Kevin Hague jumps aboard the fat-hating bandwagon

nonuIt is not a surprise to me that the Greens, for all their good solid liberalism and appreciation of the complexity of economic and environmental issues in some areas, are massive morality-policers on others.  (See also recent discussions on The Egonomist about Greens in Wellington local government (about 47 minutes in).)  And I’ve posted before about their fat-hating food-policing ways. But this week Kevin Hague stepped up to beautifully illustrate the problems with fatphobic policy-making.  You see,

New Zealand hits one million adults with obesity

mccaw carter

Apologies to Dan Carter, whose BMI is only 29.7

First off: obesity is not a disease.  You are invited to imagine other blog posts Hague might write which label basic characteristics of people’s bodies as conditions.  Almost all of them will be racist. But to the well-marbled meat of the issue:

“We simply can’t afford the cost of obesity related disease to keep rising; hitting the one million mark should be a huge wake up call to the Government,” said Green Party health spokesperson Kevin Hague. … “At this rate we are going to be hit with a tidal wave of diabetes and heart disease that will cripple New Zealand’s health system.

Any day now, right, Kevin?  And we’ll absolutely be able to distinguish the healthcare costs associated with Stupid Fatties Who Don’t Eat Fruit from the healthcare costs associated with poverty (another thing obesity is correlated with!) and an ageing population (another thing obesity is correlated with!) right?

“The Minister of Health has committed $60 million a year to diabetes and obesity prevention, which is an almost 30 percent decrease in funding since 2008; all the while obesity and diabetes rates soar,”

13th IAAF World Athletics Championships Daegu 2011 - Day Three[citation needed]  Literally, citation needed.  Because after scrounging around the Ministry of Health website, the Diabetes New Zealand website, and several google searches, you would not believe how difficult it is to find a basic run-down of historic diabetes rates which clearly distinguishes Type 1 and Type 2.  Much less takes account of changes in the NZ population over that time. But the fact is, Kevin doesn’t need statistics.  Because everyone knows that fatties Don’t Eat Enough Fruit, and everyone knows that Being Fat Gives You Diabetes, and everyone knows that we need condescending “traffic light” labelling so people can more easily judge their neighbours’ purchases at the supermarket Make Informed Choices. Oh, and because I know you’re going to ask (Herald link):

averyThe report defined obesity as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres.

Which is why this post is entirely illustrated with pictures of obese New Zealanders, promoting their disgusting unhealthy lifestyles.

The three things I will never stop saying about fatphobic policy-making:

  • BMI is a completely unscientific metric
  • There is literally no proven, sustained way to make naturally fat people thin
  • Lack of access to “healthy” food is a fuckload more complex that price and “education”


  1. Chris Miller

    BMI was never meant to be used on individuals. It was a method to compare population trends. There was a recent post on that shows how bullshit it is too – the same person was marked as 5’4″ at one visit and warned about being in danger of becoming obese, told to eat better and exercise. Next visit marked down at 5’5″ and was told they were in a healthy range and don’t have anything to worry about at all. That’s the difference between two different pairs of shoes.

    • QoT

      It wasn’t – but on the other hand, it also doesn’t work on populations if you (i.e. the Ministry of Health, the Greens, the media) don’t take account of (fairly obvious) demographic changes, and if you then assume that BMI is a measure of health and a justification for disproven fatphobic policy.

      • Megpie71

        It was designed, originally, to be an indicator of whether or not particular population groups in 18th century France were experiencing famine conditions. As a one-time group metric, with a measure of a large sample size in a given area, if there were enough people who were starving to skew the overall average BMI down toward “underweight” or even “emaciated”, then yeah, it was a pretty good measure of whether or not famine conditions were present. However, as a long-term indicator of individual health, it’s about as much use for mental health as it is for physical.

        (Actually, in this culture, it’s probably a better predictor for mental health problems than physical health problems).

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