Weighing in on fat bigotry

Rumor has it the Fat Police have ordered Santa Claus to lose the flab or face furlough
Rumor has it the Fat Police have ordered Santa Claus to lose the flab or face furlough

To follow up on Big Fat Hate Speech, Sue’s fine rant about fat bigots.

What is normal eating?

“In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.” – Ellen Satter

I love this definition. Why can’t eating be flexible and fun? Some days, you eat a heaping pile of veggies for your side; other days, you reach for a big piece of cake for dessert. Normal eating isn’t judgmental, either: You’re not a monster for munching on Mac ‘n’ Cheese (gasp! the regular kind!).

Cardiologist’s plan: “Fat people need not apply for jobs at Cleveland Clinic”

Dr. Cosgrove maintains that health professionals should be as proactive in addressing people’s weight issues as they are in pushing them to quit smoking. “Our anti-obesity efforts have none of the urgency of our anti-smoking efforts,” he claims. “We should declare obesity a disease, and say we’re going to help you get over it.” His theory: obesity can lead to early deaths and skyrocketing health dangers.

While I’m glad Cosgrove says obesity may be a disease (like alcoholism), unfortunately, his actions are contradictory. Clearly, he sees overweight people as moral lepers with no rights who should be discriminated against. Can you think of any other disease where those who have it can be refused employment? I can’t. Can you imagine a cancer sufferer or someone with diabetes being refused employment? So why is it ok to do this with fat people?

Weighing in on fat bias

Many therapists and health professionals hold hidden biases toward their obese patients, studies find.

For example, a recent study found that even health professionals–including psychologists–who specialize in obesity often used words such as “lazy,” “stupid” and “worthless” to describe obese people.

Sickening, isn’t it?

One last thing. Clearly people have different body chemistry and react to food differently. Some people gain weight easier than others. I can eat bread until it comes out my ears and not gain weight, but the same can’t be said for Sue. Sometimes weight gain doesn’t have much to do with overeating. yet that’s the current view about fat people. They must be overeating, weak willed, etc. But that sometimes isn’t the case at all. And sliming them for supposed moral weaknesses hardly helps.

Big Fat Hate Speech

No fat people need apply

From Sue, with comments by me


In late June the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched its LEAN Works Web site, a clearinghouse of information on the health costs of employing fat people replete with recommendations on how to prevent and control obesity. The site uses an “obesity cost calculator” to determine the added price of employing somebody with a body-mass index (BMI) of over 30, the threshold for obesity. The calculator asks employers to fill out a company profile including type of industry and location, employees’ BMIs, and their wages and benefits. The software then estimates the “costs for medical expenditures and the dollar value of increased absenteeism resulting from obesity.”

But is the federal government’s endorsement of a device that essentially demonizes the 72 million Americans who fit the official definition of obese justified by the science? Dr. William Dietz, director of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, defends the site as one weapon in the larger war on fat. “We see this epidemic as a serious threat to health and serious medical cost,” Dietz says. “We didn’t feel like we could wait for the best possible evidence, so we acted on the best available evidence.”

[Sounds like junk science to me, as in making the facts fit your predetermined conclusion. — Bob]

Other experts, however, say BMI is a crude tool that fans fears of an obesity epidemic even as it fails as a reliable measure of an individual’s health. “We made everyone fat by framing! That is the real epidemic,” says Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado who coauthored a controversial study questioning whether obesity is a true health crisis or a moral panic.

Is hate speech against fat people …. “Just look how much money these evil fat people are costing you!” …. the best way to deal with obesity? I’m sure there is a better way.

What’s interesting about this is that most fat people I know (including myself) work too much and rarely go to the doctor. Why go where you might be ridiculed and despised (as I have been)?

I think that the CDC needs to learn that employers lose much more from theft than “absenteeism resulting from obesity”. And thin employees cost them more in terms of salaries and benefits, because they have higher self esteem and greater market value, and won’t take poor pay or workplace abuse. So I’m going to argue that a study of fat people in general might show that they give a lot of value for their employment dollars, compared with thin people.

Here’s one thing I’ve noticed by being fat … it’s not so much that I categorize myself by this label, but that others do. I generally think of myself as just a middle-aged woman, with an average variety of interests and abilities , trying to improve myself as best I can. But clearly, many other people see me as just a Fat Person.

If I haven’t seen folks in a long time, one of their first comments will be about my weight … that I’ve gained or lost or stayed the same. Similarly, this is what I hear from people about their other fat friends, and that topic will dominate the conversation. As if that’s all they or I do in this life, is gain and lose weight.

I pointed this out to someone recently, asking why weight would be a first and foremost attribute and topic of discussion, and the result was a lot of anger. Why shouldn’t weight loss be commended, this person asked, and gaining weight be condemned?

And indeed, given the CDC’s example, why not?

Here’s why not: I’ve been fat, medium and overly thin in my adult life. I cannot overstate the dramatic difference in how I was treated by the majority of my fellows at each weight. Being hated and despised for being fat — in its essence, hate speech — did not help me, in any way, to lose weight. But it did convince me about the cruelty of humanity.

[Sue is a CPA, a Certified Fraud Examiner, and just got a Masters in Taxation. She seems way above average to me, both in business and multiple other ways too! However, fat bigotry most emphatically exists and is just as mindless and nasty as any other form of bigotry. Maybe worse, because it’s still socially acceptable, as witness the CDC director who apparently feels it’s ok to demonize overweight people. I’m guessing he wouldn’t do that with, say, absenteeism from sickle cell anemia, because it often affects African-Americans and he’d probably get fired for saying so.

As for that supposed absenteeism, where’s the control group? Is the data being run against all types of ailments and conditions to see where it happens, or just against fat people compared to a mythical norm?

Worse, there’s a complete uncomprehension here about the causes of being overweight and of the simple fact that overweight people grapple with this all their lives. They aren’t weak-willed at all, but that’s the assumption. In the 1930’s and 1940’s, most doctors thought alcoholics were spineless jellyfish who just needed to show some will power and stop drinking. Today, alcoholism is accepted as a disease, there are treatment centers, and no overriding moral stigma.

That’s the real problem. The moral stigma and condemnation about being overweight. That’s what needs to go. — Bob]