I am become fatpocalypse: the apology
I’m sorry, everyone.
I’ve been spreading misinformation on Twitter. Dangerous, subversive misinformation.
I started off with the radical notion that obesity isn’t a health problem. In the same way that being red-headed or having A+ blood isn’t a health problem. Those things may be “linked” statistically with certain conditions or illnesses or levels of mortality … that doesn’t make them illnesses in their own right.
Of course, people may say “oh, I didn’t mean individual health, I meant overall health”. Obesity is still not an illness. It doesn’t have a diagnosis, it doesn’t have a cure. It has some incredibly vague and imprecise alleged measurements, and a hell of a lot of
very profitable yet completely unreliable suggested treatments. But I choose not to see that as the same thing.
Also? BMI or amount of body fat are weak predictors of longevity, and being “overweight” is associated with greater longevity, especially for the 55+ age group; obesity may have a protective factor for people with type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease; obese people are more likely to survive a coronary bypass.
But clearly, I was wrong. My ass is an epidemic. My boobs are the plague. Despite my lack of actual health conditions like high blood pressure or heart disease or diabetes, I am fat, and ergo sick.
I pointed out that height is more affected by environment than weight.
Okay, okay, you got me. I was wrong. Because weight is 70-80% heritable, and height is 60-80% heritable. Or it’s 75-85% versus 90-95%. Either way, the lesson is clearly that I was wrong, and weight is totally something individuals can control, unlike their height, which is fixed by God.
I said fat people do not exercise less nor eat more than thin people.
I was basing this statement on studies which show things like activity-based programmes to reduce children’s BMI consistently fail.
I read Junkfood Science, and learned:
Professors and clinicians David Garner, Ph.D., and Susan Wooley, Ph.D., reviewed 500 studies on the long-term treatment efficacy, the biology of weight regulation, and health outcomes of weight loss, and confirmed that multiple researchers, using a variety of methodologies, have continued to fail to find any meaningful or replicable differences in the caloric intake or eating patterns of the obese compared to the non-obese to explain obesity.
And I discovered this study shows that there’s fuck-all difference between “metabolically healthy” obese people and thin people.
But look, it just makes sense that fat people are lazy gluttons. Science said so. Just not here.
I said that no diet works if you study its participants over 5 years.
I am at least smart enough to know that individual studies can be flawed, but I was truly taken in when my research found that meta-study after meta-study after meta-study shows weight loss programmes failing. If they bothered to follow the subjects for longer than a year. A lot didn’t. Probably for totally innocuous reasons.
See the “Also?” link above?
Long-term follow-up studies document that the majority of individuals regain virtually all of the weight that was lost during treatment, regardless of whether they maintain their diet or exercise program. Consider the Women’s Health Initiative, the largest and longest randomized, controlled dietary intervention clinical trial, designed to test the current recommendations. More than 20,000 women maintained a low-fat diet, reportedly reducing their calorie intake by an average of 360 calories per day and significantly increasing their activity. After almost eight years on this diet, there was almost no change in weight from starting point (a loss of 0.1 kg), and average waist circumference, which is a measure of abdominal fat, had increased (0.3 cm).
You know what does work to actually improve people’s health? The Health At Every Size approach. Which doesn’t result in weightloss. (It’s even been … PEER REVIEWED!!! More on that in a later post.)
But it’s probably all just a scheme so fatties can feel good about themselves and justify eating more doughnuts.
I said that successive generations are getting taller, that height is correlated with some illnesses, and that it thus surprises me (note: it doesn’t really) that no one runs around panicking about a tallness epidemic.
This was then presented as me actually arguing that height is a health problem. At this point I probably should’ve stopped, because I was clearly arguing with someone who had no intention of engaging honestly, but I am a glutton for
doughnuts punishment sometimes..
What I tried to clarify – and of course, Twitter is a bad medium for anything more complex than one full sentence – is that fatness is not sickness, and our social responses to sickness are ineffective and oppressive.
Like diets. Oh, said the other person, I never mentioned diets. Nope, he just talked about “controlling” body weight. Because there are totally safe predictable sustainable ways to do that which aren’t “diets”, right?
What there actually are are a lot of studies (PEER REVIEWED! SCIENCE!!!) which show that it’s seriously, seriously hard to permanently alter people’s weight. In either direction. And despite the constant panic-mongering over THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC, life expectancy continues to rise and the population is getting healthier – in actual measurable things.
There’s the way that messages about THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC have led to increased discrimination against fat people – including discrimination in the medical professional which has almost certainly killed people.
The 70-80% heritable link above? Also notes that stress has a major impact on body weight. Gosh, I wonder if underprivileged, poor, oppressed minorities, who are so often the Scary Fat People Who Will Eat Your Babies, might be under some stress that Good White People From Nice Schools don’t experience?
The “Also?” link above? Notes that:
Most prospective observational studies suggest that weight loss increases the risk of premature death among obese individuals, even when the weight loss is intentional and the studies are well controlled with regard to known confounding factors, including hazardous behavior and underlying diseases
So clearly the answer is to be born thin, to thin parents. But not too thin, obviously.
I apologise, people. I’ve been wilfully leading you all down a garden path to obesity. I will not rest until we all look like that fucking creepy vampire Pearl from Blade. Probably because I’m a jealous bitch, or something. (Well, I’m sure the more kindly fathaters will pretend to look on me with pity.)
I’ll stop worrying my little fat ladybrain about this now.
Until tomorrow’s post.
Hat tips (and seriously recommended reading): the Redefining Body Image resources page; Shapely Prose’s immortal FAQ; Dr Linda Bacon, the appropriately-named goddess of HAES; Big Liberty’s Truth Behind Fat: References; Junkfood Science.
Hee, you used my link! 😀 It doesn’t get updated frequently but it’s really just a litany of horror.
Indeed! My story about nearly dying of undiagnosed cancer due to medical fat-hate is on the blog you linked. Finally realising that prejudice had done me more harm than fat itself ever had was extremely freeing!
It’s a really powerful story and I’m glad you were able to share it!
Totes awesome post is totes awesome :3
And yeah, there’s far too much pseudo-science out there on dieting and fatness, and like creationism it takes an inordinate amount of cluebatting to overcome. And there’s always moar fools ready to do the gish gallop on you…
And just like creationism the arguments are so often derived from “common sense”. “Oh but of course eating fat makes you fat”. “Calories in, calories out.” Unlike creationism, the body industrial complex then kicks into gear to generate the SCIENCE!!! to back it all up.
Once again on the money, oh – grand archduchess. They health industry is so troubled – It’s main driver the bio-medical model is flawed and failing – especially in the economic, social and healing realm. The fear industry (marketing) is doing well to cover it up – but the constant good vs bad news stories about health can only last so long. And good research and writing like this just help public see the gaping flaws.
I disagree on this one point:
very profitable yet
No need for the strikethrough. Indeed, the fact that people profit from this scam is worth noting.
Oh I agree – the strikethrough is my cheeky way of showing that we’re not meant to talk about that aspect of things.
“Obesity” is a definition used by self interested parties, to promote whatever ends.
It is not a disease that is contagious.
[QoT: Food policing and diet talk deleted]
The BMI is 1920,s US life insurance bullshit based on white US males.
Of course the weights were going to be light , even for that era. The heavier one was increased the premium.
Not even an epidemiologist could justify that ( I could be wrong, there is one , apparently in Auckland that claims that butter is a poison.)