The Obesity Myth
April 28, 2004 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Time to blow the whistle. Is the "obesity epidemic" a medical emergency, or a big fat lie? Paul Campos says it's time to tell the truth.
posted by frykitty (77 comments total)
That takes the weight off my mind.

This particular article is a bunch of assertions and specious logic. But generally that happens in some interviews.

The book should provide a definitive statement to rebut (if warranted).
posted by Gyan at 12:08 PM on April 28, 2004

Here's an excerpt from the book, which is more specific.
posted by frykitty at 12:10 PM on April 28, 2004

What's an "emergency", anyway ?

A thing that's emergent ?
posted by troutfishing at 12:16 PM on April 28, 2004

Hold on a minute,

This is on the "Big Fat Blog"

From their FAQ:

What is Big Fat Blog?

Big Fat Blog is a blog which links to and gives opinions on articles dealing with fat, as a general rule. There are hundreds of articles out there that perpetuate the "fat = bad" myth and Big Fat Blog really tries to offer up a fat-positive opinion.

This by itself isn't indicative of anything besides bias.

I couldn't find any reviews yet, probably because the book's spanking new.

I did find this one usenet thread dealing with an earlier newspaper article concerning Campos.
posted by Gyan at 12:18 PM on April 28, 2004

So it's not the weight itself, but the lack of an active lifestyle that's the real health problem? Sounds reasonable. I'm willing to accept that as a premise.

But... that only works for moderate weight. Gross obesity itself creates a number of health problems that activity can't overcome. And the problem isn't that North Americans are simply overweight, but that they're mostly inactive. And that tends to lead to increased weight. The weight itself may not be a health problem, but it can certainly be an indicator of one.

I have a feeling a great many overweight people will take from this that their weight isn't a problem, and fail to appreciate that their lack of activity is.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:19 PM on April 28, 2004

Campos was on CSPAN (real) this weekend, on Book TV, and the most significant thing i took away from the conversation was that the greatest risk was yoyo weight gain and loss, and not the actual weight itself.
posted by nyoki at 12:22 PM on April 28, 2004

Thanks, frykitty, I was just going to see if I could find one. I'm about 20 lbs more than I should be, but I am active. I've been trying to lose it (gained it when I quit smoking almost 3 years ago), but not getting very far. Of course, I guess I'm not trying that hard either.

It's frustrating to try to live up to the "weight standards" assigned by the government, and it's nice to think that maybe those 20 lbs aren't so bad after all.


Then again, my aunt, who was well over 300 lbs had weight loss surgery, and no matter what you think of it, she no longer has high blood pressure, diabetes, or problems with shortness of breath or her joints. 20 lbs is one thing, but morbidly obese is another thing all together. If my aunt hadn't had the surgery, she would've been dead in less than 10 years according to her doctor. Her heart just would've eventually given out.
posted by greengrl at 12:22 PM on April 28, 2004

Wow, that's a really badly constructed sentence. Sheesh.
posted by greengrl at 12:23 PM on April 28, 2004

...and fail to appreciate that their lack of activity is.

Which leads or can lead to more weight gain, which makes it that much more difficult to become more active.
posted by Witty at 12:23 PM on April 28, 2004

If this one doctors says it, and it's what I want to hear, then it must be true! Ho-hos and whole milk for everyone!
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:42 PM on April 28, 2004

I was just reading in a book called Poplorica, about the origins of stuff, that the whole 'thin is in' obsession started because, as chapter 3 says, “Dr. Lulu Hunt Peters published the first weight-loss bestseller in 1918. Americans have been counting calories ever since."

Apparently her book took six years or so to become popular, then it was the best-selling non-fiction book in the U.S. in both 1924 and 1925.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:42 PM on April 28, 2004

I have a feeling a great many overweight people will take from this that their weight isn't a problem, and fail to appreciate that their lack of activity is.

I have a feeling that a great many non-overweight people take enormous pride in assuming they know what's going on in the heads of overweight people. They seem to think their self-righteous proclamations are helping fatties see the light. Or maybe they're just trying to be funny. Either way, they've failed.
posted by daveadams at 12:45 PM on April 28, 2004 [1 favorite]

...[There] really isn’t any good evidence for the proposition that significant, long-term weight loss is medically beneficial.


Calorie Restriction Lowers Heart Risk Study Is First in Humans to Show Protection Against Diseases of Aging

I think maybe there is some new data perhaps he hasn't seen.
posted by jester69 at 12:46 PM on April 28, 2004

I don't think anyone's assuming that it must be true, Curley. But it certainly is an interesting and thought-provoking contrarian viewpoint.

Thanks for posting it, frykitty.
posted by orange swan at 12:48 PM on April 28, 2004

See also.
posted by normy at 12:59 PM on April 28, 2004

daveadams, back off the snark truck, OK?

My point wasn't to "help fatties see the light", and I don't give a damn what's going on in the heads of overweight people in this regard. And they're my comments, dammit, so stop with the third person crap.

Again, this report isn't saying "fat is good", but that "inactivity is bad". However, most people will hear that first message and ignore the second. They will continue to remain inactive (and both thin and fat North Americans have a problem with inactivity), mistakenly reassured by the findings in this book that it's fine to be fat.

And it is fine to be fat. There's nothing wrong with being fat* as long as you're active, too. So take a step back, and calm down. Nobody's attacking you (or at least, I'm not), nor am I trying to be funny. I'm actually taking a pretty serious approach to this.

* the morbidly obese excepted, as mentioned previously
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:03 PM on April 28, 2004

Just a quick note: one comment cited Guardian which in turn listed Cooper Institute in Tesxas. This clinic noted that no correlation between fat and health. Sure. But this is the spot that warned the elite marathonere Bill Rogers that thougth he was paper thin, he gorged on junk food and was clogging his arteries and they were in trouble. Rogers then began to eat healthy. In sum: ye: no correlation between fat and health. But if you are think you can still be in trouble. And the latest studies of longivity strongly note mimimal diet not only gives longer life but reduces a number of significant things: diabetes, clogged arteries, blood pressure etc etc
I prefer to listen to medical men and scientists rather than lawyers on issues such as this. mNext book for this guy: smoking is Good For You
posted by Postroad at 1:23 PM on April 28, 2004

I shouldn't have wated my first comment on a sarcastic line about attitudes that I abhor and instead said this:

The obesity epidemic is in fact real and dangerous. We've all seen the study results: increasing numbers of people are dying early because they're overweight and sedentary. There are some thin, inactive people as well, but they're not straining their bodies like their obese counterparts. And the thin ones are rare anyway-- as westerners, the piles of unhealthy foods available pretty much ensure that if you're not moving enough, you'll become fat very quickly.

Furthermore, being overweight increases the likelihood that you'll be sedentary-- if you have more useless (ie fat- as opposed to muscle-derived) mass, moving is that much harder and you're less inclined to do it. So, technically, the author is correct: inactivity is the real villian. Unfortunately, obesity goes hand-in-hand with it.

Of course, this being the Internet, a bunch of people are going to chime in with tales of their friend who weighs 280, runs two marathons a week and is healthier than Denise Austin and Slim Goodbody combined.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:26 PM on April 28, 2004

um, cause eating doesn't make you fat? Yes most of our phisiology is multi-faceted and based on many, many factors. But come on. This is really just a fat girl tossing softballs to a non-qualified guy so that he tells us its ok to be fat. As long as we walk to get our ho hos. Oh, and skinny people aren't necessarily healthy so its ok to be fat. Fatty fat fat.

posted by jmgorman at 1:28 PM on April 28, 2004

We have seen this interesting phenomenon before. Last time I saw it, it was about alcohol. For decades scientists and doctors have told us alcohol is a health hazard. Then one scientist published a study saying you can lower your risk of heart failure slightly by drinking one glass of red wine per day.

The study also said that if you drink two glasses or more per day you are at much greater risk. But in the media it came out as "don't worry -- alcohol is good for you", because that is what people want to hear.
posted by Triplanetary at 1:29 PM on April 28, 2004

Who gives a rats ass if it's good for your health or not?

As a fat man myself, I can tell you being fact totally sucks. Always out of breath, always being unable to participate in anything, looking like hell, having trouble sleeping, being moody. It all sucks.

That being said, sometimes the cure looks worse than the disease.
posted by shepd at 1:34 PM on April 28, 2004

How'd that c slip in there?
posted by shepd at 1:35 PM on April 28, 2004

There were a lot of "so-called"s in that article.
posted by The God Complex at 1:36 PM on April 28, 2004

It's OK to be anything you want to be so long as that ain't screwing up the rest of your life, you know? Its not fine to be fat if it makes you unhappy. Self-image issues are obviously a large contributer in obesity cases and can be ironed out with a little self-examination but part of it truly is its really not socially OK to be fat in the US of America in 2004.

Inactivity kills, true enough, and there's a double-edged sword because if you've managed to get yourself into a serious inactive slump its mighty hard to get off the couch and get back into life. People fear this sort of change and often get the defensive "well, my back hurts and my feet hurt and I'm tired all the time and it takes me a while to get around, but really -- I don't need any more exercise." Change is scary, but if you've got little to lose then what's your excuse? In the recent past I've considered any new activity something I need to train for -- muscles don't come automatically for me.

If you are prone to being a big person, you've got two choices, either lose it or deal with it. I've done both, varying over a range of 50lbs in the past seven years or so. In my experience losing weight is WAY easier than trying to make yourself a "happy fat person". (that being said, I plan on making myself brown and eating a little bit more guacamole because a nice summer tan erases about 20 lbs of acceptability)
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:38 PM on April 28, 2004

four words = High Fructose Corn Syrup
posted by nyoki at 1:48 PM on April 28, 2004

As gluttony has been a sin for 5000 years, I am hesitant to allow for a group of fat people to revise this general outlook.
posted by the fire you left me at 1:52 PM on April 28, 2004

I love very fat babes!
posted by Postroad at 1:52 PM on April 28, 2004

Amen, nyoku- HFCS is among the worst substances you can ingest, and it's pervasive in any kind of processed foods.

The article raises an interesting point- weight vs. activity- but the reality is usually that the two are tightly connected. Of course an active, overweight person may very well be healthy, but those are (I'm assuming) very much the exception rather than the norm.
posted by mkultra at 2:00 PM on April 28, 2004

I don't buy it one bit.

The bottom line is that Americans have poor diets and inactive lifestyles, our portions are larger than almost everyone else's, our corporations dump tons of fatty, cholesterol-ridden junk food on us daily. As a direct result we're fatter than a lot of the world. People shouldn't be discriminate against because of their weight, but it's also some kind of unique American bullshit when Academics push an it's-ok-to-be-obese attitude disguised in friendly words such as "body diversity" when it is certainly not perfectly find and healthy to have a national population that's on the whole out of shape.
posted by tomorama at 2:14 PM on April 28, 2004

Am I too late? I mean for the cavalcade of posts briefly summarized "I'm a big fat ass and I'm healthy as a horse! My blood pressure and blood sugar levels are normal (mostly). You skinny people need to get a life. While you're out get me a dozen Krispy Kremes."

Yes, Mkultra, overweight-yet-healthy is the exception rather than the rule. And in fact, it's a temporary situation when it happens.
posted by ilsa at 2:15 PM on April 28, 2004

I'll grant you that many of this author's health claims warrant scrutiny, but his thesis about our current obsession with weight being a 'moral panic' is intriguing.

Our culture's obsession with weight is fascinating because it touches on so many aspects of our culture: class, consumerism, policy issues, advertising, etc.
posted by tippiedog at 2:29 PM on April 28, 2004

> Paul Campos says it's time to tell the truth.

Obese chance.
posted by jfuller at 2:37 PM on April 28, 2004

An active lifestyle is healthy, and being fat or thin so long as you are active is a clear sign of health.

This is probably true.

It is also true that once you are so fat you can't be active (such as a 5'6" 300 lb. man, for instance), then you are probably much more of a health risk because you are now not only fat but forced to be sedentary, and no one can convince me that the health risk is the same as a sedentary thin man.
posted by linux at 2:50 PM on April 28, 2004

When I started working out last September, my body mass index was over 40. I also had cholesterol UNDER 200 and my blood pressure was 100 over 60. My blood sugar was also checked and it was quite normal. (In other words no prediabetes.) (Age 44 at the time, now 45.)

In my case I was really out of shape and overweight-still overweight but a lot of fat has disappeared off my body. My point is that my general health was just fine before I started. I still eat what I want-I like veggies and fruits but still eat junk food occasionally, plus chocolate when in the mood for it.

Meanwhile I know a lady who has very little body fat, runs over 40 miles a week, eats healthily-and still has cholesterol in the stratosphere.

The moral of the story is pick your ancestors well.
posted by konolia at 3:14 PM on April 28, 2004

Guys guys guys - proper spelling and punctuation contain no calories whatsoever. Skipping them won't help you lose weight. Honestly...
posted by dash_slot- at 3:25 PM on April 28, 2004

I'm tempted to agree with the guy in some ways.

1) The urge to not be fat leads people to do unhealthy things (like eat nothing but meat - thank you Atkins)

2) Not all overweight people are in peril. Our cultural definition of "fat" tends to make even scantly overweight people panic and hurtle headlong into #1, above.

3) Thin people aren't necessarily healthy.

But overall I think he's just nitpicking conventional wisdom piecemeal. There are a lot of seriously fucking fat people out there who need to change their lifestyle in a positive way. Perhaps their fat is not a threat to them, but the nutritional intake that made them fat is. I don't think we as a culture are handling this problem well. But that doesn't mean there is no problem.
posted by scarabic at 3:28 PM on April 28, 2004

Metafilter: We only like assertions contrary to what the mainstream media presents when it involves GWB.

My contribution to the debate is this: Studies often do show a correlation between high weight and disease. However, a correlation is not cause and effect.

What if the disease-weight correlation is caused by lifetime fluctuations of weight (gain, lose, gain, lose) as opposed to a steady high weight? I think what the advocates are trying to communicate is that it may be healthier to try and be happy with a high weight as opposed to live on the emotional and physical rollercoaster of high and low weights; it seems to me that there are too few studies that compare these groups (steady high vs. weight fluctuation) against diseases to see if there is a difference.

I suspect advocates are trying to ultimately lower the societal pressure on fat people to conform and therefore reduce the numbers of folk who ride the weight rollercoaster. This may be the wrong approach; studies could show that steady high weights are more deleterious than weight fluctuations. Who knows until the studies are done?

Eat in moderation, eat nutritiously and be active (this has been a public service announcement).
posted by dpkm at 3:31 PM on April 28, 2004

nyoki has it right. High Fructose Corn Syrup is an incredibly pervasive and dangerous substance. Its in everything, adds nothing but sweet and calories and has no nutrional value. I have taken to making it a point to check ingredient listings to see where HFCS comes in.

I don't buy or drink juice made with it anymore and am attempting to remove it from the rest of my diet as well.

And why do they use it? Because its cheaper.

Also, I remember an interview a few years ago with a triathlete who also happened to be a very big guy, something like 260 pounds. He was in excellent shape, regularly beat people half his size (well almost half his size) and had actually come to enjoy watching people watch him and wonder.

Being fat isn't the problem, being fat and sitting on the couch stuffing bag after bag of Doritos, Fritos and Cheetos in your piehole is the problem. Actively "fat" people are in better shape than skinny people who don't do anything.

Sedentarism is the problem, not being overweight.
posted by fenriq at 3:50 PM on April 28, 2004

I'm a really thin guy myself, but I've been cutting high fructose corn syrup from my diet anyhow and it's done me nothing but favors. I've noticed some specialty drinks also carry a no-HFCS label, the most notable being Fuze.
posted by mcsweetie at 3:55 PM on April 28, 2004

I learnt a new word: Zaftig.

I like new words.
posted by bdave at 4:48 PM on April 28, 2004

Try going to America (or increasingly, to Canada or Australia, but much less so) after living in Asia for a few years.

It'll hit you like a ton of burgers how many fatties there are. I personally don't care what the hell someone does with their body, but it's plain to anyone with two eyes that there are more big fat people in America (particularly, but as I mentioned, it's (heh) spreading) than anywhere else.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:59 PM on April 28, 2004

Zaftig is a great Yiddish word, Bdave. It means "juicy".

I think dpkm is on the right track.

There are numerous phenomena being conflated, possible quite wrongly. BMI is a good example. I personally have a BMI approaching 30. However, I also have about 15% bodyfat, a fabulous lipid profile and good CV fitness. Thus I am "overweight", but not fat.

Studies that show a strong correlation between BMI and various diseases don't really tell us anything useful, unless they are coupled with followups that dig into possible mechanisms. I don't believe I can infer anything useful to me personally from studies that only look at BMI.

The time is ripe for a Marxist analysis here. What we're seeing is the prestige attached to a condition (thinness) that can only be achieved in the Western world by the expenditure of time and money, and hence functions as a class indicator. (Not to say that there aren't health implications, but they're not the drivers for fat loathing, merely ammunition for an a priori anti-fat position).

stavros: hell yeah. And I hate buying meals in the US, because I can't eat it all and feel bad about the waste in throwing away half of what I paid for. And you can't buy juice (nothing sold as "juice" in the US could be called that in my country) and the softdrinks taste metallic (HCFS) and ...
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:09 PM on April 28, 2004

Fenriq and Nyoki, is there a book about HFCS? I swear I saw somebody on teevee talking about it a while ago, and I wanted to track it down.
posted by theora55 at 5:48 PM on April 28, 2004

And why do they use it? Because its cheaper.

Only because the U.S. Gov't subsidizes the production.

In Canada we tend to get real sugar. That is why Cola tastes different when you cross the border..
posted by srboisvert at 6:06 PM on April 28, 2004

Upon my most recent visit to New York, I was amazed at how thin everyone there is

That's because we walk more than people in other places in the US, and also because there's much more social pressure to look good, especially for women (i.e. be thin). I've heard that even a 2-block walk to the subway back and forth each day and then another few blocks to work really add up over time. That said, we're still bigger than Parisians, I notice.
posted by amberglow at 6:09 PM on April 28, 2004

The truth? *smiles* People actually want the truth?

Well, the truth is that fat people annoy other people by being unattractive, as cell phone speakers annoy other people by being loud and unapproachable, as smokers annoy other people for smelling bad, as drinkers annoy other people by being rude and unfunny.

Health has nothing to do with it -- annoyance is the driver of social criticism. Other people's health is, at best, a fleeting concern (see: lack of universal health care, collapse of worker's compensation in CA). Health is just a convenient handle to use to apply legitimacy to a seemingly illegitimate demand (stop acting in a way that bothers me).

Note, I said seemingly illegitimate. Society is the force of interpersonal behavioral moderation, after all. If interpersonal annoyance isn't something to modulate, what is?

It's an unpleasant truth. Health is a much more self-affirming lie. I didn't say this is a good thing. It simply is.

trharlan -- did you notice the average non-tourist's walking speed? One of my friends moved out to NYC; her walking pace increased by at least 50%. This has an effect. So does the absurd density of desperately single overworked twentysomethings.
posted by effugas at 6:16 PM on April 28, 2004

Won't someoen think of the party hats?
posted by soulhuntre at 6:17 PM on April 28, 2004

We just talked on MeFi at the end of March about high fructose corn syrup. Basically, we're paying taxes to subsidize its producers, and turning into a nation of overweight diabetics.

Tonight at the store I was trying to find something, anything, that I like to eat that HFCS isn't in, and it's not easy. (I got so annoyed I went and bought some Mint Chocolate Cookie ice cream to recover. That just has liquid sugar and corn starch, no HFCS.)
posted by LeLiLo at 6:28 PM on April 28, 2004

leililo-- Meh. HFCS is cheaper, yes, but it's not any different than sugar once it passes your GI tract -- it just gets reprocessed back to glucose. Same with corn starch, I believe, though not as quickly as the syrup itself.
posted by effugas at 6:46 PM on April 28, 2004

Oh, for Heaven's sake.

Yes, chunky people who exercise frequently are healthier than rail-thin people who maintain their sylph-like physiques with a diet of coffee, cigarettes, and crystal meth.

Yes, the various Chicken Littles who tell us that the sky is falling lump all people who are "overweight" into one basket and characterize them all as a junk-food inhaling Jabba the Hutt who will have to be buried in a piano case, and your size-14 friend who runs marathons shouldn't be included in that category.

Did somebody forget to refill the common sense dispenser, or what?
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:52 PM on April 28, 2004

Also, there's no HFCS in any of the foods I ate today (Brussels sprouts, turkey, yogurt, blackberries, high-fiber bread, and sardines). I'm not sure there's any HFCS in my house. Is it really so hard to avoid the stuff?
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:54 PM on April 28, 2004

And you can't buy juice (nothing sold as "juice" in the US could be called that in my country)

I don't want to go all PepsiBlue, but the various Juicy-Juice products (stupid name) are just fruit juice from concentrate and a jot of vitamin C. I find that the various mixed-fruit flavors are good diluted about half with unflavored or lemon-lime seltzer.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:13 PM on April 28, 2004

High Fructose Corn Syrup from Rotten

My mom had weight reduction surgery, and lost a good amount of weight. Unfortunately, she did not excersize or cut out the fast food, so she is still obese. I always wonder why she risked her life to have surgery, for very little. I guess this is in all of us: The ability to bullshit yourself.

I have a weight problem myself, one that I am trying to overcome. It is hard to tell yourself that you can't eat something your used to. Fortunately, I am young enough and only moderately overweight so excersize can overcome much of my obstacles. You see, I come from a family of overweight people: My dad was fat, my Mom was thin when she was young but is now obese, and I grew up eating and participating in the lifestyle that was fed to me at a youg age.

As time went by, I developed a self esteem disorder froim being "different", which in turn made me turn to.... you guessed it.... food. Not having a male role model figure after 12, I did not know who to turn to for advice, so I kept my problems to myself and shrunk away from public. Later, I made friends with some neighbor kids and I started going to parties and being social, which helped a lot. Food is addictive, just like anything else that feels good. There is no secret to losing weight, you have to have the confidence to do what you have to do, and the drive to complete it.
posted by Keyser Soze at 7:15 PM on April 28, 2004

Well, for most people. Some people, probably myself included, will always be a "bigger" person because of skeletal structure, muscle mass, etc.
posted by Keyser Soze at 7:26 PM on April 28, 2004

Doesn't mean we cant be sexy
posted by Keyser Soze at 7:26 PM on April 28, 2004

Well, the truth is that fat people annoy other people by being unattractive, as cell phone speakers annoy other people by being loud and unapproachable, as smokers annoy other people for smelling bad, as drinkers annoy other people by being rude and unfunny.

This is really a dumb thing to say.
posted by the fire you left me at 9:44 PM on April 28, 2004

It has "some" truth to it, if you are the type who follows societal expectations and expect every experience outside of your house to be a pleasant one. Textbook subjective.
posted by Keyser Soze at 9:59 PM on April 28, 2004

I'm a really thin guy myself, but I've been cutting high fructose corn syrup from my diet anyhow and it's done me nothing but favors.

The local gourmet mom 'n pop has Mexican Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper, all made with cane sugar. unfortunately, I'm doing the low carb thing, so, except on rare occasions, I don't drink them.

I found out, because I mentioned drinking some Passover Coke for the first time this year--also with cane sugar--which turned out to better than corn syrup Coke but not quite like it used to taste way back when. Tried a Mexican Pepsi once--it was better than American Pepsi. Virgil's Root Beer has cane sugar, too.
posted by y2karl at 11:44 PM on April 28, 2004

fire-- I'm not attacking the overweight. I'm attacking those who cloak their distaste for the overweight in some kind of apparent plea to them to be healthier. It's a lie, pure and simple, and it shouldn't offend anyone to see the lie called out.
posted by effugas at 12:30 AM on April 29, 2004

srboisvert, that's why soda tastes better in Canada.

That Passover Coke was yummy! I should've bought a bit more of it, but I'm trying to cut soda out of my diet.

I've tried to cut all products with HFCS out of my diet, too, and I have noticed a difference in the way I feel. Now I just need to cut out the rest of the crap...
posted by greengrl at 7:37 AM on April 29, 2004

I'm attacking those who cloak their distaste for the overweight in some kind of apparent plea to them to be healthier.

That's how I read it...I'm in still "overweight" because I haven't lost all the weight I gained when I was pregnant. Unlike celebrities, I can't afford a physical trainer and to spend 8 hours a day in a gym to get my svelte cocaine-thin body back.

Nor do I really care. Frankly, at my size, which is significantly bigger than the little meth size 6's running around, I'm dead sexy. It's all about attitude. I'd rather be the Mae West than the Twiggy any day.

And I do go to the gym, about 3 times a week, because I want to be down to prepregnancy weight eventually...which is still voluptuous. I do three 5k runs a week, I do full weight circuits and yoga. I'm still not a little girl, but I'm willing to bet money that I'm in better physical condition than any of the trophy wives that are 40 pounds lighter than I am.

You know, these weight discussions never, ever, never go well on MeFi. Some people feel completely justified in taking out their hidden prejudices against heavy people when they can't take them out on people of other races, religions or beliefs. It's like fat bashing is the only acceptable bigotry.

Get off it already. I don't believe anyone when they say "It's for your own good.", whether it's my weight, my political beliefs or any other action that is my choice. As effugas said, people who bash fat people do it because fat people aren't attractive to them and they feel justified in their own bigotry by using the "it's unhealthy" propaganda.

But you know, some of don't feel like we need to weigh 120 pounds to get your approval, because we don't give a rat's ass about whether you approve or not.
posted by dejah420 at 7:54 AM on April 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

y2karl - thanks for the heads up! I've been missing Dr. Pepper.

...or have I?
posted by mcsweetie at 9:05 AM on April 29, 2004

dejah420: justified in their own bigotry by using the "it's unhealthy" propaganda.

Err, no. I'm not saying being overweight is unhealthy, but being morbidly obese is. And, any general trend towards unhealthiness in society costs all of us money--in the form of medicaid or what have you and higher insurance premiums. If this justification works for suing Tobacco companies and discriminating against smokers, then it certainly works here. However, I don't generally care enough about these things to have an axe to grind on "health ground".

You know, I have overweight friends, I love them and don't badger them about it. However, more than possibly any other thing that society looks down upon I'm aware of, many of the overweight people I know go out of their way to justify their weight. As though they feel the need, any time the subject of dieting is brought up, to justify to me that they are OK with themselves being fat--even when nobody asks.

If someone wants to be overweight, fine. If you're happy with yourself that way, then I say congratulations because I know it's tough to do if the face of society. I was a fat man myself once.

However, I have far too many friends that do nothing but eat ho ho's and drink soda pop and sit on their couch or in front of their computer all day, and then bitch to me how they wish they could lose weight, but their genetics keep them from doing it. Or McDonalds has done it to them. Or it's the communists fault. Or it's sun spots.

Overweight people who have good self esteem and are happy with how they look are not annoying to most anybody--and usually don't go out of their way to justify anything to anybody. Just like I don't bring up how it's ok that I'm svelte, that I'm happy with myself that way, and who the hell are they to wanna change me, every time someone offers me food.

Anyway, if I'm out to dinner with an obese friend and after their third chocolate milkshake and fourth steak they decide to launch into a diatribe about how "they've tried every diet known to man and they just can't lose weight, cause, ya know, it's genetic"--err, that's freaking annoying as hell.

It's not overweight people in general I think most of "us" discriminate against, it's the "lack of fault" mentality that so many overweight people tend to espouse as a means to justify their situation.
posted by Swifty at 10:14 AM on April 29, 2004

effugas, sorry but you don't know why I don't like obese people. Please stop speaking for me and calling me a liar.

Swifty makes a good point, and one that Dejah420 makes as well. She's taken control of her situation and that's laudable. You are an example to everyone, not just the overweight. Everyone needs to get up off their asses more and be active.

The mentality of "its not my fault" while they push a shopping cart loaded with crap food is myopic and moronic. Nobody but yourself is responsible for how and who you are. Blaming others is just a rationalization. Take control of your life and make a change for the positive or quit complaining about bad genetics.

We have a nation that caters to easily gathered high fat, high sugar, low nutrition foods that leave people just as hungry an hour later. Its the drive thru mentality that's killing us.

And the subsidizing of the High Fructose Corn Syrup industry has GOT TO STOP!
posted by fenriq at 10:46 AM on April 29, 2004

And the subsidizing of the High Fructose Corn Syrup industry has GOT TO STOP!

Amen to that. Also, hydrogenated fat...the grace period for labeling that which extends to 2006 is absurd.

I've said this in other threads, I think...but becoming a label translator has made me much less likely to buy processed food of almost any denomination. (Ok...during pms, coming between me and chocolate is an extreme sport that may result in death...but other than that.)
posted by dejah420 at 12:55 PM on April 29, 2004

Anyway, if I'm out to dinner with an obese friend and after their third chocolate milkshake and fourth steak they decide to launch into a diatribe about how "they've tried every diet known to man and they just can't lose weight, cause, ya know, it's genetic"--err, that's freaking annoying as hell.

Wildly exaggerated strawman arguments are what's freaking annoying as hell, IMHO.

News flash, Swifty: accumulation of adipose can be genetically-based, behaviorally-based, medication-based, education-based, means-based, or any combination of the above. Somehow I doubt that you've investigated all these potential causes before passing judgment on any number of people.

What IS it about weight that saddles up so many Mefites on their high horses? Sure, plenty of people make bad nutritional choices and are in denial about it, but parallel cases don't seem to evoke quite the same level of venom and thinly-disguised self-congratulation (e.g., "just like I don't bring up how it's OK that I'm svelte").

And what's scary, is that this is a relatively positive MeFi thread on the topic...others have been much, much worse.
posted by clever sheep at 2:22 PM on April 29, 2004

FWIW: I agree that high-fructose corn syrup is nasty stuff, as is anything partially-hydrogenated. 90% of the food in a standard supermarket gives me the heebie-jeebies.

From Say Anything: "There's no FOOD in your food!"
posted by clever sheep at 2:31 PM on April 29, 2004

Upon my most recent visit to New York, I was amazed at how thin everyone there is

If new yorkers on the whole seem thin, then this country really is in trouble. Re: the annoyance thing, I definitely notice, and when I'm in the wrong sort of mood, get annoyed by, the people who take up two seats on the subway (& that happens all the time - the newer subways don't have seats demarcated anymore, just benches).

I think the few blocks to the subway exercise does make a difference, though. I was in a poor neighborhood in brooklyn a few weeks ago, and asked a pair of women where the nearest A train was. Both women were overweight. They gave me a skeptical look, and told me that there was an A train that way (pointing), but that it was a really long walk. I asked, like how long? And they said, at least two or three blocks.

At least two or three blocks! THe idea that this could be considered a long walk boggles the mind! A friend of mine works in that neighborhood as a therapist, and most of her clients are lower income locals, and she confirms that they rarely leave the neighborhood except by car. If you're brought up with certain expectations about what "counts" as a long walk, as excessive expenditure of energy, then you internalize those presuppositions, and end up thinking you're exercising because you spend 8 minutes doing sit ups three times a week, or something. Similarly, if a "meal" consists of a double bacon cheeseburger, large fries, and a milkshake, then you think you're dieting by taking out the bacon and switching the milkshake for a diet coke. But a cheeseburger and fries alone is already about 1000 calories. The issue is, what's considered "normal" changes in different times and different social settings, and our modern "norms" tend to be excessive in food intake, and inadequate in terms of energy output. And that's all fat is: you take in more energy than you expend.

Everyone knows "eat right and exercise" is the only way to be healthy. Some people have the genetic good luck to be able to eat huge amounts of junk and never exercise, and still remain thin; others have the genetic bad luck that they eat moderately and healthily, exercise, and are still overweight. But these are the exceptions. The vast majority of people respond to diet and exercise.
posted by mdn at 3:01 PM on April 29, 2004

effugas, sorry but you don't know why I don't like obese people. Please stop speaking for me and calling me a liar.

So why don't you like obese people?

It seems to me that effugas has it about right. I'm sure there are some that are concerned about the overweight due to the health costs that they impose on society or through some highly developed moral concern about the health and welfare of other humans around them, but mostly it seems that people are anti-fat because they see someone who is fat and think "eww, gross."
posted by moonbiter at 3:34 PM on April 29, 2004

moonbiter, dammit, I knew that was going to come back and bite me. I should have written that I don't dislike obese people per se. I do my best to like or dislike people on an individual basis.

Otherwise, its like, oh my gosh, racism.

Its one thing to find an overweight person unattractive, its another thing to just dislike them out of hand.
posted by fenriq at 4:10 PM on April 29, 2004

fenriq: I didn't really think that you didn't like obese people as a class -- you seem quite a bit more enlightened than that.

However, I think you dismissed effugas' point a little too lightly. There does seem to be a huge stigma attached to being overweight in modern American, with no real reason except that people just don't want to look at it. A lot of times there are undertones that insinuate that there is something morally "wrong" with the overweight. Admittedly it's ancedotal, but I've met a lot of people less tolerant than yourself, saying things like "My god, fat people shouldn't wear that!" or "Jezuz, what a fatass!"

As far as I can tell, it's mostly based on a gut reaction rather than any concern for the wellbeing of their fellow humans.
posted by moonbiter at 5:21 PM on April 29, 2004

Wildly exaggerated strawman arguments are what's freaking annoying as hell, IMHO.

Fine then, forget wild strawmans. Let's also forget personal responsibility while we're at it.

If you are obese that is OK. If you want to lose weight, and you are working towards that, that is likewise OK. If you want to lose weight, and are not making any effort whatsoever towards that, and then blaming anyone but yourself, that is not OK.

This level of vitriol will exist on any issue where there is a perception that someone is shifting responsibility away from themselves. People who use the tort system to sue companies for their own damn mistakes, for instance.

There is no requirement that you be thin from me. If you are obese, and you are happy that way, then I am happy--because I like my friends to be happy, and I'm not about putting anyone down.

If you wanna be fat and make absolutely no effort towards being thin, then have at it. However, if you wanna sit on your couch/at your computer all day, make no effort towards eating right, and never take any exercise and then lecture me that I'm "lucky" and you're fat due to genetics, then give me a break.

My vitriol is never directed at overweight people as a class--it's directed at people who want to blame anyone and everyone but themselves while concurrently expending absolutely no personal effort, and, I will absolutely admit there are a large number of obese people who do not fit into this category. But, if you do, then yeah you're annoying.
posted by Swifty at 10:56 PM on April 29, 2004


Yup, there's alot of defensive fat people. Have you considered that this implies there's alot they're defending against? And since what they're defending against isn't entirely rational, why should they be held to a higher standard of requiring a rational defense?

We do agree, though. The whining and the blame games are rather annoying, with predictable consequences.
posted by effugas at 12:30 AM on April 30, 2004

i_am_joe's_spleen -- What we're seeing is the prestige attached to a condition (thinness) that can only be achieved in the Western world by the expenditure of time and money

What a crock of shit! That is absolutely false. Eating less does not cost more.
posted by NortonDC at 3:54 PM on May 1, 2004

I eat a lot of lentils, rice, beans...... rarely any commercially prepared foods. Almost no meat whatsoever. Some fish, and a lot of cheese. Garlic. Lots of vegetables. I'm the thinnest member of my extended family.

The majority of American adults are overweight, I hear.
posted by troutfishing at 9:58 PM on May 3, 2004

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