Today our nation relapses into what might be our worst case of fat fearmongering yet. The current source of our infection with pseudoscientific sensationalism is something called Weight of the Nation, a highly contagious conference/book/series/website onslaught backed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and delivered tonight and Tuesday (May 14-15) via ocular injection on HBO.
I attended the first, government-sponsored Weight of the Nation conference in 2009. I didn't pay or anything self-defeating like that. I just walked in (with a brave friend or two) and delivered plastic-wrapped fortune cookies to the fancy luncheon tables where major stakeholders were about to chew on the alleged "obesity" problem. If the professional food scolds took a cookie, they got messages like these:
Visitors to the Habit Heroes exhibit at Walt Disney World's Epcot Center walk into Will Powers Gym, where they respond to a Snack Attack ("It's food fight time!") by shooting broccoli at sugary foods and doing high kicks to force a fat, lazy, gluttonous villain named Lead Bottom to exercise. (If I weren't a disciplined, veggie-eating exercise lover, I'd make a great Disney villain.)
We need Disney's interactive "innovention" to spread this message? How many times a day do we already see fat villains? (Because only someone truly evil could enjoy life as a fat person or be such a lazy glutton? And all fatties eat all the time, dontcha know?)
"How else will we make people understand that if you are fat, you are not welcome at the 'happiest place on Earth?'" asks Deb Lemire, president of the professional organization for Health At Every Size, with the appropriate sarcasm.
Disney's anti-childhood-"obesity" exhibit, created in partnership with Florida Blue and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, opened briefly last month before closing indefinitely for "retooling," amid all sorts of well-earned criticism for stereotyping and stigmatizing. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, a 40-year-old civil rights group, rightly suspects that any new version will be just as prejudicial and invites people to sign its petition.
An acquaintance traveled to Los Angeles recently and saw the ubiquitous 1-800-GET-THIN billboards. "It was like, 'Welcome to LA ... You're fat!'" said Jennifer Yendes.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration took note of the notorious billboards in early December. Regulators officially told marketing company 1-800-GET-THIN (and the eight clinics that take patient referrals from the ad campaign) that their ads do not adequately warn people about the risks of lap band surgery. They also found the billboards' existing warnings too small to be legible.
This is the same FDA that in February approved use of the gastric girdle (aka lap band) at lower weights, making major surgery available to people whose clothing tags carry more than one X rating.
Golda Poretsky calls herself a "body love coach." It sounds a lot like a life coach, except her clients are women and men who want to remove themselves from what she calls "the diet roller-coaster" yet maintain their health and learn to love themselves. (She also has a business called Body Love Wellness, a background in nutrition and holistic health, wrote a book called Stop Dieting Now!, and has written for the likes of Jezebel.com.) Late last month Poretsky issued a challenge to progressive politicos such as the Occupy movement to include fat-acceptance in their way of thinking. She came up with a pretty impressive analogy on her blog that highlights the common challenges shared by the Occupy movement and fat activists.
Occupiers, she points out, reject the idea that if you just work hard enough, you can get an education, earn a decent income, buy a house, have a family, and whatever else you might want. Yet things such as discrimination, poverty, vast income disparity, and an economic system rigged to favor the wealthiest insiders stand in the way of these things for 99 percent of us. Poretsky also notes that some people (most of them on the political right) reply by essentially saying "Shut up, hippies! Get a job! If you just worked harder you could be rich like us!"
Then she compares this with society's treatment of fat people.
A lot of us believe that the wealthiest .01 percent of people are conducting class warfare on the human species. Have you noticed that ass warfare (keeping us all worried about our weight) is a big part of their world-domination plan? Let me demonstrate: In the United States, Americans spent $60.9 billion last year on weight-loss products that obviously did not produce on their promise, according to Marketdata Enterprises. To put that expenditure and return-on-investment into perspective, let's look at some other cost-estimate data we collected from around the Internet. Last year students of public colleges and universities paid $50 billion in tuition collectively. Extending the Bush tax cuts on personal incomes greater than $250,000 cost an estimated $60 billion in tax revenue. That same amount is what everyone on the planet spent on organic food and drink last year. At its peak in 2009, the global arms market was just a bit more, at $65 billion. With the money we wasted on weight-loss products, we could have bought a new iPhone 4S for everyone in America (except Virginians).
Keeping with the idea suggested in this spending figure -- that society believes fat people don't deserve to live unless they magically become thin -- I've found some innovations in a 1990 Soviet medical text. I don't speak Russian, and I'm not a health care professional, but these diagrams show promise for the anti-"obesity" industry.
The Body Spigot
Here's a simple, surgically implanted spigot that drains food from the patient's stomach as they eat.
I got to emcee last weekend's Big Moves concert, along with local storyteller Ames Beezer, and I'd like to take you backstage and behind the fat dance scene.
The school year has started, which means it's bullying season again for fat children and teens. Fat children in grade school are 63 percent more likely to be teased, according to a 2010 study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics' journal Pediatrics.
The authors seemed surprised by the extent of weight-based bullying.
"What we found, much to our dismay, was that nothing seemed to matter. If you were obese, you were more likely to be bullied, no matter what," said pediatrician Dr. Julie Lumeng.
The federal government is doing its part. President Barack Obama last week declared September to be Childhood Obesity Awareness Month for the second year. On the playground, "awareness" means pointing a finger and shouting, "Hey, fatty!"
The presidential proclamation dovetails with first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign, which has the goal of "solving the problem of childhood obesity within a generation." (In other words, "No fat chicks -- er, children!")
I challenge anyone to name a jurisdiction where weight-loss campaigns have had long-term results, much less done no harm. (A mandatory student weight-loss program in Singapore coincided with a sixfold increase in eating disorders among youth.)
"Don't be fat!" is a high-risk message.
There's some debate about whether the opposite of love is hate or disinterest. Fat people rarely enjoy public disinterest. We are, nonetheless, targets of strongly felt and self-contradictory attentions. Is it love/hate or something else?
For example: Why did a French TV guy from Tac Presse fly here and follow me around with his camera recently, eager to capture "le footage" of the rascally American fat activist for a one-hour documentary? This was the third French TV program to follow me in the past year and a half. (Why don't they talk to fat activists and organizations in France? Or in Spain? Or famous authors and groups in Germany? Or in the U.K.?)
I took the French TV guy -- Romain Bolzinger -- to Tigress Osborn's fabulous nightclub, Full Figure Friday. I left pretty early, but friends tell me he stayed until the place closed. The theme was Short Skirt Night. (It takes a seasoned media professional several hours to get B-roll of boogying fatties?)
I also showed him how passersby of all sizes on Haight Street react with relieved delight to my invention, the Yay! Scale. It's merely a bathroom scale with compliments instead of numbers on the dial. Step on it to find out you're "sexy" or "gorgeous" or "perfect" or "fine." He urged me to find fat people who would Yay! themselves. The next fat woman who happened by not only failed to feel downtrodden, she had read my book.
Am I an exotic specimen? The fat American who (perversely?) feels happy and healthy and even ... hot. According to the by-now constant drip of fearmongering, so-called "obesity" is Public Enemy No. 1. Among fatosphere bloggers, that's called concern trolling. I call it "hating us for our own good." Living well despite all this "love," one risks becoming a fascinating rebel for behaving in ways that, in a weight-neutral culture, would be unremarkable.
This is the second of a two-part commentary on the surgical procedure used to promote weight loss known as laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, or lap band. Read the first part here. -- Eds.
Surgical procedures designed to help people lose weight are becoming more prevalent, but there aren't many comprehensive, controlled, scientific studies on the effects of these, including the lap-band method. This is where a band is surgically inserted and can be adjusted to regulate the amount of food one's stomach can hold. I refer to it as stomach-binding.
Here are a few things I've found on the procedure:
This is the first of a two-part commentary on the surgical procedure used to promote weight loss known as laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, or lap band. -- Eds.
I had a bad dream the other night. In the dream world, it was forbidden to publicly oppose stomach binding (aka lap band surgery). I was under house arrest, waiting for my punishment: mandatory leg removal. I had failed to use my legs for the approved activity of running on treadmills to lose weight and had instead enjoyed walking, dancing, swimming, bicycling, doing yoga, gardening, having sex, and sitting cross-legged -- none of which made me thin. So I didn't deserve my lower extremities.
I don't think my dream was all that different from our current reality, where people of lesser and lesser weights (mostly women) are encouraged to sign up for surgeries to correct such problems as normal absorption of nutrients and failure to routinely regurgitate. It's the Victorian era all over again -- "Lie back and think of England (with every bite)."
In February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved lap band surgery for average-height women who weigh as little as 174 pounds (206 pounds for average-height men), prompting get-thin-now billboards to spread across Bay Area scenery. Compare that with the average weight of American women (164 pounds) and men (191 pounds) according to a study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.