire to place blame

I think about this a lot. When you see a 300 lb woman walking down the street, how do I know if her condition is the result of current or past behaviors? Was she 350 lbs six months ago?
posted by pointystick at 11:42 AM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


The reason we keep hearing about obesity epidemics is that we are seeing people who 30 years ago would have been in the former category are now in the latter.

Do we actually know, for certain, that this is the case? As far as I know, yes, the amount of people in the "obese" (or is it "morbidly obese" category) has increased the most dramatically, skewing the population's weight distribution to the right on the bell curve.

That means there are greater numbers of very fat people (myself included), which is not the same thing as saying, "All those very fat people used to be merely overweight." It could just as easily mean that more of those very fat people are simply surviving rather than dying off. Perhaps due to some medical advances.

(I don't actually know if this is true. It's just a hypothetical scenario to ask why people seem to assume that "larger numbers of people with BMI over 35" = "OMG those previously overweight people are now SUPA FAT!")

there is a huge difference between being 20-30 pounds overweight and being 70-100 pounds (or more) overweight

And what, exactly, do you think this difference is? For myself, as an individual, my health and quality of life doesn't seem much different than they did 100 lbs. ago. Perhaps people scream "FAT BITCH" at me from cars more often, but that's an effect of culture, not a consequence inherent to my physiology.
posted by peggynature at 11:56 AM on January 26, 2009


Is this desire to place blame (in a binary way) an to simplify a frighteningly complex world?

Yes.
posted by LordSludge at 12:03 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


So this is supposed to be a pretty liberal community, right?

Well, doesn't liberalism stand, traditionally, for increased freedom of choice? Freedom to choose your own marriage partner, religion, etc. And, y'know, Roe v. Wade, the right to privacy, the right to do whatever you want with your own body. Why does the right to control your own body fall under the broader category of the right to privacy? Because it is a 'private' matter: in theory, it does not impinge upon anyone else. It is yours and yours alone.

So even if being obese is 100% a choice, even if genetics had nothingto do with it, casting judgment on someone else for what they do with something that is indisputably theirs--their body--is self-righteous meddling and says more about you then about them. I'm sure most obese people know the health risks associated with being obese. But maybe, rather than being 'weak-willed,' they've calculated the odds and decided that being able to eat the foods that they like and spend the time they would have devoted to exercise doing something else they enjoy more, is worth the 5 or 10 years off their life expectancy that doing so might cost them. That is merely a preference that doesn't affect you in the least. Different values should be respected: another key tenet of liberalism.

Or maybe they are 'weak-willed.' Maybe they wish they were thin, but don't have the willpower to realize that dream. Again, how does that affect you? Oh right, it doesn't: it's a mental battle confined entirely to a different person's head, where their right to privacy is complete. You know how on Ask Metafilter, people often ask questions about how they can help crazy family members, and the advice given most often is, "you can't, only they can help themselves, so try to distance yourself from the situation?" Well, in this case, we are dealing with hypothetical obese people who aren't even your family members, so you should have even less of a stake in what you see as their problems.

Yes, fat people exist. I just don't see why you should care one way or the other.
posted by notswedish at 12:03 PM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Serious question: What do MeFites think about obesity being caused by cultural factors?

I know the discussion in here is mostly centered on American obesity, but how much impact do you think culture has on national obesity, and how?

(Five pages by noon.)
posted by pyrex at 12:04 PM on January 26, 2009


No one is saying that Ad-36 is the major causative factor

Well, according to the linked article, "OBESITY can be “caught” as easily as a common cold...an airborne “adenovirus” germ could be causing the fat plague that is blighting Britain. As many as one in three obese people may have become overweight after falling victim to the highly infectious cold-like virus."

Sounds a bit like "major causative factor" hyperbole to me. I'm not pointing fingers at the researchers, per se, or discounting the interestingness of their findings. But I am challenging the reductionist tone of the article and many of the interpretations/comments here.

I very much agree that it's an interesting scientific result. But, having read many similar hypotheses about fatness over the years, I remain skeptical about how clinically significant this factor will ultimately turn out to be.
posted by peggynature at 12:04 PM on January 26, 2009


When you see a 300 lb woman walking down the street, how do I know if her condition is the result of current or past behaviors?

My pal Tony? He's 320 lbs. At one point, he started coming to the gym with me and he actually lost 20lbs. He looked better, had more energy and was excited about loosing more weight.

Then his bipolar ass started to go in a deep depressive cycle and his doctors swapped his meds around and one of the side effects of the new meds was weight gain. He gained 40lbs.

The emotional effect on him was devastating. He strongly feels as though he can't win, he's just royally fucked. He knows that the sugar binges he goes on are not healthy, he knows it, but he can't help it due to the stress eating. Why is he stress eating? 'cause he's finally, finally, FINALLY in steady therapy and dealing with the 10 years of sexual abuse he suffered from ages 4 to 14 while holding down a full time job and keeping his marriage and kids straight and wondering if next week his bipolarity is going to send him some other messed up.

No, Tony is not a symbol of every fat person. He's just Tony, with a complicated history and body chemistry (we won't mention the fibromyalgia and the drugs he been trying for that).

So if he wants another fucking slice of pizza, I don't give him any shit about it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:16 PM on January 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


notswedish - I'd like to think that by now it's turned into a semi-academic matter; "there are people that are fat.. hmm.. why?" <>
posted by pyrex at 12:19 PM on January 26, 2009


“My sense is that the last thirty or so years of obesity efforts have been basically totally wasted, because of the focus on individual behavior rather than physical and social environments.”

I have to agree. The fitness craze of the 70s gave way to the narcissism of the 80s and it became, again, all about making a buck. But these seem to be cycles. Same deal around the turn of the previous century - s’where we got breakfast cereal from.


“Funny, when I look at photos of people from the Great Depression, I don't see any fat guys”

Ever seen a fat Amish guy? They do a lot of work outdoors and eat a lot of natural (non-corn syrupy) food. Those folks aren’t healthy. They’re just not stuffed with chemical additives.
I myself actively avoid corn syrup et.al. but I have to go out of my way to do it. And McDonald’s hadn’t been invented yet. I guarantee you if it were, those folks would have pot bellies.
Back in the day even the fighters used to eat lots of meat and potatoes and fresh veggies, but they drink beer and smoked and did other unhealthy things, and they were working all day long instead of training.
Hell, I’d knock John L. Sullivan through a brick wall, but only because my (amateur) training is far more intensive. I only vaguely remember the last time I had a beer. Can’t think of the last time I didn’t eat a balanced diet.
Hollyfield (et.al) would have chewed up and spat out nearly anyone pre-Marciano.
I bring up fighters in part because I know training, but also to illustrate that even people who were, at the time, the most conscious about their diet and exercise habits, didn’t really know much.
Today we know a lot more. And yet, it’s being actively sabotaged (as nonmerci sez - by the diet and pharmaceutical industries).
Think there’s money in people being healthy and maintaining it themselves?
I was at an old friend’s house (from high school) watching a movie and snack. He stopped to pick up taco bell, I stopped to pick up carrots and apples. Took him two minutes, me I had to drive out of my way to find a Jewel.
In the suburbs, and certain parts of the city, we do live in a food desert. Just depends on what you see. I drive by Wendy’s, White Castle, all parking lots and fast food or chains, etc. etc. and I’m saying ‘there’s nowhere to EAT’
It’s exactly what vsync sed: “assume anyone selling you food is trying to poison you.”
Because, y’know, they are.


“There were a very few who did not get fat again, but they made staying thin their life’s work,”

That’s the thing, I take some exception with operations like Weight Watchers, et.al. because on the one hand starvation to lose weight isn’t so healthy. But on the other hand, the discipline in watching what you eat - eating for nutritive content rather than taste or appearance - is very useful. I don’t know (literally, I have no info) if there’s much focus on food value vs. just minimizing caloric intake.

The key is diet AND exercise. And the problem is not that no one has time to exercise, but that, we as a society have chosen not to value time to take care of our bodies.
One of my gym partners tells his boss he’s taking some extra time off lunch to hit the weights with me and they look at him like he’s off screwing around.

I haven’t addressed the topic here because it’s the mindset that needs addressing. You present information like this - true, false, good, bad, indifferent, and people trot out their preconceptions like they were programmed.
And they are. And that’s why folks at Sara Lee love you more than your momma.
Maybe there’s something to this virus deal. The human body is a symbiote with a lot of bacteria and other stuff going on. And this is a complex issue, the problem is - it need not be.

Eating right and getting exercise is fairly simple. It’s only made complex. As pointed out above - exercise is as simple as taking a walk. But folks are bombarded by all kinds of fitness crapola on t.v. et.al. that convince them they don’t know how to do it right.
And rarely does anyone tell them.

But hey, wanna feel special ‘cos you’re thin and put in the time and lord it over the fat guys? Come hit the gym with me, we’ll see what kind of shape you’re actually in. (I ran down a D.I. just this morning and I haven’t even taken a crap yet)

The objective isn’t being thin, it’s being healthy. You want to BE not to SEEM.
We shouldn’t be talking fat, we should be talking fit. (What mobunited sed about cardio, muscle and joint health vs aesthetic bullshit) and maintainance of good habits.

So when you do (maybe) get hit with a rough patch, be it stress, a virus, or forced indolence of some kind (break a leg, illness, caregiving, whatever) you fall naturally and comfortably back into your old healthy routine.

“Please don't refer to women as "broads".”
Totally. Chicks hate it when you call them broads.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:21 PM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


In other news, McDonalds post 80% profit increase for 2008.
posted by caddis at 12:29 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm curious about people's desire to place blame.

I'm not going to attribute motivations to any particular person in this thread, but regarding society as a whole, we've been told for a very long time now, probably most of the lifespans of almost every poster here, that being thin is great, and a sign of success. Being fat is undesirable, and is a sign of failure, be that failure of willpower or failure of brainpower or both.

Thin people are considered both more intelligent and more attractive. Being thin is considered the proper status for an adult human being. Deviation from this is at the least less than desirable, and approaches abomination.

(Warning: the following contains generalizations. Those without ability to parse such fanciful concepts are asked to skip to the next comment.)

Those that have always been thin consider it a treasure, something that innately makes them superior to other sub-sections of the population. It is a crown of sorts.

Those that have worked hard to attain thinness consider it a badge of valor. There are some descriptions of that in this thread. Something to be admired.

Who gets admired for becoming heavy? No one. But becoming thin is considered a bona fide achievement, like earning a degree or saving a person from a burning building. Actually, I think most people consider both of those much less impressive than losing 50lbs.

So you have the old ruling class, and the new ascendants to the ruling class. Then you have the rabble.

Fat people are an enemy to all that is good and decent about being a human being. They are deficient in some manner. It is their fault they are fat.

Now, here's where the rubber meets the road:

It is vitally important it be a fat person's fault, fully, for their being fat, or else the prejudice against them would never be tolerated.

We've all agreed in society that it is not proper to discriminate against someone due to facts of biology, such as their race, their gender, and recently their sexual orientation.

But, being fat, that's not biology. That's weakness. That's something we can all get behind hating, right? They are no better than common criminals.

So, I'm not discriminating by curling my lip at a fat guy. I'm merely expressing my displeasure with his lifestyle choices, which have no bearing in biology and are fully due to his conscious choices.

Therefore, I'm not a hypocrite.

Again, there are lots of generalizations above, but it should help you understand why it is vitally important that being fat be solely the victim's fault. Otherwise we'd be a nation of assholes and bigots.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:31 PM on January 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


In other news, McDonalds post 80% profit increase for 2008.

Year of Despair.
posted by Artw at 12:46 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


My new year's resolution is not to obsess over my weight and it's working DESPITE this thread! *pats self on back, er, shoulder. cannot reach back.*
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:50 PM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yes, fat people exist. I just don't see why you should care one way or the other.

I care when it impacts the cost of my health insurance.
posted by amro at 12:55 PM on January 26, 2009


In other news, McDonalds post 80% profit increase for 2008.

What I gathered from that article is that I need to work for McDonald's and catch AD-36.
posted by robtf3 at 1:01 PM on January 26, 2009


He's just Tony, with a complicated history and body chemistry
Agreed. I hope it didn't sound like it was okay to be judgmental if someone had recently gained weight, as that wasn't my intention. Thanks for saying it better.
posted by pointystick at 1:03 PM on January 26, 2009


I care when it impacts the cost of my health insurance.

Considering that most fat people will get stone-cold denied health insurance due to their weight, or have to pay a lot more for it in the first place, this argument contains questionable logic.

On a moral level, all those goddam leukemia kids impact the cost of my health insurance, too. Goddamn leukemia kids gettin a free ride on my dime.

(My point: sick people come in all shapes, sizes, ages, whathaveyou. Cigarette smokers are penalized for their increased risk. Fat people are also penalized. Bottom line, I'd rather help to pay for people who have the misfortune to be stricken with illness than not -- that's the whole point of the collective nature of health insurance, spreading the risk and the resources around. If you want to go all libertarian, then don't get health insurance, and start a savings account to pay for you and only you.)
posted by peggynature at 1:06 PM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


I care when it impacts the cost of my health insurance.
You might want to direct your attention to fatcats rather than fat people.

But even ignoring how much of your health plan dollar goes to executive compensation and perks, there are all kinds of "lifestyle choices" that affect the cost of your health insurance as much as, or more than, obesity does. Driving a car, for instance. Driving a car without wearing a seatbelt. Or riding a bike in city streets instead of driving a car. Downhill skiing. People taking antibiotics when they don't need them. People not having insurance, putting off routine medical care, and then using emergency rooms when they get antibiotic-resistant strep throat. Using incandescent light bulbs instead of LEDs, thus consuming more power, requiring more coal burning, which boosts asthma and lung cancer and black lung rates.

Do those of us in the 24+BMI community get to lecture people for any of the above choices they might make?
posted by Coyote Crossing at 1:10 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Being fat is undesirable, and is a sign of failure, be that failure of willpower or failure of brainpower or both.

I always wonder what willpower means. What does it mean to not have enough willpower? Does it mean that you could have foregone the Big Mac if you'd just tried harder? If so, doesn't mean that you HAVE enough willpower but just aren't choosing to use it? If not -- if lack of willpower means you literally don't HAVE the power of will -- then how is it your fault?

Ynoxas, I suspect there's a lot of truth to your assertions, but here's another (not necessarily competing) theory: people are terrified of the idea that free will doesn't exist (even if, in some limited cases, the thought is comforting). In general, we assume it does exist and that people can choose to be whatever they want to be. We default to that and only give up on it when we're forced to confront compelling evidence to the contrary. And we buck against such evidence.

We also assume all people are the same, so if you can't control your obesity, I may feel like that means I can't control mine. It's very hard to accept a world in which some people might have willpower and some might not. That would mean two people could commit the same act, yet only one of them would be at fault.

We really want obesity to be fat people's fault, because if it's out of their control, that's just one more nail in free will's coffin, along with race and sexual preference.

If we must live in a world in which some things are out of our control, we prefer neat categories to gray areas. It's best if obesity is controllable via will. But if it isn't, let it be uncontrollable all the time for all people. It's really troubling if it's somewhat controllable and somewhat not. In that case, how can anyone make predictions or choices?

It doesn't surprise me that many fat people join the "it's fat people's fault" chorus. If they don't, then they have to deal with the fact that their own obesity might not be under their control. That's scary.

Also, it's VERY hard to lose weight. It's a lot of work. In order to achieve it, one has to devote oneself to a major lifestyle change -- one that is much like converting to a religion. It doesn't surprise me that people who have lost weight try to convert others to their "religion" and feel like those who don't covert are sinners. For me to give up cookies, I have to think of them as bad. So when I see you eating one, it's hard for me not to think of you as purposefully doing a bad thing. I see you as doing something impure, immoral. As such, I see you as a bad person.

I recently lost a lot of weight. It was hard work, and it does feel like doing it involved willpower and a certain amount of choice. But if I'm honest, I have to wonder about all the time before then when I wasn't losing weight. I really wanted to. I kept trying and failing. Why did it work for me when it did and not before?

I would like to say that it's because I finally stopped being lazy and did the work (because I so want to believe I'm always in control of my actions), but that's not really true. The truth is closer to something like this: one day I just woke up ready and able to do the work. Before, I wasn't able and ready. Then suddenly, I was. I can't explain what changed inside me. But I'm convinced that if I could go back in time, there would be nothing I could do to convince the earlier me to have enough willpower.
posted by grumblebee at 1:16 PM on January 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


Considering that most fat people will get stone-cold denied health insurance due to their weight

Wha...? Every obese person I know has health insurance.

Goddamn leukemia kids gettin a free ride on my dime.

You can't really be comparing leukemia to obesity.
posted by amro at 1:17 PM on January 26, 2009


Amro, in my experience, if they pay for private insurance, they are paying more for it because of their weight.

I am not comparing obesity to leukemia (especially since I don't actually think "obesity" is a disease, but that's not my point.) I am saying that human beings get sick, often in tragic ways, and it's pretty rotten to complain about their burden on your insurance. As much as you might like to find blame with people who gets sick, hardly anyone (aside from extreme cases of suicidality or Munchausen sydrome) WANTS to get sick. People are hardwired to do what it takes to survive and not get sick.

If you want to blame people for getting sick and driving up your insurance rates, then it begs the question why you would have health insurance at all -- since clearly you're totally in control of whether you get sick or not. So just don't get sick?
posted by peggynature at 1:24 PM on January 26, 2009


amro, I think he was being facetious, however, I work for the state of Ks and they are starting to institute and extra charge if you smoke. Like an extra 200$ a year. I believe it's just a matter of time before there is an extra charge for obese people.
posted by brneyedgrl at 1:27 PM on January 26, 2009


I believe this FPP missed a golden opportunity to further propagate the appropriate use of the wendell tag. That's a shame.

> Put down the fork, fatties, and stop blaming it on everything else!

Who the hell eats with a fork, anyway?

*ambles back over to the food trough*
posted by Brak at 1:32 PM on January 26, 2009


I'm not being facetious. I have been unable to purchase private health insurance for myself due to my weight, and I know people in the US who have had the same experience. This may not apply to people covered by a group plan under their employer, but I believe some insurance companies and employers are considering charging fat people more under group plans as well (or making coverage contingent on joining some weight-loss plan or something. There have been media stories.)
posted by peggynature at 1:36 PM on January 26, 2009


It doesn't surprise me that people who have lost weight try to convert others to their "religion" and feel like those who don't covert are sinners. For me to give up cookies, I have to think of them as bad.

I think it also has to do with the chorus of "What's your secret?" one can receive after a significant weight loss (or gain, if bulking up).

A lot of these people don't really give a shit, either. But if someone is looking for a way to lose weight without eating any less (or any better) and without exercising, then they might get a little preachy. If they get told "Well, for me weight loss is impossible because I'm really busy with my job and I get more hungry than you." then they might take exception to that.

I don't really see too much judgment in this thread. I see some simplistic reductions and some harsh realities, but not too much judgment.

Plus, if we're not going to hold fat people responsible for their fatness, how can we do the same for assholes and their assholery?

Yeah, I'm meta as fuck. Also, not serious. Though I am a determinist.
posted by ODiV at 1:39 PM on January 26, 2009


I am not comparing obesity to leukemia (especially since I don't actually think "obesity" is a disease, but that's not my point.) I am saying that human beings get sick

So... You're saying that obesity isn't a disease, but it is a sickness?

At any rate, the strawman thing is tired. Don't try to make it sound like I'm complaining about people with diseases impacting the cost of my health insurance.
posted by amro at 1:42 PM on January 26, 2009


The whole issue of "driving up insurance prices" is interesting, because it comes down to a question of how much -- and under what circumstances -- I should have to sacrifice for someone else.

My guess is only a very few eccentrics would say "never." Most people probably think we should all sacrifice when it's reasonable for the common good. So that just leaves us with the murky task of defining "the common good."

For instance, should I have to pay tax money towards schools? I don't have kids and will never have any. Having kids is a choice (isn't it?). Why should I have to pay towards someone else's choice?

What if you're not fat -- but you're also not eating a 100%-healthy diet. Maybe you're not getting enough B vitamins. That's your choice. Should I be forced to pay higher premiums because you refuse to take vitamins?

What if you choose to drive a car? What if you choose to live in a city where there's a lot of pollution (or even a small amount of pollution -- but more than you'd inhale if you lived in the country). What if you choose to hang out with friends and family members who have contagious diseases? What if you choose to participate in dangerous sports? What if you choose to work long hours so that you can make more money and thus never get enough sleep to stay healthy?

What about things that aren't matters of life and death? Some of my tax money goes towards putting up holiday decorations in the city. Some of it goes towards exploring Mars. How is that fair?

Is it fair for me to cast stones? Am I sure that there's nothing in my lifestyle that unfairly burdens the insurance business or taxes?

I am suspect of all of those "my tax money" and "my premiums" arguments. Most of the time, when I hear them, they are very selective. Someone will be incensed about fat people wasting his tax money but not about workaholics who don't get enough rest. That makes me suspicious that his real beef has nothing to do with premiums. He hates fat people for some other reason and justifies his hatred with a pseudo argument.
posted by grumblebee at 1:43 PM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


So... You're saying that obesity isn't a disease, but it is a sickness?

No, I'm saying that sometimes fat people get sick. Just like other people. Their fatness shouldn't preclude them from getting the coverage they need when they are sick.

Don't try to make it sound like I'm complaining about people with diseases impacting the cost of my health insurance.

But you are. Just the fat people with diseases, though.
posted by peggynature at 1:44 PM on January 26, 2009


If you want to blame people for getting sick and driving up your insurance rates, then it begs the question why you would have health insurance at all -- since clearly you're totally in control of whether you get sick or not. So just don't get sick?

Oh, that's so silly. Grow up.
posted by amro at 1:45 PM on January 26, 2009


But you are. Just the fat people with diseases, though.

Well, yeah, if the diseases are a direct result of their obesity.
posted by amro at 1:46 PM on January 26, 2009


Plus, if we're not going to hold fat people responsible for their fatness, how can we do the same for assholes and their assholery?

You may well have been joking, but this is a very confusing and important question. I think about it all the time. Most people don't think about it, because in a sense, "that way lies madness." It's very hard to rationally come down on the side of X is people's fault but Y isn't, because it's generally impossible to know where or how to draw the lines.

But our culture deeply frowns on the extreme views of "everything is choice" (sexual preference? race?) or "nothing is choice" (murderers shouldn't be held accountable?).

So that leaves us with no options other than gut feeling, which is fine except your gut and mine will often have different feelings. Which will lead us to passionate stances that we can't back up rationally. Which will lead us to schoolyard-style fights -- did-not/did-so papered over with bullshit rhetoric.
posted by grumblebee at 1:52 PM on January 26, 2009


Well, yeah, if the diseases are a direct result of their obesity.

Back to rule #1: correlation is not causation.

So can you point out a sick person at random and determine which ones have diseases 100% caused by their obesity? (e.g., say fat people with heart disease. But there are thin people with heart disease. So how do you untangle that and figure out who is "justifiably" sick and who "brought it on themselves"? Same with diabetes -- sure, there are plenty of fat diabetics out there. But some thin ones too! How do you separate them out? It's not that easy.)

And if you could separate them out, then...what's the cure? Have you been keeping it from us all this time? Because, while "eat less and move more" seems to be the favoured theory, I'm still hearing that there are a lot of fat people out there. Most of whom definitely do not want to be fat. So if there's a cure, and if it's so simple, then why doesn't everyone do it? Why are there still so many fat people (who hate being fat)?

My point: there are no easy answers. And your facile logic isn't doing it for me, nor is it solving the "obesity epidemic."
posted by peggynature at 1:53 PM on January 26, 2009


No one is saying that Ad-36 is the major causative factor
Well, according to the linked article, "OBESITY can be “caught” as easily as a common cold...an airborne “adenovirus” germ could be causing the fat plague that is blighting Britain. As many as one in three obese people may have become overweight after falling victim to the highly infectious cold-like virus."


peggynature, you are entirely right. The linked article is crap, and that statement is sensationalistic and ridiculous. When I said "no one" I meant that it's not what the researchers or commenters here are arguing, but forgot about the Daily Express, so please accept my apologies.
posted by grouse at 1:57 PM on January 26, 2009


Plus, if we're not going to hold fat people responsible for their fatness, how can we do the same for assholes and their assholery?

We can do the same for assholes and their assholery because their actions affect us and infringe, somehow, on our rights. But some fat lady being fat -- even if you fully believe fat is a disease, and even if you fully believe she will suffer dire consequences from it -- is not doing anything other than offending your delicate aesthetic sensibilities, is it?

Why blame her for something that isn't a crime, isn't morally wrong and, most importantly, isn't really affecting you? (The sketchy insurance example notwithstanding.)

There's no "blame" to be assigned for having a certain physical characteristic. It's morally neutral. It's just the way shit is, and the sooner we get over it, the happier we'll be.
posted by peggynature at 1:58 PM on January 26, 2009


So if there's a cure, and if it's so simple, then why doesn't everyone do it?

Because simple does not mean easy.

I have a simple cure for my pudge. I know what I have to do and I'm not doing it. I could even simplify it further and put it on a laminated card that I could carry in my wallet, but that won't get me in shape.
posted by ODiV at 1:59 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


peggynature, I said I care about fat people when they impact the cost of my health insurance. I did not say that fat people should be denied health insurance. However, increased health insurance rates in the US can be correlated to increased rates of obesity.
posted by amro at 2:06 PM on January 26, 2009


So good for you if you're born with a "normal" metabolism, and if you have the money, education, social status, and leisure time to eat healthy foods and work out at the gym.

Actually, you save money and get more leisure time in the day, as well as the workout, if you replace your commute with a cycle commute. But everyone insists that that's not possible, that other people might be able to do that but that cycle commuting clearly absolutely could not happen in their special snowflake life situation.

Stuff like this is cultural.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:09 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jesus, if I cycle commuted from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back every day, I'd be dead in a year. Yeah, I'd be skinnier, but that wouldn't help me when I hit a car.

It would be especially fun in the winter.
posted by grumblebee at 2:14 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Somehow I missed the hubbub around the Fowler & Christakis social networking paper.

I once spent a couple of increasingly intoxicated hours in Lincoln, NE haranguing James Fowler about Linux and Wikipedia. What a weird night.
posted by brennen at 2:17 PM on January 26, 2009


I have a simple cure for my pudge. I know what I have to do and I'm not doing it.

Aha, you have struck a bingo.

There do appear to be people who can exercise and eat less and lose weight. Unfortunately, as you say, this is not easy for everyone. Some people (and those people seem to be fairly rare, as the National Weight Control registry itself can attest, given that if you divide the number of their successful weight losers by the total amount of people who attempt to diet in the US, the success rate you get is less than 1% -- a number far lower than even the more pessimistic estimates in the literature.)

So, for the rest of us, losing weight and keeping it off is supposed to come down to a fairly simple formula -- eat less than you want, and exercise more. For the rest of your life.

Now, according to some accounts, even people who follow this advice to a T, and keep following it, regain weight. In my own personal experience, the problem is that making this kind of concerted effort against one's biological predisposition is not particularly enjoyable, and certainly not realistic long-term.

And that's why most of us don't do it. Not because we don't know how; not because it's hoplessly complicated...but because it's really difficult for most of us to cheat biology for the rest of our lives. Again, in my own experience, a plan that would be considered "moderate" and "healthy" took damn near 100% of my mental focus, and all of my physical energy. Not sustainable.

So, if you want to look at obesity as a disease again, and as "eat less exercise more" as the cure, then ask yourself: if everyone knew the cure for syphilis, and yet 65% of the population still had it, is that the fault of the population, or an indication of a piss-poor cure?

Since we've had lots of public health initiatives spreading the word on "eat less move more" for decades, I'm leaning more towards "piss-poor cure" at this point.
posted by peggynature at 2:17 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


So can you point out a sick person at random and determine which ones have diseases 100% caused by their obesity? (e.g., say fat people with heart disease. But there are thin people with heart disease. So how do you untangle that and figure out who is "justifiably" sick and who "brought it on themselves"? Same with diabetes -- sure, there are plenty of fat diabetics out there. But some thin ones too! How do you separate them out? It's not that easy.)

While you can't be 100% certain, it was always my understanding that obesity can be a major contributing factor for certain diseases and ailments. If an obese person experiences heart failure, I can be fairly confident that obesity was the main cause of stress on the heart. Sure, they could be thin and still have heart failure, but it's not as likely. IANAD or scientist so take my opinion with a grain of salt.
posted by robtf3 at 2:36 PM on January 26, 2009


I can't wait until they find that disease that makes me keep exposing my genitals to schoolgirls on the train!
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:45 PM on January 26, 2009


I think the case that subway flashers are diseased is likely to be quite strong, at least in a society where that behavior is considered deviant and punished severely. I suppose you're wondering if anyone in this thread thinks that should get them 'off the hook' in some sense.
posted by grobstein at 2:50 PM on January 26, 2009


or "nothing is choice" (murderers shouldn't be held accountable?)

That doesn't follow. Holding people accountable changes society's environment of influences, thus dissuading some others from similar crimes, and additionally removes a re-offense threat from the community. It achieves these things regardless of the underlying mechanics as to whether people have choice in their actions, and it is therefore rational to hold people accountable regardless of whether they have choice in the matter.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:51 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Lame, inevitable shitstorm on a science result that has been poorly reported by the media over the last few years.

Good comments by mobunited and peggynature.

So: who's gonna do a FPP on the convergence of individual behavior initiatives with public policy environmental tweaking in managing [overweight | underweight | smoking | sexually transmitted diseases | violence | drug/alcohol abuse | racism-sexism-homophobia-et al.]?
posted by jeeves at 2:51 PM on January 26, 2009


While you can't be 100% certain, it was always my understanding that obesity can be a major contributing factor for certain diseases and ailments.

That is the conventional wisdom, robtf3. As far as I know, it's another issue of correlation vs. causation. This is the type of thing where epidemiology can point to a relationship, but experimental conditions cannot be devised to definitively prove causation. So we know that fat people have greater risk of certain illnesses, yes. But we can't determine which of those people had their illness caused by fat and therefore are "to blame" on an individual level.

(Morally, why would we? And even if we could, do we have proof that reversing fatness will change the risk and/or cure the comorbidity? And do we have an effective, safe, permanent way to reverse fatness that is sustainable for most people? I don't think so. Others disagree.)

And it's funny you should mention CHF, because that's one of the diseases with an interesting obesity paradox that terranova linked earlier. Obesity is apparently a risk factor for developing CHF, but fat people who get CHF also survive better than thin people with the same disease. So -- correlation or causation? I don't know. Do you? Does anyone?

(I guess this is where I should say that I am a believer in health at every size, and I wish people would focus more on that than on the chimera of obesity. And even with my enthusiasm for good food and good exercise for everyone, I don't believe anyone's habits are my business, or that health is a moral issue.)
posted by peggynature at 2:52 PM on January 26, 2009


Again, there are lots of generalizations above, but it should help you understand why it is vitally important that being fat be solely the victim's fault. Otherwise we'd be a nation of assholes and bigots.

Maybe I idealize this website, but it's always astonished me that the sort of attitude Ynoxas describes has such a presence here. With almost every other subject, even the ones that inspire intense debate, this place is an oasis of critical and nuanced thinking. But on this subject, it's like all critical thinking just flies out the window and people turn into grade-schoolers. On the other hand, it's also kind of fascinating - bigotry in action, the ways that otherwise intelligent people justify clinging to the last acceptable prejudice.
posted by granted at 2:54 PM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


I said I care about fat people when they impact the cost of my health insurance.

Those goddamn welfare mothers stealing my tax dollars! Why don't they just get a fucking job!
posted by granted at 3:00 PM on January 26, 2009


bigotry in action, the ways that otherwise intelligent people justify clinging to the last acceptable prejudice.

"[T]he last acceptable prejudice" is a hilarious piece of rhetoric, because almost everyone who thinks they're discriminated against these days seems to think they are the victim of "the last acceptable prejudice."

On the first page of the Google results, you will find all of the following suggestions for what the last acceptable prejudice is: That again is just the first page. Add variations on the phrase and you will find a slew of other groups who all think that bias against them is the last bastion of prejudice in a society that's warm and welcoming to everyone else.

I know it's appealing to be the only true victim, but sometimes you have to tone it down.
besides, the real last acceptable prejudice is against atheists
posted by grobstein at 3:05 PM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


That is the conventional wisdom, robtf3. As far as I know, it's another issue of correlation vs. causation. This is the type of thing where epidemiology can point to a relationship, but experimental conditions cannot be devised to definitively prove causation.

Isn't this where cigarettes and cancer research is at though? I thought we were at the "Eh, it's conclusive enough" phase of the obesity->serious medical problems link. If we want to get into the whole "But what is definitive anyway?" questions, then we're in trouble.

granted: Who's being a grade schooler here? Every once and awhile someone will fly by and drop a turd, but it's not like most of us aren't having reasonable conversation.
posted by ODiV at 3:08 PM on January 26, 2009


Isn't this where cigarettes and cancer research is at though? I thought we were at the "Eh, it's conclusive enough" phase of the obesity->serious medical problems link. If we want to get into the whole "But what is definitive anyway?" questions, then we're in trouble.

This is a totally fair question to ask. One major critique of the obesity = disease (or, if you like, being fat = analogous to smoking cigarettes) theory is that fatness is, apparently, also correlated with positive outcomes, whereas if it were straightforwardly a disease or disease-causing agent, like cigarettes, I don't think that exists.

Paul Ernsberger is a researcher who has critiqued classifying obesity as a disease for this reason.
posted by peggynature at 3:23 PM on January 26, 2009


fatness is, apparently, also correlated with positive outcomes, whereas if it were straightforwardly a disease or disease-causing agent, like cigarettes, I don't think that exists.

Actually, cigarette smoking probably helps prevent Parkinson's (see here, first sentence) and Alzheimer's (here). Those benefits are not worth the price, but they exist.

But I just don't think the definition of "disease or disease-causing agent" is all that important. There appear to be positive and negative health consequences to fatness, and the negative ones seem to be serious enough to frequently swamp the positive -- whether this adds up to "disease" or not is secondary. And it is only tangentially the subject of the linked article and studies, which are directly about whether a particular virus might help cause obesity.
posted by grobstein at 3:31 PM on January 26, 2009


Morally, why would we? And even if we could, do we have proof that reversing fatness will change the risk and/or cure the comorbidity?

I wouldn't blame anyone for over eating or being obese or for getting sick from being overweight. I know that there are many factors that go into why a person weighs what they weigh and it's not always in a persons control.

Comorbidity? Thank you for teaching me a new word! The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says that weight loss as low as 10% of a persons current weight lowers the risk of certain diseases. So yes, I do think we (we being scientists or the goverment or government scientists) have proof that it changes the risk greatly. Then again, I'm not sure how much I should trust what the government says.

The obesity paradox is very interesting. Thanks for pointing it out.
posted by robtf3 at 3:34 PM on January 26, 2009


Actually, cigarette smoking probably helps prevent Parkinson's (see here, first sentence) and Alzheimer's (here). Those benefits are not worth the price, but they exist.

Good points. I have actually read about those in the past, and completely forgot about them. So my attempt at differentiating obviously is full of holes, because I honestly do not have all the answers.

However. I sense a qualitative difference between a phenotype and physical characteristic associated with increased risk for certain diseases, and which certainly has complex causative factors (of which a virus may be one, and genetics may be another), and which we have apparently not figured out how to cure, as 65% of the population has it -- and an addiction to a substance not necessary to sustain human life (nicotine) which has been linked to higher risk for several cardiovascular diseases, and also holds potential risk for people in the immediate vicinity of the smoker.

There seems to be a clear difference here, even if I am not articulating it well.
posted by peggynature at 3:41 PM on January 26, 2009


I do think they're different, so maybe I'm being uncharitable in pointing out why your particular distinctions aren't working. However, I don't see why the differences are important, so I am looking critically at theories of how they might be.

Smoking and fatness are different in their moral dimensions, but from what I can tell (I'm having trouble assimilating this whole thread), the point ODiV and others were making was not about their moral dimensions -- it was about health. Just as it scientifically sound (and not offensive) to say that smoking is unhealthy, there seems to be a (very roughly) similar level of scientific support for the contention that serious overweight ("obesity") is unhealthy (ODiV's point).

This doesn't need to incorporate any moral judgments, and conversely the scientific point can't really be refuted by pointing to moral judgments, no matter how right or wrong or even cruel they are.
posted by grobstein at 3:52 PM on January 26, 2009


weight loss as low as 10% of a persons current weight lowers the risk of certain diseases. So yes, I do think we (we being scientists or the goverment or government scientists) have proof that it changes the risk greatly.

That said, I'm not sure they have teased out whether the reduction in risk is due to the changed habits (such as more exercise, and eating different foods) or due to the weight loss alone. If it were simply due to weight loss alone, wouldn't we also see risk reductions, say, in people who get liposuction? (And I honestly don't know...never looked it up. Maybe we do?)

Anyway, Steven Blair has done a lot of work trying to tease out whether cardiovascular fitness vs. BMI has a greater effect on mortality.

Linda Bacon published a study recently where women who went on weight-loss diet were compared to group of women who made lifestyle changes without losing weight. Both groups saw positive health outcomes (though apparently the non-weight loss group made more sustainable, long-term lifestyle changes.)
posted by peggynature at 3:55 PM on January 26, 2009


On the other hand, it's also kind of fascinating - bigotry in action, the ways that otherwise intelligent people justify clinging to the last acceptable prejudice.

I always found it amazing to listen to my ex-girlfriend talk. She had traveled the world and even lived in Taiwan for 6 years. I thought for sure someone like that wouldn't be as bigoted as others are here in Alabama. Then we got on the subject of obesity. I was sorely mistaken.

It didn't stop there either. While we were dating she took a job at the local hospital (well UAB), wheeling patients from their rooms to wherever they had to go. I heard, on an almost daily basis, about how all her black coworkers were racist and were mean to white people and they didn't work and that it wasn't just her coworkers but most all black people were like that. My mind boggled at how she could come to these conclusions because a few people treated her badly. In her defense, she also felt the same way about all nurses, no matter what their color. Also, in her defense, it's very easy to make remarks like that and find people to agree with you in the South.

She ended up breaking up with me, but sometimes I wonder why I stuck around with someone who obviously wasn't as worldly and open minded as they originally seemed to be.
posted by robtf3 at 3:57 PM on January 26, 2009


sometimes I wonder why I stuck around with someone who obviously wasn't as worldly and open minded as they originally seemed to be.

There's a widespread prejudice that people who've been exposed to more difference are more tolerant of difference.
posted by grobstein at 4:05 PM on January 26, 2009


This doesn't need to incorporate any moral judgments, and conversely the scientific point can't really be refuted by pointing to moral judgments, no matter how right or wrong or even cruel they are.

You're right, making the statement that "fat people are more likely to get X disease" really doesn't need to incorporate moral judgments. But, unfortunately, it often does.

Why? Because people perceive "obesity" as a risk factor that people "bring on themselves." Therefore, they are "to blame" for their alleged poor health, and should be taxed more, or denied health insurance, or even denied employment or housing because of it. (See Yale Rudd Center research on weight-based discrimination and bias.)

People do not judge, say, caucasians who are more likely to have cystic fibrosis, or people of African ancestry who are more likely to have sickle cell anemia, in the same virulent way they judge fat people for being "unhealthy" -- because, supposedly, being fat is your fault while your ancestry is not your fault. So, unfortunately, because we seem to have, as a culture, a rather meritocratic view of health (e.g. people "earn" their good health through hard work and wholesome living, or else make themselves sick through ignorance or laziness) the health issue is often inextricably intertwined with moral judgment.

I agree it doesn't need to be that way. But it seems that it is.
posted by peggynature at 4:10 PM on January 26, 2009


For those blaming poverty, enough already!

I personally know dozens of fat people who live within reasonable walking distance of a grocery store, and can also afford to shop there. I live in an apartment building full of poor families and bachelors and anybody living here can choose from 3 different supermarkets to walk to. It's not a gov't co-op but there are people here who obviously can't afford a car, new clothes, etc.. they're "rent poor" and probably see a McD's coupon as a way to "save money."

My neighbours are a couple of obese fat whales. The kind of fat that makes you do a double-take and think about taking the next elevator, just in case. They shop mainly in the convenience store downstairs from what I can see, always coming up the elevator with 2Litre pop bottles and large bags of potato chips poking out of a plastic sack. I see pizza deliveries to their door regularly, and since they insist on leaving the empty boxes in the garbage room on our floor (recycling goes in the basement), I can see they eat pizza a few times per week. Order-out pizza is not inexpensive. Nor is McDonald's for that matter. The idea that McDonald's and the like is cheap, and that's why poor fat people eat there, is moronic. McDonald's is an expensive indulgence. The type of non-thinking that produces the idea that McD's is a source of cheap nourishment probably contributes as much to people's poverty as their obesity.

Obesity is NOT a class issue, at least not in my town.. from what I've seen it comes down to the individual lifestyle. No matter how much you want to paint yourself as a victim of your socioeconomic circumstance.
posted by autodidact at 4:27 PM on January 26, 2009


I guess I should point out that the reason I care about this issue is someone very close to me throughout my life has always been obese. They've also always blamed their obesity on anything and everything but their own eating habits and lack of exercise. As a little kid I used to hear these rationalizations and they would make me really angry... aaanyways.
posted by autodidact at 4:35 PM on January 26, 2009


You know, there's two things that occurred to me upon reading this thread, that haven't been mentioned much or at all.

1. Everyone seems to be treating this virus as something that either makes you fat or doesn't. It seems much more likely that it would make people fatter, but not all of them make it all the way to obese. Obesity isn't an on/off switch - maybe what differentiates the people who get fat with it and who don't is as simple as their predisposition to weight gain overall. Thin people might become normal, normal people might become a little overweight, overweight people might become obese, and obese people might become hyperobese. In this way such a virus might have an effect on a huge number of people, many more than the small percentage it makes obese.

2. Why does it matter if a virus causes or contributes to obesity? Well, has anyone considered making a vaccine against the damn thing? Maybe you can avoid getting fat through diet and exercise even if you have it, but it probably makes it harder, and might reduce the quality of the results. If such a virus does exist, shouldn't we at least consider a medical solution?
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:39 PM on January 26, 2009


"[T]he last acceptable prejudice" is a hilarious piece of rhetoric, because almost everyone who thinks they're discriminated against these days seems to think they are the victim of "the last acceptable prejudice."

You're right, I was being melodramatic, we still have all kinds of bigotry. Case in point. But this is really here nor there. It's fascinating to watch a very socially acceptable prejudice being justified by people who should really know better.

granted: Who's being a grade schooler here? Every once and awhile someone will fly by and drop a turd, but it's not like most of us aren't having reasonable conversation.

I wasn't referring to trolling, more to the simplistic way many people seem to approach this issue and rationalize their own bigotry. I should have worded it better, I came off sounding like a troll myself and I apologize.
posted by granted at 4:50 PM on January 26, 2009


For those blaming poverty, enough already!
<anecdote>
... from what I've seen it comes down to the individual lifestyle. No matter how much you want to paint yourself as a victim of your socioeconomic circumstance.

I guess I should point out that the reason I care about this issue is <more anecdote>


Well thanks for sharing autodidact. I'm glad you took the time here to justify your bigotry based on over-generalizing personal anecdotes.
posted by Axle at 5:28 PM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


On another note, I find this thread amusing -- as all obesity discussions -- because no one thinks twice about telling a physically addicted smoker that they should quit. Try and tell someone to eat properly and exercise and you're somehow an asshole. Meanwhile us tar-lungs get flack for all the "health care dollars" I cost.

Well, if I were to just go full bore on all of some of my biological impulses people would talk - possibly file assult charges.

And people judge plenty anyway - acne and periods are things that can be your fault, or not. If a woman has long, heavy, painful periods, everyone and their mother will tell her what to do and how they themselves manage not to have that kind of problem even after she explains that she has seen doctors and ruled and this and that and is under a doctor's care and been told that this is how it is. Same with acne. Some people don't take care of their skin and break out. Other people have a medical condition. People feel free, completely free even when you point out that you are and have been under a doctor's care, to go on and on about how you just have to stop eating ranch dressing and use Allmay or whatever.

My family is riddled with "the sugar" and one of my cousins is getting to a point where her three children could end up orphans. So when she has one more reason to not try to manager her weight - which is a key part of managing her diabetes, that's a wee bit frustrating to me. I guess autodidact knows how it goes - you want to help, but they are armed and ready to just spew bull-crap they laerned on the TV and the intertubes.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:29 PM on January 26, 2009


Metafilter really prides itself in being able to appreciate subtlety. We revel in the hamfisted approach to politics from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Faux News Network. Yet, when it comes to weight the true colors are shown. On one side are a bunch of moralistic holier than thou types who proclaim that people are fat for one and only one reason, they lack sufficient self discipline and then on the other side you have an almost equally ardent crew who proclaim that it is generally beyond the fat person's control and in the middle, those who say the whole thing is complicated, well that seems to be a pretty small group, especially for a community that prides itself on getting subtlety. Pathetic. Everyone's prejudice just comes streaming out. There are a lot of people posting in this thread who should be ashamed. I feel ashamed for thinking that this community was adult enough to handle the topic despite past evidence to the contrary.
posted by caddis at 5:43 PM on January 26, 2009


On one side are a bunch of moralistic holier than thou types who proclaim that people are fat for one and only one reason, they lack sufficient self discipline and then on the other side you have an almost equally ardent crew who proclaim that it is generally beyond the fat person's control...

Oh come on. If you were to make a list of people on either "side" while carefully reading the thread, I suspect you'd have a much smaller list than what you're portraying.
posted by ODiV at 6:02 PM on January 26, 2009


Yeah, I am sure it is just a few bad apples....
posted by caddis at 6:15 PM on January 26, 2009


There are a lot of people posting in this thread who should be ashamed.

I...I was just...procrastinating on writing a paper? For school?

I really didn't think it was all that bad. Was it?
posted by peggynature at 6:20 PM on January 26, 2009


I feel ashamed for thinking that this community was adult enough to handle the topic despite past evidence to the contrary.

So, I'll be putting you down for "holier-than-thou" then?
posted by designbot at 6:50 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


People feel free, completely free even when you point out that you are and have been under a doctor's care, to go on and on about how you just have to stop eating ranch dressing and use Allmay or whatever.

As a person with a chronic disease, I can assure you that the moral righteousness addressed towards fat people (or those with acne, painful periods, etc) by the (temporarily) thin is no different from that expressed towards people with various health problems by the (temporarily) able-bodied. Everybody wants to think that I got sick because I didn't eat well or didn't exercise enough or didn't sleep enough or something, anything. They tell me about this or that fad diet, herbal supplement, yoga, acupuncture that will cure me forever.

It goes beyond just moral superiority. The currently healthy and currently thin have to believe that they will never be fat or chronically ill, that it is a matter of moral superiority and will power rather than luck, because the possibility that this could happen to anybody, even them or their loved ones, scares them to death.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:53 PM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


There are a lot of people posting in on this thread website who should be ashamed.

FTFY
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:29 PM on January 26, 2009


Um, I think it's a complicated issue, which is why I'm not commenting about it. Don't forget about the silent majority.

I do find it interesting to read up on all sides of this... "issue" doesn't seem to be the right word. How about "the state of being fallible, mortal, and human"?
posted by chowflap at 8:06 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Of COURSE it's a complicated issue. URGH! But guess what? Life's a lot more fun if the fat people get to enjoy themselves, bake and drink cocktails, and don't have to bear enormous stigmas. Many overweight people are like me, I think, and are made crazy people by the enormity of their weight concerns. There are, to my knowledge, no cures for disordered eating that involve making rules about eating, and that makes change very hard. Every worry about weight translates into more mental real estate devoted to discomfort and desire to eat. It's just not worth it. It's not healthy to be a neurotic.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:20 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Obesity is NOT a class issue, at least not in my town...

Values placed on healthy habits during upbringing are a class and socioeconomic issue though. People who are raised in a household where exercise and healthy eating are the norm are more likely to follow those practices in their own adult lives.

Yes, individual choice is a large factor, but those choices are largely influenced by their environment. The largest change we can make in this country, as many have already stated in past threads, is a change in food politics and subsidies. Tax candy a bit more, and subsidize broccoli.

Taking the other side, sometimes I feel the "desire to place blame" when I hear people constantly blaming genetics, environment and fat zombie viruses. My mom is obese, my dad is overweight. I am not. Making your own food at home and working out isn't easy regardless of what anyone says. It takes time and money. McDonald's is cheap and easy, and I still get the urge for it. I want my kids to grow up thinking that fitness is something they can control, even while they're cognizant of the fact that others may not have that opportunity.
posted by formless at 8:49 PM on January 26, 2009


Yes, fat people exist. I just don't see why you should care one way or the other.

Because obesity and it's attendant health problems kill people and becuase the attendant health problems of drastically increased likelihood of diabetes, heart disease and cancer are bankrupting the US health care system. Because all of this is a fairly recent problem that has reached epidemic proportions to the point of manifesting in population that until this point in human history have never had these problems at this rate before. In populations like children.

This is about aesthetics or body image. It about people who are largely living short and unhealthy lives - and where they live longer the end years of most of these peoples lives are spent in abject misery. And not just due to social stigma.

We have to find out why this happening and we have to stop it.

There are two very dangerous forces at work. One stigmatizes fat with guilt and the other wants to make new myths about how obesity is just another personal aesthetic. One is a commercial force that dives people to shit diets and hamster-wheel gyms — all designed to fail. The other simply is a the so-called "fat-positive" enabling consumer force that allows the heath care and food industries to abstain from responsibility and keep feeding people poison becuase, it's like, choice, man.

It never ceases to amaze me on Metafilter how "genes are responsible" for metabolism is the standard correct response in an obesity thread and yet "genes are responsible" will get you pilloried in just about any other thread.

Yes. everybody is different. Yes our food production system is very fucked up and is huge problem. Yes there are commercial forces at work that aim to keep people unhealthy.

But we know what works to make people healthier, though it works differently and to varying degrees in different people.

Eating right. Exercise. These things are good things no matter how much weight you lose. If any. It is a fact that your life will be better and longer including these kinds of lifestyle changes. And the fact is Americans do this less and less. If obesity was all some metabolic throw of the genetic dice then the french, the Spanish, the Italians, the Northern Europeans would have the same rates of obesity as us. But they don't. Though obesity is increasing as their lifestyles begin to mimic Americans.

Discouraging people from healthy eating and exercise as a matter of important personal obligation is irresponsible to say the least. At this point our healthcare system IS fucked, our food system is fucked. Nobody is gonna be able to help you but you. Waiting for The Man to solve this crisis is only gonna lead to more misery.

Healthy eating and excercise. These things DO work. Virus or not, eating healthy and exercise is something people should do. Implying they don't work is BULLSHIT.
posted by tkchrist at 9:24 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is about aesthetics or body image.

Errr. This is NOT about aesthetics or body image.
posted by tkchrist at 9:25 PM on January 26, 2009


I'm not even going to bother to try to read this thread. It was a troll from the goddamn get-go.

A successful one, too, judging by the length.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:34 PM on January 26, 2009


Lesser Shrew: My family is riddled with "the sugar" and one of my cousins is getting to a point where her three children could end up orphans. So when she has one more reason to not try to manager her weight - which is a key part of managing her diabetes, that's a wee bit frustrating to me.

Yeah, but what if there is a virus and it did contribute to her problems? Maybe, with medical research, the effects of the disease could be reversed for her or a vaccine could prevent the virus from affecting other people.

I'm not saying we shouldn't address eating and exercise issues, but we should address potential medical issues as well. Obesity probably has multiple causes in most obese people and a lot of them could probably reverse it with diet and exercise, but obviously some people have it much worse than others when it comes to losing weight.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:36 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not healthy to be a neurotic.

I've struggled with my weight all my life...a fat slob in school (though I started out skinny)....currently overweight though not at my heaviest. I grew up without any decent sense of nutrition and exercise, but that's not the entire picture. People who go as far as being rude about it seem almost resentful, and they seem much like those who insist being gay is a choice. That's not to say I'm not responsible for myself; I've had periods where I can get into decent shape, but for me it's pretty much when i ignore other aspects of my life. But there's a more complex constellation of shit going on than just that I'm too lazy to do it. To me the criticism seems much like telling someone to just snap out of a depression.

Maybe it's just that I'm now in my 40s, but I'm pretty disgusted that I've spent a good deal of my life feeling I have less worth than anyone else because I can't master this. No amount of ridicule or resentment I could get (and have gotten) from others can match the hate I've put onto myself over it. In retrospect, it seems that on balance my life would have been much healthier had I just allowed my body to be whatever weight. At this point I'm on the fence about how much fight I should put up over it, about how much mental energy and probable self-deprecation I want to dominate my remaining years; or if I could let it go even if I tried.

Of course, everybody has their shit to overcome, so I should be grateful mine isn't something worse. But yeah, if you've got some judgment to offer about someone based on their weight (or anything else that is none of your business), I pretty much think you're a dick.
posted by troybob at 9:40 PM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


As a side note as a former conditioning trainer and kickboxing coach I have trained a number of people with serious life-long weight issues. It's infuriating to have to combat the bullshit fed to these people (no pun intended) from all sides of this issue. Some folks, mostly the gals, have a distorted expectation of what thier body should be like. Others realy can't ween themselves from eating the poison fed to them in most of our finer American dining establishments. All these people are stuck in this feedback loop of failure. A system that WANTS them to fail so it can sustain itself. From shit like "Shape" magazine to McDonalds. I tell them to think of it like pornography. Porn is'nt evil. It's an occasional indulgence of fantasy. It's not meant as a fulfilling truth.

I have yet to have one person at the gym who has come to me and said "Man, working out has made me more tired and unhappy and has given me no sense of accomplishment or self worth."

Yeah. Most people won't look like Bradjolina. But that is first myth we dispel. It's about performance and feeling better. A couple of gals who never did much of anything as far as working out a year ago are now taking their Thai Boxing Association 5-round tests next month with the Thai boxing coaches. A grueling crucible. It is a huge mark of achievement for people who have been fed bullshit about themselves, physical expression, and their bodies all their lives. And they are gonna kick ass. If they can do it anybody can.
posted by tkchrist at 9:47 PM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


I have yet to have one person at the gym who has come to me and said "Man, working out has made me more tired and unhappy and has given me no sense of accomplishment or self worth."

I definitely agree with that. When I've been steady with working out and eating well, I feel amazing. All that damn energy! And in that moment I tell myself never to forget that feeling and why I shouldn't give it up.

But it feels like there's something else going on here. What is probably hardest to deal with, for me as a reasonably intelligent person, is that I can know something on a rational basis that I am unable to translate into practice. It doesn't feel like a lack of willpower; it feels like knowing that 2+2=4, but anytime I'm asked I will always say 2+2=5.
posted by troybob at 9:57 PM on January 26, 2009


I was in Cuba in 2002 and guess what? There were very few heavy people and If you discounted the tourists no obese people to be seen. They were beautiful and hungry, and to a man would have liked to have more to eat.

If obesity is a disease then we are getting it from exposure to the food we eat.

Finally, I lost bit of weight with my "I'm not going to eat anything I will regret except Fritos Diet."
posted by pianomover at 10:00 PM on January 26, 2009


tkchrist: I have yet to have one person at the gym who has come to me and said "Man, working out has made me more tired and unhappy and has given me no sense of accomplishment or self worth."

Yeah, but that's because those people quit.

Number one rule of exercise, at least as far as I am concerned - you must enjoy the form of exercise you do, or you will quit. I think one of the first steps with anyone beginning an exercise program is finding something they enjoy. It's tough with people in truly poor shape (like most obese adults), which just reinforces the importance of maintaining a healthy condition all throughout life.

However, I do think we should quit pushing gyms on people. While I do think it's probably the most efficient way to translate your time into physical attractiveness, I personally find it so incredibly boring I couldn't possibly do it for any length of time. It's really rough on people who find themselves unattractive, and it's also pretty expensive. I mean, give it a shot - it's good if efficiency rocks your boat, and it has a lot of activities (any of which might interest you) - but it's not the end-all, be-all of fitness.

Personally I think people are best off just trying different things until they find one they like, or preferably many (I think most people are better off cross-training.) There's so many forms of exercise, there's got to be at least one.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:02 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]



But it feels like there's something else going on here.


There is. There is a vast machine out there motivating you to fail. From the eight hour cubicle work day to the hour commute to Lean Cuisine. But it can be beaten.

Number one rule of exercise, at least as far as I am concerned - you must enjoy the form of exercise you do, or you will quit. I think one of the first steps with anyone beginning an exercise program is finding something they enjoy. It's tough with people in truly poor shape (like most obese adults), which just reinforces the importance of maintaining a healthy condition all throughout life.

EXACTLY. Troybob this is how you beat the machine. Find that thing you really like - the activies you have always wanted to be able to do. Snow boarding. Boxing. Kung-fu. Tai Chi. Rock climbing. What ever.

Treadmills and the like, while effective, are by their nature only supplement for a progressive skill building activity. Usually people get bored with the commercial gym concept pretty quickly. But if you do something that you get better at that challenges you and is interesting you on an emotional level you tend to stick with it.

I used to pitch shit to SCA guys. I'd see these goofy looking nerds sword fighting in the park and giggle. Then I would go to the gym and kickbox. And then I realized what the fuck is the difference? Who the hell am I to judge these guys? So the next time I saw them I asked if I could sword fight. And it was a ball getting my ass kicked by nerds and was one hell of agood workout. So I started taking Kali (knife and stick fighting).

Shit. If Civil War re-enactments turns your crank and get's your heart rate up — then do it.
posted by tkchrist at 10:15 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'd just like to take this as an opportunity to point out the single best fat-joke rebuttal ever.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:21 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Leave it to America to make exercise a commodity.

No one needs a gym membership. For example, why would one pay to reenact walking/running or climbing stairs? Most people do not use their memberships, so the workout is solely in the transaction.

Finally to quote my father "Get off your duff!"
posted by pianomover at 10:29 PM on January 26, 2009


No one needs a gym membership. For example, why would one pay to reenact walking/running or climbing stairs?

More daftness. Like countless American women, I use my gym membership because it provides access to classes, a lap pool and sauna, racquetball courts and countless weight and cardio machines. Mostly I use an elliptical, which is better for my knees than stairs or, heaven forfend, running. I am not about to ruin my knees or other joints in order to be "fit." The whole point of fitness is to be ablebodied. Plus, the ritual in the routine is helpful and makes sure I associate those happy afterglow chemicals with the act of working out. I also have a bike, and I love to ride and hike, but it's oh so easy to get distracted and slow down or stop when you're freestylin' your exercise. My workouts of choice are dance and derby, but to get able to do them and stay that way, there is the gym.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:46 PM on January 26, 2009


Number one rule of exercise, at least as far as I am concerned - you must enjoy the form of exercise you do, or you will quit. I think one of the first steps with anyone beginning an exercise program is finding something they enjoy.

Exactly. For me I always got bored and stopped exercising. Then I came across a trainer at a gym who was into Crossfit and he would put up different stuff to do each day. That's worked like a charm, because you rarely do the same thing twice, so you're constantly challenged. Highly recommended.

No one needs a gym membership.

Technically true, but as AV pointed out, they can damn nice to have, especially when you're found a gym that fits you. I go to a gym at local hospital, which means it has less focus on turning people into Beautiful People and is more on just getting people consistently in and moving for their life long health. It's great, even though a lot of the CrossFit stuff could be down at home, because the people there are nice and fun i.e. exercising with other people can be more stimulating than doing it alone.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:34 AM on January 27, 2009


I just spend a week in Norway, arguably the healthiest country in the world. The only fat people I met (and there weren't many) were foreign or young teenagers held fast in the deadly thrall of an American (and now, sadly, British) diet.

Guess what? It's our diet and exercise regime that's making us fat.

It's terrifying and sad to think of all the ink and hours wasted on this issue... which is so bone simple it hurts. I could sum up every diet book ever produced in three fucking words.

STOP EATING SHIT.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:03 AM on January 27, 2009


^ You bigot.
posted by autodidact at 2:13 AM on January 27, 2009


^^ That was a fucking youtube comment.

Bigoted against what? The fast food industry? The diet industry? The media's obsession with weight? Fat people.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:33 AM on January 27, 2009


Guess what? It's our diet and exercise regime that's making us fat.

Wait, how is this statement in anyway controversial?

I don't exercise, particularly, though I used to work physically strenuous jobs, I don't now. I used to weigh almost 190lbs. which isn't so impressive but it's 25lbs more than I weighed 20 years earlier.

Then I left the US and I lost not all of that weight but a lot of it. And I did not really do anything different. No big new exercise regime or anything. I have started eating less in the evenings, but that's it.

Since then, I have shifted any prejudice against overweight people to prejudice of a culture and government that enables the supplanting of real food (I mean stuff that grows on a farm and doesn't have a big dollop of HFCS added to every spoon full) with mass-produced shit.

Living in America I found it easier to eat lots of crap. The crap food is tastier there. Go figure.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:54 AM on January 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wait, how is this statement in anyway controversial?

It isn't. It's the most obvious thing I've ever typed in my entire life.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:11 AM on January 27, 2009


For example, why would one pay to reenact walking/running or climbing stairs?
'cause it's fun.

I get on the elliptical and allow myself the guilty pleasure of watching crappy TV (something i don't do at home) and listening to really bad 80's music (which admittedly, I do a LOT at home) and it's an escape.

It doesn't rain in the gym, or get too cold or too hot. And there's a sauna. Also, giving money to the YMCA feels good to me, too.
posted by pointystick at 6:03 AM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Discouraging people from healthy eating and exercise as a matter of important personal obligation is irresponsible to say the least.

Who here is discouraging anyone from healthy eating and exercise? For my part, I only discourage people from going hungry/denying themselves food they enjoy, and exercising in a punishing, joyless way. (For a lot of people, "healthy eating and exercise" translates to denying yourself and torturing yourself doing shit you hate doing, thanks to the diet culture. To me, that ain't healthy.)
posted by peggynature at 7:50 AM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


The reason I think fast food and convenience foods are more popular with the poor, despite often being more expensive than the component ingredients at consumer prices, is because fast food also saves time and energy. If a person works many hours to get a living wage, spending $4 on a meal instead of spending an hour preparing a meal and cleaning it up (realistically, a very simple meal) is a decent deal. Consider that the minimum wage is $7.25 (IIRC), so saving that much time saves money, especially if the person can work overtime. Further, a person living paycheck to paycheck may be averse to spending money to outfit a kitchen or buy large quantities of healthy food, which have the best unit price.

Of course, you might now argue that a higher income person would have more motivation to eat fast food, as many people of all backgrounds like the taste and a rich person earns more for his or her time. That may be true, but leisure and time to take care of one's health is a luxury. A poor person may lead a lifestyle so stressful that downtime is essential, or the person may have many commitments outside of work (family), or have trouble getting hours that get them home at a sane time to make dinner.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:56 AM on January 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


@PeggyNature: Agreed. I think "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan should be required reading. Not all of his recommendations are realistic for everyone, but the basic gist is really helpful and makes a lot of sense. It's not really about exercise, but I think most people can find a healthy hobby with a little encouragement. If a person can't find a way to enjoy a healthy diet and lifestyle, then they're not going to keep up any sort of weight loss or health benefits.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:01 AM on January 27, 2009


Because obesity and it's attendant health problems kill people and becuase the attendant health problems of drastically increased likelihood of diabetes, heart disease and cancer are bankrupting the US health care system.

....Hannnnnng
on a sec.

I just had a thought about the "but diabetes/heart disease/cancer affects the health care system" argument. Okay -- heart disease and cancer may be related to weight. But they are also related to age.

The "Baby Boomer" generation is the largest single age demographic in the United States -- and they are hitting their 60's, which is right when you tend to get things like heart attacks, cancer, etc. I know that these things can strike at any age, but aging puts you at a greater risk -- and the more people in a particular demographic you are, the more of you are going to succumb to this risk.

On top of this, the general life expectancy is 80-90 now, which means that people are around an extra 20 years, which essentially just gives cancer more time to catch you.

So my point: those of you who say that the U.S. health care system is currently being overburdened by the health problems of the obese; are you certain that it isn't actually instead being overburdened by...the old?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:08 AM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyone who claims that one single factor has caused U.S. health care spending to increase so dramatically is engaging in the same sort of simplistic thinking that leads people to claim that one single factor is responsible for obesity. Increased obesity may cause a financial drain on the health care system, but I doubt it is the most important factor, or even one of the three most important factors.
posted by grouse at 9:19 AM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


For my part, I only discourage people from going hungry/denying themselves food they enjoy, and exercising in a punishing, joyless way.

First off, I'm not obese, which either means I have no credibility in this sort of anecdotal discussion, or extra credibility, I'm not sure.

But you know what? I remain not-obese by sometimes denying myself the food I most enjoy, and by sometimes doing physical activity even when it isn't as much fun as taking a nap in front of the TV. And pretty much everyone I know who is not-obese (and who isn't young) does the same. There are a few, rare people who can eat bacon all day long, and not gain an ounce, but most people have metabolisms that don't allow that.

So even though I'd love to have steak frites for dinner every night, and bacon for breakfast, and triple servings of apple pie... I don't do that, because if I do my pants stop fitting. And even when it is raining and miserable and I'm feeling lazy, I go out for a walk. Now, those aren't self-punishing and joyless, exactly but they are also not the easiest, most immediately rewarding of choices, either. And while I'm hardly starving myself, I'm also willing to be hungry sometimes, maybe because yesterday I ate a hugely rich dinner and am still living off of it, or because lunch is still two hours away and will taste even better if I am hungry when I get there, instead of having snacked all morning.

I'm a large and active guy who has to eat a lot to keep his body fueled. And I'm pretty aware of food, because I like eating and cooking, and I am also always aware of the trade-offs between having seconds and my waistline. And honestly -- it's pretty rare that I'm the person eating the most in a social setting. My guess is that people's self-reporting of how much they eat can't be trusted at all, and similarly, that appealing to individual behavior makes this a really tough thing to change, compared to environmental changes like making the staircases in a building well-lit and comfortable.

So I'm all with you about boo-hiss on the joyless self-abuse, but I'm maybe not quite with you on the total opposition to any self-denial. Because it's always a trade-off; there's no free lunch. Just where that trade-off lies will be different for each person, but something has to give.
posted by Forktine at 9:48 AM on January 27, 2009


Yeah, when people justify their judgment and criticism of the overweight based on healthcare costs and tax burdens, I can't help but think of all the skateboarders and skiers and motorcyclists and sexually unprotected and stranded boaters and lost hikers and any number of other adventure-seekers who engage in voluntary risky behavior, and why they are not similarly reviled.
posted by troybob at 10:08 AM on January 27, 2009


So I'm all with you about boo-hiss on the joyless self-abuse, but I'm maybe not quite with you on the total opposition to any self-denial. Because it's always a trade-off; there's no free lunch.

Spoken like someone without an eating disorder. Do you have any advice for combatting eating disorder besides "stop having one?"
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:34 AM on January 27, 2009


Do you have any advice for combatting eating disorder besides "stop having one?"

Uh, talk to a professional? I wasn't speaking to eating disorders at all, and I think you are reading too much into what I wrote if that is what you are looking for there.

My point was that a certain level of self-denial is part of a healthy, normal life. Too much self-denial, or too little, probably start getting into what you are talking about, over into the area of an eating disorder, maybe. And if so, that's a mental health issue, not a physical issue -- you solve it in your brain, not by focusing on what is on your plate.

Honestly, I think we are in agreement here, and I am probably being less clear in what I am writing than I should be if it sounds otherwise. I know very, very little about eating disorders, and wouldn't presume to speak on the subject, beyond urging someone to seek competent and caring professional help.
posted by Forktine at 10:40 AM on January 27, 2009


@Forktine
But I don't want to eat junk food constantly. My lunch today was boiled carrots and a handful of whole wheat egg noodles in chicken broth, with unbuttered toast to dip. Yesterday, for dinner I had Indian spiced baked potatoes, made from scratch, which was about 300 calories, counting the olive oil I used to stop the sliced potatoes from sticking. And I liked it.

Sure I love treats... I'm a sucker for a good poutine about once every three months, or French pastry/home baked cookies/dessert maybe once a week. But I can't eat most fast food without feeling ill, and the only time I've ever lived on unhealthy food morning, noon, and night was a period at aged 14-16 when I wasn't able to get anything better. But these days, I was in ecstasy because I just bought a giant jar of dill pickles. I love food, but my diet isn't going to make me fat even if I ate just based on what tastes good to me. So where's the willpower?
posted by Phalene at 10:52 AM on January 27, 2009


You know, I'm not a depressed person, so I don't speak from experience, but I can't see why they can't just cheer up. I mean, I get down every now and then, and I just go out to the park or get together with a friend. Sometimes I wish I could just lie in bed all day and stay away from people, but I make an effort to put myself out there.
posted by troybob at 10:56 AM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyone who claims that McDonalds and the like aren't cheaper than the alternative isn't paying attention. For $5, you can get a burger, fries, a sugary drink, and the disposable packaging that saves you from needing a plate. It gets to you within a couple minutes, and I can decide exactly what I want to eat when I get to the front of the line.

Maybe if I bought all the ingredients and put things together myself the money and time spent would still come up to less than $5, but there's a mental jump to get over that opportunity cost.
posted by mikeh at 11:03 AM on January 27, 2009


Woah, woah, woah. Either what I wrote was fantastically unclear, or was unintentionally saying something I'm not wanting to say. If there was a delete button, I'd hit it right now, because what I wrote is being taken in a very different way than I had intended.

To repeat, I know nothing about eating disorders, wasn't meaning to speak in any way relevant to them, and wouldn't presume to do so as someone fully ignorant on the topic.
posted by Forktine at 11:03 AM on January 27, 2009


Forkline: I think it is just that you have reduced the problem of obesity to one's unwillingness to turn down second helpings. I guess this isn't intentional in that it sounds like you've simplified your own reasons for non-obesity (when chances are that you are non 'non-obese' because you turn down seconds or get up and exercise now and then; you might perhaps be 'non-pudgy' or 'non-I-could-lose-a-couple pounds' because of it). But then added to that is the presumption that others' experiences would match your own. The phrase But you know what? reads to me as condescending and critical, as if you're trying to point out the painfully obvious to people who just haven't considered it before.
posted by troybob at 11:12 AM on January 27, 2009


I don't think it's fair to bring up eating disorders as a criticism of Forktine's comment.

Here's how I saw the discussion:

"Some people are happier when they are obese and still healthy. The process of becoming thin would make these people unhappy."

"Healthy choices don't necessarily make a person miserable. Here are some examples from my life. You can make changes in moderation, still be happy, and also maintain a more healthy weight."

"But what about people with eating disorders?"

It feels like it just comes out of left field, for me.

I think it is just that you have reduced the problem of obesity to one's unwillingness to turn down second helpings.

He was responding directly to peggynature's comment:

I only discourage people from going hungry/denying themselves food they enjoy, and exercising in a punishing, joyless way. (For a lot of people, "healthy eating and exercise" translates to denying yourself and torturing yourself doing shit you hate doing, thanks to the diet culture. To me, that ain't healthy.)

He was not making sweeping generalizations about obese people, as I read it.
posted by ODiV at 11:18 AM on January 27, 2009


So my point: those of you who say that the U.S. health care system is currently being overburdened by the health problems of the obese; are you certain that it isn't actually instead being overburdened by...the old?

Yes. Thanks to advances in medicine we can prolong peoples lives. But just go to the CDC and read what doctors are saying about obesity in this country. The diseases associated with obesity —normally associated with old age— are occurring in younger and younger populations. Making the last thirty years of life miserable and very expensive. Now these problems are increasingly effecting young children - who have hypertension and diabetes. Something is going to break.

We do not have the luxury to wait for the Farm Bill to be fixed or for an enlightenment to occur in the food industry. We have to begin to act now by the means that we know works. As imperfectly as as it is controlling personal consumption and seeing fitness as an individual obligation makes people healthier and happier and reduces societal costs all the way down the line. Period.

On a side note I simply don't understand what seems like defensiveness over what are facts. This idea that we can eternally consume as much as we like, for as long as we like, and what ever we like, as some sort of birth-right is killing people and destroying the planet. If it's factory farmed meat or SUV's. It's the same selfishness of this "right" to have more. You do not have this right without consequences.

Our lifestyles do not occur in a vacuum. There are effects and consequences beyond our own personal choices.
posted by tkchrist at 11:29 AM on January 27, 2009


The diseases associated with obesity —normally associated with old age— are occurring in younger and younger populations. Making the last thirty years of life miserable and very expensive. Now these problems are increasingly effecting young children - who have hypertension and diabetes. Something is going to break.

Not denying that these diseases are happening in younger people. But that's actually beside my point; yes, some young people do get old-people diseases. But STATISTICALLY, there are still more old people getting these old-people diseases, because while not everyone is obese, everyone is aging. And thus it stands to reason -- if we are looking STRICTLY at the "what is the burden on the health care system" data -- that aging, rather than obesity, may be the primary burden. Not the only one, the primary one.

....That is, unless you have data that proves that the number of 30-year-olds having heart attacks is greater than the number of 65+-year-olds having heart attacks. Again, I'm not saying 30 year olds aren't having heart attacks, I'm only saying that they're still smaller in number compared to the 65-year-olds. Mainly because there are a hell of a lot more 65 year olds in general.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:38 AM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, a disclaimer: the term "old-people diseases" was not meant in any way to be disparaging. I typed in a rush. Sorry.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:39 AM on January 27, 2009


Yeah, when people justify their judgment and criticism of the overweight based on healthcare costs and tax burdens, I can't help but think of all the skateboarders and skiers and motorcyclists and sexually unprotected and stranded boaters and lost hikers and any number of other adventure-seekers who engage in voluntary risky behavior, and why they are not similarly reviled.

Troybob, c'mon. That is soooo disingenuous.

First off all those actives have associated costs that are now often borne by the participants. You have to pay for your own mountain rescue in most states (sexually unprotected? What? there has been a rather extensive campaign to curb unprotected sex for over twenty years now)

Second the sum total of all those actives associated with individual behavior (except for STDs) I would bet are of minuscule impact to health system and society at large compared to say consumptive habits like smoking, poor diet, and alcohol abuse.

And who is to say those of us concerned with the social costs of obesity are not likewise concerned with the social costs of other risky behaviors.

Seriously. How far will people go to rationalize their own behaviors. Just becuase you might be obese, or a smoker, or god forbid a mountain climber that needs rescue, doesn't mean your a bad person. Man, the harshest judgments come from with in on this issue.
posted by tkchrist at 11:43 AM on January 27, 2009


I kind of find a parallel in the discussion of weight to issues of sexuality. There have been times when it was a given that you could comment on another's sexual behavior openly and without recourse. It was often justified on the basis of protecting the moral fiber of society, and such practice that did not fit into a limited "acceptable" definition was viewed as perversion; those who engaged in it were considered undisciplined and morally corrupt. With time, we've learned that sexuality has to do with a complex set of factors, many of which we still do not understand--physical, psychological, and sociological. That hasn't stopped some from being judgmental on the basis, but there's more tolerance, and those who don't agree shut up about it, for the most part.

These days, most would consider it an affront for someone--a stranger, particularly--to comment on their sexual behavior. Yet many feel justified in commenting on the obese and in offering their own criticisms, judgments, and pet theories on the subject. It is often justified on the basis that is a public health concern (though such people often remain ignorant or incurious about any other aspect of public health). It's obviously not a simple issue; intelligent and active people struggle with it. So I don't get why it's difficult to figure that the issue is as complex--physically, psychologically, and sociologically--as sexuality.
posted by troybob at 11:46 AM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: Reading back, you brought this up in response to complaining about the obese fucking up the US health care and insurance system. I can't really get behind that logic, because it seems like it's already pretty fucked up (from an outsider's point of view anyway).

I guess the goal was to get the complainers to stop? After they've stopped, we'll still have the growing obesity problem in North America.

troybob: In case you missed the whole prop 8 thing, we're still very much about commenting on sexual behaviour.

It is often justified on the basis that is a public health concern (though such people often remain ignorant or incurious about any other aspect of public health).

People have pet causes. It's going to happen. Some people are working on shortening the amount of time you can legally idle your car in my city. Sure, it's not the only environmental concern. It's not even remotely the biggest concern. I'm not going to ask them why they're even living here, in a remote community far from where their consumer goods come from, in a cold climate which requires way more heating fuel than down south, in a city which probably has more international travellers on average than many others. I'm not going to shit on their efforts to improve the health of the planet even if I think they might be focusing on the wrong issue.
posted by ODiV at 11:55 AM on January 27, 2009


....That is, unless you have data that proves that the number of 30-year-olds having heart attacks is greater than the number of 65+-year-olds having heart attacks. Again, I'm not saying 30 year olds aren't having heart attacks, I'm only saying that they're still smaller in number compared to the 65-year-olds. Mainly because there are a hell of a lot more 65 year olds in general.

I'm having an difficult time understanding your point. Are you suggesting we kill people when they hit 65? What? The reality is people live longer. Yeah. They live longer with avoidable health problems. So let's do what ever we can to frigg'n avoid those health problems. Seems like a no brainer to me.

Look go to the CDC.

The fact is obesity leads to increased risk of heart disease.

Fact:

-more people are experiencing health problems due to obesity now at younger and younger ages.

-more people are living longer in general.

-more people with heart disease as a result of obesity are living longer due to technology. This technology costs a great deal.

-More obese people means more people with health problems into older age that will cost more than would be necessary otherwise.

-obesity and heart disease are somewhat controllable by behavioral factors.

-older people who control their weight and other health risk factors have lower health care costs.

-health care costs are a societal burden with far reaching effects.

Most medical professional all over the country are in agreement that the current state of affairs is not sustainable. I just don't understand the conflict here at all.
posted by tkchrist at 11:55 AM on January 27, 2009


First off all those actives have associated costs that are now often borne by the participants.

Are my healthcare costs not affected? Am I not paying taxes toward the cost of care of many with sexually-transmitted diseases? Or for maintaining emergency services for people who engage in voluntary risky behavior?

I don't judge people in such need harshly at all; I present this merely for perspective. (I believe even on these pages I've defended against the idea that someone in need of rescue must bear its cost.) I just think that when it comes to obesity, there is another kind of judgmentalism at play, and the healthcare issue is a pretense for exercising it. That's not to say that it isn't an important public health issue; but drug addicts and alcoholics--whose costs to society are also great--seem to get more of a pass here.
posted by troybob at 11:56 AM on January 27, 2009


You can make changes in moderation, still be happy, and also maintain a more healthy weight.

To me, the fascinating aspect of this seemingly-innocuous statement is the logic behind it. Presumably, it's something like this:

A. It was somewhat hard for me to change my diet, but I managed to do it.
B. You are like me.
-----
C. Therefor, you will have a somewhat hard time changing your diet, but you'll be able to do it.

Why assume that all those people who claim it's EXTREMELY hard (or impossible) for them to control their diet (or to exercise) are lying or mistaken? What if they're right? What if they're built differently from you?

Even if you managed to change your lifestyle and it was really, really hard for you, that doesn't necessarily mean you have a window into understanding how hard it is for someone else. It might be ten times harder for them. Everyone has a breaking point, but it's not the same for all people. Some people can stand up under torture; some can't. The latter type isn't necessarily not trying hard enough. They may really be incapable of enduring.

Getting closer to home, though I haven't worked out for a while (and though I mean to get back to it), I've worked out for long periods many times in my life. Last time, I did it for over a year, six days a week. And I kept waiting for the magic to happen that seemed to happen to everyone but me: I kept waiting to like it or at least not hate it.

It never happened. Every day, every workout was horrible. I have never had fun working out in my life, no matter what I have tried to sweeten the experience. It seems like I'm just built differently from those people who say, "You'll come to look forward to it eventually."

I keep trying not to quit, but after months and months of doing it, I eventually start resenting it so much that I stop. It's very hard to continually do something that seems like it's dooming you to unhappiness for the rest of your life -- especially when no one is forcing you to do it.
posted by grumblebee at 12:02 PM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


The reason I brought up the "affects of the aging on the health care system" was indeed in response to this:

Because obesity and it's attendant health problems kill people and becuase the attendant health problems of drastically increased likelihood of diabetes, heart disease and cancer are bankrupting the US health care system.

tkchrist, you said that there has been a "dramatic increase" in the number of such diseases, and I'm assuming you were attributing this increase to the rise in obesity. I was just pointing to another demographic shift -- aging -- that would have also had an effect, and arguably may be having a greater one, if you look at the raw numbers.

I can't really get behind that logic, because it seems like it's already pretty fucked up (from an outsider's point of view anyway). I guess the goal was to get the complainers to stop? After they've stopped, we'll still have the growing obesity problem in North America.

But we will have a better idea about the size of the problem, will we not?

I'll grant you that "I don't like it when people do [x] because it affects my tax dollars/insurance payments/housing costs/etc." is an argument I find little sense with in general, simply because the actual effects of [x] on one's tax dollars/insurance payments/housing costs/etc. is usually fairly negligible on an individual basis.

Again, this is not to say that this is not an issue, I am only questioning the specific degree of the effects on the health care system as compared to other factors, as well as questioning the logic of using "but it makes my health insurance premiums go up" as an argument for....anything.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:05 PM on January 27, 2009


Are my healthcare costs not affected? Am I not paying taxes toward the cost of care of many with sexually-transmitted diseases? Or for maintaining emergency services for people who engage in voluntary risky behavior?

I would say in the case of snow boarding injuries and the like you health care costs are not affected or effected by a minuscule amount. Though I don't have the data. I'd say tort reform is more effected than health care.

But c'mon.
It's an issue of scope. Not moral judgments. When the health care system breaks, and it will, millions of people are going to be hurt.

I don't judge people in such need harshly at all; I present this merely for perspective. (I believe even on these pages I've defended against the idea that someone in need of rescue must bear its cost.) I just think that when it comes to obesity, there is another kind of judgmentalism at play, and the healthcare issue is a pretense for exercising it. That's not to say that it isn't an important public health issue; but drug addicts and alcoholics--whose costs to society are also great--seem to get more of a pass here.

I donot think doctors at the CDC are using this as some sadistic excuse to pick on fat people. I don't understand the benefit of trying create a helpless victim class here. It won't help.

You guys people are dying slow awful deaths for what? So they have the "right" to eat four big macs and crappy processed foods and gallons of soda? the production of which contribute environmental and social justice problems all over the world.

People are living miserable financially bankrupt existences due to behaviors that, when given proper societal support, can be amended back to healthy standards. I just don't get the argument here.
posted by tkchrist at 12:07 PM on January 27, 2009


I'd rather be fat than be a hypocritical asshole.

Fortunately, you can be neither!

But only if you stay clear of the hypocritical asshole virus.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:08 PM on January 27, 2009


People have pet causes. It's going to happen.

I've got no problem with people who have taken on the public health problem of obesity and trying to minimize its consequences. I'm talking about people who use such a cause, which they are otherwise uninvolved, as a pretext for targeting the obese. Kinda like how some people are all concerned about immigration only to the extent that it lets them complain about all the dirty Mexicans.
posted by troybob at 12:11 PM on January 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


"but it makes my health insurance premiums go up"

I have never said this once. And this is an awful mis-reading of the point.

I have said that obesity epidemic is bankrupting the system. You want health care that works? Well you won't have it according to the CDC if the obesity epidemic grows at the rate it has been. We won't be able to fix the system and have it be fair and effective if the problem continues as it is. Do you not get this? You won't have health insurance. Nobody but the rich will.

To make this like I am being selfish for wanting people to have healthy and longs lives border on a real bad faith argument.
posted by tkchrist at 12:13 PM on January 27, 2009


"but it makes my health insurance premiums go up"

I have never said this once. And this is an awful mis-reading of the point. I have said that obesity epidemic is bankrupting the system.


My apologies for mis-reading your argument.

However, my counter-argument remains exactly the same -- that I think the aging Baby Boomer generation is actually having a greater impact, simply by virtue of that age group being the single most populous age group in the United States, and they are all entering that disease vector at the same time right now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:21 PM on January 27, 2009


that I believe the aging of the Baby Boomer demographic is actually doing more of that, simply because there are more people in that collective demographic.

My point is that it's irrelevant. That the way to ameliorate rising costs and help prevent the system from breaking is make people healthier knowing that they are living longer.

However I think it's interesting that a former head of the CDC was on NPR saying that life expectancy in America is projected to drop before mid century if heart disease and diabetes keep growing at the rate they have been. Not counting putting our brains in robot bodies or something.
posted by tkchrist at 12:23 PM on January 27, 2009


It's easy to make the obese targets for whatever you want, because they're noticeable.

You know who is a drain on the health-care system? Me. I'm a skinny guy, but I live in NYC. I inhale all the pollutants, and YOU, Mr. Taxpayer, are going to have to pay for whatever medical help I need because of that choice. I also stare at a computer screen all say, which is terrible for my eyes, and I rarely get checkups. Oh, and I also take anti-anxiety meds, because I have chosen to lead a stressful life and I'm unwilling to try alternative relaxation techniques, such as meditation. I rarely get a good-night's sleep.

But you can't tell I do all sorts of (avoidable) unhealthy things by just looking at me. So I guess I'm lucky.

Before I ever accused anyone of being a burden to the health-care system, I'd spend some time looking at myself in the mirror.
posted by grumblebee at 12:23 PM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


You want health care that works? Well you won't have it according to the CDC if the obesity epidemic grows at the rate it has been.

This is like saying that sick people are burdening the health-care system.

Maybe they are, but the whole point of the health-care system is improving health.
posted by grumblebee at 12:28 PM on January 27, 2009


You can make changes in moderation, still be happy, and also maintain a more healthy weight.

Why assume that all those people who claim it's EXTREMELY hard (or impossible) for them to control their diet (or to exercise) are lying or mistaken? What if they're right? What if they're built differently from you?

To summarize once again: peggynature mentioned people being happier and still healthy by not making themselves miserable and thus staying obese. Forktine brought up some changes he had made that he did not necessarily like, but helped him maintain a healthier weight. He was then attacked for failing to take into account those with eating disorders.

If someone has an eating disorder and thus is incapable of changing what they eat, then obviously Forktine's experience would not apply. I read their discussion as pertaining to people who are capable of changing things in this area (but may not be happy to do so).

If a person finds it literally impossible to control their diet then they should heed Forktine's advice and seek professional help. I think that peggynature would agree that they wouldn't fall into the "healthy at any size" category.
posted by ODiV at 12:29 PM on January 27, 2009


tkchrist: I don't think we're necessarily arguing about the same thing. Obesity as a public health concern is undeniable, and I applaud anyone working toward trying to solve it. My argument has more to do with singling out individuals who are obese and placing onto their shoulders the burden of responsibility for that epidemic; or just singling them out as a convenient and acceptable target of bigotry--particularly using the public-health angle as a shield to defend such.
posted by troybob at 12:31 PM on January 27, 2009


Maybe they are, but the whole point of the health-care system is improving health.

Yes. And a big part of improving heath is preventing things that cause diseases - before they become problems. Things like obesity. Right.

You guys are arguing in circles and I'll be damned if I can figure out what the emotion is all about.
posted by tkchrist at 12:33 PM on January 27, 2009


To people comparing being obese to being depressed: depression is something people spend a hell of a lot of time and effort dealing with. There are depressed people who do try to make changes and, while they may backslide (sometimes badly) because depression is an illness that fights back against treatment, realize that depression does not define who they are.
posted by aspo at 12:36 PM on January 27, 2009


tkchrist: I don't think we're necessarily arguing about the same thing. Obesity as a public health concern is undeniable, and I applaud anyone working toward trying to solve it. My argument has more to do with singling out individuals who are obese and placing onto their shoulders the burden of responsibility for that epidemic; or just singling them out as a convenient and acceptable target of bigotry--particularly using the public-health angle as a shield to defend such.

I do not deny that over weight people are shamefully stigmatized and not supported. In fact they are preyed on. But we must be very careful to not flip the same coin and accept this notion that obesity is just the new norm, another aesthetic choice, and let that be that and pretend there are not problems associated. Then we are falling prey to the same unhealthy over-consumptive forces that got us all here in the first place.

I feel like threads like this have this tone that if only somebody *out there* solved this problem. Made a magic pill or something. Cured this "virus." But it's us. Each of us that has the responsibility to make things better.

It would be awesome if they came out with pill that made everybody healthy and trim and you never gained an ounce. But that would only solve part of the problem. People still would not have the right to consume as much as they want without consequences to others.
posted by tkchrist at 12:41 PM on January 27, 2009


I read their discussion as pertaining to people who are capable of changing things in this area (but may not be happy to do so).

If a person finds it literally impossible to control their diet then they should heed Forktine's advice and seek professional help. I think that peggynature would agree that they wouldn't fall into the "healthy at any size" category.


I think this is the crux of our disagreement. You seem to assume (if I understand you rightly) that the majority of fat people are just not trying hard enough. You agree that there are some outliers who have eating disorders and can't get skinny on their own, but you feel like they are a minority. Have I summed up your position correctly?

I wouldn't go as far as to say that I strongly disagree with this. But I'm skeptical. What I'm wondering is what you base this on? How do you know that the majority of fat people don't have this sort of eating disorder?

People who can't control their diets often don't get help -- for many reasons. One of these reasons is that we keep telling them they're not trying hard enough. So it seems like a show of unnecessary weekends to cry for help.

I think the biggest problem is -- and I say this from personal experience -- it's often impossible to look inward and know whether or not you're trying hard enough. Why didn't I work out yesterday? Was it because I couldn't or was it because I just wasn't trying hard enough? I told myself not to have that slice of pizza, yet I did anyway. Why?

Also, before just fobbing those with eating disorders off on professionals who can help them, have you checked to see how many people were actually helped by professionals? There's a lot about obesity that we still don't know. If you think it's as simple as "eat too many calories and you gain weight, so just stop eating so much," you miss the point. HOW do you stop eating so much? "Just stop" is clearly not a workable answer for many, many people. Nor is "just try harder."

If we were suddenly hit by a plague, very few people would say, "this plague is burdening the health-care system," even if that was true. People would say, "We need to help people who have the plague, no matter what it costs."

The difference between plague and obesity is that plague is an "act of God" and fat people are fat by choice -- or because they're not trying hard enough. Right? Are you SURE? I'll grant that you might be right. But are you sure, sure, sure? Based on WHAT? Have you conducted some sort of experiment about willpower? Are you basing your belief on fat people who have become skinny? What's your basis for being so sure that the fat people who haven't become skinny are built the same way?
posted by grumblebee at 12:46 PM on January 27, 2009


Yes. And a big part of improving heath is preventing things that cause diseases - before they become problems. Things like obesity. Right.

Okay, assuming I agree, how do you do this? Telling fat people to exercise and eat less has a bad track record of working.

I don't think we know for sure why so many people are overweight (why they are eating so much crap and exercising so badly), but my guess is that it stems from some deep problems in our culture -- problems that stem from poverty, poor education, corporate greed, etc.

What is the solution?
posted by grumblebee at 12:52 PM on January 27, 2009


But we must be very careful to not flip the same coin and accept this notion that obesity is just the new norm, another aesthetic choice, and let that be that and pretend there are not problems associated.

Speaking in terms of myself and stuff I said earlier in the topic, my dilemma now is that I have given a good deal of my attention and psychic energy to trying to fight this problem, and no strategy I've tried to implement has worked consistently; so with the years I have left, whether there be many or few, do I want to keep letting this fight (and the guilt over it) dominate my life, or do I just accept in order to get on with other things that might better define my time here? I'm lucky in that I've been able to keep it at the 30- to 40-pound overweight range, and I have no immediate health issues related to is as yet. I think there are solid arguments for my going either way on it--disappointment in myself for being so weak as to give up being no small part.

But also, as we've said before, there is something larger at work here. There is more to an obesity epidemic than that tens of thousands of people have each, as individuals, made bad choices and refuse to make better ones; that so many people are affected has to indicate that there is something working outside the individual's sphere of influence. I don't absolve myself of responsibility for it, and i don't look to society to find a cure for it. But I don't need the added burden of public judgment, ridicule, or pressure on top of what I've put myself through over it.
posted by troybob at 1:11 PM on January 27, 2009


I think this is the crux of our disagreement. You seem to assume (if I understand you rightly) that the majority of fat people are just not trying hard enough. You agree that there are some outliers who have eating disorders and can't get skinny on their own, but you feel like they are a minority. Have I summed up your position correctly?

I wouldn't go as far as to say that I strongly disagree with this. But I'm skeptical. What I'm wondering is what you base this on? How do you know that the majority of fat people don't have this sort of eating disorder?


Well I didn't make any statements about the % of people who have an eating disorder. I would hope that it's not the majority of people who cannot control their actions in this regard, but I can't be certain.

Also, before just fobbing those with eating disorders off on professionals who can help them, have you checked to see how many people were actually helped by professionals? There's a lot about obesity that we still don't know. If you think it's as simple as "eat too many calories and you gain weight, so just stop eating so much," you miss the point. HOW do you stop eating so much? "Just stop" is clearly not a workable answer for many, many people. Nor is "just try harder."

It could be that professionals have no idea how to handle eating disorders. It's a certainty that I don't though, so there's no way I'm going to attempt diagnosis/treatment. Forktine gave some good examples of helpful advise that weren't "Just stop" or "just try harder" and I don't think it's fair to mischaracterize his statements.

The Internet is full of advice like this (I like Something Awful's Watch & Weight subforum) and also full of stories of people who heard this advice and got in shape. So demonstratively it's not an act of God in at least some cases. Hey, maybe they're outliers. But getting information and success stories like these out there has been shown to
actively help people. (maybe not the best link. I think you need archives access to get to most pictures)
posted by ODiV at 1:18 PM on January 27, 2009


What is the solution?

I'm not falling for that. I'm not a medical or public policy expert, so I will differ to sources that are and you know what they say time and time again... I could say kill the farm Farm Bill, fund early education and PE programs to de-emphasis farming talent for competitive sports programs for the lucky few and rather encourage physical expression for everybody. I could say change tort reform so people can sue the shit out of fast food. I could say fund public parks to include more fitness trails. But...

...you know as well as I what "works" - which has been the subject of the entire thread and nearly everyone like it. But you don't like the answer.

So you say "Telling fat people to exercise and eat less has a bad track record of working."

Well. You frame the "solution" like that, sure it doesn't seem to work does it. I just don't get how you want the answer framed? Do you want this handed to you by somebody else, or mandated into a some kind of government program or something?

If fact though you are wrong. Motivating and educating people from a very young age to eat healthily and engage in more active lifestyles DOES work. It's a fact. When people eat healthy and exercise more the get healthier. But it is up to them to take up the gauntlet. And there is the trick. I can't solve that for you.

The world is not made of perfect people. Solutions to problems are made by people. Therefor solutions are not perfect.
posted by tkchrist at 1:33 PM on January 27, 2009


Why did I link Something Awful, when there are some examples of what I was talking about right here.
posted by ODiV at 1:52 PM on January 27, 2009


There is more to an obesity epidemic than that tens of thousands of people have each, as individuals, made bad choices and refuse to make better ones;

It's terrible that this is where we find ourselves. That only 70 years ago my mother as a child was scrounging for potato peelings and paper scraps in the Kansas dust-bowl so they cold make "newspaper soup." No shit.

My fathers side of the family were successful farmers and ranchers in South Eastern Idaho during the depression and were much better off. They got as much food as they wanted. My great grandfather on my fathers side weighed 300 pounds and took eating as his only Mormon vice. My grandmother was also very obese - it runs in my family. But neither of them were tied to a desk job 10 hours a day. They worked physically all the time and ate what they grew. They died, each of them, in their nineties. Despite their weight.

That tells me it's how we are living now that is killing us. Something bad is in the food and something bad is in our lives. A lifestyle inflicted on us by our corporate masters. And the only way to change it is to start with our selves and fight to not buy into the bullshit.

Yes. It isn't just bad choices. It's literally a criminal conspiracy to poison us for profit. But how they got us is by telling us it was a new dawn of choices and an escape from physical toil. We can break out but it's gonna be hard. Really hard.
posted by tkchrist at 1:55 PM on January 27, 2009


There is little obesity without disordered eating. YES, YES, YES, high glycemic index foods are a fast-track to food addiction and disordered eating, but they are not the only way to get there. YES, I believe hfcs is bad for us in ways above and beyond its caloric content.

NO, NO, NO, there is, in my travels, not a good cure for disordered eating in our culture. You can be totally thoughtless about what you eat and wind up a disordered eater, you can be fixated on your diet and that can be disordered eating. Eating, as a selfish act of consumption, has been denatured for very many people, and no longer resembles the act of sustenance it once was, and for those with means, there's often no going back to a life of grains and goat's milk. We focus on it in a very different way, we fetishize it, we talk talk talk about it and we do it several times a day. There's no understating the importance of food in our culture. We can fixate on commercials, or recipes, or calories, it barely matters. It's all dangerous in the same way, in my opinion. Excercise is vital, and one of the only good therapies for the kind of dangerous neurosis I'm talking about, but in terms of disordered eating, it's barely a cure, and certainly not prevention.

So, teach me how to eat like this ideal French person, refashion me without whatever pieces were long ago broken by virtue of Americanness. And get me to understand WHY I can't have two eggs on toast, a tuna sandwich, a spaghetti dinner with salad, a 50/50 bar and three beers in a day. That comes to about 2K and yet it keeps me fat. *shrug*
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:37 PM on January 27, 2009


but I'm maybe not quite with you on the total opposition to any self-denial.

Wait a second. You're painting a false dichotomy here. I never said I was "in total opposition to any self-denial."

Healthy eating and a good exercise require structure, and sometimes sacrifice. Sometimes one has to say to oneself, "I will feel more satisfied if I eat a good dinner with three food groups represented instead of chocolate cake." It's not always fun to prepare your meals from scratch, and go grocery shopping, or make arrangments to get the activity you need. These are just some examples of things people can do to care for themselves without conflating self-care with weight loss. And they all require a certain amount of discipline, so hopefully that should satisfy the little Puritan in all of us.

I don't eat steak frites and pie for dinner every night, and I regularly go outside walking when it's raining -- in fact, I'll bet you I walk farther in more inclement weather more frequently than most people on this thread (I'm one of those craaaaazy nonexistent fat people who doesn't own a car! I don't even take public transit! I walk everywhere, and I live in fucking CANADA!)

Yet this all is still miles away from actually punishing yourself with an impoverished diet and injurious exercise -- which is the only thing I'm in total opposition to. (Well, that and passing moral judgments on people's personal choices and health status.)

And this is part of the problem we have as a culture dealing with the fat issue: total black-and-white, dichotomous thinking. All or nothing. We apparently don't parse subtlety very well, but it sure as hell wouldn't hurt us to try.
posted by peggynature at 2:37 PM on January 27, 2009


That tells me it's how we are living now that is killing us.

Huh?

To quote: "Life expectancy for Americans surpassed 78 years for the first time in 2006, and life span increases occurred for both men and women, the National Center for Health Statistics recently reported."
posted by peggynature at 2:41 PM on January 27, 2009


Huh?


God damn this is getting tire some dealing you pedantic people. Yes. We have already discussed that people are living longer. But living longer in an unhealthy manner that it is, for lake of a better term, killing society (ie: us). Now I must fly. And by that I mean hurry along. Not actually sprout wings and flap away. Just to avoid the next set of five needless clarification posts.
posted by tkchrist at 4:13 PM on January 27, 2009


A lifestyle inflicted on us by our corporate masters.

Oh, puke.
posted by autodidact at 11:44 PM on January 27, 2009


Let's return to the virus for a moment.

Viruses like the adenoviruses, which circulate around in the population continuously, tend to be highly optimized for reproduction and transmission in their host species.

When one of them does something as exotic as seek out a particular cell type and cause those cells to multiply, as Ad-36 apparently does adipocytes, instead of infecting and killing them, whether directly by bursting them open or causing the immune system to attack them, we ought to ask what the heck that virus thinks it is up to?

I think we might have enough information from the original article and the things people have linked to dimly see the outlines of an answer.

Ad-36 causes fat cells to multiply, and it also suppresses the secretion of leptin, which has been called the satiety hormone, by those fat cells. This would tend to cause a person to be hungrier than normal and put on fat. Ad-36 also causes skeletal muscle cells to become more active and to be more able to take glucose from the blood without using insulin to do it.

These two things together could serve reproduction and transmission by giving you the fuel (that fat) and the means (more active muscles) to run around and transmit it to other people. (Ironic considering the exhortations to exercise in this thread.)

I would also look for it to make a person more talkative and gregarious, and more prone to do things like laugh (not just contagious, but a source of contagion, maybe) and put their hands on people. It might make people be more drawn to concentrations of other people.

Appetite, conviviality, and fondness for crowds-- Ad-36 could be the first known party virus.
posted by jamjam at 11:12 AM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Telling fat people to exercise and eat less has a bad track record of working.

Yeah, because often this advice is couched in bad science. People are taught to eat low-fat, high-carb, when that is the exact opposite of how the insulin-resistant metabolisms in obese people should be eating. Or they're taught "eating less" means "600 calories a day." Or "eat a bunch of grapefruit for two weeks and you will be thin again." There is so much bullshit out there that in no way compromises healthy eating that it's no wonder an overweight person might throw up their hands and say "I'm just not going to feel upset about this anymore, clearly I cannot lose weight."

The same goes for exercise. Everyone thinks that "exercise" is doing a bunch of bicep curls and getting on the weight machines, doing 3x12 if you're a woman (to "tone") and 3x8 if you're a man (to "bulk"), and then everyone has to slog away for at least thirty minutes on the treadmill for four times a week. And of course that shit is boring. Who would want to do that for the rest of their lives? And you look at that so-called "exercise" and it's not doing you any good, so you throw up your hands and say "I hate exercise, gyms are boring, fuck this shit."

Tell people to eat more vegetables. Tell them to eat less carbs--this includes grains--restrict that shit to 30% or less of your intake. Tell them to eat more protein. Do not be afraid of the fat. The delicious dietary fat is good for you. Regarding "eating for one's cravings", that is the silliest idea in the world for the obese person, because their body is set up to crave carbs and sugar and that is the exact opposite of what they should be eating. Realize that weight loss is NOT just calories-in, calories-out, ratio of carbs to fat to protein is as important, if not more important than that. Read Gary Taubes's extensive overview of modern nutrition science "Good Calories, Bad Calories" (NOT A DIET BOOK) if you don't believe me.


And get me to understand WHY I can't have two eggs on toast, a tuna sandwich, a spaghetti dinner with salad, a 50/50 bar and three beers in a day. That comes to about 2K and yet it keeps me fat. *shrug*

You're eating too many carbs. I don't mean you gotta eat like you're on the Atkins diet, but your diet looks high in carbs and low in protein. I would put that tuna sandwich on one slice of bread, and double the tuna. And add mayo. I would cut the amount of spaghetti you're eating by 2/3rds, probably 3/4ths, and replace that with meat and fat, maybe some chicken rubbed with olive oil/butter and herbs and roasted. What is a "50/50 bar"? Is that a drink? If so, I looked up the recipe and it's like half a bottle of cream soda, and you're having that in addition to the three beers. That stuff is all refined carbs. Can you just have one drink a day, instead? Or if you want to have more than one drink, make it something like a lower-calorie drink like whiskey over ice, and then replace the calories from the beers and cocktail with something like cottage cheese or greek yogurt and fruit.

I could get into a complicated discussion of why carbohydrates keep you fat, but it boils down that carbohydrates create an insulin response, and that signals the body to store fat.
posted by schroedinger at 12:15 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and as for exercise? Find something you like doing and do that. And if you can't think of anything, MeMail me and I will do my best to help you (or you can do it in this thread, whatever). Or if you just want a routine that will actually work, look up Starting Strength and do that, and add in a couple of cardio-type workouts, whatever you like the best. This could be running, rowing, swimming, walking, interval training, ice skating, metabolic conditioning, chasing your kid around the park, things that just get you moving and make you feel good.
posted by schroedinger at 12:19 PM on January 28, 2009


Appetite, conviviality, and fondness for crowds-- Ad-36 could be the first known party virus.

I like your theory. Sign me UP.
posted by peggynature at 12:45 PM on January 28, 2009


Oh, leave it out. There's a site with a green background where you can dump amateur dietary advice.

My fault for thinking-out-loud about what kind of menu could total 2000 KCal, which I was using as an attempt at arbitrary consumption guideline. The point was supposed to be that there's no naturalized behavior left in our food choices, and the pressure from all fitness fronts (if my go-to reliance on knowledge of carbohydrate calories by serving belies my mostly vegetarian diet, well, that's a real balancing act for me personally, sure) makes food obsession all the more normalized, which is bad and quite a feedback loop for addicts or other compulsive/disordered eaters, who I suggest ate a majority of the obese. If I undermined that point by drawing up one day's meals, at least I got to see, here and offband, that any mention of "fat" + "I eat" = "don't eat that, eat this" from someone, as if that's positive. I really meant to, pretty much hypothetically, and from the perspective of an overeater, ask not "why am I fat," but "why can't I eat xyz," an impossibly personal and constant question.

Now I have to be done, this thread has indeed threatened my healthy avoidance of dwelling on the details and bring insecure about all of it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:41 PM on January 28, 2009


I feel like this whole thread we're talking about why all of this weight loss stuff couldn't possibly work in theory when it seems to work pretty well in practice.
posted by ODiV at 2:26 PM on January 28, 2009


And of course, right after I post I feel like I should've added some big disclaimer about how I don't mean to imply anything about anyone's relative effort levels.
posted by ODiV at 2:31 PM on January 28, 2009


I apologize for the misunderstanding Ambrosia Voyeur, the sentence "And get me to understand WHY I can't have two eggs on toast, a tuna sandwich, a spaghetti dinner with salad, a 50/50 bar and three beers in a day. That comes to about 2K and yet it keeps me fat" looked to me like you were actually wondering why that hypothetical diet would keep someone overweight. So I answered.

I don't know really what kind of answer you guys want. It's like you won't be happy until everyone says "You're right, trying to change one's dietary habits are a waste of time! Nobody will ever be able to lose weight, ever! Nihilism for all!"
posted by schroedinger at 4:14 PM on January 28, 2009


"See also:
Horizon: Why Are Smart People Not Stupid?
Horizon: Why Are Sober People Not Drunk?"


Why are two shows necessary for what is essentially the same topic?
posted by Eideteker at 3:50 AM on January 29, 2009


I don't know really what kind of answer you guys want. It's like you won't be happy until everyone says "You're right, trying to change one's dietary habits are a waste of time! Nobody will ever be able to lose weight, ever! Nihilism for all!"

Why is it nihilism to give up on losing weight, provided you still care about your own well-being? The two are not mutually exclusive.

Just because you don't focus on weight loss doesn't mean you can't make enjoyable and worthwhile changes to your eating habits and exercise. But your focus shifts -- from trying to control your weight, to trying to do something positive for your overall well-being.

Being realistic about how difficult it is to deliberately control one's weight (permanently and safely...short-term changes of course happen frequently, especially if someone is taking drastic, unsustainable measures -- and that's why most people believe permanent weight loss can and will happen, if they can just stop fucking it up!) and instead choosing to focus on improving your quality of life is anything BUT nihilism.

Honestly, if your overall health -- whether or not you happen to lose weight -- is not a good enough reason to undertake changes in your diet and activity, then you've got problems far more serious than being overweight. Telling yourself that "it's not worth it unless I lose weight" sounds nihilist to me.
posted by peggynature at 7:32 AM on February 2, 2009


I feel like this whole thread we're talking about why all of this weight loss stuff couldn't possibly work in theory when it seems to work pretty well in practice.

It works well in practice for SOME. For OTHERS it does not work, and that is what the dissenters are trying to say, that weight loss is not a one-method-fits-all thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:34 AM on February 4, 2009


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