Marie Claire keeps it "real"
October 27, 2010 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Last year, Marie Claire magazine made headlines by employing a plus-sized fashion columnist, Ashley Falcon, whose blog “Big Girl In A Skinny World” was proudly advertised as “proof that fashionistas come in all shapes and sizes.” Yesterday, a different Marie Claire blogger attacked the new CBS show “Mike & Molly” for featuring overweight characters. Her post received more than a thousand angry comments and the magazine reportedly received over 28,000 emails, prompting an apology from the blogger and a defensive response from the Editor in Chief.

The internet sounds off: Fashionista, Refinery29, Jezebel, The Hairpin.
Marie Clarie is currently a top trending topic on Twitter.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero (272 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
My initial response was: Hmm, being overweight is one thing — those people are downright obese! And while I think our country's obsession with physical perfection is unhealthy, I also think it's at least equally crazy, albeit in the other direction, to be implicitly promoting obesity! Yes, anorexia is sick, but at least some slim models are simply naturally skinny. No one who is as fat as Mike and Molly can be healthy. And obesity is costing our country far more in terms of all the related health problems we are paying for, by way of our insurance, than any other health problem, even cancer.

This person gets paid to write?
posted by enn at 12:43 PM on October 27, 2010 [23 favorites]


I'm not some size-ist jerk.

Hmm.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:45 PM on October 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


Maura Kelly:
"What do you guys think? Fat people making out on TV — are you cool with it? Do you think I'm being an insensitive jerk?"
What do you guys think? Gay people making out on TV — are you cool with it? Do you think I'm being an insensitive jerk?

What do you guys think? Black people making out on TV — are you cool with it? Do you think I'm being an insensitive jerk?

What do you guys think? Asian people making out on TV — are you cool with it? Do you think I'm being an insensitive jerk?

Do you think I'm being an insensitive jerk? -- NO. NOT AT ALL. NOT AT ALL.
posted by ericb at 12:46 PM on October 27, 2010 [38 favorites]


I do feel like people in other countries are going to laugh at that show if it makes it into international syndication.
posted by keratacon at 12:48 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


enn, you missed this fascinating segue:

than any other health problem, even cancer.

So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything.


It's about the cost to society, you see. Also: ICK.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:48 PM on October 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


I do feel like people in other countries are going to laugh at that show if it makes it into international syndication.

As a person in another country, I can tell you I'm excited and intrigued by the prospect of a sitcom starring people who actually, you know, look like the people I see every day. Haven't seen one of them in years...
posted by Jimbob at 12:49 PM on October 27, 2010 [12 favorites]


I want to make it clear that I've never read Marie Claire, but I think it should be canceled because I'd be grossed out if I ever had to read it.

/Thanks for your insightful comments, Editor in Chief.
posted by inigo2 at 12:52 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Until I saw Kelly's half-assed apology, I really wanted to believe it was an elaborate, deadpan joke. I mean, she starts off saying "no, it's cool, I have a fat friend," compares obesity to heroin addiction and alcoholism and implying that anorexics are living more "natural" lives than overweight people and follows up with "the guy who sweeps up the gym is so despondent he cannot will himself to exercise" with "it's their own fault for being so lazy."

It's ignorance bingo.
posted by griphus at 12:52 PM on October 27, 2010 [18 favorites]


The author has an essay in the book: Going Hungry: Writers on Desire, Self-Denial, and Overcoming Anorexia: It's the first one: Hunger Striking.

What's interesting to me about this is the weird dichotomy the magazine seems to be running. On the one hand they seem to want to be plus-size inclusive. On the other hand... well, there's this. I think it says a lot about the women's beauty/fashion/service magazine industry as a whole. Those magazines have never been known for promoting healthy body images, but Marie Claire seemed to be making really nice inroads in that direction over the last few years.
posted by zarq at 12:53 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


The best part is the apology where she explains that it's actually because she assumes they're UNHAPPY. That's why she can't bear to look.

I'd like to get all up in arms about this, and normally I would, but this is just a dumb, insensitive piece that got what it deserved. I think the punishment fit the crime, as far as ridicule and condemnation. I'm happy to leave it at that.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:53 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Marie Claire is attempting to make a profit through more interesting articles. Articles about fashion are not as important or draw as many readers.

http://www.blogher.com/good-luck-getting-kissed-anyone-marie-claire-your-fat-bashing-backfired

http://www.blogher.com/marie-claire-trolls-fitness-bloggers-and-causes-controversy
posted by keli at 12:53 PM on October 27, 2010


So, okay, "it's a health problem"--in which case, would she be offended to see characters with asthma on television kissing? Characters with high blood pressure? Characters with alcoholism? TV has for many years been full of people with substance abuse problems who are not declared "gross" when they have romantic attachments. And that's where the "I only care about your health" falls apart completely. I certainly know people who care about my waistline because they care about my health... and they were not embarrassed or grossed out by my presence or revolted by the notion of my having romantic attachments.
posted by gracedissolved at 12:53 PM on October 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


The second link didn't work, because of the Metafilter auto-Amazon associates thing. Try removing the line break from this:

amazon.com
/Going-Hungry-Self-Denial-Overcoming-Anorexia/dp/0307278344#reader_0307278344
posted by zarq at 12:54 PM on October 27, 2010


Does this post make my blog look shit?
posted by chavenet at 12:55 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


So, the worst line of her original post:

"So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room"


Her own response:

I would really like to apologize for the insensitive things I've said in this post. Believe it or not, I never wanted anyone to feel bullied or ashamed after reading this, and I sorely regret that it upset people so much.

Note, of course it's an "I'm sorry you felt..." not "I was wrong."

And her editor's response?

“Maura Kelly is a very provocative blogger,” Coles told us. “She was an anorexic herself and this is a subject she feels very strongly about.”

Coles said the mag has received over 28,000 email responses to the piece, and that Kelly was “excited and moved by their responses.”


I mean, come on, people. Anyone can say something stupid. That's easy to forgive. Not being willing to really apologize when when you're called out on it? Not so much.

Come on, say it with me: "I'm sorry. I was flat-out wrong. I don't know what I was thinking. I don't really think that way on my good days."
posted by tyllwin at 12:56 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


So now Marie Claire is attempting damage control by posting a series of counterpoints. The first is by Lesley Kinzel of Fatshionista (mentioned in the OP). This isn't just a reprint of Lesley's earlier response. Marie Claire specifically asked her to write a rebuttal.
posted by kimdog at 12:57 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Um, people like to look at good-looking people in magazines and tv. Even babies. That being said, our perceived "ideal" has changed over the centuries; what we call "Rubens-esq" today was super-duper in the late 1500's.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 12:57 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Kelly in the second paragraph of her blog article: "I can be kind of clueless."

No shit, Sherlock!
posted by ericb at 12:58 PM on October 27, 2010


This is my favorite part: “Maura Kelly is a very provocative blogger,” Coles told us. “She was an anorexic herself and this is a subject she feels very strongly about.”

So she feels very strongly about...shaming people? Making sure fat people can never forget that lots of folks find it unsettling just to see them walk across the room? To hell with you, Maura Kelly.
posted by Neofelis at 1:01 PM on October 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


television has reinforced for too long that everyone, everywhere is successful and beautiful except you. this is just a weird, uncomfortable result of that. reap what you sow, TVland.
posted by radiosilents at 1:04 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


The thing that seems dumb about "mike and molly" is it sounds as if it's based around their being fat. Roseanne and Dan Conner were overweight, and there were probably occasional jokes that referenced it, but it was certainly not the basis of the show. I find the idea of the show almost as offensive as the column, really - it's like the "funny because they're indian" show that's promoted for Thursday nights on NBC (whatever it's called...)
posted by mdn at 1:06 PM on October 27, 2010 [35 favorites]


Didn't we already know all women's "lifestyle" magazines except Bitch and Bust were crappy, advertorialized, body-dysmorphia-inducing rags already?

Or was that just me?
posted by emjaybee at 1:06 PM on October 27, 2010 [16 favorites]


The thing that seems dumb about "mike and molly" is it sounds as if it's based around their being fat.

Jezebel noted the same thing when making their plea to save the (excellent) summer series "Huge", which was a show about a weight-loss camp that had amazing characters and stories.
posted by padraigin at 1:10 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


"People have accused me of being a bully in my post. I never intended to be that — it's actually the very last thing I want to be, as a writer or a person. But I know that I came off that way..."

No. You came off as an insensitive asshole.

"...and I really cannot apologize enough to the people whom I upset."

Give it a shot.
posted by Splunge at 1:11 PM on October 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


I am sure that I have seen Drew Carey and Kevin James and Cedric the Entertainer on television many, many times, often in kissy scenes with women.

Oh, right--it's not a problem until the woman is fat. Good to know.

Also, I, too, am a recovering anorexic, Maura Kelly, so I am not buying your shit excuse. (Being a recovering anorexic with a high body weight is completely awesome, of course, because doctors are all "YOU SHOULD DIET" and I'm all "NO WAY THAT SHIT ALMOST KILLED ME BEFORE" but that's a whole other saga.)

In other news, the "there are only fat people in America" meme needs to die a flaming death. Having traveled the world and met fat people on every continent, no.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:11 PM on October 27, 2010 [50 favorites]


t's like the "funny because they're indian" show that's promoted for Thursday nights on NBC (whatever it's called...)

It's My Way or Bombay.

Oh, wait; that's not it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:12 PM on October 27, 2010


I do feel like people in other countries are going to laugh at that show if it makes it into international syndication.

Actually, I find one of the most striking things about British TV is how they tend to show people who look like regular people instead of weird, Botoxed, big-headed aliens with unnaturally square and white teeth.
posted by JoanArkham at 1:12 PM on October 27, 2010 [34 favorites]


Okay, not every continent--I have not been to Antarctica. Yet!

Some of those penguins are pleasingly plump, though.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:12 PM on October 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Didn't we already know all women's "lifestyle" magazines except Bitch and Bust were crappy, advertorialized, body-dysmorphia-inducing rags already?

Or was that just me?


I think I'm still a little shocked that it wasn't professional standards holding these mags back from devolving into professional trolls--it was that they didn't really understand how trolling worked. They seem to be stumbling upon it and refusing to back away.

Expect more of this. People love getting offended and piling on, and advertisers love pageviews. Offending people skillfully is good business sense in the blogosphere.
posted by almostmanda at 1:13 PM on October 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


The thing that seems dumb about "mike and molly" is it sounds as if it's based around their being fat. Roseanne and Dan Conner were overweight, and there were probably occasional jokes that referenced it, but it was certainly not the basis of the show.

The show has an almost cringe-worthy premise, and way too many fat jokes at the expense of their leads. But the interaction between the two lead characters is actually quite sweet, and they're talented actors. I suspect the show won't survive thanks to extensive blowback, and it's a shame because it's nice to see another show on television, like Roseanne, in which the leads don't look like tv sitcom actors.
posted by zarq at 1:14 PM on October 27, 2010


Actually, I find one of the most striking things about British TV is how they tend to show people who look like regular people instead of weird, Botoxed, big-headed aliens with unnaturally square and white teeth.

"Book of British Smiles"
posted by norm at 1:16 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Note, of course it's an "I'm sorry you felt..." not "I was wrong." ... Come on, say it with me: "I'm sorry. I was flat-out wrong. I don't know what I was thinking. I don't really think that way on my good days."

To be fair, I think she did do that: "I would really like to apologize for the insensitive things I've said in this post....A lot of what I said was unnecessary. It wasn't productive, either....I'm truly sorry I added to the unhappiness and pain they feel with my post....I know that I came off [as a bully], and I really cannot apologize enough to the people whom I upset.

She said a lot more than that, seemingly in an attempt to explain where she was coming from, and she's certainly been oblivious to the larger issues at hand, but she also apologized and took responsibility, and not the fake "I'm sorry you feel that way" kind of apology. She seems willing to learn.
posted by Gator at 1:16 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why is it OK to criticize people that smoke because it is bad for them but it is not OK to say that being obese is also bad for them?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:18 PM on October 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


Gator, you are more generous than I am. It still seems like a fauxpology to me. What she said wasn't "unnecessary" or "unproductive", it was "cruel" and "inaccurate" and "a load of bollocks."

To me, her apology reads as "Everything I said was accurate, but apparently I hurt some fatties' feelings." What she said was documentably bullshit, and the manner in which she said it only adds insult to injury.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:20 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why is it OK to criticize people that smoke because it is bad for them but it is not OK to say that being obese is also bad for them?

A) Smoking is a behavior. Body weight is not a behavior.

A') Nor does body weight necessarily correlate with behavior. Many studies have shown that the spread of eating styles is pretty similar among all weight groups; there are clinically underweight overeaters, undereaters, and optimal (by USDA standards) eaters, just as there are clinically obese overeaters, undereaters, and optimal (by USDA standards) eaters.

B) The link between morbidity/mortality and obesity and overweight is not as clear as the link between smoking and respiratory illness.

B') I have never seen an article in a mainstream magazine that said "I saw people smoking on TV! Smoking is so disgusting! How could people have so little self-control as to smoke!"
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:23 PM on October 27, 2010 [17 favorites]


JoanArkham: "Actually, I find one of the most striking things about British TV is how they tend to show people who look like regular people instead of weird, Botoxed, big-headed aliens with unnaturally square and white teeth."

I noticed on the 60 Minutes segment on Top Gear this weekend they felt it necessary to point out that Richard Hammond was the only one of the three hosts who didn't have crooked stained teeth.
posted by octothorpe at 1:25 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why is it OK to criticize people that smoke because it is bad for them

Is it? I thought it was up to an individual to make own decisions about their own fucking bodies. Unless the person doing the criticizing is a medical doctor, that is, and even then, I hope they would offer help and assistance, not criticizm.

but it is not OK to say that being obese is also bad for them?

But is it okay to say that obsese people are loveless freaks who shouldn't be been seen kissing on TV, lest it causes the audience to wretch?
posted by Jimbob at 1:25 PM on October 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


Why is it OK to criticize people that smoke because it is bad for them but it is not OK to say that being obese is also bad for them?

It wouldn't kill anybody to shut the fuck up about people smoking in the privacy of their own homes, too. Contrary to popular belief the phrase "public health issue" is not a magical excuse-all for people who are bummed that they missed the Victorian golden age of moral panics and public shaming.
posted by enn at 1:25 PM on October 27, 2010 [15 favorites]


Why is it OK to criticize people that smoke because it is bad for them but it is not OK to say that being obese is also bad for them?

Tone matters.
So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.
"I find fat people disgusting. You should lose some weight, you lazy pig. It's easy to lose weight, after all." ≠ "I'm concerned for your well being, and would like to offer some supportive suggestions."
posted by zarq at 1:26 PM on October 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Now, don't go getting the wrong impression: I have a few friends who could be called plump. I'm not some size-ist jerk.

This is classic!

And she absolutely was unconscious when she wrote it. Which doesn't mean she didn't mean what she wrote -- she was unconscious of herself as she wrote it but that's what allowed it past her internal censors.

Where was/is her editor?

But her apology seems sincere, and in it she talks about her lifelong issues with anorexia, and how afraid she has been of ever gaining weight.

I judge myself so harshly on this issue of weight that it's comical, but it's not at all funny. If I saw someone treating another person the way I treat myself, I would do what I can to get them apart.

I could easily have written what this woman wrote if I was unconscious of what I was writing. I am absolutely as judgmental as she is, of myself and others, it's front and center of what I am now addressing in my life. I can't stand that I do this and it's gotten worse these later years, esp since I had all those heart attacks, and I now have my own health issues and my own reasons -- other than vanity -- to keep the weight off.

My behaviors around this remind me of the studies which show that everyone in US society perceives a threat when they see a photo of a black male, including black males; I read "Blink" over the summer and thought of myself again and again as Gladwell describes how this thinking plays out, totally below the level of consciousness.

Anyways. Seems to me there are two things we can look at here, one the obvious, that this writer got caught out and the predictable response to that, and the other here is really unconscious judgment; she got caught out, same as someone would if expressing their judgment on race or sexuality or whatever, maybe others will begin to see it in their own thoughts now? Or maybe I am the only sad judgmental person reading this thread -- is that possible?
posted by dancestoblue at 1:26 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


C) People with lower-than-average body weights have higher morbidity/mortality risks, as a group, than do people who are in the BMI "overweight", "healthy weight", and "obese" categories. Still, Marie Claire and every other fashion magazines populates its pages with photos of nothing but people with lower-than-average body weights.

Kelly refutes her own point on this, too; she says "Well, some of these folks are naturally that thin and just healthy, but of course no fat people are naturally fat and healthy" as though there weren't any fat triathletes, ultramarathoners, aerobics instructors, mountain climbers, Olympic weightlifters, etc. (And again, she obviously means fat women here, because without athletes whose BMIs are "morbidly obese" the NFL wouldn't have any defense.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:27 PM on October 27, 2010 [15 favorites]


JoanArkham, my theory is that everyone who moves to L.A. is put into a taffy-pulling machine and dipped in a thin coating of shiny, clear wax when they receive their SAG cards.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:27 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reading that article honestly just made me feel sad for the writer in a way that I feel sad when anyone's mental illness is obviously on display and everyone knows it but them. Like if I read an article about happy people written by someone struggling with depression and it was all like "happiness is worthless and fake because happy people just can't see the truth and who really cares anyway". Her self-loathing was so poorly concealed in her writing about "other people" that her eating disorder was no surprise at all. She's clearly a poor choice to write this piece and if she didn't have the self-awareness not to do it, her editors really should have pulled the plug on it.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 1:27 PM on October 27, 2010 [23 favorites]


Leave it to Uwe Boll to keep it classy when it comes to obesity.
> It's My Way or Bombay.

Oh, wait; that's not it.
No duh. Welcome to the 21st Century; the show is called

It's Mumbai or the Highway
posted by jabberjaw at 1:28 PM on October 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


All of this over a fucking sitcom? No one should watch this show-- not because the characters are overweight, but because it will be a collection of stupid, broadest-appeal jokes sandwiched between some advertisements.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:28 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


dancestoblue, I really honor your charity to Kelly.

The thing is that this piece was vetted by an editor. An editor who works for a magazine that makes mad cash on selling women shit they don't need (and which may be actually hazardous to their health, hello Meridia!) to compensate for the negative body image they got from the magazine and its peers in the first place.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:29 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


She's also been participating in the comments on that post: "Though I don't think of myself as anorexic any more, being freaked out by obesity to the insensitive, even cruel, point that I was is certainly a vestige of the anorexic mindset; maybe so was being righteous about how easy it is to lose weight." "I felt like I'd been really cruel, flippantly, and I feel terrible about that....I truly regret my lack of empathy and thoughtfulness." Nobody ever reads those, though.
posted by Gator at 1:29 PM on October 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


smoking and obesity = false equivalence
posted by Ouisch at 1:29 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Some of those things she said, I'm not sure she CAN apologize for them. Saying it's disgusting to watch a fat person walk across the room? Can anyone really atone for saying something that mean? Wow.
posted by JanetLand at 1:29 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


In (possibly) their defense, one of Marie Claire's bloggers also posted this.
posted by valrus at 1:30 PM on October 27, 2010


Also, it would still be pretty jerky to be mean to smokers "for the sake of their health." Smokers are not stupid people; they're aware of the risks of what they do. Unless they're blowing it in your face, or you're close to them and are genuinely concerned for their well-being, butt out. It's not your business.

Aside from genuine concern, I think most people are pissed off by smokers because it somehow affects THEM. Disregarding the rather questionable insurance argument, there really isn't a kind of second-hand fat that anyone else can suffer from.
posted by Ouisch at 1:31 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


...a collection of stupid, broadest-appeal jokes sandwiched between some advertisements.

I think you've discovered the formula to getting a sitcom greenlit.
posted by griphus at 1:32 PM on October 27, 2010


I mean, aside from the HORRIBLE AFFLICTION OF BEING FORCED TO SEE FAT PEOPLE IN PUBLIC, EWWWWW.
posted by Ouisch at 1:32 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for pointing those out, Gator. Most people who self-identify as fat and proud tend to avoid reading comments because it gets really old to read over and over again about how disgusting you are and how you should die. Perhaps Kelly should have been that direct in her posted apology, because most of the people who were hurt by her words aren't going to read the comments.

I am sorry for whatever is going on inside her head that contributed to this astonishing lapse of professionalism and human charity. But, you know, it hurt the fuck out of me to read her post, both as a self-accepting fat person and as a recovering anorexic.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:32 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why is it OK to criticize people that smoke because it is bad for them but it is not OK to say that being obese is also bad for them?

*deep breath*

Because people choose to smoke, and although some might say that people "choose" to be obese, the effects of overeating one meal are not nearly as immediately recognizable as the effects of smoking.

Because smoking affects people on a first-hand, second-hand (other people's smoke) and even third-hand (the lingering smell and chemicals in people's clothes and skin, that can trigger reactions even in people who were not present when the smoking occurred) level.

Because non-food factors that influence obesity include genetics, disease, ability/disability, gender, ethnicity, culture and socioeconomic level, very few of which can be controlled or even chosen.

Because, for many people, the ability to control the type, amount, content or frequency of one's food or exercise is not even a privilege but a luxury.

Because even one cigarette has a negative effect on the health and environment of the smoker and those around him or her, while many people who look obese or count as obese under BMI guidelines are much healthier and more physically capable than those in a "regular" weight range (and certainly more healthy and capable than their critics might think).

Smoking has a history of being portrayed as a glamorous, rebellious, and incredibly cool activity done by people whom other people want to be.

Unless you live in Mauritania, where women are treated like cattle (sometimes literally), obesity is rarely treated as anything other than the punishment that those fat, ugly, lazy, trashy, poor, stupid fucks fully deserve for stuffing their face with trash 24/7/365.

Bottom line: do you somehow think obese people don't KNOW that the way they live is wrong, wrong, wrong?

Get over yourself.
posted by Madamina at 1:34 PM on October 27, 2010 [17 favorites]


Haven't seen Mike & Molly, but Melissa McCarthy is a hell of a comic actor -- I once saw her steal a Groundlings show with a five-minute solo character-piece.
posted by Zed at 1:34 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Marie Claire is soliciting responses from bloggers to Ms. Kelly's piece.

This is the first one posted, by the woman who runs Fatshionista, who ripped them a new one over the original post: "Yes, Fat People Exist: A Vote in Favor of More Diverse Bodies on TV"
posted by zarq at 1:34 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


I am dittoing Sidhedevil here. It hurts like a motherfucker to be confronted with how gross other people think you.

Like, think I'm gross all you want. But could you keep it private, at least? I don't go around telling people that they're ugly and should put a paper bag on it, you know?
posted by Ouisch at 1:34 PM on October 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


All of this over a fucking sitcom?

Well, there _are_ good sitcoms (Arrested Development, for example). This show however does clearly seem to be in the generic/horrible sitcom category, though. But I disagree with the idea that sitcom=automatically bad.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:35 PM on October 27, 2010


...it's like the "funny because they're indian" show that's promoted for Thursday nights on NBC (whatever it's called...)

Outsourced.

Recent FPP on the television show: You Know That's Saag Paneer, Dude.
posted by ericb at 1:36 PM on October 27, 2010


All right, so the rules are:

A) It's OK for fat guys on TV shows to have skinny wives or girlfriends. (See pretty much any sitcom, including animated ones).

B) It's not OK for fat guys on TV shows to have fat wives or girlfriends if they actually, y'know, kiss.

So I want to know--Is it OK for a lead female character on a TV show to be fat and have a skinny husband or boyfriend?

Nobody knows, because that has NEVER HAPPENED.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 1:38 PM on October 27, 2010 [23 favorites]


although some might say that people "choose" to be obese

Those "some" would be ill-informed.

That said, I do choose to be obese (by BMI standards, anyway). I know from sad experience that I can starve myself (literally) down to a size 6 or 8 or something, but I prefer to be a size 14 or 16 and actually be able to think and laugh and run and jump and not have my pancreas devouring itself.*

Seems like an easy choice to me. If Maura Kelly is jealous of that, she needs to do her own work elsewhere instead of publicly shaming me and people like me. I choose to live. I choose not to be defined by a number on a scale. I choose to tell everyone except my doctors and my physical trainer to STFU about my health, as it is none of anyone else's business.


*Because that's how my body works. My BFF couldn't possibly eat herself up to a size 6 or 8 no matter how hard she tried, because that's how her body works.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:40 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it OK for a lead female character on a TV show to be fat and have a skinny husband or boyfriend?

Nobody knows, because that has NEVER HAPPENED.


I find it amusing that the thing that happens every single day in my real life is too controversial to be show on TV.
posted by Ouisch at 1:40 PM on October 27, 2010 [13 favorites]


Mike and Molly is a mediocre show not because the leads are fat, but because the show is unevenly cast and acted. Their being fat is neither a character flaw or the base focus of all of the humor (there is some of that, but it's not usually vicious*), but is used to inform how each interacts with the world and each other. That part is actually pretty successful. Unfortunately, the supporting cast is a walking peanut gallery of shallow obnoxious stereotypes, and the woman who plays Molly outshines the guy who plays Mike to such an extent that the relationship seems somewhat uneven as a result and not particularly engaging.

I'm not surprised people who would never watch the show (in the Fashion and Entertainment and associated industries) would think the show is "So funny to watch fat people fall in love!" - that's exactly how CBS promoted it all summer. It was definitively off-putting.

* I base this on 2 1/2 episodes I watched. There was one where the cop kept losing his hat because his head was too big, and there's some in-show character insulting in which appetites and weight come up. I've seen much worse. Much much worse.
posted by julen at 1:41 PM on October 27, 2010


My question up there was not specifically about what the person posted. They were obviously being a jackass. Tone does matter. I was speaking generally. I live in NYC, and I can't walk more than a block without seeing posters about how bad smoking is.

The link between morbidity/mortality and obesity and overweight is not as clear as the link between smoking and respiratory illness.

I don't doubt that, but there are far more indicators about "being healthy" than mortality rates. Where, "being healthy" isn't looking like a runway model.

Anyway, if being obese is actually more healthy than being fit, please somebody tell these people they're doing it wrong.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:41 PM on October 27, 2010


I also "choose" to be obese by eating pretty normally and walking almost every day, over the not-so-exciting alternative of restricting my calories, keeping a food journal, and exercising to the point of chronic injury every day for the rest of my life.

(And yeah, I'm speaking from experience, not mere self-serving speculation here.)
posted by Ouisch at 1:42 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Uh, those people ARE doing it wrong.
posted by Ouisch at 1:43 PM on October 27, 2010 [6 favorites]




Threeway Handshake, many people have told "The Biggest Loser" that they're doing it wrong, including some former contestants.

Also, "morbidity" means "illness", so yeah, morbidity/mortality rates are indeed the best statistical generalization about health over large populations that anyone has access to.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:44 PM on October 27, 2010


Also, cardiorespiratory fitness is a better indicator of health than weight loss alone. And, yes, apparently you can improve your fitness without losing weight:

"Emerging evidence suggests that exercise training reduces markers of inflammation and improves glucose control in obesity, independent of weight loss..."
posted by Ouisch at 1:47 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Actually, I find one of the most striking things about British TV is how they tend to show people who look like regular people instead of weird, Botoxed, big-headed aliens with unnaturally square and white teeth.

Well, up until recently. The antique BBC Britcoms that they rerun on PBS stations all the time are that way. Lots of old people and hushed voices and crooked teeth and impenetrable accents and quaint idiosyncrasies and teapots and china -- just the way many Americans imagine Brits being, no matter whether it's 1950 or 2010.

Now it's as likely as not to be a bunch of harried Big Society types with sparkly smiles, ample hair product, six-pack abs, and noses that turn upward at the sound of anything Cockney, unless it's Jamie Oliver's twee accent. (Tommy Cruise and Cameron Diaz sure got a nice round of bravos when they showed up on "Top Gear" recently.)
posted by blucevalo at 1:49 PM on October 27, 2010


Maybe I should be more charitable, Gator. It's a failing of mine that I need to work on.

But I dunno. At its best it sounds to me that she's saying "It was true, but it's cruel to point out that truth."

insensitive things I've said

But she never says "inaccurate"

A lot of what I said was unnecessary

But she never says "wrong"

It wasn't productive

But non-productive is not a synonym for untrue.

It's just, y'know, a real and unambiguous mea culpa would not have been hard for either of them.
posted by tyllwin at 1:57 PM on October 27, 2010


Bottom line: do you somehow think obese people don't KNOW that the way they live is wrong, wrong, wrong?

Get over yourself.


Maybe you should take your own advice. Bottom line: we live in a culture that increasingly coddles those who are overweight to an unhealthy degree. Not the plump, but the morbidly obese. Anytime you get to a point where people are complaining that you shouldn't have to pay for more than one airline seat even though you take up more than one airline seat, your society is having some issues. We act (and by we I mean you) like everyone has the excuse of genetics, when really, most of us don't. Most of us just eat too many fucking cheeseburgers. I say all this as someone who currently ranks as "obese" and has been overweight for most of his life, so keep your "fat hater" comments to yourself. I just don't like to make excuses for my behavior. Do you somehow think that when I see the half ton woman in line at Kroger who literally has a cart full of pizza and Coke, that she just can't help herself because of genetics?
posted by Roman Graves at 1:58 PM on October 27, 2010 [21 favorites]


I know what you mean blucevalo, but I was thinking of more recent shows as well. Like Dr. Who and Life on Mars. Not that those characters are obese, but they aren't Hollywood thin either.
posted by JoanArkham at 2:01 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you somehow think that when I see the half ton woman in line at Kroger who literally has a cart full of pizza and Coke, that she just can't help herself because of genetics?

But why does her appearance bother you? Someone's weight, unlike someone's smoking habit, doesn't affect your life.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:04 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Roman Graves: maybe you should go work for Marie Clare.
posted by Ouisch at 2:06 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh Nina Garcia, where are you?
posted by elder18 at 2:06 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Roman Graves, how does shaming people help them change their body weight? (It doesn't.) And yes, there are probably some obese people who eat lots of crap. There are also some underweight people who eat lots of crap, and some "healthy weight" BMI people who eat lots of crap. But your anecdata does not trump science.

If you feel that your current body weight is something you are unhappy with, and something that results from suboptimal food and exercise choices, I wish you all the best in changing those things. But how does charging a vegetarian triathlete more for a plane seat, based on her size, improve anyone's health?
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:06 PM on October 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


Also, women can be misogynists, and fat people can also be fat-haters. Gay people can be homophobes. Members of ethnic minority groups can be racist. It's something often referred to as "self hatred," and it's a big problem for most marginalized groups in society. Fat people are definitely one such group, and I hardly ever encounter fat hatred that is quite so strong as that coming from other fat people.
posted by Ouisch at 2:07 PM on October 27, 2010 [10 favorites]


But why does her appearance bother you?

Why are you assuming that it does? I never said that. I don't care if she has a Coca-Cola IV. I'm just tired, even as a fat person myself, of hearing people defend the overweight as if it is generally some kind of condition that you have no control over. Jesus, ericb compared it to being black or gay.
posted by Roman Graves at 2:09 PM on October 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


"her editors really should have pulled the plug on it."

Oh, you sweet adorable naif, bloggers don't have editors. That's what allows them to be so fresh and current, not being bound by style guides or the rules of Old Journalism that we all know are bad and evil and would prevent Marie Claire from getting 28000 responses to some weak bullshit.

/me sobs softly at desk.
posted by klangklangston at 2:11 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


The obesity rate in the United States (highest in the developed world!/74% of adults are overweight/WE'RE #1 WE'RE #1) is really a malnutrition epidemic.

It's pretty straightforward: health = nutrients / calories

And right now the fraction is extremely bottom-heavy. Getting 2000 calories in one day is very easy, but getting 2000 calories fully balanced with the right ratios of protein, fat, and carbs along with all the essential vitamins and minerals, not so much. Most people who are overweight in the US aren't in that state because of some special medical condition, it's because they're malnourished. It's not a character flaw any more than having rickets or pellagra is a character flaw.
posted by mullingitover at 2:11 PM on October 27, 2010 [10 favorites]


Look, obesity is highly heritable. This is pretty well-known.

Put people with a certain genetic predisposition in a certain environment, and they realize that genetic potential. That's the same reason people got taller over the last century or so -- improved living conditions, including nutrition.

So, there's more food around now, and most of us carry the genetic potential to get fat. But for some reason, people are blamed for this interaction between genetics and environment in a way that TALL people aren't.

Any guesses as to why? Oh yeah, because tallness has never been associated with gluttony, laziness or other MORAL or CLASS-BASED value judgments in the popular imagination.
posted by Ouisch at 2:11 PM on October 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


Jesus, ericb compared it to being black or gay.

Genetics aren't the whole story, but they are certainly a part of the story. I eat like a horse (honestly, almost as if I had a Coca Cola IV). Fried food, huge steaks, chocolate, etc. I weigh 107 pounds, and I'm 5 foot 4.

Tell me that's not genetics.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:12 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]




Most people who are overweight in the US aren't in that state because of some special medical condition, it's because they're malnourished.

Show me the nutrient deficiencies, plz.
posted by Ouisch at 2:13 PM on October 27, 2010


Oh wait, here's one!
posted by Ouisch at 2:16 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, you sweet adorable naif, bloggers don't have editors. That's what allows them to be so fresh and current, not being bound by style guides or the rules of Old Journalism that we all know are bad and evil and would prevent Marie Claire from getting 28000 responses to some weak bullshit.

All Hearst and Conde Nast publications that have online sites also have editors in place to approve column content before essays and columns go live. This is especially true of Conde Nast, whose publications are now being ported to iPads. MC is a Hearst publication.

Marie Claire has two editors in charge of web content, a Senior Web Editor and a Website Content Director. The Senior Web Editor is supposed to be responsible for reviewing and approving blog posts.
posted by zarq at 2:17 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh, you sweet adorable naif, bloggers don't have editors.

Apparently they do at Marie Claire--mostly because they don't want anyone to piss off the advertisers, not because they don't want to piss off millions of fat people and recovering anorexics, though.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:18 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


And yes, Klang, I know this from personal experience.
posted by zarq at 2:18 PM on October 27, 2010


Bottom line: we live in a culture that increasingly coddles those who are overweight to an unhealthy degree.

You've got to be kidding me. You see a lot of Venus de Willendorf-shaped models on the newsracks where you live, do you? Are there lots of thin people being castigated and ostracized by roving packs of overweight socialites in this society? Many members of your community, no doubt, are men and women so ashamed of their slim frames that they refuse to leave the house and spend most of their time online, where they can be seen for their intelligence and personality instead of as gross sticks with unnaturally athletic shape, where they don't have to hear the whispers and see the disapproving looks as they slump through a supermarket, hoping they can become invisible by turning sideways.

I mean, there is an obesity problem in the USA, but the notion that overweight people are coddled by society is fucking ridiculous. Let me know when Sally Jessie features construction crews feverishly cutting a 90-lb waif out of her home for the daytime entertainment of millions, and then we may have room for debate.
posted by Errant at 2:20 PM on October 27, 2010 [21 favorites]


Ouisch: "Show me the nutrient deficiencies, plz."

Malnutrition doesn't necessarily mean a deficiency. You can be malnourished because you've overdosed on Vitamin A, for example. A great deal of obesity in the US is caused by chronic overdoses of high-fructose corn syrup.
posted by mullingitover at 2:21 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


keratacon: "I do feel like people in other countries are going to laugh at that show if it makes it into international syndication."

I haven't actually watched it, but I have seen ads for it over here. I'm not sure is it is on Irish of British TV though. While I think it is a comedy, it doesn't really look like something I'd laugh at, far too many "look at us, aren't we fat" jokes.
posted by Fence at 2:21 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


If this correlation were well-established, and I'm not convinced that it is, here's a thought about possible confounders:

Nutrient deficiency is correlated with food insecurity.

Food insecurity is correlated with poverty.

Poverty is correlated with obesity.

It doesn't mean that nutrient deficiency necessarily causes obesity. It makes a lot more sense that food insecurity causes nutrient deficiency. Because is there any possible mechanism by which to propose that nutrient deficiency causes people to get fat? (I mean, other than the possible rebound effect after a period of semi-starvation, but that's referring mainly to macronutrient deficiency, not the micronutrient deficiency I think you're hinting at.) Not that I know of.

Food insecurity affects both fat people and thin people who happen to be poor. I would bet my bottom dollar that both groups are at higher risk for nutrient deficiency, and that it has nothing to do with their weight.
posted by Ouisch at 2:22 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow, thank you for the nutrition lesson, Herr Doktor!
posted by Ouisch at 2:23 PM on October 27, 2010


A great deal of obesity in the US is caused by chronic overdoses of high-fructose corn syrup.

Wow, okay. This debate is going nowhere, fast.
posted by Ouisch at 2:23 PM on October 27, 2010


It's pretty straightforward: health = nutrients / calories

And right now the fraction is extremely bottom-heavy. Getting 2000 calories in one day is very easy, but getting 2000 calories fully balanced with the right ratios of protein, fat, and carbs along with all the essential vitamins and minerals, not so much.


You also implied deficiency with this statement.

There is also no established level for HFCS overconsumption.
posted by Ouisch at 2:25 PM on October 27, 2010


Wow, thank you for the nutrition lesson, Herr Doktor!

You have some excellent points about how this relates to class/poverty issues, Ouisch, but you're really unpleasant.
posted by Roman Graves at 2:25 PM on October 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


A great deal of obesity in the US is caused by chronic overdoses of high-fructose corn syrup.

So why so much obesity in Scotland? Or Mexico? No HFCS there.

If you look at any photo of rich people in the 19th century, you'll see an awful lot of people who would fall into the "obese" BMI category. President Taft wasn't alone by any means (even among US presidents--Grover Cleveland and James Garfield were also quite portly).

It may be possible that many of the people who had a predisposition to obesity in the past also just didn't get enough calories to make the obesity happen. Now that calorie availability is so much more prevalent in the industrialized world, perhaps we are seeing a change in body habituses as a result.

I am slimmer than all of my ancestors on the maternal side. I mean, objectively slimmer, as in their clothes swim on me even though I am inches taller, and this goes back to my great-grandmother.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:26 PM on October 27, 2010


Wait, so an editor OK-ed "heroine addict"?

I'm going to go back to weeping now.
posted by JoanArkham at 2:26 PM on October 27, 2010 [12 favorites]


but you're really unpleasant.

Thank you, I try.
posted by Ouisch at 2:26 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Are there lots of thin people being castigated and ostracized

Very thin people get a lot of shit in public too. Maybe it's not as bad as fat people, I'm not going to get into a "whos got it worse" discussion, but my ex-wife was very thin and got harassed about it a lot.

But of course its the same basic reason: if youre fat, people assume its because youre lazy / overeat / whatever. If youre super thin, people assume you have an eating disorder and are remarkably willing to comment on it to strangers.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:28 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


You have some excellent points about how this relates to class/poverty issues, Ouisch, but you're really unpleasant.

Let me suggest to you that the tone of your post pushed some very well-worn buttons. It did for me, too, but I am trying to be all Brand New Day, so tried to reach out to you where you are.

I wish you all the best with whatever choices and plans you make for your own body, Roman Graves. And I wish the same to everyone else, from everyone else.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:28 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


But of course its the same basic reason: if youre fat, people assume its because youre lazy / overeat / whatever. If youre super thin, people assume you have an eating disorder and are remarkably willing to comment on it to strangers.

Good point, wildcrdj! Body-policing in general: it's bad. If you are not the owner of the horse for which I am the jockey, or the pilot of the light aircraft in which I am about to ride, it is none of your business how much or how little I weigh.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:29 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, thin people get shit in public. And, yes, it is wrong.
posted by Ouisch at 2:29 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Basically, the heuristics we use to sum up people's worth based on their outward appearance (whether it's skin colour or weight or gender presentation) are remarkably innacurate and totally assholish into the bargain. I wish people would think more before decided to remark on anyone's appearance.
posted by Ouisch at 2:31 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


previously on askmefi, a wise commenter gave this example...

/I'm psychic
/and I don't read this mag, so I had no clue...
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:31 PM on October 27, 2010


I'd like to see size 14 women on television, as well as size 22 and size 2. Modelling has the same problem - it's possible to be too big for "regular", but too small for plus-size, though there it is the size 10s and 12s who are left out.

British TV seems better off -- a real variety of men and women, in terms of size, age, attractiveness.
posted by jb at 2:34 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, I wasn't spoiling for a fight, these are just, like, my opinions, man. IANAN (I am not a nutritionist).

Can we agree that cheap food is usually calorie-rich and nutrient-poor, and the less money you have the more likely you are to eat lots of cheap food?

My comment about HFCS being a culprit in the US is mainly based on this.
posted by mullingitover at 2:38 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


We can definitely agree that poorer people are more likely to choose filling, calorie-dense foods over less-caloric, micronutrient-dense foods.

But your chart confuses me, since there are many more differences between the US and other countries with lower rates of obesity than merely HFCS consumption.
posted by Ouisch at 2:41 PM on October 27, 2010


"The Senior Web Editor is supposed to be responsible for reviewing and approving blog posts."

Really? Really? Do they know what the word "edit" means? Or take any time toward fixing homophones or run on sentences or any other shit that should be savaged out of writers in Comp 101?

/me weeps harder.
posted by klangklangston at 2:43 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hey guys, you know what's nice?

Flowers.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:46 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, mullingitover, but your point doesn't hold water. Why are Mexico (where cane sugar is government-subsidized) and Scotland (where beet sugar is government-subsidized) so close to the US in obesity rates?

Can we agree that cheap food is usually calorie-rich and nutrient-poor, and the less money you have the more likely you are to eat lots of cheap food?

Maybe, but I don't eat any cheap food--being a rich person who is also an ultra-snobby gourmet and locavore--and I know plenty of other BMI=obese people just like me. I also eat about 1800 kcal/day, according to the food logs I've been keeping lately (investigating whether or not I really am allergic to wheat = logging every mouthful I eat, so boring!)

Again, generalities about populations might be interesting and/or helpful in creating health policies, but my friend the vegetarian triathlete is the one who had to pay extra for her airplane seat. On the individual level, body weight is simply not a reliable index of food and exercise choices, or of overall cardiovascular fitness.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:47 PM on October 27, 2010


Flowers SUCK. And you suck if you like them.
posted by Ouisch at 2:47 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


*runs weeping from the room*
posted by shakespeherian at 2:48 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


My work here is done.
posted by Ouisch at 2:49 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Very thin people get a lot of shit in public too.

Absolutely granted. I'm pretty scrawny and get the occasional negative comment. I'm not interested in playing oppression olympics and I do apologize for coming across as dismissive of the other side of social body dysmorphia. I still think it's absurd to suggest that overweight people are coddled in this culture and overly tolerated instead of widely, nearly uniformly looked down upon, and I think it's incorrect to view that overwhelming derision as a necessary inoculation against an obesity epidemic or to view the problem with that derision as there not being nearly enough of it.
posted by Errant at 2:51 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Someone's weight, unlike someone's smoking habit, doesn't affect your life.

Are we being asked to watch someone smoke on TV?

Because that would be really gross.
posted by mmrtnt at 2:52 PM on October 27, 2010


Ew, it totally would be!
posted by Ouisch at 2:55 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, nobody makes smoking look grosser than Cary Grant.

Except maybe everybody who has ever smoked ever.

I really thought nothing could make me angrier about Mike and Molly than the show itself. I remember reading a story when Roseanne was at its most popular where the producers and/or Roseanne herself basically said "Hey, I know I'm a funny standup but I can't act." So they went out and cast some actual gifted actors as Roseanne's family and friends, rather than the cast-by-head-shot and read a couple of jokes off a script model. I feel like they did the exact opposite with Mike and Molly. They thought :Melissa McCarthy is so cute and talented and you just always want to root for her (even when she's just got a bit part or even when her character is annoying)" that it didn't matter if they surrounded her with characters who suck so much that no actor could bring them to life. (A show that makes you wonder not just :why Swoozie Kurtz is not funny" but "has Swoozie Kurtz ever actually been funny or talented or did I just imagine all of that?" is doing bad things. Like I think the show may be filmed in a studio that is haunted by an unfunny poltergeist.) By comparison, they handle the fat folks in love jokes with a light touch.

As for the actual original review... just... well, I feel bad mentioning my original thought, now that I've read about the author's personal problems with eating disorders -- but as I read it, I swear I thought "God, she must be so hungry to be so miserably cruel."

Unfortunately, nothing in her "apology" made me feel any differently
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:04 PM on October 27, 2010


I'm late to the party here, and I tend to agree with everyone, frankly. This is pretty despicable.

I just wanted to add: probably the worst thing isn't even that the things she said in this little article were so hideous. It's that she – and her editor, in the 'apology' that followed – stooped to that most obnoxious and underhanded and lame of faux-journalistic moves; the whole "what do you think?" bullshit both of them tack on. 'Oh yes, this is a dialogue! It's okay to say horrible and insensitive and cruel and frankly hateful things, because after all, we're just having a dialogue here!'

Have at least the courage of your convictions and say what you think, goddamnit. You're a fucking magazine. Don't worry – if people think you're being an insensitive jerk, they will happily write in and tell you. So just say what you think, and leave it be. And don't try to duck responsibility by invoking the tired excuse that the cruel things said were just part of a dialog, and acting as though you're having some sort of back-and-forth discussion with the reading public.
posted by koeselitz at 3:04 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I quite liked Cleolinda' take on the whole thing.
posted by rewil at 3:05 PM on October 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Two things:

Metafilter:anecdata

HFCS == Metafilter's Godwin
posted by mmrtnt at 3:05 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really? Really? Do they know what the word "edit" means?

I suspect they've been reintroduced in a rather nasty way to the proper definition this week. Whether they do anything with it going forward is another story.
posted by zarq at 3:06 PM on October 27, 2010


"Again, generalities about populations might be interesting and/or helpful in creating health policies, but my friend the vegetarian triathlete is the one who had to pay extra for her airplane seat. On the individual level, body weight is simply not a reliable index of food and exercise choices, or of overall cardiovascular fitness."

Of course. My point was simply that the obesity epidemic is largely a nutrition problem. We're in total agreement that people at the individual level will vary for different reasons, and being larger doesn't always equal being malnourished.
posted by mullingitover at 3:06 PM on October 27, 2010


So, when I dated a 350 pound woman and had the nerve to kiss her while we hung out at Starbucks, we were being radical?

I knew it. I knew between the numerous bumper stickers on my car and my being a 20 year old, I was bound to do something that would shock the public consciousness. I'm surprised they didn't play it over and over, blurred out, on the local news.

Sorry everyone! I'll stick to heteronormative homoracial regular-size relationships from now on so that nobody has to be uncomfortable!
posted by MuppetNavy at 3:08 PM on October 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


the obesity epidemic is largely a nutrition problem.

See, my problem is that this wording presumes A LOT of things. One of which is that 1) "obesity" is a disease, and the increase in it represents an epidemic and, 2) that it is largely attributable to nutrition, and specifically a "problem" with nutrition.

A lot of these assertions remain highly controversial in the scientific community.
posted by Ouisch at 3:10 PM on October 27, 2010


zarq: “I suspect they've been reintroduced in a rather nasty way to the proper definition this week. Whether they do anything with it going forward is another story.”

Pfft. I doubt it.

"Wow, Maura – awesome job with that article! I knew this would be big, but I never thought it'd be this big – we're getting a hundred times the traffic on our web site, and that's just on your article alone! We're pretty sure we can convert a lot of those into subscriptions, but even if we don't the web revenue and – this is the key bit – the notoriety are worth more than a fat fattie's weight in gold. Now, we'll have to play the apology well, just to keep the 'discussion' going and get some 'reader feedback,' and we may even have to 'boldly' hire another token fat person to write a column nobody reads – but that doesn't matter, this whole thing is a marketing dream. Congrats again! We'll be putting this into your bonus at the end of the year, by the way."
posted by koeselitz at 3:12 PM on October 27, 2010 [8 favorites]




I agree. Someone really should fix Wikipedia.
posted by Ouisch at 3:20 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Threeway Handshake, I agree that that article on Wikipedia is bullshit that flies in the face of actual current research. What's your point, exactly?
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:22 PM on October 27, 2010


I mean, Jesus, people keep trying to edit Wikipedia to say that ulcers are primarily caused by stress and spicy food, and that's been debunked for almost 30 years now.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:25 PM on October 27, 2010


Even teens aren't immune.
posted by TrishaLynn at 3:28 PM on October 27, 2010


Gyah... this is what I get for being slow on the reading. How do you do it???
posted by TrishaLynn at 3:30 PM on October 27, 2010


Tangential dilemma:

Parents of normal weight children are increasingly neurotic that their kids are "underweight" once they get to be five or six, because they have the body habitus of kids that was the norm thirty years ago, but look emaciated next to their peers, nearly all of whom are just plain overfed.

In my practice, about once a month, if I'm lucky, I see someone lose weight who is obese. That is, they're 25oish or higher and come in after losing 20-40 pounds and on a trajectory of expected continued weight loss. And they are doing it through brute force. Putting half their food back, disallowing all snacks, no intake after 7 PM, etc. Everyone of them would agree that obesity, in all but the rarest endocrinologic situations, is self-inflicted. So demonize the public for being repelled by obesity all you want. In the end, it's not going to accomplish a damn thing and is never going to go away as long as we keep enabling obesity by not confronting it head-on. Of course, in a few more years gastric bypass will be the norm and it may not matter as much. But it will still have crippling health-care costs that will make smoking-related care look cheap in comparison.
posted by docpops at 3:31 PM on October 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


What's your point, exactly?

My point was sarcastic.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:36 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


New NHLBI clinical guidelines for obesity and overweight: will they promote health? Our results are consistent with other studies and fail to justify lowering the overweight threshold on the basis of mortality.

Excess Deaths Associated With Underweight, Overweight, and Obesity (correcting previous estimates that put overweight and obesity as the third leading cause of death in the US annually, with 280,000 deaths, and determining that people in the "overweight" category actually have a lower mortality risk than people in the "normal" category.)

Obesity: An Overblown Epidemic?

The epidemiology of overweight and obesity: public health crisis or moral panic?

The war on obesity: a social determinant of health
posted by Ouisch at 3:38 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now, we'll have to play the apology well, just to keep the 'discussion' going and get some 'reader feedback,' and we may even have to 'boldly' hire another token fat person to write a column nobody reads – but that doesn't matter, this whole thing is a marketing dream.

The thing is... the editors do know that poisoning the well can have lasting negative effects. Their Facebook page is reportedly a war zone right now. A large portion of their reader base probably wouldn't take these sentiments well if they read them. And the magazine's advertising department really, really does not want to have to worry about companies like Dove pulling their ad dollars.

They're smart enough to see that this could go very badly for a magazine that has spent at least some time marketing the idea to women that they should be happy and accepting of diversity.
posted by zarq at 3:38 PM on October 27, 2010


It gets worse.
posted by docpops at 3:39 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Second response post: Free Speech: It's a Beautiful Thing from blogger Molly McKenna
posted by zarq at 3:39 PM on October 27, 2010




"I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room"

This was particularly awful and for the author, I think counter productive. For years I was too damn embarrassed to go looking for comfy plus-size exercise clothes and wear them between my car and the gym, then go into the gym and gross out everyone by actually moving my fat ass. Thanks, lady, for confirming I was right all those years. No thanks to you, I'm not plus size anymore but those comments a) are hurtful, b) don't help, but c) thanks to Crossfit, I could kick your ass if I were so inclined (but I'm not).
posted by pointystick at 3:43 PM on October 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


compares obesity to heroin addiction and alcoholism

That's not that stupid, is it? I remember reading that obese people, like (some) drug addicts, have decreased dopamine D2 receptors.

Many studies have shown that the spread of eating styles is pretty similar among all weight groups; there are clinically underweight overeaters, undereaters, and optimal (by USDA standards) eaters, just as there are clinically obese overeaters, undereaters, and optimal (by USDA standards) eaters.

I'd like to see these studies. I'm open, but I am dubious. I know there are obese undereaters, but you seem to be saying that there are just as many obese undereaters as there as obese overeaters. I find that hard to believe.

There are also some underweight people who eat lots of crap, and some "healthy weight" BMI people who eat lots of crap.

Again, yes, "some," but you seem to be basically claiming (or strongly implying) that there is no correlation to how much you eat and how much you weigh.

I eat like a horse (honestly, almost as if I had a Coca Cola IV). Fried food, huge steaks, chocolate, etc. I weigh 107 pounds, and I'm 5 foot 4.

Tell me that's not genetics.


How old are you? I'm guessing under 30? Call me back in 10 years (20 years if you're under 20.) Honestly, I could do the same thing until I was 25. Then it started.

The Senior Web Editor is supposed to be responsible for reviewing and approving blog posts.

That's CYA policy. I can guarantee these "senior editors" are not reviewing and approving every single blog post. Definitely not before publication anyway.

Anyway, the article was stupid, offensive, and didn't really deal with the factors of obesity anyway. I still think overeating is a factor in obesity.

On preview: thanks for the links, Ouisch. Good reading.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:45 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks for making a great post about this, tps.
posted by box at 3:50 PM on October 27, 2010


Oh, you sweet adorable naif, bloggers don't have editors.

Apologies for just adding to the digression, but this is ... absolutely not true. I have one at NPR, so do plenty of other blogs there. I agree that many people who write independently don't have them, and certainly the heaviness or lightness of the editing hand varies. I'm sure some major publications do have some blogs that aren't edited. But when you declare that if your writing for a major publication like Marie Claire is called a "blog," that means you likely have no oversight and are editorially supervised by no one, you're being exactly as misinformed as you think other people are being. Five years ago, "blogging" at a big operation like Marie Claire might have meant what you're envisioning, but it doesn't anymore.

If something this obviously incendiary goes up on a blog at Marie Claire, that means (1) they need to improve their system to catch things like this sooner; or (2) everybody knew exactly how incendiary it was and put it up anyway. "It would logically not be edited, because it's a blog" is a dog that won't hunt.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 3:51 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Threeway Handshake, you're 0 for 2 on attempted sarcasm in this thread. I would quit while I was behind.

Seriously, you're posing things as rhetorical questions when the answers are "Yes, the conventional wisdom is wrong" and you seem to be surprised. The conventional wisdom is wrong.

I still think overeating is a factor in obesity.

mrgrimm, you may be right. You may be wrong. The thing is that we don't know, on a population-wide level, what the answer is, and the conventional medical wisdom that we do know is as unsupported by evidence as the very recent conventional medical wisdom that ulcers are primarily caused by stress and spicy foods.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:03 PM on October 27, 2010


Welcome to a world powered by pageviews and "buzz." What's the best way to get pageviews and buzz?

That's right: trolling.

I'm convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Marie Claire is trolling us. And look what happens? Those evil magazine people have gotten us all riled up into a big ol' fight. With each other! This is madness.
posted by ErikaB at 4:07 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because non-food factors that influence obesity include genetics, disease, ability/disability, gender, ethnicity, culture and socioeconomic level, very few of which can be controlled or even chosen.

Most of these are true about smoking as well, sad to say - although you are quite right about how the polluting nature of burning something has a knock-on effect and causes problems even among people who choose not to smoke.

The blogger is an asshole, and fat people shouldn't have to tolerate being bullied in person or in print. I think BMI is utter, obvious bullshit, and that it's far more likely that there is a gaussian distribution of healthy body weights.

However, obesity is a really significant public health problem - mostly in America, but increasingly in Europe and other places. High incidences of diabetes and other problems caused by obesity are well known. But even chronic health problems entirely independent of bodyweight are more difficult and dangerous to treat in obese people - for example, when general anesthetic is required for surgery larger volumes are required but airways and lungs are constricted due to the increased body weight, so more equipment, drugs and often staff are required, and post-surgical mortality from anesthetic causes is about three times higher. Hospital beds, operating tables, wheelchairs and so on nowadays have to be capable of accommodating an obese patient, and hospitals have spent a great deal of money on this over the last couple of decades.

All of these requirements cost money and the increase in obesity is a significant driver of health care costs, right around a time when the ratio of retirees to employees is about to see a sharp increase. So not only are obese people at greater medical risk on a personal level, but the added complexity of their treatment and the rising frequency of obesity in the population as a whole contributes to a mounting economic problem. Currently obesity is thought to account for about 15% of all healthcare costs. As time goes by more of those costs are shifted onto taxpayers; I'm sure you've seen those ads for mobility scooters where they mention that "Medicare will pay up to 100% of the cost." There are around 1.5 million of those scooters in use in the USA alone, and like cars they need periodic maintenance and replacement. It's a multi-billion dollar market, whose sales have almost doubled in the last 5 years. And though such scooters are much more difficult to maneuver through doors or in and out of vehicles than regular wheelchairs, users are entitled to at least the same disability accommodations. In San Francisco, regular wheelchair users who live on certain light rail routes are at a disadvantage because there are so few accessible ramps; they cost a few hundred thousand each to build, but the city is also fitting heavy-duty wheelchair lifts or hydraulic ramps to all buses, which cost several million a year just to maintain.

The incidence of obesity and the associated costs just keep going up, and it's not sustainable. I don't think this is a simple problem of people just choosing to be fat. The food industry deserves a major share of the blame, but they're making so much money from keeping people addicted to various kinds of sugar that they are not going to reform their own behavior in anything other than token fashion. As a nation we are eating and drinking our way to death.

I don't use the word addicted lightly. I stop by my local 7-11 for to get coffee several days a week - used to pick up cigarettes too but mercifully I got unhooked from those. At least once a week (depends what time I go by) I see the same kid, on his way to high school. He's about 5'6" tall, and has to be at least 180 pounds. I noticed him in the first place not because he was fat, but because he was buying 2 giant slurpees and 3 32 oz. bottles of soda which went into his backpack (for the the rest of the world, that's about 4.5 liters).

He buys this every day. Every. Damn. Day. But this is not unusual. Lots of people like a lot of soda, which is why the store offers a 48 oz. (~1.2 liter) 'Big Gulp' disposable cup for people who like the flavors in the soda machine. And I live in San Francisco, one of the healthier cities in the US. A recent proposal to impose a modest tax on giant sodas was met with howls of rage from across the political spectrum, neatly coordinated by the beverage industry. There is a lot of money at stake for the producers, but their freedom to make a profit is exerting a terrible cost on the economy as a whole. And while I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, nor can I bring myself to validate obesity as something that's OK or exempt from criticism.

I mentioned earlier that used to smoke. There were external factors that affected that, and I needed help to do it, but ultimately the only person who could solve my nicotine addiction was myself. It was a lot of hard work and cost me a good bit of money in treatment expenses before I succeeded, but I had a responsibility to myself and others to do so, and succeeding was worth it. I'm sure struggling with obesity is at least as hard. Things that work for some people don't work for others. But if something doesn't work, the only choice is to keep trying different things to find something that does. Otherwise it just gets a little worse and a little more painful every single day, and the fact and manner of death starts to look a little more distinct and predictable every single morning, and occupy the mind a little more throughout the day.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:07 PM on October 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


Roman Graves in response to roomthreeseventeen:
But why does her appearance bother you?

Why are you assuming that it does? I never said that. I don't care if she has a Coca-Cola IV. I'm just tired, even as a fat person myself, of hearing people defend the overweight as if it is generally some kind of condition that you have no control over. Jesus, ericb compared it to being black or gay.
Let me repeat what roomthreeseventeen asked: "But why does her appearance bother you?"

No comparison necessary. It's about appearance.

WHY THE FUCK should anyone care what people look like when two are showing affection for each other -- in real life, on television or in a film?
posted by ericb at 4:16 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Clarification: I've worked primarily in print journalism, but have worked for web magazines too (where I did have editors). I will say that the level of scrutiny that my writing has gotten from online venues is much, much, much lower than the scrutiny that my writing has gotten from print sources. I haven't worked for Conde Nast or Hearst, and did assume that their process was much more on the run-and-gun side, since (as I alluded) they didn't even bother to do a cursory copy edit on the entry. The idea that someone in command passed on a column that I woulda axed from my college paper is pretty baffling.

Oh, and I do know Thinlizzy and was totally razzing her.
posted by klangklangston at 4:17 PM on October 27, 2010


We can encourage people to eat better and be at a weight healthy for them without fat-shaming.

If only we paid people to thoroughly examine our bodies, perhaps make charts and stuff, figure out the causes and solutions to our maladies, and determine what we should do about our health in general. Until then, I guess we need to rely on strangers saying that certain traits about our body make them uncomfortable, and whether or not, by their expert opinion, we're eating ourselves to an early grave.
posted by MuppetNavy at 4:24 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because non-food factors that influence obesity include genetics, disease, ability/disability, gender, ethnicity, culture and socioeconomic level, very few of which can be controlled or even chosen.

Most of these are true about smoking as well

I don't know if you backed this up in the rest of your post, I only skimmed it, but if not you are obviously confusing influence (which comes under the rubric of "cause") with correlation, (which doesn't).
posted by carping demon at 4:25 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree that she should not have written this article and should have kept her thoughts to herself. But this woman is still clearly suffering from a mental illness and it's actually kind of sad. I wrote a long comment about eating disorders and my personal struggles, a view from her angle. I thought it was TL;DR so I just deleted it. It seems like too many people are too pissed off and personally offended to even try to look at it from the other side.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:29 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like Mike & Molly. First of all it's a plain, old school sitcom, well executed, which in these times is a breath of fresh air. Also, Melissa McCarthy is funny, and downright gorgeous in my opinion. I've dug her since she was Sookie on Gilmore Girls. And the cop who plays Mike is a good actor and funny and it has a good supporting cast. So there.
posted by jonmc at 4:35 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


All of you fat fatties disgust me.

Me and my lithe and supple body are going home.

Good day!
posted by mmrtnt at 4:36 PM on October 27, 2010


too many people are too pissed off and personally offended to even try to look at it from the other side.

I'm sorry, but there is no fucking "other side" here. You have a disorder that makes you obsessed with and terrified of the idea of being fat? Then I'm sorry for you. But you don't fucking get to act like that's an excuse for writing about how fat people disgust you for walking across a room, let alone kissing someone. If you have issues with bigotry of any kind, you deal with your shortcomings in the privacy of your brain like a fucking adult.

(Generic "you" intended. And I'm sorry for the multiple and unimaginative fucks, but I really don't think there's any way in which her actions - not personal thoughts or prejudices, but ACTIONS - should be explained away or excused. This wasn't a private diary that was accidentally posted. People have the right to be offended and pissed off, and they have the right to express it.)

Cleolinda's post killed me dead. Thank you for linking to it above. That whole idea that if you're nice enough and try to please people enough they'll tolerate your obvious shortcomings as a fat person? That hits so close to home, and it hurts. It also hurts to think that what you suspect - that most people in the world think of you like Maura Kelly does - might actually be true.

And I just found out about Caprica being canceled, which has put me in an even shittier mood.
posted by Salieri at 4:48 PM on October 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


Carping Demon, I am well aware of the difference between correlation and causation, but didn't want to write a mini-essay on the neurobiology of smoking in a thread about obesity. But if you are interested in that, this paper, provides an excellent starting point (as in, please dig into the prior and subsequent citations too).
posted by anigbrowl at 4:50 PM on October 27, 2010


"I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room"

Let's strap her down and make her watch the Honeymooners.
posted by jonmc at 4:52 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's all very well to compare overeating to smoking and drinking (and thus: fixable with enough will power!) but to do that you have to sail right past the fact that eating is not optional.

A person can never take another drink or never smoke another cigarette. But every day, they have to eat--and not only that, but eat healthily and in a controlled way in the midst of a nonstop orgy of people eating foods that are highly addictive and also very bad for them.

If alcoholics and smokers had to switch to no more but no less than one cig a day and one glass of weak beer while everyone around them was puffing away and getting shitfaced nonstop, that might be a valid comparison.

What's even stranger is that we treat those with drinking and smoking problems with considerably more tolerance, overall, than we do those trying to diet, nevermind that what they're trying to do is orders of magnitude more difficult.

I'm not at all surprised at the number of people who fail at losing weight, but that anyone succeeds.
posted by emjaybee at 4:58 PM on October 27, 2010 [18 favorites]


Mullingitover, I'm looking at the graph you link to and to which you attribute your certainty that HFCS is killing us all. What is it showing us other than the US has a lot of overweight people? It would be a lot more convincing if it showed grams of HFCS eaten per person per day vs %obesity in a scatter plot.

Contrary to the general opinion here, I'm going to suggest that correlation dose in fact imply causation. Implication, however, does not equal causation. This is why God gave us experiments (or at least null hypothesis).

If I wanted smoking gun type evidence that HFCS is to blame for our obesity, I would prepare a graphs showing percent obesity vs total calories consumed and vs total processed sugar consumption per person, because if HFCS is the culprit, any correlation you see in the HFCS plot should evaporate in the later two. While I was at it I'd also look at things like the percent of dietary protein coming from fish, percent of the average diet that is protein vs carbohydrates, percent of the population with a desk job and miles walked per day by the average citizen.

Otherwise you have to believe in magic lemons.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:01 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, she was mean about it, but I don't get the outrage and moral indignation that obese people and people who defend obesity feel whenever obesity is discussed as a Bad Thing. I don't think it's right to be a dick and make fun of a fat person, but I definitely don't think that being obese should be accepted as a positive or even neutral choice.

Unlike racism against minorities, gay people, etc. obesity is something that most people can control.

Everyone always brings up the tiny, tiny fraction of people who have thyroid problems or some other medical issue that makes them fat, but that is not the reason the vast majority of people who are obese today are that way. Unless you want to argue that these conditions are vastly more prevalent today in the US than 50 years ago, clearly the recent massive rise in obesity is caused by lifestyle and diet. Unless someone wants to point out another cause?

It annoys the hell out of me when people minimize or discount the effects of exercise and diet and say stuff like "oh, you're so lucky to be able to eat like that and be thin", and I'm thinking dude, I work out hard 3 times a week and spend time (or rather spent time) researching proper exercises and nutrition. Eating a healthy meal every 3 hrs isn't the same thing as having a donut snack 3 times a day. Speaking as a former fatty, luck has nothing to do with it for the majority of people without a medical condition.
posted by I like to eat meat at 5:05 PM on October 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


The conventional wisdom is wrong.

And doctors. They're wrong too.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 5:06 PM on October 27, 2010


"I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat self righteous person simply walk across a room breathe"

Fixed that for you me.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:09 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a former fatty, luck has nothing to do with it for the majority of people without a medical condition.

I know. Also, why don't poor people just work harder?
posted by inigo2 at 5:11 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know, featuring overweight people on a show isn't so much 'advocating' anything as saying 'hey! fat people exist and their lives are just as entertaining/funny/poignant/worthy of watching as anybody's.

/former scrawny guy now tipping the scales at 200+
posted by jonmc at 5:12 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


ultimately the only person who could solve my nicotine addiction was myself

Um, no. That is, public policy can make a big difference in your likelihood of taking up smoking, how much you smoke, and your likelihood of quitting, by regulating advertising, conditions of sale, and taxation; by public health campaigns; by provision of services for those who want to quit; blah blah blah.

If there is a lesson to be drawn from tobacco analogies it is that collective action works, and that leaving it to individual willpower alone will not work nearly as well.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:18 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, anigbrowl, I read that paper, and scanned the titles of the footnoted papers, (is that what you mean by prior and subsequent citations?), and I don't see anything there but correlation and suggestions for why that correlation might have been found. Enumeration could be consigned to email, given my derail.
posted by carping demon at 5:19 PM on October 27, 2010


Also, why don't poor people just work harder?

Usually, poor people working harder won't get them anywhere.
Last year, I lost about 30 pounds, just by eating properly. The more effort I put into it, the more weight I lost. The natural state of my body is being fit and healthy, I put effort to return it to that state, and I was rewarded for it.

The natural state for poor people (such as myself) is to remain poor. It isn't because of lack of effort, it is because of the way our society and economy is set up. Hard work when you're losing weight gets you a payoff; hard work when you're working poor gets you usually nowhere. Obviously there are outliers - some people just won't be able to lose weight because of health conditions. Some poor people win the lottery or hit it big against all odds -- which are probably close to the same percentage.

I still smoke though. That shit is crazy to quit.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 5:24 PM on October 27, 2010


Um, no. That is, public policy can make a big difference in your likelihood of taking up smoking, how much you smoke, and your likelihood of quitting, by regulating advertising, conditions of sale, and taxation; by public health campaigns; by provision of services for those who want to quit;

Don't oversimplify, please. Yes, it's true that the high price of cigarettes in NYC (due to high taxation) is one factor that keeps me from returning to my former habit,...still, nobody could quit smoking for me, understand? Support and all that shit is great, but at the end of the day, it was my job to put the smokes down.
posted by jonmc at 5:24 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's right to be a dick and make fun of a fat person, but I definitely don't think that being obese should be accepted as a positive or even neutral choice.

Here's the problem: who asked you?

No seriously: Who. Asked. You?

Did a fat person rush up to you and say "Please tell me what you think of my fatness!"

No?

Then why do you feel the need to express an opinion on their fatness, why they're fat, and what they should do about it? Who made you Arbiter of Acceptable Bodies?

You don't have to think "Fat: SEXXY!" or even "Fat: Neutral!" Think what you want.

But before you proceed to volunteer your unsolicited Thoughts Abour Fatness, Unacceptability Of, to a fat person, remember: Nobody. Asked. You.
posted by emjaybee at 5:53 PM on October 27, 2010 [29 favorites]


Public policy can indeed make a big difference and I strongly support its use to that end. But it can't regulate people's consumption choices, as shown by the failure of alcohol and drug prohibition. It can only help, and a person could die waiting for it to change the world around them. Beating an addiction just takes a lot of work and patience.

Carping demon, you won't find a single paper titled 'Revealed: the 7 definitive causes of smoking,' and you certainly won't get a good understanding of the research in 29 minutes. If you'd prefer not to waste your valuable time reading lots of research, I'm cheap at $300/day.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:03 PM on October 27, 2010


No seriously: Who. Asked. You?

Funny, I thought this was a discussion about an internet post where somebody did talk about that, and here we all are also talking (or in your case, perhaps yelling, or at least boldly talking, if like, font styles could be applied to speaking aloud) about that.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:09 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


She was a total jerk, no doubt. She also succinctly stated that eating less sugar would be good for these people, which is exactly how I lost 40 lbs and moved from being obese to close to normal weight. So... yeah.
posted by Huck500 at 6:27 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


For a few years after I graduated high school, I would not eat in front of anyone else because the other kids gave me absolute shit over anything I ate. That is an eating disorder, when you're so ashamed of eating ANYTHING that you can't eat in front of anyone else.

When I was in school, we were offered white milk or chocolate milk. I, like 95% of the other kids, chose chocolate milk. No one else got shit about taking chocolate milk except the fat kids.

Why is it okay for a skinny person to eat an 800 calorie muffin at Starbucks but it's not okay for a fat person to? Don't judge me for what I eat, it's none of your business. (FWIW I don't patronize Starbucks.) Yes I am obese, but when I got my blood tested last, my cholesterol was actually 7 points too low. And I have hypoglycemia as well.

Some people try to eat healthy by ordering a salad at a restaurant, not knowing that some restaurant salads have 1700 calories and 124g of fat, or that a Whopper would actually be healthier. At least some restaurants are starting to post nutritional information.

By the way, BMI is horseshit.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:28 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well I think the fatties owe Maura Kelly a great big fat apology for grossing her out.
posted by the noob at 6:43 PM on October 27, 2010


docpops: Everyone of them would agree that obesity, in all but the rarest endocrinologic situations, is self-inflicted.

I like to eat meat: Ok, she was mean about it, but I don't get the outrage and moral indignation that obese people and people who defend obesity feel whenever obesity is discussed as a Bad Thing. I don't think it's right to be a dick and make fun of a fat person, but I definitely don't think that being obese should be accepted as a positive or even neutral choice.

Even when people mean well, there's an aspect of this that people simply are not getting.

Asserting the right to be ok with who you are and learning how to have some measure of self-esteem in the face of a society that consistently and overbearingly shames them for their physical attributes is always a positive choice. Those who always seem to feel the need to pop in and insist "..but, obesity is bad! why can't I yell at you for being fat?" are sorely missing the point that it's primarily about self-acceptance. And a huge part of self acceptance is doing the right thing for yourself, not for other people This is why the goal for so many people should be health first, and not appearance.

It would be great if everyone in the world had the knowledge needed to make all the right choices about their mental and physical health. Unfortunately, when it comes to weight, so much of the "common wisdom" comes in the form of shaming. Yes, everyone knows that diet and exercise can help ypou lose weight. But where's the answer as to WHY it's so hard to change your life in those regards? If it really is that simple of a choice, why is it so hard for so many people to make that choice? That answer usually comes in the form of "you're weak, stupid, lack willpower" or some other form of negative character assessment".

People don't make positive choices as a result of being told they're weak and stupid. They make positive choices as a result of being given control over their own lives. There's a huge difference between "what's your problem?" and "you can do it!"

Genetics, nutrition, lifestyle, these are all factors to be sure, but simply reducing it down to "choice" is not only wrong, but harmful and counterproductive. Because no matter how much you desire to lose weight, be healthy, what have you, once you're in the position to make that choice, the cards are stacked against you in a variety of ways. All the way for a consumer food industry that is based entirely on the notion of emptying out the calories in favor of profits, all the while working to make those same empty calories more addictive. There's the fact that eating is a social activity. There's cultural biases and expectations. There's an entire weight loss industry that is much more interested in thinning out your pocketbook than your waistline with misleading information, extortionist gym memberships, expensive supplements and useless equipment.

But most harmful of all is the simple, yet damaging hurdle of unrealistic expectations. It doesn't matter why a person is overweight. By the time a person finds themselves at a point where they're ready to do something about it, it's a reality of their lives, that they will probably be dealing with forever. Most overweight people, even if they radically change their eating and exercise habits, will still be what society deems fat, even if they manage to lose enough weight to bring themselves into a range considered "healthy".

On top of that, they will always have to deal with whatever issues brought them to that point in the first place. Mental, emotional or otherwise. As hard as losing weight may be, i would argue that erasing years, if not a complete lifetime of shame, social anxiety, low self-esteem and in many cases outright abuse due to weight issues. Most overweight people could wake up tomorrow with whatever's considered to be the perfect body, and still feel ashamed wearing a bathing suit on the beach. Why? Because it's how they've always felt. Many people successfully lose weight, and struggle with the fact that their lives don't automatically become perfect. People don't automatically love them more. Unlike what they've been told their whole lives, thin does not equal happy. It does not equal strong. It does not make you a better person.

Weight is a different issue than smoking, or drinking, or other supposed "choice' maladies, because our physical selves are such a large component of who we are, how we place ourselves in the world, and the personalities and habits we develop.

Don't talk at fat people. Talk to them. Speaking from experience, and from what I've heard from so many people, they don't spend their lives wanting to be thin, they spend their lives wanting to be invisible. And that choice is the hardest one to undo. It takes more than a plate of veggies and a few trips to the gym to fix that.

If you think you want to help someone, lose weight, first ask your self this. "Do you love that person?" Because it takes a lot of that to fix ourselves, no matter what our problems may be. If you can't find a way to love a fat person, you can't help them. Even if that person is yourself.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:50 PM on October 27, 2010 [41 favorites]


By the way, BMI is horseshit.

Seriously. Why doesn't anyone ever mention the correlation between the obesity epidemic and the changes made to BMI standards in 1998?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:50 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Billyfleetwood,
With all due respect, I rarely see an overweight person that wants to talk about their weight. They know what to do and any time I raise the issue as gently as possible they shut down. That's why we don't spend a lot of time on the issue. It's a tough topic because there is really no good way to dialogue about this without someone getting offended. So maybe the answer is not to discuss obesity but to raise awareness of overeating. I would like nothing more than to start the day with an apple fritter from the CircleK, but the ten pounds I'd carry from that alone gives me reflux. So when I see a fifty year old obese gentleman ordering loaded potato skins before his main course at Red Robin that's a symptom of a serious societal disease. And it's totally cool if that is what makes you happy, but I can't help the fact that i know that that same guy is going to be impossible to treat when his knees give out or his diabetes eats through his kidneys and toes. So it hits closer to home. He's a liability medically, socially, legally, etc. He is making a choice. If we can't talk honestly about it then we are screwed. The world will always give us the opportunity to make terrible choices. Abdicating our personal responsibility is our own choice and our own fault but unfortunately everyone's burden.

Anyone here that says the evidence of overeating causing obesity is thin is just flat out deluded and needs to spend a day in a medical clinic. Saying people don't have control over their eating is a lazy way of excusing behavior no different than saying a poor black person can't escape the ghetto. It does happen. Just because it isn't common or easy doesn't mean we shouldn't continue to focus on the seriousness of the problem.
posted by docpops at 8:05 PM on October 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


I would like nothing more than to start the day with an apple fritter from the CircleK, but the ten pounds I'd carry from that alone gives me reflux.

This.

I recently lost 30 pounds that was almost entirely due to choices such as this one. I would never have considered myself an over-eater, but the little choices I was making added up. A pastry or breakfast sandwich in the morning. A beer after work. A slice of pizza for a snack every day. Playing poker instead of getting exercise.

It took 10 weeks to get the weight off, and the first four were very hard because of the habits that needed breaking. I wound up replacing them with better habits - pastry became non-fat yogurt with fruit. Snacks became watermelon and/or salad. After work went from beer-time to jiu-jitsu-time.

It's hard to believe that such trivial choices can make such a big difference. In reality, it's precisely those minor decisions that count the most - because they happen so many times per day that they have major effects when added up.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:30 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Do you somehow think that when I see the half ton woman in line at Kroger who literally has a cart full of pizza and Coke, that she just can't help herself because of genetics?"

I don't think shit when I see someone else's grocery purchases because damn, maybe she has, you know, a fucking family or a sleepover or...and realistically it's none of my god damn business and if I found myself caring that much about other people's purchases I would take my nosy-ass self somewhere where I could volunteer or maybe take up sudoku.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:34 PM on October 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


How important is choice?
For white, middle-class Americans, choice is a central part of life, research suggests. That viewpoint can obscure the factors affecting decisions made by people from other backgrounds, including some New Orleanians’ “choice” to ignore evacuation orders.
Monitor on Psychology, Oct 2010.
posted by BinGregory at 9:36 PM on October 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Just because it isn't common or easy doesn't mean we shouldn't continue to focus on the seriousness of the problem."

Yeah I have other things do do besides focus on eating and make other people feel comfortable with my choices because my medical bills (which are paid by insurance companies who make billion dollar profits, so, boo hoo, I am crying a million tears for my non-existent fat-related burden on their wallets) are large.

Just like "black people in the ghetto" (what) have jobs and lives and families and fun that are entirely separate from some larger goal that you want to push onto them for the good of "society".

If you want to talk about health care costs, maybe talk about preventative care, make sure everyone HAS ACCESS to health care before barging into random people's refrigerators and acting like it's their fault that the health care system in the US is totally fucked.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:39 PM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Given the current economy, more people are going to get skinny* - regardless of whether they want to or not. Will being/maintaining fat become the latest American *hotness*?

Or is being poor and skinny going stick around a la "derelict"?

*odd - the last massive recession; lots of undernourished people; the new current recession, obesity is still a problem due to cheap processed calories... poor people are more prone to obesity than the more economically flexible...

... and the future genetics of Americans - is high metabolism/slender going to be a selected for gene? Or does the economic landscape lead to a divergence where past economic success leads to the thin phenotype (regardless of caloric intake) and economic adversity leads to the fat phenotype (regardless of poor nutritional options)?

posted by porpoise at 9:39 PM on October 27, 2010


urrrgh. I just read a few of Maura Kelly's other posts, and o god they are just so mind-numbingly banal. She makes Carried Bradshaw look like Proust.
posted by taz at 9:40 PM on October 27, 2010


Yeah I have other things do do besides focus on eating and make other people feel comfortable with my choices because my medical bills (which are paid by insurance companies who make billion dollar profits, so, boo hoo, I am crying a million tears for my non-existent fat-related burden on their wallets) are large.

I think you're missing the point.
posted by docpops at 9:47 PM on October 27, 2010


The study also found that people who saw choice as central to their identities tended to be less charitable, less sympathetic toward others and more likely to blame victims, Markus added.
posted by BinGregory at 9:49 PM on October 27, 2010


Phenotypes, really?
Which one am I?

When I ate less than a 2k calorie diet, I lost weight. If I eat more than that, I gain weight.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:00 PM on October 27, 2010


How many calories to make you an insensitive prick?

I cried reading BillyFleetwood's post because being a fat man means the absolute certainty- reinforced in the article and by posters here like the douchebag above- that I am alone and utterly unloveable, that my life is a waste, that I am unrepairably damaged, and that my existence repulses people, that I shouldn't leave the house, that I am worthless, that even trying to be nice, decent, and likable are irrelevant because all I can ever be is the grotesque monstrosity ashamed to be dining alone, shopping alone, living alone.

When I take my life, a worthless unlived life, it will be because it doesn't get better, and people had me as much as I think they do. 3way handshake has made good goddamn sure I won't ever forget that!
posted by hincandenza at 10:30 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]




People HATE me as much as I think they do.

GodDAMN the iPhone is as shitty as I am
posted by hincandenza at 10:33 PM on October 27, 2010


Wow, a lot of jerkiness in this thread, but I suppose it's to be expected. Except in extreme circumstances, eating is not a moral choice. Being fat is not a moral choice. Being skinny is not a moral choice. It's not like that apple fritter that you don't eat is going to go to some homeless man because you didn't eat it.

So, if it's not a moral choice, why do we get all moralistic about it? Why do we go out of the way to make people feel bad about it? Why do we want to shame them? Because, when we talk about our society "coddling" fat people, I can only assume that the solution would be to make them feel bad, to shove it in their faces every day when they get on the subway, for their friends to look at them when they eat and say things like, "Hmmm, a piece of pie? Well, not going to lose weight like that . . ."

Screw that. I'm in the military, and we tend to have a obsessed view towards weight and morality, and just like in society at large, it always falls hardest on women. I'm sorry, but thinking that every thirty-five year-old woman is going to look like a model because if one can do it, everyone can do it is ridiculous. Looking at a skinny person and telling them they need to eat more is ridiculous. Kicking people out of the military not because they couldn't do their physical tests (they could) but simply because they're fat is ridiculous. I hate that culture that makes it into a moral issue, and I suppose I stand against it wherever I find it. I've found too many people that engage is supremely unhealthy eating habits (bulimia, not eating in front of people, being obsessed with food intake) because they have had it pounded into their heads that being fat is disgusting, weakness, and morally degenerate.

If someone is a bit big and they want to engage in healthy behavior to make them more fit, power to them. In fact, I probably should do that. But if they're 300 pounds and they don't mind being 300 pounds and they're walking past me, I could care less. Why should I care, any way? As someone said, no one asked me.

Oh, and I would take a fat good human being over a thin cruel human being any day of the week.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:36 PM on October 27, 2010 [13 favorites]


If you want to talk about health care costs, maybe talk about preventative care, make sure everyone HAS ACCESS to health care before barging into random people's refrigerators and acting like it's their fault that the health care system in the US is totally fucked.

3/4 of my family, including me, works of has worked in the public health system in Ireland, which has universal healthcare. So it makes for an interesting pooling of executive, administrative, clinical, and assistive experience. This problem is not limited to the US, nor are the costs from obesity non-existent. Frankly, I rounded the numbers down a bit to avoid upsetting people. You can find plenty of papers from British or Canadian doctors worrying about the same issues. Like smoking and alcohol use, obesity is a driver of healthcare costs. Unlike those, it's on the rise than in decline. It's just a fact that we all have to deal with.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:50 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


since right now all I can do is cry and sputter 'oh my god why' over and over I'll just post links and maybe they will be useful to someone:

Maybe it's all right for you to treat fat people with dignity either way—and let fat people sort out for themselves the business of their being fat.


THE MUSEUM OF FAT LOVE

posted by Danila at 10:59 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm not that opposed to people critiquing the appearances of others, so long as the critics are really, really, really, really good-looking.

This is not one of those times.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:19 PM on October 27, 2010


Here's the problem: who asked you?

This is kind of beside the point, isn't it? Even if asked, we should probably try to avoid saying people are disgusting looking, right? We shouldn't need permission to speak our minds, but at the same time we should be held accountable for what we do say, whether or not it was asked for.
posted by ODiV at 11:36 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The healing potential of will-power is really seductive. I had that for a long time. I thought, "One day, when I finally get REALLY sick and tired of people making fun of me and being grossed out by me because I'm fat, I'm TOTALLY going to lose all the weight through sheer will and I'll SHOW them!"

So anyway I've been fat for like twenty years and I still haven't shown them. You know, "them." Everybody who dismisses and devalues and dehumanizes me for being fat, which I've been since I was nine. Instead of responding to the constant bombardment of shaming messages with spitfire resolve, I just got depressed. And when I'm depressed, I'm lucky if I can even manage to brush my teeth or get a load of laundry going. Cooking a healthy meal might as well be high-level calculus at that point.

But you know what helps with the depression? Going online and reading the blogs of other fat girls. I see them wearing awesome outfits, and posing with their boyfriends, and talking about their lives and hobbies and art. It helps me visualize a reality where I can wear awesome outfits and have engaging hobbies and just generally live my life publicly and proudly. And you know what? It's AMAZING the kind of shit I can get done when I'm not fucking depressed. It's AWESOME how much I want to do things when I'm in a loving, supportive environment full of positive role models.

But at the same time, those girls get avalanches of shit. Their photos get posted on demeaning Facebook pages. People troll their comments sections, either with the usual slurs or with breathless concern for their health. Because you can tell cardiovascular fitness from a picture of a girl in a kickin' lace dress, right?

If the obesity epidemic is going to bankrupt the country, maybe consider devoting your problem-solving skills to the many broken systems that the individuals are existing within -- access to mental health services being one of them. You really don't need to take time out of your day to tell an individual fat person that they are unhealthy and a drain on social resources. Maybe even be nice to them! Happy people are way more likely to get shit done than sad people.
posted by brookedel at 11:45 PM on October 27, 2010 [22 favorites]


I'd love to be introduced to this blogger.

Hi! I'm obiwanwasabi. It's lovely to eat you. No, you heard me riNOMNOMNOM *crunch* OMNOMohgodyesmarrowOMNNOM
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:13 AM on October 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


Abdicating our personal responsibility is our own choice and our own fault but unfortunately everyone's burden.

Saying people don't have control over their eating is a lazy way of excusing behavior no different than saying a poor black person can't escape the ghetto. It does happen. Just because it isn't common or easy doesn't mean we shouldn't continue to focus on the seriousness of the problem.


Docpops, I'm sincerely interested in whether or not you think that's what I'm saying? Just as with poor people in the ghetto, it takes more than just a desire to escape, to be free.

They know what to do and any time I raise the issue as gently as possible they shut down.

Yes. It's about personal responsibility. But whenever this or similar topics come up nobody ever wants to answer the followup question that the issue of personal responsibility leads to. If life is just a matter of simple choices, why don't we all just make good choices and lead perfect lives?

As a doctor, why do you think that is? I totally understand that it is your job to see the issue as purely a medical one, but do you think that maybe a little understanding of the bigger forces at work in these people's lives might help you to give them better counsel?

As a doctor are you aware that many overweight people don't like going to the doctor, because it means you have to take off your clothes. Or really doing anything that involves taking off their clothes. Are you aware of how crippling shame is to human motivation? I know you're a doctor, and you've seen it all, and don't care what people look like naked. But how is a person for whom the beach, or a swimming pool, or even something as simple as shopping for clothes is just another opportunity to feel ashamed supposed to proudly deal with their body?

Asa a doctor are you aware of the importance of human touch? We are social beings. Human touch is important to both our sense of self, and our ability to interact with others. What sort of shape do you think a person's sense of self is in when they haven't been hugged, held, touched with affection in a really long time, if ever?

As a Doctor are you aware of how important healthy sexuality is to adult humans? Both to self esteem, confidence, and general well being. We are all sexual beings. What do you think it does to a person to not only feel sexually repulsive, but to have that feeling reinforced as a part of everyday life?

Yes, we all have the power to change our own lives. But it take strength to wield that power. Do you understand what powerlessness feels like? When you don't have the tools to make the right choices, those choices are moot.

Maybe what these patients are really communicating when you bring up their weight and they shut down is "I'm afraid, i feel powerless, and I need help". How do they fight that fear? Where do they get that power? Who's going to help them?
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:03 AM on October 28, 2010 [12 favorites]


no different than saying a poor black person can't escape the ghetto

"I saw a black man driving a BMW so there's no reason you can't lose weight!" Seriously, what's your doctorate in? Because it can't be anything to do with sociology, politics, history or economics.

But hey - you're the doctor. I totally believe you when you say that if we all just get enough willpower all those poor black folks will be doctors like you and I'll be a supermodel. There can't possibly be external forces at play that continue to act as long-term barriers to motivation, or roadblocks to action, or which have acted in the past to utterly undermine a person's self-esteem and capacity from improvement, can there? They're just not trying hard enough. We need to stop making excuses for them. It's their own fault.

What do you tell your patients with depression? I'm guessing it's something like *snap snap snap* 'Just fucking get over it already! The only person holding you back is you! Look out the window! See that black guy? He's SMILING! So what the fuck is your problem?'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:56 AM on October 28, 2010 [7 favorites]



What do you tell your patients with depression? I'm guessing it's something like *snap snap snap* 'Just fucking get over it already!


I've seen this method before
posted by mikepop at 6:56 AM on October 28, 2010


"Marie Claire: Fat Talk Free Week"

Hint: you're doing it wrong.
posted by 8dot3 at 7:15 AM on October 28, 2010


billyfleetwood/obiwan -

I can see how my comments seem limited in their scope or inflammatory. It's not a simple thing to convey nuance or a breadth of understanding of an issue in a blog post. This topic is an incredibly complex thing, and it is imbued with incredibly heartfelt emotions. I won't spend time trying to convince you of my bonafides, but I have 18 years in this job and I'm passionate about it. And believe me when I say on any given day a small part of my job is medical (the easy part). The rest is social. Nudging people toward better insights into helping themselves, mostly, by making better choices. Helping the depressed person understand that just choosing to maintain a social network, as hard as it is, is going to help. Pointing out, as gently as possible, why giving your seven year old an xbox might not help their ADD. And believe me, I preface all these conversations with a couple things:
1 - It would be easier not to discuss it, so I apologize in advance if it feels inflammatory
2 - I may or may not have a personal insight. That is, I know how fucking hard it is to lose weight, because I have to apply principles of deprivation and daily 6 am exercise to keep specific health conditions in check, but I can't possibly know what it is like to lose a spouse or go through menopause.

So with obesity, the visceral reactions people feel on this thread make sense because there really isn't a facet of human emotion or behavior untouched by it. My interest in obesity isn't really along the lines of what it feels like to be obese, as far as what it is like to go to a beach, or the doctor, or a salad bar, any more than it is relevant to know what it feels like to be bipolar or lose a leg in a war. I readily accept that these are incredibly hard burdens and understand that yes, there are a limited range of options for a lot of persons as far as what they can or cannot change in their lives.

But conversely, what I hear in these posts from some persons is goddamit, it's just so hard, you cannot possibly understand, fuck you if you think all fat people can be like you or do the right thing, etc.

Fire away. But if the assumption is that people can't change then the dialogue never happens. And I have plenty of examples of people that lost massive amounts of weight once the abyss started to open in front of them. Ten times more people never do, because they just simply choose to follow a different path. But the thing is, most of the obesity I see wasn't present since adolescence or childhood, in a way that might indicate some genetic malfunction. Almost all of it occurred between the mid-20's and 40's. So telling me that my views on weight loss are short-sighted, or hindered by insensitivity or lack of awareness of the psyche of the obese person, or making an ad hominem attack on a presumption of how I practice medicine just confirms my point that this issue won't be solved by extrinsic debate. People either choose to step into that realm of intense discipline or they make the choice to live with their situation, but in the end, it is a choice.
posted by docpops at 7:33 AM on October 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


"Recent studies found that, among other things, more than two-thirds of women between 18 and 25 would rather be mean or stupid than be fat, and more than 50 percent of women in that age group would rather be hit by a truck than be fat."--Studies cited by Marie Claire

My choices are mean, stupid, or hit by a truck? Damn, I'm glad I'm fat.
posted by thebrokedown at 7:39 AM on October 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


One of the most infuriating things about weight issues are the "concerned" people who think it's all just about education and will power.

Fat people know how to lose weight. Fat people are inundated with advice in all forms, from doctors, from media, from family and friends. Curing obesity will never come from a medical doctor trying to educate people about proper choices. Everyone knows that to lose weight you eat better and exercise more. Seems easy?

It's about fixing the emotional dysfunction we have. We are all dysfunctional in some form. And our available food has evolved to the point that if your dysfunction has any relation to food, it is very easy to become overweight. To fix the problem, you need to work with the underlying issues. This is not the realm of a medical doctor, certainly not a non-specialist. Maybe a psychiatrist.

It's incredibly condescending to tell a homeless man, "Hey, if you just had more willpower, you'd have a house!", or a depressed person, "Just think positive thoughts! If you had more willpower you could be happy!" It's just as condescending to tell a fat person that they just need more willpower. But in our society, we, like this horrible Marie Claire blogger, have been taught to think of fat people as less-than-human, and so it's acceptable for some people to think like that.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 7:44 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing, people. Maybe some of you are misguided white knights who think that the reason we're fat is that it's never occurred to us to try to exercise more or eat less. Some of you just enjoy judging us because you think we're weak, lazy, and undisciplined. But no matter what you say, true or not, here's what I hear when you try to be helpful or "I'm just sayin'":

So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room.

It's just like homophobes. They pretend to be caring -- they're just concerned for your soul, after all, and don't you know how hard it is to be gay in today's society? Don't you want to be right with God? But deep down, what it's about, what it's always about*, is "Ewwwww, gross!"

If I'm wrong and you're truly just an unusually caring but misguided person, then I apologize. Otherwise take your "concern" and shove it.

* except for closet-cases. Which, to be fair, might be analogous to a recovering anorexic with self-hate issues who finds fat people to be repulsive.
posted by callmejay at 7:55 AM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


(Previous comment not directed at any person in particular.)
posted by callmejay at 7:57 AM on October 28, 2010


Docpops, I'm sincerely interested in whether or not you think that's what I'm saying? Just as with poor people in the ghetto, it takes more than just a desire to escape, to be free.

You are so right. But say everything else lines up, and the will is missing?
posted by docpops at 7:57 AM on October 28, 2010


You are so right. But say everything else lines up, and the will is missing?

I recently gained 20-30 pounds after switching some meds, and having switched back, the difference is amazing. Before the switch, I was constantly, constantly hungry. I'd eat a slice of cake and then be consumed with an immediate, panicky hunger that was completely unrelated to the actual amount of food inside of my stomach. Fullness was something that only existed as the pain of an overstuffed stomach. Now that I'm back to normal-ish, it's wonderful - I eat food, and I feel full until the next time I need to eat. I can feel slightly hungry and my brain knows that its okay. This experience has really changed the way I think about obesity - as a doctor, I'm sure you know more about leptin and the complex regulators of hunger. I wonder if something environmentally has changed the hunger sensing abilities of people. I didn't become a bad, lazy person devoid of willpower when my meds changed. I did become ravenously hungry. If anything, I had even more willpower to deal with my crazy hunger. I suspect many obese people have the same problem (yes, they over eat, but that's because their hunger signals are all messed up) but they don't have any way to fix their hunger.
posted by fermezporte at 8:18 AM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


You are so right. But say everything else lines up, and the will is missing?

But how do you make the judgment that everything is lining up? A person could have easy access to healthy food, a leisurely enough schedule to fit in daily exercise, enough money to see a nutritionist once a week, and support network of family and friends to help this person, and the person could still have an enormous number of disadvantages.

Maybe they have underlying anxiety or depression, that they deal with by eating. Maybe they take medication that makes them hungry, like fermezporte. Maybe they're undiagnosed asthmatic, and that causes them to be sedentary. Maybe their parents had an unhealthy relationship with food, and passed this to their kids? Maybe they were forced into strict diets from an early age, and they never grew up knowing how to eat in moderation?

There are so many issues that can lead to obesity. But the problem is, everyone thinks they're an expert. Many slim people think it's a simple matter of willpower + calories in/out. But if you've never been fat, you have no clue how hard it is. And unless you're able to assess an entire person's history, you're not qualified to pass judgment on when it's "just a matter of willpower." And this is part of the problem fat people have when dealing with doctors. General practitioners reduce a person to their current health and medical history alone, and don't look at them as a whole. And yet, they assume they know enough to pass judgment.

Look, the people I know who are fat (and who are trying to lose weight) have tons of motivation and willpower. It's just not enough to overcome the disadvantages they're at. To cure obesity, people need to focus on resolving those disadvantages rather than just condescendingly say to them "well, with more willpower, you'd just lose weight."
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 8:56 AM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


Everyone knows that to lose weight you eat better and exercise more.

Sadly, I do not think this is the case. A large part of the thread up above this consists of many people saying how the amount and what kind of food one eats has nothing to do with it.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:18 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sadly, I do not think this is the case. A large part of the thread up above this consists of many people saying how the amount and what kind of food one eats has nothing to do with it.

Touche.

There are a lot of knee-jerk things people say in defense of fat people that are not helpful. There are great things that have come from fat activism, like "People should be treated with respect no matter their size," "Fat people can be beautiful," "You shouldn't discriminate against people based on size" and certainly "It's fully possible to be healthy and overweight."

But saying there's no relationship between food intake and weight makes these people who are saying otherwise smart things look ignorant. I think that the grand differential equation that governs our weight depends on many factors, some of which we're probably not aware of. But there is no doubt that food intake is one of those factors.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 10:01 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


But saying there's no relationship between food intake and weight

Nobody said that.
posted by callmejay at 10:14 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe they take medication that makes them hungry

I'm also trying to say that some people are born with/develop such hunger (I've heard of the term "set point" to reference the weight that your body tries to maintain, and that some people's set point is unhealthy high, or always increasing).
posted by fermezporte at 10:20 AM on October 28, 2010


I think it's less that there's no relationship between food intake and weight and more that there are some people who cannot lose weight eating a sensible number of calories per day. Theoretically there may be some level they could drop to that would cause them to lose weight, but if this means being constantly at the level of "OMG PLEASE GIVE ME A CHEESEBURGER NOW" then there just isn't enough willpower in the world to override that hunger longterm.
posted by Jeanne at 11:16 AM on October 28, 2010


It's about fixing the emotional dysfunction we have. We are all dysfunctional in some form. And our available food has evolved to the point that if your dysfunction has any relation to food, it is very easy to become overweight. To fix the problem, you need to work with the underlying issues. This is not the realm of a medical doctor, certainly not a non-specialist. Maybe a psychiatrist.

Quite. A lot of the comments here relate to depression, and the vicious circle of not wanting to go out because people in general are unkind, even though shutting oneself up indoors exacerbates the problem. Seeing a mental health professional is definitely a good idea; if for no other reason that they're used to talking to people about their hangups and that makes it much easier to get it off your chest and have a good cry, or express the anger you feel, or whatever emotion your individual situation involves.

It's not easy. even when it's simple, it's not easy. Otherwise, as rightly pointed out above, we could improve public health by paying people to wander around saying 'you! throw those cigarettes away, they're unhealthy! Hey - get that needle out of your arm, you junkie - and take a bath while you're at it! Bulimic girl! quit moaning and have an egg sandwich!' I'd guess that most people with addiction disorders are quite well aware of the health problems, and there's a kind of 'here I go again...' feeling in the background even while they're lighting up or injecting or making themselves vomit.

But some other part of the brain insists that its need for a boost is more important than the suffering it causes to th rest of one's body or the despair it causes to the rational part of one's brain. And that demanding part has sufficient power that when it it's hurting, every other part of the mind and body is made to hurt too, even if one is rationally aware at the same that the addicting behavior is the cause of and channel for the ill-feeling...and the awkward fact that feeding the addiction is the only effective way to make the pain stop temporarily, rather than get continually worse. Also, the addiction center has a direct line to every negative feeling or experience a person has ever had, and as soon as it feels its being denied it starts calling them up and rerunning them like the most exploitative propaganda show imaginable. I got to thinking of my desire to smoke as my inner Rush Limbaugh, who just wanted the government to stop taxing his rightfully earned nicotine and didn't give two hoots about the damage pollution was doing to the environment, aka my lungs etc..

Getting the upper hand on this addiction was incredibly hard work. It took several years and had to be done in stages. Even when I had drastically reduced my consumption to limits that I was able to stay inside, the dynamic was still a serious problem - it didn't need to be satisfied as many times per day, but was just as painful and obnoxious on those occasions as it had ever been. But the more attention I paid to other parts of myself, and the less I satisfied the addiction, the weaker it got. And then one day, for the first time in a long time, I felt better than I had the previous day - not just 'not worse' but distinctly better physically - I had to run for a train or something and it didn't feel like an enormous effort to do so. I thought 'Wow! I feel good,' in a James Brown kinda way, and got an internal standing ovation. I still hear this Rush Limbaugh voice occasionally, but only very faintly and whatever he's saying keeps getting drowned out by James Brown.

Now, I don't mean to say that by overcoming an addictive behavior your problems will go away. The economy still sucks, whichever political party you don't like is still around, you're getting older every day, and the world still doesn't owe you a living. Life is still hard work, and if you're anything like me you're still painfully aware of your shortcomings. But all of this is a lot easier to deal with when you're not actively participating in making yourself feel bad.

Incidentally, one other facet of depression is the acute awareness of criticism, ie these constant reminders that the world hates people who are fat. Indeed, there are a lot of them. However, this is equally true for people who are too thin (yes, really), people who are rich, poor, Mexican (that one is very popular right now), unemployed, are autistic, have bad teeth...take your pick. The media is not reality, but it's such a big business that we're used to noticing what it says even if we're not avid consumers; and when we're depressed, we're more sensitive to media that we can identify with - not necessarily in a good way. Also there's a lot of people who are hypnotized by the media and just go around repeating bits of it in random fashion. That's too bad, because a lot of them are just as addicted to their media fix as a junkie to their heroin. Getting angry causes the release of certain neurotransmittes that help stave off depression, some people have learned how to make themselves angry on cue, and some people have learned how to make a lot of money by teaching these techniques (which is not to say that the entire media, or even most of it, is dedicated to that end). So next time someone is gratuitously unpleasant to you, try reminding yourself: 'dopamine deficiency,' and don't let his or her addiction to anger trigger your weakness.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:18 AM on October 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


You are so right. But say everything else lines up, and the will is missing?

I think that's a really awesome question, and I hope i didn't come across as denigrating your practice in any way. I assume you personally and professionally know what I'm getting at, but so often these issues aren't part of the discussion.

I know from experience the frustration of someone who has everything there for them and tosses it all aside. From drugs, to health to simply failing to improve their station in life. It's heartbreaking. The human spirit has the ability to astound us both in it's resilience and in it's weakness.

I've seen people come from the most wretched of circumstances and just soar over every hurdle life places in front of them. I don't know where that spark comes from. I don't know if we all have it in us or not. I know that there are times when I'm pretty sure the world is designed simply to answer that question.

So, yeah, if everything lines up, and the will isn't there? On an individual level, I guess that's a loss. It sucks, but the afterschool specials weren't exactly accurate. Everybody is not a winner.

On a societal level, I think we have a long way to go before being able to say that everything is lined up. I think people have a responsibility to themselves to improve their lives, but I also think we have a responsibility to others to help, or at the very least not stand in their way.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:36 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


While I was at it I'd also look at things like the percent of dietary protein coming from fish, percent of the average diet that is protein vs carbohydrates, percent of the population with a desk job and miles walked per day by the average citizen.

A very good point. I remember reading somewhere that US citizens eat less and exercise more now than they did in the 1970s, but they are more overweight now because of the increasing number of desk jobs and sedentary lifestyles.

I'll look for it ...
posted by mrgrimm at 11:57 AM on October 28, 2010


If there are any NYC-based rad-fatties or size acceptance allies in the house (or if you are still just generally pissed off about Maura Kelly's piece), there's going to be a Big Fat Kiss-In tomorrow in front of the Hearst Building.
posted by kimdog at 12:07 PM on October 28, 2010


if this means being constantly at the level of "OMG PLEASE GIVE ME A CHEESEBURGER NOW" then there just isn't enough willpower in the world to override that hunger longterm.

Oh for sure. But it can only stay at that level for so long, eventually it'll adapt to the new situation, like maybe settling for half a cheeseburger or a pastrami sandwich. My personal experience, which seems to be common, is that it takes the body a while to catch up with what the brain is doing, and the only it learns is through practice - the body only knows how it feels right now, and doesn't really deal in memory or imagination. But socially we're kind of trained to ignore all messages from the body other than pain, and go into full panic mode anytime we cross some particular threshold of discomfort.

One thing I think is rather lacking in western medicine is the way that all of our internal organs are looked at solely as processors, which are either fine or emit pain signals if they're damaged. We're not very good as listening to our bodies, even though they're highly specialized for handling different sorts of chemicals and so on - not in exactly the same way as our exterior sense organs, but not like machines either. When parts of the body feel particularly good, we don't even have much language to express that; after a workout, or good sex, or just the right amount of delicious food etc., our body is giving us all sorts of pleasure signals but we're not in the habit of measuring or training these to any great degree.

Indeed, if you look in any introductory medical textbook, it starts out with a reference to how Greek and Medieval medicos had theories of 'humors' and that mood and health depended on whether someone was bilious, sanguine, phlegmatic etc., concepts which are also common in Chinese medicine. Then the idea is dismissed in favor of Modern Science. Now I'm a big fan of science and hater of woo myself, the idea that digestive, circulatory and pulmonary systems might interact with mood and cognition on a regular basis doesn't seem all that irrational. We still reference these ideas on an intuitive basis, like saying someone is pissy when we mean they're angry or irritable. Now, it's not like people avert or relieve their anger by urinating, in general; but maybe we subconsciously believe their mood is more affected by the condition of their kidneys at times like this. The model of the brain as pure executive and the body as either fully functional or painfully damaged is probably not the final word either. Our selves probably do not live entirely between our ears just as the Greeks were mistaken in thinking our selves were basically located in our chest cavities and equated their person with their beating hearts.

Realigning our scientific perspective on medicine is a big undertaking and would need years of research and good methodology before gaining acceptance. But perhaps we can start applying it in less formal ways. Reading through this thread, one idea that keeps reappearing is overweight people eating unhappily alone, and other people (including me) talking about the food decisions they need to make - on their own. True, nobody can live a healthier life for somebody else, each person has to live in their own body and take responsibility for operating it on a day to day basis. But maybe there are better approaches to dealing with eating problems. Instead of an obese person going to see a nutritionist and being told to do this and avoid that, what if a nutritionist (or other professional) went to see the person with the weight problem and sat in on a few meals? For example, by taking notes on when someone gets hungry and what that feels like, why they prefer x to satisfy hunger instead of y, what feels best about starting to eat and how long that lasts before that turns into unhappy eating. I feel like we're often too interested in the result and not enough in the process, eg someone can say it would be healthier to snack on fruit rather than a sugary pastry, but people rarely ask 'so why a cinnamon bun instead of a a bear claw?' even though that preference may be strong and therefore important.

I made up this example, but it turns out cinnamon is thought to be good for staving off colds, diarrhea, and helps with diabetes and insulin resistance. I didn't know this, because I'm from Northern Europe and cinnamon is not widely used as a food flavoring, it took me a few years to get used to its popularity in California (don't know about the rest of the US). Maybe the popularity of cinnamon here is because it serves a nutritional function that is not as important in other places. So rather than immediately resorting to discussion of good/bad carbs, proteins yadda yadda, which is both annoying and confusing, we should begin by looking at the non-stress decisions people make. Like, OK, you're going to drink a soda - but why do you strongly prefer Coke to Pepsi? Or OK, you're going to smoke a cigarette, but why do you strongly prefer Marlboro to Camel? Or OK, you are going to drink but why do you prefer gin to vodka? Not because we can give definitive verbal answers to those questions, but because if we map such preferences that may yield interesting metabolic clues we can use to manage our consumption habits more effectively.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:45 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wanted to note the following:

"“Mike & Molly” creator Mark Roberts responds to that Maura Kelly Marie Claire “fatties” article, calling her blog “hateful,” after Kelly wrote about her disgust with overweight people being romantic on TV – and in life, in general."

Kelly's "The Hunger: A True Story of Anorexia" essay mentioned upthread is here. Marie Claire is also running a Hunger Diaries forum, here. The article and forums seem to have been posted within the last month or two. They were present on the Marie Claire site before the controversy.

The original essay now has 1921 comments. Comments seem to range from being extremely vicious to "you may have a point, but this was just mean." People seem to be making additional, angry comments on other posts by the same blogger.
posted by zarq at 1:07 PM on October 28, 2010


Wow. It's really, really disheartening to see that so many of my fellow MeFites, people whose viewpoints I generally respected until today, agreeing that not only do people like me (physically fat, textbook perfect health per my most recent physical and labwork, so probably a hell of a lot healthier than a lot of you) not actually exist, but that it's totally normal and acceptable that people would be disgusted by having to see me in public. And god forbid I should have the audacity to, say, walk across a room while fat. Or be happy and in love in public while fat. Someone might see me! And then they'd have to shame me for "promoting" this "horrible" "lifestyle" that I lead! It's for my own good, because obviously I don't know how dangerous I am and how I am clearly at death's freakin' door!

Newsflash, judgmental MeFites: My existence is not a "promotion" of anything. Showing people who look like me enjoying life, being happy and in love, or just simply being, is not a tacit endorsement of anything. To claim otherwise is just ridiculous.
posted by palomar at 1:20 PM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


I used to have this one lady friend, we were pretty close, and I was friends with her husband and her kids too. And then one day I accidentally offended her in a pretty bad way with some comments I made. Didn't mean to, I was just clueless and thoughtless. I apologized profusely, and I really meant it. I was really embarrassed that I had been such a clod, and horrified that I had hurt someone I cared about. But she wouldn't listen to me, and she went around badmouthing me to all our mutual friends, after I had repeatedly tried to apologize. To this day, whenever my name comes up, she talks about the horrible offense I gave her. It's a shame that for so many people, apologies don't matter in the slightest.
posted by Gator at 1:27 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


palomar: Can you link to specific comments from people whose viewpoints you generally respected "agreeing ... that it's totally normal and acceptable that people would be disgusted by having to see (you) in public"? I don't mind reading the thread through for a third time (and I probably will tonight anyway), but if you've already got some specific in mind I would appreciate a couple links.
posted by ODiV at 1:32 PM on October 28, 2010


Unlike racism against minorities, gay people, etc. obesity is something that most people can control.

This would be true if we had a really solid definition of obesity, and that obesity was caused by habitual massive overeating but really, neither is the case.

Also, well, consider this discussion a while back about Kevin Smith getting thrown off an airplane. Durring that converstation it came out that the seats on the plane were 17.5 inches wide. Also a buch of comments, more or less like yours, were made. And despite my asking a couple times, no one seemed to want to tell me why they expected my clavicals to get shorter with diet and exercise.

The punchline is that it turns out that the average shoulder width for guys who were heathy enough to get into the airfoce in the 1950s was 17.88 inches, so the whole epidemic of obesity thing that everyone was railing about was so much BS. Those seats were too small for the average male from that magical day when everyone grew up on a farm and had the glow of honest health.

I'm glad to hear you have found the room in your life to keep your BMI where someone tells you it ought to be. But you said it yourself - you've devoted the time to doing these things. The number of hours the average worker works, the percentage of the population working, and the number of people whose work is essentially sedentary have all been going up.

We could spend more time not sleeping, but it turns out that we're already doing that. In terms of who I want to be sharing a highway with during my moring commute, I'll take the pudgy guy over the half awake guy every time. Yod did get a full eight hours of sleep last night, right?

If you lived here this would be your "Hurf Durf Social Responsibility" message.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:40 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nope. On my way out the door to an emergency dentist appointment. If I've got time later, and I feel like slogging through a bunch of unpleasant commentary about fat people, then we'll see. But right now I don't ever want to look at this thread again.
posted by palomar at 1:40 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, please don't go through the whole thread again on my account. I just thought you might have a few on the tips of your fingers already. As stated I'll likely be reading this again later anyway. Good luck at the dentist.
posted by ODiV at 1:46 PM on October 28, 2010


I feel sorry for this blogger for living the kind of weird life she lives in her head. She says she's working on a novel. I'll bet it's a Marya Hornbacher-esque confessional about her anorexia. And I wonder if it will sell. And I wonder, if it is and it does, then would it have sold or been picked up if she hadn't written this inflammatory post.

Maybe her rude post was a sort of marketing ploy for her novel. Maybe she's turning herself into a brand.

I personally don't like watching anybody make out in public in real life with anybody else, unless they are fictional characters on sitcom TV. And romance! I don't like that level of PDA.

Or family. I like the Roseanne sitcoms. They were dysfunctional, but a loving family. Roseanne and Dan never grossed me out, but they weren't forced into the whole "I have a sexy marriage!" thing that's so popular now.

I noticed on some blog that a lot of people are calling Maura Kelly ugly. She's no supermodel (who is, really? other than supermodels), but I have a feeling that her psyche is fragile and she's going to end up with even more self-hatred than she already had in the first place. Here's someone who places her whole value of herself on how much she weighs. This is probably going to put her into hiding and hopefully, therapy. And Marie Claire seems totally tone deaf, thinking it's okay to not condemn this piece. Marie Claire will be dead in two years.
posted by anniecat at 2:07 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


The punchline is that it turns out that the average shoulder width for guys who were heathy enough to get into the airfoce in the 1950s was 17.88 inches, so the whole epidemic of obesity thing that everyone was railing about was so much BS. Those seats were too small for the average male from that magical day when everyone grew up on a farm and had the glow of honest health.

I'm a woman, but my shoulders actually end up being the widest part of me. How small were their behinds? Maybe they were an upside down triangle, like the American Dad cartoon=)
posted by anniecat at 2:09 PM on October 28, 2010


I like the Kiss-In idea; that's a lovely protest. But I also hope that people of every size who found the original post disturbing would make it a point to never buy this magazine or traffic their site, or others like it, and encourage those close to you to think critically about what these publications offer and how they sustain themselves.

It's sort of disappointing that, perhaps predictably, so much of this conversation has broken down into how much people are or are not "at fault" for their weight, and so little attention has been paid to the fact that this writer makes what I imagine to be a decent living working for a magazine whose very existence, by and large yes, I said large! depends on keeping women insecure about pretty much everything, but especially their bodies. That public relations slip was simply the surprisingly frank articulation of everything these magazines represent in their constant torrent of breezy, glossy, entre nous blurbs about how to make disgusting you and your disgusting hair, eyes, lips, skin, body, and fashion choices somewhat less disgusting. Because that's how they make money.

Maura Kelly is a bad writer who wrote a bad thing, and she should feel bad... but she's an excellent representative of her employers and her field of "journalism." Don't pay to support her and all her brethren and bosses; not with your money, and not with your page clicks. Spend that cash/time on anything that actually makes you feel good instead of something that seeds, nurtures and exploits women's insecurities so they can sell ads to industries that utterly rely on our negative self-image in order to thrive.
posted by taz at 2:16 PM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


WAIT A MINUTE! How are we taking this crazy lady seriously? One of her columns:

The Benefit of Hot Chicks Partnering with Ugly Guys
September 23, 2009 7:11 AM by Maura Kelly

Um. I guess we're actually dealing with someone who's understanding of how the world works is based on Sweet Valley High, rather than a full and rich life.
posted by anniecat at 2:19 PM on October 28, 2010


I just saw an interesting response to this, called "It's OK not to be attracted to fat people".

excerpt:
Her [Maura Kelly, the Marie Claire blogger] problem is not that she's not attracted to fat people. Its that she thinks that matters. Its that she regards lack of meeting her sexual aesthetic is a moral failure worthy of condemnation. I'm not attracted to thin people, but I'm not disgusted by them. For pretty much the same reason I'm not disgusted by gay people. Because I'm not an asshole. Because I'm not offended by anything which doesn't turn me on. The privilege of thin attraction, though, allows this and it clearly fuels a great deal of fat stigmatization. They are allowed to elevate their sexual attraction to something that matters beyond their choice of sexual partners. There is a world of difference between not being aesthetically pleased by something and taking the time to be aesthetically displeased.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:19 PM on October 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


That's the best response I've seen so far, needs more cowbell. So simple, rational, and perfect.

And anniecat, that is awesomely horrifying. I clicked around on some of her posts and felt somewhat incredulous that she's gainfully employed as a writer, but that one is just... just... deliciously, diabolically atrocious. I seriously want to save it for ... well I don't know what for. Maybe just for this:

Now--you men out there--don't call me a man-ogynist. I'm not a hater. I'm not objectifying, or being mean.

posted by taz at 2:47 PM on October 28, 2010


Newsflash, judgmental MeFites: My existence is not a "promotion" of anything. Showing people who look like me enjoying life, being happy and in love, or just simply being, is not a tacit endorsement of anything. To claim otherwise is just ridiculous.

palomar -- exactly! Well said!
posted by ericb at 3:03 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a shame that for so many people, apologies don't matter in the slightest.

This is a magazine women trust to give them positive, helpful messages about their health, diet, beauty and fashion sources. They have marketed themselves as a driving force for female empowerment.

I suspect many don't believe her apology. They were no doubt badly hurt by her essay. Deeply offended or betrayed. No one likes to be told they're disgusting, or that their personal struggles are meaningless. No one likes to have their worst fears realized. Those who aren't overweight may simply be recoiling in anger from the mean-spiritedness of the message.
posted by zarq at 3:12 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I imagine to be a decent living working for a magazine whose very existence, by and large yes, I said large! depends on keeping women insecure about pretty much everything, but especially their bodies.

So how is Marie Claire any different than Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Sunset, Cook's Illustrated, or Make Magazine? Not to mention CBS, ABC, Fox, or AMC. Or Paramount, MGM, Viacom ...

Boycott all mainstream media? OK. Just the ones with advertising should be enough.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:24 PM on October 28, 2010


Taz, someone should take a moment to explain misandry to Ms. Kelly.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:51 PM on October 28, 2010


mrgrimm, Time, Newsweek, etc. less often pack their magazines with articles like: Master Class: How to Dye Your Hair Tricks of the trade to help you banish gray — or switch shades; How to Keep Your Skin from Sagging One woman's skin started to slump, and she signed up for a complexion pick-me-up; Your Body Makeover: Virtual Weight Loss Tool -- What would you look like if you lost 10 lbs?; Makeup Ideas for Fair Skin Tones From eye shimmers to lipsticks..; 50 Hairstyle DON'Ts and DOs Real women show you how to turn celebrity hair disasters into smash-hit styles; Get a Better Butt Create tight and lean glutes and legs; Workout Videos: 20 Fat-Burning Moves; How Beauty Savvy Are You?; Are you a bona fide beauty guru, or does your makeup bag consist of Chapstick and a perfume sample torn from the latest issue of Marie Claire?

and here's a great one:

Get Perfect Skin for Your Big Day MC's resident dermatologist and psychiatrist, Dr. Amy Wechsler, on getting great skin [italics added by me]

and here's how it starts:

Two Months to Go

Tame big issues now, while there's time for multiple treatments. Acne-prone? Get an oral antibiotic prescription or line up a laser treatment like Isolaz ($300 to $500 per session, four to five sessions). Super-sweaty? Consider Botox for underarms, palms, and the soles of your feet ($1,500 to $2,000); insurance might even help cover it. If you have tiny eye or forehead lines, try "baby Botox," a mini dose, to soften them ($200 to $700).
[price bolding added by me]

um. yeah, no.

I'm not giving a pass to all other sorts of magazines, but in terms of this discussion, magazines like this are the worst.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:01 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's sort of disappointing that, perhaps predictably, so much of this conversation has broken down into how much people are or are not "at fault" for their weight

I was just thinking that in terms of the fact that...it doesn't matter.

When it comes to treating fat people like human beings, IT DOESN'T MATTER WHY THEY'RE FAT.

Maybe they're fat because they can't Put Down the Donut. Maybe they can't afford a gym. Maybe they care for a family member 24-7 and can't get away for any personal exercise time. Maybe they have to commute two hours each way to the world's worst job and get four hours of sleep a night. Maybe they just like to crash on the couch when they get home from work and order a pizza. Maybe they eat a vegan diet and don't own a car but come from a long line of people whose bodies are genetically predisposed to keep a death grip on every calorie they consume. Maybe they're rabid carnivores who eat meat like it's going out of style. Maybe they drink five sodas a day. Maybe they haven't had a soda in ten years. Maybe they spend an hour a day at the gym and can bench-press two of you. Maybe they have diabetes. Maybe they have heart disease. Maybe they just got tested and every single test labels them perfectly, wonderfully healthy.

Just like with slim people, all of the above can be true for fat people. And it doesn't matter. Treating another human being with basic dignity and respect doesn't require knowing anything about their health history. Fat people aren't required to prove that they're one of the Good Fatties who eat moderately and exercise regularly in order not to be lumped in with the gross hoard of Them - you know, the fat people that we're allowed to be visibly disgusted by because they brought it on themselves. For too many people out there, fat people should only be treated with respect if they're sufficiently apologetic and self-loathing enough for inflicting themselves on the general public.

They deserve to be treated as human because they ARE human, not because they've either proven they haven't "done this to themselves", or been appropriately remorseful that they did do it themselves.

Her [Maura Kelly, the Marie Claire blogger] problem is not that she's not attracted to fat people. Its that she thinks that matters. Its that she regards lack of meeting her sexual aesthetic is a moral failure worthy of condemnation.

And that's pretty much it in a nutshell. Whenever fat acceptance talk comes up, a certain subgroup will start whining about how they can't help it, they're attracted to thin people and it's not fair to ask them to go against their nature and find fat attractive. I don't care if people think fat is gross - in the privacy of their own minds. I do care that they take the time to say so in such a public forum, as if their bigotry is something to be proud of because, well, they're just so concerned for everyone's health.

In terms of forgiveness...well, I don't really think there's anything to forgive. Forgiveness is personal. I feel sorry for Kelly. I think there should be repercussions for what she wrote, because that's the way things go when you do something like that on the job. That doesn't mean I hate her or would spit on her face if she showed up at my front door with an "I Hate Fatties" sign. I would love to think that she - and her editors - have actually learned something from this about bigotry toward fat people, but I'm afraid that all they've learned is that, wow, fuck this PC thing, look how everyone is talking about us now!
posted by Salieri at 4:18 PM on October 28, 2010 [23 favorites]


I just received my PhD this last May. I moved across country. I got a new job--a prestigious, long-hours, high-effort job. I traveled overseas last month for a conference, and I've got another conference coming up soon. Now I've got a horrible cold, that I had for a week at the beginning of October and just came back in full force.

In short: I've got stuff going on.

So, here I am. I'm fat. I'm also one of those mythical fat people who's in perfect health (except, ya know, for that cold I mentioned -- I'm pretty sure that's not my giant butt's fault). The entire world tells me that I need to lose weight. But, shit: I don't have time to exercise, and I don't have the mental energy after a day of work to really care whether my meal is ideal. It's just that everyone else seems to think it should be my top priority in life.

I wish I could wear a sign around my neck: "Hey, world! You know, I'm actually in good health, and I've got enough going on in my life right now that my fat isn't my top concern. So, thanks for your concern, but I'm going to go on eating cookies sometimes, okay?" And then everyone who saw me walking around, being all fat-like, could stop worrying about my health, or thinking I'm sad about my life because of my weight. They might still be disgusted by me, but that's more their problem than mine.

Oh, and about docpops... I may very well have to go see a doctor soon, to talk about this awful cold, if it doesn't go away soon. But I'm really nervous about doing so because I know they're going to want me to step on a scale, and I know there's a good chance the doctor will give me a "concerned" look and ask me if I've thought about my weight. I don't know if I can deal with that. I've got the old blood tests my previous doctor took, to show my health's fine, but I don't know if I can handle the guilt and shame that goes along with that "concerned" look. So, I'm just hoping this cold doesn't turn into something worse.
posted by meese at 6:13 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm thinking a lot of people here are confusing "perfect health" with the absence of identifiable pathology. A lack of measurable abnormality does not indicate health. A smoker's xray is normal right up to the day when it isn't.
posted by docpops at 6:52 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


docpops, I know I'm not in perfect health. I mean, sure, my test numbers are great. I've got a fasting glucose level of 90, my BP is 115/64, cholesterol is better than most people can hope for (LDL 93, HDL 47, triglycerides 73), no prediabetes, no joint problems, no liver problems, no kidney problems, no lung problems, no heart problems, no lady-parts problems. The only problems my doctor can find with me are a vitamin D deficiency (common to people here in the Pacific NW), and depression and anxiety issues.

My depression and anxiety issues stem entirely from being raised in a household where thinness was paramount, where I was put on every diet under the sun (please see this comment of mine in another thread for more details on that), and told repeatedly that my life would just be so much better if I were thin. It was drilled into my head over and over that my "real" life would not begin until I could be thin, and that I did not deserve happiness as a fat person. Whenever I was taken to the doctor as a child, my doctor would ask if I had any health concerns, at which point my custodial guardian would nudge me until I told the doctor I wanted to be on a diet. (I would be primed for this in the car on the way there. "If you tell the doctor you're not happy and you want to be thin, we can talk about you going to camp this summer.") The doctor would usually tell me to "get more exercise and eat more vegetables", and I would wonder how to do that on top of what I was already doing, as I was a pretty active kid. There was never any more guidance than that. Eat less, move more. But when there are only so many hours in the day and you're already riding your bike ten miles and swimming for 3 hours every day, how much more are you supposed to do?

As an adult, I've had a horrible time making myself go to a doctor for routine medical care like annual physicals. I just last week had a giant ganglion cyst on my foot removed, which has been bothering me for about a year. Until recently I hadn't seen a doctor in several years, because I was afraid of being shamed about the size of my body, my perceived laziness, my perceived poor eating habits, et cetera. I let myself go without medical care rather than deal with the prejudices of the people who are supposed to help me maintain my health, because it is easier to take care of any minor injuries myself and ignore everything else rather than take that psychological hit one more time, to hear the note of disgust in a nurse's voice as she reads my weight off the scale, to try to talk to the doctor about a medical concern only to have them brush me off with, "Try losing some weight, that should clear it up." (That's from the time I had strep throat. I had no idea a diet would cure that!) Thankfully, my partner harangued me like a fishwife and got me into his doctor's office, and she is a lovely and compassionate woman who put me at ease and never once made me feel less than human, as so many other doctors and nurses have done.

I worry that you are this latter kind of medical professional. It seems that way from your posts here, and I hope for the sake of your patients that I am entirely wrong about you.
posted by palomar at 7:31 PM on October 28, 2010 [11 favorites]


and just to note, I'm a pretty average woman. I wear a size 16-18 dress. Imagine the kind of treatment people larger than me must face.
posted by palomar at 7:33 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I didn't feel completely comfortable saying "perfect health," either, but I figured it was good short hand for "When I had gained a significant amount of weight during an insufferably long bout of pneumonia, I expressed concern about this weight's impact on my health to my doctor. In response to this, my doctor ordered a fair number of tests. Given the results of these tests, along with discussions about my general sense of well-being and lifestyle, my doctor told me that I shouldn't be worried. However, he was concerned about the way in which I had gained the weight, so he referred me to a nutritionist to help ensure that I had healthy and sustainable eating habits. This nutritionist then confirmed that she saw nothing wrong with my weight at all and was mostly concerned about helping me maintain a weight at which I could feel healthy and happy. With the help of both my doctor and nutritionist, I now feel pretty comfortable with my body's condition."

I find it ironic I feel like I should explain this to you, docpops, given that my whole point is I really don't want to have to explain myself to everyone just because they can see something is non-optimal about my body. That's my failing.
posted by meese at 8:18 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


The impact of bias and ill-treatment from medical professionals is often lost in discussions of the health of larger people, so I'm glad to see it come up here. Medical professionals are often incredibly biased against fat patients. And just like Maura Kelly can't pass off stigma and "aesthetic disgust" as concerns over "health", neither can they. A quarter of nurses are "repulsed" by us, "51% of nurses felt uncomfortable examining obese patients, and 43% found it difficult to feel empathy" (pdf), 50% or more of physicians think we are "awkward, unattractive, ugly" (pdf).

We know they don't like us and they think we are gross. It's not for our health because they are making us sicker, it's for the same reasons as the dudebros and the mean girls and the marketing agencies and everyone else. Many of them are no different than the Tucker Maxes and Maura Kellys of the world. And we're supposed to trust them with our bodies, our lives even? They prescribe us medications that cause us to gain weight, then harangue us about it and refuse to help us cope with the meds they give us. They feel squicked out about performing pelvic exams on us, and wonder why we don't want to go to the doctor.

First, Do No Harm is a blog cataloging the experiences of people who have been fat-shamed by doctors and the harms it has caused these individuals. I've submitted my own stories there (weight loss prescribed for pain from car accidents and falls), and could submit more from the year that's passed. Last time I went to my primary care over a sudden onset of strong fatigue which I have since found it was from anemia due to being on my period for 6+ months, and now that my period has stopped, lo and behold I'm not sleeping 22 hours a day imagine that!!! But she had me in tears right in her office because she said there was nothing she would do unless I lost about 30 pounds. And yeah I've had two appointments since then that I have postponed and canceled because what's the point? They all sound like docpops.

Well no, not all of them. Here's a good resource for those seeking a doctor who won't dismiss you or scorn you: fat friendly health professionals list (and if you have one, please submit!).
posted by Danila at 10:15 PM on October 28, 2010 [10 favorites]


As for willpower and motivation...I have a good amount of it.

I choose not to use it to diet, because I think it's a huge waste.

I've accomplished awesome things, and I'm proud of myself, the things I've learned, relationships I've built, ways that I've helped other people.

I'm glad that I've done that instead of obsessing about my diet (and yes, that is what I would have to do to lose weight--spend probably 2+ hours a day dealing with food, thinking about food, convincing my partner to change his eating habits...)

So then people will say "oh, people just don't have willpower" like it's a failing of character that I spend my time, energy, and brainpower doing other things.

That is so shallow--I can't see the things you've done with your life in a single glance at your body (or your shopping cart) so you lack willpower. You're lazy. Whatever.

On a more fun note I would much rather chill, play Zelda, sketch, get laid, bond with my partner than diet.

Life is fun, I intend to enjoy it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:15 PM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


Personally, I don't get it. Fat people are given a lot less slack in our society than drug addicts, as this thread alone shows.

Research shows food can be as addictive as heroin for some people. And yet we laugh and mock and ridicule fat people. Or give them nauseating lectures about how they're trashing they're bodies. It reminds me a lot of how certain old-fashioned types like to sneer at those "degenerate drug users" and how they're "fucking up their lives", in this strangely superior, emphatic way that seems to take some random stranger's drug use FAR too personally. I mean, why all the hate, really? I seriously don't understand.

To add, one thing I never hear get discussed is how certain people use their fatness as a psychological shield against the public eye, particularly women who've been molested or sexually abused. More men tend to leave them alone, for once in their lives. You know, maybe it's not the ideal way to handle past trauma, but jesus, it seems really presumptuous to start assuming there are absolutely no advantages to being fat, and that all fat people really need to start thinning up if they are to pass whatever weird obsession you have with everyone having to be "healthy according to your standards."

You people who are waaaaay to wrapped up in other people's weight? Why do you care? For reals...
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:25 AM on October 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


A few years ago I lost about 60 pounds with Weight Watchers and exercise. And I'm determined to never gain it back. I'd need to lose maybe 60 more to be considered "not fat" though. And I wish I could but...I'm already exercising every day, recently added weight training and yoga, and record everything I eat. I guess I could cut out spending time with friends and family to exercise more, maybe quit photography and stop reading so much. I guess I could never go to nice restaurants or indulge in a little PMS chocolate or birthday cake.

But life is there to be lived, dammit. As long as I'm in good health, and can walk around the city all day long (my favorite thing to do) and enjoy life, that's going to be my priority. We'll all be thin when we're dead.
posted by JoanArkham at 8:09 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fat people are given a lot less slack in our society than drug addicts, as this thread alone shows.

How many fat people are convicted or are in prison for food related offenses? I agree that the overweight are subjected to a lot of discrimination, as evidenced in the article, but let's not go overboard.

To add, one thing I never hear get discussed is how certain people use their fatness as a psychological shield against the public eye, particularly women who've been molested or sexually abused.

That's pretty interesting. I remember hearing about this before, but not all that often. It's probably difficult to get much data on this for obvious reasons.

You people who are waaaaay to wrapped up in other people's weight? Why do you care? For reals...

I don't think there are all that many people here wrapped up in other people's weights and those that do probably have fairly understandable reasons for it. The blog author sounds like she has some eating disorder related problems. bassomatic's worried about his brother.

I think we end up talking about the "cause of fatness" and people's habits and health in these threads because most of what we do here is talk about personal experiences and what we're interested in. So there's the original blog post and the backlash to talk about and once we're done that (how much is there to say besides "Don't be a dick"?), we'll meander all over the damn place.
posted by ODiV at 8:13 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think we end up talking about the "cause of fatness" and people's habits and health in these threads because most of what we do here is talk about personal experiences and what we're interested in. So there's the original blog post and the backlash to talk about and once we're done that (how much is there to say besides "Don't be a dick"?), we'll meander all over the damn place.

This is an excellent point, and a good argument for nipping/deleting this sort of outragefilter post in the bud. Headline: "Man kicks baby" ... discuss why you decided not to have kids!

People have very strong feelings about bodies and body weight, because it's universal. We all deal with it.

I wanted to rebut two statements, and say AMEN to one.

I choose not to use it to diet, because I think it's a huge waste.

"Dieting" is not a part-time thing that you do to cut calories and lose body weight. Establishing a healthy diet is an essential life skill and something that we need to do every day. Not "dieting" is like not "breathing" or not "drinking water." You might not make a conscious decision about your diet (i.e. eat whatever you see first), but you are making decisions about your diet. And that's "dieting."

If you think that establishing a healthy diet is a waste of time, I don't know what to tell you other than that you are absolutely wrong.

But, shit: I don't have time to exercise, and I don't have the mental energy after a day of work to really care whether my meal is ideal.

A meal does not have to be ideal, but healthy food will make you healthy. It's not complicated.

Also, you do have time to exercise. I know you do. And it is also essential to a healthy life.

Regardless of your weight and whether or not you are currently healthy, you need to exercise.

When it comes to treating fat people like human beings, IT DOESN'T MATTER WHY THEY'RE FAT.

A million times yes. And this applies to everyone. Substitute HOMOSEXUAL, WHITE, BLACK, ATHEIST, BLIND, IN A WHEELCHAIR, etc. for fat/FAT and it still works.

Be nice to each other.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:46 AM on October 29, 2010


damn. meant to link "drinking water"
posted by mrgrimm at 9:48 AM on October 29, 2010


Emjaybee, I'm going to play a fun word substitution game for your response to me which was somehow favorited 21 times:


Here's the problem: who asked you?

No seriously: Who. Asked. You?

Did did I rush up to you and say "Please tell me what you think of my comment!"

No?

Then why do you feel the need to express an opinion on my comment, what you think about it, and what they should do about it? Who made you Arbiter of Acceptable Comments?

You don't have to think "ILTEM's Comment: Awesome!" or even "ILTEM's Comment: Neutral!" Think what you want.

But before you proceed to volunteer your unsolicited Thoughts my comment, Unacceptability Of, to someone remember: Nobody. Asked. You.


Let me conclude by saying that I don't believe that and think you are entitled to post whatever you want and by choosing to visit this site and reading the comments, I am implicitly "asking" for people to, well, comment on things. I wish you'd allow me the same courtesy without jumping down my throat.
posted by I like to eat meat at 10:19 AM on October 29, 2010


i like to eat meat, you're sort of drawing a false equivalency there. There's a big difference between posting a comment on a website and dealing with the replies that disagree with your point of view, and having a fat body. My existence is not an invitation to shame me, and I'm sorry that you disagree.
posted by palomar at 10:32 AM on October 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Dieting" is not a part-time thing that you do to cut calories and lose body weight. Establishing a healthy diet is an essential life skill and something that we need to do every day. Not "dieting" is like not "breathing" or not "drinking water." You might not make a conscious decision about your diet (i.e. eat whatever you see first), but you are making decisions about your diet. And that's "dieting."

Yeah. The most important thing my nutritionist taught me is that dieting isn't that painful Thing I Should Be Doing, but instead just the regular series of decisions one makes about what one wants to consume. And when it comes to consuming food, the only thing that matters is, "what will make me feel good?"

It completely revolutionized my relationship with food. Of course I had previously known that some foods made me feel good and others made me feel like crap, but never before had anyone really helped me realize that that's the whole point of eating to begin with.
posted by meese at 11:18 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


When someone (especially a fat someone) says they are not willing to go on a diet because they value their life more, it is not the same as saying that they will never think about what they eat. It is a myth that fat people just eat mindlessly NOM NOM NOM with no thought as to what they eat or why. What they are saying is that they are not willing to meticulously monitor every morsel that goes into their mouths, they are not willing to calculate the amount of fat/calories/carbs/whatever in everything they eat and stick to an arbitrary and often dangerous "limit" in order to lose weight, and they are not willing to constantly weigh and measure themselves to see how far they are from being socially acceptable LOOKING LIKE they eat a "healthy diet".

When a fat person says they are not willing to go on a diet, this is not the same as saying they are not willing to eat a "healthy diet". A "healthy diet" does not mean "you will lose weight if you eat this way".

posted by Danila at 12:49 PM on October 29, 2010


strikethrough fail

When someone (especially a fat someone) says they are not willing to go on a diet because they value their life more, it is not the same as saying that they will never think about what they eat. It is a myth that fat people just eat mindlessly NOM NOM NOM with no thought as to what they eat or why. What they are saying is that they are not willing to meticulously monitor every morsel that goes into their mouths, they are not willing to calculate the amount of fat/calories/carbs/whatever in everything they eat and stick to an arbitrary and often dangerous "limit" in order to lose weight, and they are not willing to constantly weigh and measure themselves to see how far they are from being socially acceptable LOOKING LIKE they eat a "healthy diet".

When a fat person says they are not willing to go on a diet, this is not the same as saying they are not willing to eat a "healthy diet". A "healthy diet" does not mean "you will lose weight if you eat this way".
posted by Danila at 12:50 PM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Establishing a healthy diet is an essential life skill and something that we need to do every day."

I have a healthy enough diet. You know that I was using it colloquially to refer to a diet that is specifically designed for weight loss.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:22 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


When someone (especially a fat someone) says they are not willing to go on a diet because they value their life more, it is not the same as saying that they will never think about what they eat.

Of course not. But it does probably mean that they won't think very critically about what they eat. What people mean when they say "I don't want to diet" is basically, "I don't want to change my diet at all." If you're not willing to change, why even think about it?

You people who are waaaaay to wrapped up in other people's weight? Why do you care? For reals...

Because people we know and love (including ourselves) have weight problems and we want them to get help. For all you people who want to be left alone, some other people do want help and are afraid to ask.

Why do I tell my friend about recent research on pharmaceutical sleep aids? Because I care about him. Why do I tell my mom about recent research into artificial sweeteners? Because I care about her. Why do I tell my sister-in-law that she's crazy for smoking while on the birth-control pill? Because I care about her.

Delivery and context (and frequency) are all essential. I bring the subjects up maybe once a year. I wouldn't write a public blog post about how they disgust me.

All that said, I still probably wouldn't discuss a friend's weight with him, unless there was a remarkable, serious change (i.e. adding or losing weight very fast). As we've demonstrated time and time again on the blue, the subject is too sensitive.

My wife recently brought the subject up with her father this year, with (minor) positive results for him. I dunno.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:00 PM on October 29, 2010



Weight is a different issue than smoking, or drinking, or other supposed "choice' maladies, because our physical selves are such a large component of who we are, how we place ourselves in the world, and the personalities and habits we develop.


If it helps--as a smoker and an unhealthy drinker, I feel like an outsider all the time. I'm a 5' woman who weighs about 95 lb. No one would look at me and know I'm messed up, but I am, because I know (even if others don't) that I'm not healthy. I have no idea why I can drink the amount I do and not gain weight; as far as I'm concerned, it's a matter of genetics that has actually not done me right because there's no external impetus to make me stop. But don't think that means I don't wake up during the night in a cold sweat worrying about what I'm doing to my body.

So I have a lot of empathy for so-called "fatties" who are ridiculed in a blog post like this one (and that's leaving aside those with medical problems that cause the weight gain). It's hard enough dealing with this kind of thing inside your own head--let alone worrying about it every time you step outside your door.
posted by torticat at 2:22 PM on October 29, 2010


"What people mean when they say "I don't want to diet" is basically, "I don't want to change my diet at all.""

No, it means "I don't want to actively restrict my caloric intake in order to lose weight".
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:34 PM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


But it does probably mean that they won't think very critically about what they eat. What people mean when they say "I don't want to diet" is basically, "I don't want to change my diet at all."

In my experience, when fat people say, "I don't want to diet," what they're saying is that they don't want to go on one of the "guaranteed to make you thin and sexxxy!" diets that's emblazoned on the cover of a magazine, or advertised on TV by formerly chunky actresses and singers, or pushed by one of the trainers that helps run that show where they rebuild fat people into socially acceptably thin people.

When I say, "I don't want to diet," what I am saying is, "I don't want to go on a restricted eating plan that forces me to count calories, because after a few days of doing that I will start backsliding into disordered eating habits, and a few days after that I will be hunched over in a bathroom stall with my fist in my mouth, puking up the salad I ate for lunch because even a plate of spinach leaves with some tofu chunks on top is too much food for a fat piece of shit like me." (Normally I don't think of myself as a fat piece of shit, but when I am dieting, which I do not do anymore, I think of myself in the way that Maura Kelly thinks of fat people. It is something I am very ashamed of.)

What my slender officemate means when she says, "I don't want to diet," is "I don't want to have to deviate from the terribly narrow set of foods I currently eat, because I am a very picky eater."

What my heavier coworker means when she says it, is "You will pry my cheese from my cold, dead hands."

The problem is that when you say the word "diet", you may be meaning "all the things you put in your mouth," but the definition most commonly associated with the word diet is the one that says a diet is a regulated, temporary change in what you eat and drink, so that you can become thin. This association makes the idea of "dieting" very unpalatable to those of us who maybe have had to relinquish control of our eating habits to other people in order to get them to love us. (I remember my grandma telling 12 year old me that I could have a slice of my own birthday cake if I wanted... but it would make her so much happier if I ate fruit instead.)

If you can somehow change that association for people, then yeah, maybe you'll start hearing what you want to hear out of the mouths of the fat people around you who you wish would be thin.
posted by palomar at 2:43 PM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Of course not. But it does probably mean that they won't think very critically about what they eat. What people mean when they say "I don't want to diet" is basically, "I don't want to change my diet at all." If you're not willing to change, why even think about it?

It really, really doesn't. Not to speak for Danila, but she said exactly what I was thinking.

I did the whole Weight Watchers thing and lost a bunch of weight. I decided that it was ultimately unsustainable for me because I was thinking about what I was allowed to eat and not eat and planning my meals and those fucking points ALL THE TIME. It took up WAY too much of my mental real estate. I'm not doing that again. But that doesn't mean that I don't think about what I eat ever.

So I gained a bunch of weight back - more than I'd lost the first time around, - and now for the past few months I've been working with a trainer and trying to increase my veggie and protein intake and cut back a little bit on my beloved carbs. I'm trying to learn to like cooking again. I've lost a little bit of weight doing that, not that it matters that much. I've been feeling better, whether or not the scale moved, and it turns out I kind of like working out once I get past my natural laziness. But I don't diet, and I tell my trainers that up front. I also ask their advice about improving nutrition, and I try to be mindful about what I eat. But I also give myself permission to *not* eat mindfully at every possible moment, because that way lies mental anguish for me. So I can have a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch and not feel guilty and self-loathing about it, and then tonight I'm going to go through my fridge and try to turn all those CSA veggies I've got into a lovely, healthy soup - and not feel particularly moral or superior about it. I'm working on eating intuitively, and I'm found that it makes me happy. Sure, I eat more garbage than I would on a strict calorie-counting diet, but this is what works for me. It's amazing what it's like to grow up as a woman in this culture and have that constant drumbeat of critical counting in your head every time you think about food. Making a deliberate effort to move away from that mindset has been one of the most freeing things imaginable.

I know you may not have meant it this way, but your remark was kind of condescending - you won't take people at their word about what they mean when they say they don't diet and tell them what they really mean instead. Overweight people get this an awful lot, you know - from the health care practitioners who won't believe we don't live on burgers and donuts 24-7, and from friends and coworkers who secretly think we're lying when we talk about going to the gym.

And here I am, trying to prove I fit into the Good Fattie category so you'll take me at my word when that's exactly what I DIDN'T want to do. Oh well.
posted by Salieri at 2:47 PM on October 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


One other thing I forgot to mention - I have a very perfectionist, all-or-nothing personality, which is one of the worst things when it comes to weight. If I'm not doing everything perfectly, I'm a fat screwup and I might as well eat an entire pizza because the whole thing is hopeless.

So when I say I don't diet, I mean that Nothing is Forbidden. I give myself permission to eat what I want. I've been working on cutting out fast food and sodas, but when I have some once in a while I take an attitude of, "Oh well, next time I won't," instead of beating myself up for "failing". When I'm working out regularly and eating more whole foods I find that I don't want the junk food. But it's not forbidden to me. It's there in the back of my mind that if I want it, I give myself permission to have it. And that permission is so freeing, and it allows me to make the best choices I can for myself.

That's part of what Not Dieting means for me.
posted by Salieri at 2:55 PM on October 29, 2010 [5 favorites]



Why do I tell my friend about recent research on pharmaceutical sleep aids? Because I care about him. Why do I tell my mom about recent research into artificial sweeteners? Because I care about her. Why do I tell my sister-in-law that she's crazy for smoking while on the birth-control pill? Because I care about her.


Here's the thing though...you aren't pummeled by messages about sleep aids, artificial sweeteners, and smoking while on the pill 24/7.

Seriously, it's not like fat people are just running around oblivious to 10,000 people lecturing them them about losing weight and changing their diet and exercising. I swear, I'm pretty sure many of them have heard "the bad news about being fat" starting from a very young age, many of them from their own parents.

What are these "be healthy and diet!!!!" lectures doing, other than serving the lecturers' illusion of efficacy? I doubt very little.


All that said, I still probably wouldn't discuss a friend's weight with him, unless there was a remarkable, serious change (i.e. adding or losing weight very fast). As we've demonstrated time and time again on the blue, the subject is too sensitive.


Huh, saying the "subject is too sensitive" just makes it sound like you're convinced you're in the right and damn, these overweight people sure are touchy, and geez, why can't they just hear out all this advice you have for them? I hope that's not what you mean. I'm pointing this out because you seem to be genuinely baffled by why people don't take advice about losing weight (even if it might be prudent, healthwise.) I'm trying to tell you that it's counterproductive to lecture people about something they've already heard about several hundreds of times.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:14 PM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I say, "I don't want to diet," what I am saying is, "I don't want to go on a restricted eating plan that forces me to count calories, because after a few days of doing that I will start backsliding into disordered eating habits, and a few days after that I will be hunched over in a bathroom stall with my fist in my mouth, puking up the salad I ate for lunch because even a plate of spinach leaves with some tofu chunks on top is too much food for a fat piece of shit like me."

Insightful responses. Thanks.

When I'm working out regularly and eating more whole foods I find that I don't want the junk food. But it's not forbidden to me. It's there in the back of my mind that if I want it, I give myself permission to have it. And that permission is so freeing, and it allows me to make the best choices I can for myself.

That's a good system that works for you. I am different. I have a problem with sugar, particularly HFCS (candy). As you describe, when I'm eating healthily and exercising and not eating candy regularly, I have no desire for it. But when my wife stocks up for Halloween and I indulge, I have a very (very) hard problem not eating too much candy. It's right there and my body is screaming for it. So, while it's not "forbidden" per se, I just don't buy candy anymore, b/c I can't handle it.

Huh, saying the "subject is too sensitive" just makes it sound like you're convinced you're in the right and damn, these overweight people sure are touchy, and geez, why can't they just hear out all this advice you have for them?

No, I'm acknowledging that it's very sensitive, especially for me. When I was more overweight than I am now, my dad told me I needed to lose weight and I did not appreciate it at all. He was probably right, but telling me about it didn't help me fix my problem.

So I think bringing up that issue with anyone may be counterproductive, as something like Salieri's described defense mechanism could ensue ("he thinks I'm fat?! I'll show him fat!")

Apologies for any (and all) offenses.

What are these "be healthy and diet!!!!" lectures doing, other than serving the lecturers' illusion of efficacy? I doubt very little.

I dunno. I heard a "drink more water" commercial on KALX the other day, and I thought it was effective. But I agree that lecturing people rarely accomplishes much.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:33 PM on October 29, 2010


From The Feminista Files, Erica breaks down exactly how I've been thinking about this situation: FEM hmm: Is Marie Claire wagging the dog?

For those of us who read this article and thought, "Who the hell let this worthlessly written piece of shit see the light of day?": any editor likely knew what they were doing (generating "controversy clicks"). In addition, Erica address how the whole "cultural arc" of Mike and Molly has changed from being just another bad sitcom into a ground-breaking brave show that everyone must watch. Free advertising.
posted by sarahnade at 6:29 PM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wanted to add this link for anyone who reads down to the end of this thread at any point in the future:

I Was Fat-Shamed.

Just in case there's still anyone left wondering how bad those fatties actually have it - and why those "helpful" comments and suggestions about their health can have a devastating effect for people who are treated no better than animals. It's a hard read - lots of personal, painful stories - but a good one.
posted by Salieri at 9:24 PM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Here's the thing though...you aren't pummeled by messages about sleep aids, artificial sweeteners, and smoking while on the pill 24/7.

Um...besides all the advertising and sponsorships for products that I don't use but which seem to be popular, I can't help observing that every convenience store, gas station, and (until very recently) pharmacy that I go into has hundreds of packets of cigarettes behind the counter. I presume these are just as visible to women on the pill. Similarly, there are many other groups whose appearance or behavior or simple existence is the subject of constant public criticism. It's not unique to people with weight issues. Sadly, it's not unique at all.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:53 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]



Here's the thing though...you aren't pummeled by messages about sleep aids, artificial sweeteners, and smoking while on the pill 24/7.

Um...besides all the advertising and sponsorships for products that I don't use but which seem to be popular, I can't help observing that every convenience store, gas station, and (until very recently) pharmacy that I go into has hundreds of packets of cigarettes behind the counter.


anigbrowl--my point was about how women on the pill ARE NOT constantly told that smoking is dangerous, which it may be ok to tell a woman this (many women on the pill don't know this), vs. telling a fat person "you need to be healthy, lose weight, and diet!" (nearly all fat people know this and have heard this in various forms 1000x, and don't find comments like this helpful.)

Your comment, if anything, supports my original point.


Similarly, there are many other groups whose appearance or behavior or simple existence is the subject of constant public criticism. It's not unique to people with weight issues. Sadly, it's not unique at all.


Of course its not. I never said so. Does that mean we should still go ahead and publicly criticize fat people? I don't understand your point here.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:17 AM on October 30, 2010



No, I'm acknowledging that it's very sensitive, especially for me. When I was more overweight than I am now, my dad told me I needed to lose weight and I did not appreciate it at all. He was probably right, but telling me about it didn't help me fix my problem.

So I think bringing up that issue with anyone may be counterproductive, as something like Salieri's described defense mechanism could ensue ("he thinks I'm fat?! I'll show him fat!")


Thanks for clarifying, mrgrimm. I appreciate your response.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:24 AM on October 30, 2010


I've been thinking about this subject a lot the past few days, mostly because of the insightful responses here.

I Was Fat-Shamed.

Damn. It's sad to see how fucked-up some people's parents are. My favorite comment was this one:

It's odd because this should be a post in which I am commenting like a whirlwind-- on my experiences, on yours, solidarity and grief and everything else that I feel like a wad in a tummy that has already been fighting me all day re: something I fed it last night that it DID NOT LIKE. Pages of angsty tl;dr.

But something's in the way. I just feel sad and tired. I was fat shamed long before I was ever fat, and now that I am, I still partly feel bitterly cheated. The man I fell in love with is very very thin as well, which often makes me feel terrible, because I'm "supposed" to be smaller than him. Even post-FA I have a lot of trouble with that.

There is a horrific monster named Pretty, and it lurks behind things.


Those of you who are overweight don't think we understand, but some of us really do. Weight is a major body-image issue, but it's far from the only one.

It seems like there are 2 main reasons for losing weight:

1) "socially acceptable" (i.e. msm-defined) attractiveness - the bullshit reason
2) healthy living - the good reason

So, if we are worried about someone we care about for reason #2 (particularly if that weight gain is combined with other misbehavior such as drinking too much alcohol or doing too many drugs, etc.), what's the best way to bring up the subject with a friend?

When a friend goes from 5'8, 160lbs up to 230lbs in a short period of time, what do you do, if anything?

This actually recently happened with a good friend of mine, and I really didn't know what to do. Luckily, he brought it up himself and we had a good conversation about it. He was already committed to losing weight, and has done so by eating better and joining a soccer team and running a lot.

I like to feel like I helped him a little when he needed it. I'm not sure. It's obviously very different than someone who has been 5/8" 230 for years and learned to live healthily with that weight.

Then there's the parent/kid issue, which is just the scariest. My young daughter loves to eat and eats a lot when she does. I don't want to fuck her up with food issues. My (seemingly) most effective strategy so far is to give her as much vegetables as possible and help her develop a taste for them. It's a challenge.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:20 AM on November 1, 2010


I think you have to encourage him/her to pursue their goals and to become the best person they can be. I always find when people start focusing on who they want to become they adhere less to food for a variety of reasons. Although, it is a very gentle subject.
posted by happywhite at 2:13 PM on November 1, 2010


This doesn't deserve its own post but here is good. Behold Blubberella.
posted by Splunge at 1:05 PM on November 10, 2010


« Older Peak Oil in Alaska   |   There’s no place in this town for weirdoes Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments